“To us this is the beginning of a new era of Magic.”

That was how Mark Rosewater kicked things off at the annual Magic panel at San Diego Comic-Con early Saturday evening. He was talking about the elimination of core sets, the creation of two blocks a year and the new 18-month Standard rotation. The final piece of that puzzle — and this was something that was emphasized over and over again throughout the panel — was a shift in storytelling. He pointed to Mirage, Visions, then Weatherlight and Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi as examples of disjointed storytelling across a block.

One of the side effects of twice as many blocks is having to tell twice as many stories. The pace of the story is just going to accelerate with more chapters being unfurled each year. This has led to the desire for there to be a more continuous story. Joining Maro on the dais were Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe, Magic Senior Art Director Jeremy Jarvis, Brand Manager Liz Lamb-Ferro, and Magic creative designer Jenna Helland. It was Jenna who began to speak about how they solved this problem.

“We wanted a central cast of characters. This is who became the Origins Five; Gideon, Jace, Lilliana, Chandra and Nissa.”

Once they finalized their cast of characters the next step was to take a deep dive into each of those characters and find out more about what made them into the Planeswalkers at the forefront of the Magic mythos. She went on to show how the story of Gideon is woven throughout the art in the past sets and up through Magic Origins which leads him to planeswalk to Bant when his spark ignites. We were then treated to a glimpse of Gideon from the upcoming set — sans frame, text, casting cost and all that.


Another of the Orgins Five that had upcoming art showcased was Nissa.


Once all the characters have had their origins revealed there is the small matter of getting all these characters to interact with each other. In the continuity of the game after Magic Origins these characters still don’t know each other. Jenna talked about the writer’s room where not only are all the character’s stories are workshopped but also the dynamics of how the Origins Five deal with each other. One of the little exercises they might use to figure this out is to ask what would happen if Jace and Gideon had to move a couch together. The audience laughed but Jenna assured them that it was a very real exercies. Later during the Q&A someone asked what the resolution to the scenario would be. Maro had the perfect response.

“I think Gideon moves the sofa by himself but thinks Jace helped him.”

Jenna revealed that only 80% of the Origins Five would make their way through The Battle for Zendikar. Lilliana is still dealing with the ramifications of The Chain Veil and will be sitting this one out. Much of the art in Battle for Zendikar will feature these characters interacting and building out that story such as this piece.


The Uncharted Realms column on DailyMTG.com is going to become more and more central to the telling of these stories and next week will feature the first Prelude to Zendikar story which gets out heroes from the end of the Magic Orgins into the first act of the Battle for Zendikar. Jenna teased out some of the upcoming stories. Jace will get a visitor that will shake up his world, Lilliana is still struggling under the Chain Veil, Chandra has gotten herself into a position of authority, and Nissa who is “boots on the ground” battling the Eldrazi.

Pivotal events were the next topic of discussion — such as when Elspeth slayed Xenagos on the card Deicide. We were given a glimpse of a pivotal event from Battle for Zendikar and given three words — that were warned were not likely in the correct order. “Gate Slaughter Sea”, which I am just going to venture a guess unjumbles into Seagate Slaughter.


Picking up loose ends — and tying them off — from older stories is another stated goal of the creative team. They were intrigued by the story potential of Ob Nixilis from the last trip to Zendikar and looked to revisit the Planeswalker who lost his spark in the new set. If you are looking for a likely villain in the new story you need search not farther. Ob Nixilis hates Zendikar and the Planeswalkers native to it. This is fine artisinal aged hatred and you can expect this baddie to be very, very bad.


Then they unfurled the wings…


Earlier in the panel Jenna had discussed Jace having a mysterious visitor. Spoiler! Later on Jeremey Jarvis whowed off a meeting of the minds between Jace and none other than the Spirit Dragon himself Ugin.


One of the reasons I was able to unjumble “Seagate” earlier was because…well…it really wasn’t that hard but my notion was confirmed when Maro referred to an upcoming Seagate story on Uncharted Realms that will feature this art. Art that features both Kiora (!) and what appears to be the Bident of Thassa.


