Spain 4-0ed Norway in the first round Saturday morning to climb into second and earn a feature match against the United States. Spanish national champion Carlos Barrado won grand Prix Madrid earlier this year wound up 38th in the individual competition at Worlds. Second place team member Roc Herms Pont has become a fixture on Tour since finishing 9th at Pro Tour London. He finished 18th this weekend and is one of the Top 5 DCI composite rated players in Europe. The U.S. managed to go only 2-2 against the Netherlands in their first round.
Team captain Jon Finkel played a fairly weak black/red deck, running the same gambit that he runs as a member of Team Antarctica. He's gambling that he can use his talent to make up for his lack of card quality. Barrado ran a mono-black deck against him. Finkel played out Wild Jhovall and then Fen Stalker plus he had several removal spells (Vicious Hunger, Kris Mage, and Arms Dealer) to clear a path for them. Barrado had trouble stabilizing the board and then Finkel's Rathi Fiend finished him off once he did.
Three of the four Spanish players ran mono-color decks. This was a stark contrast to the Americans, who divided up three of the five colors with each member running a two-color deck. (Forsythe was black/blue, Benafel was green/blue, and Hernandez was red/white.) Vila had trouble dealing with Hernandez's Troubled Healer in game 1 while Benafel managed to use Waterfront Bouncer to clear a path for an army of 1/1's and killed Herms Pont the turn before Roc drew Rupture. Forsythe completed the sweep of game 1's in short order.
Finkel played many black weenies early in game 2. He played out Silent Assassin, two Agents of Shauku, a Misshapen Fiend, and a Spineless Thug. All Barrado had was Deepwood Legate, a useless Seal of Doom, and a bunch of Swamps. Finkel swarmed him on turn 6, sacrificed two lands to Agent of Shauku, and then sacrificed the Spineless Thug that Barrado blocked with the Legate to cast Dark Triumph. That added up to 13 damage and a turn 6 kill! Minutes later, Forsythe finished off his own 2-0 victory.
The other two matches took quite a while longer to finish. Roc Herms Pont came back to win the next two against Benafel, finishing him off in extra turns. Vila also came back against Hernandez and sent their match to extra turns. Vila was trying to hold off a pair of Flowstone Crushers with a Horned Troll and a number of other creatures. Hernandez had Troubled Healer keeping his guys alive as he simply attacked with everything.
On the first extra turn Hernandez got through for three damage and Vila adjusted his life total before going to regenerate his Troll. Hernandez said "No, the Troll is dead." Vila closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. On the one hand he knew Hernandez was right, but on the other hand he seemed upset that Hernandez would "cheese" him like this. Interestingly, Hernandez was on the other side of exactly this same issue at US Nationals when he tried to return a Darting Merfolk to his hand against Dave Humpherys after he had resolved damage from Humpherys' attack. This mistake may have cost Hernandez a seat at the Draft Challenge (and thus somewhere between $1,000 and $8,000). He clearly learned his lesson and despite complaining at the time, Hernandez seems to now understand that that's the way the game is played at this level.
Vila conceded the game a turn later. He probably would have lost even with his Horned Troll still alive, but he definitely lost without it. He refused to shake Hernandez's hand and the Spaniards left the feature match area without even signing the score sheet.