Today I’m going to do the Q&A article I talked about. I got a lot of questions on Facebook and twitter, and I’ll pick some of the ones I consider most interesting (well, pretty much all of them) and answer here. I hope you enjoy it, and, as Gavin’s twitter would have it, “Welcome to my mind”.
Who is PV? Why does he play MtG? Why is his name so long? What’s with all those emoticons? (Scott Neall )
A: I am a 23 years old guy from Porto Alegre, south of Brazil who studies International Relation and plays Magic for a living. I do it because I really like the game, the places, the people in it, and it is also my job and a really big part of my life in every aspect.
My name is so big because here we sometimes take the last names from both our parents. My given name is “Paulo Vitor”, my mother’s last name is Damo and my father’s Da Rosa. I use a lot of emoticons to replace what I could do normally – a smile, a frown, an eyebrow raise, a different tone of voice – but cannot do online. I find that with Emoticons I can, for example, mark a joke from a serious statement very easily.
Q: What should I play in Dallas? (Luis Scott-Vargas, Owen Turtenwald)
A: I don’t know, but that new Tezzeret deck with Green seems pretty good.
Q: What would it take for you to play white weenie in a Pro Tour? (Martin Jůza)
A: A Lobotomy. Nah, seriously though, I think it’s very unlikely that I ever will. I want to win enough that I will play any deck that I think has the best chance, including WW, but it will be very hard to convince me that WW is that deck. I think WW has some fundamental problems in that it cannot stop them from doing what they want to do and it is not fast enough to kill them before they do it, so you’re basically at their mercy. I could say “if they printed Armageddon“, but that wouldn’t even be true, I’d probably just splash it in a Green deck.
What card would have to be printed to make you want to play a green ramp deck? or a red aggro deck? (John Beckfield)
A: I think the main problem with Ramp decks is that your hands are very inconsistent – you need to draw ramp and then threats, in that order, or you don’t do anything. A step in the right direction would be to print a card that can be both ramp or threat, depending on the situation, like a Llanowar Elves / Shivan Dragon split card of sorts. Green Sun’s Zenith kind of plays that role, but the format has kind of forced people to play Trap instead.
As for Mono Red, I don’t have nearly the same amount of reservations I do with something like WW or Stompy, I actually respect mono Red a lot (and I even played it in a GP, though I did very badly). I think what would take for me to play Mono Red more is an actually good sideboard – all Mono Red always has is cards against creatures and then a failed attempt to beat the other people’s sideboard cards, and the deck would certainly be a lot more attractive if it could play a real board.
Q: If you won the invitational (from a few years back) What card would you create, and why (Lee Purslow)
A:Well, I played the Invitational once (2007, the last one). The card I submitted was this one:
Play with the top card of your library revealed. You may play lands from the top of your library as though as they were in your hand.
If the invitational happened nowadays, I would not submit the same card because they printed Oracle of Mul Daya (which I like to think was because they liked my card), but I’d really have to think a lot more on which card I’d send – it’d probably be a creature, because it’d have my face in it, and I’d try to make it very playable, likely a bear the likes of Dark Confidant and Meddling Mage.
How do you evaluate a format and choose what to play when you have little time to test? (Quentin Martin)
A: Well, the tournaments for which I have little time to prepare are very rare – mostly when I don’t prepare as much as I should it is only because I am lazy. When it does happen, though, I read everything I can about the format and past tournaments. I also have a lot of friends who are always playing, so even if they don’t necessarily help me decide what to play they’re always up to date on the format. And then there is the rest of my testing team, which is always very helpful when I can’t be there to test with them.
