In This Issue
While I appreciated last week's holiday day off from the column, it could not have come at a worse time as multiple Magic storylines were all coming to a head at the same time. Not only was the Magic Origins Card Image Gallery fully populated with the all the cards from the very exciting new set, but it was probably the fourth thing on my list of things to talk about.
The 2015 Magic Hall of Fame Class
Throughout the tournament season, as veteran players accumulate Pro Points, we often discuss their results and how they will burnish their Hall of Fame resume. Getting to a fourth Pro Tour Top 8 is a huge hurdle to clear in the discussion about whether or not someone is Hall-worthy. Where do non-Pro Tour events like the old Masters Series and the current World Championship factor into the equation? Over the last couple of years the number of Top 16 finishes a player has accumulated has become a talking point. I have written in this column about PT Top 16 finishes after each Pro Tour, and often the effort to get there is identical to that of the effort to finish in the Top 8. Top 8 finishes are flashier—and arguably more noteworthy—but how does someone with a lot of Top 16s stack up against someone with a few Top 8 finishes but without consistently deep, Day Two performances?
And what of the less statistical vectors for a Hall of Fame career? How does a player's integrity get measured? What about the even more nebulous community contributions? I factor both of these in highly, but not every voter does, unless there is something that overshadows the results at the table—and even then not always.
Why the ruminations on how people will vote? Well, if you follow any Magic players on Facebook or Twitter you already know this, it is that time of year again. Ballots have been sent out to the Selection Committee to establish the 2105 Class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. In order to be on the ballot, players need to have played in their first Pro Tour at least ten years ago and have accrued 150 Pro Points in their career. Let's take an in-depth look through the ballot and see who is there from each year and who is new to the ballot this time around.
From left: Makihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa were elected to the Magic Hall of Fame in 2014. Who will join them this year?
Pro Tour New York Champion Scott Johns is the only remaining player from the first year of the Hall of Fame who is either still on the ballot—players can fall off if they don't meet certain voting thresholds—or not already in the Hall of Fame. He is a five-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and has played a large role in the Magic community with his stewardship of multiple magic content sites, including DailyMTG.com.
Only two players remain from the second ballot. Andrew Cuneo has two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career and both came in the team format, more than a decade ago. He has been one of the most consistent performers on the Pro Tour over the last two seasons, with multiple Top 32 finishes, and seems poised to break through onto the Sunday stage in an individual capacity at any given PT.
Justin Gary is a name that has bubbled close to the 40% threshold needed to get into the Hall of Fame for multiple ballots. He has three Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career including a memorable win at Pro Tour Houston in the old Extended format. He was also on multiple US National teams, including the one that won the World Team Championship in 2003. Advocates for Gary will point to his massive total of Pro Tour Top 16- and Top 32-finishes as evidence that he was among the most consistent PT competitors in the game.
We have a straight of players from the third year who remain on the ballot, with one, two, three, and four Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in their careers. Neil Reeves and David Williams are two players you will often see together, so it is no surprise that they got started playing on the Pro Tour at the same time. Williams is easily one of the most visible Magic players in the game due to his success outside the game, but he has just one Pro Tour Top 8 finish. Reeves, considered to be among the best drafters in the history of the game, has two Top 8 finishes at the Pro Tour level. Jamie Parke has the distinction of being one of two players with a Pro Tour Top 8 in the 90s, 2000s, and 2010s.
Tsuyoshi Ikeda has four Top 8 finishes spread out over a long career, but his detractors will point to the dearth of other deep Day Two finishes. His supporters will point to the number four in the Top 8s column and emphasize his contributions to the Japanese Magic community as a store owner and (Skirk) drill sergeant for Japanese players heading to the Pro Tour.
Only Brock Parker remains on the ballot from this class. Parker only has one Pro Tour Top 8 finish in his career but it was a win at Pro Tour Boston, alongside Matt Linde and Hall of Famer William Jensen, on the team known as The Brockerfellas.
