Belgium and Argentina Nationals

Posted in The Week That Was on September 12, 2008

By Brian David-Marshall

Nationals season – that much-ballyhooed first step on the Road to Worlds – is winding down. There are only a smattering of events remaining to be played, including the star-packed Japanese Nationals, in the coming weeks. Now seems as good a time as any to take a look at a handful of recently in-the-books National Championships, the players that will be representing their countries, and the decks they played along the way.

Last Thursday Mike Flores brought you the Top 8 decks from Israeli Nationals along with the news that reigning World Champion Uri Peleg had just missed making the National team. It seems like National Championships are a tournament where the hungry new players emerge on top.

Perhaps it has something to do with Pros not playing as much Standard as the in-the-trenches PTQ players or perhaps it's just variance but the trend continued this past weekend in Belgium. With Pros such as Pro Tour-London winner Geoffrey Siron, PT veteran Bernardo Da Costa Cabral, and rising star Jan Doise having berths in the Top 8 you would have expected to see an all-star Belgian team after a couple of elimination rounds but when the dust settled only Bernardo was still standing alongside the newly crowned National Champion Pascal Vieren and teammate Sasha Bonroy.

For the 20-year old Vieren the event – and the recent addition of Pro Points at National Championships – left him within sprinting distance of being qualified for every Pro Tour next season. Assuming he attends the remaining Pro Tours this season he will have at minimum 16 points. If he can muster a strong Grand Prix finish along the way or just squeak out four extra points between Berlin, Worlds, and the Worlds Team Championship he can hop on board the Pro Tour gravy train.

I can't imagine that Vieren felt that way after his first five rounds of play when he found himself on the razor's edge of the tournament with a 2-3 record. Apparently the Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide draft format was not kind to him but he managed to get past his rough start and rattle off ten straight wins to go from a rough start to his tournament to what could potentially be the start of a Pro Tour career.

Here are the decks and match-ups from the event:

Pascal VierenBernardo Da Costa CabralSasha BonroyJurgen CleurenGeoffrey SironGilles GrandjeanBram MeuldersJan DoisePascal Vieren, 3-1Jurgen Cleuren, 3-0Bernardo Da Costa Cabral, 3-2Sasha Bonroy, 3-0Pascal Vieren, 3-1Bernardo Da Costa Cabral, 3-0Pascal Vieren
3rd Place Playoff
Jurgen CleurenSasha Bonroy wins 3-1!
Sasha Bonroy


Pascal Vieren


Bernardo Da Costa Cabral


Sasha Bonroy


Jurgen Cleuren


Geoffrey Siron


Gilles Grandjean


Bram Meulders


Jan Doise


Reveillark, Red Deck Wins, and Elves/Rock (whatever you want to call it) were the clear winners in the Belgian metagame. Pascal Vieren came very close to not playing the eventual winning deck of the tournament. He had been considering White Weenie but did not like that deck's match-up against the Wrath effects of the deck he ultimately played. That match-up was also a consideration in South America this past weekend but with a different outcome.

In Argentina, Adrián Saredo was on a run that would carry him to his fourth Top 8 appearance at his National Championship playing a White Weenie deck that had served him faithfully throughout the PTQ season in Block. Fearing the board sweeping ability of Reveillark decks he modified the list slightly to include Kinsbaile Borderguard. Here are the decks from that event, followed by an interview with the Argentinean Champion.

Adrian Saredo


Matias Rodriguez


Joaqun Alvarez Rivera


Santiago Guzzetti


Sebastian Pozzo


Gonzalo Spampinato


Damian Buckley


Pablo Olejavetzsky


I caught up with the 30-year old systems consultant and software developer to discuss his deck choice, being the number one ranked player in Latin America, and his fourth appearance in the Top 8 of Argentinean Nationals.

BDM: When did you start playing Magic and how did it happen?

Saredo: I've always liked RPGs, and used to play all kinds of games. My cousin taught me to play Magic in late 1998, and shortly thereafter I started attending local tournaments and winning packs, which allowed me to start a collection. I eventually ordered some cards online, qualified for Nationals in 1999, and made Top 8 on my first try. I've been playing ever since, and this is my tenth consecutive Nationals.

BDM: Plus, you have made the Top 8 four times. How do you prepare for this event each year? What does it take to be successful at that tournament?

Saredo: I never have much time to practice, so I try to have fun while I do it. I've always been good at Limited, but I don't usually draft, and prefer Sealed Deck, which I practice a lot with my cousin Bernardo Jung. I usually get to Nationals with 1-2 drafts played in PTQ Top 8s, but not much more. At Nationals this year I played my first ever Shadowmoor draft!

For Constructed I usually put together a gauntlet of the most-played decks on a worldwide level and just test the matchups—with and without sideboard—to see what is winning the most. Something that I always keep in mind is that the majority of local Argentine players don't run combo decks or others that are too complicated, instead preferring straight beatdown or control, so I try to pick a deck that beats those two, ignoring the combo decks that I may or may not face at the top tables later in the tournament.

BDM: Who do you prepare with?

Saredo: My primary Magic testing partner is my cousin Bernardo Jung, with whom I attended Pro Tour-San Diego last year. We get together almost every week and test the next relevant format. For bigger tournaments I usually get together with Diego Ostrovich, Rafael Da Bouza, Gonzalo Spampinato, Santiago Guzzetti, and Pedro De Diego. This year we all tested for Grand Prix-Buenos Aires, and again for Nationals.

BDM: Why White Weenie in Standard? Do you also play it in Block? What made you think it was the right deck to play in Standard?

Saredo: I'd already played Kithkin in Block to some good finishes [making] Top 8 in two out of three local PTQs and only lost a few games in total. The Standard version is very similar to the Block build, so I already knew the ins and outs of running it. Testing it for Standard we saw that it had favorable matchups except versus decks with Wrath of God or Damnation, which is what led me to trying maindeck Kinsbaile Borderguard. [That] greatly improved our matchup against Reveillark and other Wrath decks. After testing this build we found that it weakened our Merfolk and Swa