We have the honor to welcome the most recent Grand Prix champion Ondřej Stráský who sits down for an interview with Andreas ”ecobaronen” Petersen. The two talk about Ondřejs journey through Magic, his retirement and unretirement and of course his victory at the Modern Grand Prix Stockholm with Bant Spirits!
Welcome Ondřej and thank you for taking the time to do this interview! First of all, I’m interested in your “Magic timeline”. When you started playing, when you had your competitive breakthrough and how much Magic you play on a weekly basis in 2018.
I started playing around the release of Time Spiral. Quick google search claims that it has been 12 years already which sounds crazy to me. I’ve always tried to be competitive, because that’s my favourite part of Magic. I’ve had some success here and there, most notably playing the Magic Online Championship Series in 2013 and playing in couple of Pro Tours. In 2014, I enrolled into university and thought that would be the end of my Magic career, but I managed to qualify for one last Pro Tour Hawaii, which I managed to top 8, despite making an error in basically every single round of the tournament. I’ve been Gold+ pro ever since. In 2018, I’ve been playing a little less compared to the previous years, there are weeks I don’t play at all, but before the big tournaments I still try to prepare as much as possible. There are still days where I just play MTGO all day long, but they are more of a rarity nowadays.
Over the last few months, a lot of professional players have expressed their intent to step down or quit after this season, many of them related to the recent Pro Players Club changes. Can you elaborate on why you thought about quitting the greatest game in history and what Wizards of the Coast should do to keep their star players motivated?
My inclination to quit actually had nothing to do with the recent changes to the Pro Players Club. I was just feeling burned out, and I was losing all the time. However, it is a known fact that Magic’s prize pool is laughable compared to other competing games. It has a lot to do with Magic being a hard game to watch, and Wizards of the Coast doing a poor job with promoting their players. Horrible online client doesn’t help either. Having an extra Pro Tour is a great thing for Pro players and it’s definitely promising news. With Artifact on horizon, WotC really needs to step up to keep their current pros. The question is do they really care?
Looking back at Grand Prix Prague in late August where you managed to top 4 your hometown Grand Prix and thereby getting a much needed Pro Tour qualification and a healthy dose of Pro Points. This weekend you raised the bar even more and took down the Grand Prix in Stockholm. How do these finishes change your magical future?
The short answer is, I don’t know. I was planning to retire after Prague because at that point I only had a Silver invite and wasn’t otherwise qualified for any Pro Tour. I made top 4 in Prague, which qualified me for the 2nd PT of the season and got me close to getting Gold. I needed a 12-3 finish at Grand Prix Stockholm to lock it up but honestly I don’t think I’d have gone if the Grand Prix wasn’t Modern. I really enjoyed playing the Bant Spirits deck and thought I had a reasonable chance of achieving my goal. I overshot my goal a little bit but I’m not complaining. I still don’t know what my relationship with Magic will look like in the future but I definitely plan to attend the Pro Tours that I qualified for.
Let’s delve into your GP winning decklist from this weekend. You elected to go with Bant Spirits and I want you to cover some of the choices that stand out. You managed to squeeze in three copies of Aether Vial and you only played a single Rattlechains. Talk about how the list evolved between these tournaments.
The Aether Vials were suggested to me before Grand Prix Prague by Thomas Hendriks. I didn’t practice much with them, but it seemed strong in theory and I’ve been very happy with them. Rattlechains is pretty medium, but I like to have it as a one-off to throw opponents of balance. As for evolution between the tournaments, I honestly didn’t change much. PV (Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa) took the deck to a 2nd place finish at the team Grand Prix Detroit, and his version had 22 lands which I dislike. Only card I like he had and I originally didn’t was Gaddock Teeg, which is something I can see playing 2 copies of in the future.
Spirits is still a relatively new deck in the metagame so not everyone knows where it shines and struggles. Give us a top 3 of good and bad matchups for the deck and talk about its’ position in general.
I think the good matchups are the popular decks like Humans and UW Control. You’re not an overwhelming favorite, but it’s definitely favorable. The worst matchup is probably Tron, but that one is still winnable, and I honestly don’t know what else is bad, because I feel happy to play against everything else. Might be a strange answer, but I’ve done a lot of winning with the deck in the past weeks. I think this deck is well positioned right now, because people still haven’t started updating their lists to combat it. It’s also very hard to play against with all the instant interactions, which is similar to Faeries in the past. I definitely think it’s here to stay, but we’ll see how Modern develops with the printing of Assassin’s Trophy.
Taking a look at your past Modern deck choices, you seem to have a great love for tribal decks. Starting out with Merfolk, you moved to Humans and now Spirits. Tell us about your preference to play linear aggressive decks, and second of all, do you consider Merfolk still playable, or is it inferior to the newer tribal decks?
I feel like all of these decks are bit different. Merfolk is just a mindless aggro deck with minimum interaction, Humans is also very aggressive but can interact a lot, while Spirits is very tricky, because it can play on instant speed so often. You’re correct that they’re all right up my alley. I just really enjoy playing some interesting games of Magic that include combat, and at this point I have to think it’s also my strong suit. While I don’t shy away from playing Control or Midrange strategies, I’ve always felt I’m a bit better when it comes to playing tempo decks. As for Merfolk I have some bad news for all the fans. In its’ current form, I don’t see it being better than any of its’ two cousins. Wizards will have to print some stronger fish, because cards like Mausoleum Wanderer, Champion of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenant or Spell Queller are just miles ahead of what Merfolk has to offer.
Once again thank you so much for doing this and best of luck in your future tournaments!
This article was written by Andreas Petersen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com