U/B Nether-Go was my first competitive deck, but I’m also a big fan of ODD in Extended 2002.
Favorite Color (or Color Combo)
Blue was my favorite back in the day, but these days I’m more of a Thoughtseize mage.
Nether Spirit, although special shout-out to Gaea’s Blessing.
Extended circa 2002
I live, eat, sleep, and breathe Magic and have been lucky enough to be able to make a living off doing what I love.
Infinite aka 35.
Most Notable Achievement (MTG related)
Pro Tour Amonkhet winner
Gerry! Thank you so much for joining me across the metaphorical table! I have been following your career for quite a while, and have seen you accomplish a lot of really awesome things, including winning Pro Tour Amonkhet and developing a fantastic community of players via your podcast. Before we dive into all of that though, can you take us back to when you first got into magic? How did it go down?
Hey! Thanks for having me.
I was always really deep into fantasy novels and games as a way to escape for real life. One day when I was browsing the toy aisle in a store, booster packs of Portal jumped out at me. They had bad-ass art on them and looked like a game I’d probably enjoy.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the internet in our house, I had no idea what the rules were, and had no one to play with, so the cards sat in a shoe box under my bed for a while. I drew some of them and used a couple of my favorites as bookmarks.
I started working the day I turned 15 and one of my co-workers and I were trying to find some common ground. We didn’t connect on music, hobbies, sports, or anything else until he brought up the fact that he played Magic. I told him I had some of those cards and brought them to his house. He built me a deck, ripped me off in some trades, and eventually introduced me to tournaments. If Adam Gunderson didn’t play Magic, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
When you say that you used to escape real life, do you mean that in a regular teenager kind of way, or did you have a hard upbringing?
A little bit of both?
My Mom was wonderful and I 100% credit every shred of decency and empathy I have to her, but she was a single mom with three kids, so we were very poor. She passed away when I was 18 and I didn’t really have any other choice than to go live with my grandparents and some of my uncles. That house had a lot of emotional and physical abuse. I snapped up the first chance to move out and haven’t talked to them since.
I consumed books, games, video games, music, and basically whatever I could get my hands on that would provide a reprieve. Thankfully, my older brother provided plenty of reasons to avoid drugs and alcohol, so I didn’t go that route in my teens, but it was tempting.
Your mom sounds like a simultaneously bad-ass and wonderful woman. That must have been very hard. How have these tribulations helped to shape you as the person you are today?
She absolutely was and I picked up a ton from her and her mindset. Despite the circumstances, she had an incredible work ethic and never complained. She also never did anything for herself because her kids always came first.
Unfortunately, I took away some negatives from our situation. I was envious of those who were more fortunate, especially if they weren’t grateful for how good they had it. My mom always had good intentions and would make promises she couldn’t end up keeping, so I had to mentally prepare myself for people letting me down, which ultimately lead to me assuming they would.
I grew out of that eventually, but it lead to me being angry and untrusting when I was younger. Now I realize the world doesn’t owe me anything and if I want something I have to figure out how to achieve it myself. It’s also not fair to judge others on their world view because it’s a result of their circumstance and upbringing, which they don’t necessarily control.
At that point, it difficult to be angry at anything. I focus on what I can control. I’m proud of my outlook now and I’m not sure I could have that without my upbringing or without my mom being the person she was, so I’m glad things played out the way they did.
I miss her though and I frequently wonder what my life would be like if she were still around. I’d love to have her to go to for advice, shoot the shit, or play a game of cribbage.
It seems like the road you’re on, as tough as it has been, has given you some amount of clarity in life. Was Magic always a part of your life while you were becoming who you are today? Was it always what you wanted to do for a career?
I started actually playing when I was 16 and was grinding tournaments at 17. From then, Magic has been a huge part of my life and it’s been influential to my growth. Getting out of my small town, seeing the world, and meeting people from different backgrounds has been eye opening.
Magic didn’t seem like a viable career path early on. There were a few months where I grinded Magic Online to pay my rent, but I wasn’t getting rich and it didn’t seem like there was any room for advancement.
At the recommendation from Patrick Chapin, I started writing for Starcitygames.com in 2008. That eventually lead to more and more opportunities and by 2011, I was making content full time for SCG and had moved to Roanoke, VA where their home base was. Those changes were all incremental and at no point did I ever think, “OK, Magic is going to be the career I pursue.” Suddenly, I woke up one day and I was doing it.
That’s really awesome. What advice do you have for people who want to be where you’re at(I. E. Writing content, consistently doing well at tournaments, becoming a successful streamer or whatever)
These are two very separate things that are sometimes at odds with each other.
My tournament success was built on the foundation of knowing there was always something I could be learning. Growth is far more important in the long term than short-term results. As long as you are consistently learning and getting better, results will come eventually.
As for making content, I’m actually half-way finished with a piece of content on the topic. It’s important and having been in the game for almost a decade, I think I have some good advice.
It comes down to finding a niche, producing content that provides value to your audience, and then eventually finding a way to monetize it. As long as you are consistently putting out content that people want to consume, you will build an audience and there will be fans who want to help support you.
I see too many people going about it in the reverse where they start a Patreon and then start producing content, and people are surprised when people aren’t throwing money at them.
Provide. Value. First.
Shifting back to Some more practical MTG stuff, Throne of Eldraine is coming out soon, and it seems like a super cool set! How do you approach deck building in general in a new format, and more specifically, how are you approaching building new decks in Eldraine?
Mostly it’s about finding interactions. I’ll read the previews and wonder “where or how could I use this?” From there it’s about figuring that out, sketching out shells, and working on things that look like they have promise.
There’s no shortage of exciting build-arounds in Eldraine, but going through that process for any card that looks remotely constructed playable will be good practice.
Once you’re better at card evaluation and deck building, you’ll be able to recognize what does and doesn’t have merit more quickly. Magic is a tough game with moving parts and context, so you’ll be in a place where you get everything correct, but that’s part of the fun.
Are there any sleeper picks in Eldraine that people aren’t talking about as much as they should?
Eldraine is a powerful set, so you could say that about any number of cards, heh. We’ve basically talked about all of them and probably put most of them in decks at this point, so the ones that aren’t getting attention either haven’t found a good home or the metagame is hostile toward that sort of strategy.
If I had to pick one card, I’d say Irencrag Pyromancer.
I am particularly excited about that card myself! What I find interesting is that, even though Eldraine hasn’t even released in paper we are seeing a meta game shape and several decks rise up to the top. As someone who has been playing the game for a long time, in what ways do you think that speed of information in modern times affects magic overall? Is this a good thing?
Part of the reason we all love Magic is that it’s constantly changing and updating. The speed of information isn’t any different than rotation or a new set being released. We have to operate in the parameters that exist and there’s no use dwelling on things we can’t change. It’s not a bad thing, just different.
As we wrap things up here in the interview chairs, I want to give the floor to you. Make some plugs, Go on a rant, give some final advice!
Self-awareness is the single greatest asset you could have, for Magic or life.
The Magic community is special to all of us and I’d personally appreciate if people went above and beyond to make it just as good for everyone else.
Mulligan sketchy sevens.
Focus on learning, not results.
Trans rights are humans rights.
Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age.
I believe that is the perfect place to stop. Thank you so much for coming on Gerry, it means the world to me!