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Pro Tour Journey into Nyx Special

Another Pro Tour draws near and I am once again proud to present a new issue of my Pro Tour Special. After interviewing only Pro Tour winners for the Born of the Gods Special, this time I talked to players that have not won a Pro Tour (yet). Every one of these players has made it to the Top 8 of a Pro Tour at least once—a focal point of this issue. Never having done well on the Pro Tour myself I can only imagine what it means to get so close to the biggest achievement in professional Magic just to stumble inches short of the finish line. I suspect it hurts a lot before you can really enjoy the pride that you deserve for making Top 8 in a Pro Tour. In this issue you will see what Sam Black, Patrick Chapin, Andrew Cuneo, Melissa DeTora, Patrick Dickmann, Kenji Tsumura, Owen Turtenwald, and Matej Zatlkaj have to say about it.

Aside from my description of the player and the Q&A you will also see a few new stats in this issue. For every issue of the Pro Tour Specials I have compiled all Pro Tour finishes for the players involved. I did this mainly to compute figures for average, median, and number of attendances, but at some point it struck me that these numbers don’t tell the whole story. The problem is that a finish in one Pro Tour is not necessarily comparable to that finish in another Pro Tour. For example if I compute the median of a player that has played only in Team Pro Tours, his median finish would be a Top 100 even if he was doing very badly in these events. When compared to the other players, however, a Top 100 median finish is very respectable. The same goes for players that have only competed in Pro Tours in the 90s. For example Mark Justice has a median finish of 32 which is just off-the-charts good, but how does that compare to Kai Budde’s median finish of 43?

Measuring Success

The solution to this problem is not particularly difficult. An easy one is to normalize all finishes, and average over the normalized values. If you normalize to the value of a 100 you get what we could call a “success percentage.” So a player winning a tournament will get a success value of 100% for that specific event, and the player coming in last will get 0%. If you get 200th out of 399 players you will score 50%. If you compute the median over these numbers you will get a number that says how much of the field the player will leave behind him in an average Pro Tour. This may not be perfect, but it is an easy way to adjust the median values in a way that makes them more compatible to each other. I will call this “Median100” in the stats section of each player.

There is a still a problem with this solution, though. While it does reflect how well a player is doing on average, this number does not reflect the prestige affiliated with certain finishes. As an extreme example, a player that wins every second PT but doesn’t win any match in his other PTs will have way more prestige than one that finishes in the Top 64 of every single PT but never in the Top 32. In my opinion the modern Pro Point distribution system does a fairly good job of estimating how prestigous various finishes are. If we apply this Pro Point distribution to all finishes of a player and average over this, we should get a good estimate of why we think of some Magic players as great and why others don’t get our attention.

However, prestige is acquired over time and if we think of this measure as one of prestige, then it makes sense to figure in the number of Pro Tours a player has played. I did this in a way that is very similar to the way IMDb computes their Top 250 list. That means that the formula includes the mean Pro Points the player has earned, but then reduces that value somewhat depending on how many Pro Tours the player has attended. The more Pro Tours the less the value gets reduced. This value will always be at least 3.0 and the way it is calculated it can never reach 30.0. I will call this value “Avg PP*.” I will go into the details of that calculation in a forthcoming, stat-centered article that I plan to publish at the beginning of the Hall of Fame 2014 voting period, as these stats should be particularly interesting to the members of both voting committees.

Last but very much not least I would like to thank Sam, Patrick, Andrew, Melissa, Patrick, Kenji, Owen, and Matej for answering my questions. Good luck to you at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx!

Table of Contents

I. Sam Black
II. Patrick Chapin
III. Andrew Cuneo
IV. Melissa DeTora
V. Patrick Dickmann
VI. Kenji Tsumura
VII. Owen Turtenwald
VIII. Matej Zatlkaj
Sam-BlackName: Sam Black
Age: 31
Nationality: American

 

 

 

Qualified via Pro Club Level Gold
Pro Points: 240 (44 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Honolulu 2006
Pro Tours played: 25
Median finish: 117
Median100: 69.7% (in a modern 400-person PT that would translate to a 122nd place finish)
Avg PP*: 5.2
Top 8: 2 Pro Tours, 8 Grand Prix, and 1 Nationals
Other accomplishments: Winner of Win-a-Car tournament at Worlds 2007, 2008 Worlds U.S. Team Champion (with Michael Jacob and Paul Cheon)
Planeswalker level: 50 (Archmage)

Sam Black has made himself a name as one of the most innovative deckbuilders in the game. His most famous concoctions are often highly synergistic, more or less aggressive decks. Sam particularly seems to enjoy sacrificing his own creatures for value. However, despite the name and his ruthlessness against his own minions, Sam doesn’t really strike anyone as a black mage. He has often been credited as one of the most valuable members of Team ChannelFireball: The Pantheon for his deckbuilding skills and his intricate knowledge of the format at hand.

Sam’s Pro Tour career started in Honolulu in 2006. Despite frequent appearances on the Pro Tour it took Sam some time to record a major success. However, before his first notable finish in a professional event, he won one of the most exciting and unique side events ever in Magic, the Win-a-Car challenge at Worlds in 2007. In 2008 Sam was a part of the American team that won the team portion of the World Championship. Eventually he made his first GP Top 8 in Singapore in 2009, and followed it up with another Top 8 right away at GP Barcelona. Sam has reached many Top 8s since, including his first Pro Tour Top 8 at the first Modern format PT in Philadelphia, 2011. He added another Top 8 to his resumé at Pro Tour Theros.

Q: At Pro Tour Philadelphia you played an innovative Infect combo deck built around Blazing Shoal. In the semifinal against Josh Utter-Leyton he got to play first in game one, but you won games one and two. Then you lose the third. And in the fourth—for the first time in the match—you have the choice to play or draw first. You decide to draw. Despite the fact that you won games one and two on the draw, it takes a lot of guts to make that call, especially in a format like the early Modern that was considered to be extremely fast. How did you come to the conclusion that you wanted to be on the draw? Was it something that you had tested before? Doing something very original and not succeeding can give everybody the chance for a free swing at you. Is that something that happened afterward, and do you still think drawing first was the right call?

As to the deck, you basically got Blazing Shoal banned singlehandedly. Is that something that makes you proud, like getting “the ultimate deckbuilder’s achievement”?

