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Feature: Know Your Pool

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The cut from Day One of the World Magic Cup has been vicious, with a number of big–name teams not putting up the performance required to squeeze through. The Czech Republic, China, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Australia, and Japan are all teams that many might have tipped for greatness, but none will be building Team Sealed decks on Saturday morning.

The thirty–two teams that remain have been split into eight pools of four teams. All the teams in a pool will play one another, with the two top–performing teams advancing to the Team Constructed stage. There are a few key facts to bear in mind about this round–robin phase. It doesn't matter if your team just scraped through Day One if you beat all the teams in your pool. All you need to do is to finish in the top half of your pool and you will advance to the next phase. That said, scores on Day One are still important, as they are used to determine seeds in each pool. In the event of things coming down to tiebreakers, being the higher seed means everything. It is possible for three teams to get a 2–1 score, and in that case being the lowest seed will mean you are out. Additionally, there are just three active players handling cards from here on, but the fourth player is able to help with building sealed decks, and giving advice throughout the remainder of the tournament.

With all that said, let's take a look at our pools.

Pool 1

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
1 Croatia (Hrvatska) Grgur Petric Maretic Toni Portolan Stjepan Sučić Goran Elez
16 Ukraine Igor Skrypov Oleksandr Onosov Mike Krasnitski Vlad Ovsyannikov
17 Singapore Chapman Sim Kelvin Chew Ryan Luo Mark Yaocheng
32 Malaysia Chee Choong Hiew Terry Soh Kenneth Wong Kian Keat Gan

Croatia are the overall top seed overnight, as they backed up a strong draft performance with a dominant showing in Constructed thanks to a mono–green infect deck that proved a powerhouse against the field. Only Goran Elez didn't play the deck, and he was the one who is playing water boy for the rest of the event. Their National Champion Grgur Petric Maretic was the star player, going undefeated on the day.

Ukraine had a set of solid performances from all their players, led by Igor Skrypov, who was seen in the feature match area in Round 5 giving Brazil a loss with his mono–green beatdown deck. Singapore were only separated from them by the performance of their 4th Man, and led by Chapman Sim they will need to pull something special out to overcome their low seeding in this pod.

Malaysia were the one team on 36 points to advance to Saturday play (no doubt frustrating England and Croatia, who were right behind them). The big name to look out for there is Terry Soh. The Invitational winner won a WMCQ to be on the team and was able to go 4–3 on the day, along with the rest of his team, which was just barely enough. Poor old Kian Keat Gan missed out on playing on Saturday in spite of also going 4–3, based on opponent match win percentage.

Pool 2

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
2 Slovak Republic Robert Jurkovic Ivan Floch Filip Valis Patrik Surab
15 Peru Jimmy Sam Sergio Sanabio Gabriela Ruiz  
18 Poland Tomek Pedrakowski Mateusz Kopec Adam Bubacz Jan Pruchhiewicz
31 Dominican Republic Ronald Rodriguez Jayme Castellanos Pedro Pappaterra Manuel Parra

The Slovak team were riding high in the Limited, much to the glee of Matej "Big Z" Zatlkaj, who has been testing with them all week. One of the few teams with four players with Pro Tour experience, Slovak were hotly tipped going into the event and did not disappoint. Their champion, Robert Jurkovic, was in charge throughout, losing only to Maretic in the final round. Honestly, there is not a weak link in their team, making them a dangerous opponent.

Peru might well be the talk of the tournament. Coming in with three players, they had their backs against the wall from the start and performed at every turn, getting the second seed for their pool in spite of not having a backup competitor. How they will fare without an extra head for the Team Sealed build will be very interesting. In the past, Peru has not been known for its Magic, but with Jimmy Sam's 6–1 finish on the day, they have a shot at making a mark now.

Poland are seeded 3rd in Pool Two, and the big player to watch out for on this team is Mateusz Kopec, a regular on the European Grand Prix circuit with a GP title to his name and a medal around his neck as National Champion. While he might have only gone 4–3 on the day, he has the form to suggest that more could come from him tomorrow.

