Ten Things I Like And Don’t Like, Including Yuta Takahashi

Cedric Phillips shares his takes on recent Magic news, from the new World Champion to Secret Lairs and the states of competitive formats.

Smoldering Egg
Smoldering Egg, illustrated by Simon Dominic

Here are ten things I like and don’t like from this week in Magic: The Gathering:

1. Meet Your New World Champion

It’s the Twitter video seen ’round the Magic world:

I wrote the following in this article:

Yuta Takahashi is one of my favorite players of all time, which might be a strange thing to read. See, no one loves Bitterblossom more than he does. And, if you’ve met me, no one loves Bitterblossom less than I do. So why is Takahashi one of my favorites? Because he’s so darn good at playing the tempo-style decks that Bitterblossom excels in, which is the exact type of deck I’m terrible at playing. I enjoy watching people do what I can’t and few do it better than Takahashi does. Fingers crossed he’s found a good one.

Well, turns out he found a tempo-style deck, now, didn’t he?

It really should come as no surprise that Takahashi played Izzet Dragons at Magic World Championship XXVII. It encompasses exactly the way he has shown he likes to play Magic over his fantastic career. What should surprise you, though, is his Constructed record at the event.

11-0 is not a real thing. Like, seriously, it’s not real. These are the sixteen best players in the world!

In a booster draft, someone has to go 0-3. At this tournament, since there were two pods, two people were destined to be extremely disappointed by the end of the biggest booster draft of their Magic career. And given the stakes, it would stand to reason that the two people who end up defeated at the end of each pod would be… well… defeated.

But not Takahashi.

And that’s what makes his climb all the way to champion so impressive. It would have been so easy for him to give up on the event. “It’s not my weekend,” one could tell oneself. “I always thought I was an impostor and here I am proving it,” many minds have thought who had high expectations but failed when it comes time to perform. Honestly, if you’re reading this, you’ve likely played in plenty of Magic tournaments and given up on one or two when things just don’t start the way you hoped they would have. I’m certainly guilty of it and there’s no shame in that.

But when you’re playing in a World Championship-level event with only sixteen players and every match matters, you don’t have the luxury of simply dropping and signing up for a side event. You have to grin and bear it in front of X people, where X is not an insignificant number. And look, someone has to come in last place at this type of event. Which means, of the sixteen people, someone has the displeasure of being called the worst one. Does that mean that person is bad at Magic? Of course not. This is the World Championship after all. But can that person convince themselves that they don’t have what it takes against the elite of the elite? With quite a bit of ease in my humble opinion.

For Takahashi to block out all the noise, focus on what’s in front of him, and not give up in any way during this event, to me, is remarkable. Because it all would have been so easy to do. And we all would have understood it. What’s incomprehensible is that he went from 0-3 to champion, did it his own way, and walked out of Magic World Championship XXVII.

Remember: no one has to go undefeated in Constructed to win the title of World Champion. Well, unless you start 0-3 in Limited. Then you do…

2. Meet Magic’s Next Big Star

Like you, I don’t know the future of competitive Magic. My thoughts on things are both public and clear-cut — I think competitive Magic should exist, I think its existence is important to the success of the game (but not as important as it was to the success of Magic in the last decade), and I think, if done right, it can be incredible and better than any other game’s Organized Play offerings.

So for the sake of the next few paragraphs, let’s play pretend and say that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has announced the robust tournament offerings we all dream of (I know I’m asking a lot…). You know who I wouldn’t want to play against?

This dude gets it.

When the Standard decks were accidentally revealed for Magic World Championship XXVII, the consensus was that Depraz brought the worst deck to the event. Eight Alrund’s Epiphany decks made sense; the card is powerful and these level of players gravitate towards that type of thing. Three Mono-Green Aggro❄ decks also makes sense; it was smashing every online event imaginable and Epiphany can struggle against it. Mono-White Aggro❄, Azorius Tempo, and Izzet Dragons could all be rationalized due to past performance or trying to prey on very specific things.

