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The Week That Was: Merjam's Jam

February 09, 2024
Corbin Hosler

Meet Guilherme Medeiros Merjam. He's a 34-year-old from Sao Paulo who has grown into a fixture of the Brazilian Magic community over his two decades of competing and building fellowship.

Merjam qualified for his first Pro Tour in 2010, and since then has racked more than two dozen additional appearances including a Top 8 near-miss where he lost a win-and-in to Pro Tour Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, the player Merjam considers the greatest of all time. He made the Top 4 of a Regional Championship last year to make his return to the PT, and now has another PT trip lined up to add to his long list.

You read that right, by the way: more than twenty Pro Tour appearances. That fact alone would put him into some select company, but it's Merjam's contributions outside of the battlefield that have stood out most prominently, thanks in large part to a heartfelt suggestion from a friend.

"I've basically made my living playing Magic Online, I'm absolutely passionate about playing this game competitively. But living only on results in a game with such variance in complicated with a lot of ups and downs," Merjam explained. "When I was at one low point a friend of mine, Leo Santiago, encouraged me to try something new, like content creation or coaching.

"That was just a gamechanger in my career."

Since that fateful conversation, Merjam has developed into exactly what Santiago had suggested: a prolific creator and coach who went to the City Class Showdown—the Regional Championship for Brazil—last weekend with as much energy invested into his students as himself. It's an approach that has completely changed Merjam's outlook on Magic and provided him with a steady focus even when tournaments aren't going his way.

"I started to study the game more, talk to different levels of players and learn by helping people. And I found it was just fantastic," he elaborated. "I believe it also helped me in becoming a more complete player."

Brazilian Magic is renowned for its community and continuity even in a game where "The Gathering" is literally in the name. Its Hall of Famers are not unreachable legends who draft in secretive pods and prepare with handpicked superteams from across the globe. Its OGs are more than willing to help the kid who just qualified for his first Pro Tour. Led by longtime contributors (and again, it must be stressed, Hall of Famers) like Willy Edel, who have developed an ecosystem of improvement and accessibility for up-and-coming players, the country turns out PT Top 8s year after year and generation after generation.

And entering this season's Regional Championship, Merjam built quite a squad.

"My training group leading up to the event was basically my students and the people who got my sideboard guides, and we discussed things online on a daily basis heading up to the Regional Championship," Merjam said. "I also teamed up with a group from my city, Team Navinha, so I could practice in real life."

With the team and the testing plan secured, Merjam went to work.

"My preparation was playing all the Magic Online Modern Challenges for three months with Rakdos Grief," he explained. "After that, I felt confident to lead classes on the deck and make content for it, like sideboard guides. Having helped three other players in the tournament with my lessons and sideboard guide was truly a shared happiness."

Happiness and history. Merjam's team put up strong results at the Regional Championship, showcasing the power of Rakdos Grief, an archetype that many thought dead after the banning of Fury. But like any good Undying Madness deck, the evoke elemental plan came from the theorized dead, and Merjam dropped just one match in the entire tournament—and then won nine rounds in a row to take it all.

Months and months of preparation, of grinding out Thoughtseize mirrors and Dauthi Voidwalker shenanigans. It all paid off in one glorious weekend for Merjam, who showed exactly why he's found a home in Magic coaching: he's very good at getting the most out of his deck and his game.

"I played Rakdos before the Fury ban and had a lot of results in the Challenges with it," he explained. "After the ban, I really thought the deck would no longer be tier one, but incredibly, it had the strength to keep going, and I had no doubts about playing it at the Regional Championship."

The win not only sends Merjam back to the Pro Tour, this time for Pro Tour Thunder Junction in a few months, but also punches his ticket to the Magic World Championship later this year. It was a prize beyond hope for Merjam, who said he's entered every Regional Championship with the same goal: to perform well enough to earn a seat at the Pro Tour. For a Magic coach who has worked hard to stay at the cutting edge of Modern—even if that means tuning up the perfect Rakdos deck to beat everyone else, even when they know what's coming—the Regional Championship title is both a crowning achievement and a stepping stone. His Magic career has brought him to the very top of his region; now the world beckons.

"Ever since Regional Championships started, I would look at the trophy before the tournament and say, ‘one day you will be mine.' My dream has always been to Top 8 a Pro Tour, and I'll never give up on it. Being more realistic, I would like to do well enough to stay on the circuit, as I love this lifestyle of traveling with friends and competing."

He'll get his next chance when he returns to the Pro Tour, as hundreds of players are preparing to do right now; Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor is coming to MagicCon: Chicago on Friday, Feb. 23.

Merjam has ticked one major goal off his to-do list. But he's not done. The 2024 season is just getting started, and so is the newest Regional Championship victor.

"I want to continue to invest in other areas of the game that aren't just playing," he said. "I want to improve my coaching and make better content, written and on Twitch and Youtube as well. And I want to improve my English because I still speak it poorly; this prevents me from coaching people from other countries."

Looking Ahead

The coverage team is counting down the days to Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor where players will battle for their share of the $500,000 prize pool. The tournament kicks off on Feb. 23, where qualified players will battle it over three days of draft and Pioneer to crown the first Pro Tour champion of 2024.

On the Regional Championship side, it's even busier. There's Regional Championships coming this weekend in the United States, Canada, and Japan. With dozens of Pro Tour invites on the line, and several more seats at the World Championship to award, it's a very busy time in the world of competitive Magic, and nothing in Magic is more exciting to me than a full slate of high-level Pioneer and Modern events to dive into.

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