Posted by Paul Jordan | Magic

I have to think that even with the rosiest outlook on how his new game would be received, Richard Garfield did not expect that in 2015, 22 years after its initial release, Magic: The Gathering would be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Can you believe it? It has been ten years since the first class (Jon Finkel, Darwin Kastle, Tommi Hovi, Alan Comer, Olle Rade) was inducted. The rules for eligibility and voting have changed in the past decade but the basics remain the same: You have to be really good to even be eligible and a group of people who are close to the game all get to vote on who gets in.

Since we’re now ten years in, another ballot has come out and members of the selection committee have once again been asked the question: Who should be included in the HoF? Every year since I first was asked to vote, I’ve done some analysis on the candidates and provided my take. Before I do that this year, I want to first take a look at the Hall of Fame voting. Below are how many people have been selected for each year:

Hall of Fame by year

Did you realize that there are 40 (really only 39, since Tomoharu Saito was voted in but not inducted due to suspension in 2010) people in the Hall of Fame? I’m guessing you didn’t. Early in the process the voting rules required that five people be elected. It was simply the top five vote-getters instead of the 40% threshold we have today. This led to three people getting inducted without reaching that threshold (Randy Buehler at 35.6% in 2007, Gary Wise at 39% in 2006 and Rob Dougherty at 38.2% in 2006). Since the rule change, only two of the six years have seen even four people elected, with the other four years electing only three. So while the ballot allows for five names, I do not expect to see that many accepting rings this year. Keep that in mind as you’re reading ballots.

When I started doing these HoF posts, I looked at how the folks who had been voted in already had performed up through the point at which their respective votes took place. The aim was to get an understanding of what the voting body values in terms of performance. This, of course, entirely neglects the other aspects of the HoF criteria (integrity, sportsmanship, contributions to the game), but is the most easily quantifiable and most visible aspect so at the very least it can serve as a starting point.

This is, I think, a very important point. These numbers I’m about to get into are reflective of Pro Tour performance only. Obviously performance is important and it’s tough to imagine someone getting into the HOF without some level of tournament success, but due to their ease in quantification and publicly availability (in a single, tidy spreadsheet no less) they tend to be fuel for more than their fair share of conversations surrounding who should and should not be elected. If you have a vote, I encourage you to read about the people, their impact on the game, how they carry themselves, and more. It’s important. If you don’t have a vote, read that stuff too!

My methodology is pretty straight-forward. Whenever someone is elected into the Hall of Fame, I capture their statistics at that point (any results achieved after HoF election are excluded). I then take all such statistics and calculate the mean, median, minimum and maximum values. Then I look at how each candidate compares to those numbers. Here are the HoF stats through last year’s inductees:

The Hall of Fame as it Stands

The way you read this is that of the 40 people who have been voted into the Hall of Fame, they averaged 307 pro points and 40 Pro Tours played. The most was 505 pro points and 62 pro tours (though those don’t have to be the same person and, in fact, they weren’t. Kai had 505 points upon election and 43 Pro tours. The 62 Pro Tours? That’s Bram Snepvangers). It is here that the only real complexity comes in. The above table is actually only referencing 38 players, and it’s not for the reason you think. The first exclusion is Saito: As mentioned above he was voted in but not inducted as a result of his suspension. The other exclusion is Randy Buehler. Why? Here’s what I’ve said on the topic for the past two years.

The Hall of Fame standards, fairly or not, are skewed by Randy Buehler. Randy was a special case. He played in 12 PTs. He was electric. He only missed top 64 in 2 of those, with 5 top 16s and a win. His career was cut short by his decision to accept a job with Wizards. I believe his case to be the exception, and that had his career in Magic continued with the PT and not with its creation his numbers would have reflected his brilliance as a player. However, as I believe his case to be the exception, he creates a bit of a conundrum. Due to its brevity, his career is responsible for several of the HoF minimums. Specifically, # of Pro Tours, # of Pro Points, # of Top 8s, # of Top 64.

I truly do not mean this in any kind of negative fashion. I believe that had Randy continued playing on the Tour he would be responsible for more HoF Bests than Worsts. But that didn’t happen, and here we are. As such, I think it is fair when examining the careers of other potential Hall of Fame inductees to do so through a lens of a world without Randy’s abbreviated career. If other voters think differently, I respect that and encourage them to inspect the candidates however they see fit.

