Magic's Top 24 Players and Me (Part 2)

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
12/27/2017 11:01:00 AM
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For those interested in keeping up with the Pro Magic scene, and see some of the more successful decks over the past year, this is the article for you! As you may be aware Wizards has created a list of the top 25 players in the world.

I already went into detail on about half the players on the list, and will be talking about the other half today. The information provided will be a combination of facts, and how I see specific players through my own lens.

#25: Brian-Braun Duin

Professional comedian, err I mean Magic player BBD had a great year in 2016, capped off by beating Marcio Carvalho in the finals of the World Championships. While 2017 was far from a disaster for BBD, he didn't put up the results he wanted at the Pro Tour. BBD certainly has the skillset to transition from crushing Grand Prix to making the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. While BBD is a well-rounded player, he is best known for his strengths in Legacy and Modern, where he seems to constantly do well. BBD is a newly minted member of Team Genesis, so I know firsthand great things are coming for him.

Outside of at the Magic table, I have never seen BBD have a serious expression on his face. However, once he gets into a game you can see how much he cares about winning it. I mean there is more to life than Magic, right? Well, in BBD's case I'm not so sure, his thirst to play is greater than anyone I have ever known. And when it comes to Legacy, with Miracles no longer having access to Sensei's Divining Top, BBD has gone in a different direction, as he was last seen playing Esper Deathblade.

There are a number of decks that can incorporate the Stoneforge Mystic plus equipment package outside of Death and Taxes. It turns out a True-Name Nemesis with Umezawa's Jitte on it is pretty tough to beat.

#22 Tomoharo Saito

Saito just broke into the Top 25 rankings, so congratulations to him! Saito does much more for the game than playing, he is the owner of one of the largest websites in the game, and sponsors many players as well. Saito is another player that has a black mark on his resume, as he was banned. Since coming back from the ban, he has done well at the Grand Prix level. Saito isn't a fan of midrange strategies, he mostly plays control and aggro decks.

Saito helped popularize Blue-Red Control in Standard. That deck could clearly use a revival, though most of the cards in this list are still legal today.

#20 Sam Black

Sam is one of the greatest minds in the game. When watching him play you can tell he has the capability of thinking outside the box. He is also willing to attempt crazy draft strategies that seem extremely risky. Sometimes his risks hurt him, but more often than not they pay off. Sam just notched the third Pro Tour Top 8 of his career.

Sam is best known for his crazy brews. He will not show up with a deck everyone has prepared to play against if he can help it. While Lantern Control is no longer considered a crazy deck, it was at one point in time, and Sam had been an advocate of the archetype for a while now. He recently finished second in the Invitational while piloting it in the Modern portion of the tournament.

#19 Steve Rubin

Here is an example of how the rankings can constantly fluctuate based on recent results. Steve was not on the Top 25 Rankings until he came in ninth at Grand Prix Oklahoma City. Steve is someone who I have had the pleasure of playing against many times, in some very important situations. He beat me on his way to winning a Pro Tour, and in the finals of an Open. The guy can lock in mentally for big matches, one of the most important qualities of a pro Magic player.

Some people may not know this, but Steve is a brewer. Back when I won the World Championship in 2015, I was playing an Abzan Control deck designed by Steve. Outside of his prowess in Magic, Steve is an all-around good guy, who is always enjoyable to talk to, or go eat a meal with.

Speaking of brewing, here is his latest take on the Black-Red Hollow One deck.

Steve went ahead and played this deck at an Open, so you know that it is competitive. There is a ton of synergy here between creatures that come back from the graveyard, pure madness cards, and of course Hollow One itself.

#18 Yam Wing Chun

Yam has recently surged onto the pro scene. We saw Yam make one the most devastating mistakes in the history of the game at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, when he moved to attack with Hazoret the Fervent while holding two cards in hand. Yam has bounced back from that, though, and continues to put up a string of strong finishes. While Yam is relatively new to the pro scene, he seems dedicated to improving his game, and attaining the status of Platinum Pro.

Yam is known for aggressive red decks. Besides Ramunap Red, he also enjoys a good burn spell.

#17 Andrea Mengucci

Andrea Mengucci actually knows Steve Rubin quite well, as they tested for the 2016 World Championship together. Mengucci can put up big finishes in tournaments when he needs them the most, which means at the end of each season. He will seemingly be having a bad year and then all of a sudden Mengucci makes the Top 16 of the Pro Tour. This cycle has led to Mengucci continuous being the captain of Italy's World Magic Cup team. Italy has been doing exceptionally well year after year making it to the Top 8 under his guidance.

If you are looking to eat some Italian cuisine, and other tasty dishes, make sure to follow Mengucci on Twitter. He will put your homecooked meals to shame. He also isn't afraid to go off the radar in order to find a deck, here is his Green-Blue Pummeler deck from the Top 4 of this year's World Magic Cup.

The Pummeler decks are built to beat up on Temur Energy, which could be important, depending on how the format looks once Rivals of Ixalan comes around.

