Last week, when I wrote about the Hall of Fame, the ballots hadn’t been sent in yet. Now they have, and with them comes a wealth of information about the candidates.
That’s a lot of stats but, honestly, not nearly as much as we should have. Why list the number of GP Top 8s if you’re not going to list the number of GPs played? Surely ten Top 8s out of twenty GPs is a lot more impressive than 15 out of 100. Why not have their win percentages available? Why not list the number of Nationals and Masters Top 8s/wins? Why not have profiles with them?!
To try and remedy that, I’m going to be doing some short interviews with some of the candidates that you might consider voting for. Even if you do not have a Hall of Fame vote, I think it’s cool to get to know those people a little better—they are, after all, all part of Magic’s history whether they end up making it or not.
I obviously can’t interview every single person on the ballot, so I tried to keep it to people who were being considered or voted for, according to social media. I’ll be posting one interview a day in the order people sent me the answers (so if you have a vote and want to know more about some candidates, don’t vote yet!). Some of the questions are unique for each individual, and some of them are general just so that we get to know a little more about those people (plus I’m obsessed with the favorite book/movie/food question). Hopefully you enjoy these as much as I did!
Today, I begin with Justin Gary.
44 PTs played
3 PT Top 8s (6.8%)
1 PT win (2.3%) - PT Houston 2002
6 PT Top 16s (13.6%)
11 PT Top 32s (25%)
4 PT Top 64s (9.1%)
24 PTS at Top 64 or better (54.5%)
3 GP Top 8s
1 GP win - GP Pittsburgh, 2003
252 lifetime Pro Points
Lifetime Median: 58.5
3-year Median: 25
PoYs top 10: 2
Lifetime winnings: $120,815
When did you stop playing Magic competitively? Why did you stop?
I stopped playing competitively in 2003 when I started law school. At the time, I felt I had accomplished everything I wanted to in professional Magic (won a Pro Tour, National Championship, Grand Prix, World Team Championship, and played in the Invitational) and I wanted to focus on other aspects of my life.
The introduction of the Hall of Fame has reinvigorated my interest in Magic and I still play in events from time to time to meet up with friends and enjoy the game, but I haven’t had time to really focus on Magic and re-qualify for the Pro Tour
What is your current relationship with Magic? How would that change if you were inducted into the HoF?
I love Magic and still play it occasionally for fun. I am working with Richard Garfield on our new digital collectible game Solforge and its been a real honor working with the creator of Magic on a new game.
Though I don’t have the time to go to PTQs and GPs to try and re-qualify, If I was in the Hall of Fame, I would attend Pro Tours and focus a lot more energy on the game. Magic has been a huge part of my life and I would be honored to be in the HoF and be able to come back and play again.
You currently work at gaming company which has produced games such as Ascension (www.ascensiongame.com) and Solforge. How much inspiration have you drawn from Magic for that? How much impact does Magic have in your work?
Magic was a HUGE inspiration for both Ascension and Solforge! I certainly wouldn’t be a game designer, let alone start my own gaming company if not for Magic. Ascension is largely inspired by the idea of having the experience of drafting a Magic deck but without having to buy tons of packs and cards. You can just buy one box (or download the app on your iphone/ipad) and play hundreds of games building decks and trying out different strategies.
Solforge is intended to be the Magic of the mobile/digital gaming world. Working with Richard Garfield to create Solforge, we tried to get the best elements of Magic and traditional trading card games, but optimized for mobile platforms and totally free to play! You can buy packs or earn them just by playing.
You were, along with Hall of Famers Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, part of YMG, one of the strongest and most famous teams in the history of the game. How big a part did that play in your Magic career? Do you feel like you had a great advantage because you were on a team when many other people who weren’t?
Teams were a huge part of being a successful magic player, especially before Magic Online became available. Rob, Dave, Darwin, and the entire Your Move Games team provided an incredible pool of talent to help build decks, work out strategies, and to constantly challenge myself to get better. They also are just awesome people! The reason I stuck with Magic for so many years wasn’t primarily about the game or tournament success. To me, Magic is all about the friends you make and the relationships you build with people over a game we all love. All of those people (and almost everyone who now works at Stone Blade Entertainment) are friends I’ve had for years thanks to Magic.
You are often praised for your consistency - you have “only” 3 PT Top 8s, but you have nine Top 16s and twenty Top 32s out of 44 events played. Do you think there is a particular reason why you did so well consistently but didn’t have as many Top 8s as some other players on the ballot? Do you think too much weight is placed on Top 8s as opposed to solid finishes these days?
You never know with these things- one match win at any of those top 16s and I would have had 4 PT top 8s and probably been an easy induction to the Hall of Fame. I also won a US National Championship back when those were as hard (or harder) than the Pro Tour and made another US National top 8 that isn’t counted in those numbers.
I appreciate when people take the time to look at a player’s total record and not just Top 8s, but I think it is very subjective what people choose to value when voting for the Hall of Fame, and there are many valid ways to view it.
What other accomplishments do you have that are not listed on the stats page?
(In this question, I’m looking for basically anything that you think is worth mentioning - Masters, Invitationals and Nationals results, a sweet deck you’ve created, a super good PTQ/GP resume—anything that would be helpful to assess you as a player but is not listed there)
1997 National Champion
2002 Top 3 National Championships (made US national team)
also two more Nats top 16s
2nd Place Nice Masters Series
1997 Nats was the first Pro level event I played in—made for an exciting start to my PT career.
(Justin Gary didn’t mention this, but he also won the Team World Championship in Berlin, 2002, alongside Gabe Walls and Joshua Wagner - PV).
What is your best memory from Magic?
It is so hard to choose! I have so many good memories, but I have to say Pro Tour Houston is probably my favorite. My team (Your Move Games) had the top 3 slots going into the top 8 on Sunday (all with 3 different decks) and then we ended up finishing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the Pro Tour without losing a single game to anyone but each other!
Rob Dougherty and I were rooming together, and coming back to the room with the 1st and 2nd place trophies, then celebrating with all my friends was pretty much a dream come true.
Have you ever written Magic articles? Can you give us the link to the one/ones you like the most?
Yes—I wrote a bunch of Magic articles back in the day. My favorite is probably my Pro Tour Rome report I wrote for the Dojo.
What do you think your greatest strength is as a player, something you do better than most people?
I am very methodical when I play and in particular when I am losing.
Do you have a preferred archetype?
Control – ideally with some kind of powerful combo/kill mechanism built in (e.g. Oath of Druids, survival/recur, etc.). I like having options to deal with my opponent and the ability to win instantly when the time is right.
What are your favorite deck and card of all time?
My PT Houston Oath deck was my favorite to play. Force of Will is probably my favorite card as a player—nothing like being able to counter while tapped out.
What’s your favorite format?
Old school Extended
What Ravnica guild are you?
What is your Hall of Fame ballot this year?
Luis Scott-Vargas, William Jensen, Ben Stark, and Makhito Mihara—not sure who my fifth vote is yet.