Grip of Desolation

A new… (or at least new-ish) Top 8 Magic Podcast was posted on this week!

Billed as “The Grand Unified Theory of Comics, Basketball, Magic, and Television Part 9: The Epic Conclusion” Top 8 Magic podcasters MichaelJ and BDM joke about their collective long absence from the Canadian mics.

Mike and Brian attend a Friday Night Magic at Montasy Comics in NYC, with Brian playing Limited and Mike playing Constructed. This episode contains extensive Magic: The Gathering chats, plus an after-tournament trek to Korea Town for a round of #tauntingjonbecker

For those interested, Mike played a B/R Control deck featuring draft superstar Grip of Desolation in his sideboard. We here at Fetchland will leave you to the podcast to find out how he did. To wit:

Rakdos Control, by Michael J Flores

3 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4 Goblin Dark-Dwellers

1 Ob Nixilis, Reignited
1 Chandra Flamecaller

1 Dark Petition
4 Fiery Impulse
4 Grasp of Darkness
2 Transgress the Mind
4 Tormenting Voice
1 Ultimate Price
4 Read the Bones
3 Ruinous Path
2 Kolaghan’s Command

4 Blighted Fen
4 Drownyard Temple
4 Foreboding Ruins
4 Mountain
4 Smoldering Marsh
6 Swamp

4 Reality Smasher
1 Dark Petition
1 Duress
2 Grip of Desolation
1 Infinite Obliteration
3 Languish
1 Ob Nixilis, Reignited
1 Ruinous Path
1 Virulent Plague

Read the full blog post “The Grand Unified Theory of Comics, Basketball, Magic, and Television Part 9: The Epic Conclusion” on

Listen to “The Grand Unified Theory of Comics, Basketball, Magic, and Television Part 9: The Epic Conclusion” here:

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Shivan Reef

Shivan Reef is a “tri-land”! (… in U/R Eldrazi)

MichaelJ and BDM return to the corner of Waverly and Gay (you know here) to bring you a post-Pro Tour episode of Top 8 Magic!

Mike is [still] a super big fan of colorless Eldrazi in Modern, but Brian brings up the matchup-riding strength of the tournament-winning U/R version of Modern Eldrazi.

U/R Eldrazi by Jiachen Tao

4 Eldrazi Mimic
4 Endless One
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer

3 Dismember

4 Drowner of Hope
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
2 Ruination Guide

3 Eldrazi Obligator
4 Vile Aggregate

3 Cavern of Souls
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Eye of Ugin
1 Gemstone Caverns
2 Island
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Shivan Reef
2 Steam Vents

1 Spellskite
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Ratchet Bomb
2 Relic of Progenitus
3 Hurkyl’s Recall
3 Stubborn Denial
2 Gut Shot
1 Tomb of the Spirit Dragon

While cards like Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin (especially when combined with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth) are getting all the press for Modern Eldrazi mana bases, Brian points out Shivan Reef is a heck of a land in this deck, too. In U/R Eldrazi specifically Shivan Reef can get you the red you need for Eldrazi Obligator, the blue you need for Eldrazi Skyspawner (who saw that coming as a Constructed Staple?!?!) and the colorless you need for Thought-Knot Seer!

Magic talk in this podcast covers anti-Eldrazi ideas for Modern, sideboard utilization, and a walk down memory lane to some of the best decks of Pro Tours and World Championships past.

… And then there is also basketball and tv talk (of course).

What’s going on on Scandal? Who is a psychopath, and who is a mere sociopath? Why haven’t you watched Mozart in the Jungle yet? Which of our podcast hosts will recap Game of Thrones next season?

Spoilers: Mike gets Brian to binge-watch his all-time favorite show (there is a What’s Free Wednesday about Veronica Mars here on Fetchland in case you needed a little nudge, yourself); Brian gets Mike to try SyFy original The Expanse. At the time of this writing each has plowed basically the entire first season of the other’s recommendation.

Also cuddles.


“Basically Wall of Wood.”


All this and more on Top 8 Magic #427 – New Mixed Bag, at Mana Deprived

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Oath of the Gatewatch

Oath of the Gatewatch Spoiler Alert

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Games, Magic

Kitchen Table Gaming videographer David Troth Wright is back with another Spoiler Alert… This time focusing on Oath of the Gatewatch!

