Pascal Maynard dreamed of Pro Tour glory, poured every ounce of himself into the game last season, and, after a seemingly endless string of disappointing finishes, fell short of his goal. Having given it his best, Maynard hung up the wand and retreated back to playing locally. Grand Prix Ottawa was a close drive, so Maynard decided to make the trek with a few friends. After fifteen rounds of swiss, he found himself in his first Grand Prix Top 8 in over a year. The fever was back and Maynard booked a ticket to Grand Prix Omaha. Another fifteen rounds of swiss later and he found himself in his second Top 8 in as many tournaments. Now, here at Grand Prix Mexico City, Maynard is in great position to Top 8 his third Grand Prix in succession going into the last draft of the day. I sat down with Maynard to talk about overcoming failure, the thrill of victory, and the prospect of an incredible achievement.
Jacob Van Lunen: “When did you start playing Magic? How?”
Pascal Maynard: “I started playing shortly after the release of Fifth Dawn. I lived across the street from a gaming store and I used to play a ton of card games there. I became close with the other Magic players, they were older and treated me like an actual person. I stuck with it.”
JVL: “Tell me about last year.”
PM: “I had a lot going on last year. My personal life wasn’t going well and I tried to compensate with Magic. I went to events almost every weekend and tired myself out. I would play poorly and then play worse because I was upset with myself for making mistakes. I was running poorly, but I wasn’t playing well either. I was basically out of any tournament where I lost the first round because I would get too upset to play at the level I’m capable of. When I’m in a good spot, when I’m playing well, I can overcome those negative feelings.”
JVL: “Now you’re on quite the tear. You’ve Top 8ed your last two Grand Prix events and you’re deep into the second day of competition here. What would it mean to you to Top 8 three of these events in a row?”
PM: “It would obviously be awesome. This isn’t the biggest Grand Prix, but I’ve been playing against a lot of great players and it’s been a difficult tournament. I would be very proud to make it to the elimination rounds. Getting to the Top 8 of this tournament would put me one point away from Silver. Also, it’s another practice draft for the Pro Tour.”
JVL: Do you feel like last year’s losing streak liberated you from the pressure to do well? Do you feel like your game has improved as a result?
PM: “I was spent after last year. I had booked a three week vacation to the Philippines and I was scheduled to leave the Monday following the Grand Prix. My best friend moved to the Philippines a few years back. He’s the type of friend that supports me when I’m in a bad spot. I wasn’t thinking about doing well at Grand Prix Ottawa, I was thinking about seeing my friend. It was freeing, the pressure was gone and I was able to play much better than I had been for the prior year.”
JVL: “So did you end up going to the Philippines after Ottawa?”
PM: “Yes, and I spent the whole time not thinking about Magic. I just cleared my head and had a human experience... I guess that’s not entirely true, actually. I watched the World Championship and World Magic Cup while I was there, but I definitely spent at least a week not looking at any Magic cards.”
JVL: “How did you feel after that vacation? Did that time affect your choices during and leading up to Grand Prix Omaha?”
PM: “I was a different person. I trusted myself. In Omaha, I did something completely out of character. I’m not usually the type to innovate in Constructed, but I felt like Tidebinder Mage and Goblin Guide would be very good in my Delver deck. I didn’t have time to test, but I trusted myself. If the format was as it was, I wanted those cards in my deck. As it turned out, those cards were extremely instrumental in my making it to the Top 8.”
JVL: “It can be disheartening when things aren’t going your way, but it’s clear you were able to overcome those feelings and continue improving your game. What advice do you have for players trying to overcome a losing streak?”
PM: “Don’t give up. Don’t go on tilt. When you lose, it’s important to think about why you lost and not blame it on variance. Even when you lose to something like not drawing lands or drawing too many, it’s important to run through all the possible things that you could have done to win the game. Blaming things on luck will make you angry and let emotion get into your game.”
JVL: “What are your goals for the coming year?”
PM: “I want to take it one step at a time. I’ve learned my lesson about setting expectations. I’ll start with the goal of Silver and go from there. One thing that would mean a lot to me is a strong Pro Tour finish this year. I haven’t gone deep at a Pro Tour in a very long time.”
JVL: “Is there anything else you’d like to say?”
PM: “I’d like to thank my local community for constantly being in my corner, even when I was losing. The people at Botique Donjon, my local gaming store, help me test for everything. Most of the time, they’re not even qualified for the event. Their support and positive encouragement has been essential to my recent success.”
Pascal Maynard is back and better than ever. He’s just two wins away from securing an incredible three Grand Prix Top 8s in a row. Will Pascal accomplish this tremendous achievement? Stay tuned to coverage of Grand Prix Mexico City to find out.