Jon Finkel

August 30, 2011

IAMA Jon Finkel. Ask me anything

Just your standard, everyday, nerdy guy.

[No question]

Hi people, I'm Jon Finkel. I went out uneventfully with a girl a couple weeks ago and we never spoke again. Then she posts about how she cant believe I didn't warn her I was an ex magic world champion, and the internet had issues with that. Somehow, I'm the top IAMA request on reddit, so here I am. Ask me Anything.

Did you tap it or untap it?

Vigilance - there was no tapping or untapping

So, in retrospect, did she act odd on these dates? Did she tell you she was a blogger for Gawker and was farming for content?

I dont think she was farming for content. It was just one of those things where the conversation isnt really flowing, you have to keep trying to think of things to say, etc.

How many girls have asked you out since this all exploded? I noticed Felicia Day in your twitter, did she say something to you?

If you include twitter messages from other continents saying 'Id date you', then a lot.

As for Felicia Day, it appears she made a tweet or two about it, but I dont really know much about her, except that she seems like a lovely woman who is apparently loved by gamers


Look, I dont think that one decision completely defines someone as a person, and she seemed like a nice, sweet, slightly awkward girl. Also, anyone who hates Ayn Rand as much as she does can't be all bad. So perhaps the language could be toned down a bit :)

I have no issues with it.. With any normal girls I dont recommend talking about anything magic related

I think you're wrong about this but to each his own. It's really not that easy to say "I used to be World Champion..." without sounding like a pompous ass

Good for you to show up here. Even better that you haven't been completely trashing her, kind of shows class from your side that you weren't shown yourself.

Also, what's the most intense game of magic you've played? Finals in one of the big tournaments? For me it was when I had to face Olle Råde (not sure you know who it is) in a Booster Draft quarter finals, and at the time (mid or late 90's), he was a big name. I got lucky as he pulled like two lands total before I wiped him out. It was only intense because I knew he was a well-known player, really... I bragged to my friends that I had managed to beat Mr. Råde, and promply got owned in the semis and third place round.

Hands down it was me vs Bob in the finals of Worlds00

Bob's a great player, a great friend, and we were playing nearly identical decks. He made a small misplay which let me squeak out game 1, then he went up 2-1, then I managed to pull off a 3-2 victory, so I ended up as World Champion with Bob as Player of the Year.

I'm still bitter about Dark Confidant being so much better than Shadowmage Infiltrator tho

Did she tell you about the blog post, or did you hear about it through other sources?

I got home from work yesterday and there were about 50 emails from my friends linking to it, with of course the prerequisite mockery

What was your first reaction upon reading her post about you?

I felt a little, I dunno, violated. Even though the post itself didnt make me look bad at all(at least I didnt think). Still, its sort of like someone publishing emails you wrote to your girlfriend, or posting part of your diary - it just feels wrong

Not a question, just want to say that nerdy guys are hot and I wish you better luck in the future.

That is all.

edit: Better luck with dating. It seems your luck in other arenas is already quite good :)

Well thanks

Name: Jonnymagic00

Ticket Number: 00011

Infraction Type: Minor

Infraction: Incorrect spelling of "can't" (use apostrophe)

Correction: Then she posts about how she can't believe I didn't warn her I was an ex magic world champion, and the internet had issues with that.

You are given only one warning. ಠ_ಠ

Here is your ticket.

Note: I don't give celebrities special treatment, but you're still my MTG hero. ಥ_ಥ

I recently edited a tweet for space reasons to remove the apostrophe in didn't but not it's because it's and its are different. Yes I'm a nerd.

You should also make better use of commas.

Tough but fair. Commas were always my weak point.

I'm still bitter about Dark Confidant being so much better than Shadowmage Infiltrator tho

Are you bitter about Psychatog being better than Shadowmage Infiltrator?

Yes actually. That was far more brutal :)

[No question]

Im trying to reply but getting status 502 errors over and over. laikaislost -Uneventfully. She seemed like a nice, nerdy girl so I gave it a second shot. Also uneventful. it goes the other way too - Maybe :) I'm always open to meeting cute, nerdy girls in New York.

Hey, there's an MtG world tournament. It's in my bedroom. On my bed.

It's sex.

Okay, okay... what keeps you interested in Magic all these years, and has it become a career/job, or do you work a normal job on the side?

What keeps me interested is that it's a great game, but I believe the last year it was a majority of my income was 1998(maybe 2000? - not sure what my other earnings wer ethat year). It is one of the defining influences in my life, I love it and Ive made countless awesome friends - what's not to love. I actually took a few years off, then when I got inducted to the Hall of Fame in 05, Wizards sent me a bunch of boxes - I drafted with them and got back involved.

For a job, most of my life Ive gambled for a living, and these days Im also a partner in a startup hedge fund, landscape capital

Thanks for the AMA - is there any link between the MtG and/or the gambling, and the hedge fund?

Yeah, it's a pretty natural progression really. Theyre all advantage games that require logical thinking, discipline, and a willingness to take risks

Since I imagine that the whole date thing will dominate the questions.

How/when did you start playing Magic?

I started during antiquities and a little store called Fun and Games in Woking, Surrey, UK owned by this great guy named Paul. I was 15 at the time and I'd always been interested in role playing games but never really played, walked into this game store, saw people playing magic, and the rest, as they say is history. I spent an absurd # of hours there when I was in high school - yes, my grades suffered from 'magicitis'

Magic player here: What was your favorite deck of all time, and who is your favorite deck designer of all time?

My favorite deck of all time(obviously it'd have to be one I played) was my PT Chicago 97 deck, which was 4 color Prison. I lost in the semis to a deck I'd beat twice in the swiss but that deck was so good and so well tuned. My only blue cards were 4 counter spell(no arcane denial here) and I had one of the first effective transformative sideboards(ehrnams and wildfires). Sadly right after that they printed Wasteland which basically made the deck unplayable. A close second was my Worlds 00 tinker deck.

I actually dont really have a 'favorite deck designer' - so many of my good friends were so good at building decks

My favorite deck of all time(obviously it'd have to be one I played) was my PT Chicago 97 deck, which was 4 color Prison.

