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Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Special – Joel Larsson

Joel LarssonAge: 23
Nationality: Sweden
Team: Team Thommo (name subject to change)
Qualified via Pro Club Platinum, PT Magic Origins Top Finisher, GP Dallas/Fort Worth Top 8
Pro Points: 187 lifetime
Pro Tour Debut: San Diego 2010
Pro Tours Played: 17
Win Percentage:
Median: 96
80%-Quantile*: 13
Top 8: 2 Pro Tours (1 win) and 5 Grand Prix
Planeswalker Level: 45 (Battlemage)
Other Accomplishments: 2013–15 Swedish National Champion

* This is the result the player has exceeded in every fifth attempt. The number was calculated with all attendances normalized to a PT size of 400 competitors.

Joel Larsson’s career started at Pro Tour San Diego in 2010. Things did not go well there, but Larsson came close to making Top 8 at his second PT. In the end, he finished 10th in Nagoya, a result that qualified him for the next couple of Pro Tours. Despite a couple of disappointing finishes at the following Pro Tours the Swede started to make a name for himself, in part with the help of solid Grand Prix results.

Larsson’s first Pro Tour Top 8 followed in 2013 at Pro Tour Gatecrash, where he lost the finals to Tom Martell. Afterwards, Larsson put up strong results, including another Top-10 finish at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx and finally the title at Pro Tour Magic Origins.

Q: “Pro Tour Champion Joel Larsson.” How does that feel when you hear it now?

A: It feels great. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and it sounds much better than “Pro Tour finalist Joel Larsson” for sure!

Q: Is winning a Pro Tour something that you believed you would achieve eventually, or something that you considered unlikely?

A: Both I guess. Some naive feeling told me that I would someday accomplish that feat, even though it’s quite unlikely for anybody. I know I had been close before and because I really love the game and the excitement of playing tournaments, I knew I wasn’t going to stop any time soon, which led me to think “yeah, at some point I’ll get there!”

Q: Has winning the Pro Tour changed things for you?

A: It definitely changed a lot for me. Before, I’d been oscillating between going 100% in on Magic or focusing more on studies, even though I really like it. I’ve tried to balance both of them in the past which was quite the ordeal. Finally winning the Pro Tour changed my priorities, I’m now going 100% all in on Magic and it’s great!

Q: Do you think you have reached your final goal and can retire now?

A: I don’t feel like I can retire, I feel like I just started. I had some pretty good results before, but winning the Pro Tour just gave me a thirst for more! I’m not sure when this thirst will stop, but it’s not happening soon.

People don’t really treat me any differently after winning the Pro Tour, but the number of people that recognize me has definitely gone up!

Q: You have previously prepared for Pro Tours with Swedish players. Afterwards you were part of Team Revolution. Then you moved to the back-to-back Pro Tour-winning Team Thommo, but were sponsored by MtgMintCard. You also write for them. So what’s going on right now? Are you preparing with the MintCard guys for PT Battle for Zendikar? Compared to players on other teams like ChannelFireball or The Pantheon you seem to be hopping from team to team. Is that something that you actively try to do, maybe to learn new things from different people, or is it just something that happened over the course of your career?

A: A few years back, there were a lot more Swedish players qualified, so it just felt natural to test with them. I also didn’t really have a way in to the larger testing teams, especially since there weren’t as many European ones as there are now.

I’ve switched teams for different reasons each time, always some things that the team was lacking that I really wanted in a team. Jumping between teams for the sole reason of learning from different people has never been something I thought about, but I can’t deny that it has taught me a thing or two about how I would want a team to operate.

I’ve started as a writer for MtgMintCard, but that’s all there is right now. MtgMintCard has a great policy where you can be sponsored and work for them, but you don’t necessarily have to test with them. Since I was testing with Team Thommo (new name coming up soon!) when I started, a team I was really happy with, I’m going to stick with them.

Q: There are some Standard experts and several Draft aficionados. Looking at your results and your writing, you seem to be one of the few who have a strong grasp of both formats, which incidentally makes you well positioned on the Pro Tour these days. Are these your favorite formats? Which types of decks do you like to play? Do your preferences have an influence on your deck choice or do you play whatever you feel is best positioned?

A: Thank you! I’m not sure whether I’m a Standard specialist or not, but I’ll take it. I do think I’m a Limited specialist. Drafting is what really got me hooked on Magic in the first place and I haven’t looked back ever since, which is somewhat showing in my results.

I have a tendency to play aggro-control decks in general and to shy away from mono-red or all-in decks. After the last few Pro Tours I’ve done really well with aggressive decks too, so I don’t really mind any archetype. Although, if I had the choice between what I believed were the best decks and they were all in the different archetypes, aggro-control is where I would most likely end up. I like decks that can punish opponents who stumble, putting pressure on my opponent and being proactive. I also like having a lot of options to navigate the game, being able to switch between being the aggressor or control player in a blink of an eye. The last reason is that I like playing a deck that’s hard to play against, which aggro-control usually is, because the games tend to play out quite differently every time.

Q: Sweden: A large country with few people, but many great Magic players. What is it like to play Magic in Sweden? Which players of the old guard still play an active role in the community? Are there any younger Swedish players that you think we should keep an eye on?

A: Playing magic is Sweden isn’t bad at all. We have a lot of above average players and a lot of games are interesting, even on the local level. There’s definitely a lot of the old guard who’re still doing things for the Swedish Magic community, whether it’s building websites, organizing events, or being responsible for a store.

Unfortunately a lot of the players that I grew up with have stopped playing high-level events, leaving only a handful, but I believe there are a lot of upcoming stars. It’s very hard to name anyone specific, because there are quite a few of them, but from what I’ve heard and also who I’ve played against, Sweden as a Magic force doesn’t seem likely to wane in the next couple of years, if ever!

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