Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Player to Watch: Jan-Moritz Merkel

Jan-Moritz Merkel

Nickname: J-Mo/JMM

Age: 29
Residence: Malta
Team: Kai Budde and Luca Casadei
Qualified via MOCS Open
Pro Points: 46 lifetime (#1 in Malta), 0 in 2018–19
Pro Tour debut: Pro Tour Kobe 2006 (Time Spiral Draft)
Pro Tours played: 5
Career median: 135
Best Pro Tour finish: 1st (PT Kobe 2006)
Top 8: 1 Pro Tour (1 win)
Jan-Moritz’s PT results: http://www.mtgptresults.com/player/jan-moritz-merkel
Planeswalker Level: 41

Q: You played your first Pro Tour as a 17-year-old in 2006. The format was Time Spiral Booster Draft, the place was Kobe, and you ended up winning the whole thing, making you a member of the extremely select group of players who won their first PT.

How did you perceive the event back then? What were your expectations going into the Pro Tour? And how were you received afterward? One might easily imagine a casual conversation in school afterward like: “What were you guys doing over the weekend? Cleaning cars for $5 an hour at the old car wash, I see. Well, I went to Kobe, beat up on a bunch of adults, and scored $40k…”

I started playing Magic three or four years before qualifying for the Pro Tour. I was Drafting every Thursday with very good players, and getting more and more competitive and obsessed about the game. I started attending PTQs that were somewhat close to me, as well as three GPs. In my hometown, Hamburg, I managed to qualify for my very first Pro Tour: Kobe. I didn’t have high expectations. My goal was to make Day 2, but even that seemed very unlikely (back then you needed to finish 4-2 on Day 1). Nevertheless, I was very excited about the trip. I had never left Europe before or been on an airplane. Going to Japan was a big adventure.

I had a very good start and went 3-0 in my first Draft. Sadly, the second one was a complete train wreck and I found myself at 0-2 with a horrible deck. The all-deciding match for Day 2 was luckily against an equally unfortunate deck and I barely scraped by. After that it all flowed perfectly. On the second day the pressure was off and all of my Drafts fell into place beautifully. I didn’t lose another match the whole weekend.

Winning the Pro Tour was a surreal experience. All of my friends and family were very happy for me and couldn’t believe what happened. My uncle found the live stream and was watching in the middle of the night—he updated everyone else in the morning. I switched schools shortly before the tournament and none of my classmates really knew what Magic was or that I was playing, so I never really talked about it with them. I was very happy, though.

Q: Kobe qualified you for a handful of Pro Tours, but they were rather unexciting and and you haven’t played a Pro Tour since. While some people may be tempted to think that you got lucky once, your online results strongly suggest otherwise. You are also playing with “the Kai,” and probably not for a lack of alternatives on his side. What happened in the ten years where you didn’t play any Pro Tours, and how did you end up with your team?

After winning Kobe, I was qualified for four Pro Tours. I had one good finish where we (2HG) lost our win-and-in in a heavily contested match, one Draft Pro Tour where a couple of mulligans left me at 3-3, and my biggest weakness, Extended, which tanked an otherwise good Worlds performance, as well as the Extended PT. Soon after I started playing less because I got my first job, but I never stopped drafting online.

I went to a few GPs here and there but nothing very exciting. I started playing more again after I met my now wife. She was interested in learning Magic and ended up enjoying it as much as I did, so we were playing together quite regularly. Since last year, my main goal became qualifying for the MOCS. I started farming the GPs and thought I would try to sneak through the leader board.

Early into the season, I made Top 8 in a MOCS Open event. I got the first seed and drafted a great deck but unfortunately lost the first round. The following week there was another Open event where I had an even better Sealed deck, and I unexpectedly managed to get into the Top 8 as the 8th seed after a 4-2 start. This time I had a bad deck, so naturally I won the event and the Pro Tour qualification with it. Kai and I have been working in the same company for a couple of years now. After I told him about qualifying, he offered to team up and of course I agreed. Until very recently, we were still looking for our third teammate, until another colleague of ours, Luca, snatched one of the last invites, completing our company team.

Q3: You are going to play Modern at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Is that your favorite format? How about Limited? The PTQ you won was Limited, as was PT Kobe. Are you disappointed that the PT 25th Anniversary does not feature a Limited portion?

Modern is not my favorite format. It always was, and always will be, Booster Draft, which answers your next question—I am naturally disappointed in the lack of a Limited portion. I never really played Modern until last spring when I was on vacation and randomly came up with a Smallpox deck that I wanted to try. I have been playing Modern ever since, but Limited remains my focus.

Q4: You live in Malta these days, randomly the country with the most Pro Points per resident. Trivia aside, what is it like being a Magic player in Malta? Apparently there is a local community, and they even compete in the WMC. Do you interact with the local community at all or are you mainly an online player? Did you ever consider registering as a Maltese Magic player and running for a WMC invite?

Late 2016, two months after moving here, one random Friday my wife, who until then had only played online, decided that she wanted to go to her first FNM (which she won), so we went to the local shop, Forbidden Power. We discovered that there was a very active and friendly community here in Malta, so we started going somewhat regularly, although lately much less due to our schedules. Hopefully we can start going more again soon. I am registered as a Maltese player and this year I can participate in the Nationals for the first time, which I’m already very excited about.

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