Before they let everyone out of the room they showed off a pair of Angels from the next From The Vault set.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath_EN_HRR

Akroma, Angel of Fury_EN_HRR

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.


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

Spoiler Alert: Magic Origins

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Games, Magic

While making Kitchen Table Gaming I was fortunate to meet David Troth Wright, a videographer with a passion for geekery and a sideways view of the world. Take his approach to spoilers on his web series Spoiler Alert for example…


They contain no actual spoilers. Here is the official description of the show.

Spoiler Alert is the show where David attempts to review things that aren’t yet. This is a parody review show, only half trying at guessing what will happen in upcoming TV shows, movies, games, and other forms of entertainment. Basically, when we start getting stuff right, it will be A) hilarious and B) a sign that the media in question has completely jumped the shark.

Episodes will discuss movies, TV shows, and with each new set release, Magic: The Gathering. I am happy to present to you Spoiler Alert: Magic Origins.

Randy Buehler

People like to talk about 4 Top 8’s as the bar for entry (or serious consideration, anyway) for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Personally, I’ve always looked for consistent top finishes. If you ask me to judge who the best players are, I rate the guy with seven Top 16s and two Top 8s higher than the guy with four Top 8s but only four total Top 16s.

In fact, if you do want to use a litmus test to cut the ballot down to just the strong contenders, I will specifically recommend “seven Top 16s” as your line. Here’s who you get this year: Eric Froehlich (10), Justin Gary (8), Tsuyoshi Ikeda (7), Shouta Yasooka (7). I already thought this was a year where I might not use all five votes, so only having four names doesn’t bother me a bit. (If you look at the WotC stats it has Osyp Lebedowicz with seven Top 16s as well, but they’re counting his 9th and 12th place finishes in team PTs; I think only members of the Top 8 teams at a team PT should get credit for a “Top 16.”) Just missing the cut-off with six Top 16s, for whatever it’s worth, are Scott Johns and Tom Martell. Interestingly, there are two guys with four Top 8’s each on this year’s ballot who don’t have any additional Top 16s: Willy Edel and Mark Herberholz.

To be clear, I’m not a big fan of the “litmus test” approach to Hall of Fame voting. I think it’s possible to construct a candidate who fails on just about any single criterion but still brings enough other things to the table to make him a worthy Hall of Famer (I’d even include the 150 pro point criterion in this as I have voted for Chris Pikula multiple times in the past). If you want to vote for Willy Edel based on his community contributions or Mark Herberholz based on his deckbuilding prowess then I think that’s totally reasonable. My real point here is that I think Top 16s (and even Top 32s) paint a better picture of who does consistently well on the Pro Tour than Top 8s [alone]. And it’s that ability to succeed consistently that makes you a Hall of Famer in my eyes. If Willy or Mark had six Top 16s (or even a dozen Top 32s) then I could look past what I see as a flaw in their statistical profiles. But they in fact have only seven Top 32s each. Both guys spiked four times — which is awesome — but have shown very little consistency.

Eric Froehlich is, in my eyes, the one slam-dunk candidate this year. There are actually only six people in the history of the game with more Top 16s than his ten (Finkel, Nassif, Budde, Kastle, Levy, and Cornelissen). People talk about the fourth Top 8 he picked up since last year as the clincher, but I think the fact he has two Top 16s so far this season is a bigger deal. He’ll definitely be playing Worlds this year, and he might win a Player of the Year title too. He’s an all-time great talent who happens to be at the peak of his powers right now. An easy vote.

My second vote is going to Shouta Yasooka. Obviously, based on everything I’ve said so far, I like the seven Top 16s and the thirteen Top 32s (which trails only Efro and Justin Gary on this ballot). Those alone are not enough to get my vote, though, with only the two Top 8s. The things that push me over the edge are the runner-up finish at Worlds and the Player of the Year title.

