This quarterfinals pitted together two countries from the European continent. Italy was headlined by team captain Marco Cammilluzzi and WMCQ winner Andrea Mengucci, both with a Pro Tour Top 8 to their name. The third table was taken by William Pizzi and Francesco Bifero, who had been playing as a two-headed giant for most of the tournament. All four players were feeling confident in Unified Standard. The Italian team had prepared together with the United States, Canada, and Brazil, and had arrived at the Unified Standard line-up of Atarka Red (which needs Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mire), Esper Dragons (which takes up Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta), and Temur Megamorph (which can fix its three colors of mana with Windswept Heath). Since the United States, Canada, and Brazil all failed to make the Top 8, Italy was the last remaining hope of this international alliance.
The Scottish team may not have had as many combined Pro Points as the Italian team, but they made up for that with their team spirit, determination, and showmanship. The whole team dressed up, wearing traditional kilts to represent their country with pride and passion. In addition, Scotland had, historically speaking, always done well at the World Magic Cup, and the Scots are in their element when they can punch above their own weight class. Their Team Unified Standard configuration contained Abzan Aggro (a regular version with Wooded Foothills, Windswept Heath, and Flooded Strand), three-color Jeskai (which, in absence of Flooded Strand, fixed its mana with Polluted Delta and pain lands), and Black-Red Dragons (which relied on Bloodstained Mire and Bloodfell Caves for mana consistency).
Team Italy had posted a better record during Day One and Day Two than Team Scotland, which meant that they got to play first in all of their matches. In the Standard rounds in particular, Italy had posted a 5-1-1 record whereas Scotland had only gone 4-3, and one of Scotland's losses was to Italy. So overall, Italy appeared to have the advantage of experience and deck choice. Then again, Scotland's had the kilt power going for them. There was only one way to decide which aspect was more decisive: they would play three matches of Magic.
The last quarterfinal match of the weekend pitted the historically strong-in-this-event Scotland against the young but experienced Team Italy. It was bound to be a series of exciting matches.
Seat A: Grant Hislop (Abzan Aggro) vs. Andrea Mengucci (Esper Dragons)
Game 1 started with mulligans all around. Hislop and coach Ray Doyle, who sat next to Hislop for most of this round, did not look happy but had to go down to five cards in search of a playable hand. Mengucci, meanwhile, went down to six cards as well. Hislop had a fast start with Warden of the First Tree and Heir of the Wilds, but a pair of Foul-Tongue Invocations (revealing Dragonlord Silumgar) stopped the assault and bought Mengucci enough time. He used that breathing room to get ahead with Dig Through Time and Dragonlord Ojutai. On the Scottish side of the table, Hislop's mana configuration of Forest, Plains, and Windswept Heath left him unable to cast any of the black cards in his hand, and he quickly succumbed to Dragonlord Ojutai.
In Game 2, a turn one Duress from Mengucci revealed that Hislop had kept the following hand: Duress, Painful Truths, Infinite Obliteration, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Wooded Foothills, Windswept Heath, and Forest. Mengucci, who had two Dig Through Time, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and Painful Truths in hand along with a good assortment of lands, eventually settled on discarding Hislop's Duress.
As a result, he allowed Hislop to resolve Infinite Obliteration on turn three, which exiled all copies of Dragonlord Ojutai. Although the Italian had none in hand, it would drastically cut down his routes to victory. Mengucci now merely had Dragonlord Silumgar, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Shambling Vent, and a Jace, Telepath Unbound ultimate remaining as potential win conditions. The good news for Mengucci was that Hislop had no real pressure, which gave the Italian plenty of time for card selection with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Dig Through Time.
Andrea Mengucci was no stranger to Sunday's spotlights, as he piloted the powerful Esper Dragons deck for Team Italy.
With a careful use of countermagic and removal spells, Mengucci dismantled all of Hislop's threats, and eventually Hislop was out of gas. Mengucci's then managed to ultimate Jace, which meant that every one of his spells could mill the top five cards of Hislop's deck. Seven triggers later, Hislop had no cards remaining in his library. It's not often that you get to see a Jace emblem in action, but it showed that Esper Dragons can win without Dragonlord Ojutai. Smiling at the unusual course of the game, Hislop extended his hand in defeat.
