30, Jun, 24

MTG Player of the Year Trophy Named to Honor Kai Budde's Legacy

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Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 has finally concluded, and it proved to be a rather special and symbolic event. While Bant Nadu’s elite performance and a round 14 disqualification definitely sparked a great deal of discussion, no moment during the event was more memorable than when Billy Jensen took the stage to praise one of MTG’s greatest players: Kai Budde.

Kai Budde has had a great deal of influence on the MTG community for 30 years. He’s widely recognized for an array of accomplishments that put him in a class by himself. Kai may not have had a great run at this particular Pro Tour, but that won’t stop this event from holding a special place in all of our hearts.

Naming the Player of the Year Trophy

When Billy Jensen went up to the microphone this weekend, many players were unaware of exactly what was about to come. It was clear from the start of his speech that the words would not come easy. Billy introduced himself as the Director of Play Programs at Wizards of the Coast, a job he has held for a few years after concluding his magnificent professional MTG career.

Soon after, he announced that he would be taking some time to “look back at one of the game’s great legacies.” This, of course, was in reference to Kai Budde and his unbelievable Pro Tour run of the early 2000s, which we will be covering in more detail in the next section.

After a brief description, Billy went on to break the news that many players in the public eye would be hearing for the first time. Kai Budde, a prominent figure in the MTG community at only 44 years old, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, things had taken a turn for the worse. With Kai’s blessing, Billy went on to share a multitude of Kai’s successes as a professional player. He showcases just how influential Kai was to him and other elite MTG players over the years.

In recognition of Kai’s incredible achievements, the Player of the Year trophy awarded to the player with the most points accumulated during a year’s span, was named the Kai Budde Player of the Year Trophy. Kai Budde had won the Player of the Year award four times in a five-year period from 1998-2003. To this day, no player has won Player of the Year more times, making this name a perfect fit.

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Kai’s Incredible Accomplishments

Wildfire

Kai Budde first started playing Magic back in 1994, not too long after the game was introduced. He started having immense success from 1998-1999, with a string of strong Pro Tour finishes qualifying him for the 1999 Standard World Championship in Japan. His amazing run at this event was one to remember, swiftly emerging victorious with a neat strategy built around Artifact ramp and Wildfire.

While the next year did not bring about the same level of results, things heated up shortly. From December 2000 to January 2003, Kai Budde managed to win six more Pro Tour events. Kai’s seven Pro Tour victories still remain the most by any player ever. His astonishing rate of converting top eight finishes into victories led many to claim that he simply “doesn’t lose on Sundays.” When the lights are brightest, Kai always finds a way to come in clutch.

In 2004, Kai ultimately took a break from the game to focus on his studies. This didn’t stop him from making the occasional trek to Pro Tour events, as he racked up Pro Tour top eights in 2010 and 2023. Kai’s love for the game hasn’t diminished, and he stated that he hopes to make it out to a few more tournaments if circumstances allow for it.

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Leaving a Legacy

Masticore

Many players did not hesitate to take to Twitter to share their wonderful experiences with Kai over the years. Principal Magic Designer Gavin Verhey shared that when he was designing cards for the Unkown event (which uses unique playtest cards) at MagicCon Amsterdam, he took it upon himself to create one that pays homage to Kai in a beautiful way.

The card was named The Great Juggernaut, directly referencing Kai’s nickname, “The German Juggernaut.” Meanwhile, the card’s rules text highlights a sweet blend of abilities that resemble Masticore and Temporal Aperture, both of which played vital roles in Kai’s 1999 World Championship Wildfire deck.

Some players showcased just how much Kai meant to them growing up, signing cards and serving as an inspiration over the years. Others mentioned his recent Pro Tour Qualifier win today, further solidifying the “Kai doesn’t lose on Sundays” slogan as legendary.

Kai’s journey means a lot to many of us, and to say today is emotional is an understatement. His legacy will live on forever, and renaming the Player of the Year trophy in his honor is an extremely thoughtful and well-deserved gesture.

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