Top 5: September 2017


Welcome to another top 5, where people give me topics, MTG or otherwise, and I rank the top 5 candidates in that subject. As always, opinions are my own and you’re free to disagree (except for the Olive Garden part where if you disagree you’re just wrong).

Top 5 Things Someone Has Said to Me That Changed How I Think About Magic

5: “Don’t lose to cards they don’t have.” -Willy Edel

This came up when we were testing for PT Charleston in 2006. In this instance, Willy was talking about playing in mortal fear of what the opponent could have, so much so that you end up losing even though they don’t have it. Of course you must strike a balance—you can’t just hope they have nothing at all times—but the sentence really resonated with me because at the time, I was playing a little too conservatively. I wanted to be good, and good people play around things, but I would overdo it so much that I would end up losing because of how I played, and not because of anything they actually had. This helped me find a little more balance, and I like to think that I’m much better today because of it.

4:“Don’t worry about things you can’t control.” -Aniol Alcaraz

I am not 100% on who said this to me, but I think it was Aniol—it certainly happened when we were in a big group in Spain. At the time, we were talking about tiebreakers. I was worried that my tiebreakers weren’t going to be good enough, and then the person told me to stop worrying about it because I couldn’t do anything to change it, so I might as well just let it go. It was valuable advice regarding tiebreakers, but actually applies to a lot of things in MTG, such as pairings and even draws. If you have no control over it, then just let it happen—there’s no point worrying.

3: “Never play a bad ‘something else.’” -Mike Flores

I believe this isn’t a Mike Flores quote, but I originally read about it in one of his articles, and I don’t remember exactly who said it. It refers to the fact that when you have to choose a deck, you shouldn’t play a deck that is simply worse at doing its thing than a deck that already exists.

In Standard, we have Ramunap Red, which is a very good aggressive deck. Now could you build a mono-green aggro deck? You could. You could lead with Frilled Sandwalla, then play Resilient Khenra, Rishkar, and then top it off with a turn-4 Verdurous Gearhulk. You’d probably beat a lot of people with this draw. The problem is that this is just very similar to what Mono-Red is doing, but worse. There is no incentive to play this mono-green deck of mine other than a refusal to play Mono-Red.

Reading this quote has helped make sure that I always play the deck that is the best at doing whatever it is that I want to do. Maybe I’m doing the wrong thing, but I’ll make sure that I’m the best person doing that.

2: “You play a game that has a lot of variance in it. You’re going to do badly a lot of the time—sometimes it’ll be your fault, and sometimes it won’t be. If you play Magic professionally, you have to know this and accept it preemptively. It’s part of your profession.” -Ben Stark

This is not verbatim, but the general idea is there. This is something that Ben told me during my two years of Silver slump, when I was feeling really depressed about the game. Part of my issue was that I hadn’t ever had a bad year before—I hit Platinum in my first pro year, and then continued hitting it (or equivalent at the time) for seven straight years. Then I went straight to Silver for two years in a row—I couldn’t even hit Gold. I wanted to quit because I didn’t think I was good enough anymore. I felt horrible, and I didn’t want to ever feel like that again in the future, so the only solution I found was to not play anymore.

It turned out there was another solution—accept it, and don’t horrible. After talking to Ben (and some other people too, but Ben was the person who made me see it more clearly), I realized that if I just approached things from a different perspective, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad. Obviously I will be upset about losing, but it doesn’t have to devastate me—I can just accept it as the bad that came with the good.

I jumped into MTG again, this time accepting the idea that I could lose. Then once I lost, it didn’t feel so bad, because I was already accepting it as part of what I do. I was already prepared, so it felt normal. Nothing was “happening”—I wasn’t necessarily awful all of a sudden—I was just hitting the bad part of Magic that I had miraculously managed to avoid for so long.

1: “A mana curve is important.” -Guilherme Svaldi

This was, chronologically speaking, the first lesson on this list. It happened when I was very young, playing at the store. At the time, I didn’t understand a lot about Magic and I didn’t own a lot of cards.

