Shadow Era TCG » Interview with Raphael Majere
Raphael Majere is one of the most famous deck builders in the Shadow Era community, and he has also proven himself to be a formidable player with his recent win of the 1.27 Launch Tournament. I don't think there could be a more suitable person to interview right now, so here we are!
As usual, we'll start with the general questions:
How did you discover Shadow Era?
A sheer coincidence. My wife wanted to check out accessories for her iPhone, so she dragged me into an Apple Store. I got really bored until I saw the Shadow Era Mac Store screen on a Mac.
"If you like Magic The Gathering, you'll love Shadow Era!"
That changed my life, as I really liked MtG and competed as a serious player many years ago. I stopped MtG because the sets were coming out too fast and I felt that the price point is too high.
My wife completely regrets 'dragging' me into the Apple Store that day. Hahahah....!
I hope the iPhone accessory was worth it! I guess you are dragged into fewer shops nowadays?
She didn't buy anything!
And yes, she no longer drags me into Apple Stores. If she has to, she'll tell me to wait outside the store first, check out all the Mac monitors (making sure there are no more TCG games!) before giving me the thumbs-up to join her in the shop.
Speaking of shopping, do you ever play games whilst out and about?
Yes, I do. Irritates the hell out of my wife.
Now, I will share a tip with everyone. If you are playing a competition match, regardless if it's a for league game, tournament game, etc, get yourself a stable connection. For me, that means physical internet connection/cables. No WiFi, no mobile devices, no tablets. I sit at my PC monitor. Software downloadable version. Maximum screen size. Full attention on the game. That's just basic. If you have a bad connection, you forfeit a match, that's a really stupid way to lose. Especially if you are winning.
What's the strangest place you've played an important match?
The loo. Yes, I've played while on the Bowl, in the nude.
Time to change the subject! You mentioned Magic: The Gathering. When were you playing it and what level were you?
I played MtG for about 5 years, around 16 years ago! I was a good player in my community. I would win at informal competitions. The TCG shops organized competitions, I took part frequently but never placed above top 8.
Any other hobbies?
I am quite a serious chess player. I do apply a few chess strategies when I design decks.
I am also a 'magic tricks' enthusiast and a fan of David Blaine. (Not Criss Angel though!)
I'm into "Street Magic" and all that stuff. I perform for my friends and family at gatherings. Just for fun.
But in recent years, the market has dwindled and hence the magic inventors have produced very few items or tricks that I would consider ground-breaking or interesting.
Given your experience with magic, the performance art, if Shadow Era becomes a physical card game, should we be watching your hands closely?
Yes, you should! That's a good question! You'll be surprised at the things I can do!
For example, I can set an opening hand of 7 cards, placed them on top (called 'stacking' in the sleight-of-hand world), shuffle the cards many times and yet the top 7 cards would be the same set I 'stacked' earlier!
My friends, by the way, do not play poker with me. hahah....!
If you could stash one card up your sleeve, what would it be?
If I can stash 1 card, hmm...., I would stash Bad Santa since I can use it regardless if I was playing Shadow or Humans!
Do you talk to real-life friends and family about Shadow Era?
Yeah, I do! In fact, I try to get my friends to play as I really like the game.
How would you rate Shadow Era for value-for-money?
It's excellent. I've spent about $200 (USD) on it and feel that it's all worth it!
I have 5 accounts and hence I need to buy crystals for all of them.
When new sets roll out, I will need to purchase more crystals but I've no qualms about pouring more moolah in.
It's about relativity. I've spent about $3000 on MtG when I was 15 or 16. (That was a lot of money then!)
Hence the cost of SE is really nothing much for me.
Can you put an estimate on how many games you have played testing out your own decks, and those of others, as well as practising for tournaments and just playing for fun?
A lot of games. Let's talk about the tournament first. That's around 200 games just for the tournament.
For decks I post at the SE forum, I will theorycraft first - put in around 5 to 6 games. I'll complete the tweaks and I'll play 30 games straight. It takes about 2 days.
I must highlight that it takes me 5 to 6 games to do the tweaks now. In the past, it took me a very long time.
For example, for Zaladar Mega-rush 1.26, it took me around 80 games of testing before I posted it at the SE forum. I wanted to be sure that it was good.
There are a lot of decks that I've tried to make. They may survive the initial 5 - 6 games test, but fail to perform well in the 30 games.
These decks do not make their way to the SE forum. When I post decks at the forum, they are all proven decks with a clear record that everyone can read and check.
I like records, stats and figures. Essentially, they provide a framework of evidence.
Speaking of play-testing, you're not one to stick with one or two Heroes, like Killtrend, for instance. You've posted decks for many Heroes yourself and also like to try out decks that others post. How much do you think these experiences are helping you, compared to players who constrain themselves to one or two Heroes?
Excellent question. My take on this is very simple, in order to be able to deal with every popular deck in the meta, one must first understand how these decks work. And the best way to understand how these decks work is to play them.
It's usually very insightful as one can spot weakness when one plays with other decks. Spotting and understanding these weaknesses would mean that when I play my competition deck, a.k.a Boris deck, I know exactly where to hit. And hit them hard.
For example, when I knew that Sisyphos was playing a Banebow deck, my strategy was to keep my Aeon in my hand and not sac them. I knew that once I had 1 on board, it was going to be a thorn in his side, as hunters have limited cards or abilities that can deal with an 8 life ally like Aeon.
The experience came from playing your Banebow's Big Bad Beatdown deck in 1.26. So yeah, I definitely feel that being able to play all Heroes is a huge asset in becoming a good SE player.
