Jan Merkel wins New Capenna Championship, earns second Pro Tour-level title

Merkel continues his successful year.

Image via WotC

Jan Merkel secured his second Pro Tour victory and an invitation to the Magic World Championship XXVIII with his win at the New Capenna Championship.

In the finals, Merkel defeated Simon Nielsen in an upper-bracket finals rematch with a tight 2–1 scoreline with Jeskai Hinata. He went undefeated in the top eight bracket. This marks his first Pro Tour win since Pro Tour Kobe in 2006.

Merkel is continuing his successful past year with two major tournament wins and a World Championship XXVII appearance in 2021. He ran hot off the back of his Jeskai Hinata list that was well-equipped against the other top Standard decks.

In the back-to-back matches against Nielsen in the upper-bracket finals and the title match, Merkel’s disruptive control strategy overwhelmed Nielsen’s Esper Midrange list. With Expressive Iteration, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Magma Opus, Merkel was able to generate enough creatures and draw enough cards to consistently keep Nielsen in check.

The rematch between Nielsen and Merkel played out similarly to their upper-finals matchup. Both decks are strong at each phase of the game. Both players had dominant match wins in their best-of-three set. Merkel easily took match one while Nielsen did the same in match two. The swingy nature of the matches is a testament to how both Esper Midrange and Jeskai Hinata are good at taking a small advantage and extending it.

Match three was a breeze for Merkel. After a hard-fought game one, Merkel secured the tournament win off a painful mulligan to five by Nielsen. The mulligan, combined with several poor draws, put Nielsen too far behind to come back.

Despite his second-place finish, Nielsen will receive an invitation to the world championship this fall. He made a strong run through the lower bracket by expertly piloting Esper Midrange, the most registered deck in the tournament. The disruptive midrange build can play an aggressive game plan while still having plenty of gas in the late game.

The deck’s power was displayed in the lower-bracket finals against Hisamichi Yoshigoe and his Naya Midrange deck. Nielsen breezed through the match, applying pressure on the battlefield while killing every threat Yoshigoe presented. 

Each player in the top eight earned an invitation to the world championship. Yoshigoe, Mike Sigrist, and Karl Sarap were new invitees to the final world championship of the Magic Esports era.

Yoshigoe became the feel-good story of the tournament as one of the newest players in the field. After starting Magic in 2020, Yoshigoe earned an unexpected invite to the New Capenna Championship by winning the GGTour Set Championship Qualifier. He brought an off-meta brew in Naya Midrange that proved to be a worthy contender.