If you, like me, wonder what the deck looks like, here is the decklist.

Reproduced below:



Edit: The decklist in the link is slightly wrong according to Jon himself, I corrected it in my reproduction. Also, typos.

The list is slightly wrong, there were 4 sky diamond and 3 marble diamonds for sure - I had to maximize the white producing lands for tithe

My favorite deck of all time(obviously it'd have to be one I played) was my PT Chicago 97 deck, which was 4 color Prison.

If you, like me, wonder what the deck looks like, here is the decklist.

Reproduced below:



Edit: The decklist in the link is slightly wrong according to Jon himself, I corrected it in my reproduction. Also, typos.

In answer to the questions my only ways to win were damage from Mishra's factories or decking them with 2 Gaea's Blessings. I have always been a very fast player - this deck would not have done as well in the hands of a slower player because it would have led to many intentional draws due to time constraints. Also, of course, I had the transformational sideboard.

Often people would think the deck was more blue than it really was. So many rounds I'd side out all my counterspells and just laugh at the pyroblasts/red elemental blasts in their hands.

Wasteland wasn't a problem because it killed the Mishras - that was irrelevant. All the deck cared about was taking control. Rather it was because the deck ran 17 lands+7 diamonds+4 tithes = 28 mana sources. However with wasteland it became too inconsistent with getting to 2 mana to play a diamond as I could get shut out by a wasteland or two. playing more mana sources was sketchy as the deck was almost half mana already, and going down on diamonds was also problematic because I needed them for the armageddons/winter orbs

needs moar plowshares.

This was a format dominated by necro with the 2 mana pro white knights. In most formats I would agree with you.

I used to play MTG a good bit with my brother, and I had a blast building decks. The only thing I can think after reading this is how amazing it is that you remember every card in your deck from 13 years ago. I could only ever remember the really important cards in the decks I made, not all the other cards, but then I guess I wasn't optimizing my decks really. Anyway, impressive.

Actually I have an awful memory for that stuff in general, but i definitely remember the 4 sky instead of marble decision. I also know this list has beet reported with the same inaccuracy elsewhere, including by wizards

[No question]

More reddit errors.

themandotcom - My favorite deck of all time(obviously it'd have to be one I played) was my PT Chicago 97 deck, which was 4 color Prison. I lost in the semis to a deck I'd beat twice in the swiss but that deck was so good and so well tuned. My only blue cards were 4 counter spell(no arcane denial here) and I had one of the first effective transformative sideboards(ehrnams and wildfires). Sadly right after that they printed Wasteland which basically made the deck unplayable. A close second was my Worlds 00 tinker deck.

I actually dont really have a 'favorite deck designer' - so many of my good friends were so good at building decks

Do you actually care about the Gizmodo article and huge overreaction to it?

Articles about the drama have appeared in Forbes and The Examiner. Have you had any unusual interview questions from journalists?

I think there are a couple in my twitter feed but I havent really gotten to them. Tried to reply to some earlier today, may go back and do more later

Do you actually care about the Gizmodo article and huge overreaction to it?

Articles about the drama have appeared in Forbes and The Examiner. Have you had any unusual interview questions from journalists?

I think it's kind of funny. I mean really the article coulda been a lot worse. I think I'm unpale (for me at least) after a summer of riding my bike and playing basketball, and I dont know if I've ever worn a 'hedge fund uniform' but there are worse things than "He was tall and thin and I cant believe he didnt tell me about this game he used to be really good at"

In game one of your finals match vs Bob Maher in Worlds '00, could you explain what went through your head when Maher cast his Crumbling Sanctuary BEFORE attacking with his Phyrexian Processor token, clearly one of the greatest Professional Magic blunders of all time?

I was excited because I knew it gave me a potential path to victory. I think historically one of my greatest strengths was playing optimally when I have very little chance of winning rather than giving up/just doing the autopilot plays. When your opponent does something that moves your win % from 0% to 20%, it's definitely a big deal.

But If he has a 0% chance of winning then there is also a 0% chance-rate for mistakes.

What have I become

To be more precise he had two possible paths, one of which gave me a 0% chance, one of which gave me a 20% chance of winning.

As a followup, what do you think is a lesson a fledgling tournament player should take from watching this particular game/match?

If you end up becoming a top player, the commentators will say nice things about you.

Also whats the deal with the jeffrey dahmer live thing?

It was a local NYC fringe show that looked kinda interesting and was playing at the right time so I figured why not check it out. For the record I think it was a great concept with so-so execution. Polished up(remember, we're talking off off broadway here) it could be excellent, and it made me want to check out more things by the creator/star.

Execution is critical when it comes to Dahmer theater.

This is just about perfect. Easy genius even.

As a non-Magic player (but I have dabbled in trading card games in my youth), I'm curious: What exactly makes you the best player in the world? Do you just have better cards than anyone else? Are there tactics that only you seem to use well? Why can't someone with your deck and a bit of experience knock you off your throne?

The simple answer is I don't know. In the world of magic, the difference between good and great is that great wins 5-10% more of their matches, or maybe one per tournament. When I was induced to the Hall of Fame in 05, I had a Pro Tour win % of 61 or 62%, which included a couple years when I was in decline. My best season(98) I had a match win % in the low 70s. On any given day anybody can beat anybody else. In the long run, the best players will just win a little bit more

There are different game types. AFAIK Finkel is mostly known for Constructed dominance, ie, show up to the tournament with a pre-built deck of 60 cards. Limited events such as Booster Draft (the one you described) are also played at a high level, and he would probably have played in many limited tournaments in his career as well.

Ive always felt I was a stronger limited player and in my career I had 12 top 8s, 8 of them limited, 2 of them constructed, and 2 of them mixed. My 3 victories were 2 limited and one mixed. That said I think I saw a stat once that said I had a higher win % in Constructed Pro Tours, tho that seems mostly impossible to me

I know a lot of guys who transition in between competitive Magic and poker. In your mind, what are the similarities/disparities?

