With the ruins of Day One behind us, there are a number of high-profile teams left in the dust. Platinum pro Ondřej Stráský and his Czech compatriots fell in the final round, as did the stacked South Korean and Belgian teams. For every powerhouse that fell by the wayside, an underdog surprised us with a stellar first day performance, such as Belarus' and Macedonia's undefeated 5-0-2 runs on Day One.
The 32 teams that remain have been split into eight pools of four teams. All the teams in one pool will play each other tomorrow morning in the Team Sealed portion, with the two top–performing teams in every pool advancing to the Unified Standard stage. There are a few key facts to bear in mind about this round robin phase. It doesn't matter if your team just scraped through Day One if you beat all the teams in your pool. All you need to do is to finish in the top half of your pool and you will advance to the next phase. That said, scores on Day One are still important, as they are used to determine seeds in each pool. In the event of things coming down to tiebreakers, being the higher seed means everything. It is possible for three teams to get a 2–1 score, and in that case being the lowest seed will mean you are out.
1—Belarus: Aliaksei Auramionak, Evgeniy Zakharenkov, Pavel Miadzvedski, and Nikita Scherbakov
16—Sweden: Joel Larsson, Filip Sand, Anton Johansson, and Maximilian Hagelberg
17—New Zealand: Jason Chung, Gene Brumby, Danny Liao, Phoenix Taku
32—Chile: Felipe Tapia Becerra, Patricio Roman, Gonzalo Puentes, and Tomas Aravena
Team Belarus, captained by Aliaksei Auramionak
The World Magic Cup always holds a few surprises, and Belarus standing as one of the final two undefeated teams (alongside Macedonia) certainly constitutes a bit of a shock to the system. Captain Aliaksei Auramionak had exactly one Pro Tour to his name—Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir—where he went 1-7. None of the other team members—Evgeniy Zakharenkov, Pavel Miadzvedski, and Nikita Scherbakov—have any Pro Tour appearances at all. Zakharenkov and Miadzvedski have seven World Magic Cup starts between them, but have not found much success. And yet there they were in the sixth round drawing into a top seed. Whether this underdog can stay a top dog through Day Two will be one of the more interesting stories going forward.
Sweden is led by Pro Tour Magic Origins champion Joel Larsson, playing in his third World Magic Cup. Although he is the only team member with Pro Tour experience, he mentioned earlier this week that he believed Sweden's chances were good enough. "I met Filip the first time at the Super Sunday Series Championship in Seattle and I know that he's very solid indeed," Larsson said. "He was feared as the best Abzan player in Sweden for a while. I've seen Max during many GPs and I know he plays a lot of Magic in his free time, really wanting 'to get there,' something which is always good. Anton qualified through the Modern WMCQ, for which he bought an entire Affinity deck without playing it before, and he won the tournament. Not an easy feat!"
New Zealand Platinum pro Jason Chung, who made it to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, is playing in his fourth World Magic Cup. Gene Brumby is vastly experienced, with 16 Pro Tour appearances, and Danny Liao has played at a Pro Tour before as well. Phoenix Taku is one of Jason Chung's best friends, so it is likely that the Kiwis are working well together, which is one of the more important aspects of a team competition like this one.
Chile, the final team to make Day Two, is headlined by Felipe Tapia Becerra, an excellent captain. He is a former Rookie of the Year and is playing his third straight World Magic Cup. But his teammates are no slouches either; Patricio Roman and Tomas Aravena in particular have played at the Pro Tour level before. Historically speaking, the best Chilean performance was 10th at the tournament in 2013, and it is going to be interesting to see if they can improve on that this time around.
2—Macedonia: Vladimir Trajcevski, Martin Nanik, Miro Popov, and Mlki Milevski
15—Iceland: Einar Agust Baldvinsson, Kristjan Adolfsson, Ingimundur Vilhjálmsson, and Vilhjálmur Thorhallson
18—Denmark: Martin Dang, Christoffer Larsen, Daniel Lind, and Martin Müller
31—Scotland: Stephen Murray, Grant Hislop, Ray Doyle, and Martin Clement
Team Macedonia, captained by Vladimir Trajcevski
Macedonia was nobody's pick as one of the final undefeated teams left in the field, but after six rounds just them and Belarus (!) were left at 5-0-2. Of the two teams, Macedonia actually has more experience on the Pro Tour, with nine played among the squad. Captain Vladimir Trajcevski heads the team, but Miro Popov and Mlki Milevski both have Pro Tour experience. Only Martin Nanik is completely new to the scene. Still, no one saw this tiny country of two million residents coming. So far, that hill hasn't even proven itself a speed bump as Macedonia mows down the competition.
