Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Special – Players to Watch: Simon Nielsen

This article is part of a 4-part series. I’ve done interviews with Marc Tobiasch and Bart van Etten, and I’ll have one more with Petr Sochůrek tomorrow before Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.

Simon Nielsen

Age: 21

Nationality: Denmark

Team: EUreka

Qualified via: GP Brussels Top 8, Pro Club – Silver

Pro Points: 43 lifetime, 11 in 2015-16

Pro Tour Debut: Pro Tour Fate Reforged

Pro Tours Played: 3

Best Pro Tour Finish: 30th

Median: 86

Top 8: Grand Prix Brussels 2015 (2nd)

Planeswalker Level: 42 (Battlemage)

Q: Most of your good finishes so far involved Standard. Is that your favorite format? Do you gravitate toward a particular deck type, or do you just play whatever seems best at the moment?

Simon: Actually, I have the best record in team tournaments recently: a win at the World Magic Cup and 6th at GP Florence. It obviously helps immensely to have Martin Müller on your team, though. I would say that Team Sealed is my favorite format due to the camaraderie, the powered Limited decks, and the teamwork. And my success in the format isn’t bad either. I do also like Standard a lot. It’s what I’ve been playing every Friday at FNM for the last 4 years, which is probably a reason why I’m doing better at that format than draft.

I don’t gravitate toward specific types of decks, though I like proactive decks more. Instead, I actually gravitate away from some types of decks, mainly the all-good-cards, solid decks I always see in Standard, like Abzan. I prefer synergy over raw power. Previously, I almost exclusively played my own brews, but for the past year and a half I’ve started to embrace the known and powerful decks of a format instead, which might explain why I’ve done way better recently. Nowadays, I look to choose decks based on the metagame rather than to prove how good a deck builder I am (which I’m not). Or I just play whatever Martin Müller tells me to play because he is mind-blowingly good at this game.

Q: Your achievements so far include a win at the World Magic Cup as part of what now seems to have been a very strong Danish team, and a 2nd place at GP Brussels. Do you have any other goals for the long run? Is there something you would like to achieve this season?

Last year, my goal was to hit Silver to get an invite for Pro Tour Magic Origins and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, which I hit at GP Florence. My goal for this season was to play in all of the Pro Tours. I was pretty close to giving up on that goal because even though I had my Silver invite for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in Atlanta, I wasn’t sure if I could reasonably afford to go there instead of Madrid (PT Shadows over Innistrad).

The week before GP Brussels, I Top 8’d the RPTQ, but I lost in the quarterfinals. I was pretty devastated because I got so close, but the very next week, I ran hot at Grand Prix Brussels and got the invite anyway with a 2nd place finish. Now I’m only 1 point short of locking Silver again, which would qualify me for Pro Tour Sydney (and Honolulu next season). And since the Top 8 qualifies me for Atlanta, I can use my Silver invite from last year on Madrid instead. As I am so close to hitting the former goal, I’m now shooting for Gold instead.

My long-term goal is to get to live off of playing Magic for a couple of years. Right now I study on the sideline, but it would be nice to take one or two years off and just live the dream. Hopefully, I can also get to write articles for a website at some point, because that is something I really want to do.

Q: Led by Martin Dang, Martin Müller, Michael Bonde, and yourself, Danish Magic is incredibly strong right now. By population, Denmark may well be the strongest Magic country in the world at the moment. What’s your community like? Why did all these players break through in the last few years? Do you have even more talent around that we don’t know about yet?

Simon: You forgot Christoffer Larsen and Thomas Enevoldsen. Although Enevoldsen isn’t playing as much anymore, he was still important for the growth spurt. I can’t speak much to what the other local communities are like, but the community Martin Müller and I grew up in, based in the city of Roskilde, has a great focus on playing to get better. We frequently help each other out with deck lists, commentate on specific plays after a match, and it is generally frowned upon to complain about luck.

I was inspired by Müller to do well, and we motivated each other to travel to Grand Prixs to try to do well, even though we were young and didn’t have much travel experience. And when he won his PTQ for Pro Tour Born of the Gods, I knew I wanted to follow him to the Pro Tour level, and that really kept me motivated. I believe more players are following in our footsteps.

Dang and Bonde spearheads the community in Aarhus, and I imagine there are a lot of similarities. Copenhagen also has a bunch of good players, Larsen among them, that are frequently seen in the Top 8s of PPTQs, WMCQs, and other such events. We are also such a small community that every tournament mainstay knows each other, which helps a lot with the camaraderie and mutual support. 
The Magic players of Denmark are really proud of our win at the WMC. As a small country, we don’t get to be World Champions at a lot of things, so this is something special. And I think the success has inspired more players to strive for greatness.

I also think that the sudden burst is kind of a coincidence. Martin Dang has been a powerhouse for a long time. He Top 8’d almost every PTQ, but he also lost in the Top 8 of all of them. Then suddenly, all his wins came at once—first with a GP, then the Pro Tour. And that happened to be the same season where we won the World Magic Cup. It’s really fortunate that our breakthroughs happened at the same time. Now we get to work together with Team EUreka for the Pro Tours, which makes our level spiral upward even more.

With the mindset that we have in Denmark, and the motivation from seeing fellow countrymen do well, it’s only a matter of time before some of our uncut diamonds dig themselves up from the ground. I know a lot of players here who consistently do well in smaller tournaments, and given time, some of them will break through with some very solid Grand Prix or even Pro Tour finishes.

Q: What’s up with your trademark tie? Is that a lucky charm? Or does it go along with your curly, unruly hair as an expression of your character?

Simon: At the World Magic Cup 2014, I wore my red tie with a smattering of random buttons for the Top 8 play-offs. With the triple-topdeck that got us out of the final game, which we didn’t have any hope of winning, I proclaimed myself the World’s Luckiest Magic Player. 
I was told that the Twitch-chat went crazy over my tie, and I decided to keep the tie on at every Premier Level event I play in as part of my image. It ties my name to something and makes me more more recognizable. It’s also the theme of my stream, where I wear it every Thursday.

And it always reminds me of that special day in December 2014 when I lost all my rights to ever complain about top decks.

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