The Pro-files: Interview with Gerry Thompson
11/10/2022 · 8 min read
Hello everyone and welcome to the first iteration of my interview article series called Pro Files! I will hopefully be able to borrow a bit of time from a list of interesting Magic personalities. I'll try and mix it up between legends, impactful content creators, shooting stars and everything in between and I will ask them about general topics while also deep diving on their personal journey with Magic. I hope you'll like it! First guest on my list was a slam dunk.
Aside from Gerry Thompson's numerous results with 12 Grand Prix top 8s and three top finishes with a Pro Tour 1st place in 2017, his massive content contribution at huge outlets like SCG and CFB, Gerry cares so much about the game that he sacrificed his own personal gain with the goal of creating a better future for other aspiring Magic professionals. I find that truly inspirational and it makes him the perfect ambassador for our beloved game.
Gerry Thompson at multiple top level tournaments
Interview with Gerry Thompson
Hello Gerry and thanks for joining us today. I want to talk a bit about the article that you recently published with Hipsters of the Coast where you provided incredible insight into the design process of Magic cards and its complexity. There's lots of negative opinions about R&D on social media - with more bannings than ever in various formats in recent years, how do you feel about that critique?
Gerry T - Most of my criticism of R&D comes from an unwillingness to move quickly when something is an issue. For example, banning Uro instead of Omnath, which removed Sultai Control from the equation, which was one of Omnath’s bad matchups, when Omnath was clearly the larger problem. The Uro ban was meant to target the Omnath deck, but actually made it better!
I’m sympathetic to the fact that R&D is feeling pressure to make exciting cards in order to sell sets, plus feeling pressure to not immediately ban their new exciting card. In fact, Magic Twitter would be a better place if more people were sympathetic to that.
Recent sets have had exciting cards for Magic’s most popular formats while still being relatively tame in overall power level. I think they figured out where they need to land power-wise, and they’ve been doing a great job recently.
Regardless, those criticisms were valid at the time. We had a really bad couple of years.
With your Worlds boycot in 2018, dropping out of the Magic Pro League and consistent involvement in social issues online, it says a lot about you as a person. Can you talk a bit about why you decided to pay the price over getting paid and if you have any regrets looking back?
Gerry T - My only regret is that I didn’t do enough, but that’s sort of an evergreen feeling for me. I also wish it would have inspired more folks to do the same, in whatever ways they could. Magic players are a smart crowd and could figure out ways to make an impact.
I love Magic. The game and the community have been a massive part of my life for most of it and I’m deeply protective of it as a result. There were several aspects of Magic at the time that did not bode well for its future. I spoke up, but that feedback wasn’t acted upon, so I came up with some ideas on how to be louder.
I was privileged enough at the time to be able to choose between money or ethics, and if my basic needs are covered, I’m choosing ethics every time. If I had a family or someone else depending on me, I could easily see having to make the opposite choice.
What is GerryT's favorite way to play Magic these days? It used to be looping Kolaghan's Command with Snapcaster Mage in Modern.
Gerry T - I brought that back during the Lurrus days! It’s still a favorite.
I’m actually loving Modern at the moment. It’s definitely not the same format as three years ago, but all the macro strategies are represented and relatively viable.
Some players have a card or a strategy (think Craig Wescoe and white creatures or Kibler and green Midrange) that they will lean towards if a choice is close. Do you have an interesting memory of either a card or deck choice situation where you are guilty of letting your emotions push you in a certain direction?
Gerry T - My reputation was mostly that of a spike, but I think I defaulted to whatever the best blue deck was. That’s spikey to some degree, but I wasn’t giving myself the best chance to win. I was very lucky that things like Caw-Blade and Delver were both the best decks in their respective formats and happened to be blue.
Those preferences started punishing me in later Standard formats and it was difficult to find success. Thankfully, small, disruptive aggro decks with card advantage are something I like, hence the success with Zombies, but it’s been something I’ve been trying to fix for a while.
I'm curious about your view on the future of competitive and professional Magic. I'll force you to be an optimist here - do you have any foundational pointers that will enable a brighter future?
Gerry T - I’m an optimist at heart and I’m struggling here. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised that we got anything remotely resembling the classic Pro Tour system. However, without coverage and the ability to chain qualifications, there isn’t much to strive for. If you want to play in the occasional big tournament for stakes, you’ll be able to if you work for it.
Nobody will know about it and you’ll be back to the beginning, which is going to be disappointing for many people.
You're playing a Team Unified Modern tournament next weekend for $1,000,000. Who's on your team, which decks do you play, and why?
Gerry T - Josh Cho and I don’t care who and we’re playing whatever I come up with the day before. It doesn’t matter, any tournament with Josh is a great time.
For our readers who aren't already familiar with it, what inspired your Arena Decklists project, and what is your vision for it moving forward?
Gerry T - With Arena coming out, it looked like Magic was going to have an influx of new people, and I was right! Let’s just say that it didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to.
Initially, we had a lot of big ideas, put in a ton of hours trying to get some of them to fruition, and they all fell through for different reasons. Given how things turned out, it’s honestly for the best, but I was not happy about it at the time.
On the shortlist were an Arena companion app, similar to things like https://untapped.gg, having the best website for decklists, sideboarding guides, and the place to send your friends who were just getting into Magic. Those things exist already, but are each missing key components of what players actually want. We had some partnerships in the works too, but those fell through too.
Given the downfall of competitive Magic as a whole, I’m happy to not have all the extra stuff on my plate considering how low value they’d be now. For the near future, I’m fine with the podcast and putting out the occasional piece of content because the money just isn’t there anymore. I need to find something else to pay my bills because Magic doesn’t quite get there, at least for now.
Play the game, see the world might mostly be a thing of the past. Tell us about one of your fondest memories from travelling for Magic. Could be related to people, nature, a tournament or a combination.
Gerry T - For each fond memory, I have twice as many about being trapped in a foreign country due to travel issues or being unable to find food for a day because all the restaurants on Lido island were closed.
The fond memories still outweigh the bad though. Any time I got to travel with some acquaintances and turn those into real friendships by spending time together exploring a new country are invaluable to me. Having a reason to spend time with someone and not have Magic be the focal point of the conversation is where you truly get to know and appreciate someone.
Without the “Play the Game, See the World” aspect of things, many of my friendships would still be in that acquaintance phase. I wouldn’t trade those friendships for anything.
Thank you once again for your time. If you want to let people know where they can find you, link your projects or say hi to your awesome cat, this is the time.
@G3RRYT and arenadecklists.gg.
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Published: 2022-10-11 00:00:00