In this issue:
The books on the last remaining bits of business from the 2014-15 Pro Tour season were finally closed this past weekend. World Magic Cup Qualifiers held all around the world determined the final members of the National teams that will be competing in the fourth World Magic Cup this December. Over the past three seasons, the tournament has been won by Tzu Ching Kuo-led Chinese Taipei, Raphaël Lévy-led France, and the Martin Müller-led team from Denmark.
Without a doubt, the most memorable moment in the three-year history of the event was when Denmark clawed back from the brink of elimination with the timeliest of Duneblasts. Let's take a look at some of the notable teams that will be looking to make their own indelible marks on Magic history this year in Spain.
Let's start with the defending champion country, which is led by Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Champion, Martin Dang. He will be joined on the team by last year's captain, Martin Müller, who won his way onto the team this year on the second weekend of World Magic Cup Qualifiers. The two players have worked together for the last two Pro Tours as members of Team Thommo—two Pro Tours that their team won, with Dang and Joel Larsson hoisting trophies.
Martin Dang (left), Martin Müller (right)
Dang was excited to get to work with the team and defend the title.
"We have a really strong team this year, and we're looking for a repeat of last year. Anything worse will simply not do," joked the Pro Tour Champion. "I have had the pleasure of working with Martin Müller for the last two Pro Tours and the World Championship, and I can tell you he is the real deal. His Constructed skills are unreal, he adapts so fast to new decks, and he has great ideas for deck construction."
Teammate Christoffer Larsen has racked up four Grand Prix Top 8s in his Magic career, most recently at Grand Prix Copenhagen earlier this year. Dang was excited to have another player he was very familiar with on the team, as he and Larsen have been friends for more than a decade. Two of his three teammates were known quantities for him, but he did not know much about the third—Daniel Lind, who won his spot last weekend.
"I have yet to meet him, so I can't tell you much about him. We have talked a bit online, and rumor has it that he owns a Magic store, so I am hoping he will supply the Constructed cards needed," said Dang, thinking about all the different responsibilities that can fall on a National Champion.
"This is my first time at the World Magic Cup, so I don't really know how it's going to be. We have to rely on Martin's experience from last year," Dang said of the unique resource of a returning World Magic Cup Champion being on the team. "Regardless, I expect us to prepare on Magic Online, and since the other players on the team live closer to each other, I guess I will go to their side of the country for some intense live testing sometime prior to the WMC."
Japan, the United States, Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands were all countries that leapt out to Dang as teams to watch out for. Especially when you consider the Pro Tour Top 8 competitors—not to mention a Hall of Fame pro and a couple of Pro Tour Champions—that all made their way onto their National teams at World Magic Cup Qualifiers.
"There are a lot of very strong teams out there, with Kenji Tsumura, Alexander Hayne, Andrea Mengucci, Tom Martell, and Thomas Hendriks. All great players winning a WMCQ and joining their respective captains," said Dang before adding, "The Danes don't scare easy, so for all the teams out there, BRING IT!"
Kenji Tsumura (left), Alexander Hayne (center), Tom Martell (right)
It is hard to argue with anyone scared of facing the Japanese team. National Champion Yuuya Watanabe is one of the most feared players in the game. He is a former Rookie of the Year winner, Player of the Year winner, and a World Champion. The first two World Magic Cup Qualifiers yielded some lesser-known Japanese players who were no doubt eager to battle alongside one of the most accomplished players in the game. Ryoichi Tamada has made the Top 8 of a couple of Grand Prix in his career, and Soyo You is still looking for his first big finish.
The team got significantly scarier on Sunday, when six-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura won the final slot on the National team. They are certainly one of the teams that Player of the Year and US National Champion Mike Sigrist is keeping an eye on in the standings as he prepares to captain one of the more accomplished teams the United States has ever brought to World Team competition.
Joel Sadowsky, who won the first World Magic Cup Qualifier, is relatively unknown—but the last two slots have gone to Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion Tom Martell and Grand Prix Vegas Champion Neal Oliver. Oliver has won his way onto the team through a WMCQ for the second year in a row—coincidentally on the same weekend as the Community Team winning the Community Cup each time—and Sigrist is looking forward to bringing a World Magic Cup trophy home to show to his newborn twins.
"I am feeling great about the WMC—I love the team, I have a great rapport with Tom and Neal, and I am looking forward to getting to know Joel," said the two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor. Sigrist cited Japan and Canada as formidable teams to watch out for, but was optimistic that a North American alliance could be forged for playtesting purposes.
"We are still figuring out what everyone wants to do. We have talked to Hayne a little about potentially working with the Canadians, but haven't finalized anything," said Sigrist, who was answering questions while trying to soothe a crying baby. "Hayne has to talk to McLaren first. I know Tom and Neal are okay with it. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to Joel yet, but I'll work on that hopefully this week. Sleep and time to myself has been close to nonexistent with the twins home."
From One Cup to Another
If you were not watching the Community Cup last weekend, you missed a tournament for the ages. The highlight was without a doubt seeing Pro Tour Champion Joel Larsson in an Egyptian headdress playing Commander with his Medomai the Ageless deck against Dread Pirate Robert Schuster in full salty-dog garb, who was playing a Ramirez DePietro deck. The two were competing in the Entree portion of the Ironroot Chef competition. The teams had to build a Standard appetizer around Avarice Amulet, Commander entrees from a pool of five potential commanders, and a sweet Modern deck that we had not seen before.
It was an amazing event, highlighted by the players making their case before the panel of judges. All I will say is that in a Magic format based on a cooking show, Commander Cast co-pilot Jimmy Wong is a molecular gastronomist.
The Community Cup was also the first chance we had to see Battle for Zendikar in action, as two of the formats were Limited using the new cards. Players got to open actual Sealed Decks on Saturday, and we had our first Zendikar Expeditions sighting when Gabe Reale cracked a premium foil Hallowed Fountain in his card pool. We also got to see the power of the awaken mechanic when Pro Tour champion Larsson opened a pair of Planar Outbursts in his Battle for Zendikar draft to close out the tournament.
The Community team emerged victorious once again, despite getting stomped during the Battle for Zendikar Sealed Deck portion on Saturday. Predictably, the Wizards team had an edge in that format, boasting much greater familiarity with the cards. Wizards had an ample lead heading into Ironroot Chef, but that lead was erased heading into the Battle for Zendikar draft. The Community team was thought to be at a disadvantage again heading into a BFZ Limited format, but with the help of the actual community they were able to put together pretty detailed pick orders for the new set. By winning, they unlocked some goodies for everyone who logged into Magic Online during the two-day event.
Good luck to everyone playing in a Prerelease this weekend—it is worth checking out the coverage to get a little jump on the Sealed format—and I hope you all go on an Expedition. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for a Misty Rainforest or Breeding Pool this Saturday at The Compleat Strategist. Failing that, I will happy to win some packs and some Bon Chon Chicken playing Magic with a few old friends.