Gatecrash winner is ready to soar to new heights
We recently chatted with Tom Martell, who despite holding a full time job as a lawyer and entrepreneur, has managed to become one of the top “Magic: The Gathering” players. An incredible four year run came to culmination last year when he won Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal.
SL: Tom, what’s the earliest memory you have of playing MTG?
TM: Summer camp in 1994 – I remember seeing the cards Juggernaut and The Hive when a friend showed me his deck. I had no idea what the game was at the time but it was awesome.
SL: When did you first, without hesitation, call yourself a CCG player?
TM: I played in my first sanctioned tournament (a FNM) in February of 2000, and then my next tournament was regionals 2 months later. At that point, I was hooked. I grew up as a competitive chess player and it wasn’t until I started going to Magic tournaments and playing in lots of PTQs that my self identification moved away from chess to Magic.
SL: Why do you play MTG? Do you play any other CCGs?
TM: MTG is the best game that I’ve played – it has a good balance of variance and skill, each game is different and challenging. I’ve met most of my best friends though the game.
I play Hearthstone pretty regularly now that it is on the Ipad. I’ve played many other CCGs at different points in time – Babylon 5 was great, Star Trek and Star Wars were fun (all in the late 90s / early 2000s) but none has kept my attention like Magic.
SL: Do you have a specific process for training/practice before a tournament?
TM: Before a PT, I get together with my team a week beforehand to
figure out the format, work on decks and get an understanding of the
limited environment. I typically don’t play a lot of games; I like to
observe what other people are doing and listen to conversations about
cards. I’m trying to be more hands on in the future so I can get more
reps in during playtesting. I’m not a deck builder but I am pretty good at tuning the last few slots and at building sideboards.
SL: What is your least favorite part of the playing CCGs?
TM: I hate losing.
SL: What are you looking for in terms of career development?
TM: I want to continue to improve and perform at the highest level. I believe my ceiling as a player is very high, but too often I get distracted or fail to perform up to my potential. Consistency is incredibly important and I need to work on that.
SL: What do you think about CCG landscape today?
TM: The move to digital is really exciting as it unlocks new game engines and development opportunities. It also unlocks a huge audience – competitive e-sports are taking off, and digical ccgs should be able to make inroads here.
SL: Has any of the recent CCG’s caught your attention? Why?
TM: Hearthstone is a clean, simple implementation with a great UI. I don’t actually love the game or its mechanics, but it is so easy to play and is viewer-friendly.
SL: If you were tasked with growing the CCG community, what would you do?
TM: CCGs need to do a better job of tapping into the streaming / viewer space. Twitch is a great platform to get eyeballs on a game and drive user growth but most CCGs are not exciting to watch because they are so complicated and too much of what makes the game interesting is what doesn’t happen, which is hard to convey to the viewer.
SL: What advice would you give aspiring CCG players?
TM: Learn to be honest with yourself. You can’t improve if you make excuses, assign blame or otherwise hedge. Learning to be completely honest in self-assessments is a tremendous skill in many areas of life.
SL: Describe yourself as a player in 5 words or less.
TM: Driven to succeed.
SL: Who is your biggest cheerleader?
TM: Definitely my mom – she watches every time I’m broadcast anywhere and she has no idea how to play magic. She’s spent more time watching matches of magic than many players.
SL: When were you the happiest in your life?
TM: There have been many happy times in my life, but the moment that I won the Pro Tour stands out as a decisive, single moment that was the culmination of years of work.
SL: Congrats Tom! That is a huge accomplishment, and good luck in the future!
About Tom Martell:
Tom is one of the elite MTG players who recorded his first Pro Tour win last year in Montreal, and his 2nd Grand Prix win in Sacramento in January 2014. He also has 2 finishes’ in Top 8 on Pro Tour, and he placed 5 times in TOP 8 in Grand Prix events. To find out more about Mr. Martell, please follow him on Twitter.