Even if you happened to be a regular follower of our official coverage, you might have mistaken Dmitriy Butakov's Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Valencia as his "breakout performance". It was anything but that since Butakov had already taken down the Magic Online Championship earlier that year. So even after someone pulled the plug from his PC, he continued to show great skills, demonstrating that it is possible to make the transition from online to the card game.
I wanted to know how hard it was for him to adapt to the different environment and learn a little more about the unique challenges of that transition.
You are notorious for putting hundreds of hours into Magic Online. How do you keep your motivation high after having played so many games and are you the most active player in the world?
"I know the most active player - and it isn't me."
"Regarding the other question, truth be told, it's not always exciting, but I see it as my job. I generate 90 % of my income this way. There aren't any other jobs that are tempting me at the moment, so this is my best option by far. And I do have fun a lot of the time."
What is the largest amount of qualifying points you have amassed over one season of Magic Online?
"138, I think."
That's just crazy... what are your favorite formats and decks?
"It's a luxury for me to have a favorite format. I play all of the formats and I always choose the deck I'm most comfortable with (and that has a good chance of securing me quite a few wins). I never play Limited, though, since it's so hard to grind in this format."
Alright, but if we break it down, what would your list look like?
"In Legacy, I prefer Shardless BUG - it's very interactive and it offers quite a few interesting plays."
"In Standard... well, generally speaking, I prefer controlish decks. So I will often pick either Esper or Bant for this format."
"In Modern, I love Gifts Rock, but it's very hard to play several tables at once with the deck, which is making it a bad choice for me. But if I play less than 3 events at the same time, I'll most likely play it. If I play 4 tables at a time, I'll be playing Scapeshift."
"Oh, and I'm really looking forward to Vintage on Magic Online! It's gonna give me something new to do."
What are the key differences between playing online and in a tournament like a Grand Prix?
"People talk a lot about psychology, but I think they overestimate it. When my opponent is scratching his ear, I don't try to read anything into it; there is plenty of information on the board, so I wouldn't know why I should try to read my opponent as well."
Do you prefer playing online or in person?
"It doesn't make too much of a difference to me."
You seem to be aiming for Silver at the moment. What are your plans for the future, will you try to become a regular on the Pro Tour?
"I will be in Portland, so I already locked up Silver. I have a slight chance to lock up Gold and I'll definitely try, but I'm not depending on it. As long as I have invitations, I will continue to visit all of the Pro Tours. It's a bit hard travelling to the Grand Prix from Siberia, but I'm willing to put more effort into it and seeing more of Europe."
"And next year, hopefully, I can also attend an event in Brazil. Even though the temperatures will most likely kill me."
What does your preparation for an important event look like? Do you test with other Russians or do you have friends from around the world you're testing with online?
"The more you play, the better you are prepared. So I just put in lots of hours online and try to figure out the best decks."
Do you do that all by yourself or do you discuss strategy with other players?
"For discussions about cards and strategies to be effective, you have to have the same level of skill. I don't know a lot of other players that put in as many hours as I do, so I don't see the point in talking to them. I just try to figure out the best strategies myself."
Quite a few interesting points that Dmitriy Butakov was making in this interview. Do you agree that you're better off alone or would you always try to improve your game by discussing ideas and strategies with your friends? Let us know on Twitter @magicprotour.