For the past three years I've participated in the World Magic Cup, and every year it's a new experience. The first year I played with Niv Shmuely, Eviatar Olpiner, and Niv Danieli. I got lucky to team up with the two Nivs which I knew previously and who were probably the top two players in Israel at the time. Even though I was born in Israel and have lived there half my life, I haven't been very involved in the Israeli Magic community since I started playing Magic in California. Basically the only time I get to play in Israel is during the summer when my family and I go to visit. I would play a Prerelease in Tel Aviv once a year that's the extent of it.

2013 was the year of my first World Championship too and the events were on the same weekend. It caused me to devote most of my time to the World Championship and not the World Magic Cup. It was unfortunate for my team, but there wasn't much I can do about it; the World Championship just has so much more on the line. My team did most of the work in Israel and I was only able to help online. They did a solid job though and we made Top 16 that year; along with my result at Worlds made it an incredible weekend for me.

2014 was a similar story. I was again competing in two events in one weekend and my time was stretched thin. My team did most of the work and they played the two decks they were comfortable with. I built an Abzan Whip deck from what was left after the U/B deck was built. It was fine and I did okay - we all did in Constructed - but it was in Limited where we didn't lose a match, and that put us in a very good position for the Top 8. We ended up losing our last three Standard matches to knock us out of the Top 8 and to end our swiss rounds in the Top 16.

This year though the two events were separated and I was able to devote more of my time to the World Magic Cup. Team Israel met in Barcelona a week before the tournament to test. My team this year was Daniel Lewinski, Omer Keinan, and Raz Lotan.

Our team was the youngest by far. Raz and Omer are both 15 years old, I'm 22 now, and Daniel is 26. I've actually never heard of a team with two 15-year-olds (I wonder if we were the first). That being said, my team didn't feel very young; both Omer and Raz were very mature. Omer cooked most of the meals for us and Raz was the hardest worker, he came up with a really good metagame breakdown that ended up coming close to accurate:

30% Green-based Ramp
15% Abzan
13% Atarka Red
13% Esper Dragons
11% Jeskai Black
5% Landfall
5% Rally
3% Esper Tokens
3% Red Aggro
2% Other

We ended up playing Ramp, Abzan, and Jeskai Dragons as our three decks. All of our decks were tuned to beat Ramp and Atarka Red. Our plan for the Ramp mirror was Conduit of Ruin and Void Winnower. Abzan had all the discard spells and I was playing the Dragons version of Jeskai Black because it's so much better vs. Ramp. Our biggest mistake was that we underrated the amount of Rally decks that we would face. Out of the four matches we played, three of them were vs. Rally and X.

Taking a step back into the first three rounds, which were Limited, we sat down for deckbuilding and immediately we see our best options were U/W tempo, U/B devoid, and R/G Eldrazi. We checked all of our options for a long time. Without any Swarm Surges B/G tokens wasn't going to happen and we needed to stick green with something, so... The other option is U/G but that meant that either U/B or U/W would have to be paired with red and, with the cards we had, that wouldn't work either. So twenty minutes after our original decision, after checking all our options multiple times, we ended up with the same decks. Our decks were not great but could definitely win, I was happy with the three decks we came up with.

Round 1 vs. Scotland

My opponent had one of the most absurd starts I've seen in the format. Turn one Blisterpod, turn two Makindi Sliderunner, and turn three Scythe Leopard into Goblin War Paint, into land, then attack for basically lethal. I was playing our R/G deck and got demolished that game. Our U/B devoid deck lost to a B/W allies deck with a turn four Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and our U/W tempo deck lost the first game also to a U/B deck with Guardian of Tazeem. Luckily I had three Boiling Earths in my sideboard which were the MVP. The next two games I quickly won while my opponent stumbled a bit and Boiling Earth wiped his board.

Meanwhile, our U/B deck took it to game three as did our U/W deck. The third game we got tempo'ed out pretty hard with multiple Murk Striders and, again, a Guardian of Tazeem. The last game of the match, our U/B deck vs their B/W allies, wasn't close, our draws were just much better than his. We played a Conduit of Ruin getting Breaker of Armies and when he dealt with that we had a Mire's Malice to put him handless and behind on board.

Round 2 vs. Denmark

I'm playing vs. Martin Muller and he seems to have the weakest deck out of the three, he's playing some sort of B/G/W deck with some card advantage spells via the awaken ability. I win the first game quickly due to him missing his fourth land drop for three turns. My teammates both lose their first game, the U/B deck lost to Martin Dang's U/W deck with two Clutch of Currents. Our U/W deck lost to a very aggressive landfall start from their R/G deck. The second game our U/W deck mulliganed to five and lost to a similar start from the landfall deck. Our U/B deck also lost to Dang's great U/W deck with an awakened eight-mana Planar Outburst for the win. I didn't get to finish my match, but it was looking like I was losing game two, who knows about game three.

