by Paul Jordan

For some people, their favorite part of the Magic year is the beginning. Everyone starts out fresh in the Worlds race. New teams are formed. Everything is new again. For others, it’s spoiler season. Reading new cards, seeing different worlds (or revisiting favorite ones) and absorbing new flavor is why they play the game. Still others look forward to the World Championships, where every match is a feature match. The Magic World Cup is where it’s at for those who want nothing more than to cheer on their country mates. There’s something for everyone.

For my money, the Hall of Fame season is the best time of year. It’s almost exclusively driven by the community. WOTC announces the ballot and puts out some numbers and the community picks it up and runs with it for a few weeks. Some #WOTCstaff may chime in with their ballots or rationale, but the vast majority of content produced comes from fans of the game. The game’s celebrities take the spotlight in discussions more so than at any other point in the year. Heroics get relived. Topdecks get re-GIF’d. Stories that go beyond the numbers get shared and re-shared. People put a lot of effort into delivering thoughtful arguments for or against induction. And people are passionate about it.

I think that’s what I like the most. The rest of the year articles tend to be far more analytic in nature, focusing on matchups, pick-lists, sideboards, and such. It’s pretty rare that people get worked up emotionally over one of these (whether one should loot or not, of course, being the exception). I like reading the articles that talk about what a person did beyond wins and losses. I like learning about how some of these players interact in their local communities. I like learning more about how they interact in the global community. I like learning about people who own game stores, or stream a lot, or who once lent a deck to a total stranger, or who once drove for 20 hours straight to get to a PTQ and then won and drove right back. These stories are a part of the fabric of Magic and I can’t get enough of them. So, yeah, this is my favorite time of year.

Since I love it so much, I always write something about the ballot. I’ve been doing this for a while—you can see previous year’s posts here (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). I’m fortunate enough to have a vote and I take that responsibility seriously. The rules of the Hall of Fame allow for a wide spectrum of evaluation methods. I’m pretty confident that no two voters will use the exact same criteria or assessment techniques when filling out their ballots. The weight given to performance versus contributions to the game tends to vary. The same can be said of character. Even those who value performance above all else will vary across which metrics they prefer. I try to use the numbers as a starting point to narrow the field and then bring in the other components to refine my results until I come up with a ballot I like.

The Hall of Fame has been around for a dozen years now, if you believe it. This is the 13th year of voting, so there’s a good amount of precedent set on what the voting members believe is or isn’t a Hall of Famer. I’ve taken all of the current members of the Hall of Fame* and their results up to the year they were voted in and come up with some baseline criteria for what has historically been a Hall of Famer. There are 11 categories that have been tracked since its inception and those are the categories I’m looking at. You can look at the statistics yourself, here. Here are the HOF standards, as I call them.

Please note that this doesn’t represent one person. I don’t think any person who has the minimum for each category would stand a chance at getting elected. A few is fine as long as you stand out in other categories.

I focus on the Min and Median. I look at the minimum to see if someone has the bare minimum, no frills, check-the-box qualifications. If someone doesn’t have at least 10 of these 11 minimums, I don’t consider them. I look at medians to see how many metrics the gamer would be better than the HOF median in. The more, the better, obviously. I technically look at maximum, but that rarely comes into play. It’s not every year that someone comes in who bests the best of the best. Spoiler: this comes into play this year. Keep reading if you want to find out by whom.

It’s important to note how the rules changed for this year. In recent years past, one needed to appear on 40% of ballots to get voted in. This year, that number jumped to 60%. This is a significant shift and I’ve already taken a look at how this change would have changed history, but it’s important to call out. I’ll frequently reference a player’s voting history in these summaries, so keep in mind the new threshold when looking at those.

With all of that said, here are the wizards, magicians, planeswalkers, gamers, topdeckers and spellslingers who meet 10 or 11 of the HOF minimums. These are listed in alphabetical order, so as to avoid giving away any spoilers about for whom I’ll be voting. Showmanship!

Numbers in green are where this gamer has equaled or better the HOF median. The HOF median number of PTs played is 38, Akira played in 38 PTs, therefore 38 is in green. Got it? OK.

Akira has added 5 pro points since last year without any additional big finishes. 2016 was his first time on the ballot since 2012 after spending 3 years on the ballot with little fanfare. His vote percentages went 2.78%, 2.54%, 0.62%, n/a, n/a, n/a, 1.76% from 2010 forward. His 2 PT top 8’s were in the old World Championships. If you’re unaware, those were 3 days of Swiss across 3 different formats with the top 8 played out on a 4th day. Making top 8 was an exhausting experience. Doing it twice is some kind of impressive. Akira is the first of what will be many magicians about whom I’ll say this, “great career. I’d love to be able to say I had this career. It’s not particularly close to the HOF though.”

