Hello Ben Stark and welcome to the ranks of Mage! For those unfamiliar with you as a Magic player, tell us some stone-cold facts about your career until this point.
I have five PT Top8s with a win in Paris in 2011. 24 GP Top8s, two wins which were at GP Indianapolis 2012 and GP Mexico City 2017. I’m in the Magic Hall of Fame and currently a Magic Pro League member.
I’m interested in hearing about pivotal moments in your Magic career. How did you get started, when did you break through and how do you keep your motivation high after having achieved so much?
I played in my first PTQs when I was around 14. I won my first one at 15 and played in my first Pro Tour in London in 1999. I started getting some consistent good results in the 2002-2003 season with a 33rd at PT Houston and then a 47th at PT Chicago as well as grinding into the Masters Series. From there I got on “the train”. I stepped away from the Pro Tour in 2004 for poker, but never stopped playing Magic and returned to the PT in 2009 with PT Honolulu and have played in every single Pro Tour/Mythic Championship since then. I keep my motivation high because my motivation doesn’t come from trying to accomplish some arbitrary goal. I just want to play the best game ever, against the best players in the world, on the biggest stages, with the most on the line, whenever I get the opportunity.
Many professional players describe you as the greatest mind for Limited out there. Why do you love to work on new Limited formats, and what are the three most important things for you that make a Limited format great?
I love Limited because I find it to be a lot more interactive than constructed Magic. I feel like it’s a lot more challenging when you don’t really know what your opponent will have but do know the cards available and you have to try and account for all of it. I like that in Limited more aggressive decks still are on the defensive a lot, and more controlling decks are still attacking a lot. You need to account for everything and reevaluate constantly. Constructed generally feels much more focused and scripted to me. The three largest factors that make a Limited format great are 1) good removal, so single cards don’t just dominate a game and make both players decisions irrelevant to the outcome. 2) Mechanics that mitigate mana flood and mana screw so not too many games are determined by land draws instead of decisions and interaction. 3) And finally, that the colors and decks are fairly balanced, so you have as many reasonable options as possible during the Draft portion.
The Magic Pro League and the way information was (or wasn’t) shared has been heavily critiqued by the community. How did you handle being caught in between the organization you represent and your friends that bombarded social media with various concerns?
I don’t the way Wizards has handled giving out the information about members of the Magic Pro League and changes to organized play, just as much as everyone else. I’m a Magic player first and MPL pro second. I have complained publicly about some of the changes and lots of the handling of it just the same as everyone else. So I guess the answer is I just speak my mind and do my best to use my voice to represent competitive Magic players as a whole.
Magic becoming more digital makes a lot of sense through an esports lens but is also concerning because of Magic’s origins of being a social mind-sport. What’s your position on what the future holds for top level Magic?
I love Magic being more digital. Travel costs were one of the main hindrances to people competing in tournaments. I think you can have social aspects, make friends, and have a community online and I welcome our future being more online, both in Magic and outside of it. I hope to see a lot more digital high-level Magic tournaments played from the comfort of our own homes without travel costs and efforts.
I noticed you were quite blunt in your description of the Hogaak deck when you did commentary at Grand Prix Las Vegas, and you also don’t mind talking about controversial things on your stream. Talk about why staying true to yourself means so much to you.
I can’t imagine not being honest and blunt. I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror and feel like a good person if I lied to people just because I thought companies would like it better and then maybe pay me more. Everyone is different, but I don’t think I could ever be a healthy, happy person if I put my advancement over the truth, so I just always speak my mind and be myself and then whatever happens, happens.
Looking forward with you wearing the Mage jersey, what can we expect from you in terms of content and tournaments?
I’m excited to represent Mage. I love their business model and I think it could be something really good for the Magic community. I will be wearing the Mage jersey in tournaments as soon as it’s shipped to me 🙂 As far as content, I stream Monday, Wednesday and Thursday Nights on Twitch, almost always Limited and specifically Drafts. I will be uploading new Draft videos and other Limited video content to my Youtube channel. No specific plans are set in stone to write anything but it definitely could be something I do for Mage in the future.
Lastly, please share your Twitter and Twitch handle so we can keep up with your activities. Thanks for the interview!
My Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube handles are all BenS_MTG. You can find me everywhere under that handle.