Sam: The night before the Top 8, I had some friends help me prepare for my matches. Jon Finkel played my first round opponent’s deck against me while Tom Martell and Drew Levin tested my matchup against Josh. I went to sleep before they finished, but they told me that the plan they had the most success with was to lower my curve, side out lands, and choose to draw. Their reasoning made sense to me. The idea was that Josh would have to board out threats to make room for all the extra answers he was bringing in, and almost every card could trade for another card, so I just wanted to have a higher density of spells since neither one of us had any real way to get ahead on cards except drawing fewer lands. Cutting lands meant I’d draw more spells, but my deck was already extremely land light, and couldn’t really function with fewer lands, but on the draw it potentially could thanks to the extra card. Also, the extra card helps with the plan to grind him out anyway. There’s a much more complicated discussion about whether it was right, but I understood the principle and it made sense, and at a certain point, I felt like I just had to trust my teammates.

As for the ultimate deckbuilder’s achievement, it’s definitely a nice credit to have, but the initial design of the deck came from my friend John Stolzmann, I just participated in the tuning. I think Tom Martell’s PT win with Aristocrats felt more like the ultimate deckbuilder’s achievment—designing a Pro-Tour-winning deck.

Q: You are known primarily as a deckbuilder. Sam Black decks have a certain texture. Sacrificing creatures for value, few blue cards, and a lot of synergy come to mind. Are these things that you do on principle or just things that a few of your more successful decks had in common? What kind of decks do you generally like to build? When you see a new card, is there a specific characteristic that makes you think you want to build a deck with that card?

Sam: It’s funny that you say “few blue cards”—both of my PT Top 8s are with Mono-Blue, and I wear a blue mana symbol pin every day. I do build a lot of non-blue decks, I guess, but I still think of myself as a blue player. I generally have the most fun working on decks other people aren’t working on, and trying to find less obvious decks. My teammates can put all the good rares together and tune the normal decks, I look to find ways to exploit narrow synergies and figure out which niche cards might have useful applications.

Q: Despite a bunch of Grand Prix Top 8s it took you a while to have a really good finish on the Pro Tour. Now public perception is not necessarily accurate, but the other side of being a recognized deckbuilder and Constructed player is that you are not thought of as a Limited expert. Do you think that your Constructed game is better than your Limited game, and that your Limited game maybe even stood a bit in the way when it came to having more finishes in the region of Top 16 or better?

Sam: By the numbers, Limited wasn’t what was stopping me from breaking through before PT Philadelphia. I think it was 2011—I’m not sure—but there was one year of PTs where if we’d been able to use Gau’s Constructed record and my Limited record at every PT, we’d have made Top 8 of all of them. Before my current team came together and gave me some deckbuilding credit, I think I was primarily considered a Limited specialist. These days, I might be a little better at Constructed, but it’s close. I went through a short period where I wasn’t drafting as much, but for the last several weeks I’ve been drafting multiple times a day, so I’m not too worried about Limited at the moment.

Q: You founded a game store when you were still rather young. How did it come to that? Wasn’t that a daunting thing to do at that age? Why did you later get out of that business and what happened to the store afterwards?

Sam: I founded the game store, Netherworld Games in Madison, WI, shortly after I graduated college. It was something I’d wanted to do, and I had some friends who had experience, so I started it with them, and it was pretty easy, since one of them had already been managing a game store for a few years. I sold the store when I started doing well enough that I could just focus on Magic, because that was what I really wanted to be doing, and working retail was a bit more boring than I’d imagined. The store is still there.

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chapinName: Patrick Chapin
Nickname: The Innovator
Nationality: American

 

 

 

Qualified via Hall of Fame
Pro Points: 253 (19 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Paris 1997
Pro Tours played: 43
Median finish: 98
Median100: 64.3% (144th)
Avg PP*: 6.2
Top 8: 4 Pro Tours and 3 Grand Prix
Other accomplishments: Hall of Fame class 2012
Planeswalker level: 48 (Archmage)

Patrick Chapin has had a very long career as a Magic player, having started playing on the Pro Tour in 1997, with Pro Tour Top 8s in three different decades. Today he is best known as a writer and deckbuilder, two talents that complement each other well. Chapin is one of the most faithful writers of StarCityGames, and has written articles for SCG for many years. While many people write articles about Magic, Chapin has gone a step further. In 2009 he finished his first book on Magic strategy, Next Level Magic. In 2013 his second book, Next Level Deckbuilding, followed. In addition to his achievements as a writer, Chapin has made himself a name as a deckbuilder. Although Patrick has reportedly played almost exclusively control decks in recent times, he has earned his nickname with a bunch of truly innovative decks including the Spinerock Knoll Dragonstorm combo deck he built with Gabriel Nassif and Mark Herberholz for Worlds 2006, and the Deranged HermitSnap concoction that Chapin almost took to the Top 8 at PT New York 1999.

Patrick started playing in the Junior Division of the Pro Tour in the first season of the Pro Tour in 1996. Back then he considered himself to be a Limited specialist, and indeed his first two Pro Tour Top 8s, New York ’97 and Los Angeles ’99, were both Limited events. He might even have added a third Pro Tour Top 8 in that first half of his career, but after a great start at Pro Tour New York ’99, somehow Chapin’s deck got lost and eventually he ended up a match short of Top 8. Chapin continued to play regularly on the Pro Tour until 2001, but after 2002 there is a big hole in his Magic career. He was back with a vengeance in 2007. His second PT followed immadiately at the 2007 World Championship, and Chapin made it to the finals there, having to defeat his teammate Gabriel Nassif in one of the craziest semifinals in Pro Tour history. In 2011 another Top 8 followed for Chapin in Paris, with one of the control decks Chapin has become so attached to in recent times. With the help of that fourth Top 8 and a pair of Grand Prix Top 8s in 2011-12, Chapin was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Q: At the 2007 World Championship in New York you made it to the finals, but before that you played through one of the craziest matches the Pro Tour has ever seen. You had to play Gabriel Nassif, both of you playing an innovative Storm deck that you had built together. Before the fourth game you lead 2-1, and Gabriel mulliganed to four. So it seems like you are basically through. However, when you tried to finish Gabriel’s 9 life with Ignite Memories he revealed Grapeshot, Grapeshot, Grapeshot, Rite of Flame, and then there is just one copy of Ignite Memories left. Unerringly it reveals Rite of Flame again and Gabriel survives on 1. That moment must be burnt into your memory like few others. Sure enough, the next turn he kills you from 20 with his Ignite Memories because your hand is all Dragons. You must have been shell-shocked. How did you keep your act together? In the final game Gabriel starts off with triple Lotus Bloom, essentially demanding that you kill him on turn four! As it happens, your only chance there is to try Ignite Memories again, but this time fortune was with you. Greatest relief in your life?

