Last weekend in Bologna, I competed in Italian Nationals. Despite being already qualified for the World Magic Cup as the captain for Italy, I was battling for 3 Pro Points and the title of Italian Champion. I was thrilled about the tournament structure: 6 rounds of brand new Standard and 6 of a brand new Draft format. Very similar to what the Pro Tour will be in couple of weeks, so it was good testing.
The tournament was great and it ran smoothly (despite some complaints about the Draft packs not being stamped, but it was well handled by Italian judges, who did an amazing job making the process as secure as it could be). The two finalists were Adriano (“ilnano”) Moscato and Gold Pro Mattia Rizzi, with Adriano winning the final, forming yet another amazing Team for the World Magic Cup.
(Also as you can see in the picture, our team is very young, and I’m happy to be the tallest member—a fact I would have never foreseen in my whole Magic career.)
476 players competed at Italian Nationals, and thanks to a huge number of unintentional draws (mainly because of the Tokens mirror match) some players at 9-2-1 made it into the Top 8. I ended up 9-3. 4-2 in Standard (with a bye) and 5-1 in Draft, and finished 18th.
For the Standard portion, I chose to play Temur Black. One week ago I was on Gift, mostly after a 5-0 League on my first try with the deck. But after further testing, I saw how fragile and inconsistent it was. So I chose to settle for something safe like Temur.
The World Championship showed us that you could leave The Scarab God in your binder and build a cheaper version of the deck that omits black. I felt like The Scarab God was the key to winning the mirror match (the matchup I was expecting the most) and that Confiscation Coup was a bad answer to it.
I loved the main-deck Essence Scatter to answer the 5-mana threats from Temur in the PGO list. As I said, I couldn’t get away from black. The Scarab God is likely the most powerful card in Standard and can win games on its own even if you are far behind. Also, black gives you some great sideboard cards like Cartouche of Ambition (an all-star vs. Mono-Red) and Hour of Glory (which is great for dealing with Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God).
In the five rounds I played (I had one bye), I faced 3 Mono-Red, 1 U/W Approach, and 1 Esper Tokens.
In testing, my matchup against Mono-Red was excellent. Real life is different, and I went 2-1 overall, losing an incredible match to Hazoret the Fervent with The Scarab God and Cartouche of Ambition stuck in my hand and eight lands in play that didn’t produce black mana. I guess that can happen a small percentage of the time and it was just unfortunate that it happened at the tournament itself.
The Tokens matchup feels similar: game 1 you just die to Fumigate, but post-sideboard your counters help to fight that. I still didn’t get any wins in that matchup, as I just died to The Scarab God in game 2.
I still like Temur Black over regular Temur; I had a great winning record in the mirror in my testing even though the whole Top 4 at Italian Nationals was playing regular Temur without The Scarab God.
I loved Italian Nationals mainly thanks to Draft, which was the most important part of the tournament. In my first Draft I opened Vraska, Relic Seeker, a card that I’ve never had in any of 20+ online Drafts, so I didn’t know exactly how to treat it. On top of that, the player to my right passed me a stacked pack with only a common missing (likely Contract Killing) and second-picked Arguel’s Blood Fast, so I didn’t know where to go. I figured G/W Dinos splashing black for Vraska was the way, but blue was super open, so I was U/W Treasures for most of the Draft but still kept the window for G/W open.
In the last pack I opened Drover of the Mighty and got passed a Ranging Raptors, so I got back in green as well as I could, ended up short, and had to play all the cards I had in my colors to wind up with this beauty:
As you can see, while I was undecided on which color I would end up in, I also found the time to rare-draft two Search for Azcantas that are very welcome in my Vintage Cube and my U/B Control deck!
Ancient Brontodon was the fan favorite, and whenever it came down it won me the game.The highlight was playing a Brontodon on turn 7 with three Treasures open to Cancel my opponent’s removal! The deck performed great and it granted me a 3-0. Vraska, Relic Seeker was definitely the best card of the deck, to the surprise of no one.
In my second Draft, I chose a more conventional route, and went for a safe B/W Vampires deck that was open, and ended up very good. I can’t find the picture, but it was strong with five 2- and 3-drops, and a great removal package such as 1 Vanquish the Weak, 2 Pious Interdiction, and 2 Contract Killing. I ended up 2-1 though, losing only to my friend Alessandro Casamenti and his two Dive Down and Jade Guardian plus One with the Wind that I wasn’t prepared to fight.
The tournament was a blast, and I can’t wait until next year to play it again. One suggestion would be to do two more rounds, likely Standard, since it had very little impact on the tournament. Also, this way we can do 4-5 rounds of Standard and a Draft on Day 1, and the second Draft and 3-4 rounds of Standard on Day 2. The tournament ended very early on both days, so adding a round per day isn’t unreasonable.
Overall, it was a great experience and I love that Nationals are back!