There was a boy a year or two older than me who had a very expensive deck, and he always beat me when we played. I felt that it was unfair—he had a bunch of rares that I hadn’t even seen before, like 4 Mahamoti Djinns. Then at some point, he played against the son of the store owner— Guilherme—who was a little older and a much better player than either of us, and he kept losing to a more aggressive deck that went under him. That made me very happy.

After the match, the son of the store owner took the other kid’s deck apart and helped him rebuild it, and in the process he cut 2 of the 4 Mahamoti Djinns for 2 common 1-drops. I watched the whole process, and I was shocked—he was cutting the best card in the kid’s deck! He then explained that you couldn’t afford to play a lot of expensive and powerful cards—you needed to have a curve, you needed to be playing things early on as well, or you’d just die.

This stuck with me, because it meant that I could actually compete without owning all the rares—all I needed to do was build my deck better. It showed me that power (and rares) weren’t everything—there were other things that I had previously never considered that actually were important in determining who won a game of Magic. Of course, for anyone reading this article this will hardly be a lesson at all, as we all understand that mana curve is important these days, but for 9-year-old Paulo, who saw his nemesis lose over and over to a deck with theoretically much worse cards, it was an earth-shattering concept.

Top 5 Tribes

5: Merfolk

LOLOLOL J/K. Everyone knows Merfolk are the worst tribe in Magic.

Real 5: Slivers

Slivers were the most tribal of tribes for a very long time. As a kid, I remember envisioning all of the possible combinations and how big my Slivers were going to get when I had all of them in play, and that was very exciting. They also had the first 5-colored card in Magic in Sliver Queen, and it just made so much sense. Even after I became a little better I still liked them, and I played Counter Slivers in an important local tournament once.

4: Goblins

Goblins are probably Magic’s most iconic tribe. Ever since I started playing, some 20 years ago, there have been Goblin decks. They’re just the quintessential “tribe”—a bunch of bad/small creatures that group together to become better. I don’t recall ever playing a Goblin deck in a big tournament myself, but they’ve always been a fixture and Magic would feel very weird without them.

3: Dragons

Dragons are probably the best creature type, but it’s a bit unfair because they aren’t exactly a “tribe” in Magic. There are a ton of different, awesome Dragons, but they don’t have to go together or anything like that (though there was actually a Block Constructed Dragons deck in Onslaught). For this reason, they get third.

2: Faeries

As far as actual Magic decks are concerned, Faeries is my favorite tribe. I enjoyed playing the Faeries deck far more than I’ve enjoyed playing any other tribe. The fact that you won the games not because the cards were super powerful but because they were tricky was amazing—it kind of symbolized the victory of brains versus brawn to me. You always started the game a bit behind, and then eventually turned the corner, and your opponent never knew what was going on because everything had flash.

The reason Faeries is not number one is because, well, they’ve only had that deck, and as far as tribes go, they’re not exactly iconic. Unlike my number 1 choice:

1: Elves!

Lore-wise, I really like Elves—a species of highly sophisticated, powerful, ancient, and arrogant people who are surrounded by lesser beings and have to deal with their first-world problems. They kind of remind me of myself, minus the ancient and arrogant parts.

In Magic, Elves are great both individually and as a tribe, and the mechanic they are associated with—creatures that make mana—is super fun. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember another major mechanic that is so associated with a creature type. Lately, the mana creatures haven’t even been Elves but we all call them Elves anyway.

Collectively, they’re also a versatile tribe—you can have the Goblin-type of tribal with “swarms and lords,” like the B/G Elves deck in Modern, or you can have “sweet and different” tribal, like the Heritage Druid/Glimpse decks in Legacy. The combination of several ways to play them, plus great lore, plus good individual specimens, makes them number 1 in my book.

Top 5 Items at the Olive Garden

It’s hard to choose between so many great options, but here are my favorites:

5: Chicken Scampi

Breaded chicken with wine sauce over angel hair pasta. You can get shrimp here too, but I usually order the chicken because the shrimp one doesn’t come with a whole lot of shrimp.

4: Chicken Alfredo

My go-to dish, though I actually order a bunch of different things randomly. I’m a big fan of chicken and a big fan of white sauces (I don’t like red sauces that much), and Chicken Alfredo is both. Over angel hair too, of course, because that’s the best pasta.

