With everything going on around the world right now, I decided this would be a perfect chance to take a step back and write a mailbag article, featuring questions that I have received recently from fans. These are (lightly edited) questions I've been asked recently on streams, at events, and in a recent Twitter post of mine. It has been years since I have decided to write an article like this, and I hope it allows you to feel like you know me a bit better as a personality within the MTG community.

 

Q: What's your favorite article you have ever written on TCGplayer?

 

Fellow TCGplayer author Emma Partlow threw this question my way, and it is a good one. I hadn't actually thought much about my favorite article until now. It is rare as a weekly author to go back and reflect on articles that you have previously written. This is something I want to try to do more of.

The answer, as it turns out, is a bit biased. I won't be going with the article that is perhaps my most well-written article, but instead the one I enjoyed writing the most. The one that gave me the most pride and joy. This naturally was attached to the tournament that I am the most proud of in my career as a MTG player, the 2015 World Championship. If you want to read about my victory lap after that tournament, here it is.

 

Q: I rarely see you mulligan. What factors determine when you mulligan?

 

I don't like to mulligan. My philosophy is find a reason to keep rather than mulligan, as there are so many hands that are missing something, you can't afford to sit and wait for the perfect hand. Each card matters so much. With that being said, the introduction of new mulligan rules that make mulligans more forgiving have caused me to mulligan a bit more over the years.

To answer the question specifically, I'm still looking at ratios of lands to spells like everyone else is, but I do keep a lot of one-landers hoping to draw another land. The other question I ask myself is: if I do "get there" in terms of the missing piece of the hand, like an extra land, how good will the hand be? Some high-risk hands are worth it, but others aren't because even if you do get what you are looking for, the hand still isn't that great.

 

Q: What's your favorite Kamigawa legend?

 

Ah yes, Kamigawa, I was indeed playing back in Kamigawa block. This was such a cool block, with a ton of amazing legendary creatures. My choice here is Kokusho, the Evening Star, which has since been reprinted.

#####CARDID=6360#####

The reason is that Champions of Kamigawa was released when I was playing a ton of Limited and virtually no Constructed. I started learning to play Magic through Limited. The five dragons in Champions of Kamigawa were cornerstones of the Limited format, and Kokusho is my favorite of those dragons.

 

Q: What's your process for picking a deck to play in a tournament?

 

I don't think anyone has a perfect process for deck selection. The first step, though, is always research. I look through the metagame in terms of popular decks, compare them to decks I already have experience playing, and consume the content that is available on the format I will be playing. Research is the most important step for me, since there are many different types of decks I feel comfortable playing. For those that are specialists with only specific decks they like, this process will be easier, as there are fewer decks you need to research.

The next step is playing. You must play the games. There are people who pick up decks based on something they have read on the internet, without actually trying the deck themselves. Try to record wins and losses as you play as well, including results by matchup. Data mining is helpful, but it will depend how much time you want to invest. The answer to the amount of time put into deck selection is always going to vary.

Iterate on the deck as you play the games. Very rarely will I play the same 75 that I first start out playing. Make changes as you go, if you feel comfortable doing so. I will consult and work with other players whose opinion I respect. In the end though, I am likely to choose the deck that not only has put up good results, but that I also enjoy playing. I prefer to try and beat the "best deck" than play it myself, traditionally.

 

Q: What are some close situations where it would be wrong to play around a card?

 

This is a very complicated question, but it all comes down to risk/reward. Just because you know there is a card in the opponent's deck that could lose you the game, doesn't necessarily mean you should play any differently. I often think about whether or not to play around a sweeper effect with my aggro deck. I believe it is rarely correct to hold back creatures, because if you are too conservative there is a very real risk of losing to cards that are not the card you are trying to play around. As long as you are thinking about potential cards the opponent could have, it's okay to consciously choose to play into something, especially if you don't think the opponent has many copies of the card you are scared of.

 

Q: How do you think you have changed as a player in recent years?

 

I have changed over the years in many ways, while some things have stayed the same. One thing that has grown is my confidence, and that is very important. This is not just in respect to thinking I can win a match, but also in respect to making bold deck decisions. I put more trust in my own abilities, because I know that I can do it. I have already accomplished many great things within this game. I'm trying to also be more calm at tournaments themselves, because I am someone that has the propensity to get very nervous and stressed about an event result.