I think the biggest thing is the deep seeded emotional understanding that the right play is the right play regardless of outcomes. The ability to make a decision 5 straight times, lose 5 times because of it, and still make it the 6th time if it's the right play. Magic players have been developing that since their teens, and its just so applicable to poker, gambling, and life in general.

I read a cracked article about online poker where they talked about it making you "immune to bad luck". You just take the bad beats in every area of your life in stride and move on.

Both work, though.

deep seated is certainly 'more correct' tho

My sister, (a bigtime poker player) has been telling me that since she started. She, and all the others, it seems, look at their entire lives as series of EV-maximizing decisions. It makes sense, but it's a very different way of looking at life than most people have. She makes me credit card roulette for dinner every time we go out now, since it's zero-EV, and reduces transaction costs of splitting bills.

Yah. You begin to realize that most things dont matter that much/arent that big of a deal, and how much of life comes down to plain old luck(I mean you had no control over your genes or your parents or their socioeconomic status either).

On the other hand, theres probably something you lose by not being too invested in outcomes

Can you clarify this at all? Not being a poker player or hardcore magic player I don't identify with this.

What determines that the play is the right play if it doesn't provide you the best outcome in this context? It's the wrong play if it makes you lose in this context, even if it's the right play in another context (or even 99% of all contexts). In your example, if the play you say is right makes you lose 5 straight times, it wasn't the right play. Now on the other side though, just because the play made you lose 5 straight times doesn't mean that it doesn't have its contexts wherein it is the right play. Is this the same thing you mentioned just with a different sentiment, or do you view these as two different things?

Imagine were flipping a coin. I'll pay you $110 if you win, you pay me $100 if I win. I win the first 5 flips, but you should still keep flipping vs me forever.

Has she contacted you since this whole story exploded?


Are you planning to contact her then?


Are you a hedge fund manager? How did you get into that?

We're more of a shrubbery fund. There are 5 of us partners and 2 employees. Its a pretty natural progression from advantage gambling(or gaming) though.

So is there a line for girls who want to date you?

I would totally get in that line. Just sayin'.

I really should make this line happen, but it's a little overwhelming, and I have this distance criteria of: "Can I bike to your apartment?"

What has your general experience on OkCupid been like? Do you come across a lot of women like Bereznak (those who are dismissive once they find out about your mtg status)?

Also, how was the Dahmer show? :)

Never had anyone be dismissive about it(at least to my face). Mostly I worry about trying not to sound pompous - "Well, back in 2000 I was kinda a big deal"

Frankly most people realize being world champion at anything is pretty damned impressive(if I do say so myself)

Did you google her before the date?

Yeah. She had a pretty good, heartfelt article about her dad and Ayn Rand. One of the main reasons I decided to go on a 2nd date with her after all

Was she a bitch on the date?

Nope, but in my experience I've found that rarely happens. Or maybe I just dont really notice it?

How was the actual date? Did you text her to tell her she was being a total bitch after she posted the article? Are you angry? Do you think it was unfair for her to call you out by name?

Look I think it's kind of uncool to do what she did. I dont really want my personal life out in public, and I think theres a sort of general understanding that you don't blog about someone you went out with using their real name in an attempt to denigrate them, especially if they weren't an asshole.

That said I dont think these thoughts were necessarily going through her head, and it seems like enough people are giving her a hard time without me. I dont think this invalidates her as a human being or anything.

Then you're handling this much, much better than I ever could.

I'm 33 years old. Sometime around my mid 20s it turned out that girls like me. The 20 year old version of me would probably have taken this much, much harder.

Are you upset that she revealed your identity in the article, or do you think that ultimately this is going to work out for you with the great publicity?

It's nice to know the internet has my back, so in total it looks like it was a net positive, though I still feel oddly creeped out by it.

Are you upset that she revealed your identity in the article, or do you think that ultimately this is going to work out for you with the great publicity?

Some of both. I think it was uncool to do, but it certainly hasnt negatively impacted my life in any way, and the outpouring of support has been really nice

I don't have your back, I think you're a huge nerd and I'm happy you were outed as one for the world to see.


Did she tell you she was a blogger? Did she hint maybe she would post about the date?

Yes and No.

Do you get rejected a lot by girls just because you're a world champion Magic player? And why use OkCupid, the underbellies of online dating?

I think OK Cupid is an awesome website - I would hardly call it the underbelly. There are lots of great people on there

[No question]

Reddit giving me 502 errors again when I try to reply :(

Hey, Jon!

Did Gizmodo contact you at all about disclosing your name? Does it bother you that a nobody blogger tried to make fun of you for being awesome and having a hobby?

Nope, although it looks like one of their editors just sent me an email 15 minutes ago, but i havent really had time to sift through all my emails. This is already cutting into valuable PT Philly test time - which is the initial reason I took off work today

How much money have you spent on magic cards over the years?

No idea, but far less than I've won thankfully.

After all this time, do you still enjoy playing MtG?

Yes. It is an amazing game,

What was you all time favorite play that made your opponent go "WTF!?" and made you go "OMG, I cant believe I was able to make it play out like that!"

At Worlds 2000 when I was 9-0(I think) I was playing against another player(himself a world champion) in the draft section. We had this odd semi standoff situation which included a wandering eye in play, so both our hands were revealed. On his last turn before being decked, the card he drew actually made it possible for him to win(but not in an obvious way) and I just kinda shrugged my shoulders and acted like I had just won and he conceded right there.

Looking back on the last, say, 5 years of Magic: The Gathering; What do you think were the high points and the low points of a franchise that has clearly been growing in the past couple of years.

Sadly for the last 5 years I've been mostly disconnected from the magic scene, but one great trend has been the rise of the Japanese magic players. It's very very impressive.

Coming from a new Magic player...what got you hooked on it?

Probably the same things that got you hooked. It's a great game, it's intellectually stimulating, and it's super competitive. Richard Garfield did an amazing job and the rest of WoTC(I'd name names but there are too many and inevitably I'd miss one) have done a great job of carrying the torch.

What do you think of Magic's future and the reserved list? Do you think eternal formats (Vintage & Legacy) will die out?

