The 2018 World Magic Cup featured 74 countries, three days, and some memorable stories that defined the weekend as nations both large and small came to Barcelona with one major goal—taking home the trophies.
The World Magic Cup has set a tradition of countries showing off the spirit of their nation in what they wear at the tournament. In 2018, Spirit Awards were given to South Africa, Mexico, Scotland, and Guatemala.
Team South Africa 2018 (from left: Theuns Prinsloo, David Reinecke, and Kaloyan Petkov)
Team Mexico 2018 (from left: Dagoberto Silva, Daniel Becerra, and Marcelino Freeman)
Team Scotland 2018 (from left: Holt Hauser, Stephen Murray, and Dani Anderson)
Team Guatemala 2018 (from left: Jeff Melgar, Rubén Escobar, and Kevin Perez)
South Africa is a new Spirit Award recipient, but Mexico, Scotland, and Guatemala have been repeat winners. In 2018, each team approached this event with a different spin on their dress of choice. Mexico chose to look back to the Mexican Revolution, following up last year's award-winning Aztec garb. For Scotland, the kilts were once again a staple, but joined this year with formal wear in honor of this being the event's finale. And finally, Guatemala—a country that began years ago with jackets and moved toward special takes on more formal wear—came to this event with custom-made jackets showcasing its nation's colors and its bird, the quetzal.
Slovakia Top 8s (Again)
Team Slovakia 2018: (left to right) Richard Hornansky, Milan Niznansky, Ivan Floch
Perhaps one of the least surprising teams to make the Top 8 of this year's World Magic Cup is Slovakia, captained once again by Pro Tour Magic 2014 winner and 2010 Team World Champion Ivan Floch.
For Slovakia, this year marked the fourth time the country has made the Top 8 of the World Magic Cup since the tournament's creation in 2012. The previous years Slovakia made it this far were 2012, 2014, and 2017, and—you guessed it—Ivan Floch was the captain of the team each of those years. And having that kind of resume is how you end up getting things like round-by-round #IvanCoverage, as well as tweets like this:
The Slovaks prayed to their god and he delivered! Slovakia advances to the top 16!!!!! pic.twitter.com/ka54pvQOKw— #ivancoverage (@ivancoverage) December 15, 2018
Needless to say, Ivan has fans. But his teammates—Richard Hornansky and Milan Niznansky—have been putting in work as well all weekend, and the three saw success from their efforts with yet another Sunday appearance.
Italy's Fourth Consecutive Sunday
Team Italy 2018: (left to right) Tian fa Mun, Mattia Basilico, Andrea Mengucci
Lee Shi Tian, captain of the Hong Kong team for this year, coined the World Magic Cup as the Mengucci Invitational, and for good reason.
For four consecutive years, Andrea Mengucci has been representing Italy at the World Magic Cup as part of their team, three times as the country's team captain. And for four consecutive years, Italy has made it to Sunday, headlined by their win in 2015 in the very city where 2018's tournament took place: Barcelona.
The World Magic Cup is a difficult tournament for many powerhouse countries, but Italy is easily one of the most consistent countries in this event, and Mengucci one of the tournament's most consistent players. That said, one great player isn't enough in these events, and Mengucci had great help during the weekend with Tian fa Mun and Mattia Basilico both putting up strong finishes, carrying Mengucci through in rounds where he had his back against the wall.
While Italy's road to a second title ended in the semifinals for a third year in a row, their multiple years of consistency on the big stage is nothing short of unprecedented, and they have earned their place among the best in team-level tournaments.
Israel's First World Magic Cup Top 8
Team Israel 2018: (left to right) Yuval Zuckerman, Amit Etgar, Shahar Shenhar
Team Israel, led by back-to-back World Champion Shahar Shenhar, found their way into their first World Magic Cup Top 8 after a few close calls since the inception of the tournament.
Cheering them on through all three days was Shenhar's family, who served as a support network for the team in the time leading up to the big tournament. It was a familiar sight to 2013 and 2014, when Shenhar's family was at both of the World Championship events he won, in 2013 to support him as they could, and in 2014 to see him flourish into one of the all-time greats.
Joined by Yuval Zuckerman and Amit Etgar, both providing great results, Israel battled back from rough spots in pool play's elimination matches, overcoming rounds that would have knocked them out of the tournament in both the first and the second stage.
Israel's Top 8 berth got them into some close matches in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, where they ultimately succumbed after a fantastic showing to the eventual winners.
France's Second Set of Trophies
In 2013, France finally took home a team Worlds title with their win at the 2013 World Magic Cup. Five years later, they have done it again. The team featured team captain (and newly minted Magic Pro League competitor) Jean-Emmanuel Depraz alongside Arnaud Hocquemiller and Timothée Jammot.
France had a couple of close calls throughout the weekend, but one deck of theirs that seemed practically unstoppable in every match that was their take on Jeskai Control. The deck hinged on the inclusion of Fight with Fire that, with an assortment of effects that can copy sorcery spells, had the capability of making quick work of opponents once control of the game was established. This was seen in full effect against Italy in the semifinals, when Hocquemiller cast a kicked Fight with Fire under chapter three of The Mirari Conjecture, with Expansion // Explosion adding fuel to the already massive flames.
With the win, the team of Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, Arnaud Hocquemiller, and Timothée Jammot has reminded the world that France is alive, well, and flourishing with new-era talent. Congratulations to the 2018 World Magic Cup Champions on a phenomenal weekend, and to France for a second title!