Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge: The Magic World Cup Is A Unique Tournament Experience – Team England At The World Magic Cup
“Nerf *THIS*! (*giggle*)” – D.VA.
I wanted to get this article written in a bit more of a timely fashion than I have done, but immediately after the Magic World Cup I was testing standard for the PPTQ double header in Dundee and Arbroath the following weekend. This was quite a long trip for two PPTQs, but it let me catch up with some people as well – I’d consider doing this again. After that I started playing Overwatch, which has taken up a considerable amount of my time since.
Everyone I know who has played one has said this to me, and I didn’t really take it on board at the time, but the Magic World Cup is unique among Magic tournaments. Because it is a multi-format team event you need to be able to either agree, or agree to disagree and go with the best informed/able person’s choice, about everything. This means giving up control, which I am not particularly comfortable with in general, but on a national level I am pretty good at magic so the idea that I wouldn’t be calling the shots was troublesome. So it was that from about 3 weeks after the qualifying for the Magic World Cup, I started having concerns.
This was naturally the focal point of the Lion’s share of our discussion. The major decks we were concerned about were Affinity, Dredge, Infect and Black-Green-X. As you might have gleaned from what I said above about surrendering control, I was keen to play as many sections as possible, and to play a deck where my skills and experience would be put to good use. The phrase “pro-active linear strategies” was keeping me up nights, and was said frequently. We’d discuss decks on Facebook in an ongoing, circular way for ages, then have an hour long Skype call, decide on some decks, then it would all change up by the next day.
Within reason I didn’t mind, because there was always an Abzan deck or a control deck in the mix, but we ultimately settled on Death’s Shadow, Dredge and Bant Eldrazi. Long-time readers of my articles will know that this is not the sort of line up I would be remotely happy about as it doesn’t actually leave me with a deck I’ll be anything special at playing. With this in mind, I made a case for either Abzan or Jeskai, which was ultimately rebuffed, and concluded that the best thing would be if I minimised my play time in modern at the event. I still played around 180 games of Bant Eldrazi so that I would be competent if I needed to play in the latter stages, as it would be disastrous to be in a situation where we were playing for a pro tour invite and I didn’t really know how my deck worked.
In retrospect, I still think we would have been better off playing something other than Bant Eldrazi (although Eduardo is very familiar with it, which is worth something). Jeskai would have been decent, but assuming we were going to stick with proactive decks, I think I like Infect better, although it shares cards with Death’s Shadow… it’s easy to see how discussions become circular in team unified Modern!
Playing the decks we did play however, and discussing them (more so in person, but I’ll come back to that) was very informative. Many of the proactive decks which we were discussing mulligan quite a lot, and they don’t have any way to deal with certain other decks and strategies. This sounds like a major flaw, and the bottom line is that it’s never good news when you mulligan or get blown out, but what must be understood is that these decks are built with these flaws in mind. It’s much less of a big deal when you mulligan with a deck like Infect to find your infect creature, because being down a card doesn’t matter so long as the cards in your hand add up to 10 points of infect. The same thing goes for a deck like RG Titan Breach, so long as you have the Titan, your hand is probably fine. Dredge doesn’t even cast the spells it has in its hand half the time, so the idea that mulligans are a crippling flaw of this deck is pretty absurd. This isn’t true for a deck like Burn – which I would previously have rated higher than many of these decks because it likely mulligans less – because it will need a fairly high density of cards to add up to enough damage to kill its opponents. The same goes for Affinity – if that deck mulligans a bit, then keeps a hand which is reliant on Steel Overseer and it gets Lightning Bolted then it’s all over a great deal of the time because the other cards do nothing. The Infect deck relies on a single creature, sure, but it plays various cards which protect that creature.
In many respects, this event resulted in a complete rethinking of the Modern format for me in terms of what the best proactive plans are. That said, if there is a good reason to be casting Nahiri, the Harbinger or Siege Rhino in modern, I’ll snap that up (don’t even get me started about Zoo…)
I hadn’t really heard of these when they were first brought up, and as usual I asked Kirsty what the score was. She was very sceptical, and described them in a way which made me pretty sceptical. I’ve stayed in some very bad youth hostels before, and even retreated from one which seemed genuinely dangerous… because it *was* what Air B&B has the potential to be; a crowded, smoke filled apartment with people going from A to B, C to D, from which a heavily tattooed skinhead emerges to explain how things work, and leads you to your 8 foot by 6 foot room, with a bunk, at the top of a stairwell with a broken light.
