Tuesday, 09 November 2021 08:42

Michelle Bush: The First Woman With a Top 8 Finish in a Major Tournament

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Michelle Bush during a MTG Pro Tour event. Michelle Bush during a MTG Pro Tour event. WOTC

As it seems with most gaming, Magic: the Gathering tends to lean to more guys playing. Throughout its history, female players have fluctuated between 38% and 25% of the number of total players. And when you get into organized play, those numbers are even lower.

Wizards of the Coast is trying to bolster those numbers within the Magic: The Gathering crowd, much like how the company's done with Dungeons and Dragons, but it's something constant to be worked on.

However, when the collectible card game first started, the game was pretty much dominated by men. A lot of early players and champions were male and, from the outside looking in, it was a hard glass ceiling for female players to break.

While many women qualified for tournaments early on, it wasn't until Michelle Bush, a Harvard-educated med student from Boston, came onto the scene that the tide began to turn. She started on the Pro Tour in 1997, and was soon going all over the country in major tournaments. She quickly rose through the ranks.

In 1997, she was barely breaking the top 100. By 1999, however she was on fire. Bush managed to land a top 16 result at the Philadelphia Grand Prix and became the first woman ever to win money in the tournament professionally. She even managed to help create the Extended Trix deck in the process.

Then came the 2001 New Orleans Grand Prix. She just....kept winning, beating out prominent players like Gary Rush.

She beat her record by making it to the top eight, but in case you missed the theme of New Orleans, she kept winning. By the time the dust settled for the final, it was Bush squaring off against Bill Stead....where she was pretty much mana screwed from the beginning and lost. As any player can tell you, you can have the best deck and the most skill, but if luck isn't on your side and you don't draw any land for several turns, things are not going to pan out in your favor.

Still though, a second place finish was a huge accomplishment and even qualified her for her first international competition in Barcelona in the Pro Tour. Masters Gateway, the most prestigious tournament at every Grand Prix? Totally qualified.

Pro Tour Barcelona turned out to be her final big tournament, though. After all, becoming a doctor typically comes after med school. But, her finish helped inspire many female players in the years afterwards and is today still seen as sort of a trailblazer in the game by many.

Magic: The Gathering is a game for everyone, and Bush, well, she proved it time after time in the game's early years.