Make Magic: the Gathering the “Least of Your Priorities” – Mark Suria

Mark Suria - MTG Player from Philippines, based in Singapore

Make Magic: the Gathering the “Least of Your Priorities” – Mark Suria

Magic: the Gathering is an intense card game, but Mark Suria, 33, prefers to focus on the fun and support that the MTG community brings. To him, being doubly sure of your life’s priorities will help a player maintain balance and the fun factor. Read on to find out how this certifiable MTG geek first started with the game!

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

My day job is a software developer and if I’m not casting spells, I’m on the road running for a couple of miles.

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

I started playing MTG when I was in elementary school (5th grade) in the Philippines. There were only two Local Games Stores (LGS) in my hometown of Manila, where I saw my friends playing a Tempest (1997) starter deck.

At the time I didn’t have any money to spend for a top-tier deck so I also bought a starter deck and started playing casual games. In those days, the formats were Type 1 (today’s Vintage and Legacy), Type 1.5 (Extended) and Type 2 (today’s Standard) so I was into Extended.

I stopped playing MTG after a year, and returned casting spells in 2003 when I was in college. The Mirrodin expansion was just having its Prerelease, so I decided why not play Magic again and the next thing I remember I was in my local shop playing Friday Night Magic (FNM).

Another year passed, and I needed to focus on my studies and stopped playing again. My interest in MTG is always in my heart, so when I had the money and time, I decided to visit one of the LGS here in Singapore to check out what are the new things and trends in Magic, because after 13 years of absence, I needed to catch up on many things. Prerelease events and its Sealed format is a good way to learn the new mechanics and get familiarised with the new cards.

Mark Suria is a big fan of legendary MTG artist Rob Alexander.
Mark alongside renown MTG artist Rob Alexander, at Grand Prix Singapore 2018.

I returned for Amonkhet (2017) because I like Egyptian art with the hieroglyphics and pharaohs. Back then MTG also introduced the Invocation cards which looked cool and had a unique design. I’ve continued playing ever since, and now with MTG Arena available, it will be very hard to quit Magic again.

Could you relive and share with us any positive experiences from the Magic community?

The community is usually very welcoming to help you play test a newly brewed deck, especially when you are preparing for a tournament or just playing casual Commander with your friends.

Secondly, the MTG community has taught me how to be more outspoken and how to interact with people, especially meeting new friends. Although Magic is a competitive card game, people tend to forget having fun. If you lose the game, just smile, congratulate the opponent and ask if they have a binder to trade or cards to sell :).

What advice would you give to someone starting MTG today, in a game with over 25 years of history?

The number one advice that I will give is to just enjoy the game. Win or lose, you will learn something new and that is how you evolve your game. Next thing you know, you will be playing in the MagicFest (formally known as the Grand Prix) or winning tournaments at your LGS. Unfortunately for paper Magic, we need to put that on hold first and let the pandemic end!

One thing I can say about the MTG community today is how people trade cards. Since 1997, Magic trading has evolved a lot and it is now easier to get the cards you need for your paper deck.

In your opinion, what are the ugliest aspects of the game (not necessarily about the gameplay)?

Based on my experience, the ugliest part is when you get too attached in the system, meaning you spend most of your time and money to Magic. We still have a life outside MTG and we still need to provide basic needs for our families, so make MTG the least of your priorities and everything will be fine.

Mark Suria emphasises having fun with MTG, and make it a lower priorities in life.
At Grand Prix Singapore 2018.

It is very easy to get addicted to Magic cards and if you don’t organise and prioritise your life, well the next thing you know you’ve overlooked a lot of responsibilities either in work or your obligation to your family.

How do you rate Arena versus paper Magic? Is one better than the other for a newcomer?

For beginners, I recommend MTG Arena because new players can learn a lot. Arena will automatically guide the player about Stacks, Priorities, and Phases which are the basic fundamentals of playing Magic.

Then you will not be forced to spend a lot for building a deck in paper. You can test first online and if it is doing well, then that is the time you can buy and start building your deck on paper. For more experienced players and love playing older formats, then paper Magic is better since Arena focuses mostly on Standard and older formats are not available.

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

If I had a Spellbook, it would have these 5 cards: (1) Thoughtseize; (2) Fatal Push; (3) Kolaghan’s Command; (4) Seasoned Pyromancer; and (5) Liliana of the Veil. This Spellbook will definitely be expensive!

I love Thoughtseize especially on your first turn. Peeking at your opponent’s hand can disrupt their strategy and you will have an idea what cards they will play next.

My play style is disruption. I’m not a big fan of Counter Magic because countering spells need a lot of patience –  better look at the opponent’s hand and remove threats before they can cast it! It will also be easier to plan my strategy if I know what are the cards available to my opponent’s hand. 

Tell us the deck that is closest to you and why it speaks about you.

When I returned to playing MTG in 2017, Chandra, Torch of Defiance was crazy overpowered, and I love how this Planeswalker just did her thing. That’s why I played mono-red in Standard format.

Later, when I got into playing Modern format, mono-red Prison made my deck so weak and powerless. I really liked that build where Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon would turn the opponent’s non-Basic lands into Mountains. Thats how I eventually settled into Chandra’s Prison, and it’s become my favourite.

Chandra's Prison by Mark Suria

Creatures (7)
Magus of the Moon
Simian Spirit Guide

Planeswalkers (10)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Karn, the Great Creator
Chandra, Awakened Inferno

Instants (7)
Desperate Ritual

Artifacts (10)
Chalice of the Void
Chandra’s Regulator
Ensnaring Bridge

Enchantments (4)
Blood Moon
Lands (22)
22 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Relic of Progenitus
Dragon’s Claw
Liquimetal Coating
Sorcerous Spyglass
Torpor Orb
Anger of the Gods
Ensnaring Bridge
Witchbane Orb
Wurmcoil Engine
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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