This is Sam’s 3rd year on the Hall of Fame ballot and he’s gotten 9 total votes. He’s got an uphill climb in front of him due both to the quality of the field in front of him and the low number of PT top 8’s he has. GPs are no problem here, but since last year Sam has posted 38th, 351st, 271st and 52nd places. He does have a WC top 4 in addition to a team World Championship to his credit, but those aren’t going to move the needle enough.

Lukas was on the ballot last year but missed the HOF minimums in top 8, top 16, top 32 and top 64. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get any votes. But a win at PT Eldritch Moon helps a lot. He’s now only shy of the minimum on top 64s (that’s what the red is) while beating the median in 3 categories. I think it’s only a matter of time until his name gets more serious consideration, maybe 2 years or so. His career started in 2007 but he wasn’t attending every PT until 2009 and he had a 2.5 year layoff from 2012-2014. That missed time will be made up and Lukas will begin garnering more consideration.

Marcio has been suspended by the DCI twice in his career. To his credit, he’s come back and is playing some great Magic that appears to be clean. Good for him. I consider the Hall of Fame to be an extremely high honor, not a right you earn once you accomplish a certain amount. As such, I don’t think people who’ve been suspended should be included. I realize that there are members in the Hall today who’ve been suspended in the past. I did not vote for these people. I would not vote for them if I were given the chance today. I understand that others feel differently and I support that. I really do hope Marcio continues his high level of play and, more importantly, his apparent change of heart.

I love watching Cuneo play and have for close to 2 decades. His 2 top 8’s come from the way back machine in Team PTs with Aaron Forsythe and Andrew Johnson as Car Acrobatic Team (back when teams had names). Maybe the teased-but-not-fully-revealed team PT next year will get him back to playing on Sunday, wouldn’t that be great? Cuneo’s pedigree for successful mega-teams goes back far too, as he was a member of the CMU teams from the late 90s and early 00s with people like Hall of Famers Mike Turian and Randy Buehler. He’s carried that through to today where he’s a member of PuzzleQuest.

This is Chris’s 3rd year on the ballot. H hasn’t gotten any support thus far, but he put together a strong year with a GP top 8, PT top 64 and PT top 8. He’s on a decent trajectory, though he’ll need to pick up the pace a little bit to get voted in within the next 2 years. Then again, his PT match win percentage is only 57.2%, which is on the low end of people on this ballot. He’ll need to add a few percentage points to that to truly have a shot.

IVAN FLOOOOOO…. THOUGHTS ARRIVE LIKE BUTTERFLIES. I will never not make that joke. That’s a promise. Last year was Ivan’s 4th year of being eligible and he got 3.96% from the selection committee. He was so close to his 4th top 8 at PT Aether Revolt. He came in 9th with 36 points and .6133 tie-breakers. Hall of Famer PVDRR snaked him with the same match points and a tie-breaker of .6172. Can you imagine if those .0039 points ended up costing Ivan a HOF spot a few years from now? Anyway, Mr. Floch would benefit from obviously spiking some more top 8’s, but also from being a little more consistent. Take a look at his finishes. He’s never finished from 9-16, which hurts his case. Here’s a chart of his finishes.

The visual here drives home the point—look at how much falls below the 64 line (note, this is in a Log-2 scale). If just a few of those get bumped up a bit I think Ivan will be a legitimate challenger for your HOF vote. Right now, he’ll have to settle for having a kickass name that fits perfectly into an iconic Pearl Jam song. And a pretty darn good career too.

Justin is an annual discussion for the Hall and has been for over a decade now. He’s never been particularly close to being elected but he’s had a fairly consistent level of support.

He’s never broken 30%, and now the threshold is twice that. I don’t see how he’ll overcome that. He’s not active in Magic any more. Maybe if he started trying to qualify, got on the PT and put up some results things would change, but barring that I don’t see it. But that’s what I think will happen—what do I think should happen? Well, Justin’s case going strictly by the numbers is pretty iron-clad. His is a case where the other aspects are hurting him. Justin has a reputation among many but not all players who played in his era for being, as they say, shady. In the end, I think the voters have spoken. Justin has had 11 chances and has not convinced nearly enough people.

