From the moment it was announced, the Magic World Cup was instantly my favorite tournament of the year. I’ve always loved team tournaments, and this wasn’t just any team tournament—it was
After all the qualifiers were done, Team Brazil consisted of:
Of those, I only knew Juliano beforehand. He had international experience—two Pro Tours and a couple of GPs—and I knew he spent a lot of time on MODO every day under the nickname Babones. He had also stayed with me at Bolovo’s house three weeks before, for GP São Paulo. The other two I had briefly met, but had never had a conversation with. Since I lived very far from everyone else and meeting to play was not feasible, we created a Facebook conversation and agreed to arrive in Indianapolis early.
At some point, we received the news that one of the members, Victor Silva, had had his Visa denied. That left me panicked—even though it’s possible to play with only three members (and, in fact, if I am not mistaken, Peru did that and qualified), you’re at a big disadvantage. If someone does badly, you’re pretty much out. You can’t “eliminate” their result, and you’re always going to be last on tiebreakers. Victor tried a second time, but was denied again, and then gave up. I frantically messaged Helene and tried to figure out what would happen if a player was unable to go. She told me that the slot would pass on to second place in the qualifiers. Second place, Leonardo Siqueira, also didn’t have a Visa, but luckily was able to get one in time and ended up replacing Victor.
We arrived in Indy without much trouble, and began playing Standard. We didn’t know much about Block or Modern, but we weren’t sure we were even going to play those formats, and we had more time to figure them out anyway. At that point, we mostly liked Delver and Zombies. My teammates all proved that they actually knew more than I did about what was going on in all of the formats (lists, sideboards, etc), which makes me think I’ve been relaxing too much lately. I was particularly impressed with Juliano, and my interactions with him have, along with my interactions with other MODO players lately, contributed to a change in the way I see the MODO grinders (I’ve always thought Magic Online was all about quantity, and not quality. The players who played a lot there would become familiar with the interactions, the cards, the formats, but would lack the fine subtleties that make a player
Over the course of the week, I found myself trusting him completely—for example, at some point the board was complicated and he asked, “should I attack?” I asked back, “does he still die if he has a removal spell?” He instantly answered, “he dies if he has one, but not if he has two, but I don’t think he has two.” I feel that, with many other players, I’d take it upon myself to check and see that he actually dies if he has one removal spell (and I certainly expected to have to do that before the event started), but I didn’t feel the need to do that with him, I just accepted it.
The day before the event, we met the US team and Martin Juza, and then we played some more. Martin and Kibler liked Naya Pod, and, though I do not think the deck is bad, I can’t bring myself to play it. It relies soo much on its mana guys that everyone has ways to kill right now. I thought Delver was good, but I didn’t really want to play it either. This tournament reminded me of GP Pittsburgh, where we played Caw-Blade “one too many times”—the decks had adapted so much that Caw Blade, instead of being 55% against the field, became a 45% deck against the field.
I was sure the same was happening to Delver, with everyone tuning their decks to beat it. The biggest problem is certainly Cavern of Souls. The greatest strength of the Delver deck—the fact that you could play multiple roles—is now diminished. You cannot play control against many of the decks any more. Whereas previously you could just be content to attack for two and sit back with Mana Leak and [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card], now you’re forced to be proactive. Passing with open mana into a turn of Cavern + something is often enough to lose the game. Since Mana Leak is worse, Snapcaster is also much worse, and you end up playing a glorified aggro deck.
The problem was, what to play? I certainly didn’t want to play Naya. Though I liked Zombies, I was afraid of other people’s sideboards—it’s a good deck g1, but it gets worse against almost everyone after that. In the end, I stuck with Delver. Not because I thought it was awesome like all the other times, but because I thought I’d have a better record with it than with anything else.
The first three rounds of the tournament were M13 draft, and I had little practice. Less than 10 drafts, I’d say. I started with powerful red cards, like Furnace Whelp and Volcanic Geyser, and then some blue cards that were not as powerful, such as Scroll Thief and Archeomancer.
