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PV’s Top 5: Best Players In History, Misconceptions About Pro Players, And Disney Movies

PVDDR lightens things up with some Top 5s! From Magic’s top players to Disney’s best films, the World Champion isn’t shy about sharing his thoughts!

Shadowmage Infiltrator, illustrated by Tomasz Jedruszek

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A couple of days ago, I asked Twitter for some topics I could rank the Top 5 of – either Magic-related or not.

This article has the ones I thought were the most interesting. Keep in mind that none of this is absolute – it’s all my opinion and I could certainly be wrong. 

Top 5 Best Players in History

I believe the Top 5 best players in history discussion is an interesting one, but ultimately futile. The eras of Magic are so different that they might as well have been a different game, and there’s no way to compare them appropriately. In the end, there are many different classifications you can use and I’m fine with any of them.

5. Gabriel Nassif

Nassif has a long history with the game, and his results are tremendous. I remember hearing about him when I started my competitive career and how his decks were always different and good. I feel like he is comfortably in fifth place on this list – regardless of the criteria you use, I believe there’s no one better than him to put here but also he is a step below the other four players.

4. Luis Scott-Vargas

I tested with Luis for over a decade, so I have a pretty good idea of how good he is, and he is very good. He has a deep understanding about all aspects of the game and he’s always among the best players in the world when he is practicing. 

3. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Me! I think at this point I’ve earned the right to rank myself in the Top 5. I think I am comparable to Luis in skill – it’s possible he’s a bit better in some things and I am a bit better in others, and I believe I have a wider range (he’s more consistent whereas I tend to fluctuate more), but the difference should be very small in either direction. I do think my results are better at this point, and when we are counting “best in history” I think we have to go strongly by results (unlike our next category, “best player in the world right now,” which I believe should factor skill in more than results). I believe you could reasonably place me anywhere in the Top 3 depending on what you value but I personally put myself third. 

2. Kai Budde

Some people have strong opinions on Kai versus Finkel, but I’m not one of those people – they both peaked ahead of my time and I only have results and what other people say to go by. I believe that Kai’s peak will never be matched results-wise, and the skill delta between him and the rest of the competition at the time was the biggest it’s ever been. He had a bigger edge on the competition than anyone else has ever had and at any given tournament he was more likely to win than anyone else before or after him. 

One relevant thing is also that I believe Kai derived a lot of his edge (way more than anyone else on this list) due to superior deckbuilding that is basically impossible to replicate now. Back then, you’d have Kai showing up with Illusions / Donate and other people showing up with Mono-Green Aggro in the same tournament. This type of deckbuilding edge cannot be obtained now with any degree of regularity, since everyone just has access to all the best decks. 

1. Jon Finkel

I think that, if both players had stopped playing the game after their peak, I would have Kai as #1 – his results at that point were just better than Finkel’s. However, Finkel’s longevity is what gives him the edge. He had a lot of results in a time similar to Kai’s, but he also had many good results very recently. He was a world-class player back then and he is a world-class player now, which shows that he is just extremely good. This makes me think that, while Kai had the biggest skill delta between him and his competitors, Finkel had the most absolute skill. But, as I said, I’m honestly fine with any way you want to classify these players.

Top 5 Best Players in the World Right Now

Most of the time, when assessing the skill of the best players, I think about them in tiers – there are twenty or 30 people in a “Tier 1” of skill and any of these players could be the best in the world at any given tournament, to a point where it’s hard to precisely identify who is better than who inside that tier. Besides, there are some players that I simply have no contact with, so it’s hard for me to assess how good they are – they could belong here, but I have no way of knowing. With those caveats out of the way, here’s what I would guess is the Top 5 right now (I believe this is somewhat of a more subjective category, so I’m not going to include myself in this rank).

5. William Jensen

Huey is one of these players who will be forever in Tier 1, and he might make the Top 5 or not depending on how good a year he’s having, which is not necessarily fair but is what we have to go with. Even though he’s been around forever, I haven’t played against him or watched him play that much, but I’ve talked to him about certain plays and other Magic concepts and I am always impressed by the way he thinks. 

4. Seth Manfield

At this point, there is no doubt by anyone that Seth is a world-class player. I am always particularly impressed by his “mind games” – I like the way he makes certain plays to put an idea in his opponent’s mind, for example, and I think he is a particularly good bluffer, even among the pro players.

The one aspect where I do not agree with Seth, and probably never will, is his mulligan decisions. It’s hard to argue with the success he’s had but we are of completely opposite schools there.

3. Piotr “Kanister” Glogowski

Kanister is by far the youngest of the players in this list – both in terms of actual age and in terms of his presence in the competitive scene. Despite that, he’s taken the professional world by storm with an innovative approach of almost completely open testing. Kanister tests by himself, streaming the entire process, and for a very small amount of money you can get his list and sideboard guide.

Even though Kanister’s professional career is very young, I’ve had the pleasure of playing against him several times (I believe we’ve played at least five times in Pro Tour-level events), and he’s always impressed me with his plays and the way he thinks about the game – I think in several of these games I would have won if I were playing against someone only slightly worse. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up this level of excellency, but I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t.

2. Marcio Carvalho

Marcio has been a perennial second-place finisher, so it’s not a surprise he also gets #2 here. Jokes aside, I think if you’ve been followed competitive Magic for the past couple of years there is no way you don’t have Marcio in your Top 5 – he consistently does well at all aspects of the game (Limited, deck selection, in-game skill) and he is probably the most well-rounded player of those. On top of his results, I’ve also talked a lot with Marcio about many different Magic-related topics and I know for a fact he understands the game extremely well.

1. Shota Yasooka

Shota might be a surprising person for me to include in this list, especially in first place – not because he’s not acknowledged as a very good player, but because he flies somewhat under the radar and he’s not as much in evidence as the other people in this list (I’m sure no one was expecting me to include him here). Part of that is because he doesn’t speak a lot of English – he doesn’t stream in English, he writes no articles in English, he does no interviews, and all these things mean he keeps a lower profile, but they don’t mean he isn’t very good.

I’ve thought Shota to be one of the best players in the world for many years now, and this hasn’t changed lately. In fact, the more I play against Shota or watch him play, the more impressed I am – when we had the MPL split and I played against Shota, it was the match I felt the most outclassed. In fact, he’s the one player I believe has consistently made me feel outclassed, and not just because he plays at the speed of lightning (though that’s a bonus too). 

The biggest point against Shota is that I believe his deck selection is somewhat lacking. He always plays either crazy brews or stock decks with a twist, and I more often than not disagree with his deckbuilding choices. If I had to choose one person whose results I would copy, I would choose Marcio. I think Marcio is more likely than Shota to do well in a tournament because he chooses better decks, but if I had to choose someone to just play the game for me, I would choose Shota.

Top 5 Cards for Which Rotation Can’t Come Soon Enough

5. Narset, Parter of Veils

I strongly dislike the passive ability on Narset, mostly because it’s so easy to forget. It’s also a very hit-or-miss ability – versus some decks (or some draws) it does nothing; versus other decks it’s basically Chalice of the Void on one, two and three. 

4. Hydroid Krasis

Hydroid Krasis was cute, but it’s time for it to go. Counterspells aren’t strong enough that you needed this effect to be uncounterable, and this card is very much “the rich get richer” alongside the next card on our list. 

3. Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Planeswalkers, in general, have a problem in that they are sometimes useless if you’re behind but very oppressive if the battlefield is even or if you’re ahead. Nissa, Who Shakes the World is the personification of this problem – it ranges from your best card to something you sideboard out depending on whether you’re on the play or on the draw, and I don’t think that’s very healthy. 

2. Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven

Both Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven are reasonable cards by themselves, but together I can’t stand them. It’s not that they’re too strong (though they can be too strong in certain situations), but it’s that they are so completely annoying to play with and against. Most of the annoyance comes from the number of clicks you need to perform if you’re playing this combo online and it leads to a significant number of time-outs.

1. Teferi, Time Raveler

Teferi infuriates me because its applications are far wider than what I believe is intended. If the card said “your opponents can’t cast spells during your turn,” then that would have been a lot more reasonable, but the way it’s worded it randomly hoses a lot of other cards for basically no reason. I understand when Teferi stops me from Absorbing something, but should Teferi really stop Finale of Promise? Should it stop Ashiok, Nightmare Muse’s ultimate? Should it stop combat tricks like Embercleave or Rimrock Knight? I don’t believe it should. Teferi simply doesn’t let the opponent play the game a reasonable percentage of the time, and it’s good enough without that that it can just see play regardless of what the metagame looks like, which makes for a very unfun card for me. 

Top 5 Games Other Than Magic to Play During Quarantine 

I’ve always loved playing games, and I spend quite a lot of my time playing them at home. Now that everyone’s basically being forced to live a gamer’s lifestyle, here are my favorite games to play right now:

5. Heroes of Might and Magic III

Heroes of Might and Magic III is an old game, but it’s very good. It’s a turn-based strategy game that mixes town-building with battles with leveling your character up that makes it feel like an RPG but different from other RPGs you’ve played. If you’ve never played it, I wholeheartedly recommend it (and you can also get the HD Mod which makes the gameplay better).

4. Diablo III

I loved Diablo II and played for countless hours, but my relationship with Diablo III is a bit weird. Every time there is a new season, it consumes my life – first I start reading all about the changes, then I’m figuring out all the Haedrig Sets and which one I want to play, reading guides and so on, then I plan my character from start to finish, and finally I get on and play for two-three days. Then I don’t touch it again until the following season, when the cycle repeats itself. 

As an aside, every time I mention Diablo III someone invariably mentions Path of Exile. I believe Path of Exile is a great game, and I’ve played it a little bit, but the barrier of entry is just way too high – there’s too much going on. I’m the kind of person that has to know everything before they start playing and I feel like with Path of Exile I start a game knowing 10% of what’s going on even though I’ve read a lot about it, which is kinda annoying to me. 

3. Baldur’s Gate II

Baldur’s Gate II is another old game that I still play to this day (in fact, I have a playthrough going on right now with a Bard, though I started in Baldur’s Gate I).

Baldur’s Gate II is an AD&D-based RPG and probably the best-constructed game I’ve ever played. Everything in it is incredible – the story, the many different branches and how you can personally affect things, the dialogue, the gameplay – even the voice acting is superb. You can play the game ten times and have a different experience in all of them, which is the reason I keep playing it over and over even though I already know basically all there is to know about it. If you’re interested, get the Enhanced Edition.

There’s also Baldur’s Gate III coming up soon (or relatively soon, anyway), and hopefully that’s as good as Baldur’s Gate II (though I find that hard to believe).

2. Bridge

Bridge is a card game that’s commonly known as an “old people” game, which is only partially true – there are a lot of older people playing Bridge, but there’s also a very active younger community (and a Junior community as well, which for Bridge is under 26). 

Of all the other card games I’ve played, Bridge is by far the best. It’s a very simple game – the rules are quite easy – but at the same time it’s incredibly complex. The beginner players won’t even notice the complexity, but the best players will and that’s what I believe the sweet spot to be. 

The most interesting part about Bridge is the duplicate system. You score a certain number of points in a hand, and your goal is  to beat other people who will all have the exact same cards as you. So you could, for example, score +100 points, but if other people with your cards and in your position score +150 points, then you actually lost even though you “won.” This means there’s a lot less luck in the game than in other card games. 

If you’re stuck at home and like card games, you should check Bridge out. The game is actually best played in person (and if you live in a big city there’s likely a club where you are and people will welcome you very well) but obviously that’s not practical right now, so you can play online on the Bridge Base Online program. 

1. League of Legends

I love playing League of Legends, but most of all I love watching it – even more than playing and even more than I like watching Magic. I follow all the major tournaments closely (and it’s always a pain when Worlds is invariably on the same weekend of a PT and I have to fall behind on the games) and I watch some of the regional leagues extensively (for example I watch almost all the games in the Korean league).

I’m not generally a “fanboy,” but almost all the people I “fanboy” for are involved in League of Legends. I also don’t really root for any teams in any sport, but I will get heavily invested in League of Legends tournaments (T1 is my favorite team but I mostly like all the Korean ones). I never understood my father’s and siblings’ fascination with soccer and I never quite grasped how one could get so emotionally involved in something they had no actual involvement in, but League of Legends is the thing that came the closest for me. 

Nowadays, I mostly play ARAM when I play League, which is basically the Commander equivalent of League of Legends. 

Top 5 Favorite Magic Sets

5. Champions of Kamigawa

I really like the Japanese culture, so having a Japanese-themed set was very fun. I also liked how it played out in both Limited and Constructed (though I know a lot of people disagree). 

4. Tempest

I was still a pretty bad player when Tempest came out, but I feel like it was an important transition period for me – it was when I started actually thinking and building my decks for tournaments. Tempest was also the first set that attracted me for the story itself, and I think to this day some of Magic’s favorite characters come from this time period. 

3. Innistrad

Innistrad had a great combination of flavor, mechanics, powerful Constructed cards, and a good Limited format.

2. Invasion

Invasion was the first “gold set” I knew, and I think it was the best gold set they ever did from a gameplay perspective. Some of my favorite decks of all time come from that era, and I had a lot of fun playing Invasion Block Constructed and Standard, as well as Invasion Limited. 

1. Ravnica

Ravnica is my favorite world, so that makes it my favorite set. I just love the guild dynamic and how it assigns a specific personality to each color combination – I think it was a game-changer for MTG lore. It was also fun to draft!

Top 5 Pizza Toppings

Okay, brace yourselves because things are about to get weird. In Brazil, we approach pizza differently from how they do basically everywhere else, so my list might include some toppings that you’ve never even considered having. These five toppings I will list are my favorites and they are all toppings that I get regularly on my pizzas.

Last place – Pineapple. 

5. Four Cheese

A pretty standard pizza, and to me by far the best of the “safe choices.” Some places offer five, six, or seven cheeses, and you can keep adding cheeses as long as they don’t add cheddar (which I like in general but not much on pizza).

4. Eggnog Banana

Every pizza place here will have dessert pizza as well. The chocolate ones are very traditional, but so is Eggnog Banana. This works really well on pizza and you can add cinnamon for greater value.

3. Chocolate Strawberry

I actually prefer white chocolate over normal chocolate, but both go pretty well on pizza (or a mix). Strawberry is also the more traditional thing that goes with it but you can do for example nuts or even ice cream . The important thing is that your dessert pizza should never have cheese! Some places add cheese to their chocolate pizza and I hate the result. 

2. Chicken Heart

Chicken heart is very traditional to where I live (the south of Brazil). We have it commonly in barbecues and we have it commonly in burgers for example (so instead of a patty you get a bunch of chicken hearts). It’s also a common pizza topping and one of my favorites. 

1. Garlic Sirloin

There are variations of this pizza (some places have sirloin with four cheeses or parmesan sirloin) but in general it’s my favorite – I always try to order some amount of it and when I go to the all you can eat pizza places I always get multiple slices. Bonus points if it comes with shoestring potatoes like the one in the picture!

Top 5 Misconceptions About Professional Players

5. Pro players have access to all the cards.

Every time I mention cards or sponsorships, people are surprised that I don’t just get all the cards for free. I don’t, and neither do most other professional players. I have to get my cards the same way everyone else does, by either opening boosters (likely during drafting) or by paying exorbitant prices at the dealer booth the day of the tournament. 

4. It’s impossible to succeed at the pro level without a team.

It used to be that, if you didn’t have a professional team, you were highly disadvantaged. This is no longer the case. Nowadays, information is so widespread and you can test so much online that you don’t truly need a team to succeed, and in fact many players succeed without one (for example Kanister or Shota, among the people I mentioned as the best). 

I still like to have a team for two main reasons:

  1. It’s more fun to test with a team. Testing endlessly is a chore and having a group of people you like doing it with makes it easier.
  2. It means you can try many different things. When you have a team, you have a lot more working power and you can experiment with a wide variety of lists and cards before you have to settle on one deck. If you’re playing by yourself, you don’t have this luxury – you have to decide on a deck very early if you want to be competent with it and have a tuned list and sideboard plan.

So, in the end, it absolutely is an advantage to have a team, but a lot of the time you can counter it by simply choosing a good deck from the start and focusing on it (i.e. if you’re playing by yourself, don’t try breaking the format; just pick a good deck and master it).

3. Pro players deceive the public in their articles

I’ve seen a lot of comments about pro players intentionally deceiving their readers with wrong information. Things like “you recommended this deck but a week later you’re playing this other deck that beats the deck you recommended,” for example. I know a lot of pro players who write and I’ve never known one to knowingly write a lie. The reality of the situation is that there are two things happening:

  1. We are humans and we have opinions that can be wrong. If I write saying that I think a card will be good, I’m not trying to sell a card – I legitimately think the card is good. I could end up being wrong, of course, but it’s my real opinion at the time of writing.
  2. Things change. If I write an article saying that “Azorius Control is the best deck,” that might be true for that week, but it might not be true for the following week. In fact, if Azorius Control does end up being the best deck that week, there’s a reasonable chance that everyone converges to it and therefore a deck that beats Azorius Control is good for the week after.

Basically, we’re never lying to you – we’re either wrong or things changed. 

2. Open decklists are necessary to protect the players from scouting by the pros.

This is a widespread view that is just factually incorrect. Open decklists do mean there’s no more scouting, but the pro teams were not advantaged in this regard before this rule – quite the opposite.

It is true that, at some point, organized scouting existed – some teams would specifically have people writing down their opponents’ decks and I’ve been in teams like this before. However, that was mostly a reflection of the pro teams feeling very disadvantaged in that regard. Simply put, if you’re a famous player, everyone knows what you’re playing very early in the tournament, especially if you’re on a team. People pay attention to you, you participate on coverage / deck techs a lot more, and it’s a lot more memorable if people play next to you. There was even a tournament in which our team’s entire deck was just on coverage before the Constructed rounds even began. Pro teams started scouting as a response to things like that, because every tournament everyone just knew what we were playing. 

To exemplify the point, an anecdote – during the first Mythic Championship of 2019, I was playing Simic Nexus. Before the start of Round 1, I approached the head judge and asked him to check for my foil Nexus of Fate, and whether I’d need proxies or not. In Round 8 (which was about ten hours later), my opponent sat down across from me and commented about how I was playing Simic Nexus. I, surprised, asked him later on how he knew; he said he had seen me approaching the head judge asking to check for foils before the tournament started and therefore concluded I was on Simic Nexus. So my opponent not only paid attention to what I specifically was doing, but he also remembered it ten hours later. If he didn’t know who I was, would either of these things have happened? Quite unlikely.

Imagine you sit next to a player and you watch part of their game. Now, fast forward six rounds, and you’re paired against them. Are you going to remember that they were the player you watched in Round 1 and what is in their deck? Probably not. What if it’s Jon Finkel? Yeah, you’ll remember what Jon Finkel was playing. I guarantee you that, throughout my PT history, even when our team did scouting, my opponents always knew what I was playing more than I knew what they were playing. 

1. Professional players behave professionally.

This is a bit of a weird one, but I think most people expect a lot more organization / dedication than they would find in a pro team. I remember for a World Championship a while ago (back when it was similar to a PT) I ended up staying with a Brazilian friend who had never tested with us. At some point, on the day before the tournament, I was trying to decide my last sideboard slot – it was going to either be an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or a Baneslayer Angel. I held both cards in my hand, flicked them back and forth, and eventually said “Okay, I’m gonna play Baneslayer.”

The guy looked at me flabbergasted, and I asked what was the problem, and he said that he was so extremely disappointed that our process for choosing our deck was just holding cards and choosing one, that we didn’t have some system or testing method to determine which one was better. It was like he took personal offense to the fact that I was just guessing which card was better the day before the tournament. 

Other than that, I’m sure you’ve also seen a lot of professional players asking desperately for cards ten minutes before an event (guilty party here) or not having dice or pen or paper or any of the things you’d normally expect from an actual professional. It’s not pretty, but that’s the unfortunate reality. 

Top 5 Disney Movies

5. The Lion King

I know a lot of people whose first choice is The Lion King. I like it, I watched it countless times when I was younger, I watched the live-action version, I watched the Broadway show, and these were all good. But I like the others in this list more.

4. The Little Mermaid

This one is probably more nostalgia than anything. I think if I just watched all the movies now it wouldn’t make my Top 5. But I watched it so much when I was a kid and I really really liked it, so I have very fond memories. 

3. Anastasia

I know Anastasia isn’t actually Disney but I believe it counts spiritually in this category. I like the movie itself and I also like that it’s based on reality – I learned a little about world history and the Russian Revolution because of Anastasia. I also like that there are probably a lot of little girls that wish they were princesses, but it’s possible that, somewhere, one of them actually is. 

2. Beauty and the Beast

I think Belle is by far the best Disney Princess, so this goes a long way towards this movie being one of my favorites. 

1. Mulan

I think Mulan is just a lot of fun. I really like the story, the characters, and the songs. There’s a movie coming up, but given that they changed the story and there are no songs, I’m going to approach cautiously. 

Top 5 Top 5s People Suggested But I Didn’t Include

  1. Top 5 House Plants
  2. Top 5 Top 5 Lists
  3. Top 5 Overrated Players
  4. Top 5 Worst WotC Decisions
  5. Top 5 Worst Pro Players (lucky noobs)

Feel free to agree or disagree with me on social media, but remember that at the end of the day, this is just for fun!

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