Catching up with the Draft Master

Posted in GRAND PRIX WARSAW 2016 on October 29, 2016

By Olle Rade

A few weeks ago Márcio Carvalho took his second Grand Prix titles by winning Grand Prix London. Prior to that he was the runner up at the World Championships in Seattle. Fresh from a trip to Honolulu for Pro Tour Kaladesh Márcio Carvalho bounced back to Portugal on Tuesday only to catch a flight to Warsaw to play here this weekend. In what can only be described as a hectic schedule of Magic at the highest level I took time to sit down and talk to the Pro Tour Draft Master and one of Europe's finest to pick his brain about Standard, Kaladesh and both his past and presence.

31-year-old Márcio Carvalho is mostly known for his talent when picking up 40 card draft decks, but he is not stranger to constructed either. His 12 Grand Prix Top 8s are divided equal between limited and constructed, although he does admit not playing as much standard you would expect of a full time Magic Pro.

"To be honest, I don't play that much Standard. I should play more and I think my deck choices at Pro Tours have been a bit off because of it," he said.

Márcio Carvalho

At Pro Tour Kaladesh he chose to play a combo deck based on Aetherworks Marvel. A deck that seemed powerful at the time, but in hindsight Carvalho said he'd rather have played another deck.

"I thought the deck was good, but I knew it had a lot of variance, which is bad for a Pro Tour. I should have played something like White-Red Vehicles or just another solid deck," he said with a bit of disappointment.

Márcio Carvalho has been a staple at the European Grand Prix Scene in what seems forever. But not everyone might know that he's played the game for as long as he has. He made Top 8 at a Pro Tour in Kuala Lumpur eight years ago and the Top 8 at the World Championships as far back as Yokohama 2005.

"I'm already 31 years old. It's too much. I've been playing since I was 14 or 15, so it's been quite some time. Right now I'm playing Magic full time so I don't do a lot other than go to the gym or hang out with my friends when I'm back home in Portugal," he explained.

When talking to Márcio Carvalho about his previous accomplishment it's quite clear that one of them stands out above the other – making the finals at this years World Championship.

"When I was a kid I always wanted to win the World Championships. And when I made Top 8 in Yokohama in 2005 and lost in the quarter-finals I was devastated. The year after that I lost the last round playing for another chance in the Top 8. After that they took away Worlds and I thought I would never have a chance again to play for a chance to be the World Champion," said Carvalho.

His chance did come though. After having the best draft record at all last years Pro Tours he was invited to Seattle and made it all the way to the finals. Although he fell short of the title to Brian Braun-Duin it was clearly an experience that moved him deeply.

"I was a little bit disappointed that I didn't win. But I think Brian had the better deck and played better than me in the finals. He drew a little better, but to be honest I think he won because he played better. So I was happy to make the finals. Of course a little bit unhappy that I lost, but watching the games, he should be the winner."

Márcio Carvalho making it all the way to the finals wasn't without controversy. His name is known among players as someone who hasn't always played a fair game of Magic. Many were upset that someone with a suspicious past was doing so well, something that Márcio Carvalho is aware of, and he is not afraid to talk about his past.

"I was caught looking at another persons cards in draft in Rotterdam in 2009, and even though I disagreed it ended up with me being banned for six months," he said.

Carvalho said he's used to people reacting strongly on social media whenever he's doing well, but also says that he's a different person now, and his best way to silence his disbelievers is by keep playing and keep doing well.

"When I was a kid and still in school I was winning a lot of money on Magic. You can be really stupid when you're young and competitive and want to be the best. You just want to always win no matter what and sometimes you push over the edge a little. I regret some stuff that I did when I was younger. I know I wasn't the most righteous player when I was young and I could have been a better person, for sure."

After being disqualified at World Magic Cup in 2014 for presenting an illegal deck Carvalho said that he is used to being watched extra hard during his games.

"Some players aren't going to change their opinions no matter what. They think they know the truth, and that truth is that one player sees something, and then exaggerates a little, and tells a friend, who also exaggerates a little when telling the story. And the story might not even be true to begin with. And that's how social media works now."

Regardless of what people might think of his past, one thing that can't be argued is his present. When Carvalho won Grand Prix London two weeks ago it was his first title since Grand Prix Lisbon in 2005 and a 11 years wait was finally over.

"I was tired of not winning my Top 8's. I could have won four or five Grand Prix by now, but I was always losing in the semis or the quarters. This time I really wanted a win, since the last one was such a long time ago. So it was a special win, and it was Limited. And going 9-0 in draft on Day Two was a sweet cherry on top".

What did it mean to win again then after all this time?

"It was really awesome. I had a lot of friends there from Portugal too, like 20 or 30 of them watching the finals, so it was crazy. I was thinking that clearly I was on fire after second place at Worlds, then first place in London, and now I've qualified for the Magic Online Championship Series too. So I really can't complain about life".

With his success the last year Carvalho is getting acknowledgment as one of the best Limited players in the game. When asked what makes him a strong player he didn't have to think long before answering.

"I think I'm a really intuitive player. I do a lot of out of the box-play and I play different against every opponent. I read my opponents and play accordingly, which is something that I don't think a lot of players do. Most people think that the same play is the best against everyone, which I don't think is true, especially in draft. Against some players you can bluff more and against some players you get a feeling for how they play around tricks in the format and you have to constantly adjust."

No player is without weaknesses though, and Márcio Carvalho said he has a pretty major one.

"Testing! I don't like to test a lot and I get bored quickly. If my teams say let's play 50 games of Standard I play 50 and then I can't play any more. I think I have to learn to play more."

This weekend he's off to a 4-1 start with a Green-Black delirium deck that he said is an archetype that he has had a success with at previous constructed Grand Prix.

"I really like my deck, so the goal would be to make Top 8 again. To win is of course always the ultimate goal, but the realistic goal at a Grand Prix is the Top 8. And if I don't succeed I aim at a 12-3 record so I can at least pick up three Pro Points."

With 24 Pro Points for the season, Carvalho is already looking good for hitting another year of Platinum Pro Status. But his motivation is stronger than just making that. If the 15-year-old Márcio Carvalho wanted to be World Champion more than anything, the 31-year-old wants it at least twice as much after coming so close earlier this year.

"The goal for the season is to qualify for the World Championships again. And the only goal I have in left in Magic is becoming World Champion. It would be like winning a Grand Prix, a Pro Tour and the Magic Online Championship all at once."

Maybe one day, he will get there.