Interview with Yoel Izsak
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Many of the articles that appear on this site focus on the constructed aspect of play, mainly because constructed is the format of choice among most of the games players. So many players focus on constructed that many often forget that there is even a Versus Sealed format. Too many times I have seen great constructed portions from players at the PC, only to watch them crash in burn when it comes to playing Vs. Sealed. (Flashback to Aaron Weil and his 10-0 to 0-9 performance).
I recently got a chance to speak with Yoel Izsak; who before 10K New York was relatively unknown in the versus community. Yoel made a huge splash in New York, defeating one of the best top 8’s in the history of the game in route to claiming victory during the sealed event. Yoel is known more for his great sealed play then his constructed play, so I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought about the sealed format itself.
Introduction – Yoel Izsak is 27 years old and comes from Chevy Chase, Maryland. He spends most of his time nowadays playtesting online, but when he finds time he loves the chance to play at Dream Wizards in Rockville Maryland. He has a core group of players that he practices with regularly, yet a team name has not yet been discussed.
Kevin Cavanagh- I’ve heard several people say that the 10K Sealed top 8 you went up against in New York was one of the best top 8s in the history of this game. Did you feel intimidated at all going up against so many big names?
Yoel Izsak- I guess yes and no. I was slightly intimidated going into the draft because I usually don’t draft well at the PC level. However, after the draft was over, I felt that my deck was pretty good, so I figured my chances were decent. I play all these guys at the PCs and stuff, so actually playing against them wasn’t very intimidating – just the drafting part.
Kevin Cavanagh- You said that you don’t normally draft well at the PC level, which I found interesting. Why is it that you feel that way? Is it simply the pressure of the PC or something else entirely?
Yoel Izsak- I guess I'm never very prepared for the drafting. I don't get to draft as much as I would like before any PC, so I feel that most people are more prepared than I am. I'm also just not a very good drafter in general. My one main strength is the fact that I think I recognize card values earlier than everyone else, which is why I usually do well at the beginning of a limited season, and then by the time the PC rolls around, I crash and burn.
Kevin Cavanagh- What do you think is the biggest difference between playing Vs. Sealed and Vs. Constructed? What’s the biggest thing players have to learn to adapt to?
Yoel Izsak- I think the biggest difference is that playing games of Sealed and draft test your fundamentals more. It is more about utilizing your characters and plot twists to optimize your combat situation. Whereas that happens sometimes in constructed (especially in Modern), but a lot of it seems to be more about using ridiculous abilities on characters and getting an edge outside of the attacking/defending aspect. Formation also seems to matter more often in limited than in constructed. I guess as far as adapting to one or the other, Constructed seems more about knowing your deck and its matchups, whereas limited seems more about knowing the game of Vs.
Kevin Cavanagh- This was a question posted on TCGplayer a few days ago and I just wanted to get your view on it….should there be more Sealed 10K’s then we’ve seen in the past or are you happy with the current 10K schedules?
Yoel Izsak- I mean...I like limited a whole lot more than constructed, so I think that more sealed 10Ks would be nice. However, I don't get to go to too many 10Ks anyways, so it doesn't make that big of a difference to me. If there is a 10K in the vicinity of DC, I will go no matter what the format was, but I probably won't ever travel very far for a constructed 10K.
Kevin Cavanagh- How much of your time do you allocate to Constructed practice compared to Limited Practice in preparation for PC’s?
Yoel Izsak- It used to be that we would draft almost every week at Dream Wizards and play no constructed at all. That in itself probably helped me miss day 2 at my first couple of PCs. Nowadays, I'm not able to go to the shop during the week and almost all of my testing is done online. So now I do almost solely constructed testing and every once in a while I get in an online draft. This unfortunately has swung the pendulum in the completely opposite direction. I've shown up to the last 2 PCs with really good decks, but really unprepared for the drafts.
Kevin Cavanagh- A lot of people say draft is simply a luck based format and that they hate that PC’s Day 2s are draft formatted. You are a master at Sealed Play…how much “luck” would you say is involved in sealed formats?
Yoel Izsak- Obviously there is some luck involved in sealed and draft, and I guess some players don't like that they can't control the contents of their decks 100%. But I think you see that some players dominate draft regardless of the format, which definitely gives a rebuttal for the "luck" argument. I think there is possibly even more luck involved in the constructed portion major events because a large part of determining your wins or losses is what opposing decks you get paired up against.
Conclusions – Yoel Izsak is a rising star in this game and is a force to be reckoned with at all the future events he attends. Yoel's next major event is going to be PCLA, which is only a few weeks away. I’ll be back next week with my standard article writing- Deck Analysis. Which team from the new set has struck my interest the most – tune in next week to find out.
Until Next Week,
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