Argentina has steadily improved every year they have competed in the World Magic Cup. They failed to make Day Two in 2012 but made a Top 32 finish a year ago. And after one day in Nice they were on track for even better than that, having earned a No. 1 seed for pool play on Saturday.
Things didn't start off the way they wanted on Day Two. A loss to Mexico put them under the gun, and a Round 9 match-up against a Denmark team trying to surge from the back of the pack made this a critical round for both teams.
Denmark entered the day at 4-3, having just squeaked into Day Two. But a first-round win left them some hope, and defeating Argentina could lock them into the next stage of the tournament. It would also be revenge for the Round 6 loss the Argentinians handed them on Friday.
In the first seat sat Argentina's Matias Bollati, ready to face Denmark's Martin Müller. Ariel Nagy would take on Thomas Enevoldsen in Seat B and the final match was Mariano Cartechini against Simon Nielsen.
Round 9 had Argentina with their backs against the wall, needing a win to stave elimination. Denmark, with a win, would lock themselves into the second stage of team pool play.
Cartechini and Nielsen both put their defenses up early, with an Archers' Parapet looking down at a Disowned Ancestor. With the board stalled so quickly, both players began to populate their side of the battlefield. A flurry of morphed creatures traded over the next few turns, but life totals still stood tied at a tidy 20 apiece.
Cartechini got through the first few turns fine without finding the blue mana to round out his Sultai deck, but he was steadily falling behind on board against Nielsen's Abzan deck that was firing on all cylinders. A Swarm of Bloodflies threatened to grow huge, but it wasn't currently big enough to tangle with the Sultai Scavenger that Cartechini managed.
That is, until Nielsen combined it with Kill Shot on Cartechini's next attack step. The Kill Shot took out the Scavenger and turned the Swarm into a 3/3, good enough to take down the morphed Abomination of Gudul that Cartechini was still missing the blue mana to unmorph. Once Nielsen added the "combo" of Mer-Ek Nightblade to his board full of creatures with counters the Disowned Ancestor suddenly became unstoppable, and the game ended a turn later.
Down the table, Müller's Trail of Mystery/Secret Plans deck was doing exactly what it does once it get set up—namely, draw a ton of cards—and he took the first game over Bollati while Enevoldsen matched their efforts against Nagy and put Denmark in a commanding position after one game.
Denmark's Martin Müller, occupying Seat A, put his team in a commanding position.
Cartechini and Nielsen's first game was a drawn-out affair, and it was clear Game 2 wouldn't be any different when the first creatures to tangle were a pair of morphs on the fourth turn. A Pine Walker put Cartechini ahead in the race but Nielsen was able to dispatch it a turn later with Abzan Charm before again assembling the "combo" of Disowned Ancestor and Mer-Ek Nightblade.
Both players traded creatures, attacks and removal spells over the next few turns until the board finally stood at near-parity and both players were low on cards. Nielsen was barely ahead in life points, with 8 to Cartechini's 5, but the Argentinean did have a Sultai Scavenger to rule the skies.
Unfortunately, it was forced to sit back on defense after a Debilitating Injury removed Cartechini's only other blocker. When the top of his deck yielded nothing and Nielsen's turned up an Ainok Bond-Kin, the Dane took the match and attention shifted to Seat B, where Ariel Nagy and Thomas Enevoldsen were drawing to the conclusion of an epic game.
The match between Argentina's Mariano Cartechini and Denmark's Simon Nielsen went to a third game.
Enevoldsen's red-green deck full of morphs, big creatures and removal had outpaced Nagy's Jeskai deck in Game 1, but a seldom-heralded creature was making the difference in Game 2. Over the course of half a dozen turns, Nagy activated Bloodfire Mentor to continually improve his hand and gain an incremental advantage over Enevoldsen. A Mantis Rider joined the table for the Jeskai player, and it looked like it would be able to close things out as Enevoldsen drew his final card and counted out his mana.
"I'll Crater's Claws you...for 11?"
With that, Denmark defeated Argentina and punched its ticket into the second stage of the World Magic Cup.