AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP REPORT

AUS/NZ Regional Championship Report

Top 8 at the RC in AUS/NZ

Author: Zen Takahashi

Hello everyone!

A few weekends ago, I managed to make the Top 8 of the Regional Championships in Australia.

The format was Standard, and I played Bant Toxic. You can read all about the deck in my previous article, which can be found here. In today’s article, I’ll be going over the tournament experience – the preparation, the days leading up to the tournament, and the tournament itself. Hopefully, this can provide some insight into how I prepare for these events!

Preparation

I wanted to defend my Standard Regional Championships (RC) title from last year.

Additionally, our team had put up poor results at the last two RCs, and we were determined to perform better. In the first three RCs, we won two, made the finals of a third, and made six Top 8s.

But in the most recent two, we had zero Top 8s and just one Pro Tour (PT) invite.

Team Worldly Council

We set up a Discord group, primarily comprising members of Worldly Counsel, plus their regional teammates who weren’t necessarily qualified for the Pro Tour.

The team had about 30 people: thirteen from Europe, eleven from Australia/New Zealand, and the rest playing in other regions (USA/Canada/South America/Asia).

Our group was divided into two main cohorts – the European group and the Australia/New Zealand group. Given the time zone differences, the two groups tested among themselves but shared knowledge across the whole Discord. We also scheduled meetings at times that worked for the majority and recorded them for those who couldn’t attend.

Due to the Pro Tour that happened at the end of April, we waited for its results before starting our preparation. We began our preparation on 1st May, a few days after the Pro Tour. The Canadians had an RC right away, and two of them played Temur Analyst while one played Domain Ramp.

They did well, with Liam Kane securing a PT invite and both Eduardo Sajgalik and Jack Potter coming close. Their input and thoughts post-event were helpful, though we were aware that by the time our RC came around, the format might look different with how quickly Standard was changing.

Our plan was to spend the first two weeks of May exploring the format. Each of us played Magic Online (MODO) Leagues or Arena Ladder with decks that personally interested us, sharing our learnings on Discord.

After two weeks, we planned to narrow down our deck choices to a few promising ones, then move to in-team gauntlet testing, setting up matchup sets between these decks and the top decks in the metagame.

Given the diversity in Standard, we knew it was unlikely we would all play the same deck, but the idea was to end up with two or three well-tuned team decks. Additionally, having everyone explore the format in the first half of the month would equip them to proficiently play the other side of the matchups later, which is crucial for quality testing.

Tishana's Tidebinder LCI

Personally, I decided not to play Esper Midrange or any Control decks due to my preference for proactive decks and my struggle with playing counterspells. While Esper is proactive, it’s just a type of deck I dislike in general. 

Here are the decks I tried and gave up on:

Boros Convoke

The deck was strong in game one but weak post-board.

It struggled against sweepers, and its sideboard was poor. Invasion of Gobakhan was awkward, as it didn’t stop Sunfall, a popular sweeper, and relying on Urabrask’s Forge against control and midrange was optimistic with these decks playing Tishana’s Tidebinder.

Urabrasks Forge ONE

Domain Ramp

I liked the deck, but many on the team who had played it more decided its metagame positioning was poor. I played one league with the deck, went 5-0, then gave up on it.

In hindsight, this was the right choice, as the deck struggled against Temur Analyst and Dimir Control, both of which were rising in popularity.

Atraxa Grand Unifier ONE

Golgari Midrange

I found this deck to be clunky and underpowered.

Almost every deck in Standard was either trying to do something powerful (Temur Analyst, Boros Convoke, Domain Ramp) or stop others with effective interaction (Esper Midrange, Azorius Control, Dimir Control), and Golgari was doing neither.

Hostile Investigator BIG

The decks I tried that had potential were:

Aftermath Analyst MKM

Temur Analyst

Sean Goddard, who had just made Top 8 at the Pro Tour with the deck, coached me on it. I struggled with the deck, losing in leagues and feeling helpless, and would have given up on it, except I could feel how powerful the archetype was and a lot of my losses were coming from being rushed to make decisions because of how unintuitive the deck was to play online with all of the triggers.

The coaching from Sean also showed just how poorly I was playing it, and I felt that with more coaching and practice, I could become proficient by the RC.

Jeskai Convoke

This was one of our team’s brews, the other being the Gruul Surprise deck, which the Italians worked on a lot and one of our teammates, StormGuyisme, did well with it in a MODO Challenge, which popularized the deck online.

The idea of Jeskai Convoke came from my friend Simon Nielsen, who had worked on it for the Pro Tour, and suggested splashing blue for Spyglass Siren, which made the deck more consistent as you had more targets for Gleeful Demolition and became better at activating Warden of the Inner Sky.

Blue also provided counterspells in the sideboard and Tishana’s Tidebinder, which were excellent against control and big mana decks. The main downside was a worse manabase, but overall, the trade-off seemed worth it.

Deck Testing

After two weeks, the two team decks were Temur Analyst and Jeskai Convoke. These were the two decks the majority of us were interested in.

