Andy Stokinger. Part-time writer, full-time student – and lately, a full time Magic Pro. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s been to nine Grand Prix Day 2s, qualified for US Nationals twice, finished 55th at PT: New Orleans and 44th at PT: Nice. He is the only known person to ever resolve Coalition Victory for the win at a Pro Tour level event.
And oh yeah; he also runs a little site called teamacademy.com, a site that has caused more than a few waves (and mountains of hate mail) in the Magic community, due to their inflammatory article reviews and their seemingly endless fascination with suggesting crappy authors are better qualified to be in gay porn than they are to write Magic articles.
Outside of his increasing Pro Tour success, Andy has been on a tear lately, writing articles (both on Star City and over at the Pojo) in an attempt to boost community awareness for the eventual goal of getting voted into the Magic Invitational. I don’t know Andy personally, but the guy seems interesting as hell, so I figured why not ask him a few questions and see what makes him tick.
Name: Andrew Stokinger
AS: Student at UMASS Lowell for Computer Science, intern at a software company, Magic Card singles dealer: Buyer for M’s Collectibles.
TK: Marital Status (for the ladies in the audience)?
AS: Single since 1 a.m. July 4th, and looking for a gamer girl to work on decks with.
TK: Where did you grow up?
AS: Lowell, MA. It’s about forty minutes north of Boston.
TK: Where do you live now?
AS: Worcester, MA for the summer, in an apartment with some gamers, but back home to Lowell to finish school.
TK: When did you start playing Magic?
AS: I bought my first packs the same day Fourth Edition hit stores. I didn’t know what it was, so I bought Revised and the extra-cheap Fallen Empires. I started playing competitive Magic as soon as I got my own car and my license two years after I bought my first packs. Two days after I got my license, I drove to a PTQ and made top 8. We hit a Denny’s on the way home at 1:30 a.m. and it’s been good times ever since.
TK: Team Academy is regarded as perhaps the most controversial Magic site on the web, and is faced with relatively equal shares of love and hatred in the community. Can you describe what TA’s mission is?
AS: It’s changed over time; Rich Douglas started the first one. We began just putting up quotes and bios about ourselves, and posting our own tourney reports because no one else would. Then we posted our reports with everything in them that other sites edited out. Then we realized that we could post whatever the hell we wanted to say, instead of it all going through a filter before getting posted on the dojo. So we had fun with it.
Well a little while after that someone sent me the worst report I had ever seen about an event that went on at a PTQ near us. I told him I wouldn’t edit it. However, I highlighted it and pointed out false statements, idiotic comments, misspellings, etc, and invented the article review. After that, I did a few others and realized I could have an effect on what people read. So then the mission changed a little to be to try to increase the quality of the articles on the net through criticism.
Don’t get me wrong. The entire time we wanted to be funny and entertaining.
TK: How did you get involved with Team Academy?
AS: I went to school with Rich Douglas (academydrc2k) and Vinny Rivera. They decided to start a team back when it was the cool thing to do, and Urza’s Saga had just come out. We all went to school together, so Vinny is like,”ChYo man, We should call our team, Team Academy, cuz we all goes to school togetha.” Three or four peeps start the team and I’m on the next day. Vinny shoots someone in the head during a robbery three years later, and is now doing life in a Massachusetts jail. RichD started up a site, and I took it over and moved it to my webspace after he gave up on it. I run Teamacademy.com now, while Rich handles breaktheformat.com.
TK: Where do you see Team Academy going in the future?
AS: As soon as Mouth gets unbanned, we are all getting on the PT – but besides that? Look for the site to be more controversial than ever, and to start having some real articles and more tournament postings. PT Boston should have full coverage, and we may make an attempt at improving the quality of articles on Brainburst through reviews.
TK: But hopefully no more bannings or jail time…
AS: I’m pretty sure none of us are getting banned from here on out, unless Wizards creates a policy against us. Jail time? I think if everyone knows enough to not mess with us we’ll be alright, and if I don’t get sued for defamation of character or something stupid like that.
TK: Speaking of the infamous Mouth, he seems to create a commotion wherever he goes. You have to have a couple of interesting stories involving him. Care to share any?
