Being World Champion is a goal shared by every competitive Magic player, but this was different—it wasn’t only myself who won the World Magic Cup, I did it with my squad, and I did it with my country!
Despite being the third largest country for Magic players, Italy hasn’t had many Pro players or great Magic finishes in the Modern era—only Samuele Estratti carried the flag with his victory at Pro Tour Philadelphia, after which Italy had a dry spell until I spiked at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. I started working with American teams more and more, and eventually brought Marco Cammilluzzi with me, and this lead him to his first Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in Brussels. He took my Italian team captain position for WMC 2015, but I didn’t care at all, because I knew that Marco is a terrific player and he finally got a big payoff. When I won a WMCQ in July, I was so happy because it meant more points and more chances to chase Gold, and also I knew that Marco and I combined would do something awesome for our country.
William Pizzi and Francesco Bifero joined us—they were a bit unknown on the Pro scene, but they managed to do wonderfully in testing and during the tournament itself. We had the good fortune of getting to test with 3 of the best teams in the competition: Canada, USA, and Brazil. It’s mostly thanks to them that we arrived at our Unified Standard configuration, but Francesco, William, and I tested a lot and certainly did our part.
Our playtesting started weeks beforehand on Skype—it was mostly Alexander Hayne, Mike Sigrist, Neal Oliver, and I trying to find a valid option like Eldrazi for the third deck, since we had already locked in Atarka Red and Esper Control/Dragons. The main problem for the third deck was in trying to make the mana base work, and the deck also had to be able to stand up to Atarka Red and Esper without stealing too many cards from the other decided archetypes.
The first deck we tried was a Mardu Midrange featuring great removal spells like Crackling Doom and Kolaghan’s Command, and great 4-drops such as Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. The biggest problem though was its mana base: playing without Bloodstained Mire hurt, and even with Windswepth Heath fetching for Cinder Glade and Plains it wasn’t good enough. There was also the issue of sharing Duress and Shambling Vent with Esper Dragons, and even if you are able to split them, both decks are constrained by this.
The second deck was Abzan, but it had the same problems, and the matchup against Esper Dragons was very poor—we expected many Esper decks to be present at the event.
It was Wednesday night and we didn’t have a third deck yet, but luckily we had Alexander Hayne on our side who brought up a brand new deck featuring Bounding Krasis and Collected Company plus the megamorph package. We immediately started testing the deck, and in Hayne’s hands it seemed to never fail. It was beating everything: Esper, Atarka Red, Eldrazi—but we found that it could never win against Abzan, and that Hangarback Walker was one of its worst enemies.
We also found out that when Hayne wasn’t piloting it, it had a hard time winning versus Esper, especially if Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa was the control pilot. Doubts started flowing. Team America pushed playing Abzan with a bad mana base, but I was strongly against this option. On Thursday night we finally opted to play Temur after Team Brazil bought us 12 copies of Bounding Krasis from a local store, since the store at the WMC only had Modern and Legacy staples.
Sealed preparation wasn’t stellar for Team Italy, since Cammilluzzi arrived on Thursday, and William, Francesco, and I didn’t win a single Team Sealed match against our opponents. Mike Sigrist helped us a lot, mostly before Day 2, and we have to give him a lot of credit for how we built decks in Day 2 to a 3-0 finish.
Day 1: 4-2-1
- Bulgaria – Win
- Singapore – Loss
- Slovakia – Win
- Costa Rica – Win
- Netherlands – Loss
- Chile – Win
- Serbia – ID
Day 2: 6-0
- Australia – Win
- Paraguay – Win
- Turkey – Win
- Scotland – Win
- Greece – Win
- Philippines – Win
Top 8: 3-0
- Quarters: Scotland – Win
- Semis: Austria – Win
- Final: Thailand – Win
It was a blast! We simply couldn’t stop winning! And even against Teams Turkey and the Philippines, to whom we could have drawn or lost, we kept playing for higher seating in the group stage and always won. Overall the team put up great records in both Constructed and Limited. No one on the team ever made a huge misplay because we always worked as a team, always together, always winning!
My Constructed Deck: Esper Dragons
I played Esper Dragons, a deck that I’m not experienced with and didn’t feel comfortable with, but watching PV play it masterfully during testing helped me a lot.
It turns out that I didn’t lose a single match in Standard at the WMC and went 9-0 between Day 1, Day 2, and the Top 8. The deck was superb, built perfectly, and was perfect for the metagame.
