Residence: Roanoke, VA, USA
Team: Face to Face Games
Qualified via Pro Club Gold level, GP Barcelona top finisher, GP San Jose top finisher
Pro Points: 134 lifetime (37 in 2015–16)
Pro Tour Debut: Dark Ascension 2012
Pro Tours Played: 12
Best Pro Tour Finish: 44th
His PTs: http://www.mtgptresults.com/player/brian-braun-duin
Top 8: 7 Grand Prix (2 wins)
Planeswalker Level: 49 (Archmage)
Q: The GP Warrior race is down to one event and you are head to head with Tomoharu Saito, just 1 Pro Point apart. For both of you, a lot hinges on that one event. At the same time, you have a Pro Tour coming up the week after GP Sydney, and while that is way more important for your team, it also offers you the final chance to achieve Platinum this season. How do you balance these two things? Have you developed any special relationship/rivalry with Saito by now?
To me, winning the GP race is a lot more important than my chance at Platinum. This upcoming Grand Prix is the single most important tournament I have ever played in. If I perform well enough at the event and hold onto my tenuous lead for the GP Points Leader slot, then I will be able to play in Worlds. I wouldn’t even say playing Worlds was a dream of mine because I never got to the point where I was dreaming that big. Needless to say, playing in that tournament with the best players in the world would be an enormous honor and chance to take on the highest caliber competition.
It’s not even that Platinum is less important to me than Worlds—it’s just a matter of Worlds being within reach and Platinum being a little beyond it. To reach Worlds, I just need to maintain my 1-point lead on Tomoharu Saito and hope Reid Duke or Seth Manfield don’t win Grand Prix Sydney. It’s a task that is certainly not easy, but is still very doable. To hit Platinum, I need to basically Top 8 the Pro Tour, and given my previous history at Pro Tours, that feels like a level of play I haven’t reached yet.
In terms of how to balance my Worlds quest with team testing, I’ve struggled with that dilemma. The Pro Tour is the main attraction for my team, and I don’t want to put personal ambition over the needs of the 11 other people who have chosen to team up with me. I’m balancing this by front-loading some Limited preparation. Eldritch Moon wasn’t out yet, but I’ve been playing a lot of Shadows over Innistrad Drafts to just get myself into a Limited mindset and to be really familiar with that half of the new format. When I go to Sydney to test with my team, I’ll be treating it like normal and testing Constructed just as much as I normally do. It wouldn’t be fair to the team otherwise.
Shaheen, Pascal, and I went out to dinner with Saito and his teammates in Brazil. Previously, we hadn’t interacted very much and I was glad for a chance to spend some time with him outside of a tournament hall. He’s a lot of fun to hang out with. It’s been cool to be in this position where I’ve had a chance to compete with and get to know someone I might have never otherwise crossed paths with. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops in Sydney.
Q: While the Grand Prix circuit has been good to you, the Pro Tour has been a different story so far. Two money finishes in 12 attempts is not exactly a stellar resume. Aside from the fact that the competition is stronger, why do you think you have a harder time succeeding on the Pro Tour? Are you confident that your breakout PT finish is imminent?
Two money finishes in 12 attempts seems like a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career to me. I’d like to see an example of someone who has done better!
In all seriousness, I think I’ve nailed down why I’ve done poorly in Pro Tours. Part of it is that I’ve never managed to combine a good Draft performance and a good Constructed performance at the same time. One Pro Tour I’m 5-1 in Draft and 5-5 in Constructed. A few Pro Tours later and I’m going 1-5 in Draft and 8-2 in Constructed. Rest easy, though. I have been able to successfully combine bad Draft and bad Constructed results at the same time. That has to count for something.
Beyond that, I’ve had issues with deck selection, testing process, testing teams, and even my mental game. I used to have a problem with being intimidated when I played against people who were better than me. That fear influenced my play, my deck selection, and even how I approached tournaments mentally.
I’m over that. I don’t know if a good PT finish is imminent, but I’m on a good team, in a good mental state, and I have been consistently making good decisions with deck choices the entire year. I also don’t have to worry about my next Pro Tour qualification anymore now that I hit Gold. I can just go and play Magic, and not have external thoughts weighing me down. Things can and will go up from here. Count on it.
Q: You had GP success across all formats. Do you have a favorite format, or is just Magic? Any preferences when it comes to decks or archetypes?
Legacy is my favorite format, but it’s so rarely relevant in Pro Magic that I just don’t play it very much anymore. I used to be very good at Legacy. I played it regularly, and Stoneblade decks are pretty much the embodiment of my “style” of Magic. A lot of my success in Legacy has been in the capable hands of the original Nahiri, also known as Stoneforge Mystic. Now I just play Miracles in every event and probably will keep doing so until they tell me I can’t anymore.
Limited is a close second. I enjoy playing Limited, and outside of the occasional lottery of playing Sealed, I really like Limited Grand Prix. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I’m fairly sure I have a better win percentage in Limited Grand Prix this year than Constructed. I’m sure that would surprise a number of people, myself included. People know me as a Constructed player that sucks at Limited. My hope is to eventually change that.
I have a strong preference for proactive decks that can play a midrange or grindy role. GW Tokens or Bant Company are both examples of my style in this Standard format. In the last format, that deck was Abzan Aggro. Lately, my preference has been to just play the best deck, no matter what it is. People always think their deck beats the best deck, but it so rarely actually does.
Q: You might be the most productive writer in the game at the moment, and have produced a lot of content for a long a time. What motivates you to write two articles a week and produce videos on top of that? Are you never at a point where you think “I don’t know what to write about today.”? Do you have a leitmotif in your articles?
I love strategy games, and my favorite part of strategy games isn’t actually playing the game but rather talking about it. I like discussing what happened in games, what the best strategies are, and understanding why things were done. I also like to teach people, and maybe most importantly, I like to write. I love creative writing, and writing articles is a chance for me to kind of meld all these things together into semi-coherent articles.
Am I ever at a point where I think “I don’t know what to write about today?” Only every single time I ever sit down to write an article. I basically never know what I want to write about but somehow I always find something to say. It’s possible I’ll run dry at some point. I haven’t reached it yet.
I frequently utilize the much maligned tournament-report style of writing. I play in a lot of events, so I have a lot of tournaments to report on. Tournament reports have a pretty bad reputation, and for good reason. Frequently they are just boring recounts of matches of Magic that occurred. I try to write tournament reports that are entertaining and skip most of the play-by-play details, unless something sweet occurred. If my article could just be replaced by the words “Magic happened,” then I should probably go back to the well for better inspiration.