Quarterfinals: Greece vs. Ukraine

Posted in Event Coverage on November 20, 2016

By Frank Karsten

In the battle of nations, this was a tale of two cities. On one side, all four of the players hailed from the Greek capital of Athens, while three of the Ukrainians listed their hometown as the capital of Kiev and the fourth from nearby Vyshneve.

The Teams

The Greek team was captained by Bill Chronopoulos, a member of the Greek team that finished in second place at the 2014 World Magic Cup. For him, a win today would mean inching closer to the near success achieved two years ago. His teammates were Panagiotis Papadopoulos, playing in his third World Magic Cup, and relative newcomers Petros Tziotis and Nikolaos Kaponis (who took the rolling chair as the coach).

Ukraine had never broken through to a World Magic Cup Top 8 until this weekend. Their captain, Sergiy Sushalskyy, was the most experienced player on the team, with three Grand Prix Top 8s to his name. Iurii Babych returned for his second World Magic Cup, and Sorozhinsky Bogdan (their coach for the Top 8) and Artem Fedorchenko rounded out the Ukrainian team.

The Decks

In terms of Unified Modern deck configurations, the Greek team had opted for Dredge, Abzan, and Infect—one of the most popular choices across teams here at the World Magic Cup, and a well-performing one at that. Dredge and Infect are capable of turn-three kills, and Abzan complements the two as an interactive deck with little to no overlap.

Ukraine, on the other side of the table, had chosen TitanBreach, Bant Eldrazi, and Merfolk. This meant that, somewhat unusually, they did not have Inkmoth Nexus, Gitaxian Probe, or Mox Opal in any of their decks. However, their Merfolk deck did not take away any fetch lands or shock lands from their other two decks.

Seat C: Panagiotis Papadopoulos (Infect) vs. Artem Fedorchenko (Merfolk)

In this matchup, the Infect player would be trying to assemble the "combo" of an infect creature and a dizzying array of pump spells as quickly as possible. The Merfolk player would rely on Vapor Snag and Harbinger of Tides for interaction.

Game 1 started with 1/1 blue creatures on both sides of the board, but Papadopoulos's Blighted Agent was a lot scarier than Fedorchenko's Cursecatcher. Fedorchenko copied Cursecatcher with Phantasmal Image in an attempt to counter some of the pump spells, but Papadopoulos simply accepted it as a double Stone Rain. Leaving Inkmoth Nexus and Breeding Pool untapped to pay for any Cursecatcher sacrifices, Papadopoulos boosted his Blighted Agent with Might of Old Krosa on turn three and Become Immense on turn four, which yielded more than enough poison damage to win the game.

In Game 2, Fedorchenko kept a hand with Mutavault and Aether Vial but no Islands. This meant that he would be able to deploy his Merfolk creatures, but he would not be able to cast any Dispel or Vapor Snag. Realizing that he only had to play around Harbinger of the Tides, Papadopoulos didn't waste any time. On his third main phase, he boosted his Blighted Agent with Blossoming Defense when Harbinger of the Tides couldn't bounce it yet. He then turned his hexproof infect creature sideways, cast Mutagenic Growth and Become Immense, and won the match with a turn-three kill.

Artem Fedorchenko (right) congratulates Panagiotis Papadopoulos (left) on a well-deserved win.

Panagiotis Papadopoulos defeated Artem Fedorchenko 2-0.

Seat A: Bill Chronopoulos (Dredge) vs. Sergiy Sushalskyy (TitanBreach)

This matchup was largely a race between two decks with little interaction except for Sushalskyy's Anger of the Gods. That exiling sweeper could prevent creatures like Prized Amalgam from returning, which could give the TitanBreach a small edge.

In Game 1, Chronopoulos won the die roll and discarded Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll to a turn-one Faithless Looting—not a bad start. He followed it up with Burning Inquiry, dredging almost half his deck. At the end of his second turn, he had two Narcomoebas and two Prized Amalgams on the battlefield. Then, on turn three, he brought back two Bloodghasts as well as a Scourge Devil and attacked for lethal. Sushalskyy, who had merely suspended two Search for Tomorrows in the meantime, could do nothing but pick up his cards and shuffle for the next game.

