Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Special – Dirk Baberowski

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews. Catch the other ones here.

Dirk BaberowskiDirk-Baberowski

Age: 37
Nationality: Germany
Team: Unaffiliated
Qualified via Hall of Fame
Pro Points: 221
Pro Tour Debut: Chicago 1999
Pro Tours played: 31
Win percentage: 60.9%
Median: 53
80%-Quantile*: 26.1
Top 8: 5 Pro Tours (3 wins), 3 Grand Prix, 3 Masters (1 win), 1 European Championship, and 1 Nationals (1 win)
Planeswalker Level: 44 (Battlemage)
Other accomplishments: 2008 Hall of Fame class vote leader, $146,860 career earnings, won the first Pro Tour he played, tied for second most Pro Tour wins of all time, Rookie of the Year 1998–99
* = The 80% quantile is based on past results that are first normalized to a PT size of 400 players. It represents the result a player surpasses in every fifth Pro Tour on average.

Q: When you came to Cologne in 1998, neither you or Kai were players anybody would know outside of Germany, yet within a year both of you won a Pro Tour, among other successes. Cologne had many competitive Magic players at that time, but you and Kai, always working together, quickly reached a level far beyond everybody else, thus essentially laying the groundwork for your careers. Did you have complementary skill sets, or was there some other reason that your cooperation proved so fruitful?

Dirk: I don’t think we had particularly complementary skill sets. We were both good at Magic, we played a ton, and we had a lot of other good players around us, so every bit of testing and casual gaming was very competitive. That’s really all it ever is—surround yourself with very good players.

Q: The first Pro Tour that you qualified for was Pro Tour Chicago in September 1998. You won that Pro Tour, even beating Kai and Jon en route. For most players, the first Pro Tour means a completely new level of competition, and probably also a lot of excitement about competing at the top level for the first time. How did you experience that tournament? Were you nervous at any point, or are you the kind of person that is completely focused once he has seven cards in hand? In most cases a Pro Tour victory is the climax of a career, a goal reached in part through experience and endurance. You, on the other hand, moved up to that highest level and dominated right away. Aside from the obvious joy over having won, how was that experience for you? Was there a point where you felt this came all just a bit too easy?

Dirk: Kai and I were both extremely confident (some might say cocky) going into PT Chicago ’98. I was on record saying that anything less than Top 16 would be a disappointment for both of us (I think Kai finished 18th or so, and it was only his second PT I think), so while winning was of course still a big deal, it somehow wasn’t huge. Of course, our confidence was partially justified, but mostly irrational—we had been the biggest fish in a medium-sized pond. But at the time, everything seemed completely natural.

Q: Around 2011 many veterans started to return to the Pro Tour. Most of these had been rivals in your active period, and some have become friends of yours. Did you ever itch to play competitively again? Especially since the Pantheon formed, there must have been a huge temptation to just take off for two weeks and meet up with a bunch of friends to have a good time and play a lot of Magic.

Dirk: Never really even considered it. I have a fairly demanding job, a wife (and a kid, soon), I’m old so I actually do feel travel a little more. I’ll probably go to some European PTs in the future, but won’t make a full comeback.

Q: You have won a Limited Pro Tour and two Team Limited Pro Tours, which makes you a Limited expert in the eyes of most people. There also seems to be another side to you, however—a very quirky deckbuilder. At Grand Prix Vienna, when everybody else was either playing High Tide or Jar, you opted for a Pandemonium Dreadnought deck. At the European Championships later that year you played an Iridescent Drake/False Demise combo deck. There is also a tale of a PTQ that you went to with two competitive decks in your bag, only to lend both to friends and then do well with a Squandered Resources/Stasis deck of your own design. How would you describe yourself as a Magic player? What is that gives you the most joy when you occupy yourself with Magic?

Dirk: Yeah, I do enjoy brewing far more than anything else. I really dislike playing decks that someone else built and tuned. My one Constructed Top 8 was with a home brew as well, and to this day I believe I would have won the PT had I been able to find Tranquil Domains the morning of the tournament.

And, I actually think Team Rochester Draft is somewhere in the middle between Limited and Constructed. To an extent, you know which seats will have which colors/tribes/decks, so you can learn to draft for your matchups, and in the end it feels like Constructed. If Team Rochester feels like Limited, you haven’t figured out the format yet.

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