Made in China (presumably), won by Taiwan

 

For this article, I wanted to finish my personal reflection on the World Magic Cup and then evaluate both the WMC and the Magic Players Championship.  For those who don’t know, this year was the inaugural year for the World Magic Cup and Magic Players Championship.  They essentially replaced the old World Championships.

In my previous article, I discussed my experiences from Day 1 of participating in the World Magic Cup, which you can find here in case you missed it.  Due to becoming extremely busy preparing to move the three members of my family into different corners of the state of Illinois, I did not get a chance to write up my recap from Day 2.  At this point…that feels like a little bit of old news so I will keep it brief.

Day 2 started with Team Sealed Deck.  The idea was that the team opened 12 booster packs and then built three 40-card decks out of the contents.  Team USA’s deck construction was covered in great detail here.  Initially, I was going to be piloting the team’s UB control deck featuring five Mind Sculpts.  However, at the last minute, Kibler asked a judge if the team captain was always going to be in seat B (meaning that the captains would play each other), and decided that because he would be playing the other captains, and the other captains were more likely to play control, that he should pilot the mill deck.  His analysis turned out to be accurate and he won two matches because of it.  I ended up with our team’s mono green deck featuring four Arbor Elf and a variety of fatties.  It was fairly straightforward to play – though I made one small mistake where I played around Mark of Mutiny instead of Goblin Arsonist.  We went 2-1 in this portion which was good enough to advance to the second stage of Day 2.

Day 2 featured three different constructed formats.  Kibler was playing Innistrad Block Constructed with his Jund deck (that everyone else in the room was also playing), Joe Pennachio was playing the same Naya Pod deck that he 4-0’d standard with on Day 1, and I was playing a UWR Delver list that Josh Utter-Leyton sent in to LSV featuring a black/green splash for Lingering Souls, Ancient Grudge, and Tribal Flames.  We lost a close round 1 to Hungary in which Joe won Standard, Kibler lost a mirror match, and I lost to a traditional UWR Delver list.  My match was all about Geist of Saint Traft and my opponent had it more often than I did.  Game 3, I had him dead with burn the next turn but he top decked Lightning Helix to get one point out of burn range and live long enough to kill me with Geist.  Round 2 was a devastating loss to the team from Chinese-Taipei that ended up winning the event.  Again, Joe won in Standard, I lost to Tzu-Ching Kuo in Modern to his UW control list, and Kibler kept his mirror match very close thanks to Olivia Voldaren, but ended up losing to a top deck Bonfire of the Damned the turn before he would have hit for lethal.  After the Bonfire hit, we heard that Hungary had also already won and that we were therefore eliminated from making Top 8.  In the final round we quickly 3-0’d Uruguay.  Joe managed to win again (putting him at 7-0 on the weekend in Standard), Kibler won quickly, and I beat a Jund deck.  We found out that we finished 12th in the tournament, and were feeling rather disappointed that we would not be moving on to Sunday.

In the end, however, the tournament really was a great success for me and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity.  Each member of the team got 4 pro points and $1,000, which is a pretty decent payout considering we didn’t have a stellar record.  We talked a bit after the fact and decided that we really needed to put more time into preparing for the Day 2 constructed portion.  We were obviously well prepared for standard, but did not work very much as a team on Modern or Block Constructed and those were the formats where we fell short.

I learned so much about high level play from Kibler and LSV.  I feel like I have always had a decent grasp on the strategy of the game and am able to find the proper line of play most of the time, but the way that Kibler and LSV approach the game is on another mental level.  Things like tempo of your plays, how you lay down your lands, what you do during your draw step, and other little things like that are all crucial to competing at the highest level.  One prime example that stood out to me was a situation in which I was holding two lands in hand, drew a Divine Verdict, and LSV was in my ear saying “Land-go, land-go” very quickly to make it seem like I drew dead.  The next turn, my opponent walked right into a sweet two-for-one off of that Divine Verdict.  Under normal circumstances, I might have played that somewhat slower giving away information that I had something live in my hand.

The other thing I gained from this experience was the fire to get back to a Pro Tour or do well at a Grand Prix.  The feeling of being in the pro-level feature match area and just doing well at a premier event was very powerful.  I had pretty much stopped attending PTQs over the last couple of years because I didn’t think the prize support was worth the trip.  Moving forward, if there is a PTQ in the Midwest, you can bet that I will be attending it.

Moving along, I wanted to take some time to share my thoughts about the World Magic Cup and the Magic Players Championship from an “I want Magic to be as healthy as possible” perspective.  I will say that I believe that both events themselves were absolutely huge successes.

From what I have read about the World Magic Cup, the coverage from wonderful and it gave Magic the first true opportunity to show the spotlight on many of the smaller countries in the World that have strong Magic communities.  In the old World Championships format, the team event took a back seat to the individual event that was happening simultaneously.  The only time that teams got on camera was during the Top 4, and there was very little said about the team portion other than “Oh look, so and so is winning.”  I think that it was really great that the World Magic Cup was a standalone event that strictly featured the team competition.  The only change that I would recommend would be doing away with the pod-style system on Day 2.  If the tournament had just been kept Swiss, a lot of awkward situations could have been avoided (such as teams pressuring other teams to concede to them) and the climb to the top 8 would have been more dramatic.  That being said, I imagine that even if I were not a member of Team USA, that I would have greatly enjoyed the weekend sitting at home watching the coverage and cheering for my country.

To Recap we have:

Pros:

–          Shines a once per year spotlight on the many smaller Magic playing countries

–          Provides an opportunity to watch quality coverage of a truly team event

–          Gives those who participate a chance to perform in a unique tournament unavailable under any other circumstance

–          Still leaves room for amazing players, like Tzu-Ching Kuo, a chance to really dominate and carry their team

Cons:

–          Qualifier system doesn’t quite work for larger countries

–          Handling the Day 2 pairings with the pod system (like the Soccer World Cup) just created confusion and awkward “should we scoop?” situations

–          Not every country was able to send a full team

They are spell-slinging…get it!?

The other new event this year was obviously the Magic Players Championship.   I thought that this event was truly fantastic and would be beyond thrilled to be one of the competitors in any of the coming years.  The coverage was fantastic; every matchup was two powerhouses going at it.  I learned things just from watching how two pros play against each other for hours on end.  Watching the coverage of the Cube draft portion was also an absolute blast.  It was a bit disheartening to see Shouta Yasooka go down in the finals after crushing the first two days – but that is the nature of a playoff system.  I hope that they continue this event in the future, because it is definitely something to look forward to watching every summer.

Pros Cons:

–          Modern

–          Cube was during the hours when many people are at work

–          M13 draft instead of a second cube draft

–          Modern

As my summer comes to a close, I look back on it as a period of change for me as a Magic player.  I have learned to give more importance to every aspect of my play rather than just deck construction and strategy.  I have a new fire and focus towards the game of Magic that I have never had before; and for the first time feel like I might actually have what it takes to perform at the highest levels.

That is all I have for today!  As I move forward here – I am looking anxiously towards the Starcitygames.com Invitational in Atlanta as a great opportunity to play more competitive magic.  Until then – I just hope that I get internet in my new place soon so I can get back to grinding Magic: Online!  Thanks for reading.

Alex Binek

@PTQChamp on Twitter