It's not metaphorical. Japan is quite literally the exact other side of the world from São Paulo. 11,500 miles to be exact. To muddle your mind with some useless trivia, you could travel for 180 miles more to reach Porto Alegre (ninth-ranked Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's hometown), and that would be the furthest city you can ever get to from Tokyo.
We've already established that Tomoharu Saito was willing to go the distance, no matter the distance, but to see an all-Japanese team here in Brazil was truly surprising. Team Tamada & His Minions reminds us of denim-donning, banana-loving yellow, cylindrical creatures, which was the inspiration behind the team's name.
Nakamura is at 43 Pro Points this season, and needs to finish at least 11-3 to bump up that number. Going up to 44 is crucial since he will be able hit Platinum with a X-6 finish at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.
Nakamura: I think 43 and 44 is a big difference, but not so much of a big deal. Since I was in the States with Rei, I could very easily make the trip. Plus, Team Sealed is always fun!
Rei Sato is the least accomplished of the three, but he happened to be in Las Vegas for a month-long vacation along with the Hall-of-Famer. A "slight detour" to São Paulo seemed like a good idea, but they still needed to find the third. They approached (13) Yuuya Watanabe, but he didn't feel so hot about flying 20 hours with his Grand Prix cap packed to the brim. The pair set their eyes on Ryoichi Tamada, because he still had a 1 Point finish that he could upgrade easily.
Nakamura: Tamada is already Platinum, and second place in Asia Pacific. I honestly don't know why he wanted to join us, but I am really glad he did. He is really hardcore, so this weekend he is our "master", and we're his minions.
Tamada: Safety purposes. The race in APAC for the World Championship slots is very tight, and I also want to improve my chances of becoming National Champion. Anyone in the Top 10 could potentially jump me.
The tight race in Asia Pacific has motivated Platinum Pro Ryoichi Tamada to make the 20-hour trip to São Paulo.
Anyway, back to the problem at hand. The trio made it through to Day 2 with the record of 6-2-1, which means they're close to the bottom of the pack. Nakamura summarized their dire state in a few words.
"We must 5-0 to make Top 4."
Well, they'll still need to try their best, and you can bet that they will. Their products arrived and the work began.
Laying out their card pool for a bird's eye view.
Their strategy of laying out all their cards according to mana curve is pivotal in saving time. With only 60 minutes on the clock, time management is the key and with this arrangement all three players will be able to analyze the entire card pool with a bird's eye view.
Very quickly, Nakamura was able to identify the key problem. They were sorely lacking two-drops. Since Team Sealed is much faster than regular Sealed Deck, you simply cannot afford to do nothing on Turn 2.
"Because of this problem, the challenge today is to pair colors in a way that all three decks have an good curve. We need to be wise about this. For example, Quilled Wolf might to go in the Aggro deck which we are pairing with White, and we could make full use of double Moldgraf Scavenger in the Black-Green Delirium deck, which is a slower concept."
Sato Rei tries to find the missing link to make it all work.
The mana fixers are also worth a quick look, and the trio quickly made a mental note of Fortified Village, Highland Lake and double Warped Landscape. These cards will go a long way in making sure Nahiri, the Harbinger finds a home, assuming the White-Red deck isn't viable.
"In Team Sealed, we need to extract all the power we can from the pool, because you can bet that other players will be doing the same."
Those were Tamada's words, as he worked on a Black-Red Vampires deck with a touch of White to house the Planeswalker that is powerful enough to even see play in Modern. However, the problem with the two-drops continued to plague the Japanese team, who cracked their heads for nearly twenty minutes and still not even finalizing their first deck.
Sato: "Not only must you build a good deck, it must also have a solid sideboard plan. Only paying attention to the maindeck is not enough."
Developing a good sideboard plan is also part of deck construction.
For instance, the White-Green Aggro deck is ready to transform into a midrange deck if required. If they were to run into a very defensive deck with a lot of blockers, Sato would swap how his low-impact cards for Descend upon the Sinful, Silverstrike, Puncturing Light and even Kessig Dire Swine.
Ryoichi Tamada deals himself sample hands to determine the stability of his deck.
Another tip I picked up from Tamada is to always throw in some basic lands when you're done finalizing your deck, and proceed to deal yourself some sample hands. This is relevant not only in Team Sealed, but for regular Sealed Deck and Booster Draft as well. In a matter of minutes, he was able to experience the overall feel of his deck, simply by dealing himself around fifteen to twenty sample hands.
What was his verdict on the Black-Red deck splashing White for Nahiri, the Harbinger?
Tamada: Danger, danger! Deck is not very strong.
Sato: I don't think it will be easy to go 5-0 with this deck. The pool is not that good, and the decks were hard to build. I think we did our best.
Nakamura: However, we'll try to be the best minions that we can!