Building a Ballot

After being inducted to the Hall of Fame last year with two very good friends and all-time Magic greats, Ben Stark and Luis Scott-Vargas, I was looking forward to this year’s voting process and anxious to see how the candidates would measure up. By virtue of being in the Hall of Fame, I was expecting to have a Selection Committee vote for the first time. As it turns out, WoTC decided to merge the Player’s Committee and the Selection Committee into one big committee. In order to receive a vote, one must have a lifetime Pro Point total of 150 or higher, or be selected by WotC because of involvement in Magic in areas of design, coverage, judging, scorekeeping etc.

“When voting, members of the Selection Committee shall use the following as the basis for their selections:

Player’s performances,
Playing ability,
Integrity,
Sportsmanship, and
Contributions to the game in general”

As you can see there are no explicitly defined “minimums” or “thresholds” that anyone needs to meet in order to get elected into the Hall of Fame (other than 150 lifetime Pro Points). There are guidelines that each individual should use to make up his or her mind to best select the candidates that deserve induction and will go on to be great ambassadors for the game of Magic.

So far, I have decided, with certainty, that I’m voting for three candidates:

Paul Rietzl

The first thing to take note of is Paul’s stats. Four Pro Tour Top 8 is a slam dunk, right off the bat. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Of the four times Paul has competed on Sunday he has finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and only one time failed to make it out of the quarterfinals. Those results are a world class resume on their own. Beyond those finishes, Paul has an additional three Top 16s, and a slew of Top 32 and Top 64s. Paul has a reasonable amount of Grand Prix success as well, reaching the Top 8 nines times, with two wins.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Paul for the better part of my life. I was there when Paul first started attending tournaments on a local level in Boston in the late 90s. I have seen first hand, Paul go from a young kid, playing small local tournaments and PTQs, all the way to one of the best players in the world. I witnessed how he did it. I know it wasn’t by accident. Paul worked extremely hard. He always did and still does love Magic. He thinks about, talks about, plays, and studies the game constantly.

One thing that people might not know about Paul who haven’t had the opportunity to interact with him on a personal level is that he has impeccable character. Even as a kid, in a hyper competitive environment, I never remember seeing Paul treat anyone in any fashion that could be construed as having a lack of integrity or a display of poor sportsmanship. That certainly did not change as he got older; As Paul started to and continued to succeed over the years, he always remained very humble. Paul has continually been a crusader for fair, honest play and has always genuinely cared that the environment fostered at Magic tournaments is fun, fair, and welcoming for everyone.

There is nobody that better embodies the characteristics of someone I would want to be an ambassador for the game of Magic going forward than Paul Rietzl. I have absolutely no doubt that Paul is deserving of our game’s highest honor.

Makihito Mihara

Last year, Makihito Mihara was on my ballot with what I considered to be an incredible resume. After making top 8 for a fifth time at Pro Tour Theros, this year, he has what I’d consider to be the strongest statistical resume on the ballot; Five Pro Tour Top 8s as well as five Japanese Nationals Top 8s is truly insane. It’s also worth noting that one of his Pro Tour Top 8s culminated in him becoming Magic World Champion in 2006.

I haven’t interacted with Mihara on a personal level at all, but I have never heard anything but high praise from those who know him personally. He is a lock on my ballot this year, and if by some fluke he doesn’t end up getting in, he will be for the foreseeable future.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

Deciding whether or not to vote for Wafo-Tapa was a fairly long process for me, which started last year. I ended up not voting for him last year, but like Mihara, he has since added another top 8 to resume. Wafo’s resume is a virtual slam dunk on statistics alone: Five Pro Tour Top 8s with a win, four additional Top 16s, and several further money finishes.

The major knock against Guillaume is the “God Book incident”. My understanding of the situation is (and sorry if it isn’t 100% accurate, I don’t know of any officially posted details of the incident) that one of Wafo-Tapa’s teammates got access to a book with a complete card list for the set New Phyrexia in order to write articles for a French Magic magazine. His teammate gave this information to Wafo-Tapa, and the two of them used it to prepare in advance for the Pro Tour. At some point Wafo-Tapa showed it to another person who then spoiled the list on the Internet. As a result, multiple people, including Wafo-Tapa received DCI suspensions.

I have heard people say that they blame the whole incident on WoTC. I don’t buy that argument at all. When someone enters into a non-disclosure agreement, they are expected not to disclose the information. Now, I personally have no idea who in the process actually had to enter any agreements, or whether or not Wafo-Tapa did, specifically. I don’t know whether or not Wafo had to agree not to use the information to playtest for an upcoming tournament. My understanding is that what he was punished for was for leaking the information, and not for anything else.

Given the level at excellence that Wafo-Tapa has displayed at the Pro Tour, I am willing to forgive him for what I do believe was a lapse, one way or the other, in judgment, and a blemish to his integrity. Other than this incident, I haven’t heard anything negative about Wafo-Tapa in any aspect of his Magic ability or character. For these reasons, I am casting a vote for Guillaume Wafo-Tapa.

