Meet Team Mexico

Posted in Magic Lifestyle on February 8, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

It was the recognition that surprised Miguel Angel Gamez Martinez the most.

"Once we got home, it was like everywhere we went people knew who we were and wanted to come up and say hi," he explained. "They all salute you, and before the tournament nobody knew who we were."

That's just what happens when you make it to the World Magic Cup.

Team Mexico

From left: Jose Menchaca. Miguel Angel Gamez Martinez, Ramon Vasquez, and Marcelino Freeman

Martinez was one of four members of Team Mexico, along with Jose Menchaca, Ramon Vasquez, and team captain Marcelino Freeman. It was the first time on Magic's premier stage for all of the team but Freeman, who has two Grand Prix Top 8 appearances in his career. Playing in front of the world in high-stakes matches was a new experience for Team Mexico, and one that isn't easy to adjust to.

But they made the most of it.

Playing in a field of more than 70 countries—including powerhouses like the United States and Japan that had handfuls of Pro Tour Top 8 appearances on the squad—expectations weren't huge for Mexico, playing with a talented but raw roster.

But that didn't stop them from surprising the world, starting with their neighbors from the north.

The United States, on the shortlist of favorites to win the tournament, squared off against Mexico in the sixth round, with both teams sitting at 3-2 and in need of a victory to advance to Day Two. The US team—captained by reigning Player of the Year Mike Sigrist, who was joined by Neal Oliver, Tom Martell, and Joel Sadowsky—was unexpectedly struggling but still boasted four Pro Tour and fourteen Grand Prix Top 8 appearances between them.

Team Mexico

Team Mexico was one of the most exciting underdog stories of the 2015 World Magic Cup.

It all came down to the match between Vasquez and Sadowsky, and though Sadowsky had a fast start with his Atarka Red deck, Vasquez fought back to seal the game and the match for his team. He ensured them a place on Day Two. With that, the upstart team from Mexico had knocked off a team filled with some of the best players in the world.

"It feels good to win," Freeman said after the match. "For a lot of my team, this was their first big tournament. Before we came, I told them, 'You need to think of everyone as a good opponent, but don't get intimidated. A new guy—or Mike Sigrist—can die to a good deck.'"

He was right, and buoyed by their success against the Americans, the Mexican team moved proudly on to Day Two, where again their tournament life hung in the balance against another elite team—this time Japan.

Teamwork and tight play kept Mexico in the fight, and the match moved down to the final game to determine a winner. With the Japanese on the ropes, time unfortunately ran out on this Cinderella story. As the clock ticked to zero and the match ended in a draw that was good enough to send Japan on but not Mexico, their tournament ended prematurely.

Still, a Top 32 run was enough to prove to their countrymates—and the rest of the world—that Mexico has game.

"It was just such an honor to represent our country, I have no words for it," Martinez said. "It was a spectacular feeling to play at that level, and the people I was teamed up with were great. Anytime you get to a tournament like that, all you want is to get back to that level. And that's what we're working to do, to build our professional careers."

For Freeman, no stranger to the Pro Tour, watching his team succeed along with him was the highlight of the trip.

"You can tell, after you played in a tournament like that it's not enough to just go back to Friday Night Magic," he said. "They're all good players, and you can see how this motivated them and the rest of the players from here. It's a great experience for us to have together."

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