Semifinals Roundup

Posted in Event Coverage on December 16, 2018

By Frank Karsten

The semifinals featured four powerhouse teams, each captained by a member of the new Magic Pro League. Despite all the star power, only two teams could advance to the finals.

ISRAEL DEFEATS HONG KONG


Team Israel 2018: (left to right) Yuval Zuckerman, Amit Etgar, Shahar Shenhar

Team Hong Kong, headlined by recently minted Hall of Famer Lee Shi Tian, were on a roll. They were the sole team who hadn't dropped a single match yet throughout the event. But all runs have to come to an end eventually, and Team Hong Kong eventually found their match in Team Israel, captained by two-time World Champion Shahar Shenhar.

In the B seat, the two captains faced off in an Izzet Drakes mirror. In Game 1, Drakes and Phoenixes were entering and dying while the number of instant and sorceries in both graveyards ticked up and up. Eventually, Lee had the last Drake left standing. Two of them, in fact. At over 10 power each, they soared in for the kill in a single attack. In Game 2, there was a lengthy judge call after it was discovered that several turns ago, Shenhar drew, transformed Treasure Map, then drew again. The judges ruled it was an unintentional error and applied the standard Hidden Card Error fix for having unintentionally drawn an extra card, which gave Lee an opportunity to "Thoughtseize" Shenhar and shuffle a card from his hand back into his deck. In the end, this was pretty much irrelevant, as Lee already had a lethal Drake on the table, and he attacked for the win several seconds after the ruling was administered.

In the C seat, Israel's Amit Etgar defeated Hong Kong's Alexander Dadyko in a Golgari Midrange mirror. In Game 1, Etgar used Llanowar Elves to ramp into an Vivien Reid. The planeswalker provided card advantage, was protected turn after turn, and eventually threatened her ultimate for the win. Game 2 was a long, drawn-out game with lots of back and forth, as these Golgari mirrors often are. Between Ravenous Chupacabra, Jadelight Ranger, and The Eldest Reborn, pretty much every card in the deck generated card advantage, allowing both players to keep using their mana turn after turn. But after the dust settled, Etgar controlled two Carnage Tyrants, and they rumbled in for the kill.

In the A seat, Israel's Yuval Zuckerman, playing Boros Aggro, defeated Wu Kon Fai, piloting Boros Angels. In Game 1, both players had anemic draws, but flood ended up beating screw: In the same turn, Zuckerman cast Benalish Marshal and Heroic Reinforcements—unusual for a 21-land deck—to set up a massive unexpected swing, while Wu never hit his fifth mana to cast either of the two Lyra Dawnbringers in his hand. In Game 2, Wu was always one step behind, although he tried to come back by deploying his Angels. The first Lyra Dawnbringer was exiled by Conclave Tribunal. Next, he had a choice between casting a new Lyra Dawnbringer or Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, and he went with the 5/5. This may have worked out well if Zuckerman did not have a second Conclave Tribunal, but that's exactly what he had. Since Aurelia was not good enough to stabilize, Zuckerman, to his own surprise, managed to take the match for Israel.

Team Israel defeats Team Hong Kong 2-1

 

FRANCE DEFEATS ITALY

Team France 2018: (left to right) Timothée Jammot, Arnaud Hocquemiller, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

After Team Italy won the 2015 World Magic Cup, they kept returning to the Top 8, now for the fourth year in a row. The common factor in each of those years was Andrea Mengucci, leading multiple people to refer to this event as the "Mengucci Invitational." For Team France, led by Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, this was each player's first World Magic Cup, but they all remembered when France took the title in 2013.

So both Italy and France were trying to put themselves into the historic position of winning the World Magic Cup twice. During their semifinals, the first three games all went to France, and then the next set of three games all went to Italy in a sort of reverse sweep. The ending was a real rollercoaster that came down to the wire in several epic games, but it was ultimately France who took it down. Let's go over all three seats one by one.

Seat C pitted together France's Timothée Jammot, playing Selesnya Tokens, and Italy's Mattia Basilico, playing Izzet Drakes. In Game 1, Jammot had a fast start, as his Saproling Migration enabled a turn-three Venerated Loxodon. Next, multiple Conclave Tribunals exiled various Drakes, allowing a horde of boosted tokens to attack unopposed. Game 2 looked similar at first, but an unanswered Niv-Mizzet, Parun single-handedly turned it around to even the score. In Game 3, Basilico played just like an Izzet Control deck, using Lava Coil, Beacon Bolt, and Fiery Cannonade to answer all Jammot's threats. Eventually, once he was under no pressure anymore, Basilico deployed his fliers and attacked for the win.

In Seat A, Tian fa Mun, playing Selesnya Tokens, faced off against Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, who was on Golgari Midrange. In Game 1, Mun drew more convoke spells than early creatures, which was not how he drew it up. His pair of Conclave Tribunals weren't particularly effective against Golgari's card-advantage generating permanents, and both Venerated Loxodon and March of the Multitudes didn't get it done without creatures to fuel them. In Game 2, however, Mun's deck was firing on all cylinders. By starting with Emmara, Soul of the Accord and History of Benalia and following up with various convoke spells, he showed what Selesnya was supposed to do, evening the score at one game apiece.

Their third game was truly epic, as at some point there were at least seven creatures on each side of the battlefield. Neither player could set up a profitable attack, so it turned into a staring contest where both players were drawing extra cards, Depraz with Vivien Reid and Mun with Arch of Orzaca. The key cards to dig toward were March of the Multitudes for Selesnya and Find // Finality for Golgari, but since Depraz had gotten up to 53 life thanks to a pair of Wildgrowth Walkers, he was safe even against a big March. A while later, employing a Vivien Reid emblem, Depraz won the game.

In Seat B, Arnaud Hocquemiller showed how to properly line up the right answers from his Jeskai Control deck against all the threats that Andrea Mengucci's Golgari Midrange deck presented. In Game 1, Carnage Tyrant was the most difficult one, but one was exiled by Settle the Wreckage and another fell to double Deafening Clarion. Game 2 was a quick one in favor of Mengucci. He was activating Karn, Scion of Urza for multiple consecutive turns while Hocquemiller was starved on mana, and the score went to 1-1.

In Game 3, Mengucci resolved a pair of planeswalkers in Vivien Reid and Karn, Scion of Urza. All the Settle the Wreckages and Lava Coils from Hocquemiller didn't help against those, and it looked to me that it was Star of Extinction or bust. As it turned out, Hocquemiller managed to expertly use his creature removal spells to buy time, while resolving a pair of planeswalkers of his own to pull ahead. Bit by bit he stabilized, yet with Mengucci at 28 life due to Wildgrowth Walker, his typical game plan of copying a kicked Fight with Fire via Expansion // Explosion didn't quite work. But you know what does work? Copying it twice. That requires a mind-boggling thirteen mana, but it does add up to 30, allowing France to win in fiery fashion.

Team France defeats Team Italy 2-1

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