I asked for suggestions on what to write about on Twitter, and I got a lot of interesting topics that were too short to make an article. I decided, then, that I’d just write an article talking about those short topics and a few other questions.
How does your Magic self differ from yourself a few years ago and from players like Reid today?
I guess you could say that, right now, I just play less Magic. When I was younger, I used to play a lot. I played every day—on Magic League, with friends, at the store. When I had a tournament, I simply increased the preparation I did. Nowadays, I play very little and then, one or two weeks before a tournament, I get together with the rest of the team and play a lot.
I think that strategically speaking, I have not changed. I’ve always been very good at understanding what is going on, at noticing when I have to deviate from the norm, at realizing very early if a game is going to be about a big guy, a lot of small guys, card advantage, tempo, life, and so on, and I am still good at knowing when I have to be aggressive or when I have to be defensive.
My execution, however, has certainly suffered. First, I encounter fewer situations than I did before. Some things you will only do once, but you will do once—like trying to bounce a manland with Primal Command, for example. It’s not the kind of thing you think about—you just do it, and then it doesn’t work (because they animate it and Command says noncreature), and then you never do it again for the rest of your life because you remember. Before, the first time I’d do it would be in practice, and nowadays the first time I do something like that might be in the tournament. I also make a lot more mistakes from not being extremely familiar with all the interactions, and I am noticeably slower at doing combat math than I was before. A couple years ago, I’d topdeck a spell and I’d know they were dead, and now I have to double count everything to make sure I haven’t messed up. Whether that is strictly a function of me playing less Magic than I did before, or something else (like getting old?) I do not know.
I think Reid—and to an extent Owen and Huey—are like I was when I was younger, except they play even more than I did. I’ve stayed with them on two separate occasions for a week and there wasn’t a single day where I wouldn’t say they played a lot—Constructed, Sealed decks, Magic Online, some sort of Cube drafting. They really dedicate a lot more than I do and it shows in their results.
“But PV, why don’t you dedicate as much as you did before, then?” Well, the short answer is I don’t feel like it’s worth it. Magic is at a point now where everyone at the PT is good and the cards and formats are very swingy, which, coupled with the fact that there are diminishing returns in preparation, means I would have to dedicate a lot more than I do now for a little gain. In the end, I feel like the payoff just isn’t there. I don’t enjoy playing Magic 24/7 anymore. I still like playing Magic, obviously. I like the time I spend at tournaments and the time I spend preparing with my team very much, I like all of my Magic friends, I still read almost every Magic article on major websites—but to play Magic every day would, at this point, be strictly a job for me. If I’m going to put full-time-job hours into something, then I want to be paid accordingly, and I unfortunately don’t think Magic is right there. If they were to increase prize payout substantially, then I could see myself dedicating as much again.
What would be the optimal point structure for GPs/PTs, balancing amateur and professional goals?
This is an interesting question. I don’t know the answer to this—there is a lot of information I don’t have—so I can only guess and speak from the professional point of view, for the most part. I think that, right now, Pro Points are skewed enormously toward PTs. Sure, you want people who are going to be Platinum to have done well at PTs, but you need to Top 8 four GPs to get more points than a PT Top 16! If you win a GP, you get fewer points than a PT Top 25. If you win a team GP, you get as many points as a PT Top 50. I don’t think this should be the case—I think they should try to balance it out more so that GPs count for more.
There is also too big a discrepancy between finishes that are effectively identical. Getting 23rd or 27th is not that different, but right now you get a full four fewer Pro Points if you finish 27th, even though you likely have the same record. Four Pro Points is a GP Top 8! The gap to Top 16 is even bigger—a full five between 16th and 17th. This leads to people being scared of playing their last round, because losing and being knocked out of Top 16/Top 25 is such a huge deal, and I’ve seen people who could actually play for Top 8 draw instead, which I don’t think should happen.
The other thing is the GP cap. I like the cap and what it’s trying to do, but I think there has to be some incentive for the people who already have five good finishes and just want to play more. If William Jensen goes to another GP and Top 8s another time, he shouldn’t just get 0 points—he should get something. I also think the World Magic Cup and the World Championship should be included in the cap. You get, for example, 7 results, and they can be whatever you do better at. That way, people who get a lot of points in those tournaments will still have an advantage, but the people who can’t play them can at least catch up because they have two more GP slots to fill.