Dominican Republic squeak in as the 4th seed in their pod, and have a rough ride ahead of them if they are to make it through. However, with a number of members who have played together quite a bit in the last few years at Worlds, don't count them out. They might just surprise you.

Pool 3

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
3 United States Alex Binek Joe Pennachio Brian Kibler Luis Scott-Vargas
14 Estonia Taavi Ludvi Oliver Oks Hannes Kerem Simon Robberts
19 Brazil Juliano Souza Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Leonardo Siqueira Elton Carneiro
30 Greece Fondas Papadatos Vangelis Pelekanos Antonis Fyssas Panagiotis Papadopoulos

United States has a long and storied history of high finishes at Worlds, and make it into Day Two as the 3rd seed overall and the top one for their pool. The big story for them is that, to do so, it required relative unknowns Alex Binek and Joe Pennachio to post 6–1 records, while the Pro Tour–winning likes of Brian Kibler and Luis Scott–Vargas got four and two wins respectively. LSV as a "coach" might be the most devastatingly effective 4th Man in the competition. However, there are a few things about the US team that might represent chinks in their armor. For one, they admit to not having done a great deal of Team Sealed practice. On top of this, there is the Curse of LSV. Last time Luis was on the US Nationals Team, they finished 24th, their worst recorded finish (excepting a DQ in Rome). Can he propel them further as team cheerleader? A lot of viewers, both at home and here at Gen Con, certainly hope so.

A creditable 14th–place finish on Day One places Estonia as the second seed in their pool, and they will have been very happy that most of their losses were focused on one player, Simon Robberts, who got just a single win. Had they been more spread out, the Estonians might have been watching from the bleachers. One player to look out for on their team is Oliver Oks. Originally from Australia, and now living in Estonia, Oks has had a number of strong finishes at Grand Prix all over the world, and his experience might prove decisive.

Brazil are perhaps a little frustrated to finish as third seed in their pool, and up against the USA. Their National Champion, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, has just been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and regularly plays as part of team ChannelFireball alongside both LSV and Brian Kibler. PV has a Top 8 percentage to keep up and will be keen to keep his team firing on all cylinders to do so.

Greece rounds out Pool 3, and surely has an uphill struggle against a strong collection of teams to get through to the next phase of Constructed play. Their big finisher was Fondas Papadatos, who went 5–2. They will need to step things up a little on Saturday to stay in the competition

Pool 4

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
4 Chinese Taipei Tzu-Ching Kuo Tung-Yi Cheng Yu Min Yang Paul Renie
13 Portugal Mauro Peleira Joao Andrade Marcio Carvalho Tiago Santos
20 Sweden Denniz Rachid Martin Lindström David Fallgren Jonas Yzermans
29 Austria Benjamin Leitner Gerald Leitzinger Thomas Holzinger Thomas Angelmahr

Only two players went undefeated on Day One of the World Magic Cup. Tzu–Ching Kuo of Chinese Taipei was one of them. His performance was enough to propel the team into great position for Team Sealed, and he will be the player to watch out for who will likely take the center seat for team play. With nine GP Top 8s and five World Championships behind him, Tzu–Ching Kuo is well eligible for the Hall of Fame. Could a win here get him there?

Portugal come in second in Pool 4, off three solid performances from Mauro Peleira, Joao Andrade, and Marcio Carvalho. In spite of Marcio having the worst finish of the three (4–3), he will be the Portuguese player to watch, as he has the most Pro Tour experience by far in Team Portugal, with two Pro Tour Top 8s and a Grand Prix win.

Sweden are third seed in Pool 4. Denniz Rachid is having a fantastic season, with two Pro Tour Top 8s, making him the National Champion, and a 5–2 finish from Friday's play. How is he at Team Sealed? I guess we'll find out on Saturday.

Austria is the final team in Pool 4, and while they are the bottom seed, they have the pedigree to get past that. With Benjamin Leitner, Gerald Leitzinger, and Thomas Holzinger, there really isn't a weak link. Austria have finished 2nd at Worlds in the team competition twice. They are hungry to do one better, and are surely hoping to improve on their Day One performance to go deep into this competition as more teams are eliminated.