This episode of Spoiler Alert is a shockingly accurate (but nevertheless quite funny) recap of the narrative events in Battle for Zendikar (and of course its follow up set, the nominal Oath of the Gatewatch). Ever wonder how to kill a giant Eldrazi Cthulhu monster? What qualities make for a reliable Planeswalker superhero? Chandra (of Oath of Chandra fame) has you covered on both ends!

What gate exactly are Jace, Chandra, Gideon, and Nissa supposed to be watching again?

Reality Smasher

“ is proud to present Top 8 Magic podcast with Michael J. Flores and Brian David-Marshall

“Brought to your ears by”

Bundled in the scrum of red and colorless cards from Oath of the Gatewatch — for the four hundred twenty-third and most recent episode of Top 8 Magic begins that venerable podcast’s world famous set review sequence with the aforementioned red and coloress cards — is the heretofore unheralded Reality Smasher.

To begin with, Reality Smasher is a 5/5 creature for five mana (5<>). There was a time when the stats alone would give a player pause. And Reality Smasher has not one, not two, but three abilities (one unique).

Compare to Baneslayer Angel:

Baneslayer Angel

Baneslayer Angel had four abilities, with flying and lifelink insanely relevant; and first strike and protection from demons and dragons somewhat less so. We’re not saying that Reality Smasher is necessarily as good as Baneslayer Angel, but Baneslayer Angel was declared the best large creature “of all time” by Pro Tour Hall of Famer (and two-time PT Champion) Brian Kibler as he used it to win an Extended Pro Tour. Baneslayer Angel was not only also the apex of Andre Coimbra’s Naya Lightsaber pyramid, but the pivot point around which large format creature fights revolved for several large events.

So for context’s sake Reality Smasher is similar size (5/5) for an [essentially] easier cost (4<> v. 3WW). It has only three abilities to Baneslayer Angel’s four abilities, but two of those abilities are haste and trample!

To begin with, haste is maybe the strongest of the default keyword abilities (competing, probably, with flying). And while Reality Smasher doesn’t have flying, trample does a nice proxy job (especially when combined with haste here). Of course it is the third, unique, ability that makes Reality Smasher interesting to talk about:

Whenever Reality Smasher becomes the target of a spell an opponent controls, counter that spell unless its controller discards a card.

Here is something that Reality Smasher has, that Baneslayer Angel always took criticism for lacking: Some amount of resilience. No, this isn’t hexproof; the opponent can, in fact, target Reality Smasher with the veritable Doom Blade and force you to put your five drop into the graveyard. On balance, it can be costly for the opponent to do so because it is not one Doom Blade but two total cards that will be required… Meaning that disruption — specifically hand destruction — can be an effective setup strategy for this big creature. Think about how Reality Smasher might work well with Duress, Demonic Pact, or Thought-Knot Seer.

… The opponent might just not have the materiel to fight it!

In the end, michaelj and bdm considered Reality Smasher more of a “possible” than a sure hit, but were quite engaged in the discussion; dubbing the new Eldrazi “Gaea’s Revenge-ish”.

Of course they did all the red and colorless cards, of which Reality Smasher was just one 🙂

Listen to “Top 8 Magic #423 – Oath of the Gatewatch Complete Review: Red & Colorless” now:

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Oath of Jace

“Literally no one has ever discarded an artifact to Thirst for Knowledge.”

The four hundred and twenty-second episode of Top 8 Magic, “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 2” covers the currently (or at least “then-“) spoiled Oath of the Gatewatch blue and black spells; plus artifacts and lands.

Of especial attention is the discussion of Oath of Jace (which neither member of the Top 8 Magic team likes as much as Oath of Nissa). Despite some initial apprehension, Top 8 Magic lands in an interesting place RE: Oath of Jace.

Mike does a complete about face on Oath of Jace. He starts by saying it “stinks” but you can almost hear the gears turning in his head as he works around how the card might be awesome (or at least good enough to play) over the course of a few minutes of “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 2”.

