Sixteen players. Seven rounds. One champion. A stormy morning kicked off what would prove to be one of the most intense tournament experiences in recent memory. With a structure and feel representing that of Worlds or the SCG Player’s Championship, no matches would be easy in this harrowing battleground.
In preparation for coverage of the event, we wanted to have each player fill out a Player Profile sheet. Kyle Miller did a fantastic job of preparing these slides for coverage.
Starting with Draft, players were separated into two pods, determined randomly. Players would play three rounds, then be paired by record for the Standard portion. This would pit the 3-0 drafters against each other. Fighting through tough pods, Kingslayer Peter Phan on Izzet Burn faced off against Collector Legion player Carlo Negrete in Round 4, with the winner securing themselves a lock for Top 8. Ultimately Carlo triumphed, showcasing the power of Teferi and Absorb.
With the structure of the tournament designed to put every player with a winning record into Top 8, every match matters. In Round 5, Carlo saw himself paired down against Tony. In this battle of Esper decks, Tony’s threat dense midrange deck pulled through, pushing himself to 3-1-1. On camera, the two 4-1 players had already played, so Peter found himself paired down against friend Jesse Brizuela on Esper Control. Pushing the match to Game 3, Jesse put lethal on board at two life, hoping to fade a burn spell. No burn was in hand, but a tense Risk Factor drew Peter three cards. On the final card, Peter found Shock — just enough to secure his fifth win of the tournament.
That same round, Dylan won the Gates mirror match 2-0, letting him draw into Top 8 with either Peter or Carlo. Tony won his win and in too, and going into the final round eight players were competing for four spots in Top 8. Carlo, Peter, Tony, and Dylan were the four players locked, with some powerhouse matches playing for Top 8. Ivan was facing off against Scott in an attempt to redeem his loss vs Randy the round prior. Nicolas Johnson was playing a control mirror against Jason Jahromi, while Randy played Jesse on camera for the win and in. All the way down to 12th place, Nico played against Chase.
In an intense three games against Jesse, Randy’s Gates overpowered Esper Midrange at one life, pushing him into the elimination rounds. Scott powered through the removal laden Esper Control with a timely Unbreakable Formation. This powerful addition from Ravnica Allegiance pulled its weight in Scott’s Azorius Aggro. On the third table, three games of Teferi mirrors later saw Jason triumphant, his Jeskai Control outpacing the late game heavy-hitter of Esper Control. Nico’s Sultai explored to victory against Chase’s Rakdos Burn, proving the power of unchecked Green cards.
With six months of preparation and grinding, we finally had a Top 8 for the Invitational.
The Top 8
Carlo, Peter, Tony, Dylan, Nico, Randy, Scott and Jason. One of these players would earn themselves an invite to the Season 2 Invitational, as well as the Season 1 Invitational Trophy. Using the traditional pairing system, 1st seed would play 8th seed, 2nd would play 7th, and so on. This meant that Carlo would play Jason, Peter would play Scott, Tony would play Randy, and Dylan would play Nico.
Dylan and Nico were our feature match for the round, on Gates vs Sultai. Dylan took down Game 1 on a mulligan to five, utilizing Guild Summit and Circuitous Route to compensate on resources. Eventually these extra cards and mana converted into a powerful Gates Ablaze and some Colossuses. In Game 2 Nico would have a disruptive start. Backing his early explore creatures with disruption, Nico had just enough pressure to force Dylan to sweep the board. He found a land, and we moved onto Game 3. In the conclusive game of the quarterfinals, Nico drew a few too many lands to fight Dylan’s Guild Summit. Unable to overcome multiple cards a turn, Nico succumbed to gigantic monsters a few turns later.