Pool 5

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
5 Argentina Nicolas De Nicola Danilo Sendra Matias Leveratto Matias Bollati
12 Norway Andreas Nordahl Vidar Espenes Christan Bakkehaug Tore Skaalevik
21 Finland Sami Häggkvist Max Sjoblom Eetu Perttula Matti Salmi
28 Slovenia Andrej Dolenc Matic Penko Bojan Zunko Robin Dolar

Argentina is looking to prove that experience really does matter for these difficult tournaments. After finishing 36th last year, this year's Argentinean team features two members returning from last year's team: captain Nicolas de Nicola and Danilo Sendra. Already guaranteed a better finish than last year, all three Argentinean players managed a 5–2 record on the day, good enough to put them into 5th place in the Team Standings.

Up next is Norway, captained by the very experienced Andreas Nordhal, who was a member of the 2nd–place Norwegian team from Worlds this past year. He has led his team by example here, managing a 5–2 record, and is certainly a player to watch in Stage 1 of tomorrow's pool play.

Finland's captain, Max Sjoblom, was a member of the 3rd–place Finnish team from 2006. He has been a consistent player during his career, finally managing to break through to a Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Ghent this year. He only managed to go 4–3 today, but he was supplemented by a smashing 6–1 performance from Sami Haggkvist, the second–most–decorated member of this Finnish squad.

Rounding out Pool 5 is the Slovenian team. Captained by Bojan Zunko, a two–time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor, the Slovenian team is a bit behind the other teams in this Pool, falling slightly behind Argentina, but Zunko's Top 8 experience and guidance might be the difference in whether or not they make it out of this Stage of play. Fortunately, it appears his team came to play, too, since both Andrej Dolenc and Matic Penko outperformed Zunko on Day One.

Pool 6

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
6 Scotland Stephen Murray Bradley Bbarclay Andrew Morrison Chris Davie
11 Hungary Tamás Glied Gabor Kocsis Tamas Nagy Máté Schrick
22 Spain Joel Calafell Sergio Garcia Gonzalez Rafael Ramon Fraga Carlos Moral
27 Switzerland Christian Fehr Olivier Duport Andreas Ganz Yann Blumer

Oh those Scots... once again competing under St. Andrew's Cross rather than the Union Jack, the Scottish team blazed out of the gates, sticking near the top of the team standings all day long. Captained by Stephen Murray and energized by his terrific 6–1 performance, the Scots are the only team from the British Isles to make it to Day Two. It isn't as though Murray is the only one contributing, however. Bradley Barclay, who was only beat out of the captainship by 1 point, managed a 5–2 record on the day, and Andrew Morrison, the other member of the Scottish team with pro points, pulled a respectable 4–3. But the main reason Murray gets the press? He is wearing a kilt!

Hungary is next in this incredibly stacked pool. Led by the twin threat of Tamas Nagy and Gabor Kocsis, the Hungarian team has a great deal of high–level experience. Both are on their fourth national team, including two as teammates. Kocsis has a whopping thirty–two Grand Prix played to go with nine Pro Tours. Nagy finished 3rd at Grand Prix Brussels in 2010. But the man on their team who is getting the most press at the moment is Tamas Glied. Glied ran the table on Day One, managing a perfect 7–0 record and lifting his team, and the more veteran players, to a Day Two berth. Can he keep the magic alive and inspire his teammates? Today is for questions, tomorrow for answers.

Third is Spain, led by an incredibly experienced Joel Calafell, he of the Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur Top 8 and Grand Prix Barcelona 2009 win. This is his second consecutive national team appearance, and this time around he is joined by some newcomers. Joining him in play tomorrow are Sergio Garcia Gonzalez and the least experienced player on the team, Rafael Ramon Fraga, who qualified despite having no prior professional experience—not even a Grand Prix attendance. Now he gets to play for his country against some of the best players in the world. At least he has Calafel's experience to rely on to keep him on the straight and narrow... and hopefully calm any nerves he might experience.