3: The FREE chocolate mints

As if the food wasn’t already delicious, you can get FREE chocolate mints for dessert? Wow, is there anything the Olive Garden isn’t the best at?

Sometimes they don’t bring it to you, but the real Olive Garden pros know to ask for them when that’s the case. If you do the secret Olive Garden salute that only the members of the Olive Garden club know then you get extras, but I’m not even supposed to be telling you this.

2: The Breadsticks

I think I like Olive Garden’s breadsticks more than any other bread in any other chain, including Red Lobster’s biscuits which are, like, the biggest reason to go to Red Lobster. The best part is that they’re unlimited!

1: Zuppa Toscana

This is the best soup ever. It’s got a lot of potatoes and sausage, and a spicy kick to it, while still staying in soup form rather than a cream. It also comes with any entree and is unlimited! Sometimes I go to the Olive Garden and eat just soup and breadsticks.

If you’re tired of the Zuppa Toscana after your third bowl you can ask for the Chicken Gnocci soup. It’s still good (more creamy) but the Zuppa is much better.

Top 5 Game Losses I’ve Received

It isn’t that common to get a game loss, but I’ve been playing for over 20 years, so it’s bound to happen from time to time—some fairly, and some unfairly.


My most recent game-loss. It happened in a Sealed Grand Prix about two years ago. I drew a sideboard card in the middle of game 1, then I called a judge and got a game loss.


At my first Pro Tour (Worlds in Berlin, 2003), I forgot to register basic lands in my draft deck. Oops. Back then, that was actually a match loss! Magic is way less harsh these days.


This was one of my first big tournaments, Brazilian Nationals 2001. I had just turned 14. I had a decent record, and got paired against a notoriously shady player. We split the first 2 games, and before game 3 he counted my deck and called a judge because I had 39 cards. I told the judge I was sure I had 40 previously. We went through my deck and figured out that the missing card was the card my opponent had taken with Mesmeric Fiend game 2. My opponent “went through his stuff” and didn’t find anything, and the judge gave me a game loss, despite my protests that clearly he had taken the card.


At the last year of Brazilian Nationals, I was down a game in a match for Day 2 when my opponent played a card and said something that I understood to mean as “go” in a spot where he could clearly be passing the turn. I untapped, drew, and he called a judge, saying he hadn’t passed the turn—he had just said the name of the card he just played, which was similar to the Portuguese word for “go,” and made a motion that was similar to the one that indicates you’re passing the turn.

We called a judge and I was given a warning, and something happened to the card. I thought that was unfair because it really seemed like he was passing the turn and I figured it was at least both our faults, so I appealed. The head judge came and gave me a game loss instead. I argued for about half an hour. The people on both sides of my table said they also thought he was passing the turn, and a judge from his city said that, “yeah, when he plays Commander everyone always thinks he’s passing the turn. It’s the way he talks and the gestures he makes—it’s funny.” None of that helped and I was given the game loss and eliminated from the tournament.


In a GP trial, I was playing a Psychatog deck and accidentally registered 4 Nightscape Apprentice rather than Nightscape Familiar. I got deck checked round 2, which led to a game loss and I was forced to replace them, so I actually played a ‘Tog deck with 4 Nightscape Apprentices for almost all of the tournament. And I won the GPT! Turn 1 Nightscape Apprentice, turn 2 Standstill new meta.

Top 5 Brazilian Dishes That I Love

There isn’t really big traditional Brazilian cuisine like there is in Italian or Japanese. At least, not in the region I live in. Our biggest “food item” is probably just steak, and that’s very generic and exists everywhere. That said, there are unique food items that I like and you’ve probably never eaten, or perhaps not in the way we eat them here:

5: Pastel

You might know this food as empanadas, except our version of it—the pastel—is fried. The usual flavors are cheese and minced meat, but you can fill it with basically anything you want. To give you an idea, last week I went to a pastel place and I got two: one filled with potatoes, cheese, garlic and pepperoni, and the other filled with banana, cinnamon, and dulce de leche.

