Last weekend I spent one of the best days in my life in Nice, playing World Magic Cup 2017 with my great friends and teammates(Piotr Glogowski and Radslaw Kaczmarczyk).
We were super close from realizing my biggest dream of being World Champion with Polish national team. In the end we lost the finals versus Japan, admittedly the best team in WMC after three very close matches 3-games each. We were one small game, just few points of life away from making history for Poland.
Even though we lost, I’m not upset. Losing to Yuuya Watanabe, Shota Yasooka and Kenta Harane is not a reason to be ashamed. They are legends of magic.
Even more, I’m very happy and proud of what we did. We played a great tournament that will remain in my memory for a long time. Because of that, I’ll try to do a small recap for you today! I’m not great with sharing feeling and emotions, especially on the paper, so I’ll try to include as much as possible essential and strategic information about preparation, deck choices and Top 8 games.
I like idea of unified standard! It’s way better than unified Modern, because card pool is much smaller and each team has to sacrifice something to register 3 decks.
Communication with your teammates is really important and you can get serious edge thanks to that. If you’re playing against UW 《Approach of the Second Sun》 and your 《Chandra》 was countered by 《Negate》, you should tell about it to your teammates. With this in mind your UW friend can play 《Fumigate》 versus Temur into 2 open mana safely!
I believe good communication was a big part of our success. I often changed my generic sideboard plans due to what my teammates told me. If Mono Red opponent played 《Chandra》s or 《Glorybringer》s on seat A, I knew I don’t want to bring 《Chandra's Defeat》 in the Temur Energy mirror on seat B.
From the very beginning we knew that we want to play Mono Red and Temur Black as we were very experienced with those decks and both were naturally the best decks in current standard. For a long time we didn’t really know what we want to do with third deck. There were three Blue White decks that could fit well into our Red-Temur configuration, but we couldn’t decide (UW 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》, UW 《Approach》, UW Cycling). At some point, more or less week before WMC we were almost locked on 《Gift》, and then we have found UW Cycling list from Top 16 of Grand Prix Portland 2017.
I just asked Piotr Glogowski(@kanister_mtg) to try it and pick whatever he feels better with. I knew he’s a great player, and he will make good judgment, so I just trusted his opinion. It turned out that Piotr had great results on modo with our new deck, so we registered UW Cycling – Temur Black – Mono Red trio.
4 《Irrigated Farmland》
4 《Glacial Fortress》
1 《Shefet Dunes》
1 《Ipnu Rivulet》
-Land (24)- 2 《Curator of Mysteries》
4 《Countervailing Winds》
4 《Renewed Faith》
4 《Hieroglyphic Illumination》
4 《Settle the Wreckage》
3 《Search for Azcanta》
3 《Drake Haven》
4 《Cast Out》
1 《Abandoned Sarcophagus》
1 《Sheltered Thicket》
4 《Aether Hub》
4 《Botanical Sanctum》
3 《Spirebluff Canal》
3 《Rootbound Crag》
1 《Blooming Marsh》
-Land (22)- 4 《Longtusk Cub》
4 《Servant of the Conduit》
4 《Rogue Refiner》
4 《Whirler Virtuoso》
1 《Rhonas the Indomitable》
3 《Bristling Hydra》
2 《The Scarab God》
4 《Harnessed Lightning》
1 《Confiscation Coup》
2 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》
2 《Vraska, Relic Seeker》
4 《Ramunap Ruins》
4 《Sunscorched Desert》
1 《Scavenger Grounds》
-Land (24)- 4 《Bomat Courier》
4 《Soul-Scar Mage》
4 《Earthshaker Khenra》
3 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》
3 《Rampaging Ferocidon》
4 《Ahn-Crop Crasher》
4 《Hazoret the Fervent》
There is also important “anti Mono Red sideboard slot” – 《Chandra's Defeat》. Due to black splash in our Temur list I was happy with five drops already, we had 《The Scarab God》, 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》 and 《Confiscation Coup》 as options, so it was easy to give 《Glorybringer》 away. We expected a lot teams playing Mono Red in “aggro slot” so I was OK with replacing Temur’s 《Chandra》s with 《Bristling Hydra》 to increase my aggro match up. Thanks to that we could leave powerful planeswalker for Mono Red which was very important for certain post-board match ups. Our biggest problem was with 《Abrade》. The best substitute for it was 《Cut // Ribbons》 which majority of teams figured out.