Finally, there is Switzerland. Captain Andreas Ganz is anchoring the team, having only managed a 3–2–2 record on the day. Ganz has been playing for just about ever, racking up forty-three Grand Prix appearances, including three Top 16s, but sadly lacks a Top 8 finish to his name. Both he and Olivier Duport have national team experience, but they will need a good deal of luck, as all teams in this incredibly powerful pool will, to advance to Stage 2.

Pool 7

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
7 Philippines Andrew Cantillana Gerald Camangon Zax Ozaki Jeremy Bryan Domocmat
10 Uruguay Martin Castillo Federico Bigalli Nicolas Righetti Mauro Betschart
23 Romania Alexandru Dimitriu Sebastian Mahu Pavel Radu Adrian Iulian Vasile
26 Netherlands Jelger Wiegersma Bart van Etten Floris de Haan Roy Oever

The Philippines come into this round leading a pool they have every ability to win. The three strongest players on the squad, Andrew Cantillana, Gerald Camagnon, and Zax Ozaki, are representing the team in pool play, with Cantillana having managed a 6–1 record on the day and looks to be the strong link initially on this team, despite the fact that he is the least experienced of the three.

Uruguay are one of the darlings of the tournament. Showing up in matching dapper suits with powder blue ties, the Uruguayan squad took home one of the Team Spirit Awards here at the World Magic Cup. Considering that Uruguay had the lowest-ranking team as far as pro points are concerned, it was a bit of a surprise to see them riding so high in the standings. After seeing a full day of consistent play from Martin Castillo, Federico Bigalli, and Nicolas Righetti, who will be representing the team come Stage 1, their performance is completely understandable.

Romania's team is led by Alexandru Dimitriu, who managed a 5th-place finish at Grand Prix Milan earlier this year. The Romanian captain pulled out a 5–2 performance in Day One, which was strong enough to ensure that the 4–3 performances of his teammates Sebastian Mahu and Pavel Radu were good enough to make it to pool play. While the team generally lacks in experience, the slightly weaker nature of the pool might enable them to advance if they play their cards right.

And then there's the Netherlands. What to say... captained by Hall of Famer Jelger Wiegersma, the Netherlands team has some incredibly bright talents. Bart van Etten has had some success at the Grand Prix level, as has Floris de Haan, who has managed to Top 64 three Grand Prix in a mere nine attempts. While they are clearly the strongest team in the pool, they are also the lowest seeded, which means they will need to make sure they win out if they want to avoid any chance of not advancing due to tie breaks.

Pool 8

Seed Country Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 (Not Playing Day 2)
8 Canada Lucas Siow Jamie Blanchette Alexander Hayne Marc Anderson
9 France Raphael Levy Yohan Dudognon Stephane Soubrier Damien Mace
24 Puerto Rico Jorge Iramain Gabriel Nieves Cesar Soto Jonathan Paez
25 Bolivia Alejandro Van Mourik Leonardo Quiroga Flores A. Guillermo Ibanez Loayza Benjamin Bedregal

Canada have the winner of the last Pro Tour on their team, but Alexander Hayne is actually the worst performing Canadian to be playing on Saturday. Constructed master Lucas Siow and Jamie Blanchette each put in a 5–2 finish, allowing Hayne's 4–3 to slip them into Pool 8 as top seed.

France, as second seed in Pool 8, finished 9th overall on Day One, and will be sure to capitalise on the fact that the Canadians will not be able to be all sneaky and communicate in an unintelligible way to them to get some kind of an edge (unless you count funny accents). Overall, France come into the competition with the most Pro Tour visits of any team, but it must be said that this is primarily down to Hall of Famer Raphael Levy, the lifetime pro point leader, who has been to seventy-six events over the years. In all this time, this is the first time that Levy has represented his country. Known for his competitive streak, Levy is likely to lead from the front.

Puerto Rico are the third seed in the final pool, and have never hit the Top 40 at Worlds before. They have already bettered that, but they have some stiff competition to get further here.

Bolivia finished just one place below Puerto Rico, and as bottom seed might be outmatched in this pool. The first GP any of them competed in was Sao Paulo in 2012, so one might call them a little wet behind the ears. However, solid performances have gotten them this far, so they are in with a puncher's chance in what is a fairly tough group.

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