I dont think so. I just wish I hadnt gotten all of my original power cards stolen all those years ago. Theyre worth a fortune now

Hello Jon, have you won any hotwing eating contests?

Not even close. My eating skills arent up there with Tony "two entree" Tsai. Or my 100 lb friend, the lovely Ginger.

What's this all about?

I later found out that he infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers… Also, for all you world famous nerds out there: Don’t go after two Gawker Media employees and not expect to have a post written about you. We live for this kind of stuff.

Maybe 3 or 4 months ago a different girl who works at one of gawkers other sites sent me a message on OK Cupid, we went out twice. They were better dates but after the second one with her we parted ways and never contacted each other. But she didnt post about it on the internet

Was I the only one that thought it was strange that the woman had way more of a problem with the fact that you played a card game than you deciding to take her to a one man serial killer show?

Can you shine some light on why you thought that would be a cool thing for a first date? I'm honestly asking, maybe the thing was getting great reviews and everyone was going, but that was the strange note I took away from the article.

Ive gone out on too many generic dinner/drink dates so thought Id spice things up - Ive always liked odd off off broadway theatre, and thought I could combine a date with seeing an interesting show. Also I've found that odd situations are pretty good litmus tests for people.

As a top magic professional, did you ever consider making the switch to play poker either online or live because of the money involved like many of your top colleagues did?

Its been over a decade since magic was a main source of my income, so I guess the answer would be yes.

How long where you in shock when you discovered an article was written about what you thought was a private affair? Were you warned ahead of time the article was coming out?

Yeah, it was a minor shock and no, there was no warning. I got home to a bazillion emails about it.

What advice would you have for a new magic player interested in playing at the highest level competitively?

Play with good people, read as much as you can. Remember you can learn a lot from people who "arent as good as you"

Does it hurt your feelings how she puts you out there like that and says someone not very nice things about you and really judges you for doing something that you love? Or can you just brush it off?

After 33 years, you get good at brushing things off. Plus, it seems like there was nothing really that bad said.

I've played for 11 years now since I was 12 and remember reading the old Duelist magazine articles about the great Jon Finkel. Just wanted to let you know that you were my childhood idle and are a large reason I got into the game as heavily as I did.

When did you take the leap from casual Magic player to professional and why?

It just kinda happened. I moved back to the US (to NJ) and soon thereafter was the first PT in New York, where I made top 8 as juniors. After another couple decent finishes I made worlds as a senior on rating and never looked back. Interestingly I live 3 blocks from the site of the first Magic pro tour: Lafayette Street (where the puck building is) forks into lafayette and Centre, where I live:

Is pimping easy?

Hold on, lemme check w Snoop Dogg.....

No. Apparently Pimpin Aint Easy

The article isn't that bad to be sure, I think the most insulting though is she says you "infiltrated" your way into two other dates with people she knew. Granted, she's playing off the card reference but still, to claim that you must have tricked these girls into dates seems a bit low.

No questions, just wanted to say that =) great AMA!

It's especially funny given that the one I know about contacted me first. Tho of course as a guy I make the vast majority of first contacts.

I can't believe I'm jealous of a such a shallow heifer.

Eh, I dont think she's that shallow nor that much of a heifer. She probably just thought it'd be a snarky way to get a laugh, though I'm not so sure about the whole "He was lying on his profile" thing. It's not like I said, "I'm not the 2000 Magic World Champion"

Greetings, I am a PTQ grinder at the moment and I love MTG. I was wondering, what do you think a player can do to improve their game the most? I spend a lot of time reading articles and watching videos, but not enough time testing. Do you think that Magic Online is a good avenue for testing to get better at MTG, or do you think that proxying up decks and testing is better? As an aspiring professional, I am really interested in knowing. Thanks for your time.

The best thing to do is make friends with and play with good players, preferably people who are better than you. MTGO is great for playing when you have no one around, and for learning all the rules interactions, but it can make you lazy since in real life there's no computer to remind you of all the triggers, and it isnt very conducive to discussions of cards, game states, etc

Jon, do you have an advice for players trying to get back into MtG? Obviously having a keen understanding of new cards is key, but do you have any general advice on becoming a better player?

Play a lot. Have fun. Im going to PT Philly in a week and feel A OK about the draft but nervous to hell about constructed. Luckily I have help from the good men at Team Mythic

Have you finally gotten over missing that field goal now?

Wide Right :(

So isn't a tournament coming up in September and will you be there?

Yup. It's right on the other side of Jersey, and it's where my Dad is originally from. My grandfather has been emailing me for months because he's excited to finally see a magic tournament, tho sadly it's years past my prime. Next year this time I'll probably be at Burning Man instead, but I couldnt miss out on PT Philly.

hey, this is all second hand, but curious if its true and what was going on. back in the day you came back to a PT or GP after a semi-hiatus, and after making top 8 and drafting an underwhelming deck, you lost (either quarter or semis). you then proceeded to leave the area with chucking your deck in the trash. I believe this was onslaught block (i remember a sparksmith lol), and i just wanted to hear your side, if there is one.

I always chuck my draft decks in the trash afterwards(minus the rare or two) - good or bad, win lose or draw. I know I made the top 8 of the limited PT with the Sparksmith set(Llorwyn?) towards the end of my career. Think I lost in the semis. I've always taken losing pretty well though.

oic, the reporter on pointed it out (seemed out of char), and i just kinda wondered. it was def back in onslaught, i quit before sparksmith got reprinted (lol how was drafting that season?).

who do you think got shafted hardest on invitational card?

Well Meddling Mage got reprinted with two different alternative arts, including a black girl. Somebody at Wizards must really not like Chris Pikula

Ever get into poker? Results? I know a lot of guys from poker who originally started in magic, apparently there are alot of parallels.

Yup. I havent played much in the last 5 years though. When everything you do is one form of gambling or another, something has to give.

Do you think Bereznak should be fired for her revealing of your identity as well as her extreme bias towards card game players?

Nah. I mean it got page views right.

Do you think she was just mad that you were/are a bigger deal on the internet than what she perceived herself to be?

He seemed normal. I gave him my name. "Google away," I said. Then dinner was ready, and I signed off without remembering to do the same.

