If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
Dante Alighieri wrote in the 14th century an epic poem about his journey to the underworld. Guided by Virgil, he passed from all segments of hell, purgatory until he had the chance to ascend to heaven. Maybe I should do the same.
With so many sins on my account, there was only one place that I should go.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
World Championship – Day 1
The day before Worlds, I couldn’t sleep. I took every sleeping pill I had (and some of my friends’), hoping I could get at least 5 hours of good sleep. It didn’t work. I woke up around 2 a.m. and never got to sleep again. I was feeling really sick and angry with myself that I’d play the most important tournament of my life in such condition. After awhile, I gave up sleeping and did what 90% of the people do in this situation—I opened Facebook (the other 10% open MTGO which wasn’t an option for me at that time). I found many messages of support, but what really surprised me was that half of my friends (and some people I didn’t even know) were using the following photo as their profile picture:
I still don’t know who started it or where this came from, but it really touched me. All my doubts, fears and lack of confidence suddenly disappeared. No jet lag or disease would bother me. Some hours later I was ready to battle.
The day started with Modern Masters draft. The draft viewer can be found here.
I opened a weak first pack and took [card]Verdeloth the Ancient[/card] since I think the [card]Thallid[/card] deck is underdrafted and I kind of like it. Then I took an [card]Errant Ephemeron[/card] and a [card]Pestermite[/card] and some other Thallids. When [card]Petals of Insight[/card] wheeled from that weak pack, I took it as a sign that blue was open and went UG and never looked back. In retrospect, I think I made some mistakes, such as my 7th pick when I took [card]Thallid Shell-Dweller[/card] over [card]Durkwood Baloth[/card]. I love the Baloth, but at that time I wanted something to stall the ground while my other suspended guys arrive. It was clearly a mistake since there’s a good chance I could find Thallids late, but it’s way harder getting late Baloths.
I was happy with my deck and Tweeted at the time that I expected a 2-1 with it. That’s exactly what happened—I beat EFro’s 5-color and Shahar’s mono-red, and lost to Reid’s Rebels. In all honesty, after beating Shahar’s 3x [card]Thundercloud Shaman[/card]s (in a covered feature match that can be found here.) I thought I would 3-0 the table, since my deck was favored against Rebels. I could just clog the board with Walls and Thallids and win with bigger flyers. Well, not this time, since Reid’s deck has a lot of [card]Blightspeaker[/card]s which totally nullify my long game plan. I’m sure I would win the match if they were [card]Amrou Scout[/card]s. I stole game one by getting really aggressive, but in the end I fell short and he won the next two.
Ben Stark told me (when he saw the draft viewer) that I could have had an amazing UB Faeries deck. While I agree with him and like Faeries, during pack one I felt UG was the right thing to do since it is usually underdrafted and I’m very comfortable with it. Looking at the 2 decks (mine and the one that I could possibly have), I think that while UB would be better, UG gives me better odds to 3-0 the table and I’m happy with my decision to trust my feelings there.
2-1 in Modern Masters draft (2-1 overall)
I went to the Standard portion very confident after starting with a good result in the draft. Looking at other player’s deck lists, my only bad matchups were Jund decks with [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s maindeck (which I dodged). Well, that’s when hell started.
I was paired against Brian Kibler (covered on video). Before pairings I told him I loved his deck and he told me the only thing he needed was to dodge me since I was his only bad matchup. When pairings were announced, we could only laugh. Both games, I flooded terribly and we didn’t really play much Magic. I was really frustrated, since I felt my deck was really well positioned and starting with a loss against a good matchup wasn’t my plan.
The following round I was paired against Craig Wescoe (again on video) and I lost pretty much in the same way both games. Actually I think I cast even less spells this time. I was devastated.
Next round I played Tom Martell with UWR, which I also consider a good matchup. At one point in game one I had only one card in hand (a [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]) and around 10 lands in play (including a [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card]) when I drew and played a [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]. Tom cast [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] for a lot at the end of my turn, drew, played a land and passed discarding a card. I drew another land and attacked. I was shocked when he took it. Next turn, the same thing happened and I won a pretty much totally lost game. I guess when you are running bad you can always find someone running even worse. Game two was covered on video, and after we both missed some land drops, I recovered by playing 3 [card]Domri Rade[/card]s, ultimating the third one and playing a [card]Ruric Thar, the Unbowed[/card] to seal the game.
