At the border of Top 8, one foot across and one foot behind, Greece and Scotland sat down to determine who would be the final Top 8 participant. Greece simply needed the win to make it through; Scotland, on the other hand, both needed to win, and required Italy to win their match. This was no easy path to the Top 8 for Scotland, especially as the Greek Team was eager to secure a Top 8 spot for the second year in a row.
Seat A: Bill Chronopoulos (4-Color Rally) v Grant Hislop (Abzan Aggro)
Hislop came out swinging against the Greek captain with an early Anafenza, the Foremost against his opponent's Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Chronopoulos was not daunted, however, casting a Collected Company into Grim Haruspex and Nantuko Husk. Hislop continued to maintain pressure with a Siege Rhino, while Anafenza locked out Chronopoulos' graveyard from being abused by Rally the Ancestors.
Greece and Scotland were down to their last match, with potential Top 8 chances on the line for both.
Chronopoulos carefully navigated his next few draws, using successive Sidisi's Faithful to continually bounce the Anafenza and draw cards off the Haruspex while filling his graveyard, thereby allowing him to flip Jace, Vryn's Prodigy into Jace, Telepath Unbound. Feeling confident, Chronopoulos also bounced the Siege Rhino, allowing him to advance the counters on his Jace, thereby regaining access to the Collected Company in the graveyard. Chronopoulos snowed Hislop under continual card advantage and eventually combo'd out with Rally the Ancestors.
The following game, Hislop again started quickly, with double Warden of the First Tree. Chronopoulos' first Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was met with a Silkwrap, but he quickly found a second, using Sidisi's Faithful to keep the Wardens off growing too much. Hislop continued to try to push his Wardens through, but a Collected Company into double Catacomb Sifter spelled the end for Hislop, as the ability to sacrifice and scry, combined with the draw off a Grim Haruspex, allowed Chronopoulos to turn the game around and eventually kill Hislop with a Nantuko Husk and friends.
Greece 1 - Scotland 0
Seat C: Charalambos Kikidis (Atarka Red) v Martin Clement (B/R Dragons)
Kikidis did what red decks do and started smashing quickly with an Abbot of Keral Keep, which was joined by three Goblin tokens off Hordeling Outburst. Clement understood he needed to retain control without letting his life total get away from him, picking off the Abbot with a Kolaghan's Command, then stabilizing the board with three Goblin tokens of his own.
The two traded permanents, but while Kikidis struggled to rebuild, Clement found a fast Thunderbreak Regent and Hangarback Walker. The young Scotsman rode the two to victory, and they moved on to Game 2.
Greece fought hard, hoping to secure their second World Magic Cup Top 8 in a row.
For Game 3, the teams were moved over to the bright lights of the feature match area. Both Kikidis and Clement kept their hands. Kikidis had a turn 1 Monastery Swiftspear and turn 2 Dragon Fodder. Clement, back in control mode, killed the Swiftspear with a Kolaghan's Command, and next turn gummed up the board with a Hordeling Outburst.
Kikidis fought back, using Atarka's Command to win combat against the tokens and keep the pressure up with more Goblin tokens. Clement continued to delay Kikidis with Pia and Kiran Nalaar and their Thopter tokens. The three continued to trade board states, until all that remained was Kikidis' Abbot of Keral Keep and a Thunderbreak Regent for Clement, with Clement on 6 life while Kikidis remained on 20.
Clement, forced to block the Abbot, lost the Thunderbreak to a Become Immense, but as Kikidis didn't have the Temur Battle Rage, was not out of it yet. He cast a second Thunderbreak, keeping a Murderous Cut in hand. The following turn, Kikidis attempted a Titan's Strength on the Abbot, but Clement killed it in response, preventing the scry.
Clement found a Hangarback Walker to join the dragon, while Kikidis cast Zurgo Bellstriker. Again the two started a token race, Kikidis with Goblins and Clement giving Chandra's parents a call for help again. Clement carefully navigated the next few turns, using threat of activation from Pia and Kiran to prevent Kikidis from pumping his creatures. Clement also kept back a Murderous Cut for emergency response, but it wasn't needed. Clement, with control over the board, cut the Greek down over the next few turns, and it was over.