I feel those three are the real stand out candidates and the three that I’ve decided to vote for at this point. I have five slots on my ballot and there are several other strong candidates that I am considering:

The “Three Top 8ers”

Four Top 8s has always been somewhat of a guideline that people use when evaluating candidates. I do subscribe to that theory, in the sense that, in order me to consider someone with only three Top 8s they would really have to have tremendous additional stats or major bonuses in an area like contributions to the game.

Eric Froehlich

Efro is a bit lacking in the top 8 department with only three, however, he makes up for it with an additional SIX top 16s. Both his volume stats and efficiency stats are top notch in every area, having finished in the top 64 of more than half of the Pro Tours he has competed in. (19 of 37) One additional thing that I like about Efro’s candidacy is that I firmly believe that Efro is one of the best Magic players in the world. At any point since my return to Magic, Efro would have been somewhere on my list of the top 10 players. Efro is in a situation where I think there are definitely justifications for him to be inducted right now, but if he isn’t, one more top 8 finish, and he’ll be one of the leading candidates.

Justin Gary

Justin Gary is was a terrific player and has a terrific resume. Justin has three Top 8s, one resulting in a win. He has five additional top 16s. He was also a US National Champion. But the single stat of Justin’s that I find to be the most impressive is a staggering TWENTY top 32 finishes. Justin has played 44 Pro Tours and managed to finish in the top 32 of twenty of them! Justin’s candidacy suffers a little bit from being out of the public eye for so long. Due to the fact he doesn’t really play anymore, he is unlikely to put up another big finish any time soon, but I suspect if he mounted a comeback and had some success he would also be one of the leading candidates.

Osyp Lebedowicz

The last person with fewer than four PT Top 8s that I feel warrants consideration is Osyp Lebedowicz. With three Top 8s, one a win, and four additional top 16s, he also boasts very strong results. He has finished in the Top 64 of well over half of the Pro Tours that he has entered, 21 out of 37, which is an impressive ratio. What I think really stands out that strengthens Osyp’s case is that he is an active member of the SCG broadcast team. I consider commentary to be a major community contribution, especially from someone as skilled at it as Osyp is. These factors are enough to easily land Osyp on my short list.

The “Four Top 8ers”

Willy Edel

Willy does have the four top 8s covered. Also, from everything I’m told, Willy has really done a ton to contribute to the Brazilian Magic community; Things such as running tournaments, networking so that players have places to play and people to play with, running a store, both brick and mortar, and online, and helping nearly every Brazilian Magic player that qualifies for the Pro Tour to coordinate things like travel and lodging. Things that help grow the game of Magic are certainly a plus in my book. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Willy a few times over the past year, and all of our interactions I’ve felt were very positive.

What concerns me with Willy’s resume are the lack of other stats. His Top 8 conversion rate is great, with four Top 8s in only 27 attempts. However, none of them were converted into a win, and the rest of his stats are a little lacking. Only 8 total top 64 or better finishes is a bit on the low side. However, his four Top 8s and great community contributions still make him a strong candidate, worth consideration.

Mark Herberholz

Mark has four Pro Tour Top 8s including a win at Pro Tour Honolulu in 2006. Although he doesn’t have any Top 16 finishes to add to that, he made top 64 at nearly half of the Pro Tours he competed in. (16 of 35) Mark’s success largely came in an era in which I was taking a break from Magic, so I didn’t get to see much of first hand. But, I’ve been told that during era, Mark was widely regarded as the best American player, which is a very impressive feat. As long as I’ve known him, Mark has had a great understanding of Magic, and is an exceptional thinker. He also excels at deck building, which is something that I wouldn’t say about a lot of people, but something that I also think has a great deal of value when talking about a Magic player. All of these things combined with Mark’s vibrant personality and great sense of humor make him a person that I think is worth strong consideration for a vote.

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

Ikeda has been playing for a very long time and has accumulated a lot of very good results; Four Top 8 finishes, albeit without a win, and two time Top 8 finishes at Japanese Nationals. His efficiency is a little low, cashing 18 times in 67 Pro Tour attempts, but I’m not even really sure how much something like that should matter. If you’re just comparing volume of stats vs stats, Ikeda can hold up to most anyone on the ballot.

Marijn Lybaert

Marjin has four Top 8s, but unfortunately none of them were converted into wins. His other stats are all pretty good; Two additional Top 16s, and a total of 14 finishes in the Top 64. (in 30 attempts) His resume alone is not a slam dunk, but what really sets Marijn apart in my opinion is his very active role as a member of the European Wizards of the Coast coverage team. Marijn has done a terrific job in the booth, and ever since he, and other high level Magic players have begun to take on those roles, coverage has vastly improved. Like I said with Osyp, I value this very highly, and will strongly consider casting a vote for Marijn.

Ballots aren’t due until July 23rd, so I’m looking forward to seeing the conversation continue to unfold. I plan to continue to do research, participate in discussions, and make what I feel is the best decision when casting my final ballot. If anyone feels they have something to add, or a particular case for a candidate, I’d love to hear it, so please let me know in the comments. The inductees are going to be announced in just about a month at Pro Tour Magic 2015 in Portland. I was looking forward to the Pro Tour anyways, but the Hall of Fame announcement certainly makes it a little more special. Thanks for reading!

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