4: Cachorro Quente (Hot Dog)

Whenever I go to the U.S. and I ask for a hot dog, I’m disappointed. It’s just a bun with the cooked sausage and, if you’re lucky, a bit of mustard. It’s dry and almost inedible. Our hot dogs are much more interesting. They have multiple sauces, cheese, corn, thin fried potatoes (or even mashed potatoes depending on where you’re from), and often two sausages. This makes them a lot more juicy and a meal on their own instead of just a snack.

3: Chicken Heart

I don’t know how common it is to eat chicken heart in other places. I’ve seen it before in the U.S., but only in Brazilian steakhouses. In my state, we eat it a lot. We eat it in barbecues and we often put it in things like pizzas or burgers.

2: Pizza

Obviously pizza exists everywhere, but of all the countries I’ve been to, none has ever produced a pizza nearly as good as the one I find in Brazil (and Italy is probably around the bottom when it comes to pizza. Fight me, Andrea Mengucci).

The first part I like is the way it’s served. A lot of pizza places here are called Rodizios, which is the same system the steakhouses use where the waiters go around with several pizzas and you just get whichever ones you want as much as you want. Think Fogo, but with pizza instead of meat.

The second is the topping. We have so many and they’re so interesting as to make other pizzas boring. Italian pizza is just cheese and sauce with maybe a slice of pepperoni on it if you’re lucky. American pizza is either just cheese or “super supreme” kind of meats that blend everything together and taste like nothing at all. Our pizzas are different and the flavors are defined. We have things like sirloin pizza, chicken with cream cheese pizza, chicken heart pizza, salmon pizza, six cheese pizza, shrimp pizza, heart of palm pizza, strogonoff pizza, and so on. And then, of course, my favorite, the dessert pizzas. Chocolate strawberry, white chocolate with nuts, banana with dulce de leche, Nutella, M&Ms, ice cream, and so on.

1: Brigadeiro

This is our signature dessert. It’s the most simple thing you can have, and you can find it at all children’s parties. It’s basically baked condensed milk. Where I live, we call them negrinho and branquinho, which means roughly “little black” and “little white,” for the version with and without chocolate, respectively. I like the one without chocolate a little bit more, but it’s sweeter, so you can’t eat as many.

Top 5 Magic Players of All Time

Honorable Mention: All of Japan

There won’t be a Japanese player in my top 5 all time (spoiler alert), but I think 5 through 10 would be Kamiel Cornelissen and four Japanese players (four of Kenji, Shota, Yuya, Oiso, and Shuhei)

5: Gabriel Nassif

Nassif has 9 PT Top 8s and is a renowned deck builde. He had a period of time in which he didn’t dedicate a lot, but he seems to be back now with regular streams, and he even qualified for the MOCS about a month ago, so we’ll probably be seeing a lot more of him again.

4: Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis has fewer PT Top 8s than Nassif, but I think his relative stats like conversion rate and win percentage are better. I’ve also played with him and I know how good he is, and that’s very good—he sees the game in a way few people do and he does it extremely quickly. When he’s practiced, he knows everything that’s going to happen in every game.

3: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

That’s me! I’m biased, of course, but this is where I would objectively put myself. My results and percentages are great, but I still have a ways to go before I can catch numbers 1 and 2.

2: Kai Budde

I think Kai has the most awe-striking stat in the game—7 PT wins. The most anyone else has is 3. He’s also been Player of the Year 4 times. He was completely dominant in a way that I don’t believe anyone else will ever be dominant. I don’t think it’s possible for someone to outclass the competition now as much as he did in his prime. I only regret not being there to see what made him win so much.

1: Jon Finkel

D’oh. For a very long time, I was a proponent of “Kai’s results are more impressive than Finkel’s”—I assumed the “votes” for Finkel were mostly the result of American bias. Lately though, I’ve been convinced that if you have to pick one “top player of all time,” it should be Finkel. He has had no stretch as dominant as Kai’s, but his consistency across multiple points of his career is remarkable, and there’s nothing he doesn’t excel at. He’s a great drafter, great at technical play, at the psychological aspect of the game, and so on. His metrics are also off the charts. He has the highest Top 16 conversion rate, for example, at almost twice the PTs played of the other competitors. To maintain such high numbers with such high sample size is incredible.

