MEXICAN MAGIC: THE SLEEPING GIANT

Posted in GRAND PRIX MEXICO CITY 2015 on January 31, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Mexico’s Magic scene has been exploding at a rapid pace recently. Gaming shops have been popping up all over Mexico City and the community is getting younger as it grows. Magic hasn’t always been this popular in Mexico, though. I had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with Hector Fuentes, Alexander Sacal, and Salomon Chacon, three members of the 2000 Mexican national team, in an effort to better understand the community and the ways in which it’s grown over the last decade. What better way to learn the history of Mexico’s Magic community than to hear it from some of the country’s OGest of Original Gamers.

Jacob Van Lunen: “The three of you have been playing Magic for a long time. When and how did you first pick up the game?”

Hector Fuentes: “I started playing in early 1997. I think Mirage was the most recent set. I used to go to my friend’s house to play Super Nintendo. He was sorting some cards and I asked about them. He taught me how to play and I’ve been an avid Magic player ever since.”


(From left to right) Alexander Sacal, Hector Fuentes, and Salomon Chacon

Alexander Sacal: “I started playing when the most recent expansion was The Dark. There was a comic book store in Mexico City where I was a regular. The people that worked there started playing Magic and they knew that I liked games so they asked if I wanted to play.”

Salomon Chacon: “I started playing in 1994. I used to play video games with a group of friends and one of them had some Magic cards. He was always trying to get the rest of us to play, but we were too interested in video games to give him the chance. One day, I finally broke down and let him teach me. Twenty years later and I’m still playing.”

Van Lunen: “You’ve watched the Mexican Magic community as it’s grown. Do any of you believe there are specific events that served as catalysts for Mexican Magic?”

Sacal: “There used to be a Latin American Championship; the first one, in Chile, was won by a Mexican player, Gustavo Chapela. He was really good, he even had a type one deck with full power nine. Then Hugo Araiza won Grand Prix Buenos Aires, beating Alex Shvartsman [Known at the time as ‘King of the Grand Prix’] to make it into Top 8. That was the genesis of competitive Mexican Magic.”

Fuentes: “Then we had our first Grand Prix in 2005. It was Kamigawa Block Constructed. Mexican players were proud. Wizards choosing Mexico City for a major tournament was a huge deal. Our community had always been relatively small, but I specifically remember the Ravnica prerelease in 2006. We had about 1200 players show up to play Sealed Deck with the new set. It was pretty cool to see that many players at an event here. That was when I knew the Mexican scene was getting big. Last year was huge for competitive Magic here in Mexico. Our national team made it to the final stage of competition before Top 8 and Marlon Gutierrez beat William Jensen in the finals at Grand Prix Dallas.”

Chacon: “One of the things that keeps Mexican Magic growing is that every generation sticks with the game. Twenty years ago, there were maybe fifteen players that actively went to tournaments and most of those guys are here today. Each generation introduces a new crop of potentially strong players.”

Sacal: “Also, the move by Wizards to focus on bringing competitive play to local stores has been tremendous for Mexican Magic. There’s a totally new generation of players getting involved in the competitive scene that wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. We used to know everyone, now we show up to a PTQ and there’s someone winning and we don’t know who it is. Later, we’ll find out it’s the best player from one of the shops here in Mexico City.”

Fuentes: “It’s also worth noting that we have a strong community of acceptance here in Mexico. I think we’re more inclusive than a lot of other places. A lot of women are involved in the game here. Lizbeth Laguna, a Mexican player, was one of the first women to even play on the Pro Tour. Today, there are tons of women playing in this event.”

Van Lunen: “In most countries, players primarily play Constructed formats. Here in Mexico, players tend to prefer Limited formats. Is there a particular part of Mexican culture and custom that you believe makes players more Limited-inclined?”

Fuentes: “I think it’s mostly because of the cards. A player can show up and lose, but they’ll still have the cards from their sealed pool.”

Chacon: “The generation gaps in the Magic community here in Mexico are very obvious. A lot of the time, newer players don’t have access to the best decks for Constructed formats or they feel they won’t stand a chance against the best players piloting their favorite deck. In Limited, a player can open amazing cards, do well, and have a great time without having to prepare for the event.”

Van Lunen: “Which Mexican Magic players should we be watching out for?”

Fuentes: “Marcelino Freeman has been our national champion twice now in the last four years. He’s winning PTQs and going deep in big events. He’s definitely the player to watch from Mexico right now.”

Van Lunen: “Is there anything else you’d like to say about Magic in Mexico?”

Fuentes:Magic is a door. I open it and I’m immediately surrounded by friends, some of whom I’ve never met before. The environment is constantly getting better; players are more respectful of each other than ever.”

Mexico is a huge country with a tremendous pool of untapped talent. In the coming years, we’ll surely watch a new generation of Mexican Magic players ascend the competitive ladder. With a penchant for Limited and a culture of competition it’s only a matter of time before Mexico produces the next big thing.