Quarterfinals: Thailand vs. Denmark

Posted in 2015 WORLD MAGIC CUP on December 13, 2015

By Frank Karsten and Tobi Henke

The first quarterfinal was a David-versus-Goliath match. Reigning World Magic Cup champion Denmark was one of the early favorites this year, and their squad featured Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir winner Martin Dang, No. 17 Martin Müller, and three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Christoffer Larsen. The fourth member on their team, Daniel Lind, expressed his trust in his three compatriots and assumed the role of the coach. If Denmark would win all three rounds today, then Müller could be the first to hoist back-to-back World Magic Cup trophies.

Thailand did not have as many big names on their team, but their strong performance in this event put their country on the world map as a strong competitor in the World Magic Cup. Captained by 11-time Pro Tour competitor Veerapat Sirilertvorakul and coached by WMCQ winner Aekarash Sorakup, the Thai squad made their first Top 8 success in this event, and they had their eyes set on more.

The teams played with the same Team Unified Standard decks as before. In this format, each country had to build three decks from one play set of Standard, and the overlap in fetch lands drove much of the configuration choices. Denmark built a line-up of Atarka Red (which took Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mire), 4-Color Rally (which used the other available fetch lands) and white-black tokens (with mana fixing from Shambling Vent and Caves of Koilos). Thailand went with Atarka Red, Esper Dragons, and an Abzan Midrange deck. This meant that the Abzan deck only had Windswept Heath as its sole fetch land, and thus it was reliant on Sandsteppe Citadel and Caves of Koilos rather than Wooded Foothills. As a result, their list had Knight of the White Orchid instead of the more typical Warden of the First Tree.

The newcomers of Thailand face off against the defending champions of the World Magic Cup, Denmark. Who would win?

According to both teams, the matchups were even across the field. Nevertheless, the Danes held the advantage of having more premier event experience in addition to the higher seeding: Because they had scored more match points on Day One and 2 than Thailand, the Danes got to play first in all three matches. But in Magic, anything can happen.

Seat B: (17) Veerapat Sirilertvorakul (Atarka Red) vs. Martin Müller (4 -Color Rally)

Before the games started, Sirilertvorakul documented the occasion by making several pictures of himself and his teammates in the feature match area. The Danes were happy to oblige with some smiles for the camera, so a friendly atmosphere permeated the match.

In Game 1, Sirilertvorakul had an early Fiery Impulse and Titan's Strength to keep Müller's board clear, but these spells tied up Sirilertvorakul mana. This meant that he was unable to assemble an overwhelming board position early. As the game progressed, Sirilertvorakul went wide with Goblin tokens from Hordeling Outburst, while Müller went big with Nantuko Husk. But because Sirilertvorakul didn't attack for a lot early on and lacked an Atarka's Command or Become Immense to push through, Müller received more than enough time to set up. Collected Company found two Grim Haruspex, and a subsequent Rally the Ancestors provided a ton of cards. Müller showed he knew all the tricks with his deck by transforming Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in response to Rally the Ancestors' upkeep trigger. Because the Planeswalker is treated by the game as a new object, it got to stick around on the battlefield to generate more value. Eventually, Müller found Zulaport Cutthroat to get out of burn range, and a second Rally the Ancestors sealed the game.

Rally Master" Müller in action.

In Game 2, Sirilertvorakul went on the offense with Zurgo Bellstriker and Hordeling Outburst. Müller, however, was happy to block with his Zulaport Cutthroat, Elvish Visionary, and Sidisi's Faithful. After all, for his deck, the creatures were nearly as useful in the graveyard as on the battlefield. Nevertheless, Sirilertvorakul's next couple of plays dealt a lot of damage. First, there was Titan's Strength plus Temur Battle Rage to make Zurgo trample for 6 damage over Sidisi's Faithful. A turn later, in response to Müller life-gaining Ojutai's Command, Sirilertvorakul used the Skullcrack mode on Atarka's Command to pressure Müller's life total even further. And then there was another Atarka's Command for even more damage. Dangerously low on life, Müller had to turn the corner quickly, and a Rally the Ancestors for merely the three aforementioned creatures was not all that impressive. But Müller knew his deck inside out—he bounced his own Elvish Visionary with Sidisi's Faithful to see as many cards as possible, and he found Arashin Cleric to get out of burn range just in time. A few turns later, Nantuko Husk attacked for the win.

Veerapat Sirilertvorakul 0 - Martin Müller 2

Seat A: Suttipong Popitukgul (Esper Dragons) vs. Christoffer Larsen (White-Black Tokens)

In Game 1, cards traded off left and right, while Larsen continually made his Hangarback Walker bigger and bigger. Eventually, however, Popitukgul found Silkwrap to deal with it, and that was the moment when he gained control of the game. Still at a double digit life total, with Dragonlord Silumgar in hand to gain control of a potential Planeswalker from Larsen, Popitukgul was in great shape. The only cards he might have to worry about were Larsen's Secure the Wastes, but Popitukgul had countermagic and discard spells to deal with those out as well. After he took out two Secure the Wastes this way, the game was pretty much over. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Dragonlord Ojutai, and an awakened Ruinous Path ensured that it didn't last long.

