Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – Eternally Supportive

Posted in NEWS on November 2, 2013

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

Here in Philadelphia, Eternal is the name of the game. There are no frills, no strings attached, no distractions...just good old school Eternal Magic. Players have come from all over the world for their crack at the title and the one-of-a-kind prizes: blown up versions of trademark cards from the formats, each with recommissioned artwork. Among the players vying for their chances to win are some of the biggest names in each of the formats. After fortuitously finding them paired against each other in Round 5, I had a chance to speak with one trademark representative of each community.

Ari Lax is one of the best Legacy players on the planet. Over the course of three or four major events in the past couple of years, I can count the number of losses I've seen him accrue on one hand. He contends that this is because I've only seen him at events where he was playing ANT, a deck with which he has become synonymous. Still, his numbers and performances tell the tale of a player very confident with the format. Interestingly, Lax opted away from the ANT deck which has afforded him his greatest success, choosing instead the aggressive Death and Taxes deck for this Championship. It has served him well so far, as he entered Round 6 an undefeated 5-0.

His defeated opponent, Raymond Robillard, is the very example of a pillar of the Vintage community. Over a decade ago, Robillard began a tournament known as the Waterbury in Waterbury, Connecticut. Since its inception, this quarterly Vintage tournament has steadily grown in popularity and esteem, fueling the fire for hundreds of Vintage players across the east cost of the US. After getting married, Robillard had to let organizing events fall by the wayside, but his influence has still made a major impact on an entire generation of Vintage players.

So how does it feel to be here at Eternal Weekend, with both the Legacy and Vintage Championships being showcased in a stand-alone event rather than part of some larger event?

Robillard – I think it's awesome. I've alweays wanted to participate in it, but never had the chance. I went to Gen Con every year for a few years there, and sporadically as time has allowed recently. I would always plan to do all of these cool things! I'm going to do this or do that! And then I would spend all of my time in the Magic room and not make it out. It's nice having it be separate now, because I could focus on Gen Con at Gen Con, and I can focus on this now.


Raymond Robillard and Ari Lax

 

Lax – I am very happy. I love traveling to Indy, I think it's a great place to hold tournaments, but I hate Gen Con. I'm not really into a lot of the other gaming experiences. I play Magic for the competitive aspect, and that doesn't really exist outside of the tournaments at Gen Con. A lot of the other stuff there doesn't really appeal to me. At Gen Con, it can be kind of expensive having to purchase a badge, and you have to jump through hoops sometimes to get the tickets you need for events... I just want to play in a Magic event, and I get to do that here. It's also about nine hours less driving for me, so I'll take that.

Robillard – On a personal level, I'm also really good friends with Nick Coss, the TO for Eternal Weekend. He's a Vintage guy through and through, and he really understands what Eternal players want. I think he's doing a bang up job here.

Eternal formats tend to be the most misunderstood formats in Magic. People just hear Vintage or Legacy and assume that it's all about doing something absurd and an utter lack of interaction between players. How would you guys respond to that?

Lax – From a fundamental standpoint, Vintage is way harder than any other format. Not only are you presented with so many options for cards, but Vintage also has all of the restrictions placed on it. Other formats have decks with like twenty individual cards. Vintage has that many one-of cards, tutors with an infinite number of options...every one slot matters so much, and every part of the game matters so much because there are so many plays that can cascade into a win so quickly. If you think this card is going to matter and it doesn't, you can just lose... If you battle a well-fought game, it can be incredibly interesting.

Robillard – I think the biggest difference between Vintage and Standard is that they are really two sides of the same game. It's like in golf. There is the long game and the short game. Standard is like the long game—whack the ball as hard as you can. You play this huge guy then I play this mythic then you play this huge mythic... Vintage is more about precision. If you turn your wrist ever so slightly when putting, you find yourself missing completely. It's the same thing in Vintage. If you misstep one little bit (pun intended), it's all over.

How do you feel about the state of Legacy right now?

Lax – I'm pretty happy with it. I mean, the big hype right now is that Show and Tell needs to be banned, right? This is the same Show and Tell deck that we ran out of the metagame like a year and a half ago. I'm not sure why people are complaining so much about it now.

Robillard – Until they produce a card that says "counter target spell," Show and Tell is going to be dominant. Oh wait! There are a million ways to do that!

 

Lax – Yeah, we dealt with this deck and caused it to fade out about a year ago. It's good, but it's not stellar. There are a bunch of issues with Show and Tell as opposed to some of the other combo decks, specifically mana mobility with your combo turn. Whereas Storm or High Tide can set up these sequences where they force opponents to really consider what's important to worry about, Show and Tell simply plays Show and Tell. You know it's what's going to kill you, you should probably counter it.

Robillard – Wait, you do have a Counterspell? Ok. I guess you got me.

So are you guys looking forward to Vintage tomorrow?

Lax – I'm probably not going to play. I don't own any power, and I didn't want to go through the hassle of borrowing someone's power, playing with it and being responsible for it. If I did have access to some that I knew I could get easily, I would have loved to play more of the format to prepare for tomorrow.

Robillard – I have a funny story considering that I'm considered a big Vintage guy. I'm actually running a deck with no power tomorrow. I have always played in proxy tournaments, and for years, I had two full sets of power. Then I decided I wanted to marry my wife, and those two sets of power basically paid for the wedding. I've collected all sorts of other cards since them, but I've never gone back and collected the power since I've always just been able to proxy it. I always feel a little nervous about playing with someone else's power, so I just opted to play unpowered. If I'd known that there were going to be such strong security measures here, I might have considered it. It's great. I had a set of power stolen from me at Gen Con a couple of years ago, and Brian DeMars helped me get it back. It was an eye-opening experience for me, both in terms of how much it can hurt to lose something so valuable, but then the sense of goodness in the world that there are people that would help me get it back.

How important have proxy tournaments been in helping to grown Vintage, especially considering the difficulty some players face in acquiring the cards to play sanctioned events?

Robillard – I think the proxy tournaments have helped to grow the environment, but they also created a situation where it can be tough to go back to sanctioned. They bring people in, and they create an opportunity for people to play Vintage, which is great, but those same people lose the incentive to actually acquire the cards needed to play in sanctioned tournaments if they can just play in proxy tournaments. I think it's been a weird catch-22. I think proxy tournaments are necessary to have a vintage scene, but as long as there are proxy tournaments, there won't be as strong of a sanctioned Vintage scene. Those are really the two options. Do you want a proxy Vintage scene or no Vintage scene at all? I'll take the proxies.

Let's close by telling us your favorite things that you can do in your respective formats!

Robillard – I'm going to have to go with being able to kill someone on turn one. There is nothing that compares to that feeling—it's one of a kind. I think that it creates a real sense of excitement for players and spectators alike. There are players who complain that, without Force of Will, you can't possibly compete. That doesn't happen all the time. Both players should be coming in with that attitude, that they might both be able to pull of this turn one-kill. Sometimes I'll get it, sometimes they will. We can both get our rush. The slightest thing could mean the match. It's very unforgiving, but I mean that as a compliment. There's just so much strategy there.

Lax – I've got two very different things that I find really exciting. First is the one that everyone would expect from me—casting Diminishing Returns. That card is sweet, you never know what's going to happen. Never tell me the odds. You just flip your cards, and you're like, "Ok, I win this time." The other one that I had happened today. I had a Mirran Crusader with a Sword of Fire and Ice and an Umezawa's Jitte on it. Trying to figure out how much damage that does on the first swing is impossible. I love that.