At first glance it’s easy. 《Abrade》 for Mono Red, 《Cut》 for Temur Black, right? You can even flashback 《Cut》 from the graveyard for additional value. That’s also what most of the teams did, but we didn’t.
Without 《Chandra》 and 《Glorybringer》, Temur’s 《Gift》 match up was horrible and 《Abrade》 was the only thing that could save game one somehow, at the same time Mono Red had 《Rampaging Ferocidon》 which is MVP against them. Another sweet bonus was opportunity to kill 《Hazoret the Fervent》 in the mirror with 《Soul-Scar Mage》 + 《Cut》 which no one ever expected in game one. We did it in our swiss match versus Germany which directly moved us to Top 8 :)!
We did it! Top8 of #MTGWMC with team Poland! 4-0 today, including win with undefeated Germany!— Grzegorz Kowalski (@urlich00) 2017年12月2日
With more 《Hydra》s in the maindeck I wanted to make sure that I’ll be able to use them well. Historically best cards with Hexproof are auras, so I builded my sideboard plan versus aggro around 《Cartouche of Ambition》.
It was all nice puzzles that we solved one by one with a big picture in mind. I’m very happy with our thought process and cooperation in general.
Top 8 Games.
I believe that I played two very interesting games in Top 8 with so many possible lines each turn. I’ll show you how and why I played each of them, pros and cons of my plays (mistakes involved!) and what was in my mind during those games!
Game 3 of Semifinal vs. GermanyWatch 2017 World Magic Cup Semifinals: Germany vs. Poland from Magic on www.twitch.tv
Game starts at 45:00
It’s worth to notice that Marc searched for 《Mountain》 turn 1 with 《Attune》, and played 《Swamp》 turn 2 next to 《Blooming Marsh》. Less experienced players would play that 《Mountain》 to “don’t give me additional information”, but Marc didn’t.
Because of that I had to respect that he might have another 《Fatal Push》, and had to choose safer line. That small but smart play, which some people watching stream probably didn’t even realize, left me with way less scary threat (《Virtuoso》 instead of 《Cub》). Well played by Germany’s captain.
On the other hand, great play on turn 2 costed him a lot on turn 4. In the following turn Marc played 《Mountain》 (he had 《Harnessed Lightning》 in hand) which left him without blue mana on my turn 4. That was a big deal, because I could safely cast my 《Hydra》, instead of another 《Virtuoso》, which I would cast instead, if he had an 《Island》 in play, to play around 《Essence Scatter》.
Next interesting moment is in turn 6 [51:50] when he played 《Supreme Will》 leaving 2 mana open post combat. At this moment I knew two things. Marc didn’t have removal spell in hand, and he had to play 《Torrential Gearhulk》 next turn, to not lose the game.
My last relevant card in my hand was 《Virtuoso》 and commentators said that I should play it to make lethal next turn. I believe it’s not true. By passing my turn I made Marc wasting his 2 mana, and leaving myself with huge advantage on the board while keeping a threat in my hand that I’m guaranteed to resolve it next turn, when he has to use all his mana for 《Gearhulk》.
Now is turn 7, my worst turn in this match. I knew that I’m about to face big blue monster, and even with this in mind I made incorrect attack. I should have play 《Virtuoso》 precombat, to check if that resolves (which again, was expected, as the right target for 《Gearhulk》 was 《Vraska's Contempt》) and then just attack with thopters, pass the turn, make 2 tokens in his end of turn and then just attack with fliers and kill him at some point (his deck was full of point removal, which is naturally weak versus bunch of small tokens).
With 《The Scarab God》 as the follow up I couldn’t lose this game. With my line, after stupid attack I had to pump《Hydra》 twice, to trade with his blocker and I couldn’t make any more tokens leaving myself very vulnerable to another 《Gearhulk》. Fortunately for me, and the Polish team Marc didn’t draw anything relevant next turn, and we were able to take the match and advance to the big final!
