My career with Hipsters of the Coast has been full of amazing moments which have come to completely change the direction of my life and my involvement in the Magic community. From our humble beginnings, to being highlighted on coverage, to taking over the day-to-day operations of the site, my life as a Magic player and content creator here have been on an amazing path. That journey took another leap forwards a few weeks ago when I received an email from the Pro Tour Hall of Fame asking if I would like to join the group of voters for the 2018 selections to the Hall.

A few days later the official ballot had been sent over via email along with a two-week window in which I was required to make my choices. The rules were simple. I was allowed to choose up to five candidates from a provided list (see below) without any room for write-in votes. Some of the candidates are also voters and the ballot made it clear that you could not vote for yourself. Results will be announced on September 21st as part of World Championship coverage.

Last but not least was a note that our individual ballots would not be made public, but as there are no restrictions on publicizing your own ballot I decided to join the many voters who opt to do so and explain my selections to the members of the MTG community. For reference, candidates must have at least 150+ lifetime pro points and a minimum of two top eight appearances. The eligibility cut-off was June 4th of this year.

Here are the candidates:

Samuel Black
Lukas Blohon
Marcio Carvalho
Patrick Cox
Andrew Cuneo
Javier Dominguez
Chris Fennell
Ivan Floch
Justin Gary
Mark Herberholz
Mike Hron
Tsuyoshi Ikeda
Tomohiro Kaji
Masashiro Kuroda
Marijn Lybaert
Seth Manfield
Tom Martell
Guillaume Matignon
Shaun McLaren
Andrea Mengucci
Chikara Nakajima
Brad Nelson
Takuya Osawa
Jamie Parke
Chris Pikula
Andrejs Prost
Carlos Romao
Tomoharu Saito
Eduardo Sajgalik
Lee Shi Tian
Mike Sigrist
Geoffrey Siron
Yuta Takahashi
Gerry Thompson
Gaudenis Vidugiris
Craig Wescoe
Conley Woods
Kentaro Yamamoto
Ken Yukuhiro

Even though the minimum criteria for eligibility are driven by performance on the Pro Tour, I don’t believe that should be the only consideration when choosing members for the Hall of Fame. After all, it’s called a Hall of Fame, not a Hall of Statistical Greatness or a Hall of the Most Pro Tour Top Eight Appearances. Instead, I choose to focus on players that I feel exemplify Magic through a different lens, and that lens is “Play the Game, See the World.”

That’s a phrase that, more or less, used to be the slogan of the Pro Tour. The idea was that as a pro player you would have the opportunity to travel around the world competing at the highest level. For me, as someone who covers Magic as a dedicated journalist (and perhaps as one of Magic’s longest-tenured independent journalists) the phrase means something different. To me it means, play the game, see the world represented on the stage together.

The Pro Tour is an amazing place full of personalities from all over the world including Latin America, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, and of course, North America. To me, the players most deserving to be in the Hall of Fame are the players who made the most of their time competing on the Pro Tour not just in prize winnings and top eight appearances but in changing the way we see the world through the perspective of Magic fans.

Without further ado, my five selections for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame Class of 2018 are:

Mark Herberholz

Seth Manfield

Brad Nelson

Chris Pikula

Lee Shi Tian

I’m not going to go into too much detail here as I think the cases for and against each of these players have been laid out pretty extensively. Herberholz was a dominant player for a small amount of time but during that time he became a household name. If the internet was what it is now back then, I think we’d see a lot more support for Mark as a Hall of Famer.

Seth Manfield and Brad Nelson are my picks based on merit because they’re both just flat out great Magic players cut from the same mold as plenty of great players who are already in the Hall of Fame. Lee Shi Tian is also part of this group as his numbers are simply incredible and while Shi Tian comes with some extra baggage I still think his accomplishments speak for themselves.

That leaves Chris Pikula who I believe has earned the honor of being in the Hall of Fame. Including Pikula should give you some insight into what I think about who should be included in a Hall of Fame. But for those who still want to know, let me introduce you to a hockey player named Ted Lindsay. Lindsay is essentially the founder of the NHL Player’s Association but his resume goes much deeper than that.

Yes, Lindsay’s stats are phenomenal and he was a great hockey player in his prime but its not what he’s remembered for. What he’s remembered for is fighting off the ice, not on it, for the betterment not just of his teammates but of all hockey players and the sport of hockey itself. That’s who he was and that’s who Chris Pikula is for Magic, someone who would compete not just at tournaments but outside of them for the betterment of his opponents.

Today there’s an award given out annually to the league’s most “outstanding” player named after Ted Lindsay. All of the currently active members of the Player’s Association and if Magic had an equivalent award voted on by the Pro Players I don’t think anyone would object to calling it the Chris Pikula Award for Magic’s Most Outstanding Professional Player.

I want to conclude by taking a moment to thank you, my fans and readers, the ones responsible for this honor that’s been bestowed upon me. I could thank Wizards of the Coast, but that wouldn’t be accurate because they’re not the ones who inspired me to learn about the Pro Tour and its history and cover it as a journalist. You are. So thank you for reading and thank you for the honor of being a professional Magic writer which has transformed into the honor of voting for the 2018 Pro Tour Hall of Fame class.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13

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