Patrick: Nassif surviving that game was definitely surprising, but it was one of the most fun Magic experiences of my life. I guess we were both just so caught up in the moment, we didn’t think about the implications of the win or loss. The match was so memorable I ended up making a song about it with Bill Boulden.

Q: You Top 8’d the second Pro Tour you participated in, New York 1997. The format of that Pro Tour was Booster Draft, and not just any kind of Booster Draft, it was 5th Edition/Visions Booster Draft. Considering that Magic is usually a lot of fun, this seems like one of the more masochistic ways of playing this game. On the other hand the idea of drafting boosters was still pretty new then, and might have been fun for its novelty value alone. What was it like to play in that Pro Tour, and drafting these sets, that were never designed to be drafted, let alone be drafted together?

Patrick: Draft was a very different animal back then. Most Magic players had never drafted before, and there were maybe only a few dozen people that had figured out how to draft a halfway decent deck. Back then, if you were good, you could actually expect to win the vast majority of your Limited matches, since most people didn’t understand what draft was really about. At that Pro Tour, I figured out to force blue to pick up Floods (which were better than Fireball, but would get passed).

Q: You are nicknamed “The Innovator.” What’s up with that name? All you ever seem to be building is control decks.

Patrick: I actually haven’t play very much control, lately. At the last Pro Tour, I played Dredge. The Pro Tour before that, I played B/W Midrange. The Pro-Tour before that, I played blue, but with Voice of Resurgence, Loxodon Smiter, etc.

Q: You wrote two books about Magic, Next Level Magic and Next Level Deckbuilding. Why did you want to write a book—and then another—about Magic? At the beginning didn’t it put you off, that barely anybody else writes books on Magic, probably at least in part because almost everything one could ever hope to write is available for free on the internet? What kind of expectations did you have when the first book was published, and did the actual responses to the book live up to your expectations? Do you consider writing another book, and more generally do you think written books have a future in a game as fast-paced as Magic?

Patrick: I wanted to write Next Level Magic because books on Magic, like Baxter’s, were very instrumental in my development as a player. There may be no shortage of articles, but that is not the same type of thing as the timeless and comprehensive nature of a book. I then wrote Next Level Deckbuilding because it is the subject I get asked about the most that requires much more than an article to do justice to the topic. It didn’t really put me off that no one else was writing books, since it has never really mattered too much to me if other people are doing something or not yet. In my experience, most of the time, most people are just imitating other people doing successful things. Some number of new ideas are not going to work out, and the ones that do, others will start to imitate. As for everything already having been written, I disagree completely. Just because a lot of people are writing lots of words, that doesn’t mean they are producing good results. Quality is important.

I’m not sure expectation is the word I would use, but I know we had hoped people would find it helpful, and to sell enough copies for the book to be successful and justify making more, since I love writing about Magic so much. The response we received was overwhelming, however. The book’s popularity definitely exceeded our expectations, and we have received countless letters by readers that find their win percentages climb after reading. They start winning FNMs, they qualify for their first Pro Tour, etc. I will definitely be writing more books in the not too distant future, and we are getting ready to release a Next Level Magic update for its five-year anniversary.

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Andrew-CuneoName: Andrew Cuneo
Age: 38
Nationality: American

 

 

 

Qualified via PT Born of the Gods – Top 25
Pro Points: 144 (26 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Paris 1997
Pro Tours played: 22
Median finish: 75 (PT NY ’98 result unknown)
Median100: 78.0% (89th) (PT NY ’98 result unknown)
Avg PP*: 6.1 (PT NY ’98 result unknown)
Top 8: 2 Pro Tours, 2 Grand Prix, and 1 Masters
Planeswalker level: 44 (Battlemage)

All through his career the name Cuneo has been connected to blue control decks. In the 90s, counter-heavy blue control decks were often even referred to as Cuneo Blue. However, Andrew’s strengths are not limited to building and playing control decks. In the early 2000s Cuneo formed a team with Andrew Johnson and Aaron Forsythe that was among the most successful in the Team Limited Pro Tours of the time.

Cuneo made his first appearance on the Pro Tour at Paris in 1997. After a few other showings he had his breakthrough finish as part of Car Acrobatic Team at Pro Tour New York 2000, where they came in second. Mediocre finishes followed for Cuneo, but at the next Team Pro Tour Car Acrobatic Team was once again among the final four. Although Cuneo had great finishes in the next Pro Tours, he never got around to playing on the Pro Tour consistently for a longer time, and disappeared around 2004. Since the end of 2011 Cuneo is back in Pro Magic business and for the first time in his career has entered a bunch of Pro Tours in a row, thus earning himself Gold Level in the Pro Club last year.

Q: At the (2nd) 2000 Pro Tour in New York you made Top 4 as a member of Car Acrobatic Team. Where did this name come from? In the finals your teammates both lost before you could complete your match, which is a nicer way of saying it never really mattered what you did in the finals of that Pro Tour. At the time how did you feel about the way you lost the finals there and about the result as a whole? Has that view changed?

Andrew: Aaron came up with the name. It was from some cartoon he’d watched as a child. In the finals, my match was actually held after we’d drawn our opening hands in game 3. I remember having a good hand that needed to draw a land on turn 3 or 4. It was pretty tense having to wait to see the outcome of the other matches just to get to see if I was going to hit my land drops. Losing wasn’t fun, but it was still a great result that we were happy about.

Q: At the next team Pro Tour in 2001, again in New York, your team repeated their Top 4 in the same configuration, and you had also made Top 4 at the Masters in between. It seems safe to say that your team was one of the best teams in its time, but somehow it is not one of the teams that most people remember today. Even the coverage referred to your team as underrated back then. Who were your team members, and why did the team work so well? In the semifinals of PT NY 2001 you played against Phoenix Foundation. One might go so far as to say that the two best Rochester Draft teams ever met there. How did the draft and matches go for your team aside from the fact that you lost eventually?

Andrew: My teammates in Team Limited were Aaron Forsythe and Andrew Johnson. They were both people I played with in Pittsburgh. In team formats, especially drafts, it’s very important to understand your teammates’ strength and weaknesses. You also all hopefully agree on how to evaluate the various cards. Unlike most of the top teams, we actually didn’t have a clear team leader who made all the picks. It worked out for us because we all agreed on our overall strategy so we could reach a consensus. The match against Phoenix Foundation basically came down to Marco Blume drawing Tahngarth to beat us.

Q: Despite your exploits as a Team Limited player, your name is more closely associated with blue control decks. What is the original story of Cuneo Blue? Was the deck that innovative at the time? More generally speaking, what fascinates you so much about control decks? Do you think blue decks are inherently superior to other decks, or is it just that blue resonates more strongly with you? The only other person whose name is so closely associated with control is Guillaume Wafo-Tapa. When you take a look at your designs and his do you think you two have a different approach to control decks, or are you building similar decks?

