Quarterfinals: Australia vs. Italy

Posted in Event Coverage on November 20, 2016

By Chapman Sim

The first quarterfinals to take place for the 2016 World Magic Cup was between first-timers Team Australia and defending Champions Team Italy. The Italy National Champion and team coach Andrea Mengucci would be taking the responsibility of watching all three games and helping out Mattia Rizzi in seat A, Alessandro Portaro in seat B, and Alessandro Casamenti in seat C.

Their combination of Infect, Lantern Control, and Ad Nauseam lined up against the Australians' Dredge, Bant Eldrazi, and Blue-Red Kiln Fiend. With James Wilks in seat A, Australia National Champion David Mines in seat B, and Ryan Cubit in seat C, that leaves Garry Lau as the coach who will be assisting his team along this tough road to the semifinals.

If you only compare only previous Magic achievements, it's not hard to understand why the Italians are the crowd favorites. Not only did the nation win last year's World Magic Cup, Mengucci is a highly experienced Platinum pro and two of three World Magic Cup Qualifier winners have Grand Prix Top 8s to their names.

However, if any lesson is to be learned this weekend, it's that underdogs can also have their day!

SEAT C: RYAN CUBIT (BLUE-RED KILN FIEND) VS. ALESSANDRO CASAMENTI (AD NAUSEAM)

Casamenti described this pairing as a nightmare matchup. "The Blue-Red Kiln Fiend deck is one turn faster than us. Not to be pessimistic, but I really don't like my chances." Indeed, we've seen Monastery Swiftspear deliver turn-two kills over the weekend, and with Ad Nauseam having literally no defense, things looked very bleak indeed from the outset.

As a matter of fact, Game 1 only took a few minutes to complete. Cubit smoothed his draws with a turn-one Serum Visions while Casamenti went down to five cards and only managed to suspend Lotus Bloom.

Monastery Swiftspear and a second Serum Visions allowed Cubit to attack for 2, and on the next turn he summoned a second Monastery Swiftspear before firing off a pair of Gitaxian Probes and a Sleight of Hand for a total of six prowess triggers. Lightning Bolt and Mutagenic Growth next turn mopped things up, before Casamenti's Lotus Bloom could tick down or he could find even a single land.

Cruel.


There was nothing Alessandro Casamenti could do to affect Game 1.

In Game 2, Casamenti began by suspending Lotus Bloom and casting Phyrexian Unlife, but Cubit already had Monastery Swiftspear and Kiln Fiend on the board. Gitaxian Probe and Lightning Bolt brought Casamenti down to 1 life and he used Angel's Grace to stay alive next turn. Down to no cards in hand, the Italians needed a miracle.

And it arrived.

Casamenti topdecked Ad Nauseam and proceeded to draw his entire library! Exiling three Simian Spirit Guides from his 50-card hand provided sufficient mana to unleash a lethal Lightning Storm to equalize the score.

In Game 3, Cubit kicked off with Monastery Swiftspear on turn one and then Young Pyromancer on turn two. This was where things escalated quickly. Paying 6 life to cast three Mutagenic Growths not only pumped Monastery Swiftspear into a 10/11 but also created three Elemental tokens in the process. With Casamenti down to 8 life, Cubit was 2 damage short. A topdecked Lightning Bolt ensured that he was 2 damage in excess.


Ryan Cubit (left) was firmly in control of Game 3 from the outset.

"This is actually pretty expected. The matchup is so bad that we really didn't count on winning at this seat," Casamenti lamented, but he kept his spirits up. "I just hope that my other two teammates win."

Ryan Cubit defeated Alessandro Casamenti 2-1.

SEAT B: DAVID MINES (BANT ELDRAZI) VS. ALESSANDRO PORTARO (LANTERN CONTROL)

The Italians were one match down and the Australians only needed one win from either match to advance to the semifinals. Would Mines be able to attack down Portaro before Ensnaring Bridge could put a lock on the creature-oriented strategy?

Mines opened with Birds of Paradise into Eldrazi Skyspawner, and Eldrazi Temple assisted in pushing out two early Drowner of Hopes. However, Portaro set up his lock of Lantern of Insight, double Ghoulcaller's Bell, and Ensnaring Bridge before a Drowner of Hope could attack him. After milling away Noble Hierarch and using Surgical Extraction on it, Portaro's work was complete. With no solutions in the main deck, Mines was down one game.


Australia National Champion David Mines had his work cut out for him after a Game 1 loss.

In Game 2, Portaro's Pithing Needle wisely clamped down Engineered Explosives, knowing that there were three copies in Mines's sideboard. However, Mines powered out a turn-two Thought-Knot Seer with the help of Noble Hierarch and Eldrazi Temple. Taking away Inquisition of Kozilek to protect Stubborn Denial, Mines was able to counter Ensnaring Bridge when Portaro tried to resolve it.

Summoning Eldrazi Displacer and blinking it during Portaro's draw step, Mines ensured his opponent would not be able to cast Ensnaring Bridge even if he did draw one. Giving Lantern Control a taste of its own medicine, Mines carefully controlled Portaro's draw steps and secured this victory to force the rubber game.

In Game 3, Pithing Needle went for Engineered Explosives once again and with the help of Mox Opal, Portaro totally emptied his hand of Lantern of Insight, Spellskite, and Ensnaring Bridge. But here's a secret: one of the scariest cards Lantern Control can face is Noble Hierarch, simply because it can attack past Ensnaring Bridge. Portaro no doubt has countless stories of how this seemingly lowly 0/1 was a huge thorn in the deck's neck. Luckily, this time around Portaro had Spellskite plus Inventors' Fair to cushion the damage.


