Everyone has a different opinion on who should be in the Hall of Fame. That’s not a problem, it’s great. It means that every year we get to dissect the finer details of a professional Magic career.
Some value community contributions highly, some don’t. Some care a lot about thresholds, like 4 Pro Tour Top 8s, some don’t.
There isn’t an exact right answer, but some positions are more defensible than others.
I thought about waiting until I had my final ballot ready to write this, but I realized that it made more sense to write it before I’ve made a final decision, so that anyone can give me their input on the candidates I’m considering. There are several candidates who would be reasonable to vote for, and yet to want a little more from them would be just as reasonable. So this year, I’m particularly interested in what everyone has to say.
To me the Hall of Fame is a lifetime achievement award, not an efficiency award. Therefore someone who takes 60 Pro Tours to get the same finishes as someone who does it in 20 is around equally likely to get my vote. If anything the person who has played 60 is more likely to get my vote for their longer dedication to Magic and the Pro Tour.
That said, you can give someone extra points for being an exceptionally good player. That is what really separated William Jensen back in my year, the Hall of Fame 2013 class. He had good enough stats at the time, but not substantially better than say Marijn Lybaert or Tsoyoshi Ikeda, neither of whom got in. Pretty much everyone who has ever played with William will confidently tell you he is one of the very best players to ever play the game, so that definitely gave a boost on top of the good résumé.
Community contributions can help. In that same year, I was in an identical situation with 4 Pro Tour Top 8s with a win and 3 Top 16s. A fine résumé, but definitely not a slam dunk. I believe that all the coverage and interviews about the Limited formats I’ve done at Pro Tours and Grand Prix gave me the bump to get into the Hall of Fame.
For me, the most important qualification is finishes. Success in Magic tournaments carries the most weight in whether I vote for someone for the Hall of Fame. Most people agree with that, but exactly what that means can be highly contentious. Last week at GP Montreal, Reid Duke and I were interviewed separately about this year’s Hall of Fame candidates and virtually the first thing out of my mouth was that there is no one stat that someone must have to be a Hall of Famer, and Reid said right away that there is an established baseline for what a Hall of Fame résumé looks like.
Who is right? Neither of us. Though, I didn’t word my answer perfectly—there is roughly a minimum set of total finishes you must have for me to consider you worthy of the Hall of Fame. But what I really meant is that there is no single litmus test.
I would vote for someone with zero Pro Tour Top 8s for the Hall of Fame if they have twenty Top 16s. But some people won’t really vote for someone for the Hall of Fame if they have fewer than 3 or 4 Pro Tour Top 8s. Reid is looking for a baseline like that, where as I am just interested in your total set of Magic finishes. That’s the beauty of the Hall of Fame process. Different finishes can be worth different amounts to everyone, and that’s OK.
I consider a Pro Tour Top 16 to be almost a Pro Tour Top 8. The record that usually gets you into the Top 8 is 12-3-1, or sometimes 12-4 with good tiebreakers. The record that usually finishes in the Top 16 is 12-4. That is practically the same, and therefore around the same level accomplishment to me. So I consider a Top 8 to be worth around 1.5-2 Top 16s. But after that it gets much easier—easier to go 11-5 than it is to go 12-3-1. That record will usually place you in the Top 50.
Still, if you have 4 Top 8s 2 Top 16s and 1 Top 50, that is a lot less impressive to me then someone who has 3 Top 8s 2 Top 16s and 10 Top 50s. That said, since it is a substantially easier record to achieve it takes quite a few of them to add up to a Top 8. Probably around 5, though there is no exact math. Grand Prix finishes count as well, but are worth even less than Pro Tour Top 50s. From there, any other Magic finishes follow. After stats come integrity, skill, and community contributions.
It gets complicated with integrity, though. You can earn a mark against you, and that just costs you a few points. I would still vote for someone who cheated or did something wrong once or twice early in their career and then cleaned up, but it will cost you integrity points with me when I’m analyzing your total Hall of Fame résumé. On the other hand, let’s say someone is a career cheater. In that case, all of their stats are tainted. If Saito is now playing completely clean, which I believe he is, I would definitely be willing to vote for him even if I give him a zero on integrity, but I can’t count his previous finishes that he earned in part by cheating, so he has a lot of work to do in building a Hall of Fame résumé again.
I wish I could give you more insight on Justin Gary because he has great stats as well in my opinion, but his time on the Pro Tour was mostly before my own, so I really have no idea if he was completely honest, a cheater, or had 1 or 2 wrongdoings when he was young then played completely straight up and earned all his great finishes cleanly. If anyone has any insight and wants to weigh in they would be greatly appreciated, because I personally think Justin has very good stats.