This line seems to imply that she expected you to be impressed by her internet rep, but instead your accomplishments vastly overshadowed anything she has done.

Yah. I did like the article I read that she wrote tho.

Does it feel good seeing the entire gamer world rally behind you to crucify this woman?

I mean I know you've been a legend for quite some time and the show of support probably isnt that unusual for a guy like yourself at this time but...

How does it feel knowing that thousands of people are going to remember your name and forget hers in about a week?

It's always been humbling to me how my magic success has given me some degree of fame, a wikipedia page, a book, etc. I will always be known for something I peaked at around age 20.

Never mind I guess you've already been confirmed true by the mods. How does it feel to know that pretty much the entirety of reddit had your back after that lame article?

EDIT: Wow I guess I wrote 'twitter' instead of 'reddit' originally, please forgive me reddit overlords.

It's pretty nice. Apparently way more people know who I am and like me than I'd ever thought.

Hey Jon, have you seen this article?

She seems like a much better deal.

And Australian too! But sadly located in Australia, which makes for difficult biking

As a person who plays a shit ton of card games(Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic and even WoW TCG) and posts it on his OKC profile, I gotta admit, I've gotten a few messages about why I still play them and stuff like that, and I take it all in stride.

It's the ones that message me going "Wow you're a fucking kid, get off this site faggot" (To quote one exactly), that make me want to take it off my profile... But I never will, I love my Final Countdown deck and my Mono-Black Vampires and my Retribution Paladin deck too much for it not to be a part of me on a dating site.

Still what she did was WAY out of line, hope you have some better luck on that site man :)

I'm surprised she/he used the correct form of you're. Usually that sort of troglodyte has difficulty with those things

Have we discussed the fact that purely on a physical level, Mister Finkel appears to actually be far better looking than the "writer" in question? I could understand her acting like a snob if she were super attractive. Some super attractive people become assholes from years of living in the bubble. But her?

I will say that is a remarkably poor picture of her. She's certainly not the hottest girl I've ever dated, but she wasn't that unattractive either.

Hey standard nerdy guy. I imagine that one of your standard nerdy interests may be science? As a kid, I remember magic was more for the 'smart' kids than pokemon, with the strategies and maths and all. Do you have any stories to share regarding your potential influence on promoting education in kids? Any inspirational events, or perhaps advice to those of us who care deeply about promoting science education?

I actually think in a different universe without magic I go into science, for better or for worse. I read tons of pop sci books. My little sister recently got her PhD in Computer Science(Computational Linguistics) from Stanford(Which I'd like to add is the best school in the country/world for Comp Sci along w Cal and MIT). I always have super grad school envy and think it would be awesome to be advancing human knowledge.

I suppose I havent really answered your question - the biggest improvements could probably come with little girls. When we were younger and our dad tried to teach us BASIC, I didnt care but my sister was interested, and look where she is now. In our family it was never "oh, that's a boy thing" which is far rarer than I realized

I'm slightly skeptical as to the validity of your identity here, is there any way you can prove you are who you say you are? I just feel like Jonnymagic00 is such a corny user name, sounds too forced to be real.


Did you know that Garfield the creator of magic is related to the president Garfield

I did not.

Hey Jon, I was wondering how you felt about the commander format (or EDH if you prefer). Do you have any decks together? And if so then which generals are you using?

I dont know anything about it

I love nerdy guys. Always intended to get into Magic, never had anyone to play with/start out with. How did you get started?

I gave my story elsewhere but I just walked into a game store and got started. The rest, as they say, is history

Do you know David Williams? The poker/MtG player that frequents "The Big Game" and "Poker after Dark"

Of course. I'll even be seeing him this weekend in Philly

Do you think Kai Budde was better than you?

Maybe. When we were both playing he certainly was, because he was peaking when I was declining. We had different strengths. I was a lot lazier but probably better at just picking up and playing. He was a lot more rigorous and dedicated and always went to tournaments prepared. In the end his body of results outshines mine, though not by too too much. Maybe I'll win another PT and take back the prize money crown someday.

I love how this is considered a bad hobby.

Almost 300,000 dollars made. Guess you were just wasting your time.

P.S. You and Kibler have always been my favorite players. Thanks for the AMA

Thats out of date. I won PT Kuala Lumpur in 2008 :) My understanding is that a PT win(maybe a 2nd) is enough to put me back in first.

Once I saw Kai Budde cheat at a ProTour. (he passed the turn with 8 cards in his hand). He may have not have knowingly done it right away, but I saw him pass his turn THEN he counted his hand (8) he kind of paused and collapsed his hand into one hand and hid it from his opponent.

I was watching the game very closely so I knew he had 8 cards, then I asked a friend who was also watching:

"Did Kai just pass the turn with 8 cards in hand?"

After my friend counted the board, and then we continued to watch he also confirmed this. It was a match where there was a stage built around it, and a few spectators, but there was no camera.

I always knew I should have said something to a judge. After the match I asked Brian Kibler what he would have done, he also affirmed I should have said something to a judge.

Kai used to be my hero, but after watching him knowingly cheat against an opponent - one can only think what else he does to win matches.

A side story from ages ago: Evan Coffee, a friend at the time, basically conceded a match in the JSS to Rory Draxler for forgetting to de-sideboard after a previous match. It probably would have gone unnoticed, but Evan did not have the moral turpitude to cheat. So he called a judge over, and he lost the match instantly, of course.

Look, Kai played very well for a very long time without even the slightest hint of anything shady. Clearly his results were gotten honestly. I understand that you 'saw' this but you know when these things arent verified, there isnt a judge, etc you should think a real real long time before you post these sorts of things.

I'm a blogger for and all day yesterday we were discussing how horrible Ms. Bereznak's post was. Our own Ruth Suehle wrote a rebuttal just for her. We're all very proud of your grace and moral strength in your response to this.

Thanks. That's very sweet

Did you tap that, or did she have Vigilance?

Well I certainly had vigilance. Seems likely she did as well, tho I'll never really know

How many nerdy, hot, Magic playing girls have contacted you for a date since this all went down?

