Event Recap

Azorius Control Triumphs: Liam Hoban Secures Victory at Montreal

The energy was electric at the Montreal Regional Championship as 366 Magic players battled for dominance in the Standard format. What emerged was a thrilling showcase of skill and strategic diversity, with Liam Hoban ultimately claiming victory with his Azorius Control deck.

Players deep in concentration during intense matches

The metagame actually turned out to be pretty spread out with no clear-cut deck at the top in terms of popularity.

Day 1 ended with Dan MacDonald being the only perfect 8-0. He was piloting Esper Midrange without Raffine.

Dan MacDonald focused during his undefeated Day 1 run

Azorius Control stood out coming out from Pro Tour Thunder Junction as it had the best win rate (59.2%) out of all archetypes with at least 10 pilots. Liam Hoban continued the archetype’s success by winning the entire event. I chatted with him and finalist Asha Mills Emmett about their weekend and how they felt about claiming their spots at the upcoming World Championship.

KYT: How does this achievement rank among your career goals in MTG? How does it feel?

Liam: It feels absolutely amazing. Qualifying for the Pro Tour has been my biggest goal, which I have fallen just short of numerous times. To finally get there after 8 years feels incredible, and the fact that I also qualified for Worlds is unexplainable. This undoubtedly ranks at the top of my MTG career, though I don’t plan on letting this be the pinnacle. I know that I have a lot more to give and want to reach even higher heights.

KYT: Who did you test with, and how did you adjust your usual process?

This Regional was a little different than usual. Normally I work with a small group of players from Calgary known as “The Bus”, though none of them were planning on attending Montreal. As such, the majority of my testing was done independently on MTGO, with the occasional Discord stream where friends would pop in to watch and share opinions—though not all of my testing was done alone. My partner in crime for this tournament was Andrew “Curly” Huska. During the day we would spend hours talking about the format while at work together, and in the evening we would spend our nights on Discord as we shared our matches and talked through various lines. This was the first Regional where all of my testing was done solely online, and I had not played a single match in paper until Round 1 of the Regional.

Lastly, I have to give mention to Gabriel Nassif who provided a lot of resources for U/W control following Pro Tour Thunder Junction. He shared a lot of his thoughts regarding the deck with his Twitch chat/Discord, including an entire write up discussing card choices, matchups, and various changes he would make following the Pro Tour. I was able to use this as a foundation for how I approached a lot of my matchups, and how I overall thought about the deck.

KYT: Was the Montreal meta close to what you anticipated, and how will this shape your future strategies?

The Montreal meta was close to what we had anticipated, however we drastically over estimated how much Esper Midrange would be at the event, expecting closer to 18-20% opposed to the 12% that did show up.

Moving forward, I would look at adding a 28th land back to the deck, as I found that the majority of my losses were related to stumbling and missing my 4th land drop. Yuta Takahashi spoke about this on Twitter following his 2nd place finish at PT OTJ, and perhaps I should have followed his advice: “Screw lose more than floods.”

As for the rest of the deck, I don’t feel that there are any immediate changes to be made. The only thing that I would have liked to fit in the deck is a 5th two mana counter, whether it be a single Make Disappear or Phantom Interference.

KYT: Some claim in-person opponents are better prepared than online competitors. Do you agree?

I do think there is some truth there, as the Regional Championship holds a lot of weight behind it. Players that are taking the time to travel and dedicate themselves to a weekend tournament have a lot more invested compared to the player that copies a decklist 10 minutes before a MTGO Challenge on a Saturday morning. As such, players that are playing in a Regional often do have a much more concrete game plan with their deck, as they have put in the time to prepare. With that being said, I do not agree that online opponents are inherently soft competition. The players that are grinding the streets of MTGO often are quite skilled, and can be formidable opponents. For example, the week before Montreal I played in a MTGO Preliminary where I went 0-3 drop with nearly the same list that I won this tournament with. Does that make my opponents this weekend paid actors? Of course not.

KYT: What’s most thrilling about competing at Worlds, and how will you build on the momentum from this event?

The opportunity to compete at Worlds is beyond exciting. Not only will I get to play amongst the best players in the world, at the biggest stage, I get to play for the ultimate prize that players dream of—being immortalized onto a Magic card.

The biggest thing that contributed to my success this weekend is the network of people that support me. I am fortunate to have met so many incredible friends because of this game, and knowing that regardless of the match result I can leave the table and join a group of friends to share laughs with is the ultimate factor. It helps keep me grounded and move from one match to the other. My biggest supporters however are my parents, Sean and Ronaye, who I have to give the most thanks to. I don’t think anyone was refreshing MTG Melee this weekend as much as they were at home, as they tried to follow along from their couch.

KYT: How does this achievement rank in your MTG career, and how are you feeling about it?

Asha: It’s an amazing feeling. It’s by far my biggest achievement in the game; I hadn’t even qualified for a Pro Tour before this.

KYT: Can you describe your preparation approach and who helped you along the way?

Asha: I’m in a group of Ontario locals who regularly test online and run testing houses in person. Dawson Courson deserves a shoutout as he has also spent a long time working on Esper, and we have had several discussions about the optimal build of the deck. Also a shoutout to my friends in the group who qualified for the pro tour with me – Edgar Magalhães, Shawn Dhaliwal, Dan MacDonald, Jonny Guttman, and Liam Kane.

KYT: Did the Montreal Weekend meta align with your expectations, and would you modify anything moving forward?

Asha: The Montreal Weekend meta was more or less what I would have expected, barring the surge of toxic decks. In particular I wanted to be prepared for the analyst and domain decks, hence my choice to play two mainboard Tishana’s Tidebinder. I was extremely satisfied with my list and I don’t think I need to change anything, although I am still not 100% confident that Preacher of the Schism is a better choice than Wedding Announcement.

KYT: Some people had mentioned on Twitter that some of the real life opponents felt like they had more robust gameplans. Do you share that same experience?

Asha: Yes, I share a very similar experience. I feel that online testing “in the wild” can be very hit-or-miss. This is why I feel it is very valuable to have a strong group to test with, so you know you can expect competent play and you can learn things from your matches.

KYT: What excites you most about competing at Worlds?

Asha: I am extremely excited to compete at Worlds; it was not even a consideration for me at first; I was already extremely happy once I had won my win-and-in for the Pro Tour. Once again I would like to join a testing team to prepare for the event; I haven’t decided which one yet though.

Our Tour Weekends feature more than just the Regional Championship. Steven McGrath seems to be dominating our Legacy Championships, adding yet another 1st place finish to his resume.

We also re-introduced the Sunday Open and held multiple Qualfiers across the 3 days.

Up next on the F2F Tour is another major event as we host the Vancouver CommandFest at Canada Place! CommandFest Vancouver will be the ultimate celebration of Commander! Not only will we be offering thrilling Commander Pods all weekend, but we’ve also got a variety of exciting Commander events to spice up your weekend. From Two-Headed Giant Commander and Commander Full Box Sealed to Grand Melee, Precon Battles, CEDH, and more, there’s something for every Commander enthusiast.

Featured alongside CommandFest Vancouver will be our second annual Canadian Highlander Showdown! Canadian Highlander was born and raised in the heart of British Columbia, and remains beloved by its community. Get ready for a thrilling display of this unique format.

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