Every time I ask for suggestions on Twitter or Facebook, I always get plenty of topics that are way too small for an article—some of them I can even answer in a single tweet. So, today I’m going to group all those questions together and do a Mailbag article. I rather like doing this kind of article because it lets me address what people really want to know, and as I’m answering the questions, I can elaborate on certain topics without needing the inspiration to come up with them all on my own.
How would you prepare for a Block Constructed PT without working with a team? How well do you think you would do at the PT?
It’s very rare that someone qualifies for a Pro Tour and has exactly zero people to playtest with—you might not be a formal team, you might not meet beforehand, but you will always know someone who is going and willing to play with you (or that is just willing to play with you, but if they are also going it’s better). For years I didn’t have a team. I just played with my friends online, some were qualified and some weren’t. Magic Workstation is a great tool for that because you don’t need the cards, and the set is available before it’s on Magic Online, then a week later you can start using MtGO.
If I didn’t have a formal team, I would probably do worse than if I did, but not much worse—I didn’t have a team for many years and I did pretty well. If you know absolutely zero people willing to play with you, then Magic Online is your best resource, but if you don’t have the cards and don’t want to spend the money you can also try Magic League. In any case, I’d recommend playing some Block before the third set is out, because you can do that already and it will give you a good base to work with.
Any changes you would make to Magic (design, OP, etc.) to improve it?
It’s hard for me to answer this because I am extremely biased. When I give feedback on OP stuff, I am considering my perspective, but if I actually had the power to change things myself then I would need a lot more information. The thing I know I would definitely change is to make the “sleep-in special” mandatory and free of charge. I think it’s absurd that we have to effectively pay a fine to skip the player meeting.
Things that I think could be changed:
• More team tournaments. Everyone loves those.
• The mulligan rule in Limited. I’m not sure how, but there has to be a way for a mulligan to 5 to be better—perhaps mulliganing could just go from 7 to 6, then to 6 again (then to 5, to 5, etc). In Constructed, this is harder because some decks would benefit a lot more and maybe become too degenerate, but in Limited I think this is not a danger and would make the experience more pleasant. A free mulligan on a 7-lander or 7-spells also does not seem unreasonable.
• More pro levels. Right now, there is a level that gets nothing (Silver), a level that gets almost nothing (Gold), and a level that gets everything (Platinum). That sucks for the people who fall very short.
• Moving the WMCQs in certain markets (geographically big countries mainly) to one event instead of three.
Do you have any “lucky charms?”
Summary of thoughts on connection of MtGO to the Pro Tour regarding Organized Play?
My thoughts on the subject are basically this—you either merge all the way or not at all. I think it’s nice that you have PTQs and that the seasonal MOCS winners are qualified for the PT, but I can’t comprehend why the same is not done in the other direction. I don’t like, for example, that I have to grind 35 QPs to play a MOCS qualifier—I think I already play enough Magic, spend time enough traveling, and do well enough that I shouldn’t have to grind more. As a result, I don’t play the MOCS qualifiers. If you think “they’re different things,” I respect that, but then you have to think they’re different things when it comes to MtGO qualifying for real-life events too. Either you go both ways, or you don’t.
The actual MOCS winner, for example, gets invited to the Players Championship. That’s fine, but why doesn’t the Players Championship winner get invited to the MOCS? It seems ludicrous to me that Reid got to play in the Players Championship because of his MtGO results, but Yuuya can’t even play the MOCS qualifier unless he grinds QPs.
If I could change things, I would continue increasing the benefits MtGO has on real-life tournaments and I would give real-life results some weight on MtGO—you could just automatically invite Gold players to the MOCS and give Silver some amount of QPs per month, for example. I think it’d be cool if you got one QP/month per Pro Point you got the previous season (so everyone with 35+ pro points is auto-qualified, and people with less need less QPs), but that’s probably very hard to implement. I would definitely invite the World Champion for the final MOCS tournament.
How did you get good enough to win a PTQ? What local tournaments did you play, articles, how’d you practice, etc?
PTQs back then were a lot easier than they are now, but the main idea is still the same—play as much as you can. I practiced a lot, and I played every local tournament we had. There weren’t many, but I also played every day on Magic-League and with friends (back when people used Apprentice), and that helped me improve a lot. I’ve always read a ton of articles (even today, I at least skim through a bunch of articles every day to keep up with what is happening). In the end, there isn’t a magical formula—you just have to play until you understand why things are happening, then you play some more.
