Round 5: Belgium vs. Chinese Taipei

Posted in Event Coverage on November 18, 2016

By Frank Karsten

In Round 5, Belgium and Chinese Taipei squared off, with both teams on 4-0 records. Four wins would likely already be enough to advance to the Saturday competition, but the teams were still competing for a Top 16 finish at the end of Day One, which would essentially grant a bye on Day Two.

Team Chinese Taipei

Chinese Taipei won the very first World Magic Cup, held in Indianapolis in 2012, and they have been consistent ever since. This year, their team was led by Huang Hao-Shan, a vastly experienced player who has played at many Pro Tours and who has six Grand Prix Top 8s to his name. Their line-up for Modern was Bogles, Jund, and Infect. "We had been playtesting with [the teams from] Hong King, New Zealand, and Singapore, and originally we were going to play Dredge, Infect, and something else," Huang Hao-Shan told me.

"But in the end, we figured that our players were not as familiar with Dredge. It's difficult to play, especially after sideboarding. So instead my teammates are playing the decks they are most comfortable with." The only problem with their configuration was that they were playing three green decks, which meant that they had to compromise with their fetch lands—but they were happy with their matchups against Infect, the most popular deck today. "Abzan is decent against Infect, and our Bogles deck has 4 Melira, Sylvok Outcast in the sideboard for that matchup."

Team Belgium

Team Belgium had a great team composition as well, as their team featured three players with plenty of experience at high-level events, including Grand Prix Top 8s. They were the Vieren brothers, Peter and Pascal, and last year's captain Branco Neirynck. Coincidentally, earlier this year the trio had agreed to play Grand Prix Rotterdam together. When they all qualified for the World Magic Cup, they took it as a sign of good things to come. The fourth member is Jérôme Bastogne, who had been playing the Goryo's Vengeance deck known as Grishoalbrand for a long time and was praised for his proficiency with the deck. "Jérôme was definitely playing his deck," Peter Vieren said. " We just had to find two other decks."

"We really wanted Infect, which left Abzan as the obvious choice for the third deck, but I didn't want to play that deck," Branco Neirynck told me. He preferred Naya Burn, and that was that. "We were not trying to metagame because it's Modern—you can do whatever you want."

Seat B: Huang Yung-Ming (Jund) vs. Branco Neirynck (Naya Burn)

In Game 1, Neirynck had a good start with Wild Nacatl and Goblin Guide, which meant that he got to deal a lot of early damage despite only having one land and losing one of his creatures to a Lightning Bolt. Fortunately for Neirynck, he soon found a Sacred Foundry, allowing him to use Atarka's Command, Rift Bolt, Lightning Bolt, and Boros Charm to send Huang into the negatives quickly.

Huang Yung-Ming (left) faces off against Branco Neirynck.

In Game 2, Neirynck kept a hand with Monastery Swiftspear as his only creature, and it was immediately discarded by Inquisition of Kozilek. When his first draw step yielded a new Monastery Swiftspear, it elicited a chuckle from well as a Terminate. Several turns later, Neirynck had no repetitive damage source on the battlefield—only a Lightning Bolt and Searing Blaze spells in hand—and Huang was still sitting at a reasonably comfortable 10 life. Facing a Tarmogoyf, Neirynck then had a choice to make: kill the Tarmogoyf or point both burn spells at Huang. Neirynck went for the first option, hoping to gain enough time to draw the burn spells, but it was not enough. Huang had Scavenging Ooze on the next turn; he gained several points of life and put himself out of range.

In Game 3, Neirynck had an amazing start with Wild Nacatl on turn one and Goblin Guide plus Path to Exile (on Huang's Tarmogoyf) on turn two. And that was through an Inquisition of Kozilek! Huang was already down to 13 life at the end of his second turn, and Neirynck still had Boros Charm and two Lightning Bolts in hand at that point. Huang stood no chance.

Branco Neirynck defeated Huang Yung-Ming 2-1.

Seat C: Huang Hao-Shan (Infect) vs. Peter Vieren (Infect)

This was the match where both coaches had set up their chairs. Feng Ren was sitting beside Huang Hao-Shan, while Pascal Vieren was giving advice to his brother and team captain, Peter. "We always have fierce discussions with each other with very direct communication, but that doesn't bother us," the brothers told me after the match. "Since we're brothers, we can clearly tell each other, without worrying about personal feelings, that a certain line of play is just really bad."