Andrew: When I made the Draw-Go deck originally it was pretty different from what people had done in Standard up to that time. Although control decks had existed before in Vintage, they hadn’t really been played much in Standard. It was also the first deck that played so many counters and didn’t use a second color for removal spells.

The strength of a good control deck is that it can win even if your opponent gets to deploy their strategy. Unlike a lot of decks where there are certain cards or matchups you can never beat, control decks usually always have a chance.

I wasn’t really paying attention to Magic when Guillaume Wafo-Tapa was having most of his success, so I can’t comment on that.

Q: You have had a string of good finishes in 2003-04, and you had had solid finishes before that. However, you failed to show up for Pro Tours even during your run in 2003-04, and then quit Pro Play altogether. What were the reasons for that? What was your motivation in getting back into Pro Magic in 2011?

Andrew: I stopped playing in the early 2000s because I was busy with work and wasn’t able to put in enough time to do be prepared. I started playing again in 2011 because I had more free time to devote to the game.

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Melissa-DeToraName: Melissa DeTora
Nationality: American

 

 

 

Qualified via Pro Club Level Gold
Pro Points: 97 (13 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Venice 2003
Pro Tours played: 15
Median finish: 133
Median100: 69.1% (124th)
Avg PP*: 4.4
Top 8: 1 Pro Tour and 1 Grand Prix
Planeswalker level: 49 (Archmage)

Melissa played her first Pro Tour in 2003, and for a couple of years managed to qualify for a Pro Tour every now and then. Her first success on the Pro Tour came in 2007-08 in the form of back to back Top 64 finishes at the Pro Tours in Valencia and Kuala Lumpur. A couple of mediocre finishes followed and Melissa was out of Magic Pro Play for another few years. In 2011 Melissa joined the international bandwagon to travel to a bunch of international Grand Prix, including Santiago de Chile, where she was rewarded with her first Grand Prix Top 8. Melissa has been a prominent member of the professional community since. In 2013 Melissa was able to celebrate her biggest triumph so far—a Top 8 at Pro Tour Gatecrash.

Melissa’s success at Pro Tour Gatecrash marked the first time a woman made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. While that makes her the most successful woman in the game to date, focusing on that label might draw attention from the fact that Melissa is a highly skilled professional Magic player and accomplished writer. Her articles for TCGplayer principally cover Standard, with other topics intermingled.

Q: At Pro Tour Gatecrash you had a fantastic run on Day One. On Day Two you also started well and were 11-1 at one point, but then you lost two matches in a row. After round 12 it had seemed like a foregone conclusion that you would make Top 8, but after round 14 things looked less certain. You were still in a tremendous position, but suddenly there was also a very real chance that you might not make it. What did you feel at that point? After two losses in a row were you anxious that you would lose another two and fall out of Top 8?

Melissa: Honestly, Top 8 wasn’t even on my mind at any point in the tournament. My goal was to Top 25 to qualify for the next one. I didn’t think I’d make Top 8 at any point (until the very last round where I drew in). People kept telling me that I’d Top 8, and I didn’t really think I would. After I had two losses, I honestly didn’t even mind, because I knew that even with two more losses I’d top 25, and that was all I wanted to do anyway, so I was actually pretty excited about that.

Q: You won the next round and advanced to the Top 8 comfortably. Reportedly you had a good matchup against Tom Martell in the quarterfinals. However, thanks in part to mulligans in game two and three you lost anyway. How did you feel about the tournament right after that loss and how do you feel about it now?

Melissa: Everyone said that the matchup was really good for me, and I thought it was good too. On paper, it looked great. However we tested the matchup back at the hotel and it honestly wasn’t that good. After I won game one I was feeling great, and that Tom wasn’t confident in the matchup, and I thought that I could actually pull out the match. However, I did get some poor draws in the next few games and it was over. After the loss, I was actually pretty happy. I mean it would have been awesome to win a Pro Tour, but I never thought that I actually could. Everyone knows the guy who makes Top 8 in their first PTQ, and then loses in the quarterfinals. The guy says that he didn’t care about the loss and didn’t expect to win, he was just happy to be there. I kind of felt like that guy. I really was happy just to be in the Top 8.

Q: For Pro Tour Gatecrash and the subsequent Pro Tours you have prepared with a group of mostly French players. How did you end up in that group? Do you think the large geographical distance was ever a problem for your preparation?

Melissa: I became friends with Raphaël Lévy at GP Austin 2012. When I qualified for PT Avacyn Restored in Barcelona he asked me and a few other Americans to join him in his hometown in Toulouse, France to test. I ended up spending a week in France and then we drove to Barcelona for the Pro Tour. We did terribly as a team but it was definitely the most testing I’d ever done for a Pro Tour before.Then for PT Gatecrash in Montreal I received a surprise special invite for the Pro Tour and didn’t have a team to test with. I asked Raph if I could join him and he said yes. I’ve been testing with the French guys ever since. The geographical distance has never been a problem because we always meet up in the city of the PT about a week and a half before the event, however for Atlanta, it has been more of an inconvenience. The team is attending GP Warsaw and are meeting up in Warsaw to test the week before and it didn’t make much financial sense for me to go. We are still getting together in Atlanta the Monday before the PT, but it would have been better if I could join them for that extra week.

Q: You have played Magic competitively for a long time with your first Pro Tour qualification dating back to 2003. However, you seem to have stepped up your game in the last few years. Is that something that happened gradually or was there some point where you thought, “I have played Magic for so long, it’s time to get serious”? Either way, what has changed that made you become a more successful player today?

Melissa: I have had minor success on the PT before, with my most successful year being in 2008. I was “on the train” and was able to play in 5 PTs in a row and ended the year with 2 Top 64 finishes. I even qualified for Worlds on rating, something I was really proud of at the time. I ended up falling off in 2009 after some really bad tournaments and decided to take a break from competitive magic. I still drafted a lot and attended PTQs once in a while, but I didn’t put as much effort into qualifying anymore. In 2011 I was working a dead end job and felt like I needed a lifestyle change, and I decided to start playing magic seriously again. I traveled to a lot of GPs and made my first Top 8 in Santiago 2011, and things got better from there. I think the change was that I put more effort into the game and just took it more seriously, but more importantly I realized that I wasn’t actually that good before and had a lot to do to improve. I tried to look for mistakes and learn from them, where before I blamed everything on luck and variance.

