Seven different formats. Sixteen individual competitors. More than seventy teams from around the world. A coverage team that numbers in the dozens. Five days of live coverage. There is going to be nothing else like Worlds Week during the tournament season, and it will all start coming to you live on Wednesday, with wall-to-wall coverage straight through to the awards ceremony on Sunday, when we will crown the 2013 World Champion and World Magic Cup winners.
I gathered together just some of the people who will be breaking down all the formats for a Coverage Roundtable about what you can expect this coming week from five days of live coverage. Sitting down to the discussion were people responsible for text coverage, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Frank Karsten and editor Mike Rosenberg; people on the streaming side, Pro Tour Statistician Rich Hagon, Pro Tour Berlin winner Luis Scott-Vargas, Pro Tour Honolulu Top 8 competitor Zac Hill, Limited Information author Marshall Sutcliffe, and resident rules expert Sheldon Menery; as well as our scorekeeper and purveyor of tournament tidbits Nick Fang.
BDM: The sixteen-player World Championship begins on Wednesday. The World Magic Cup starts Friday and both wrap up on Sunday. This is going to be a LOT of Magic over five days. How are you getting yourself prepared for the very long weekend? Karsten:
By competing at the Grand Prix in Rimini this weekend. This will allow me to get into the tournament Magic
mindset and to acquaint myself with Magic 2014
Limited—a format that will be played at both the WC and the WMC. Besides that, I get to relax and swim at the beach. :)
Do what the Pros do—one round at a time!
I'm preparing for coverage much like I'd prepare for a normal tournament. In this case, rather than figure out the best deck(s), my goal is to make sure I'm exceedingly familiar with all the formats and the decks that are played within each. To that end, I've been playing some of all four formats, as well as watching the testing of various members of Team ChannelFireball
, as they do their best to solve everything.
Additionally, my tolerance for Magic
is pretty high (which is not likely a surprise), so I'm looking forward to being in the thick of things for the entire five days.
By drafting Rise of the Eldrazi
and Cube on Magic Online
. Honestly, though, just trying to be well rested and taking it easy before the big week. I've also been playing games on Magic Online
in the various formats that we will be covering to make sure I am up to speed on the current metagame.
Preparation actually looks a lot different for me than the others you're asking. I've been making software tweaks for the last month, to make sure that we've got the right software in place to run the new formats for the events, and to try and make it easy to get some statistics that folks watching the coverage feed might find interesting. The better job we've done with that, the easier that long weekend actually goes.
Taking it easy, honestly. Doing some reading now and taking in what we need to do in order for the weekend to be a great show is important, but pacing yourself is the best approach for five days of coverage.
I'm trying to play as much Magic Online
as possible to familiarize myself with the relevant formats. However, most formats aren't actually legal, so that's more challenging than it'd otherwise be! I helped develop Modern Masters
so I feel as though I'm good to go there, and I'm trying to "hack" Standard by playing a bunch of "old Standard" and thinking about relevant M14 cards and how that would affect the meta. I won, going 9–1 overall, the last Standard tournament I played in (the GP Providence
Super Series) so I'm hoping I can carry myself forward using some of that momentum, at least. M14 is going to be harder because of all the new card names—I don't think "Weasel of Doom" is going to cut it on camera!
It's going to be an endurance contest for everyone involved. I'm preparing by stepping up my exercise routine—extra cardio on the elliptical and high rep/light weight lifting. I want to be in fighting shape and show all these young guys what men of willpower are made of.
BDM: We are looking at drafting both Modern Masters and Magic 2014 as well as the new Standard and Modern for the World Championship and then we have two different flavors of Team Sealed—Magic 2014 and Return to Ravnica Block—as well as Team Unified Standard. Personally, I am very excited to see how the game's very best players tackle the new Standard format. What are you most excited about seeing? Karsten:
Unified Standard. It's an amazing and challenging deck-coordination puzzle, which I wrote about in my primer on TCGplayer.com
. I can't wait to see how the teams solved it.
Modern. Out of the eight Grand Prix events I've covered, four of them have been Modern, and it's been enjoyable to see how the format has evolved since my first time officially doing coverage for the Grand Prix events at Columbus last year.
I'm a sucker for all of the Limited formats—can't decide between enjoying Modern Masters
draft vicariously, since I didn't have much of a chance to draft it myself (although, I might just have a draft set to bring to Amsterdam for a coverage draft at some point... if I could find anyone who actually would want to do such a crazy thing...), and Team Return to Ravnica
Sealed, just because it's so crazy to try and build one deck, let alone building three, and it's fun to see the decisions they end up making.
