How Lee Shi Tian Changed My Life

by Chapman Sim on 27 August 2018, Monday

Chapman Sim

How Lee Shi Tian Changed My Life


As a Wizards of the Coast official event coverage writer, an MTG Mint Card employee, also a gamer of over twenty years, I often find myself in a privileged position where I get to watch history unfold.

Occasionally, I get the front-row seat to watch high-level Pro Tour matches, and I get to watch the Top 8s of Grand Prix shape up. I write about tournaments, card strategy, the professional gaming lifestyle, and pop culture. I get the opportunity to travel extensively and meet people from around the globe. With any luck, I might even witness the first player from the Asia Pacific to make it into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

Through my adventures, I also met a lifelong friend who changed my life, and his name is Lee Shi Tian.

 

In this very special article, I won't speak for the others, and neither am I speaking on behalf of any entity. I will only speak for myself. And today, I wish to tell you some stories about myself, about Lee Shi Tian, and about why he is important to me, and how he has inspired me to be a better Magic player and a better person.



Before 2012: A Quick Summary

I started playing Magic around The Dark in 1994 when I was nine years old. My first sanctioned tournament was in 1999, at a Urza's Destiny Prerelease. I began grinding GPTs, PTQs and regional GPs. A few years later, I made the Top 8 at 2003 Singapore Nationals. This combination of experiences sparked the interest in me, to become a professional gamer.

That was my new dream.


And you all know how powerful dreams can be.

I wanted to learn everything about Magic, play Magic professionally, write about Magic, and work in the Magic industry. I wanted to travel the world, and build a future together with this wonderful card game.

However, the path was not easy. It wasn't made to be.
 
While I was in high school, I'd hang out at card stores after school ended and played Magic with my friends all afternoon and all night. I was playing store tournaments every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Once, I even took a twelve-hour bus ride all by my own to attend a Pro Tour Qualifier, and then I did that ten more times. Then, I started flying everywhere.


Despite my determination, a lot of factors were not within my control. For example, I was coping with growing up from a child into a young adult. I did not have a lot of money because I was in school. I was losing on Magic Online. I did not have a playtesting team. There were not many Grand Prix in the Asia Pacific compared to other parts of the world. From 1994 until 2012, I played around 50 Grand Prix in those 18 years, but I had no result to show for except a few money finishes.

However, between 2013 - 2016, I played in 32 Grand Prix and made Top 8 in FOUR of them!

I believe this was no coincidence because i
n 2012, Lee Shi Tian invited me to join MTG Mint Card.


The MTG Mint Card Origins Story

Lee Shi Tian, together with Tzu Ching Kuo, invited me to join MTG Mint Card. Lee shared his vision to build a team to unite the Asia Pacific region and to help everyone get stronger together. The plan was to rope in a few like-minded individuals to build the community. As long-time Magic players who shared the same set of challenges, Lee and I decided to embark on a journey of a lifetime to nurture Team MTG Mint Card.

 



Lee Shi Tian, Chapman Sim (myself), and Tzu Ching Kuo in early 2014.


In 2012, I had no pro levels, no Pro Tour invites, and not a single Grand Prix Top 8.

I did not even have byes for Grand Prix Singapore 2013!

Despite being a self-professed "veteran", I really didn't have much results to show for aside from a bunch of Pro Tour Qualifier wins and two Nationals Top 8s. I wanted to do better, but I didn't know how to step it up. And yet, Lee invited me to become a core member. To me, that was a godsend, a godsend for a young adult who wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a professional gamer.



After 2012

Joining Team MTG Mint Card was a significant turning point in my Magic career, and perhaps my life. Elated to be invited to join the top names in the most elite team that the Asia Pacific would ever see, I continued doing what I was doing and tried to climb on and stay on the train as my teammates bet on me.

With the revolutionary advice and newfound motivation from my new team, I won a Pro Tour Qualifier in Bangkok in October 2012. Three months later, I made my very first Grand Prix Top 8 at Grand Prix Singapore 2013. Lee told me, "See! It's not that hard to make the Top 8. With the first one, you'll get the second one."

True to his words, I made Top 8 at Grand Prix Nagoya 2014 a year later. With over 1600 players, it was one of the largest tournaments I had ever played in, and I placed 8th. That very same tournament, Lee Shi Tian placed 13th, and Tzu Ching Kuo placed 16th.

I still don't think that was a coincidence.

Shortly
 after Lee Shi Tian invited me to play with Magic with him, I made my first two Grand Prix Top 8s.

Lee Shi Tian, Tzu Ching Kuo, and Huang Hao-Shan were all by my side when both Top 8s happened.