Q: Whether you want it or not, being the most successful woman in the game raises some attention by itself. Is this something that annoys you in a “Look, I just want to play good Magic. Gender is not an issue here” way, or is it something where you say “I have no problem being the role model for girls playing Magic competitively” and even take pride in that role?

Melissa: It’s something that I’ve always had to deal with. At first I was always treated as an inferior player, then when I started proving myself and qualifying for the Pro Tour, I gained some respect and gender no longer became an issue. Now, I do take pride in being one of the few successful female players in the game because a lot of girls look up to me and I think that’s pretty awesome. It’s still really bad that I had to prove myself in the game in order to get treated better by the guys, and female players today are still being treated really badly by their peers because of their gender.

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dickmannName: Patrick Dickmann
Nickname: Ofelia
Age: 24
Nationality: German

 

 

Qualified via PT Born of the Gods – Top 25
Pro Points: 43 (33 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Nagoya 2011
Pro Tours played: 3
Median finish: 25
Median100: 93.4% (27th)
Avg PP*: 6.3
Top 8: 1 Pro Tour and 1 Grand Prix (1 win)
Planeswalker level: 40 (Sorcerer)

Patrick Dickmann has come to the attention of most players only recently when he followed up his GP Antwerp win with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Both events were Modern, and in both cases Patrick played “his” Splinter Twin deck. Actually Patrick had made himself a name with the deck on Magic Online before under the nickname of Ofelia. While going all-in on one specific deck might not seem like a good long-term plan, Patrick has displayed great flexibility when it comes to tuning Twin decks to shifts in the metagame. Beginning with the usual blue/red combo-oriented version, Patrick moved on to more tempo-oriented versions before trying things like Angeltwin, Tarmotwin, or even a build with Spreading Seas. Although Twin is certainly the deck dearest to Patrick, he is a brewer at heart, always on the hunt for a new deck.

In a game that rewards rationality as much as Magic, it is quite rare to find highly emotional players, but Patrick is without a doubt one of the most passionate magicians. This and the fact that he has a brother who is also very adept at slinging cards might make one think of the Ruel brothers. It is early to compare these duos, as Patrick’s Magic career has just begun, but the combination of passion and talent makes a good recipe for excellence.

Q: PT Born of the Gods was your breakthrough on the biggest stage. Previously you had already won Grand Prix Antwerp, and even before that you were doing pretty well on Magic Online, however, Antwerp marked the first time that you got some traction in real life. How did you experience that weekend and what does that title mean to you? Do you consider Antwerp a turning point in your Magic career?

Dickmann: The Antwerp title means a lot to me. Before that I experienced a lot of near misses making me doubt that I’d ever win anything relevant at all. For example I was unable to qualify for the PT in the Modern season despite making it to the Top 8 of seven PTQs which dragged me down a lot at that time. Antwerp started horribly with a 2-2 start and no byes for me. A friend of mine actually wanted to make me drop and have a walk through the city. I decided against it, convincing myself to at least fight until the bitter end and won 14 matches in a row. A tournament that I am never going to forget.

Q: Pro Tour Born of the Gods was a bit more dramatic than Antwerp. You started off really well, but lost the last round before Day 2. The next morning your draft deck looked great, but you could win only one match with it, and after a 7-0 start you were suddenly in single elimination mode to keep the dream alive. Then you win three and face another master of Modern, Sam Pardee, for Top 8. You win that one, too, and draw into Top 8 but find out that your quarterfinal opponent will be a teammate, who even plays the deck you gave to him. In another very close match you take him out as well. Eventually you lose the semis against a matchup that you generally consider favorable in yet another very close match. That tournament must have been extremely taxing for you, emotionally as well as mentally. How did you deal with that throughout the tournament?

Dickmann: Despite being very emotional while playing and especially in between the rounds, I also have a very competitive mindset and keep talking myself into a state where I focus on pretty much the game only. Valencia was for sure an emotional roller-coaster ride and it took me a few days to fully grasp the situation. However, I deal with all this by releasing my emotions (be it frustration or joy) in between the rounds so that I can go into the next match with my head clear and ready to play.

Q: When you lost to Shaun McLaren did the happiness for having come so far predominate or the disappointment about not having taken it down? Did your feelings about that loss change over time?

Dickmann: When I lost in the semis, I was devastated, and although I think better of what I accomplished now than I did back then, the loss still makes me unhappy from time to time, so I try to avoid the memory.

Q: Before Pro Tour Born of the Gods there hadn’t been a German in the Top 8 of a Pro Tour in three years, and even before that Germans have made Top 8s of Pro Tours only sporadically since the days of Kai. Now Germany had two players in the Top 8. Do you think we will see a resurgence of German Magic in the imminent future—maybe even with you as Germany’s captain at the next World Magic Cup? Is that something you see yourself working for or are you more of a lone warrior?

Dickmann: I don’t see why German players shouldn’t be successful in future tournaments, as well. We have a lot of talented players like the Gräfensteiner brothers, Christian Seibold, Kai Budde, Wenzel Krautmann and others qualified for PT Atlanta so that Germany should have a good shot at taking down a major event in the near future.

I have 2 goals for this season: the first is making it to Platinum, the other is representing Germany as the team captain at the World Magic Cup and although I used to be more of the said “lone warrior,” I am now trying to engage in my team of German and Austrian players as well as with the other MTGMadness guys.

Q: Although you had both qualified for Pro Tours previously, the Dickmann twins will be together on the Pro Tour for the first time at Pro Tour Magic 2015. Are you going to be on a team with him? What kind of relationship do you have with your brother when it comes to Magic?

Dickmann: My brother Fabian and I are both looking forward to PT Portland and will definitely test together. Despite helping each other in the preparation for a tournament, attending events together also always raises the level of competition for both of us so that we are definitely going to do our very best at the PT.

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Kenji-TsumuraName: 津村 健志 (Kenji Tsumura)
Age: 27
Nationality: Japanese

 

 

 

Qualified via Hall of Fame
Pro Points: 260 (3 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Chicago 2003
Pro Tours played: 31
Median finish: 112
Median100: 65.1% (140th)
Avg PP*: 7.3
Top 8: 6 Pro Tours, 13 Grand Prix (2 wins), and 2 Nationals
Other accomplishments: Pro Player of the Year 2005
Planeswalker level: 47 (Archmage)

Ten years ago Japan was still seen as one of the minor Magic nations by many, although Japan had been on the rise for a couple of years. This upsurge culminated in the 2005 Pro Tour season that was crushed by Japanese players. In a single season they amassed 18 Pro Tour Top 8s and won the World Championship, including the Team Competition. In the center of that stellar ascent stood the 19-year-old Kenji Tsumura. After Top 8’ing three Pro Tours that season he was crowned Pro Player of the Year, the first in a long line of Japanese players to win that award.

