Walking around the tournament halls at MagicFest Richmond last weekend, I heard people talking about the Mythic Championship happening next door like it was some distant event. A number of players have only seen the Mythic Championship on stream, or maybe they’ve taken a stroll through the tournament hall between rounds at a Grand Prix. Today, I’m here to share my experiences playing in Mythic Championship VI last weekend.
Over the last seven months, I’ve crossed that “barrier” from the Grand Prix hall to the Mythic Championship hall. I, too, had a lot of ideas and curiosities about the culture and the mystery surrounding the event, but they were quickly dispelled. Let’s start at the beginning, and I’ll take you through the journey.
I qualified for MC Richmond by winning a PTQ in the midst of Hogaak Summer. PTQs are familiar to far more people than a Mythic Championship or even a Grand Prix. Being able to head down to your local game store and play in a tournament that has real stakes and competitive implications is a great experience. PTQs tend to be much smaller and less intimidating than being in a convention center with 2000 or so people, making this a nice entry-level step to competitive Magic.
Truth be told, I don’t prepare for a Grand Prix or PTQ as much as I should. I often find myself relying on format knowledge and a deck that I know well. I wouldn’t advise taking this approach and would recommend putting in the work to find a deck that you believe to be good, and then play it enough to feel comfortable against all the popular decks.
Testing for the Mythic Championship is different. For weeks leading up to the event, I spent as much time as I could playing Standard and drafting. Those of you who know me as a player know that I almost never play those formats. So, you could say I had my work cut out for me.
I decided I was going to do myself a favor and learn the best deck and play it regardless of how much I liked it. Naturally, I started with the Bant Field of the Dead deck, which is certainly outside my comfort zone, but I had a stated goal to adhere to. A couple weeks into my testing, Field of the Dead was banned in Standard; this made a lot of people happy, as they believed the deck was oppressive. Little did we know we would end up in an arguably less healthy version of Standard, where the best deck, by a large margin, was Sultai Food.
From there, I had two choices: play Sultai Food, or play a deck built to target Sultai Food and hope it works. Circling back to my previous goal, I decided to learn the food deck, as I believe playing the best deck in a format that I don’t know well would give me the best shot at having a successful tournament. Again, those of you who know me, know that I am not a premier deck builder; my strength lies in playing the games. This led me to focus on my draft preparation while the Standard hive mind figured out what these food decks should look like.
I settled on a stock build of Sultai Food about a week and a half before the event and played Standard almost exclusively until I had to submit my deck list on Wednesday night. That left Thursday to be a day of traveling and drafting to get some last-minute reps in. I felt confident in both Draft and Standard going into the weekend, but I absolutely could have prepared more. My advice here is this: test until you feel confident, then double that amount of time. I don’t believe you will ever be fully prepared for every situation that may arise, but you should try your hardest to get as close to that as possible.
The Mythic Experience
For me, as well as many others, travelling for Magic is as much about the tournament as it is seeing a new city, and reconnecting with friends you may not see often. Travelling, seeing the world, and playing Magic on the game’s biggest stage is what drives me to keep playing and improving. I travelled with three friends, one of whom was qualified for the MC, and the other two were attending the GP. Jon (the friend who was playing in the MC) and I did some last-minute prep work on the flight, since we were playing the same 75 in Standard. The flight was a bit too turbulent to actually play any games, so we spent the better part of an hour drawing test hands and going over mulligan decisions.
Once we were at the site, we began the familiar process of checking in at the tournament, which comes with: a drawstring bag, a Mythic Championship Competitor T-shirt, nine packs of Throne of Eldraine, and a name badge. After gathering up all the goodies, I headed over to the Magic Pro Shop to pick up the Mythic Championship playmat, which featured art for Embercleave. Much like I did in London, I splurged on the foil inlay mat to commemorate the trip. Then, we spent the remainder of our time in the venue hunting down the last few cards that we needed.
Friday morning. Greater Richmond Convention Center. We were here. It was time. Roughly 500 competitors were talking amongst themselves, waiting for the draft pods to be posted. There was an electric buzz in the air that quickly dissipated once seatings were posted.
Weeks of preparation had led me here, but I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous. Here’s the secret: this is just another Magic tournament. I was here to play the same game that I played for years. Some of the people playing were just like me, having played in just a few of these events. Other people were renowned worldwide for their mastery of the game and consistent finishes on the Pro Tour/Mythic Championship level. None of that matters, though. We’re all just people, we’ve all proven one way or another that we belong at this tournament, and we’re all going to play our best, but it is still the same game – Magic.
