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Mail Bag!

Hi everyone! This week, I headed to Twitter to ask for all of you to submit questions so that I could answer them in my article. Thanks to everyone who participated. If I didn’t use your question this time, sorry, but maybe next time!

Easy choice for me on this one: Most Pro Tour victories. Everybody wants to win. The feeling of winning a tournament, especially a Pro Tour, is by far the most gratifying feeling in all of Magic. Having that level of success at something you try so hard at is just incredibly rewarding. To be the winningest player in Magic history would be an incredible feeling on a completely different level. Unfortunately for me, and everyone else, I think this record is already unbreakable. Kai and his seven Pro Tour wins already has more than double that of anyone else. I don’t see Finkel or Baberowski winning five more Pro Tours any time soon, and I certainly don’t think it’s within reason for anyone else to get there either.

Usually, I decide if I think one deck is significantly better than the others. If I do, in fact, believe that there is a deck that has significant edge over the field, I nearly always play that. More often nowadays, especially in Standard, I think there tend to be several decks that are pretty close to even, or at least close enough that it’s very hard to discern which one might be one or two percentage points better. In those cases, I tend to just play a deck that I think I’ll enjoy. For me, those tend to be control decks, or occasionally combo decks.

I’d recommend picking a deck in advance of the tournament you’re planning to attend and get some practice with it. Being proficient with a deck can be as important as the quality of the deck itself. We’ve all heard stories of the person who played his or her deck for the first time in round 1, because he or she switched at the last minute, and went on to do really well, but people very rarely broadcast it when they go 0-3 after making the last-minute switch. Once in a while a deck presents itself and you can be sure that it’s a lot better than what you’re practiced at and are planning to play. Even in those cases, it can be a bit risky, but I’ve certainly done it, and on occasion it can be the right thing to do, but I think it’s pretty rare.

I would take Utter End. I do tend to gravitate towards the single-color cards in this format, and stay two colors for a while if I can. That being said, Utter End is a lot more powerful than Suspension Field. Also, I dislike white/red as a two-color deck, so even if I were to first-pick Suspension Field, I’d be trying to pair the white with black anyways. But even if those color related things weren’t true, I think the power level of Utter End vs. Suspension Field is justification enough for that to be the pick here.

Given that this PT Top 8 is my dream Top 8, I’d definitely want a chance to be in it. Other than me, I think it would be: Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, Gabriel Nassif, Luis Scott-Vargas, Bob Maher, Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, and David Humphreys. The person I seek advice from the most, at this point in my career, other than Owen and Reid, is Andrew Cuneo. Andrew is an underrated Magic player, and an even more underrated drafter. In my opinion, he has been one of the best drafters in each of the last few formats. Beyond that, Andrew is one of the best deckbuilders of all time. He also tends to build control decks, which I really like to play, and has extremely tuned and accurate lists of those decks. Andrew is analytical, and will often be able to spot flaws in decks or strategies, or come up with strategies that other’s have yet to find and employ. His advice is invaluable and he has truly been an asset to me and our team.

 

 

 

This is a tricky question. I wouldn’t say I get nervous, and I also wouldn’t say that it bothers me. But, I do feel something. I think as long as I’m going to Pro Tours, or playing in something like the World Championships, I’m always going to care a lot about how I do in those events. The excitement leading up to something I care a lot about is something I certainly experience, but I’d classify it more as excitement or anxiousness than I would nervousness.

Good question. Where to begin? A couple of really bad decks that I tried out before Pro Tours that come to mind are a Crystal Ball Miracles deck that I tried before Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. The deck tried to use Crystal Ball to set up miracle triggers with Entreat the Angels and Terminus. Of course, this was Modern, and unsurprisingly, Crystal Ball really doesn’t function as well as Sensei’s Divining Top and Brainstorm do in Legacy. Another time was before Pro Tour M15, I built a Chain Veil deck with a bunch of planeswalkers that was capable of going infinite using Ral Zarek in combination with Xenagos, the Reveler, or Nissa, Worldwaker. The deck in practice was pretty bad. I think I only managed to win one game, which I was excited to win of course, but not a good deck. Also, I managed to get teased by my teammates about it for the rest of testing.

I like to think I sideboard very well, thanks for asking.

I think giving off timing tells is definitely something we want to be aware of as players. For example, when we’re hellbent and drawing off the top, we don’t want to instantly pass the turn when we draw a land. If we’re tapped out playing Legacy and our opponent plays a spell, if we tell them to wait, and think for 10 seconds, they are going to assume we have a Force of Will. Therefore, if we only do something like that when we actually have Force of Will in our hand, it is going to become obvious. Similarly, in Standard, if we’re playing U/B control, and only have three mana up and pause when our opponent casts a spell, they are going to think we have Dissolve. Naturally, the solution to this is to make sure to once in a while think for a couple seconds when we don’t have Force of Will, Dissolve, or whatever else. Just don’t go overboard. For example, in some scenarios, everyone knows that we’re not going to counter a turn twelve Elvish Mystic. Theres no reason to make our opponent wait in that instance. Also, be careful of taking too much time and approaching slow play territory.