How do you test sideboarded games?
Generally, we try to come up with a sideboard that would be reasonable and then we see how many slots we have for a particular matchup—it doesn’t need to be your exact sideboard, but you need to know if you can afford two cards or eight cards. Then, we discuss what cards could be good, and try different variations.
For PT Atlanta, for example, we wanted to try a lot of different cards in the BUG versus Esper matchup—we had seven slots, and we knew we would likely play 3-4 counterspells and 3-4 other things, so we changed our decks and rotated the “other things” slots. Sometimes we’d even start a card in our opening hand to see if it was good. At some point, we had Pain Seers, but I was always drawing them in the very late game when they were useless—we needed to see if they were good enough early on (to make up for the fact that they were bad late). Rather than just playing a lot of games until I drew them, we just put one in my hand, and when that turned out to be bad as well we could dismiss it very quickly.
Is it OK to just give up on a matchup?
Yes, as long as it’s not the biggest deck. You can’t beat everything, and if it takes a lot of sideboard cards to go from 20% to 30%, then just don’t do it.
Do you play casual formats at all? Multiplayer?
Very rarely. I enjoy casual formats sometimes—I’ll play Cube, Mental Magic—but I don’t do it often nowadays. As for multiplayer, it depends. I like the ones where you have established teams (such as 2HG, a three-man team format we call Emperor, and so on), but I don’t like free-for-all games; they just quickly become political games where “I’m not going to kill your guy so you don’t counter my spell” or “pump my guy so we attack this person” and I don’t enjoy that at all.
Have you played Conspiracy?
I have not. I would play if I were literally teleported to a room where people were setting it up, but I just don’t feel like going all the way to my local store and paying large amounts of money to play it. I also think I would enjoy it a lot more playing with friends than with people I barely know, and most of my Magic friends do not live here.
Do you think there is any reason to still have a Block PT? If not what would you replace it with (all Limited, Legacy, Teams)?
I like that the Block format gives you an idea of what the new Standard is going to look like, as well as highlighting the cards from the new set better than Standard does—those are its two biggest strengths. The big weakness, of course, is that nobody plays Block, so nobody really cares. I personally enjoy playing it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they cut it in the near future. I don’t think we want an all-Limited PT—watching coverage for that is just so boring—and I don’t think Legacy is viable due to card availability and the fact that you don’t want to incentivize a scenario where everyone converges to the same deck. Teams would be great. I think Team Constructed where you play three different formats, for example, would be a good way to have Block be part of a PT.
Are you still of the opinion that White Weenie is unplayable or has your opinion changed in the past few years?
The cards for White Weenie have gotten better (stuff like Soldier of the Pantheon, Precinct Captain, Brimaz, Brave the Elements) , so I think the deck is better now. It still has most of the problems it did before (doesn’t kill quickly enough and can’t stop anyone from doing anything), but less so. I still don’t like it, and I can’t recall a format where I thought White Weenie was close to the best deck to play (unless you count Tempered Steel), but it would be silly to say it’s unplayable.
Do you still live in Brazil?
Are you excited about the World Cup?
No, not really. I don’t like Soccer and I think people make too big a deal out of it in this country.
Who do you think is the best player in the world right now?
Tough question, because I think people play in ranges. The best player in a tournament is not necessarily the best player in another. I like to rank people in tiers, not in absolute numbers. My “tier 1” nowadays has about 15-20 players who I think could all be the best player in the world at any given moment. If I absolutely must pick one player, I’d pick Owen.
Is there a ‘best’ way to approach you as a fan for signatures etc.? Do you differ from other pros?
I think most pros are very approachable and I’ve never seen anyone be unhappy to be asked to sign something, no matter the situation—just go ahead and ask.
What is your Magic Online rating?
1812 Limited and 1687 (!) Constructed. I almost never play and when I do I rarely win 🙁
Do you agree that each country or region has its own metagame or way of approaching deckbuilding?