The draft began, and I sorted through my fairly average first pack, selecting Blacklance Paragon. The second pack came around and I took a Deathless Knight, which gave me a good start to either a mono-black deck or black-green food. I continued down that path when I could, picking up an early Bake into a Pie. However, I also found myself taking a Merfolk Secretkeeper and a couple copies of Run Away Together in the first pack. By the end of pack one, I was wavering between Green-Blue and Black-Green, leaning more toward the latter.
Then, I opened pack two, and there it was:
Possibly the best thing I could open in this spot, and a sweet piece of cardboard on top of it. I took the Oko and thought about how I was going to make it work in my deck. I kept getting signals pushing me into Black-Green, so I took them and decided to splash the Oko.
Although I had to scrape for a few playables, I was incredibly happy with my deck. Round One rolled around, and I got paired against a Blue-Black drafter. A strong curve plus Oko allowed me to shut the door quickly.
Round Two, I got paired against a Green-White drafter who got off to a quick start. With a pair of Flutterfoxes and a Jousting Dummy, they were able to pressure my Oko by going wide. After three close games, including a well-timed Giant Killer and a Harmonious Archon, I took the loss.
Round Three, time to rally back and pick up the 2-1 in Draft. My opponent this round was on Mono-Black and had a strong curve of Cauldron Familiar, Malevolent Noble and Ayara, First of Locthwain, which proved to be too much for me in Game One. In Game Two, I was the aggressor and was able to beat through my opponent’s defenses to pick up the win. Game Three was a different story: I stabilized after an early start from my opponent and played a Deathless Knight on defense, and an Oko to turn one of my food tokens into a blocker. Unfortunately, my opponent cast three creatures the following turn and then gave them haste with Crashing Drawbridge to end the game.
When I originally put my deck together, I felt I had a good chance at escaping the Draft portion of the event with a winning record. But some close games and a few mulligans later, I was sitting at 1-2. I knew I’d have to pick up some wins in Standard if I was going to right this ship. Heading into the lunch break, I was thinking a lot about the Food mirrors and talking with Jon about different lines in different scenarios just to get my head in the game.
Pairings went up for Round Four, and I was ready to play my best in order to rally back and make Day Two. I was paired against U/W Control, a deck built to target the Food decks. The Control deck will frequently win Game One, but the Food deck is favored after sideboarding. Unfortunately, we had a prolonged Game One that I ended up losing, which caused me to take more ambitious lines in the second game because of the clock, and I ended up losing in Game Two.
Round Five was a Sultai Food mirror. The games were rather uneventful, as I got stuck on lands in Game One, and my opponent did the same in Game Three. Game Two was about me resolving a Nissa, Who Shakes the World into a huge Hydroid Krasis.
Okay, I was back on the board. I just needed to keep grabbing wins and I’d be okay. Round Six was another Sultai Food mirror. Game One, my opponent resolved a Casualties of War, picking up a three-for-one and ending the game on the spot. I easily picked up Game Two with Gilded Goose into Oko, Thief of Crowns on the play. Game Three was much more of a battle as we traded removal spells back and forth, pressuring and defending Planeswalkers. Ultimately, my opponent just came out ahead at the end of the grind.
This certainly wasn’t how I envisioned this tournament going, but here we were. One more loss and I was dead for Day Two. I still felt good about my deck and my play and was ready to give it my best shot.
Round Six was against Eli Loveman, the winner of MC London. I was going to have to earn this one. Eli was playing B/G Adventures with three copies of Liliana, Dreadhorde General in the main deck. That decision paid off for him in this match, as Liliana easily dispatched me in both of our games.
This is where the story of my Mythic Championship comes to a close. However, the weekend was still ripe with opportunity.
Despite having a rough run at the tournament, I had an excellent time in Richmond over the weekend. I want to say thank you to all the wonderful people who approached me over the weekend just to say hello, or that they appreciated my content. You’re all the best! Interactions like that turn a rough tournament weekend into a great weekend in no time.
Having a Grand Prix attached to the Mythic Championship is a welcome change. Having an open tournament at the same time means that you can more easily travel and spend the weekend with friends, even if they aren’t qualified for the MC. It also means that there are tons of non-tournament Magic opportunities. Over the weekend, I played in a Mystery Booster Draft, which was a fun and unique experience. I also got to meet Howard Lyon, the artist for Death’s Shadow, and got some sweet, sweet signatures for my collection.
All in all, the Mythic Championship is not some high-stress event. It isn’t full of people trying to do anything to gain an edge; in reality, it is a room full of people who love the game and dedicate themselves to playing it at the highest level. Despite having a record I’m not thrilled with, I was thrilled to be back, and can’t wait to qualify for another one.
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.