Competitive MTG is “All About Time and Practice” – Ju Yaqiong

Ju Yaqiong - MTG Competitive Player from Singapore

Competitive MTG is “All About Time and Practice” – Ju Yaqiong

A regular face in the local competitive scene, Yaqiong may not say much but she harbours a deep well of thought. Even in our post-interview, casual Commander game, the 31-year-old was hatching plans to bounce back from a Land shortage (we ended 1-1). She shares more here on the ugly side of competitive MTG, and how to get more women playing the game.

What do you do for work and play when you’re not casting spells and slaying dragons in MTG?

I’m a preschool teacher. MTG plays a big part in my life, even outside of the game. We’ll have casual EDH (Commander) games, hang out with fellow MTG players, and share memes and posts on social media pages. The bond with MTG grows and becomes a part of us over the years.

Tell us about your Magic playing history. When and how did you start, what formats do you play?

I learned about MTG from my Secondary School seniors in China, that was during the Mirrodin block (2003). I read The Brother’s War novel but could not afford to play back then. After moving to Singapore, I bought some booster packs from the Kamigawa block (2004 – 05), but didn’t like the sets’ mechanics.

One day in 2011, I was at Comics Connection, I saw these flyers of the New Phyrexia prerelease event. The name New Phyrexia struck me as I recalled the stories from The Brother’s War. I went on and found out the prerelease from the store locator. My first Prerelease event was at Serangoon Shopping Centre, where MTG-Asia was situated then (it’s now in Bugis). My second game was at the newly-opened Games Haven store at Paya Lebar, and I’ve been playing ever since.

I started off with Standard format, and my first deck was Bant Birthing Pod (similar deck list here). Later on I started slowly on Modern, and later when it was introduced – Commander (EDH) and Pioneer. My favourite format is Draft, especially Cube Draft.

Some years I attended three Grands Prix (GP, now known as MagicFest), mostly to Bangkok, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. My last one was to Nagoya in January, before Covid happened.

Have there been any positive experiences from the Magic community?

Ju Yaqiong - competitive MTG player from Singapore

Too many, the memories from GP and Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers (RPTQ) trips. We’ve been stuck on the bus to Kuala Lumpur too many times. One year, it was during the National Day public holiday, 7 of us were stuck on the bus for 14 hours because of road closures. (A normal bus ride is about 7 hours). Friendships were forged on the road, and even though some of us are not actively playing now, we still do gatherings and talk about the game.

The game is predominantly played by men – why doesn’t it appeal to women and is there a way to change this?

Well it’s not an easy question to answer without addressing our fixation on gender roles. Of course there have been changes over the years and now we have more female players.

I do recall watching Melissa DeTora playing at the Pro Tour’s Top 8 games and thinking what an inspiration she is. My take on this is we need female players in the community who are active and doing well to inspire newer players. Yes, it is not always about winning, but if you keep on losing games, you will feel demoralised.

In your opinion, what are the ugliest aspects of competitive MTG?

The toxic part of competitive playing: cheating, rule sharking and using non-game related rules to disqualify opponents. Sharking refers to eating on new players who barely know the rules. When they miss a trigger, such as the pre-combat trigger with Toolcraft Exemplar, sharks will call on it and not allow the gameplay to rewind. That’s the good part about Arena, as the game will automatically trigger any abilities.

In paper Magic, if a player knows an opponent made a mistake, that player could use it to his/her advantage. In extreme situations, a player can get disqualified. Once a player at the Pro Tour knocked over his energy dice, and there was a dispute over the actual number. That player was eventually disqualified from the Pro Tour. One month later he would be using energy cards instead of dice to keep track of much energy was available.

How does one get better in competitive MTG?

It’s all about time and practice. When you’re facing a new opponent, most of the time you don’t know what he or she is playing. Only after a few games we can adjust our way of playing. We will know what threats they have, when they’re going to have a “board wipe,” what are they going to do with three Mana open?

All that train of thought comes from practice, especially in Draft where you need to be familiar with the format and cards first. You need to know all the possible tricks with that much Mana open and available to the opponent. You can then think deeper: if the opponent had a trick, why wasn’t it played in the last turn?

What cards would be in your very own “Signature Spellbook?”

Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager, Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, Cranial plating.

Tell us the deck that is closest to you and how it stole your heart.

Affinity is always in my heart. It is the longest deck I played till Mox Opal was banned in Modern format in Jan 2020.

Affinity by Yaqiong

Acidic Slime
 Archon of Justice
 Birds of Paradise
 Blade Splicer
 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
 Llanowar Elves
 Obstinate Baloth
 Phantasmal Image
 Phyrexian Metamorph
 Razor Hippogriff
 Sea Gate Oracle
 Solemn Simulacrum
 Stonehorn Dignitary
 Sun Titan
 Viridian Emissary
 Wurmcoil Engine


Birthing Pod

Venser, Sojourner

LANDS (22)
 Misty Rainforest
 Razorverge Thicket
 Seachrome Coast
 Tectonic Edge
Sideboard (15)
 Acidic Slime
 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
 Nature's Claim
 Obstinate Baloth
 Sylvok Replica
 Timely Reinforcements
 Viridian Corrupter

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

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