Most Hall of Fame articles begin by laying out that player’s voting criteria. I have done so in the past. I said things like, “4 Top 8s is neutral, 5 positive, 3 negative.” With time, I’ve realized that those are useful guidelines, but they aren’t all that matters—they’re especially complicated once more Pro Tours start happening, and they don’t factor number of Pro Tours played. Which one is better, 4 PT Top 8s with 50 PTs played or 3 PT Top 8s with 30 PTs played?
Relying too much on PT Top 8s is also problematic because we have other events, and many of those are not even immediately visible anywhere. Shahar Shenhar, for example, has zero PT Top 8s, but won two Worlds Championships. Sam Black has a Team Worlds win, but you’ll never know that unless you specifically look for it. Makihito Mihara made the Top 8 of Japanese Nationals five times. Shouta Yasooka went 11-1 at Worlds. Brian Kibler has great hair. Those are all things that matter, yet they are very hard to quantify.
You could try to convert them into Pro Tour Top 8s (e.g. “Top 4’ing Worlds is like a PT Top 16 and two Top 16s are a Top 8”) but I don’t particularly like that because they are fundamentally different tournaments and I’d rather think of them differently in my head. Even PTs are different from each other—Top 32 in a tournament with 250 people (or 170 in case of teams) is very different than Top 32 in a tournament with 400 people.
So, this time around, I’m not going to have any “rules.” I’m just going to vote for who I think should be in the Hall of Fame.
When I think of MTG Hall of Fame, does this person belong in it?
The answer will be based mostly on results, but also on playskill, community contributions, and personality.
Before I give you my votes, I want to say that I don’t think any person on this year’s ballot is a must-vote. There are no Kais and Finkels here. In fact, I think it would be perfectly acceptable to submit a ballot that voted for no one.
Willy’s results are good, but not great (for Hall of Fame). He has 4 Top 8s in 31 attempts, but no Top 16s outside of those. On results alone, Willy is a consideration but does not stand out. He needs more.
I’m voting for him because I know he has more. I believe he has two things going for him:
1) He got those results while living in Brazil
If you are not from one of those “distant” countries, it’s hard to appreciate how difficult things are for someone who does not live in the US. There are very few tournaments, comparatively—in many seasons, we had three PTQs in a country that is larger than the continental US. It’s not unusual to drive 15 hours for a PTQ. Many people don’t have a PTQ that is closer than a 3-hour flight. There were years in which the entire South American continent did not have a GP.
Once you qualify, you also have to get there. The closest PT I’ve ever been to in my life was probably a 20-hour flight. The cheapest ticket I’ve ever bought for a PT was about $1,000. And that’s not even counting the Visa process. I know several people who won PTQs and couldn’t go to PTs because the American government decided, on a whim, that it did not want them in their country. And that’s it—as soon as a visa officer looks at you and decides that he doesn’t want you, your professional Magic career is done. Every time a Brazilian wants to go to Japan, they have to have another visa application. That costs time, and it costs money. I have personally skipped tournaments because the process of getting a visa for a certain country was just not worth the trouble.
And that’s not even mentioning how much the cards cost. Right now, a booster costs $3 on Channelfireball, and the same booster costs $5 in a Brazilian store. The minimum wage in the US is $7.25 an hour. If you work full time, that’s roughly $15,000 in a year. In Brazil, working full time on minimum wage gives you $3,150 in a year. Someone who works minimum wage in the US can buy 5,000 boosters in a year. Someone who does the exact same work in Brazil can buy 630 boosters. Singles, of course, escalate accordingly. That’s a very big difference in having access to cards, and it does price people out of playing, say, a GP in their hometown. And that’s not even mentioning the period of years in which Brazilian customs blocked the importation of Magic cards—we had no prereleases and often no Sealed tournaments, and you couldn’t buy boosters, at a time when there weren’t even any Magic Online PTQs. Imagine trying to be a professional Magic player in a country where cards are not allowed in!