In pack two, I opened Volcanic Geyser and Talrand’s Invocation, and had a decision to make. I could stay UR and draft the better card, the Invocation, or I could remain open and draft the red card, which is also great (but not nearly as good). I decided to go for the Invocation, which, in retrospect, was probably a mistake. Once I did that, I committed myself to UR, though it was unclear whether I was going to be aggro or control. To give you an idea, by the end of pack two, I struggled between [card nicol bolas, planeswalker]Nicol Bolas[/card] and Mogg Flunkies. I took the Flunkies, finally deciding for aggro, but by then I had missed many opportunities already. My deck ended up good, but I could have had a much better mono-red aggro deck. This is what I ended up with:
I had a bunch of playable sideboard cards—two Mindclaw Shamans, another Volcanic Strength, a Ring of Valkas, a Redirect. Normally, I like Ring more than Volcanic Strength, but I didn’t really have any guys I wanted to haste up, and with three Thieves, I think Strength was the better card. If it connects once because of that (or if they have to chump block), then you’ve already gotten your card back even if they kill it, which is not the easiest thing in the world to do anyway.
My teammate’s decks were all right. Juliano had the best deck I had ever seen, a BR thing with the [card thundermaw hellkite]5/5 haste Dragon[/card] and a bunch of solid removal spells, and Elton had another BR aggro deck with three Flunkies. Leonardo’s deck wasn’t so great, but he assured us his card pool was not good, and he could definitely win games, since he had combinations such as Rhox Faithmender, two Ajani’s Sunstrikers, and two Tricks of the Trade. Overall I expected a very good combined result from our drafts.
My first game was heartbreaking. I started with a hand of Mogg Flunkies, Reckless Brute, Volcanic Geyser, and lands. I drew some more lands, played Flunkies, and he played turn two Deadly Recluse. My hand was Brute, Geiser at that point, so I had a couple options. I discarded just playing Brute and attacking, because I had no more creatures and if he traded (which he likely would), then I’d be unable to attack. Eventually I settled for playing Brute post-combat and passing, with the intention of Geysering his Spider next turn.
This play is very bad against Titanic Growth, but I think it’s the best choice given the options I had—being this flooded, I need something to go my way to win the game. If the “thing going my way” is drawing multiple spells in a row, like Talrand’s Invocations, then I’m probably going to win regardless of my Brute suiciding into his Titanic Growth. If the thing going my way is drawing another removal spell, or him getting stuck on lands, or having kept a slow draw with only the Spider for early defense, then I really cannot attack now.
He passed on turn three, and I Geysered and attacked. I could attack and then Geyser if he tries to pump, but then we get back to the same scenario. He thankfully didn’t have it, and I got in for 6. Next turn he played [card yeva's forcemage]Forcemage[/card], pumped itself to 4/4, and Prey Upon’d my Brute. By the time I found another creature, he had a Duskdale Wurm attacking already.
Games two and three were more to my liking. I opened very good hands and he didn’t stand much of a chance. An interesting situation happened in game three, when I had Invocation and Flunkies in play and Unsummon in hand (among others), and he had Watercourser. On turn four he passed with one mana up, so I just didn’t attack with Flunkies. There is no reason to trade then—it’s better to wait for him to tap out to play a bigger guy, so I Unsummon that one and am able to hit for 3 more. If he never taps out, well, I can offer the trade at any point anyway.
The rest of the team all won, getting us to 9 points (remember, you cut the lowest result, which ends up mattering for tiebreakers).
Team: 4-0 (9)
Round two was academic, as my opponent had some slow starts. Game one I played t2 Flunkies into t3 Brute, and his best response was land, Divination—which didn’t quite cut it, and game three was similar.
Leonardo won this round, but Elton and Juliano lost. Elton had a close game against Scroll Thief + Tricks of the Trade + blue Ring that came down to the opponent having blockers on the last turn of the race. Juliano lost to a deck with multiple [card primal huntbeast]3/3 hexproof[/card] and Mark of the Vampire, which ended up being great against his mostly-removal deck.
Team: 6-2 (15)
Round three I got into a video feature match. Round one, my opponent had an early Ajani Sunstriker to match my Flunkies, but he was stuck on two Plains. On turn four I played Furnace Whelp with four Mountains, and passed the turn. He drew and did not attack, passing instead. There aren’t many reasons for him not to attack here, and I could see three possibilities:
1) He doesn’t want to trade, and he thinks I do. This could be because he has, for example, multiple exalted creatures in his hand, and is just waiting to find more mana. Or, because his hand is all removal spells that he can play as soon as he draws his second color, and he doesn’t want to lose his creature.
