by David Sutcliffe
<The Warriors> (USA) vs. <B-B-B> (France)
Ben Isgur vs. Raphael Ait-Slimane
Matt Markoff vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
James Kandziolka vs. Laurent Pagorek
The American players had a few minutes to relax before the final as the French team watched Guillaume Wafo-Tapa secure their win. Chomping his way through a two-foot long baguette, Matt Markoff was pretty confident about his chances against Wafo-Tapa's mage deck, despite having to be carried into the final by his two teammates after losing both his Quarter-Final and Semi-Final matches.
“I can't lose”, Markoff declared, “I literally cannot lose. I think there is no combination of cards that would allow him to beat me. I can win with any number of cards and there's not really anything he can do to stop me”.
That was supreme confidence, and James Kandziolka raised an eyebrow at his teammate, “Well, win it, man. Win it”, and then Kandziolka looked at his own matchup against Laurent Pagorek's Emek the Equaliser, “I think I might be slightly favorable. If he gets a Kite and Oppress then we have a game, though”.
The third member of <The Warriors>, Ben Isgur, thought he had the edge in his match as well, although he conceded that it would be tight, “I think it's an advantage coin flip for me – I want to see the Prep Bracers and then I'm good”.
Catching up with the French players of <B-B-B> they clearly shared Markoff's assessment of Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's chances.... “he has no chance,” confirmed Laurent Pagorek, shoving his thumb downwards, “but the other two games we can win. We're maybe 50/50 in them, but we need to win both of them to make up for Guillaume’s matchup.”
And with that last word from the two teams, the final of the first ever World of Warcraft TCG World Cup was about to begin - a match graced by two teams of some of the greatest players in the world. The crowd gathered eagerly, the dice were rolled to decide who would play first, and we were only three best-of-five matches away from watching somebody lift the World Cup trophy!
The first game between James Kandziolka and Laurent Pagorek got off to a quick start, Kandziolka leading with a pair of Grumdur Bladebane and an Extract of Necromantic Power, but these were soon destroyed by Pagorek and the Frenchman went on the offensive, attacking with Sivandra Darklust, Shadowfiend, and Munkin Bladefist. Kandziolka wasn't slow to rectify the problem though, playing Zempre, and dredging up a Scimitar of the Sirocco from his graveyard, where Emek's flip had placed it. A second Zempre, this time handed Ferocity by the Scimitar swung the game back in the American's favor and even Nathanos Blightcaller struggled to make an impact for Pagorek. On the plus side, all that swinging with the Scimitar was proving tough on Kandziolka's health and he was up to 17 damage.
From left field: “I didn't expect it to be that quick!” exclaimed Markoff, as he took a first-game lead against Wafo-Tapa's ailing Mage – his Band of Vile Aggression having crushed Wafo-Tapa's resources from the outset.
Markoff 1-0 Wafo-Tapa
USA 0-0 France
Kandziolka couldn't stop the rot, though, and Pagorek sealed the win – his pesky Shadowfiend simply wouldn't stand still long enough for Kandziolka to hit it and the American's damage total spiralled up into Holy damage range. He managed to Strangulate a lethal Searing Light, but Pagorek immediately followed up with Divine Fury and claimed the game.
Kandziolka 0-1 Pagorek
USA 0-0 France
The match was the deciding final round of a three day event, and intensely important, but was also being played by everyone with a smile on their face – that should be no surprise, as it's hard to stop Laurent Pagorek from having fun playing cards, and it's been scientifically proven that it's impossible to stop Matt Markoff from cracking jokes:
“It's fine, you can speak French if you want”, Isgur said, as the French team began to discuss their games before realising the rules of the tournament demanded that they communicate in a way their opponents would understand.
“Yeah, I speak French,” chimed in Markoff... “Bonjour! Croissant! French Fries!”
