Joshua Claytor: Mr. Wise, as a start to the interview I would like to ask you a background question: What Pro Tours, Grand Prixes, and so on have you participated in and how have you done in them?
Gary Wise: Well, I’ve actually been around for a long time now. My first PT was Dallas, at the start of the Tour’s second season, and since then I’ve only missed one PT, Paris. I finished 7th at World Championships 1999, have made 7 other top 32s and most recently was a member of Potato Nation, the team who won PTNY. I also do a lot of writing on Magic, most recently for the Sideboard.
JC: You’ve been around a long time – has Magic changed for better or worse, Pro Tour-wise?
GW: I think the Pro Tour has improved a lot. Sure, some of the more colorful personalities from the old days are disappearing, but cheating doesn’t seem to be as common as it once was and the increase in money seems to really legitimize the game as a competitive one.
JC: Pro Tour New York must have been exciting; what was the key card for your team’s success?
GW: The thing about Team Rochester draft is that you can’t ever say one card was responsible for your winning, because you have to win two of your three matches. If I were to choose one card, I’d have to say Belbe’s Armor, which I had in all three of my sealed decks, helping me go 6-0 on day 1.
JC: The Masters series has recently been introduced to the Pro Tour. How do you feel about the added money?
GW: Well, I have to admit, when I first saw the announcement I was yelling at the top of my lungs, until the realization that I was likely to fall off the Masters after New York hit me. With my lone Top 8 finish (Worlds ’99) no longer counting towards the tabulations, I though NY might be my only Masters appearance. Fortunately, our finish in NY probably means I’ll be in the Masters for the next year, so I couldn’t be happier.
JC: With Pro Tour Chicago and the individual State Championships coming soon, what is your advice to people who would like to work with Invasion Type 2 decks?
GW: Hmmm… That’s a tough one to answer without giving too much away about my own testing. Unfortunately, while pros are usually available to give advice on T2, that fact that Chicago is in that format means that it will be hard to get them to talk. Keep your eyes on the major Magic websites and try to find yourself a group of players with whom you can playtest. It should be especially helpful if you can test online, with other Internet types who are NOT worrying about playing you in States.
JC: Well as a player who will be reporting at PT CHI-Town but won’t be playing, can you share some tech with me? (This, by the way, is just a pathetic plea to get tech for States; I will continue the interview!)
GW: Ha! One of the major issues PT players have to deal with is the fear of leaks. I’m kind of paranoid about leaking, so I don’t tell anyone anything. 🙂
JC: Is there any truth to the rumor that Mike Long has been selected as an alternate to the Invitational, and has anyone else dropped out to make room for you at Sydney?
GW: Actually, that’s kind of a funny question. With Sigurd Eskeland and Kyle Rose both deciding to pass up their invitations to Sydney, their spots go to the fifth and sixth place finishers in the Internet vote. With Mike in fifth and me in sixth, the two of us will be making the trip. There’s a little controversy with Mike’s selection in that a rule was made last year stating we each had to do a tourney report after the Invitational or not be allowed to compete again … but WotC has seen fit to invite him anyway. The unfortunate effect of this is that Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz, who finished seventh in the vote, doesn’t get the spot. I don’t like the message their choosing Mike sends, but at the same time his charisma makes him one of the tour’s most marketable players – so I guess I don’t blame them for wanting him in a marquee event. Good question, though.
JC: Congrats, by the way, for being selected. Have you put any thought into the card that you will make if you win?
GW: Well, last year I submitted a card which read:”WW1, destroy target enchantment or artifact. If your opponent controls a non-basic land and you control a plains, you do not have to pay the casting cost.” I may just submit it again, unless I come up with something more interesting.
JC: What are your thoughts about the interesting formats for the invite, and do any decks stand out in the Auction portion?
GW: Well, I think there are good and bad things about the quirkiness of the Invitational. That we get to play new formats is fun and relaxing, but at the same time, it’s really difficult to prepare for formats like Solomon Draft or Duplicate Sealed when you don’t know the card pool. For a player like me, who gets by on hard work more than raw talent, this is a major disadvantage. Fortunately, I take a very laid-back approach, so I’m sure I’ll have fun.
As for the Auction, I think it’s an absolutely amazing format. I’m a major baseball history buff, so I love being able to look back at the past, and this format will allow the community to do so. I’m really hoping to get the Zak Dolan deck, just because I want to play Chaos Orb in a major tourney! 🙂
JC: When playing in the Pro Tours, who do you like to kick back and relax with?