I’d say attacking is pretty safe here anyway, because I’m never blocking. If I could be assured a trade I wouldn’t block anyway, since my Dragon does a lot more damage and lets my Flunkies attack, and in this scenario I could not be assured a trade because he has WW open and could have Show of Valor.
2) He has Show of Valor, and wants to block and kill my Flunkies.
3) He forgot I couldn’t simply block with my 3/3.
Of those possibilities, number 2 seemed not only the most likely but the easiest to play around. In both other scenarios, by attacking I get in for 3, which is not that relevant Whereas if he does have Show of Valor then I really don’t want to suicide my Flunkies into that. There is no reason to, and it might get him right back in the game if he kills my guy, gains four and then rips a land. For this reason, I attacked with just the Whelp, which I think was definitely the right play. I followed it up with another Whelp, and he never drew his third land so it didn’t matter.
Of course, there is another possible scenario—he knows I’m going to think that so he left his guy back to save one point of damage. That’s very ambitions, since it’s only one life point anyway (and I don’t take two), plus I might just attack anyway. Maybe I have a trick myself, maybe I don’t care that he kills my guy, maybe I didn’t even think about it. I’d say the likelihood of this being the case approaches zero.
Game two was very interesting, and I’m sure I could have won if I had played differently—though whether I should have played differently is another question. I was in a commanding position early on, then he got back in it with a Healer. We reached a point of draw-go where I can draw a couple spells to kill him on the spot (one of the Geysers or Archeomancer for my Chandra’s Fury), and though he can’t draw anything to kill me, he can draw stuff that makes my life harder.
The scenario is I have a 2/2 flier and a [card cathedral of war]Cathedral[/card], and he has a Healer. He is at 7. I am at a lot. I draw land, attack him down to 4. He draws land, attacks me. I draw land, attack him down to 1. Now I’m feeling pretty confident, because even if he plays a creature, he only gains two, so it has to be a flier for him to survive. He plays Faithmender, going to 5. I brick again, and he finally draws a second Swamp to play his [card vampire nighthawk]Nighthawk[/card], gaining four more. When I brick again, I just die.
Game three I mulliganed into a hand of a bunch of 1/1s, and a 2/2 first striker pretty much stopped me dead. I killed both a Nighthawk and a Sublime Archangel, but could not beat his other cards.
I was disappointed to have lost, though I knew he was playing a very good deck that happened to be a bad matchup for me. Juliano and Elton both won, and Leonardo lost to a better deck. That brought us all to a 2-1 record.
Team: 8-4 (18)
Half an hour before the Standard round starts, I run into LSV grabbing a couple weird cards, and he tells me he’s switched to Ramp—apparently, Martin had convinced him it was good. It looked decent. It was pretty much our Hawaii deck with [card cavern of souls]Caverns[/card] and Thragtusks—but I didn’t have any cards. It didn’t look like a good idea to change my deck in the almost-literal last minute anyway, so I stuck to this:
Invisible Stalker was our concession to the mirror, and he turned out to be much better than Augur of Bolas, whom I feel is only good against Zombies and mediocre against everyone else. The Angel slot is pretty much up for debate, but I’m definitely in the Angel camp. I’m not a Talrand fan, since he is very weak to Bonfire. In a deck with 19 lands, I really want my four-drop to have a more immediate impact when I finally draw my fourth land to play him, and I don’t really think Hero belongs. The deck is a glorified aggro deck nowadays, true, but let’s please keep some of the glory still there. I expected the mirror to be the most popular matchup, and Angel is a lot better there (plus, 19 lands, not enough white sources, etc. If you play Hero, you need more lands and more Caverns, and I didn’t want that). Overall, the best four-drop is certainly [card runechanter's pike]Pike[/card].
Elton played the same exact 75, whereas Leonardo played Naya, and Juliano played Zombies. In this format, I feel like you should just play whatever you’re more comfortable with, since the decks are so close in power level, so I didn’t think there was any problem with us all playing different decks.
Round 4: Mirror
Turn one of game one I had an interesting choice, since my opening hand was [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card], 3x Thought Scour, [card cavern of souls]Cavern[/card], Island, something else. Normally you just jam Delver first, but, in this hand, that might lose me a turn of Thought Scouring, since I can’t play two of those on turn two. I opted for the t1 Delver anyway, because it gives it another chance of flipping and, if it doesn’t, then there is a decent chance I draw a blue-producing land anyway, and in that case, no harm done. If I miss on the land, I can always mainphase Thought Scour to try to find it, and, if I don’t, well, that sucks, but not much. Also, playing t1 Scour and missing means I have to use my Cavern to play Delver, and it’s my only white mana—obviously better to have the choice, but that helps make the t1 Delver play better, I think.
