Most people pick up trading card games like Magic: The Gathering just for fun. But there are those, even locally, whose passion for the game takes them to a whole new level – the world stage.

Joe Soh, 25, and Ikmal Nasir, 28, both regularly compete at Magic tournaments overseas, including the high-level Grand Prix tournaments by Wizards Of The Coast. “For tournaments in nearby countries like Japan or China, you’d probably see 10-20 Malaysians flying over to compete. Ten years ago, there would probably just be one,” says Ikmal.

Soh started playing the game at 10, and his achievements include placing 19th in the individual category at the 2003 World Championship in Germany. He also earned third spot with the Malaysian national team at the same tournament.

“I do think Malaysians have the potential to become great Magic players, but a lot more effort needs to be put in by the individual players as well as the community,” says Soh, adding that there aren’t enough high-level competitions held here. “We have events like Friday Night Magic, but casual games are different. Competitive players need to keep abreast of latest gameplay trends, and keep playing competitively to stay sharp.”

Becoming a professional Magic player can earn good money these days. The prize pool at the 2013 World Championships, for example, was a whopping US$108,000 (RM344,000), with US$40,000 (RM127,000) going to the champion.

Competitive Magic player Joe Soh, who peaked at 19th place at the 2003 World Championship in Germany, thinks Malaysians definitely have the potential to compete on the international stage.