Introducing the 2015–16 Class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame

Posted in Event Coverage on August 6, 2016

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.

Two players will be shopping for suits and getting measured for rings prior to their induction into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame at Pro Tour Kaladesh this October. Both players made it into the Hall during their first year of eligibility, having both debuted on the Pro Tour during the 2007 season. Congratulations to both Yuuya Watanabe of Japan and Owen Turtenwald of the United States, as they will be entering the Hall while still at the height of their powers. As this is being typed, both players were being seated in the first draft pod to start Day Two of Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.

2005–16 Hall of Fame-elect Yuuya Watanabe

Yuuya Watanabe was the leading vote-getter, appearing on more than 90% of the ballots cast for this year's class. He debuted in 2007 at Pro Tour Yokohama, which featured Time Spiral Block Constructed. He played a Mystical Teachings–based control deck to a 4-4 finish on Day One, which was not enough to advance to Day Two at the time. He knew as soon as he experienced that level of play that he wanted nothing more than to get back to the Pro Tour.

Boosted by a Grand Prix win that same season, Watanabe would go on to win the Rookie of the Year title by the time he was in New York playing in the World Championship. Two years later in Austin, Texas, he would make the first of three career Pro Tour Top 8s. He would also make the Top 8 of six Grand Prix over the course of that season en route to winning the Player of the Year title. A title he would win again for the 2011–12 season. The following season he won the Player's Championship (which has since been renamed the World Championship), and is the only player to compete in that tournament in every year of its existence.

Yuuya wished to thank all the players who helped him along the way, and had especially warm wishes for the Japanese Magic fans who have cheered him on throughout his career. Yuuya explained that with his election into the Hall of Fame, he has accomplished almost all of his career goals that he laid out for himself upon winning the Rookie of the year title. He has won Player of the Year, become a World Champion, and is now destined to be enshrined among the game's all-time greats. Despite all those accomplishments, Yuuya will not have crossed everything off his to-do list until he wins a Pro Tour.

2015–16 Hall of Fame-elect Owen Turtenwald

Owen Turtenwald finished second at Grand Prix Columbus in 2007 and found himself qualified for a Pro Tour across the Atlantic in Valencia, Spain.

"I had always wanted to play in a Pro Tour, so, even though it cost me almost all of the money that I had, I knew I just wanted to go to the Pro Tour so badly," said Turtenwald of his first chance to play at the highest level. He fared better than most players do at their first event with an 18th-place finish. "I basically lost playing for Top 8. I lost a round where had I won I could potentially have drawn into Top 8. So I was doing really well in my first Pro Tour, playing really good players. I wasn't doing anything different than what I usually do. I was playing Magic and trying my hardest. I was playing my best and doing awesome. It was Game 3 and I was playing for Top 8, and I mulliganed to four and lost. It was just so horrible, but the thought of maybe making Top 8 and the excitement of coming so far and doing so well. I was hooked. I never wanted to not be playing on the Pro Tour. It was the best, most fun I ever had doing anything."

Owen would not reach the Top 8 of a Pro Tour until Pro Tour Gatecrash in 2013, which makes his 2011 Player of the Year season all the more incredible as he utterly demolished the Grand Prix scene that year with a staggering seven Top 8 appearances. He has racked up 21 Top 8 appearances at the Grand Prix level, including four wins, which includes back-to-back weekend trophies in Washington, DC, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a win alongside fellow Peach Garden Oath teammates in Portland in 2014.

His most memorable moment on the Pro Tour came during the 2014 season, when he was announced as the eighth seed going into Sunday of Pro Tour Magic 2015 in Portland, Oregon—the second of three Top 8 appearances for the American.

"It was just amazing. In no other kind of Magic tournament that exists today can you make Top 8 on tiebreakers. You need a certain record and eight people usually reach that record by intentionally drawing, so the outcome of the final round is unlikely to matter...except at the Pro Tour," recalled the Hall of Famer-elect. "It is a smaller field and you play more rounds. Never making the Top 8 of any tournament on tiebreakers? And then making a Pro Tour Top 8 on tiebreakers? It was just incredibly amazing and exciting. It is also my best result on the Pro Tour...I made Top 4."

Turtenwald, who has played on both Team ChannelFireball and The Pantheon will soon be in the Hall of Fame alongside some of the luminaries from both those teams who helped along the way as he grown playing Magic.

"Definitely the people who helped me out the most were Luis Scott-Vargas, William Jensen, Reid Duke, and Jon Finkel. When I first started out, Luis helped me a lot. We played on the same team together when I was a new player who nobody knew that well, and he vouched for me," said Owen when asked if there was anyone he wished to thank when reflecting back on his career. "After that I ended up moving to the Pantheon and the rest is history really."

Owen admitted he might appear in fewer tournaments now that he is locked into lifetime invites for the Pro Tour. Not because he wants to play less, but because he wants to be able to be better prepared for the events he does play in.

"Half the reason I wanted to try and be Platinum every year was to try and stay qualified for the Pro Tour. That is not something I have had to worry about for a long time now, because once I decided to start playing a lot of Magic I just got Platinum every year for five or six years. But now there isn't going to be that pressure on me to go to every single Grand Prix and fly across the country when I am not prepared or not ready to do well. I am just going to try and pick my spots and work harder for the tournaments that I go to."

Congratulations to both Owen Turtenwald and Yuuya Watanabe, the 2015–16 class of the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

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