  1. Imagine you never have a Planeswalker – You can can use this to set up a one mana Treasure Cruise or Murderous Cut, say on turn four.
  2. This card is great in decks with a lot of “dead weight” in them, or specialized cards. You can use Oath of Jace to “fix your hand”.
  3. Demonic Pact! Not only does this card help you get to your Pact, it gives you insurance against Dromoka’s Command! A B/U Pact deck will benefit from playing with Treasure Cruise, Murderous Cut, and Dig Through Time, etc. anyway.

Mike thinks that he will try to resolve Oath of Jace in 2016, but isn’t sure that it will ever make the final seventy-five; he does think that “people should play more B/U Pact decks” though 🙂

Listen to “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 2” here:

“New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 2” on ManaDeprived

Eldrazi Obligator

“ is proud to present Top 8 Magic podcast with Michael J. Flores and Brian David-Marshall

“Brought to your ears by”

The four hundred twenty-first episode of Top 8 Magic, “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 1” is a mixed bag. MichaelJ and BDM return after a too-long spell to chat about some of their actual New Year’s Resolutions… But more importantly what cards might resolve (in what formats) in the upcoming Oath of the Gatewatch.

Our heroes focus on the white cards this time (because they spend the first fourteen minutes or so just catching up after a long layover)… But it really gets going when Mike chooses his favorite [off-color] card in Oath of the Gatewach so far: Eldrazi Obligator

Eldrazi Obligator looks awesome, right?

Here is a card that at three mana can do a pretty good Boggart Ram-Gang impression…

Boggart Ram-Gang

… But at five mana can do a pretty good Zealous Conscripts impression!

Zealous Conscripts

No, Eldrazi Obligator isn’t quite the three drop that Boggart Ram-Gang was (two fewer toughness, no wither mechanic)… But the fact that it has a second mode is awesome.

At five mana Eldrazi Obligator is slightly less powerful than Zealous Conscripts (can’t steal an Ultimate Planeswalker, for example)… But that extra flexibility really does come in handy here. Not only do you have two modes to choose from, but the additional 1<> sets up an Eldrazi trigger, not Not NOT an “enters the battlefield” trigger. That means that even if an opponent can discard a correctly-costed spell to his Kozilek, the Great Distortion you will still get the trigger to steal his 12/12 (and presumably kill him with it).

There is over an hour-twenty Magic chatter, old and brand new, as well as a tidy bit of love for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Force Awakens near the end.

Top 8 Magic resolves to be back in 2016!

Listen to “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 1” right here:

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Magic Without Borders by Stjepan Sučić

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Games, Magic

I had the opportunity to meet Stjepan Sučić through international Magic competition where he has had multiple opportunities to represent the Croatian Magic community on the World stage. It is very common for players to from neighboring nations to pool their resources for those tournaments. Not only testing together but also sharing a roof so it did not seem at all odd to me that Stjepan and his teammates were sharing a house with the Serbian team. Stjepan explained that what seemed commonplace to me was alarming to his friends and family back home. He agreed to write a little piece for us about how playing Magic has changed his view of the world.

Once again, Christmas is upon us, that time of the year when you celebrate and enjoy yourself in the company of your loved ones. One of the things we associate Christmas with most often is obviously the Christmas tree. Really, there is no Christmas without that specific scent in the house. As much as we love to have them around, their lifespan is quite short once they are cut down and we have to throw them away after a couple of weeks. There is a tradition in the Christian world to throw away the trees on the 7th of January, a day after Epiphany, which is not very odd, since that day is the day that more or less sums up the whole Christmas story — Three Wise Men did their thing and that’s it, the hype is over.

However, in my country, Croatia, things are a bit different. We throw away our trees on the 6th of January. Why? Well, if you don’t throw them away on the 6th, your neighbors might think you are Serbian. You see, Serbians are, unlike us, mostly Orthodox Catholics, so they celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January, which means that keeping your tree to that day might be a sign that you have some Serbian ancestry, or even worse, that you sympathize with those evil creatures that live just behind our eastern border.

