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Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor Day Two Highlights

February 25, 2024
Corbin Hosler

The 2024 Pro Tour season kicked off in Chicago for the first Pro Tour of the year. The highest level of competitive play took center stage as players crossed the skybridge into MagicCon: Chicago and got to watch the best in the world play at Magic's highest levels.

Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor didn't disappoint. Through six rounds of draft and 10 of Pioneer, Magic was put through its paces by the best in the world, and the rest of us were treated to a show that included a number of first-time Pro Tour qualifiers breaking through for deep runs, several of the game's greatest regaling us with member matches of masterful Magic on camera, and an impressive Top 8 that includes a win at the Strixhaven Championship.

Pardee was the first Sunday qualifier to punch his ticket after a blistering 12-2 start, and he was soon joined by the rest of the Top 8, each of whom took their own unique road to the Pro Tour and now their shot at a Pro Tour trophy. Pardee's run was fueled by the best deck choice of the weekend – more on that later.

Here's things played out at Day Two of Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor.

Making the Most of Murders

Teams spent weeks on their Limited preparation before coming to Chicago and a few more furious days of drafting leading up to the Pro Tour's Friday start; nothing beats eight-person pod play when you need to prepare to draft against the game's best.

It's hard to overstate how important Draft is to Pro Tour success, both for spiking individual events and for building up enough points to qualify for future events. Murders at Karlov Manor Draft may represent less than half the rounds, but its effect on tiebreakers as the start of each day looms large in a tournament with so few potential chances to gain an advantage. Every one of your opponents is a highly decorated Magic player before you even face them, and sometimes you sit down to this set of opponents for your first three rounds.

  • Willy Edel
  • Christian Calcano
  • Shuhei Nakamura

Hall of Fame. Pro Tour titles. Incredible numbers of Top Finishes. Welcome to the Pro Tour.

What was the lucky player to stare down that gauntlet? Well, here's the twist that makes the Pro Tour: that player was Alex Hayne, who himself won Pro Tour Avacyn Restored as part of his storied Magic career – and his opponents were rightfully just as nervous (and Hayne would go on to play well into Day Two after going 1-2 in that draft).

There were only five players who went undefeated in the six Draft rounds:

  • Adam Edelson
  • James Larsen-Scott
  • Tyler Hatchel
  • Luis Scott-Vargas
  • Marcio Cárvalho

It comes as no surprise that almost all of those players were battling late on Saturday with their Top 8 hopes alive – and Edelson would go on to convert it into a Sunday stage appearance.

"I'm over the moon right now, and I love talking about Limited," Edelson gushed after clinching a Top 8 berth. "Stay aggressive, that was the theme and everyone knew that coming in. The aggressive decks have the advantage, and having strong two-drops is huge."

A Limited enthusiast who would have been grinding Murders draft regardless of whether or not it could leak to a Top 8 at the Pro Tour – he ranks up to Mythic almost every month on MTG Arena – Edelson knew exactly what he was looking for when he sat down for his first Pro Tour draft on Friday.

"The strategy that was successful for me was finding the right multicolor pair. If you can do that, you can get the signpost uncommons in your color pair pretty late," he explained. "In my draft today, I got three Gleaming Geardrake. In general, I think you want to play a two-color deck in every combination but green, and you want your green decks to be three colors to increase your card quality and removal."


An Ultimate Metagame Choice

Before Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor most players agreed that the Pioneer format was mostly known, unless some team totally broke the format and shocked us all, we largely knew what decks to expect.

Well one team broke it, or at the very least built the best deck for the weekend. Rakdos Midrange is always a popular choice, but it was a different kind of Rakdos build that posted one of the best performances of the weekend.

Far and away the most successful deck, Rakdos Vampires also converted into Top 8 berths for two of its pilots.

The breakout technology this weekend was the "combo" of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Vein Ripper. The new Murders at Karlov Manor creature not serves a double Blood Artist (key against the aggressive decks), but crucially its ward ability requiring the sacrifice of a creature is a cost that several popular decks in the format – namely Lotus Field and Azorius Control – have precious few ways to pay.

The deck propelled teammates Sam Pardee and Seth Manfield to the Top 8.

Of course, the Pioneer classics were well-represented as well. The unique archetype unto itself that is Izzet Phoenix placed both reigning world champion Jean-Emmanduel Depraz and Adam Edelson into the Top 8 before the swiss rounds even ended as they picked up 12 wins in 15 rounds.

Joining them early was the Lotus Field Combo player Alex Friedrichsen, one of two players who made the Top 8 with the powerful format staple.

A Stacked Top 8 is Set for Sunday

Round 16, the final Swiss round of the Pro Tour, opened with four Top 8 spots claimed and four left open, without a clean set of win-and-ins. The sweat was on.

Seth Manfield had been fighting uphill after a halting start after Friday left him at 5-2-1 and needing to string together wins. But as Day Two turned to the Constructed rounds and the team Vampire deck came into play, Manfield turned it on as he has so many times in the past. The Hall of Famer capped it off with a nailbiting three-game victory over Adrián Iñigo Tastet in the final round to earn his 11th Top Finish and first in three years.

Then came Luis Scott-Vargas's match against Mingyang Chen, which could send another Vampires player (not to mention Hall of Famer) into the Top 8. Instead, Chen's Lotus Field deck was able to carry the match and send the unique list into the Top 8 – it was the only Lotus Field deck in the room to pack Behold the Beyond and it send Chen into his first Pro Tour Top 8.

Two spots remained, for three players; Javier Dominguez, Christoffer Larsen and Simon Nielsen all won their last rounds (with Phoenix, Amalia Combo and Boros Heroic, respectively). When the tiebreakers shook out, it was Larsen and Nielsen who advanced to Sunday.

Making the Top 8 of a Pro Tour can be life changing; every player in the field spends thousands of hours playing Magic to advance to this point in their careers. And, seldomly, a few players make the Top 8 of multiple Pro Tours in a career, and the times where a player has put together a truly absurd one-year run can be counted with two hands.

Then there's this: with this Top Finish the reigning Player of the Year Simon Nielsen has now made the Top 8 of four events of this level in a row. Pro Tour March of the Machine, Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, Magic World Championship XXIX, and now Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor.

Hall of Famers, repeat Top Finishers and a few new faces looking to add their own names to that list. Congratulations again to our entire Top 8!

  • Sam Pardee (Rakdos Vampires)
  • Alex Friedrichsen (Lotus Field Combo)
  • Adam Edelson (Izzet Phoenix)
  • Jean-Emmanuel Depraz (Izzet Phoenix)
  • Seth Manfield (Rakdos Vampires)
  • Simon Nielsen (Boros Heroic)
  • Christoffer Larsen (Amalia Combo)
  • Mingyang Chen (Lotus Field Combo)

Now the Sunday stage is set and all that remains is to award a trophy and a title. You can follow all the action live at at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT)!

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