Louisiana native, Tom "The Boss" Ross, got his first taste of Pro Tour success many years ago. Since then, Ross has quietly exited the limelight. Over the last year, though, Ross has established himself as one of the most impressive players on the StarCityGames Open Series. Ross plays unique decks of his own design that require incredible playskill. Ross's ability to win with seemingly unplayable decks makes him one of the most exciting players to watch in high profile events. This weekend, he has the opportunity to prove himself on Legacy's biggest stage here at Grand Prix New Jersey.
I had the opportunity to sit down with The Boss to discuss his perspective on the current Legacy format, improving as a player, and Magic in general.
Jacob Van Lunen: "When did you start playing Magic? Competitively?"
Tom Ross: "I started playing with people when Homelands came out. I started playing in tournaments in 97' or 98'."
JVL: "You've had a lot of success on the StarCityGames Open Series, but you've struggled to reestablish yourself as a Pro Tour regular. Are there steps you're taking to ensure your place on the Pro Tour in the coming year? Or are you confident that it will come with time?"
TR: "I try to play in at least one PTQ a month, and I travel to Grand Prix events that are close enough. In the coming year, I'm going to start flying to more Grand Prix events. I had trouble playing in PTQs during Modern season. I've become a strong Legacy and Standard player from the Open Series and I always play a ton of Limited, but I don't have a lot of experience with Modern. I'm hoping the new PTQ system helps me get back on the Pro Tour."
JVL: "You've always been an impressive player and deck builder, but you've really stepped up your game in the last year. What advice do you have for players that are looking to improve their deck building skills?"
TR: "I just read all the cards. I go through Gatherer [gatherer.com] all the time, typing in keywords, and rechecking recent sets. I like taking decks from previous block seasons and trying to improve them to port into Standard."
JVL: "Your ability to identify strange decks that are well-positioned in a given format seems unparalleled. What types of things do you look for when planning an attack on an unprepared metagame?"
TR: "I look at the decks people are playing and try to identify a common theme that we can take advantage of. The most recent Standard seasons have been very midrange heavy. So we've really only had two options: We can go above them with a controlling strategy like the Blue/Black deck that Adrian Sullivan crushed the Sunday Super Series with in Nashville or we can go underneath them with a hyper aggressive strategy. I tend to do better with the most aggressive decks. Basically, I want to blank the cards in their hand by giving them dead cards [Like removal spells against a controlling deck with no creatures] or leaving the cards stranded in their hand by killing them before they can get them on the table."
JVL: "You disappeared from the competitive Magic scene for a bit. What brought you back?"
TR: "I moved to Baton Rouge and they had some good card shops there, like Rocket's Hideout. The guys that played there liked to travel and had the fire. I met like-minded players and was able to travel with them to Opens, PTQs, and Grand Prix events in the area that I might otherwise have had to fly to."
JVL: "What are your goals as a Magic player?"
TR: "For now, I want to stay on top of the SCG circuit. At least in the top 16 so I have byes at their events. After that, I'd like to get on the Pro Tour and string together a good year. Long term, I'm looking to have my own Wikipedia page and be in the hall of fame. I really need that Wikipedia page."
Tom Ross is quickly proving himself to be a bright star in the future of competitive Magic. Some of the game's greatest players consider him to be the best player currently playing the game. There's surely a lot of success coming for The Boss. Stay tuned to continuing coverage of Grand Prix New Jersey to see if he gets a taste of it this weekend!