Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity.
What’s tougher – a Pro Tour, or an SCG Invitational? If anyone’s qualified to answer that, it’d be Roanoke’s own Gerry Thompson. He’s played in eleven SCG invitationals, top 8’d six and won two, on top of his nine Grand Prix top 8s. In 2013 he broke the ranks of the best pros to never spike a Pro Tour Top 8, finishing seventh at PT Gatecrash in Montreal before going on to take a break from competitive Magic and intern at Wizards of the Coast. Currently living in Seattle with his girlfriend and former SCG copyeditor Kaitlin Lindburg, Gerry is back in the scene writing for StarCityGames and crushing tournaments near you.
p4d: First, a question we ask everyone: what is your Magic: The Gathering origin story?
GT: I was into fantasy stuff, like comic books and novels when I was a kid, and my mom saw some Magic cards at a gas station and bought me a couple packs. I didn’t have anyone to play with so they just sat in a shoebox for five years or so, and then when I was 15 and got my first job one of my co-workers played Magic. We just kind of bonded over that, he built me a deck, we played some games, he ripped me off on some trades, and then I was just hooked from there.
p4d: It was several months ago now, but you left WOTC in April after a six-month internship. Can you tell us your most favourite and least favourite aspects of working there?
GT: Least favourite was that I was not the smartest person in the room anymore, but that was just part of this good thing where I was surrounded by a bunch of very smart capable people that constantly surprised me. Other than that it was just that I learned a bunch of stuff. I don’t know if it necessarily makes me a better Magic player but I certainly think that I have a better understanding of the decisions that get made for how sets and cards are designed. I know more about how they expect formats to shape up and stuff like that.
p4d: Did you feel like it was a good fit for you overall, or were you itching to get back to competitive Magic and writing articles?
GT: I didn’t know if it was going to be a good fit, but I had to try it. When they offered it to me I thought it might not work out, but I was ready to try something different as far as Magic was concerned. It was definitely a good idea, and while I was there I wasn’t thinking, “oh, I can’t wait to get back to playing” — I was definitely dedicating 100% to doing the job, but when it got towards the end of it and I had the choice to stay on for another six months, I decided to get back to playing Magic. I’m just more comfortable playing and it just felt more right for me.
p4d: How is it being back at SCG? You alluded to some other projects coming up in some recent podcasts, anything we can look forward to? Streaming, maybe?
GT: I’ve wanted to be streaming since Journey Into Nyx came out on Magic Online, but for whatever reason I haven’t started. It’s just one of those things where I’m good at doing the stuff that comes easy to me. I put off writing articles for the longest time because I thought I wouldn’t be good at it and people wouldn’t want to read the stuff I had to say. I kinda feel like that with streaming also, where I want to do it and I think it would be a good thing for me, but I just haven’t started yet. I have a lot of excuses but they’re not good ones.
I started working on a book about four years ago, and I have a lot of work done with it but it’s one of those things where it’s kind of almost done but it’s hard to pull the trigger. With my articles there’s a deadline, I have to do this every week, and for all this other stuff, if you give me free reign I’ll never finish it for whatever reason and I really need to get over that.
p4d: To lead into some P4D stuff, what does diversity in the Magic community mean to you?
GT: I think ultimately what I want to have happen is that issues of diversity are just not a thing. We are Magic players, male, female, trans, straight, gay, whatever, it doesn’t matter, you know? At the end of the day we all have this thing that we really enjoy and this should be our escape from reality, where we go to have fun and enjoy ourselves, express our creativity, and I would just like for everyone else to see each other as Magic players and not how they’re different. We have a lot of the same stuff in common and we like the same things so we should just be able to share that.
p4d: Let’s delve into an event from your past – specifically you getting decked by Todd Anderson. The interesting thing that seems to get missed is that it was an act of mediation by you, trying to keep your friends as friends. Do you find yourself in that position often?
GT: As mediator, kind of. In the social circles that I hang out with I’m normally the adult or at least the oldest person. I might not be the most mentally of age person I suppose, but I do act like the adult in a lot of situations. When people are hanging out with their friends, their filter is off, they want to blow off steam and sometimes people get a little out of control, myself included.
But there are situations where I think “hey, this is not a thing that should be happening, this is only gonna end poorly.” I don’t necessarily try to mediate things by taking a fist to the face all the time, but I think in that case it was a good solution. I don’t want to be results-oriented or anything. [laughs]
It was also one of those situations where Todd and I were not on the best of terms, and now we’re really good friends, and I think that situation really helped that a lot. But again, I don’t think the way I handled things was necessarily the best for that situation, there was almost certainly a better way, but at the time that was what I felt was correct. I knew it would resolve the situation and it did, so it is what it is.
p4d: Is there anybody who you find an inspiration in the community, that you’re learning from on these issues?
GT: I don’t feel that there’s one person in particular, it’s just that there are a lot of voices of reason in the community. But generally I have not been disappointed whenever something happens because I feel there are enough smart people that say, “no actually this is not cool, this is how you should react to this or this is what’s most acceptable”, you know? As far as my personal opinions, at the end of the day we’re all just Magic players and I wish that these things would just not be issues.
p4d: What can you do as a leader in the community or what do you think other players in general can do to make our community a better place?
GT: For me I think it’s probably just best to lead by example, and if you think that people are acting poorly and doing things that are disrespectful, you can let them know in a positive way. If someone says something in a group and then you immediately call them out on it, that’s probably not the best way to handle things. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not gonna cause change.
I feel like most people respond positively to actual one-on-one constructive criticism, and sometimes it’s someone’s opinion, where they might feel it’s okay to discriminate against females for example, and maybe you can’t change that. But most people, you talk to them in a one-on-one setting, you make it clear you respect them, you respect their opinions, but you say, hey, people have a problem with this, and they will actually stop and think. This approach has worked for me so far.
p4d: What would you like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity accomplish?
GT: It’s just constantly working towards that goal with whatever reasonable means necessary, and I think that’s good, I’m glad that someone is out there doing it.
p4d: Any big tournaments you’re playing soon?
GT: I just attended Grand Prix in Nashville and New Jersey and had loads of fun at both. I’m hitting up all the Starcity invitationals, and I am qualified for Pro Tour Vancouver.
p4d: Any sick tech you’ll be shopping around?
GT: No, not really. M16 was a set that I worked on a little bit, but it was not in FFL (Future Future League) which is why that’s the cutoff for when I can play again. Presumably between April and now the set is going to change a lot, so the theory is that I don’t have a large edge over everyone else. So I got nothing basically. I’m just waiting to see how everything plays out with the full Khans block and everything, and I’m sure that we did a lot of good work in FFL but we almost certainly didn’t find everything or have a 100% clear picture of what the format’s going to look like. It’s been very interesting being on the outside and seeing what people come up with.
p4d: Where can people find you online?
GT: I am on Twitter @G3RRYT as well as Facebook, the comments of my Starcity articles, that’s about it. I basically respond to anyone that gets at me on Twitter, so that’s probably the best way to reach me.