How's this for promptness? I sent Brian this list of questions in the morning, and he completed them and sent them back to me before the sun had set!
Hey, Sean - what can I say, I'm prompt! If there's anything else you need, or anything you'd like me to elaborate on, just lemme know - I'd be more than happy to do so.
- Brian Kibler
Q: Please give me a little background information concerning your gaming interests growing up.
A: Well, when I was in grade school and junior high, I was pretty much your typical adolescent gamer - I played Dungeons and Dragons and such, which is how I was initially exposed to Magic. I've also played (and still participate in on occasion) a few LARPS (Live Action Roleplaying games), notably NERO, which appeals to my intellectual, theatrical, and athletic interests all in one. In high school, and now college, my gaming has been more or less restricted to Magic - and not even that for a few years, both due to waning interest in tabletop RPGs and being extremely busy with other activities, from theatre to wrestling.
Q: A little personal information. How old are you? Married? Student?
A: I'm a 20 year-old student majoring in Philosophy and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Married? Riiiight.
Q: Please give me the scoop on this wrestling thing. I've only heard a bit about that!
A: Nothing particularly exciting, though apparently something worthy of notoriety in the Magic community. After having a couple fairly successful but still disappointing years playing Magic at the beginning of my high school career (at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, for those interested), I decided to take some time off from the game to concentrate on my newfound love of wrestling. I wrestled on my school's Varsity team at 171 lbs. and took home a few medals for my efforts, helping my school win the league championship for the first time in almost two decades. It was great to be a part of something like that, especially since beforehand I was an overweight, out-of-shape, stereotypical brainy gamer-type. It just proved to me I could really do anything I put my mind to, in whatever sphere I chose.
Q: What was your favorite moment concerning your brillant 3rd place finish in PT: Chicago?
A: Well, I have to admit that thinking about every time I cast Armadillo Cloak on Rith the Awakener still makes me giggle like a little kid. I beat both Finkel and Pustilnik in the swiss and Zvi in the top eight, courtesy of 8/8 flying spirit linked tramplers, and I don't think I'll be forgetting any of those occasions any time soon. Before the tournament, I'd been half-joking with people that I'd be winning the Pro Tour with Cloaked Dragons, and I came pretty close to making that prediction come true.
Q: What felt better: The money or all the other stuff. (Trophy? Pins and hats? Fame?)
A: Well, the Top Eight hat doesn't even fit me, so that's right out. The plaque I got is nice, and I joked that it'll look good next to my 1997 NH Junior Limited Champion plaque, which is the only other Magic trophy I have - they didn't give out Grand Prix Trophies back in the dark ages when I won Toronto. I think I'd have to say all of the intangibles are what I'm really happy about, because Chicago to me felt like a vindication of sorts. After all the effort I've put into the game, mostly in the form of designing decks for people who went on to do really well with them, it feels good to have a top finish of my own. I'm finally "on the Pro Tour" in a genuine sense, and the recognition that entails feels really good - I mean, it's not likely that a month ago you even knew my name, let alone had the desire to interview me.
Q: When did you first discover Magic?
A: It was when I was thirteen, in seventh grade, and at a gaming convention in Massachusetts called Total Confusion. Interestingly, it was in a Total Confusion sealed deck tournament a few years later when Tom Guevin was playing William Jensen in the finals that Tom and Mark LePine first coined the nickname "Baby Huey." Obviously, it stuck. What that has to do with the question is anybody's guess.
Q: What is your favorite color?
A: It's funny, because before Chicago everyone who knew me identified me with blue cards, because I had a lot of success with blue control decks - Mike Bregoli still has a set of Ophidians he asked me to sign way back when. Now everyone thinks of me as the Cloaked Dragon Guy, which I suppose is a more interesting persona, but my first impulse in every environment is to try to make a blue deck work. Still, I may have had a conversion experience courtesy of one Rith, the Awakener, and my thoughts of an invitational card have been slipping from a reprinted Ophidian to some form of enormous flying lizard...