Could Alessandro Portaro hold off the Noble assault?

Mines recruited Eldrazi Displacer and repeatedly tapped down Spellskite just to push a couple of damage each turn, but Portaro's second Pithing Needle pretty much downgraded Eldrazi Displacer into a useless Nessian Courser. Portaro continued reinforcing his unshakeable prison, adding a pair of Codex Shredders and a second Spellskite. Once Stony Silence was milled away, the Italian captain and coach, Mengucci, commented that they had no further solutions. A couple of turns later, Mines agreed and scooped up his bunch of Eldrazi.

Alessandro Portaro defeated David Mines 2-1.

Italy and Australia were now tied, and all attention shifted to the third and final match!

SEAT A: JAMES WILKS (DREDGE) VS. MATTIA RIZZI (INFECT)

All the Dredge deck wants to do is to dump a bunch of cards into the graveyard and score a bunch of free creatures that rise from the grave. To achieve that, Wilks kicked off Game 1 by discarding Stinkweed Imp and Life from the Loam to Cathartic Reunion, which is one of the best starts he could ask for.

However, Rizzi managed Noble Hierarch and Blighted Agent, not just one of the best but probably the best possible start in this scenario. While the Infect deck is capable of a first-turn Glistener Elf to enable a second-turn kill, having extra mana to protect Blighted Agent from Darkblast or Collective Brutality (while on the draw) might actually be a more solid beginning. In addition, Blighted Agent cannot be blocked, while Glistener Elf could be stymied by Narcomoeba, Insolent Neonate, Stinkweed Imp, or Prized Amalgam.

Naturally, Wilks is in complete understanding of these concepts and immediately pointed Darkblast at Blighted Agent, but Rizzi's Apostle's Blessing kept it alive. Untapping and adding two more Noble Hierarchs allowed Blighted Agent to attack for 4 poison damage.


James Wilks (left) and Garry Lau (right) think through a complicated board state.

If Wilks did not find a solution, he surely would be dead next turn. Dredging as much as he could, it didn't seem like he could do much, but his efforts added a couple of Narcomoebas, Bloodghasts, and Prized Amalgams on the board.

Fingers tightly crossed, Wilks passed the turn and hoped that Rizzi couldn't kill him. The odds weren't in his favor because all the Italians needed to do was to topdeck a pump spell that provided at least +2/+2. The deck was laden with such effects. Ironically, Rizzi drew into Pendelhaven and was 1 damage short! Wilks counterattacked the following turn and took Game 1.

With that, Rizzi was one game down and Italy was very close to being eliminated from the Top 8.

In Game 2 Rizzi led with Noble Hierarch on turn one and Inkmoth Nexus on turn two. Wilks attempted to kill Noble Hierarch with Collective Brutality, but it was saved by Mutagenic Growth. This enabled Rizzi to have exactly enough mana to activate Inkmoth Nexus, cast both Might of Old Krosa and Become Immense, and swing for 12 poison damage.

"You were about to have a really good turn three, it seems," Rizzi chuckled.

With both teams tied at 1-1 and both players tied at 1-1, Wilks and Rizzi were about to begin playing what would be the last game of one country's tournament. The winner of this final game would send his team to the semifinals to continue in pursuit of the title.

Wilks opened Game 3 with a pair of Insolent Neonates but didn't sacrifice them immediately. That could only mean that he didn't draw a dredge card in his hand to discard.

Rather than summon Glistener Elf on turn one, the Italians played around removal spells and ran it out on turn two instead. This prompted Wilks to cast Collective Brutality discarding a Darkblast, which was met with Spell Pierce. Rizzi attacked with Glistener Elf and Wilks was happy to trade with one of his two Insolent Neonates.

Rizzi then dropped Inkmoth Nexus and Blighted Agent on turn three and passed back to the Australians. Naturally, Wilks dredged back Darkblast and took down Blighted Agent.


Italy National Champion Andrea Mengucci (left) helps Mattia Rizzi (right) examine Wilks's graveyard.

On Rizzi's turn four, a second Inkmoth Nexus entered the battlefield. Rizzi summoned Noble Hierarch and attacked with a 2/2 Inkmoth Nexus. At this juncture, Wilks sacrificed Insolent Neonate, discarded Conflagrate and dredged back Golgari Grave-Troll, probably in an attempt to find Narcomoeba to block or Ancient Grudge such that it could be flashed back to kill Inkmoth Nexus. However, not only did this fail to find a desired card, Rizzi also exiled Wilks's entire graveyard with Ravenous Trap! To make matters worse, Rizzi pulled the trigger on Become Immense, resulting in eight poison counters landing on Wilks.

Next turn, all Rizzi had to do was to animate both his Inkmoth Nexuses and send them into the red zone—sending the Italians into the semifinals!

Mattia Rizzi defeated James Wilks 2-1.

Italy defeated Australia and advanced to the semifinals!

 

Australia, Seat A - James Wilks, Dredge

Australia, Seat B - David Mines, Bant Eldrazi

Australia, Seat C - Ryan Cubit, Blue-Red Kiln Fiend


Italy, Seat A - Mattia Rizzi, Infect

Italy, Seat B - Alessandro Portaro, Lantern Control

Italy, Seat C - Alessandro Casamenti, Ad Nauseam

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