This example is but a single one, there are hundreds of similar oddities that are the legacy of the Yugoslav Wars. It has been twenty years since Croatian War of Independence ended, but it seems that the animosity between Serbians and Croatians will not die out with the generation that fought in the war. That is exactly what troubles me the most — the willingness of the youth to pick up hate and prejudice from the old, without trying to rationalize the situation and think with their own heads. This affinity for blind hate towards minorities, especially Serbs is completely unfounded and unreasonable, but the young are gullible and easily influenced.

However, relations between Serbia and Croatia certainly tend to improve over the years since the war ended, but there is always something to stir up the embers whenever it seems we are getting friendly again. A recent situation that made a lot of mess in these parts was the Syrian refugees trying to pass through our countries. Our governments weren’t really prepared for that, and since the Hungarians closed their borders, we had a lot of people coming and going through both Serbia and Croatia. At one point, Croatia couldn’t take all the refugees that were coming, and our government decided to close the borders with Serbia. Then, our new president decided to send our army to the Serbian border to ‘control’ the flow of the refugees. Both of those ideas were terrible and deteriorated the relationship between our countries a lot.

On the other hand, Serbian government had some of their own moments of brilliance, like a joint military drill with Russian forces just off the Croatian border, among others. Certainly, such governmental muscle-flexing is unnerving to most of the citizens of both Countries, while some of the more radical ones are already calling for a new war between our nations.

I am certainly no expert on politics or even on Serbo-Croatian relations, even though I lived in Croatia my whole life. However, I do feel I am an expert on one subject — Magic: the Gathering. If you haven’t heard of this card game, look it up, it is a twenty-two year old game that gets hotter and hotter as time passes by. At this moment there are over twenty million players playing the game in the world, so there has to be something to it. I have been playing the game for over thirteen years, with some moderate success and decent finishes on a professional level. I have met and befriended people from all over the world playing this game, and it enriched my life in many ways.

How does this relate to the hate between Serbia and Croatia? Well, it is a long story that begins in 2008. In Memphis Tennessee.

In 2008, I won the Croatian National Championship of Magic: the Gathering. I was 20 years old at that time and not well-versed in the whole ‘world’ thing. That was the first big tournament I ever won and it qualified me for the World Championship taking place in Memphis, Tennessee. I had never travelled out of my country before, and had met very few foreigners in general, so this trip I decided to take was a really big thing for me. I had to look for sponsors to finance my trip there, since the plane ticket was far too expensive for me and what my family could afford. Thankfully, there were some good people who decided that it is worth paying some of my expenses if I promoted my country there. I did just that, proudly brandishing our colors and waving the Croatian flag with pride and joy at the event. That drew some attention; a few Americans who had Croatian ancestry approached me to wish me good luck and to talk a bit about Croatia.

Team Croatia 2008

Team Croatia 2008

That was very fun, and I enjoyed meeting all these American people, but, at one point I was approached by four obviously European guys. They didn’t look like much, but as soon as they addressed me, my alarms went off. They spoke Serbian! It was a simple greeting and a question, but with no experience dealing with Serbs before that, I had no idea what could I expect. I replied very carefully, trying to be politically correct not to offend them in any way. I was too cautious with how I phrased my sentences and what I spoke about. They seemed to be very amused by my reserved attitude and decided to make a lot of lighthearted fun of myself, themselves and both of our nations until I relaxed enough to join in on the fun.

In years after, we ran into each other in various places and events accompanied with other guys from our countries and became great friends. With so many people in both of our Magic: The Gathering communities being and becoming friends, we started organizing events closer to our borders so we can have fun and play together. Novi Sad in Serbia and Osijek in Croatia hosted numerous Serbian-Croatian Magic events in the last seven years; some of them are even annual events, like a Halloween tournament in Osijek.

