Dear Hall of Fame Selection Committee Member...

Posted in The Week That Was on July 22, 2011

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 DailyMTG.com, 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.

If you read the Twitter feeds of any of the more heavily followed Magic personalities this past week you are very well aware that ballots for the 2011 Pro Tour Hall of Fame class have gone out. Here is the text of the email I received as a member of the Selection Committee, a group of voters made up of people who have been writing about, observing, and shaping the Pro Tour as well as the already inducted members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. (There is also a Player Committee made up players who have accrued 100 pro points over the course of their careers.)

Dear Hall of Fame Selection Committee voter,

Here is your official ballot for the 2011 Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame election.

You may vote for up to five candidates from the list. Voting shall be based upon the player's performances, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, and contributions to the game in general.

You may not vote for yourself.

No write-in votes will be accepted.

A ballot must be received by August 15 to be counted. Results will be announced August 19. Individual ballots will not be made public.

For complete rules and more information about the Hall of Fame, visit http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/HallOfFame.aspx?x=mtgevent/hof/welcome.

A statistical breakdown of the candidates can be found at http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/HallOfFame.aspx?x=mtgevent/hof/stats7.

2011 Hall of Fame Candidates

Akira Asahara Tsuyoshi Ikeda Rickard Osterberg
Jose Barbero William Jensen Diego Ostrovich
Noah Boeken Scott Johns Jamie Parke
Benjamin Caumes Anton Jonsson Mario Pascoli
Tiago Chan Robert Jurkovic Chris Pikula
Patrick Chapin Mark Justice Jeroen Remie
Tzu Ching Kuo Mattias Kettil Paul Rietzl
Jeff Cunningham Shuu Komuro Carlos Romão
Brian Davis Albertus Law Johan Sadeghpour
Antonino De Rosa Osyp Lebedowicz Alex Shvartsman
Jan Doise Michael Long Geoffrey Siron
Willy Edel Antti Malin Jonathan Sonne
Gerard Fabiano Quentin Martin Ben Stark
Eric Froehlich Antoine Menard Helmut Summersberger
Justin Gary Katsuhiro Mori Amiel Tenenbaum
Gerardo Godinez Estrada Masahiko Morita Jens Thorén
Sam Gomersall Chikara Nakajima Gabe Walls
Eugene Harvey Shuhei Nakamura Ruud Warmenhoven
Mark Herberholz Eivind Nitter David Williams
Kazuya Hirabayashi Ryou Ogura Stuart Wright
Ken Ho Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz Shouta Yasooka
Richard Hoaen Koutarou Ootsuka Arnost Zidek
Mike Hron    
 

You are encouraged to discuss your ballot and decision-making process in public forums, such as websites, social media, and message boards.

It is an impressive list of Magic players who have been around the Pro Tour for 10 years and managed to accumulate 100 pro points—no small task. Just ask anyone who has had the good fortune to play on the game's biggest stage. Magic is hard, and having sustained success against the best players from all around the world is something only a small group of players have been able to achieve.

Culling that list of players down to an infinitesimal five votes is not easy and has prompted vigorous debate on Twitter, Facebook, and just about every form of social media about how those players should be chosen. To walk you through how this year's ballot is made up I thought I would walk through each year of eligibility and which players remain on the ballot up through this year's new candidates.

There are only five players remaining from the initial ballot that was sent out in 2005. Seven players from that group have been enshrined and the rest have fallen off the ballot due to not maintaining enough voting support from the two committees. The remaining five all have strong support from various corners of the game and a case can and has been made for each of them.

Both Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz and Chris Pikula have been within mere votes of being enshrined—and truth be told, they have likely each indirectly hindered others' chances of getting into the Hall of Fame by being from the same era and splitting votes. There seems to be a groundswell for Pro Tour Los Angeles 1999 Champion O'Mahoney-Schwartz, as many of his famous friends have been campaigning for him to get in. It is worth noting that among the eligible players on this year's ballot Steve OMS is 5th in lifetime Pro Points—and this having played in an era when those points were incredibly hard to come by. There were fewer events and the payouts were not nearly as deep.

