Danny West: Be honest. How lucky were you last weekend?
Gerry Thompson : Heh, good question. It's tough to answer because I hadn't played much with Zombies before the tournament, so I have no baseline to compare to. My draws were solid, I had some nice midgame peels in Liliana's Mastery and Dark Salvation that continually showed up, and my matchups were all mostly what we prepared for. As for Limited, I had two great decks and in five of the six matches I played, I didn't have too many issues.
I guess I mostly feel like I wasn't unlucky?
West : When was your first Pro Tour? How has Magic changed since then? How have you changed to stay with the game?
GerryT: My first PT was a team PT in Boston back in 2002. The game itself is way different, with a distinct shift in focus toward making the game be about permanents. That's mostly in contradiction to how I was taught to approach the game, so relearning everything has been a huge process throughout the entirety of my career. The game is always going to be changing and you need to adapt with it.
West: The culture has changed too.
GerryT: Yeah. Back then, secrecy was a big deal, but now it's kind of impossible. With Magic Online and the SCG Tour® having tournaments before each Pro Tour, along with there being no shortage of data on the internet, it's rare that someone shows up to a PT with something no one has ever seen before. This was an easy one to adapt to, especially as I'm more in a teaching role than anything else. Tech wants to be free.
West : A lot of viewers (few of which have won a Pro Tour I'm guessing) went crazy when you cast Grasp of Darkness on the 4/5 Winding Constrictor in that semifinal. What would you say to them?
GerryT : Do I "know" that Grasp of Darkness isn't going to kill a 4/5? Uh, yeah. Clearly my head wasn't in the game. I could explain exactly what lead to that happening, but it's irrelevant. It was a wake-up call for me. I needed to get my head in the game, and that's what I tried to do.
West : I liken it to tripping, or tongue-biting when you're eating. We all do it.
GerryT : Everyone is going to make mistakes, whether they're small or incredible blunders. This happened to be in the latter camp, on camera, in the biggest match of my life up to that point. It doesn't feel good, but I'd feel way worse if I tilted off and let it get to me.
West : I wanted you to win obviously, and I hated the idea of reading this wall of armchair criticism almost as much as you losing the match.
GerryT : It was horrible, inexcusable, and likely disappointing for an audience that wanted to watch Magic at its highest level. For that I apologize. You can say whatever you want about that play and it's not going to bother me, though. I've made mistakes before and I'll make them again, and it doesn't really matter how many people were watching.
West : A huge number of players seem to validate themselves off the mistakes of others, even though we all do it. Were you ever that way? Is it something you think players grow out of?
GerryT : Oh yeah, I wasn't what I would consider to be a "good" person a decade or so ago. Bringing others down in order to bring yourself up seems to be a natural thing for most people. If you don't have something to derive a sense of self-worth, comparing yourself to others and knocking them down is an easy short-term fix for those negative feelings you might have about yourself.
Over time, you grow, mature, and eventually find something other than Magic to get that sense of self-worth. At that point, knocking others down is no longer necessary. I imagine there were more than a few people out there who understood what my situation was and just felt bad for me. Empathy is incredibly valuable and goes a long way.
West : Does your career look different to you now than it did last week?
GerryT : I think so? I mean, my immediate plans aren't going to change, but I imagine this could springboard into more opportunities. I'm mostly just excited to see what the future holds.
West : You're a very down-to-Earth guy. What's it like for someone who is very grounded to have an experience as surreal as this was?
GerryT : It's exactly that. Surreal. It hasn't sunk in yet. Not only has winning a Pro Tour been a dream of mine for a long time, but I'm also completely humbled by the response from the community. I'm mostly just in awe. People are great and nothing hits me in the feels as much as knowing that I'm making an impact on peoples' lives. It's incredible. I've had moments where I'm just going about my day, and something makes me remember that I did, in fact, just win a Pro Tour, and it hits me all over again. I'm not sure I'll ever get over that.
West : How was the pressure throughout the weekend? Was there a distinct point where you suddenly thought, "I can win this."?
GerryT : The later rounds of Day 2 were tough. I had multiple feature matches in a row with the lights and uncomfortable headphones, and I got a piercing headache around that point which persisted into Sunday. Once I was playing on Sunday, I didn't feel any pressure. Top 8 was the goal and the thought of winning the tournament didn't even seem like a realistic outcome. It was a freeroll.
West : Quite the freeroll.
GerryT : After Yuuya didn't play a second land in Game 1, the thought flashed into my head. It was mostly along the lines of "Not like this. If I actually do this, I don't want it to be because of this."
West : What is the single biggest factor in getting you to where you are today in Magic? What was the single biggest obstacle that prevented you from getting here sooner?
GerryT : The short version is I work hard. I'm rather fortunate that the puzzle aspect of Magic appeals to me to the point where I never get sick of it. Thanks to Magic's various formats, there's always something to be thinking about or something to be tweaking. That contributes to me learning a lot while also doing what I enjoy.
Oddly enough, I also think the biggest obstacle to me getting to this point sooner was myself. There are always the fears and doubts that creep in, especially when you basically devote your life to a single thing. Mostly though, it was about getting over the notion that in order to succeed, I have to do it by outwitting my opponents. You don't get extra match points for being creative, and sometimes the best decision for a tournament is to register 22 basic Swamps. At the end of the day, I don't feel smart or clever, but I did win. And that's something I never would have done ten years ago.
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Relentless Dead
West : Patrick. Shaun. Ari. A lot of our current SCG staff writers have won Pro Tours over the last several years. Being on the other side, does it really validate a player that much? How many great players will never ever win a Pro Tour? There are just so few opportunities for so many great Magic talents. Magic is so complex and how things go can be very out of your control. What makes a player "great" in a game like this?
GerryT : I said a while back that I had mostly proved what I wanted to in this game and the naysayers were quick to speak up. "You haven't won a Pro Tour!" etc.
There are only so many PTs and so many invites and there are way more talented players out there that will probably never get a chance to win a PT. I knew that I was good enough and that was enough for me, but it wasn't enough for everyone else. Now I have the best of both worlds, I guess. Validation from everyone else is nice, but what's really important is finding a way to validate yourself. That should be the only thing that matters.
Maybe it's not from winning tournaments or breaking formats, but from your contributions to the community. There might not be enough PT trophies to go to all who "deserve" them, but there is certainly enough room in the community for you to carve out your niche and get validation from that.