Game 3 of the finals vs JapanWatch 2017 World Magic Cup Finals: Poland vs. Japan from Magic on www.twitch.tv
Game starts at 33:30
In this game, the first important decision came even before I started the game. After mulligan to 6, I decided to keep fairly weak hand. 5 lands and 《Servant》. I wasn’t happy about the choice, but I believe it’s better than random 5-card hand, and not missing land drops is very important.
I saw 《Vizier of Many Faces》 on the top while scrying. It’s not the best card to draw in the first turn, when you don’t have any action in hand, but I kept it on top. I knew that my hand is not aggressive at all and game will go long, so I wanted to make sure that I will have good use for my mana.
Next real decision was on turn 6. I had 6 lands, 《Vraska, Relic Seeker》, 《Servant》 and 《Negate》. Yuuya had 3 open mana, including blue and I knew that he has 《Negate》s in his deck. With my own 《Negate》 I didn’t want to rush, and wanted to cast my cheaper spells to develop the board holding 《Negate》 up.
At [40:00] he finally tapped out, and I was able to safely resolve my 《Vraska》. After that I destroyed Yuuya’s 《Servant》 which was controversial for some people, but it was good for two big reasons. First – It was his only black source, and he had a lot of black cards in his deck. Second – Thanks to that I got treasure token, which gave me mana for 《Negate》, so I was sure 《Vraska》 will survive next combat (Yuuya did not play 《Glorybringer》s in 75).
It turned out that this play probably decided about the whole match. In different scenario, with [+2] 《Vraska》, I would face 《Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh》 next turn, and probably lose this game on the spot. After that I started slowly snowballing with my planeswalkers and had the game under control.
In last turn, the one with 《River's Rebuke》 I ultimated 《Nissa, Steward of Elements》 only because I knew that Yuuya doesn’t have access to his own 《Rebuke》, and he does not have any out to come back with 1 life facing 4 pirates and 《Rogue Refiner》.
Think About Possibilities
As you can see, games of magic are really complex, and sometimes even the smallest play like playing different basic land on turn 2 can have huge impact on the whole game. It’s very important to have this in mind the next time when you lose the game and feel like “I couldn’t do anything differently”. I often hear in my hometown, from less experienced players after some PPTQ match that they lost and “couldn’t do anything” before even they start to think about possibilities.
It’s very bad attitude, because you always can do something different and you should focus on improving yourself instead of blaming bad luck. Maybe that’s true, maybe you made 5 correct mulligans during the match and you couldn’t win it, because opponent had better hands and draws. It’s obviously possible, that is how magic works, but blaming bad luck doesn’t improve you.
Instead of that you should think what would happen if you tapped 《Rootbound Crag》 instead 《Spirebluff Canal》 for your 《Shock》 leaving up your UR dual and 《Forest》? Maybe your opponent would be afraid of 《Negate》 and cast 《Ferocidon》 following turn instead of 《Chandra》 that won him the game? Magic is the game of small decisions and most of them matter. Understanding that is the first step to improve your game!
Here, in the end of article, I want to say big thanks to everyone who was cheering for us. For Polish people, who showed us more support than ever. It was great feeling and honor to represent my country. I wasn’t playing as Grzegorz Kowalski. I was playing next to my teammates and friends as TEAM POLAND and I’m proud of it.
After each day of competition we received a lot of messages with support, congratulations, comments and everything from our countrymen, even from people that I don’t know personally. This is something that I don’t really experience at Pro Tours, at least not that much. It really affected our mindset and made us even more motivated to do something great for Poland. You are a big part of our success!
Special thanks to my close friends from my hometown for making the “welcome party” right after I came back from World Magic Cup! It was great experience to see those happy faces celebrating that moment. Mieszko, Rejman, Ezu, Tymek, Wieszak, Gyba, Koniu – you guys are the big reason why I’m still playing magic and why I never want to stop! Thanks guys!
Until next time,
He won the top eight in GP Lille 2012 and GP Brussels 2015, and GP Santiago 2017 has achieved second place.His extraordinary skill is also demonstrated on Pro Tour, experiencing countless top prize and money finish.
He is one of the top players who travels the world and continues to fight.