However, Kenji did not only have a spectacular season, he was doing it in style. While he was open about his ambition to be the best player in the world he was also humble about his abilities, proclaiming that he was no good at Limited and had to improve. After being taken under the wing of Canadian Limited expert Rich Hoaen, Kenji’s Limited finishes improved notably in the next season. Overall he could not quite keep pace with his last season, but clearly reached his goal, winning back-to-back Limited GPs, and quickly Top 8’d a third before finishing off the season with a Top 8 at the Limited Pro Tour in Kobe.

Kenji had two further successful years in 2007 and 2008. Afterwards he retired from Pro Play to focus on his studies. Kenji got back into the game in 2012, and has recently announced that he is looking forward to not having to skip another Pro Tour in his life. That announcement surely comes with the fullest intention of turning in his unonfficial title of “most successful player without a Pro Tour win” for the actual trophy.

Q: At Pro Tour Philadelphia 2005 you came very close to winning, losing the finals to Gadiel Szleifer after a 2-1 lead over him. That’s only the end of that story, though. The tournament was a crazy affair to begin with, as its mode was 12 rounds of triple-elimination instead of a Swiss portion. Before the event, what was the general mood regarding this modus and how did you feel about it?

Kenji: I (and probably everyone else) didn’t like that structure, though I’d love this game even if Wizards of the Coast continued such a system. That I had two losses before Day 2 began only made it worse. For example, some of my friends went 4-2, and then almost half of them lost the first round of Day 2. I guess that was cruel. And giving a bye to a player who is near the top of standings is also bad idea.

Q: By the end of Day One you had picked up the two losses you had to give, which meant that you would play six rounds of single elimination on Day Two. After winning the first five, you head into the last round and at that point only nine players are left in the tournament. Eight of them make it to Sunday—Szleifer on a bye, even—but that leaves one table to play for a spot in the Top 8. Unfortunately it turns out that you are one of the two people not locked in, and the other is your fellow countryman Shuhei Nakamura. What kind of atmosphere was that match specifically, and generally playing the last couple of rounds with so few players? You won against Shuhei and then proceeded to the finals where you lost to Gadiel. Coming so close and losing certainly hurts, but on top of that you won comparatively few as the strange tournament mode had inadvertently led to a much lesser total payout than normal. So where did this leave you back then? How do look upon that result today?

Kenji: As to the last round, both Shuhei and I understood that we didn’t have a choice other than play, and it wasn’t irregular for us. On the other hand, that a bye determined a Top 8 player was extremely irregular and unacceptable. I think we don’t need a system with byes at the Pro Tour, especially when every round a player gets prizes for winning.

Q: You haven’t played many Pro Tours in the last five years. What made you turn your back on pro Magic for a time? You have said that you are enthusiastic about playing many Pro Tours in the next couple of years. What has made you want to come back in full? Did the fact that you have not won a Pro Tour yet play a role?

Kenji: I quit going Pro Tours due to university and low prizes. At first I wanted to work at Wizards of the Coast so I had to study harder than before. Magic gave me everything and that’s the reason why I want to do something good for the game and the community. The Hall of Fame changed my goal, though. Helene Bergeot explained to me that “Playing Pro Tours as a Hall of Famer is a good contribution for the game.” Furthermore, as you know, Wizards staff can’t play Pro Tours, and that was a big problem for me. Then I thought about working for another company. Tomoharu Saito offered to let me work at his shop “Hareruya” as a Pro player. Being a Pro player was my dream, but previously it wasn’t good enough to earn enough money. However, Saito’s offer was really attractive—he sponsors my flights to the Pro Tours and even pays me a salary. Now there was nothing to stop my enthusiasm for the game! Now I can play all Pro Tours until I die, and I can spend a lot of time. Of course, winning the Pro Tour is a dream which I have left, so I will do my best at all the tournaments.

Q: You entered the pro scene at a time when many of the established American and European players were leaving the game. On the other hand Japanese players like Fujita, Oiso, and Ishida just started to draw attention to the fact that Japan had strong players, too. However, it was your generation of players—Nakamura, Saitou, Mihara, Yasooka, yourself, and others—that managed to establish Japan as the #1 Magic nation for a couple of years. What happened around 2000 and around 2004 that caused these two, big advances in the Japanese Magic scene? Today Japan still has many fine players, but since your time Watanabe is the only player that has proven himself to be on a level with the best Japanese players of your generation. There is still a Japanese player in most Pro Tour Top 8s, but compared to the mid-2000s that is a bit of a decline. What has caused that?

Kenji: I think Japanese pros could suddenly make it in the mid-2000s because of two reasons. One is that great foreign players retired when we succeeded, and another reason is that we Japanese Pros never gave up until we succeeded. According to the Pro Tour coverage, until the mid-2000s Japanese players couldn’t win except for Tuyoshi Fujita, who made Top 8 at Pro Tour Tokyo in 2001. Japanese pros carried on playing Pro Tours and practiced hard everyday, though. I’m sure they had enough passion and skill to win, but foreign pros were a little better than Japanese pros at the time. Fortunately for us, many great foreigners quit playing, like Team YourMoveGames, Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, and so on. That meant we got a great opportunity to win. Our generation included so many passionate players, and we practiced 10 hours or more everyday. In addition, Japanese legends Itaru Ishida and Tsuyoshi Fujita, and other grand senior pros helped us a lot. For example, they explained to us how to build a deck for a new environment, how to play, or what is needed to win the Pro Tours. We really want to thank to those veteran players. I’m sure we couldn’t have succeeded without them.

By the way, talking about today’s Japanese pros. I agree that Japanese pros aren’t as strong as in the mid-2000s, but I must say that this is our responsibility, too. So many senior pros taught us everything, but our generation didn’t devote enough attention to junior pros because we couldn’t afford to worry about the future of Japanese Magic. I regret not doing this during my pro career. However, Japan has some rising stars who are under the rader still. Recently, I have been testing with Ryo Nakada and Hajime Nakashima, and I’m sure they will succeed more and more in the near future.

Q: There is the story about you trying to prevent your opponents from forgetting Pact triggers at the Grand Prix level. Although that story has merit on its own right, it seems to be exemplary for the type of player that you are. Do you think it lessens the value of your success when you win a game like that, or is it your way of being a gentleman? Or do you have different reasons altogether for not accepting these victories?