What does your routine look like on Day One of a GP? Of a Pro Tour?
It’s fairly simple… if I don’t have the sleep-in special, then I wake up very early, without having slept much (I have a very hard time with jetlag and adapting my sleep schedule. Even if there is no time-zone difference, the long flights throw me off), go to the event, do whatever I have to, and go for some sort of brunch. We always say breakfast, but always end up having lunch. Then I go back and hang out until round 4 starts. I don’t like playing a draft, for example, because it will put my mindset into a deck that won’t be the one I’m playing at the GP. If I have a Sealed deck, then sometimes I play some matches with it.
If I have the sleep-in special, then I wake up very late and go for brunch. It’s important to get a good meal if you have the opportunity, because you probably won’t eat anything other than a light snack for the next 12 hours or so.
After the tournament is over, I like going for some place quick to eat, such as McDonalds (though my friends don’t like this particular one). I’m generally very tired by then and collapse in bed.
For Pro Tours, it’s basically the same, except I’ve generally had more time to adapt to the jetlag, since we get there a couple days earlier. There is no power lunch, so I survive off of light snacks (sometimes we have a good breakfast), but Pro Tours usually have no delays and finish very early so you can have a proper dinner.
What’s your take on streaming? Do you think it is good for the game? Should Wizards get on board?
I think streaming is very interesting, and I don’t see how it would be bad for the game. I don’t stream myself because I don’t think I’d be good enough at it—I think people would just be bored and leave. I also don’t think my computer would support it right now, though I’ll get a new one soon. I think WOTC has no reason to not get on board.
After a relatively poor season, how do you see your professional Magic future?
Honestly, I don’t know. It’s going to depend on Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze. If I don’t do well, I might step back and just go to the PTs next year.
Do you have any other interest besides MTG? Sports, hobby, etc?
A couple. I like a lot of games and I’ve played a lot of hours of Diablo II, Heroes III, DOTA, Baldur’s Gate 2 and so on. I like Bridge a lot (Bridge is another card game, though it’s played with a normal deck. It’s easy to learn and very hard to master, I recommend giving it a try), and I have played in two junior Latin American Championships and one Junior World Championship. I stopped being a junior this year, though, so I’ll have a much harder path ahead of me.
As far as sports go, the only one I really like watching and can play reasonably well is volleyball. When they asked at the Players Championship about my favorite team, I answered the Brazilian Women’s Volleyball team. A lot of people thought I was joking, but they’re actually my favorite team from any sport, I watch them whenever I can and I’ve been to some games too.
What is your favorite format and why?
I really like Limited, both Sealed and drafting, because they’re always different and present a new challenge every time. As far as Constructed goes, my favorite format is Block. I like it because the smaller card pool makes certain cards playable, when they wouldn’t be in a more powerful format. Take Vintage, for example—the card pool is enormous, but the cards that you can play are actually very few, because the other cards are too powerful. In Block, the card pool is smaller, but you can play a much higher % of the cards you have access to. The past two Block formats have been bad because of bad mana, but I think things will change with this new one.
I’m really curious about your English skills. Do all Brazilians speak English like you? How can you master English?
Most teenagers/young adults speak some English in Brazil, though I am better at it than most. People don’t have a ton of opportunities to practice around here, so they can read it just fine but can’t write or speak perfectly. Older people do not speak it very well—my mother and my father don’t speak it at all for example.
The best way to learn most things is to practice, and a language is no different. I studied English at school, but I really learned from playing Magic, talking to people online, traveling and reading books. If you want to learn and do not have foreign friends to practice with, I’d recommend just reading more—you do not need to read Shakespeare, any modern novel will do. You can even start with one that you’ve already read in your native language and then move to new ones after that—not only will it improve your English but it’ll likely be a better read.
How many MTG shops are there in Brazil? Do people know about MTG?
I don’t know how many there are, but I’m sure it’s a small amount, and many of the shops just sell cards but don’t have playing space. I live in a city with around 1.5 million people and there is not a single place you can go and sit to play. For every tournament, they have to rent a space. Most people have absolutely no idea what MTG is, but I imagine that’s the same for most countries.
When should I draw first?
In Constructed, pretty much never. You should draw when the matchup is all about attrition and not about speed at all, but I can’t remember the last time that was true in Constructed—most of the time people choose to draw they’re making a horrible mistake.