This was the final deck list that our team developed. Hayne and PV also went undefeated, and Tom Martell dropped a single match, but just against Yuuya Watanabe in the mirror.
Andrea Mengucci, World Magic Cup – Team Unified Standard
We opted to play 26 lands. This isn’t a normal control deck where you just want to hit all your land drops. This deck uses Ojutai to steal games, and if you stop at 5 lands, play Ojutai, and then draw only spells, it’s hard for you to lose.Jace helps a lot in either finding lands or looting away extras. I was mana-screwed in a few games, but managed to win stuck on 3 lands with only counters and removal, waiting for Dig Through Time to find me more lands.
We also decided to play 3 Shambling Vent and only 1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon. Vent was great against Atarka Red, Mastery of the Unseen, Foul-Tongue Invocation, and great as an additional white source for Mentors and Clerics in the sideboard—Haven was unimpressive and you don’t want too many colorless lands floating around.
Painful Truths was the card that replaced the 27th land. It is insane in every matchup aside from Atarka Red, it’s cheap and provides so much card advantage, but it’s not the best 3-drop when you have to hold off pressure. It’s still great in the late game mostly because we were expecting many mirror matches.
Complete Disregard is a card I like having in my 60 because it easily deals with Hangarback Walker, which we expected to see more often in Unified Standard. It also kills opposing Shambling Vents, which can’t be hit by Utter End or Ultimate Price.
We decided to remove 1 Crux of Fate in favor of 1 Languish because, again, it’s better versus Esper and Atarka Red, but it certainly isn’t good versus Abzan where you want to be able to keep your Dragonlord and wipe away their board.
Mentor is such a powerful threat that your opponent has to kill right away, which is a difficult task since they already have to kill your Jace right away, and it’s hard to imagine they keep many removal spells post-sideboard. Mentor and Tasigur help when your opponent casts Infinite Obliteration on you—a card that was very popular this weekend because everyone was expecting Eldrazi.
The best way to beat Eldrazi wasn’t by removing their Ugin, but by playing Mentor on turn 3 and winning the game on turn 6, which is what happened in my match against Costa Rica.
This matchup is all about Jace—you need to kill it right away. Turn-1 Duress into turn-2 Jace is the best thing you can do. We opted to board out a couple of Silumgar’s Scorns because we were 100% decided on cutting both copies of Dragonlord Silumgar. Against Thailand in the finals, I boarded out 3 copies of Silumgar’s Scorn and 2 additional copies of Dragonlord Ojutai since I knew he was playing 2 Infinite Obliterations. Overall, I don’t like Infinite Obliteration in this mirror, even if Ojutai is a big game. You lose a turn and it’s card disadvantage, which is especially disastrous if your opponent has also other plans like Tasigur or Mentor.
In fact, my opponent in the finals had just 1 copy of Tasigur, so I was happy to board Infinite Obliteration in and draw it the turn before he was about to drop his Dragon.
This matchup is way better than most players think it is. In game 1 you can lose to tokens plus Atarka’s Command easily, but post-sideboard, between Arashin Cleric and Virulent Plague, it’s very difficult to drop games. Outpost Siege isn’t relevant since even if they draw 2 cards per turn, they still have a hand filled with bad cards and pump spells—Chandra on the other hand is very annoying and that’s why we played 4 copies in our version of Atarka Red. Silumgar’s Scorn doesn’t shine, since you don’t draw enough cards to ensure that you have a Dragon in your hand, and double-blue is difficult to get since you rely a lot on basic Swamps in the early turns to cast Duress and Ultimate Price.
I faced Atarka Red twice and always finished 2-0, Cammilluzzi faced Esper Dragons twice and lost both times in the post-board games.
This is how I sideboarded versus Scotland in the Top 8—and my opponent was playing straight Abzan Aggro with 12 fetchlands. Even if Duress and Ultimate Price are valid cards and have plenty of targets, I don’t want to overload on them since the game can easily go long and my opponent can find himself in topdeck mode. I don’t think Monastery Mentors are good for this matchup—you’d rather stick to your plan, fighting their creatures with removal spells and winning with Dragonlord Ojutai.
Being World Champion is maybe the best thing that has ever happened to me. The Italian community supported us so much that I feel like we didn’t just win for the four of us, we won for our country, and we won for our people!