Daniel Ward winning GP Toronto

Meet the Pros: Daniel Ward

Hey Dan and first of all, huge congratulations on your well deserved victory this weekend! For those unfamiliar with you, can you give a quick introduction of your self? From professional life to magical accomplishments.

I am a Veteran of the US Navy, now working for a drug and alcohol recovery center. Magic has always been a passion to me from the kitchen table to the Pro Tour (I just qualified for my 10th). I have now top 8’ed in five Grand Prix and top 8’ed a World Magic Cup Qualifier.

You managed to take down the Grand Prix in Toronto this weeking piloting Green/White Hexproof. Looking at your list, a few card choices stand out. Talk about the Leylines in the main deck, and Dromoka’s Command and the two copies of Seal of Primordium in the sideboard.

The Leylines in the main deck have always been a consideration depending on the metagame. After speaking with friends about the deck,  I made the decision that it was prime for this weekend. Dromoka’s Command was a card that was put in the deck thanks to my friend and trip mate Chris Juilano. I had room for two cards in my sideboard and wanted them to be high impact. With Command comes so much flexibility and it took us about an hour on the ride up to go over all applications which we obviously missed some. In this tournament I did everything from have my opponent sacrifice his Phyrexian Unlife, prevent all damage from Secure the Wastes (Command needs two targets) and have my opponent sacrifice Search for Azcanta, fight Goblin Guide plus have my opponent lose his Eidolon of the Great Revel. Seal of Primordium was something I’m not a big fan of, but if you watched the finals I’m sure glad I had them. So the big thing is they deal with Chalice of the Void while being on board pumping your creature with Ethereal Armor. Pretty much when it’s good it’s great. Also with Affinity and Lantern being popular they are added hate which is great.

According to my research, this weekend wasn’t the first time you sleeved up hexproof creatures and auras at a Modern tournament. Tell us why it was the right choice for this weekend.

In my opinion, Bogles is always good, but in some cases great. This weekend I really liked it since I thought there would be more hate for Lantern and just simply not enough players willing to pick Lantern up (thank god because that matchup is miserable). Humans performed the best at the Pro Tour and going in to the tournament I thought that matchup was a bye, but I was surprised it was way closer. So I thought people would either play Humans or play a deck that beats Humans which is great for a deck with mostly untargetable creatures.

On the flipsde, which metagame changes would make Bogles a bad choice in the future?

I think if people want to beat any deck in Modern, they can. But Bogles is worse when combo is good. Bogels is by definition a fair deck and has trouble when the unfair ones are at the top.

I know you have enjoyed Standard a lot over the years. If you were to give your best sales speech to convince players to play Standard, despite chaotics printings and bannings the last few years, what would it sound like?

My Standard soap box goes as follows. If you like change and not getting bored with playing the same deck, I think you have found a format to enjoy. It’s wide open right now, and the game play is very fun. I think from a deck building standpoint, it’s also a format that allows a shifting meta game.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf just got unbanned in Modern. Thoughts?

My thoughts are I do not understand why they would do anything to shake up a format that has finaly been stable and awesome for a while. With that said, I think Bloodbraid Elf is fine to come off, and it will have impact, but not change too much. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor I’m just shaking my head. This card is potentially format warping, and I predict it will make it back on the banned list again.

Thank you so much for taking your time to take part in this interview. If you have any sponsor, twitter handle or twitch stream to share, now is the time!

Twitter is @Bigward28, stream shoutout my friend Kappolo42, And lastly #Goonsquad.

Meet the Pros: Simon Nielsen

Simon Nielsen is a Danish professional player. Best known for winning the 2014 World Magic Cup as a member of the Danish national team, at which he famously turned around a seemingly unwinnable game by topdecking the one-of Duneblast (dubbed the “Daneblast”) in a crucial situation.[1] Nielsen also has four Grand Prix top eight finishes, and his best Pro Tour result is a 10th-place finish at PT Eldritch Moon in 2016.mtg.gamepedia.com

Nickname RedButtonTie
Born June 30, 1994
Residence Copenhagen, Denmark
Nationality Denmark.png Danish
Pro Tour debut PT Fate Reforged 2015
Pro Tour top 8s 0
Grand Prix top 8s 4 (0 wins)
Median Pro Tour Finish 110
Pro Tours Played 11
Lifetime Pro Points 117 (as of 2017-11-28)
source mtg.gamepedia.com

Many people might know you as a curly-haired dude wearing silly clothes at Grand Prix and Pro Tours, but I want to hear some background story. Do you remember the turning point where you evolved from a casual player to an aspiring high level player?

As with most evolution over time, I can’t pinpoint an exact spot where I “leveled up”, though back in the beginning of 2011 when I had just started playing (and told myself that I wouldn’t want to invest anything into Magic. Yeah, right…) I randomly tripped over the Top 8 coverage of Pro Tour Paris online and watched it all in one go. I was hooked. I thought it was really cool what I saw Ben Stark and Paul Rietzl do – play this game at a high competitive level – and I wanted to do that too.

Since then, I remember some crucial moments in my ascension towards the Pro Circuit. Going to my first FNM where I met Martin Müller, experiencing a Grand Prix for the first time, winning a WMCQ with my own deck and subsequently winning that World Magic Cup, being accepted into team EUreka when it was still in its infancy, and making a deep run in Pro Tour Kyoto to miraculously hit Gold.

Simon Nielsen vs. Antonio Castellani

You have jokingly talked about your self as the luckiest player in the world numerous times. Can you share your view on variance, skill and dedication and talk about how they each contribute to becoming a professional Magic player?

To me, these three elements are highly intertwined. I obviously can’t be the world’s luckiest player, because there is no such thing, but since the beginning I’ve been quite good at focusing on when I get lucky instead of the times I am unfortunate and devote most of my attention to what I actually can control. It’s no secret that you need to get lucky to win a tournament, but I do think there is a way to somewhat control that luck.

Let’s imagine that you play a game where all you need to do is roll two sixes with two dice. You wouldn’t just roll the dice once, hope to get lucky and complain if you don’t. You wouldn’t even settle for 10 rolls, you’d just keep rolling until you eventually get there. And it’s basically the same thing you need to do with Magic. Attend as many PPTQs or Grand Prix as you can, eventually you’re bound to win or top 8 one.