Mark hits all of the minimums and a few medians. I think the biggest knock on Mark is that he doesn’t have any top 16 finishes outside of his top 8s. That’s a knock I wouldn’t mind having against me, but for the HOF it’s a legit gripe. Of course, Mark’s story is more than numbers. For the period of time covering his dominance which was approximately 4 years long, he was an A+, no doubt about it, slam dunk, best-in-the-world-level deck builder. There’s not really any way that I know of to easily quantify this. I would love for there to be some database of winning decks, their pilots and their creators so we could take a look at these kinds of things. I could geek out on that type of data for a few hours quite easily. Alas, it doesn’t exist (If I’m wrong about this, someone please link it to me). Mark has enough here for me to add him to my short list.

Mark’s been rising in votes, having gained votes in 4 straight years. But he’s still only half-way to the (new) 60% barrier.

Hron has 6 GP top 8’s. Four of them are in team limited. That’s his claim to fame. He won PT Geneva back in 2007 and followed it up with a top 8 in Kuala Lumpur (most famous for marking Finkel’s return). Both were full Limited PTs before the change to having both constructed and limited at all Tour stops. Hron’s stat-line is equal parts awe-inspiring in a vacuum and commonplace in the context of the HOF ballot. He fell off the ballot after 2011 and returned last year but without any ballyhoo (well, one person voted for him, so I suppose there was some ballyhoo, but the bare minimum).

Ikeda is, I think, the best example of the argument over longevity vs consistency. He’s played in so, so many PTs. He’s got 4 top 8s, another 4 top 16 and another 4 top 38. But over that many PTs that means there were a lot of low finishes. Everyone has low finishes, that’s not the issue. The issue is the ratio. Look at his finishes:

This makes me think that the four top 8s are less of a “this is a generational talent” thing and more of a “this is what happens in a game that has an element of chance in it and a good player gets 60 chances” thing. Which brings us back to the longevity argument. So he put up the same number of top 8s as Herberholz in 24 more PTs? Does that make him worse, for needing more events, or better for having qualified for more events? I lean towards the former.

Scott falls into the Justin Gary category in that he’s got a credible case on stats alone (though the pro points are low, but that’s a bit of a function on how pro points have not been a consistent measure over time, with more available now than there were in the 90’s). He also carries a reputation for shady play that has followed him. The voters have never seen past that and he peaked at 20% back in 2009 and has been falling since then. He’s not on my ballot and I don’t expect him to have any kind of jump.

Hi. These are good numbers. Lots of green here. Martin is one of the faces of the “play the game, see the world” slogan, traveling everywhere to play the game. He has the 3rd most GP top 8s ever, behind Hall of Famers Shuhei Nakamura and Oliver Ruel. While he has fewer GP top 8’s than they do now, he has more than either had at the time of their selection for the HOF. So his GP top 8’s would be a new max. As would his Pro Points. He also has 3 top 8s on the Pro Tour. His worst finish in the last year was 60th, with 46th, 36th and 8th mixed in. He was on my ballot last year and he’s only added to his resume since then. He’s been hovering around the 20% vote threshold for 4 years now and I have to think that 20% represents the group on the selection committee who values GP success high enough that prolific numbers on the GP circuit are enough for inclusion. I’m hopeful that his success at the PT this year (in addition to a career 59% match win rate) are enough to start moving the needle. I’m expecting a jump, since he now has 3 PT top 8s, and some people view that as a bare minimum. I’m just not sure how much of a jump to expect.

Osyp once claimed to have won a Northeast Regional Latin Dance championship. This has yet to be substantiated. He also boasts a PT match win percentage of 61.6%, which is elite (PVDRR and Watanabe are both 61.8%). That explains his outstanding consistency. Look at this graph—it’s almost exclusively in the 64+ range and only 8 times goes below 128.

You’re not going to see a lot of careers that were this consistent and that level of play. That said, he doesn’t have a lot of support. He topped out at 10.66% in 2014 and has fallen off since. He put up a GP top 8 last year that got him back on the Tour, but that resulted in his worst PT finish of his career (by 140 places!) at PT Aether Revolt. It’s unlikely for a GP top 8 to have a significant impact on voting results. I do think his career is worthy of being on my short-list though. He also made the news recently for non-MTG things, if you didn’t know.

This is one of those careers that is both outstanding and basic. Superior and the minimum requirements. It hits all of the notes and doesn’t call out to you. The top 64 conversion rate indicates a lack of consistency. Despite what Tom Martell may tell you, 3-year median isn’t the only thing that matters. This is destined to linger in perpetuity as an impressive career that is not a HOF career.