In Game 2, Popitukgul's Duress revealed that Larsen had kept a two-land hand with Hangarback Walker, Read the Bones, and a number of four-drops and removal spells. He took Read the Bones, and Larsen was unable to find a third or fourth land for several turns. This meant that, for several turns in a row, Larsen could do nothing more than activate his Hangarback Walker and pass the turn. If Popitukgul would have had a Dragonlord Ojutai to punish that stumble, he could've easily run away with the game, but he didn't. He did have a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but a Silkwrap plus Murderous Cut took it out even through Scatter to the Winds, and then Popitukgul had nothing but lands. Eventually, Larsen found his fourth land, started casting haymakers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and took the game.

In Game 3, Popitukgul kept his seven-card opening hand, but Larsen (who would be on the draw) agonized over his hand of Plains, Plains, Knight of the White Orchid, Secure the Wastes, Infinite Obliteration, Duress, and Utter End. A nice aspect of team tournaments is that you can consult your teammates for advice, so he turned to Martin Müller, who seemed to agree that it was a close call. The final verdict was a mulligan, and Larsen received a reasonable six-card hand that at least had both black and white mana. Despite that, Larsen's mix of spells didn't line up well against Popitukgul's draw: Ultimate Price was unable to answer Dragonlord Ojutai or Shambling Vent, and Secure the Wastes without Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Sorin, Solemn Visitor to boost the tokens did not yield a sufficiently fast damage output. The nail in the coffin came when Popitukgul played Virulent Plague. Larsen, always happy to please the crowd, cast Secure the Wastes for seven tokens, but both players laughed because they knew it was of no use: the tokens hit the graveyard as soon as they would come down, and Dragonlord Ojutai soared over for the win.

Unable to keep up, Christoffer Larsen extended the hand to Suttipong Popitukgul, as Thailand evens the score.

Suttipong Popitukgul 2 - Christoffer Larsen 1

Seat C: Chom Pasidparchya (Abzan Aggro) vs. Martin Dang (Atarka Red)

With one match win already on the scoreboard for each country, this final match was the deciding one. Before it started, the players took one final look at each other's decklist before putting them away. "You really shouldn't have to do that," Dang joked. "You have the same deck on your team."

It was indeed a friendly atmosphere here and the players talked for a bit while they shuffled up their decks. The two teams' coaches, Thailand's Aekarash Sorakup and Denmark's Daniel Lind, also sat in on this match, making the whole procedure look quite cozy and relaxed. But then it was time for business.

In Game 1, Dang led the charge with two copies of Abbot of Keral Keep followed by Hordeling Outburst. After some back and forth, there was an interesting combat step where he had both his Abbots blocked by a Thopter token off of Hangarback Walker and a Knight token off of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, while his own tokens went unblocked. Two Titan's Strengths later, Pasidparchya was at 3 and both Abbots survived. Additionally, Dang had been able to scry two Mountains to the bottom of his library. This way, Dang found Atarka's Command and was able to take the game despite Pasidparchya's Siege Rhino.

Chom Pasidparchya, facing a Pro Tour champion under the spotlights.

In Game 2, now on the play, Pasidparchya began with a mulligan. His six cards included a lot of cheap options to interact with the red deck, namely two Hangarback Walkers, Dromoka's Command, and Surge of Righteousness, but it only had a single land in Shambling Vent. Needless to say, there was a bit of discussion between Sorakup and Pasidparchya.

"It seems to be a pretty risky hand," Dang speculated. "It is!" Pasidparchya agreed. He kept anyway and was relieved to find Forest on top of his library.

Nevertheless, a pair of Monastery Swiftspears plus Titan's Strength already put him at 12 by turn two. Then, however, Hangarback Walker became 2/2 and fought one of the 1/2s, all thanks to Dromoka's Command, and Dang never really managed to get back on offense. He did manage to transform Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh though, and the Planeswalker took Pasidparchya to 6 before dying. Atarka's Command in response to Arashin Cleric made that 3, but Siege Rhino finally brought Pasidparchya back to 6.

At this point, Pasidparchya made an attack that left him with three blockers against Dang's three Goblin tokens. Dang had Become Immense in hand and Pasidparchya was tapped out, so the Danish captain only needed one Monastery Swiftspear or Lightning Berserker or Zurgo Bellstriker to steal the game. His deck offered a Mountain instead, and Sorin, Solemn Visitor took Pasidparchya well out of Dang's reach.

Game 3 had a few interesting moments. For example, when Dang correctly called Pasidparchya on Knight of the White Orchid and simply didn't play a land on turn three. Or when he used Titan's Strength, Atarka's Command, and Wild Slash to make his Abbot of Keral Keep survive against a blocking 5/4 Anafenza, the Foremost and simultaneously killed Sorin, Solemn Visitor. But in the end, the game was decided by the fact that Dang had one Abbot of Keral Keep in his opening hand and didn't draw another creature or Dragon Fodder or Hordeling Outburst until it was already way too late.

With Pasidparchya's win, Team Thailand advances, their dreams of a win still alive.

Chom Pasidparchya 2 - Martin Dang 1

Thailand defeats Denmark 2-1 and advances to the semifinals!