In Limited, more often. If your deck has bad mana and you think your opponent won’t be able to punish you for it, then I’d consider drawing. In Sealed deck, that’s a lot more common. For Gatecrash, my general rule is that if there is Simic, Boros, or Gruul in the match on either side, then I want to play—so I draw in most Orzhov mirrors, Dimir mirrors, or Dimir versus Orzhov.
Modern: Love it or hate it, and why? What can be done in your eyes to improve the format?
I hate it. A lot of people argue that, “Modern is very diverse, so it’s great,” which is not entirely accurate. I agree that Modern is very diverse, but I disagree that being diverse is a sufficient condition to make it great. I strongly dislike the gameplay in Modern—I feel like I’m flipping coins every match. Matchups matter tremendously, and so do sideboard cards—more than anything a person can do in a match.
I also think the diversity is sometimes an illusion. Imagine I’m playing Eggs versus GW, or Jund with white, or Naya, or Doran, or White Weenie—those decks all feel the same despite technically being different archetypes. They have differences, but those differences are not very relevant. All that matters is whether they draw their sideboard cards or not. Simply put, I would rather play against the best player in the world, with the most tuned list of a deck, and have him not draw his [card]Stony Silence[/card], than play against a bad player, with a bad list when they do draw [card]Stony Silence[/card]. This is not only true for Eggs. Affinity, Scapeshift, Tron are all similar. I don’t like this, so I don’t like the format.
“Well you could just not play one of those decks.” True, that’s what I tried to do when I played Jund. The problem is that other people will play those decks, and then I will be put in the exact same spot. Am I good? Do I have a good list? It doesn’t matter, all that matters is whether I draw [card]Sowing Salt[/card].
I have absolutely no clue what could possibly be done to change it. I’ve been playing Modern for over a year now and I have not enjoyed it in a single tournament.
Do you think Eggs will have some card banned?
I don’t think so, though I wouldn’t shed a tear if it did. The deck is certainly not broken, so any bans would be for time issues, like Top. I still think you can play Eggs relatively quickly though—I played an entire GP with it and never went to time. Maybe they should just ban slow players instead.
Does intuition play a big role in your decisions regarding a specific tournament or are you more into rationalizing every little step of the process?
Intuition definitely plays a big role, but that is because I’ve already rationalized things before. If you look at intuition as something mystical then it feels silly, but if you look at it as years of similar situations being processed by your subconscious then it makes sense to follow it. If it’s a situation that makes me think, then I rationalize a lot, but if a play comes immediately to my mind and does not seem weird, then I just follow it most of the time. That’s part of the reason why I play very quickly most turns, but when I do pause I take a very long time.
Do you have any tips on how to improve technical skill and deckbuilding when you live in an extremely rural area and your budget doesn’t allow for MtGO?
You could try Magic Workstation and reading a lot of articles. I would honestly not worry much about improving deckbuilding at this point.
How much time do you put into preparing for an event?
It depends on the event. I always read a lot of articles, but sometimes I put zero actual playtesting time if I have already played the format before. For PTs, I test a lot, since it’s a new format (usually about a week of testing, about 8 hours a day), but as the format becomes established I start testing less and less.
What do you think we (South Americans) can do to get near the pro level, since here we have much less tournaments and the prices of the cards are much higher?
It’s tough. We have a lot less opportunities. Magic Online is a great tool for South Americans because it gives you people to play with and competitive events to play into, which is something we lack, and it adds 10 PTQs or so a season, so I’d definitely recommend playing it.
Since there are so few opportunities, you have to make them count. This applies to PTQs (you only have 1-2 a season—practice!), but also to the period after you win one. A lot of people here are used to their local communities, and they’re pretty decent for PTQs, but they’re not yet on the PT level. Because this is all they know and they usually excel at it (and because they’ve just won the PTQ), they think they’ve got it all covered and don’t practice much, especially drafting—they expect to go to the PT and rock it. Then they get there, don’t do very well, and never come back. If you get the chance to play in a high-level event, make sure you don’t underestimate it.
Why lands in front?
I’ve already written about this, but I get this question so often that I’m just going to quote my previous article:
“The reason I play with my lands before my spells is obviously because I was taught to play that way, and I’ve always played that way. Lately, though, some people have been vocal about it, which baffles me—you see, to me, this is not a factor at all and I would never have mentioned it if people weren’t bringing it up—if my opponents play with their lands before their spells or otherwise, it makes absolutely no difference in how I play. I’m fairly certain that I have never lost a game because they played one way or another—the method itself is certainly not confusing.