AS: The entire quotes page on Teamacademy.com is nothing but stories about Mouth. It’s pieces of his life written down one line at a time. Here’s a story about Mouth I think everyone should know – the Italians on the PT have an inside joke where they play off a deck of nothing but woodland druids where each one had something silly one it like”computerwalk.” Jill C. broke up with her boyfriend and was having a bad week. Mouth took her out for ice cream to make her feel better, and pulled out a Woodland Druid with something written on it. “Woodland Druid! AAAAAEE! I have ice cream walk, you have ice cream.” It made her day, and she still has the druid on her wall as far as I know.
TK: So is there anybody out there writing articles that you actually like? Essentially, who is not crap?
AS: It’s hard to tell. I can’t read anyone who writes for Brainburst, because after reading the first few premium articles copied from friends, I decided it wasn’t worth $1, nevermind $30. Kibler writes a good article, Brian Davis is funny as hell… But I never get sent emails saying”read this article, it’s good.” I get the”Read this article, it’s terrible.”
TK: All right, for those of us that would like to make it to the Pro Tour one day – Were you once a scrub?
AS: I still am. Every tournament I go to is a fight to try to not be a scrub. But I’ve played Magic for about seven years. I made the Pro Tour for the first time only two years ago. I didn’t make it again until a year after that. I was/have been a scrub for a very, very long time.
TK: How long did it take you to qualify for the Pro Tour?
AS: After about three and a half years of trying, I made it in on rating. Another year after that I made it into teams on the shoulders of two other good players for the team PT. Since then I started winning stuff for myself. I wrote an article about that.
TK: Has your life changed since you hopped on the tour?
AS: Since making a string of PT’s in a row, I’ve just had more events to test for and more reasons to fly all over the country. I still have to play in PTQs to play in Houston, so I’m testing for Worlds, PT Boston, and Block constructed for Houston all at the same time. Other than having to game more, I got to go to the following places:
- Washington DC
- New Orleans
- San Diego
- Osaka, Japan
- Tokyo, Japan
- Nice, France
- Barcelona, Spain
- Santiago, Chile
- Montreal, Canada
TK: So out of all those places listed above, which one has the finest women?
AS: Everyone who knows me expects me to say the Argentinian girls in Chile, but the one I liked the best was the girl I brought with me to Montreal. ::AaaaaWWWEE::
TK smiles and nods, and probably doesn’t want to know what that means.
TK: How often do you practiceplay?
AS: I’d like to say every day, but it’s more like every two out of three. I play various formats with different groups of people at different stores in different states.
TK: What’s your preparation like for a format? How much playtesting do you do, who do you test with, how likely are you to make last minute changes?
AS: I like to playtest the hell out of a format. I playtest with whoever is available, mostly Team Academy and my ex-gamer girl (well, until last week). I usually apply Mouth’s theory of playing the best deck, and not considering stupid ideas and wasting time while being serious. I save the fun decks for later. The last minutes before a tournament are the same as three days before to me. If I have figured out a need for a change, I make it.
But I don’t ever change my deck based on what I see people playing. Too many times when I was younger, I preboarded or chose a bad deck because I saw a few people playing something, just to get crushed by what I had expected anyways.
TK: Are you participating in Team Limited?
AS: I’m playing in this format, but I’m not doing well so far.
TK: What do you think of the Team format in general? Any special insights that you can share?
AS: Team limited is a format of limited matchups. You have to learn each color archetype, the most likely ones to get played, and all the matchups. Then you take those facts into consideration when deck building to know where to put which sideboard cards and which decks have holes that you need to be able to fill in. For example: How do you make your R/G deck good enough to beat W/U with this card pool? Should we build a different deck because it can’t handle it? There are a few gamers in the world that are better in this format than any other because they realize that fact. I can name about two people that have only played on the team Pro Tour recently that I would take over Kai, Finkel, and the entire Team YMG because of that.
TK: I’m sure that you have some high-tech secrets for OBC – but even if you can’t share those can you tell the people what they should be avoiding?
AS: I have a deck involving an infinite loop combo that will blow your mind. I’ve just submitted an article about it to StarCity.
TK: You have a habit of playing decks that show a sense of humor, even when you play in relatively big competitions. For example, you tossed Coalition Victory and Sliver Queen into your Rock deck for the Masters Gateway in Nice. Where does that come from, and do you think you can be successful while doing it?
AS: No, I won’t be successful while playing those crazy decks. I’m a firm believer in playing the best deck, but sometimes you have to have fun.
TK: What do you think of the current environment?
AS: I think it’s a little too predefined. The limits to what you can do in both Type 2 and block constructed defined by the sets involved are stricter than they used to be. It is harder and harder to make a creative deck that is not terrible… But it’s been that way for a while.