There’s been a lot of debate online about how much to count high finishes at the new version of the World Championship. It’s true that you have to do something else good to qualify, so there’s a danger of “double counting” good PT finishes, but I still think qualifying for that tournament consistently is a significant accomplishment. Yes, I know you get points from one Worlds that count toward the next one, but we’ve still seen a ton of turnover every year. If the current season ended tomorrow we’d only see 10 of last year’s 24 competitors returning, and depending on how things shake out at the last few events, the list of people who have qualified for all of the new-Worlds could easily drop from three down to just Yuuya Watanabe.

The other thing I think is worthy of major credit is finishing well at that tournament. It’s the toughest tournament field of the year, by far. There isn’t even really another comparison. Sure, somebody has to win it and there’s only 24 players, so once you’re qualified then your odds of, say, a Top 4 finish are higher than a Top 8 at a Pro Tour; but I think the people who focus on that math are forgetting about the fact that you had to qualify before you even get into this situation! Anyway, I think when Shahar eventually comes up for Hall of Fame consideration that his two wins at Worlds have to count as major accomplishments. I also think that Yuuya should get major credit for putting up a win and an additional Top 4.

This is all relevant now because I think Shouta’s performance at the first new-Worlds is as impressive as a Pro Tour Top 8. He dominated the Swiss (going 11-1) and doing it with a collection of self-brewed decks that no one knew what to do against. (His lone-wolf approach to deck building and his consistent innovations don’t get enough attention either, in my opinion). He did lose the finals to Yuuya, but I still count his performance as dominant, and rate it a similar accomplishment to a PT Top 8. Meanwhile, Shouta does also have a Player of the Year title. It was fueled by lots of Grand Prix points (at a time when Grand Prix points were uncapped), but whatever… By the rules in place that year he was the best. And besides, I do think it’s impressive to accumulate 400 career pro points and 19 GP Top 8’s.

You have to be really good to put up those numbers even if you do attend a lot of them (especially without traveling internationally). So is a Player of the Year title “worth” a Pro Tour Top 8? They’re quite different, obviously, but I say yes – it counts as another major accomplishment in my book and that gets him to (at least) 4. One could also argue that winning a Pro Tour is a bigger deal than just making Top 8, and I normally would, but his win was in the one team constructed PT and team wins have to count a little bit less than individual wins so I’ll just leave it as a Top 8 and move on. The one other factor I do think is worthy of consideration is the opinions of other Japanese players, who seem to me to universally revere him.

I’m also voting for Justin Gary again. All 14 players who have ever put up 15 or more Top 32’s are in the Hall of Fame. Except Justin. Who has 17. (Not the 20 in the WotC stats, because of the bug with team finishes I mentioned earlier, but still.) Everyone who has ever put up eight or more Top 16s is in the Hall of Fame (or is about to be in EFro’s case). Except Justin Gary and Eugene Harvey. The more statistical analysis happens, the more it looks like the early years of the Pro Tour were easier (in the sense that top players could more consistently put up good finishes), but those numbers are still just plain gaudy. We’re not talking about 10-20 PTs in the 90s, we’re talking about a 45 PT career that spans well into the 2000s. Actually, to be fair to Justin, his last 14 PTs have zero Top 32s as he basically stayed qualified and kept coming for several years just to be able to hang out with the guys. All 17 of those Top 32s came in his first 30 PTs. That’s 17 for 30, including a streak of eight in a row (and two other cashes as well). The only person to rival that 56.7% Top 32 conversion rate is me at 58.3%, but that was in just 12 Pro Tours (and all back in the 90s). Plus don’t forget there are three Top 8’s and a win in there, along with a slew of “non-PT” success: a win at US Nationals, a second appearance on the US national team, a World team title, and a second place finish on the Masters Series. I don’t care if we’re talking about a pre-Magic Online era, if you can go two years without failing to make the Top 32 of the Pro Tour, you’re a Hall of Famer in my mind.

And that’s my ballot. Just three guys this year: Froehlich, Yasooka, and Gary. Tsuyoshi Ikeda does also have reasonable stats for this ballot (and solid community contributions from what I understand), but his counting stats are less impressive to me given that he played fully 59 Pro Tours, so I’m stopping at three. For lots of awesome stats, many of which informed this article, check out this Google Doc.