Q: Please list your top accomplishments to date.
A: Pro Tour Chicago 00 - 3rd, Grand Prix Toronto Champion, Top 16 US Nats 97, Top 64 Worlds 00, Top 64 LA 97
Q: How many cards do you own?
A: I have no idea. Not many, really. I end up borrowing cards for tournaments all the time. I showed up with about half of the 75 cards I needed for my deck in Chicago. I pretty much just have the cards I end up with from drafts, and most of those I sell to draft more.
Q: Do you trade online?
A: I've sold stuff on eBay, but that's the closest.
Q: If you could bring any creatures or spells back from the past, which one(s) would it/they be?
A: Well, I have fond memories of Ophidian, and I was always an enormous fan of Balance. Balance isn't a fair card in the least, though, so I'd have to go with the snake.
Q: What's your take on Invasion?
A: It's great. I love the way it slowed down the game to a point that points of strategy and deckbuilding that were overlooked in previous formats can come to the forefront again - like the fact that playing a creature deck with casting costs above two is viable, and even good! I also really like gold cards and the emphasis on multicolor decks, because it allows for a much wider range of possibilities in deck construction.
Q: Was your PT: Chicago deck different from all other decks? If so, how?
A: Well, it's certainly different in the respect that it doesn't fit into any easily definable categories that most decks tend to. I think I approached the deckbuilding process for Chicago much differently than most players, as I chose to build what I felt was a deck that best exploited the powerful cards in the environment, rather than trying to build the best version of a pre-existing archetype.
Q: How many hours do you spend playing Magic per week?
A: Depends on tournament timetables and my other obligations. Usually a lot, though. Sometimes a frightening amount. All of my non-tournament Magic playing is pretty much online, though, so it gets harder to figure out how much time is spent playing and how much is just spent chatting. I'd say anywhere from one to fifty.
Q: Would you rather be stranded on an island with Jon Finkel or Britney Spears?
A: Well, Jon's a friend of mine, and he's a really intellegent and interesting person even outside his Magic superstardom. Despite this, he doesn't have the captivating... err... personality that Britney does, so I'll have to say Miss Spears.
Q: Who is the second-strongest Magic player in the world today?
A: Ben Rubin. Ben is a tremendous limited player, as shown by his Master's win and undefeated record at Worlds this year, and he's also my top pick for anyone in the world to work with on deck design.
Q: What do you think of Jamie Wakefield?
A: I think Jamie's a really nice person who did a lot for Magic in his day. He raised tournament reports to the point of story, and that is to me, as someone who appreciates drama and literature, his greatest contribution to the game. I think he's been mythologized to the point that he's no longer human, though, and this pedastalization (Is that a word? -- The Ferrett) has made any criticism of Jamie in a public forum very dangerous for one's PR, and this just furthers "the legend." It's interesting how it's all gone on, I think. He did beat me in a PTQ once, though, which was, I believe, the only time we ever played - so I will have a burning hatred toward him until the end of time. Or not.
Q: I've had a lot of different answers from many players, so now it's your turn. Do you have any stories or opinions concerning Mike Long. (Who, by the way, I'd LOVE to interview, so if any reader knows his e-mail address...)
A: I think Mike is a very interesting human being. He's a tremendously friendly person, and he comes off as quite sincere - so sincere that it's really hard for me to dislike him, which may be the trap unto itself. I've been present at all of the "Mike Long incidents," but didn't witness any of them firsthand, and have been universally disappointed in the way they were handled. Beyond that, I don't care to comment.
Q: Do you like the way Magic is headed? Are there any sweeping changes you would make if you were in charge?
A: Absolutely. I love the increased competitiveness that comes with the Masters series, and I absolutely love the ESPN coverage, despite some of its shortcomings. I hope I'm able to ride this while it lasts, which I hope is a long time now - if nothing else, it means that my job and my favorite hobby will be one and the same, which is a prospect I'm greatly looking forward to.
Well, that was a pretty nice interview, if I do say so myself...
Sean Erik Ponce