I attack for lethal and shake my opponent’s hand. Another win.
I look over at my teammates and give the rest of Team Canada the thumbs up while flashing a smile. A winning smile.
That’s exactly how things didn’t go at the 2015 World Magic Cup. That is the tournament report I wish I could write. Instead it’s just an alternate timeline that will never be. Merely a daydream.
In reality things went very much the opposite. The entire tournament was an uphill battle and seemed to end before it began.
It was series of near misses. Cast an awakened Part the Waterveil with three lands still in hand. One turn away from lethal, burned out. Mulligan to six, scry to the bottom, never see a third land. One big clench. Those were just some of the frustrating moments from my matches, but it felt like our entire team was stuck in the mud.
Usually losses don’t bother me much, but this tournament was different. Context obviously matters. Misplays or high stakes matches will hurt more, but one of the worst feelings is losing for your team and for your whole country. I wanted the wins to be flowing easily and plentifully.
Instead I’d somehow managed to run Team Canada into the dirt at the World Magic Cup. Again.
Our story begins a week earlier in Barcelona with the gathering of Team Canada, USA, Brazil, and Italy. Team Canada was comprised of Alexander Hayne, Justin Richardson, Hunter Platt, and myself as the captain.
Team Unified Standard Constructed was very constrained this year due to fetchlands being such a vital, powerful, and limited resource. It really is a reminder just how important mana is towards a deck’s functionality. Decks running on fetchlands performed significantly better than those running on tri-lands and painlands. It was pretty much immediately obvious from even a superficial look at the manabases of the format that Atarka Red and Esper Dragons would be a great starting point. The decks used different fetchlands and would be hard to metagame against since they represented the best of the format and are polar opposites strategy-wise (aggro and control).
So the key to the format would likely either be finding a solid third deck or coming up with a configuration that could beat Esper Dragons and Atarka Red while still having some game against the rest of the predicted field.
Finding that perfect third deck turned out to be a very tough nut to crack. For most of testing nobody had anything they liked that matched up favorably against Esper Dragons and Atarka Red. It seemed like you would just have to run a weak third deck or reduce the power of the other two decks to accommodate the third.
I liked the idea of an Abzan deck in the third slot. I worked on Abzan Rally, but I found it to be a bit too clunky and lacking in the earlygame without blue. Abzan Aggro seemed like a good choice even though it was a good turn slower and significantly weaker when it only had access to Windswept Heath. It was maybe 45% against any decks that got to run a real manabase, but it was still Abzan Aggro, and you got to run Siege Rhino and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Abzan Aggro, Atarka Red, Esper Dragons.
Just play three of the best decks in the Standard, if not the three best decks in Standard, with little overlap. You get to run all the best cards in Standard. Abzan Aggro takes a significant hit in the manabase, and there would be some overlap in Shambling Vents, Duress, Ultimate Price, and Arashin Cleric, but that was manageable.
That would be a super safe configuration.
It was going to be hard to find three decks much better than this and there was seemingly little wiggle room for innovation that would be as good as the level 1 starting point.
Enter Alexander Hayne and his Temur deck.
Blame Canada. Blame Hayne.
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 2 Heir of the Wilds
- 4 Savage Knuckleblade
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 4 Bounding Krasis
The Temur deck received a lot of flak early on in the tournament. So what did I think of Temur? I actually liked it a lot for the tournament, and I think it was a great choice for a third deck. It appeared the Temur matched up reasonably well against Atarka Red and Esper Dragons, which essentially put it head and shoulders above everything else we had.
One of my favorite cards in the list was Surrak Dragonclaw or as Neal Oliver liked to call him, “Tebeari” (Te-bear-i, like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir). Tebeari is at his best against Esper Dragons, since it plays really nicely towards your gameplan of do nothing and cast spells at the end of their turn. It’s also immune to Ultimate Price, which makes him difficult to kill at instant speed if you’re mindful of Foul-Tongue Invocation. He also has plenty of nice synergies with deck, like giving your deathtouchers trample, or just making it so you can cast uncounterable Den Protectors.