But some players might actually never get there, because the other thing you need to do is work on your game and improve your skill. Sort out your ingame mistakes, ask better players for advice and learn from their strategy, do plenty of smart testing, preferably daily. Only by combining the constant improvement and the infinite persistance will you reach your goals.

Some might say that I got pretty lucky to get on the train so easily, and while I do think I’ve hit some great strides along the way, I’ve also put a ridiculous amount of work and time into this game. I do believe that once you reach a certain level where you’ve played some RPTQs and gotten deep into some Grand Prix day 2’s, if you dedicate yourself to get there and you work hard and smart, you’re favored to hit Gold within 3-4 years. That might just be survivorship bias, though.

Finals: Denmark vs. Greece

Testing for important tournaments, most players do it in teams. Please tell us about the role(s) you have had on the various teams you have been a part of.

I’ve been joking that my role on Team EUreka was that if anyone 0-3’d a team draft and felt bad about themselves, they could always just like at me, throw a comment or two, and all of a sudden feel much better.

Out of my 11 Pro Tour appearances I’ve been rogue teams twice and otherwise on superteams like EUreka and MTG Mintcard. And honestly, I often doubt how I could end up on these teams, especially EUreka since back then I was clearly one of the worst players on the team. But I just got on the team when it wasn’t that serious and kept requalifying for the Pro Tour to stay on. But I worked hard and I’m friendly enough that everybody likes me.

So that has mostly been my role, just the hard worker who could easily play Magic for 12-14 hours a day. When I got on Mintcard I had grown a lot as a player and I feel like I contribute more and also help with organisation. Even though I still am one of the weaker links on Mintcard it feels like it’s much more justified that I am on their team. And I’ve grown really close with some of the players, especially the ones from Australia and New Zealand, so being on the team is just as much about friendship as it is professional Magic.

Going for Gold Again: Team Denmark

Wizards of the Coast seems to favor team tournaments moving forward. In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of individual and team tournaments respectively?

Team Sealed is one of my favorite formats, even though it has dawned on me recently that I’m not actually very good at it. I’ve also quite enjoyed Team Modern as it takes out the pairings-based variance that is one of the bigger problems with Modern, as you get 3 pairings per round to water it out, not just one.

And playing with friends is always awesome, you win together, you lose together. But there can be such a thing as too much, as it’s a bit of a hustle sometimes to find teammates, and losing to your own mistakes feels especially bad when you also let your teammates down. I’m looking forward to the next half a year with curiosity, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m tired of team tournaments next August.

Speaking about their team focus, what does the Team Series on the Pro Tour mean for you playing?

To be honest I’m not too hyped about the Team series. Last season I decided to stay out of it to not bother with binding myself to a testing team, getting shirts etc. for the miniscule upside that I might be in the top 2 teams. Also, where was I going to find 5 other people who’d want to wear the tie?

But after hanging out with some of the guys from Team Lingering Souls I got to see their excitement as they qualified for an extra Pro Tour through the Team Series. So this year I wanna partake in that excitement to see your teammates do well and also try to qualify my friends Zen Takahashi and Anthony Lee for the Pro Tour. We had a very bad first Pro Tour in Alburquerque, where all our Gold players missed Day 2 and only Anthony got extra Pro points with Onwards/Victory on Carnage Tyrant.

Fast forward two years from now. Where do you see Magic as a whole and your career at that point?

It’s always to tell what’s going to happen in the future, but I would hope and expect that I’ve settled into a temporary lifestyle as a professional Magic Player. It’s really exciting for me to watch players like Pascal Maynard and Sam Pardee reach PT final after PT final, because 3-4 years ago they were in kinda the same spot I’m in now: hard workers who aren’t necessarily naturally talented but who just started to top 8 Grand Prix more or less regularly.

Now they’re both forces to be reckoned with on the Pro Tour scene and hopefully that will be the future I have ahead of me if I keep working hard.

Quarter Finals: Denmark vs. Serbia

Which are the three next important tournaments on your schedule and what are your expectations like?

Now I have a bit of a Christmas/New Years lull before the season starts up again with Pro Tour Bilbao and Grand Prix London before that. I like Modern a lot and expect to play the format a ton during the next month to be ready for it. I think I’m in a good spot to get that 11-5 I need to lock up Gold for another season. As far as Limited goes, Mintcard has been doing a great job of providing me with the Limited intel I need to do well in these events, so hopefully that continues.

I haven’t looked at the Grand Prix schedule after the Pro Tour, so that’s a worry for another day. But before I leave for London, Zen Takahashi comes and visits me in Denmark, which I am very excited about!

Thanks a lot, and best of luck at the upcoming events! Feel free to mention sponsors, thank your mom or leave your twitter handle.

If you’d want to read more from me, I write articles for mtgmintcard.com. My most recommended pieces are “How to become the Worlds Luckiest Magic Player” and “All your invalid excuses

Meet the Pros: Kai Budde, The Juggernaut

Kai Budde (born October 28, 1979[1]), is a former professional Magic: The Gathering player, who holds the record for Pro Tour victories, and for a long time held the records for earnings and lifetime Pro Points.[5][6][7] His performances earned him the nicknames “The (German) Juggernaut” and “King of the Grand Prix”. Kai left the game in late 2004 to focus on his studies, and his appearances in tournaments are less frequent than in earlier years. Budde is widely considered to be one of the all-time greatest Magic: The Gathering players.[8]Wikipedia.org

Nickname The German Juggernaut
Born October 28th, 1979
Residence Hamburg, Germany
Nationality Germany.png German
Pro Tour debut Pro Tour Mainz 1997
Winnings $383,220 (as of 2017-08-23)
Pro Tour top 8s 10 (7 wins)
Grand Prix top 8s 15 (7 wins)
Median Pro Tour Finish 51
Pro Tours Played 56
Lifetime Pro Points 562 (as of 2017-11-28)
source mtg.gamepedia.com

Andreas: Browsing through your resume on Wikipedia, it is nothing short of amazing how many tournaments you actually managed to win. Even top 8’ing that amount of tournaments would cement you as an all time great, but talk about the psychological aspect of going for the trophy rather than being content with a top 8 finish.

