Mike Long

Magic the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame voting results for 2013 were released last week. It was an important year, as the rules were changed and certain players were going to be on the ballot for the last time as they no longer have enough Pro Points. One of these players was Chris Pikula.

Mark Rosewater (the head designer of MtG) started a movement to get Pikula into the hall, but that failed. Good try though. The reason for his campaigning wasn’t only Pikula’s ability back in the day (and he actually still plays and gets results, just not on the Wizards-circuit, although apparently he was given a Special Invitation to the next Pro Tour), but also his vocal resistance to the rampant cheating of the early days of the Pro Tour. Here‘s an interview on the matter, if you’re interested.

The most infamous of these cheaters (and there were many, some of whom are now considered legendary players and are in the Hall of Fame) was Mike Long. There are lots of stories about him, but most famously he won a match by faking top decking the card he needed, which lead to his opponent scooping without seeing the card. Not technically cheating, I guess, but still underhanded and not good for the game overall.

However, as I was reading From the Vault: Twenty picks, I noticed there is a card from a deck by Mike Long. The thing that is easy to forget is that he did something quite important to the game: He was the first to top 8 a Pro Tour with a combo deck. He played the infamous Pros Bloom deck which was based on exiling cards from your hand with Cadaverous Bloom, drawing more with Prosperity and finally casting a huge Drain Life to end the game.

Now, many people don’t like combo decks. I don’t like combo decks. I especially don’t like playing against them, because they lack interaction. Still, combos were regarded as something non-competitive. They were just decks you could play for fun, not for serious money tournaments. Long changed that. Therefore, he is one of the most important people in the history of the game.

From Patrick Chapin’s (himself known for his innovative take on deckbuilding and a member of HoF for that very reason, and actually playtested with Long in his early career) book Next Level Deckbuilding:

One of the original pioneers of constructed
Magic, four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and
Pro Tour Paris 1997 champion Mike Long was
one of the most influential minds in deckbuilding
in the early nineties.

He was in the ballot for a long time, but was dropped this year even before the rules changes due to not getting enough votes on the previous years to stay on. The question is, should we remember Mike Long – the Great Deckbuilder, or Mike Long – the Cheater when we think about him. Both views have virtues. Its good to remember combo decks weren’t always a thing and its good to remember that the early days of the game were wraught with people who did all they could to win.

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