Collected Company was very hit or miss. Literally. You sometimes hit two creatures and it’s amazing, or you miss completely. This contributed towards Temur being a risky deck to pick up. The other thing that made it a risky deck to play was that we didn’t have much time to test with it, only a couple days, so no one was sure if it was actually good or not.
Should you fix up the manabase and play an updated version or Temur Black in normal Standard? Probably not. I think the deck was good for the expected metagame but is probably not going to quite reach tier 1 in regular Standard. It is a fun deck though and worth a shot.
So our configuration would be Hayne on Esper Dragons, Justin on Atarka Red, and Me on Temur playing Constructed, and Justin and Hunter swapping for Sealed. We have two very solid players, so the natural inclination is to have us play both formats. Quite possibly the biggest mistake I made in the weeks before the tournament was not mastering Esper Dragons. I had played pretty much everything in the format but Esper Dragons, which left me picking up the Temur deck only a few days before the tournament. I work best playing decks that I have a lot of time to master, whereas Hayne would likely have been able to pilot the Temur deck better on little practice.
I thought our Sealed deck was good. I had a great U/W fliers deck, Hunter had a great B/R Devoid Aggro deck, and Hayne got the scraps of Temur Landfall.
Round 1 against Northern Ireland I quickly won my match against G/B Tokens. In game 3 Hayne had his opponent dead if he topdecked any untapped land thanks to Valukut Invoker, and plenty of spells win him the game as well. Hayne had also put the eighth land on top of his library with Fertile Thicket and it looked like he was going to win since it appeared like his opponent had no way to deal with the Valakut Invoker. Except his opponent had a Vile Aggregate that could Ingest the land away, which we both knew, but hoped his opponent was going to miss. After an attack from the Vile Aggregate and an excruciating pause of a couple seconds, the opponent that I had just beaten noticed the Ingest and Hayne topdecked Lumbering Falls and was then locked out of the game by a Ruin Processor the next turn.
Round 2 against Portugal I lost my match to a perfectly curved R/W Eldrazi and Serpentine Spike, but the rest of the team came through and we were 1-1.
Round 3 against France is where I flooded out hard and did nothing of substance besides awaken Part The Waterveil. Ahh, Memories.
We entered the Constructed portion, and it appeared that things were going to turn around. We once again beat Portugal and then Indonesia before running into Denmark.
At least everyone had a lovely time beating Team Canada. I’m so glad we could provide such wonderful memories for the teams destroying us on their way to top 8.
And finally at 3-3 we had a win and in for day 2 against Greece. I got completely rolled over by Atarka Red, and Justin lost to B/W Wasteland Strangler. We were eliminated in uneventful fashion.
It sucks feeling powerless.
So there you have it. Another year of not even making day 2 in the World Magic Cup despite having a great team. You know what that feels like? That feels like failure. I want to gnash and rage against the injustices life has delivered us on a sucky platter.
I also want to take responsibility because we came so close. One more match win anywhere along the line and we would’ve made day 2. I think we all played well but not flawlessly, which wasn’t good enough.
What’s that? You think it’s time for me to put a positive spin on everything and say that everything is great anyways? You expect me to break out singing “Everything is Awesome.”
Well, it’s not gonna happen, because losing sucks!
Okay fine. Maybe it’s not all bad.
It’s so easy to get caught up wanting more and not appreciate that you’re in Barcelona experiencing a once in a lifetime event. It was great collaborating with everyone and getting to see everyone excited to play for their countries. It was a fantastic tournament and a fun trip, and I’m really happy for the Italians taking down the whole thing.
There’s no I in Team, but there’s a win in Italwian.
Competing for Canada is really weird and amazing. Nationality and love for my country isn’t exactly something I stop to appreciate often. I see myself more as an earthling than a Canadian.
But Canada is great. Canada is a country where you have the freedom to think weird things. It’s large and it’s usually cold, but it can also be warm and smell like maple syrup, just like me. Thank you Canada for being my country and giving me the opportunity to represent you by playing Magic cards for another year.
It was a great trip. Everything receives a grade of Exceeds Expectations, except for our win rate and Hayne who will always receive a grade of Troll.
Now I just need to win the Canadian Captaincy again. Third times gotta be the charm, right?