Nationality: Czech Republic
Team: Cabin Crew
Qualified via Pro Club Platinum Level, PT Dragons of Tarkir Top 8
Pro Points: 61 lifetime (50 in 2014–15)
Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Dark Ascension (2012 in Honolulu)
Pro Tours played: 5
Win percentage: 65.3%
Top 8: 2 Pro Tours
Planeswalker Level: 41 (Battlemage)
The first somewhat notable finish of Ondřej’s short career was 10th place at the 2011 Legacy Grand Prix in Amsterdam, which earned the then 16-year-old an invitation to Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu. After a pair of unexciting finishes at Pro Tours in between, Stráský qualified again for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. Still mostly unknown, he made it to the Top 8 piloting a Jeskai Tempo deck. The Modern Pro Tour yielded a decent result for Stráský, but he was back to the Top 8 for the next Standard Pro Tour, this time with RG Dragons. Thus, after his pair of Pro Tour Top 8s Stráský, who entered the season with 11 lifetime Pro Points, is now in the pole position for one of the European Worlds slots.
Q: A year ago you were still in school and the natural next step would have been to start studying. Since then, you have won almost $25,000 and locked Platinum, which should allow you to play Magic professionally for at least another year. How did this year change your perspective? Was becoming a pro gamer a dream for you before this year? Is it something that you can see yourself doing for a long time, or do you consider this a temporary phase in your life?
A: My life obviously changed a lot. Before PT Khans of Tarkir I even thought about playing less Magic, because I wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I used to. I also played the game for quite some time and still had no real results. At one point I actually considered not going to Hawaii because it would force me to skip two weeks in school. Luckily my roommate (also a Magic player) convinced me to go. I thought about the PT as more of a nice trip since it was in Hawaii, but then I was lucky enough to Top 8 and my life changed from there. I quit school, started playing tons of Magic, the game became more enjoyable once again. I didn’t expect to hit Platinum, but with some effort I thought Gold would be a real possibility. The pro lifestyle was also very appealing to me for many years so I wanted to give that shot. I can go back to school anytime but this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. To be honest it still feels kind of unreal that this is happening. As for the future, I like gaming and the competition so if I continue to have results I can see myself doing this for quite some time.
Q: Before Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir you were a nobody, Magically speaking, yet you got to prepare with Team Cabin Crew. It is hard to imagine that Team ChannelFireball or The Pantheon would casually invite the locally qualified players to test with them. How did you end up on that team? Most of your team members are older, some even way older than you. Was the age difference ever an issue?
A: Playing a Pro Tour without a testing team is really very hard. So we try to bring on our unknown qualified friends to give them a better chance. It’s always nice when they do well, like Thomas Hendricks at the last PT. As for me, I’m good friends with the Czech players on the team and I drafted with them for PT Portland even though I wasn’t qualified. So it was pretty obvious that I would test with them. Again I got pretty lucky here since Cabin Crew is one of the best teams in Magic. We have great Limited players in Martin Juza and Ivan Floch, and I personally believe that Limited performance is the key to success at the PT. I don’t think the age difference was ever an issue since I’m used to being the youngest kid. My teammates are all very mature so they know how to deal with a kid. Many thanks to them. Overall I’m really glad I can be on Cabin Crew and I hope we will finish strong at the last PT.
Q: You have made Top 8 of two Pro Tours this season which puts you in an excellent position to qualify for Worlds. With another great finish, you could become Player of the Year even. How do you feel going into the final event of the year? Does this situation put extra pressure on you? How do you deal with that?
A: I’m really nervous and excited at the same time. I thought I was basically locked for the Worlds slot after Brussels so I didn’t try my best at the European GPs. But now that everyone is earning so many Pro Points every other weekend I’m scared I might miss it. So I’ll definitely try my best. I don’t think the situation puts any extra pressure on me, it might even work in my advantage since I’ll be properly motivated. If I make Worlds, it’s great. If I miss it, I still had a season I can be proud of. The PoY title is not something I’m thinking about, since there are so many players who are better and have more Pro Points than I do.
Q: You have had success with very different kinds of decks: Mono-Green Devotion at PT Dragons of Tarkir, Jeskai at PT Khans of Tarkir, and RUG Delver at Grand Prix Amsterdam in 2011. Do you play whatever you believe in most at the moment, or do you have preferred deck types? Looking at your Pro Tour Top 8s, one might assume that you love Standard. Is that the format you most like to play?
A: I don’t think I have any extreme preferences. I’m not like Ivan who wouldn’t play Mono-Red even if it was the best deck. But on the other hand there are decks I feel more comfortable with. For example, at PT Khans I believed Abzan and Jeskai were equally strong but Jeskai suited my play style better, so I picked it. Basically I like decks that are doing very powerful things. At PT Khans, Mantis Rider on turn 3 was the best thing you could have. At PT Dragons of Tarkir it was turn-4 Dragonlord Atarka. I really like formats with powerful cards—my favorite Standard format was during the Caw Blade era.
It’s true that both my PT Top 8s were Standard, but given that 3 out of every four PTs are Standard it’s not that surprising. I don’t really prefer Standard, but it’s still better than Modern. I thought it was too bad that they revoked the decision to eliminate Modern PTs. Overall my favorite format is probably Legacy. It’s super complicated and has a ton of exciting games. As for Limited vs. Constructed, I guess I prefer Constructed more, though there are some formats I loved and drafted a lot (triple-Khans, Modern Masters).