Iceland had a tremendous 4th place at the World Magic Cup 2013 in Amsterdam. Last year in Nice, Iceland didn't post a great result, but two of the members from last year's team—Einar Agust Baldvinsson and Kristjan Adolfsson—return. With last year's experiences under their belt, they made it to Day Two this time around. Ingimundur Vilhjálmsson and Vilhjálmur Thorhallson showed their prowess through a WMCQ win, and Balvinsson praised Vilhjálmsson's talent in particular. Iceland, a country with only 300,000 inhabitants, was underestimated two years ago in Amsterdam, but teams shouldn't make the same mistake again.
Denmark, the defending champion, was one of the early favorites with a tremendous line-up. Martin Dang, champion of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, is the captain. The other big names on the team are Martin Müller (who led the winning World Magic Cup last year and comes fresh off of a Top 8 at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar) and Christoffer Larsen (who has made the Top 8 of a Grand Prix three times in his career). Before the event, team captain Martin Dang mentioned that he liked his team's chances and had some words on their preparation and Daniel Lind, the least-known member of his team: "We had a Facebook group where we discussed plenty of ideas and posted results from our testing on Magic Online. All four of us are really motivated to do well. Daniel knows that he has the least experience, so he is kind of holding back and listens a lot, learning along the way. He has provided good input during testing."
Scotland has never missed Day Two at a World Magic Cup, and this year is no exception. What could be their secret? Perhaps it lies in team captain Stephen Murray, who is in his third World Magic Cup and who has played at the Pro Tour on numerous occasions. Perhaps it lies in the talent of the WMCQ winners; Grant Hislop and Martin Clement in particular have Pro Tour experience under their belts. Or maybe it lies in their outfits, as Scotland won this year's spirit award thanks to their traditional Scottish kilts. One way or another, Scotland made it to the Top 8 of the World Magic Cup in 2012 and always does well in this event, so another deep run would not be surprising.
3—Brazil: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Lucas Berthoud, Bruno Müller, and Leonardo De Castro
14—Thailand: Veerapat Sirilertvorakul, Suttipong Popitukgul, Chom Pasidparchya, and Aekarash Sorakup
19—Guatemala: Christopher Virula, Wilfredo Bojorquez, Fernando Oliva, and Jose Andrés
30—Argentina: Nicolas De Nicola, Mariano Quiroga, Nicolas Miguel Hlowackij, and Joaquin Metz
Team Brazil, captained by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Brazil is led by Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, who has ten Pro Tour Top 8s and seventeen Grand Prix Top 8s to his name. Before the event started, he told me that he thought their chances were quite good. "One of my teammates, Lucas Berthoud, is good, has Pro Tour experience, and is very committed. The other two [Bruno Müller and Leonardo De Castro] have been very committed too." That commitment translated in a testing session of several days in Barcelona together with Canada, Italy, and U.S.A.
While Captain Veerapat Sirilertvorakul is a veteran player, achieving his first Grand Prix Top 8 at GP Kuala Lumpur in 2001, it's been a while since he's seen a similar success. Likewise, while his team may have decent experience at Grand Prix, they fall short on Top 8 success. As a result, Thailand has a long road ahead of it to outperform its pool.
Historically, Guatemala has had disappointing World Magic Cup performances, reaching their first Day Two last year. However, while most of this year's team has World Magic Cup experience, no one participated in last year's Day Two team. That said, Captain Christopher Virula recently finished 17th at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in Brussels, but he'll need a lot of support from the team to go all the way.
Argentinian captain Nicolas De Nicola is playing in his second World Magic Cup tournament, and is hoping to best the team's 26th place finish in 2012. At his back he'll have Mariano Quiroga, Nicolas Miguel Hlowackij, and Joaquin Metz. This is Argentina's third Day Two appearance out of the four World Magic Cups.
