Sunday, June 10, 2007

Interview: Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

One month ago, longtime master deckbuilder Guillaume Wafo-Tapa of France finally became a Pro Tour champion, taking home the crown in Yokohama. With the Block Constructed PTQ season heating up, I recently had a chance to ask Guillaume about his thoughts on the metagame and just exactly what it takes to be a Pro Tour champion.

Here's the transcript:

How did you prepare for the tournament? Who was in your playtest team?
I playtested for a week with Pierre Canali, Bastien Perez and Jonathan Rispal at Pierre's place and we tested with the Ruel brothers as well the week prior the tournament. We also checked all Magic Online's premier events along the way and played in a few of them.

You've been a top deck builder for a while now, and you have had a number of solid results recently as well. Did you do anything different than for previous Pro Tours that earned you the win, or do you think it was just “your turn”?
Obviously to win a Pro Tour, there has to be some luck involved; you inevitably need a little bit of it to grab the first place. But luck isn't enough. I playtested more for Yokohama than for my previous constructed Pro Tours. Most importantly, however, I playtested with a good team.

Who built your deck? Why did you choose to play it at Yokohama? Who came up with the basic land sideboarding?
I built my own deck. For reference:

I chose to play it because, in my opinion, it was the best deck in the format. And though other players expected the deck, I couldn't come up with something better than that. It's a control deck as well, and I prefer to play control if I can. In fact, I almost always do.

I also came up with the sideboard. I knew I wanted Detritvore and Pull from Eternity somewhere in it but not in the maindeck because they were dead cards in certain matchups.

Having played nineteen rounds with it on the Pro Tour, would you change anything about the deck? Even though you won, would you still have chosen to play it in retrospect?
If I had to play the Pro Tour again, I would keep the same deck, but I would just tweak the sideboard a bit. Now, for the post-Pro Tour metagame, you need to adapt. I would put the white in the maindeck with Pull from Eternity and Disenchant because I would expect to face mirror matches and more Stormbind decks. I'll probably come up with some more tech to gain an advantage in the mirror match.

A lot of your competitors chose to stretch their mana bases in the UB control decks. What made you stick to just the blue and black spells?
The deck is already filled with a lot of cards that don't really do anything—half of it is mana, and counters are not usually the best answer versus aggressive decks. With all of that, I didn't want to add situational spells. Careful Consideration is good at cycling a bit but it can only do so much. I also didn't feel the deck really needed the other colors in the maindeck. I could beat Stormbind without Disenchant and Chroniclers weren't too popular on Magic Online at that time. Also the mana base is a bit cranky when you splash colors. I wanted to play ten Islands if possible.

What is it like making a top eight at a Pro Tour? How does it feel on Saturday night when you have some of the biggest matches of your life the next day?
Strangely, I wasn't stressed at all. I wasn't thinking much about the matches the next day. Mostly I was enjoying the moment. Every few minutes, I thought “wow, I'm in the top eight,” and I was just happy.

How much of the top eight playtesting on Saturday night did you do yourself, and how much of it did you leave to your friends? Do you think Saturday night playtesting is overrated in general because you know most of what you need to know before the beginning of the tournament, or is it vital for a win?
I think the playtesting is overrated unless the matchup is really complicated. Knowing the lists is what matters. You should be able to figure the plays with that. So I memorized my quarterfinal opponent's list and the list of both my potential semifinalist opponents. I playtested a few games of my quarterfinal match after that.

You had a lot of long matches on Sunday. How difficult is it to maintain focus for such a long period of time?
It was not too hard. I always play control and I'm used to control mirrors and playing fifty minutes round. Plus I think I'm quite good at keeping my concentration for a long amount of time. There are no tricks to it, really. I just do what needs to be done.

Do you have any top plays of the tournament? Any horrible misplays?
I don't remember any top plays particularly but I clearly remember one horrible misplay. I was at 7 life and facing a 2/2 flying griffin token and a Serra Avenger. I had Teferi, Sudden Death and some card drawer in hand with seven lands on the board. My opponent attacked, I played Teferi and blocked the token...

…well, I tried but my opponent informed me the token was flying. The round before was full of Factory tokens and I stupidly took it for that. I went down to 2 life, but I still won that game anyway thanks to some lucky draws after that.

With the win and a ton of pro points under your belt, are you going attend Grand Prix to chase level six or the Pro Player of the Year title?
I don't care much about the Pro Player of the Year title but I aim to be level six at the end of the year. Obviously I'll play all the European GPs and probably most of the others too.

I heard that you recently decided to quit school and play Magic for a living. What led you to that decision? How long do you think you'll keep up with that?
After making top sixteen in Hawaii and a GP top eight in Turin, I thought that I could probably be on the train if I put up enough effort. I always wanted to do that and I was feeling I could achieve it. My school year was not going very well because I was not really into it—I was already playing too much Magic at that time. Unsurprisingly, I failed my exams at the end of the year and I decided to drop the university to play Magic. Seeing how well it's going this year, I'll keep playing next year too.

Now that you are on top, what are you doing to prepare for San Diego? Who will your partner be?
Pierre Canali will be my partner. We'll probably do a week of playtesting with the Ruel brothers and some other Frenchies.

What do you make of White Weenie's disappearance at Yokohama? Do you think it's still a viable deck for the format?
White Weenie isn't viable in my opinion…the two top decks of the format (Dralnu and Red Deck Wins) have a good match up against it. That's a tier two deck now. Plus I've checked the cards in Future Sight, and I don't think it gets anything that can fit in the deck.

This one's an important one for our readers: what do you think is the best deck for the upcoming Block Constructed PTQs?
I think Dralnu is still the best, but red decks are close behind. With Future Sight and the addition of Magus of the Moon, those red decks may very well be better as the Magus alone can kill the control player.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you to Erwan Maisonneuve, my everyday playtesting partner.

And a special “thank you” to Guillaume as well!

-William Spaniel

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