Belarus was a runaway success on Day One, ending on top of the ladder with Macedonia at 5-0-2. Belarus, with a population of just over 9 million, is landlocked, bordering on the west of Russia.
Belarus has participated since the inaugural World Magic Cup in 2012, only missing Day Two that year. Since then, the team has performed moderately well, with their best success being thirteenth in 2013. While team members Evgeniy Zakharenkov and Pavel Miadzvedski have appeared at previous World Magic Cups, team Captain Aliaksei Auramionak has played in a single Pro Tour—Khans of Tarkir in Honolulu 2014 . Their newest player, Nikita Scerbakov, is the freshest face of all, with no track record at Grand Prix or the Pro Tour, which makes the success of Belarus during Day One so fantastic. It's a success of new starters as they battle their way to pool play, and it speaks volumes to their knowledge of the format and their personal skills.
"This tournament is great," said Auramionak. "We like to travel to other countries, to see different cities. Nice was so nice, and Amsterdam was amazing." Auramionak waved his arms above his head for emphasis. "And now I like Barcelona!"
We spoke about their preparation for this year's World Magic Cup.
"Usually we prepare with Russia and the Ukraine," he explained. "This year, we did discuss some topics with the Russian team, but mainly kept to ourselves. There is a Russian Pro Player who lives in Belarus, Nikolay Potovin, and he's provided us a lot of support and training throughout our World Magic Cup history."
Potovin won Grand Prix Stockholm in 2007.
"For Sealed, we mainly tested on Magic Online, and our store organized competitions with the community help to test at the store. For Standard, we mainly tested on Magic Online and during Friday Night Magic at the store and of course there was a lot of discussion between the team."
"The community supports us with cards," said Scerbakov.
"Nikita and I have decks from local play," continued Auramionak. "But as Pavel mainly plays Magic Online, when we go to the big tournaments, the community pools together cards the team needs."
We spoke about their performance on Day One.
"This has been the best result for all the tournaments thus far," said Auramionak.
"There was Amsterdam in 2013, where we ended in 13th place," said Scerbakov.
"But we had three draws in Day One, and scraped into Day Two," replied Auramionak. "We've never been with five wins at the end of Day One before. At the end of yesterday I read our pool in Skype, and our community has been surprised at how unbelievable it is. So it is pretty encouraging."
Team Belarus, at work on Day Two's Team Sealed decks
I asked how they felt about going into Day Two, having opened their Team Sealed pool already.
"Our Sealed pool is not as good as yesterday," explained Auramionak. "Yesterday, our pool was broken, with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and expeditions, and a lot good commons with high levels of synergy. Today we have seven rare lands, and two of them are unplayable in Sealed, Sanctum of Ugin and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. In addition, all our bombs are in one color and in one deck. The other decks play with what remains."
"In our pool, we most fear Sweden, and then Chile," said Miadzvedski, "But we are not worried because we have the 'Lich' on our side."
"That's me," laughed Auramionak. "The deck I used to win a WMCQ was based around Havengul Lich."
With that, time was called and Belarus went to battle their way through Day Two.