In general, I think it’s almost always better to just draft what’s open as opposed to what you prefer. If you approach a draft with an open mind, and draft the best cards, and what is going to give you the best deck in that draft, you’re going to be better off most of the time. That being said, sometimes you’re faced with a very close pick that will greatly influence the direction of your draft. If one of those picks goes into an archetype that you tend to prefer a lot more than the other does, go ahead and take it.

This pick is somewhat close, but I’d take the Murderous Cut. Master of Pearls is a card that when I first saw, I thought would end up being a lot better than it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good card, but I wouldn’t give it “bomb rare” status. Murderous Cut is an uncommon, of course, but it’s the single best uncommon in the set. The ability to kill any creature for one mana, under optimal conditions, is about as good as a removal spell could ever be. I do prefer white over black in Khans draft, but I think that Murderous Cut is significantly enough better that it’s still the clear pick.

It would have to be good enough that I considered it the best deck. The Battle of Wits decks that I used to play were possible, in reality, because the spells in Magic were so much better than the creatures. I was able to play a deck full of cards that cheaply and efficiently dealt with creatures, often even netting a card. There were more “Demonic Tutor” type cards, even though they were more expensive by then, and way, way more cantrips, which were all integral to the deck. Magic just isn’t made that way anymore. The creatures are much better than the spells, there are very few tutors, and very few cantrips (although there are still some good ones that are legal in Modern) and for that reason, a Battle of Wits deck, or something similar to it, will likely never be good again.

I wouldn’t consider myself much of a collector. I do have plenty of Standard cards, but really not much beyond that. I do keep a binder full of cards that have sentimental value to me for various reasons, mostly cards that have been in decks that I’ve used to do well in big tournaments. My favorite card from that collection is probably Tradewind Rider, which I used to win the first Masters tournament, and has a lot of sentimental value to me.

There are two answers to this question. A large part of what brought me back to Magic and what keeps me playing are the people. When I came back to play Pro Tour Return to Ravnica after not playing a Magic tournament for five or six years, I reconnected with a lot of people that I had known very well for a very long time when I was younger. I was able to rekindle old friendships with a lot of people as well as make some very good new ones.

I also really enjoy the competitive aspect. Competing in tournaments against the best players in the world is a very unique and exciting challenge. The reward of succeeding at those tournaments has always been something that I find incredibly gratifying. I also just greatly enjoy playing Magic. I always have, and I likely always will.

Yes. I think I will have prepared more and practiced for this year’s World Championships than I will have prepared for any tournament I have ever played. Because there are four different formats, it requires more time to devote to each one. Also, because of the small field and high prize pool, preparation will have an even more pronounced effect than usual. Of course, being Magic World Champion is something that I’ve always dreamed of, and I’ll do everything in my power to make it a reality.

I really like this question, but honestly, I can’t identify a single most common source of “bad” advice for me over my career. What I can identify is problems that I have personally had in how to deal with advice.

I think one of the biggest issues with getting advice in Magic isn’t the source of advice, but how to process it. When I was younger, particularly, when I got advice from certain people, whether it was good or bad, I treated it more as an instruction than I did as opinion. I think any advice can be good advice, as long as we’re all able to realize that nobody else is always right. Whether you’re getting advice from one of my articles, another author, or even just a friend, sometimes you are going to be right, and they are going to be wrong. Treat advice as what it is, and not as gospel. Weigh all the opinions you can find when making your decisions, but remember that your opinion also matters. If you decide to rely on the advice of someone else, do it because the advice sounds correct to you, and not solely out of your respect for the person.

I can tell you that it is much more upsetting when you follow someone else and it doesn’t work out than when you follow yourself and it doesn’t work out. Also, when you follow yourself and it doesn’t work out, you almost always learn more than when you put all of your faith in someone else.

Thanks again to everyone who submitted a question. This weekend I’ll be playing Legacy at Grand Prix New Jersey. I’m quite anxious to see how big the tournament actually is, and if the Delver menace is really as menacing as people are expecting. Next weekend, I’ll be heading north to Grand Prix Ottawa to play some Khans of Tarkir Limited, and then not long after that, I’ll be heading to France for the World Championship. It’s going to be a busy month of Magic coming up, but I’m really looking forward to it.

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