Greece 1 - Scotland 1
Seat B: Antonis Fyssas (W/B Warriors) v Stephen Murray (Jeskai)
This was it. The victor of this match would carry the team to the Top 8. Both teams were now two game wins away from Day 3.
Fyssas led off with a Dragon Hunter into Blood-Chin Rager. Murray summoned Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, only to see it Silkwrapped away. Goblin tokens from Murray allowed him to trade with the Blood-Chin Rager, only to face down a Mardu Strike Leader. Murray cast a Mantis Rider, getting in for some damage, before the two traded board states.
Murray attempted to land Jace, but it was quickly Stasis Snared away. Another Strike Leader from Fyssas would have put Murray on the back foot, were it not for a Wild Slash from the Scotsman. Murray found a Soulfire Grand Master and put the life-gain to good effect with Exquisite Firecraft on Fyssas' next creature, putting Murray out of immediate danger.
While Fyssas attempted to rebuild, Murray used the Soulfire Grand Master's ability to recur a Hordeling Outburst to push himself well ahead on the board. Even a Secure the Wastes couldn't provide the recovery Fyssas needed, and with the land locked down, Murray eventually won in the air with a Mantis Rider.
In Game 2, Fyssas led with a Duress into Mastery of the Unseen. On the back foot, Murray traded resources with his opponent. A Mardu Strike Leader and its token met an end to Arc Lightning, while his Mantis Rider was Silkwrapped away. Under the continual resource advantage of Mastery of the Unseen, Fyssas started to get ahead, and used Wasteland Strangler to yank cards out from under Silkwrap to kill Murray's creatures. Eventually Fyssas' advantage on the board was too overwhelming, and Murray fell to the manifests.
The winner of the next game would make it through to the Top 8. We were down to the wire.
Murray started with a Prairie Stream to Fyssas' Shambling Vent. This time, it was Murray who cast the turn 2 Mastery of the Unseen, while Fyssas summoned a Chief of the Edge. The following turn, Fyssas attempted to Duress Murray, who Fiery Impulsed the Chief in response, leaving Fyssas to nab an Ojutai's Command while seeing nothing else but land. One draw later, and Fyssas cast a Mastery of the Unseen of his own on the next turn.
Hands shaking from a combination of nerves and adrenaline, Murray cast an Outpost Siege naming khans. Fyssas enlisted help from the renowned Planeswalker Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, then cruelly sacrificed him for his powerful emblem, allowing him to gain 3/3 manifests from the Mastery later.
With time ticking down, Murray cast a Citadel Siege, again naming khans.
"I have the best Limited deck you've ever seen," laughed Murray.
Over the next few turns, the two developed their boards with manifests and other creatures, Murray was careful to spread the counters from the Citadel Siege around. With the clock counting down, Murray's card advantage kept Fyssas from progressing, and with only six mana, Fyssas was constrained to activating his Master of the Unseen once to Murray's twice.
Then, time was called.
Turn 1 began with the Scots. The team discussed their options. They felt they could knock their opponent down from 16, even through Mastery flips, but had to navigate each turn carefully. They activated the Mastery, and then cast a Mantis Rider, using the Citadel Siege to bash in for 5. At end of turn, the Greeks created a manifest, and then flipped it face-up into its one-mana creature form, regaining 3 life.
The following turn, the Scots found another Mantis Rider, and again used Citadel Siege to make a 5/5 vigilant flyer and hit for 10, dropping the Greeks to 3. On turn 4 the Greeks, with no play, simply passed the turn.
The Scottish team needed to land a blow with one of the Mantis Riders, while preventing enough life-gain for the Greeks to pull out of reach. To do so would ensure their dreams were alive. To fail would ensure their elimination.
They attacked in the air with nothing on the ground in order to prevent the Greek team from using Shambling Vent to gain life. The Greeks created a manifest, but in response, Murray flipped a manifest of his own.
It was a critical one.
With the Greek's manifest trigger on the stack, Murray sacrificed the kitty to kill his opponent's Mastery. The Greeks no longer had a way to gain life, and therefore, no longer had any way out. They extended the hand.
Scotland completed the first phase: winning. Now, they needed an answer to one final question…
After shaking hands with their opponents, Clement shouted to the crowd.
"Did Italy win?" he shouted.
"DID ITALY WIN?!" he repeated.
It was confirmed; and with that, Scotland was into the Top 8.
Greece 1 – Scotland 2