Let's move onto your recent tournament win. How does it feel to be the 1.27 champ right now?
It's a little surreal. I had very tough matches with Sam1903 and Master Blakes in the Qualifiers. Both of them were very good players and they could have beaten me. So it was kinda a surprise that I became the eventual winner.
What led to you choosing Boris as your Hero for the tournament?
I must thank BlanketEffect for this. He's a fellow A1 Alliance guild member.
A short history:
I came up with a deck called "Hyper-Amber" shortly when 1.27 arrived, which I posted at our A1-only forum. BlanketEffect modified it and it became better, switching out Amber in favour of Boris. Blanket and I then played a few games and he won. We discussed the games. We had a few different views on several cards. We agreed on what's good and working.
Ultimately, he ended up with his own Boris version, while I choose to go with my version. That was a great moment because what we discussed within the 20 mins was so powerful that we did not tweak anymore from there on, and we brought our versions to the tourney.
Without giving too much away about your deck, what do you think it was that gave you the edge to make it to the finals and win?
Good deck building skills, without a doubt. That would mean understanding the meta, of course.
Plus, very importantly, as I've already mentioned, I am in the A1 Alliance guild. That gave me a big edge as well, as I was constantly able to find credible and great players to duel with. I was also hence given good, spot-on feedback regarding my deck and gameplay.
It's said that a few choice words from a mentor at the right moment creates eternal enlightenment - I experience it all the time when discussing strategy and decks with fellow A1 members - I'm indebted to them.
What was your toughest match-up of the 1.27 tournament?
Master Blakes - He gives me the chills. hahaahah....!
Everyone is afraid of the 'Master'. And Blakes sounds like "Blades". I imagine that he looks like Edward Scissorshands in real life. (If you know who that is, you are probably as old as me.)
(It's an early Johnny Depp movie.)
Plus, Master Blakes beat BlanketEffect to reach the finals of the Qualifier with me. And I was essentially playing a tweaked version of Blanket's deck so I was already dealt with a psychological blow before playing him.
Was there anyone you were relieved to avoid in the tournament?
Not a real person, but anyone playing Jericho in general. The Boris deck I play does well against Jericho, but that means a 50% win rate. Yes, it may be higher as compared to other Boris decks, but as a stand-alone statistic, it's not great.
Leading on from that, how much of your win would you attribute to luck, if anything?
Loads of luck. Then again, so are most games in real life.
I was lucky to get a bye in the Qualifiers - which amounted to nothing since Master Blakes also got a bye - so we are equal.
Like I mentioned, Master Blakes and Sam1903 gave me a tough time. I was lucky to go first in my third game with them. (I played 3 games with them each)
Boris is a great hero to use, even going second, since he will be able to use his SE ability first.
I was unlucky in many ways too. I faced 3 tough challenges before facing Sisyphos. DCjG also played a mean Boris deck, which I faced in the semi-finals.
I wish I faced 'statistically easier' match-ups like perhaps Kakamong's Zaladar or Sisyphos' Banebow in the semi-finals instead of DCjG's Boris.
That said, Sisyphos was 'lucky' too. He did not face any human warriors (with access to Blood Frenzy) on his way to the finals.
You're playing in the 1.27 LE4GUE at the moment too. If you've used the same deck there, how is it faring? Do you think people will be expecting you to use Boris in your remaining games for this season?
I play a variety of decks in the league. So far, I've 4 wins and 1 loss. The Boris deck lost to iClipse, whom I consider to be a very good player as well. It's likely I'll continue to use it due to its consistency.
(Raphael has played and won another match since this interview was recorded.)
Many of your decks posted on the SE forums are 30 cards, whilst the leagues and recent tournament are 40-card minimum. How much harder is it to get a 40-card deck right?
It was a lot harder in 1.26. I had a lot of problems doing the switch from 30 to 40 for the August LE4GUE. I knew that I was a good 30 card player but evidently over-estimated my capability when I switched to 40. I lost a lot of games before finding out what works and what does not.
It was an uphill battle. I never knew that 10 cards would make such a huge difference.
That was in 1.25/1.26 though. It was much harder then due to the limited card pool as compared to 1.27.
With 40-card being harder, is this the reason why your 40-card decks are not posted in the public forum? Or it is more that the 30-card decks are not valid for tournaments and so there is no risk in sharing them?
Firstly, I do not post decks that are not competitive. That would mean the decks must do well on the live server.
As you know, the SE forums are filled with new players who want to do well and have fun at the quick games. That would mean winning - I am sure few people take pleasure in losing.
Hence, it would be impractical to post 40 card decks for new players. They will not be able to win against tuned 30 card Majiya burn decks or Gwens playing Soul Seeker/Lily combo decks.
Secondly, I also like to win games. If everyone knew how my decks work for 40-card competitions, I would be a patsy cake opponent for anyone. All they have to do is search for my deck thread post at the SE forum before playing against me.
Fast forward two years, how is Shadow Era doing and are you still playing?
I would definitely be still playing if more cards/sets are released along the way. I am also enjoying the company of fellow players at the A1 Alliance. These 2 factors will determine my continued interest in Shadow Era.
Well, I hope they stay true and you stick around, because your contributions to the community so far have been enormous. Many thanks to you, and your wife, for this interview!
One last question though: who do you think I should interview next?
Your famous question. I like this one. Definitely the next incoming champion for the October Tournament.
If it's me again, you'll get to ask a different set of questions! Isn't that great?!
Hahaha ... Well, that would be a great pleasure, but - if I'm able to take part in the next tournament - the next interview will very likely be with myself!
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