Quarterfinals: Belgium vs. Panama

Posted in Event Coverage on November 20, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Team Belgium was having a seemingly unstoppable run all weekend. Not only did they finish Day One on top in the Swiss, they cruised through Stage 1 and Stage 2 to make it to the Top 8 as the No. 1 seed! The Belgium National Champion Peter Vieren must be very proud of his teammates, Pascal Vieren, Jerome Bastogne, and Branco Neirynck. Belgium also made the Top 8 of the 2013 World Magic Cup, and the squad will be attempt to win it for their country this time around.

In seat A, we had Bastogne with Goryo's Vengeance; in seat B was Neirynck piloting Naya Burn; and in seat C, Captain Peter Vieren himself tried to win with Infect while his brother, Pascal Vieren, acted as the coach and stood by to provide insights in time of need. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take down the entire World Magic Cup with not just friends but also family?

While Belgium was one of the most hyped teams prior to this weekend, Panama was far from being on the radar. However, under the leadership of Panama's National Champion and top pro Saul Alvarado, Sergio Bonilla, Manuel Succari, and Cesar Segovia steamrolled right into the Top 8 despite never making it through Day Two in the four previous World Magic Cups!

Additionally, this was Captain Alvarado's fourth World Magic Cup. One interesting piece of trivia was that he's only played in three Grand Prix, but made Top 8 in two of them! Bonilla and Succari were also repeat World Magic Cup Qualifier winners. Lack of opportunities to compete did not necessarily equate to inexperience, and Panama was looking to show the world they're worthy to be here.

Bonilla in seat A was playing Affinity, while Succari and Alvarado were in Seats B and C, running Blue-Red Kiln Fiend and Bant Eldrazi respectively. Segovia took the coaching role, jumping whenever his teammates require advice.

SEAT A: JEROME BASTOGNE (GORYO'S VENGEANCE) VS. SERGIO BONILLA (AFFINITY)

This was a largely uninteractive race because neither player had many cards to disrupt their opponent. Bastogne's Goryo's Vengeance deck could potentially win on turn two, but the deck was way less consistent than Bonilla's Affinity deck. On the other hand, the artifact-based deck had no chance of a turn-two kill, but had much better draws and would often deliver killing blows by turn four.

In Game 1, Bonilla quickly assembled a team of Ornithopter, Vault Skirge, and Arcbound Ravager, but Bastogne kept things in check with Anger of the Gods. After some modular moves, all that remained was a 2/4 Ornithopter. However, Bonilla empowered it slightly with Cranial Plating.


Coach Pascal Vieren (center) offered advice to Sergio Bonilla (right) in the face of Jerome Bastogne's Anger of the Gods.

Having bought himself sufficient time to set things up, Bastogne binned Borborygmos Enraged with Faithless Looting and reanimated it with Goryo's Vengeance. That enabled him to attack for 7 damage and find two lands to finish off Ornithopter. Next turn, Through the Breach and Worldspine Wurm ended things abruptly.

In Game 2, Bastogne took the first step toward victory by using Faithless Looting to get Griselbrand into the graveyard, ready for some Goryo's Vengeance shenanigans next turn. However, Bonilla stopped the combo by using Thoughtseize to take away the game-winning instant! It looked like he could win quickly with Vault Skirge and Steel Overseer already on the board.

However, discard spells are no good against what is lying at the top of your opponent's deck, and Bastogne savagely ripped a replacement Goryo's Vengeance during his next draw step!


Jerome Bastogne considered his next move against Sergio Bonilla.

After using Goryo's Vengeance to bring back Griselbrand and attacking with it, Bastogne paid 21 life to draw 21 cards. Nourishing Shoal (exiling Worldspine Wurm) gave him 15 more life, which only translates to two more activations from Griselbrand.

Pitching two Simian Spirit Guides, he generated two red mana to splice Desperate Ritual onto another Nourishing Shoal. Repeating that one more time got him to five mana for Through the Breach, which meant that Borborygmos Enraged reared its ugly head again. Naturally, Bastogne chose to discard sufficient lands to defeat Bonilla.

Jerome Bastogne defeated Sergio Bonilla 2-0.

SEAT C: PETER VIEREN (INFECT) VS. SAUL ALVARADO (BANT ELDRAZI)

With Bonilla down, the pressure was on Alvarado and Succari to both win their matches for Panama. In Game 1, Alvarado had Noble Hierarch, which allowed him to use Ancient Stirrings and cast Spellskite on turn two. That put an abrupt stop to Infect's game plan, which relied heavily on pump spells such as Become Immense and Vines of Vastwood. With only one copy each of Twisted Image and Dismember in Vieren's main deck as solutions to the annoying Spellskite, Game 1 was pretty much a lost cause.