Andreas: I want to know how you prepared for big tournaments back in your prime. Please tell us about the testing proces, the lack of information on the internet compared to today and introduce the “Phoenix Foundation” for all the newcomers.


Kai: “This sounds a bit like a fairy tale today – but when I started to play in tournaments there was no internet. Newsgroups were the first step, but most people didn’t have access to that. The network those were running on was mostly universities connected to each other and they weren’t much more than message boards. I guess a very early version of Reddit.

All I had at home was an early mac – one of these cubes. But my father is a computer scientist working for a research facility. They had a satellite connection and when I didn’t have classes, I went there quite often. That was the best source of information – and that’s absolutely nothing compared to what everyone has available on their phone. But things took off pretty quickly. The first huge website was The Magic Dojo and launched around 1995. That hosted tournament reports and decklists. That helped somewhat but it was still quite delayed. Some tournament organizers posted top 8 decklists but most of the articles were tournament reports that came up days or weeks after the event. Decklists outside of the top 8 were very rarely available.

Screenshot of the non-profit archive of the Dojo

And the huge difference was that Magic Online did not exist. While you could play on other clients like Apprentice or even draft on NetDraft, it was essential to have a local network. Most of the last few generations of top players are home schooled through Magic Online. There are a few extreme cases like Shaun McLaren who quite often chooses to not have a testing team for a Pro Tour. Someone like that was almost impossible to exist in the pre-Magic Online era. Think about it – if you were a guy living in a small city somewhere in the US and managed to win a PTQ, who would you test with? You only had your buddies from the local store, which most likely weren’t qualified for the Pro Tour and understandably not all that enthusiastic about it.

Pure nostalgia: The Apprentice Interface

In the pre-Magic Online era it was very important to have a strong pool of players in your area. Early on there was a strong group from California, Weissman, Hacker, Frayman. Don’t shoot me if I get some stuff wrong here, that was also before my time. Then Brian David-Marshall started to push the tournament scene in New York through the events he ran at Neutral Ground. Jon Finkel, Zvi, Steve & Dan OMS and many others learned their trade there.

The same thing was true for Europe. A small university city in the woods in Northern Sweden produced a lot of very strong players, Anton Jonsson, Jens Thoren, Johan Sadegphour. It is just incredibly difficult to get better if you don’t have good people around you. I got very lucky in that regard as I grew up in Cologne and back then that had a very strong magic scene, including one of the early Pro Tour winners, Frank Adler. Those guys taught me how to play and that’s also how team for team Pro Tours formed. Dirk Baberowsi moved to Cologne to do his year of civil service and Marco Blume to study. Marco went back to Hamburg around 1999, Dirk also moved back to Northern Germany and I followed suit and moved to Hamburg. The local scene there was again super strong. Multiple people had Pro Tour top 8s and were qualified for most Pro Tours.

While I was finishing school in Cologne and later during University in Hamburg, I was playing a lot of magic. A lot of it was playing both decks myself. Otherwise with Dirk, Marco and a few other guys. It’s still a lot less than what today’s Magic pros clock in – but without Magic Online available you just couldn’t play at any time of the day. I assume I played more than most other pros of that generation.

We had a few testing houses like most pro teams do today, but that only happened a handful of times. Dirk and me were hanging out a lot, both playing magic and football. Dirk had the first score on the Pro Tour, winning in Chicago in 1998, which was the first Pro Tour of that season. I finished 19th in that event. That was the first Pro Tour we prepared together for.

Pro Player of the Year Germany Kai Budde
Rookie of the Year Germany Dirk Baberowski
World Champion Germany Kai Budde
Pro Tours 5
Grands Prix 14
Start of season 5 September 1998
End of season 8 August 1999

Going in we thought we need to get lucky to win some money as the American magic scene just seemed so much stronger from afar. But that tournament showed us that we could easily compete. We started to go to European Grand Prixs afterwards and that kicked off an unreal run for me, which ended in winning the World Championship and Player of the Year.

After that Dirk and me both played professionally for the next few years. When the team Pro Tour was launched, we actually played the first event with Andre Konstanczer but Andrew lived in the south and lost interest in pro magic soon after. With both Dirk and me now living in Northern Germany and being very good friends with Marco, it was a pretty easy decision who to team up with for the next team events.”

Hall of Fame Class of 2007: Kai Budde

Kai’s friend and teammate, Dirk Baberowski


Andreas: How much Magic does Kai Budde play on an average calendar year? Everything from a pre-release to MTGO drafts to various Pro Tours.


Kai: “To be honest, I am not playing all that much magic these days. I work in sports betting, which means during the football (feet kicking a ball, not hands throwing an egg) season it’s not easy to take weekends off. I usually play in one or two Pro Tours per year and one (team) Grand Prix. I haven’t played a physical Prerelease in quite a long time due to work constraints. After moving back to Europe this summer, I’ve played a FNM here and there. But most of my magic playing is just on MTGO – it’s just convenient. I still follow tournament magic, but I don’t think I’d want to play full time again. At least not while having a regular job. The whole traveling didn’t both me while I was playing magic full time – but now it does.

Taking a week of vacation to then spend 50 hours between airplanes and airports … I always have a lot of fun while I am at the tournaments. But whenever I am sitting in an airplane, I ask myself why exactly I’m doing this.”


Most of the readers will know that you won a tournament called the “Magic Invitational” and that you got to help design your own card after winning the event. How do you think the community would welcome a yearly Invitational tournament?


Kai: “The invitational was an invite-only (duh) round robin tournament with I think 16 players. It was something like last season’s Pro Tour winners, Player of the Year, World Champion, DCI rating and then some people got voted in through one of the bigger magic magazines. My first invite was a vote actually.

Everyone submitted a self-designed card before the event starts. Typically this was just a competition to design something outrageous. The one I turned in was:

Note: Card name “Juggernaut’s Presence” and card frame by @Peer_Rich using MTGCardsmith.com. Card design by Kai Budde. Illustration by: © Dan Frazier

Now after winning the event Wizards of the Coast unfortunately I can’t talk with you about the design because future sets have information they don’t want to reveal. For example my eventual card had the morph ability, which didn’t exist before this set. It would’ve been nice to have a slightly stronger card, but having a card in the first place is super cool.