TK: Is there anything you particularly dislike about the game?
AS: No. I love magic as a game. It has turned around so many lives including mine, and given so many people something to do and a purpose. I can’t complain about anything when I look and see the incredible things the game does for people. When you play cards you can sit down across from anyone, regardless of their ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual preference, or religion and just game – never mind that I’ve played against people who don’t even speak English. I have friends from all walks of life, different states, and even different countries. People who otherwise never be social or have friends come out of their shells and get out and meet people.
TK: You’ve been playing for quite a while; what has changed about the game over the years?
AS: Besides my perception of the game, I think Wizards has taken it and tried to make it more creature based. I remember the one day of realization that at one time there was a set where only two cards didn’t have the words artifact on them, to Nemesis – where I looked through a booster and saw only one card that didn’t say creature on it in three packs. The game has come under better control by R&D.
Besides that, I think the largest change from when I started until now was the introduction of the Metagame and net decks back right after Pro Tour 1 through the beginning days of thedojo.com. No longer was everyone a scrub and not caring about cards. Everyone and their little brother became more competitive.
TK: Yeah, I think I got beat by his little brother last week…
TK: What do you think of the DCI?
AS: I got this pen at origins that says "The DCI: We keep things fair." I laughed for a while. I love the fact that a ratings system and a tournament system exists. My only concern is that, in their effort to start banning individuals that deserve it, they are only expressing penalties in terms of time instead of ratings points, or other penalties.
TK: It’s my opinion that there are a ton of good stories from the Pro Tour out there, but you never hear any of them unless Wise decides to write a nostalgia article, or unless you actually hang out with guys on the Tour. Given TA’s knack for causing a scene, you have to have a good story or two…
AS: I have plenty of them on teamacademy.com, most as short little quotes on the quotes page – but here’s an interesting one quite a few people know: During Sunday of Grand Prix New Orleans, while the Top 8 was being played out, Ed Fear runs in the room at top speed, jumps on a chair and yells”Free drinks on me!! I just won $5000.”
He had just gotten back from the casino downtown and proceeded to spend $400 buying whoever wanted one, a drink at the bar across the street. I don’t care if people think he’s a cheater; he’s a good man.
Another good one would be at PT San Diego, PTR, Greg, Huey, Linde, Dan Clegg, and some other guys go to Wendy’s and order $200 worth of food and hold up the line for a half hour while yelling and making a mess. There was an altercation with Gary Wise involved and a large mess, but they paid for everything.
TK: Can you see a point where Magic will stop being about the game for you and start being about the winning and the money?
AS: Well, you see, it is about winning, and you need the money to keep going, but it’s going to remain all three for me. I don’t ever plan on being successful enough to get anywhere with it beyond a Pro Tour every once in a while after a good long fight trying to get on. I’m a mostly a PT player through sheer volume of tournaments attended. Anyways, if I was in it for the money, I’d just start selling cards more; it’s easier.
TK: Okay, time for the lightning round…
TK: Yankees or Red Sox?
AS: Neither; sports suck. I’d rather be gaming.
TK: Well my next question was Nomar Garciaparra or Ted Williams, but I guess that’s irrelevant. I’ve never met anyone from Boston who didn’t love the Sox or at least hate the Yanks. Time to try something new…
TK: Battle of Wits, who do you take… Rosewater or Buehler?
AS: Buehler; I trust my bitches.
TK: You’re trapped on a desert island and only brought your favorite deck, what is it?
TK: 5-color (250) combo deck, everything else is in there.
TK: Matt Damon or Ben Affleck?
Mouth: Aflek was the bomb in Phantoms yo.
TK: Chasey Laine, Jenna Jameson, or Tera Patrick? (Kids, if you don’t know what this means, go ask your dad.)
AS: Jenna… But Tera is nice too.
TK: T&A or TA?
AS: TA, because we always have some T&A.
Well that wraps things up. Thanks to Andy for his time. I’d tell you what I’m going to write about next week, but who the hell knows at this point? If you liked this interview, feel free to let me know at [email protected]. If the response is good, I’m sure there will be more of these interview type article thingies to follow.
PostScript: Go read last week’s article and vote. That silly editor fellow posted in on the Friday of what seemed like an American holiday weekend, so I received about three votes total. I promise this will be the last time I pester you for votes for at least another month. Honest.