There are 40 people qualified to be on the HoF ballot this year. Eleven of them meet the HoF minimum in all ten categories with an additional six doing so in nine of ten and another seven doing so in eight. That’s a total of 24 people to examine, or 60% of those qualified. I’m going to simply run through these in alphabetical order, so don’t read anything into how the names appear. I’ll post my ballot at the bottom, but they’re not due for a few more weeks. I will certainly reflect further on my ballot between now and then and reserve the right to change my mind based on said reflection.

In all cases, green means the player is above the PT HoF median and red means they are below the minimum.

Sam Black

This is Sam’s first year on the ballot. He’s above the median for Pro Points, but that is at least partially driven by his GP attendance. Sam is a prolific deck designer, having contributed to or outright created entirely countless successful decks. His Mono-Blue Infect deck from PT Philadelphia 2011 and Mono-Blue Devotion deck from PT Theros 2013 were the ones that he had the most success with, but others have a long history of success wielding Sam Black creations. He’s missing the minimum on some number and is firmly in the good-but-not-great in many others. I think Sam has a strong case for induction-with-lower-performance-standards based on his history as an elite deckbuilder, but I think the bar is still higher than where he is.

Nico Bohny

Nico was on the ballot in both of the last two years. He got two votes in 2013 and none last year. He’s played in one Pro Tour since last year and his overall stats have remained the same. He’s one of those people where I feel like I don’t have much to add to the story. I mean, I would simply love to have had his career… Two PT Top 8s and a GP win are great! But it just pales in comparison to the other careers on this list.

Marcio Carvalho

Suspended twice. This, to me, is cut and dry. This individual does not deserve the honor of being in the Hall of Fame. I’ve seen some people take the stance (not specifically with regards to Mr. Carvalho) that serving a suspension is punishment and being held out of the Hall of Fame would be further punishment above and beyond what was ordered. I disagree. I believe election to the Hall of Fame is an honor, not a right. Since it is an honor and has specific guidelines that include sportsmanship and integrity, I don’t see this as a punishment. I see it as him not meeting those criteria.

Andrew Cuneo

Last year, Cuneo was eligible for the Hall of Fame and met seven of the ten minimums. I didn’t consider him. Since then, he’s played in four more PTs, added 47 Pro Points, added a Top 16, another Top 32 and two more top 64s (so, top 64 or better in all four PTs). And let’s throw in a GP Top 8 for good measure! It’s been a good year for him. He now firmly meets the HoF minimums and even bests the Pro Points median. He’s still light on top finishes, but man is he consistent. Incidentally, he’s been on the HoF ballot in each of the previous three years, garnering a total of three votes. I suspect he’ll make some minor noise this year but will ultimately fall pretty short.

Willy Edel

Willy was the closest to getting elected last year without actually getting elected. He had 30.96% of the vote, falling about 9% shy. I think he has a strong chance to get there this year, though I wouldn’t call him a lock. He obviously has had an incredible career. It is important to note that, while his career is admirable, he is also known as a very strong influence in the Brazilian Magic scene. He owns a store and helps foster players there, but it’s much more than that. Prior to even owning a store, he would organize tournaments to ensure his community wouldn’t miss out on a PTQ. He frequently prepares for Pro Tours with anyone local who is qualified, just to ensure they have someone with whom to test. He even takes care to shepherd them through mundane things like travel logistics. Remember, this is the first time many of these people are leaving their country, and it’s not like it’s ever a short flight (there’s never been a South American Pro Tour). I think his numbers are ever-so-slightly below the Hall on their own merit, but I also think he’s done a lot in the other categories so I’m happy to include him on my short list.

Gerard Fabiano

Gerard added 18 Pro Points to his resume since the last voting, during which he got 2%. The three years prior he got 1.55%, 1.23% and 2.01%. Gerard is a goofy, loveable, and merciless gamer. He will straight up demolish you while wearing his in-game scowl and then immediately upon mopping the floor with you leap into a story about how his pants fell down, the scowl evaporating into a cherubic giggling mess of a smile. He’s also shameless when it comes to trying to mise free appetizers from chain restaurants via Twitter. All of these things are fantastic and are why he’s a first pick for road trip buddies, but none of it adds up to the Hall of Fame.

Eric Froehlich

EFro was on my short list last year, though I didn’t vote for him. He got 8.6% of the vote and has added significantly to his portfolio since then. He made top 64 of all 4 PTs, including a Top 8 and another Top 32. He also got three more GP Top 8’s and lowered his overall median from 60 to 52. In short, he was on the border and went out and had the type of year one needs in order to cross the border. He’s again on my short list.

Justin Gary

Justin is no longer active in the game but has ever-so-slowly been creeping closer to the Hall of Fame. He has been in the top 10 of Hall of Fame voting seven times and only cracked the top five for the first time last year. His performance absolutely warrants further discussion; he’s on the short list.

Mark Herberholz

Mark has four PT Top 8s, which is great. But he has never finished in the Top 16 and only three times has he made Top 32. This leads to a less impressive median, which is true for both three-year and overall. He was also known for his deckbuilding prowess, authoring such hits as Four-color Gifts, Three-color Teachings, and Heezy Street. I asked Mike Flores (michaelj) for some more color on Heezy as a deck builder. His response (before a bevy of deck names) was simply, “Best in the world at his height.” Overall I think he’s on the border of being a borderline candidate by the numbers alone. I wish he would return to the ring for a season to solidify his position but even without more numbers his deckbuilding puts him on my short list. Also, this.

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

That’s just, like, so so many Pro Tours. I can pretty easily forgive the high median here over such a long career. I’m a little concerned that his peak median is worse than the median HOF career median (re-read it, I’m pretty sure I used the appropriate number of medians in there). Ikeda has run a store and organized tournaments, fostering Magic within his community as well as throughout Asia. Ikeda is on my short list.

Scott Johns

Scott comes from a time where pro points weren’t as plentiful, which helps explain his low pro point total. That said, 27 PTs is also low (and five Top 8s is high). Scott is also from a time where competitive Magic suffered from lower emphasis on fair play. I’ve never witnessed anything Scott has done (I’ve only seen him play a handful of times, personally) but I’ve spoken with enough players who have both watch him play and played against him and the message has consistently been that he is someone who benefited from the environment. He is not on my short list.

Martin Juza

Since last year, Martin has added 51 Pro Points, a Top 16, a Top 64 and four GP Top 8s. Not bad. His first year on the ballot was in 2013, when he got 21.4%. Last year he dropped a little to 17.3%. I expect he’ll go up this year but I’m not sure if he’ll get elected. If I had to guess, I’d say he ends up somewhere in the 30-35% range. I would love to see him get in and think another PT Top 8 would be pretty close to a lock for him. for now, I know he’s on my short list.

Tomohiro Kaji

This is another case of “I would love to have this guy’s career, but it just isn’t on the level of the Hall of Fame.” My main concern goes back to longevity, which if expanded would likely solve any of the other stats. And the 152 pro points is super low.

Osyp Lebedowicz

If this were the 1998 Northeast Regional Latin Dance Championship Hall of Fame, Osyp would be the only one on the ballot. Osyp meets all of the minimums and is better than the median in six categories. That’s simply fantastic. Like everyone else on the list, another Top 8 would be a welcome addition to his case but even without that he is easily on the short list.

Marijn Lybaert

I’m in love with that three-year median. Let’s take a closer look:

Lybaert's three-year performances

That’s something fancy, is what that is. Anyway, outside of that (I mean, really really) beautiful 3-year median, there’s nothing that stands out from the pack here. I love it, but I’m not in love with it, I guess is what I’m saying. He’s on the cusp of the short list. If I had a medium length list, he’d be on it.

Tom Martell

Tom was on my short list last year, where I opined that I would love another year (he has very few PTs) and another Top 8. He gave me two more Top 8’s… But they were of the Grand Prix variety. I guess I should have been more specific, so here goes: Tom, please get another PT Top 8. At the PT level, Tom did add two Top 64s over the past year. In a sense, Tom is on the ballot earlier than he should be. Yes, he debuted on the Pro Tour over ten years ago (Chicago 2000) but that and Houston 2002 were his only PTs until 2010. It was then that his career really took off. So, in that sense he shouldn’t even be on the ballot for another five years or so. Or course, that’s not how it works, but I have to think that Tom will be in the Hall within five years unless he suddenly stops competing.

Kazuya Mitamura

Mitamura falls short of the Hall minimums in 2 places. His 3 top 8s are extremely impressive but they’re basically the entirety of his case and are not really impressive in the context of the Hall of Fame. Very strong career. A great career, even. But not a Hall of Fame career.

Jamie Parke

Fun fact: Jamie is the only person on this year’s ballot who meets all of the HOF minimums and does not exceed any of the medians. No red and no green on the entire stat line. That’s kind of fun. Speaking of kind of fun, Jamie is all kinds of fun. He’s one of a select group to have a PT top 8 in 3 different decades (Finkel, Budde, Chapin – not bad company). He’s a fan of things that go Ting and people who mise. I seriously love a Jamie Parke and wish he was in the Hall, but alas my love for him does not a HOF’er make.

