Residence: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Team: Massdrop West
Qualified via Pro Club Gold Level, PT Rivals of Ixalan Top Finisher, GP Toronto Top Finisher
Pro Points: Lifetime 253 (#3 Canada, #77 World), 26 in 2017–18 (#3 Canada, #54 World)
Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Chicago 2000 (Block Constructed and Booster Draft)
Pro Tours Played: 33
Best Pro Tour Finish: 13th (PT Gatecrash)
Career Median: 106
Top 8: 9 Grand Prix (2 wins)
Jon’s PT Results: http://www.mtgptresults.com/player/jon-stern
Planeswalker Level: 50
Q: You used to be a Limited player primarily, but these days most of your good results are on the back of Standard and Modern decks. Did this involve a conscious decision on your part to branch out? Did you start liking Constructed more, or was it simply a function of tournament success? What else led to this change?
I think the biggest factor is simply that I play a lot more Constructed now and always have something to test for. When I started playing competitively, there were Limited-only Pro Tours taking place months after the set release. I would Draft with the best players in Montreal two or three times per week for a long period of time, and always felt ahead of the curve in terms of card evaluation and understanding how to draft. Without a dedicated team or widespread access to deck lists, content, and regular opponents on Magic Online, it was harder to develop as a Constructed player.
I wouldn’t say that I made a conscious decision to branch out. It’s more like I was guided to this point by a shift in WotC priorities. I prefer to play relevant formats and generally stop Drafting a set immediately after the Pro Tour, whereas there always seems to be a Standard or Modern Grand Prix on the horizon.
Q: For this season you said that you would focus more on the Pro Tour and attend fewer Grand Prix. Is that the slow version of retiring from pro Magic, or a concerted effort to finally get your first PT Top 8?
Last February, I relocated from Montreal to Victoria, BC. While I’m really happy with the move overall, an unfortunate reality of living on the West Coast in Canada is that travel is a lot more expensive, time consuming, and physically draining. I was also finding that I was playing the numbers game a little more than I’d like, playing tournaments without adequate preparation. I’m hoping that scaling back will allow me to put forth a more concerted effort at the tournaments I do attend.
Q: At the last Pro Tour you actually came very close to the Top 8. After your 10-1 start you must have been an overwhelming favorite to finally break through, but alas it was not to be. For most people, when they have a good run at a tournament and then the wheels come off it’s a fast process. One and two losses later their dreams are shattered and they go home. Maybe things will work out next time. Being 10-1 on the Pro Tour the situation was quite different. You lost three times, but still had hope. If you manage to get back on track and win the last two rounds you would still make it. At that point you were probably immensely frustrated about the three losses, but on the other hand acutely aware that it was still one of your best shots ever to make Top 8 so it was no time to slouch. How did you handle the situation? How did you manage to stay focused in this spot?
There are no easy wins at the Pro Tour and that’s especially true at the top of the standings. I lost very close matches down the stretch to eventual Top 8 finishers Pascal Vieren, Ken Yukuhiro, and Luis Salvatto, and left each one wondering if there was some way I could have pulled out a victory. It was hard to stay positive while losing, but I just tried my best to block everything out except the actual games being played. There’s comfort in having Magic cards in your hand while trying to make good decisions. Waiting between rounds is a little more difficult. You have to keep reminding yourself that nothing is guaranteed and that you need to put all of your focus into trying to win your next match. There’s plenty of time to commiserate with your friends after the tournament.
I don’t know exactly how that started, but it’s certainly not an elected position! I played on the Pro Tour for several years in the early 2000s, mostly by grinding PTQs and rating invites rather than by having any particular success at premier events. I guess it was enough to make a name for myself and be recognized. When I started playing again in 2011-12, people knew who I was but maybe didn’t expect me to re-qualify so quickly or establish myself as a regular pro. When people drift away from the competitive scene for one reason or another, there are a lot of hurdles to get back. Qualifying is harder than it’s ever been, and the game has changed in a number of significant ways. Besides just having success in two different eras, it probably also has something to do with the fact that I’ve often taken an organizational role in getting players together for test sessions, Draft camps, or just to coordinate travel. Truthfully, though, players like Gab Tsang were leading Canadian Magic on the international scene before I started playing and are probably more deserving of the godfather title. He won the last Pro Tour he played in 2005 and has recently started playing again, so look out!
Images courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.