I immediately drew my Island (obv obv) and eventually stuck Pike and an unblockable Stalker, and with my three Scours that made short work of him.
Game two was sort of the opposite. He had the early Delver and Pike, and I was struggling to survive. I drew Gut Shot the turn after he flipped his Delver, so I had to play that and Snapcaster Mage. When my second copy got [card mental misstep]Misstepped[/card], I died on the spot.
Game three he kept a slow hand with not a lot of lands. I flipped a Delver early on, and I had full control of what was going on due to multiple [card gitaxian probe]Probes[/card] and Snapcasters. Constrained on mana, he couldn’t deal with my creatures plus Pike.
We all won this round! 12-4 (27)
The following round saw a pretty cool feature. They had a poll to see which team people were interested in seeing, and Brazil won by a significant amount (of course it did—Brazil has never lost an online vote in its history). That meant we were all moved to the feature match area, and all of our matches were covered. I’m sure it’d have been a lot cooler if (spoiler) we hadn’t all lost, but it was pretty cool anyway.
I was paired against Zombies, video coverage of which you can find here. He led with a Gravecrawler that, after casting [card gitaxian probe]Probe[/card] and seeing no more one-casting cost Zombies, I Gut Shot.
He probably felt very frustrated that he never drew the fourth land to play his [card falkenrath aristocrat]Aristocrat[/card], but that was not a bad thing for him, as I had access to three Vapor Snags and three Snapcaster Mages, so all I wanted was for him to keep playing Aristocrats until the end of the game. Instead, he kept drawing cheaper stuff and removal spells, so it took longer for me to kill him, but after turn three or so I don’t think he was ever in this game.
Game two was the opposite, as I was never in it; he started with Gravecrawler, t2 Crawler/[card diregraf ghoul]Ghoul[/card], t3 [card geralf's messenger]Messenger[/card], t4 two removal spells. Eh.
Game three was the most interesting one, and could have gone either way. I’m sure I messed up at some point, because it looked like I was going to win, and then I didn’t. We both flooded a little bit (though me more than him!), and there were a couple turns where I needed to draw something useful but didn’t. Then he drew Mortarpod followed by Blood Artist and killed me.
Elton (Delver) lost to the American Ramp, Leonardo (Naya) lost to Mono-Green, and Juliano (Zombies) lost to Delver.
Team: 12-8 (27)
That mass loss put us in a somewhat bad position. 12-8 was not a horrible record, but there were many teams with less wins ahead of us, as it was much better to just have one player get all your losses than splitting them, like we were doing (i.e. 4-1, 0-5 is better than 3-2, 3-2).
Still, that gave us the advantage of having more options—a team that has a player with a very bad record is effectively playing with three people only, whereas we still had our full four. Other teams had to go 2-1 among their three first, for example, to get six points, since the other guy isn’t going to add any points to the team even if he wins, whereas we’d get six points with any 2-2 combination.
The following round I played against the Czech/American Ramp, which was supposedly a hard matchup. Game one he had removal for my Delver, and then acceleration into [card solemn simulacrum]Solemn[/card] into [card cavern of souls]Cavern[/card] + Thragtusk, but I was able to race it with [card restoration angel]Angel[/card], [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card], [card runechanter's pike]Pike[/card], and Moorland Haunt.
Game two he also had acceleration into removal into more acceleration, but wasn’t accelerating into anything. I managed to land a [card tamiyo, the moon sage]Tamiyo[/card] and eventually lock his Cavern of Souls, since I had a Dissipate. I Dissipated his first threat, a [card huntmaster of the fells]Huntmaster[/card], and then managed to kill him with guys before he drew a second one.
My opponent got pretty unlucky this match, drawing a ton of Lands, Solemns, Rampant Growths and [card sphere of the suns]Spheres[/card], but I don’t really have sympathy for the deck with 40 mana sources when it draws too many of those. If I have 19 and I draw 7 in half of my games, you can certainly draw 12 of yours.
Juliano won, and both Elton and Leonardo lost. That put us in a position where we needed to 2-1. One of me and Juliano had to win. If we both lost, and both Elton and Leonardo won, that would be just one win for the team (which would then make us depend on tiebreakers).
