“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” — Sun Tzu
I’m writing this in the early hours of Friday the 6th of March, the day before Grand Prix Liverpool. A few weeks ago I was pretty up for this event, but after drafting a bit and playing some Sealed, I became steadily less keen – I just kept getting crushed. Sometimes I was unlucky, sometimes I played a bit badly, and I might have been too conservative with my Sealed pools, too.
Anyway, on Tuesday I went 1-3 in a Sealed Daily, didn’t have any packs left, and decided I was just going to ask for my entry fee back and not go to the GP.
From November through to the middle of February I played 6 PTQs, 6 PPTQs, the MSI 7K event, a real-life draft a week + some here and there on MODO, and tested 2 or 3 days a week, each week too. I’m a little burned out and the prospect of going to the GP only to fail to make day two for the 19th time just doesn’t do it for me. In terms of value, paying £100 on travel + entry for the potential to run well and make £150 to £350 isn’t great either, especially given that it would require a good couple of days to do that. Realistically, it’s only worth playing for me if I think I can get on the PT from that event. Given I can’t even win an 8-4 at the moment, I’m not meeting that criteria either.
That said, probably 1 or 2 people from the UK will Top 8 the event. I remember writing another article a few years ago about the value of going to GPs vs PTQs in a situation very similar to this, and a few hours after I submitted my article for editing my cousin Jamie Ross Top 8-ed the GP, seemingly out of nowhere. Talking to him about it afterwards it became clear that it wasn’t out of nowhere, though. He’d actually played 25 drafts a week in the 3 weeks leading up to the event (or something similar) and had become comfortable with the Dimir deck – then widely considered the weakest guild. He drafted that twice, and Top 8-ed.
There is a lot to be said for practice and hard work, combined with talent.
What’s interesting is that without that event probably next to no one outside of Scotland in the UK Magic community would even have heard of him. He’s been on one Pro Tour other than that one, having won a PTQ in Mirrodin Block Constructed.
With the change to the new PPTQ system, it seems like a lot of people who are up and coming in the UK will not really receive the notice they might otherwise do because no one is making a big deal out of wins the PPTQs. I’m aware of some noteworthy people who have not qualified, but I’m not aware of the status of many people who might – for instance – have Top 8-ed several PTQs over the last couple of years, but never won. There are also some people who have won things who maybe aren’t appreciated as they ought to be. I thought it might be nice to do a little run down of the people in the UK who I think deserve some recognition on this basis.
David Inglis became the poster boy for English Magic during the World Magic Cup on the back of the English team’s outstanding performance. He’s well liked because of his affable manner and approachability, often seen as some sort of maverick deck builder/mad scientist.
When I first moved to Nottingham I thought he was a promising player, but crippled by self-doubt. Generally these things take years to resolve, and I certainly didn’t expect the sort of progress that he has demonstrated over the last 9 months. That self-doubt has turned into a desire to learn and, combined with willingness to work hard, it’s made him something of a rising star, to my mind.
Rob Catton has won 4 PTQs in the last 4 years. We’ve become close over the last 18 months or so, and while we often argued heatedly about cards, I have a great deal of respect for him as a player, largely because I think he has a skill set I don’t. He’s one of the most consistent performers in the country, even if he is having a hard time with this Standard format.
Daniel Davies is a Nottingham player. He isn’t currently crushing events left, right, and centre right now, but in the next few years I think he will rise into the top tier of players in the country – so long as he keeps going the way he is. He learns from his mistakes, doesn’t get emotional, is willing to work and he’s in the right place to put those things to good use.
Sam Rolph was someone I’d not even heard of until I moved, largely because he plays a lot online rather than paper. He qualified for PT Washington through an online qualifier, which I attach additional merit to, because I think they’re harder than real life ones. He’s both eager and thoughtful, as well as being prepared to build his own decks and do unusual things. I’m not a massive fan of brews, but I think that over time Sam will make the best of both worlds – his thoughtfulness will guide his eagerness, turning “brewing” into “problem solving” with maturity. Someone’s got to build the decks, after all, and there is a serious absence of this skillset in the UK.
Lee Brook was much better than I gave him credit for initially. Super solid player, thinks about the game a lot, doesn’t just pick up a deck from the latest daily list the day before the event like so many people. (This is better than nothing, but not the best – thinking and playing a lot is the best!). He probably just suffers from being a bit isolated from talent, e.g. not in Belfast, London, Dublin, Nottingham, Leeds or Manchester. While there are good people elsewhere, I think this is where talent is concentrated. Otherwise he would probably Top 8 PTQs fairly regularly. Definitely one for the future!
George Foley is this super cool guy who lived in a tiny place south of Nottingham for ages, and plays the prerelease in Chimera. He’s got a talent for improving my mood if I get crushed, which is basically unique. Normally I’ll just be pissed off till I’m done being pissed off. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much Magic Online he plays, and how much time he spends talking to David, Neil, Matt and myself about Magic. Articulate and thoughtful, he’s able to talk about the game far beyond the typical remit of his experience. This, combined with a willingness to invest both time and money into the game, makes me think that he’s one to watch too.
Sophie Warrington plays a lot of events, knows what she’s doing, and – from what I can see – really wants to achieve. I don’t know her especially well, but it could be this is a question of experience. I’m hesitant to say much more as it would be mostly guessing, but Sophie’s name comes up when we’re discussing who will play what, or which event to play, or who is good in the UK; all of us respect her and want her to win.
Stephen Madden was on his first Pro Tour with me in Atlanta, and has qualified for two more since! He’s based in Northern Ireland so I’ve not seen him play loads, but this is a pretty good run of form. His attitude and temperament in Atlanta seemed very good, and to me this seemed like a great accomplishment worth mentioning here.
Darrell Davies and I first played last January in the PTQ I won for Atlanta, and I won our match. Then we played an Abzan mirror in the Swiss of Stockton-on-Tees, where I won. Then we played in the quarter finals of Little Chalfont, and I won. Each time he played very well and took the loss well, including the 3rd time, which is probably more than I’d have managed. He’s demonstrated a willingness to travel and ability at the game – I’d like to see him on the PT soon.
Duncan Tang won his first PTQ this season! He’s like the Scottish version of Neil Rigby – super talented, everyone loves him, everyone is happy when he wins because he deserves it. He used to be a big deal in the World of Warcraft TCG – which I don’t know a great deal about, but he Top 8-ed a couple of “Darkmoon Fares” which are like GPs but smaller, relative to the size of the game. Before that he was a big deal in VS card game, and before that in Yugioh. He’s a brilliant card gamer, who took an abnormally long time to convert in Magic – given I Top 8-ed 3 PTQs this season, I’m even more disappointed not to have won one, because I’d have liked to have worked closely with Duncan and done my best to make sure he had a good deck and experience at the event. Of all the people in Scotland who have not won one but deserve to, Duncan would be the person I would want to have won one most, except…
Ross Jenkins has never won a PTQ. He’s Top 8-ed about 16 or something, and played for 8 years. When I lived in Glasgow he was the person I tested with most, and we still play every week now when there’s Constructed to play. He is very good, and it’s gutting he’s never won one before. A classic example of a player who is great, but most people won’t even be able to pick out in a line-up. Ross is the only person I think I’d be tempted to concede the win and qualify round to. He’s been instrumental in two of my wins, and often the only reason I was able to play cards when I lived in Scotland.
Community Question: A certain personality, a solid number of wins, creative deckbuilding – what trait(s) do you like the most in star Magic players?
That’s it for this week! Next time, I’ll talk about team working (that was going to be this week, but I want to discuss it with my teammates before I submit that one).