In the Semifinals we found Randy vs Dylan and Carlo vs Peter initially, but with a mistake in constructing the bracket a repair was necessary. Sparing the world a Gates mirror, our feature match showcased Dylan against the lone Collector Legion player Carlo Negrete. In a match furious with humor and banter, it was clear this was more of a friendly game between friends than a battle for survival. Ultimately Dylan would win a grindy Game 1, as his mana development allowed the deployment of more threats than Carlo could handle. Carlo took down Game 2 with a backbreaking Teferi plus Negate combination, using a wall of countermagic to threaten an emblem. In a desperation play, Dylan would attempt to use Thrash//Threat alongside Gate Colossus to kill the Teferi, but a quick counterspell from Carlo would lock this game up. In Game 3 Dylan fought through Thief of Sanity and Thought Erasure off the back of Lava Coil and Guild Summit. Milking the card advantage engine he had in play, Dylan would force Carlo to answer the board. With no window to deploy Teferi, Carlo used two Mortify to take care of Guild Summit and Krasis, but in the final turns of the game, Dylan put two threats into play backed up by Negate. With Carlo stuck on five lands with multiple Teferis in play, he had no choice but to run his saving grace into Dylan’s Negate. With a handshake and applause, Dylan would secure himself a spot in the Finals against fellow Kingslayer Peter Phan.
With a Top 8 prizing split, Peter and Dylan were playing for the trophy and ultimate bragging rights. Crucially going first, Peter opened with a triple one drop start that threatened to end the game quickly, but Dylan countered with a Gates Ablaze to reset the board. Peter continued to put up the pressure, forcing Dylan down to a low life total off of the famous Banefire for One. After Dylan tapped out for a threat, Peter untapped and quickly dumped his hand, accumulating more than lethal burn damage. 1-0 Peter. In a pivotal Game 2, Dylan came out strong with lava coil into back to back Gatebreaker Rams. With the pair of sheep proving too much for the Red deck to overcome, both players found themselves in a final game. A palpable tension filled the air as both players wish each other good luck and drew their hands. Peter found himself off to a good start, with Fanatical Firebrand and Warkite Marauder preventing any deployment of threats from Dylan. This was met by a desperation Gates Ablaze from Dylan, which resolved. Peter began missing land drops, and Dylan dropped a Gatebreaker Ram out of Lava Coil range. A Deafening Clarion later and Dylan would find himself the Kingslayer Games Season 1 Champion.
Below we have the decklists of the Top 8 players, both for Standard and Draft, as well as a text summary of final standings. If you missed the capstone event of Season 1, you can watch the replay at twitch.tv/kingslayermtg
1st — Dylan Feeman on 4c Gates
2nd — Peter Phan on Izzet Burn
3rd — Carlo Negrete on Esper Control
4th — Randy Casillan on Reclamation Gates
5th — Tony Boozan on Esper Midrange
6th — Nico Urrea on Sultai Midrange
7th — Scott Amaraphornkul on Azorious Aggro
8th — Jason Jahromi on Jeskai Control
9th — Ivan Espinosa on Esper Control
10th — Nicolas Johnson on Esper Control
11th — Jesse Brizuela on Esper Midrange
12th — Andrew Goodwin on Mardu Aristocrats
13th — Matt Yuen on Sultai Midrange
14th — Chase Chappell on Rakdos Burn
15th — Micol Santana on Monored
16th — Ryan Sanders on Sultai Midrange
Most of the field followed the metagame, with Sultai and Esper the two most popular decks. With these two decks forming the bedrock of preparation for most players, most players sought to fight them by either going over the top (Gates) or underneath (Azorius Aggro). Izzet and Rakdos burn tried to find success in invalidating many of the cards Sultai and Esper had access to, and with only one player each from Esper Control and Sultai Midrange making Top 8, these strategies proved effective.
Most players favored three color strategies, as an abundance of powerful multicolored cards prioritizes taking early guildgates. With a slower format overall than Guilds of Ravnica, players have time to hit more land drops and find the right colors.
3-0 Draft Decks
2-1 Draft Decks
1-2 Draft Decks
0-3 Draft Decks
Every new idea has flaws. With growth and attention to the community, we’ve changed the structure of the invitational seasons to feel more inclusive, while maintaining a unique feel. With the Season 1 Invitational being our first foray into Limited coverage, we’re excited for how we can grow our coverage during Season 2.
Thanks for reading our Invitational Recap. We’ll be having our 4c Gates Deck Tech plus Tournament Report in the next few days.
You can follow me on Twitter @pariahpolular