Gabriel Nassif has a long and storied history with Magic: The Gathering. His accomplishments include 6 Grand Prix Top 8s, one of which was a win in 2009, and 9 Pro Tour Top 8s! Three (3) of those were 2nd place finishes and 2 of them were 1st place finishes! His first championship was in 2005 at Pro Tour Atlanta and the second was in 2009 at Pro Tour Kyoto. He also has 3 Worlds Top 8s for good measure.
Gabriel has been recognized as one of Magic’s greatest players and was inducted into the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame in 2010. Gabriel lives in Paris, France with his wife.
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In his years playing Magic, Gabriel made a good many friends which helped keep him in the game. His ability to compete at a very high level, and Magic’s ability to stay interesting and fresh from year to year are also reasons why Gabriel has stuck around for so long. While he has continually competed in Pro Tours, he finds that renting a house before the tournament and training with his friends is almost more fun than the Pro Tour itself.
In his early days of playing Magic Gabriel found himself not valuing cards correctly. Like many players, he would trade cards based on what seemed cooler as opposed to their tactical value. It took hours of playing the game and thinking about Magic while scribbling deck lists in his notebook at school for him to hone his evaluating skills.
Gabriel also acknowledges getting into the game at a young age helped develop his Magic intuition, as he was able to fully immerse himself in the game and absorb all of its facets.
Gabriel’s level up moment came when he first started playing Magic, as there was the most room for improvement then. He finds that once you get closer to the top it’s much harder to keep ascending.
When he was growing up he frequently played at his local store and was lucky to learn from the many excellent players that lived in Paris. This was back when deck lists weren’t on the internet or shared in many magazines, and Paris Magic players were notorious for being brutally good at the game. They often joke that if Magic Online hadn’t come about Parisian players would have dominated the world.
Gabriel has had an amazing Magic career and can cite a dozen great moments that stand out to him. In his early days of Playing Magic he managed to win a Black Lotus at his local shop in Paris.
At his first Grand Prix in London he made it to Day 2, and was convinced his opponent who flew in from the United States, Brock Parker, was a big cheater. Gabriel end up crushing him in their matches and realized Brock was just another player who loved the game just like he did.
Losing to luck or variance doesn’t bother Gabriel much, it’s the losses he takes due to his own mistakes that get to him. He notes that back in the day he was an excellent deck builder, but made a lot of sloppy mistakes in play which took him a long time to mentally recover from.
Magic was his entire life, and losing a Pro Tour left a wound that took him almost an entire year to heal. When he was getting really good at the game he didn’t realize he’d become a little arrogant and wasn’t treating his friends well. He even threw his deck through the air after losing a feature match at a Pro Tour. It took one of his friends calling him out on his behavior for him to reel himself back in.
While cheating isn’t nearly as rampant as it was years ago it can still rear its ugly head from time to time. Gabriel says if something happens to you in a match, even if it just looks like sloppy play or an accident, you should always get a judge involved so a record can be made. Someone may have accidentally flipped your card over while shuffling your deck, or they may have made it look like an accident but actually have a record of doing it.
Gabriel thinks one of the hallmark mistakes new players make is blaming their losses on luck. Be honest with yourself and take the time to analyze your deck in a meaningful way.
He finds that when players first start building decks they are prone to not playing enough lands. Building your deck and playing it is how a player determines what needs to be adjusted, and looking at deck lists similar to your deck will help fine tune how many lands should be included.
Following deck trends is a phenomenon that Gabriel concedes very well might be affecting the Magic community at large.
He misses his early days of playing Magic, as there weren’t deck lists online to influence players. Showing up to a tournament with a carefully brewed deck could give a player an amazing edge.
Gabriel sees how a herd mentality affects how players prepare for events like the Pro Tour, as everyone now looks to see what decks are placing well in tournaments. This can be detrimental and hinder deck creativity. Gabriel notes that the Eldrazi decks he saw while playing Magic Online influenced his deck in a negative way, as they weren’t representative of what he faced in the last Pro Tour. If he had more of a clean slate Gabriel thinks he may have crafted something much more effective.
Gabriel’s advice is simple: try to play with people that are better than you, work on making friends in the Magic community, and love the game until you can talk about it for hours on end, just like him.
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