This past weekend I was on vacation with my family for the annual Chrysler show in Carlisle, PA. Naturally, this meant that at midnight on Friday night, in the midst of a nice, quiet three-day weekend with my family, I was sleeving up a core set sealed pool so that I could find out what it was like to take on an oversized Garruk card. Special thanks to my parents and fiancee for putting up with my lack of sleep on Saturday so that I could bring you all this tournament report.

The Pro Tour Hall of Fame

This time has come again for selections into the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame. The first class was inducted in 2005 making this the 10th class to be inducted into the Hall. Here’s the introduction to the HoF from Wizards:

The Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame will enshrine the most significant and influential competitors of the game. It will consist of an online museum dedicated to the Hall of Fame members, as well as the Pro Tour Hall of Fame Exhibit, which will be on display at selected events. Players will be voted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame on an annual basis by a selection committee.

Since 2005 a total of 36 players have been inducted into the hall. The eligibility process is fairly stringent. First, there is a minimum professional point threshold. For previous years this threshold was 100 points, but for this year it has been raised to 150. Furthermore, a player’s first Pro Tour participation must have been at least 10 seasons ago. Finally, players who are currently serving a suspension from the DCI or are under investigation can’t be inducted. Selection is based on the following criteria (provided by Wizards):

  • Player’s performance
  • Playing abilitiy
  • Integrity
  • Sportsmanship
  • Contributions to the game in general

Each member of the selection committee (more on them later) votes for no more than five candidates (more on that as well). Each candidate who appears on at least 40% of the ballots will be inducted. This means the number of inductees can vary year-to-year. In the event that no player appears on at least 40% of all ballots, the player who appears the most will be inducted. This year’s induction will take place in Honolulu at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.

The 2014 Ballot

An impressive 39 players are eligible for the voting ballot this year. You can view the complete list here. More importantly are the statistics for each player. There are a lot of impressive numbers in that table, so I’ll share the highlights here.

  • The top three players by lifetime points are Tomoharu Saito (390), Yasooka Shouta (353), and Martin Juza (352)
  • The top three players by Pro Tour appearances are Tsuyoshi Ikeda (59), Gerard Fabiano (48), and Justin Gary (44)
  • Four players on the ballot finished in the top 8 of a Pro Tour five times: Tomoharu Saito, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Makihito Mihara, and Scott Johns
  • Four players on the ballot finished in the top 8 of at least 15 Grand Prix tournaments: Tomoharu Saito (19), Yasooka Shouta (18), Martin Juza (18), and Katsuhiro Mori  (15)
  • The top three average Pro Tour finishes belong to Tom Martell (32nd), Marcio Carvalho (51st), and Scott Johns (52nd)
  • The top three average finishes in a three-year consecutive period belong to  Tom Martell (16th), Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (22nd), and a tie between Justin Gary and Tomoharu Saito (25th)

You may have noticed the same names keep appearing here. However, for the purpose of selection, player performance and ability should not be everything.

Who Everyone is Voting For

The selection committee for this year consists of just over 200 members from a variety of walks of life. This includes the following groups:

  • Magic’s luminaries: Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias
  • Longtime reporters and commentators of the Pro Tour
  • High level judges, scorekeepers, and similar officials
  • Administrators from the DCI directly responsible for the Pro Tour
  • Other people with direct roles in the Pro Tour
  • Current members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame
  • Key Wizards employees with Pro Tour experience
  • All players with 150+ lifetime pro points otherwise not listed

A bunch of these people have been kind enough to publish their ballots over the past few weeks. I’ve collected those results here:

Glenn Jones’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Justin Gary, Osyp Lebedowicz
Brian Kibler’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Justin Gary, Willy Edel
Sheldon Menery’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Justin Gary, Osyp Lebedowicz, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
William Jensen’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Reid Duke’s Ballot: Makihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Nathan Holt’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Willy Edel
Conley Woods’s Ballot: Makihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Owen Turtenwald’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Jon Finkel’s BallotMakihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

Who’s Going to Make it?

I couldn’t have made that list up if I tried. While those 9 ballots represent less than one percent of the total voting, the views they express are pretty strong. It seems like a given that Makihito Mihara and Paul Rietzl are going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Honolulu later this year.

The last time I ever played in a Grand Prix I played against Paul Rietzl in round 8 of day one. He was a great opponent and at times may as well have been playing both sides of the match as he often would verbalize my optimal line of play for me. He has four Pro Tour top 8 finishes to his name to go with his 9 Grand Prix top 8 finishes and 298 lifetime pro points. None of those stats get him into the top of those categories. Where Paul earns everyone’s votes is in his contributions to the community and to the game. If you go back and read those ballots above you’ll learn just why Paul is held in such high regard.