The Final Card: Kai Budde as “Voidmage Prodigy

I’ve always wondered why Wizards of the Coast stopped doing that. Seemed like both pros and casual players liked that whole thing. My guess is that they are afraid someone ‘wins’ a card that later gets banned or somehow else picks up a bad reputation and it reflects negatively on the game? I wouldn’t know really, I loved the whole thing and it’s sad that it was discontinued, but they’ll have their reasons.”

What are the top 3 formats you have ever top 8’ed a big tournament in, and what made them so great?


Kai: “I think I’ve spread out my top 8s throughout almost all formats. Standard, Extended (the old Modern, I suppose), Booster Draft, Rochester Draft, Team Limited. My favorite format by far is Team Rochester Draft. It’s always tough to say how a format like that would evolve with today’s sets and players being much better in general – but back when it was played it was the format that you could have the biggest edge in if you were well prepared. My guess is that it was played so little that people just weren’t prepared as well as for a format like Standard for example.

After that Iike Pro Tour playing various versions of Illusions/Donate in Extended tournaments and that deck does about everything I want in a magic deck. It is a 2-card-combo deck but can easily win games as a control deck and the card draw plus library manipulation was extremely strong.


Next in line would be regular eight player Rochester Draft. Although I’m again not quite sure that format would stand the test of time.

Rochester Draft is a limited Magic: The Gathering draft format where one booster is opened at a time instead of every player opening his or her own pack.[1][2]Image: © 2001 Wizards of the Coast. Description mtg.gamepedia.org

The problem with regular Rochester is that you have full information of what your neighbors are doing and if everyone is good, you just distribute the cards after a few packs because you never want to fight with someone over a color. So the best you can do is settle into colors quickly and not hate draft. Fortunately that’s not how it went down 15 years ago and the drafts were actually pretty interesting.”


Andreas: Name a few players that you either love playing with, watch play or talk to about Magic and why that is.


Kai: “The best entertainer these days is LSV. I must admit at times I am a little over-punned, but if I had to choose one twitch stream and lock that in for the next year or two – it’s Luis’. Otherwise I am frequently watching Gabriel Nassif and Joel Larsson.

For playtesting purposes I’m always having a lot of fun playing with Ben Rubin. He’s always trying to come up with new stuff and that’s refreshing. Unfortunately it’s sometimes up to a point that he doesn’t play the obviously good deck because he wants to play sometimes ‘fresh’ too desperately. But that’s a very common problem with magic players.

When it comes to tournament coverage I’m mostly interested to watch people I know. Especially limited coverage just isn’t that interesting if I am not somewhat personally invested. That’s part of the general problem magic has as a spectator event/sports. Too many games are decided by one player hitting his curve and the other guy missing a land drop. The Pro Tour coverage improved hugely, but even the best commentators can’t make a game interesting where one guy plays cards and the other doesn’t. Games like Hearthstone have a huge edge in that department.”


Andreas: Let’s round this interview off with a hot take. Who will win Player of the Year this season?


Kai: “Seth Manfield is quite a bit ahead and has to be the favorite at this point. There’s only one Pro Tour played though. I’d love to see William Huey Jensen win the whole thing. But given that Seth refuses to lose any games in any event he plays, that doesn’t seem all that likely.”


Andreas: I can’t thank you enough for taking part in this interview. You can share your Twitter and sponsors (if any) before I let you go.


My twitter is @kaibudde, but not that much magic-related stuff is happening there.

Meet the Pros: Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Nicknames PVDDR, Pablo Doritos
Born September 29, 1987 (age 30)
Porto AlegreBrazil
Residence Porto AlegreBrazil
Nationality Brazil Brazil
Pro Tour debut 2003 World Championships – Berlin
Winnings $439,135[1]
Pro Tour wins (Top 8) 2 (12)[2]
Grand Prix wins (Top 8) 2 (19)[3]
Lifetime Pro Points 588[4]
Planeswalker Level 50 (Archmage)
source mtg.gamepedia.com

Hello Paulo and welcome to the spotlight! It’s a pleasure to have you. I want to talk a little about the conditions as a Brazilian compared to privileged Europeans and Americans with Grand Prix in their backyard every month. With very expensive plane tickets and bad internet (maybe that’s a cliche?), how did you manage to break through? Also please add a key moment or two that you think back on with great joy that sparked your career.

The internet is just fine, but the plane tickets being expensive thing is very real. It’s not only that they’re expensive, but every trip is a big journey – there’s no “leave Friday arrive Monday” kind of thing, you have to commit to every tournament. A trip to an US Grand Prix, for example, takes about 20 hours each way for me, and costs about $1200. If I top 8 the tournament but lose in the quarters, I’m still down money. That’s not even mentioning things like visas, which we need and aren’t easy to get.

I managed to break through due to a combination of trying very hard and being really lucky. I had very supportive parents, and I was able to do well in my first couple of tries, which gave me the qualification and the resources for future ones. For South Americans, there aren’t many chances – you play in one or two major tournaments in a year, so if you don’t do well, that’s it, you might never qualify again. I managed to do well in a lot of them in a row, so I got to the Platinum equivalent of the Pro Player’s Club, which enabled me to continue playing the following year.

more than 10 years ago: PVDDR at Worlds 2006 in Paris

I think there were two key moments that sparked my career; the first was my first Pro Tour, Worlds 2003 in Berlin. I managed to finish in the top 64, which gave me a prize money of around $500, which was a lot of money for a 15 year old Brazilian kid. It showed me that there was more to the game than I originally expected, and opened up a lot of new possibilities.

The second was my first PT top 8, Charleston 2006. It showed me that I could actually do this thing professionally, that I was good enough.

Your resumé speaks for itself and being inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2012 seems like the peak in any Magic player’s career, but you still keep posting strong results and show a lot of love for the game. Talk about your continued motivation and if being considered the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) is on your bucket list.


