Measuring the results of a tournament like the first Magic World Cup is a difficult proposition. Ever since multi-format events started being a mainstay on the Pro Tour this has made trying to untangle a particular portion of the event a difficult proposition. This isn't to say it can't be done just that doing it is a lot more difficult and the results are less certain for a number of factors.
One of the things that I always like to do after big events is unravel them. Data can be hard to come by so having data even flawed data is better than no data. Whenever you have uncertain data weighing it by certainty is always a part of the process; even when it comes to single-format events there is never something that we can legitimately call 100% certainty simply because there is too much randomness in an event like a Magic: The Gathering tournament.
So with all of those caveats let's begin!
There were 280 competitors at the World Magic Cup. If we compare this to the very last Magic: The Gathering World Championships it is a little bit lower with 375 competitors at that event. Unfortunately we only know the decklists of 87 of the competitors those that went 3-1 or better.
Going to the match results at the end of Draft and employing a little spreadsheet action and subtraction you can determine the players that actually went undefeated. Incredibly there were eighteen of them.
"But" you might say "the Swiss portion of the tournament would result in at most twelve undefeated players in Standard." Normally this would be correct but remember in a multi-format event there is no telling where any individual player might have finished. Then as the four rounds of Standard continue the undefeated players while all bubbling up to the top might not be eliminated other undefeated players and as a result you only get some number of them eliminating each other.
After the completion of the seventh round here were the archetypes that were represented by undefeated players:
U/W Delver: 7
Naya- Pod: 2
Wolf Run Blue: 2
Zombie Pod: 2
Mono-Green Infect: 2
Wolf Run Ramp: 1
G/R Aggro: 1
Unknown: 1 (As of the time of this writing one player with an undefeated Standard record did not have his decklist published.)
If we do a data analysis to try to weigh the results based on opponent match strength in the Standard with overall opponent strength as a tiebreaker here is our "Virtual Top 8":
1st: Grgur Petric Maretic (Croatia) – Mono-Green Infect
2nd: Tzu-Ching Kuo (Chinese Taipei) – U/W Delver
3rd: Tamas Glied (Hungary) – Zombie Pod
4th: Jelger Wiegersma (Netherlands) – U/W Delver
5th: Christopher Virula (Guatemala) - *Unlisted*
6th: Jimmy Sam (Peru) – Zombie Pod
7th: Andrew Cantillana (Philippines) – U/W Delver
8th: Alex Binek (United States) – Wolf Run Ramp
I tried to get in touch with Christopher Virula to make my information more complete but sadly I was unable to. Importantly we are still talking about an eighteen-way tie here so other than Grgur being able to claim he has the ever-so-slight-as-to-be-intangible edge on seventeen other undefeated players this is a pretty narrow margin.
Grgur has another pair of claims that he can make though.
The Croatian Accomplishment
Grgur Petric Maretic and Stjepan Sucic of Croatia (Hrvatska) share another impressive distinction: they are the only two players from a National Team to both be undefeated. In addition they both played the same deck. Here is that deck:
The deck definitely seems to be going about the aggro version of the plan. In the main the deck runs "twelve" creatures a number that has proven to be the minimum. Only a single Blight Mamba and Viridian Corrupter join four Glistener Elf and Ichorclaw Myr with two Green Sun's Zenith to tie it all together. Four Inkmoth Nexus add on to the potential sources of poison from the deck. The deck maximizes the efficient versions of pump with four-of Mutagenic Growth Rancor Titanic Growth and Wild Defiance.
As I mentioned two weeks ago given that you are often putting all of your eggs in a single basket you need to be able to protect that egg. In the end my version of the deck opted to be quite defensive with Spellskite in the main to protect your poison-based kill. As I spent time testing this tact initially seemed good but I definitely felt like I was missing some of the explosive wins that Infect ought to be able to get.
