Ready to battle: An interview with Taimur Rashid before his first PT
I have to begin by acknowledging my bias prior to this interview. Taimur is one of two (the other is mastermind Liam Kane who’s evading my interview requests) Face to Face Games Toronto locals making their first Pro Tour appearance this weekend at Pro Tour Ixalan. Taimur also happens to be a good friend of mine. Professional players do a lot of talking about “levelling-up” your game and that is what Taimur has done over the past year. He’s likely the best at-the-table technical player of all my friends. Taimur Top 8’d GP Toronto to qualify for this event, a big weekend for our entire group of friends. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Where are you from? Where’d you grow up ?
I was born in Pakistan. We moved back and forth a few times until I was about 9 or 10 and then grew up in a small town called Napanee, Ontario (the hometown of his favourite artist Avril Lavigne). I moved to Toronto to attend the University of Toronto where I’m studying computer science, I’ve been here for about 3 years.
When did you first start playing magic?
I first got into Magic during the end of Avacyn Restored and played very casually for a while.
I first started getting serious and competitive when Shadows over Innistrad came out and I played every single Collected Company deck that existed in standard.
Talk to me about GP Toronto. What did you do differently? What was unique about that event?
For the sealed portion I watched a lot of Michael Jacob streaming the sealed format which helped a lot. I actually played very little Sealed.
My sealed pool was good but not insane, I didn’t have any of the actual busted cards. No Gods, Glorybringer or Angel of Sanctions. Just Jund good cards with good mana. I think the biggest edge I had was not being afraid to take risks with my deckbuilding and got rewarded with an 8-1.
Draft was a different story, I drafted a lot prior to that event. I’d say I did about 35-40 drafts leading up to GP Toronto on Magic Online alone and then also a draft camp with some of Toronto’s best players. I was just absurdly prepared for the format and it certainly helped that there were very few professional players there.
What is your biggest strength headed into the PT?
I think I’m good at learning and figuring out things quickly. I’m not nearly as good as the good deckbuilders, my in-game play is alright and I’m also fine at reasoning and deduction.
But I am good at figuring out decks and limited formats and play patterns, which usually means I’m not afraid to play decks that are considered difficult to play and be comfortable with a wide variety of strategies.
What is your biggest weakness?
I’m guilty of being a bit too dismissive of new ideas or immediately discounting strategies and decks that aren’t generically powerful. I forget to think about why people play them first or why they might be well-positioned in a specific metagame or tournament.
I am very much someone who is drawn to inherently powerful cards and decks full of those cards, which isn’t always a strength.
What has your preparation been like?
I’ve done a lot of drafts with known Magic Online grinder RNGSpecialist, formerly known as ProHilary (Tyler Nightingale). We also did another draft camp before Nationals. It helps a lot that both Worlds and Nationals were before the PT to establish some sort of structured metagame.
Daniel Fournier, Ryan Sandrin and myself are spending the week before the Pro Tour smashing various standard decks against each other while one of us plays Magic Online constantly.
We’re also getting support from Toronto by friends who keep us up-to-date with their own findings and ideas.
What do you think of this Standard format? Whats the most important edge you can gain?
The standard format has developed in an interesting way, everyone is currently in a Temur/Sultai/4C arms race trying to go over-the-top of each other while doing things like cutting Longtusk Cub entirely.
The most important thing for us to do is see if we can have a deck that is reasonable against all the absurd things being played while not being dead against aggro.
The best thing for people like us who don’t have a big team full of fantastic magic players and thinkers is just to play something generically powerful and not try to get too cute. So that’s what I’m doing.
How are you going to approach draft? What colours do you want to be in?
This draft format is very “core set-esque,” simple and straightforward. There’s not very much room for creativity, the best thing to do is just draft the archetypes and try to beat down. The best colour is blue for the aggressive and tempo-positive cards. With that said, the colour you most often want to be in within the actual draft portion is red because it’s the only colour that pairs well with all the other colours. You’ll never get into an unsupported archetype if you stay red.
By that logic, the ideal scenario is to start red and then end up red-blue for the best of both worlds. Or you know, just get passed any nut tribal deck, I’ll take that as well.
What’s your favourite meal in so far in New Mexico?
My favourite food so far is at this place called Frontier in front of the University of New Mexico that’s always packed. Its very Americanized Mexican food but its very tasty.
What is the most exciting non-magic part of the PT?
Just being with people I like for a week and eating as much new food as possible. The landscapes of Albuquerque are beautiful and I really hope I have a chance to climb some mountains.
Will you wear your PT t-shirt when you get back to Toronto?
I hadn’t given this much thought to be honest. I’ll probably never wear my PT shirt at a magic event and constantly wear it at non-magic events.