Randy Buehler

Randy Buehler is a seven-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor, Pro Tour Champion, the 1997-1998 Rookie of the Year, and a member of the 2007 Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame. On the other side of the game, he is a former Developer, Director of Magic R&D, and VP of Digital Games for Wizards of the Coast. You can follow Randy on Twitter at @rbuehler and check out his commentary from the booth at DailyMTG.com.

Knight of the White Orchid

Top Level Podcast Summary:
Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores discuss the exciting new Nissa, Vastwood Seer (Nissa, Sage Animist) and other Magic Origins cards in this Magic podcast.

I swear I didn’t know that Knight of the White Orchid was in Magic Origins 24 hours ago. Or more like 72 hours ago, based on when we recorded this week’s episode of Top Level Podcast.

But there we have it in all its two-drop glory: Knight of the White Orchid in Magic Origins.

Knight of the White Orchid and I have a bit of a special history. You see, I get stuff like this all the time:

God bless Brendan Hurst. This is a guy who came out of semi-retirement recently, based on the love of absurdly costed Dragons to win a PPTQ with my Five-Color Blue Dragons deck. He is also the guy who made the Mike Flores soundboard. Love his tweets, all of it.

But even Brendan pegged me with his comments on Nissa as “the Borderland Rnger guy”. I guess I’ve been the Borderland Ranger guy since before there were Borderland Rangers (previously they were Civic Wayfinders). When Pilgrim’s Eye came out (bdm) bet me on the Top 8 Magic podcast that I was going to be the Pilgrim’s Eye guy. I said it would never happen… and we all know how that turned out, ultimately. As I detail in this week’s Top Level Podcast… I never meant to be the Borderland Ranger guy!

(Go to about 2:25 to hear more; via Top Level Podcast)

… I actually just wanted to be the Knight of the White Orchid guy.

Not only did I want to be the Knight of the White Orchid guy, our puppeteering overlords in Renton, WA wanted me to be the Knight of the White Orchid guy! They even entrusted me with the preview!

The stars seemed to be aligning. I was supposed to be the Knight of the White Orchid guy. Knight of the White Orchid was “only” an effcient two drop, but it was beautifully synergistic with one of the then-Standard’s big bombs: Reveillark. My old Cabal Rogue and Righteous Babe teammate (and present Team Ultra PRO teammate) Brian Kowal was already synergizing Knight of the White Orchid and Reveillark and kicking butt with them together. Man oh man these cards seemed like they should go together like peanut butter and jelly… Scratch that: Peanut butter and chocolate.

With its ability to return creatures with power two or less to play, Reveillark made for great synergy with Knight of the White Orchid.

Knight of the White Orchid made me positively not-unhappy to go second. I spent many first turns setting myself up with Fieldmist Borderpost, even on the play.

But ultimately, we just didn’t work out. You know how one day Jennifer Garner is on the red carpet “best dressed couples” list with husband Scott Foley… And then five minutes later she is married to Ben Affleck? Wasn’t he just married to JLo? you are asking yourself. Me and Knight of the White Orchid… We just didn’t work out. I could never get it to give me a two for one. I resorted to hitting the opponent’s guys with Path to Exile just to stay even. Then when I got my Reveillark killed, half the time my re-bought Knights didn’t even dig for Plains. I was a worthwhile person (I hope); Knight of the White Orchid a solid 2/2 for WW in a long line of 2/2s for WW… But together we weren’t peanut butter and chocolate at all. We were more like peanut butter and bananas. Bananas!

I still wanted my 2/2s and land drops. I needed to get up to five or six, remember! And Reveillark wasn’t going anywhere (except the graveyard, where it belonged). Civic Wayfinder cost me one more mana, but unlike Knight of the White Orchid, always got there for me. I discovered new synergies with the two, and started returning the nominally naught-power Doran, the Siege Tower to the battlefield… In the same decks that I mustered the UUU for Cryptic Command.