Not nearly enough who live in New York :)

Actually I have no idea. There are a lot of tweets at me and it's all I can do to answer these questions


I can't say I'd change a thing.

What was the Jeffrey Dahmer show the blogger mentioned in her post? Did you enjoy it?

I liked it. I think with a little more work it could be really really great. Showed real creative talent

Hi Jon! Have you ever received job offers from Magic R&D and if you have, why did you decline?

Nope, tho I think I could get a job there. But it's in Seattle, and I have a life and a business here in New York.


Im not sold on them. I think theyre awkward for drafting, and I dont really like placeholder card concept, but I havent played with them, and Wizards has proven me wrong before

"just your standard everyday nerdy guy" (I'm sure you play some extended and classic as well)

Maybe I should have said "limited nerdy guy"

Doesn't seem like OkCupid is getting you the best pick of the litter. Why not try meeting girls in real life? You seem like a pretty normal, down-to-earth guy. Judging from your pictures, you compose yourself quite nice. I don't understand why you would have to use internet dating.

I spent the second half of my 20s meeting girls in real life (and probably doing considerable liver damage). The quality of people online is excellent now and I have zero interest in going to bars to meet people again.

I upvoted you but I'm going to go ahead and say that, in my opinion, sensing actually has little to nothing to do with being good at card games. Most successful poker players, and MtG players, are in staunch control of their emotions and play to the statistical/mathematically correct advantages and odds, despite their emotions maybe telling them to do something. Mostly it's the ability to read the situation correctly and quickly, make the statistically best decision in a short period of time, and execute it without giving any extra information or "help" to increase your opponent's odds against you. BUT, I would love to see his response/opinion on the topic.

Yeah this is pretty accurate, although at this point my emotions rarely tell me to do the wrong thing. It's just all about finding edge, realizing where the cracks in a system are, exploiting others mistakes, and not being too short term results oriented.

Have you ever had a successful relationship from online dating services? What are your Best/Worst experiences with online dating?

I've had one serious girlfriend I met online, and I've met a number of other really great girls as well.

Do you keep in touch with Ben Mezrich?

Never met him in my life

Can you explain what made you choose the Dahmer show for a 2nd date? A lot of people think this was a faux pas on your part but maybe there is some detail about your interactions with her that we haven't been given.

I thought it would be interesting. I thought she would find it interesting too. If we were a good pair, it wouldnt stop us from ending up together. If we werent, then it wouldnt matter.

What's the story with your Twitter photo? :)

It was my photo from PN1 in NY in 1996 when I was an awkward 17. Brian David Marshall found it in the Wizards archives a couple weeks ago, tweeted it, and I appropriated it. I put it up before all this hoopla, but I guess it seems kinda fitting now.

Sadly I'm far to bald to ever grow that fro again.

Some tips on OKCupid ?

Dont take things personally. The match %s really matter.

You're super cute. That girl was fucking stupid, by the by. I'd have jumped your bones on the spot if you dropped your gaming credentials on me.

That's, uh, sweet. Remind me of this if you ever see me in person.

Do you see a different light in life or women from this experience?

Not really. Well the outpouring of internet support is great - I didnt realize I was till this well known after all these years. I might have even been upgraded to a grade D+ celebrity

Have you ever tried to cheat in a gambling card game (such as poker) using your advance slight of hand techniques? Were you caught or did you get away with it?

I have no sleight of hand techniques. When I won worlds 00 in Brussels, a Russian TV station did ask me "How does it feel to be the greatest magician in the world"

If Magic was such a big part of your life, why would you leave it off your profile in the first place? I mean if nothing else it would clearly fit under the category of things you are good at.

I still haven't figured out how to say "11 years ago I was a world champion" without seeming self absorbed. I also didnt want to have to define magic for everybody.

Dont you have a hedge fund to run???

I took the rest of the week off to prepare for philly. There are people in my apt playing modern right behind me. I will probably be joining them shortly

Even though you play magic. Do you hate yugioh?

Never played

I have a friend who you probably met or played against named Chuck Littlefield (he lived off pro tours for awhile), but it got me thinking of a good question.

Did you ever have an arch enemy. One guy when you were at tournaments you always wanted to beat?

Nope. We were competitive but also friends. My one loss in the Finals of a PT was to my long time teammate, and recent Hall of Fame Inductee (and also recently married), Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz. I also lost in the top 8 of 2 consecutive PTs to Kamiel Cornelissen whom I also played in some team events with after the OMS brothers had hung up their spikes. I've always gotten along very well with Kai. Most of us really dont take losing personally.

How much time did you spend on Magic before you started winning tournaments? Did you lose many games at first, or did it come more naturally to you?

More than I can count

Are you really a hedge fund manager? What are your avg. annual percentage gains? How much money do you manage? What led you from playing Magic the Gathering to the financial markets?

Yes, 14%, and about $15mm. Like I said, a shrubbery fund.

Do you still watch meatspin every day at breakfast time?

No. Dinner.

Do you still watch meatspin every day at breakfast time?

No. Dinner.

What's a hedge fund uniform?

i.e. What were you wearing?

What are you wearing right now?

And if Alyssa called you, what would you say to her?

Jeans. Boots. A non starched button up. Now? Shorts? A T Shirt. Not very much.

What does internet godhood feel like?


Where did you find a one man show of Jeffrey Dahmer's life? I've been searching for so long.

You can find anything on the internet apparently.

This may come off as argumentative, but I do mean it as an honest question which I hope gets answered.

The entire dating debacle aside, how are you any different from Alyssa at this point. Her article was an obvious ploy to enrage the eminently enrageable Internet public to heighten her own visibility as a journalist, and coming to Reddit to do an AMA is basically the other side of that same sensationalistic coin.

Sure, you're going to get some notoriety from this story, but is it worth it to you to be Internet famous by virtue of being pilloried by a bad date?

Well internet fame was thrust on me, but it seems like there are far worse things that could have happened.

I'm not really sure what your point is? Should I have just not done the AMA?

When I started Magic you were quite an icon. You and Kai Budde will forever have your names burned into my head. Thank you.