Kenji: I want to be the best player in the world. That’s the reason why I traveled a lot to play in Grand Prix and Pro Tours. However, Magic is a game even if it is my job. We should enjoy the game all the time (at least that’s what I hope for). Winning or losing by Pacts means nothing to me. It isn’t what the game is about and I don’t want to go to a tournament where all my opponents forget to pay for Pacts 100% of the time, even if then I could be a champion.

[Note: If you want to know more about Kenji he has recently given an exhaustive interview to happymtg.com]

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Owen-TurtenwaldName: Owen Turtenwald
Age: 25
Nationality: American

 

 

 

Qualified via PT Born of the Gods – Top 25, Pro Club Platinum Level, GP Barcelona Top 4 Teams
Pro Points: 250 (46 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Valencia 2007
Pro Tours played: 21
Median finish: 106
Median100: 74.8% (102nd)
Avg PP*: 5.3
Top 8: 1 Pro Tour, 15 Grand Prix (2 wins), and 1 Nationals
Other accomplishments: Pro Player of the Year 2011
Planeswalker level: 49 (Archmage)

Owen first drew attention to himself with high-caliber finishes in Eternal events, such as the Vintage Championships. His first Top 8 in a professional event, Grand Prix Columbus 2007, was Legacy too. That Grand Prix awarded him an invite to his first Pro Tour, Valencia. Although that first appearance was quite successful, it took some time until Owen became a mainstay on the Pro Tour. Beginning in 2010 he started to make himself a name for going 9-0 on the first day of Grand Prix, a feat he has achieved more than ten times by now. This led to a season with seven Grand Prix Top 8s in 2011, and eventually the Player of the Year title. In spite of his success in that time, Owen earned himself a few un-titles. For a while he was the player with the most Grand Prix Top 8s that hadn’t won a Grand Prix, he was the only Player of the Year ever without a Pro Tour Top 8, and he was also the player with the second-most Pro Points that hadn’t made a PT Top 8.

After his great season in 2011, a quiet year followed. However, at the end of that year William Jensen got back into professional Magic and quickly became close friends with Owen and Reid Duke. Together these three have since been on a tear through the American GP circuit and the SCG Open series. In the process Owen was able to trade his ignominious un-titles for actual trophies, even winning back-to-back Grand Prix at the end of last year.

Q: In 2011 you won the Pro Player of the Year title, the only player to ever win it without a single Pro Tour Top 8 in the season he won it. Actually you had never made it to a PT Top 8 previously, either. Thus, for quite some time you were arguably the best player around without a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name. Then in 2013 you reached the Top 8 of Pro Tour Gatecrash, but lost in the quarterfinals right away. While ending a tournament with a loss always stings, it must have been a relief for you to have finally reached a Top 8. How did you feel about that at the time? Did it change anything for you, or was it just a repeat on a point that had already been proven (you being a good player)?

Owen: I always felt like once I reached the level I did the year I won Player of the Year that I was fully capable of making Top 8 of a PT, but that I just hadn’t yet. In all the Pro Tours I played previously I was either not as skilled as I am now or not nearly as prepared, or both. It was annoying to be known as a player who was good but had never made Top 8 of a PT, rather than just being known as someone who was good. It’s a thing that people have on the tip of their tongue and it’s much better to be known for something that you did accomplish rather than what you have failed to accomplish. Making Top 8 of PT Gatecrash felt great, even more so based on the fact that I had locked up Top 8 with two rounds to play, so it was a pretty dominant showing in the Swiss portion. Ultimately that tournament still has a negative connotation in my mind because I wanted to win so badly, and my own poor play coupled with a bad matchup left me knocked out in the first round.

Q: Your profile on the Pantheon team page states that you are a player gravitating toward aggressive strategies. However, in almost all your successful tournaments you did play decks that were more or less midrange. Which types of decks do you prefer? You also seem to be very comfortable in Limited. Is there any format that you consider your favorite? Do you think that there are formats or deck types that are better suited to your set of skills?

Owen: That is a fact that I need to be cognizant of moving forward. My natural inclination as a player is to play aggressive decks because I know that some percentage of the time my opponent will have a bad draw and I will win very quickly in a noninteractive manner, and that is very attractive to me, but I do generally have mediocre results with aggro decks and stellar results with midrange decks. I need to remind myself that if I have a choice between a good aggro list and a good midrange list to just take the safe route and play the midrange deck that will give me a chance to play long interactive games that reward my preparation and skill more.

My favorite formats are Legacy and Sealed Deck for very different reasons. Legacy is very unique and rewards skill while also allowing me to play with my favorite cards and new decks, while Sealed Deck is very fun for me because it’s challenging to learn and puts you in a different, new environment and asks you to solve a puzzle and find the correct build.

Q: A long time ago you wrote an article entitled “How I went from 0wen-2 to X and 0wen.” At that point you had just made the leap from a reasonably good player to a player who 9-0’d GP Day Ones left and right. Looking back at it now, what do you think were the key factors that enabled you to step up your game? And did anybody ever really use any of those nicknames?

Owen: When I first started out as a kid at the age of 15 or 16 at the local shop I was known as lucky Owen, because whenever I would beat the older more skilled players, rather than admit that maybe I was doing something right all my wins were attributed to luck. Much later on in life I went on a serious tear in Grand Prix and I think I have started Day 1 of a GP 9-0 eleven or twelve times and I jokingly referred to myself as X-0wen at one point and it kind of stuck. It’s just a thing that sounds clever and resonates with people when you do actually go 9-0, people don’t really say it anymore but every once and a while when I’m doing well I’ll hear it and smile.

When people ask me what my secret to success is in Magic tournaments I usually say it’s a combination of hard work, dedication, skill, and opportunity. It really is that simple, I care very much and try hard while I’m at the tournament and I prepare a lot beforehand. Couple that with playing in many tournaments and it’s only a matter of time before I have a good result.

Q: What’s up with the Peach Garden Oath? Is there a yellow turban rebellion going on in Magic that we didn’t notice?

Owen: The Peach Garden Oath is just a nickname we gave ourselves based on the characters in the book. Before we went to play a few team tournaments on the independent tournament circuit naturally we spent a lot of time together and jokingly made the comparison to ourselves and the warriors of the Peach Garden Oath. It’s the story of three great warriors from different parts of the world that join forces, and that’s basically what we did. Reid Duke and William Jensen have taught me more about Magic than I will ever be able to explain and my own recent successes are in no small part thanks to them. I surely wouldn’t be the player I am today without their help.


