Recently I got to sit down with Vintage Workshops mastermind and all around eternal magician Roland Chang. His patient, open demeanor and mutual respect for the game spawned a series of discussions that shared involvement with the early days of Magic. What follows is a conversation we shared over a glass (or two) of scotch at his home in New York City. It turns out that Roland is more dynamically involved in the tournament scene than slamming a turn one Trinisphere… 

Derek: So let’s start with a little history of Roland Chang for those who aren’t familiar with you. What is your relationship to Magic? When did you start playing Magic?

Roland: I started playing back in 97. This would be close to the end of Ice Age, into Alliances. I remember getting excited about Alliances being released because there was a new Juzam Djinn coming out called Balduvian Horde. I made sure I bought a box of Alliances with whatever lunch money I had left over and got a couple of Balduvian Hordes in that one box! At the time Force of Will wasn’t really much, I mean, why would you want to pay one life?

I know! Force of Will was part of a cycle of cards that was, at least on the surface, one of the least exciting cards of that cycle. I mean Bounty of the Hunt and Contagion were super sweet too, and Pyrokinesis, those were awesome cards. Yeah, but I remember Balduvian Horde! That card was like 20 or 30 dollars speculated when it first came out.

That’s the thing, it made my job as a Vintage Casual Player with my playgroup so much easier: I could put out my Gorilla Berserkers combined with my Balduvian Hordes and lightning bolts and crap and I had a zoo deck. You could just go over the top with Balduvian Horde and all you had to do was discard a card at random from your hand.

And who cared about discarding a card when you got a 5/5 for four mana! So, where did you begin playing?

I grew up in Ohio. In my High School I began playing Magic in secret. My parents, they expected me to do homework when instead I was actually building decks, brainstorming, doing that kind of stuff when they thought I was doing, you know, my math homework. By 7th Grade I had finally decided that baseball cards just weren’t as cool as Magic cards. You know, I started collecting Magic cards because of the art. I was really into the artwork. To me, Magic was one of those things where you could collect this piece of cardboard and you could still use it, unlike a baseball card that just sits there.

Afterwards, I built this master collection of cards that was worth something and had cards that were useful. I built decks and made my own rules for magic. Around two to three years later I learned the real rules. One summer in the early 2000’s, maybe 1999ish, I was at a computer camp when I started taking Magic a little more seriously. I remember meeting Jamie Parke, who was a camp counselor there. This was near Cleveland Ohio. He was the first pro Magic player I had met. I didn’t know what it meant to be a pro. That you had to be pretty damn good. To know all the cards out there. So he tore apart my deck. Told me that Cursed Scroll was an auto-inclusion with Balduvian Horde. You know, because everything in my deck just wasn’t ramped up correctly.

How cool was it to meet someone who played Magic professionally in your teenage years?

I think I wet my pants. My brother had told me about him. He was a cool cat. I wanted to understand his thoughts and approach. But of course it all went over my head.

Did you guys play at all?

We didn’t. They had a Magic tournament, but Jamie wasn’t a part of it. I think I finished first or second. I didn’t end up making the suggested changes to the deck that I built. After pouring so many hours into it, you know, goldfishing it. It just seemed like the deck was perfect as is! So when I did so well at the tournament I figured, this Jamie guy just doesn’t know what he’s talking about!

Even though he was the one who looked at your deck and took it apart!

Exactly. It didn’t really resonate with me. Then I was off to college. I started playing a lot more, with guys like Mike Bomholt, regularly.

Where was college?

Ohio. I was always in Ohio. I spent all my years of Undergrad learning the rules from him, getting my butt kicked countlessly by his RUG Madness deck that abused Lions Eye Diamond. I was trying, using my Sligh deck, and I got destroyed every time. I spent a lot of time with Mike. We had a solid play group that churned out a lot of wins locally.

So in college you started taking more seriously playing competitively?

In 2003 I took an internship in NYC and cut my teeth at Neutral Ground and… what was the other place? Forbidden Planet. After that summer I developed a really clean set of skills for drafting, playing magic in general. Getting my ass handed to me because I didn’t have the necessary power to create Keeper. That’s when I was determined to get the power cards. I created a Megrim Deck that killed with Memory Jar or Urza’s Guilt. I obsessed over Megrim, tried to get as many turn 1 kills as possible. Finding the perfect hand. It was the understanding how to tweak that came about from that deck. Learning what was suboptimal. And thats when I first learned about Trinisphere later that summer. Wow. All my decks were now obselete. That’s when Mishra’s Workshops came into my life.

So what you’re talking about is what I remember used to be called type 1. What was it that first interested you in this format? Was it the power? Playing with the power nine?

