Late last night I was trying to decide what would a be a nice break away from all of the Invasion madness that is flooding the web.”Interviews!” I thought, and I located 1999 Invitational winner Chris Pikula.
Joshua Claytor: To open the interview, I’d like to ask a basic question: what have you achieved so far as a professional Magic player?
Chris Pikula: In what terms? I’ve become pretty famous among geeks across the world – that is a pretty big achievement – but aside from that I’ve come in the top 8 in two PTs, and once in the World Championships. I came in second in back-to-back Grand Prixs. I have attended three Invitationals, and my fourth is next month.
I’ve done pretty well in general, but haven’t played much the last two years. I became a part-time player last May when I started my new job.
JC: On the subject of the Invitational, it is known to use new formats – and this year’s format is no exception. Which format do you like the most?
CP: I really enjoy the duplicate Sealed; it is usually very interesting to see peoples’ choices, and I have always done well in that format. I think I know how Mark Rosewater thinks, which helps me out a lot.
JC: How do you feel about the auction that will take place, and which decks interest you the most?
CP: I don’t really like the auction format, mostly because it is so foreign to us and very difficult to practice.
The combo decks are going to be highly valued; I’m not really sure which deck I’ll try and get. I doubt I’ll go after the monster decks like Hovi’s, because I think they will get bid up too much. The thing about auctions is that if you win, it means you probably paid too much – but if everyone pays too much it evens things out, I guess. The key is to find the deck that no one else wants.
JC: Have you thought of the card you’ll make if you win the Invitational again?
CP: I haven’t thought of it that much yet – I would like to make a black card next, I think.
JC: The release of Planeshift offers us your designed card; has R&D made any huge changes to it?
CP: I actually proposed some cards last year that were similar to Void before deciding on my card. It is very different that the card I first proposed, but I was updated on the changes; they didn’t just do it without talking to me. It is much more powerful than how I proposed it – I undershot a little, I guess.
JC: Really? What does it look like now, or are you allowed to share that?
CP: I’m not supposed to share, but trust me – it is a very strong card.
JC: The State championships and PT Chicago are rapidly approaching, do you have any advice on deckbuilding with Invasion?
CP: I’m actually doing testing now myself, but we are in the early stages. You definitely have to think old school; many of the decks look like Pro Tour 1 decks, Without cards like Land Tax and Necropotence, of course. We aren’t allowed to play with cards that good anymore.
JC: Can you see a return of Blue/White control decks?
CP: Definitely. Wrath of God is back in action.
JC: For right now, what are the most broken Invasion cards?
CP: Fact or Fiction is the obvious one. It is broken in the Ancestral Recall way, though, not the Academy way. Everyone will play with it, but I don’t feel like it ruins the format.
JC: Do any new cards ruin the format?
CP: Not that I’ve seen. Things are very early, and should change; ask me in a month.
JC: Finkel – is he the best player alive?
CP: Yes. It’s not even close. He is absolutely amazing. Jon is better than others at Magic, to a degree greater than I thought was possible.
JC: Out of all the countries, which one do you think holds the best Magic talent?
CP: I think that they are pretty much equal if you take per capita numbers, the US has the most top-notch players – but we’ve got the most people, so it’s about what you would expect. Even the British are good these days. They used to be the worst!
JC: How do you feel about prereleases? Adrian Sullivan discounts them in a way, but are they useful for anything?
CP: They are useful for fun! That’s about it, but fun is very important. I don’t know what kind of jerk doesn’t like prereleases.
JC: On the tour, who are your favorite players to hang out with?
CP: My teammates (Dave Price, Jon Finkel, Tony Tsai, Dave Bartholow, former-Deadguy-and-now-WOTC-employee Worth Wollpert), Brian Hacker, Dave Humphreys, Andy Wolf, Aziz Al Doory, Adam Katz, Eric Kesselman, Brook North, lots of dudes, the OMS brothers. I have lots of gaming pals.
JC: Do Mike Long and Trey Van Cleave earn the bad reputations that have been given to them?
CP: I don’t feel like talking about those individuals; enough has been said really. But I will say that I hate cheaters more than anyone does. I think everyone should do whatever they can to stop cheating. Turn EVERYONE in! If you see someone do something, don’t just be annoyed – TURN THEM IN! Even if you don’t have enough evidence. If they get turned in time and time again, the DCI won’t be able to ignore the allegations.
JC: I will leave it at that. Are there any future stars that should be watched, like perhaps Frank Hernandez?
CP: I’m not sure who the up-and-comers are this year; last year I picked Billy Jensen as my up-and-comer, and he had a great year. I don’t watch enough Magic these days. I certainly would not be surprised to see some
Boston players other than Darwin, the Hump and Rob Dougherty have good seasons.
JC: When I started playing in 1994, Fallen Empires had been released; has Magic changed for better or for worse since then?
CP: Magic isn’t as fun as it used to be for me, but that is just because I think I was really into it before most people – so it was very easy to be one of the best back then. This year should be very exciting; we have a Grand Prix every month in the US in 2001, I think. That will take things to the next level. I do miss the days of two hundred-person tourneys for five Moxes at local hotels, but… oh well. I think more people are having fun playing Magic than ever before.
JC: I’ve missed out on a lot of changes – but the thing that I missed out on the most was the JSS. In terms of competition, is this better for younger players than being thrown into a PTQ?
CP: That I’m not sure about – I don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to the JSS really. I believe the JSS is now sixteen and under instead of eighteen and under, which was a really good move. Having a different level of competition for pre-high school kids seems like a good idea.
JC: Most magic players hate Pokemon, but it seems to have created a boom for Magic. Any thoughts?
CP: I didn’t know magic players hated Pokemon! Pokemon seems like a great way to get kids into games, and games are a great way for kids to learn to think.
JC: Do you play anything else besides Magic?
CP: I don’t play any other CCGs, but I’ve always played games. I really like Age of Empires, which is a computer real-time strategy game. I really like playing poker as well. I’ll play just about anything, though. I like playing fantasy sports. I think that people don’t realize how complicated those are. They aren’t just stupid games for dumb jocks; they are very mathematically interesting.
JC: To end the interview, I’d like to play a little word association. I’ll give you a word, and you tell me the first that comes into mind.
JC: Pro Tour.
CP: Jon Finkel.
JC: Finally, who is The Man?
CP: Dave Price is definitely The Man.