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Matej-ZatlkajName: Matej Zatlkaj
Nickname: Big Z
Age: 29
Nationality: Slovak

 

 

Qualified via PT Born of the Gods – Top 25
Pro Points: 150 (32 in 2013-14)
Pro Tour debut: Worlds 2003
Pro Tours played: 19
Median finish: 168
Median100: 51.0% (197th)
Avg PP*: 6.2
Top 8: 2 Pro Tours, 1 Grand Prix, and 1 Nationals
Planeswalker level: 46 (Archmage)

Big Z has had an extraordinary run over the last couple of Pro Tours, and is thus generally considered to be one of the hottest players on the Pro Tour right now. That run started with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze last spring, and includes two Top 16 finishes since. It remains to be seen if Matej can add another great finish to this run, but it feels like a foregone conclusion that it will be either that or nothing, as the Slovak doesn’t seem to be doing anything in between. While Matej has finished better than 20th six times in his 19 attempts, he has not had a single finish in the 20th to 90th region.

Matej had his first appearance on the Pro Tour as a part of the Slovak National team, actually leading his team into the 2003 Worlds as the National Champion. That was not a very successful Pro Tour for Matej, however, and the next two weren’t, either. Five years later in Kuala Lumpur Matej played only his fourth Pro Tour, but that one went much better resulting in a 17th place finish. His next Pro Tour was his most successful so far. In Berlin he fought his way to the finals, winning grueling match after grueling match with his Elfball deck. Unfortunately for Matej, that weekend there was no way to stop his final opponent, LSV, and although Elves won the trophy, they weren’t Matej’s.

Q: At Pro Tour Berlin 2008 you sneaked into Day Two at 5-3, basically the end of the field back then. That meant that you wouldn’t have much ground to give on Day Two as another loss would eliminate you from Top 8 contention. However, you got through with a 7-0-1 record on Day Two. In the quarters you won a five-gamer against Denis Sinner, thus completing an all-Elves semifinal. Your semifinals mirror against the other German in the Top 8, Sebastian Thaler, was even more grueling, taking more than an hour for the first game alone. Eventually you prevailed there as well. After having fought for two days with your back to the wall, the finals turned out to be anticlimactic for you. The match is one of the shortest Pro Tour finals ever, at least in turns played, as LSV demolished you in three quick games. How did you experience that weekend and how did you cope with losing the finals in such a manner? Has your estimation of that tournament changed over the years?

Matej: The whole year including PT Berlin was my breakthrough year. I got my first GP Top 8, which qualified me for my first Pro Tour in 3 years, where I managed to get 17th at PT Kuala Lumpur. I also got at least 2 GP Top 16s, having to skip PT Hollywood for university reasons. So after having to skip a PT I was not high on “going Pro” or whatever, but thanks to Martin Jůza, we quickly identified the Elves deck, and playing in Berlin just felt like I had to try to play as solid as possible. I was 4-0 and 5-1 at times before falling to 5-3 at the end of Day 1 and certainly not feeling that well. Day 2 is a blur now and retrospectively, I see how much good fortune I had because I did have to win a couple of mirrors, topdeck my way through some others (to draw against Dredge where I was dead on board several times for example) and even got a concession in the last round from Tomoharu Saito. He later informed me that he wouldn’t have conceded had he known that a friend of his was also playing for Top 8 contention. Lucky breaks all around. I also got very lucky against Denis Sinner in the quarters and the semis were basically a coin flip where neither me or Sebastian would make many mistakes as we played so many mirrors over the three days.

Losing to Luis was tough because I never had a shot and don’t think I could have done much. It was his turn to get fortunate I guess and that was that, no hard feelings. It also was an advantage because I got to talk to Luis and that even led me to test with ChannelFireball for one Pro Tour, which was a good experience.

Q: Over the course of the last Pro Tours you have put up very good finishes consistently. What do you think went right there to make these events such a success for you? Considering these finishes and also taking into account that you have a coverage job and are a premier writer for SCG, going full Pro in Magic must at least have been somewhat feasible for you. Have you ever been tempted to do just that?

Matej: I think the most important thing is preparation. If you look at my PT results I run hot and cold a lot—I have some great results but I also have 0-4s and plenty of near-misses on making Day Two. And there is a clear correlation that for Pro Tours where I invested the time I did much better than for those where I was busy with school or work. Especially for the last three PTs, I was on very good teams where the teammates helped me prepare very well and I am very thankful to all of them.

About going Pro, it did cross my mind especially now that I am voluntarily unemployed. I quit my job at the end of March and am using the time to prepare for tournaments, do content for StarCity, and give me more flexibility for coverage. But going super Pro is not really on my radar as I like to work in marketing, like to learn new things, and feel that I would stagnate on a professional level if I just went Pro. But if it happens I would try to find work that would allow me to go to tournaments even though it is tough in Slovakia.

Q: The main commentators on the European Grand Prix coverage are Simon, Frank, Marijn, and you. If we assigned roles to each one it might be Simon the teacher, Frank the analyst, and Marijn the prankster. How do you see your role in the coverage? Where do you excel and where do you still want to improve?

Matej: Funny that you ask because it is something that I have been asking myself for a while. Ultimately I think my biggest niche is player relations. I usually know all of the good players on the European GP circuit, usually have an idea about their best results, some sort of backstory and more often than not can pronounce their name properly.

I have so many things to improve, my personal improvement list is huge and includes things such as accent, fluidity, getting the viewers more excited, being clear, synergy with the expert, and logistical things with Rich. I love doing coverage and hope to continue doing it in the coming years as it does complement high-level playing, even though I might have missed out on Pro Points this season.

Q: You are from the Slovak Republic, one of the smaller states in Europe. Should Robert Jurkovic, Ivan Floch, and you ever represent the Slovak Republic at a World Magic Cup your team might easily win that one. However, aside from you three there doesn’t seem to be too much Magic going on in Slovakia. Is that some kind of elaborate ruse? What is it like to play Magic in Slovakia?

Matej: The Slovak Magic scene is unfortunately quite small and has been dwindling for some time as the long-term players play less and less, and there have been no young players to replace them. The game is already quite cost-restrictive and that is very problematic for the young kids, especially with games that are more financially accessible such as Hearthstone, League of Legends, etc. We also had a few periods in Bratislava with no shops offering regular tournaments and I think this was the long term problem. Ivan, Robert, and I are holding onto playing and think we would be a formidable team, but it would be really tough to put together an 8-man draft pod with PT testing quality. A couple of years ago it was a much different story, the abolishing of Nationals didn’t really help as it was by far the most popular tournament putting together all of the decent current players with the old-timers.

I don’t play many local tournaments these days as I’d rather spend the time playing on Magic Online which I feel gives me more learning value. However, I do organize big monthly tournaments in various formats and have done for a long time, but it hasn’t helped to reinvigorate the local Magic scene as much as I hoped, unfortunately.

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