The Call to the Hall of Fame

Posted in NEWS on August 20, 2019

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

What, you think I'd just hang up my microphone and never be heard from again? It's Hall of Fame voting season, so you'd better expect I'm going to be around to usher in a new class.

I am very excited to report that I will be at Mythic Championship VI in Richmond. I have sorely missed being at high-level Magic events this past year, watching the very best players compete at the highest level and being a part of the amazing community of players and the coverage team. Even though I have retired from being an active member of the team, I am still in multiple group chats with my comrades, and seeing all the calls for brunches in Barcelona and drafts at Tim Willoughby's shop in London has done nothing to make me miss my friends any less. It is going to be great to see them again.

But as thrilled as I am for that, what really has me looking forward to being in Richmond is that I will be continuing in my role of emcee for the Magic Hall of Fame festivities as Pro Tour Historian (despite having added "emeritus" to the title since my retirement). I've been attending high-level competitions since before the very first Pro Tour and I'm always excited watching the best players in the world rise from the scrum of the tens of thousands battling at Pro Tour Qualifiers and Grand Prix to achieve greatness. There is something very satisfying about seeing someone like 2018 inductee Seth Manfield go from Grand Prix Daytona Champion back in 2007 to World Champion in 2015 to Hall of Famer across more than a decade of competition.

Lee Shi Tian and Seth Manfield joined the Magic Hall of Fame in 2018.

Magic has traveled a long and winding path over its 25-plus years, and the Hall of Fame has been there for more than half of that. I'm amazed to look back and realize we're moving into the fifteenth season of Hall of Fame inductions. As Wizards adds more types of events and changes the currency by which we measure a player's success—particularly in light of the big announcements last week—Hall of Fame eligibility needed to get a new look.

"As competitive Magic expands to include MTG Arena and tabletop tournaments, we came to realize that the Pro Tour–centric rules we designed for a Hall of Fame back in 2005 don't fit very well with where we're headed," said Hall of Fame coordinator Greg Collins. "Eligibility for this year's class is generally the same as 2018, but we are working now on what the future eligibility rules for the Magic Hall of Fame will be starting with next year's class."

As in previous years, a player must have 150 or more lifetime Pro Points and have made their Pro Tour debut at least ten seasons ago to be eligible. The one change this year is in regard to the number of high-level finishes a player must have to be on the ballot. That threshold used to be at least two Pro Tour Top 8 or post-2011 World Championship Top 4 finishes. To encompass the broader scope of high-level tournaments, that statistic is being recast as "Top Finishes," which includes Pro Tour Top 8s, team Pro Tour Top 4s, World Championship (2012 to the present) Top 4s, Mythic Championship Top 8s/Top 4s, Mythic Invitational Top 4s, and Magic Online Championship Top 4s. The expansion not only encompasses the newer events but adds more weight to past accomplishments like the MTGO title.

This inclusion has a significant impact on the resumes of people who have been on the ballot for a couple of years. When you look at the Top Finishes page, MPL member Márcio Carvalho jumps from an already dizzying six Top 8s at the Pro Tour level to nine Top Finishes, which includes two MTGO Championship Top 4s and a World Championship final. There are only four players with gaudier numbers ahead of him on that list—Jon Finkel (17), Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (13), Kai Budde (11), and Luis Scott-Vargas (10), all of whom are in the Hall.

It definitely changes the texture of players' resumes. Magic has continued to expand into other types of competitive events over the years, and Selection Committee members have been left on their own to sort out which ones mattered and which ones did not when it came to looking past just Pro Tour performance on the Sunday stage. Carlos Romão, Brad Nelson, and Sam Black all get to bulk up from three Pro Tour Top 8s when you expand the scope to Top Finishes. Romão (4), of course, won the MTGO Championship in 2010 (Nelson was also in the Top 4 that tournament), and Black (4) gets his World Championship Top 4 in 2015 added as an official counting stat. Nelson jumps from three to five with the inclusion of the MTGO Top 4, but also thanks to new events with his finals finish at the MTG Arena Mythic Championship III in Las Vegas earlier this year. You can see the full breakdown of candidate stats here.

