BRIDGING THE DISTANCE

Posted in 2014 WORLD MAGIC CUP on December 5, 2014

By Corbin Hosler

One thing the World Magic Cup does like no other event in Magic is bring people together.

Of course, lots of events do that. Grand Prix bring players from across the country or world together for a two-day tournament. Pro Tours bring the best Magic players from across the world together to compete.

But the World Magic Cup takes it one step farther. Not only are 72 countries represented in the tournament, but it does so in a team format. And it's the only team tournament that players don't pick their own team of friends months in advance. Instead, players on national teams earn their spot by winning a qualifier, and they are joined by the player with their country with the most Pro Points.

Sometimes, that results in teams already familiar with working together, such as Team Canada and its pair of Pro Tour champions in Alexander Hayne and Shaun McLaren. Other times, it pits together players who have never met and may live hundreds or even thousands of miles away from each other. When the tournament the four teammates are preparing for features such unique formats like Team Sealed and Unified Standard Constructed, setting up testing sessions can be quite difficult, a smattering of Skype sessions and e-mail exchanges and theory-crafting.

Or, teams can meet at their local Taco Bell and knock out a few dozen matches in a night.

"We hadn't all met before, but we did all live in the same city, so we would just get together at Taco Bell every few days to play some games," Guatemalan team captain Rigoberto Castellan explained. "We all worked at different times during the day, but Taco Bell was open late every night so it was perfect for us to get together at."

Team Guatemala found a fast food restaurant that was open late enough to allow the teammates' varying schedules a space for testing.

When it comes to coordinating a team of four, with the only condition being that each member hails from a particular country, it doesn't get much better than that.

"We know we were lucky to have it so easy," Castellan said. "Working over the Internet can get really clunky for something like this. It was great to be able to get together in person when we wanted to."

Not everyone was so lucky.

Take Lars Dam, for instance. While he lives in Phuket, Thailand, the rest of his team was all in Bangkok, twelve hours away. That made getting together to test impossible for the 2013 Magic Online Championship winner and his teammates. While they communicated some online, Dam, who was also busy preparing for the World Championship, had to largely leave the testing up to his teammates, and he traveled halfway around the world just to meet his teammates Navaphon Kasemsunthorn, Chaichalerm Tavarayuth and Pattana Chalermtanasak in person here in Nice.

Unable to join up with his teammates in Bangkok to prepare, Dam left the testing in the hands of his teammates, who are seeing the fruits of their labor today.

"We weren't able to test together at all," said Dam, who earned the country's automatic bid. "They worked together in Bangkok, and to me, this is more their tournament than it is mine. I just wanted to help them however I could."

"It was sweet to finally meet up after talking over the Internet for months. I had no idea what to expect in terms of skill, but I've been really happy with what I've seen. They're good! We're having a fun tournament."

When it comes to long distances, not many countries can top the Russian Federation in that regard. In fact, none can. It's the largest country in the world, and with teammates spread out across the country you can be sure it caused some logistical problems. With more than 3,000 kilometers (about 2,000 miles, or the distance from New York City to Salt Lake City) in between teammates, getting together at the local card shop isn't exactly an option.

"We had no chance to get together, so we just decided that we would each focus on our decks and prepare that way," Russian captain Dmitriy Butakov said. "We tested a little bit on Magic Online, but we didn't meet until we got here on Thursday. But we all worked a lot on our own and we feel prepared."

The Russian Federation was sprawled across a space of over 2,000 miles, making offline testing beforehand impossible. Nonetheless, the team worked online as they could.

No matter how far away teammates are, all roads do lead to Nice. And given the diverse makeup of the countries sitting around the Top 10 Friday evening, there is no secret formula to success.

Dam summed it up best.

"No matter how you get here, once you're here you just want to have a good tournament."