1-2 in Standard (3-3 Overall)
I was disappointed with a 3-3, but ending the day with a win was really important to give me motivation for the next day. I was exhausted, but I didn’t get much sleep again, probably due to all the energy drinks I drank during the day to keep me awake.
World Championship – Day 2
Before the draft, I asked several friends for tips in M14. I had drafted it only once, and even though I knew the cards and tricks from several Sealeds, draft is a completely different animal. The draft viewer is here, and my draft is a lesson in drafting horribly. My draft was really embarrassing and not even the bombs I received could fix it. Looking at the viewer now, I realize that at least 70% of my picks were wrong. Some cards that I felt could be good (like [card]Illusionary Armor[/card]) are actually awful. I didn’t have a proper curve, didn’t have a single removal spell, etc. A trainwreck. As bad as the deck was, I never thought I would 0-3 the table.
My first match against Ben Stark and considering the disparity between the decks, I put quite a fight and he had to sweat to pull out a win.
Then I lost the following two rounds in the same way: winning the first game then losing games 2 and 3 to an [card]Air Servant[/card]. Welcome to hell I guess. The worst part of doing that poorly in the draft was being completely dead for Top 4 going into Modern. Usually you wouldn’t have any motivation, but I didn’t lose mine since every win counts as a GP Top 64 (1 Pro Point per win).
0-3 in M14 draft (3-6 Overall)
My Modern matches would be comical if not tragic. First, I beat a very flooded Martin Juza (playing UWR) in what I think is a good matchup. Then I lost to David Ochoa’s BG after winning game one with two lands in play, and losing games 2 and 3 with three in play (he destroyed some with [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]s) in what I consider a bad matchup. I was sure I was in hell, when in game 3 I miracle’d a [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] with 3 lands in play against a board of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], 8 Wolf tokens, a [/card]Garruk Relentless[/card], and a [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] (if I recall correctly). I had a couple [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and one [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]. Game-winning, right? It would be, if only I had a red mana…
In the last match, I beat Shi Tian Lee’s Scapeshift. Game one, he saw around 25 cards and never found a second green mana to win. In the second game I brought in all my hate and played carefully to never give him a chance to come back after a slow start.
It’s ironic that I built a deck in a hurry, to beat a different field, and was close to 3-0 against the best players in the world. In the end, 2-1 was a blessing and I finished my participation at the 2013 World Championship surprisingly happy.
2-1 on Modern (5-7 Overall)
After two days of intense gaming and several bad beats, I finally felt that I was starting to run better—hell was over. I had the WMC to play and try to redeem myself.
“This mountain is so formed that it is always wearisome when one begins the ascent, but becomes easier the higher one climbs.”
Two months ago, when the team was confirmed, I did the same thing I do for every PT—I created a facebook group so we could arrange flights/hotel together, and talk about decks and strategy. I’ve seen countless players lose their focus for being in a foreign country and forget what they are doing there. They might wait their whole career for the opportunity to play on the big stage, and when they have the chance, they suddenly spend the week sightseeing, shopping, or in night clubs. I wouldn’t let that happen this time. I sent a big message to the team, explaining my plan for each format, how we should test, how to determine who would play each format, etc. In the end of the message, I told them that we had a very good team, with a chance to make history.
I’m still not sure if I had my first good night of sleep that day because I was extremely tired or because I was going to play the tournament I waited for the whole year. Despite the fact that the WC was the tournament with the big money and Pro Points, the WMC was the event I really wanted to play. I’ve been part of the national team twice before, and after our loss in the Top 4 of Worlds 2008, I always wanted another shot. Add to it a way better format than old Worlds, and you get the best tournament you can ever play in.