This might be unusual regarding Magic players, but my motivation has never been to be the best – I just want to be happy. I enjoy the lifestyle of a Magic player – waking up whenever I want, practicing for as long as I want, not answering to anyone but myself, getting to meet my friends.

My goal has always been to be able to do that while supporting me and my family. As long as this continues being the case, I’ll be happy, regardless of whether people consider me the best or not. In the end, no one can truly judge skill, so who can tell who the best players are?

Titles such as “best player in the world” have always seemed a bit hollow to me because of that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be in the conversation, but it’s not my goal to be considered the best because I know it’s just very arbitrary. Right now, I couldn’t tell you who the best player in the world is – I couldn’t even give you three names. I could, maybe, give you a list of 15 players who could all be the best player in a given tournament. I like being in that list, but do not make my goal to be number one.

The one title that still motivates me is World Champion, which is the one I don’t have. I’d really like to be World Champion at some point.

We initially got in contact on Twitter because of a question of mine in the Christian Calcano interview quoting Andrea Mengucci about team tournaments, and you said that the vast majority of professional players love team events. Can you elaborate on that statement?

Pro players like team events for two reasons. First, they’re fun – you are playing with friends, you share their victories and their defeats. Team Sealed is different from normal Sealed, and I believe it’s even more interesting to build. Overall I enjoy myself more if I’m at a team event than at an individual event.

Second, they mitigate the impact of variance and non-games. If you’re in an individual event and you mulligan to five twice, that’s it, you’re done for the round. If it’s a team event, you can mulligan to five twice and still win because your teammates win. If you’re a team of 3 good players, then your edge is bigger in a team event. Couple that with the fact that team sealed is very hard to build properly, and you have some very stacked team sealed top 4’s.

Paulo’s Team: ChannelFireball Ice from last year

In the past I recall you saying that you really dislike Magic Online and that you prefer to test in real life. With more time to draft the newest set before a Pro Tour online than previous, is this still how you prefer to prepare for a Pro Tour or did you adapt to keep up with the young and hungry MTGO grinders?

I still prefer to not play Magic Online, but I’ve had to adapt to the times. We’ve been meeting in person for less time than we did before, and with the set available on modo right after the pre-release, it’s just more convenient to do drafts on MTGO rather than trying to coordinate live ones. I don’t enjoy playing it as much but I feel like I have to do it.

Legacy will be played at the Pro Tour for the first time this year, and Modern is back after a few years break. Share your thoughts on those formats respectively, and could you see your self playing Legacy at professional level?

I love Legacy as a format – I think it’s diverse but the gameplay is also intricate. Every small decision in Legacy matters – what land you play, what land you fetch, what spell you play, how you resolve it. In Standard and Modern, you often just have scripted plays – you’ll play your second land and then your two drop. In Legacy, every tiny variable changes what you’re supposed to do, and I really enjoy that.

I’ve played Legacy at a professional level many times before – I’ve played multiple Legacy Grand Prixs, and I’ve also played it at the World Team event some years ago, so I can definitely see myself playing it at the Pro Tour.

Grand Prix Paris 2014 Quarterfinals: PVDDR is on Miracles


It’ll be interesting to see whether Legacy actually stands the scrutiny of being a Pro Tour format – it being teams will probably help with this a little bit. In a Grand Prix, people just play whatever they want, what they like or what they have access to; in a Pro Tour, everyone will be bringing in the deck they feel is the very best. This could make everyone converge in one dominating deck and actually have a lasting negative impact on the format, but I’m hoping this won’t be the case.

As for Modern, I think it’s by a wide margin the worst competitive format of all. There are about 25 decks you can play, but they are very polarised in matchup and the gameplay is completely random.

Did you draw your sideboard hate? Well, you can’t lose now.

Did you not draw it? Well, you can’t win.

A lot of matchups are just two decks goldfishing against each other or trying to draw their sideboard cards, and it’s not fun being on either side of that exchange. Since there are many many decks, you cannot even sideboard against all of them, and, since every deck is 7%, you’re not actually supposed to.

For example, should I make my deck beat Dredge when I know Dredge is 7% of the field and it’ll hurt me in other matchups?

Likely not, but then I can just get paired vs Dredge twice and my tournament is over.

Now apply this to Storm, Tron, Living End, Ad Nauseam, Infect, Affinity, Goryo’s, Through the Breach… you’ll always get to a point where you have to give up beating something, and then it becomes a pairing roulette.

Editorial Note: Modern is known for linear decks.


You had a very good season last year and went out with a bang winning the Pro Tour in Japan this summer. What are the goals for Paulo this season?

PV’S HOUR OF GLORY: Paulo winning Pro Tour Hours of Devastation

My goal is mostly to do well enough that I can continue doing what I do, which usually means getting to the Platinum level in the Pro Players Club. As far as more precise goals, I’d really like to win Worlds or Team Worlds.

Lastly, feel free to link to your sponsors, leave your Twitter handle or whatever you like.

Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview out of your busy schedule!

No problem 🙂 My twitter handle is @pvddr and you can find my weekly articles on www.channelfireball.com.

Meet the Pros: Joel Larsson

Tjena, Joel and thank you for being here! Most of us know you are a Pro Tour champion, but I want to hear about the journey up until that point. Where did it all start and do you remember any key moments that influenced your career path (negative or positive)?

I guess it all started after I finished gymnasium back in 2011. I wanted to take a break from doing anything and wanted to just have a lot of fun that summer. That meant I partied a lot, hanging out with my friends, but also started drafting on Magic Online A LOT. Like a few drafts every day. Then Grand Prix Paris came around, during the super weekend in Paris where there was both a Grand Prix and Pro Tour.

I wasn’t qualified for the Pro Tour, but managed to go 14-2-1 (was 16 rounds) and that qualified me for Pro Tour Nagoya where I came 10th which got me on the gravy train. So drafting tons and doing well at Limited is what first made me a much better player.

After that, I would say my next big thing was when I joined Team Eureka, which is the predecessor of the Revelation and Genesis collaboration. I got to test with Martin Müller, Martin Dang, Matej Zatelkaj, Magnus Lantto among many others and it kind of became my first great testing team and Magic family. That definitely helped my results and helped me getting better at constructed.