On to this year’s candidates. There is only 1 person I am definitely voting for, and 9 more candidates I am strongly considering.
I am voting for Eric Froehlich. To me his stats are incredible. I value Top 16s very highly, and he has 4 Pro Tour Top 8s to go with an extremely impressive 6 more Top 16s and 23 total Top 64s. I believe not voting for Eric is indefensible. He has a reputation for sometimes being salty after losses. For demonstrating bad sportsmanship, I would completely understand if you dock him a few points, however his results are so good that you should still definitely vote for him even after docking him the points. Nobody is perfect. I believe Eric is self aware and very intelligent and is trying to be better about this.
Regardless I do not believe this can be worth enough that you don’t vote for someone with his stats. Everyone gets to spend their own vote, but not giving a lifetime achievement award to someone who deserves it because you don’t like them is petty and wrong. If he was salty after a match to you and rubbed you the wrong way, feel free to not befriend him, or don’t consider him one of your favorite players. You should still vote for him for the Hall of Fame. He’s earned it with amazing finishes and great demonstration of skill. Much like William Jensen, I don’t know anyone who has played with Eric Froehlich regularly and doesn’t consider him one of the very best players to ever play the game. Also he’s now joined the podcast Constructed Resources, which is a pretty strong community contribution. However, all of that doesn’t matter, his stats are incredible and he deserves to be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame this year.
Next are the people I am considering voting for in alphabetical order, not in order of how likely I am to vote for them, because I strongly want to hear what everyone has to say before I make my decisions.
4 Top 8s, no Top 16s and 10 total Top 64s. These are not incredible stats. However he does have the 4 Top 8s which are worth more than Top 16s. There are some people on the Pro Tour I always seem to get paired against, and Willy is probably second only to Reid Duke. I have played Willy almost 10 times in Grand Prix and Pro Tours. I can say that he has always played extremely well, so I don’t see him as someone who has spiked his Top 8s out of luck. He is a great player.
That said, he still doesn’t have a ton of total finishes, so he can’t receive a great score on total stats. He gets a near perfect score in every single other category, though. I have never heard of anything besides perfect integrity from him, and his community contributions are fantastic. I am not super familiar with the Brazilian Magic scene, but pretty much everyone I have ever spoken to about it has done nothing but praise Willy, from running a game store to organizing tournaments that award plane tickets (flights from Brazil are quite expensive). I would love it if people could weigh in with more specifics on what Willy has done for the Brazilian Magic scene.
3 Top 8s (with a win), 5 more Top 16s, and 24 total Top 64s. Those are incredible stats. I think if he earned them cleanly that he should be in the Hall of Fame.
I don’t know why people don’t vote for him other than that I have to assume some people don’t think he was clean, or are holding to the 4 Pro Tour Top 8s minimum as a rule.
If you are holding firm to that as a rule, I think you should reconsider the difference in record between a Top 16 and a Top 8 and then look at his 5 additional Top 16s. I don’t know Justin well, so there’s not really much I can say except that his results are very good.
4 Top 8s (with a win) , no more Top 16s, and 16 total Top 64s. Not amazing stats, but not terrible either. Much like Willy, his 4 deep runs (Top 8+ Top 16) are a little light. He does have a 1st-place finish, which I don’t hold very highly, but definitely does count. I personally never got to play with Mark or see him play much. He started on the Pro Tour right as I was quitting the first time, and left before I returned. Other people will need to weigh in on how good a player he was and any community contributions he may have had, because I really don’t know. We do have tons of mutual friends and I’ve never heard anything bad about his integrity as a player.
4 Top 8s, 4 more Top 16s, and 18 total Top 64s. Some people count it against him that he has played a lot of Pro Tours to get these finishes. As I said earlier, I don’t. He gets a good amount of points on the stats category from me. However since he has played so many Pro Tours to get these finishes, I can’t assume he’s an all-time great player and I don’t personally know him. I have never heard anything bad about his integrity, so he gets a good score there from me. And I don’t know of his community contributions, but I also don’t speak any Japanese. If anyone wants to weigh in on that, that would be great.
2 Top 8s, 3 more Top 16s, and 14 total Top 64s. That’s good but not particularly impressive. I said before that I do count everything, and his GP stats are incredibly impressive. With 22 Top 8s and 4 wins, he is definitely one of the top Grand Prix players of all time. Would I vote for someone with only Grand Prix finishes for the Hall of Fame? Of course not. However 2 Top 8s and 3 Top 16s make for 5 deep runs in Pro Tours, and when you add the two together, I think you get a pretty reasonable total stats score.