#13 Mike Sigrist

Siggy is someone who I can relate to, as he became a father at a similar time to me. Juggling a job as a parent and professional Magic player isn't easy. Taking toddlers to Grand Prix isn't exactly a great idea. On the other hand, being away from home for long stretches isn't always easy. Having a wife that is supportive of his career is a big help. While Siggy is clearly a great player, he doesn't have a big ego, knowing that there are always ways to continue and improve. This is a very important trait to possess.

Siggy is well liked by the community, and his playtesting team. He typically works with playtest teams that include many strong players, and he is able to use their help to strengthen his game. This is what SIggy took to the top 8 of Pro Tour Ixalan.

#12 Brad Nelson

If I were asked to name the best Standard player and deck builder in the world right, to me the answer is easy: Brad Nelson. Look at not only his individual results, but the results of those who he shares his decks and ideas with. I am very lucky to have him as a teammate on Genesis. Brad does have a hole in his game that he has been working on, and that is drafting. A Brad Nelson with a fully developed Limited game is scary to think about.

Brad can brew up completely new concepts, but he is at his best tuning known decks and making the right deck selection for a known metagame. When Brad shows up to a tournament you know that whatever deck he is on, it is the best possible list for that archetype. Brad is currently working hard on Legacy, and he knows his way around the Sultai Delver deck.

#11 Marcio Carvalho

Marcio Carvalho is one of the best Limited players in the game, as he was the Draft Master in 2016, when he took second at the World Championship. He does have some stigma attached to his name because of being previously banned. However, since he has returned to Magic, Marcio has been playing well, and seems to be playing good, clean Magic. I look forward to seeing more of him, as he has been on a tear the past couple years.

Check out Marcio's take on Abzan Midrange.

Abzan Midrange is another one of those disruptive decks, and we see he has gone for two main deck copies of Collective Brutality. Discarding a Lingering Souls when escalating Collective Brutality always is sweet.

#9 Yuuya Watanabe

Yuuya has been one of the best players in Japan for quite some time. He qualifies for the World Championship year after year, and won the event back in 2012. I remember playing against Yuuya during the 2015 World Championship. I was about to forget to scry after a mulligan, but Yuuya reminded me. This is the kind of guy he is; he will still beat you by simply outplaying you, though.

Yuuya wants to play decks that help him leverage his in-game play skill. This means we won't be seeing him touch an aggro deck, he is more of a midrange or combo guy. This is Yuuya's take on the Goryo's Vengeance deck.

#7 Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

The Brazilian superstar is the most decorated player on the Top 25 list. This is a testament to the longevity and dedication PV puts into his game. After having a lot of success, it is easy to get lazy and stop pushing yourself to do well. We see many Hall of Famers only showing up at Pro Tours – or not showing up at all – but PV continues traveling across the World to play in Grand Prix.

Last year PV beat me in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation on his way to claiming both the PT and Player of the Year titles. On a personal note, after being up two games my loss in the Top 8 to PV was devastating, but props to him for outplaying me. On the flipside, the first Grand Prix I won in 2007 came after beating PV in the finals, so we have definitely our fair share of high-stakes matches.

Beyond his gameplay, PV is one of the most important and influential members of the community. He generally effectively weighs in on various policies relating to Organized Play, and does so with an unbiased opinion.

PV has mastered many decks, including Ramunap Red.

#4 Martin Jůza

This newly minted Hall of Famer is a globetrotter. While Martin resides in the Czech Republic, he is willing to travel anywhere at any time to play Magic, and this strategy has served him well over the years. Martin's philosophy truly embraces the phrase “play the game, see the world.” Like all pros there are often tough years where winning is seemingly more difficult. A few years back Martin was close to falling of “the train:” being qualified for every Pro Tour. However, because of his persistence and dedication that didn't happen, and the past couple years have been very good to him.

Martin is someone who wants to be two steps ahead of the format, and by doing that he has amassed a ton of Grand Prix Top 8's. He doesn't do it alone, as he is friends with many pros, and sometimes consulting peers and drawing on their ideas is a recipe for your own success. At a time when Bant Eldrazi had seemingly disappeared from Modern, Martin was able to help revive the archetype.

#2 Reid Duke

How can a guy be this nice? Reid is the ultimate “good guy,” and also happens to be one of the top players in the world year after year. Reid has been doing well on just about every axis, from Pro Tours, to Team Grand Prix to Individual Grand Prix to the Magic Online Championship Series. It is just a matter of time before Reid is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Reid is someone who focuses on completely mastering a specific archetype and playing it perfectly.

We saw Reid consistently doing well with Temur Energy in Standard, and he takes a similar approach in Modern. He still goes for midrange strategies, but in this case they are Thoughtseize decks. He made the Top 4 an Open with Jund earlier this year.

Jund is a strategy players will continue going back to. Even with all the big mana decks running around there are cards that can help those matchups like Fulminator Mage out of the sideboard.

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield




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