My Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame Vote

Who am I and why do I get a vote? The short answer is that I’m in my third year working in Pro Tour coverage and I make these videos.

Even though I enjoy a good 41-card draft deck, I’m apparently still informed enough to vote in these things.

I tweeted this when the voting season began, and I stand by it.

But the Hall of Fame shouldn’t JUST be about each voter’s own opinion of what constitutes Hall of Fame merit. Here are the criteria by which the committee is supposed to vote and how I believe we’re meant to interpret them:

Performance

We have descriptive statistics of every candidate’s career performance in premier play. I previously disliked “number of Top 8 finishes” as the leading metric for achievement, but I’ve since come around to it. As many have pointed out, most great pro players would rather have one Top 8  and three last-place finishes per year than finish 47th at every Pro Tour. Those who come to “go big or go home” with their deck selection are the ones that should be enshrined in the Hall. You should want to win it all every time you’re there. If you’re playing just to qualify for the next PT, there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the kind of attitude that gets you into the Hall. There are lots of other stats that matter as well, but for the purposes of this summary, I’d advise checking out Florian Koch’s “10/20/30 Quantile” stat. It’s probably the most intriguing stat I’ve seen for evaluating candidates.

Playing ability

This is difficult to judge. Magic is an endlessly complex game that results in elaborate “decision trees.” While I can often recognize a pro player’s great strategic line that wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise, I find it difficult to pass judgment on the strategic talent of pro players in a way that isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking. Passing judgment on players less-skilled than myself is much easier, because I can see them fall into the same traps that I did as I learned about the game. I obviously can’t say the same about HoF candidates. At the Pro Tour, I often ask players after their match why they chose a certain strategic line, and I feel I can get a sense of their talent this way. Because I haven’t had these conversations with every HoF candidate, I have to rely on the testimony of other pro players more heavily than my own sense of their talent.

Integrity

We have records of whether people have been disqualified or suspended for cheating.

Sportsmanship

There’s no data for sportsmanship. But I have a good sense of the sportsmanship of players I’ve actively watched on the Pro Tour. For those I haven’t, I rely on the testimony of people who have.

Contributions to the game

To me, this is the most important category. My ideal Hall of Fame candidate has given back to the Magic community in some demonstrable way. It should be noted that this is much easier to look at objectively than intangibles like sportsmanship and playing ability, which rely more on anecdotal evidence.

Willy Edel

Willy is, by all accounts, the patron saint of Brazilian Magic. He doesn’t just run a game store AND play on the Pro Tour at a high level. He makes personal sacrifices to help others for the good of the game and the community. I asked his fellow Brazilian and all-time great Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa some questions about Willy. Here’s what he had to say:

“He was always super helpful to everyone who got into the PT. It didn’t matter where you were from, he’d organize a house and put all the qualified Brazilian players in it to test with him. He’d help with tickets/visa processes.

Many times we talked about him playing with CFB, and he always said he couldn’t because then the other qualified Brazilians would have no one to test with. So he turned down the possibility of testing with what was at the time clearly the best team in the world because he wanted Brazil as a whole to do well. He wanted those new guys to do well even though he had never met some of them. Pedro Carvalho was one of those guys for example. He eventually Top 8’d PT [Return to Ravnica].

A while ago we had a team GP in Brazil and he held a seminar in his store about the team format, since we usually don’t have the chance to play that. They had practice Sealeds and Willy and I would go around helping people. So he just cares a lot about the country improving in MTG on a professional level, and a lot of what has been done internationally is owed to him.”

That does a lot for me. In addition, Willy has 4 Pro Tour Top 8s and his 10/20/30 Quantile is higher than legends of the game such as Zwi Mowshowitz, Shuhei Nakamura, Olivier Ruel, and Ben Stark. He rates low on median finish, but I’ve discussed why I don’t like that stat as much as I used to. All in all, I’d say Willy Edel is EXACTLY the kind of person I want to give a lifetime invite to the Pro Tour.

Makihito Mihara

We have a language barrier problem. The Japanese pro community doesn’t speak much English, and the rest of us don’t speak much Japanese. This goes for East Asia in general. It’s very, very hard to get the full picture on Japanese pros. In the future, I’ll try to talk more with the Nico Nico coverage crew about potential Hall of Fame candidates in the months leading up to the vote. As for Makihito, I’ve heard he’s a really nice guy and a great deckbuilder. I met him twice, when I took him to get his picture taken for Walking the Planes when he Top 8’d PT Dragon’s Maze and PT Theros. He seemed like a nice guy. He’s got great fashion sense and I’d love to see him in a rock band with Sam Black. But that’s not enough of an impression to vote for him.  So my vote for Makihito is based on his top-notch raw stats and the fact that there are no red flags with regard to his integrity and sportsmanship. In addition to his 5 PT Top 8s (which is outstanding), he has the 2nd highest 10/20/30 Quantile of any candidate with more than 20 PT appearances. He also has 5 Japanese Nationals Top 8s. Pretty sick.

Paul Rietzl

For me, Paul represents a great blend of stats and community contributions. His 10/20/30 Quantile is lower than Willy and Makihito, but one of his 4 PT Top 8s was a win, which goes a long way in my book. He’s a vocal leader for good sportsmanship and takes on the unenviable job of calling out foul play when he sees it. He leads by example as well. Check out this blog post by L5 judge Jason Lemahieu. Paul is also cited as being “a great interview for coverage.” I’ve personally interviewed Paul several times and I concur. He’s never pushy for camera time, yet he’s always willing to help when asked. He’s expressive and candid. He makes an effort to understand what coverage is looking for, and to give it to us. I consider this an important skill to have when I’m voting to give out a lifetime PT invite. The entire purpose of the PT’s existence is to help market the game and legitimize it as a mental sport. I want Hall of Famers to set a good example of how to cooperate with coverage. It matters. It’s why I have a vote. In the coming year I want to continue to reach out to the Nico Nico team to help bridge the communication gap with East Asia. I don’t want my “coverage factor” to be limited to English speaking players when voting in the HOF. For now, it is.

Near misses

I can vote for up to five people, but this year I’m only voting for three. I can’t really explain why, but it just feels right to me. The Hall should be as special and elite as possible. I couldn’t find as compelling a case for any candidate as the three above.

Marijn Lybaert is like Paul in that he has great stats and is a great community contributor. He does a great job working on the European GP coverage team. But Paul’s PT win sets him above Marijn a bit. I will strongly consider Marijn next year and do more research on his case for the Hall.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa has amazing stats. Arguably the best on the ballot. By all accounts he is a nice guy, is a great deckbuilder, and has great sportsmanship. I would like to know more about what he’s contributed to the community around him, even if it’s just the testimony of his teammates. While his responsibility in the leaking of the New Phyrexia “God Book” is a negative community contribution, I think he’s done his time for that and I’m glad to see him back on the Pro Tour. So why is he off my ballot? It’s because the community is divided on whether the God Books he had access to were used to cheat. Was he or wasn’t he using them to “get ahead of the field in testing”? Most cases of cheating are much more cut and dry, but this is a weird one. I definitely don’t know more about this than other pro players and to see them divided makes me want to err on the side of conservatism until Guillaume is fully exonerated. I’d like to see him speak candidly about the whole affair in great detail.

So there’s my ballot! Let me know what you think in the comments or on Twitter – @WalkThePlanes!

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