Do you ever intentionally make the mathematically ‘incorrect’ play? (Quentin Martin)
A: This is a very interesting question. I don’t think I have ever done it. Sometimes I will make the play that seems incorrect, but that is only because I think that, mathematically, it gives me more chances of winning. For example, it might be that making play A gives me 60% chance to win and making play B gives me 40% chance to win, but I think for some reason that my opponent is likely to make a mistake which would bring the win % of play B up to 70% – then I’d have to try to factor in how likely I think he is to make the mistake and then if I think it’s high enough I’ll make what would be in a vacuum the theoretically wrong play, but in my eyes it would still be the mathematically correct play to make play B if that is the case.
Q: What should I ask PV and why? (Lee Sharpe)
A: You should ask “hey PV, what do you think about giving MOCS invites to high level pro players?”
When you are feeling mentally out of sorts, what do you to do get the right mentality back? (Quentin Martin)
A: I generally go to the restroom, wash my face, sometimes lock myself in a stall to vent off and then I think “I’m going to win this tournament!”
Which have been your favourite, and least favourite, tournament places? (Quentin Martin)
A: This is tricky because it is hard to separate the place from the actual tournament. I think my favorite place to go to was Hawaii, because it’s such a different place, at least for us in Brazil – I don’t really know anyone from here who has gone to Hawaii other than a Magic player, and a lot of people wouldn’t even know where it is. Japan is another place I’d probably never visit, at least not at this young age, if it was not for Magic, and it’s things like that that make the game attractive to me.
My least favorite is probably Charleston – even though we got 2nd and it more than makes up for that, the event was in a really bad place. It actually looked like a Swamp, there was nothing nearby and the day before the Pro Tour a guy appeared on our door trying to sell us cocaine.
What was your best non magic experience from a Magic trip? (Daniel Royde)
A: There were many awesome ones, but two really stand out. The first was Geneva, because Wizards organized a ski trip with the players the day before, and it was really amazing. I guess for many people it was something very routine, but it was the first time I ever saw snow, and it was so… beautiful! It was so different than anything I had ever seen, so different than anything I had ever done. I must have looked very silly just staring at the landscape, or with my clothes that were not at all proper for snow and got wet in the first 5 minutes, or with the fact that there were a bunch of little kids that were so much better at it than me. I even lost myself at some point and ended up in a mountain that was way too hard for me, and I left with a lot of bruises and sore body parts, but it was something I’ll never forget.
The second one was Kuala Lumpur, and it was also awesome because we got guided to some far off places where I could do things I had not even dreamed about, such as feeding a black bear Condensed Milk or riding an elephant, who then dropped me in the middle of a river. Here are two pictures (which I think I’ve already shown in an article before but eh, might as well)
Are you really as cute & cuddly as you look, or is there a fierce predator in there somewhere? (Øyvind Wefald Andersen)
A: This is all there really is to me.
If you could change your nickname, to what would you change it and why? (Cody Jennings)
A: I honestly love my nickname, I would not change it. PV is very simple, it is not pejorative in any way, and it really associates with me since it comes from my name. Besides, everyone calls me PV nowadays.
How did you become one of the best in the world despite growing up in Mexico? (Matteo Orsini Jones)
A: I’ve gotten this question a lot in many different forms, but they all basically meant “how do you get good when you don’t live in a major Magic location”. Nowadays, I guess the obvious answer would be to use Magic Online if there is no one near you that plays. In Brazil there are 3 PTQs a season, and a person can rarely travel to all three, since the country is bigger than Contiguous US (the 50 states minus Alaska and Hawaii), so it was very hard to qualify – you generally had from three to six opportunities in a year. Once they added Magic Online qualifiers, though, the number of Brazilian players in the Pro Tours increased by a lot, so that is one of your “outs”. It is obviously not ideal either, since 500 people play each Modo PTQ and some of them are very good, but you can’t really do much else other than playing in as many qualifiers as you can until you actually manage to qualify, even if that means traveling to a different city or country.
