Team Denmark and Team Italy are two of the six countries to have won a previous World Magic Cup, and they are the only two teams this year to field a returning winner.
For team Denmark, this was Simon Nielsen, who hoisted the trophy as a member of the Danish team that took down the 2014 World Magic Cup. It was also him who drew the memorable Duneblast, or "Daneblast" as it has come to be known, to turn the tables and ensure Denmark's win in the deciding game in the finals.
Team Denmark 2014: (from left) Thomas Enevoldsen, Martin Müller, Simon Nielsen, and Lars Birch
This Daneblast, which switched a seemingly lost game all around, stuck in Nielsen's mind as a favorite: "We had all just accepted that we were getting second . . . But then winning anyway, that moment was a fond memory [for] me."
The Danish Magic community at home was also really proud of their national team. "When we got home from our World Magic Cup win," Nielsen explained, "there were about one hundred Danes gathered at the airport, greeting us with Danish flags when we came out. So we really felt like rock stars, which was really cool."
The 2014 World Magic Cup victory marked Nielsen's first premier-level success, qualified him for his first Pro Tour, and sparked his Magic career. Since then, he reached Gold level in the Pro Player Club, as well as the Top 8 of five different Grand Prix.
This year, the race for the Danish captaincy was close, with Michael Bonde, Christoffer Larsen, Thomas Enevoldsen, and Simon Nielsen all finishing within a few Pro Points of each other. But at the end of the season, it was ultimately Nielsen who clinched the captaincy, in no small part due to his victory at Grand Prix Birmingham 2018.
The Danish team was rounded out by Grand Prix Gothenburg 2013 Champion Oscar Christensen and Rasmus Roth, who recently made his Pro Tour debut at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. For Roth in particular, the World Magic Cup was a great experience: "I haven't done this level of preparation before. It's been super nice to be here with these really good players and trying to elevate my own game."
Team Denmark 2018: (from left) Oscar Christensen, Simon Nielsen, and Rasmus Roth
Nielsen was very happy with the team this year, and he felt that the Danish community was conducive to bringing up Magic talent. "In Denmark, the community is so small, so most people know each other and like each other. We have so many young and excited players. And the community is rather competitive—we used to have Top 8s at our Friday Night Magicss. And supportive, too."
Yet despite their confidence, supportive community, and Nielsen's long-held dream of getting a second World Magic Cup trophy, the first stage of pool play on Saturday was not kind to Denmark. They were placed in a pool together with the star-studded teams from Italy, Austria, and Portugal, which I described as the "pool of death—probably the most difficult one in the entire event."
Nielsen talked a big game by quipping "Pool of death? Yeah, for them!" but his prediction did not come to pass. After falling to Austria in the first round, the Danes faced another defeat at the hands of Italy in the second, which eliminated them from competition. Although Italy managed to advance and keep the dream of a repeat World Magic Cup victory alive, it was not to be for Denmark.