The World Magic Cup has brought players from across the planet to play Magic at the very highest level. It will be an incredible achievement for whichever team is the first to lift this trophy.
Before you can do that, though, you just need to get here. The World Magic Cup is taking place at Gen Con Indianapolis, and players have been rolling in over the last week or so to check out what's up here, maybe get some Midwest beef, and perhaps do a little early testing.
Team Japan, along with Shuhei Nakamura (their Hall of Fame cheerleader), were all set to arrive on Thursday. While Yuuya Watanabe and Yuuta Takahashi have quite a bit of Pro Tour experience, their colleagues in cardboard, Akira Tanaka and Sunao Nakai, are coming to the USA for their first shot at the big time.
Team Japan's flight plans saw them transferring in Washington DC to get across to Indianapolis. Unfortunately for them, though, things were not quite that simple. A one-hour delay in Tokyo tag teamed with a customs delay in Washington to mean the tight connection was not going to work out.
Suddenly, it was Thursday afternoon and team Japan was about 600 miles away from where it needed to be. They all signed up for a standby flight but were on a long list of people looking to get onto a short list of seats. It was time to work out Plans B through Z.
Enter Shuhei Nakamura, global adventurer. Having zipped around the Earth more than most on his Grand Prix excursions, Nakamura was well placed to provide helpful advice to the assembly. Plan B was a noble sacrifice play on his part. Nakamura holds an international driver's license and offered to hire a car to drive the 600 miles. With a fair wind and Google Maps by their side, they might be able to get there in time.
At this point, Nakamura got a call from the flight desk. His standby number had come up. Given the amount that Shuhei travels, it was perhaps unsurprising that he would be at the top of the list, but the news wasn't ideal for Team Japan. Nakamura tried to switch with one of his compatriots, but the options open to him wouldn't allow it. Either he was going to Indianapolis on that seat or he wasn't.
It was time for Plan C, formed hastily to preserve the best chance of Japanese domination for another Magic event. Nakamura pulled a wad of US dollars from his pocket and handed it across to his teammates. He would go on ahead to check the team in to their hotel and scour for the remaining cards they needed to compete, while they would go out to the taxi ranks and make somebody's day.
Not every cab driver will be mentally and physically ready to make a 600-mile drive at the drop of a hat. Most will find a way to do so when they know the amount of cash that will be dropped to do so. Google Maps suggests the drive should take 9 hours 59 minutes. The taxi driver did it in ten hours flat, which is pretty impressive when you consider the fact that those timings likely don't include bathroom or refuelling breaks. This was his first fare more than $1,000 (it came to $1,400 all in), and while language barriers meant there wasn't a whole lot of cabbie chat, the Nippon crew were confident he was over the moon with his big score.
Team Japan's members came out of their epic road trip with just two or three hours of sleep from the drive, but they were at the event site in good time for the event, something that looked unlikely the day before. Having overcome such adversity to reach the venue, they were hungry for victory in a whole new way. It was time to win all their money back.
By contrast, Team England managed to nearly fail to get to the event on time in getting a taxi from their hotel in Indy. To say that I am brimming with national pride would be a tiny bit of a stretch right now.