Magic in Milwaukee: Jon Finkel


Jaymic Schliesman


From October 16-18, the best Magic: the Gathering players in the world converged on Milwaukee for one of the biggest tournaments of the year: Pro Tour – Battle for Zendikar. The Pro Tour is the highest level of Magic competition, with one million dollars and valuable prestige on the line. As the competition wrapped up, I had the opportunity to sit down with a few of the greatest legends in Magic.


J: Alright, I am here at Pro Tour Milwaukee with the man that many say is the greatest to ever play the game, Mr. Jon Finkel. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for the people who maybe don’t follow competitive Magic very much?

JF: Sure. My name is Jon Finkel, I’ve been playing in Pro Tours since the very beginning; I played in the very first one, although I was a junior because I was seventeen. Now I’m thirty-seven, so it’s been around twenty years. I’ve done pretty well in my career, I have fifteen Top 8s, a few wins… three wins, and a number of Grand Prixs; so I guess that’s mostly my resume right there.

J: How would you say that being a competitive gamer has affected your life?

JF: Oh man, that’s a difficult answer to know. But I mean, it’s definitely been very positive. I think it’s always hard to know how much of these things are impacting your life because of competitive gaming, versus how much the traits and abilities you have are reflecting people who are competitive gamers. You know, a lot of it is just looking at the world very rationally, very logically, understanding what you can control and what you can’t, realizing that making the right decision doesn’t always work. Getting comfortable with failure, getting comfortable with losing, getting a real emotional understanding that there’s luck in a lot of places; not just in Magic, but in other areas of your life. So I think that it’s had a very big impact in how I think about the world, with a small chance that how I think about the world has had a very big impact on how well I’ve done in Magic.


J: Okay! And you don’t just play competitively, you also help out with the community. Could you tell us a little bit about that, especially Gamers Helping Gamers?

JF: Sure. So my friend Tim McKenna, who used to be a pretty serious Magic player, now he’s a father of two in New York, he’s a pretty successful economist at a consultancy firm. About five years ago, he thought of the idea of starting a Magic charity. You know, there are a lot of Magic players who have now become pretty successful professionally, and that was something we could do. So we started this charity, I think it was about five years ago, I think we’ve given out four classes of scholarships now. When I play in tournaments, I do donate half my winnings to Gamers Helping Gamers. So hopefully I’ll have more finishes like this! It’s been a couple years since I’ve made the Top 8.

Magic players tend to be very bright, but they don’t always do a lot of the activities that a lot of other scholarships are looking for, because their other activity is Magic. And obviously college is getting more and more expensive every year, so you know we figured we could do something to maybe help out our community, and also help some very bright people, help make it a little bit easier to go to college.

J: Alright, thank you. And how did you do in this Pro Tour again?

JF: So, I lost in the semifinals. So I made the Top 8, I was able to win the quarters, but then I lost in the semis. Overall I’m pretty happy with the tournament, obviously. Making Top 8 is really the goal that you have, but you understand that you’re maybe 10% to make Top 8 in any given tournament. So while I would also like to win, I’m also very happy with my finish.

J: Well, on that note, congratulations on yet another great finish, and thank you for talking to me!

JF: Alright, thank you Jaymic. It’s a pleasure.

Jaymic Schliesman

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