he weekend before the collective Magic community's attention turns to building its first Dragon's Mazepool of cards, players all around the world were focused on the World Magic Cup. The captains of each team won't be set in stone until the last round of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze comes to a conclusion. Only the Pro Tour, Grand Prix Portland, and Grand Prix Beijing remain on the schedule to determine that final position, and while talking about it on Twitter during the week we began using the hashtag #WMCRace to get a better idea of who will need to do what over the last two weekends.
We also got a little more detail about how the World Magic Cup will play out, with a number of exciting adjustments from last season's inaugural event. Last year, players started out with individual performances and then were cut down to three-person teams for the next leg of the competition. This year, players will elect which three of the four players play in each format, which will certainly test the camaraderie of the various nations.
Teams will kick things off with three rounds of Team Sealed Deck using twelve packs of Magic 2014 . That will be followed by four rounds of Unified Standard—which means they cannot use more than four copies of any one card among all three of their decks—before the cut to Top 32 teams for Day Two. That means all the qualified teams will get to play seven team rounds before advancing to pool play. You can read more about the event here.
While Willy Edel of Brazil, Yuuya Watanabe of Japan, and Shahar Shenhar of Israel all appear to have strangleholds on the captaincy of their respective national teams, most of the titles appear to be in play come San Diego. In the meanwhile, there was the second weekend of World Magic Cup Qualifiers to contend with. By all accounts, attendance numbers swelled, excitement levels were high, and the quality of the players winning their events was top notch.
I caught up with a handful of the players to find out more about what they played, what the atmosphere was like at their event, and—while we had their attention—what cards from Dragon's Maze had caught their eye for Standard. Sitting down to the roundtable were:
England's Carrie Oliver
, who debuted with a Top 50 finish at Pro Tour Nagoya 2011
after playing the game for a short time (our own Richard Hagon
live-tweeted her win from the event from his @MTGRich
account using the #WMCQ
Spain's Joel Calafell
, who was a Pro Tour Top 8 finisher in Kuala Lumpur
Belgium's Marijn Lybaert, a four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and three-time GP Top 8 competitor.
Sweden's Olle Råde
, the Pro Tour Hall of Famer
who has five Pro Tour Top 8s on his resume, which includes a win at Pro Tour Columbus in the very first season of the Pro Tour.
BDM: Where were you in your country's Pro Point standings heading into the WMCQ?
David: I'm currently second in Austria's Pro Point standing, but the likelihood of overtaking Thomas Holzinger (our current Platinum Pro) was close to zero, since he is already too far ahead and I'm not able to attend San Diego because of my upcoming marriage.
Joel: I wasn't very well positioned this year, I must admit. With just 5 Pro Points and without attending a single Pro Tour this season other than last year's WMC, there were a bunch of players quite ahead of me in Spain. Recently, I lost a PTQ finals for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and wasted my 9–0 Day One record in GP Verona without a Top 8... so after all, that left me with basically zero chances of getting onto the team again without winning a WMCQ. But guess I can't complain now!
Olle: Oh, I wasn't even in the Top 10. The only event I've played was PT Return to Ravnica, where I didn't end up making Day Two. Since I am in the Hall of Fame, I've never really gotten into the Pro Point race. I've always figured the best, and only way for me to Q for the World Magic Cup is by winning a qualifier. I ended up making the finals of one last year, but scooped to a friend since I didn't really have time to travel to the US for the event. But this year I really wanted to qualify, so I couldn't be happier.
Marijn: The last major event I played was last year's WMC. Didn't play a Pro Tour since and haven't picked up too many Pro Points at GPs. In fact, no one in Belgium has. Vincent (Lemoine) will probably end up taking the Pro spot but that is mainly because he has been attending PTs and last year's WMC—but hasn't won anything either.
Carrie: I was just 8th with 3 Pro Points, leaving me trailing the top spot by 20 points. In short, there was no chance of me overtaking the leader in time.
BDM: What was the atmosphere like at the event?