When I started, the door to Magic stardom was usually Nationals, because they were smaller than PTQs and they qualified four people at the same time, and even if they did not always give you the plane ticket (and in Brazil they often do), you always got at least $1000 from the team portion, so you could generally afford to go. It also helped that it automatically bonded you to the other members of the team, and since you doing well is in their best interest and you have to play some games alongside them, you will usually be included in the group even if they didn’t know you beforehand. Worlds is also a lot easier to qualify for on Rating than a Pro Tour, especially if you are in a zone like South America, where the rating cutoff is not that high. My first two Pro Tours were Worlds (03 and 04), and I qualified for both on rating.
What is really important, though, is not blowing your chance when you do manage to qualify. I see a lot of my friends who win PTQs and then think they don’t have to test much, because they’re already very good – they won the PTQ after all. You don’t have many opportunities to go to those events in the beginning, make sure you try your hard to make every single one of them count, since if they don’t they might as well be your last chance. If you do relatively well, they start feeding themselves both in terms of qualifying you and then paying for the costs until you get your “big finish”.
Boxers or briefs? (Jeffury H)
A: Definitely briefs, though I have a couple boxers that I’ll use sometimes.
If you could change one thing about the competitive magic scene at the moment, what would it be? (Joe Fletcher)
A: From a selfish perspective, I would add team events back. I’ve been dying to play a teams event, and I don’t understand why they are not experimented with again, it’s been a long time since we’ve had one.
As far as what actually needs to change, I think they should change the fact that someone who is qualified cannot play PTQs. My friend, for example, got top 16 in GP Paris, which qualified him for Nagoya, which means he cannot play in a PTQ here, which means he is never going to Nagoya because the plane ticket alone costs more than $2,000. I’ve had friends who top 50ed Pro Tours but then realized they wished they hadn’t, because then they couldn’t play PTQs. When you wish you had finished lower, something with the system is really wrong. I think it would do a lot more good than harm to let people who are already qualified play for the plane ticket only (so that if they win then they get the ticket but second person gets the invite), even if you risked a slight increase in the number of bribes in the finals (which would be kind of a split and I guess already happens anyway in a lot of places).
Why do you like writing, what motivates you, what do you obtain by writing articles? (César Fernández Martín)
A: In the beginning, I wrote because I wanted to be known and recognized. The money was not really a factor – I got paid very little at first, and sometimes I could not even cash my Brainburst checks because of weird Brazilian laws, but I didn’t really care – I would have written for free, perhaps even paid something for them to publish my articles. I saw writing as a way to make a name for myself, to get to know people, people I could learn a lot from. In PT London, for example, I found myself without a room because of the bombings, but then the Brainburst editor at the time, John Fiorillo, told me I could stay with them, them being himself, Osyp, Antonino de Rosa, Mark Herberholz, Craig Crampels among others. I doubt they even remember I stayed with them for a night, but they were very good players, much better than me, and if it wasn’t for writing I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interact with them.
Then we got second at Charleston and I top 8ed Worlds in Paris, and suddenly I was not so unknown anymore, and the reason for writing changed a little bit. I went to Starcity, and they started paying me money enough for it to matter, but even then that was not really my main reason for writing – I think I just wanted to be liked. I really enjoy when people like something I do, I like reading compliments on something that I worked hard for. Whenever someone says they liked something I wrote or that they learned something from it, to this day it makes me very happy (so please do say when you like it 🙂 ).
Nowadays, I write for three things – the first is simply that I like being liked. The second is the money – if there was no money involved, then I would probably write three articles a year instead of once a week (see Luis, you can’t stop paying me!). The third is that I enjoy having a place to talk about what I want to talk about, a place to get my voice heard – it gives me some influence in the Magic world, albeit limited, and I like knowing that if some day I have something that needs to be said there will be a lot of people who will read it.
How did Magic change your life, or how do you picture your life if you didn’t have Magic? (Kenny Van Audenhove)
A: It’s hard to picture my life without Magic, since I started so young (when I was 8-9) and it’s been a very big part of my life ever since – I have never stopped playing even a tiny bit. If I didn’t have Magic, I would probably be playing something else, because I am a very competitive person, I like all kinds of cards and I am pretty good at it. Perhaps I would be a Poker millionaire by now, who knows?
