The World Magic Cup is about intricate Team Sealed Deck construction, about solving the metagame puzzle of Team Unified Modern, about close calls and exciting games, with points and prizes, titles and trophies on the line. It's about all of these things, but then it is about so much more. It's a celebration of the worldwide Magic community; it's a chance for small countries to play on the big stage, and an opportunity to show some national pride.
As such, the World Magic Cup had always had teams dress up in their country's traditional garb, first in a sort of informal contest. Nowadays, with the Spirit Awards, Wizards of the Coast honors those teams who highlight the unique spirit of this tournament with their display of showmanship and sportsmanship.
Lots of teams were tweeting this weekend—see #MTGWMC—but England was the only one to tweed. Decked out in tweed jackets, hats, and other decidedly distinguished attire, they had come up with the idea of arriving dressed as English gentlemen, as team captain Eduardo Sajgalik explained. "Or orphans—because it ended up looking a bit Oliver Twist on some."
The team had actually spent a lot of time on brainstorming ideas, multiple days in total, Sajgalik claimed. Well, so much for British understatement. Aaron Burns Lees mentioned a few of the costumes which didn't make the cut: "We didn't want to come as double-decker buses. Or telephone boxes."
"It's kinda funny. We had set up this group chat and my friend Pete Ward here, his responses to any idea were usually rather reserved. But when the topic of the Spirit Awards was raised he was all excited," Sajgalik recalled. Said Ward, "I don't think I made another post on Modern after this."
The logistics still proved tricky, especially for Sajgalik, who had moved to Canada after becoming the English National Champion and was short on luggage space on his flight. "This shirt, it's made in the UK, but I bought it from a store here in Rotterdam just yesterday. Lucky to find it!"
Like many Latin American countries, Guatemala had often put a lot of effort into their team uniform. Fernando Jose Juarez Garcia told me, "We always tried to wear something representative of our country, of our culture. For the past three or four years, we always had jackets. This year we wanted to try something different. So we searched for alternatives—ties, belts, hats.
"We have one friend who's also a Magic player who has a store that makes clothes. There we saw these ties. They were perfect," Juarez Garcia explained. "You know, every town in our country has its own colors, arranged in its own traditional design. Our ties show one of the most famous ones. It's the same design that we used for our jackets last year."
Their shirts were also specially made for them, and sure enough the cuffs showed another colorful design.
"This design is taken from another town. The same,"—Juarez Garcia revealed a small textile bag—"that we used for our deck boxes, or deck bags, I should say."
First Prize: Mexico
The Mexican team had always brought their sombreros, a recognizable and charming but hardly first-prize worthy accessory. But over the past couple of years, they had slowly upped their game, and this time they went all out with their attire.
"We thought last year, with the mustaches and the hats, we might have a chance to win," said Marcelino Freeman, a Grand Prix finalist with another Top 8 to his name, who had been on every Mexican team since the World Magic Cup's inception. "But we didn't, so this time we put a little more effort into it.
"We couldn't all paint our faces," said Freeman, explaining about the tradition of doing so for Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico on November 2. "You've probably seen the James Bond film, right?"
Instead of a painted face, three of them showed up with luchador's masks, another Mexican tradition. Freeman explained that it was very different from wrestling in the United States. "It's loud and colorful, sometimes involves screaming obscenities. Well, maybe it's not that different, I guess."
When I talked to him before the winners were announced, he said, "I hope that we get it this year. We fought very hard for it."
The Mexican wrestlers certainly did. They certainly deserved it. And they certainly cheered when the first prize was awarded to them. As did everyone else. That's the spirit of the World Magic Cup.