Stage 2, Round 1: Belgium vs. Spain

Posted in Event Coverage on November 19, 2016

By Frank Karsten

By now, we were down to the Top 16 teams, split across four pools. Pool A featured Belgium, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, and Spain. Out of those four, only two teams could advance to the Top 8 on Sunday. This would require two wins out of the three rounds in this second pool.

In the feature match for this round, Belgium faced off against Spain. Belgium had dominated the tournament so far: they were undefeated overnight, and they featured the vastly experienced trio of Peter Vieren, Pascal Vieren, and Branco Neirynck. Spain had barely made it into the second day of competition, but they had held on since then, and they were captained by Javier Dominguez, who was in his second World Magic Cup.

In terms of decks, both teams had chosen to play Infect, Naya Burn, and one deck that one of their teammates was greatly experienced with. For Belgium, that was the Goryo's Vengeance deck known as Grishoalbrand, which Jerome Bastogne had been playing for ages. For Spain, it was Dredge, which Miguel Ángel Nunez Reyes had been playing even before it was good. When I asked Dominguez why they chose Infect and Naya Burn, he explained that Infect was the deck he usually played on Magic Online and that they felt Naya Burn would be good against the expected metagame of Infect, Dredge, and not a whole lot of interactive decks.

Seat C: Peter Vieren (Infect) vs. Miguel Ángel Nunez Reyes (Dredge)

For Modern, it has been said mulligans constitute the early game; turn one represents the midgame; and turns three and four are the late game. Evaluating Game 1 under that framework, the early game was that Vieren kept Pendelhaven, Windswept Heath, Inkmoth Nexus, Noble Hierarch, Blighted Agent, Might of Old Krosa, and Distortion Strike, while Nunez Reyes kept Mountain, three Insolent Neonates, Faithless Looting, Stinkweed Imp, and Golgari Grave-Troll. It was a good hand for both players, but Vieren was on the play. Afterward, the midgame was Noble Hierarch for Vieren and Faithless Looting for Nunez Reyes on turn one, and the late game was the turn-three Infect kill. We were done quickly.


Peter Vieren (left) and Pascal Vieren contemplate a line of play under the bright lights of the feature match area.

In Game 2, Nunez Reyes had to mulligan down to four cards. Even worse, he was on the receiving end of a crippling three-for-one when his Cathartic Reunion was countered. Vieren had cleverly kept Spell Pierce mana up instead of playing Glistener Elf on turn one, and it meant that Nunez Reyes was in really rough shape. Sure, he had discarded Stinkweed Imp and hit Narcomoeba and Prized Amalgam when he dredged his top five cards, but that wasn't good enough. Peter Vieren, under no pressure, attacked for lethal with Blighted Agent on turn five, followed by a heated, yet largely irrelevant discussion with his coach and brother Pascal Vieren on how they could have played around a potential Slaughter Pact or Gut Shot.

Peter Vieren defeated Miguel Ángel Nunez Reyes 2-0.

Seat A: Jerome Bastogne (Goryo's Vengeance) vs. Pedro Grati (Naya Burn)

In Game 1, Grati lost the die roll but he still had the first play in Monastery Swiftspear. Meanwhile, Bastogne discarded Griselbrand to Faithless Looting, and it put the fear into Grati. The Spanish player, coached by Ricardo Diaz Rojo, had several options on his second turn: he could play an Eidolon of the Great Revel to develop his board, he could play two Lightning Bolts to maximize his damage output, or he could keep mana up for either Atarka's Command or Boros Charm.


 Pedro Grati (right) takes advice from coach Ricardo Diaz Rojo (left).

He chose the latter line, which made sense because Atarka's Command could deny the life gain from a potential Griselbrand or Nourishing Shoal. If Bastogne had Goryo's Vengeance, then that would be incredibly important. Bastogne, however, had a different plan. With Grati at 14 life due to his mana base, Bastogne combined Simian Spirit Guide, Through the Breach, and Worldspine Wurm to assemble a 15/15 creature with haste on turn four, which was enough to win the game out of nowhere.

 

The match was held to ensure that all deciding games could be shown on camera, so we hopped over to seat B.

Seat B: Branco Neirynck (Naya Burn) vs. Javier Dominguez (Infect)

When the players took their decks from their boxes prior to Game 1, Dominguez accidentally revealed a Spell Pierce from his sideboard. After getting confirmation from the judges that there was no rule preventing him from sharing that information with his teammates, Neirynck told his teammates "I saw Spell Pierce in his sideboard, so he's probably playing Infect." He was correct.

In Game 1, Dominguez had to mulligan down to five and didn't have a great hand. Neirynck, meanwhile, had a Goblin Guide on turn one and another copy on turn two. He lost one to Dismember, but the end result was that Dominguez was down to 12 life by turn two. That's not a good sign against a burn deck. With Lightning Bolt and Searing Blaze still in hand, Neirynck easily took the game.

In Game 2, Dominguez mulliganed down to six and kept a one-lander, but at least he had Glistener Elf on turn one. Neirynck trumped that with Grim Lavamancer on his first turn, which could repeatedly mow down the tiny creatures from the Infect deck. Dominguez grimaced and informed his teammates of his predicament: "Erm...Lavamancer, amigos!"

Taking the role of the control player, Neirynck used Grim Lavamancer in his main phase to take down Glistener Elf so as to not give Dominguez an opportunity to play a lucrative Blossoming Defense in response. Suddenly Dominguez was on the back foot.


The bright lights of the feature match area could not dampen Branco Neirynck's good spirits.

He did have a surprise Tarmogoyf from the sideboard, which was big enough to survive Lavamancer hits, but Neirynck had Path to Exile as an answer. The next line of defense that Dominguez had against Grim Lavamancer was Pendelhaven. It helped save his fragile creatures when timed correctly, and we at last had a game on our hands.

Several turns later, Neirynck (with six poison counters) had two Eidolon of the Great Revel and Grim Lavamancer in play along with one card in the graveyard and a fetch land in hand. Dominguez (at 5 life) had just attacked with Inkmoth Nexus and had Glistener Elf and Pendelhaven untapped. While the Belgian team was conferring in Dutch and discussing how to maximize their chances—"Hij gaat dan naar 3; ja dat is het beste!"—Dominguez took the opportunity to wave the Spanish flag on camera, to the amusement of the people watching the match live. Eventually, the Belgian team swung with both Eidolons, Dominguez blocked, and Grim Lavamancer took down the Glistener Elf in response.


The result was that Dominguez faced two Eidolon of the Great Revels at 3 life with an Inkmoth Nexus as his only creature. He was not able to cast any cheap pump spells, but there was still one out in his deck: Become Immense. He excitedly drew his card for the turn but did not find the desired card on top. Neirynck did not forget his Eidolon of the Great Revel triggers when Dominguez sheepishly cast a Mutagenic Growth.

 
Branco Neirynck and Javier Dominguez shake hands after a well-fought match.

Branco Neirynck defeated Javier Dominguez 2-0.

Team Belgium defeated Team Spain 2-0!

Belgium defeated Spain in convincing fashion: a 5-0 sweep in games. Belgium now only needed one more win to advance to the Top 8, while Spain could not afford another loss.

Pascal Vieren's Infect

Jerome Bastogne's Goryo's Vengeance

Branco Neirynck's Naya Burn

Javier Dominguez's Infect

Pedro Grati's Naya Burn

Miguel Angel Nunez's Dredge

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