Mythic Championship Cleveland Players to Watch: Mark Herberholz

Mark Herberholz

Nickname: Heezy
Twitter: @herberheezy
Age: 35
Residence: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Qualified via PTQ Los Angeles
Pro Points: 206 (#126 World, #48 in the United States)
Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Osaka 2002 (Block Constructed)
Pro Tours Played: 35
Career Median: 79
Best Pro Tour Finish: 1st (PT Honolulu 2006)
Mark’s Resultshttps://www.mtgptresults.com/player/mark-herberholz
Top 8: 4 Pro Tours (1 win), 4 Grand Prix

Q: You have had a lot of success in the mid-2000s, but it’s been almost ten years since your last Pro Tour. Why did you quit professional Magic in 2010, and what made you want to compete again?

When I stopped having success at the Pro Tour it coincided with my computer being unable to run Magic Online, so I kind of hung on for a few years but my inability to test as much as I needed to led to frustrating finishes and less income from prizes. As a result I had to get a job to pay the bills, and that caused me to move out of the country, so I did not have enough time to compete competitively. I’d still hit up a GP with vacation time, but I wasn’t able to put in the time needed to stay on the Tour.

Q: When people observe something constantly they have a hard time seeing how small changes add up to big changes over a longer period. How do you, having been away from competitive play for almost ten years, think the community has changed in that period? Has the level of the competition also changed, in your opinion?

From a community standpoint I think there have been huge strides. Magic has just become so much more inclusive and friendly. The level of competition has increased as well. I don’t think the skill of the top 20 players has changed much over the years, but the skill from players 21-200 has jumped. After Magic Online got to a point where you could test PT formats, metagame information and high level competition to test was much easier to access, so as a result you no longer got “byes” at GPs or PTs from unprepared players. Each round was a tough match, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past 9 years when I got beat at GPs.

Q: The mid-2000s were a period of transition in a way. The original greats had turned their backs on pro Magic, but super teams like ChannelFireball and the Pantheon had not yet formed. Among the players that stick out in that period are you and Gabriel Nassif. Nassif describes you as possibly the best teammate he has ever worked with. What qualities do you think make a player a good teammate? Do you think your team skills were a crucial advantage in that period, elevating you from one of many good players to one of the few greats?

I think that we were just a great fit. Nassif has a certain level of creativity that I lack, and I have a level of focus that he lacks. So in practice he would have a rough idea and I would polish it to make it great. I had some hits, like the Teachings deck in Time Spiral block and Martyr Tron from Worlds in Paris, but he had the original idea for Turbo Fog and the Mono-Blue Wizards deck in LSV Elves Extended [at PT Berlin 2008]. I’m at my best when I can change the last 15 cards in the deck to beat the metagame. He’s at his best figuring out the core 60 to have the beginning of something great. In general, the best quality I think a teammate can have is to be intellectually honest. Look at your results and don’t get emotionally attached to a deck. Often players write off losses to mulligans, screw, lucky topdecks, etc. but that’s data that matters and can blind people if they ignore it. Everyone wants their deck idea to be great, but if you aren’t willing to discard the bad ones you’ll never find the great ones.

Q: It is rumored that you possess magical talents as a deck builder. How would you describe yourself as a Magic player? What formats and what kinds of decks do you enjoy playing and building?

I’d say my best strength as a Magic player is creating a game plan to win at a macro level, rather than playing A+ at a micro level. I may miss a trigger, but I’m good at understanding what series of plays need to be made to get a win five turns from now. In terms of deck building, I’ve always been best at Block Constructed formats. I find the smaller card pool to be the easiest to break because the decks are typically obvious, so it’s easy to determine the metagame. Once you have that, you just tune your decks until you can beat it. Unfortunately, block Constructed isn’t around anymore, so now I have to settle for Standard as my next best format. My dream deck is one that spins its wheels for a while to slowly establish control and lock the game up: Turbo Fog, Gifts Ungiven from Kamigawa block, and Teachings from Time Spiral block—I loved to build and play all of those decks.

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