Steven O'Mahoney Schwartz and Chris Pikula

Scott Johns has more Pro Tour Top 8 appearances than anyone on the ballot and certainly has the contributions to the game component of eligibility nailed down tight, serving for years as the editor of MagicTheGathering.com. Mark Justice had a brief career with unbelievable numbers and was one of the first superstars of the game. While both of these players garner enough support to remain on the ballot they would seem like slam-dunk candidates, but it is clear that early results on the Pro Tour—when players built Necropotence decks with fewer than the maximum number of the eponymous enchantment and had decks that teetered over the 60-card recommendation—are not held in the highest regard by the combined committees.

Scott Johns and Mark Justice

No player has generated more forum pages each year during the existence of the Hall of Fame than Mike Long. His supporters and detractors are collide every year, and while he has remained on the ballot, his detractors seem to be drowning out the other side.

Mike Long

Before we move on: Magic creator Richard Garfield asked me to share this open letter regarding one of the Year 1 players on the 2011 ballot.

 
Year 1
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
Alan Comer Scott Johns
Robert Dougherty Mark Justice
Jon Finkel Michael Long
David Humpherys Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz
Tommi Hovi Chris Pikula
Darwin Kastle  
Olle Råde  
 

Year Two

Four players who began their careers in the second year of the Pro Tour have been enshrined, and five remain eligible. Most notable among them is Patrick Chapin, who smashes the community component of Hall of Fame eligibility out of the park but would have fallen off the ballot this past season if not for continued Pro Tour activity. Oh, by the way, that activity included him making the Top 8 of Pro Tour Paris, the fourth Top 8 of his career in the adult division. (Chapin had a previous Top 8 in a competitive youth championship called the Junior Super Series.)

Patrick Chapin

Justin Gary is another player who gets bandied about with the likes of Chris Pikula and Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz as veteran players with great resumes who deserve a closer look, especially from voters who may not have seen them at their height. Justin has three Top 8s, including his win at Pro Tour Houston, and, perhaps more compellingly, made the Top 32 fifteen times—just over a third of the fourty-four events he played in during his career.

Justin Gary

Alex Shvartsman always gets some support based on his trailblazing as the original Grand Prix Road Warrior and his staggering number of Grand Prix Top 8 appearances. Alex is, of course, held back by only having one Pro Tour Top 8 on his resume. Rounding out the remaining year two players are Noah Boeken and Gerardo Godinez Estrada, both of whom were reinstated to the ballot after playing on the Pro Tour this past season.

Alex Shvartsman, Noah Boeken, and Gerardo Godinez Estrada
Year 2
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
Raphael Levy Noah Boeken
Robert Maher Jr. Patrick Chapin
Joseph Gary Wise Justin Gary
Bram Snepvangers Gerardo Godinez Estrada
  Alex Shvartsman
 

Year Three

This is what they call a very good year. There are eight players from this group already inducted. You may recall this was the contentious ballot with seven slam-dunk candidates vying for five inductions. It took two seasons to get them all in, but from Kai Budde to Ben Rubin, they all got their rings. Brian Kibler came back from retirement to further improve the reputation of the vintage and was enshrined last season after his win at Pro Tour Austin.

Had that last match in Austin between Kibler and Tsuyoshi Ikeda played out differently, it could very well have been Ikeda who earned that honor—an honor that very well may still be coming his way. When you look at the players who have racked up more than 300 points in their careers, the only ones not in the Hall of Fame are Shuhei Nakamura, who is a clear favorite during this, his first season of eligibility; Tomoharu Saito, who was voted in but barred from entry when he was suspended; and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, who is not eligible for another year.