The argument that the relevant cards are away from you is true, but so is the one that you’re not going to miss anything relevant even it’s far from you. In fact, I’d argue that, for this purpose, my method is actually better… you see, you’re never going to forget their creatures—they are important. You don’t need to constantly being reminded of them due to physical proximity, you are reminded of them because you interact with them. No one has ever attacked their 4/4 into a [card]Shivan Dragon[/card] and said “oh, I forgot you had played [card]Shivan Dragon[/card], it’s sitting on the back”—you can’t forget [card]Shivan Dragon[/card]. Now, that [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] your opponent played on turn one—that you can forget. The [card]Llanowar Elves[/card] that was inconspicuously grouped with the lands on the back and jumps in for a surprise block? That you attack into. We often don’t pay enough attention to lands—there are usually more lands than creatures, lands are way more similar among themselves than creatures, and lands are grouped way more closely than creatures, so it’s easier to miss them, and by placing my lands before my creatures I’m actually helping you in this regard—yes, out of the kindness of my heart.
And that’s not even to mention control mirrors… no one would honestly look to my face and say their [card]Wall of Omens[/card] is more relevant than their lands in the 5cc mirror. I don’t care about your stupid Wall, I want to see if you have Mana to play [card]Cruel Ultimatum[/card] and [card]Cryptic Command[/card] in the same turn.
And then there is cheating… you see, one of the easiest ways of cheating has got to be with your lands—casting a spell you can’t cast, for example. If your lands are on the back, then it becomes harder to spot. No one is going to be like “tap my [card]Merfolk Looter[/card] to draw a card… oh wait, it’s a Delver, oops”—you know if they have a Looter or not and if they’re using it. But with lands? It’s very conceivable that someone goes “tap UGWW to play [card]Wrath of God[/card]” but it’s actually UGGW so that they keep 1W open for [card]Celestial Purge[/card], for example. Not taking damage from your pain land? Much easier if they’re on the back, and so on.
So, does this mean I think my way is better? No, not really—as I’ve said, I think it doesn’t matter and they’re both the exact same. However, if you do believe that it matters, then I think there are some solid arguments to be made in favor of lands before spells been the “cleaner” one, and stuff that doesn’t consist of “ but I have to stretch my arm farther when I want to [card]Doom Blade[/card] his creature!!!11!1” at that.”
When and what made you go pro in Magic?
Nothing in particular made me go pro, it just sort of happened. I was young enough when I started playing Magic competitively that my parents still paid for everything, and eventually when the time came for me to try to find a job, it turned out I already had one. I never made a conscious decision of “I want to go Pro,” I just played in tournaments, did well, and never needed to do anything else.
Is Shouta Yasooka’s Modern deck from the Players Championship playable in the current Modern meta?
I don’t think so, because I imagine it has a really hard time with [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card].
Is bad luck the only reason your results are lacking? Could it be that your approach to the games has changed? You expect to win more…
I think bad luck is certainly a factor, but it would be silly for me to think it’s the only one—it’s a combination of things. I’m actually going to write a full article on this at some point.
Did gaining HoF status on top of having finally won a PT and GP dampen your desire to win? Or are you just hitting an unlucky patch?
I don’t think it diminished my desire to win in any way. It might lessen my desire to continue playing at some point, because I might feel like I don’t have anything to prove anymore, but I don’t think that’s a factor at this point. It might also impact my GP attendance, since I’m qualified for life, but that’s going to depend on PT Dragon’s Maze.
Does traveling every weekend take a large toll on you?
Well, I don’t really travel every weekend, and it doesn’t really take a large toll on me—traveling (the process) is awful and most people have no idea how long it actually takes me to get somewhere (it’s usually around 24 hours each way), but being in different places is awesome and I really like going to tournaments and meeting my friends, so I think it’s fine. I have major problems with jetlag, but that is going to happen every trip no matter how often I fly. It’s not really a problem of traveling often.
Taylor Swift or Carly Rae Jepsen?
Taylor Swift. I think “Call Me Maybe” is better than any Taylor Swift song, but Taylor Swift has a higher average. That might be because I don’t actually know any other songs by Carly Rae Jepsen though, so I’m just assuming they’re all horrible.
Land or enchantment?
My first choice would have been sorcery/instant, followed by creature, but since I couldn’t get my way I think land is more interesting for You Make the Card. I’m not a real enchantments fan. It seems all the ones I like I only like because they’re busted. You just have to be careful not to make it super powerful, though, since there are basically no ways to get rid of them. Lands can go in way more decks than enchantments, and there are some designs that can be played by all colors—something like this comes to mind, for example:
Comes into play tapped.