4—Germany: Christian Seibold, Alexander Hottmann, Sascha Schwarz, and Tobias Ehrismann
13—Japan: Yuuya Watanabe, Kenji Tsumura, Ryoichi Tamada, and Soyo You
20—Mexico: Marcelino Freeman, Ramon Vazquez, Jose Menchaca, and Miguel Martinez
29—Greece: Bill Chronopoulos, Charalambos Kikidis, Antonis Fyssas, and Panagiotis Papadopoulos
Team Germany, captained by Christian Seibold
Germany was once a hotbed of Magic, winning the Worlds team title in 2002 and sporting the best player in the world in Kai Budde. Deutschland's talent has waned some, but they still come in with experience and success at the top levels. Captain Christian Seibold has a Grand Prix win in Barcelona itself, and a Pro Tour Top 8 in Valencia, Spain, so the host nation has been good to him. Alexander Hottmann has two Grand Prix Top 8s, and while Sascha Schwarz and Tobias Ehrismann have none, they have played on the Pro Tour. Germany had yet to make a Day Two at the World Magic Cup, but their fortunes have evidently been helped by Seibold's mastery of all tournaments in Spain.
Japan was one of the favorites going in to the event. The captain is Yuuya Watanabe, who is one of the most accomplished players in the room with three Pro Tour Top 8s, 23 Grand Prix T8s, and $270,000 in lifetime earnings to his name. Rounding out the team are Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura, Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar finalist Ryoichi Tamada, and Soyo You. "You is a Modern master," Tsumura explained earlier this week. "He won the Modern WMCQ which was played by 353 players. He is very enthusiastic and really looking forward to playing the World Magic Cup. We want him to enjoy the first big tournament as we did, and we will be happy if we make Top 8, which is good enough to invite him for the next Pro Tour." As ridiculous as it may sound for a country with such a rich Magic history, this is the first time that Japan has ever made Day Two in a World Magic Cup. They will certainly try to make the best of it.
Mexican Captain Marcelino Freeman is one of the nicest guys on the Pro Tour, with a long track record of Nationals wins and well respected in both the local Mexican and international Magic Community. Mexico finished 11th at the World Magic Cup in Nice in 2014, but most of the team is new this year, with only a minor amount of Grand Prix experience between them.
Greece, meanwhile, is not a team to sleep on. Captain Bill Chronopoulos returns from last year's team that made the finals, while Antonis Fyssas and Panagiotis Papadopoulos both played on the 2012 team where they finished 31st. In fact, Greece has never not made Day Two of the World Magic Cup, and their finishes have improved every year, from 31st to 11th to 2nd. The only way to improve this year is to win the whole thing, so hold on tight.
5—Austria: Valentin Mackl, Nikolaus Eigner, Christoph Aukenthaler, and Sebastian Fiala-Ibitz
12—Singapore: Chapman Sim, Felix Leong, Michael Tong, and Jeffrey Chan
21—Serbia: Miodrag Kitanovic, Aleksa Telarov, Milutin Kecojević, and Miloš Radulović
28—Chinese Taipei: Huang Hao-Shan, Huang Ta-Chi, Yu Pi Hsiang, Chen Liang
Team Austria, captained by Valentin Mackl
Austria's team consists of a number of players with experience at the highest level of competition. The captain is Valentin Mackl, who has six Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, spread across the globe. The old-school veteran Nikolaus Eigner has a Grand Prix title dating back to Vienna 2005, while Christoph Aukenthaler also has a Grand Prix title, much more recently at Rimini 2013. Sebastian Fiala-Ibitz has been around the Austrian Magic scene for a long time and, according to Mackl, has come very close to qualifying for the Pro Tour several times. "I'm happy for him that he got this opportunity," he said. Mackl told me that the team had potential, and so far Austria is in a good position.
The Traveling Philosopher Chapman Sim, this year's captain for team Singapore, is returning to the World Magic Cup for the third time, and he had some kind words to share about his team. Felix Leong, who has already competed in seven Pro Tours, is "one of the most respected players in Singapore." Michael Tong is, according to Sim, "new to the world of Organized Play, and stunned the Singaporean community by winning the very first WMCQ". Jeffrey Chan's WMCQ victory was "no surprise though, seeing how he has made nine WMCQ Top 8s out of the 11 he has participated in. He also play-tested alongside Team MTGMintCard and designed the framework of the Ally Rally deck which Lee Shi Tian has brought into the limelight."