With tournaments in both Serbia and Croatia attracting players from both countries and with both of our communities consisting of almost exclusively nice, friendly people we more or less became a single community over the years. Trading, deckbuilding and metagaming goes over the border very often, but we also enjoy some non-magic related activities together, like sports, vacations or even relationships — which is still quite a taboo here. It is very common for parents to vigorously oppose relationships ‘over the border’, so it is often needed to keep such things secret. It is similar with just having friends from other country, but the opposition is less intense. Telling younger people that I have a lot of Serbian friends is very often met with disbelief, teasing and/or suspicion. But that is pretty mild compared to how older people react. Curses and hate are the usual response whenever Serbia or Serbs are mentioned, and those who broke the chains of prejudice are few and far in between. My own parents, both high school professors with very liberal standpoints were against me going to tournaments in Serbia at first, but when I persisted, they got used to me frequenting our eastern neighbors, but never completely relaxed. It is very hard to explain to people that the past should stay in the past and that we are a new generation who should build our mutual future off a clean slate without prejudice and hate.

This leads me to the latest conjoined effort Serbian and Croatian Magic community took part in: The World Magic Cup. The World Magic Cup is the pretty much like football/soccer World Cup where each country is represented with their respective four-player team battling to become the World Champions. Since both Croatians and Serbians are very proud people, we take great pleasure in cheering for our national teams in every and any sport. It is even greater pride and privilege to represent our nations in a big event like the World Magic Cup. This year’s World Magic Cup was held in Barcelona and I had the honor of being the team Captain. I took my role seriously and decided to prepare well for the tournament. The first thing I did when I found out who my teammates were was to call the captain of the Serbian national team and proposed to him that we work together. He accepted wholeheartedly, and when we presented our plan to both of our teams, they were positively thrilled. We rented an apartment for all eight of us near Camp Nou and started preparing online together as much as time permitted. When I told my father about our plan and arrangements his response was expected: “Are you sure about this? How well do you know those Serbian guys?” I explained that most of them are my long time friends, that I actually know them better than I know my own team, and even though he was somewhat relieved, I knew he is still far from convinced.

Obviously, that week in Barcelona was amazing, our mutual preparations placed the Serbian team in the Top 16, and while we weren’t lucky enough to post a decent finish, our Serbian friends took us out for a dinner to lift our spirits.

On our last day in Barcelona someone started a conversation about our political relations and how there is a lot of bad blood even now. Someone then said: “Imagine if our whole nations were like our Magic the Gathering communities. We wouldn’t even need the border!” Everyone laughed, but inside, I actually felt sad. Why weren’t we all like that? I feel like people never gave each other a chance. We are all bombarded by war stories about horrible atrocities that come with every war and it is hard not to create some stereotypes and misconceptions about Serbian people, but if we just gave our neighbors a chance, we would see we are all the same, no matter the nationality or religion. We all laugh at the same jokes, have similar problems and enjoy the same things. Together, we would be able to get both of our countries back on their feet. In past couple of years, our Magic communities certainly showed that when we work together, amazing things can be achieved!

Halimar Tidecaller

Mike (michaelj) and Brian (BDM) are back to Top 8 Magic podcasting on ManaDeprived!

One thing that came up in their most recent podcast “Landfall and Fall TV” is the idea of an “Awaken” theme deck featuring Halimar Tidecaller:

Halimar Tidecaller

Halimar Tidecaller is an interesting, if initially unassuming, little card. It actually has a slightly better body than Eternal Witness (2/3 being superior to 2/1)… But does much the same thing as long as you are looking to return “Awaken” theme cards exclusively. Of course the ability to give your land cards flying is a bonus, but I think the Eternal Witness-ness headlines this Human Wizard Ally.

So the question is… Are there Awaken cards worth playing, let alone building your deck around? We think that the answer is at least possibly yes. Consider:

  • Ruinous Path – Same mana cost as the widely played Hero’s Downfall; trades instant for sorcery, yes, but minor liability relative to Awaken upside and synergies
  • Scatter to the Winds – Literally a Cancel-plus. Substantially worse than Dissolve in the early turns (at the same mana cost); substantially better than most of the 1UU permission spells in very long games
  • Planar Outburst – Most interesting of all the “obvious” Awaken cards simply because it actually has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: Super synergistic with your own Awaken cards! Disadvantage: If you find yourself in an Awaken mirror, you ain’t killing their thing.

