Scotland vs. Hungary (Team Contructed)
"I bet if we'd all worn kilts we would have made it into the coverage more..."
One way of getting a place in the spotlight is simply to keep on winning, and that is the route that Team Scotland has taken throughout the World Magic Cup. Top seed of each of their groups in both Team Sealed and Team Constructed, their combined performances over the weekend have them seeded 2nd for the Top 8, meaning that they will be going first in every match until at least the Semifinals.
Just to be sure, Stephen Murray and Andrew Morrison were wearing kilts on Sunday, though, and even Brad Barclay, who by comparison was a "stealthed" Scot, was wearing a Scotland football jersey.
In talking to the team about their matchup against Hungary, the Scots were a little cagey. They knew that team Hungary had gone 3–0 in the constructed pool, and there were a few matchups there with the potential to prove difficult.
In the Standard, Tamas Glied has an innovative Zombie Birthing Pod deck that pairs off pretty favorably against the likes of Delver of Secrets, which is being run by Stephen Murray. While Murray has quite a bit of experience in playing the Delver of Secrets mirror, something that served him well earlier in the weekend, he will have to dig deep on his Worlds experience (this being far from his first rodeo) to find a path to victory in a match where there are so many removal spells that he could conceivably run out of threats.
In Modern, Andy Morrison has Jund against Red-White-Blue Aggro, piloted by Gabor Kocsis. With four copies of Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix, along with Snapcaster Mage and a lone Magma Jet, the deck can adopt a respectable burn plan, racing with direct damage and controlled aggression from Geist of Saint Traft, Delver of Secrets, and Steppe Lynx in the red zone. Morrison's fairly stock Jund list could also potentially have problems against sideboarded Molten Rain, attacking Jund's potentially shaky mana.
The Block Constructed match is a virtual Jund mirror, but it is worth pointing out the differences between Brad Barclay's list and the one piloted by Hungarian National Champion Tamas Nagy. Nagy's deck is a little heavier on four-drops, with Restoration Angel making his deck more powerful, but potentially with shakier mana. Barclay had actually removed a few four-drops from his deck, and with a pair of copies of Scorned Villager, is hoping to out-mana Team Hungary, getting to the big threats just that little bit faster.
"Because you were so nice yesterday and let us through to play today, we would like to let you all go first," smiled Gabor Kocsis of Hungary. Without Scotland having gone 3–0 in the Team Sealed, Hungary's 1–2 finish in Sealed Deck would not have been good enough. As it was, Hungary sneaked through Limited on tiebreakers, to then 3–0 Constructed and make the Top 8. As 2nd seed, Scotland was allowed to go first anyway, of course, but the Scots had a good laugh as they shuffled up for Game 1.
In the Standard match, Murray led with Delver of Secrets but it soon died to a Tragic Slip from Tamas Glied. From there, Murray leaned on Ponder and Snapcaster Mage to set up his draws. The first nonland permanent for Glied was Birthing Pod—a potentially game-ending threat if it could be paired with appropriate creatures.
Murray landed another Delver of Secrets and was ready when Glied cast his first creature. While it isn't normally too exciting to use Vapor Snag on Geralf's Messenger, in this case it kept Birthing Pod from getting active, as the Snag came in response to the Zombie's enters-the-battlefield trigger. Glied killed off Delver of Secrets with his remaining mana.
Murray bashed in and had a Vapor Snag for his own Snapcaster Mage in response to a Skinrender, meaning the 3/3 Zombie had only itself to target. With Moorland Haunt, Murray was in a position to gradually build up a squad, and that Snapcaster Mage again stymied any hope Glied had of getting his Birthing Pod active.
Attacks from a Spirit and Snapcaster Mage dropped Glied to 8 life. Geralf's Messenger was effectively playing as Fanning the Flames for 2, but that still only had Murray at 17 life. The Zombie was hit by yet another Vapor Snag from Murray, who finally allowed a creature to stay in play when Glied played Fume Spitter.
"Would you like to take some damage by Podding it away?"
It didn't seem that the Hungarian was keen on that plan, and used it to block where he could instead. On just 6 life, he would need to get Birthing Pod and Thragtusk to realistically stay in the game, but was a ways off getting there.
Glied cast a Phantasmal Image, which was hit by Mana Leak. Another came, copying Snapcaster Mage and allowing Tragic Slip to kill off a Spirit token. Murray was unconcerned. He cast an end-of-turn Snapcaster Mage to allow a flashed back Gut Shot, killing the Illusion and setting up attacks to put Glied at 2 life. That Birthing Pod had done nothing all game thanks to some canny Scots play, and Glied was forced to scoop up his cards.
In the Modern match, Andy Morrison was taking advantage of Gabor Kocsis's mulligan and smashing in with Tarmogoyf, Treetop Village, and Kitchen Finks for a win. It was only Tamas Nagy who was a game up, in the Jund mirror from Block Constructed, where he'd used Devil's Play and Garruk, the Veil-Cursed to lock up the first game.
Back in Standard, Glied looked to all three of his teammates for advice before keeping his hand. Murray soon got a look at the keep thanks to a timely Gitaxian Probe. "Oh! It's one of those hands" he remarked, as he looked at Birthing Pod, Thragtusk, Phyrexian Metamorph, Skinrender, Doom Blade, and Woodland Cemetery.
