Pro Tour Dominaria Player to Watch: Sveinung Bjørnerud

Sveinung Bjørnerud

Twitter: @Sene1

Age: Turns 29 on the Saturday of PT Dominaria

Residence: Drammen, Norway

Qualified via GP Lyon Top Finisher

Pro Points: 79 lifetime (#3 in Norway), 7 in 2018–19 (#1 Norway)

Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Nagoya 2011 (Draft/Block Constructed)

Pro Tours Played: 9

Career Median: 148

Best Pro Tour Finish: 65th (PT Nagoya 2011)

Top 8: 3 Grand Prix

Sveinung’s PT Results: http://www.mtgptresults.com/player/sveinung-bjornerud

Planeswalker Level: 43

Q: Players who know you generally consider you as one of the most gifted Drafters in the game. Other testaments to your Limited prowess are your win percentage in Sealed, which is one of the highest in the World, and three Limited GP Top 8s in relatively few attempts. Why do you prefer Limited play to Constructed play, and why do you excel at it? Is there something you do particularly well that other players struggle with?

I like Limited because it’s something different every time. I have a tendency to become bored with too much repetition, and Limited is also something you can play at any time without really needing to practice a lot. In Constructed, it’s such a big deal to know the ins and outs of the metagame, whereas in Limited, I feel like general understanding of the game gets you quite far.

Besides, this sort of thing easily turns into a vicious cycle of sorts: I’m pretty bad at Constructed, so I play Limited instead, meaning that I get better at Limited and not better at Constructed, leading to me winning more at Limited and enjoying it more. And so on.

As for my Limited prowess, this is something I’ve tried to figure out as well. I have friends I consider to simply be better than me at Magic (Andreas Nordahl comes to mind), and I don’t really understand why I often do better than them at Limited. I more frequently make really dumb mistakes than many of my friends do, I’m pretty sure. It’s possible that I make up for this by having a decent understanding of the macro elements of the game—both in the Draft and in-game—and the overall game plan. I think I’m pretty good at assessing my role in a game.

Q: Despite your undeniable skill at Magic you don’t seem interested in proving yourself in competitive play. You play a Grand Prix every now and then, but you are not hellbent on playing as many as you can, and your Pro Tour results, taking into account your Limited skills, suggest that doing well in a PT is not your absolute highest priority when it would entail endless hours of grinding Constructed. It seems unusual not to care about the competition in this community that is so results-oriented. Why don’t you?

It’s a combination of a few things. First off, I don’t really have it in me to grind Magic for hours on end like many other competitive players do. I used to be a part of a serious testing team back when we played all the Pro Tours (2011-2013), but this was a bit more serious Magic than I could handle, so I got burned out pretty quickly. And I’m certainly not smart enough to get away with no practice. Second, I have a full-time job that frequently requires way more than a full-time job, and it’s difficult to combine this with playing lots of Magic. When I played on the PT 5-6 years ago, it was often a struggle to get enough time off work, and sometimes I just wasn’t able to do it. Third, I try to be as environmentally friendly as I can, and I feel guilty every time I fly somewhere.

Q: It turns out that many people don’t even know that you are a respectable Magic player. Rather, they think of you as the guy who Wizards turns to when they can’t keep track of the mess they made with the pro levels. Why did you start collecting this data and how did it turn into the most comprehensive collection of stats on Magic pro play worldwide?

It started with Paul Rietzl at some point 3-4 years ago asking on Twitter who was currently looking good for a Worlds qualification. I looked it up and made a quick overview. Realizing that there was a niche no one was filling and knowing that I enjoy this sort of thing, I decided to make a spreadsheet that kept track of it and presented easy-to-grok information quickly after each event. All in all, the primary reason I’m doing it is because I like doing it. I think it’s fun, and it’s very possible that I’d have done it even if no one else found it interesting or useful. But I really like the fact that other people do find it interesting and useful! It feels good to do something other people appreciate. I’m sure you can relate here.

Q: Norway has a proud history as a relatively small Magic country. Its players have won four Pro Tours and you even have a Hall-of-Famer in Nicolai Herzog. You still have a couple of talented players and yet, as of now (assuming minimum points from PT Dominaria), you would be Norway’s captain at a meager 10 points, the lone Norwegian Bronze player. What happened?

Good question. I got into serious Magic at the tail end of Norway’s height as an MTG powerhouse of sorts. There were a bunch of players who were on the PT train who all quit at the same time. Nicolai Herzog, Sigurd Eskeland, Eivind Nitter, Rickard Österberg (Swede, but has been living in Oslo forever), Øyvind Ødegaard, etc. pretty much all jumped ship to poker and whatnot following the ’03-’04 season.

These players were not just active on the Pro Tour, but played random local events as well, bringing the overall level of play up considerably. When these players went away, no one could really fill the gap. I figure this is the primary reason why we’re so much worse than we were back then. There have been competitive players since then, but not really an environment of several pro-level players dedicated to the game and helping others to get better. There was a year or two back in ’11-’12, while Andreas and I lived in another city, when we actively tried to foster a competitive community (and succeeded—Nationals ’11 had something like five players from our group, including the entire National team, and ended up with us finishing as runner-ups at Worlds that year), but other than that, I haven’t really contributed that much. This is something I do slightly regret, but it’s also difficult to find the time for this sort of thing.

There is a community in Oslo that’s somewhat competitive, but it’s very Constructed-focused, so I don’t really feel like I have too much to offer there.

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