When people think Magic the Gathering, they think of a card game that is typically played amongst friends, or even in small community tournaments. For some though, they see two things: Riches and respect. Here, we will take a look at the top ten Magic the Gathering card players of all time. This list will be organized by the net earnings of players, as well as by their win and loss records in major tournaments around the world.
10. Brian Kibler – $277,250
Starting off our list of best Magic The Gathering players is Brian Kibler. Born in Oceanside California and picking up the game in his early teens in New York, Kibler got his first shot at the Pro Tour in 1998 as part of the junior division. With his first few years placing him as among the 64 top players in the world, Brian Kibler gained a reputation and the nickname of Dragon Master by slyly beating Zvi Mowshowitz with a Rith in combination with Armadillo Cloak, a move that would remain as his most famous. Now running a Serrated Illusionist deck, Kibler has entered the hall of fame, winning about 60% of his professional matches.
9. Olivier Ruel- $298,270
Born in Aubersvilliers, France, Olivier “Black Ops” Ruel began playing with his brother Antoine in 1994. Within 5 years, Ruel would find himself among the top 8 in the Madrid and Cannes tournaments, with an appearance in the New York Masters to follow. This would be the start of a career that would see 28 Top 8 finishes, more than any other player on record. In 2008, after winning a title as the best player in France some four years earlier, Olivier was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his consistent performance as among the best players in the world over his nearly decade of play.
8. Yuuya Watanabe – $299,700
One of the members of Japan’s “second generation” of Magic players, Watanabe didn’t get his start until the 2007 Yokohama Pro Tour. While not ranking in that first tournament, his defeat on the first day of matches did not discourage him, and later within that year Watanabe would go on to be considered Rookie of the Year. While still ineligible for the Hall of Fame, Watanabe is nearly assured such an honor in coming years. As a result of his ability to participate in multiple World Cup tournaments, he has collected multiple stories of interest. One in particular is that while en route to a tournament in Washington D.C., Watanabe and his team were stranded due to a plane repair issue in Indianapolis. To ensure they did not miss the tournament, himself and his team ended up paying a taxi over $1,400 to drive 10 hours to reach their destination. While not performing well in that tournament, Watanabe has claimed it to be a great team building experience, and in retrospect a great adventure in and of itself.
7. Raphaël Lévy – $320,100
While “Raph” (as he is often called) has never been a breakout star, his consistent effort in the Magic the Gathering world has consistently gained him respect for the 18 years he has been in the professional circuits. Born and raised in Toulouse, France, Raph began playing Pro Tours at 16, qualifying for the World Cup of 1997 despite a rough initial entry into the Paris tournament. One of the most consistent names on the Pro Circuit, Raph has only ever missed one Pro Tour, which occurred during his first season. Winning 7 Grand Prix tournaments, including the 2016 Madison and Manchester Grand Prixs, he has certainly kept the level of performance which allowed him entry into the Hall of Fame in 2006. With 87 overall Pro appearances, he is most likely the most seasoned player on the circuit, and spends his time away from the table writing for Wizards of the Coast.
6. Luis Scott-Vargas -$326,500
Luis Scott-Vargas (or LSV as he is better known) has been a successful Magic Player for quite some time, not only entering into the Hall of Fame in 2013, but running a very successful Magic Strategy site with his team Channel Fireball. Born in Los Angeles, LSV started his Pro Tour in San Diego in 2004, though he wouldn’t get his big break until 2006. Playing in the US National finals, LSV garnered a 3rd place finish, allowing him to play for the US National Team in the Magic World Cup. Preferring a Stall and Control deck style, he’s often credited with the development of highly effective card strategies in this regard. Despite placing in the top 8 of 3 tournaments in the 2016 circuit, there are rumors of his retirement from the active play scene so that he may focus as a Game Developer for Dire Wolf Digital, where he has worked since 2012.
5. Gabriel Nassif- $343,200
French born Gabriel “Yellowhat” Nassif could be seen as a master of cards. Experiencing success with both Professional Magic and the World Series of Poker, his successes have been many and varied. Known for his particularly aggressive style, Nassif’s 2001-2009 career has had a solid amount of success including a 2004 player of the year award, but he also has the dubious honor of losing the most Pro Tour Finals than any other Magic player currently on record. While he seems to have left the Magic pro tournament scene, his professional poker career has skyrocketed, giving him a net worth of well over $1 Million.
4. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – $352,250
The first South American Hall of Fame Magic player, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is also the youngest player to get to 300 Lifetime Pro Points. His career started in his home town of Porto Alegre, Brazil, where a Grand Prix tournament was held in 2005. Ever since, Paulo has gone on to tie for the most Top 8 Finishes of all time, alongside fellow Magic star Kai Budde. Having entered the Hall of Fame in 2012, Paulo was often considered a quickly rising star in terms of tournament stats, and besides a somewhat stale performance in 2007, has mostly lived up to such a reputation.
3. Kai Budde – $381,225
The rightly named German Juggernaut, Kai Budde seemed invincible for most of his Pro Magic career. Never placing below 6th from his debut in 1998 until 2002, Kai won a total of 16 tournaments out of the 24 he attended during that time. He also has the rare honor of having been able to design a card (Voidmage Prodigy) as a result of winning the 2001 Cape Town Invitational. Being the Player of the year from 1998-1999’s season until the end of the 2003 season, he was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, taking an overwhelming amount of the vote. Having not attended any professional matches since 2011, it is uncertain of the German Juggernaut will make a Pro Circuit return to Magic anytime soon.
2. Shuhei Nakamura – $386,000
Japanese born and raised, Shuhei “Snowmaster” Nakamura is the second of the second generation of Japanese players to make the list, as well as being runner up as the best Magic player to date. Despite having a respectable second place position in the Kobe Grand Prix in 2001, Nakamura did not gain popular attention until the 2005 Columbus tournament where he gained yet another second place finish. Despite having quite the habit of making it to the number 2 position, he would eventually be tied for the most Grand Prix wins with Kai Budde and Yuuya Watanabe. He would also gain the title of Pro Player of the year in 2008, and enter the Hall of Fame in 2011. Nakamura is often considered one of the best Limited Format players, having both of his initial tournament wins in the Coldsnap Limited formats (hence the nickname, “Snowmaster”). As of 2016, Shuhei has maintained respectable positions in tournaments, most recently finishing 5th in the Atlanta leg of the Pro Tour in February.
1. Jon Finkel – $409,300
Topping off our list of the top 10 Magic players is perhaps also the most publicly visible, Jon Finkel. New York born and raised, FInkle got his pro start in the 1996 Seattle World Tournament and quickly became the most decorated player in the history of the game. Despite being active as a player for over 25 tournaments, Finkel has yet to place below the top 8 in any major competition. He was also the first ever inductee into the Magic Hall of Fame, and still holds the highest positive percentage in terms of votes for entry to that title. He, like Kai Budde has also been allowed to create a card for Magic, Shadowmage Infiltrator. Outside of Magic, Finkel has also gained a reputation as a Poker player and Blackjack counter, and holds a job as a hedge fund manager for the Landscape Capital Management company. He is also among the very few Magic players of have a biography written of them (Johnny Magic and the Card Shark Kids), as well as having an expose article on him for his OkCupid account not mentioning he was a Magic player; This subsequently gained him the support of big names such as Felicia Day and Sara Jean Underwood, both being self-professed geeks.