Glied had the fourth land and started his creature chain by casting Skinrender, killing an Augur. Another Gitaxian Probe showed that Glied had drawn Phantasmal Image to juice up his hand further, making the Hungarian's plays for the next few turns potentially very explosive.
It seemed that the Modern match was swinging back and forth, with Barclay quickly able to square his match against the Hungarian National Champion. There was still everything to play for.
Murray played Delver of Secrets for his turn and had a Vapor Snag on Skinrender in response to Phantasmal Image, meaning the best thing it could copy was an Augur of Bolas. With that trigger on the stack, a Vapor Snag killed the Illusion, although the Augur trigger did find Glied a Tragic Slip to leave the only creature on the board an Augur of Bolas for Murray.
While Glied had his Thragtusk in hand, he was wary of casting it until he had a Cavern of Souls. The Avacyn Restored rare let him get his Beast down unopposed, and it hung around at least for a while, with Glied likely hoping to copy it.
Murray played an end-of-turn Restoration Angel, getting a Gut Shot off his flickered Augur of Bolas. Glied attacked, then cast Geralf's Messenger. In response to the trigger, Murray used Snapcaster Mage to flash back Celestial Purge on the Zombie. This left him tapped out, allowing a Phyrexian Metamorph to resolve, copying Restoration Angel, and allowing a flicker on Thragtusk.
From nowhere, Glied was suddenly miles in front on the board. He even had a Doom Blade for Murray's Restoration Angel the following turn, to allow some huge attacks. A new Restoration Angel from Murray let him flicker Snapcaster Mage to flash back Thought Scour, and do a little blocking. A Gut Shot finished off Thragtusk, but Skinrender finished Murray's Angel, meaning that the Hungarian side of the board remained where most of the action lay.
Murray had a Phantasmal Image to copy Skinrender before killing it, but Glied powered back with one of his own copying Phantasmal Image to get another Tragic Slip, then Pod into Geralf's Messenger. Murray was at 1 life and couldn't find what he needed; the Standard match would go to a game three.
At this point, Hungary won its first match in Block Constructed, with Tamas Nagy leveraging Wolfir Silverheart and Falkenrath Aristocrat into one half of the match wins needed to take the series. Andy Morrison was doing a fair job of fighting back in the Modern though. An active Liliana of the Veil was soon joined by Bloodbraid Elf and Kitchen Finks. In a flurry of attacks it was over and the series was squared at 1–1. The deciding game would be Standard. It would be Stephen Murray versus Tamas Glied (with their entire teams behind them). It would be Delver of Secrets versus Zombie pod, and Scotland would be on the play.
Hungary had a think about a four-land hand, while Scotland had a one-land hand to consider. Each had their merits (Scotland's having Vapor Snags, Delver of Secretss, and a Gitaxian Probe; Hungary's being consistent but not too high on action). After much thought, both teams kept.
A turn-one Gitaxian Probe showed Fume Spitter, Doom Blade, Blood Artist, Cavern of Souls, Darkslick Shores, and two copies of Drowned Catacomb. Now Scotland knew what was up, and it even drew a second land into the bargain.
A turn-one Fume Spitter came from Hungary, while Scotland played its Delver of Secrets a turn late, as both of its first two lands were Glacial Fortresses. The Delver of Secrets traded with Fume Spitter, as seemed written in the stars.
A new Delver of Secrets sprang forth from Scotland, who did not have a third land. There was a sigh and a shake of the head from Murray as Geralf's Messenger came down from Hungary. It was hit by Vapor Snag, but the Scot wasn't happy about it.
A third Delver of Secrets came from Scotland, but was soon lost to Skinrender. The remaining Delver of Secrets transformed into an Insectile Aberration, and Murray used another Gitaxian Probe to try to draw into lands. Augur of Bolas came next, but not another land.
Doom Blade from Hungary on Insectile Aberration preceded attacks to take Scotland to 9. Finally, Scotland found a third land, but it was a third Glacial Fortress, meaning it didn't represent any more mana that turn. When Blood Artist came down, it seemed a virtual certainty that Hungary had the game. Skinrender was bounced with Vapor Snag, and when it came back down, it killed Geralf's Messenger, whose undying did its thing, as did Blood Artist's ability. Scotland, at 5, was on the ropes.
Scotland had a desperation Ponder, stacking the top three, but leaving Murray with a lot of work to do if he was to get back in the game. A Phantasmal image on Skinrender killed off Blood Artist and then traded with Geralf's Messenger. Scotland was at 1, but there was now only a Skinrender to worry about.
Murray started playing mind games. Did he have a Restoration Angel that Hungary was going to attack into? Hungary didn't seem to be drawing much, and eventually decided to hold back. This proved a good call, as Scotland did have a Restoration Angel at the end of turn.
A Runechanter's Pike came next for Scotland. Murray had 17 damage to dea, but a graveyard stocked with spells, meaning that they wouldn't need too many turns. A Phantasmal Image copied Skinrender, who killed Restoration Angel in combat.
"Dang! You drew any of the spells in your deck!"
From there, the match was all but sewn up. Scotland had the good grace to let Hungary attack, but had nothing left to give, and extended their hands.
Hungary 2, Scotland 1