Tsuyoshi Ikeda and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Rounding out the stragglers from that class are Magic Online Championship Series competitor Robert Jurkovic, who just crossed the 100-point threshold this past season and is in his first year of eligibility. Worlds 2008 finalist Jamie Parke and World Series of Poker finalist David Williams are the others and are both likely a big finish or two away from being very much in the mix.

Robert Jurkovic, Jamie Parke, and David Williams
Year 3
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
Kai Budde Tsuyoshi Ikeda
Randy Buehler Robert Jurkovic
Tsuyoshi Fujita Jamie Parke
Nicolai Herzog David Williams
Zvi Mowshowitz  
Ben Rubin  
Michael Turian  
Brian Kibler  
 

Year Four

William "Baby Huey" Jensen has always kept a low profile, and does not have the peripheral community aspect that many other candidates have. Nonetheless, support for him seems to be picking up steam, and when the likes of Jon Finkel declare him one of the five best players to ever play on the Pro Tour, people tend to take notice and look over the stats. Eivind Nitter and Carlos Romão face an uphill battle to get more than regional support for the candidacy due to their low number of Top 8s, but Jensen support is coming from all corners. He has four PT Top 8s, including his win at Pro Tour Boston as a member of The Brockafellers, has a Masters Series win, and won a pair of Grand Prix in eight Top 8 attempts.

William Jensen
Year 4
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
Dirk Baberowski William Jensen
Olivier Ruel Eivind Nitter
Jelger Wiegersma Carlos Romão
 

Year Five

Players will not start falling off the 2009 ballot until after this year's votes are tallied, so all but the three enshrined players remain eligible, with the addition of Singapore's Albertus Law, who got to the triple-digit plateau in pro points with his recent finish at Grand Prix Singapore, and Taiwan's Tzu Ching Kuo.

Albertus Law and Tzu Ching Kuo

Notable players from that class include Eric Froehlich and Ben Stark, who have both put up Top 8 finishes since the last votes were tallied, Eric making Top 8 at Worlds last year and Ben winning Pro Tour Paris. Antonino De Rosa came close last season, and the smiling Italian may have charmed some more voters with his recent appearance at Pro Tour Nagoya.

Eric Froehlich, Ben Stark, and Antonino De Rosa
Year 5
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
Kamiel Cornelissen Jose Barbero
Frank Karsten Tiago Chan
Antoine Ruel Tzu Ching Kuo
  Jeff Cunningham
  Brian Davis
  Antonino De Rosa
  Eric Froehlich
  Kazuya Hirabayashi
  Mike Hron
  Mattias Kettil
  Albertus Law
  Antoine Menard
  Chikara Nakajima
  Rickard Osterberg
  Diego Ostrovich
  Mario Pascoli
  Ben Stark
  Helmut Summersberger
  Jens Thorén
 

Year Six

Again, this class features lots of players still laying around who will be vying for support until players from this class start falling off after next year's ballot. Only Gabriel Nassif has been enshrined from among players who started playing at the beginning of this millennium, but Anton Jonsson seems like he is very much in the mix for voters this year. With five Top 8s, a reputation as one of the game's great Limited players, and a successful writing career, he stands out in the crowd.

Anton Jonsson

You can add Eugene Harvey to the scrum of players, a couple of whom are coming onto the ballot this year, with similar resumes looking to distinguish themselves from the pack. He has some great numbers—such as making the Top 16 of a PT seven times in thirty-three attempts—and was incredibly important to the careers of many of the great players from the era in which he was active, but is singularly untalented at tooting his own horn and is likely to be overlooked by many voters.

Eugene Harvey

When you look through the ranks of the players who have won Player of the Year, the only players with sufficient service time but no Hall of Fame ring are Paul McCabe, Tomoharu Saito, and Shouta Yasooka. Staggeringly, McCabe does not meet the Pro Points eligibility requirement, with only 75 points and Saito had the honor slip from his fingers. Shouta has only one Pro Tour Top 8—which he won—on his resume which is certainly a glaring lack of experience. I just want to point out that Shouta is recently reinvigorated, and with the four points he picked up for his Nationals Top 8 this past weekend he is now in fifth place for this year's title. It is hard to imagine him winning the title this year without another Top 8 coming his way. Would two Pro Tour Top 8s and two Player of the Year titles get him into the Hall next season?