Magic has changed my life in many, many ways. First, I met a lot of extremely awesome people through Magic, people that are a lot like me in a world that doesn’t have many people like me to be met. Then it made me visit all those countries, countries that I would never have visited otherwise such as Singapore, Japan, Thailand. It helped me tremendously with my English, and it made me a much more independent person – when you find yourself alone with almost no money in the middle of a city in another continent that is being bombed by terrorists and everything goes well, you kind of think you’ll be able to handle whatever comes.
I think what Magic has done to me was introduce me to a different reality. Sometimes, we’ll meet in Australia and then part two days later with “see you in Canada next week?” “no, but definitely going to Paris at the end of the month”, and that is extremely surreal. Really, who does that? My classmates certainly don’t. My life would probably be a lot more boring if it wasn’t for Magic, it gives me a completely different perspective of life. It is also very rewarding to know I am very good at something, and the money doesn’t hurt, especially when you’re young and the conversion rate is good.
How do you manage School and Magic? (a lot of people)
A: When you travel as much as I do for Magic, there are two problems. The first is that you’re only allowed to skip a certain number of classes, after which you fail. The second is that if you skip too many classes you might just not be able to understand anything. I kind of got lucky with both.
For the first problem, I always talk to my teacher and, so far, everyone understood it. I tell them I travel a lot to participate in tournaments, and then if they ask I tell them what it is. I say it’s my job, and if I don’t attend a certain number of events I’ll lose my sponsorship, but I’m willing to do extra work if I have to. If they schedule exams for the days of the tournaments, I ask to do them before or after, and they’re generally fine with it too. Last semester, a teacher scheduled his three exams on the Fridays of three GPs, and I took all of them a week or two later, and for two other teachers I took them the week before.
If your teachers are not as understanding as mine, well, then there isn’t much you can do. You’re still allowed a certain number of skips in most places I would guess, so you can probably to go all the major events, you just can’t do GP + PT + GP weeks. In any case, I guess you need to have your priorities straight – for me, if an exam clashes with the Pro Tour, I’ll fail the class but go to the tournament, but I know it’s not the same for everyone.
I also got lucky in the second aspect in the sense that my major (International Relations) is really easy. I pay a lot of attention in the classes that I do attend, and I am not a dumb kid (though you probably aren’t either if you play Magic seriously enough to read articles), so that helps too. I also have very understanding classmates who will fill me in the day before the exam, and who will sometimes put my name on group works even if I’ve been traveling while they did everything. It also helps that most of it is reading, which I can do on the plane for example.
As far as practicing versus studying goes, I’ve never really felt this was a problem. I have a lot of free time as it is – I study as much as I think I should (which is probably a lot less than I really should), I write articles and I read everything there is to read about Magic every day, and I still have time to do pretty much whatever I want.
Of course this all changes when your easy major becomes a very hard major or an actual job. With a job, you are not allowed to travel nearly as much as a dedicated Pro does, and with a hard major you actually have to work at home and you need to attend the classes to make sure you understand – I don’t know if I’d be able to travel this much and still pass my classes if I still studied Physics. Unfortunately I can’t help you much with that – as I’ve said, I really got lucky on both accounts.
Why didn’t you win Player of the Year last year? – (Brad Nelson)
A: Because I am very unlucky and there is no justice in this world.
Why can’t people be creative in decks instead of everybody netdecking? (John Crutcher)
A: Honestly, I don’t think this is a problem. There are only a few good decks, and if you want to win you have to play a good deck – there will be times where there is simply nothing you can build that will be better than an existing deck. People play Magic for different reasons – some people want to innovate, some people want to win, there is nothing wrong with that.
