73 countries started Round 1 on Friday morning. After two-and-a-half days of intense competition, only two remained to vie for the title: Thailand and Italy.
Thailand, arguably the underdog in this match, did not have the Pro Tour experience that some of the super-teams had—although captain Veerapat Sirilertvorakul had played 11 Pro Tours spread over many years, none of the Thai players had ever made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour before—but the nation burst forward on the scene here, introducing us to new emerging Magic talent. Earlier in the quarterfinals and semifinals, the Thai squad had knocked out Denmark and France, two previous World Magic Cup winners, and now they were close to the trophy as well. Engulfed by encouraging messages from players back home, the Thai team was filled with determination.
Italy, often mentioned as one of the favorites going into this event, had a star-studded line-up headlined by team captain Marco Cammilluzzi and World Magic Cup Qualifier winner Andrea Mengucci. Both have a Pro Tour Top 8 on their resume and are well-respected competitors on the European scene. Italy's third table was filled by William Pizzi and Francesco Bifero, who had been playing as a two-headed giant for most of the tournament. In the Constructed rounds, Pizzi physically handled the cards while Bifero provided advice as the official team coach, but their purpose was single-minded.
Two teams remained. Only one would win the 2015 World Magic Cup
The format, as in all of the Top 8, was Team Unified Standard, for which each country had assembled three decks from a single play set of Standard. Thailand went with Atarka Red, Esper Dragons, and an Abzan Midrange deck that relied on Windswept Heath, Caves of Koilos, and Sandsteppe Citadel for fixing. Italy went with the configuration cooked up by the international alliance of Canada, Brazil, the United States, and Italy: Atarka Red, Esper Dragons, and a Temur Megamorph deck that used Windswept Heath for mana consistency. Due to their deck choice, Italy did not have to split Flooded Strands or sideboard cards between their Esper Dragons and Windswept Heath decks.
Italy had two additional advantages going into this match. First, their Temur deck would face Atarka Red. Thanks in part to Fiery Impulse and Radiant Flames, they felt this was a good matchup for Temur. Second, Italy had scored more match points than Thailand on Day One and Day Two, and thus could play first in all of the three matches.
Seat B: Veerapat Sirilertvorakul (Atarka Red) vs.William Pizzi (Temur Megamorph)
In Game 1, Sirilertvorakul started with Zurgo Bellstriker and Dragon Fodder while Pizzi led with a turn two Rattleclaw Mystic. When Pizzi tried to ambush an attacking Zurgo Bellstriker with Bounding Krasis, Sirilertvorakul's Atarka's Command turned that combat situation into a trade instead. Next up, Pizzi's Collected Company yielded Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector. Some of the Italian players had not been happy with the high-variance card throughout the tournament, but Collected Company provided for them in the finals when they needed it the most. The pair of creatures they received allowed them to stabilize and turn the game around. Eventually, Temur Charm denied Sirilertvorakul's ability to block, and Pizzi swung for lethal.
Veerapat Sirilertvorakul faced off against Italy's two-headed duo, William Pizzi and Francesco Bifero
In Game 2, Sirilertvorakul appeared to have the upper hand early on as he turned two Monastery Swiftspear and Lightning Berserker sideways. But Pizzi had the perfect answer in Radiant Flames to clear the board and turn the corner. His follow-up Collected Company found Savage Knuckleblade and Deathmist Raptor, and all of a sudden, Thailand was on the back foot.Sirilertvorakul still had a chance to win if he could resolve Temur Battle Rage, but Pizzi had a key Dispel to say no. Several turns later, Sirilertvorakul succumbed to the sizeable Temur-colored creatures.
Veerapat Sirilertvorakul 0 - William Pizzi 2
Seat C: Chom Pasidparchya (Abzan Aggro) vs.Marco Cammilluzzi (Atarka Red)
In Game 1, Cammilluzzi had a fine draw with Dragon Fodder, Zurgo Bellstriker, and pump spells, showing that his red deck could easily function off of two lands. Pasidparchya, who had the benefit of getting advice from Thai coach Aekarash Sorakup, was piloting a deck with a more top-heavy mana curve, so when he got stuck on two lands, it substantially hampered his development. He did have two Hangarback Walkers, but that was not enough to stop the red deck's assault. Without the ability to cast Siege Rhino, the Thai player quickly fell to zero life.
The start of Game 2 was delayed for a bit because Marco Cammilluzzi had a rules question on Yasova Dragonclaw, a card he had sideboarded in. (In case you were wondering, Yasova's target has to have a sufficiently low power for the ability to go on the stack, and judges are always happy to help.) As the game got underway, Pasidparchya had the right removal spells, such as Surge of Righteousness from the sideboard, to contain Cammilluzzi's creatures and to stay at a sufficiently high total. The Abzan deck is favored when it can get to the late game, and after a raided Wingmate Roc entered the battlefield, Cammilluzzi had seen enough to pack up his cards.
Chom Pasidparchya fought back against Marco Cammilluzzi's aggression, bringing their match to a third game
The third game was held until the conclusion of the other match.
Seat A: Suttipong Popitukgul (Esper Dragons) vs. Andrea Mengucci (Esper Dragons)
Game 1 started with a lot of trades on both sides. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy died to Ultimate Price; Dragonlord Ojutai fell to Languish; and the next creature was taken out by Foul-Tongue Invocation. Nothing stuck around, but after a long game of attrition, Popitukgul eventually got a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on the table that lived for longer than a turn cycle. Jace promptly transformed into a Planeswalker, flashed back cards for value, and the game quickly snowballed out of control in Popitukgul's favor.
In Game 2, there was an early Jace, Vryn's Prodigy fight where Mengucci had a removal spell for his opponent's Jace, but Popitukgul didn't. As a result, Mengucci's Jace transformed, which allowed the Italian player to start generating extra value with a flashed back Dig Through Time. Mengucci'sboard position improved further with Tasigur, the Golden Fang, while Popitukgul stalled out on mana. It didn't take long for Mengucci to win the game.
Game 3 was a grindy affair in which it seemed like there was a removal spell for every creature that appeared on the battlefield. A key factor, however, was that Menguci had resolved an Infinite Obliteration naming Dragonlord Ojutai, which substantially reduced the creature density in Popitukgul's deck. The game favored Mengucci thanks to this, although he still had to stick a win condition. His Dragonlord Ojutai was taken down by Foul-Tongue Invocation, but Popitukgul had no relevant cards remaining after that. Mengucci then resolved Monastery Mentor and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, while Popitukgul merely found Duress on the top of his deck. When the discard spell revealed that Mengucci still had four business spells in hand, Popitukgul extended his hand in defeat.
Suttipong Popitukgul 1 - Andrea Mengucci 2
Team Italy burst out in emotions as soon as the match concluded
The Italians could not contain their excitement. They burst out in song, jubilantly hoisted the trophy while singing "Campioni del mondo!" and celebrated their win with a passion that the Italian fans at home could feel be proud of.
Congratulations to team Italy, your 2015 World Magic Cup champions!