Forgive me if this was asked before but reading on an old smartphone is hard.

Do you ever build non competitive decks? Like one just for fun.

In Oddysey I built a deck based on birds with Aerie being a good centerpiece, it actually faired well in a casual setting but in a Chaos style multiplayer game it was a powerhouse though I built it just to play with some of the Aven creature type cards.

Yah. I played Forbiddian at 98 Nats since after going 6-0 in draft I only needed 3 wins to top 8 and Nats wasnt really that important of a tournament. Luckily I still got to the Nats Team

I don't think you've been asked yet, but did you have fun on the dates yourself? I've got this funny feeling that you two are going to become a couple now...


You might not want to make a living betting on your funny feelings :)

If you saw a Magic reference on a girl's OKCupid profile, would your opinion of her be more favorable/less favorable/neutral?

Favorable. itd be almost as good as going to grad school for something awesome.

It's interesting to me no one has asked much about OkCupid yet. What's your strategy for your profile on OkCupid? Are you mostly honest about your strengths and weaknesses, or do you try to hype yourself up more? What's the most private thing you're willing to admit? Are you on OkCupid just for the dating, or do you think it's a fun site as well?

I mostly just try to have fun with my profile. Not be too serious, not have ti be too much like a resume.

Besides the obvious shadow mage, what card would you consider the card that defines your play style?

For me it was always counterspell. It was the first card that I was successful with (ug madness) and all of my favorite decks I have built are based around it.

I certainly liked to counter target spell

RE: Your Magic future. What's makes you decide to go an event these days? I imagine the upcoming PT being close is nice, but your 2008 win wasn't, do you have a criteria for choosing whether you'll go? Do modern or legacy interest you?

Well Kuala Lumpur was going to be one of the last Draft only PTs before they merged the formats, so that played a large part. Also the timing of it was good for me being able to make it.

Are there any other board- or card- (non collectible) games that you play? Have you ever played Dominion (where deck building is part of the game, rather than something you do before playing)?

Yup. Just the original, but I recently bought one of the expansions. Excellent game

Back when Ice Age was out, what were your thoughts on the dominating force of Necropotence decks?

Did you yourself play Nercopotence? or anti-Necropotence?

And also, what kind of deck would Necropotence be viable in with todays current block of magic cards?

I always played Anti Necro more out of stubbornness than anything else. Sweet lord was that card good.

What was it like working with David Kushner?

It was great. He's a real stand up guy.

Hey, you mentioned that you bike everywhere. Can I ask what kind of biking it is that you do? What kind of bike you have? Merits of biking and such?

Reason I am asking is that reddit considers you a hero of some proportions, yet is pretty anti-cycling in general;

Cycling is just super convenient in New York. My sister was here on the UWS for 9 months and I could bike to her place in 30 min door to door, or 40 min on the subway, and only at night with no traffic would a cab have been faster(and $20 for 10 min faster and no exercise seems like a poor bargain). Also I have lots of friends in BKLN, and sometimes I ride out to our office in Jersey. Riding along the Hudson at 8am is pretty nice.

Just two questions:

Why the fuck did you take her to see a Jeffrey Dahmer play on the first date? Was there some hint that serial killers were her 'thing?'

Vegan? Come on dude, you're better than that.

The MTG thing doesn't bother me, good job. You've probably met my brother.

I thought it would be interesting, and I'm not a vegan - tho my little sister was for years and there's lots of good vegan food out there.

what type of things does one need to do in order to get a date with you...

Live in New York. Be cute, nerdy, and non religious. Have a healthy sense of the absurd.

I'm so glad you showed up here. :) Welcome to Reddit, where myself and 90% of the other women on Reddit think you're the hotness. hugs

Thanks for the hug!

This question might be buried, but I was wondering if you could talk about your game vs. Garfield. What was that like playing the creator of a game you've been such a big part of? I know when I meet the creators of some of my favorite RPGs, I tend to work harder with my character to impress them (or make them feel better about the system). Did you try and go easy on him at all or were you as ruthless as possible?

Well there's no "going easy" in these things. I remember they wanted us to do these trash talking write ups. I knew I was a pretty big favorite though because Richard is obviously a world class game designer but he wasnt the strongest player out there. Interestingly he made a great move. I assumed he'd plan around me playing blue and put in main deck blue hate, so I didnt play blue. Lo and behold, he had all this blue hate in his deck(pyroblasts, etc) but wizards realized they couldnt actually sell such an unbalanced boxed set so they let him edit his deck and put in useful cards instead of the blue hate. He of course realized this ahead of time and planned around it.

Hi, Jon :) Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions.

My brother still plays, but I stopped after it began to feel like Wizards was more interested in being flashy and pumping out sets faster than my wallet or casual interests could keep up with. I haven't played Magic with any frequency since 2003, but I still own 4 Shadowmage Infiltrators and have been a fan of yours since reading an article about US Nationals 2000. That deck was ridiculous (as was the entire Urza block) and was the first to show me that Magic was more than just who has the biggest creatures. I started eating up Sideboard's archived event coverage articles after that. I actively searched for every account of your matches and made sure to not read the results until I'd read the match recap - and I cheered for you every time. I followed Bob Maher and Kai Budde for a bit, even after I stopped playing, and would always look to see where you stood in whichever Pro Tour or championship was going on. After that (around 2004) I kind of just lost interest. That said, you were a childhood hero of mine. Just thought you should know.


1) To what do you attribute your "decline" and apparent disinterest in the early part of the last decade? Why did you pick it back up?

2) Do you miss the early days?

3) Favorite/Least favorite rule changes/bannings/restrictions?

4) How do you feel about planeswalkers?

  1. I had moved onto other things. My life has seemed to take this path many times. Maybe it was that I felt like I'd done everything I needed to do, but it was ostly just that I would rarely wake up in the morning and decide "I want to play magic today"
  2. Yes. The early Pro Tours were the most fun things I ever did. No real opinion on 3/4

As a Motherfucking Badass(TM), why do you resort to Internet dating? Surely girls would be all over you like cannibals on a human birthday cake.