World Magic Cup – Day 1
The tournament started with Unified M14 Team Sealed. We built a very good RG deck and 2 OK decks (UW and BR sacrifice). Davi Cisne would pilot RG, Allison Abe would be the UW player, and I pick up BR.
We played North Ireland in our first round and it was kind of tense (at least for me). I was playing a very tough game 3 when Davi won his game. I look to the other side and Allison had his whole board wrathed by a [card]Windstorm[/card], and a couple turns later his game was over. I was playing really tight, playing around all M14 and RGD possible spells, and after taking around 3 minutes to make a decision, Allison asked me: “What are you doing?” I said I was playing around card A, B, C, D,…, Z when he said “Why? We already won.” Apparently when he lost all his creatures he had 6 cards in hand, rebuilt and won on the following turn. I told him not to test the heart of an old man again and we moved on.
Next round we beat Ecuador, and once again my team won while my game was still in progress. An aside: I play really fast, it’s not my fault if they give me the slowest deck I’ve ever seen.
In round three we lost to Australia in a camera feature match. Davi won again (finishing 3-0), I lost in the mirror match to Justin Cheung (0-3 against him at that time, including a loss in the semifinals of Worlds 2008), and Allison being destroyed by an amazing Sliver deck sporting [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card] and [card garruk, caller of beasts]Garruk[/card].
2-1 in M14 Sealed (2-1 Overall)
I was happy with the 2-1 start, which means a 2-2 in the Constructed portion would lock us into Day 2. In our first Constructed round, we played last year’s finalist Puerto Rico. Allison’s UWR beat their Jund and Enzo’s BG lost to their Aristocrats. It was up to me playing one of my worst matchups—Bant Hexproof. We split the first two games and for the third one I was on the play. I had an aggressive start of turn two Boar, turn three [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], and turn four [card]Hellrider[/card] while he had an [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] with [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] and a [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]. Things were even until I peeled a second [card]Hellrider[/card] to secure the win.
Next round we played France, and our UWR beat their Jund and their UW beat our BG, all expected. My match versus Raphael Levy’s mono-green would decide it. Again, we split the first two games, and in the last one I was REALLY flooded as he was beating me down with a [card]Rancor[/card]ed [card]Young Wolf[/card] and a [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card]. I was trying to stabilize when he miracle’d a [card]Revenge of the Hunted[/card]. I had a [card]Fog[/card]. Next turn I drew a [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] and played it. I had four mana up with 2 lands in hand. On his turn, he played another [card]Revenge of the Hunted[/card] and pondered for a LONG time with his teammates of what to do. I was bluffing a [card]Fog[/card]/[card]Searing Spear[/card] and if he didn’t attack with everything I would win in the swing back. In the end, he didn’t buy my bluff and attacked for the win.
Round 7 we were paired against England, and I lost the mirror match in less than five minutes. That was kind of good, because Enzo lost his first game to Carrie Oliver’s Junk Aggro and could use my help there. By the time we evened it, Allison won the first game against Eduardo Sajgalik’s UW. There was around 12 minutes left. When I noticed I told him: “Sideboard in a way you can’t lose this game in 12 minutes. Don’t play slow, keep a reasonable pace but think about your plays like the game was 0-0, don’t let him rush you.” He nodded and I went back to Enzo’s game. After a long battle, with tight play and Carrie’s mana screw, we won and that means the deciding game would be in the control mirror. Allison was playing really fast (I’m sure he never played that fast before) and lost game two with four minutes left on the clock to an army of Angels. When I checked his sideboard, there were three [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]s there, phew.
Game three started, and when time was over, Allison had a superior board position with an Angel with Pike vs. a Jace. In normal conditions I would argue with Eduardo over who would win that game, and one team could scoop to the other. But the entire time Eduardo was making his plays to make sure he wouldn’t lose, which would make it impossible for us to guess who would win the game if time weren’t an issue. In the end we drew and both of us would need a win next round to Day 2.
