Pascal Vieren

Twitter: @VierenPascal
Age: 30
Residence: Ghent, Belgium
Team: Belgic Magic by Hareruya
Qualified via Pro Club Platinum
Pro Points: 141 (#4 in Belgium)
Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Berlin 2008 (Extended)
Pro Tours Played: 12
Best Pro Tour Finish: 3rd (Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan)
Career Median: 78
Top 8: 1 Pro Tours, 5 Grand Prix (1 wins), 1 Nationals (1 win), 1 World Magic Cup
Pascals Results: https://www.mtgptresults.com/player/pascal-vieren

Q: We saw you succeed at the last Modern Pro Tour with a blue-red Pyromancer deck that seemed to be pretty much of your own design. Lately you have also been crushing the European Limited Grand Prix. How would you describe yourself as a Magic player? Are there styles of decks that you prefer to others, or specific formats you enjoy more than others?

I’d say I’m more of a Limited player at heart. I enjoy how every game is different in Limited, while you still need knowledge about matchups and the format in general. I feel like Limited needs more creativity on the fly. Even though there’s an additional random element to it, I really like Sealed deck as well.

In Constructed, I’d say I’m more of a control or combo player, even though I’ve played aggressive decks as well. I don’t really have a preference as Constructed formats go, because I mostly prepare for upcoming tournaments. But I currently have less experience in Modern and Legacy.

Q: Before GP Strasbourg you were the #1 ranked player on MTG Elo Project with a rating of over 2300, which is so absurdly high that it is achievable almost exclusively on prolonged spikes. With your Top 8 last weekend you not only defended your #1 position, but even improved your rating. Although in practice this is not an honor that gets you anything tangible, it highlights that you are among the absolute best players in the game right now. How does this impact your self-image? When you thought about Magic a year ago, did you think you could be one of the best players in the world? Do you actually think you are one of the best players right now? And, does it matter?

I was very happy when I hit #1 on MTG Elo Project. With so much time invested in Magic, it feels great to be first at something. I guess like most pro players, I’m pretty competitive.

When I was accepted as a Hareruya Hope, I saw it as an endorsement to show I could do it. Getting a PT Top 8 had been a dream since I was a teenager and definitely helped me grow as a player. Late last year, Hareruya offered to make me a Hareruya Pro. For me, this was a sign I belonged with the pro players.

After my Top 8 at GP Warsaw, I hit Platinum. For me, this was an achievement that made me realize I truly could be one of the best players in the world. I think this took away some mental stress and helped me focus on actually becoming one of the best players. Having more great results after that only helped build this image and my self-confidence.

Q: You have an older brother, Peter, who is also playing Magic at a very high level, having achieved a couple of GP Top 8s, solid Pro Tour finishes, etc. What kind of relationship do you have when it comes to Magic? Did you learn the game together? Are you the type of guys who try one-up each other when you play, or do you try to help each other as much as you can? Do you stay in touch to talk about Magic these days or do each of you have your own testing group?

Peter and I are very close. We started together when I was 12 and we helped each other grow. Having a good player to constantly play against definitely helps.

When testing, we work together very closely, even if one of us isn’t going to a tournament the other is attending. Our testing often involves discussing endlessly about a deck or matchups. We don’t always agree, but these discussions help us understand things better.

We’re not very competitive with one another results-wise, though. We really support each other and hope each can reach the highest point possible. If we’re playing each other in a practice Draft or something like that, things can get pretty serious, though…

Q: Before 2016 you were on a hiatus from competitive Magic, which seems to be a recurring theme these days: People play Magic, maybe while they are in college, then their priorities shift, and they can’t spare the time any more. Eventually they settle in and return to the game, in many cases doing as well or even better than before. How does that match up with your story? What made you turn your back on Magic in the mid-2010s and what brought you back now? Looking forward, is playing Magic competitively something that you see yourself doing for the next couple of years?

I played my first PTs in 2008 and was second in the Rookie of the Year ranking that year. I had some solid-if-unspectacular finishes back then, but skipped some PTs because of school. After I graduated, I began working and started a family—I have three amazing kids. I was happy playing maybe one or two GPs each year.

By 2016, I started feeling the desire to play one more PT, just to prove to myself I could still do it. Around that time, it was clear Peter would be Belgium’s captain for the WMC. So I started testing a lot for the WMCQ and won the first one. We got second at the WMC and things escalated from there.

I think I grew a lot as a person in those years. My job involves a lot of fast decision making with incomplete knowledge, which translates well to Magic. As a father, I learned to be responsible and matured a lot. Being trained in doing things when sleep deprived is also surprisingly useful in the later rounds of a tournament.

Since the start of this year, I’ve been working less to focus more time on Magic. With the introduction of the MPL, I believe the future is bright for professional Magic. And I’ll try hard to be a part of it.