Old-School Pro Svend Geertsen Meets Modern Magic

Posted in GRAND PRIX COPENHAGEN 2015 on June 21, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Modern is comprised of approximately the last twelve years of Magic, so it's a good format for old-school players. But some players are just too old school. Take Svend Geertsen, for instance.

Roughly fifteen years ago, he was a well-known Danish Magic pro. He gained fame by finishing in the Top 4 of the 1997 World Championships with his Mono-Green Stompy deck, and over the course of five years of high-level Magic, he racked up four Pro Tour Top 8 appearances.

Svend Geertsen

What Happened Since Then?

"I believe that Pro Tour Houston 2002 was the last Pro Tour I played," Geertsen said. "Then I moved to Australia for a year to study, and I quit the Pro Tour as I was trying to take university more seriously. Since then, I finished my Masters and my Ph.D. in neuroscience, and these days I'm teaching at the University of Copenhagen."

Geertsen didn't really keep up with the game since. "I played the previous Grand Prix Copenhagen for fun, and I'm still friends with some of the old-timers on Facebook so I still see it when people are doing well, but I haven't kept track of all of the new cards and abilities."

The Return

"It was Raphaël Lévy who convinced me to come to this event and to have some fun," said Geertsen. "He gave me a decklist and Martin Jůza was so kind to lend me the cards, so I could register for the Grand Prix."

Svend Sparre Geertsen's Burn – Grand Prix Copenhagen 2015

Download Arena Decklist

"I was happy when I saw Lightning Bolt in my deck. I still recognized that one," Geertsen said. "I'm glad that I got a simple burn deck because it feels familiar and is a perfect choice for me."

I asked Geertsen about the differences between Magic then and now. "When I first entered the event hall. It felt like nothing had really changed. It's the same kind of atmosphere as back in the days, and it's a lot of fun to see all the old players and catch up with them," he answered.

"But what struck me is how popular the game is right now. Back in 2000, Grand Prix events typically had 300 players. Nowadays, there are thousands of players at every GP. It's crazy. I'm also surprised at how good the decks are and how fast they kill. Some of them kill on turn three!"

To get a feel for Magic back in 1997, take a look at Geertsen's Standard deck which he had piloted all the way to the semifinals then!

Svend Sparre Geertsen's Señor Stompy – 1997 World Championships

Download Arena Decklist

Did you have to read some of the cards? Unless you were already playing eighteen years ago, you probably did. Well, Geertsen had to read most of his opponent's cards during the Grand Prix as well! He played a few practice games on Friday night (where he had to be taught what a Planeswalker was, as that card type didn't exist back in 2002) but he was still baffled by all of the new developments.

"There are tons of cool new abilities, and I like them, but some are pretty complicated. Phyrexian mana? Delve? The first time they were played against me, it seemed like witchcraft! Likewise, the first time an opponent played Huntmaster of the Fells against me during the Grand Prix, I was surprised to learn that there was a whole other side to the card. And when Tarmogoyf was cast against me, I first thought it got +1/+1 for each card with a different name in the graveyard. Turns out it's not that good."

So if you caught Geertsen's on-camera feature match when he picked up Tarmogoyf to read it: He wasn't trying to troll the viewers. It was literally the first time he had ever seen the card. Fortunately, many of Geertsen's opponents were happy to tell him what their cards did. And in case you're wondering: it's always perfectly okay to read what an opponent's card does if you are not familiar with it, provided you do so in a timely fashion.

Geertsen also had to read Scavenging Ooze. It turned out to be very effective against his Burn deck ...

How Did His Tournament Go?

Geertsen started Day 1 with an impressive 5-0 run, showing that general game playing skills don't wither, even during a long break. After that, however, he didn't fare so well, and eventually finished at 6-3, narrowly missing out on Day 2.

I asked him whether we would see him again. "I had a lot of fun today," he said, "and I'm thinking about starting to play again, but probably only casually with friends at first."

Geertsen may have come back at the right time, as Danish Magic is currently at an all-time high: Martin Dang won Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, Magnus Lantto recently won the Magic Online Championship, and Martin Müller led the Danish team to victory at the last World Magic Cup. Several people had claimed that Danish Magic was going through its first major resurgence since the era of Svend Sparre Geertsen. But maybe that era is not over yet ...