The name Brian Braun-Duin evokes many thoughts. He is one of the hardest working players on the Pro Tour. Considered a “grinder” in most circles, he fought long and hard for a spot in professional Magic. He has written for Star City Games and Channel Fireball. Many people that stay in tune with competitive Magic say he is one of the friendliest players in the game today. Despite what many people think when hearing the name Brian Braun-Duin, one thing is unmistakable…He is becoming the blueprint of what a Pro Tour player should be.
Paper Champion interviewed Brian shortly after Pro Tour: Oath of the Gatewatch. Here is what he had to say.
Paper Champion: How were you first introduced to Magic: The Gathering?
Brian Braun-Duin: I was taught how to play by a friend my freshman year of college at Virginia Tech. I was part of a program called The WELL, and everyone else part of that program lived on the same floor of the same dormitory. We were all mostly like minded in our love of gaming, and we spent much of our freshman year playing all kinds of games, from sports to card games to video games. One of our friends had some old Magic cards from when he used to play and he showed us how to play late into the year. We got hooked on it, and I guess I never truly quit.
PC: You have played well with a wide variety of deck types. What makes you so versatile?
BBD: I don’t know if I am actually that versatile when it comes to deck selection. I still have tendencies and preferences towards certain archetypes over others. What versatility I do have, however, is entirely from putting in the requisite work to become good with those decks. I can rarely just pick up a deck and do well with it. I test a lot on Magic Online and in paper to prepare myself to play these decks.
BBD: I think a lot of professional players have built up this aura of elitism. There’s this kind of Ivory Tower mentality, where these pros will only associate with other pros and look at other players as beneath them. It’s only recently where I stopped feeling that kind of judgment from the higher level players myself. It always bothered me. It wasn’t really that I sought their approval, I just felt that it was a poor way to represent yourself or the game as a whole. It reflected poorly on professional players. When I was a PTQ grinder, or even grinding on the SCG circuit, I hated when high level players would effectively snub their nose at us. I think some professionals still have that mentality, but I believe it has lessened a lot, and most are great people.
My philosophy is that it doesn’t matter where someone is at with Magic, it doesn’t really make them any more or any less of a person. I hate when people are liked or disliked solely on their Magic acumen, or judged positively or negatively purely based on their skill at this card game.
PC: You maintain a persistent, positive outlook and have worked hard over the last several years to achieve and maintain Pro Tour status. How do you feel about being recognized as one of the more blue collar players on the circuit?
BBD: I like it. Personally, I’m proud of how hard I worked to get where I am with the game. It’s clear to me that I don’t have the same natural level of skill as some of the high level players. I’ve had to work much harder than they have, and I haven’t ascended nearly as far as they have, but I embrace my position in the community. I like being an example of how an average player can start to put up good enough results if they put in enough time, studying, and work into it.
PC: What is something you wish you could change about Magic: The Gathering?
BBD: I don’t think there is much I would change regarding game play itself. However, I think the tournament structure and coverage of events could be drastically improved. I’d love to see better run tournaments with bigger prize structures and improved coverage. I think Magic has a long way to go in those regards.
PC: Death has challenged you to a best of three match. What deck do you play to save your soul?
BBD: Soul Sisters. If that can’t save my soul, then what can?
PC: Do you have any casual decks you have enjoyed over the years?
BBD: Nah, I don’t really play much casual Magic. Not that I am opposed to it, but if I’m playing Magic, I’d rather just spend my time preparing for competitive events.
PC: What other games or hobbies do you currently enjoy?
BBD: I just recently bought an Xbox One, but haven’t played with it yet. I like reading, watching movies, watching Netflix, spending time with my friends and girlfriend. Nothing too fancy, really.
PC: What is the strangest experience you have had while playing at an event?
BBD: I’ve had a few bad ones I’d rather not get into. In terms of strange, I can’t remember anything too off the wall, at least nothing that I can share publicly. One event, there was a bird flying around the event hall. That was pretty sweet. Nothing super strange, but I thought it was cool.
BBD: Hmm, there are a lot of good options here. Really, for me, the cards I hate most are ones that take away the ability for one player to play the game. Cards like Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, Trinisphere, Ensnaring Bridge, and Choke. I’ll probably go with Blood Moon.
PC: What are some common mistakes casual players make when attempting to take their game to the next level?
BBD: Getting too prideful. When people start to elevate their game, they often get an associated ego and start to feel and act like they can do no wrong. Obviously that is not true, as we all make mistakes playing Magic, no matter the level we are on. That pride and ego prevents them from moving even further on, and can even set them back.
Not taking things one step at a time. You don’t go from level 1 to level 10 in a week. Elevating your game takes time, work, dedication. There’s no magic pill or quick fix to get to the top.
PC: What is something you have always wanted Magic players to know about your days as an active player?
BBD: It’s not as glamorous as it seems. There are a lot of people out there who aspire to be a Pro MTG player, myself once included. The life of a Pro Player is full of a lot of grinding, frustration, long trips and boredom. It’s exhausting, and not always fun. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it’s not a lifestyle for everyone nor is it something that is sustainable in the long term.
Thanks for the interview Brian. Keep swinging last!
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