I’ve personally known Martin since I got back onto the Pro Tour in 2009. He was one of the first players I met when I returned that truly impressed me. We played a Limited match with a few rounds to go in Grand Prix Tampa at x-2, and while his deck was better than mine and he won fairly easily, he seemed to pick up on every single thing I represented. It’s pretty rare that people understand the meaning in all of their opponent’s plays and I consider it one of the more difficult skills in Magic. He did an excellent job playing around what he could and ignoring what he couldn’t and I was really impressed. Since then I have teamed with him in 3 Limited GPs and have always seen him play well throughout. I think there is no reason to give him anything but a perfect score on integrity and I think he’s a great player.
Osyp ABUNCHOFLETTERS (Lebedowicz)
3 Top 8s (with a win), 4 more Top 16s, and 21 total Top 64s. Pretty reasonable with 7 deep Pro Tour runs.
To be honest I didn’t know Osyp had so many Pro Tour Top 16s until I looked up the stats to write this article. I’m not really sure why he doesn’t get more votes. Everyone I know considers him a great player. I’ve never heard anything that would take away from his integrity, and he was even involved in the community. You should try and read any Joe Black articles if you can find them.
I think his stats might be better than people realize, and I am strongly considering voting for him now.
4 Top 8s, 2 more Top 16s, and 14 total Top 64s. 6 deep runs is pretty good. 14 total Top 64s is a little light but not horrible, so he does pretty well with me in the stats category. He stepped away from the Pro Tour to do coverage so he earned these stats in only 31 total attempts. That tells me 2 things: he is likely to be a very good player, though I have personally no real experience with his play, and that he has strong community contributions, as doing coverage is certainly one of the biggest things you can do to contribute to the Pro Magic community (no I’m not just saying that because I do coverage, I am already in the Hall of Fame, I am not campaigning for anything!). I think Marijn is one of my leading candidates at the moment, with strong finishes and strong community contributions.
3 Top 8s (with a win), 2 more Top 16s, and 10 total Top 64s. Not compelling stats but definitely enough that we should start to consider him. I think he has very strong community contributions. He writes well and often for TCGplayer and has for a long time. I’ve never heard anything but perfect integrity from him, and I think he has really stepped up his game since his return to Magic. All of those finishes are pretty much since his return over the past few years, so that says that he is likely to be a very good player. He is also a very good deckbuilder. If I were to rank everyone in the world that I’d want on my playtest team right now (for their ability to build decks) he’d be second only to Wrapter.
2 Top 8s (with a win), 5 more Top 16s, and 21 total Top 64s. Even at only 2 Top 8s, that’s 7 deep runs, which is pretty good. He is also one of the top Grand Prix players of all time. He doesn’t have 4 wins like Martin, but does have 19 Top 8s and rarely travels outside of Japan to get them. I think Shouta is one of the best players to ever play the game and has just run a little bad in a few key matches to mostly pile up Top 16s instead of Top 8s. I’ve never heard anything from anyone about his integrity being less than perfect and he is widely recognized for his deckbuilding.
I’ll likely use all 5 of my votes, because I’m sure I’ll find that 5 of these candidates are deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.
I don’t think you should automatically use all of your votes. If you think there are fewer than 5 candidates deserving of the Hall of Fame then you should definitely only vote for the candidates who you do think are deserving, whatever that number is. However I’ve heard a few ideas tossed around that I strongly disagree with:
Because time is passing, the stats needed to get into the Hall of Fame should go up. This makes no sense to me. There are roughly the same if not fewer Pro Tours now than there were in the early days, and they are roughly the same size if not larger. If Top 8’ing now is hard, and you raise the threshold, you penalize people for playing longer. I believe players should be rewarded for longevity. The longer your dedication to Magic and the Magic Pro Tour the more you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
Another thing I’ve heard people say is the Hall of Fame will get too big. I also don’t agree with this at all. If 3-4 players get in each year, in 10 years we will have 75 members. 10 years is a long time. Additionally, not all the people in the Hall of Fame come to every Pro Tour—not even close. As time goes on Magic players will start businesses, have families, and loads of other commitments that will prevent them from attending the Pro Tour.
Wizards is just paying them $1,500 to make a cameo, which they earned with their long commitment to Magic—money well spent, it’s great for everyone when local heroes from long ago show up to a Pro Tour.
Thanks to everyone for reading and I look forward to everyone’s feedback.