I'd say I'm most excited about Unified Standard. I loved the Team Constructed PTQ seasons, and the "overlap" constraint places *just* enough restrictions on the format that you wind up with some new, very innovative decks.
Draft! After drafting it a lot myself, I cannot wait to see what the pros come up with as far as brews go in the draft portion. The format has many linear archetypes, but also affords a lot of freedom. It's going to take some creativity to win at this level.
Unified Standard. Squeezing the most out of the decks is going to be a huge challenge for the teams, and it's going to take some creativity to do it.
In terms of Constructed, I've always loved Modern, and it seems to deliver amazing drama time after time. For Limited, it's always tempting to ignore the hype, but when Wizards said Modern Masters
was the best draft format ever, they may just have been spot on.
Modern is one of the most exciting formats to cover, just because of how many cool interactions there are, but I am also quite looking forward to seeing what people bring for Unified Standard.
BDM: Deck builders are going to face some very unique restrictions in Team Unified Standard since there cannot be more than four of anything other than basic lands across the three decks. I know you can try to puzzle out three existing decks that have little to no overlap but do you think we will see any decks in Unified Standard that we have not seen be a major part of traditional Standard? Sutcliffe:
I think some of the fringe cards and strategies will become more mainstream as a result of the Unified format. Cards like Advent of the Wurm
and Assemble the Legion
have seen some play but might make a stand as the centerpiece for a deck given the Unified format restrictions.
As with any major tournament, you can expect to see new decks or new takes on old archetypes. Especially since Magic 2014
was added very recently. Yet, for Unified Standard specifically, the metagame will be different from regular Standard. Due to the team-wide card limitation, I expect to see fewer decks that are difficult to combine with others. Reanimator, which gobbles up Restoration Angel
, Godless Shrine
, and Temple Garden
, is a good example. On the other hand, I expect to see more (nearly) monocolored decks that have hardly any overlap with other top decks. Mutavault
from M14 gave a boost to mono-green aggro and mono-white aggro, so I'm expecting more of those decks than usual.
Probably not. Archetypes being spread over all the colors means there is probably something to choose from for everyone.
Having worked a very small amount with one of the National teams for this event, I am confident that we will, yes. :)
My guess is that most teams will have a configuration of three "normal" decks, or very close to that, configured Jenga-style to fit together well. I do expect some teams, likely those who put more time into preparation, come out with some new brews that take advantage of the unique format.
I suspect this will only happen if teams WANT it to happen—our own Frank Karsten has already shown that there are ways to solve the puzzle without straying too far from established archetypes. It's probably going to be individual cards that catch the eye, because their counterparts are likely to be "busy" in other decks.
BDM: We also get an infusion of new cards for the Constructed formats. Young Pyromancer is a card I am very excited to see in action. Which Magic 2014 cards do you have your eyes on in the Constructed formats this weekend, and why?
Young Pyromancer—As a brewer, this is the card I'm most excited about. I'll just mention several cards, from both Standard and Modern, to give an idea of the possibilities: Nivix Cyclops, Desperate Ritual, Snapcaster Mage, Delver of Secrets, Infernal Plunge, Lingering Souls, Past in Flames, Battle Hymn, Dynacharge, Hellrider, Bump in the Night, and Gitaxian Probe. I don't know whether any of these are good enough, but there are certainly a lot of possibilities, and I'm hoping that someone breaks it.
Xathrid Necromancer—A great addition to Cartel Aristocrat decks. AJ Sacher showed the power of this card last weekend in his BW Humans deck. But the question I'm interested in: will anyone dare to pair Xathrid Necromancer with Thatcher's Revolt? Add in Champion of the Parish and Blood Artist for the wombo combo.
Shadowborn Apostle—Three identical Shadowborn Apostle decks in Team Unified Standard? Anyone? I would also accept Jund and two Shadowborn Apostle decks.
Imposing Sovereign—In Standard, allows aggro decks to evade Lingering Souls, Thragtusk, and the like. In Modern, holds off Kiki-Jiki and Splinter Twin combos for a turn.
. With many Standard decks running nearly all nonbasic lands, it's nice to have a way to keep these decks in check. I also like Mutavault
. It's a cheap threat that combos well with many of the tribal synergies we see.
I think some extremely relevant players are going to be:
(a) Elvish Mystic. This is a boring, but important, answer. As the song says, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." The presence of this little guy makes powerhouses like Strangleroot Geist even better and cards like Predator Ooze far easier to consider than they were before.
(b) Lifebane Zombie. This is just a really, really powerful and very underrated card. It's like Vendilion Clique in many ways—and that card took a while to catch on.
