任穎津 (Yam Wing Chun)

Twitter: @walkingbye

Age: 25
Residence: Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Team: MTG Mint Card
Qualified via Pro Club Gold Level, PT Ixalan Top Finisher, GP Shanghai Top Finisher
Pro Points: Lifetime 156 (#2 Hong Kong), 25 in 2017–18 (#1 Hong Kong, #15 World)
Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx 2014 (Block Constructed & Booster Draft)
Pro Tours Played: 13
Best Pro Tour Finish: 4th (PT Hour of Devastation)
Career Median: 129
Top 8: 1 Pro Tours and 4 Grand Prix
Yam’s PT Results: http://www.mtgptresults.com/player/wing-chun-yam
Planeswalker level: 48 (Archmage)

Q: You have been around the competitive Magic scene since around 2013. It didn’t take you long to establish yourself on the Pro Tour, having missed only one Pro Tour since PT Journey Into Nyx in 2014. Despite your consistent success qualifying, the PTs themselves did not go as well for you. But, starting about half a year ago, you have had great results, including a PT Top 8, a 10-0 start at the last PT, and back-to-back GP Top 8s. How did you manage to qualify for the PT so consistently without the crucial Gold level in the Pro Club? And what changed in the last year, that made you level up from Pro Tour regular to one of the top players in the game right now?

It all started with a pair of PTQ wins in Xiaman, China. I still remember taking a 10-hour overnight bus from Hong Kong to Xiamen with Lee Shi Tian for that PTQ because the train tickets were sold out.

The second one qualified me for PT Fate Reforged where I Top 16’d. I didn’t Top 8 any events that year but still managed to scavenge enough Pro Points for Gold at the end of the 2014-15 season. During the 2015-16 season I didn’t put up any great results and failed to maintain Gold level, so not many people—including some of my teammates!—noticed that I once had Gold, and often just referred me as “the kid who travels with Team MTG Mint Card.”

I think the most significant change in the last year was practicing Magic in a more efficient way. I wasn’t playing much Magic Online until I failed to qualify for PT Amonkhet, where I decided to dedicate a little bit more time to Magic as well as making sure that the time was well spent. I would stream and discuss my Drafts with Lee Shi Tian and Wu Kon Fai (He’s a Silver-level pro) during lunch hours on weekdays, and sometimes we went to Lee’s place to play Magic Online after playing squash on weekends.

Q: The Top 8 at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation marks the high point of your career, although the way you left it might also make it feel like a low point at the same time. The loss was heartbreaking, yet looking at your performances since, it seems almost like it has made you stronger. How do you recover from such a blow? How did you experience the reaction of the community? One might have expected some mockery for your mistake, but at least publicly it seemed like the community was mostly compassionate. Is that the way you experienced it, and did the support of the community help?

I gained a lot of attention after Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, but naturally I don’t want to be remembered for a mistake forever, so that gave me a lot of incentive to stay strong and try to put up some good results.

Afterwards, a number of players approached me at GPs to show their support, and I was grateful that the feedback of the community for the mistake was supportive. The support from the community and my friends gave me a lot of confidence.

Q: As a player you are known for your love of mono-red decks. Players sometimes sneer at the simplistic game plan of these decks yet when you take a look at the results of great players versus average players there seem to be way more edges to be gained than people give these decks credit for. Why do you like the archetype, and what do you think makes a player good at mono-red? Do you think there is some truth to the “simpleton”-deck stereotype, maybe looking at the more straight-to-the-face versions in Modern and Legacy?

I like mono-red mainly because it allows me to be proactive. Mono-red decks are efficient at presenting a lot of threats, but playing it doesn’t necessarily mean you brainlessly attack all the time. The best part and the true beauty of mono-red is playing defense when needed. A good red player should be able to switch gears according to the game state.

But mono-red decks are relatively easy to pick up so people just regard it as the “little kid deck,” but I think Martin Dang and Joel Larsson winning back-to-back Pro Tours with red decks in 2015 has changed people’s stereotype of it.

As to the older formats, the primary game plan of mono-red decks looks very simple, but it takes a lot of skills to play mono-red well. I used to play a lot of Burn in Modern and the Burn mirror, where it plays out like two fighters dancing around each other, is one of my favorites.

Q: You are from Hong Kong. Most Westerners probably don’t have much of an idea what it is like to live there. But it is rather well known that Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Consequently, rents are high, and it is hard to imagine that there are a lot of game stores with spacious playing areas. So what is it like to play Magic in Hong Kong? Is it a habitat of Magic Online aficionados or is there a vibrant real life community?

There are actually five or six card stores in Hong Kong where you can sit down and play Magic. As Hong Kong is very small and shops are in convenient locations most of us play in real life instead of playing Magic Online. But there is so much entertainment to choose from in Hong Kong that the Magic community ends up being rather small (Hong Kong Nationals had 130 players) compared to other Asian countries.

The competitive scene shrunk a bit about 7-8 years ago when a lot of players had to quit due to family or work commitments, but now they are slowly coming back. In the last few years the competitive scene has grown a lot with more players willing to travel to Asian GPs and more players qualified for the Pro Tour. There will actually be seven Hong Kong players at PT Rivals of Ixalan!