The last thing, is I find myself thinking today I am equally good at Constructed and Limited, while even just a few years ago I would have considered myself more of a Limited specialist. Part of this may be that I play much more Constructed these days than I do Limited. There are of course many other changes I have undergone as a player, but these are some major ones that come to mind.

 

Q: What is your favorite non-competitive Magic card to cast?

 

Enduring Ideal!

#####CARDID=14960#####

I used to play Enduring Ideal decks competitively, but now I see it as a more casual card. Toolbox decks full of enchantments are very fun as it turns out! From time to time I will try it in Modern, but this used to be a centerpiece to one of the top Extended decks.

 

Q: I know you've played a lot of Mono-Red in Standard lately, and I've been using your list every time you share one. What 75 would you currently recommend for the deck?

 

I played Mono-Red Aggro at Worlds, and really haven't stopped since then. This is definitely my favorite deck in Standard right now. I am still using the same list I played a couple weeks ago in my detailed Mono-Red Aggro strategy and sideboard guide.

 

Q: Do you think Mono-Red is overpowered in the current meta?

 

No. Mono-Red is a great deck, and I think it's the best aggro deck in the format right now, but there are so many good decks. Standard is balanced, so I don't think there is any deck that is overpowered, which is a very good thing. There are plenty of formats that don't have strong aggro decks, and those formats suffer as a result. Having a deck like Mono-Red be good is very important to balancing the format's power level.

 

Q: Have you tried Mono-Red with one copy of Claim the Firstborn either main/sideboard? I find it can be a clutch finisher against Lovestruck Beast, Kroxa, Uro, Anax etc., but you don't seem sold… Why not?

 

#####CARDID=11951#####

Claim the Firstborn is actually a reasonable inclusion in Mono-Red, but you really need to end the game after you cast it. It's going to look great when it does its thing and kills the opponent, but there will be plenty of situations where you wish you had a creature instead to continue curving out.

It's not a card that is part of your primary gameplan, and you don't have Witch's Oven, which means you can't play it early for a little damage and then sacrifice the opposing creature. It is probably at its best against an opposing Anax, Hardened in the Forge if you also have one, so that you can legend rule away the opposing Anax. Anyway, I don't like Claim the Firstborn enough, and I have tried it.

 

Q: I heard a rumor about you. I heard you believed once in a magic sword, crafted by the gods themselves. This magical weapon was known as the Cleave. Do you still believe in that magic device?

 

Okay this is a nice joke, but yes I do still believe in the Cleave!

 

Q: How often do you attack a Fervent Champion into a 3 toughness creature?

 

#####CARDID=10897#####

I attack a lot. In the case of this question, the answer is "almost every time." You have both Rimrock Knight and Bonecrusher Giant in case your opponent blocks. Even if I don't actually have a trick, the bluff attacks still work most of the time. Opponents don't want to get blown out by Rimrock Knight. Please don't cut Rimrock Knight from Mono-Red, it is very good.

 

Q: What's your opinion on Kamigawa block Pauper Tiny Leaders?

 

I have never played, but it does sound like a fun format! Since I am such a competitive player, sometimes I overlook the more casual formats, but at the end of the day Magic is a game, and I'm glad this stuff exists. I'm going to choose Kira, Great Glass-Spinner as my blue leader!

 

Q: What's your stream schedule?

 

It is hard for me to keep a consistent streaming schedule. The combination of both events and the fact that streaming is not one of the main ways I make a living means that when I do stream, it is for fun. That being said, I am still streaming on a weekly basis, and the most likely time you will see me on Twitch is between 9pm and 3am ET.

 

Q: If you could change any one thing about the game or the community, what would it be?

 

I would like to see a clearer Organized Play structure. I have personally benefited significantly from the structure, but I also care about the larger MTG community, beyond the MPL and Rivals League.

The biggest thing that frustrates me is that players often say they have no idea what the actual structure is. Part of this could be due to how quickly things seem to change. My hope is that we start to settle down into a more consistent structure, without so many changes, so that players have a clearer picture of exactly what they should be trying to accomplish. This has to come with time, and I'm hopeful after having some discussions with the team at Wizards of the Coast that we are moving back in the right direction.

 

Q: Where do you see the future of paper magic, LGS, and the actual Gathering aspect of Magic going?

 

I'm hoping that online play and in-person Magic can both exist harmoniously. It has seemed like the LGS traffic has gone down a little bit recently, but hopefully this trend doesn't continue, we need to support them. There are still many players out there going out to their local stores and playing, because Magic is a social game. Hopefully things return to normal, or even better, after we make it through COVID-19.