With four Pro Tour Top 8 finishes being the modern benchmark for widespread Hall of Fame consideration, the name Eric Froehlich has been said a lot this season. He has been at the head of the Player of the Year race for a large chunk of the year after winning a Grand Prix and snapping off the fourth Pro Tour Top 8 finish of his career immediately afterward. He has been remarkably consistent in terms of deep Day Two runs and is playing the best Magic of his career with a three-year median finish in the twenties.
Craig Wescoe has three Pro Tour Top 8 finishes, including his win a Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. Until recently, he was in the mix for the Grand Prix Player of the Year title. If the buzz around Froehlich from last year was any indication, he will need to find that fourth Top 8 to break through onto more than 40% of the ballots.
Tomoharu Saito was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility as a winner of the Player of the Year title, a Pro Tour Champion, and five-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor. His election was voided when he was suspended while a Hall of Famer-elect.
Tzu Ching Kuo was the leader of the Chinese Taipei team that won the inaugural World Magic Cup. He is also at the top of the list of players with the most Pro Points without a Pro Tour Top 8 finish.
Matt Sperling has one Pro Tour Top 8 finish in his career, but has been playing the best Magic of late as a member of Team Ultra Pro. Tom Martell has two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career, including his win at Pro Tour Gatecrash. Martell also posted a three-year median around that win that was in the teens.
Shota Yasooka is a Pro Tour Champion and Player of the Year who recently picked up his second Pro Tour Top 8 finish to go along with plenty of deep Day Two finishes. Advocates for looking past the Top 8 when considering a Hall of Fame career will point to him as the poster child. Yasooka, a noted deck designer, also made it to the finals of the inaugural World Championship (called The Players Championship that year) and how to count those small-invite finishes is also a great source of Hall of Fame debate.
The debate around Yasooka involves statistics, but the discussion around Willy Edel is more ephemeral, which is always the case when you talk about community contributions. Edel has the four Pro Tour Top 8 finishes to get him into the short list discussion. In addition to being a player, Edel runs a Brazilian Tournament Center and has fostered the careers of young South American Magic players heading to the Pro Tour. As with Ikeda, his detractors will point to the lack of deep Day Two finishes outside the Top 8.
Gerard Fabiano is a tremendously popular figure in the Magic community, and has had great success at the Grand Prix level and in Open Series tournaments. He has only one Pro Tour Top 8 finish—in Boston as a member of the three-person team Slay, Pillage, Gerard. Osyp Lebedowicz, who joined the Pro Tour at the same time as fellow New Jerseyan Fabiano, has three Top 8 finishes to his credit, including his win at Pro Tour Venice. Mark Herberholz has a similar resume to Lebedowicz but with one more Top 8 appearance. He won the first Pro Tour Honolulu with the deck known as Heezy Street.
Players from this point forward will be more familiar to regular readers of this column and coverage watchers, and I will be more concise in my descriptions.
Matej Zatlkaj has two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career, which he balances against his work as a Grand Prix Commentator.
Limited expert Chris Fennell just joined the Hall of Fame discussion this season, after crossing the 150-point threshold. He has one Pro Tour Top 8 finish in his career, which came last season. While he is listed with the 2013 players, based on when his career started, this is his first year on the ballot.
Nico Bohny has two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career. He's also a member of the Swiss team that won the World Team Championship in New York in 2007.
Ivan Floch was a member of the Slovak Republic squad that won the 2010 World Team Championship. After a long drought of Pro Tour Top 8 finishes, Floch broke through with a win and another Top 8 finish over the last couple of seasons.
Michael Jacob is a two-time member of the U.S. National team, including when they won the World Team Championship in 2008. A very popular Magic streamer with a Top 4 finish at Pro Tour Amsterdam.
Martin Jůza is a two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and one of the most prolific players at the Grand Prix level, with 22 Top 8 finishes and four wins.