Sergiy Sushalskyy (right) stares down Bill Chronopoulos's (left) growing board state.

Game 2 started off looking like a repeat of the first game, as Chronopoulos once again had Faithless Looting on turn one, albeit on the draw this time. He discarded two copies of Golgari Grave-Troll, and his first dredge was near perfect, hitting two Narcomoebas and two Bloodghasts. Chronopoulos then played Arid Mesa as his second land and deliberately chose not to get back Bloodghast—it's a "may" ability—to play around Anger of the Gods. Only at the end of Sushalskyy's turn did Chronopoulos crack his fetch land to reanimate the 2/1s. A third-turn Cathartic Reunion allowed him to dredge a large portion of his library, including a Narcomoeba and two Prized Amalgams, but once again Chronopoulos chose not to put return any creatures from his graveyard onto the battlefield—a Narcomoeba this time, which is also a "may" ability—because he didn't want to trigger his Prized Amalgams and risk losing them to a potential Anger of the Gods.

Conservatively playing around Anger of the Gods may have been the correct line, because there was a 53% probability that Sushalskyy would have at least one of his four Anger of the Gods in his top ten cards, but Chronopoulos's clock was one turn slower as a result. And that single turn made all the difference. It gave Sushalskyy, who wasn't even holding Anger of the Gods, a window to draw Through the Breach, which allowed him to win out of nowhere: Primeval Titan came down and attacked, fetched two Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles and two Mountains, and that was enough damage to win the game.

With their match tied at one game apiece, Game 3 was held to ensure all deciding games could be shown on camera.

Seat B: Petros Tziotis (Abzan) vs. Iurii Babych (Bant Eldrazi)

This matchup is traditionally a fairly close one. A deciding factor would be how many Eldrazi Temples would be lurking on the top of Babych's deck, as that powerful lands could help him cast Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, or Drowner of Hope well ahead of time.

At the beginning of Game 1, Tziotis used Inquisition of Kozilek and Abrupt Decay to take out Babych's key cards. Soon enough, Tziotis had assembled a strong board presence with Scavenging Ooze, Tarmogoyf, and Lingering Souls tokens, while Babych merely had an Eldrazi Displacer and a Noble Hierarch in play. Babych held on for dear life by repeatedly activating the blink ability, giving him some time to hopefully draw a Drowner of Hope that could get him out of this predicament, but he merely drew lands and kept taking damage. Eventually, a Siege Rhino sealed the deal for Tziotis.

In Game 2, Babych reluctantly kept a slow six-card hand with no colorless mana: Breeding Pool, two Noble Hierarchs, two Thought-Knot Seers, and a Matter Reshaper. A Yavimaya Coast and a Cavern of Souls on top of his deck definitely helped, but Tziotis pointed all of his efforts at disrupting Babych's mana development, with Abrupt Decay and Liliana, the Last Hope taking out both Noble Hierarchs.

Both teams crowded around Petros Tzoitis (left) and Iurii Babych (right) as they played to stay alive in the tournament.

Next up was Siege Rhino, which towered over Babych's board of Matter Reshaper and Eldrazi Displacer. Babych went for a rather painful blink to tap Siege Rhino and deal with Liliana, but he got far behind on life totals in the process. Lingering Souls improved Tziotis' board further, and when Babych did not find Engineered Explosives on top of his deck, the Ukrainian team accepted their defeat and collectively extended their hands.

Petros Tziotis defeated Iurii Babych 2-0.

Greece defeated Ukraine and advanced to the semifinals!

Ukraine went home with a quarterfinal exit, but it was still a new best for their country, and all four team members earned a Pro Tour qualification with their finish.

Greece kept alive their dream of improving upon their second-place finish from 2014, and their quarterfinal victory earned a round of high-fives among the Greek team members.

Greece, Seat A - Bill Chronopoulos, Dredge

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Greece, Seat B - Petros Tziotis, Abzan

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Greece, Seat C - Panagiotis Papadopoulos, Infect

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Ukraine, Seat A - Sergiy Sushalskyy, TitanBreach

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Ukraine, Seat B - Petros Tziotis, Bant Eldrazi

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Ukraine, Seat C - Artem Fedorchenko, Merfolk

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