Doran, the Siege Tower
Guess who has less than two power (but hits like it has five)?

“You want basic Island? I can get you basic Island! You want to play one Swamp? It’s yours. I know I’m not the hero you want, baby,” whispered Civic Wayfinder in my ear. “But I’m the hero you have.”

Rotations happen, as they do. Civic Wayfinder traveled West to the Undying Lands (as Elves do). But it passing didn’t leave me bereft for long: Borderland Ranger took its place immediately in the then-Core Set; and just in time to block an incoming Bloodbraid Elf without a loss of card advantage. It’s been a while. And we finally have the most exciting Core Set ever in Magic Origins.

In Magic Origins we have a kind of Borderland Ranger — really a non-Legenday Civic Wayfinder — that can only get Forests. I’ve been wondering if they would give us a more traditional look at Civic Wayfinder; it turns out Magic Origins is giving the one before the one we think of as coming first.

Maybe this time around?


Paul Jordan, Magic Stats Guy

I’m going to make a statement that some may consider controversial. Jon Finkel is a borderline Magic: the Gathering Hall of Famer. The numbers back me up on this. Overall, his performances by themselves are impressive and worthy of discussion for his inclusion in the Hall, but they are hardly a lock.

Now here’s the rub: I’m only talking about Jon’s performance after his initial induction in the Hall of Fame. I’m referring to his second career, so to speak. I excluded everything he did to initially cement his legacy and am only looking at the last decade’s worth of events. Players only become eligible for the Hall of Fame if, among other things, they debuted on the Pro Tour at least 10 years ago. Jon was inducted in 2005. That was 10 years ago. So here we are.

Jon’s career certainly hasn’t been as prolific since then, but it’s been pretty darn good. Take a look:


There’s not much of a comparison there at all, though perhaps it’s worth noting that Jon has an almost identical median across his pre and post HOF days. Otherwise, he’s played in just over half as many events but the counting numbers are almost all fewer than half of his pre-HOF days (except wins). If Jon had kept up his pre-HOF pace, in the same 28 events we would have seen 6 top 8s instead of 3, 10 top 16s instead of 6, 12 top 32s instead of 9 and 14 top 64s instead of 12. This isn’t to say the post-HOF numbers are bad. They’re borderline HOF-worthy! That’s more of a commentary on how absurdly great his pre-HOF numbers are.

So let’s talk about that “borderline” qualifier. How would second-career-Jon fare in voting? I compared his post-HOF career with the HOF standards I calculate yearly:


Green numbers indicate Jon bested the HOF standard and red indicates he didn’t. As you can see, Jon meets all of the HOF minimums. As you can also see, he is below the median in the majority of categories. The only exceptions are career median – remember this is where he even improved over his pre-HOF days – and wins where he is tied. He’s very close to the HOF median in both 15-event median and top 16s. Considering how many fewer events he’s played in than the HOF median, that top 16 number is especially impressive.

I think that, if this were how voting went and people had to re-qualify for the Hall of Fame every 10 years, Jon would have a small shot. It would likely depend on who else was on the ballot. For reference, here are last year’s inductees as compared to faux-Jon.


In this class, Jon’s only standout numbers are his medians. His rate numbers are great, but he simply hasn’t played as many events as others on the ballot. Maybe in another year or 2 he’d get in. If this alternate universe required that voters ignore candidates’ previous accomplishments and focus only on the specified 10-year period, I don’t think I’d vote for Jon. I would also probably have a really hard time distancing my thought process from his otherworldly pre-HOF career and feel like an idiot for not voting for him. But fake rules are fake rules and who would I be to argue them?

This is all obviously moot. There’s no requirement to re-certify Hall of Fame standards. Once you’re in, you’re in. This is something I’m sure very many HOF members are happy about. The point is, Jon has continued to be a top tier player even after his qualification for events no longer required it. He didn’t rest on his laurels. All he did was skip some events and crush dreams at the rest.