For negative influences, whenever I haven’t done well in a season, I’ve always thought about doing something else and preparing for that. However, whenever I think about it, I tend to do well and it gets me back on the grind. Maybe it gets me more relaxed and that I play better when I put less pressure on myself? I would assume it’s variance though.

© wizards.com Team EUreka from 2016

Following you on social media and reading your articles on ChannelFireball, you seem very open to most formats. Which format do you hope is the next to hit the Grand Prix curcuit and why?

Oh, tough one. My two favourite constructed formats to play is probably Frontier or 1v1 Duel EDH. Frontier is awesome because the games are so great. There’s a lot of interaction, nothing really too broken and still there’s tons of different archetypes. 1v1 EDH also has great games, because they tend to go a bit longer and being more intricate, but the real deal with it is the deckbuilding possibilities. With the restrictions of the Commander Rule forcing colours as well as the possibilities how to abuse your general, I think it’s fantastic. It also lets some of the cards you always thought were pretty good, but never saw play because there were similar effects – only slightly better – see play, which is pretty sweet.

Streaming is something you have done on and off. What does streaming do for you as a person and Magic player respectively?

First off, I mostly do it because it’s fun. I don’t expect to gain a lot of value doing it. Whether it changes me as a person or Magic Player I don’t know, but it makes me better at explaining situations and perhaps making me better if I want to commentate more Magic in the future.

Joel Larsson on Twitch

I know you are interested in other card games and e-sport in general. With all the new card games coming out and posing real threats to Magic Online, how does Magic Online need to evolve?

It’s a tough question. I think Magic Arena is great first step. However, I do think that the best way to get through on the market is building more clients similar to Hearthstone that’s working for your phone. Simplified rules and built for Unity gaming. However, I think they have to make Magic Arena first though to finally get an upgrade of the long outdated Magic Online to then later explore those options.

Magic Arena MTG Arena

Joel Larsson is looking forward to Magic:The Gathering Arena

With more and more team tournaments on the schedule, both at Grand Prix and professional level, what do you feel about the direction Magic is heading?

I honestly think team competitions are great for many reasons. The pros get more happier because it reduces some of their variance, sharing it between three players. The worse players also like it, because it’s a lot of fun with a team tournament and there’s less pressure if you play together. Finally it also brings back a lot of veterans of the game who can see themselves coming back and play a Grand Prix together with a few other friends from the time they played a lot more themselves, instead of showing up to play solo. However, I don’t think you should let go of individual tournaments either.

What’s next for Joel Larsson? Upcoming tournaments, goals for the season etc.

First off, I will do anything in my power to do my best for Team Revelation this season. Testing with Genesis and Revelation is really a blast every time and these are some of my best friends, within the game and outside of it, which also makes me a lot more invested in everybody’s results and working as a unit. Personally, I hope I can get back to Platinum again, since I had a pretty bad season last year, missing Platinum by a few points. If I don’t hit Platinum, I might seriously consider doing something else or start studying again, since playing full time isn’t really an option missing two years straight. It’s pretty much night and day.

I’m also interested in the new Artefact game released by Valve, which is their take on Card Games inspired by the Dota Multiverse. I played a ton of Dota myself earlier in my life and from people who have tried and tested it, I’ve only heard good things, so I will definitely check that out and possibly try to go competitive.

Team Genesis amd Relevation

© wizards.com. Team Relevation and Team Genesis at PT Ixalan

Thank you very much for the interview! Feel free to share your Twitch and Twitter and mention your sponsors.

Thank you!

Follow Joel Larsson:

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/joellarsson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoelLarsson1991
ChannelFireball articles: https://www.channelfireball.com/author/joel-larsson/
Sponsored by ManaTraders.com. Look up my stream for coupons!

Meet the Pros: Christian Calcano

Hola Chris and welcome to the hot seat!

First of all, please tell us a few words about your self like where you live, pro status, key achievements etc.

Thanks for having me! I live in New York City and I’m a Platinum level pro. I have

  • 1 Protour Top 8,
  • 3 Protour Top 16,
  • 8 Grand Prix Top 8s with 2 wins

and I finished 11th in the 2017 World Championship.

I love asking players a question similar to this, and you are no exception: Do you remember the point where you realised you were good enough to play the game at the highest level?

Well, it had taken many years for me to reach the Protour, but it was probably after my first ever match on the Protour. I defeated Adam Yurchick who was dominant American pro at the time. I remember leaving that match with the confidence that I could compete on the Protour.

Watching you top 8 the Pro Tour and following you on social media in general, you seem like an emotional guy. Please share the pros and cons of having big emotions in a craft like Magic.

Ironically enough I’m not very emotional about the games. That’s mostly to do with the cons because negative and positive emotions can get in the way of making the best decision in any given game. I basically conditioned myself to not caring much for the result rather just trying my best to play good games of Magic. The Pros I’d say would have to be people seeing that emotion after a big win since we don’t see it enough at the higher levels. I’ve gotten a lot of positive response about my top 8 interview. While that’s clearly not how I drew it up, everyone clearly got to see just how much it meant to me.

Editorial Note: One of Christian Calcanos most memorable moments at Pro Tour Amonkhet


Do you enjoy all formats in Magic or do you secretly have a favourite format we don’t know about?

I mostly just enjoy Draft but I do enjoy Standard as well when I like the decks. I secretly like Legacy quite a bit as well, but only get to play in about 1-2 events a year.

I also want to ask you about team tournaments, as the opinions amongst pros are pretty divided. Do you want more or less team tournaments and why?

I love team tournaments, but definitely would like to see less going forward. I think we will see less since the main reason we’ve had so many is because of the Team Protour coming up for the 25th anniversary of Magic. It’s not always easy for everyone to find a team, and I generally dislike the politics that can sometimes come up when making a team. But they’re still some of the most fun events you can play in.

Lastly, I want to hear about your personal goals for 2018.

For 2018, my goal is the same as 2017, which is just to continue to play good Magic. Of course I would love to find myself in another Protour Top 8 or playing in Worlds again. But I find that pressuring myself to attain such things just puts unnecessary stress on me which causes me to not play my best. So I’ll just keep trying to improve as a player, and play as well as I can and see where I end up at the end of the season.