What’s your favorite churrascaria? (Richard Feldman)
How to figure out a good side plan? (Pietro Dona)
A: Play the match a lot with a focus on why things happen the way they do. From my experience, if you know what really matters in a match pre board, you will know what to do with sideboard; if you lose to an early rush you need cheap removal, if you lose to a bomb you need discard or counterspell, etc.
Is it better to play a deck you know inside and out or to play the best deck in the format? (Ben Wienburg)
A: I think in general it is better to play the deck you know inside and out, but it depends on how complicated the decks are and how close on power level. If the two decks are similar but one a little bit better, then I would go for the one you know. If the best deck is too complicated and you know you will play it badly because you have no experience with it (say Elves), then I’d also play the deck you know better. If the best deck is extremely targeted by hate that does not splash on your deck, I would also play your deck. If, however, the deck you are used to playing is much worse than the best deck, I would make an effort to learn as much as you can very quickly about that one.
At Nationals 2006, for example, I intended to play the BW deck with which I had a lot of experience, having gotten 20th in Honolulu and 2nd in Charleston. Then, the day before the event, I found the Enduring Ideal deck, and I thought it was so much better than BW that it was worth the risk of losing a couple games because I did not play it as well as BW. That did happen during the tournament, and I lost games solely to inexperience with the deck, but it was so much better than the other decks that I won every time that did not happen. Most of the time, though, I feel you’ll win more games because you play better with a certain deck than because a certain deck is a little bit better.
What could Wizards do, both on short and on long term, to turn Extended into a healthy format that people like to play? (Laurens Plompen)
A: I quite honestly don’t know. Why is it that there has to be an Extended, though? If no one plays it, maybe it’s better to simply let it go instead of trying to fix it, perhaps by finding a completely different format.
Favorite Pokemon? (Josh Silvestri)
A: Psyduck, though I don’t know any of the new ones.
Who do you think are the 5 best players in the world not including yourself? Where would you put yourself in that list? (Lucas Siow)
I think there is not a lot of difference between the very best players in the game – some are better in some things, others in others, some play better some days, and I think any of them could outplay the other in a certain match. For a top 5, I can think of 4 others plus myself – I really don’t know who the “sixth” person should be. Of course this is only my opinion (though it is my honest opinion), and there are certain players I don’t even feel like I can judge properly, because I haven’t interacted enough with them, and again the difference between those is very small and they’re likely interchangeable. This is my top 5:
1 – Luis Scott-Vargas
2 – Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (me! :D)
3 – Martin Juza
4 – Yuya Watanabe
5 – Shuhei Nakamura
The one slot I am relatively sure of is Luis as number one. I don’t think he is much better than everyone else, but I think he is clearly better, even if a little bit, kind of like 9/9 is not that much better than 8/8 but is still obviously better. I think Luis’s upside is very high like mine – when we play well, we have the ability to play really well, incorporating all the aspects in the game, playing technical plus psychological at the same time, except that my low end is worse than his – I will sometimes play awesome and sometimes play terribly, make the most stupid mistakes, whereas for him it will almost never happen, he is very solid.
I have me as number two because, well, I’d honestly pick myself over the remaining people if I had to pick a winner, though they might just be better than me. I think that it is actually likely that their technical play is better than mine (and they certainly make less mistakes than I do, at least the Japanese), but I think I understand people better than they do, and I think more outside the box than they do, and sometimes I win games that they wouldn’t because of that.
I have Martin as number three because I think he understands the game extremely well. He is a little bit like me in that he is very swingy, sometimes he will play awesomely and sometimes he will make stupid things, but he is extremely good in playing around what his opponents have – all you have to do is watch one of his games, you’ll probably want to yell “god just play that and kill him already”, but he’ll hold it for 17 turns and in the end it’ll turn out to be correct. I also like Martin’s instance on mulligans, it is very similar to mine, which in my eyes shows he understands it :). I really think that, of all the Pro Players in the world, Martin is the one who has the playstyle most similar to mine.