–Paul Jordan

Paul Jordan is the Magic “stats guy”. His handle on Twitter is @magicpj

Gideon, Battle-Forged

Top Level Podcast excerpt:
Michael J Flores and Patrick Chapin talk new Magic Origins card Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged; Patrick’s 9th Place Grixis, and more!

Or, to paraphrase myself on Twitter… “New GIDEON + Patrick’s GRIXIS = GGs :)”

This week Patrick and I spent the majority of the podcast on his Grixis deck from last week’s Grand Prix Charlotte, actually. Patrick has been an Abzan (formerly “Junk”) player for about the past year (since, you know, winning a Pro Tour with Fleecemane Lion + Hero’s Downfall) but deep in his bones he is a Grixis Control guy. I for one was overjoyed to see my other-partner crushing the GP Swiss with Lightning Bolts and Cryptic Commands (and for that matter the Modern card he “invented” in Gurmag Angler)… If not the 9th place finish on tiebreakers. We Top Level Podcast heroes are no strangers to 9th place on breakers, sadly.

The whiz! Bang! New! portion of the podcast is obviously around the first one-drop Planeswalker in the history of the game… The Hero who would become Gideon, Battle-Forged. Some of our ideas are probably going to have to be refined (these are first impressions on a fairly complicated new card template, remember) but the fact remains that Gideon, Battle-Forged is quite likely to become a cross-format Staple.

Besides obvious Standard synergies with cards like Collected Company or Brimaz, King of Oreskos; Gideon in a deck with Ornithopters and Memnites might make for an incentive to try the white version of Affinity in Modern. Might Tempered Steel return as a result?

Check out “Fifty Percent Kytheon, Hero of Akros” and enjoy!

BDM as a Spider Token!

Spider Spoilers (BDM as a Spider Token)

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Magic

I love making spider tokens and now I can say that with multiple meanings. I had a chance to participate in Rashad Tokens: Series 2 and pose in hat for the spider token — one of nearly two dozen token creatures that almost exclusively feature the inimitable Rashad Miller. As part of my participation I get to spoil my token here for the first time.

The tokens will be available for free at all Grand Prix Rashad attends once they get made. The “getting made” part is the tricky piece and you can help Rashad make them happen by supporting his Kickstarter campaign. You can help just by sharing this link or you can reach into your Cabal Coffers to make donation as little as $1.

Personally I will need at least 100 spider tokens, some 75 zombies, as many as 50 wolves, and at least two dozen insects to use with my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant Commander deck. Those are just current high water marks for each type of token my deck can make but it probably not really enough. I also need some Essence of the Wild tokens for when I flashback Spider Spawning with a copy of the big dumb green avatar in play.

I am sure the list will change once Magic Origins arrives but here is my most current list for the deck. Get your spider tokens while you can!

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant — Commander

1 Hedron Crab
1 Joraga Treespeaker
1 Coiling Oracle
1 Deranged Assistant
1 Millikin
1 Riftsweeper
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Sylvan Ranger
1 Borderland Ranger
1 Civic Wayfinder
1 Eternal Witness
1 Nyx Weaver
1 Nighthowler
1 Somberwald Sage
1 Splinterfright
1 Trygon Predator
1 Wood Elves
1 Yavimaya Granger
1 Brooding Saurian
1 Master Biomancer
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Wonder
1 Acidic Slime
1 Genesis
1 Kessig Cagebreakers
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
1 Sultai Soothsayer
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Duplicant
1 Essence of the Wild
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 Progenitor Mimic
1 Shoreline Ranger
1 Soul of New Phyrexia
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Twisted Abomination
1 Deathbringer Regent
1 Hornet Queen
1 Jungle Weaver
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Necropolis Fiend
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Memory’s Journey
1 Mulch
1 Oversold Cemetery
1 Regrowth
1 Beastmaster Ascension
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Runic Repetition
1 Sultai Ascendancy
1 Parallel Lives
1 Doubling Season
1 Shamanic Revelation
1 Spider Spawning
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Empty the Pits
1 Bayou
1 Breeding Pool
1 Command Tower
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Flooded Grove
1 Flooded Strand
5 Forest
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Island
1 Jungle Hollow
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Mana Confluence
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Opulent Palace
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Polluted Delta
1 River of Tears
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Simic Growth Chamber
3 Swamp
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Temple of the False God
1 Thornwood Falls
1 Tropical Island
1 Underground Sea
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Vesuva
1 Watery Grave
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Woodland Cemetery