Olle: I think the success of last year's event has sparked a big interest about the World Magic Cup this year. Apparently, Sweden is one of the countries where the number of people allowed to play in qualifiers has increased the most since last year. So the atmosphere was definitely tense—almost like Nationals back in the days.
Carrie: The event was much better attended than this time last year—equaling England's largest-ever PTQ set just the week before. Last year's attendance at WMCQs was poor compared to PTQs in the same season. I think people didn't know what to expect from the WMC itself so were unwilling to travel for the qualifiers. However, I think people really enjoyed following the coverage last year and cheering on their favorite teams, and now they want the chance to represent their country.
David: From my point of view the information prior to the WMCQ events was much better than it had been last year and I am also a big fan of the fact that this year all WMCQs are held on the very same weekend all over the world. That gives the WMC a big push in social media because everybody has the same "local" tournament at the very same date. The atmosphere was great and we also had a big attendance increase compared to last year.
Marijn: The atmosphere is obviously great. Everyone wants to win, but there is still a lot of cheering for friends since everyone wants his friend to be part of the team. However, when two friends face off, it's all about taking that win. For example, I played Gert Coeckelberg in the semifinals and I really think he deserves a spot at the team, so I wouldn't have minded losing to him. But of course, I still gave it my best to beat him just because it's so great to represent your country at the WMC.
Joel: The atmosphere here was really great as well: It seems to me like everyone truly wants to qualify for this awesome tournament that is the World Magic Cup. Even if you ask all around, most pro players will tell you that they are more excited about the World Magic Cup than for any other Pro Tour, even though in my opinion there are still many things to be fixed. Moreover, it gets really exciting to get to build your country's team step by step by seeing who qualifies on each WMCQ round, and that has probably been one of the keys for the social media hype and interest about it recently.
BDM: What Standard deck did you play and why did you choose it?
Joel: I played Naya Blitz, with quite a fancy sideboard. Why did I play it? Because it's just the best deck, and not just because of its raw power, but surprisingly because of its consistency. In this format, all the decks need lots of their pieces to come up together to function, while in Naya Blitz all the cards are just designed to do the same thing. What happens when they don't have their standard draw? You just punish them anyway, and win. Even with that in mind, it felt like it wouldn't be good times to play on Magic Online, because of all the focused hate and bad matchups around (RG, The Aristocrats, etc.)... But in real life? That was a completely different story! Since most people hadn't yet figured how ridiculous the deck could be.
Joel Calafell's Naya Blitz
Standard – Winner, WMCQ Spain
Marijn: I played The Aristocrats because Brad Nelson is awesome and is ALWAYS right (ok, ok, I'm exaggerating). I tried The Aristocrats for the first WMCQ as well but at that time the deck still had Skirsdag High Priest and I really didn't like that card. When Brad posted an updated version without the High Priest, I knew I was game. This is basically the list Nelson posted on Facebook three days before the tournament except for the two Oblivion Ring in sideboard and the one main-deck Zealous Conscripts. The Oblivion Rings were awesome, though, so I was very happy with the minor change I did.
Marijn Lybaert's The Aristocrats
Standard – Winner, WMCQ Belgium
Olle: I played Gruul-aggro, a deck I've been testing a ton online lately and felt would be excellent for the qualifier. I don't think I've ever played as much Standard online as the last couple of weeks. I found the decklist in a Daily event and was able to 4–0 a couple myself and made 2nd place in a Premier Event with it. Just did some minor adjustments for the local metagame.
Olle Råde's Naya
Standard – Winner, WMCQ Sweden
Carrie: I played The Aristocrats, Act 2. I really like the games that this decks lets you play. It's full of different options and tricks, allowing you to outmaneuver your opponent. That also makes it a demanding deck to play as you have to see all the lines and not miss any of the triggers, but it's also a very fun deck to play if you get it right. It was very well placed in the meta last weekend as evidenced by the six other copies of the deck that made the Top 8.
Carrie Oliver's The Aristocrats
Standard – Winner, WMCQ England
David: Well I chose the same deck I was very successful with at Worlds 2009 in Rome—JUND. It seems that this color combination fits me quite well. And, like Rome, my very good friend Oliver Polak-Rottmann told me to do so.