The two Japanese players are just extremely solid. They will rarely impress you with their superb outside the box genius play, but they will almost never make mistakes, they’ll always have a plan and understand what’s going on, and that is pretty much enough. I rate Yuya better than Shuhei because of other people’s testimonials, but I honestly think it could go either way.
If I had to pick a number six, I suppose I would pick Ben Stark – I think he is one of the best (if not the best) “card readers” in the world, as in he is the best at putting himself in the opponents shoes and reverse engineering what they have (or cannot have) in hand based on what they did or did not do. Gabe Walls is also awesome, if only he would care more – he is probably the player that better knows people that I know, and it seems really easy for him to know what you’re thinking and to manipulate you, though in a different way than Ben does it.
Could you also extend that to best article writers / deck designers / team drafters (Matteo Orsini Jones)
A: I suppose I could! On best deck designers, I feel like we’re in a time where it’s rare for a person to design a deck – a deck is generally a common effort of a bunch of people. The Caw-Blade deck we came up with, for example, can hardly be claimed by a single person (and that’s not even counting the fact that the Japanese came up with it simultaneously), since everyone added a card here or there, gave input and helped playtesting with or against the deck. I feel that, nowadays, almost every good deck starts like this. I do think our group (Channelfireball) is extremely good at building a deck, identifying the best deck or building the best version of a deck – it is very rare that we play a constructed tournament and end up regretting our choice, but I don’t think anyone in the group really stands out in this aspect.
One person that does stand out, and would be the clear best deckbuilder in my mind if he wasn’t banned, is Tomoharu Saito. Saito basically does by himself what we do as a group – he always has the best version of a deck. He is somewhat limited in what style of decks he plays, but he will always have the best version of those decks, and he is very good at reading a metagame – for example, his Elves deck in Berlin was not only the best version in the top 8 by miles but it also had a much higher amount of mirror hate, because he correctly anticipated what would happen. I’m glad Luis beat him, because I’m more friends with Luis, but if justice would have had it Saito would have won PT Berlin.
I also think Gerry is very good at tuning decks, though that is a bit different than building.
As for team drafters, I think the best three are probably Ben Stark, Gabe Walls and David Ochoa, in no particular order. When I play team drafts, I play almost as if I am playing a normal draft but with six people. When those people play team drafts, it’s like they’re playing an entirely different game, and they’re really good at all the nuances.
As for articles, there are many ways to classify a writer, and it really depends on what you’re looking for from an article. If you like numbers, data and technicality, Alexander Shearer is a good bet. If you like writing itself, then Gavin is probably good for you. I do not think, though, that this necessarily makes their articles the best, because of what I look for in articles. To me, articles should be about teaching while also being enjoyable, and this is what I try to do with mine – it doesn’t really matter how well you write if you’re wrong or if your point is irrelevant or extremely obvious (which is not to say those people I mentioned do that, they’re just not as good in this part as some others). My favorite writers, again in no order, are Luis, Martin, Gerry, Mark Rosewater, Chapin, Matteo (!!),, – those are the people I will pretty much always read, at least skim through (though I do read almost everything), but really nowadays there are many good writers.
If I have to be honest, though, I think the best article writer in Magic is myself. I know, I know, I’m very arrogant, but hey, you asked. Not that I am the best technical writer, but I really like how I write, and I really like what I write – I think I’ve made a lot of people better at Magic with my articles, and, again, this is what I think it should be about.
It only makes sense, really, if you think of it – I know what I like in an article, and I always do that, because that is what I think people like, so I’m the person who better meets my own expectations. I often re-read my articles, and I always like them. I’ll admit I’m not close to the best video maker, though.
If a team format is borught back (Constructed or Limited), who would be your ideal teammates and why? (Leon Kornacki)
A: Regardless of the format, one of them would definitely be Luis – not only do I think he is the best player in the world, we’re also very good friends and understand each other, which makes everything much better. It is also relevant that we both speak Spanish, so we can actually talk in a language that most people wouldn’t understand – not a big advantage but certainly an advantage we might end up using if there is a trios tournament.