The point of this deck was to recreate my favorite win condition from Innistrad draft — making nigh-infinite spiders by looping Spider Spawning, Runic Repetition, and Memory’s Journey. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is a perfect tool for the deck giving you a constantly available way to stock your graveyard and make zombies in the process. Normally I don’t play cards like Demonic Tutor and Deadeye Navigator but the deck started out as an exercise to see if it was possible to kill someone in Commander with spider tokens and all the gloves were off assuming that the deck was starting out inherently underpowered. It is currently an exercise in trying to reign the deck in from just killing everyone single digit turns into the game

Cards like Splinterfirght, Nyx Weaver, Hedron Crab, Deranged Assistant and the lowly Millikin all shine in this deck which features some 45 creatures and plenty of card that care about the graveyard. Wonder has been a delightful source of frustration for opponents thus far, Gnaw to the Bone has gained me hundreds of life in a single game, and Oversold Cemetery might be one of the best cards in the whole deck. As for win conditions you have Beastmaster Ascension and Craterhoof Behemoth to completely overwhelm your opposition with your ragtag army of wolves, zombies, insects, and incredibly handsome spider tokens.

Avaricious Dragon

Manadeprived Exerpt:
Once more at the corner of Waverly & Gay, you can find Brian and Mike talking about the Invitationals, basketball, comics… you know, everything!

Last week Mike and Brian met on their habitual corner of Waverly and Gay in the West Village of New York City for the usual brand of Top 8 Magic podcasting + “ambient noise”.

While this episode is entitled “Everything” — as in “every thing to every one” — it is not actually about every single possible thing. It is not even about every single possible interesting and germane thing; for instance there is no mention of this [brand new] website on the podcast despite its having been recorded less than one week ago.

However it is about a good many things (some of them good), which we will detail forthwith:

Avaricious Dragon (and some other spoiled cards from Magic Origins) – Mike calls Avaricious Dragon “awesomeawful to lovehate” … He seems torn about completely hating it and speculating about when it might actually be good enough but ultimately decides that the competition relative to Thunderbreak Regent may be too heady. Though Mike had been successful with cards like Bottled Cloister in the past (and Brian points out that archetypes like Burning Bridge have been successful contributors to decks across multiple eras) Mike points out “you can’t Doom Blade a Grafted Skullcap”.

“Draymond Green is a hell of a drug.”

Mike wonders how Andre Iguodala and David Lee can’t crack Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors rotation [clearly Steve Kerr listens to this podcast having revised his rotations for games three and four]. Overall Mike is concerned about the fouls on the GSW side, and argues that narratives about “calling it down the middle” or “keeping it even” miss the point if one team is actually fouling much more than the other.

“Everything” is the latest episode of Top 8 Magic, a longstanding podcast hosted by Michael J Flores and Brian David-Marshall, and the spiritual ancestor of Fetchland. Top 8 Magic’s current home is Manadeprived.com and is sponsored by Face to Face Games.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Top Level Podcast Excerpt:
In addition to discussing PVDDR’s Esper Dragons and Adrian Sullivan’s Dimir Control, Patrick and Michael discuss GR Devotion and other recent top finishers.

Earlier this week Pro Tour Champion / Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and I did a podcast on Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver over at Top Level Podcast.

Topics included two important decks featuring Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver (Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s continued dominance with Esper Dragons and Adrian Sullivan’s Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Top 8 follow-up, this time packing ALL FOUR copies of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver) as well as some other up-and-coming or returning decks in the Standard metagame including G/R Devotion plus some hither and thither changes to Abzan Megamorph / Abzan Control.

But mostly why you might want to be on Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver right now.

(if you haven’t already) give “Time to be Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver” a listen: