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5 Top 5s


About Jonathan Randle

Jonathan Randle
Jonathan Randle

After an 8 year break from Magic I won English Nationals at my first attempt in 2008. Since then I've made made the top 8 of Nationals 2010, Grand Prix Birmingham 2008 and Worlds 2010. I have a deep passion for control decks and have a reactive, stoic and philosophical approach to the game.

  • 52 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Top 8 Worlds 2010
  • Top 8 GP Birmingham 2008
  • Great Britain National Champion 2008
  • Top 4 Great Britain Nationals 2010

5 Top 5s

I’m sure that every group of Magic players, at some point or another, plays this game – Top 5. Now this will always be something subjective, but perhaps, we could try and make it official (democratically of course). So here is my go at a list of five different top 5s.

Best Creatures of All Time

1.       Stoneforge Mystic

Stoneforge is the best creature ever printed.....marginally. When Stoneforge Mystic made her Pro Tour debut LSV went undefeated in the swiss (using Basilisk Collar and Behemoth Sledge). A year later in Paris the group that realized how ridiculous Sword of Feast and Famine was, completely crushed the event and eventually Ben Stark won the whole thing. Stoneforge continued to totally dominate Standard until it was banned, and would dominate Modern now if it hadn’t seen the hammer there too. Yes, Stoneforge is only as good as the equipment she can get, and that range of equipment is absurd. The power to tutor, then vial in whichever Sword, Batterskull, Jitte etc. etc. makes him the most threatening creature to ever see the light of day. The fact that even after she dies, you keep your tutor target, ready to cast next turn, or vial in with the following Stoneforge puts her on top of the pile in my eyes.

Stoneforge Mystic
Worldwake (Foil)

2.       Snapcaster Mage

Snappy comes in at a very close number two, for very similar reasons as Stoney. Snapcaster is also as good as the cards printed that work with him, and the number of sorceries/instants that he goes well with is a very long list indeed. He sees a vast amount of play in every format and will only continue to get stronger as time goes on. Snapcaster will almost always generate a 2 for 1 at very little cost. Not only is he as strong as the spells he flashes back, but he also makes all those spells much better too. Players have adapted their deckbuilding to account for Snapcaster’s power, by playing more 1 ofs and 2 ofs. Snapcaster is perhaps the most consistently good creature on this list and may well end up becoming the greatest ever.

3.       Dark Confidant

For me, Bob has been supplanted by Tiago, but will remain as the number 1 ‘must kill’ creature around. The power to draw extra cards, for a total of zero mana, makes him the best draw engine of any creature. The life loss prohibits and restricts deckbuilding though, which means that there is a far greater cost to including him in your 75 than any other creature on my list. With Top in play, he is simply the best, but without Top, Bob has fallen down to number 3. There are some decks where you might have to sideboard him out against, which I wouldn’t say is the case with my top 2. 

4.       Tarmogoyf

Clearly, the best vanilla creature ever made, TarmoG enters at number 4. Nothing packs as much punch, hits as hard and as quickly as the big, cheap, green monster. To make a list of even the top 20 creatures ever whilst having no abilities speaks volumes of the importance of actually doing a lot of damage in the game of Magic: the Gathering.

5.       Squadron Hawk

I’m sure this will be the most controversial creature on my list, but I still think he is terribly underrated. Squaddy is by far the hardest creature to deal with. I ask you, what’s harder to ‘contain’ Hawk or Thrun? Hawk is pretty much a 4 for 1, and doesn’t have to be committed all at once. Hawk is obviously, the slowest creature on my list to win with, but he is perhaps also the most reliable one to actually see you get over the finish line. The number of ways to put those actual, physical extra cards to other uses, whether its discarding them, or shuffling them away, or carrying equipment puts him in at my number 5 best creature of all time.


1.       Jace, the Mind Sculptor

This is the only number one that no one in the world will argue with. I’m not too sure what to say about Jace. He wins the game by himself. He nullifies every vanilla creature. He is very hard to kill. He draws cards for free. He is a win condition. There is simply no disputing his place.

2.       Elspeth, Knight-Errant

I think that most people would have her as their number two planeswalker and I do too, but to be honest, it’s not by much. Elspeth though, is perhaps the hardest planeswalker to actually kill on the list, whilst also killing the quickest. She really emphasizes the power of planeswalkers as a whole by demonstrating how paying no mana to do something every turn pulls one ahead in the game. There is nothing subtle about her, what she does is very simple and clear. Make guys, make them bigger, make your bigger guys fly, and smash.

3.       Jace Beleren

This may be the most controversial of my planeswalkers, but Jace, in my eyes, is very close to making it at number 2. He is joint cheapest planeswalker printed, and he really does a lot for just 3 mana. He is more difficult to kill than most people realize, and when left unchecked will bury an opponent just as well as his big brother would. He doesn’t do a great job of protecting himself, but given that he draws cards, he doesn’t really need to.

4.       Liliana of the Veil

Lilly, again, does an awful lot for just 3 mana. She does a decent job at protecting herself, and in some ways also draws cards, so I have her make my list at number 4. She sees more play across more formats than Jace Beleren, but has fewer applications. Sometimes, she doesn’t do much at all, making her less reliable than Bell Bell. Still, as a 3 casting cost permanent, she is very cheap for what she does.

5.       Gideon Jura

Gideon gets the nod over Ajani Vengeant to make the list, and I think deservedly so. Gideon is a house. He is a little expensive, but not for what he does. He can completely shut down most aggro decks, and even beats down haaaaaaaard. Gideon is often the perfect creature for U/W control decks, locking out your opponent, dodging your own mass removal before eventually winning the game. Gideon is fairly narrow, and only really shines in a format where aggro sees a lot of play, but against those decks, there is no one better than Big Gids.

Best Players of All Time

1.       Kai Budde / Voidmage Prodigy

The German Juggernaut is by far the most successful player in the history of the game. With 10 Pro Tour top 8s, including a staggering 7 victories, and a further 7 Grand Prix wins out of 15 top 8s puts him in an unparalleled class. Kai, utterly dominated Magic when he was committed to it, even winning 3 Pro Tours in a row. His recent top 8s in PT Amsterdam and the Paris GP showed how incredible a player he is. I’ve spoken to many people about Kai (though never met the man personally myself), and no one has ever been able to say that they’ve seen him make a mistake.

2.       Jon Finkel / Shadowmage Infiltrator

When I began playing Magic, Finkel was THE man. The bloke is an utter genius. If you haven’t read Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids, then you really ought to do so. Finkel is just a mastermind, and his skill at Magic is just a beautiful thing to watch. Watch his annihilation of Mario Pascoli in the final of PT Kuala Lumpur. See how he mind tricks his opponent several times, the way he meekly runs his hand over his head before casually 3 for 1ing with a Coordinated Barrage. Finkel isn’t just a great player, he is on a whole other level of thinking. Like Kai, he even has recent successes without being committed to the game on a professional level anymore. With 3 PT wins from an unbelievable 13 top 8s, and 3 GP titles from 9 top 8s, Jon’s success is only surpassed by Kai.

3.       Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa

PV is just on a tear. He now has 9 PT top 8s to his name and is a PT winner with his victory in San Juan. He has an astonishing record given the number of PTs he’s played in, with a near 33% top 8 rate. He continues to rack up that number, and being still in his mid-twenties he promises to make a challenge for the top 2 in my list. Every time you follow a Pro Tour or Grand Prix these days, you will expect to see PVs name not just challenging, but actually IN the top 8. The best player in the history of the game to never be a player of the year, but I am certain he will get there soon.

4.       Gabriel Nassif

Nassif too has an unbelievable 9 PT top 8s to his name, including 2 victories. Nassif is famed for his deck building skills, and power of thinking outside of the box. He is perhaps most famous for totally outplaying Matteo OJ in the quarters of PT Kyoto, even to the point of timing his Cruel Ultimatum for the perfect moment (and you can’t tell me he hadn’t planned on that since he even prepared his Ultimatum mana). Some may have Nassif above PV, and it’s certainly close, but given that PV will surely surpass Nassif in success makes Gabe come in at number 4.