In the deciding round we would face Argentina. While we are mortal rivals in soccer, this doesn’t happen at all in Magic. We rooted for each other the whole day and both teams were sad that one of us would be out. Allison quickly won his match versus Jund and Enzo was losing his to their UWR. Apparently my match against GW aggro would decide who would Day 2. I lost game one to a horde of [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] plus [card]Sigarda, Host of Herons[/card]. Great, couldn’t ask for a worse matchup.
Game two he attacked me for 10 on turn four with an [card]Unflinching Courage[/card]d, [card]Rancor[/card]’d, [card]Sublime Archangel[/card]. On my turn I attacked back with a [card]Wolfir Siverheart[/card], bloodrushed a [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card], and then played [card]Domri Rade[/card] so the giant Wolf could take down his Angel. Eventually I took control of the game and we went to game three. He started really fast and I [card mizzium mortars]Mortared[/card] the two Smiters he played, since I would lose on the spot if he [card]Armadillo Cloak[/card]s it. He ran out of gas and I stabilized the ground with a [card]Tree of Redemption[/card], while a couple [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card]s did their dirty work in the skies. Day Two was guaranteed.
2-1-1 in Standard (4-2-1 Overall)
We were in heaven. The Brazilian supporters were ecstatic and they started a new campaign. “Brazil, the giant awoke.”
World Magic Cup – Day 2
The first format of the day would be Return to Ravnica Block Sealed. We opened a really hard pool to build since our black was extremely strong and no other colors were outstanding. To make things worse, our Gates were in the “wrong” colors and all our cluestones had red. In the end we had an awesome Orzhov deck, a good Rakdos, and an awful Simic/Dimir one. Yes, all decks with black.
This time we would “rest” Allison for the Constructed part since it would be very likely that he would have to play a lot of mirror matches again, so Enzo replaced him at Sealed. We made our first mistake of the day when we chose who would play each deck. Davi played the Orzhov deck, I piloted the Rakdos, and Enzo went with the other one. Our plan involved me finishing my game as fast as possible then going to help Enzo on his. I call this a mistake because time is a regular issue in team tournaments and the Orzhov deck, despite its power, was really slow. So it would make more sense for me to play it, since I play the fastest of the three of us. And to be fair, his deck was so bad that we didn’t expect Enzo to win a single game even if Kai Budde coached him.
In the first round of the day, I won my match and Enzo lost his against Slovenia. Davi lost a long game one, and with less than 10 minutes we would need to win game two to force a draw. They were really demotivated after losing game one from a totally dominant board position, and told me there would be no way to win in that time. Well, we did win to force a draw, and what a game it was. We raced a 4/5 lifelink flying hexproof creature between chump blocks and extort triggers to win doing the exact damage we needed. I must thank here the Slovenia team for the sportsmanship, since they never played slower than they did in game one and they allowed me to touch the cards and assign blocks to save time. We felt invincible after winning a game like this, even if in the end it was only a draw.
Better be invincible, because next round we would face my nemesis, Australia. I told Justin Cheung that this time I going to get my revenge and he replied: “That’s fine, you beat me and the other two Australians win.” This time I indeed won, but the other two games looked bad. Davi was down a game and Enzo was facing the best Selesnya deck I have ever seen. I was coaching Davi when Enzo announced that he won game one on the back of a turn five [card]Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker[/card]. Davi was about to lose his match when I looked to Enzo’s game two and saw five tapped mana and a Mirko Vosk in play. He won. I guess miracles can happen—those were the only two games he won with that deck the whole day.
In the meantime, Iceland beat Slovenia, meaning that we were locked for the round of 16. In the following round we beat Iceland to finish our pool in the first seed, time to get back to Constructed.
2-0-1 on Return to Ravnica Block Sealed (6-2-2 Overall)
Ukraine was our first opponent of this phase and it was really tough. We had three bad matchups (BG vs. BR zombies, RG vs. Junk Reanimator, and UWR vs. Esper) but somehow we managed to win this in really tight games.
Next round we faced Austria, where I was destroyed by their BRW Aristocrats deck. The odd part of the game was when I pinged a creature with [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] putting him at 5 life to my 10. I would kill him next turn and he only had a 5/2 Aristocrat and one card in hand. I won, right? No. The last card was a [card]Gather the Townsfolk[/card] that made 5 tokens in the fateful hour to kill me exactly. I didn’t play around that card to be fair, but there was nothing I could do there since I would die anyway if I didn’t use my Chandra. Our BG beat their RG aggro and we lost the control mirror.