Thank you a lot for taking your time today. Feel free to share your Twitter and link to your sponsors.

You can follow me at @ccalcano on Twitter and can read articles from me and the other Hareruya Pros at hareruyamtg.com/en/

Meet the Pros: Andrea Mengucci

Hello Andrea and thank you for taking your time with me today! With the Pro Tour coming up, a lot of attention is on Standard. Looking at Standard from the outside these past few years has not been a pretty sight. What is the state of Standard right now in your opinion?

Standard is in a good place right now. It has quite few tier 1 decks, and they represent all the strategies of Magic:

  • Aggro: Mono Red
  • Midrange: Temur
  • Control: Blue/Black Control, Blue/White Approach
  • Combo: Gift

Those are all good decks that can be qualified as tier 1, so the format is definitely healthy. It isn’t Modern or Legacy where you have tons of different decks, but it has never been in the history of Standard. So I feel like this Standard is good and it is what it should always be.

A few months ago Wizards of the Coast announced Modern’s return to the Pro Tour in 2018. What was your first reaction to this?

I’m a little bit biased about the Modern Pro Tour because I hate Modern. It’s my least favorite format and I never play it – in fact last time I played it was World Magic Cup 2016. So I’m pretty sad about it and won’t test a lot of Constructed for the event, since the format is super stagnant and you can play any deck and go 10-0 or 0-10. But I can easily see Modern lovers standing up and shouting at me now, and I’ll be fine with that.

Everyone who follows you on social media and appreciates the great job you’re doing at ChannelFireball knows your passion for Legacy. Now all of a sudden you get to play your favorite format on the Pro Tour in 2018. Tell us why Legacy means so much to you.

I’m obviously very happy to show my Italian black bordered dual lands at the Pro Tour stage! But I don’t want this to be a thing that happens every Pro Tour or even once a year. The Pro Tour is good for innovations. You get an edge by inventing new decks in Standard and having a better strategy in Draft, but with stagnant formats like Modern and Legacy this goes away and that skill is less rewarded.

It seems like team tournaments will be a higher focus in competitive Magic moving forward. To me it is natural because you usually test as a group and root for your friends anyway. Do you feel the same way or would you rather play on your own all the time?

I really dislike where Grand Prix are going. I dislike that you have to be in a team of people to go to Grand Prix nowadays. What if you are good, but live in a environment where there are only bad players? You can just never spike.

For me Magic is an individual game, not soccer or basketball. It’s designed to be played 1 vs 1. It’s okay if sometimes you play 3 vs 3 because it’s more fun, but I feel like the 2018 Grand Prix schedule has way too many Team Grand Prix that punishes those who want to break through.

Lastly I want to hear about your personal expectations for the season. I know you’re representing Italy at the World Magic Cup. When we talk again at the end at the season, which accomplishments do you hope to tell me about?

I hope we’ll do well at Pro Tour Albuquerque, though it’ll be hard since Standard and Draft are already solved so variance will be huge once again and same for the World Magic Cup. I also have four Grand Prix coming up, so I hope to get my first top 8 in one of those, since it’s getting pretty late and I still haven’t achieved that goal in my Magic career.

To wrap up this interview, feel free to share your Twitter, thank your mom or give a shout out to sponsors. Thank you again for this interview!

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Channel Fireball where I make two videos per week (Legacy and Vintage) and where I write one article per week (generic topic).

Also if you want to have daily tweets about Magic follow me on Twitter.

Introducing: Thomas Enevoldsen

Hello and welcome to Team Snapcardster! Could you give a quick introduction of your self?

My name is Thomas Enevoldsen, I’m 29 years old and I work full time as an attorney in Denmark. I started playing Magic in 2003 (during Mirrodin) and tournament Magic in 2004 (Champions of Kamigawa prerelease!). My first deck was a Green/Red Beast tribal deck and my last deck was a Blue/Black control deck from Danish Nationals last weekend. So I have evolved somewhat over the past 14 years.


For the people (shame on them!) who might not be too familiar with your previous accomplishments, can you highlight a few of them?

1st at World Magic Cup 2014
1st at Grand Prix Strasbourg (Legacy)
Top 4 at Grand Prix Prague (Legacy)
1st at Danish Nationals 2009
1st at Danish Nationals 2013

We have all played Magic for quite some time, and we all have different reasons to do so. What keeps your engine running after all these years?

The bigger perspective is self-realization and an ever-growing desire not to lose. On a smaller scale, what I love the most about tournament Magic is the experience of playing against opponents who care just as much about winning as you do. Everybody plays to win. To squeeze as much as possible out of every little resource the game has to offer. This mentality is not easy to find in other situations in life. People generally live recreationally – like they are playing kitchen table Magic. You don’t necessarily need to give a 100 % at work or studies, relationships even, and you’ll probably still be fine. But in Magic, if you leave an inch on the table, someone else is going to pick it up. And I love the fight for that inch.

What is your favorite format and why?

I can’t really decide. I used to believe it was legacy, since that is where most of my good results come from. From a strict game perspective, I love sealed the most, since it is essentially two games in one (building and playing), and both rewards creativity more so than other formats where most games are decided by the power of the cards and the order they were drawn in. From a fun perspective, nothing really beats team drafting, both for the team spirit on your team and the bragging rights against your opponents. There is always so much more on the line in team draft, because your pride is at stake!

Looking into the crystal ball, what does the next 12 months have in store for you MTG-wise?

Attend as many European Grand Prix as possible, play the odd Magic Online qualifiers and generally just aim to get on the Pro Tour again. Whatever format, whatever city. Just get back.

Thank you so much for taking your time. Feel free to leave your Twitter handle, so people can keep up with your magical endeavours in the future!

No problem!

Follow Thomas Enevoldsen on

Twitter: @therealenevolds

Introducing: Michael Bonde

Hello and welcome to Team Snapcardster! Could you give a quick introduction of your self?

Hello there! My name is Michael Bonde, I live in Aarhus in Denmark and I am 30 years old. I am partly a Magic “pro” and finishing my education this year as a teacher in English, History and Sports.