There was a fascination with the restricted list. Why are these down to only one copy? Why is regrowth or copy artifact or ali from cairo so powerful? I saw all these restrictions and unrestrictions and didn’t understand it, because I didn’t have that well an understanding of the game to be able to wrap my head around how good these cards were. But the more I build decks with them, the more I understood why. Until you play Academy, or Tolarian.dec, you might not understand why Braingeyser was restricted.

So you went to New York, had this internship, cut your teeth, as it were, on elevating your game. Getting saturated with powerful, competitive magic. Starting from then you’ve committed to playing these older formats. And you played a lot at Neutral Ground?

Yeah.  It was super grungy.

Super grungy!  The smelliest!

Oh yeah, for sure! I kept a locker there, eventually. I figured if I was gonna keep bringing in my expensive stuff I might as well just leave it there. I’d rather not carry it back and forth and risk getting mugged on the train.

That's one hell of a card.

That’s one hell of a card.

Having a locker is top level status. I never knew they had lockers there! So, tell us about your major accomplishments, the landmarks of your magic career.

I would say winning 2005 Vintage championships was my first big breakout tournament. After that, I was on a tear for I don’t even know how many top 8’s in a row. It was interesting to hear murmurs whenever you entered the room. ‘Oh shit, there’s Roland Chang, the stax player!’ It was nice to strike fear in the hearts of my opponents.

2006 I won the Legacy championships. But I had lost 75% of my collection due to theft. About $15,000 of my own stuff, and about $5,000 of my teammates I was transporting from a vintage event in Waterbury. It was my first summer living in the city and I was torn losing so much of my collection. At Neutral Ground of all places. Everyone knew stuff got stolen there. If it fell on the floor it was probably gone.

Like rats cleaning up the scraps.

Exactly. It took me a bit to come back to the game, but the only thing that really kept me in the game was the Vintage community. They really embraced me. I had reached out because I needed help… I had lost not only my own cards but $5,000 worth of my friends cards… Moxen, Library of Alexandria. I remember coming home to my apartment and my brother and sister saw me break down.

Fast forward to Gen Con 2006. I had been sent a lot of cards through the mail, people were holding tournaments in my name. I was like, wow, this is fantastic. These people are all really supporting me, wanting me to come back to the game. That’s always going to be a part of me. I feel thankful that there’s this community of players, and I try to do the same as an ambassador to the game now and help the guys who do lose stuff at GP’s or any other tournaments. It’s shitty, the crap we have to deal with as players.

People are always out to get free lifts at these major tournaments.

So I had an unproxied deck by worlds at Gen Con, 2o06. Didn’t do well, but managed to take down Legacy Champtionships with Blue/Green Madness with cards all borrowed by Mike Herbig. Not a lot of people were ready for Stifle/Wasteland.

Wow. And all with borrowed cards that people in a community that wanted to support you to come back. That’s amazing, really is. You don’t hear stories like that too often.

I took six years off after that. Off an on I strugged with not being around the game. My friends were all begging me to come back. I think what did it was my good friend out in Long Island Nick Detwiler set me up with Visna Harris for a set of Workshops at a good price. It’s good to be back and be able to talk to more and more people now about playing Workshops, instead of being the lone five-color stax player! Because it always used to be about Mana Drain. Which is a good card, but I never wanted to play with Mana Drains, I never really liked that card. I just felt like playing with five Black Lotuses in my deck.

At this point its safe to say your favorite format is Vintage.


Vintage with a little Legacy peppered in.

I learned about Legacy from Doug Linn of He asked us to pick it up as a format when we wanted to take a break from Vintage. That combined with a local Friday night Legacy tournament where we beat up on little kids with type 2 cards. I think a year later they were fetching and Brainstorming. But we could test ideas there when we wanted.

I’ve always enjoyed Legacy as a format, adding extra flavor to my testing sessions, but not as much as Vintage, with the sheer brokenness of what you can do to your opponents.

It’s the most exciting, raw power level, huge play, soul crushing format.


So tell me. You’ve been attending large scale tournaments for a number of years. There had to be a moment when you saw the quality of organization of Grand Prix and even PTQ’s, to what level a TO is capable of organizing and executing an event. You and I were just in New Jersey together. We see how these things go: how we check out pairings, find our seats and opponents, how the flow of a tournament progresses. Now at what point did you see there could be a way to improve on this existing system?

From a players standpoint i’ve always found getting to the next round was an issue. I found this project that was developing technology in the form of an app to mitigate these problems, getting that information to the player, you know, the pairings board, all that information, if it could be sent directly to your mobile device, in the form of a text or a push notification. Well, this is exactly what we have been working on, what we have created and are trying to proliferate.

I think we can both agree that we way that tournaments happen now is as efficient as people have come up with so far but it is by no means perfect, nowhere near where it could be in terms of organization. I think that you, and whomever you have worked with on this project, have attempted a solution to this problem. This affects both players and tournament organizers. So what is the app called?