The issue was that both Aaron and Pete were keen to keep the costs down (and, to be fair, I’m not one to throw money away either). Ultimately I was shown some pictures which seemed fine, and concluded that if it turned out to be utterly calamitous I could ask the Italian team (as I know Mattia Rizzi from Draft Camp prior to GP London), or the Scottish team (who I knew all of, unsurprisingly) or either Irish team, or the Welsh team, or Neil Rigby, if I could stay with them.
I didn’t need to do that because – let’s face it, unsurprisingly – Air B&B’s are generally fine. Kirsty’s mum was up last week, and she was telling us how she uses them all the time, which makes me think that my better half just didn’t know much about them and wanted to make sure I didn’t end up ruining my trip to save a few quid. The apartment (not a room, the whole apartment) worked out as 120 Euros for 4 nights, which was considerably cheaper than a Travelodge equivalent hotel would have been, was similar in terms of space, but also had a kitchen. The shower was decent, it wasn’t covered in pet hair, we didn’t get beaten and stabbed for our passports – grand, just grand.
This is an important cost saving exercise which I would no doubt have failed to look into for another three or four years, had this not been a team event, meaning that you’re heavily incentivized to share accommodation. I wouldn’t recommend staying in one if you’re travelling alone because you want to be able to easily and safely tell the person you’re renting from you’re not paying them 40 Euro a night to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs, or similar, should that happen. Otherwise, these are just better than cheap hotels, being cheaper and often located more conveniently.
Pete was really keen that we do this. I couldn’t really be bothered at all, and definitely didn’t want to be uncomfortable while I played. Getting the components together was logistically problematic, too, as none of us – other than Eduardo – actually had the clothes. We got to the day before, and it turned out Eduardo hadn’t brought it with him, Aaron still maybe didn’t have the bits, I had acquired them, and Pete had been on it from the start. Packing my bag, this stuff took up easily 60% of the space, and I wasn’t keen….
…but Pete insisted, so I packed them, and Pete turned up in trainers after we spent an afternoon clothes shopping for Eduardo. Pete, who was really keen from the start.
The thing is, though, Pete was keen because he didn’t think anyone else would really bother, and – other than Guatemala and Mexico – no one else really had. If you’re one of the three teams selected, you get $500 each. That’s pretty good money, and I don’t think it would have been hard to beat us for many countries, with minimal effort. This is something that you should heavily encourage your team to do if you’re qualified for this event. In my case, it more than paid for the event.
I’ll suggest some English ones, because I’d like people I know to win the money, and this is the most likely way for that to happen.
Various James Bonds
Various Dr Whos
The Young ones
Robbin Hood, Friar Tuck, Long John and the Sheriff of Nottingham/Maid Marian
This activity is a no-brainer, to my mind. The Scottish team has got the award twice just for wearing kilts!
Before the event I was thinking about how to write an article basically saying “think long and hard before you play the World Magic Cup Qualifiers because team play is a very different animal.” I still think this is a good piece of advice, but I had thought I would be giving that advice having learned it the hard way, which isn’t the case. I had a good time, as well as making $1500 in exchange for going 0-3 with a bad sealed deck, and I learned loads of stuff which I wouldn’t have learned at a Pro Tour.
This isn’t the only distinction, either; the Magic World Cup isn’t a Pro Tour. In terms of prestige it might be better, and it’s almost certainly harder to qualify for in England than a Pro Tour, but that’s not the point. The structure of the event is such that you can go 0-3 day one, ID your last round against a team which got paired down, even though they have you on the ropes, and *still* win the whole thing. But assuming you don’t do that, you’re still pretty likely to come away with $1000-$1500, and potentially qualify for the Pro Tour because you and your teammates ran reasonably (not insanely) hot that day. It’s easily the highest EV Magic: the Gathering event there is.
There is some stuff I’d do differently if I qualify again, having learned from this event. Taking the Team Spirit award seriously is actually something I would stress with quite a bit of priority, but also trying to meet in person a few times beforehand, especially if you don’t know each other especially well. So many things where I was thinking “jeez, this guy is so awkward and weird, this is going to be so difficult…” became “… oh, that’s what he means/is about. Fair enough” within a few hours of arrival. It’s critically important that you can actually function as a team, so getting communication nailed down is really advantageous. I think had we met a week in advance and talked in person about Modern, my capacity to contribute would have been much higher.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the format and tournament layout for this event change considerably over the next three years, though. It felt pretty contrived in places in that respect.
That’s it for this week, I’ve got plenty of things to write about in the near future so hopefully you’ll be hearing from me again soon!
Thanks for reading,