In this, the final round of the first day of play, Spain met the team of Chinese Taipei. Much was at stake in this battle between the host country and the team who had won the inaugural World Magic Cup back in 2012. With a record of 3-3, the losing team faced elimination, whereas the winning team would likely advance to Day Two.
The two teams had come up with some interesting decks for the Unified Standard portion of the event, including a sweet Green-Blue Eldrazi Ramp, Esper Tokens, and a Rally the Ancestors deck without the usual blue component. Rounding out the ticket was Esper Dragons as well as one copy of the ubiquitous Atarka Red on each side.
Chinese Taipei and Spain were in the deciding match for Day one. Who would advance to Day Two's pool play?
Seat B: Huang Ta-Chi (G/U Ramp) vs. Antonio Del Moral León (Abzan Rally)
Meanwhile, the Spanish captain, Pro Tour Fate Reforged champion Antonio Del Moral León, with the help of Collected Company, had assembled an army of Sultai Emissary, Grim Haruspex, Nantuko Husk, Zulaport Cutthroat, and a pair of Catacomb Sifters with retinue. Not bad either.
Ugin proceeded to blow up the non-devoid creatures which dutifully were sacrificed for value to Nantuko Husk. Lots of scrying and card drawing and life draining later, Del Moral León was left with three creatures and had somehow managed to avoid scrying and drawing into Rally the Ancestors. He regrouped with another Zulaport Cutthroat, another Nantuko Husk and one Carrier Thrall.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon went to one counter which led to another round of sacrifices. Following that, Huang cast Dig Through Time and found Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger which exiled Plains and Canopy Vista, leaving Del Moral León with one source of white mana and, equally important, just one basic land.
This meant that Del Moral León, although he finally drew Rally the Ancestors and still had a Windswept Heath in hand, couldn't get an untapped Canopy Vista and was forced to pass the turn. Another Ulamog sealed the deal.
Carrier Thrall and Nantuko Husk led the charge for Del Moral León. However, his Collected Company met Dispel. Not to worry though: another Collected Company found a pair of Zulaport Cutthroats and the following Rally the Ancestors was already enough, despite Huang again casting an early Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.
Huang kept a slow draw played nothing but Forests for the first three turns. He even searched up more Forests via Nissa's Pilgrimage. His first business spell, this time around, was the considerably cheaper Whisperwood Elemental.
Meanwhile, Del Moral León had cast Elvish Visionary and Nantuko Husk, but was struggling to assemble further combo parts. He also wasn't able to mount much of an offense against Huang's Whisperwood Elemental. For additional chagrin, the Elemental made the Fleshbag Marauder look quite foolish.
In the end, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger exiled all of Del Moral León's sources of black mana and the Spaniard never even got back to four lands in total …
Huang Ta-Chi 2 - Antonio Del Moral León 1
Seat A: Huang Hao-Shan (Atarka Red) vs. Alfredo Rodriguez Fernandez (Esper Dragons)
Monastery Swiftspear and Lightning Berserker were confined to Silkwraps each, robbing Huang Hao-Shan of the all-important early offense. He fought back valiantly with two copies of Abbot of Keral Keep. But, given enough time, Fernandez's next plays—namely Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Foul-Tongue Invocation, and Dragonlord Ojutai—were undoubtedly stronger.
Things could also play out very differently in this matchup, as Huang proved with the second game. Zurgo Bellstriker, Monastery Swiftspear, and Abbot of Keral Keep on consecutive turns laid the foundation, Hordeling Outburst and Atarka's Command wrapped things up.
Gold level pro Huang Hao-Shan faced multiple uphill battles against Alfredo Rodriguez Fernandez in his match.
Huang had almost the perfect opening for the final game, with Monastery Swiftspear into Dragon Fodder into Hordeling Outburst. However, Huang soon had to realize that Esper Dragons could in fact beat even that, given the perfect answers at the perfect time.
Those included Arashin Cleric and Duress for Atarka's Command, and then Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Surge of Righteousness to prevent Tasigur dying in combat due to Titan's Strength, and then Foul-Tongue Invocation revealing Dragonlord Ojutai, and then Dragonlord Ojutai itself, and then two more Arashin Clerics.
Wow. We had definitely seen decks—and players—at their very best here.
Huang Hao-Shan 1 – Alfredo Rodriguez Fernandez 2
Seat A: Chen Liang (Esper Tokens) vs. Daniel Vincente (Atarka Red)
In a recurring theme of the weekend, the Atarka Red player had trouble keeping a creature on the board. Daniel Vincente's Zurgo Bellstriker was sliced up by Murderous Cut and he had no replacement. He likewise managed to get rid of Chen Liang's creatures, but that didn't really help.
When Chen cast Duress, he saw the combo of Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage uselessly idling in Vincente's hand, waiting for a creature. A creature came, of course, but by that point Vincente was already facing Jace, Telepath Unbound as well as Hangarback Walker, both inexorably ticking up and eventually taking the game.
With one loss away from elimination, Daniel Vincente and Team Spain needed a good series of games to survive.
Vincente had Monastery Swiftspear on turn one, while Chen had Duress. He got to see three lands, one Fiery Impulse, and one Wild Slash in his opponent's hand, and the Slash didn't even stay. One Silkwrap later and Vincente was completely without board presence too. It seemed like this might be a quick match, even more so once Chen summoned Dragonlord Ojutai.
But somehow Vincente managed to claw his way back into the game with Rending Volley and a pair of Hordeling Outbursts. Still, he wasn't able to make much progress due to Arashin Cleric blocking the way. Then came Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and again it looked as if the game was heading to a close.
However, with the help of Atarka's Command, Vincente staged yet another comeback and got rid of the Planeswalker. Then, a second Gideon! Yet again, with the help of Abbot of Keral Keep and Wild Slash, Vincente was able to take out the Ally of Zendikar.
Much later, it was in fact Treasure Cruise that put Chen back into a winning position, allowing him to take the game—as well as the team's match—over their competition.
Chinese Taipei 2 – Spain 1