Mise

Brock Parker

Brock’s lone top 8 came at PT Boston 2003, back when team names were still around. His team took full advantage, authoring the still-oustanding Brockafellers name. He’s below the HoF minimum in both Top 8s and Top 16s, both of which are pretty tough to overcome. Man I miss team names.

Neil Reeves

Back when I used to sporadically appear on the Pro Tour (true story), Neil was one of the most feared limited players on the planet. Sure enough, both of his Top 8s came in Limited Pro Tours (back when they were only one format) – San Diego 2002 and Boston 2003 (teams, with HoF’ers Bob Maher and Gary Wise).

Tomoharu Saito

Saito’s case is unique in that it doesn’t hinge on numbers at all. His numbers are sublime. His case hinges on the fact that he’s already been voted into the Hall of Fame once, but had that rescinded after his second suspension was announced. He was suspended once, came back and had a wonderful career by results, got elected into the Hall of Fame, got suspended again and had his HoF election rescinded. He garnered some support in the past few years (11%, 18%, 15% from 2012-2013) and has added another GP Top 8 since last year, so who knows, it could happen. I don’t plan on voting for him, and I’ll just post what I’ve said in the past on that topic:

I believe that, if you have cheated at Magic, been caught, served a suspension, cheated again, been caught again, and served another suspension, you do not meet the Integrity and Sportsmanship clauses in the Hall of Fame rules. I do not think ‘being kept out’ of the Hall is punishment. I think being elected is an honor, one that so few people earn it can’t possibly be considered punishment to not be on that list.

Sebastian Thaler

Thaler is missing on Pro Points and Top 64s and is also low on PTs, and basically all of the other stats (excepting three-year median and possibly Top 32s). Another 2-3 years at his current rate should be enough to get him onto the short-list.

Shouta Yasooka

Yasooka is one of those players where you used to look at his numbers and wonder how he only had one PT Top 8 (a win in 2006 PT Charleston – Teams). Well, after PT Dragons of Tarkir you don’t need to wonder that any more. He managed to make it back to Sunday, losing in the finals to Martin Dang. He also got another GP Top 8 in the past year and another PT Top 64. He was sixth in HoF voting in both 2013 and 2014, I expect him to at least make the Top 5 this year. He’s a no-doubt short lister.

Matej Zatlkaj

This is another really good career that most people would be more than happy with but isn’t quite at the level of the Hall of Fame.

To review, below are the folks on my short list:

Paul's 2015 short list

Any ballot made up of five or fewer of these Planeswalkers is a strong ballot in my opinion. It’s important to remember that while a ballot can contain up to five names, it is not required to contain any. An empty ballot is entirely possible, albeit likely not too common. With that in mind, I don’t simply intend to select the top five names from this list but rather to select those whom I believe are absolutely deserving of being in the Hall of Fame. If I end up with more than five, then I’ll have to do some ranking. If I end up with fewer than five, that’s okay too.

I’m totally convinced on Shouta and EFro, and Edel is also going to be on my ballot. Until this year I had always heard about his dedication to growing the game, specifically within Brazil and more broadly within all of South America, but I’d never taken the time to really understand exactly how dedicated he is to this. Now that I’ve taken that time, doing some research online as well as interacting with numerous people on Twitter whom he has helped has really opened my eyes and now I’m happy to include him on my ballot.

I’m very close to including Ikeda but don’t know enough about his community involvement. If you have any stories about him, please feel free to share them, I want to know!

The other name I’m close on is Juza. He’s clearly very talented and had a sick run of events but both his PT Top 8s and PT Top 16s are low for me. His GP performance is incredible, of course, and certainly counts for a lot but I’m not sure if it fills the void left by the PTs. I’d also be interested in hearing how he’s impacted the Magic community from those who he’s impacted.

Here’s my ballot as of now. I will, of course, continue to seek out more information. I’m confident in the first three on the list and the last two could go either way.

  • Willy Edel
  • Eric Froehlich
  • Shouta Yasooka
  • Tsuyoshi Ikeda (maybe)
  • Martin Juza (maybe)

Also, guess what? You now have a vote for the Hall of Fame! So go back and re-read this whole thing and this time pay attention!

-Paul Jordan
@magicPJ on Twitter

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