Happiness!

It’s what I felt once I heard Mattia Rizzi screaming as we defeated Germany in last round of the World Magic Cup to qualify for Top 8.

Top 8 meant that my great friend Alessandro Portaro would be back on the Pro Tour after two years, and that my new friend Alessandro Casamenti will soon play in his first. Helping someone else live the dream of playing on the Pro Tour is an insane feeling and team events are made for this!

Top 8 also meant that Italy could possibly be the only team to ever win 2 World Magic Cups, and I could have the honor to be a part of it.

Unfortunately we didn’t get that far, and Team Belgium managed to stop us in the Top 4 due to a bad matchup, and a misstep on our side in match 2 between Infect and Goryo’s Vengeance. Belgium had a great team with 4 great players, which is the reason why I picked them in my fantasy team draft along with Italy (I’m not superstitious) and New Zealand (blame Ondrej Strasky). Needless to say, I won it.

Our team featured 4 good players.

  • Mattia Rizzi is a Gold-level pro, with 3 GP Top 8s to his name.
  • Alessandro Portaro is one of the few Italians to ever Top 8 a PT, and easily one of the best Italian players of all time.
  • Alessandro Casamenti was our wild card. He qualified with Ad Nauseam since he was a Modern only player, and we didn’t give him enough credit. He turned out to be an amazing roommate, an amazing teammate, and an amazing person to live with for a week and a half.

The trip began with GP Rotterdam, where I played with two of my old friends, Marco Fermani and Federico Ronchi. We failed to make Day 2 and blamed bad luck. I had an insane amount of fun, which every Team GP offers, although I was still hungry for a good result. I needed some fresh air, and I knew that the World Magic Cup could have been a nice opportunity.

On Monday we met up with the team to talk about Modern, since the World Magic Cup would feature just 3 rounds of Team Sealed, and the rest of the tournament would be Team Unified Modern. We worked briefly with Team England, who were already settled on their Modern decks, and determined to win the Spirit Award Prize.

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We didn’t have any costumes, though dressing like a pizza chef could have been a nice idea.

We were focusing on Unified Modern, which meant that we couldn’t play the same card in two different decks.

Portaro and I were very high on Abzan with Noble Hierarch, but realized soon that Infect was too good—way too good—and we had to play it. There’s no way we wouldn’t. The deck is so insane that it could win on turn 2 and there isn’t hate for it like there is for Dredge. Mattia is a good player. He’s very versatile and took a shine to the deck. It was clear that he would play it for the Modern portion.

Now we had to find two other decks that didn’t play Inkmoth Nexus or Noble Hierarch. We had a choice between Abzan with no Hierarch , Jund, and Lantern Control.

Although I am a Jund lover, I wasn’t blind to testing results, and after losing 8 straight game 1s against Infect, I decided that it was time to set Lightning Bolt aside and wait for further news from the Banned & Restricted list in January. Abzan without Noble Hierarch was fine but not stellar. It was a good deck but couldn’t beat Dredge game 1 and was even/negative against Infect.

Lantern Control came to our mind later on Tuesday. I basically own every card in Modern but Lantern cards, so I asked Portaro to bring them in the very remote case we would play the deck. At first Portaro didn’t want to do it because he thought we would never play it, but then, once he built it, he started loving it and started seeing how good the matchups were against Dredge and Infect.

It’s worth mentioning that Lantern is like 0-100 against Jund, but we weren’t expecting much Jund, whereas we were expecting loads of Infect and Dredge. Portaro is in love with control decks and he is a very fast player, so Lantern was perfectly suited for him.

We now had to find the last deck.

Dredge was the first option. Dredge is another insane deck at risk of banning. The problem? None of the four of us had enough experience with it to play it in a big event in only 4 days. It also had a big target on its head and couldn’t easily beat the sideboard cards, which were starting to pop up in main decks, and even Anger of the Gods was sometimes enough to stop Dredge cold.

TitanShift was our second option. We started playtesting it a bit, but we didn’t like the main-deck Chalice of the Void and the Simian Spirit Guide—it was so different from the main plan. We tried some other versions with Relic of Progenitus main deck and with more Scapeshift, but it was a mess and we decided to discard it.

By Wednesday night we hadn’t figured out the 3 decks yet—we were kind of desperate. Then Mattia suggested that we avoid playing Dredge. It was in that moment that we realized that we had an Ad Nauseam master, and up until that moment we had done everything but play Ad Nauseam!

Ad Nauseam isn’t the right deck to play now in an open field—it has a 0-100 matchup against Infect and a 20-80 matchup against Jund/Abzan, but this could have been the right tournament for it. Not every team would play Infect—maybe half—so there was a 1/6 chance to play against it, which is lower than the odds of playing against it in a normal tournament. The same can be said for Abzan and Jund, since those decks were really hard to play with Dredge and Infect everywhere.

Yes, Ad Nauseam has some 0-100 matchups, but it also has some 100-0 matchups such as Dredge, TitanShift, Burn, Tron, Merfolk, and Jeskai Control. Long story short, Ad Nauseam carried us through the Swiss going 9-0 and facing 0 Infect!

Alessandro Casamenti has played Ad Nauseam forever and I have a little experience with it as well. We always played together during the tournament and this made sure that we made 0 mistakes—that we saw, anyway. Even if Ad Nauseam is a very easy deck to play, there are many little choices that could have made a difference.