There were a few outliers that some individuals were working on, like 4c Legends and Dimir Control, but I was set against playing either. During the team’s gauntlet testing, both team decks performed well, but I continued to feel uncomfortable with Temur Analyst.

Despite the coaching and practice, I was overwhelmed and feeling queasy playing it.

I just did not feel comfortable managing so many game objects. At this point, while I kept telling myself I had to play the deck because it was the best deck, I just knew I couldn’t.

Strength Testing Hammer UNF

The other option was Jeskai Convoke, which was also performing well in testing. This was starting to look like the deck I was going to play.

There were already multiple people putting great work into it, and I felt comfortable picking it up at the last minute since I’d played it a lot over the two weeks prior and in general feel comfortable with these types of decks. 

Around this time, Guillermo Sulimovich was working on Bant Toxic and achieving good results on Magic Online. The deck seemed bad initially, but its results were undeniable.

The team from Quebec had done well with it at the Canadian RC, and while they had played it as a metagame choice for that weekend, I realized it was better positioned now than it was then, as its good matchups (Temur Analyst, Control decks) were more popular, while its bad matchups (Boros Convoke, Esper Midrange) were less popular.

Domain Ramp, its natural “best matchup”, was dropping in numbers, but Dimir Control was actually an even better matchup for the deck and that was rising in popularity.

With many people working on Temur Analyst and Jeskai Convoke, I felt it was okay to deviate and try Bant Toxic. At this point, we were a week out from the tournament, and I figured that I would give Bant Toxic a go for a few days and if it looked promising, I’d work on it further, but otherwise I would just move on and lock in Jeskai Convoke and devote the last four or five days working on it. 

I reached out to Pascal Maynard for help, and he provided excellent insights, including voice messages explaining how to approach the deck’s bad matchups like Boros Convoke and 4c Legends. This boosted my confidence, and I decided to give Bant Toxic a try.

The Seedcore 02 ONE

Testing Bant Toxic

On Friday, the week before the RC, I woke up at 5:30 am (due to the time difference with Uruguay) to run through a league with Guillermo. We went 3-2, and he taught me a lot about playing the deck. Despite the result, I was impressed with the deck’s power, particularly with how strong Venerated Rotpriest was.

I learned the deck also had a lot of play to it that was difficult for your opponent to play around, and I constantly found that I could set up my cards in such a way that I could bait my opponents into traps that I had laid. 

Over two days, I played six leagues, going 24-6. While a small sample size, the 80% win rate was significant, and I consistently beat good matchups and performed better than expected against bad matchups. The only decks I struggled against were Boros Convoke and Mono Red variants.

With just a few days until deck submission, I needed to stress-test the deck against better players playing my worst matchups. I convinced teammates to play sets against me, which helped me settle on the deck. I went even against Esper Midrange and felt slightly favored against 4c Legends. Boros Convoke remained a nightmare matchup, but one I could steal wins against, especially post-board.

Temur Analyst wasn’t as favorable as expected, but I still felt slightly favored, hoping Temur Analyst players at the RC wouldn’t be experienced with this matchup enough to know how aggressively they needed to mulligan here.

Ultimately, I decided to play Bant Toxic. I was the only one on the team to play the deck, but I felt confident. Mostly, it was a relief I didn’t have to play Temur Analyst because every fiber in my body didn’t want to, and I enjoyed playing Bant Toxic more than Jeskai Convoke.

You can read all about the deck in my recent article.

Bant Toxic Deck Pic

Day 0 – Friday

In the morning, I finalized my decklist and sideboard mapping with Guillermo.

I was unsure about the manabase, so I reached out to Simon Nielsen, who had previously helped me build an excellent manabase for the Grixis Midrange deck I won the RC with last year.

He recommended adding a 23rd land, specifically a white source, to play Skrelv’s Hive on turn two more consistently. Guillermo and I decided on Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, which could act as a removal spell if we were flooded and was discounted by Skrelv, the Defector Mite.

I made the change and submitted my deck. I then drove to the airport for my evening flight to Melbourne.

We expected the metagame to be mostly in line with the global meta, but with slightly more Golgari Midrange, Mono Red Aggro, Boros Convoke, and Control decks, and slightly less Temur Analyst and 4c Legends.

I felt that Bant Toxic was decently positioned, but not amazing. I still believed Temur Analyst was the best deck, but I just did not want to play it.

Expected Meta

Day 1 – Saturday

I slept well, as Australia is two hours behind New Zealand, allowing me to feel like I had slept in. There were 168 players and eight rounds for the tournament, with ten Pro Tour invites up for grabs. A 6-1-1 record was needed for one of these invites.

Round one pairings went up, and my heart sank when I saw I was paired against Boros Aggro, a nightmare matchup.

I mulliganed to five in all three games, losing a close first game, winning game two with an incredible draw involving two Venerated Rotpriests and a March of Swirling Mist, and losing game three due to a misplay as I didn’t play around End the Festivities.

They had mulliganed to five, so I foolishly decided to get greedy by playing Skrelv, Defector Mite into Jawbone Duelist, but this was extremely poor in hindsight as on a five-card hand they were likely going to set up their hand in such a way to try “steal” a win, and they didn’t have a one-drop creature, so it was likely they had kept a hand that heavily leaned on End the Festivities. I lost the match due to this mistake.