A little bit. Much less so today than a couple years ago. A while ago, you could clearly notice that the Japanese metagame was more control-based, for example; they would show up to tournaments with decks that were clearly geared towards beating other control decks, with many more counterspells than anyone else, and so on. I think right now you see some difference in the Legacy metagames between the US and Europe, or so I am told, but I don’t think it’s very drastic.
Why is Jund one of the most played decks in every possible Modern/Extended format, even if it is not supported by actual results?
I think it’s mostly the fact that you have answers to anything, and there is nothing that destroys you. When you play Jund, there is nothing you fear—you know you will be able to play Magic in almost all of your rounds, and that is a great feeling.
Is Magic: the Gathering a physical game?
If I had to classify Magic between mental or physical, it would certainly be mental, but I do believe there is a physical component to it, because your mind can’t work as well as it should if you aren’t physically well. Magic is a very complicated game and it requires you to be well-rested. Tournaments take a very long time and are very exhausting, and you will almost always play worse in the later rounds because you’re so tired. I don’t think it’s necessary to be super fit, to exercise a lot, to eat extremely well, to drink a certain amount of water per day, but I think it’s important to sleep well and to maintain a minimal amount of stamina to endure the long days.
Do LSV’s puns ever get old?
Dear God yes.
Under what conditions, if ever, do you sideboard in more cards than you take out?
I have never done it and I can’t imagine it’s ever optimal, but I could see doing it if I have absolutely no idea of what to take out and want to hedge a little bit. Ok, I’m lying—I could never see myself personally doing it, I’d just cut something—but I could see how other people might do it and it might not be atrocious.
Will we see Duskmantle Seer in any format soon?
Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I was in the process of building an UB deck in Modern that had Duskmantle Seer in it, but then they banned Deathrite Shaman and it didn’t look like the deck would work without it (also unclear whether it’d work with it…).
How has being a pro player affected your personal life?
It’s hard to remember a time when I was not a pro player, so it’s hard for me to say how my life would have been if I wasn’t. It certainly impacts everything I do. My life is very different than most other young people’s. I had a job before I had even left school, for example. I think you can see the discrepancy now that I’m graduating college; for most of my classmates, graduating is the beginning of something—they can now start working “good jobs,” they can begin their Masters/PHDs, they can use what they spent years learning. For me, it’s not a beginning, it’s just an ending—graduating means I don’t have to go to school anymore, and that’s basically it. I’ll not use my degree for anything, I have no plans, I will continue doing what I did throughout all my college years, which was to play Magic.
Would you agree on fetchlands being overall bad for the game of Magic?
Not really. I like formats with good mana and they give you that. I wish we could have good mana without all the shuffling, but I don’t think they are bad for Magic. People say “everyone can play three colors with minimal costs” as if that is a bad thing, but I think what is bad is when people can’t do that.
Do you keep notes from your test games? Do you have any efficient way to take note for things during a game without losing your focus?
I would never take notes during a game. Anything you want to write down, you write down after it’s finished. I very rarely take notes outside of match results (e.g.: RUG vs. BUG, 7-5) but I always try to see why things are happening the way they are, what matters, and so on. I never take notes on that, I just think and then we talk. Sometimes, though, we decide to post our thoughts on the format in our team forum so that we can share them with people who aren’t there, which forces me to write things down.
Outside of Pro Tours, how much of your deck decision is based on theory-crafting, how much is based on other tournament results, and how much of it is actual playtesting?
The most important thing to me is theory-crafting. I think I’m very good at it and I put a lot of weight on my own opinion of things. Results are also very important, but I don’t think we play enough matches of Magic to go solely on results. When results and theory-crafting conflict, I will talk to other people and, if they also seem to think something different than the results we got, I will usually go with what seems right rather than what happened. I put very little weight in other tournament results because I don’t trust people to play the decks (both theirs and the opposition) as well as my teammates.
Have you played Hearthstone?
I have—I started last week. It seems interesting so far; it’s very similar to Magic with some key differences that take a little to get used to. Sometimes the random effects are extremely frustrating, but not having mana problems is very nice.
Top current LoL ban choices?
If I’m first pick, I’ll always ban Yasuo and Braum, and then a third depending on what my team wants to play.
Well, that’s what I’ve got for today. Thank you for the questions, and see you next week!