Maretic and Sucic kept these "wussy" style responses to the metagame to the sideboard keeping the defense to a minimum but also keeping it versatile with four Apostle's Blessing and three Mental Misstep. To round out the deck the versatile four Gut Shot provided both a means to slow down an opponent from their own kill and served as a makeshift pump spell in conjunction with Wild Defiance.
The sideboard seemed all about maximizing a certain kind of response. Dismember would be likely to kill any creature. Maxing out Mental Misstep or Spellskite seem like a good response to Vapor Snag or other removal spells. Using Melira as a target for Zenith is a small investment for a fair amount of return. Viridian Corrupter while unlikely to do a massive amount of work on artifacts can be amazing when it does do that work; mostly to me it seems like a slightly bigger body with a potential huge upside against Curse of Death's Hold.
Beast Within answers the need to stop the K.O. spells like Elesh Norn. The final choice Withstand Death or Blight Mamba was I think a desire for "more of the same" and I'm sure that both Sucic and Maretic would have been happy with any useful spell for the meta. Both are resistant to Day of Judgment or Bonfire of the Damned but Withstand Death does have the nice ability to work as a surprise something I would be unsurprised to have happened in a few rounds.
The Elephant in the Room
Of course out of the 87 decklists that we do know about 36 of them were varieties of Delver. That is quite a few. But heck what is 40% of the winning meta between friends?
The vast majority of these decks are fairly "conservative" versions of the deck running both Geist of Saint Traft and Restoration Angel. That being said there were other variants some running Talrand Sky Summoner instead of the Angel others running Hero of Bladehold and some running neither. Nearly every version ran Geist of Saint Traft with only two decks of the thirty-six not running it one a Blade Splicer/Angel build and the other a Quirion Dryad build.
Here is the top version of the list (by a narrow margin) by Tzu-Ching Kuo:
Here is a Talrand Sky Summoner variant by Jelger Wiegersma:
I think there are actually a few things to take note of here between the two decks. Both of these decks as similar as they are have an important divergence in their choice of a reliance on a finisher. Kuo with nineteen lands has a full reliance on Geist with four copies. In order to make this happen Kuo is also even running a Plains. This means that both lists are running sixteen sources of blue something you should consider as a potential bare minimum (a note that made me reconsider my seventeen-land Delver build with two non-blue sources).
In addition both of these lists have dropped down to only three Mana Leak. To me this makes a lot of sense as it gives your deck enough juice to be able to keep someone honest that is just dropping a spell out there but at the same time recognizing just how many decks out there are packing Cavern of Souls.
Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!
On top of it all both decks are actually giving a fair amount of concern to the kill. Wiegersma runs two Geist two Talrand and three Pike with Kuo mostly agreeing on a large commitment with four Geist three Angel and three Pike. This pushes both decks into more likely being in the aggro-control role and just grasping a game away from an opponent who stumbles even the barest amount.
Finally in the sideboard there is a clear consideration given by both players to black. Check out those sideboards chock-full of Knight of Glory and Celestial Purge. I would wager this served them very well if they ever played against a Zombie player.
The Walking Dead
- 2 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 3 Blood Artist
- 1 Butcher Ghoul
- 4 Fume Spitter
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Skaab Ruinator
- 2 Skinrender
- 1 Thragtusk
Zombies (or really "Zombies" given the sheer amount of Wurms Shapeshifters Vampires and other things finding their way into these decks…) was the best represented aggressive deck in the tournament with eleven different players going 3-1 or better (and two of them at 4-0).
Hungary's Tamas Glied was one of the 4-0 players both of whom played Zombie Pod as opposed to strictly black with a touch of red or blue and no Birthing Pods. His list includes a smattering of one-of creatures designed to maximize the value of the Pod. Particularly exciting to me is Glied's decision to be a little greedy with his mana running a ton of blue-based mana to support four Phantasmal Images and a smattering of green-based mana to cast Birthing Pod and Thragtusk. His sideboard is all basically utility spells to help certain matchups and Tutor targets.