Tomohiro Kaji has three Pro Tour Top 8 finishes, including his win a Pro Tour Charleston alongside Shota Yasooka and Tomoharu Saito. He is currently a member of the Japanese webcast crew for Nico Nico that streams coverage of the Pro Tour in Japan.
I am always surprised Marijn Lybaert does not get more attention on the ballot. He has four Pro Tour Top 8 appearances, which is a threshold often cited by Selection Committee members, and he has been a fixture on the European Grand Prix coverage as a member of the commentating team.
Kenny Öberg has just one Top 8 finish in his career. It came in Berlin, when virtually everyone else was playing Elves, but he played an innovative Tezzeret deck.
Two-time U.S. National team member Paul Cheon was a teammate of Jacob's on the winning team from the 2008 World Team Championship. Also a very popular streamer, Cheon has yet to break through with a Pro Tour Top 8 finish in his career.
Robert van Medevoort also has no Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career despite a win at the World Team Championship for Amsterdam in 2006.
Rounding out the candidates without a Pro Tour Top 8 on this year's portion of the ballot is Adam Yurchick.
Shingou Kurihara and David Ochoa each have one Pro Tour Top 8 finish in their careers, as does Pro Tour Champion David Sharfman. Sharfman is new to the ballot this year despite being from last year's class of eligibility, as he just crossed the 150-point threshold needed for inclusion. Yuuta Takahashi joins them with just the one Top 8 finish at the PT level, but he does have three wins playing in Grand Prix.
Marcio Carvalho has been thriving at the Grand Prix level this season, but has only two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career.
All four of these players are coming onto the ballot for the first time this season. They began their careers by playing in a Pro Tour in 2005 and have amassed 150 or more Pro Points during that span.
Samuel Black is the third member of that World Team Championship-winning 2008 U.S. National team on the ballot this year. Of the three, he has had the most successful Pro Tour career with two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes. He is considered to among the most influential deck builders in the game and had a hand in multiple Pro Tour Top 8 decks during his time with The Pantheon, and now with Team Ultra Pro.
Kazuya Mitamura has three Pro Tour Top 8 finishes and has finished no worse than third in any of them, including his win at Pro Tour Honolulu 2009.
Stanislav Cifka has two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes, including his win at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica playing the Second Sunrise powered Eggs deck in Modern.
Sebastian Thaler was the Rookie of the Year in 2006 and racked up two Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in his career.
I'm still settling my ballot and will likely post how I'm voting in next week's column. There is a lot to factor in. Integrity and community can make for some complicated math, sometimes, and each voter can adjust their dials accordingly. For one take on a ballot, here's what Pro Tour Hall of Famer, former head of Magic R&D, and current Pro Tour Commentator Randy Buehler came up with for his 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.
June Player of the Month (#MTGPoM)
Normally I would have opened this up for discussion last week. But, not having published a column, I am going to go ahead and award the June Player of the Month title to none other than Pascal Maynard. Two weeks ago I wrote about how Alexander Hayne had opened a nearly insurmountable lead in the Grand Prix Player of the Year race, and that only a final appearance by Maynard at Grand Prix Buenos Aires could close that gap. Well, despite Hayne picking up another point in Lille that weekend, Maynard went and won the South American Grand Prix to pull into a flatfooted tie with Hayne.
June Player of the Month Pascal Maynard
It was an utterly remarkable performance under incredible pressure by Maynard, and it earns him the June Player of the month title. It may still not be enough to win him the Grand Prix Player of the Year title, though, as Hayne broke the tie in Montreal this past weekend. Hayne picked up ANOTHER three-point finish and it's unclear what will happen at the last Grand Prix of the year in Dallas, just one weekend before the Pro Tour.
Good luck to everyone playing in Magic Origins Prerelease events this weekend. I will be in San Diego for Comic Con, playing as much Magic as I can. But I'm going to try and sneak away Saturday or Sunday to head to Villainous Lair for my fix of the new set.