The 2015 World Magic Cup will take place on December 11–13 in Barcelona, Spain. This three-day event will feature representatives from over 70 countries competing for a $250,000 prize purse. Each country will be represented by four players: the player in that country who earned the most Pro Points during the 2014–15 Premier Play season and three other players who qualified via winning a World Magic Cup Qualifier. In Barcelona, they will have to battle other teams in two formats: Battle for Zendikar Team Sealed, in which the teams will have to build three decks from twelve booster packs, and Team Unified Standard Constructed, in which no more than four of any Standard-legal card (except basic lands) may be used across all three players' decks. The fourth player has to sit out as a coach for that format.
Although team United States and team Canada feature multiple big-name players, an early favorite is team Japan, which includes such heavyweights as No. 11 Yuuya Watanabe, Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura, and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar finalist Ryoichi Tamada. But there are several excellent teams in Europe as well, and I spoke with representatives from four of them.
Team Czech Republic
Ondřej Stráský. Not pictured: Lukas Blohon, Dominik Mikolas, and Tomas Kuchta
No. 13 Ondrej Stráský and Gold-level pro Lukas Blohon are the big names in the Czech team, but they were happy with their teammates as well. "The team is sweet," Stráský said. "It's obviously great that Lukas won a WMCQ, but Dominik [Mikolas] is young but super talented, and Tomas [Kuchta] was at the WMC last year." Blohon agreed: "I'm happy with my team. If I could have picked one player from their respective Top 8s, then I would have wanted Dominik and Tomas to win. Dominik is enthusiastic and motivated to prepare. Tomas always does well at tournaments and plays a lot."
How do they plan to prepare? "Unified Standard will be tough because most Standard decks have twelve fetch lands, so it will be tough to figure out which three decks to play," Blohon said. "At the moment, we are just planning to prepare in the Czech Republic, play a bunch on Magic Online, and meet in Prague to do some real-life Team Sealed."
Andrea Mengucci and Marco Cammilluzzi. Not pictured: Francesco Bifero and William Pizzi
Andrea Mengucci and Marco Cammilluzzi, both of whom have a Pro Tour Top 8 to their name, are the best-known players in the Italian team, and I asked them about the remaining two players on their team. "I think we have a good team, and I especially feel confident about Standard," Cammilluzzi said.
Mengucci told me that he didn't know the other two guys, William Pizzi and Francesco Bifero very well, but Pizzi had prior Pro Tour experience under his belt. "We asked them who wants to play Constructed and Limited, since our plan is to have me and Marco play both formats, but both of them wanted to play Constructed. That’s basically what everyone does in Italy; Modern is very popular there in particular. So we have to figure out who is the best Limited player to choose who will play the Sealed portion."
I then asked them how they were going to prepare, and Mengucci answered enthusiastically. "The best thing about our preparation is that because I know [Mike] Sigrist and [Alexander] Hayne very well, we will be testing with them. We'll go to Barcelona on the Saturday before the tournament and prepare together with them for several days. Paulo [Vitor Damo da Rosa] will join too."
This formidable alliance of Italy, United States, Canada, and Brazil will put their heads together to figure out the best combination of decks for Unified Standard. "We don’t know what to play yet," Mengucci said. "The fetch lands may be the most difficult part because even Mono-Red plays at least eight fetch lands. Red/Green Eldrazi Ramp might be a good choice because it doesn't rely on fetch lands."
Branco Neyrinck. Not pictured: Thomas van der Paelt, Johan Verhulst, and Amand Dosimont
Branco Neirynck became captain of the Belgian team by finishing in the Top 8 of two Grand Prix events in the previous season, but all of his teammates have played at the Pro Tour before. "I am really happy with my team. All players have experience at the highest level of competition and they are very motivated. Thomas van der Paelt is my best Magic friend, and we talk every day about Magic. Johan Verhulst has played several Pro Tours in the past, and he has a Grand Prix Top 8 to his name as well. Amand Dosimont has a lot of experience in Constructed, and he won Grand Prix Paris this year."
"We've already started preparing and I'm looking forward to a good collaboration with the Dutch team." The Netherlands, which shares a border and a language with Belgium, has a team which most notably includes Hall of Famer Jelger Wiegersma and Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Top 8 competitor Thomas Hendriks. "We've made a Facebook group where we'll share our thoughts on Standard, and we'll get together one weekend to play Team Sealed together."
Christoffer Larsen and Martin Müller. Not pictured: Martin Dang and Daniel Lind
I saved the best for last. The Danes won the World Magic Cup last year with Martin Müller as their captain, and their squad for this year looks strong as well. "I think it's even better than last year," Müller said. Larsen agreed: "It's a really good team."
Müller comes fresh off a Top 8 at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar and Larsen is a three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor. Their captain this year is Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir champion Martin Dang, and the fourth person on their team is Daniel Lind. "Daniel has been around since I was a kid. He is a nice guy who lives in a small town in Denmark and who is excited about playing the World Magic Cup," Larsen said. "We haven't talked much about how we are going to prepare because most of us just returned back home from the Pro Tour, but I have high hopes and high expectations."
You'd better not underestimate these teams. The Danes in particular have their eyes set on the trophy. Again.