(c) Scavenging Ooze. This card is a Legacy staple, and one of the best decks going into the format was Reanimator. Even if you're not "hating" anything else, the card is a substantial improvement over the format-defining Kavu Titan. Obviously, creatures have gotten much better since then, but Scavenging Ooze is also a lot like the "levelers" from Rise of the Eldrazi that went on to win multiple Pro Tours. You get a good rate on the front end, and the card keeps getting better and better from there.
(d) Imposing Sovereign. Like Thalia before her, a 2/1 for with a game-changing ability will find a home. The only question is how relevant that home will be inside the context of the environment.
BDM: In last week's article I spoke to some of the key players on the teams in the World Magic Cup—all teams I expect to do very well this coming week. What country's team are among your favorites to do well in the WMC? Hill:
I've got to go with Sweden. You've got one of only a handful of Hall-of-Famers in the tournament with Olle Rade, the powerhouse Joel Larsson whom even the mighty Ben Stark admitted outplayed him on a Pro Tour Sunday, and the stalwart Elias Watsfeldt. Aberg is a relative newcomer but I think the lineup is very deep on the Swedish team, and that's one of the most important variables in a tournament like this.
Team Brazil. Willy Edel has been on fire this past year, and I would not be surprised to see him come with some teammates who are well prepared.
I like the USA, Sweden, Belgium, and France as early frontrunners. Belgium looks particularly strong with Vincent Lemoine and Marijn Lybaert as headliners.
Never underestimate the value of a great player guiding the team. The Japanese look strong with Yuuya up top, but my pick is going to be Belgium, with both Vincent Lemoine and Marijn Lybaert. Solid.
I feel like I'm obligated to pick Josh Utter-Leyton and the US squad here. Josh is on fire this year, and Joe Spanier certainly knows his way around formats that are on Magic Online
. I am not familiar with Jason Gulevich or Daniel Cecchetti, but I was very impressed with last year's (other) WMCQ winners (Alex Binek and Joe Pennachio), so there's a good shot that the winners this year are strong additions to the team.
BDM: It is pretty hard to accurately pick a Pro Tour winner but with just sixteen players in the World Championship one of you SHOULD be able to pick the winner. I feel like Reid Duke has been picking up steam throughout the year and is my pick to reverse his finish from last year's iteration of this event. (I have been watching Orange is the New Black so the winner of this question will get a Twix bar!) Fang:
Man, hard to go wrong with any of these. Let's go with Josh Utter-Leyton.
Shuhei Nakamura—Shuhei is a "pro's pro," and in this field that counts. He regularly plays against the best players in side events and big tournaments alike, and the international travel won't hinder him as much as it would someone who isn't used to it.
I suspect Yuuya Watanabe may be straight up the best player in the tournament, but I'm going to go for someone else who doesn't have a Pro Tour title to his name—Shuhei Nakamura. Seeing him lift the trophy after all he's done in, and for, the game, would be a wonderful end to the week.
The difference in skill levels between the players is quite small. They're all awesome. That means an intangible, so I'm picking Tom Martell, because he wants it most. The fire is clearly burning.
I'm going to go with EFro, as well as request a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup when he trounces the competition.
I was gonna go for Player of the Year Josh Utter-Leyton or reigning World Champion Yuuya Watanabe, but then I realized that they have to divide efforts between both the WC and the WMC, which will hurt their chances. Instead, I'll go with Tom Martell. While browsing through this year's HOF statistics, I saw that his three-year median finish (based on the past few years) is an astonishing 16th place. To put that into perspective: that even beats LSV! This means that Martell is clearly on top of his game, so he's my pick.
Yuuya. He's done it before, and he can do it again. Look at his record and he's just an actual powerhouse.
I'd have to go with Reid Duke. He may have hiccupped in last year's Players Championship, and I think that, combined with his focus on his game throughout the past season, will give him the fire to be more focused and more prepared than the rest.
BDM: Are there any cards that have existed in previous versions of the weekend's Constructed formats that will see the light of day thanks to cards in Magic 2014 —something like Tidebinder Mage putting Merfolk over the top or lifegain cards that work with Archangel of Thune?
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch—Great synergy with Kalonian Hydra.
Spike Feeder—Combos with Archangel of Thune for an alternative two-card infinite-life combo in Birthing Pod decks. In this light, I should also point out that Archangel of Thune + Kitchen Finks + Viscera Seer is a win as well.
Mox Opal—Mentioned not because of new M14 cards, but because new M14 rules. Due to the new legendary rules, an excess copy (which used to be dead) is now a useful Lotus Petal. This may push Affinity over the top.
I'm not at all sure that it will make the Constructed grade, but at the 2HG Prerelease I had the misfortune to play against a board with Scavenging Ooze
and Archangel of Thune
in Standard brings back monocolor decks in a big way, although that is a broad set of possibilities. I'd also look for Garruk, Caller of Beasts
to give rise to Craterhoof Behemoth
, potentially in more decks than just the current Reanimator builds.