Here is the entire ballot of eligible candidates for the 2019 class of the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame.

  2019 Magic Hall of Fame Ballot  
Akira Asahara Ivan Floch Mike Sigrist
Andrea Mengucci Jérémy Dezani Nico Bohny
Andrejs Prost Jamie Parke Pascal Maynard
Andrew Cuneo Javier Dominguez Patrick Cox
Brad Nelson Joel Larsson Reid Duke
Carlos Romão Justin Gary Samuel Black
Chris Fennell Ken Yukuhiro Sebastian Thaler
Chris Pikula Kentaro Yamamoto Thiago Saporito
Christophe Gregoir Lukas Blohon Tom Martell
Craig Wescoe Márcio Carvalho Tomoharu Saito
Eduardo Sajgalik Marijn Lybaert Tsuyoshi Ikeda
Gabriel Tsang Mark Herberholz Yoshihiko Ikawa
Geoffrey Siron Masashiro Kuroda Yuuta Takahashi
Gerry Thompson Matt Linde  
Guillaume Matignon Matthew Sperling  

As that list of illustrious Magic players sinks in, let's take a look some of the new names that became eligible this year.

  • The United States' Reid Duke—and his more than 500 Pro Points—enters his first year of eligibility with six Top Finishes, including four Pro Tour Top 8s, a World Championship Top 4, and winning the MTGO World Championship in 2011 at the onset of his pro career. Duke has been a model of consistency, with a Top 5 finish in the Player of the Year race in four of the last five years and a three-year median finish of 20th. Along with the expanded "Top Finishes" stat, you also need to account for Duke winning the Pro Tour Team Series with team Ultimate Guard last year and for his outstanding results at Grand Prix—climbing up the all-time GP standings with 23 Top 8 finishes and 6 wins among them.
  • Belgium's Christophe Gregoir propelled himself onto the ballot this year with his second Top Finish when he made the Top 4 of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, playing Legacy alongside his good friends Branco Neirynck and Thomas Van der Paelt. His previous Top 8 came in 2009 when he played on Sunday at Pro Tour Honolulu.
  • Sweden's Joel Larsson hoisted the trophy in 2015 at Pro Tour Magic Origins and has another finals finish at Pro Tour Gatecrash to show for his two Top Finishes. He has racked up more than 300 Pro Points over the course of his career, which includes 8 Grand Prix Top 8s with one win.
  • Canada's Pascal Maynard also comes onto the ballot with two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes, most recently his 2nd-place finish at Pro Tour Ixalan. Maynard has racked up more than 250 Pro Points during his career and has excelled at Grand Prix competition with 13 Top 8 finishes and two trophies for his mantel.

Ballots for the Hall of Fame are going out today to more than 300 Selection Committee members, made up of all players in good standing who have accumulated 150 or more Pro Points during their career, a global cross-section of commentators, content creators, and pundits, key Wizards of the Coast personnel, and tournament officials in positions to have observed the potential inductees firsthand. The window for voting will be a little tighter than before, stretching from August 20 to September 3. After taking a little time to check and recheck all the votes and inform the inductees, the class for will be announced on September 14 on the MPL Weekly live stream.

So as we all dive in to analyze the stats and make cases for this player or that player, I want to take a moment here to caution players on the ballot, Selection Committee members, and even passionate and interested observers about being sportsmanlike in the dialogue that surrounds the ballot. I value the sportsmanship criteria of the balloting very highly; it impacts my vote each year, and I know others who feel the same way. Just being included on the Hall of Fame ballot is a career benchmark for many players. While we encourage the public discussion of ballots, we don't want to foster an atmosphere that makes people dread the experience of reaching this stage of their careers. We strongly encourage the discussion of players to be predominantly about why players are included in your ballot and not focusing on the players who did not earn your vote. Let this be a celebration of their excellence without having to tear anyone else down.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take play at Mythic Championship VI in Richmond, Virginia this November. I can't wait to find out who I will be introducing during the proceedings. Good luck to everyone waiting for that September 14 announcement!