Building An APAC Powerhouse: MTG Mint Card

Posted in GRAND PRIX BEIJING 2016 on April 16, 2016

By Ben Swartz

In preparation for Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad next week in Madrid, many professional Magic players have teamed up. One of the most well known teams in Asia that will be competing next week is MTG Mint Card. I talked with one of the founders of the team, Lee Shi Tian, about how the team started and how it transformed into the powerhouse that it is today.

Lee Shi Tian

"It started with me and Tzu Ching Kuo around 2012-2013," Lee explained, "Tzu [Ching Kuo] won the World Magic Cup and I Top 8ed Pro Tour Return to Ravnica." Those were the first big results players from APAC had earned in a long time. "Before us, the Asians (except the Japanese) didn't really do well on the Pro Tour stage," Lee continued. "We figured out there was something missing from our playtesting...we [thought] we [could] do something like what the Americans or Europeans do, so we decided to get all the people in Asia [together]."

Tzu Ching Kuo

The original core of the team was Tzu Ching Kuo, Huang Hao-Shan, Chapman Sim, and Lee Shi Tian. Unfortunately, they didn't have success right away. The team somewhat haphazardly tested for the Pro Tours in 2013. It wasn't until the end of 2013 that they had their wake up call: "[Things changed] after Pro Tour Theros," Lee explained, "at Theros there was mono-black and mono-blue Devotion and we didn't have any deck even close to those." Due to their performance in Dublin they were forced to craft a new strategy. "[After that] we knew we needed to get together one week before each Pro Tour—we simply didn't have enough time to test."

From there the team had continued success, with Lee making Top 8 appearances at Pro Tours Born of the Gods, Khans of Tarkir, and Fate Reforged. Lee explained that this was partly due to their testing: "Before we get together [for a week], we test in our own country and we communicate and talk about test results and drafts." From there they're ready for their week of testing.

Lee explained that the team's roster is constantly in flux, "Pro players in Asia go up and down, some people get on the train and some people fall. We switch teammates [from] time to time." For him he's just excited about working with other people from his region, "people we've tested before, we will test with again if they qualify afterwards."

For Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Lee Shi Tian and MTG Mint Card have teamed up with a bunch of players from around the world, including Raphaël Lévy, Jérémy Dezani, Andrea Mengucci, and Christian Calcano. Lee explained how the partnership began: "We've tested with [Tomoharu] Saito for the last three Pro Tours. Saito asked us if Dezani and Calcano could join. Dezani brought in Raphaël Lévy because they always playtest together and Calcano asked if Mengucci could join—they're really close."

Tomoharu Sait

Raphaël Lévy

Jérémy Dezani

Andrea Mengucci

Christian Calcano

Occasionally, when you see these super teams formed, the number of members cause more problems than the value they bring. While the team works in different time zones, Lee explained that this works to their advantage: "We wake up and we test [in Asia] and then we post the results. Then, the next day, we continue the discussion (when they wake up). It's quite fun. I think the information we get is quite valuable." This approach has been working well so far, but come Monday the players will all meet up in Madrid to begin their one week training session.

Lee's hopes are high for the Pro Tour next weekend. "I think we can put up good results, at least one Top 8." His biggest fear is falling into the metagame trap, he elaborated: "as long as we don't bring the metagame deck—everyone is always prepared for the metagame deck."

What started as Lee Shi Tian and Tzu Ching Kuo getting together other APAC players has become one of the most feared teams at the Pro Tour. Be on the lookout for MTG Mint Card next weekend at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad!

Team MTG Mint Card