GW: More and more, I’ve been hanging out with Dirk Baberowski and Kai Budde. We all went to the Invitational early last year, and I spent a week in Germany before this year’s Worlds. I also hung out with Mike Turian a bit, and got to spend a little more time with Jeff Donais, Randy Buehler, and more WotC types than most players thanks to my Sideboard affiliations. One of my favorite people to spend time with is Skaff Elias. Skaff is the Pro Tour’s creator and a great guy to hang out with, and a great storyteller. He’s one of the Tour’s best kept secrets.
JC: With the addition of Omeed at the Sideboard, do you see that becoming a major site once again?
GW: I think the Sideboard is already at the top of the food chain. (Hey! – The Ferrett, apparent bottomfeeder) While most sites will publish any strategy article submitted to them, the Sideboard resources are vast enough that the advice one gets there is the best on the net. Additionally, you get really good Pro Tour coverage and it’s the first site to have any major news concerning the game. I think it should be in just about everyone’s list of bookmarks.
JC: Just to ask, are there any players you avoid at all costs while on tour? Do Mike Long and Trey Van Cleave earn their poor reps?
(Note to the reader: If you paid attention, you’ll notice that I asked similar questions about both players. Don’t get me wrong, they are both excellent players, and I nearly worship Mike Long. This is in no way an affront to either player’s skills.)
GW: Its interesting that you name Trey Van Cleave, because back when I was writing my columns for the Dojo and New Wave, I would regularly go on rants about his moral conduct. Now that I’m with the Sideboard, my job is to promote the Pro Tour, so I don’t do too much public badmouthing of those players who step over the moral line…. But I will say that those players who the world suspect of cheating are usually more guilty than they’d have you believe.
JC: Besides Magic, what other games do you play?
GW: Like a lot of Pro players, I’m a big fan of Texas Hold ’em. It has a lot of similarities to Magic. I also play some baseball, though I’m admittedly a better spectator than a player. Essentially, you give me a deck of 52 cards and I’ll play whatever you want.
JC: When money drafting, who do you like to draft with?
GW: Well, I think everyone knows that my most common partner is Gab Tsang. Gab and I went on a tear at Origins ’98 that is still remembered, and we just keep on drafting together. I think the most important things in choosing a money draft partner are liking them as people and trusting them as players. Other guys who fit in to this category are Turian, Baberowski, and Bob Maher.
JC: Is Hacker as good as he claims to be at the draft?
GW: Hacker is one of the most talented guys around, but he seems to be getting passed by players who want it more than he does. Hack is one hell of a money draft partner, as that’s where the psychological games and trash talk come into play.
JC: What do you think of Invasion?
GW: I think Invasion is the single greatest draft set of all time. Good drafters will be able to get creative and build interesting decks, while bad drafters will try to get too many gold cards in their decks and will be punished for it. I didn’t like Masques that much because there were no multi-color possibilities, and that made for a very stale format. Invasion will be a lot of fun, though every Rochester draft should get bloody…
As for Constructed, I think a lot of people are giving the set a bad rap. Every year we have a new T2 environment, and regardless of the speed and power level of the cards, it always seems balanced. I have no problem with the slowing down of the game and the loss of ‘solitaire’ decks.
JC: With Invasion, will the new Type II be MBC decks with Invasion splashed in?
GW: I think you’re going to see more creativity than that. A lot of people seem to be talking about Teferi’s Moat, which doesn’t fit any of the established Masques Block archetypes. Additionally, with new cards like Meteor Shower and sixth edition cards like Earthquake working well with Blastoderm, you may see the re-emergence of Erhnam Burn-em, complete with uncounterable direct damage.
JC: Are cards such as Void and Urza’s Rage as good as their hype, or are there sleeper cards?
GW: I think there are always going to be sleeper cards. I think Gush is a good example of a card that didn’t get much hype when Masques came out, but is now one of the best cards in the set. Rishadan Port doesn’t see play in Extended, but Gush does. Each set has those subtle little cards like Gush, Quirion Ranger, or Soul Feast which look okay at first, but turn out to be great later on. I’m sure Invasion has them, too.
JC: Fantastic! Sorry I did such a horrible job on this, but I want to thank you for the interview. I will close now with a little word association and a couple of lighter questions….
GW: Sounds good. I think you did just fine.
JC: Barenaked Ladies.
JC: Dark Ritual.
GW: Not the right ban; it should have been Necro.
JC: Jon Finkel.
GW: Dominant. A pleasure to watch.
JC: Tiger Woods.
GW: Jon Finkel. Also, he makes me want to like golf.
JC: Finally, who is the man?
GW: Jeff Donais is the man.