Team Profile – Kenji Egashira, Oliver Tiu, and Jake Mondello

Posted in Event Coverage on March 13, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

“I’m loving my team, but they’re too young for victory beverages!” said streamer Kenji Egashira, known as NumottheNummy—his num de plume. This weekend he’s aligned himself with solid players, both of whom have achieved that solid status at a very young age—Jake Mondello, 19, and Oliver Tiu, 18. Both have at least one Grand Prix Top 8 under their belt. While Mondello has an additional finals appearance, and Tiu just finished in the Top 16 at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Kenji has found himself some powerful allies.

Though many of the teams here are thick as thieves, and have been playing together since “Teams” was a format, these three got together a bit differently.

“We asked.” Tiu is a straight-forward guy.

Everyone laughed. Kenji shrugged. “Yup. And they asked first.” Coverage mainstay (and handsome dude) Marshall Sutcliffe actually asked Kenji later, but as he recounted, “Sorry Marsh, too slow.”

It’s not that these three were strangers before, but this weekend is the first time they are seriously playing together. But even “serious” is a bit of a stretch.

“We did, like, one [practice Team Sealed pool],” Mondello said. “We didn’t finish it.”

Tiu was quick to qualify, however. “We started it, but it was late and we were tired ... and the pool wasn’t very good.” So that’s that.

All joking aside, the pedigree is real with this team. Kenji Egashira made a name for himself streaming every day for a whole year, and we watched his Magic game excel throughout the year, and on spotlight at the Community Cup Tournament. Mondello, who’s been competing at Grand Prix events since 2011, is currently four points away from Silver.

And Tiu, a relatively new wunderkind, has a Magic career halted only by his school priorities. “I’m a Senior now, and after high school, I’m going to college in the fall.” You wouldn’t know by his finishes that Magic is a clear second (at least) in his life. Despite his school setbacks, he’s still making it work. “I’ve got the summer!” he said optomistically.

The team looked solid, but they didn’t know how they would work together until today’s pool showed up. But they had a solid plan. Kenji said, “You want to rely, wait, ‘give credit to’ your teammates. It is communal, but it isn’t.” The team noted that because neither Tiu or Mondello are big talkers, most of the discussion took place during that hurried building hour.

“Really, we were complaining about our pool. And I think Oliver was complaining the most,” Mondello said. Tiu agreed wholeheartedly. He was indeed.

Kenji jumped in, “We had five rare lands. C’mon.” They were dismayed, but soon they realized the pool was more powerful than it had first let on.

The deck ended up building a lot easier than expected. “We knew exactly what we wanted to do,” and the pool helped show them.

They had one white-based deck which was Allies, one green-based ramp-ish deck, and then a final color that could take all the colorless cards and lands—Blue. “We were able to split the colors easily [among the three players], because we could build Blue-Colorless.” Mondello said the splitting is a lot easier to do, perhaps because “colorless” cards act like a sixth color—making an even two “colors per player.

Kenji joked about the build, “We’re making do with all our non-rares.” He smiled. They were undefeated at the time.

But their growth as a team is far from down. Though they’re not really an “over-the-shoulder” team, as they said, hounding and giving suggestions on plays, that could change by the end of the tournament. Mondello admitted to straight-up missing a land drop one turn. That might have been avoided with more communication. However, communication is not without its perils.

“We kept a real ‘sketch-er’ of a hand last round,” Mondello grimaced.

Kenji immediately added, “And Oliver looked at it too!” Tiu nodded his assent. He had indeed looked at the sketcher, and indeed gave it the go-ahead. Sometimes more talking just reinforces your bad decisions.

“Hey, I won that one,” Mondello finalized.

The team had been doing well, not just in the standings, but working as a unit. And they had two points of advice for those starting their first Team Sealed Grand Prix.

First, Mondello said, “Like your teammates.”

“Totally good start,” Kenji quipped. Though that concept seems obvious, it’s hard to figure out whether you work together well until you actually do it. Hanging out well in a group can be slightly different that trying to accomplish a goal as a group.

Second, Tiu said “Don’t build just one [or two] good decks.” Even if you have to color-split differently, Tiu feels it’s important to give all your decks a strong chance of winning. “Don’t horde all of the removal and bombs. Spread them out.” Everyone whole-heartedly agreed.

This might be the first weekend for Team EMT, but it might not be the last. That is, if Tiu and Mondello can scoop Marshall Sutcliffe again next time.

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