BDM: We saw all sorts of breakout performances at last year's World Magic Cup; which returning players have raised the bar for themselves after last year? Menery:
Jorge Iramain and the gutsy Puerto Rican team can't rely on being an underdog any more. Same for Stephen Murray of Scotland.
Tzu-Ching Kuo. A repeat isn't out of the question, and I'm expecting to see him in the top spots once again.
You've obviously got to be thinking about Tzu-Ching Kuo and whether or not he can put up another powerful performance. We also saw the "randoms" on the US team (actually a pair of quite capable Magic
players) rally after Luis Scott-Vargas's early elimination, so I've got to wonder if Josh can herald the US team to a dominant performance this time around—depending, of course, on how many Bonfires are slung. But truly—and this isn't just because he's a great friend of mine—I think you've got to have eyes on Vincent Lemoine and Marijn Lybaert on the Belgian team. Last year, quite frankly, the Belgian team was a superpower. You had more experience than almost anyone in the room, a ton of talent, a long and storied history of playtesting together—yet the team crashed and burned. They got nowhere. Marijn tried to cobble together a largely unsuccessful HoF run this year and is hungry for a fifth high-profile finish that would really cement him in the ranks of the game's all-time powerhouses. He's got the team to do it—we just have to see if he'll execute.
Setting aside the obvious—what Tzu-Ching Kuo did for Chinese Taipei last year was verging of the miraculous, and brought him to global attention—I can offer you three more who will arrive with high expectations, despite being off the radar. Grgur Petric Maretic is back for Croatia, and they made the Top 8 last time. Tamas Nagy will have strong hopes that his Hungarian team can go deep again. Then there's Stephen Murray, who captains Scotland one year after their breakthrough Top 8.
BDM: We always do the Top 5 cards for each event. When the weekend finally comes to a conclusion, which card do you expect to see sitting on top of that list? I am going to stand pat on Young Pyromancer—not sure what that deck is going to look like but it seems like such a potent card to me in both individual Constructed formats. Sutcliffe:Huntmaster of the Fells
. With so many different formats being played over the course of the five-day event, this was a tough choice. Since both the World Championship and World Magic
Cup competitions feature the Standard format, picking a strong Standard card seemed right. Huntmaster may not be flashy and new, but it sees play in Jund and Naya, and is one of the best places to put four mana.
—it's in the best Modern deck and the best Standard deck, and will (obviously) see tons of play across the board :)
Attacking with green creatures got a lot better when Scavenging Ooze
was introduced in Magic 2014
. I wouldn't be surprised to see more Jund in Standard and Modern as a result, but Green-White Hatebears in Modern is certainly a thing as well, if they're looking for another way to keep the more degenerate decks available in check.
I'm going to go with Possibility Storm
, under the hopes that if I keep saying so, someday it will come true ...
Worlds Week starts on Wednesday and will be fully covered on DailyMTG. Make sure to follow us on the webcast and at the twitch.tv/magic channel.
Worlds Week Webcast Schedule
The live video webcast will feature Rich Hagon, Brian David-Marshall, Luis Scott-Vargas, Sheldon Menery, Rashad Miller, Marshall Sutcliffe, and Zac Hill calling the action.
|Thursday, August 1||Friday, August 2||Saturday, August 3||Sunday, August 4|
|Amsterdam||Noon||Noon||11 a.m.||11 a.m.||9 a.m.|
|Los Angeles||3 a.m.||3 a.m.||2 a.m.||2 a.m.||Midnight|
|Chicago||5 a.m.||5 a.m.||4 a.m.||4 a.m.||2 a.m.|
|New York||6 a.m.||6 a.m.||5 a.m.||5 a.m.||3 a.m.|
|Rio de Janeiro||7 a.m.||7 a.m.||6 a.m.||6 a.m.||4 a.m.|
|London||11 a.m.||11 a.m.||10 a.m.||10 a.m.||8 a.m.|
|Paris||Noon||Noon||11 a.m.||11 a.m.||9 a.m.|
|Berlin||Noon||Noon||11 a.m.||11 a.m.||9 a.m.|
|Moscow||2 p.m.||2 p.m.||1 p.m.||1 p.m.||11 a.m.|
|Tokyo||7 p.m.||7 p.m.||6 p.m.||6 p.m.||4 p.m.|
|Sydney||8 p.m.||8 p.m.||7 p.m.||7 p.m.||5 p.m.|
| Find other corresponding start times around the world here. ||Brian David-Marshall|
The Week That Was Archive
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 DailyMTG.com, 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.