Residence: Renton, WA, USA
Qualified via PT Nashville Top Finishers, Pro Club Platinum Level
Pro Points: 325 lifetime (51 in 2016–17)
Pro Tour debut: Pro Tour Boston 2002 (Team Limited)
Pro Tours played: 42
Best Pro Tour finish: 1st (PT Amonkhet)
Top 8: 2 Pro Tour (1 win) and 11 Grand Prix (2 wins)
Steve’s PT results: http://www.mtgptresults.com/player/gerry-thompson
Planeswalker level: 50 (Archmage)
Q1: You have played Magic competitively for ages. Your first GP Top 8 was almost 15 years ago, and you have since added a Top 8 on average about once per year. Despite the number of successes, such a long period inevitably brings times where you are not as successful, where that lack of success starts to frustrate you. You fall off the train and suddenly it feels like you are taking steps backward instead of forward, and eventually you start to wonder if it is all worth it. How do you deal with that?
There are always going to be times where you feel burnt out or need a change of pace. I try to pay attention to those feelings, figure out what’s causing them, and see if there’s anything I can change in my routine to fix them. For example, maybe I should play 20 hours a week leading up to a tournament instead of 50, or maybe I should play zero. Realistically, the only things that will affect your performance are your choices and your attitude. Maybe you’re making mistakes, or maybe the things you once enjoyed aren’t things you enjoy now. Either way, these are things you can solve. My involvement with Magic has shifted several times over the years. Sometimes I wanted to go to every tournament I could and sometimes I would only go to the ones I truly wanted to go to. Right now, I consider myself an educator and teacher first and a player second. Since moving more toward that direction, I’ve been enjoying Magic more than ever.
Q2: For a considerable period in those 15 years you were seen as one of the best players who had never made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, which is one of those labels that at the same time screams “awesome player” and “hasn’t realized their full potential (yet?).” You got that monkey off your back with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Gatecrash. Now, a few years later, you are a Pro Tour Champion. Repeating a question from your Top 8 Profile, to which you answered, “cross that bridge when we get there,” what does the win mean to you?
In some ways, it’s validation for choosing to pursue something I love rather than a more traditional career path. More personally, it feels like I was finally able to accomplish something I didn’t necessarily think was possible, at least for me. You spend your whole life putting something on a pedestal and eventually it seems impossible to reach. Finally getting there certainly comes with a little confidence boost. It’s funny, though. While winning a Pro Tour is a huge accomplishment, it’s even more incredible that I beat Yuuya in the finals. I’m proud, but afterward, I had that sinking feeling in my stomach like I did something wrong—it felt like I stole something. Overall, it was a completely humbling experience, and while I feel like I should be prouder or happier than I am, those feelings keep me grounded.
Q3: You have climbed to the highest peak in the game. What comes next? What kind of goals do you set when you know that there is no higher level of success, only more of the same?
Throughout my life, it’s been a common theme for me to set goals, reach them, and still not be completely satisfied. In basically every facet of our lives, we can be doing better, and that’s what I try to focus on. I may have won the tournament, but I made mistakes that I don’t want to make again. Even if I don’t win a tournament ever again, as long as I continue to improve, that’s all I can really ask for. Winning a second Pro Tour arguably means more than winning the first, although there might be diminishing returns after that. If you win one, maybe you’re merely good and the stars aligned for you that weekend. If you win a second time, you’re probably great. Aside from winning a second Pro Tour, there’s Worlds to look forward to, a potential Hall of Fame berth at some point, formats to break, articles to write, and relationships to make. There’s always something meaningful to look forward to in Magic.
Q4: After the Pro Tour, you auctioned off everything connected to that victory and donated the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Most people would probably rather enshrine the token of their greatest achievement, but apparently you are not that attached to it. But after making the decision to give everything away, you also had to decide on what to do with the auction revenues. What made you choose Planned Parenthood from among the thousands of good causes that you could have donated to?
Planned Parenthood is a great organization that does good for millions of people. When I decided to do the auctions, I made up a short list of organizations I’d like to donate to, and they were on it. I talked to a couple close friends to get their feedback and to see if they had anything I should add to the list. One of the most common questions I was asked was why donate to Planned Parenthood instead of a charity they thought did more good. You could make that argument for or against any charity. At the end of the day, there is no shortage of great organizations whose sole goal is helping people. For me, it was all about how I could do the most good. With Planned Parenthood’s funding under attack, they need help the most in this specific moment. Obviously I could have chosen a less controversial organization to donate to, but that helped spread the word and I don’t think the auctions would have made as much if I were donating to anyone else. In the end, I think I did the most I possibly could have with the auctions and I’m incredibly proud of that. I would give to them all if I could. The auction was an incredible success and I can’t thank everyone enough for their help with sharing it across social media. If I happen to win another tournament, I’d be more than happy to do it again. Maybe it will be for Planned Parenthood again, or maybe it will be for something else.