Belgium beat Ukraine, which meant Austria was locked into Top 8 and we would decide with Belgium the last spot. I warned my teammates that if we drew, Belgium would advance so they needed to play fast and watch for slow play. Against Belgium, we would have a RG mirror match (Me vs. Marijn), UWR vs. BG, and BG vs. UWR. If everything went normally, my match would decide who advances.
Game one I mulliganed a very slow hand (something like [card]Domri Rade[/card], [card]Hellrider[/card], [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card], [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], 3 lands) into the same hand minus a Mortars (or something like that). He kept a very slow hand too, but since he was on the play, he started putting a lot of pressure on and my back was against the wall. Considering his keep and the way he played, during turn four I put him on having a [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card], and Dragon in hand. I had [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card], [card]Hellrider[/card] and [card]Domri Rade[/card] in hand. If I play the Rampager and he has Mortars, I lose on spot, so I played [card]Hellrider[/card] and shrunk his [card]Domri Rade[/card].
I knew he would Dragon me, so on the next turn I would attack with [card]Hellrider[/card] again, Rampager it, then play my own Domri to fight his Dragon and hope he bricks for a turn. Everything went according to plan, except that he didn’t have a Dragon, he had 2, and took game one. I think I played game two really well (which is a shame that it wasn’t on camera). We both were losing land drops and I was playing around a zillion cards to make sure there’s no way I could lose it fast. In the end, I started drawing lands first and my [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] took the game.
He started game three with a turn two [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card] that I matched with mine own. My deck was superior in the late game, so there was no reason to start trading damage. My hand was very good, I just needed time to win. He missed his fourth land drop twice and I dropped a [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] and attacked. Then he ripped a Mountain and played [card]Hellrider[/card] to put me on 3 life (he had two creatures in play).
My hand was loaded, including a [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] that could steal the [card]Hellrider[/card] to put him at 1 life (some people remembered when I didn’t attack with my Geist on turn 2, but the same people forgot that I would be dead if the Geist kept attacking me).
Some people asked me why I didn’t play it safe and play defense with my Dragon. Well, first, I didn’t expect the [card]Hellrider[/card] there since it is the worst card in the mirror. Second, he only had three lands, so even if he had the [card]Hellrider[/card] (which I thought would be really unlikely), he would need to peel a Mountain/[card]Rootbound Crag[/card] since he didn’t have two red mana and the dual would kill him. The odds were in my favor. Moving on, on my turn I played two creatures and attacked with the Dragon. This was a mistake. He had a lot of outs (any card besides an [card scavenging ooze]Ooze[/card] or mana Elf) and it didn’t matter because he topdecked a [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card]. But if I decline to attack with the Dragon, I would reduce his outs by three, since Mortars wouldn’t be an out anymore.
Losing to runner-runner top decks is annoying, but as Ben Stark says, it’s Magic. It was a fair game. I wish I could say the same about our other two matches.
Allison lost his first game and won the second one with 23 minutes on the clock, at least that is what one of the judges told us. Two minutes later, another judge told me that it was 13 minutes, and not 23. From my seat, I started yelling at him to say it was 13 minutes, that he needed to play really fast but apparently he never heard it. In his third game, his opponent played glacially slow, and despite all my complaints, no extra time was added. It was so ridiculous that when he [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]d a [card]Turn // Burn[/card], there was a judge convention for at least 2 minutes to decide if he needed to target a specific part of the split card before playing it.
Later in the game, we lost at least 30 seconds when he created a token with a [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] and couldn’t untap until the judge found a Spirit token. The nail in the coffin was the non-existence of a clock in the feature match area. Allison had a [card jace, memory adept]Jace[/card] in play but wasn’t milling 10 cards because he thought he still had a lot of time and wanted to have complete control of the game. He told me he was expecting the judge to at least say something when there were only three or five minutes left. I’m 100% sure he would win the game, since he had a full grip of cards and was one Jace activation away from the win.
