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Hall of Fame 2013 Candidates – Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with potential Magic Hall of Fame candidates in the 2013 class.
Previous interviews:

Justin Gary
William Huey Jensen
Ben Stark
Willy Edel
Paul Rietzl

221 Lifetime Pro Points
27 PTs played
4 PT Top 8s (8.8%)
1 PT win – Yokohama, 2007
4 PT Top 16s (5.9%)
2 PT Top 32s (11.7%)
1 PT Top 64s (14.7%)
11 PTs at Top 64 or better
7 GP Top 8s
0 GP wins
Median finish: 102
3 year-median: 22
Years in PoY top 10: 3
Lifetime winnings: $160,750 (23rd)

Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

What is your current relationship with Magic? How would that change if you were inducted in the HoF?

I love Magic and I play it a lot. That obviously wouldn’t change much if I were inducted in the HoF. However I would probably test for and go to most PTs.

You’ve always been known as a control player, and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen you playing a non-control deck. Where does that love of control come from?

That’s an interesting question and I would also like to have the answer. It is said there is no accounting for taste. Maybe it has something to do with my childhood? My parents used to buy me a lot of Legos when I was little, and building a control deck is a lot like trying to fit all the pieces together. Who knows?

Is there a point where you will play, for example, an aggro deck? Or will you always play a deck you like even if the other option happens to be better for the field?

I guess I can theoretically imagine a point where I would switch to aggro, but that’s pretty unlikely. My philosophy when I’m getting nowhere with control is usually to try harder. First, I would have to be convinced that this aggro deck really is a great choice. Second, you know how going into PTs there are unknown factors which tend to make it difficult to get a clear view of what’s really best. I imagine if my testing group comes up with some broken deck though, I would probably jump ship (though it will most likely be a combo deck then).

Looking back, I remember two times only where I didn’t play a control deck at the PT. Both times it was because I couldn’t build a control deck I trusted enough, not because I was convinced my backup plan was so good. The first time was Legacy at Worlds, where I ran a mono-red hate deck. Among other gems, it contained [card]Blood Moon[/card], [card]Magus of the Moon[/card], [card]Chalice of the Void[/card], and [card]Trinisphere[/card], with [card]Gathan Raiders[/card] and [card]Rakdos Pit Dragon[/card] as win-conditions (yes seriously, with a backup plan of hardcasting [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]). I went 3-3. The second time was Worlds in Rome where I ran [card]Hypergenesis[/card] in Extended. I went 0-3. Well, never again. It served me right for not sticking to my Think Twices.

Control is a lot about choosing the right answers for the right threats. Can you elaborate a little on your thought process for building a control deck for an unknown metagame, such as a PT?

The first step would be to take a close look at what’s out there (as close as you can in an unknown field so you can have a rough idea). After all, you need to know the threats if you’re going to find the right answers. The second step would be to look for these answers. This includes figuring out how we close games, which is very important. This naturally leads to determining the best colors to pair blue with. After a sufficient amount of testing, you should know what you want your deck to look like depending on the field, and as the tournament gets closer, your perception of the expected metagame gets refined.

Of all the people I’ve seen at competitive level, you’re probably the one that chooses to draw the most. Can you explain a little bit why you feel that is the better choice in some matchups?

The overall idea is simple: If we’re gearing up for a long, drawn-out affair that is going to come down to attrition, why not be on the draw then? In Constructed this applies mostly to control vs. control, and sometimes to control vs. combo and aggro vs. aggro. What you have to watch out for going second is whether you’re giving up relevant lines of play in the early game or not. Limited offers way more occasions for drawing first though. Simply because Limited decks are often clunky and less powerful, games tend to go longer and it’s less likely your opponent can punish you for drawing. Being on the draw also offers some protection against mulligans which becomes more prevalent if you think the match is going to go long.

You were recently banned for an episode of information leaking. Can you explain to us what exactly happened?

Guillaume Matignon and I used to write articles for a French magazine, mostly about new Magic sets. As a courtesy, the magazine sometimes received spoiler lists a few days in advance. They would ask one of us for an article on the new set, sending him the list, demanding he not to share it. They would usually allow for sharing the list just between us if asked. When New Phyrexia came around, Guillaume was tasked with writing the review. After asking permission he shared the list with me. I then shared the list with a friend, which shared it with a friend of his. This eventually led to the list appearing online. It was a naïve mistake on my part and I deeply regret all the trouble I brought the community.

Most people consider your ban to be a lot different than, for example, Saito’s, because the actions that led to his banning directly impacted his results. Some people argue, however, that the advantage you gained by having the spoiler shared early on was significant, and also contributed to your results because it gave you more time to test. Do you think that is true?

Although players who are given the list early certainly get an advantage, it is a pretty small edge. Playing games will only get you so far (after all there is a lot more to deckbuilding than playing games) and there’s a lot of content and information relating to the metagame that becomes available only in the days leading up to the event.

As far as I’m concerned, when I shared the list with my friend, my only intent was for him to enjoy looking at the list early, not getting an early start on tests. I would usually meet with Guillaume Matignon the week preceding the event, because it is after all the most meaningful time to test.

What other accomplishments do you have that are not listed on the stats page?

I’m pretty proud of my Regionals (our States equivalent) win with a [card]Holistic Wisdom[/card] deck of my own creation.

What is your best memory from Magic?

That’s a tough question. There are so many great memories to choose from. Winning Yokohama probably tops them all. Being my first PT Top 8 and winning it all meant a lot.

Have you ever written Magic articles? Can you give us the link to the one/ones you like the most?

Aside from the few I’ve written for the French magazine, I’ve written a couple you can find on StarCity.

What do you think your greatest strength is as a player, something you do better than most people?

Endurance. Tournaments go long and are exhausting, even more so if you play a slow deck. Keeping your stamina up is very important in order to do well and I think that’s one of my strong points.

Do you have a preferred archetype?

Any control deck that has a lot of instants I guess.

What are your favorite deck and card of all time?

My favorite deck is Turboland by Zvi Mowshowitz. I was so happy I could play it again when Extended came around.

My favorite card is [card]Think Twice[/card].

What’s your favorite format?

Team Unified Standard Constructed. Team events are so much fun. I wonder why the few we have are all Limited these days. PT Charleston was sweet.

What Ravnica guild are you?

Dimir.

Imagine every person that gets in the HoF gets to make a card to represent them, like the Invitational. What card would you make?

I would need more time to think about it, but since what I like to do most is draw cards and gain life, probably some kind of blue/white wall that would do one or the other or both.

What is your Hall of Fame ballot this year?

I know I’m voting for these three: Luis Scott-Vargas, Tomoharu Saito, and Shouta Yasooka. Luis is kind of self-explanatory. As a deckbuilder myself, I have often been impressed by Saito’s or Yasooka’s creations. I’m still undecided on the last couple votes.

Favorite movie?

I watch very few movies so I’ll give you a series instead: Engrenages (Spiral).

Favorite book?

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Favorite food?

Crêpes.

Discussion

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