But Temur Midrange with the Jaspera Sentinel + Magda, Brazen Outlaw combo that was fine prior to the rotation and not performing particularly well after said rotation finally took place? Did somebody miss the memo on how Innistrad: Midnight Standard works? Cause looks like you may have brought the old knife to a gun fight there JED…

Here’s what Depraz had to say about his decision to play Temur Midrange before Magic World Championship XXVII began:

I submitted Temur Treasures, which is a deck no one plays right now and I have a hard time figuring out why. Basically, it’s the Gruul deck from last Standard season, with all the greatest hits from Kaldheim: Esika’s Chariot, Goldspan Dragon, the Jaspera + Magda mana engine, as well as some newer threats like Ranger Class. It’s a little susceptible to interaction, but very powerful, your best draws feel like you’re playing a different format than your opponent and all the cards are good enough by themselves that you can overcome some variance.

One of my favorite things about Magic is when someone sticks to their guns despite all the noise. As much conversation as there has been over the past month about how Epiphany may need to be banned (spoiler: it doesn’t), does something need to be banned from Mono-Green (spoiler: LOL no), or if Standard is healthy (spoiler: see the next topic), to just be able to go “Uh yeah, not gonna worry about any of that because my deck is the nuts and it sure is weird that no one else is playing it” is so damn awesome. That’s some combination of confidence, cockiness, hubris, and expertise that I genuinely love.

And that doesn’t even get into how JED feels about his Limited skills…

Inject this Tweet directly into my veins please and thank you.

If you haven’t noticed, Depraz has been winning at a pretty insane clip for the past few years but he generally flies under the radar because he isn’t the biggest name in the world and he isn’t the most boisterous of human (though he clearly doesn’t lack confidence). The former will change. The latter? We’ll see.

But here’s what I think about the Magic World Championship XXVII runner-up — if competitive Magic comes back in a meaningful way like I described above, please do not pair me against JED because I just ain’t winning. And neither are you.

3. Standard Is Dope

You ever think to yourself, “Man, I wish I was a Magic content creator but I just don’t know where to start?” Here’s a cheat code for you:

Just say something needs to be banned for whatever reason and watch the interactions follow. You’ll be wishing you didn’t have a Twitter account in no time!

After having the privilege of covering Magic World Championship XXVII last weekend, I walked out of that event thinking to myself, “All you people are complaining about Alrund’s Epiphany and Goldspan Dragon is kicking everyone’s ass. What in the hell type of games were you playing leading up to this event?”

The truth is this:

  • Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard is a little over a month old.
  • Innistrad: Crimson Vow is coming out in a little over a month.
  • The big bad boogeymen of the format, Izzet Epiphany and Mono-Green Aggro❄, didn’t perform particularly well last weekend when the sixteen best players went to war.
  • We left the World Championship with a six-deck format (Izzet Dragons, Izzet Epiphany, Mono-Green Aggro❄, Mono-White Aggro❄, Grixis Epiphany, Temur Midrange) with a seventh one apparently on the way (check out GerryT’s article on Dimir Control today).

So take your banning conversations and just throw ’em in the garbage because they’re total nonsense. The format is healthy and evolving, a new set is coming, and the decks that people expected to dominate Magic World Championship XXVII, simply put, didn’t.

I’m very much looking forward to playing this weekend’s Standard Arena Open because the format is diverse, the gameplay is vibrant, and I could use an extra $2,000 since the Philadelphia Eagles thought it would be cool to go for two when down eight instead of kicking the extra point and put themselves down seven when I had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at -6.5 because Magic is fun and I love it.

4. Historic Is Not Dope

So what’s the plan here, huh?

We’ve been doing this song and dance with Historic for a while now, making random Set Championships half Historic / half Standard, having Historic Arena Opens, making fake cards that you can just alter digitally if they don’t work the way you want them to. Are we supposed to be taking this format seriously or not?

I still can’t tell you what’s legal in Historic, which is, ya know, my job. I don’t know what a Jumpstart is and when the next one is coming. And for the life of me, I still cannot rationalize Brainstorm being placed into a format in 2021 when we have at least a decade of evidence that the card is busted beyond belief.