Here is a preliminary Halimar Tidecaller Esper Control deck, based on Brian’s enthusiastic comments:

Esper Control by Brian David-Marshall

1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
4 Ruinous Path

3 Anticipate
2 Clutch of Currents
4 Dig Through Time
4 Halimar Tidecaller
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Part the Waterveil
4 Scatter to the Winds

2 Dragonlord Ojutai

4 Planar Outburst

4 Flooded Strand
1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
2 Island
2 Plains
4 Polluted Delta
4 Prairie Stream
4 Shambling Vent
4 Sunken Hollow
2 Swamp

3 Infinite Obliteration
2 Rising Miasma
4 Ultimate Price
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Part the Waterveil
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death

One card that was considered that is fairly on-theme is Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper; ultimately we considered that too immediately clunky and vulnerable relative to Dragonlord Ojutai at 3WU (especially no hexproof tapping out).

Of course “Landfall and Fall TV” has much more going on than just Halimar Tidecaller brewing. Check it (and what Mike and Brian are watching right now) out at

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Italian Poutine

In this week’s Kitchen Table Gaming, I and my guests actually play a game of Arena of the Planeswalkers!

Arena of the Planeswalkers is the board game version of our old favorite, Magic: The Gathering. So for this week’s episode, I put some different / unexpected twists on other favorites.

Italian Poutine – Inspired by my recent trip to Canada for Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver. This “Italian” Poutine (pictured above) combines some very different ingredients than your classic plate of disco fries.

Elvis Banana Pudding – Whenever anyone comes to visit New York City, one of the most sought after food destinations is Magnolia Bakery (where they make a very good banana pudding). Ours is super charged with a particular ingredient to make a Banana Pudding fit for a King 😉

Check out the recipes — and our Arena of the Planeswalkers play — and see what Kitchen Table Gaming is all about:

Me and my guests:

PT HoF Ring

I know something you don’t know.

That’s the essential narrative of most Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot articles; and to a degree the implicit reason certain members of the community are entrusted with Pro Tour Hall of Fame votes to begin with.

You know, I know something you don’t know.

“I know that so-and-so doesn’t have the numbers to back up a legit Hall of Fame bid, but did you know that he did such-and-such a thing in the across-the-Narrow-Sea community? (I know something you don’t know), so lemme tell you why I am voting for so-and-so (and why you should too).”


“I mean there wouldn’t even BE [this other slam-dunk Hall of Famer] if not for whosits-whatsits. Whosits’s influence on the nascent Eastern Latverian metagame development scene is simply unprecedented. YOU wouldn’t know that, of course; but I know something you don’t know.”


“Look man, I was there. You young whippersnappers and your spreadsheets, your medians and modes, counting your Top 8s like they are pennies around April 15… You just didn’t know, man. You didn’t see it. People just played that way back then. He was in the shit. We were all in the shit. I know something you don’t know: I WAS THERE.”

Because, you know, I know something you don’t know.

It was this reliance on secret knowledge that guided many of my early votes; and to be fair, many of all the early votes of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. I voted in younger years for players like Brian Hacker* and Itaru Ishida. I could spend five or six thousand words on the narrative around my vote.

In my old age, though, I’ve declined more into the hard numbers. There are just too many stories. Call me crazy but I don’t see for inducting someone into the Hall of Fame because he cultivates a local gaming scene. There are tons of store owners out there cultivating their local gaming scenes and we are not inducting any of them into the Hall of Fame. I personally know one store owner who produced a Pro Tour Top 8 player, a key Director at WotC (who came up via the Pro Tour) and arguably the game’s most notable strategist; also a hell of a businessman who has grown a small market community by orders of magnitude over the last twenty years. I know another former store owner who produced not just three Pro Tour Champions, but three Hall of Famers! Who knows if any of them would have gotten out of high school without him? Those are wonderful contributors to our community; but the idea that we would induct them into the Hall of Fame is foreign… Unless they have the minimum requisite number of PT points? Does that make very much sense?

As balloteers we are tasked with evaluating Hall of Fame candidates on five criteria:

  1. Player’s performances
  2. Playing ability
  3. Integrity
  4. Sportsmanship
  5. Contributions to the game in general

In my first year as a voter, I tried to come up with a system that celebrated each of these five criteria. That was the last year I tried to do something along those lines, as my ballot came out completely different than I probably would have liked. I knew something others didn’t know (or at least I thought I did); but I elected not to draw on that knowledge, apparently.

