What does it take to be Pro?

Hello Everyone,

99% of all Magic players are categorized as beginners, amateurs, grinders, or veterans at most. Only a handful of us can say they are professional Magic players. And even in that small niche of players not everyone can say they are real pros. An exclusive group of people in this collection of great players get inducted into the Hall of Fame, and there are only around 40 of them. These people have left a mark in the history of Magic by being one of the world’s best.

Below are the list of players inducted into the Hall of Fame!

  1. Jon Finkel
  2. Darwin Kastle
  3. Tommi Hovi
  4. Alan Comer
  5. Olle Rade
  6. Bob Maher
  7. Dave Humphreys
  8. Raphael Levy
  9. Gary Wise
  10. Rob Dougherty
  11. Kai Budde
  12. Zvi Mowshowitz
  13. Tsuyoshi Fujita
  14. Nicolai Herzog
  15. Randy Buehler
  16. Dirk Baberowski
  17. Mike Turian
  18. Jelger Wiegersma
  19. Olivier Ruel
  20. Ben Rubin
  21. Antoine Ruel
  22. Kamiel Cornelissen
  23. Frank Karsten
  24. Gabriel Nassif
  25. Brian Kibler
  26. Bram Snepvangers
  27. Shuhei Nakamura
  28. Anton Jonsson
  29. S. O’Mahoney-Schwartz
  30. Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
  31. Kenji Tsumura
  32. Masashi Oiso
  33. Patrick Chapin
  34. Luis-Scott Vargas
  35. William Jensen
  36. Ben Stark
  37. Makihito Mihara
  38. Paul Rietzl
  39. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
  40. Eric Froehlich
  41. Shota Yasooka
  42. Willy Edel
  43. Yuuya Watanabe
  44. Owen Turtenwald
  45. Josh-Utter Leyton
  46. Martin Juza

But what separates the pros from all of us? Is it their thinking process? Their familiarity with the game? Their prowess in the format? Their stamina to stay focus for hours and hours. Or is it their luck?  Many will say they have the makings of a professional player… but do we?

Cartouche of Ambition

Everybody I think at a minimum has an ambition. It probably started very small like winning a prize pack from FNM. Then it became getting first place at an FNM. Making Day 2 of a Grand Prix. Winning a PPTQ. Representing your country in the World Magic Cup. Top 8-ing a Protour. Winning a Protour… most of us stop perhaps at making Day 2 of a Grand Prix… but some of us are willing to go the extra mile and make the sacrifices to make it further up the ladder and reach the top. Many try, but few succeed. The pros never seemed to let go of their ambition, not even those who have already achieved them.

Cartouche of Zeal

I think it takes a different kind of dedication and zeal to really stick with it through thick and thin. Many professional players also blow their games. They don’t wake up each day saying I’ll top that Protour, no sweat. Even at their level, the amount of time they spend playtesting, studying the format, mastering limited, practicing draft, and so on takes them away from other aspects of their life. It might sound like a fairy tale to live the life of a professional magic player but I think it’s not like that all the time, not even most of the time. We must acknowledge that in any game or sport, to be good at it you must first be bad at it. That’s why champions invest their time, blood and sweat to get to where they are.

Cartouche of Strength

The strength that they possess is not in the decks they play but I think it’s in the mentality that they bring in each of their games. They assert themselves with the skill of playing their best game of Magic each time they present their deck for cutting. The strength to focus on winning the next game after suffering a record-breaking loss. They exhibit professionalism and sportsmanship that surpasses the handshake before and after the game. It takes a lot of experience to get to that level of skill and I think many of us are still struggling to get to that level. I for one sometimes blame things for losing the game and yet we fail to ask “what can I have done better in that game?”.

Cartouche of Knowledge

We can’t deny that the knowledge the pros have of the game, the synergy, the rules and the mechanics of the game are far superior that ours. The way they see Magic is like how we see the Alphabet, they know what comes before and after, they know the song and they can give you a word that starts with each letter in a snap. With each set added into the format, they can quickly transition what they know and embrace the new cards to make their current decks better. I personally brew decks based on what’s fun to play so the pressure is nowhere near the pressure of actually brewing to win $40,000 in the next protour. Some of us might say we know the ins and outs of the game, but not until you get paired to a professional player in a Grand Prix and you will see how they set their lands and tap their mana, remember what’s on the stack, notice what went to the graveyard, have a feel on what cards will come up after surveying the cards that have already been played, how phases end and when to play their spells – all that is the summation of thousands of games played at the highest level of competitive Magic. I have yet to face a professional player but I hope I will someday.

Cartouche of Solidarity

The hardest to achieve in becoming a professional player is finding others that think and want to play like pros. Most of the time, competitive grinders stick to their home turf and prey on the people they already know. Sometimes you need to go out and test yourself against a different meta, a different crowd, a different city, town or country and find people who you can acquire more experiences from. The pursuit of mastery starts at a local shop, it doesn’t end there. I know some people who invested money and flew out to attend overseas Grand Prix to get a sample of a pro’s life, planeswalking around the world. It’s not easy, but I think it’s the only way to get better. And to achieve this, you need to find people with similar ideals. Magic is not about the cards, it’s about the gathering.

Going back to my question, if you have a professional player in a room and you can ask him anything about the game… what would it be? Why ask that question? Please let me know.


I will soon have interviews done and I will feature them here at The Forbidden Alchemy. And the first on the list is no other than the first guy in the Hall of Fame list – Jon Finkel.

Jon has agreed to my request and I hope we can set it up really soon, fingers crossed!

Let me know what questions you want me to ask and hopefully we can go through all of them! I’m so freakin’ excited, I hope he is too!

An article that JonnyMagic himself wrote about the reprinting of his immortalized card, Shadowmage Infiltrator can be found here for your enjoyment.


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