I dont consider it 'resorting'

Could you talk about the Kithkin draft deck you used to win Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur? I thought it was really interesting -- which do you think contributed the most to that deck's effectiveness: kithkin generally being underdrafted in the format, opening Preeminent Captain, your play with the deck, or some other factor? And what are your thoughts on kithkin zephyrnaut (in limited obviously)? That card blew me away when I was watching the coverage.

Are there any lessons from that deck and format to take into other draft formats?

Mostly I just saw that white was open when all the kithkin tabled in pack 1, so I switched in, and was rewarded. Its not so much that kithkin was the best deck in the format, but it was the best deck for that seat in that draft, and I was able to recognize it

Remember that time we played in sanctioned Type 2 and I beat you? I was the guy playing white weenie with tithes and freerange falcons (chickens) to put my empyrial armors on vs Sligh decks and I believe you said something like "chickens are jank" but that might actually have been mike flores.

Doesnt sound like something I'd say.

Kudos to you for being so cool about this. Also, apologies on behalf of women in NYC. We're not all crazy, I swear.

I know. Many of my best, most sane friends are women. Or, as my friend Fola likes to say, "as a girl you learn early to hide the crazy"

Will you go on a date with me?!

maybe. are you in new york? find me on twitter or okc

Why did you put IAMA? Technically, you are saying I am a Jon Finkel.

Yeah. Getting this started wasnt my strength

I've seen questions about your favorite deck of all time, but what is your favorite color of all time and why?

Blue. Because it's awesome and I loved playing control. UU: Counter target spell

If you had the public forum (say, reddit) to say one thing to Bereznek, what would it be?

Best of luck.

[No question]

OK everybody. I thank you for all the questions, but that's all I can do for now. I have a Pro Tour to prepare for, and I don't want to embarrass myself in front of my 94 year old grandpa(who still plays tennis!)

Whoa, a 94 grandfather with first strike? That's got to have at least cost 4 mana.

He is awesome.

Do you feel the game is poorer without mana burn?

Nah. I think it's pretty much irrelevant


No one of consequence.

What a bitch, I'd gladly go on an okcupid date with you.

Thats sweet. Say hi on OK Cupid!

Can I have your children?

Are you of prime breeding stock? :)

I have a feeling my children would be 'difficult'

How does it feel becoming an internet celebrity off of simply being shot down, for being yourself, by a 'holier than thou' blog writer?

I dont remember being shot down, but it's pretty cool

Jon Finkel. You rule, dude!

Thanks! You too!

QUESTION: How can I ask you shit when four thousand other motherfuckers are trying to ask you something?

Tweet at me and mention who you are!

Yay, reading 4489 unanswered questions is fun! Peter Griffen hand clap (Umm... Did he somehow miss the point?)

I'm not sure how many hours you wanted me to spend. I thought 5 was enough!

I may be the 14203rd person to ask it...

But Jon are you open to further online/offline dating? Last time I checked Australia is a slight distance from NY but if you by chance go on tour give me a bell :)

I'll keep it in mind. I love Australians.

An expensive suit. Counting up tailored jacket, pants, shirt with french cuffs, Bruno Magli shoes - $5000.

I really have no idea, but certainly not what I was wearing!

Redditor for one day. 30k karma. This man has reddit magic too.

What can I do with this karma?

Why the need to do this when you were obviously the cooler dude?

People asked.

I just really do NOT understand this woman. I've seen pictures of her, and read her articles. She is just not great at all, and what makes her think she's better than you? It really pisses me off! As a dorky (but really cute) young woman, I can't stand girls like that.

You are absolutely adorable. I honestly cannot believe that woman would write such a silly article about you in that way, especially when you are so uhh, let me think, motherfucking awesome. I wish I was ten years older and living in New York, because I would love to date you. You sound so genuine and sweet, not to mention I hear you're into girls that are smart, dorky, and cute..

I'm sure this comment will get buried under the tons of other questions, but if you ever get a chance to read them all, I hope you notice mine and google me sometime ;)

Sorry for being 11 hours late. It's hard to be on Reddit constantly when you have to go to class.

Edit: I need a question... Will you marry me?

Maybe. Tweet me a creative proposal.

have you ever had trouble with girls because of mtg? and were you surprised by her reaction?

also i think its really awesome to be the world champion of something, i for one am the world champion cat boat crew

Ive had trouble due to awkwardness, and being human, but never MtG


Do you look at how suave and badass David Williams thinks he is now and laugh?

He's sitting right across from me now. He thinks hes pretty bad ass and we're all laughing.

Have you ever touched a boob?

Have I touched you? Do you count?

In the comments another girl admitted to dating you and said you tried to kiss her a lot, is this true?

I couldn't recall. It's 3 years ago, but I have no reason to doubt her.

I had no idea who you were until very recently, and I just wanted to say that if you ever become a masked crime-fighter, please use Johnny Magic as your alter-ego. Thank you.

It would be a pretty poor alter ego though, eh?

What strategy is your fund

My one sentence definition would be "We are primarily quantitative and market neutral"

I have heard rumblings that you are gearing up for modern and PT Philly so on a scale from 1 to "i clearly have the best deck" where is your testing

After the fact, I think I can say it's pretty close to "I clearly have the best deck"

I'm curious about your performance at Kuala Lampur. Did you prep at all for that? It seems absurd to me that you can be so good at this game that you can skip high level play for years, shrug and say, "I'm in the area, mise well go play in a Pro Tour," and then win the whole freaking thing.

How often do you play now? I remember reading that you pretty much only use your HoF invites for PTs and GPs that are close by. Do you still try and play a local or a couple modo queues a week?

Also, props on the "right play is the right play" insight. I'm pretty sure that's the first realization that everyone has to make if they're going to get better at this game, and it's an incredibly useful outlook in general.

It was a draft pro tour. I'd drafted in between and had drafted the format a lot so I was prepared. You also have to remember I spent a LOT of hours ages 15-23 playing magic. Sadly Kuala Lumpur was the last draft only Pro Tour.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Jon Finkel conducted on Reddit on 2011-08-30. The Reddit AMA can be found here.