Top 5 MTG Interviews

5: Dana Fischer skipping school for Magic tournaments

I don’t think Dana is doing anything wrong here—I’ve also skipped school for tournaments—but Rich’s reaction is super funny. He just looks at the camera and blinks several times in what is probably a signal for people to cut the feed, to no avail.

4: Martin Muller in PT Amonkhet

(Warning: foul language.) Martin Muller messes up (see what I did there?) in this interview, but that’s understandable. What makes it truly great is BDM’s faces:


3: Lukas Jaklovsky in PT Dublin

I don’t have the full video of this, but the gist of the story is that Lukas Jaklovsky played a deck he hadn’t played before, and then Rashad asks him a series of questions about the deck and its matchups and Lukas answers every single time with a version of “I don’t know,” “no clue,” and “no idea.” Here’s a condensed version:

2: Artificer’s Intuition Deck Tech with Greg Hatch

I’ve watched this deck tech like 5 times and I still have no idea how this deck works. I think he loses me at “every time you do this you get two thirds of a mana.”

1: Tomi Hovi, 1997

This is a very funny interview, and I’m not sure exactly whose fault it was—Maro’s, who kept asking questions that weren’t questions or “how do you feel,” or Hovi’s, who just answered “yes” to everything.

Top 5 Fantasy Writers That are Not Well Known

I’ve done a variety of “Top 5 books” already, so this time I’m going to focus on the writers, and instead of listing people like J.K Rowling, Brandon Sanderson, or Robert Jordan, I’m going to try to list my favorite authors that you might not know about. All of the writers I selected have multiple series that I’ve enjoyed, so you know it’s the author that I like and not one particular book, and every time they release a new book I pay attention to it.

5: Maria V. Snyder

Series I liked:

Poison Study (3 books and then 2 more)

Touch of Power (3 books)

Maria V. Snyder’s books are lighthearted and very interesting. Both Poison Study and Touch of Power are a little different than anything I’ve seen, though they aren’t “groundbreaking” in any way, and her characters are relatable. I’ve also read her Glass series, but I didn’t enjoy that one that much (though it was still good).

4: Jennifer Fallon

Series I liked:

The Demon Child (3 books)

The Immortal Prince (4 books)

I enjoyed both trilogies a lot, and they were very different from each other. The first one is more traditional fantasy, but I like its spin on godhood. The second one is more out of the box, especially in the later books, and the concepts behind it and how it deals with immortal beings are very interesting.

3: Anne Bishop

Series I liked:

Black Jewels (3 books, and then 5 more)

The Others (5 books so far)

Black Jewels is a completely crazy series, alternating stories in several realms including Hell. If you can get past the dull character names, it’s very enjoyable, but it might not be for everybody. The Others is more “normal,” but still completely crazy. It’s set in a world where supernatural creatures rule the earth, and humans are trying to survive in the little space they’re given. The interesting twist is that the main characters are the supernatural creatures, and the humans are the villains!

2: Trudi Canavan

Series I liked:

The Black Magician (3 books, and then 3 more)

Age of the Five (3 books)

Millenium’s Rule (3 books so far)

Trudi Canavan is another lighthearted novelist, contrasting with Anne Bishop from before. She writes more traditional fantasy, and I’ve found her books very enjoyable.

1: Sarah J. Maas

Series I liked:

Throne of Glass (6 books so far)

A Court of Thorns and Roses (3 books)

Both of Sarah J Maas’s book series are among my favorite. The characters are exciting, the plot is interesting, and the writing is good. Both series start slowly, and books 2 and on are better than the first, which mainly introduces the characters. Then with the following books, the world expands and the series becomes a masterpiece. Think similarly to, say, the Sword of Truth series— in book 1 there’s this somewhat small story that is all contained within the first book. It starts and ends there. Then once book 2 starts, you find out that the world is much bigger than what you previously knew, and that the plot of the first book is just a small thing compared to what is really going on.

Throne of Glass is very good throughout, but A Court of Thorns and Roses’s first book in particular isn’t the best. Books 2 and 3 are amazing, though (book 2 in particular is one of the best I’ve read), so it’s worth sticking to.


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