Peter Vieren (right) and his brother Pascal (left) hoped to find a way around Saul Alvarado's Spellskite.

To makes matters worse, Vieren had been forced to mulligan a couple of times, and even passed turn one without playing a land. By the time Vieren found two lands for Blighted Agent, he was unable to race Reality Smasher.

However, in Game 2, when Alvarado started with Noble Hierarch and Eldrazi Displacer, Vieren summoned Blighted Agent. Then on turn four, Alvarado kept his mana untapped so that he could activate Eldrazi Displacer once. However, Vieren was ready with two kicked Vines of Vastwoods to prevent that, creating a 9/9 Blighted Agent. Adding in Mutagenic Growth made that a lethal attack.

With players tied at one game apiece, this match was held for us to view the match taking place in seat B.

SEAT B: BRANCO NEIRYNCK (NAYA BURN) VS. MANUEL SUCCARI (BLUE-RED KILN FIEND)

Game 1 was rather brutal for Succari—and because he was on the draw, he was suffering severely in the tempo department. Since most of Neirynck's creatures cost one mana to Succari's two mana, Succari was quickly swarmed by a pair of Goblin Guides and Wild Nacatls. He only managed to cast Serum Visions by the time he was down to 14 life.


Branco Neirynck consulted with teammates to find the right play against Manuel Succari.

A 1/2 Kiln Fiend was not the kind of defense you desired against a pair of 2/2s and a 3/3, especially not when Naya Burn could easily get it out of the way. Crashing in with all his creatures and unleashing a couple of burn spells, Neirynck put the Belgians up one game just like that.

In Game 2 Succari began with a tapped Steam Vents, not wanting to take self-inflicted damage in this matchup. Neirynck had Goblin Guide as the one-drop, while Succari offered Thing in the Ice. Declining to block, Succari went down to 16 as he watched his opponent suspend Rift Bolt and summon Wild Nacatl.

Could Succari string together four spells to transform Thing in the Ice?

Yes, he could! Manamorphose, Sleight of Hand, Lightning Bolt (on Goblin Guide), and Serum Visions made the transformation possible, and Succari hoped to win the race with his new Awoken Horror!

Rift Bolt went for the 7/8 and Neirynck hoped to draw additional burn to finish it off. Well, it was Path to Exile sitting at the top of his deck, so it wasn't all that bad. Rather than lament the "wasted" 3 damage, Neirynck was happy to get rid of the huge beat-stick. However, Succari used Vapor Snag to unsummon Wild Nacatl and counterattack with a 2/3 Monastery Swiftspear. Neirynck tried to kill the Swiftspear with Lightning Bolt, but Dispel protected it.

At 1 life, Neirynck attacked with Wild Nacatl, which Succari blocked with Thing in the Ice. Searing Blaze finished it off, and Lightning Helix was directed at Monastery Swiftspear. Down to the final card in his hand, Succari made the painful decision to save Monastery Swiftspear with Mutagenic Growth—a card that could have won him the game on the next turn.

However, he topdecked another copy the following turn for exactly lethal damage!


Manuel Succari never let the pressure dampen his sense of humor.

It was all down to Game 3, and both teams were sitting at the edges of their seats. Would Team Panama be able to stop the seemingly unstoppable Team Belgium? Well, they were certainly going to try! Succari killed both of Neirynck's Eidolon of the Great Revels with a pair of Lightning Bolts, but was left vulnerable to Grim Lavamancer. However, he had Young Pyromancer and a single Elemental token on the board with the promise of more to come.

Neirynck wasn't about to let the Pyromancer keep churning out tokens, so he toasted it with Searing Blaze. This put the life totals at 16 and 10 in Neirynck's favor. An end-of-turn Grim Lavamancer activation took the Panamanian player down to 8 life, and Rift Bolt cast from suspension lowered that to 5. Atarka's Command made it 2, and the final activation from Grim Lavamancer prompted Succari to extend a congratulatory fist bump.

Branco Neirynck defeated Manuel Succari 2-1.

"Congrats guys, good luck in the Top 4." The sporting Panamanians wished their opponents the very best as they exited the biggest staged they had ever been on, happy with their performance regardless. At the very least, you'll see four Panamanian players at Pro Tour Aether Revolt in the Spring!

Team Belgium defeated Team Panama and advanced to the semifinals!

Belgium, Seat A - Jerome Bastogne, Goryo's Vengeance

Belgium, Seat B - Branco Neirynck, Naya Burn

Belgium, Seat C - Peter Vieren, Infect

Panama, Seat A - Sergio Bonilla, Affinity

Panama, Seat B - Manuel Succari, Blue-Red Kiln Fiend

Panama, Seat C - Saul Alvarado, Bant Eldrazi

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