This is Seth’s 2nd year on the ballot, and last year he got 2.64% (6 votes). I like the top 64 conversion and the career median. Honestly, I like everything here except the number of PTs and, by extension, the counting stats that come from more events. If he has the same rates over 10ish more PTs I think he’s going to have a very strong case. His match win rates at PTs is 63.78%! Kai is 63.6% and Jon is 63.1% (granted, both of those are over significantly more events). The point is, he’s on a path right now. Give it time and his career could be special.

In 2014 I said that Tom needs another year or two and another top 8. Since that time, Tom’s best finish over 11 PTs is 57th (PT Dragons of Tarkir in 2015). It’s been a rough stretch for Tom. That doesn’t take a way from what will always be his claim to fame, which is a bona fide top tier 3-year median. Finkel, Kamiel and Zvi are the only ones to have had better 3-year medians. While the shine is starting to come off of his career median (which is still very good, by the way, just not the 32 it was through his first 17 PTs. 32!) I still maintain that Tom can bring himself into the conversation with another top 8 or two.

There’s really not much more I can say about this that Rich Hagon hasn’t already said here.

“Mori cheats. All the time. As far as I can see in every turn of every game of every match of every tournament he’s either cheating or working out how to cheat. At Grand Prix Gothenburg this past weekend I saw Mori play 3 matches. He got a warning in EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.”

By and large, the voters agree with Rich. Katsuhiro has been under 5% since 2012.

Jamie is eternally happy. It’s true. The guy is just always smiling, no matter the context. He’s a happy miser. His claim to MTG fame is that his in a small group of three (or four, depending on how pedantic you are about when decades start and stop) who have gotten a PT top 8 in three different decades. That alone doesn’t get you into the HOF though, and there’s nothing here to say otherwise

Chris has been on the precipice of the HOF a couple of times now. He hasn’t been on the ballot since 2013 (longer than I remembered) but prior that that he was a mainstay. In 2005, the first year of voting, Chris came one vote shy on the players committee, losing out to Olle Rade. In 2006 he was in 6th place when the top 5 got inducted. And in 2013 he got 38.4% of the vote when 40% would have gotten him in.

Chris’s stat line is solid. The pro points are low—that’s why he fell off the ballot a few years ago, the threshold was moved from 100 to 150 points and Chris was stuck below that—but he played primarily in the very early days when pro points were much scarcer. That makes it easy to forgive the number, even if we’re not forgetting it.

Chris brings a lot more to the table, though. You’ll no doubt hear stories about his dedication to cleaning up the Pro Tour back in the early days. It’s difficult to articulate how rampant cheating was back then, and the fight that Chris had to lead to get us to where we are now. Tournament reports from back then are littered with cases of people getting cheated and even people admitting to some, ahem, questionable tactics because they feared no repercussions. While Chris wasn’t the only voice against this style of play, he certainly was one of the loudest and most persistent.

This also all excludes his impact on the game from a promotional aspect. Chris was extremely popular. Perhaps the best measure of this is that Chris shares a record with Kai, Jon and Gary Wise for most Invitationals. These were voted on by the public (in addition to having other ways to qualify) and Chris was always voted in, even after he stopped playing competitively. Fans loved him. Still do, really. And I’m sure you know, he won one and gave us his namesake [casthaven]Meddling Mage[/casthaven].

He has high level performance. He was instrumental in legitimizing the professional Magic scene by pushing to clean up rampant cheating. He was a huge fan favorite who served as an ambassador for the game. Magic’s history, quite simply, is not complete without him.

Saito raises the question of redemption and what it requires. Can someone ever be fully redeemed? Does a tainted past ever move far enough into the shadows to be truly forgotten? Do misdeeds even need to be forgotten in order for someone to be in the Hall of Fame? Is it enough to have moved forward and proven oneself?

Saito was suspended from competitive Magic. Twice. He was elected to the HOF and had that election rescinded upon the second suspension. I can’t recall hearing of anything but positive views on him in recent years, which is great. I’m truly happy for him and hope he continues to play above the board.

For me, the Hall of Fame is not a right. There’s no amount of success that automatically grants you inclusion. I believe it to be a privilege that has to be earned, and earned through results (of course) but also integrity. Two suspensions do, in my eyes, take someone out of HOF consideration. I may revise this stance in coming years. Honestly, I already feel myself getting softer on the topic, but I’m not there yet.

If you’re curious, after his election year (2010, 47.74%) he hasn’t gotten above 20% of the vote.

