The World Magic Cup is the most prestigious of all team events on the Organized Play schedule, and France is one of four countries to have won the World Magic Cup during the event's four-year history. The French team this year is also one of three teams to feature a player who has won the World Magic Cup—and that player for France is none other than the legendary Raphaël Lévy, who is approaching 700 lifetime Pro Points. It wasn't that long ago, considering that the memorable victory took place in 2013, but Lévy admits that it has been too long. The Hall of Famer is always hungering for more action and can't stand to be away for even a moment.
"The Pro Point races for the past couple of years have been very tight," said Lévy. "For example, last season, Pierre Dagen scored the exact same number of Pro Points as me and he won the National Champion race because he had a better finish at the Pro Tour. It was that close. And this year at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, I did well enough to jump past him. Two years away from the World Magic Cup is definitely a long absence and I am definitely happy to be back."
Raphaël Lévy, 2016 France National Champion
Absence does make the heart grow fonder, especially for someone who loves Magic with every fiber of his heart and soul. It was also kind of a calling for Lévy to have secured the title of National Champion this year to return to Dutch soil as the team captain. Team France captured their title in Amsterdam in 2013, so it is an auspicious omen for the French that the 2016 World Magic Cup is taking place in Rotterdam this weekend.
Jérémy Dezani: 2014 France National Champion, Pro Tour Theros Champion, and one of this year's WMCQ winners.
Between Lévy and Pro Tour Theros Champion Jérémy Dezani, France is led by a pair of household names and heavyweights—but Kevin Sauvageon and Guillaume Perbet are also pulling their weight. Sauvageon is a repeat World Magic Cup Qualifier winner, and gosh, it is really not easy to win one not to mention two of those in a community as large as France's. This is Sauvageon's second trip to the World Magic Cup, the first time being in 2014 alongside Dezani. Perbet is also a seasoned grinder and has participated in six Pro Tours and over 50 Grand Prix, meaning that he has had experience playing under the pressures of high-level premier events.
How did they feel about being led by Raphaël Lévy, who is a Hall of Famer, World Magic Cup winner, and the best player France has ever seen? Sauvageon was quick to comment that "Raph is a very charismatic leader and it is an honor to work with him." Perbet also expressed similar sentiments short and simply: "There is no doubt that Raph is the best team captain that we could have." This prompted the sweet-mannered Lévy to go "Awww."
As the 2014 France National Champion, Dezani had also led Team France at the 2014 World Magic Cup—and even if his team didn't do as well as Lévy's, the two are determined to join forces and attempt to be the first nation claim the World Magic Cup twice.
"Are we confident about our deck choices in Modern? Yes, I feel pretty good about our chances and I'm sure that Sauvageon and Perbet will agree. We've been practicing so much Modern and they're excellent Modern players to begin with."
Lévy added, "Before this week, we had been practicing hard and we spent the last week putting it all together. I believe whatever deck configuration we bring to the tables today will be within our expectations."
What about Team Limited? Did Team France have a lot of practice? Wait, didn't Lévy and Dezani make the Top 4 alongside Tomoharu Saito last week at Grand Prix Rotterdam? Oh yes, they did.
"Team Happy" at Grand Prix Rotterdam 2016. From left to right: Tomoharu Saito, Raphaël Lévy, and Jérémy Dezani
"Well," Perbet said, "we did get some practice in last weekend, but of course we didn't do as well as Lévy and Dezani. We were playing on different teams but the point was to get ourselves familiarized with key archetypes and interactions. We did practice when we met up in our team house this week, and we feel very comfortable about our processes."
Dezani was quick to point out that their success was all due to Lévy. "To be honest, in terms of Kaladesh Team Sealed, I don't think I know what is going on as much as Lévy does. I'm just going to leave it all up to him and focus on Modern. It's Raph, we can put our faith in his knowledge."
Indeed, your success is often determined by how much you can learn from your past, and with the wealth of experience behind these tenured pros, all eyes are on France to do wonders this weekend in Rotterdam. What are some lessons from the past they wish to apply to today?
"Three years ago," said Lévy, "we had a strategy which worked out pretty well and it is something that we will be adopting this year as well. Even though this is a team event, we're trying not to interact with each other too much. I know it is counterintuitive, but I have learned that in team events such as the World Magic Cup, I don't believe that one plus one equals two or three. I think that one plus one equals less than one. A classic case of too many cooks spoil the broth. If someone else helps you play your game or helps you to make a judgment on a game which they weren't paying attention on, the team is eventually going to end up making more misplays. Having someone over your shoulders all the time is also not very comfortable."
"I guess what Raph is trying to say is that we should believe in one other and only jump in in very critical situations," Dezani added. "The team is in full understanding and we're making sure to enforce this strategy such that each and every one of us can focus on our own games rather than have someone play them for us. If there is anything I learned from the previous World Magic Cup, it is to trust your teammates."
When posed a question of whom they'd most like to face should they reach the finals, Lévy wished to point out that they owe Hungary a rematch. "In the finals of 2013, it was down to the deciding turn and they were about the win the Jund mirror. We were so behind and we were most likely going to lose the next turn. However, Timothee Simonot topdecked the infamous Rakdos's Return to steal the title from under their noses. Now that France is one of four nations to have won the World Magic Cup, if the occasion arises again I'd like to play the finals against Hungary."
This is perhaps the fondest memory for the French from the 2013 World Magic Cup.
Dezani added that "It doesn't matter who we play in the finals, but it probably feels better to play against a good friend in the finals. Not only will it be a great match, it will also be a great story and bonding moment for life."
Team France 2016 (from left to right: Jérémy Dezani, Raphaël Lévy, Kevin Sauvageon, and Guillaume Perbet)
If you want to achieve something you've never accomplished, you'll have to do something you've never done. Passion will move players beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings and beyond their previous successes and failure. This weekend, the French team will attempt to take down the World Magic Cup to the best of their abilities. If they do, they'll cement themselves as the first repeat victor in the World Magic Cup, as well as one of the greatest nations in history to have ever played Magic.