Community Spotlight: Gerry Thompson

Hallie SantoCommunity

The second chapter of Gerry Thompson’s Magic career began in late 2014. After a six-month internship in R&D at Wizards of the Coast, he was back on the competitive grind, bent on earning back his Pro Tour and SCG Invitational invites. That day in November, Gerry and I had both made the quarterfinals of a 130-person Standard IQ in Bellevue, WA – the best finish of my nascent Magic career – and I realized, as we were both birding the semifinals, that I ought to thank him. Shortly before the tournament, I’d read an article he’d written about the merits of proactive strategies in Standard; it had entirely changed my outlook on the game, and directly informed my deck choice for that tournament.

Gerry was appreciative, and we made small talk for a few minutes before going our separate ways. We met again a month later as opponents in Mox Boarding House Bellevue’s inaugural Standard 1K, and we habitually ran into each other in between rounds at local PTQs. I realized in that time that having a professional Magic player in my community was a privilege that I shouldn’t take for granted – any time that Gerry took a few minutes out of his day to give me a pep talk, I felt as though I’d learned something new about the game and about myself.

As I learned when I spoke to the Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion last week, the Seattle community has had an indelible effect on him, too.

“Seattle is one of the best places for Magic,” Gerry said. “There’s such a wide variety of formats and playgroups. I never think, ‘I want to play Modern or Legacy, but I have no place to play’; if I ever want to play a certain format, I can play it here. And the people are awesome – I’ve had so many positive experiences with the people I’ve met here.”

As much as he loved the Seattle Magic scene, the northwest wasn’t an ideal place for a full-time professional player looking to travel every weekend. In 2015, after a period of existential quandary, Gerry moved to Roanoke, VA, home of Star City Games, to focus on producing content and playing in the Open circuit. In his first six months on the east coast, he took a total of four weekends off from playing Magic, and by the end, he admits he felt a bit burnt out. Committing himself to the game had taken his mind off his personal life, and he had some great finishes to show for his effort – including four Open Top 8’s, an Invitational Top 8, and a Top 4 finish in the 2015 Magic Online Championship – but he couldn’t help wondering if he had made the right choice.

While he’s admittedly moved around a lot in life, Gerry felt a need to put down roots as he entered his 30s. “I started having thoughts like, ‘Where would I be happiest?’ and ‘Where could I settle down?’” he said. Strangely enough, his introspection led him back to where he’d come from.

“Renton [WA] is a place where I have a lot of really good, close friends, and I think we’re in the same place mentally,” he told me as we sat at the bar in Café Mox in Ballard. “We’re all a little bit older and ready to settle down. So, I moved back about a year after I moved away, and it’s been good. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

It’s easy to see Gerry’s recent tournament results as a reflection of his happiness. Within six months of moving back west, he finished third at Grand Prix Vancouver after a 9-0 Day 1 run and clinched his first Pro Tour victory in Nashville earlier this month. While he admits that his positive outlook certainly played a role in his success – “If I’m generally happy in my life…when I play in a tournament, whatever happens happens, and I’m not afraid to fail,” he said – Gerry has been preparing himself to win a Pro Tour since he left Wizards three years ago.

“When I came back [to competitive play], I was starting from scratch, and I thought, ‘How do I get back to that level?’” he said. “I’d played in 30 Pro Tours and done poorly in a lot of them, and since I’ve come back, I’ve wanted to refine my Pro Tour process and figure out what I’ve been doing wrong. That’s just been my mindset for every PT since I got back: I’ve been more focused on honing the process. It’s not about doing well – it’s about learning and improving.”

Two years of learning and two solid weeks of Standard testing finally led Gerry to a Pro Tour victory, but nothing prepared him for the outpouring of support he’d receive afterward. Friends and fans flooded his social media channels with well wishes, and Gerry found himself taken aback by it all. As he flew back to SeaTac the day after the Pro Tour ended, he wondered what he could do to give back to the community. By the following Friday, he had decided to auction off all his Pro Tour memorabilia – including his trophy – and donate the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.

“I’ve never been super attached to trophies,” Gerry said, adding that he’d discarded several as he moved around the country. “If a collector or a fan of my work wanted this, it’s something I’d like them to have. While this is special and part of me would like to hold onto it, I’m way happier if it goes to a good cause.”

Gerry added that, should he ever win another Pro Tour, he’d be happy to hold another auction to support a different non-profit of his choice. Until then, he’ll be on the road, competing in tournaments and taking advantage of his newfound Platinum status; creating content for Star City Games and on his Twitch channel; and maybe even playing a few games at Mox with his Seattle-area friends. Wherever he is, he hopes that his words and actions will have a positive impact on his community and on other Magic players.

“I’ve been playing Magic for sixteen years – half my life – and I’ve played in over 40 Pro Tours. It’s taken a long time to get here,” he said. “I’ve always treated it as one big session and one big learning experience. Since I’ve come back from [working at] Wizards, I’ve tried to focus on the process and make better choices, and as long as I’m working on that…good things will happen. I didn’t go into this Pro Tour thinking, ‘This is the one.’ The thought never even crossed my mind, and I think that’s what helped me win – I was focused on the process rather than the results.”

Header image: Chris Rowlands