5.       LSV

This was the hardest position to fill for me. When you look at the history of competitive Magic, there are many names that really stand out Levy, the Ruel brothers, Comer, Kibler, Ruben, Kastle, Saito, Maher, Nakamura, Tsumura, Herzog, Rade, etc. etc., but I’ve gone for Luis Scott Vargas as my fifth greatest player ever. I haven’t considered their contributions outside of their skill as a deciding factor, but LSV has had an enormous influence on the game since it really pushed into the modern era. But, he makes my list purely based on his playing capacity, and his skill is tremendous. He really tore away from the pack after his victory at PT Berlin and has followed it up with another 4 top 8s. He has a deep understanding of what cards are good, and is perhaps the most followed, respected and influential player on the tour today. Like PV, he will assuredly make more top 8s, and consistently challenge in every event he enters. He is a monster player, and the only player to ever go undefeated in the swiss of a PT. I was there, and I can tell you, the buzz in the room, from players from all over the world was palpable as he made the perfect 16-0 record.

Best PT Videos You Can Watch Online

1.       Nassif vs. LSV – Pro Tour Kyoto Final

I love this video. You are watching two of the best players in history trading blows in the final of a PT! LSV was coming off the back of his PT win, and Nassif was standing in his way, as he had done to so many others in the past. The match went all the way to 5 games, and both players played exceptionally well. LSV demonstrated his patience and timing when setting up a ‘Head Games’ while Nassif showed his mastery of the control archetype by allowing an Ajani Goldmane to resolve despite it looking to be a very grim proposition. Nassif took it down in the end and in terms of watching the entire match, is the best video you can see online today.

2.       Bob Maher Jr vs. Brian Davis - Pro Tour Chicago Final 1999

This match was exceptional for Maher’s comeback and eventual victory in a match where all 3 of his game wins came out of the most improbable scenarios. Brian Davis was playing Necro, whilst Maher had an Oath of Druids control deck. In almost every game Davis manages to open with Dark Ritual/Necro and then decimates Mahers hand. The manner in which Bob wins his games, by playing the precise cards to capitalize on the mistakes Davis makes is a beautiful thing to watch.

3.       Guillaume Wafo-Tapa vs. Mark Herbeholz Pro Tour Yokohama Semifinal

This is a fantastic match to watch as two incredible players battle it out in a long and protracted control mirror. I personally love watching this game because it demonstrated how mirrors of this kind should be played. The subtle differences in their decklists ended up showing themselves to be the key cards.

4.       Brian Kibler vs. Jon Finkel – Pro Tour Dark Ascension Semifinal

I’ve included this match on my list because you are again watching two of the game’s greats. I find Finkel to be my favorite player to watch, and this was a difficult matchup for him against the phenomenal Kibler. In the end, Finkel actually makes a dramatic mistake which opened to door for Kibler to walk through and take down his second PT title, but nevertheless Finkel was amazing.

5.       Mark Justice vs. Mike Long – Pro Tour Paris

Did Long cheat? Did he mind trick? This was the most infamous match in Magic history and the fact it’s on video means it ought to be watched. This is part of Magic folklore, and to this day no one really knows what happened (besides the players). One thing is for sure though, Long is very irritating.

Best Soccer Players Ever

1.       Lionel Messi

This kid is the most skillful player to ever grace the game. He goes from strength to strength and is the key man in the greatest club the world’s ever known. Messi scores almost a goal every game and has hit 40 goals a season for the past 3 years. Once he wins a World Cup, his place will be cemented.

2.       Zinedine Zidane

Zizou is the coolest man to play football. His final game was the World Cup final, the biggest spectacle on earth, and he ended up by scoring the greatest penalty ever (turning away knowing he will score despite his CHIP hitting the bar and just bouncing over the line) before getting sent off for headbutting a racist opponent. Zizou was silky and elegant and was the greatest midfielder in history.

3.       Johan Cruyff

Cruyff is here primarily because everywhere he went, Ajax, Barcelona, Feyenoord, he won. He even won as a manager. Cruyff though was light years ahead of any other player in his day and was a crucial force behind the ‘total football’ style of play. He scored some incredible goals which are available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.

4.       Pele

Pele would be number 1 if it wasn’t for the fact that he never played for a European club side. He scored over 1000 goals, won multiple World Cups, created moves the world hadn’t seen before, and even promoted Viagra.

5.       Maradona

As an Englishman it somewhat pains me to put him on here since he cheated us out of a certain second World Cup victory, but still his status as one of the greatest players ever is undeniable. He could just do things no one else could do, and all in a time when hacking someone’s shins was allowed. The way he handled all that cocaine was impressive too.

So there are a few of my top 5s. I really welcome your comments and even votes and hope that the debate rages on for a long time.


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