In Game 1, Vieren won the die roll and had two Noble Hierarchs and a Blighted Agent on the battlefield by turn two. His hand was way faster than Huang's, and he dished out 10 poison counters quickly.

Pascal Vieren (back left) serves as moral support as his brother Peter (right) reveals his hand to Huang Hao-Shan.

In Game 2, both players had Gitaxian Probe on turn one, giving everyone full information. Vieren had kept Noble Hierarch, two Gitaxian Probes, Twisted Image, Glistener Elf, Pendelhaven, and Forest. So he had an answer to Spellskite and Noble Hierarch, but he lacked pump spells. Huang, in turn, revealed that he had Breeding Pool, Pendelhaven, Blighted Agent, Mutagenic Growth, two Vines of Vastwood, and Become Immense—a more explosive hand that could easily win on turn four with a boosted unblockable infect creature. The third turn featured an interesting stack: when Vieren tried to save his Noble Hierarch from Twisted Image with Blossoming Defense, Huang tried to counter the Blossoming Defense with Vines of Vastwood (yes, that works). But it ultimately didn't matter: Become Immense made Huang's Blighted Agent lethal on the next attack.

With this Infect mirror tied at one game apiece, the match was held to ensure that all deciding games could be shown on camera.

Han Chin Yao (Bogles) vs. Jérôme Bastogne (Goryo's Vengeance)

In Game 1, Han was on the play and had Slippery Bogle on turn one and Ethereal Armor on turn two. Unwilling to give his opponent an opportunity to deploy Daybreak Coronet, Bastogne cast Desperate Ritual and Anger of the Gods on his second turn to clean up. Han didn't immediately have a new creature, giving Bastogne a window to play card draw spells, but it wasn't long until Dryad Arbor appeared, carrying Rancor and Daybreak Coronet. Bastogne fought back by sneaking Worldspine Wurm into play via Through the Breach, but he was still facing a 9/7 trampling first strike lifelink creature. When Bastogne blocked, Han had Path to Exile to ensure that enough trample damage would come through.

Jérôme Bastogne (left) battles Han Chin Yao to potentially seal the win for Belgium.

In Game 2, Han had a Slippery Bogle, which he promptly enchanted with Hyena Umbra. Anger of the Gods traded for the enchantment, and then Ethereal Armor and Daybreak Coronet came down. It didn't look good for Bastogne, but as it turned out, he had the perfect answer: Engineered Explosives for one took care of the hexproof creature and all the auras piled on top of it. Several turns later, Griselbrand entered the battlefield, and Bastogne executed the combo that his deck was designed to do. First, he used Nourishing Shoal, exiling Worldspine Wurm, to gain a ton of life. This allowed him to draw a great number of cards with Griselbrand. Then, he used multiple Simian Spirit Guides and a Desperate Ritual to splice Through the Breach onto Nourishing Shoal. Borborygmos Enraged entered the battlefield, and Bastogne finally discarded seven lands for the win.

In Game 3, Han started with Slippery Bogle, along with Hyena Umbra and Rancor to boost it, and a Tormod's Crypt to counter a potential Goryo's Vengeance. Between a fast, resilient clock and disruption, it was a good opening hand, but Han lacked a follow-up on turn three—he just had more lands. Bastogne, a bit scared of Path to Exile, consulted with his teammates, and the Belgian team collectively decided to go for it: he exiled two Simian Spirit Guides, cast Through the Breach, got a Worldspine Wurm, and attacked for 15. Han did not have Path to Exile and his Tormod's Crypt was useless. Three 5/5 Wurms joined the party at the end of the turn, and that was enough to take the match.

Jérôme Bastogne defeated Han Chin Yao 1-2.

Since Bastogne and Neirynck won their sets, Belgium won the overall match. Peter Vieren and Hao Huang-Shan didn't even have to finish their third game.

Belgium defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 to improve to 5-0!

"So we're going to sing the national anthem now?" Pascal Vieren asked his team after the match, fully realizing that they were in a great spot to clinch a Top 16 spot!

Pascal Vieren's Infect

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Jérôme Bastogne's Goryo's Vengeance

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Branco Neirynck's Naya Burn

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Huang Hao-Shan's Infect

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Huang Yung-Ming's Jund

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Han Chin Yao's Bogles

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