"What I value the most," Sim said, "is our ability to work together, because that is one of the most important aspects of the World Magic Cup." Boasting the combination of camaraderie and experience, Singapore should not be underestimated.
Serbia's captain is Miodrag Kitanovic, who returns from the Top 8 team of the World Magic Cup in Nice 2014. He followed it up with a tremendous performance at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, as a result of which he overcame last year's captain Aleksa Telarov in the Pro Points race for the captaincy. Telarov, not to be outdone, promptly won a WMCQ to secure his spot on the team for the fourth year in a row. "We have a good lineup," Telarov said before the event started. "Kitanovic claimed the captain title which he rightfully deserved, Milutin Kecojević is an old-school Magic player, and Miloš Radulović is a mostly new player who showed promising tournament results. I'm optimistic about our chances, and I'm going to give it my all every time I play for my country."
Chinese Taipei took down the inaugural World Magic Cup in 2012, and has been looking to recapture that lightning in a bottle ever since. This year the squad has more Pro Tour experience than most, with 33 starts across the team, as well as six Grand Prix Top 8s. Captain Huang Hao-Shan is well positioned to lead the team, with 52% win rate at the Pro Tour level and 62% win rate at the Grand Prix level. The team will certainly be looking to improve on last year's performance—27th—and no doubt aims to see itself in the Top 8 at the end of the day.
6—France: Pierre Dagen, Hichem Tedjditi, Arnaud Soumet, and Fathi Benaribi
11—Poland: Maciej Janik, Patryk Wisniewski, Jaroslaw Wroblewski, and Maciek Faustyn
22—Netherlands: Jelger Wiegersma, Thomas Hendriks, Sebastiaan Tuinstra, and Erikjan Bogaard
27—Philippines: Ronnie Paul Beley, Kevin Gonzales, Erick Macasaet, and Ang Jan
Team France, captained by Pierre Dagen
When France battled England in the second round, it turned out to be quite the fork in the road. England, which lost, plummeted to the bottom of the standings. France, meanwhile, marched nearly to the top, led by Pro Tour Theros finalist Pierre Dagen. The rest of the French crew is relatively unknown—Hichem Tedjditi, Arnaud Soumet, and Fathi Benaribi have just two Pro Tour starts among them—but Dagen is a seasoned pro. They can also lean on their country's 2013 World Magic Cup win for inspiration.
Poland has had variable success at the World Magic Cup. After a great start coming 3rd place at the first World Magic Cup in 2012, the team missed Day Two entirely in 2014. This year the team has some depth of experience behind it, with each of the players having a minimum of five Grand Prix starts. Captain Maciej Janik is a long-time participant on the Pro Tour, though without any Top 8 placings. The youngest player, Maciek Faustyn, is sixteen years of age, having played his first Grand Prix at the age of just thirteen. Perhaps youth and enthusiasm can push through this pool.
The Netherlands is led by Hall of Famer Jelger Wiegersma, who clinched the captaincy by scoring enough Pro Points with his Top 8 of Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Thomas Hendriks made the Top 8 at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir and is well-regarded on the European scene. What's more, he won a WMCQ for the third year in a row—an incredible performance that proves his playing skill. Sebastiaan Tuinstra and Erikjan Bogaard don't have any prior Pro Tour experience, but they have stepped up today and won enough games for team Netherlands to advance to the Saturday competition.
The Philippines got off to a roaring start in 2012, achieving a Top 8 finish, but have failed to make Day Two since. This year, with Ronnie Paul Beley at the helm as captain, and Ang Jan on the team, there is some representation at the Pro Tour level, and each of the players has Grand Prix experience. With Day Two achieved, the team can now look forward to overcoming their next set of obstacles—namely France, Poland, and the Netherlands.