Team: 14-10 (33)
I got paired against Dennis Rachid, whom I had met earlier in the week during a team draft. This was a written feature match, and he was also playing Delver.
Game one I mulliganed, but he mulliganed to five. My hand was not fast, but it had Cavern and Angel, which ended up being pretty good as I could just run it without fearing Mana Leak and there wasn’t much he could do about it. We played a long game, but in the end I managed to win with a [card runechanter's pike]Pike[/card] attack and a Gut Shot to the face.
Game two he started with Seachrome Coast, Thought Scour, and then a Glacial Fortress. Turn three he played [card augur of bolas]Augur[/card] (no land), and missed. By that point, I thought I had already won. I had two Delvers and a [card runechanter's pike]Pike[/card], and I knew his hand didn’t have a ton of answers, since I had [card gitaxian probe]Probed[/card] on turn one.
I ended up drawing land after land, though, and he managed to get back in it. He played Gut Shot on a Delver before it flipped, [card vapor snag]Snag[/card] on another once it did, Divine Offering on a Pike and set up the stage to play his own Pike and kill me in one hit, since his graveyard was gigantic. In the last possible turn, I could have hit a spell to flip my Delver and win, since I had a second Pike in my hand and he had no flying blockers, but I drew another land and then died in his turn.
Game three presented me with a somewhat interesting decision when I played a turn one Ponder. My hand was Ponder, Gut Shot, [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card], [card runechanter's pike]Pike[/card], [card restoration angel]Angel[/card], two Islands, and the top was Glacial Fortress, Pike, [card invisible stalker]Stalker[/card].
That seemed good, since I needed the white source for sure, and having two Pikes and a Stalker is certainly not bad. Now, in this spot, I want to hide the Glacial Fortress and the Pike from him, in case he [card gitaxian probe]Probes[/card]. I don’t want him to know that I have access to white mana or a second Pike, because he might play his turn two differently (for example, shuffling an [card phantasmal image]Image[/card] away because I can’t cast my [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card], or even leaving up Mana Leak, which, who knows, he might have left in. I do leave them in on the draw against the Angel builds, since those are less likely to run Caverns). Normally, I’d just put those two back on top, then, but that line presents a problem—what if he Thought Scours me?
Normally, no one in their right mind is going to do that—it takes guts to target someone else with Thought Scour when graveyard matters for both players. But, if he sees my hand, what is he going to think? There is no way that I left those two cards on top and there is no white mana in it, I am not a maniac.
None of the cards in my hand is even particularly good, and certainly not good enough that I’d keep them and two bad cards, so it
As a result, I took the Fortress to my hand—since the same train of thought follows if he just Probes me (but has no Scour), it’s unlikely I’m going to deceive him—I pretty much have to have access to a white land somewhere. I think he’d figure it out even if I tried to hide it from him.
Now, obviously, this has little impact on how the game is going to be played. It’s a bunch of ifs. If he has this, if he deduces this, if I have this, if I hide something and it ends up mattering. The reason I’m even writing this is that all those things actually came to my mind as I played that Ponder, and I spent a long time trying to reason just what card I’d take and what card I’d put on top, and I thought it was an interesting scenario. I’ve never seen anyone Thought Scour their opponent when they could reasonably Thought Scour themselves, yet I think it should be done more than 0% of the time. This was an example of a time where it could be correct, and maybe win the game for the player.
In the end, the game was pretty straightforward. I had Gut Shot for his first Delver, followed by Stalker (he played another Delver), Geist (he played Image), Pike (he played his own Pike). At this point I was attacking for 3, having drawn no other spells, and he was attacking for 7. I chump blocked with my Angel, but found no answer to his Piked Delver and died way before I could kill him with my guy.
Juliano and Leonardo won, which guaranteed us a spot. Elton had gone 3-4, which gave us the second best tiebreakers (only one team had as many points as we had and a 4-3 player as their tiebreaker).
Team: 16-12 (39)
Despite going 2-1, we actually moved down a spot—from 18th to 19th. That meant we’d face the United States, Estonia, and Greece on the first part of Day Two.
This is where I’ll leave you for today. Next week: Day Two and my thoughts on the World Cup; what was good, what wasn’t, and how I think we can make it even better, as well as some conclusions about Standard and Delver. See you in Boston!