Grant Hislop 0 - Andrea Mengucci 2
Seat C: Martin Clement (Black-Red Dragons) vs. Marco Cammilluzzi (Atarka Red)
In Game 1, both players tried to go wide, and it all came down to one crucial attack. Cammilluzzi, with three Mountain and a freshly drawn Bloodstained Mire as his lands,attacked with seven 1/1 Goblin tokens, Zurgo Bellstriker, and Abbot of Keral Keep. "Now it gets interesting," Clement said. At 12 life, he had seven lands on the battlefield along with Pia and Kiran Nalaar, a 6/6 Hangarback Walker, a 4/4 Hangarback Walker, and two Thopter tokens. After Clement sacrificed his 6/6 Hangarback Walker to deal 2 damage to a Goblin token and produce more blockers, Cammilluzzi cast Wild Slash on Pia and Kiran Nalaar to deny any further on-board Shock effects. Clement let it resolve, opting to keep 4 mana untapped. Then, after Clement blocked all of Cammilluzzi's creatures in a way that would work out against Atarka's Command, Cammilluzzi tried to go for it. With Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage in hand and Pia and Kiran Nalaar out of the way, he tried to give his Zurgo Bellstriker +6/+6. But Clement had a crucial Draconic Roar to break up the combo and survive the turn. Two turns later, Clement's Thopters soared in for the kill.
Martin Clement has had some wild matches this weekend while playing for Team Scotland.
In Game 2, Clement had the early removal spells necessary to stay alive, and Cammilluzzi did not have the combo. More specifically, Draconic Roar and Foul-Tongue Invocation dealt with Cammilluzzi's early threats, and when Clement added two Thunderbreak Regent to the battlefield, Cammilluzzi lacked the pump spells to push through. It didn't take long for Clement's Dragons to take the game.
Martin Clement 2 - Marco Cammilluzzi 0
Seat B: Stephen Murray (Jeskai) vs. William Pizzi (Temur Megamorph)
In Game 1, the fact that Italy got to play first was huge as the game was a close damage race between Mantis Rider and Savage Knuckleblade. After red burn spells took out additional creatures on both sides of the board and the remaining gold creatures had put both players life totals into single-digit range, the game came down to Collected Company. All tournament long, Pizzi had been maligning how he had been missing with the card, so he and coach Francesco Bifero were anxious to see the top six cards. As it turned out, those cards contained Deathmist Raptor and Bounding Krasis. Both entered the battlefield, Bounding Krasis tapped Mantis Rider, and Pizzi attacked for lethal damage.
In Game 2, Pizzi had the perfect answer to Murray's Mantis Rider and Hordeling Outburst in the form of Radiant Flames, but he lacked a third land to cast it in time. When he eventually found that third land, Murray was able to save his Mantis Rider with a Jeskai Charm, and the 3/3 flier won the game shortly after.
In Game 3, the whole of Team Italy got behind William Pizzi, and all of team Scotland sat next to Stephen Murray. It was four minds versus four minds, and the air was rife with suspense.
The first play of the game was Pizzi's Savage Knuckleblade, while Murrary (who was on the draw and had gone to six) was unable to cast Mantis Rider off of his Plains, Plains, Shivan Reef configuration. Team Scotland caught a glimmer of hope when Pizzi hit zero creatures off of Collected Company, prompting high-fives within the Scottish team.
Murray even drew a Polluted Delta to fix his mana for Mantis Rider, but it was not enough. Rending Volley burned the 3/3 flier, and Pizzi attacked with Savage Knuckleblade, Bounding Krasis, and Lumbering Falls. Murray was unable to line up a proper defense, and the Ogre Warrior, Fish Lizard, and hexproof Elemental turned sideways for a lethal attack.
Stephen Murray 1—William Pizzi 2
Scotland offers the handshake, as Italy advances to the semis.
The Scots collectively extended their hands, and a huge cry of joy from Italian coach Francesco Bifero left no doubt as to which country emerged victorious.
Italy defeats Scotland 2-1 and advances to the semifinals!