Tap: add 1
3: Put this into play from your hand.
When sideboarding—particularly while playing combo or synergy decks—how do you decide to what extent to risk diluting your deck vs. bringing in strong hate cards against your opponent? Also, does this question limit how many cards you play in your board against any one given archetype? Perhaps you can use your recent experience with Eggs as an example? Are you into shaving a land here or there, turning some 4-ofs into 3-ofs, or do you cut entire pieces out of the deck?
This is hard to answer without a specific example, but in general, with combo decks, I don’t like to side in a lot of cards—I usually limit myself to two or three answers to their hate so I don’t dilute my deck. You usually can’t cut entire pieces, so you cut one-ofs. Generally card drawing and tutors, depending on what you’re playing against. With Eggs, I never sided out combo pieces—I always sided out [card]Silence[/card], [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], or [card]Sleight of Hand[/card]. Siding out a land with a deck that already has 17 is very brave.
If you could unmake a mechanic from Magic, what would it be and why?
I despise hexproof with all of my heart. I think it lends to interactions that are not really what I want to do when I play Magic. Affinity is also a great contender for unmaking—I hate how important sideboard cards become when affinity is involved, how luck-based your draws get because you have to play all those bad cards to power your cards up. It also caused a lot of people to dislike Magic when it showed up. I also wouldn’t fault anyone for wanting to unmake dredge, but I think dredge is actually a fine mechanic by itself (cards like [card]Moldervine Cloak[/card] and [card]Darkblast[/card]), and it’s stuff like [card]Bridge from Below[/card], [card]Dread Return[/card], and [card]Narcomoeba[/card] that make it bad.
If you could bring back any past mechanic, which would you pick?
Cycling. Cycling is awesome. It’s never oppressive and it diminishes the amount of non-games you play.
How much of a difference does adding a 4th PT make towards the sustainability of the “pro player lifestyle” (if any)?
A lot, I suppose. Pro Tours are what make pro players—we play GPs so that we can play Pro Tours, the PT is the end-goal. Adding another tournament in which you can actually make money is fantastic.
Why do you never play the best deck if it’s non-interactive aggro? You didn’t play Jund in Modern when it was the best deck and now at GP Rio the same thing happened.
I do. I played Jund in a Modern PT and a Modern GP, and I played Zoo and Tempered Steel before that. I think I’ve been doing a good job of not letting my personal preferences take control of my deck choice.
How do you plan your tournament year? What makes you choose event A over event B, what will make you stay at home, what makes you extend a trip, and has it changed with the HoF induction?
Price is the most important thing to me by far, but price is usually dictated by date and location. I generally try to go to North American tournaments that are either a week apart from the PT or a week apart from another GP—it’s too expensive to travel otherwise. Europe is always too expensive unless I’m already there for a PT, and I never go to Japan because a ticket is over $2,000 and I need a new visa every time I go there.
I’ll stay home if the tickets are too expensive or if I can’t miss any more school. I’ll extend my trip if there are more tournaments or if I want to do tourism. I like doing tourism and knowing new places, but I almost never do that because I’ve already been to most of the places where tournaments are held.
Hall of Fame definitely changes things, because it takes the pressure off of having to get 30 Pro Points. If I weren’t in the Hall of Fame, I’d probably have gone to San Diego, because I’d need the points. Now if I get 44 points or 0 it’s the exact same, so there is a lot less incentive for me to go. This is probably not the intention of giving people Hall of Fame invites, but it is surely a consequence.
What do you think of DeTora being the first ever female to Top 8 a PT, and what impact if any do you think it will have on the game?
I think it’s great, not only because it’s a milestone, but also because I like her. I’m not sure what impact it’s going to have—I’m really not the best person to ask this—but I hope more girls start playing competitively.
If individual player time clocks (like on MTGO) were included in real-world tournament play, do you think it would be an improvement on the current timekeeping method?
Chess Clocks are not feasible. A turn 1 “land-go” includes around 20 priority passes in Magic. If you could have a way to magically determine who is taking the time in every instance, then it’d be great, but I don’t think that’s possible, and any sort of chess clock is not going to work unless it’s perfect, so I’d rather we stay the current way.
Well, that’s what I have for today. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this even if you didn’t send those particular questions. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask on the forums. See you next week,