English Nationals Day 1 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on September 16, 2017

By Craig Jones

390 players made their way to The Roundhouse in Derby to battle it out for a place on Team England at the World Magic Cup. The Roundhouse is aptly named – The main hall is round. The tables were laid out like the spokes of a wheel rather than in rows. A subtle foreshadowing of Ixalan, perhaps?

We still have to wait a couple of weeks for the dinosaurs and pirates of Ixalan. The battleground for the English Nationals was 12 rounds split between Standard and AKH/HOU Booster Draft. Seven of those rounds were played today and here are some of the highlights.

The Players to Watch

It's an unfortunate truth that England (and Britain) have often been chronic underachievers on the world Magic stage. We've had moments (sometimes quite awesome moments), but a lack of players with the sustained pro careers necessary for Hall of Fame recognition. But, as with everything, success has to start somewhere, and winning a Nationals tournament might just be that first stepping stone to greater success.

The following players all racked up enough Planeswalker Points to earn a first round bye at this year's Nationals and that level of dedication and application made them worth keeping an eye on for this tournament.

  • James Allingham
  • Chris Arlow
  • Steve Bains
  • Andrew Beavan
  • Matt Brown
  • George Burrow
  • Richard Carr
  • Rob Catton
  • George Channing
  • Henry Channing
  • Joao Choca
  • Charles Eliatamby
  • Matthew Foulkes
  • Francesco Giorgio
  • Tom Law
  • Nick Lote
  • Niels Molle
  • Kayure Patel
  • Zak Pearson
  • Michaael Pike
  • Charles Russett
  • Usama Sajjad
  • Chris Vincent
  • Haokang Wang
  • Peter Ward
  • Nick Waugh
  • Raoul Zimmermann

Of those, Niels Molle will be the most recognizable. He was runner-up at GP Warsaw last year and – after achieving Gold level – will be the captain representing Team England at the 2017 World Magic Cup. Francesco Giorgio is a Silver Pro with experience on the national team. Joao Choca, Charles Eliatambly, Tom Law, Kayure Patel and Peter Ward are all beneficiaries of the new Bronze level.

Nationals wouldn't be Nationals if it didn't feature some names from the past returning to flex their Magic skills. PT Prague 2006 quarterfinalist Quentin Martin was here. As was Matteo Orsini-Jones, the unfortunate recipient of the Cruelest Ultimatum back at PT Kyoto 2009. And of course, Craig Stevenson would be keen to defend what is technically still his title, being the last person to win an English Nationals way back in 2006.

The One-Bye Metagame

With Ixalan about to hit the stores in a couple of weeks, English Nationals marked one of the last major tournaments for the current Standard format. After the chaos of Emrakuls, Smuggler's Copters and similar powerful cards running amok over the past year, the Standard format has settled into a fairly diverse metagame. I took a look at what the more recognized players picked as their weapons of choice this weekend and it continued the diversity witnessed at recent Grand Prix.

Deck #
4-Color Energy 6
Mardu Vehicles 5
Jeskai God-Pharaoh's Gift 3
Mono Black Zombies 3
Blue-Black Control 2
Mono White Eldrazi 2
Ramunap Red 2
Approach of the Second Sun 1
Green-White Ramp 1
Mardu Aggro 1
Temur Energy 1

Old vs. New

Before the tournament I asked what rivalries (friendly, of course) might be present amongst the English contingent at Nationals. Quentin Martin mentioned Old vs. New. That clash is always a perennial favorite, with young blood coming along to displace the old. Magic usually adds a twist, because it's usually the good players of the past coming back to displace the established order.

In Pod 8 of the first draft I saw that exact clash.

In the Old corner we had Quentin Martin. Martin was one of the best British players about a decade ago, with the highlight of his playing career being a PT Top 8 in Prague in 2006.