Ben Isgur and Raphael Ait-Slimane were still in their first game, but the end was in sight. Isgur had his Jin'rohk in play, but was up to 23 damage. Whoever was going to win this game, it was going to happen soon. Ait-Slimane played an Edge of Oblivion, but was only able to get 2 damage past Isgur's armor. Readying his cards, Isgur immediately delivered a seven-damage strike with his Jin'rohk and took the lead.
Isgur 1-0 Ait-Slimane
USA 0-0 France
Band of Vile Aggression? Spell Suppression. Band of Vile Aggression number two? Spell Suppression number two. Netherbreath Spellblade? Spell Suppression number three! Wafo-Tapa was not going quietly in his second game but Markoff still wasn't worried.
“Are you winning?” Isgur asked him, shuffling up for his own second game.
“I guess so, I mean I figure he's going to run out of interrupts eventually, right?” replied Markoff.
But Markoff's confidence waned slightly – he couldn't make any headway against Wafo-Tapa's utter refusal to allow any of Markoff's cards to do anything at all, and the French star was getting close to Master Hero territory.
“Army of the Dead would be great…”
Back in the Erondra-Emek matchup, <The Warriors> had problems, and James Kandziolka found himself facing down a Forsaken battle force in his second game and calling for the Army of the Dead to keep him in the game! Laurent Pagorek had found a Divine Fury and Munkin Blackfist to answer the American's initial defense of Extract of Necromantic Power and Zempre, Grace of Elune, then poured on the offense with Broderick and Nathanos. Kandziolka didn't have Army of the Dead on hand, but he did have something big, and donned his Scourgeborne Battlegear, creating a 3 / 3 Ghoul in the process.
Pagorek's answer was simply to pile on more pressure, and he called forth Saurfang the Younger from his Kor'kron Vanguard home. Kandziolka tanked the damage with his Battlegear, but his damage total continue to head towards the red line. The American found Zempre, Grace of Elune but couldn't exhaust her immediately, and Pagorek took the opportunity to take a 2-0 lead, piling a Divine Fury on top of his next attack.
Kandziolka 0-2 Pagorek
USA 0-0 France
Wafo-Tapa had made Markoff sweat in the second game, but even though the Frenchman had been able to transform into Kel'Thuzad he found that being a deadly Lich lord was not enough to win him the game. Drawing three cards per turn with the help of two Bands of Channelled Magic, Markoff powered up to a 13 / 13 Avatar of the Wild token, then Ysera the Dreamer, and wrapped up the win.
Markoff 2-0 Wafo-Tapa
USA 0-0 France
Staying on the defensive hadn't worked for Kandziolka in the first two games, and he moved onto the front foot in the third – a defeat in this game would end his involvement in the final entirely. The American played Grumdur Bladebane and Ashnaar, Frost Herald and began to attack. Unfortunately for Kandziolka his early allies were swiftly dealt with by Pagorek's defenses. Kandziolka's second wave of offense came from a Zempre, Grace of Elune but even that met with a short life span – Pagorek played a pair of Dethvir, and a Searing Light sent Zempre to the graveyard.
In his second game against Ben Isgur's Death Wish warrior, Raphael Ait-Slimane had a problem – he simply couldn't draw Spark. The Frenchman had plenty of cards in play, including the all-important Great Elekk, and was drawing cards hard and fast with a Tuskarr Kite but simply couldn't find the finishing blow. Finally he found the card he had been digging for but it had simply taken far too long, and Isgur was waiting with a Shuriken of Negation to interrupt the eventual Spark. That seemed to put the game firmly in the hands of the American – he just needed time to build up to a lethal strike.
Back to Kandziolka, and he was fighting hard to stay in the match, but every ploy he had was immediately foiled by the wily Pagorek, who simply seemed to have all the answers. Even though every ally he played would allow the American to draw a card with Tuskarr Kite he just couldn't get any of them to stay in play, while at the same time he was being pummelled by Pagorek's Dethvir and Shadowfiend. From leading the damage race in the first few turns, Kandziolka had slipped back to 19-19, and that was far too close to the 29 that it would take to kill his Death Knight Hero. Pagorek hurled a Divine Fury at his opponent to make the scores 24-14, and then played Searing Light, discarding a Tuskarr Kite and destroying the ability to deal another six Holy damage and wrap up his part of <B-B-B>'s final!