Shouta Yasooka
Year 6
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
Gabriel Nassif Akira Asahara
  Jan Doise
  Willy Edel
  Eugene Harvey
  Ken Ho
  Richard Hoaen
  Anton Jonsson
  Shu Komuro
  Antti Malin
  Quentin Martin
  Katsuhiro Mori
  Masahiko Morita
  Ryo Ogura
  Jeroen Remie
  Johan Sadeghpour
  Jonathan Sonne
  Ruud Warmenhoven
  Shouta Yasooka
 

Year Seven

Like last season's ballot with Gabriel Nassif, there is only one slam-dunk that almost the entire social network of Magic seems to agree upon, and that is that Shuhei Nakamura and his 400+ pro points are going to be enshrined at the top of this year's class. The fact that Shuhei is eligible this year means he is averaging 40 points per season over his career, although it seems more like 80 points a season for the past five.

Shuhei Nakamura

He has five Top 8s and has advanced to at least the semifinals in all but one of them. He has won the Player of the Year title and traveled around the world smashing Grand Prix in just about every time zone. He is also one of the most consistent players in the game. Pretty much half the time that he plays in a Pro Tour he finishes in the Top 64. He makes the Top 32 once every four tries and a Top 16 once every six times he has played. Slam. Dunk.

I have talked about the collection of players with similar resumes a couple of times, and grappling at the heart of that scrum are Osyp Lebedowicz and Mark Herberholz. Their resumes perfectly illustrate the dilemma faced by voters, assuming that these were two players on the bubble of a ballot.

Osyp Lebedowicz and Mark Herberholz

Both players have a Pro Tour win in their careers: Osyp in Venice over Tomi Walamies and Herberholz in Honolulu over Craig Jones. They are both incredibly well respected deck designers and players. Osyp has a slight edge in the community department, as he was a regular writer when he was playing the game, but Herberholz also wrote about the game and recently showed off his storytelling ability in a well-timed memoir on StarCityGames.com.

Herberholz holds the edge when it comes to the number of Top 8s with four to Osyp's three, but Osyp was clearly a more consistent Pro Tour finisher—you only need to read Heezy's aforementioned memoirs to understand why—with a Top 32 finish around a third of the time he played on the Tour. Herberholz was Top 8 or bust, with only one other Top 32 to go with his four Top 8s. They are both compelling candidates... and then you throw in Steve OMS, Pikula, William Jensen, Eugene Harvey, Justin Gary, Ben Stark, Paul Rietzl, and so on, and you get something of an American logjam that makes it hard to get one or more of them downriver.

Year 7
Hall of Famers On 2011 Ballot
  Benjamin Caumes
  Gerard Fabiano
  Sam Gomersall
  Mark Herberholz
  Osyp Lebedowicz
  Koutarou Ootsuka
  Shuhei Nakamura
  Paul Rietzl
  Geoffrey Siron
  Amiel Tenenbaum
  Gabe Walls
  Stuart Wright
  Arnost Zidek
 

Looking Ahead

Looking at next year's class, I see a slam-dunk contest that is going to make it tough on any candidates still lingering after the current ballot is tallied. Who will take down the slam-dunk title? Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Kenji Tsumura, or the quietly amazing Masashi Oiso?

The year after that we see Luis Scott-Vargas, Gadiel Szleifer, and Martin Juza as the most likely inductees. Beyond that there are players who have already locked up their eligibility through the year 2016, when we see a class of Owen Turtenwald, Gaudenis Vidugiris, and Yuuya Watanabe waiting to see if we remember them five years from now.

The class of 2017 is still waiting for a student to cross the 100-point threshold, but, amazingly, there is already someone ready for the 2018 class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame: Brad Nelson. What a FFfreaK!

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