"Before being a team, we are friends—and most of us have known each other for over ten years."
Willy Edel is outstanding. He's a Pro Tour Hall of Fame member. He's repeatedly represented his country, Brazil, at World Magic Cup events. Above all, he's a pillar of the Brazilian Magic community, encouraging growth of game not just as a player but as the owner of a store as well.
It's that's longevity integrated into the Magic around Edel that began DEX Army.
"I've been part of the team since the inception, even when we didn't have a name or a sponsor," Edel said. "I feel the first time we had an organized group to playtest was at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, and since then, between those who have come and gone, we've been around. Since we are basically a group of friends qualified for the Pro Tour, we have a pretty cool group—we just enjoy to stay together."
Edel's ability to gather the very best from Brazil—and soon the rest of Latin America and beyond—is what put him into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame spotlight when he was voted in. Community contributions like rallying the competitive spirit of an entire nation are difficult to ignore. Looking back at his outreach and efforts, Edel recalled the origins of his team:
"I think the first time we had something organized was for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in 2012," Edel explained. "We had almost ten Brazilians qualified and we rented a house to playtest. The results were pretty good, [so] we never stopped. For the following Pro Tours, we started to work with the Portuguese players who qualified—a natural approach because of the language—and with some players from Mexico, Argentina, and Chile—easy because of geography. At Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir in 2014, we started to test with the Spaniards as well, and from there we just kept picking up almost everyone in these regions that managed to qualify for the Pro Tour who wanted to playtest seriously. At Pro Tour Magic Origins in 2015, DEX Protection started to sponsor and take care of us, so we officially become DEX Army."
Today, DEX Army features many of the greatest players from around the world, including Artur Villela (finalist of last year's Grand Prix San Diego), Thiago Saporito (with back-to-back Platinum years after making Top 8 at both a Pro Tour and a World Magic Cup), Javier Dominguez (a Spaniard with multiple Grand Prix Top 8s), Dan Ward (an American with multiple Grand Prix Top 8s), and many emerging competitors such as Marcos Frietas (a new-to-Silver player after several Pro Tours) and Santiago De Paoli (an Argentinian attending just his second Pro Tour with Eldritch Moon).
While any team will struggle to coordinate, crossing continents, time zones, and languages adds to the difficulties. Tying these far-flung competitors together is simply hard work, trust, and communication.
"I think we have a lot of solid workers," Dominguez said. "We might not have the most talented players of all teams, but we have people who work as hard as they can."
"The team is very receptive to new players, and pretty much everyone who has earned the right to sit at the table will get a chance to speak—while the others really listen to what they're saying—all without losing focus on what really matters," Villela added. "That might be the best thing we have going for us, because you simply never know who's going to have the next [great] idea."
"To work as part of DEX Army is an intense experience full of commitment," De Paoli said. "Following a testing schedule is something new to me and I'm looking forward to it. The Standard testing and drafting is quite organized, split during our days, and there are also specific members leading the Limited or Constructed activities. The regular team
members know the strengths of everyone in the group, and they try to take the best out of each member."
Ward echoed their thoughts. "DEX Army is awesome because of the players. We all have different backgrounds and live in different countries, so we get to exploit the strengths that we each bring to the table. I believe preparation for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon is going well and it will showcase how deep our team is in talent."
Edel, as the ultimate leader of the ever-changing group, found communication and clear expectations the only balance against friction.
"We are always willing to learn and improve. There's no room for arrogance here," Edel said. "From the team captain to the newest rookie, everyone has the same responsibilities and duties. Having some masterminds in Limited [as well as] midrange and aggressive Constructed decks helps a lot, and we are working hard to use these assets the best we can."
The high turnover rate—staying on the Pro Tour is difficult even for some of the game's greatest—is one of the biggest differences for DEX Army: over 50% of the members change between each Pro Tour. Still, Edel is endlessly optimistic each time. "That's our big disadvantage since our roster always changes a lot," he said. "We are still [at] the point of trying several methods to better playtest. Constructed usually goes a bit better and more organized, but we are still crawling [with regard] to organized Limited testing. We are improving quickly. Having two Draft Master contenders (Marcio Carvalho and Thiago Saporito) in the team helps a lot!"
Inviting qualified players from across Latin and South America, as well as elsewhere in the world, complicates things further. The size of DEX Army itself can get in the way.
"We actually were too big in the last few Pro Tours, since we tended to invite every single player from Latin America that qualified and wanted to test with us," said Pedro Carvalho, another member of DEX Army. "As much as we love everyone, a team with 24 people simply doesn't work—a lesson we learned in Madrid. The actual composition of the team is something that is still in flux. It might be that way forever, since embracing the PTQ players is part of the team's DNA, but we have improved the process of making up each Pro Tour's roster."
Edel shared the same feeling. "I think it is natural to continue expanding, but we know that it's not possible to have a playtest group of 25 players in the same house. I'm aiming to have something around twelve for Hawaii—Pro Tour Kaladesh," Edel said. "I'm not sure what the best solution is, but I can see a world with DEX Americas, DEX Europe, and DEX APAC all collaborating online and having independent schedules. I also started to form new local leadership for when I'm gone." Edel was already looking ahead to a future where perhaps he couldn't attend every Pro Tour. "Whatever happens to me, I'm already super proud for what we've become and achieved."
So what does that mean for DEX Army at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon? Edel and the team put plenty of thought into preparation. It starts with hitting up the Grand Prix preceding the Pro Tour.
"I feel Pro Tour Eldritch Moon will be our best Pro Tour ever, at least in terms of preparation," Edel said. "Everyone is focused. We're arriving in Australia two weeks beforehand, so we won't suffer from jet lag and will have enough time to practice."
"The plans for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon are to explore how the new set impacted the previous Standard format. There will definitely be a lot of new decks to watch for, and we need to find the strengths and weaknesses of all of them," De Paoli added. "Regarding Limited, we will play a lot to get a feel of how Eldritch Moon adds to Shadows over Innistrad. Attending the Grand Prix the weekend before the Pro Tour is going to be the best possible practice."
"Even before arriving in Australia, we already have some pretty promising brews," said Edel, "and a full schedule ready for Limited. A lot of spreadsheets are ready to be filled in. I'm excited."
With multiple Draft Master contenders, a member of the Top 8 of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad (Luis Salvatto), global Constructed testing, two weeks of concentrated team testing in Australia, and a Hall of Fame member at the helm, DEX Army is ready to prove to the world that it's up to the challenge.
You'll have to watch Pro Tour Eldritch Moon to find out how they march to victory. Coverage begins this Thursday (August 4) at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET/11 p.m. UTC on twitch.tv/magic!