Round 3 vs. Hong Kong

My opponent this round played a two-drop and a three-drop into Gideon that I was only able to kill when it was already too late. He finished me off with a bunch of tokens and a Part the Waterveil for two attacks. Meanwhile our U/W player was getting destroyed by Lee Shi Tian's U/G deck that was only creatures and a couple of Tajuru Warcallers. Our U/B deck was playing against their B/R deck and B/R was mana screwed game one. Game two we were very far ahead and both of the other decks had lost already.

Our Limited record was 1-2 and our best deck, the U/W deck, finished 0-3. That was quite disappointing because I don't think he made a ton of mistakes to lose; he just got out-drawn and mulliganed to five three times in three matches. It's unfortunate too because we felt the most confident in Limited after testing it nonstop for a week. Sometimes it just isn't meant to be.

When it came time to play Constructed our team was pretty excited; even though we were 1-2 we knew that to make Day 2 we would have to go 3-1 at worst.

Round 4 vs. Russian Federation

I was facing their Rally combo player, our Abzan deck was against their Atarka Red, and our Ramp deck was facing their Esper Tokens deck. Ramp crushed the tokens deck, and I won the first game but lost the other two quickly before our third match ended. I couldn't find a removal spell for his Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and got run over by his Rally. Our third match was in the third game, Abzan vs. Red. Our one-of Planar Outburst cleared his board and we were able to recover with a Warden of the First Tree leveling up to heal back up.

Round 5 vs. Sweden

We were playing against the same three decks but different pairings, I played against the B/W deck, our Ramp deck against the Rally deck, and our Abzan deck again against Atarka Red. I won the first game, but stumbled hard the second game. Meanwhile, our Ramp player was heading to game three, and our Abzan player lost to Atarka Red in two. I was ahead in my last game until he Duressed my Dig Through Time, Utter Ended my Jace before I could flash the Dig Through Time back, and used Surge of Righteousness on my Mantis Rider. After that, I had no pressure, I was behind on cards, and all he had to do was play a giant Secure the Wastes a couple turns later, followed by a Gideon for lethal. I drew all lands in those three turns to lock up my loss. Our Ramp player didn't finish his match but it looked like he was going to win; he had an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in play with another in hand taking away all the white mana from the Rally deck.

Round 6 vs. Northern Ireland

I was facing Esper Dragons, the Ramp player was facing Abzan, and our Abzan player was playing against their Ramp deck. I lost the first game when he ripped a Dig Through Time and started to chain them, still could have had a chance if I top decked a Crackling Doom for his Dragonlord Ojutai to clear the way for my Mantis Riders. Meanwhile our Abzan player loses the first game to their Ramp player and our Ramp player loses the first game to their Abzan player. The second game went much better for me when I killed his Jace immediately and he wasn't able to kill my Mantis Rider for five turns. Two Crackling Dooms finished him off after he played two Dragonlord Ojutai to try to get back in the game. Our Ramp player lost the match to the Abzan player in two games, and our Abzan player won the second game so he was heading to game three against their Ramp player. In their third game their Ramp player made a crucial mistake by exiling the wrong two permanents. He could have killed our lands but instead he killed our board and died to two Siege Rhinos draining him from six life. My game was going well too: I was ahead on cards and I had a flipped Jace in play as I was attacking with Mantis Rider. After he resolved a Dig Through Time he could have potentially come back, but he apparently didn't find two good spells, only another Jace that I killed immediately.

My team was back to being excited considering we just came back after being down all three games and losing the first match. Still, we have to win one more to have a chance to Day 2.

Round 7 vs. Portugal

I'm playing against their Atarka Red, our Ramp player is playing against their Rally player, and our Abzan player is playing against their Esper Dragons. Our Ramp dies on turn five to Rally combo with three Zulaport Cutthroats. Meanwhile I lose the first game to Atarka Red, but our Abzan player wins his first game. I end up winning game two but losing game three in two quick games. Our Ramp player also loses the second game in a very interesting turn from the opponent where he made an attack with one of his Zulaport Cutthroat and two other creatures. We blocked the Cutthroat with our Ulamog to go down to one life. We untapped and attacked with Ulamog then played another exiling his land and a creature leaving him with the only out being Fleshbag Marauder or a Merciless Executioner. We didn't exile any of them when we attacked with our Ulamog so I wasn't feeling very confident. Nevertheless, he did draw the Fleshbag Marauder, killed our Ulamog and attacked us to take down the last life total we had and end our tournament.

It was a disappointing tournament for team Israel; it was the most prepared we have ever been and we had a good young team with a lot of promise. I really did terribly though so I can only blame myself for our losses, especially as the team captain who is held to higher standards. Team Canada, and Team USA didn't make the second day either which were my two other horses. It was enjoyable meeting young new players from Israel that might make it. Keep an eye out for Raz Lotan and Omer Keinan in a couple years; I'm confident we will hear more of them if they stay in the game.

Till next time,
Shahar Shenhar