Well, good news! Yesterday that banned some stuff!

So like… thanks I think?

Brainstorm is gone for good (duh), Memory Lapse is in timeout (good), and Tibalt’s Trickery behaved so badly that those in charge of timeout said “Don’t send that shit in here.” like it’s Kyrie Irving trying to get into Barclays Center. I mean, I’m glad that the powers that be are still paying attention to the format because I imagine a nonzero number of people play the format on Magic Arena, but what’s the mission statement for Historic? As a competitive Magic player of twenty-plus years, what should I know or expect coming into the format?

I feel like the format is just kinda being made up as we go which, ya know, isn’t great, but maybe it’s just not my place to care. But when I do care…?

Ya know… maybe Historic ain’t so bad after all!

5. Pioneer Is… Does It Still Exist?

Quick! Name the four Pioneer Challenge decks!

If you said…

  • Azorius Spirts
  • Lotus Field Combo
  • Mono-Red Burn
  • Orzhov Auras

You cheated and I’m flunking you because why would anyone know that?

I assumed with the announcement by WotC of this new product line and these four decks, Pioneer would get a lil’ more love. Well from what I’ve seen, that ain’t the case and I’ve got a team of twenty-plus writers who would tell me otherwise if I was wrong. The days of Pioneer-focused What We’d Play or <insert new set name> First Impressions: Pioneer are probably over around these parts because… well… you don’t care about the reason because you don’t care about Pioneer.

And that’s a shame, because once upon a time Pioneer was a dope format that people cared about. Nowadays? It’s as obsolete as this graphic:

No, but seriously, preorder these today or I’ll make Patrick do an ad-read for them.

6. Let’s Rank ‘Em

Thrilling Tales of the Undead

9/10. The cards in this drop aren’t that great but that doesn’t matter because they look so damn cool

Showcase: Midnight Hunt

4/10. These remind me too much of the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Full Art lands, lands I’ve been stuck playing with on Magic Online drafts for the past month and have caused me to keep hands that can’t cast my spells because they’re not easy to decipher. There’s less of that here but it’s still a problem.

Read the Fine Print

5/10, Conceptually, it’s cool, but how many people actually care about this storyline? I’m being genuine when I ask that because I’m sure the number is nonzero, but is it actually much higher than I realize?

Monster Movie Marathon

100/10. Yes. 100 out of 10. This is the best Secret Lair to date and I do not believe it is remotely close.

Monster Anatomy 101

3/10. If you’re into little details and little Easter eggs, I bet this is the Secret Lair for you. I’m really not when it comes to these cards so this does nothing for me.


4/10. I have incredibly fond memories of Mirrodin so that’s positively affecting my grade here. These are too busy for me but I’m sure plenty of people will find these super rad.

7. Speaking of Secret Lairs…

If you haven’t read this article on IGN by Tom Marks, I recommend you do. It’s a very well done piece that addresses the stylistic changes to Magic, what the future does and doesn’t hold, the positives and negatives of the Secret Lair X The Walking Dead drop, and plenty of people’s opinions on the direction that our favorite game is going in, including yours truly.

I encourage you to do the following:

  • Read it
  • Form your own opinion
  • Read it again
  • Discuss with your friends

8. Events This Weekend

If you listened to the Innistrad edition of The Resleevables, you know that Psycho Ced™ is back. For how long, I have no idea. Maybe for just one weekend only. But what a weekend this weekend will (potentially) be:

  • Friday, October 15: Modern PTQ
  • Saturday, October 16: Innistrad: Midnight Hunt PTQ and Day 1 of Standard Arena Open
  • Sunday, October 17: Modern PTQ and Day 2 of Standard Arena Open

Who said competitive Magic is dead?! That’s three days of action that I should not be engaging in, but what else is there to do nowadays, ya know?

You can watch all the disappointment all weekend long at twitch.tv/cedricaphillips.

9. Listen

10. Laugh