London Indianapolis Calling!

Posted in The Week That Was on August 10, 2012

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

With synchronized swimming on in the background (and a deadline looming) while waiting for the medal rounds of Olympic Basketball to begin, I could not help but draw comparisons between the Olympic Games and the impending World Magic Cup. After months of trials and qualifying events, the nations of Magic will be sending scores of teams to Indianapolis to determine the first ever World Magic Cup Champion.

Just like the Olympics have certain countries that you think of as powerhouses—United States, China, Russia—there is a short list of countries you think of when it comes to international Magic team competition. The United States has won a dynastic eight times, although it has been several years since they last hoisted a trophy. Japan and Germany are the only other countries to have won more than once with a pair apiece, and only five other countries have won a single time—Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Slovakia, and China.


While the team competition at Worlds was dominated by the United States early on in the game's history, the trophy has been well traveled in recent years. I caught up with a handful of National Champions to discuss their teams, preparation, and their chances of "medaling" next week in Indy.

Pro Tour Paris Top 8 competitor Vincent Lemoine of Belgium is no stranger to team competition. He first emerged on the Sunday stage when the Belgian team made it to the finals of the 2004 Worlds in San Francisco. Apart from maybe Slovakia, no team has lined up with as deep a pool of Pro Tour experience in all four seats of the team. Peter Vieren is the least experienced of the bunch, but has been to the Pro Tour several times over the past few seasons, along with his brother Pascal—two players Lemoine cited as current top Belgians.

Christophe Gregoire has been on the train for several years after breaking into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Honolulu in 2009. As far as Lemoine is concerned, Gregoire is the most technically proficient player on the team—in the country even.

"I nicknamed him 'the machine' because once he's on fire, nothing can stop him," said Lemoine, who added that Gregoire played on a previous National team with Mark Dictus and Bernado Da Costa Cabral in Worlds at Paris.

Vincent Lemoine

As for the final member of the team, Lemoine was hoping to secure an already impressive legacy for four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Marijn Lybaert, who becomes eligible for Hall of Fame induction on next year's ballot. As you can imagine, Lemoine was quite excited to have Belgium's most successful Pro Tour player on the squad.

"The week after Marijn qualified, we met in Manchester and celebrated it together," said Lemoine. Once the last spot was determined, further meet-ups were required. "Once we knew Peter was qualified, we prepared for testing. We met every Saturday and Sunday after GP Ghent in Bruxelles, Ghent, and at Marijn's place. Two of us tested Block and the two others played Modern.

"The first meeting place in Bruxelles was epic because we were joined in testing by none other than Geoffrey Siron, Bernardo Da Costa Cabral, Geert Coeckelberghand, and Alexander Darras."

While Lemoine has work commitments that will keep him home until just before the event, the rest of the team is meeting up with the Raphael Levy-led team from France and Jelger Wiegersma's squad from the Netherlands to practice. With the pedigree of those three teams coming together to prepare, Lemoine was optimistic about Belgium's chances and felt they could emerge in the Top 4 along with the United States, Italy, and either Chinese Taipei or Japan.

There are multiple forces driving Lemoine to succeed at this event. For one, a Top 4 finish would qualify his teammates for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, leading to a formidable Belgian field at that event. A win could solidify an impressive Hall of Fame resume for his teammate Lybaert. That was very much on his mind, but national pride was first and foremost.

"[Winning] would mean a lot for a little country like Belgium," said Lemoine. "Back in San Francisco where we finished second it was already like winning and people were just crazy about it. Look at the Olympic Games, Belgians are not really on top. I consider it a medal if we win it all."

Pro Tour San Juan competitor Jeremy Neeman will lead an Australian team looking to take their team event just a little further. Over the past four seasons they have finished second twice, and Jeremy knows that a win is within their grasp, especially since the WMCQs have left him with as good a team as he could have hoped for.

Jeremy Neeman

"Our team is the best we've ever fielded," Neeman flat-out stated. "Three of the members are without doubt among the top five players in the country—myself, Justin Cheung, and John-Paul Kelly. Johnathan Winter is a bit of an unknown factor at this point, but he seems like a competent player from the limited interactions I've had with him."

Kelly's biggest finish came in 2009 when he just missed making the Top 8 of Pro Tour Austin. Throw in a couple of Top 50s, Top 8 at Nationals, along with being one of only a handful of Australians to Top 16 a Pro Tour. Justin Cheung has long been one of Australia's most highly regarded players—a member of the silver-medaled team in 2008—and Neeman was excited about the chance to play with him.