Enzo’s game was really heartbreaking as well. In game one, he moved to the attack phase with a [card]Desecration Demon[/card], saying “Attack?” Vincent nodded and then Enzo [card]Doom Blade[/card]d his creature before turning his creatures sideways. Vincent then said he wouldn’t be able to attack anymore. Enzo looked confused to me and before we asked for a judge, there was one already ruling that he saw everything that happened and he wouldn’t be able to attack on that turn. I tried to argue saying that it was implicit that he was announcing the Demon trigger, and was therefore casting [card]Doom Blade[/card] before attackers. The judge was firm on his position of not letting him attack, saying that he missed the Demon’s trigger and was moving to declare attackers (or something like that).
Honestly, the lack of experience from Enzo made him play with shortcuts as he would in his local store and he’s not used to playing on the big stage (and doesn’t speak English) and Vincent capitalized on it. Personally, I would never try to fish for a win this way. At that time, the floor judge offered the option to appeal to the head judge but in my experience I never saw a ruling reversed when the judge says he is SURE about what happened. Time was also a concern, and I didn’t want to waste more time if we didn’t get the extra time back (that discussion took more than one minute and no extra time was added because of it), so I declined and we moved on. Eventually, he won that game because of that play.
Enzo won game two when his opponent was playing very slowly. I complained the whole game with the judges about the unreasonable pace, and people that were watching on the cameras said he was taking a long time each of his turns shuffling lands in hand. He took at least five minutes shuffling for game three and chose to slowly pile shuffle on each mulligan decision. Add to that the fact that he was asking the how much time we had left every 5 minutes, and it’s clear to me what his plan was. I keep asking the judge to watch for slow play and I was hoping to see some time added. They told me they would add a feeble two minutes. Time was called and the match ended in a draw when we had a superior position.
They took the match with Marijn’s win and two draws. It’s safe to say that we would win that match for sure if it wasn’t a feature match, and when this happens, something is really wrong. I’m just telling the story as I viewed it. Vincent isn’t the fastest player in the world and he had at least 3 judges watching him play and they all said that nothing was wrong. I respectfully disagree with the judges; I think they made a mistake (both in Enzo and Allison’s matches). I did what I could, I complained, I asked a judge to watch the game. If they think there’s nothing wrong, I can’t blame Vincent.
One of the floor judges also came to talk with me after the match was over and apologize for any possible mistake he made. He said it is really hard to detect stalling or slow play (which I agree with). I honestly think he realized he made a mistake and I accepted his apology. Unfortunately, apologies wouldn’t change the result and we were out.
After the match Marjin tried to calm me, and after I explained, he said Vince was just slow sometimes. Then I asked a blunt question: “If you needed the win instead of the draw, do you honestly believe that he would play that slow?” After pondering for a few seconds, he said “no.” I always admired him as a player, and if he didn’t have my HoF vote before, after this statement of honesty and leading his team to Top 8, he now may have. I was rooting for him to at least Top 4 so he can make a PT comeback but they unfortunately lost in the Top 8.
“I have been in the Heaven that takes up most of his light, and saw things there that those who descend from that height cannot speak of or forget”
This is the part I thought I would be writing about how we made Top 8 of the WMC, how we won an epic Top 8 match to secure three more Brazilians at the Pro Tour. But it wasn’t meant to be. I was really sad at the end, because I think these three amazing guys really deserve to qualify for Dublin. They did their best and the way everything ended has a really bitter taste.
In the Divine Comedy, Dante teaches readers how to discover their unique lives’ purposes and thus find their path to redemption. Did I find mine? It’s hard to say because the answer is different for everyone. Maybe my personal heaven was to live through it, evolve as a person and a player after a week that started miserably. Maybe I’m still looking for it, and if I play well, I may have a second chance next year, both on the WC and WMC. All I know is that I will do my best, so maybe next time I have a smile on this face when I come back home.
Thanks for reading.
“But already my desire and my will
were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed,
by the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”