A good example is my game 1 against Panama in round 13, where we played 6 cantrips, always bottomed lands, and managed to win after many turns of not finding the right piece.

It was now time to decide who would have to sit out during Modern and during Sealed.

It was unanimous that Alessandro Casamenti had the least experience in Limited and knew how to pilot his Modern deck, so we chose to let him play Modern and I would coach during Constructed.

At first I wasn’t thrilled to sit out on the actual games, feeling a little thrown away, but during Day 1 I realized how precious an outsider’s help could be.

I always went to Portaro and Mattia when they had to decide whether to keep or mulligan, always consulted with them about their sideboard plan and difficult choices, all the while staying close to Casamenti to not miss any of his plays.

After Day 1 I felt so exhausted, as if I had played 15 rounds of Swiss. And in the end, I think it was definitely the right formation.

Day 1

We kicked things off with a disappointing 1-2 in Team Sealed. Our pool was bad—we played 3 non-land rares across 3 decks—and we were beaten by Greece and Latvia. I went 0-2 and didn’t finish the third match—not the best performance, since I only had to play Limited.

Modern went much more smoothly. Ad Nauseam didn’t lose a game. Lantern lost just one match versus Abzan, and Infect kept up its end of the bargain, losing just once to Burn.

We ended Day 1 at 5-2, in 14th place, which got us into the top 32, skipping the elimination round the day after!

I wasn’t a fan of this tournament structure. Even if double-elimination groups are nice, the fact that every 3-3 IDs their last round into Top 48 made no sense. Basically, Wizards disliked the fact that last year the top 12 tables ID’d, and changed the system so that tables 9-23 ID.

I don’t understand why we can’t just have a normal tournament structure without groups on Day 2 like a regular Magic tournament.

The fact that seeding in the Top 8 was decided by standings after round 7 made a little sense, but considering how important it is to be on the play in Modern, I’d say that it was wrong.

In the end, our great team went back home full of hope, and I knew I had the right squad for a repeat.

 

Day 2

On Day 2 we crushed Germany and Sweden rather easily, advancing to Top 16 and the second group. And it was about time for me to take cards in hand again after many hours of coaching. As I said, coaching was great, but nothing is as great as playing Ad Nauseam against a favorable matchup!

After quickly dispatching Bulgaria, we lost to Panama on camera and we had to play our win-and-in against Germany, who we had already defeated 3-0 earlier in the day.

I (Ad Nauseam) was facing TitanShift, Portaro (Lantern) was facing Jeskai Ascendancy, and Rizzi (Infect) was facing Affinity. We defeated Germany just like at football Worlds in 2006 and advanced to Top 8!

The Italian community was great, and after a short celebration I was ready for the back-to-back! We had great players and great decks.

Day 3

Quarterfinals

After the classic 10 hours of sleep, Casamenti and I were ready, even if Alessandro tried to challenge the Luck God by opening a morning pack.

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Australia would be our first opponents, whose captain, David Mines, has been a good friend of mine for some time.

Casamenti and I would face U/R Kiln Find, a matchup that we never tested but that looked very close, but where Phyrexian Unlife is by far the best card in the deck. They had 3 blazing fast starts, and we managed to win the only game where we were on the play.

It was about time for the Ad Nauseam master to drop a game—it had been a good run.

Portaro was facing Mines’ Bant Eldrazi, a good matchup that we played during testing. Game 2 was tense, but the lock was eventually impossible to solve and put the match at even.

It was all on Rizzi to win versus Dredge with Infect. It was a bad matchup for Infect in our testing, especially post-sideboard against Darkblast, Conflagrate, and Collective Brutality. It was because of this that we added 3 Ravenous Trap to our sideboard, and you can see its strength in game 3. It guaranteed us a victory as we removed his whole graveyard at a crucial point in the game, and granted us the Top 4—a step closer to the trophy.

Semifinals

Once Belgium defeated Panama, we felt our hope slip away. I even made this post on Facebook right after they won their match.

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In Italy it’s called the “crying-technique” and it usually works! After 10 rounds of Swiss it was time for our hero Alessandro Casamenti to hit his Achilles’s heel and face Infect. It’s needless to say the outcome of the game. I can tell you that we managed to win game 2, exiling 2 Simian Spirit Guides to pay Spell Pierce mana!

Meanwhile, Portaro with Lantern Control defeated Branco’s Burn in game 1 after 25 minutes, and then took roughly 3 minutes to lose game 2 before any of us even realized that he had started playing.

We were all over at Mattia’s table, busy trying to defeat Goryo’s Vengeance with Infect. He managed to do that in game 1 fairly easily. Game 2 was a mess—we were 4 against 4 and we didn’t see the winning line. We chose to play around Goryo’s Vengeance and not Through the Breach, when we could have played around that and Through the Breach. Our opponent, Jerome Bastogne, was a true master of the deck.

We lost game 3 in a flurry of emotions, losing again to Sudden Shocks, trying to do regular damage against a deck with Nourishing Shoal. It wasn’t a successful plan.

We lost, Italy did not make history at the World Magic Cup, and I will probably never go back-to-back on any trophy. It was still a great run, and the support that the Italian community and my friends from all over the world gave us left us speechless. I thank you all for that.

And I want to thank Alessandro Casamenti, Alessandro Portaro, and Mattia Rizzi for being great men to represent Italy at the World Magic Cup.

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