"He's a great guy and an inspiring Magic player. I've known him for a long time, and we've both been among the best in Australia, but in a strange quirk of fate I've actually never traveled to a Pro Tour with him," said Neeman. "I only made it onto the train a couple years ago, and since 2010 Justin's been on an unfortunate streak of coming 2nd in every PTQ he attends. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but he has something like five second places with a third and fourth thrown in there for good measure. Winning the MCQ was definitely his due."

Australia's vast geography and 9-to-5 work commitments have conspired to keep the team from getting any face time together, but thankfully the Internet exists to let them prepare and discuss formats on a countrywide forum. Despite their geographic hurdles, Neeman believes the team could go where no other Aussie team has gone before.

"I have no expectations, at least in terms of results," he prefaced when asked about how he felt his team would fare. "The only thing I expect is that each one of us will play his very best. Australia has made its mark on the world scene in the team event—two second places in the last four years—and there's no reason we couldn't do better this year. We're going to do the best we can in everything we can control and hope the things we can't go our way."

One of the unique aspects of this event is that after Day One, in addition to cutting down the number of teams, the teams themselves will be cut by 25%. How did Neeman feel about the possibility of being relegated to the sidelines?

"I kind of like the concept, actually. It motivates all the team members to do well. The person who's eliminated can act as a coach, something that's missing from Magic events," said Neeman, who was prepared to do whatever needed of him if he had to pick up the clipboard after Day One. "If I get knocked out, I'll be congratulating my teammates after a win, getting their spirits up after a loss, going over sideboarding plans and card interactions, handing out advice on how they played, everything. Even filling up their water bottles."

What are the teams he expects to see near the top of the standings come Sunday?

"Belgium looks tough; all four of those players are names I recognize. The Slovak Republic has all three of the guys who took home the title in 2010, and are no doubt looking to do it again. And I know I don't get points for originality, but the USA and Japan are simply the best two Magic nations in the world. They also have three of the best players in the world between them—it wouldn't shock anyone to see them in the final few when Sunday comes around."

Neeman joked that at home they have been calling the World Magic Cup "the Wizards Olympics" and explained what it would mean to him personally to improve on two second-place finishes for the Australian team.

"I always want to win an individual Pro Tour, but this would mean even more. It'd be a way of giving back to the Australian community who've supported me through my ride on the train—working on decks, lending me cards, making sure Pro Tour experiences were always great regardless of what place any of us came at the end. We're really lucky to have such a great close-knit group in Australia and the people I know through Magic here have become my closest friends. The victory wouldn't be for me, it would be for them."

I always give my boothmate Richard Hagon a hard time during international competition in regards to how the United States performs in contrast to the teams from England. Now please don't share this information with Hagon, but I have been very impressed with the current crop of English players who have been part of a new generation of European players that includes the Norwegian contingent. Worlds finalist Richard Bland is no small part of that favorable impression and he is leading a team that includes Marco Orsini-Jones, a Pro Tour veteran and sibling of the Kyoto Top 8 competitor; Carrie Oliver, who has a Pro Tour Top 32 on her short resume; and PTQ grinder Manveer Samra, who got a cup of coffee at PT San Juan.

Obviously, there is work to be done in the Constructed formats, but that is something players can work on individually and discuss online. Instead, Bland has his team looking forward to the truest team aspect of the event that takes place at the start of Day Two.

Richard Bland

"We're staying in Indy for a week beforehand with the Scottish, Welsh, and Norwegian teams and hope to get a good amount of testing for the Team Sealed done there," said the English captain, who thought his team had the talent to reach Sunday along with powerhouse teams like the Slovak Republic, Belgium, USA, and Sweden.

With international competition dominating all aspects of British life these past few weeks, Bland could not help but hope but to follow in the Olympic footsteps of Andy Murray.

"It would be a huge boost to the UK Magic community, who love to follow the big events and are always very supportive of our players who do make it to the PT level. And after the Olympics, bringing home one more 'gold' would be quite appropriate."

Canada's Alexander Hayne had a whirlwind tournament in Barcelona that saw him miraculously win the tournament behind a host of angels. On the way to the podium he also won Rookie of the Year and spots in the Player's Championship and the captaincy of the Canadian National Team while surfing a crest of national pride that his country has not known since the glory days of Gab Tsang and Terry Borer.

The team features Lucas Siow—at one point in time among the most dominant Constructed players on the Pro Tour—and 2011 National Champion Marc Anderson, who finished 12th that year at Worlds and 5th in teams. They are joined by the relatively unknown Jamie Blanchette, but Hayne was looking forward to having the rogue deck builder on the squad.