Others have not been so shy.

I know a former editor who voted for the game’s most notorious cheater because — gasp — he knew (or at least saw) something the rest of us didn’t. “Mr. Short has really changed,” he told me. “I know he has a terrible reputation as a cheater, but if you had seen how he handled that drunk kid in that one side event you’d have a new respect for him, too**.” I told you he knew something we didn’t know!

For most of the Hall of Fame, the only thing anyone talks about is the first category: Performances.

Even now in my dotage, I am relying on things that I know that other people don’t. It has just dawned on me that maybe they know and just don’t care. Maybe the secret things we think we know other people actually know, but don’t value. In a podcast I did with bdm and Craig Wescoe last week (my Team Ultra PRO teammate who I randomly ran into at FNM) I made some bombastic statement about voting for Shouta Yasooka but not Tom Martell (I noted that it’s fine to vote for Shouta but makes no sense to vote for Shouta and not Tom). Apparently there are plenty of people who are happy to vote for Shouta and not Tom!

From Paul Jordan’s article a few weeks back:

Paul's 2015 short list

To me this is a clear-cut case. Shouta has more Pro Tours than Tom (but that just means that he has had more at-bats); ditto on Pro Points. Tom has one of the best Median careers on the ballot and the best 15-event Median more-or-less ever. The two are very comparable on most of the other stats (and are certainly more comparable than most of the voters seem to acknowledge)… Shouta has one more Player of the Year Top 10, one more Top 16, and four more Top 32s; Tom won twice as many Grand Prixs and has a second World Championship appearance. To me Tom has had a very similar career to Shouta in half as many tries. We don’t typically vote people in on the differentiating stuff (tonnage of GP Top 8s).

Justin Gary might make for an even stronger argument. One PT difference between the two of them (in Justin’s favor); Justin has a better median, 15-event median, number of Top 8s, Top 16s, Top 32s and Top 64s. Shouta crushes Justin on GPs (which, I assume, is where his PT points advantage comes from).

Here’s the thing about performances only: There is no clear-cut inductee this year. Basically everyone on the ballot except for Saito would pull down Hall averages. Even EFro! (Hall Median Top 8s — the most important statistic for most voters — is 5; EFro has “only” 4.)

That’s a toughie, isn’t it?

Or, from my vantage point, for conscientious voters, it should be.

Two weeks ago I thought I was 50% to vote for EFro; 50% to vote for EFro and Shouta.

Then I had a conversation with Jonny Magic that convinced me that Tom was a better candidate than Shouta, but that EFro was not as much a slam-dunk as I had originally thought (don’t forget, I voted for both of them last year). So I was 33% to vote for EFro, 33% to vote for EFro and Tom, 33% to vote for no one.

But I learned something you might not know:

Someone gets in.

If “someone” gets in, I’d rather it were EFro, who even with “only” four Top 8s, is at least the most powerful Magician in the world right now. It’s rare that we see a Magician at the height of his powers inducted into the HoF. But who knows? EFro might get his fifth visit to the Sunday podium, you know, next weekend.

… Which is how I landed on my ballot.

My 2015 Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot: Eric Froehlich


* In fact, my article on voting for Brian Hacker remains one of my favorite Star City Games articles of all time. An excerpt:

When you swing with a two-drop, you are tearing a page out of a hymnal at the Church of Hacker. When you play a sub-optimal drop because it contributes to the whole of your deck or the redundancy of your deck rather than shining individually as a tier one card, you are tossing your cap in the air and running through the fountains of the graduation ceremony at the Brian Hacker Institute for Technologickal Arts. In the unlikely event that you roll into a club after a tournament money finish and swap tongue-lashings with a blonde with whom you share no other lingual fluency, or perhaps elicit a screaming “Azul!” from a crowd of onlooking Latinas hungry to take in a little spectator Magic: The Gathering, you are clumsily attempting to cram your feet into the worn basketball sneakers of the Hacker of old, the one who broke other people’s games rather than making them himself.

** Paraphrase, but that was his actual reason for reversing his position on, ahem, Mr. Short. I knew something you didn’t know, but now you know, too.