The other would probably be Martin – again not only is he very good but also a very good friend, and has a much similar playstyle. We’ve also been teaching each other our languages, so if he has to say “thank you” or I have to say “good morning” during the game we can do it without anyone else understanding.
I would also like to play with Gabe Walls, I really like Gabe, but I don’t think he cares about it as much as me, Luis or Martin do – it is much more important for our lives than it is for his.
Do you enjoy Magic as much as you did in the past? (Pepe Rodriguez)
A: I do enjoy playing competitive Magic as much, if not more. It’s always different, even if it’s always kind of the same, and it’s always challenging, and the better I get the more I enjoy it. Practicing, though, can sometimes be a burden, particularly when you have to play with a deck you know you’re not playing (for example when someone needs to practice a certain deck against Valakut and you have to play Valakut even though you don’t like it and would never play it).
Do you enjoy playing casual Magic, or does your enjoyment come solely from playing competitive Magic? (Valter Cid)
A: I enjoy both, though they’re different. I really like playing a tournament, and I really like playing casual Magic, but I do not like playing tournament formats in casual Magic. For example, I’ll play Standard/Legacy/Draft in a GP and I’ll love it, but the formats I play for fun are the ones like Cube and Mental Magic. You’ll very rarely see me playing a tournament format strictly for fun – it’ll pretty much always be practice.
What is your writing process like? (Gavin Verhey )
A: It usually depends on whether I start with a topic and then make it an article or I start with an article and then have to find a topic. When I have something I want to write about, I generally just type, it just flows. This article, for example, is something I wanted to write – I actually wanted to answer many of those questions, so I just typed answers as they came to me. Reports are also very easy for me to write – you just start writing and some hours later you’re done and you never really had to think.
When I start from an article, it’s way harder. I generally ask friends for a topic, or on Facebook or Twitter, and if I can’t find anything then I try to come up with something. I used to have a lot of dormant topics on my mind, and then when I found myself without something to write about I would start to elaborate on them, but now I think I’ve used all of those, which is why I get so desperate when there is nothing to write about.
Last week I was trying to write an article on “what makes a good player good”, which I think will be a very interesting topic if I ever get it right, but it was very hard and I was struggling to make it non-obvious. Then, at some point, I started going on about how a good player was able to manage the three resources – life, time, cards – and identify which one of them was more important in each situation. I then felt like I could definitely elaborate a lot more on that, and then made it an article of its own, and for that one there was no struggle, the words just flowed. I’ll probably go back to “what makes a good player good” someday.
Other than that, I mostly do what I like. I try to connect with the reader, because that is how I like it. I try to put a lot of “me” in the article, because, well, it’s my article, and I like people to know me so they can better understand what I’m saying or where I’m coming from. I explain things as I wish they were explained to me, always using a lot of examples because examples have always helped me visualize explanations. I always assume people have a sense of humor similar to mine, so I hope whatever I find witty or funny they’ll like too.
After I write the article, I re-read it and change the order of some paragraphs, add some stuff, remove others. Then I usually send it to some friends so they can tell me what they think of it, if it’s interesting or boring, if they enjoyed it, if they learned anything. I’ll often ask them if they think a certain part is too obvious, or too arrogant, or too offensive, or too silly – really my biggest fear is that I am writing something extremely obvious that no one has to read, because it’s hard for me to judge what is obvious to other people. Then if feedback is positive I send it to Zaiem/Luis and they correct my English mistakes and ta-da.
What do you feel propelled your game from simply being a good player with the drive to win to being one of the best players in Magic? (Gavin Verhey )
A: I don’t know if I have an answer to this question… I think I’ve always really liked Magic, and I’ve always really wanted to do well. It is kind of a snowball for me – the moment I start getting good, I wanna be better, and then better and better. To give you an idea, I have more than once split piles of cards into 24 packs when I was a child, and then I would draft for each of the 8 people, and then I would play the decks against myself – that’s how much I liked it.
