As many connoisseurs of Magic tournament coverage already know, both the World Championships and the World Magic Cup are fast approaching. Taking place in Nice, France, players from all over the world are converging to battle and determine two different sets of champions. The World Champion will be crowned, and the World Magic Cup championship will be bestowed on a country, if their team can take down the competition.
As the festivities start very soon (the first day of the World Championship is on December 2), most competitors are already on their way to France, if they're not there already. Especially considering that Grand Prix Strasbourg is going on in the same country right now, for the most part, if a competitor were to attend a Grand Prix, it would most likely be there. However, that's not true for one man—Grand Prix Mexico City finalist Marcelino Freeman.
Freeman is the captain of the Mexican national team, and despite the tournament being a few short days away, Freeman took a stop over in San Antonio, Texas to compete here this weekend.
To explain this fairly counter-intuitive destination, "The flights to Texas [from Mexico City] are inexpensive, and with how much work I had last week, this was the best option for me." As he's been focusing hard on his financial consulting work, Freeman continued, "I could get a flight to Texas after work and still make it to the Grand Prix. I got in at 10 pm last night." He was clearly still a little worse for the wear—working a full week, then schlepping onto a long bus ride, then clomping onto a plane, then making sure he had the metagame for the weekend decently read.
But none of this has stopped Marcelino from getting into the fray. Though he was qualified for the last year of Pro Tours, he was unable to convert a large-enough finish at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir and is looking to get back onto the circuit. "The job has been cutting into my Magic time," he said of his performance at the latest Pro Tour. "Man, work."
But he's hopeful of his chances of re-qualifying. "I have this, and the World Magic Cup coming up; I can still do it." When it comes to the World Magic Cup, it's not Freeman's first rodeo (this was a reference to Texas, not to France. France is not as known for its rodeos, although it does have some, as an article called "Bonjour Y'all" informed me). Freeman competed in the first World Magic Cup in 2012, and in the old Worlds format in San Francisco in 2011.
"In San Fran we qualified 11 players, so there were a lot of us. I didn't know what I was doing, and ran Mono Red." He frowned. "It didn't go so well." And even in 2012, at the first-ever World Magic Cup in GenCon, though his teammate went 7-0, he and his friend Emmanuel Ramirez Sanchez didn't do quite as well. "Yeah, we didn't follow through." But that was back when Marcelino was just a baby magician. Since then, he's Top 8ed two Grand Prix and has played in the big leagues on the Pro Tour for a year. Now he's closer to an elder statesman as far as Mexican Magic is concerned. As Mexico's team captain, he'll be leading Sanchez, Adrian Luna, and Miguel Angel Sanchez Mascareñas in Nice next week.
"We are all in different parts of Mexico, and Mexico's really big, so testing together has been hard." But the team has been throwing decklists back and forth, assigning builds to practice, and they've been hitting MTGO constantly. Though some teammates wanted to meet up, Freeman said that can be a red herring. "You don't need to know how to play against your teammates; you need to play against other people."
Both Mascareñas and Luna haven't competed outside of the country much, so this is their first time on the World stage. They are excited about the competition, but Freeman, knowing what that excitement is like, is there to make sure his team has the best possible chances to win next week. "We've been talking about new crazy decks or big surprises, but it's not always about trying to break the format. You can't eat the world in one bite."
Freeman is glad to be at Grand Prix San Antonio because he said it'll give him that much more information going into the World Magic Cup. "I have to see how this next week changes the metagame before we can settle on any decks."
After San Antonio, Freeman will be meeting up with his teammates in France, and hammer out the fine points then. He thinks the team is very strong this year, and really hopes that, not just he, but his team can make Mexico proud. "This isn't a ego trip for me," he said, "it'll come down to how well we can work as a team."
Marcelino said that sometimes Latin American teams can get caught up in what he called "cultural clashes," and reach impasses where they can't solve their differences. Both of Mexico's better World's finishes have been subject to a "Day 2 Crash & Burn" that Marcelino attributes to these cultural clashes.
"If we can figure out how to communicate as a team, we can avoid that Day 2 crash."
Speaking of crashes, I think it's pretty certain that Sunday night, Marcelino Freeman is due for a crash. After a ridiculous week of work, getting in late to Texas, playing a full weekend of Magic, then hopping a plane for France, he's going to have to rest his bones to gear up for the craziness that is Worlds week.
Mexico has always been on the cusp of the world stage, maybe it's time for them to do a showstopper.