I’m not saying “let’s put every Latin America, in the Hall of Fame,” of course. I’m just saying that, when you look at Willy’s results and you see four Top 8s in 31 attempts, when you see seven GP Top 8s and one win, you should know that he probably had a harder path trying to get those results than anyone else you’re considering for Hall of Fame. This may sway you or it may not, that’s up to you, I just wanted to offer a different perspective on the reality of professional Magic in a lot of places that aren’t the United States. In the end, I think the biggest privilege you can have in Magic is being from the US, and I think it’s OK to correct for that a little with your vote.
2) His community contributions are through the roof to Brazilian Magic players
Community contributions are a tough metric, because most of the time we don’t see them unless we benefit directly from them. I know there are a lot of people in the ballot who have wonderful community contributions and I will never know. Hell, Bran Snapvangers got voted in based on his contributions, and I barely knew who he was. The best I can do is just share what I know.
First of all, Willy has a store and runs many tournaments. He ran those tournaments even before he had a store, and he was the first person to offer plane tickets as a prize in tournaments like GPTs so people who won those tournaments would actually be able to go. More importantly, I think Willy has a very special spot in Brazilian Magic because he helped diminish all the things I talked about above. Being Brazilian makes everything harder, but Willy being there makes everything easier.
If you qualify for a PT or want to go to a GP, Willy will take you in. He will help you with the process of getting the documents, your ticket (even talking to WOTC is hard for someone who doesn’t speak English), he will book a hotel or a house for everybody. He will arrange for all the Brazilian players to playtest together, he will give you his deck the day before the tournament, he will play with you and explain so that you can learn.
Once, I asked Willy if he wanted to playtest with ChannelFireball—then undoubtedly the world’s best team. He told me he would love to, but that if he did, then the guys who won PTQs would have no one to test with, so he couldn’t do it. And he didn’t. Willy is a world-class player. He’s in contention for the Hall of Fame. Some people who win PTQs have never drafted before. Yet, he still chose to test with them. He legitimately cares so, so much for the Brazilian professional scene and for each individual person who is trying to get into it.
So, I’m voting for Willy. He is good, his results are good, he had a harder time than most getting them, and he genuinely goes out of his way to help Brazilian Magic.
I think it’s undeniable that EFro leads the pack in this year’s class in terms of results. He has four Top 8s, but ten Top 16s, in 41 tries. His consistency is great. I don’t think you necessarily have to compare him to other people on this ballot—it’s possible to be the best on this ballot and worse than the Hall of Fame average (and this is a weak class, comparatively speaking)—but his numbers would likely stand out even in a class with more competition. He’s 15th in history for Top 16 conversion, and 24th for Top 32 conversion. He also has 13 GP Top 8s.
He’s also very, very good. He’s the current #1 ranked player in the world, and I’ve played with him, so I know how good he is. And I know for a fact that he really loves Magic—he spent a large portion of his time watching Magic streams/coverage long before it became as refined and accessible as it is now, because he just likes to watch it.
Shouta Yasooka has a great resume by every metric except for the most important one—PT Top 8s. He only has two with a win, and that win is in a team PT. If that stops you from voting from him, you’ll hear no arguments from me—I think it’s a valid concern. When he had no individual Top 8s, that stopped me from voting for him.
In other tournaments, his results are very good. He has 19 GP Top 8s, and he got them in an era when GPs were hard—so it’s not like he pulled an Alex Schvartsman and traveled to all the easy tournaments he could. He also has a Worlds Top 4 (in which he went 11-1 against the best players in the world), and he was both Player of the Year and Online Player of the Year. He also plays a lot of different, interesting decks, which doesn’t count for much, but is very cool.
More importantly, however, he is just very good. I think there are few people with as much raw talent as Shouta. The speed at which he plays is absurd, and the fact that he makes the right decision playing at that speed shows how much he actually understands about the game. If I had to make a list of who could be the best player in the world, he would be on that list. There’s no one else on this ballot that can claim that other than EFro.
I basically wanted to vote for Shouta for a long time because of how much he has impressed me as a player (and I’m not easily impressed), but I couldn’t justify it when he didn’t have a single individual PT Top 8. Now he does, so I’ve found my excuse.
My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot
Remember that even if you don’t have your own vote for the 2015 Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame, you can submit your own ballot as part of the Community Vote, found here.