I think the turning point for me was around Invasion block, where I had a friend who was likely much better than I was and who would test with me for events. He taught me a lot, and then I did my own teaching once I discovered the internet and started joining online leagues such as imagic, mtgonline and after that Magic-League, and they helped by providing a competitive environment any time I wanted, kind of like MODO does now. I also met a lot of friends in those places, and absorbed bits of knowledge from each person.
Then I went to my first Pro Tour and I found out how bad I actually was in comparison to the good players, but I knew I could be good and knew I had potential, so I went after it. I read a lot, and then I played A LOT of Magic before I got to the point where I already knew all the basics and didn’t have to play as much. Then I found the people I now hang out with, and they also helped me tremendously – still do.
I think as important as having good teachers was the fact that I asked the right questions. I’ve always been one of those annoying kids who likes to ask the reason for everything – “why can’t I eat this, why does this bird not fall, why is the sky blue, why do I have to do what this old lady is saying”, etc. Then, when it came to Magic, I naturally asked the most important question – why. If you have someone to learn from, or even if you watch a match, try to understand why things happen the way they do, why someone did what they did – only then you’ll truly understand instead of memorizing. To this day I’ll ask someone “Card X or card Y?”, and then I’ll ask “why?”, so that I can make my own decision based on that.
Do you have any non-obvious pre-tournament rituals? (Non-obvious meaning… besides things like getting enough sleep and eating a good breakfast.) (Gavin Verhey)
A: Not really, I’ve never been much of a rituals person. One thing I do every single tournament morning is wake up and shower – I really don’t think I’ve ever gone to a tournament without showering previously, though I do it because it helps me waking up and because I want to be clean, not because it’s a ritual. I also always set three or so alarms/wake up calls, because I am paranoid of being late.
What would be the best team format? (Daniel Royde)
A: Any in which only two people play in the same match. There are no words to describe how much I despise 2HG, but any other team format would be awesome.
What’s your favourite non Magic game and why? (Non magic, non bridge?) (Daniel Royde)
A: Catchphrase! (or Articulate if you will). I don’t know why, I think it’s really challenging because I’m not a native speaker, and it’s really rewarding to know that I’m actually not terrible despite not knowing half the words. Because I don’t know nearly as many words as the other players, I have to work on my creativity with the words I do know, and I also learn something about English in the process. It is also cool because I always play with my Magic friends, and they’re all very smart. I also play Dota regularly, and sometimes Volleyball though I don’t know if that counts.
What is your worst and horrible mistake you never forget? (Yohan Gwak)
A: I think I’ll have to go with the time where I Lightning Helixed my own guy at Pro Tour Berlin. I thought I was making a genius play that took away most of his outs, but I missed one fetchland damage and then put myself from winning if he doesn’t topdeck multiple cards in a row to actually dead if I did not topdeck my one Steam Vents, it was very embarrassing. I did not topdeck it, and lost a game I had in the bag.
What would you like to be asked in an interview, but no one ever did ? (Carol Tavares)
A: Well, I don’t know about ever, but for this particular article I was kind of expecting someone to ask which article of mine I liked the most. It’s probably this one:
It is an article about myself, about how I started to play Magic more seriously, and I think it even answers some of the questions that I was asked for this one, so I kind of wanted to link to it, but no one asked. I’m glad that you asked this question so I could link it anyway!
I really like it because I was extremely afraid of writing something that didn’t have much to do with strategy, but the feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive, which showed me I could sometimes write about other things too.
Well, this is it! A bit thanks to whoever submitted the questions. Those were all the serious questions I got that I could actually answer. If I didn’t answer yours, it might be because the answer is inside someone else’s question, or because I simply don’t know how to answer, or because I missed it, and in that case I’m very sorry!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this and, if anything, you got to know a little bit more about me. See you next week,