“You’re the Real Winner Here” A World Player Check-In

Posted in Event Coverage on May 31, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

Yesterday, we looked at a groups of travelers and talked about the group journeys. Today, we’ll get a little more personal, and look at the players and their individual quests often halfway around the world. We’ll travel to Switzerland, Japan and Mexico, with players still kicking it deep into the Grand Prix Vegas main event. Even though they’re trying to win the Modern Masters 2015 main event, basically everyone here has already won something awesome.

The first up was Ryuuichi Shirakihara, who flew here from Japan. You might ask why he didn’t go to Grand Prix Chiba instead. In fact, I did ask him; but he just laughed at me. “I’m a serious signature collector,” he said. “There are so many artists here!”

Even though Shirakihara is still playing in the main event, he almost sees that as secondary to signature-collecting pursuits. He wasn’t half as interested talking about his draft deck (which had three, THREE Indomitable Archangels), as he was to talk about what he scored from Artists Alley.

Ryuuichi Shirakihara

“I have 500 signatures, and ten alters! 500!” Part of those 500 signatures is his artists’ playmat he’s gotten signed. He’s only missing five artists marks and between rounds he’s trying to get the last few. His favorite artists are rk post and Anson Maddocks, and was waiting on a drawing from post as we spoke. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on it.

Though Shirakihara is a strong player (he went undefeated on Day 1 of the last Grand Prix Kyoto), and is still quite in contention for the Top 8, he’s already pumped about everything he’s already achieved this weekend. “I love Vegas,” he said, enthusiastically giving two thumbs up. “I love the desert weather too. I do not like the cold.” Though a great main-event finish would be the cherry on top, Shirakihara has already gotten just what he came for.

The same could be said for two Swiss travelers, Michael Meier and Julian Felix Flury. Like Shirakihara, it would have been much easier to spend the weekend in Utrecht, rather than lug halfway around the world. But also like the Japanese native, the two Swiss friends were in it for much more than the main event.

Though they are both in the second day and very much in contention, for them, this trip is much more than Magic. “I mean, one reason I came here was just to be a part of all this!” Flury said. Though there will be Magic-event chaining soon, as Flury is currently seeking to be the captain of the Swiss National Team for the World Magic Cup, this trip has already been a rousing success.

Michael Meier and Julian Felix Flury

Meier said the highlights of his trip so far were San Diego, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon. “This country is really big,” he said, quite matter-of-fact. Many of Meier’s dreams of the trip have already been fulfilled, and he was sitting at 9-1 to boot.

Though Flury has the rest of his trip planned out—many more Magic events—there’s a big non-Magic reason that Flury’s already ahead of the game. Check this out: Flury is studying mechanical engineering and his team just built a robot cuttlefish. Seriously. I can’t imagine of anything more awesome than that, honestly. If you don’t think robotic cephalids—oops, I mean robotic cephalopods—are a tiger-blood-level win, you’re missing out on life, dudes; it’s passing you by.

Speaking of life passing you by, my last story is a bit of a doozy. Though Mexico is not as far a journey as the other countries we’ve talked about over the last few days, no one from those countries got married at the Graceland Chapel after Day 1 of the Grand Prix, did they? This is exactly what three-time Pro Tour competitor Jorge Padierna and his new wife did last night.

Though Mexico City native, Padierna had been planning it for a long time—as it was his girlfriend who first suggested the idea—he told her, “Eh, nah, let’s not rush it,” as he booked the most famous chapel in Las Vegas, ensuring a huge surprise. But keeping a secret this huge has its logistics troubles and stresses.

Firstly, Judge Hector Fuentes had to rush his closing shift as much as possible to make it to the church on time. Same went for both Marcelino Freeman and Emmanuel Ramirez, who were playing in the last round to qualify for Day 2. As they are both trying to get back onto the Pro Tour, making both the wedding and the Top 8 could prove a challenge. There was constant clock-watching, and faster-than-usual plays. In fact, Erika Mancillas Orozco had dropped from the main event entirely a few rounds earlier because of a dress emergency.

There was a lot of anxiety going around, both good and bad. Classic wedding, amirite? Padierna was feeling it strongly, while worrying about his tournament hopes at the same time. Going into the seventh round he was 5-0-1, so he was still in great position. More stress. The next round just made it worse.

In Round 8, both games Padierna seemed in an unbeatable situation. Both games his opponent said to him, “If I don’t draw [this exact card] next turn, I lose.” Both times his opponent drew exactly that. Padierna was frustrated, as anyone of us would be. And he had been furiously checking the time to make sure everything was still on schedule, bringing even more negativity into the moment.

Then, Padierna said, something happened that changed everything for him. Something that made all the stress of the tournament and the frustrations go away. He was talking with his opponent who was saying thinks like, “Sorry, man, you probably should’ve won those games.” You know, the things people say to be nice, but we’re too pissed off to be nice about it. But then he said something made Padierna pause.

“You’re the real winner here anyway. You’re about to get married!” And he vigorously shook Padierna’s hand. At that moment, everything washed over Jorge. All the bad stuff was gone. No matter how this tournament went, he was the real winner. He was about to marry the woman he loved. The culmination of all the planning, and their life together.

After that moment, everything went off without a hitch. Padierna went into Round 9 on the bubble, but said to his opponent, “Just so you know, I’m going to concede no matter what. I’m going to go get married.” This event was already what Padierna wanted it to be. He went back to his hotel, and suited up.

Jorge Padierna, his new bride Lucy, Judges Jorge Lopez and Alejandro "Vaquero" Reynoso, Erika Orozco, and Judge Hector Fuentes

As Hector Fuentes recounted to me, the wedding was amazing. “The chapel was perfect. Tons of singing. Elvis was singing; everybody had to sing at least a little bit too. Some great cheesy phrases like ‘Do you promise to love her tender?’” He continued, “It was everything we thought it’d be. I mean, who doesn’t want a sweet wedding like that?” Maybe that is the most American experience ever—getting married by Elvis.

Now that they are married, the two will begin working their family and their future together. But don’t think that means Magic won’t be a part. Padierna came right back to the event this morning for the Super Sunday Series.

Fuentes said about the whole situation, “This game is about the people. It’s easy to forget that, though. I’ve traveled with Jorge almost more than anyone else, and we’ve become so close. Seeing him that happy was amazing.”

If there’s one running theme throughout this entire weekend, it’s this: Though only two winners are given literal trophies, this event celebrates everything that is Magic—not just the trophies. Every traveler here has won for some reason or another. Whether it be visiting breath-taking landmarks, getting 500 artist signatures, or getting hitched, this weekend means thousands of different things to the thousands of people.

The tie that binds us together is Magic. But the Magic community is so much more than the tournaments. This weekend is the time to make Magic history inside, and outside the halls. We’re all here together, and without people like these, it wouldn’t be worthy of being called “history” in the first place.

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