It’s Hall of Fame voting season again, which means it’s time for all of us lucky enough to have a ballot to weigh in. The first thing that jumps out at me is that this is the first year I can remember without any slam-dunk candidates—something that will probably be the case for the next few years, at least until Josh Utter-Leyton becomes eligible. I can’t imagine casting a full five ballots this year, although I know most people will as a default. Conversely, I couldn’t fault anyone who decided to cast a ballot with zero votes, which I think is an easily defensible position.
I no longer view anyone with three Top 8s as worthy of discussion. Magic is a game of counting stats, and with each year that passes the standards need to get higher and higher. What was sufficient two or five years ago is no longer a high enough hurdle now. Before people start blowing up my comments, yes I can construct a 3-PT Top 8 career that’s worthy of inclusion, but it’s nothing that anyone in contention now is close to. For an idea of what that resume might look like, imagine Tom Martell won another Pro Tour. If you have two victories, or a 1st and two 2nds with great Grand Prix results, then maybe.
When it comes to four Top 8s, you need to have a win to be brought into the conversation. A win and 3 other Top 8s isn’t enough though, you need a reasonable amount of Top 16s, Top 32s, and Grand Prix finishes as well. It also helps if your Top 8s have more Top 4s than quarterfinal losses. Other top finishes like Players Championships, Masters, competitive Nationals, and World Magic Cups also factor in here.
Five Top 8s and a win makes you a solid candidate, where I feel a voter needs a serious reason not to vote for someone. Could I construct a resume with a win and five Top eights that I wouldn’t vote for? Of course, but although Scott Johns is close, all of this year’s candidates have strong enough overall resumes that it isn’t an issue. What is an issue is cheating. I respect that Scott Johns admitted to his earlier transgressions, but I can’t vote for him. If he came back and Top 8’d another two Pro Tours I would consider him a serious candidate, but nothing less. Saito is in the same boat, although I’m not sure what exact level of results would make me feel comfortable voting yes for him.
So who am I voting for?
If it weren’t for the “God Book” incident, Wafo-Tapa would be a complete slam-dunk. He has a win, a 2nd, and three additional Top 8s. He’s also an absolutely amazing player. I know it’s hard for people to factor in these subjective opinions, but in a game with as much variance as Magic it really does matter. I’ve maybe only said a half dozen words to him in my life, but playing against him and watching him play have given me a tremendous amount of respect for him. As for the “God Book” incident? It does dock him some, but not enough to knock him off the ballot. I believe the real fault in the situation could firmly be laid at the feet of WotC. Rather than fess up that they never should have been distributing the books in the first place, they came down extra hard on the players involved. I think it was an area where the conflict between Wizards the game company and Wizards the tournament organizer really came into focus.
I don’t know much about him, but his record speaks for itself. One win, two Top 4s, and two additional Top 8s along with 2 GP wins, 7 GP Top 8s, and a handful of Japanese Nationals Top 8s give him a stellar resume. I wish I had more to say about him but I really don’t. I think you would need an exceptionally strong reason to consider not voting for him, and if he doesn’t get in, it will probably be because of European/American bias in the voting process.
Speaking of bias, the last person on my ballot is my teammate, Paul Rietzl. He clearly has the strongest resume of the four-Top 8-crew, with a 1st, a 2nd, a 3rd, and only one quarterfinal loss. He has also put up great results at GPs, with two wins and nine Top 8s. His three-year median is a bit sketchy, but that’s about the only strike against him. I have the advantage of having played with and known Paul and know he’s an excellent player and a great all-around guy. My only question is, if he were a Japanese player, would I be voting for him? I’d like to think it’s yes, but the real answer is that I’m not sure. However, because of my relationship with Paul, I feel safe knowing my vote for him is well deserved.
And there you have it, a ballot with three names. If there’s someone else you think I should be considering voting for, I ask: Are they a better candidate than Paul? If anyone reading this is a voter and is voting for someone else, I would have them ask the same question of themselves.
What do I think will actually happen?
My prediction: Mihara and Rietzl make it and Wafo-Tapa barely misses.