It’s called PreReg.Me. It’s available on both iOS and Android. It is out right now on the iOS App Store and the Google Play store. Any tournament that is running through PreReg.Me can provide push notifications for pairings, table information and opponent, which round, when it’s starting, as well as having a feed for all those notifications. Most importantly, Pre-Registering. For the main event as well as side events.

So I can be at a Grand Prix, and when round one begins and the pairings go up I will have all that information sent to my phone and I can head directly to my table?

That’s correct. There’s a back-end to all this, but the client-facing side of the program delivers this information. This is all at no cost to the player, they can download the app for free. TOs are taking those costs and putting them into the cost for running the GP. But in the meantime it is saving them costs by having less required judge staff to have to do all this work.

It’s less work for the TO, which is a boon to them to help run a more streamlined event. You and I both know, we were both at GP New Jersey, we waited sometimes in excess of half an hour past the end of each round for the next round to begin.

I heard the figure was closer to five hours worth of waiting time across nine rounds of swiss.

We played nine rounds of swiss, began at 10 am and finished at midnight.

We ran the program at GP Baltimore with the TO Nick Coss, who can attest to the product helping out where it was needed.

Another thing I wanted to bring up was the Pre Registering process. If, once I am signed into the application, I can pre register for, let’s say at GP Denver, I can find pre registration for GP Denver, based on the fact that the tournament organizer signed up for it? I can sign up for the event within that one application. Also, lets say I scrub out of day one, I go 5-4, and on Sunday I decide to hang around because my flight isn’t until Sunday night and I want to start playing in booster drafts and Standard tournaments, Modern tournaments via the side-events. I can sidestep the entire side-event queue and use PreReg.Me to sign up for these events?

Correct. Players can enter credit card information — which is kept locally on your smartphone — and can sign up for any side-events during the event. Also, data from past events is stored and can be accessed through the application. Let’s say, your results from GP Baltimore are stored on a back-end database.

I think this is amazing, and really important to have access to when attending these large scale tournaments going forward. Anybody that is going to a participating GP can download PreReg.Me and PreRegister through the app?


This is really important when going to these large scale tournaments, helping them move forward. And you soft launched at GP Baltimore?

It was a soft launch where we were working out the kinks. It was making sure we could smash all the bugs that did pop up. If anything most Magic players, we have actual 9-5 type jobs where you’re tied to, so testing this thing was severely limited. Two hours of testing, with eight people at a time. We had to be at GP Baltimore, fixing the app as problems came up. And we had great support with Nick Coss being the TO and Adam Shaw, a judge with considerable experience running events, and then Mike Herbig and myself, all there to handle the Grand Prix.

This is exciting man. I’ve always wanted this when traveling to these tournaments and its great you’ve given us a product we can interact with and streamline the whole experience for a lot of people.

I hope so. If it does take off that would be fantastic. This would be me making my own footprint on the game in a different way, besides brutalizing people with Mishra’s Workshop. It’s my way of giving back to the community. People that I care about, that I have the pleasure of meeting when I sit across from them at a given GP. I always see this as an opporunity to meet people I would have otherwise never been able to meet.

Great. Tell me, what does the future look like for Roland Chang? I know you’ve been on a tear lately…

Yeah, after Worlds this year… I went on a 5-0 tear before losing to Kevin Jones in Legacy. Then I finished perfect in the swiss at Vintage Champs. This is Eternal Weekend. Last year I finished 17th but this year, with Kuldotha Forgemaster, I knew I could make top 8 easily. I was top seed. I navigated through a field of crazy ass Delver decks and I think I hit it at least four times during the swiss, and each time brutalizing them. It was not easy, however. I had to keep my head in there and really grind it out. I’ve kept this mentality going forward into the months afterward and made top 8 in almost every single Vintage event since.

But i’m going to be around, doing Magic stuff for a long time. I’m really hoping I can be around, contributing to the game, playing the game, promoting the app. I am hoping to get 1000 users, and more TO’s aligned with the PreReg.Me system. I feel like that’s my primary goal right now. I really want to be a part of this community, and I’ve made a lot of headway hanging out at Twenty Sided Store this past year, getting to know the players, being present. I’ve wanted to get back into the scene ever since Neutral Ground closed, and I wondered where can I find players, and it’s right here in Brooklyn. I treasure that. Luis and Lauren have an amazing store there.

Well you certainly seem to be a really community oriented person so I think you’re gonna be just fine in the future with all that. No doubts in my mind about it.

Where can we find Roland Chang?

I am on Twitter @RolandMTG and I am very active on facebook. Both to promote PreReg.Me and connecting players.


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