 

After Round 12 at Grand Prix Singapore 2013, Lee Shi Tian, Tzu Ching Kuo, and I all had the same record, and we were all in contention for the Top 8. Unfortunately, Lee and I were paired against each other in Round 14. After my victory, I took an intentional draw in Round 15 to make the Top 8. In the quarterfinals, I was paired against Huang Hao-Shan, who I had to defeat to advance and qualify for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. It was not the pairing we had wanted, but it is what it is, and in fact, this is the Featured Match report on official coverage.

What most people didn't know, or realize, was that,
Lee had taught the team everything he knew about Return to Ravnica Limited.


I not only used his teachings to go undefeated in a PTQ but also to defeat him during the Swiss Rounds and also Huang Hao-Shan in the quarterfinals. That's a lot of friendly fire for a weekend but we still all ended up great. I finished 2nd, Huang finished 8th, Lee finished 10th, and Kuo finished 19th. Of the first four core members of Team MTG Mint Card, two of us were in the Top 8, and all of us were in the money.

It was also the exact lineup we sent to Pro Tour Theros in Dublin, because - yes - four members was all we had at that Pro Tour.

 



Back then, it was just me (cameraman), Lee Shi Tian, Tzu Ching Kuo, and Huang Hao-Shan at Pro Tour Theros.


By Pro Tour Theros, I had hit Silver and was guaranteed another Pro Tour invite. I was trying so hard to stay on the train and to remain on the team. I couldn't let down Lee Shi Tian, and I couldn't let down the others either. Despite my efforts, I never had more than two Pro Tour invitations at any time during the entire four-year duration. I often had to play it by ear and play out the year! I had to hope to spike a Pro Tour, Top 8 a Grand Prix, use a Silver invite, or try to take down a PTQ.

And you know what?

I had Lee Shi Tian just a few text messages away. I'd ask him for his opinion on a deck choice for a particular weekend. I'd ship him a bunch of stupid brews. I'd ask him to give me advice on my sideboard.

 

I didn't know it then, but I would later go on to string together 17 consecutive Pro Tours in a row, during the four seasons which Lee and I played Magic together.

Playing alongside Lee Shi Tian and the rest of MTG Mint Card propelled me to the peak of my Magic career.


Lee is a great leader, a visionary, and he is very, very good at Magic. More importantly, he created a non-toxic and amiable environment where we trust each other and work together tirelessly. Also, I think I benefited a lot from being the worst player on the team because the worse you are there more there is to learn. Instead of dismissing my ideas, Lee was ready to offer constructive feedback, disseminate the information quickly with other teammates, and work on a solution together.

In 2015, I officially joined MTG Mint Card as an employee.

With my deep knowledge in the gaming industry, a strong network within the community, and an unwavering love for Magic, I worked with Lee even more closely than ever before. My job was an amalgamated position which included multiple roles, including editing and producing content, recruiting and managing a team of players and writers, and also handle portions of social media and campaigns. Lee and I, despite never working in the same office, communicated on a regular basis and Lee always had great ideas which I was happy to assist him in implementing.

 

Five years ago, MTG Mint Card was far from being a household name within the Magic community. Building a brand name up from scratch and building a team of dedicated professional players goals we shared. It was Lee's vision, and I wanted to be part of his vision.

"We're good friends, and of course good friends help each other. Nobody can do it on their own, and everyone needs a little help along the way," Lee once told me.

And we did.

We spent the next few years sweating it out, and it was Lee who built the team day in and day out. Metagame analysis. Format breakdown. Team-building activities. Playtesting schedules. I was there watching as Lee did it all. Eventually, he forged international friendships and grew the playtesting team to include esteemed players from around the globe. In addition to our job responsibilities at MTG Mint Card, Lee and I traveled relentlessly in the search for Pro Points, or at least for opportunities to hone our skills further.

We would stay up to playtest all night long, crash on the living room floor, talk about Magic all night long until we doze off.

The next day, we'd wake up and test another matchup or a hundred more games.

Or head for the next Grand Prix.

I was seeing Lee Shi Tian more often than I was seeing my mother, and when I told him that, he merely replied that he was seeing me more than he was seeing his girlfriend.

Lee Shi Tian taught me so much about Magic ever since he brought me onto the team. He gave me his time and shared with me all he knew. All I wanted to do was to listen, and so did the rest of the team. And while he gave, he received. For contributing more and sacrificing more than any other, I felt like he deserves every bit of success he achieved.

 


Chapman Sim (myself), Tzu Ching Kuo, Huang Hao-Shan, Nam Sung Wook, and Lee Shi Tian at Pro Tour Kaladesh in Honolulu.

  

Regardless of the outcome of the ballot this year, I'd like to say that Lee Shi Tian has changed my life. Without Lee Shi Tian, I would not have become the Magic player I am today. His dream of being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a dream I have shared with him for the past six years, and I was watching him work hard every step of the way.

Thank you for being such an essential part of my life, and thank you for being my friend, Shi Tian. In my eyes, you're always a superstar.

 


Regards,
Chapman




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