Skrelv Defector Mite 02 ONE

The tournament started disastrously, but I managed to collect myself and paired into Domain Ramp and Azorius Control over the next two rounds, beating both without dropping a game.

With a 2-1 record heading into the lunch break, the official metagame breakdown was posted online, and we realized we had grossly misjudged it.

Boros Convoke was the most popular deck, Temur Analyst was the second most popular deck, Domain Ramp didn’t even hit 10% and Esper Midrange was somehow less popular than Bant Toxic.

I just had to hope I could keep dodging Boros Convoke and keep pairing into Temur Analyst and the Control decks.

ANZ Super Series Standard Meta

After lunch, I got lucky with my pairings, as I faced Golgari Midrange, Dimir Control, and Azorius Control, winning all three rounds. Heading into Round 7, I was at 5-1. A win would allow me to intentional draw the last round to come 9th or 10th, qualifying me for the Pro Tour but not making the Top 8.

I was paired against Temur Analyst in Round 7, and my opponent had a slow draw both games, allowing me to win comfortably.

In Round 7, a key match between two players at 4-1-1 went to time, and they drew, knocking them out of Top 8 contention. This changed the math, and now I would ID into 8th instead of 9th, and I also didn’t have to worry about potentially getting paired down in the last round.

I was paired against Isaac Egan, an old-school player and lovely guy, who happily took the ID, securing his Pro Tour spot.

Just like that, I had made the Top 8! After a rough start, I played well and got lucky, dodging bad matchups and hitting good ones after losing my first round. 

Once all the announcements were concluded, we headed to a fantastic Mexican restaurant, where we had booked a table for ten people to enjoy our team dinner!

Day 2 – Sunday

I wanted to win the tournament. After playing the World Championships last year, it was an experience I wanted again.

I was paired against 4c Legends in the quarter-finals. Although everyone says this matchup is bad for Bant Toxic, I’d played against it a lot and felt slightly favored.

The key was being extremely tempo-focused. Unfortunately, being the eighth seed, I was on the draw, which possibly swung things in their favor. It’s harder to tempo them out and take advantage of their clunkiness when they were a turn cycle ahead. A big thing was when I was on the play, I could attack with my one-drop and get them to one poison before they play a two-drop, which I could then bounce with Serum Snare and proliferate, but I couldn’t do that on the draw. 

ANZ Super Series Top 8

I lost a close, drawn-out game one where I had to bounce my Skrelv’s Hive at the end of my opponent’s turn with Serum Snare as I was on one life, and had to draw exactly another Serum Snare as my attack could only get them to nine poison counters, but I did not draw the bounce spell.

I then won a quick game two off the back of two Slaughter Singers, and lost game three when my opponent managed to gum up the board with Rona, Herald of Invasion, and Inti, Seneschal of the Sun. I was forced to overextend into a Glistening Deluge, which they had, and I lost.

Despite my efforts, I couldn’t avoid it, as Rona + Inti was otherwise going to be unbeatable.

Winner Chicken Dinner

And that was it! I spent a few hours watching my friends compete in the $5k side event, grabbed an amazing Korean fried chicken and waffles lunch, and then headed to the airport for my flight home, where I am currently writing this article.

Conclusion

This past month has been a whirlwind, but I am happy to have made my second RC Top 8 and qualify for the Pro Tour. Just a week prior, my confidence was at an all-time low as I realized I couldn’t play Temur Analyst, the best deck, and felt I had no good options.

Now, I had Top 8’d with a deck that wasn’t even on my radar.

I got lucky. In hindsight, the deck was poorly positioned for the field, but I luckily dodged Boros Convoke, and hit only good matchups after losing my first round. Due to personal reasons, I’ll have to defer to the next Pro Tour, which isn’t until February next year.

It feels strange to qualify for a tournament eight months away. I’ll likely skip the next RC too, as it feeds the same PT.

So, I’ll probably not be playing much competitive Magic for the rest of the year. It feels weird, but that’s just how the timing of events went this year.

Eiganjo Seat of the Empire NEO

Massive thanks to my team!

We worked well together and got along great. Special thanks to Pascal for the initial list and all the help, Guillermo for the coaching and helping to tune the final list, and Simon for the 23rd land suggestion, which ended up being clutch!

Every time I drew Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, it was great, and I thanked Simon for it each time in my head.

Till next time!

Zen Takahashi  

@mtgzen on X (Twitter)

About the Author

Zen Takahashi is a seasoned writer and mainstay on the Three for One Trading writing team. He is an avid Eternal player from Auckland, New Zealand and enjoys competing in local Legacy events and playing Old School over webcam with friends.

Previously, he was a Silver Pro for multiple years and his results included five Grand Prix Top 8s, a 27th place at Pro Tour Amonkhet, three consecutive online Regional PTQ wins, and he co-created the Modern Dredge deck.

Nowadays though, he primarily plays Legacy, his favorite format, but he also branches out into Pioneer and Modern.

Zen Takahashi

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