Makihito Mihara on the other hand is going to be inducted purely on his strength of playing ability. His five Pro Tour top 8’s and 315 lifetime pro points are both impressive. The only other candidates with five top 8 finishes are Scott Johns, whose career was too brief (164 lifetime points and 27 pro tours) to likely get inducted, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa who will likely be inducted this year, and Tomoharu Saito, who we will talk about in a moment.

Wafo-Tapa’s numbers are nearly as impressive as Mihara’s. The key for Wafo-Tapa was the three-year stretch in which he dominated the game. All of that came to a crashing halt when he was suspended by the DCI for divulging spoilers to the internet. You can read more about the scandal in several of the ballots linked above. Wafo-Tapa has been eligible for the hall since 2010, and this suspension is what has kept him from being inducted for so long. It seems that enough time has passed and many ballots will include him. I don’t know if it will get him in, but he’s a strong candidate.

Who’s Going to Just Miss Out?

Justin Gary, Osyp Lebedowicz, and Willy Edel are all very good Magic players who have made great contributions to the game. Unfortunately, all three players continue to be eclipsed by the playing talents and Pro Tour success of players like Mihara and Wafo-Tapa. I also think that none of these players were dominant long enough to make up for their prolonged absences from the game. Justin Gary left the Pro Tour many years ago to begin Gary Games which created Ascension. Lebedowicz has returned in recent years to do tournament coverage for Star City Games, but he still left the Pro Tour in 2006. Willy Edel deverses more credit than he gets for bringing the game to South America. Along with PVDDR he has been very influential in expanding the game’s reach. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the kind of stats that Paulo has.

Who’s Not Getting In?

Tomoharu Saito is going to end up being passed over again and again. If you read those ballots above then you know that Saito has a reputation as a cheater. It’s a bit surprising that he continues to be passed over when Olivier Ruel is already in the Hall of Fame. I guess not all cheaters are created equally.

Scott Johns is the only player still eligible from 2005. Players who receive less than 10% of the vote for three consecutive years are removed from the ballot. Players can be added back if they requalify by gaining more Pro Points, but in the case of Johns that’s unlikely. It seems like its only a matter of time before he drops off the ballot.

The Hall of Fame is a very prestigious award that comes with an impressive monetary compensation. The automatic byes at GP events and automatic qualification into Pro Tours has lead to resurgent careers for Jon Finkel and Kai Budde among others. This year’s inductees will likely be active players, but you never know who will make a come back to try to qualify for the Hall of Fame.

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Update

Shockingly there was no change in the Top 25 rankings while the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuits were on hiatus for the prerelease and release of Magic 2015. Check back next week when we’ll have an update from Grand Prix Boston leading up to the Pro Tour in two weeks in Portland.

The Quick Hits

  • Corbin Hosler asks if it’s time to get rid of prerelease packs due to the imbalance. I think it’s been a huge problem for the past few prereleases, but I also think Wizards is aware of the issue. I say we give them another year to work this out because the idea, in theory, is fantastic [Quiet Speculation]
  • The DCI took a huge step into the 21st century when they expanded their policies on unsportsmanlike behavior. Make sure you give them a quick read before your next event and then just don’t be an asshole [Gathering Magic]
  • Version 3.0 of Magic Online is officially no more. So I went back to playing Hearthstone. That probably has more to do with my lack of time to play any Magic than with the fact that Hearthstone is a gorgeous game and has an expansion coming out this week [Gathering Magic]
  • According to everyone, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 is rubbish. I played a demo version back in March and it seemed okay, but I only played a single match. I did not have access to the story mode. Jess will have more on this topic tomorrow. Don’t miss it [Quiet Speculation]

Wallpaper of the Week

I want to talk about this frame going on around the border. I’m very torn on it. I like the idea of framing the artwork. However, I’m not sold on this black & white theme for M15. It seems very forced and it clashes a bit with the card art. The illustration for Soul of Innistrad is nice. It’s not very special. It’s very representative of the plane of Innistrad. Zombie? Check. Ominous gothic casltes? Check. Spooky cemetery? Check. But then the border. Yikes.

Grade: C

The Week Ahead

This weekend should be full of excitement for the Magic community. On the east coast we’ll have the return of high-level play in the form of Grand Prix Taipei and Grand Prix Boston-Worcester. The format for Boston will be Modern and yours truly will be there piloting the Modern Event Deck. You don’t want to miss that, and I’ll have more details about Hipsters of the Coast at GP Boston later this week.

Of course, the big news this weekend will all come from the west coast and specifically from San Diego Comic Con. The word on the street is that Mark Rosewater will be spilling the beans on Commander 2014, From the Vault: Annihilation, and especially Khans of Tarkir. I’ll have full coverage next Monday. Don’t miss it.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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