David Reitbauer's Jund
Standard – Winner, WMCQ Austria
BDM: Have you started thinking about how you will prepare for the World Magic Cup?
Marijn: I don't know yet. I'll probably go to GP Rimini the weekend before to practice Limited. As for Constructed, I'll have to talk to Vincent and we'll probably get together and play as much as possible.
David: Knowing that someone like Thomas Holzinger is on your team is so great! I guess when our team is complete we can start trying our hands on Team Sealed Return to Ravnica-Block. I am a big fan of team play and I did a lot of preparation for Team GP Utrecht. The tournament itself didn't work out as expected, but there was still a lot of experience we got from our team testing.
Unified Standard will be a great challenge and adds a little extra to the WMC.
Carrie: Lots of practice! The other locked player for Team England is Eduardo Sagjalik who, until recently, played at the same LGS as me, so we know each other's strengths and weaknesses and should work together well. Eduardo is also the top pro player currently, meaning we probably face a pass down from the first WMCQ. If that occurs, we will be joined by Roy Raftery, who is another strong player. It will be important to work with each other's strengths. Roy and Eduardo and both great Limited players whereas I'm better at Constructed. I really hope whoever the final team is will work hard together to bring this one home for England.
Olle: I suppose I will try to keep updated with the Standard metagame online as well as try and get as many Magic 2014 Team Sealeds in as possible. My biggest concern, however, is the process of picking who on the team gets to play the different format. I feel like all the players who qualify have merits to play, so it will be difficult to put someone on the sidelines.
BDM: Dragon's Maze Limited will feature the complete Return to Ravnica block. What card do you most want to see in that format?
Boros Reckoner. Since I see myself as the leader of the Swedish enclave of the Boros guild I always look to draft it and play it. And nothing says Boros more than the Reckoner!
David: I would like to open a Blood Baron of Vizkopa, because I like the extort ability that Orzhov provides and, besides being a 4/4 lifelink for five mana, the protections on him are just so powerful in a format that I expect to be much slower than Gatecrash or Return to Ravnica. Besides that, I would prefer a single-color card like Scion of Vitu-Ghazi and see what my neighbors are passing.
Joel: It's still probably Pack Rat... has anything changed about that? Other than that, I'm happy with any multicolored bomb or Planeswalker: I'm pretty sure that with so many fixers you can just pick the best card Pick 1 Pack 1 and forget about the rest.
Carrie: Wow, that's a difficult question. I think I'm going to go with Scion of Vitu-Ghazi. I really like the Selesnya cards in Return to Ravnica so it sets me up for taking those in pack three. It also only commits me to one color, letting me keep my options more open. Plus, I can possibly go Naya, which appeals as populate and battalion work so well together.
BDM: You just played in one of the last big Standard events using the current format. What card from Dragon's Maze do you think will have the biggest impact on Standard?
Carrie: Always a hard thing to guess at but I think the card I'm most excited about in terms of potential impact is Notion Thief. There are a nice selection of blue cards in the next set so control could make a comeback, and this card will be key in the mirror match.
Marijn: Haven't looked at all the cards but Renounce the Guilds seems very strong to me in Standard. Right now, Esper and RWU have a hard time beating a resolved Obzedat or Falkenrath Aristocrat and that card seems to be the perfect solution.
Olle: I guess the boring answer is, I have no idea. I tend to try to keep away from studying the spoiler list too close before the Prerelease. I still enjoy the excitement of seeing the cards for the first time in real life when playing with them. But are there any good cards that go into Gruul aggro? I guess I've always been a fan of the archetype, ever since winning the Pro Tour with it back in 1996.
The full World Magic Cup picture will come into focus over the next six weeks, with the top pro spot being determined May 17–19 at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and the final World Magic Cup qualifiers run around the globe June 1–2. So whether you're a Platinum pro or a WMCQ hopeful, there's still a chance for you to represent your country in Amsterdam at the World Magic Cup.
Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.