For the people (shame on them!) who might not be too familiar with your previous accomplishments, can you highlight a few of them?

Of course I will. My resume is a bit across formats:

17th PT Shadows over Innistrad (lost win & in for top 8)

3-4th at Grand Prix Strasbourg (Legacy)

3-4th at Grand Prix Madrid (Limited)

5th at Grand Prix Sao Paulo (Team Limited)

10th at Grand Prix San Diego (Limited)

1st at Bazaar of Moxen 8 (Vintage)

1st at StarCityGames Worcester (Standard)


We have all played Magic for quite some time, and we all have different reasons to do so. What keeps your engine running after all these years?

I see the game as a giant puzzle. Every new format brings something different to the mix and draws on different information from the past.

This makes almost every game different in some degree, but still within the region that one can practice and master. I love dedicating myself towards a goal of trying to become the best, within my own style of play. Being able to follow this process and see results is really something unique – for me at least.

In the beginning it was the mastering of play by play, and even though this is still an evergreen focus, more and more layers add-on which makes it even more complicated and interesting.

What is your favorite format and why?

I’m always a bit torn when someone asks me this question, because the answer is I really just love magic! The formats I often play the most are Legacy, Draft and Sealed.

Legacy is a static format where you can build up a giant database of decks, plays, matchups and try to get perfect information due to many matchups and games play out alike and there is often a right or wrong thing to do. Drafting and doing sealed are on the other hand a bit more fluid. You get to solve the “format” and every game is completely different. You need to be aware of both drafting the correct deck, color pairs, card choices in each color and compared to picks already made. Furthermore it is insanely complex and a very fun topic to dig into and discuss with peers.

Looking into the crystal ball, what does the next 12 months have in store for you MTG-wise?

First of all I am in the Pro Players Club with Silver.

My plan is to qualify for 2-3 of the Pro Tours this season and as a minimum cross the threshold for being Silver again for next season.

This means that I will be playing more Magic Online Championship on Magic Online, play a fair amount of Grand Prix’s and try and do my best at the Pro Tour scene.

Nothing is given, but I will do my best to evolve as a player and have fun while doing it.

Thank you so much for taking your time. Feel free to leave your Twitter handle, so people can keep up with your magical endeavours in the future!

Follow Michael Bonde on

Twitter: @lampalot

Magic Online: lampalot

Twitch: MichaelBonde

Meet the Pros: Johannes Gutbrod, Legacy

© 2017 photo credit: magiccardmarket.eu

Editorial Note: Read more about Gutbrod’s performance at MKMSeries Prague – It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory

Hello Johannes and congratulations for taking down the Legacy portion of the Magic Card Market Series this weekend! Thank you for stopping by today. Please give the readers a quick introduction of yourself as a Magic player.

Hello guys, thanks for having me 🙂
I’m a 25 year old student and Legacy enthusiast from Nürnberg (Germany). I only play this format, as I enjoy it the most. I organize Legacy tournaments, playtest a lot with friends and try to play all the big European tournaments.

I like to learn new interactions in this format and I’m a person who analyses his own gameplay and tries to find mistakes in there in order to get better and to develop my skill further.

I know you played a fair share of Miracles in the past, and at this event you brought a new version of the deck. Talk a little about the card choices. Monastery Mentor + Daze package opposed to going harder on the Snapcaster Mage + Predict engine with multiple copies of Unexpectedly Absent.

First of all this version can win games much faster than its controllish cousin. Monastery Mentor and Daze can swing games in two or three turns. But that’s rarely the case.

What I like about this version is that it can switch roles so effectively. Often it’s correct to keep a Daze, even when it seems counterintuitive to protect a crucial spell later on when your opponent will never expect it, or taps out. Daze is a safety net for many problematic cards in the format as well (Show and Tell, True-Name Nemesis, Planeswalkers…).

I’m curious about the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. Obviously the Miracles plan has become less consistent after Sensei’s Divining Top got banned, so the deck has lost some overall powerlevel. How does your version make up for that?

I don’t even think that the deck lost as much powerlevel as most people think. Counterbalance was weak in a lot of matchups and with more Predicts and Mentors previously harder matchups like Eldrazi got way better.

Moreover the bluecount is higher than before. And Portent, although being weaker than Sensei’s Divining Top, is another shuffle effect (important e.g. under Blood Moon) and enables locking out the opponent in topdeck mode.

But I think the deck got even harder to play than before… so to anyone picking this deck: You have to practice a lot and try to overthink your gameplay in order to become better!

I heard you lost round 1 of this tournament, but you still managed to come out on top. Take us through your mindset as the rounds went by and you kept racking up wins.

Honestly speaking, in the minutes after the loss I was quite tilted, as I expected much more from myself. So I went out to grasp some fresh air and tried to refocus, thinking that if I will lose no one would care but if I will make it to the top it would truly be a miracle.

I try to think of these situations as learning experiences not just regarding legacy but regarding life as a whole. As I was coming closer and closer to my goal I became more focused and concentrated, trying to block out my surroundings and just think about the next turn(s).

What is your opinion about the health of Legacy right now? On the surface it seems very balanced and like you can play a lot of different decks without being horribly behind like in the Top era.

I agree 100% with your statement. I’ve never thought that you could play that many different decks competitively without one dominating the others. I love to see new decks popping up, be it Marcus Ewaldhs Blue Moon deck, or Tomas Vlceks NicFit.

Legacy was announced as 1/3 of the formats for an upcoming Pro Tour next season. In my opinion, it’s a brilliant move by Wizards of the Coast to motivate Legacy specialists to try and qualify to try their skills versus the absolute elite. What’s your take on this in general and on a personal level?

In general I like the renowned interest in the best magic format. Many people will have a look into this format which they might have never tried before. This will help the community as more tournaments would get organized/ articles get written and so on.

For me personally it is a long wished but very high goal to play Legacy at the ProTour. Although qualifying seems to be really hard and I’m not looking forward to playing Standard to do so, haha. On the other hand I can’t wait to play at GP Birmingham!

Thanks a lot for your time. Hope to see you outplaying platinum pros on the biggest stage next year! In meantime, feel free to follow me on twitter and on my twitch channel. See you there! 🙂