I think what I like about this list is that it is basically very straightforward. It is a Zombie Pod deck so it maximizes both the Birthing Pod and aggressive base of Zombies only shaving out one Blood Artist to make room for other cards. After that everything just seems very intuitive with solid Tutor targets that go up the chain even including a few inspired choices (one Skaab Ruinator and one Thragtusk spring to mind).
Then his four Tragic Slip help keep things clear. The singleton Mortarpod also makes a lot of sense to me acting as a ninth early removal albeit the most inefficient one but reducing the potential diminishing returns of the card by only playing one striding the line between the effect of being a singleton and being an analog card all at once.
I've seen a lot of Zombie lists of many varieties. This one is among the very best I've ever looked at.
Midrange and the Rest
There were a number of midrange decks that did well but Wolf Run Blue (or RUG Ramp if you prefer) and Naya Pod were the two best performing ones. A number of people played other green-based Pod lists including Four-Color Pod (no black) and RUG Pod but they simply didn't have as many people succeed as Naya Pod. Similarly Wolf Run Blue dramatically outperformed the "more traditional" G/R variant. Whether this was because they were better represented is something that simply can't be gleaned from what little data is available.
In spite of the greater success of Wolf Run Blue it was traditional Wolf Run Ramp that had the highest overall performance of ramp lists once opposition was taken into account
Sadly there is practically nothing illuminating about Binek's list. The deck is huge into analogs essentially running 4+ of everything. All of its spells that aren't four-of are analogs to some other card in the deck: seven sweep seven Giants and four-ofs.
The sideboard shows a particular decision to go after the top end of the curve with Garruk Primal Hunter and Karn Liberated to go over-the-top on an opposing slow player and to hit Delver style decks with Combust and Crushing Vines a clear indication of targeted hate. Even if there is nothing revelatory here it is just a solid deck and it is unsurprising that it went 4-0.
This is practically Reid Duke's list but then all of them are. Bigali shifted three cards around and called it a day.
To my mind this speaks pretty highly of both Reid Duke and the StarCityGames.com Open Series. While a lot of people in the higher levels of the game have besmirched the SCG Open Series here we have a deck that came out of it doing very well. It is worth noting that Wolf Run Blue was the second most represented deck amongst winning decks of the whole tournament behind the juggernaut that is Delver.
This is especially the case when I see this list that is deeply Caleb Durward inspired:
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 2 Borderland Ranger
- 3 Elvish Visionary
- 2 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Thragtusk
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Other than a surprisingly (to me at least) low number of Zealous Conscripts this is a direct and straightforward Naya Pod list and sideboard. When I look at it about the only thing I find myself wondering is if the Arc Trail might be better served as either a Bonfire of the Damned or a Pillar of Flame depending on the need that De Nicola saw. In my own experience Arc Trail has been disappointingly mediocre lately.
That's a good overview of all of the major 4-0 finishers. Of course we can't really know what would have risen to the top with more time. I'm always curious about these questions when tournaments like this are run so for my part I always put in the work to try to check and see even if I'm aware that it isn't a perfect process.
There are a number of question marks about the event of course. I was at Gen Con and was able to check in every now and again but I was basically working the entire time and didn't have an opportunity to really check into the event more deeply despite having access to the event care of Scott Larabee. Alas sometimes the "real world" intrudes. I was sad that I didn't even get to play Magic despite being there all four days.
Here is a full breakdown of the various decks that went 3-1 or better so that you can better see how it looks overall.
I had a great time at Gen Con. Congrats to my friends who did well at events throughout the weekend making the Gen Con Magic Championship: Ben Rasmussen Jimmie Linville JP Rooney and Melissa DeTora. I'm sure other people did well in various events but I never found out if they did or not as I was so busy running around. I should also congratulate Justin Gary on an amazing preview of SolForge his new digital TCG that he is working on with Richard Garfield—it was definitely one of the talks of the event. I can't wait to go again next year!
Until next week
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