2008 Rookie of the Year and world traveler Aaron Nicastri. There are few people on the Pro Tour with more charisma and more good spirits than Aaron Nicastri. I caught up with him right after his Team Australia lost the finals, and even though they’d been unable to win a match that looked “great on paper” he was still incredibly happy. “There’s always that time afterward when you can reflect on what happened and look at all the things that went right.” I think he’s on to something, as there’s one thing in particular that went right for Nicastri this weekend – he won Rookie of the Year. He had people nipping at his tail all weekend, but that only encouraged him to keep up. “I found out someone else was in contention, three rounds from the end,” right after he himself was knocked out of Top 8 contention. “But by the time Jamie [Parke] had won the semifinals, I knew I would get it.” Even when the chips were down, he bucked up and led his team into the Top 4.
His rigorous testing leading up to the event was more theoretical than your usual session – Nicastri would rather consult the top minds from around the world, even if it meant just talking about cards, rather than playtesting endlessly but netting skewed results. Along the same lines, he has no problem calling an audible at the last second if he thinks it’s the best possible deck. He had switched to his infamous Swans list a night before Nationals, and he had barely played a game with it beforehand. “[Not playing a lot of games] isn’t necessarily a disadvantage...if you’d played so much Extended [as an example], you don’t necessarily need a lot of games with a certain deck.” The proof was in his blue-black, Tron-flavored pudding. He piloted the deck, with limited experience, on the last leg of Worlds to a 17th place finish. Not too shabby.
“If I could change anything from the weekend, it would be some picks in the first draft pod.” He tried to stay with two colors, red and green, and passed all the fixing for quality curve-filling cards. But when he eventually picked up two Woolly Thoctars and a Ranger of Eos, he would’ve had a more powerful deck if he’d been more concerned with the lands early on. That draft did initially mute his incredible Day One start. Going 0-3 after a day of 6-0 can dampen anyone’s spirits, but like he had said earlier, “When I stepped back and looked at it, 6-3 at Worlds was an incredible start,” and the day picked back up after that.
Nicastri is a treat to converse with. He’s completely willing to share his thoughts and ideas about whatever he has thoughts and ideas about, and does it all with a smile. And boy, does he love to talk about the game. No matter how much I tried to steer him into talking about being Rookie of the Year, within thirty seconds he’d be on to game-state analysis. No wonder a lot of his playtesting is done with words. When I asked if he was going to take a break from the game when he got back, there was a slight chuckle and he said, “Yeah. I’ll take a week or so...” He wanted to have Christmas with his family and rearrange his card collection. He said that after 70 or so days on the road, the organization takes a beating, and it needs some attending to. “...But probably not much more than a week.” I somehow believe him.
A good guy, and a good player. Magic: The Gathering‘s 2008 Rookie of the Year and team finalist captain, Aaron Nicastri.