Long was among the best competitive players of his time, racking up four top-eight finishes and winning Pro Tour Paris in 1997, but that win wasn't without controversy. At that event, he bluffed his opponent into conceding by representing that he had the game won and needed only to play it out, when in fact he could not possibly win the game. It's not cheating to bluff in Magic, but Long's victory was the most flagrant example of the tactic to date. Many players felt Long was thumbing his nose at the game.
Next year, it was the National Championships, and Mike was found to have a key card of his deck on his chair. He claimed it fell and was overlooked. It's considered one of the most shocking cheating infractions of a high profile player.
But this sort of player has to exist for the health of the game. It's that classic "good versus evil" scenario: When evil ceases to be, good starts looking less and less noble. Long's actions stand in stark contrast to good "clean" players like Finkel who rely purely on their skill.
Long also has the ability to polarize the Magic community. When the Hall of Fame ballots were being counted, the community chattered continually about him and his role in the history of the Pro Tour. Those who supported him held their line and pushed back against those who derided him as a big-name cheater.
Long challenged the status quo and always pushed the envelope of competitiveness. That willingness to gain an advantage took him into questionable territory a few times, but his impact on the game remains undeniable. He challenged the institution and earned himself a place among the highest profile players of Magic's history.
Magic is, at its core, about change. The game undergoes a renaissance every few months with the release of each set, as new concepts and cards are introduced and the competitive formats continually evolve. But even with this constant shifting of the landscape, these three men all continue to impact the game with their drive, determination and passion.
Patrick Jarrett publishes a weekly video podcast about Magic the Gathering.