7—Paraguay: Oscar Matthias Bachmann, Luis Fernando Ortiz, Eduardo Filippi, and Eligio Bernal
10—Turkey: Osman Ozguney, Aykut Ozen, Caner Aktas, and Ramazan Gurel
23—Italy: Marco Cammilluzzi, Andrea Mengucci, William Pizzi, and Francesco Bifero
26—Australia: Paul Jackson, William Lou, Lewis Risk, and Joseph Sclauzero
Team Paraguay, captained by Oscar Bachmann
Paraguay joined the World Magic Cup circuit last year, missing Day Two in Nice. Captain Oscar Matthias Bachmann and teammate Eduardo Filippi have proved they can learn from the past, with a surprising performance from such a young team. Neither Luis Fernando Ortiz nor Eligio Bernal have Pro Tour or Grand Prix experience, so it will be hard yards here on out for the team to overcome the significant opposition they now face in Pool G.
While Turkey's Captain, long-time player Osman Ozguney, participated in two Pro Tours this year, and Caner Aktas played in Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in Milwaukee, the team is still relatively young, with Aykut Ozen and Manazan Gurel both debuting on the professional circuit at this event. While the team has done very well to reach Day Two, defeating their pool opponents is another matter.
Italy's captain is headlined by team captain Marco Cammilluzzi, who has a Pro Tour Top 8 at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, and WMCQ winner Andrea Mengucci, who made it to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. Although Italy had never reached Day Two in this competition, Cammilluzzi expressed faith before the tournament started. "I'm sure Italy has good chance to make a really good result in this competition," he said. "William Pizzi and Francesco Bifero are both feeling confident in Standard." If they manage to survive the Saturday morning Limited portion, then Italy will be one of the favorites.
Australia's Paul Jackson may not be a household name, but he's no slouch either. Champion of Grand Prix Sydney in 2014 and fourth place finisher at Pro Tour Magic Origins, Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. Teammate Joseph Sclauzero, meanwhile, is also a Grand Prix champion. William Lou and Lewis Risk are less accomplished, but put up good enough results this weekend to push Australia on to Day Two.
8—Ukraine: Oleg Plisov, Alexey Antonenko, Oleksandr Drapailo, and Stanislaw Lozowitskiy
9—Hong Kong: Lee Shi Tian, Lam Tsz Yeung, Sze Hang Chan, and Steven Yuen
24—Latvia: Andrejs Prost, Aleksejs Laizans, Aleksejs Sorokins, and Gints Dreimanis
25—Malta: Luke Vassallo, Jason Spiteri, Ismael Lovergrove, and Lee Spiteri
Team Ukraine, captained by Oleg Plisov
Ukraine's captain, Oleg Plisov, returns from the World Magic Cup 2014 in Nice, so he has prior experience at the World Magic Cup. Alexey Antonenko has a Grand Prix Top 8 in Vienna 2014 on his resume and although Oleksandr Drapailo and Stanislaw Lozowitskiy don't have any premier event experience, Ukraine has a history of decent finishes at the World Magic Cup, as they made it to the Top 16 in 2012 and 2013. Perhaps they can post an even better finish this year.
Hong Kong has considerable top-tier competitive experience, starting with the outstanding Lee Shi Tian, with four Pro Tour Top 8s, four Grand Prix Top 8s, and four World Magic Cup appearances. His teammates are no slouches either, with 10 Pro Tour starts between Lam Tsz Yeung and Sze Hang Chan, while Steven Yuen participated in the Top 16 World Magic Cup team in Nice. While Hong Kong has sometimes underperformed at the World Magic Cup, Lee Shi Tian's ability to brew may find a gap in the Unified Standard format that others have missed.
Latvian captain Andrejs Prost plays here in his third World Magic Cup. With two Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, he is an experienced captain. In preceding years, Latvia never got closer than a 49th place, so it's a huge deal for them to reach Day here for the first time. Now they have to step up and prove their skill at the game in the pool competition.
When any new team enters the World Magic Cup, just getting to Day Two is a big ask. When a new team from a country as tiny as Malta makes it, it's a big deal. Jason Spiteri is the veteran of the group, debuting at Grand Prix Munich in 2003, but over the last few years he's seen far more casual play than competitive. Luke Vassallo had a fine performance at GP Liverpool this year, but neither Ismael Lovergrove nor Lee Spiteri have any Grand Prix or Pro Tour experience between them. If ever there was an underdog, Malta in 2015 is it.