Sometimes, the stories behind the teams and the people are far more interesting than the actual matches themselves. While its exciting to see Archangel Avacyn being flashed in and werewolves being transformed, the real essence behind any Team event is the relationship between the three players who've chosen to put their trust in one another.
Guilherme Merjam is a respectable name within the Brazilian community. Not only did he win Grand Prix São Paulo 2014, he also made the Top 8 at Grand Prix Porto Alegre last year.
What is more amazing is that he finished in the Top 16 at his Pro Tour debut at Pro Tour San Juan, the very same one that fellow countryman Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa won. It was during a time where Lotus Cobra and Jace, the Mind Sculptor were not just a thing, but the rage. It is uncanny how well Merjam performs whenever we roll around this plane, seeing how he cashed at both Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar and Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch as well.
The precarious landscape of Zendikar treats him well, but what about Innistrad? Was he up for the challenge?
Grand Prix São Paulo 2014 Champions
"I'm teaming with Tulio Jaudy, of course. We won the previous Team Grand Prix in Brazil together. As for "Batutinha" (Carlos dos Santos Esteves), he slowed down on paper so we needed to find a third."
Now, to educate the muggles a little, "_Batutinha_" is a fearsome name in the world of Magic Online. For over 14 years, dos Santos Esteves has worked hard in the virtual world, building up the reputation that he has today. He's not just a grinder. He is the grinder of grinders. Rarely playing in real life, he however does wonders when he does. Often being called the legend of Magic Online, Merjam surprised me when he told me he found an improved team member that was better, faster and stronger.
"Yeah, Batutinha is my buddy but I upgraded him with an advanced model. Haha! I gave Marcio Carvalho a call because he's a good buddy, and also in my eyes the best Limited player in the world. Magic Online grinder or Platinum Pro? Maybe its better to pick the guy who is actively playing and winning!"
Interestingly, Carvalho also cites Merjam one of his best friends outside of Portugal, and was willing to make the traverse across the Atlantic to help them out in their plight. The air ticket was around 600 euros, but then again, you can't put a price on friendship. Also, it was an adventure that a wizard like Carvalho wasn't going to miss out on.
"I'm at 39 Pro Points now and I don't really need the Pro Points as badly as Merjam does. It would be nice to get 1 point to make it 40. Even then, I'll still need to perform at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, but at least I can afford to go X-5 rather than X-4. More importantly, it would be really cool if I can help Merjam hit Gold. He has worked so hard all year and it would suck if he finished the season at, like, 30 points? We'll need to make the Top 4 to make that happen. But since I'm here, I'm aiming to WINNNN!"
I asked Jaudy how he selected his teammates.
"Haha, I didn't get to pick. They kind of chose me. I'm the least accomplished among the three of us. Time was running short and it was difficult to even find a Brazilian player so I casually joked about getting Carvalho. To our surprise, he actually agreed to come! That crazy guy!"
Just to check if everybody was on the same page, I ran a little test where I quizzed the trio separately on what the best cards in each rarity were. Aside from a minor disparity on the Uncommon slot, it's safe to say that the team has done their homework and agree that Fiery Temper, Duskwatch Recruiter and Archangel Avacyn are the correct answers. How did they prepare for this event in particular?
Merjam: "I did plenty of drafts on Magic Online. We already had a good idea of the format from practicing for Grand Prix Barcelona and Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. Carvalho arrived one week in advance, so we could all sit down and build some sealed pools. Having him here early really did help and we were able to figure out the unique format much faster."
Jaudy: "Knowing all tricks and how to play around the best bombs are also key, since the power level for most decks is expected to be very high and you can expect to face the good rares more often."
Despite their hard work, they quickly picked up a couple of losses early and would need to fight back very hard.
Carvalho said, "I came here to spend time with my friends, and I came here to indulge in a good weekend of Magic. When I play, I play to win, but sometimes things can't be helped and there are a lot of factors you cannot control. Our card pool is weak and our decks aren't strong, but once they were built as well as they can, we just need to go out and try to do what we came to do. At the end of the day, you just need to believe in your teammates. If you get too caught up in their games, you lose sight on your own. I think one very, very crucial element of success is to just trust their judgments. I only truly bother my teammates to discuss key plays and some mulligans."
As we speak, they've picked up their third loss and have an outside chance of cracking the Top 4 if they manage to win out, assuming they even get past Round 9. Despite being on the brink of elimination, the Jaudy-Carvalho-Merjam bond will stay as strong as ever, and the memories made this weekend will last a lifetime.
Best wishes from all of us, and I daresay, Batutinha as well.