Most of Mike’s HOF case comes from his terrific 2014-2015 season when he won the Player of the Year. He’s got too few top 8s and top 16s. Nothing really pops on that stat line. Siggy is an awesome guy, and a father of twins. He got one vote last year and added a top 32 since then. I haven’t met a voter yet who will be persuaded by a PT top 32.

Matt is perhaps best known for his affiliation with Paul Reitzl and Dave Williams as they take on team GPs. Or perhaps he’s best known for his articles on Channel Fireball where his wit, charm and clever observations have garnered a following as he lists the things of which he’s sick. These are great contributions to the game (I love seeing people who repeatedly team with the same people). I don’t think they’re enough to push him into the HOF conversation when used in conjunction with the rest of his career.

I feel like I’m repeating myself on some of these, but this is again a career I would love to have. It’s a career I’m jealous of. I’ve played in 7 PTs and have 34 career pro points. This dwarves that. But it’s not a Hall of Fame Career.

Takahashi picked up his second top 8 this past season, coming in 5th at PT Eldritch Moon where he lost to Hall of Famer Owen Turtenwald. His first top 8 was at the only Two-Headed Giant PT, San Diego in 2007 where he teamed with fellow HOF ballot-mate Kentaro Yamamoto. There’s not a lot to talk about here as these numbers are below what I think of when I think of a Hall of Famer.

Coming into this exercise, Josh is the name I expected to be atop most ballots. I feel confident saying he has the best shot at induction this year. So let’s dig a little deeper.

First, five top 8’s. That’s five more than me and more than enough to get into the Hall. Next, a surprisingly low top 64 rate. His overall career median is not what I expected. PotY is up there though, including a win. He’s also a two-time US National Champion and a MOCS champion. And while his career median doesn’t get me going, his three-year does. For what it’s worth, his PT match win rate is 58.3% while is GP match win rate is 63.1%. He’s certainly got enough going to get him onto my shortlist.

Gaudenis has made top 64 of just over one third of his PTs. He has two top 8s. He has a career median 26 spots worse than the current worst HOF median. I want this career, but the HOF does not.

Last year, Craig wasn’t in my write up. He met the HOF minimums in 8 categories, missing in top 64s and both median stats. He’s dropped his career median from 124 to 103.5. In looking back, the 3-year HOF median standard is 91, which it was last year too, so this was a miss on my part. I should have looked at Craig last year. I’m sorry about that.

Craig does have a win to his name in addition to two additional top 8s. If you’re ever drafting and the land table is out of plains, just check with Craig. He has some.

I really wish he had some more top 64s and 1 more top 8. The top 64 conversion rate is barely above a quarter, which is something I find myself more and more looking at. He’s at 28% and the HOF min is 32% (average is 48%). Craig has made countless contributions to the game as well, being a prolific writer and advocate of attacking with small cheap white creatures. All told I think this comes up short. He got 3.5% of the vote last year and while he had a solid year, he didn’t put up any big results (91st, 43rd, 83rd, 207th last year).

This is basically the dream of a career that I could have. I mean, sure, I would have to hit on basically my best case scenario, but it seems achievable, right? Nothing too flashy. Strong numbers across. Memorable if not for how forgettable it is. Seems possible, right? Right? OK, well, maybe not for me, but the dream is still there. This is not a Hall of Fame career, but it is one I aspire to.

Last year I didn’t look at Kentaro as he was short on both top 32s and top 64s. He picked up 23rd at PT Aether Revolt to get him enough top 32s to meet the HOF minimum. He’s still shy on top 64s (he needs two more). The career is yet another that I would love to have but that the Hall of Fame won’t return a text from.

That’s 29 people I’ve looked at here. Of them, I had a very short short-list:

  • Mark Herberholz
  • Martin Juza
  • Osyp Lebedowicz
  • Chris Pikula
  • Josh Utter-Leyton

The voting rules allow for me to include all five of these on my ballot, but I’m not required to fill out all five slots. I haven’t voted for Herberholz in the past and his career hasn’t changed so I won’t be doing so again. The same goes for Osyp. I voted for Juza last year and Pikula in his previous years on the ballot. I think Utter-Leyton gets there with his non-PT finishes supplementing his case and pushing him over the edge. So my final ballot is this:

Martin Juza

Chris Pikula

Josh Utter-Leyton

Special thanks to, which I consulted frequently. I could go through and find the info it provides in other manners, but this site is just so much easier than that. I really appreciate it.


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