Store Championships Jan 2021 report
Dragon’s Lair held a Store Championship for each location, with 25 players competing at St Marys and 15 at Salisbury, representing approximately 35-ish unique players across the SA Highlander scene. The top placing players at each store were eligible to compete in the single-elimination Store Championship on Jan 9th, after which the winner from St Marys and Salisbury would duke it out on Jan 10th!
Final standings going in to the Top 8 was based on performance throughout the end of 2020 season across all Highlander Events. Top 8 play-offs occurred using the Swiss play-draw rule:
1st – Sarven McLinton
2nd – James Arthur
3rd – Oli Oks
4th – Socrates Stavropoulos
5th – Beckett Wolfe
6th – Dean Kolpin
7th – Kupe Simpson
8th – Elijah Tardio
The lists played in the Top 8 are available below. Keep in mind there were likely Sideboard decisions made in light of the players who made the Top 8 cut (i.e. metagaming vs. the popular decks played by this cohort), so if you’re looking to sleeve up any of the Top 8 lists below be sure to tailor and tweak them to your local meta!
The Highlander Metagame in the Adelaide metro region
Looking at the past event results from St Marys and Salisbury, it’s interesting to note that despite both being ‘SA’ locations, there are clear differences in the Highlander metagames according to area. From my observations it seems like the metro area of Adelaide favours midrange, or at least a high level of ‘fair’ back-and-forth interaction (e.g. Control, Midrange, Aggro, etc.). Anecdotally, I’ve seen the Salisbury region (a satellite city about 30-40min drive from the Adelaide CBD) players are keen to explore the Combo end of the spectrum, with fantastic decks like Grixis Reanimator, 4c Oath, and even Infect decks getting a lot of representation. This is really awesome to see, and now that players are also interacting between stores as the Highlander community comes together our SA metagame gets to experience interesting shake-ups as heavy-weights in the local arenas collide!
The Dragon’s Lair Store Championships have been one such example, with players progressing through the ranks locally in order to throw-down across the aisles for the glory of ‘Store Champion’ (and $750 to boot!).
My experience in the St Marys Store Championship
For this event we knew the Top 8 players ahead of time, so could ponder the type of decks that might be in the field, and what kind of sideboard cards we might want to sleeve up. I really wanted to be on Midrange in the Adelaide metro area, as being proactive and having the ability to catch an opponent when they stumble is really important in fair metagames. Also, I was 1st seed, so knowing that I was on the play every match meant I 100% want to be on mana dorks. Turn 1 Pilgrim (or even the under-rated Green Sun’s for Dryad) is the best way to capitalise on being on the play, because it asks the question ‘do you have it?’ If they cannot ‘bolt the bird’, you jam any one of your plethora of 3-drops before they can muster a defence, you curve out and the game is over. I had the pleasure of doing this vs Beckett in the Semi-Finals, creating a ‘non-game’ that on the play went something like “Turn 1 dork”, “Turn 2 Plow the opposing dork + Wasteland him”, “Turn 3 Renegade Rallier Waste you again + Submerge your second dork”, “Turn 4 Resto Angel my Rallier Waste you again…” all this through Beckett casting a natural A-call and having a 4 land + 2 mana dork hand, and still powering through. Whilst this is no doubt a testament to 1-0 mana removal and Wasteland, the entire line was ONLY possible in the presence of Turn 1 mana dork on the play. It’s the reason Mox Emerald is 3 Points… but you can play 4-6 of those ‘pseudo-Moxen’ for free by virtue of playing Green one drops…
The second major decision I had when sleeving up a deck was how to beat the midrange mirror. The most obvious option is ‘going over the top’ by having a higher curve, vaulting ahead in mana production, or playing one-sided sweepers (Parallax Wave) and haymakers (Fractured Identity). However knowing the Adelaide metagame I wanted to break symmetry on another axis so I went with a combo finish. With Worldly Tutor, Chord, Eladamri’s Call, for Heliod, Spike Feeder, and Archangel of Thune, a relatively small package provides a tonne of consistency when partnered with all the other usual Midrange tools (e.g. Pod, GSZ). The key is not investing too much in becoming ‘a combo deck’ because once you sit there durdling, you lose the entire purpose of being proactive midrange (and you simply side out 4-5 of the slowest pieces and bring in midrange haymakers from the board when you need to convert). It let me play a primarily midrange game vs. the more control/tempo decks like Beckett’s (simply ignoring my combo and going for value instead), or threaten the combo when behind against a more aggressive midrange deck like James Arthur’s. The latter was really important because on a Mull to 5 in game 1 vs. James I was actually still live, being able to stall long enough to exhaust his resources for a critical turn where he had one card in hand, only one mana open, and I could Green Sun’s for Spike Feeder, pass the turn with enough blockers to survive (and fade a removal spell) in order to untap and play the Archangel of Thune that was in my hand and gain infinite life. Sadly for me, the last card in James’ hand was a Spell Pierce (which is one of the types of interaction you get caught by more often when on a combo-version, so watch out!). Likewise in our subsequent game I could put land flood to good use, with Chord and other tutors pulling a lot of weight. I set up an end of turn Chord for Spike Feeder but alas James’ powerful aggressive plan got the better of me (low cmc chonkers and haste threats are amazing in the format at the moment, so if you’re not on them already get keen!).
James Arthur defeated me in the finals and became the St Marys representative at the inter-store Championships! He went on to thoroughly sweep a 2-0 in the Store Championships, and along with his Modern and Pioneer teammates brought home the trophy for St Marys. An awesome job!
Thanks to Phil Wessels and Peter Meyer for coordinating the Store Championships series and putting some huge prize support on the line (each finalist going home with $750, plus the runner-ups scoring $250 each! Likewise for Modern and Pioneer). The events were exciting, and I can already tell that people will no doubt be grinding the next season of Highlander events to qualify for the 2021 store Champs too! Looking forward to it already.
Here are the decks played in the St Marys Store Championships Top 8:
|Player’s Standing||Player’s Name||Player’s Deck List Link|
|1st||James Arthur||Nono-Black (WURG Aggro-Midrange)|
|2nd||Sarven McLinton||“Helipod” (Bant Midrange-Combo)|
|3rd-4th||Beckett Wolfe||Powered “Sea Change” (Bant Midrange-Tempo-Control)|
|3rd-4th||Oli Oks||RUG Lord (Temur Tempo-Control)|
|5th-8th||Socrates Stavropoulos||BUG Thoracle (Sultai Combo-Control)|
|5th-8th||Dean Kolpin||Yorion Flicker (WURG Midrange-Combo)|
|5th-8th||Kupe Simpson||Zoo (Naya Aggro) [decklist links incoming]|
|5th-8th||Elijah Tardio||Grixis Artifacts (Combo-Control)|