Hayne explained their preparation methods so far:

"We have been discussing various decks and ideas on a Facebook group, but we have not all come together to test yet. Marc and Lucas, both living in Toronto, have gotten together a bit for testing. I know they managed to get a draft with David Caplan, Rich Hoaen, and Steven Wolfman, and some Toronto ringers. Other than Standard and Draft, we have split off preparation of different formats, since it makes no sense to have a bunch of generalists rather than specialists, and have two players on both Modern and Block in case one of them doesn't make the cut. I have been practicing Team Sealed, and it's very interesting to notice the intricacies and differences from normal Sealed."

Alexander Hayne

Hayne expected to put the final polish on what he believes can be a medal-winning team in the waning days. They will come together in Indy before the event to collate their experiences and settle on decklists and strategies.

"I definitely have high expectations," said the Pro Tour Champion. "I really think we have a very strong team, with both Marc and Lucas having significant Pro Tour experience and some success. Jamie is also hungry and full of fire, and I think he is quite underrated. I would be disappointed with anything less than a Top 8 finish."

While Hayne has been thinking about every aspect of the event, there was one element he was trying to turn a blind eye to—the elimination of a player from Day One to Day Two.

"I have thought a bit about it, but it's somewhat of a taboo subject, since no one really wants to be that guy," said Hayne, who was ready to do what was needed. "I know that if I am eliminated, I will stay on to help the team to help as much as possible. It definitely helps [lessens] the blow that the eliminated player still gets the Pro Points and money."

With a Pro Tour coming to Montreal next season and Hayne's trophy still fresh on the country's mind, Magic has never been more exciting for Canada, but the Barcelona champion was hoping he could manage to ratchet it up one more notch.

"It would be an incredible honor for me. I definitely have wanted to put Canada on the map for a while, and at Barcelona I feel we finally did that, but a win here would really be the crowning achievement. The Canadian Magic scene has already seen a surge, and with a team win, we would really and truly cement ourselves as a player on the World stage of Magic."

World Magic Cup Coverage at a Glance

You can follow all the action from the opening packoff to the team finals as the coverage team is descending on Indianapolis to bring you the same wall-to-wall coverage as in Honolulu and Barcelona. The webcast team of myself, Rich Hagon, Marshall Sutcliffe, Zac Hill, Sheldon Menery, and Rashad Miller will be filling your screen starting at 10:45 a.m. ET on Friday.

Armed with laptops and iPads in hand, the text team of Nate Price, Tim Willoughby, Blake Rasmussen, and Monty Ashley will be scouring the event hall for stories. Trick Jarrett and Jon Hickey will be bringing readers closer to the event via CoverItLive and social media coverage. Photographer extraordinaire Craig Gibson will be immortalizing it all in pictures, and Nick Fang will be the man feeding all of us—and you—up-to-the-minute results from the scorekeeper's stage.

Here's a quick rundown of how each day unfolds, along with the webcast start times by time zone. Be sure to join us at here at,, and for all the excitement!

Friday: Individual Play

  • Three rounds of Magic 2013 Booster Draft
  • Four rounds of Standard
  • Top 32 teams advance to Day Two
  • National teams cut from four to three

Saturday: Team Pool Play

  • Stage 1: Thirty-two teams in eight four-team pools
    • Teams ranked by overall points and seeded across pools
    • Team Sealed (twelve Magic 2013 booster packs used to build three decks)
    • Each team plays all other teams in pool
    • Top two teams from each pool advance to Stage 2
  • Stage 2: Sixteen teams in four four-team pools
    • Teams ranked by overall points and seeded across pools
    • Team Constructed (Standard, Modern, Innistrad/Avacyn Restored Block Constructed)
    • Each team plays all other teams in pool
    • Top two teams from each pool advance to Sunday

Sunday: Top 8 Team Playoff

  • Teams ranked by overall points and seeded
  • Single-elimination bracket
  • Team Constructed (Standard, Modern, Innistrad/Avacyn Restored Block Constructed)

Webcast Schedule

City Friday Saturday Sunday
Indianapolis 10:45 a.m. 9:45 a.m. 8:45 a.m.
Los Angeles 7:45 a.m. 6:45 a.m. 5:45 a.m.
Chicago 9:45 a.m. 8:45 a.m. 7:45 a.m.
New York 10:45 a.m. 9:45 a.m. 8:45 a.m.
Rio de Janeiro 11:45 a.m. 10:45 a.m. 9:45 a.m.
London 3:45 p.m. 2:45 p.m. 1:45 p.m.
Paris 4:45 p.m. 3:45 p.m. 2:45 p.m.
Berlin 4:45 p.m. 3:45 p.m. 2:45 p.m.
Moscow 6:45 p.m. 5:45 p.m. 4:45 p.m.
Tokyo 11:45 p.m. 10:45 p.m. 9:45 p.m.
Sydney 12:45 a.m. Saturday 11:45 p.m. 10:45 p.m.

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