Quarterfinals: China vs. Italy

Posted in Event Coverage on December 3, 2017

By Frank Karsten

This quarterfinal match featured two countries who had been victorious in previous National Team competitions: China took the Team World Championship title in 2009, and Italy won the World Magic Cup trophy in 2015.

The format for this match and throughout the day was Team Unified Standard, the format in which any Standard card (with the exception of basic lands) could only be used by one player on every team.

While China finally broke their Day Two curse at the World Magic Cup, they'd have to get through three-time Top 8 competing Team Italy to maintain their run into Sunday.

The Teams

China, despite their victory in 2009, was one of the handful of teams who had never advanced to Day Two of the World Magic Cup (which replaced the old-style National team competition in 2012). That all changed this weekend, as they not only broke that Day Two curse, but they made it all the way to the Top 8.

For Italy, a Top 8 at the World Magic Cup was just another day in the office, as they were in their third consecutive Sunday appearance. One player had been on the Italian team in all of those years, and his name was Andrea Mengucci. He more than anyone was hoping to make Italy the first country to clinch more than one World Magic Cup trophy. But the first step was to get past China.

The Games

Seat B: Andrea Mengucci (Green-Blue Pummeler) vs. Lu Chao (Sultai Energy)

Most teams, including China, had opted for Sultai Energy or Temur Energy as their Attune with Aether deck of choice. Italy, however, built their energy deck around Electrostatic Pummeler. It threatened a powerful one-turn kill complete with Blossoming Defense or Dive Down protection, but it would still not be easy to defeat the powerful creatures and interactive cards in Lu's Sultai Energy deck.

In Game 1, Mengucci found himself on the back foot early on. His green-blue deck did not include any removal spells, which gave Lu free reign to assemble his synergies. Winding Constrictor doubled the effectiveness of Lu's Longtusk Cub and Walking Ballista, and Mengucci was falling behind on board. But then Mengucci had a huge topdeck that allowed him to steal the game: Cartouche of Knowledge. It gave his Longtusk Cub evasion, and the subsequent attack reduced Lu to 0.

Andrea Mengucci once again helped Team Italy get to the Top 8 stage for the third consecutive year.

In Game 2, after some early trades, Lu Duressed the blue enchantment that was so important in the first game. Unfortunately for Lu, the discard spell revealed that Mengucci had Bristling Hydra in hand. That was a big problem for the Chinese player because he only had removal spells in hand. Without a proper answer to the hexproof creature, Lu was unable to mount a good offense to Mengucci's attacks, and he eventually lost the game with Vraska's Contempt still in hand. As a result, this first set of games went to Italy.

Seat A: Mattia Rizzi (Blue-Black Control) vs. Liu Yuchen (Ramunap Red)

In Game 1, Liu had a reasonable start with Bomat Courier, but it all went downhill from there: His follow-up creatures were countered or destroyed, and he got stuck on two lands. When Rizzi pointed Essence Extraction at Bomat Courier, Liu made the painful choice of discarding six cards (two Hazoret the Fervent, two Lightning Strike, Abrade, and Ahn-Crop Crasher) to pick up three new cards and to deny Rizzi the extra points of life. But it wasn't good enough. Soon after, Rizzi untapped with The Scarab God at 16 life and secured the win.

In Game 2, Liu curved out, and Rizzi was behind from the start. Liu's fourth turn was particularly impressive: he resolved Chandra, Torch of Defiance, activated her plus one ability for two mana, cast Abrade on Rizzi's Gifted Aetherborn, and then attacked with three creatures. Rizzi tried to fight back with Vraska's Contempt, but he was already too far behind and died on the next attack.

Led by Gold-level pro Liu Yuchen, China went one step further than simply making Day Two this year: They were playing on Sunday.

In Game 3, Bomat Courier once again started racking up cards for Liu; soon its mail bag already contained five cards. When Rizzi tapped low, leaving him unable to counter the activated ability with Disallow, Liu knew that this was his chance. He sacrificed Bomat Courier, picked up five new cards, and never let go of the gas. Rizzi passionately fought back with Essence Scatters and Disallows, but the flurry of threats generated by that Bomat Courier activation eventually overwhelmed him. Liu's victory tied the team match at 1-1.

C: Adriano Moscato (Ramunap Red) vs. Gao Tan (White-Blue Gift)

It all came down to this. In Game 1, Moscato combined a reasonable damage clock with effective disruption: while a pair of Earthshaker Khenras whittled down Gao's life total, Scavenger Grounds countered Refurbish. It was good enough for Moscato to take the first game.

In Game 2, Moscato once again had Scavenger Grounds, but it didn't really do much: Gao wasn't relying on his graveyard at all this game, content to simply hard cast Angel of Invention on turns five and six. Moscato found himself behind on board and went for a desperate all-out attack in the hope that his Bomat Courier activation would grant him an instant-speed burn spell. Alas, the artifact creature had merely exiled a Mountain, and the combat step ended in a disaster. Moscato succumbed to a collection of Angel-boosted Servo tokens soon after.

In the deciding game, Moscato had some reasonable early aggression in the form of Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Ahn-Crop Crasher. He followed it up with Chandra, Torch of Defiance while Gao was trying to set up his combo. With Refurbish in hand, Gao tried to mill God-Pharaoh's Gift with Minister of Inquiries, but several activations did not get him there. And without the namesake card, he was struggling. A turn four Cast Out to exile Chandra, Torch of Defiance was a start, but Minister of Inquiries plus Sacred Cat was not the turn five play he needed to get back in the game.

Soon after, Moscato was able to attack for lethal, and Gao extended his hand in defeat.

Team Italy defeated Team China and advanced to the semifinals!

Andrea Mengucci: Italy—Green-Blue Pummeler

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Adriano Moscato: Italy—Ramunap Red

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Mattia Rizzi: Italy—Blue-Black Control

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Tan Gao: China—White-Blue Gift

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Yuchen Liu: China—Ramunap Red

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Chao Lu: China—Sultai Energy

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