Kandziolka 0-3 Pagorek
USA 0-1 France
With Matt Markoff still shuffling up after his second win, all attention was on Ben Isgur, and he wasted little time in using that limelight to show off his deck. Delivering a strike with his hero, he then targeted his own Boarguts the Impaler with his Perdition's Blade. Preventing that damage with Greaves of Ancient Evil allowed Isgur to ready his hero and strike again, winning the game in an unexpected flurry of blades!
Isgur 2-0 Ait-Slimane
USA 0-1 France
With Markoff's matchup against Guillaume Wafo-Tapa proving as one-sided as promised it seemed certain that the fate of the World Cup final would be decided by the pairing of Raphael Ait-Slimane and Ben Isgur. Two games to the good, Isgur began his third game in a strong fashion with the classic combination of Death Wish and Greaves of Ancient Evil. That sent Ait-Slimane deep into the tank, and he spent a while conferring on strategy with Laurent Pagorek before deciding that aggression was the best strategy, adding two Feral Spirit Wolves alongside Adam Eternum.
Isgur had also been joined by James Kandziolka and the pair agreed on their own plan of attack – a Perdition's Blade and a strike to kill both of Ait-Slimane's wolves. Those attacks sent Isgur up to 12 damage, but being able see off the tokens so quickly was a sign that Isgur was now in charge.
“It seems ok, I have board control”, Isgur explained to Kandziolka, and his teammate agreed as the pair planned their next attack “so we attack him twice then attack Adam?”
“Yeah, sounds good”.
Seemingly distracted by the events in Wafo-Tapa's matchup, Ait-Slimane seemed unconcerned by Isgur's attack and fended it off with a Wind Shear, then played “Scrapper” Ironbane, destroying the American's Greaves of Ancient Evil at the end of the turn.
That was Matt Markoff, drawing the Natural Repossession he needed to destroy one of Wafo-Tapa's Spell Suppressions. In the third game of his pairing the American was once again well ahead – Wafo-Tapa had been unable to prevent him from transforming into Ysera, and even though he had Varian Wrynn in play, the Frenchman couldn't take advantage so long as Markoff was Mending with Ysera's power, drawing two cards with Band of Channelled Magic, and preventing attacks with Hurricane. Finally putting Wafo-Tapa out of his misery, Markoff ensured that <The Warriors> levelled the match against <B-B-B>, and all eyes turned to the critical final match...
Markoff 3-0 Wafo-Tapa
USA 1-1 France
The tide of war was slowly ebbing away from the Frenchmen now. Ait-Slimane has added an Ashnaar to his forces, but Isgur now had a second Death Wish in play, and more importantly he had a full grip of 7 cards, while Ait-Slimane was down to a single card. Isgur took another turn to control Ait-Slimane's allies, but with the damage scores 16-6 in favor of Raphael Ait-Slimane the biggest fear for the American team was that the Shaman deck could create a huge Elekk-powered Spark attack from nowhere. There was only one way to be sure of victory, and it was to take off and nuke the site from orbit...
“Activate both my Death Wish and attack”
“Interrupt that with Shuriken of Negation. I attack?”.
“Ok. Ready my hero with the Greaves, then attack with Broderick...”
“Reconstruct the Betrayer of Humanity... attack you for 16?”
“You didn't need this”, replied Ait-Slimane, accepting his defeat, “you win without it.”
“Yeah but I was going pretty close to lethal if I didn't do it”
“I counted 20, you didn't need it I thought?”
“Maybe, but this is a pretty cool play - and now it's in the coverage!”
It WAS a pretty cool play, and it WAS in the coverage, but far more important was the fact that Raphael Ait-Slimane offered his hand in congratulations and <The Warriors> of the USA were crowned as the first ever World of Warcraft TCG World Cup champions!
Isgur 3-0 Wafo-Tapa
USA 2-1 France