Quarterfinals: Poland vs. Wales

Posted in Event Coverage on December 3, 2017

By Corbin Hosler

The second quarterfinal matchup came between two teams not many watchers had on their radar entering the World Magic Cup, but were sneakily strong nonetheless.

No matter how silly their Dragon costumes looked.

Wales stole the heart of viewers and competitors alike with their Dragon-themed onesies to celebrate the Welsh flag, and after advancing easily to Day Two, they ascribed another benefit to the costumes that won the Spirit Award: Opponents underestimating them. It's possible that trend continued into the afternoon Saturday, when they defeated strong opponent one after another to lock in their Top 8 appearances.

It was there they met Poland, a team that a few months ago most wouldn't have given a second thought, to their detriment. Led by Grzegorz Kowalski, the entire team have been solid competitors at high levels for a while. In fact, all three have win rates above 60% at Grand Prix, typically a very high mark.

While most people were looking at the super-teams from Japan, the United States, and Brazil as the teams worth watching, this quarterfinals meeting proved that the World Magic Cup has talented teams up and down the roster. By making the Top 8, all six players involved were guaranteed a Pro Tour invite to further make their mark on the game.

While neither Poland or Wales were expected favorites coming in to the weekend, both teams have consistently impressed in Friday and Saturday's rounds, rightfully earning their spot on Sunday.

But first, there was the business of this Top 8 to settle. And only one—the Polish or the Dragons—would advance to the semifinals.

The Games

With three matches happening simultaneously, team events are a flurry of action up and down the table. Big plays are never hard to find, and the ebb and flow of the matches makes for an exciting viewing, if a hectic one.

Undoubtedly the one that promised the most action immediately was the red-on-red matchup, with Poland's Radek Kaczmarczyk piloting Ramunap Red against Philip Griffith's larger Desert Red that wanted to play a grindier game than the lightning-fast starts Ramunap Red was capable of.

The first game was a demonstration of exactly that, as Griffiths fended off an early assault with removal spells, all while ticking up his Treasure Map for a payoff later. Both players traded resources until both sides were looking for gas—and Griffiths's life total suffered—but he turned the corner with an explosive turn of his own: transforming Treasure Map and using the Treasure Tokens to cast Glorybringer and Sand Strangler, swinging the board totally in his favor and putting his team up a game.

Wales won the hearts of many with their outfits at the World Magic Cup, but by Sunday, they had also won the respect of many with their incredibly good play.

However, on the next table over, Poland's Grzegorz Kowalski found The Scarab God to tilt the Energy mirror in his favor against Aaron Boyhan.

On the far end, Sam Rolph's Blue-Black Control and Glogowski's White-Blue Cycling were going deep in the game, as both players had a bevy of lands in play, while Rolph's The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk tangled with Glogowski's pair of Drake Haven.

As expected, first blood came in the red matchup, with the key moment coming on an all-out attack from Kaczmarczyk that was defeated by a pair of timely removal spells and the prowess triggers on Soul-Scar Mage for Griffiths. Poland fought back with Hazoret the Fervent and Glorybringer, but the damage had been done, as Griffiths bought the time he needed to transform Treasure Map. With the extra cards rolling in, he defanged Hazoret with Sand Strangler alongside Soul-Scar Mage's ability, and a pair of on-theme Glorybringer of his own brought things to a hasty end and put Wales in the lead.

It didn't last long. Boyhan resolved Nissa, Steward of Elements, but a disastrous River's Rebuke from Kowalski was enough to end the match and send things to Game 2 between Glogowski and Rolph, where the Polish were up a game thanks to a seemingly endless supply of Drake tokens that eventually broke through Rolph's grip of removal.

With Pro Tour mainstays at the helm, Poland piloted their way to the Top 8 and were looking to take down the whole thing.

Things were looking much better in the second game. Rolph had a board full of creatures, with Liliana, Death's Mastery providing a stream of tokens. If Glogowski couldn't find an answer soon, there wouldn't enough Drakes in Amonkhet to save him from Death's Majesty, though the turn Liliana reached seven loyalty, he did create a pair of fliers from double Drake Haven to try and claw back into the game. The Scarab God looked to end that plan, and suddenly Poland was right back on the back foot looking desperately for a way to stem the bleeding.

In the biggest moment of the match, Glogowski's deck cooperated: Fumigate arrived to clear the board after the sacrificial Drakes finished off Liliana. Rolph tried to fight back over the next few turns, but he knew the writing was on the wall, and admitted as much with a laugh as he cast the Renewed Faith his Gonti had stolen from Glogowski. As the Drakes finally finished the work they began long earlier, the Dragons extended their claws to congratulate Poland on advancing to the semifinals of the World Magic Cup.

Team Poland defeated Team Wales and advanced to the semifinals!

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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Aaron Boyhan: Wales—Temur Energy

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Philip Griffiths: Wales—Desert Red

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Sam Rolph: Wales—Blue-Black Control

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