Finals: Japan vs. Poland

Posted in Event Coverage on December 3, 2017

By Corbin Hosler

Before the kickoff of the World Magic Cup, there were a few teams everyone had on their shortlist of teams to win. The United States had second-ranked Reid Duke and Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson. Brazil had a trio of Pro Tour winners in Lucas Esper Berthoud, Carlos Romão, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. Italy was led by Andrea Mengucci and has been a Top 8 mainstay in recent years.

But none were higher on that list than Japan. Led by two Pro Tour Hall of Famers in Yuuya Watanabe and Shota Yasooka—along with National Champion Kenta Harane, himself no slouch as evidenced by his near-70% win rate at Grand Prix—the Japanese squad was easily the top contender for “players you never want to sit across from." They were truly giants of the tournament, and as they sat down for the finals, everyone expected them to be in at the outset of the Top 8. There was little doubt they were the favorites.

But Poland has been slaying giants all tournament long.

They beat the vaunted Brazil in the second round of the tournament. They beat fellow Top 8 competitor Germany late in Day Two. They knocked out the upstart Wales (Dragons) in the quarterfinals, and posted a come-from-behind rematch victory over Germany in the semifinals. Led by Grzegorz Kowalski and joined by Piotr Glogowski—who is fresh off his first Pro Tour Top 8 in just his fourth PT appearance at Pro Tour Ixalan—and Radek Kaczmarczyk, the Polish trio have been solid competitors at high levels for a while. All three have win rates above 60% at Grand Prix, typically a very high mark.

And now Poland—a team that a few months ago most people wouldn't have expected to have such a deep run—had to slay just one more giant to win the World Magic Cup.

Poland's run at the 2017 World Magic Cup was remarkable, and the team only had one giant left to dispatch to take home the trophies: Team Japan.

The Games

The end tables were mostly mirrored with each other, with Ramunap Red decks squaring off against white-blue decks. In the first seat it was Yasooka piloting Red against Glogowski's White-Blue Cycling, while on the other end was Harane's White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift build against Kaczmarczyk's Ramunap Red.

But in a surprise move, neither of the Red decks finished first. It was Poland's Kowalski defeating Watanabe in the Four-Color Energy mirror match. But Japan didn't need too long to even it up, with Yasooka piloting his red creatures right into the danger zone of Glogowski's double Drake Haven, but having exactly enough damage to steal the game, evening things at one win apiece for the countries.

It looked like Poland would also pick up a win with their red deck after knocking Harane down to 3 life with a board full of creatures, but a clutch Fumigate saved the day, and when Kaczmarczyk's follow-up wasn't immediately strong enough, Harane was able to turn the corner by flipping Search for Azcanta and using the “ramp” to cast God-Pharaoh's Gift for Angel of Invention. A few hits later, and it was Japan in the lead after the first three games.

The Drakes had their revenge on the first table, with Glogowski finding a pair of Settle the Wreckage in the nick of time to fend off Hazoret and friends, which bought him the time he needed to find another cycling card and turn the corner with the three Drake Haven he had managed to accumulate. Meanwhile, Watanabe rose a Bristling Hydra to victory to send his match to the third game as well.

Things were neck-and-neck, but what else would you expect in the finals of the World Magic Cup? Kaczmarczyk joined the trend by putting together a picture-perfect one-two-three-four start of Soul-[autocard]Scar Mage[/autocard] into Earthshaker Khenra into Rampaging Ferocidon into Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Faster than you can say “God-Pharaoh's Gift," all three matches stood at one game win apiece.

That sent attention back to Watanabe and Kowalski, where one team would finally take a decisive advantage in the final pairing of the tournament. Both players spammed the board with creatures and Vizier of Many Faces notes, plus four Thopter tokens apiece. It was Kowalski who landed the first Planeswalker with Vraska, Relic Seeker, but unbeknownst to him, the Japanese Hall of Famer was also building toward the ultimate gamebreaker: Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, not to mention a Vraska of his own.

Kowalski tangles with tough opponent Watanabe as his Poland teammates offer insight when needed, the team looking to be the first on the scoreboard in the finals.

All Watanabe needed was to find black mana, and after a board-clearing brawl left Poland's Vraska at one loyalty, Watanabe found it in the form of Servant of the Conduit. Kowalski had Planeswalker plans of his own, with Nissa, Steward of Elements joining Vraska.

Finally untapping with black mana, Watanabe slammed the Bolas and hoped it was good enough to get him back into the game, but thanks to a leftover Treasure Token and an open land, Kowalski's final card in hand was the perfect answer: Negate. With another turn to activate his Planeswalkers, he cemented his lead further.

But it wasn't over, as Watanabe had Chandra, Torch of Defiance along with access to Whirler Virtuoso to tie things up again. However, in one of the biggest plays of the entire tournament, Kowalski peeled River's Rebuke to end the game on the spot and put his team just one win away from the trophy.

It would be Kaczmarczyk who first had the chance. Harane slowed his development mightily with a pair of Fairgrounds Wardens, but that also meant that his removal doubled as a way to get back Rampaging Ferocidon. Harane fought back with Angel of Invention, but it fell to removal while the Servos it left behind also dropped Harane's life total to 10 thanks to the Ferocidon triggers.

As Kaczmarczyk found lands waiting on top of his deck, Harane traded for Ferocidon in combat, and a pair of Angel of Invention followed. When one connected in the air to push his life back up 11, the end was in sight, and a few turns later he evened things up and sent the match back to Glogowski and Yasooka for a final game to crown a victor.

While the other five players had huddled around Kaczmarczyk and Harane's match, Yasooka had sat quietly back at his own table, not knowing if the game he was preparing for would even matter. But it did, and the Hall of Famer came out of the gates firing, with Bomat Courier and Kari Zev, Skyship Raider knocking Glogowski down to 10 quickly.

But with Drake Haven on the third turn and Renewed Faith in hand, Glogowski had the tools to try and fight back.

Teammates look on as Shota Yasooka acts as the last chance for Japan to be crowned World Magic Cup champions.

However, he faced three big problems. The first was that he couldn't find a fifth land. The second was that Yasooka resolved Hazoret the Fervent on his turn, and the third was the Bomat Courier that now had a full six cards underneath it. As he passed the turn back to Yasooka, all he could do was cycle a pair of Cast Out and make Drakes to block.

Finally a fifth appeared, and Glogowski cast Authority of the Consuls while holding up Settle the Wreckage for Yasooka's team. Steadfast in refusing to attack with his Hazoret, Yasooka kept it safe from the wreckage while cashing in his Bomat Courier for a full grip of cards. Down to just 5 life, Poland had finally stemmed the tide, but at what cost?

He soon found out. Yasooka cast Rampaging Ferocidon to stop the life gain while deploying another Courier. Fumigate for Glogowski brought him back up to 7 to try and buy time.

But it wasn't enough. Yasooka calmly drew for his turn, played a land, and activated Hazoret three times before sending her in to deliver the final blow that crowned Japan the champions of the World Magic Cup.

Congratulations to Team Japan, 2017 World Magic Cup champions!

Kenta Harane: Japan—White-Blue Gift

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Yuuya Watanabe: Japan—Four-Color Energy

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Shota Yasooka: Japan—Ramunap Red

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Piotr Gaogowski: Poland—White-Blue Cycling

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Radoslaw Kaczmarczyk: Poland—Ramunap Red

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Grzegorz Kowalski: Poland—Four-Color Energy

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