In the New corner we had Team Axion Now, represented in this draft by Francesco Giorgio, Kayure Patel and Raoul Zimmermann. Axion is one of the top British teams at the moment. They're regular competitors on the European Grand Prix and regularly send members to the Pro Tour. Giorgio is the highest level pro here after Niels Molle and made the National team in 2014. Both Zimmermann and Patel were on the National team in 2015. Patel also has a Grand Prix title under his belt (Bologna 2016).

On paper, Pod 8 looked pretty juicy.

Martin wasn't to be intimidated as he took down first Giorgio in a Round 4 feature match. He followed up with the scalp of Patel in Round 5. That left just Raoul Zimmermann to stop the marauding former pro from clean-sweeping the team.

In a hard-fought clash, Martin finally prevailed as his Mighty Leap trumped Zimmermann's Sandblast on his externalized Sinuous Striker. That left Martin with a 3-0 sweep of the pod and an undefeated 5-0-1 record at the halfway point.

  • Mighty Leap
  • Sinuous Striker
  • Sandblast

Unfortunately for Martin, his domination of Team Axion Now was ended the following round by this man:

The Captain of Team England

One player who didn't need to sweat a place on the English World Magic Cup Team this weekend was Niels Molle. The Gold Pro had already locked up his place as team captain. That didn't mean he had nothing to play for. There was still the carrot of National Champion and the extra 3 Pro Points it gives to entice him into a good performance this weekend.

Niels Molle

Molle is formerly from the Netherlands. He spent four years in Ireland and has spent the past two years working as an IT consultant in London. He told me he used to play the old Extended format a lot back in the Netherlands, but it was only when he moved to Ireland he started to get more competitive.

The battle for English Team Captain had a few twists and turns. For a long time the favorite to take the slot was Samuel Tharmaratnam. Molle needed an 11-5 finish at PT Hour of Devastation to take the slot and even then it went right to a 4th tiebreaker – Molle's runner-up finish at GP Warsaw outranking Tharmaratnam's quarterfinal finish at GP Vegas.

Molle accumulated his Pro Points the hard way. He had to qualify separately for each of the last four Pro Tours. Two of those qualifications came from RPTQs (including a trip to Poland) and the other two from that runner-up finish in Warsaw and a previous Grand Prix Top 8 in Prague last year. All that hard work paid off as it enabled Molle to lock up Gold status and he will be representing Team England as captain at the World Magic Cup.

If you thought that meant he'd ease up, well...

The 7-0 Players

From those initial 390 players, just four were left with perfect 7-0 records at the end of the first day. Let's meet them. And yes, you guessed it, one of them was:

Name: Niels Molle

Age: 30

When did you start playing Magic?


Where is your Local Game Store?

Staines (The Missing Geek).

Are you part of a team?

Team Axion Now.

Have you played Nationals before? If so, how many have you played and what was your best finish?

Played 2. Horrible.

What is your favorite draft archetype in this format?

U/R Spells, Green Ramp, White Aggro.

Name: Ross Broxup

Age: 26

When did you start playing Magic?


Where is your Local Game Store?

Eastbourne (Mana Gaming).

Are you part of a team?

Mana Gaming.

Have you played Nationals before? If so, how many have you played and what was your best finish?

Yes. 2. Day 1.

What is your favorite draft archetype in this format?

4-Color Good Stuff.

Name: Autumn Burchett

Age: 25

When did you start playing Magic?

Dragon's Maze

Where is your Local Game Store?

London (Leisure Games).

Are you part of a team?


Have you played Nationals before? If so, how many have you played and what was your best finish?

Yes! 4. 11th place.

What is your favorite draft archetype in this format?

U/R, then UGxx River Hoopoes

Name: Jimmy Ray

Age: 32

When did you start playing Magic?


Where is your Local Game Store?

Nerd Shark

Are you part of a team?

Team Nerd Shark

Have you played Nationals before? If so, how many have you played and what was your best finish?


What is your favorite draft archetype in this format?

R/G Ramp

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