PT HoF Ring

Hall of Fame 2017 Rules Changes

Posted by Paul Jordan | Magic

Wizards of the Coast announced a change in the voting threshold for Hall of Fame inclusion which moves the required percentage of ballots with your name from 40% to 60%. This is a very large leap. Before we dig into this, let’s take a quick review of how Hall of Fame voting has worked historically

  • 2005 – A 69 person selection committee each voted for 5 people. The top 4 players on ballots were inducted. The remaining players were voted on by a players committee, with the top vote-getter there getting elected
  • 2006-2007 – Both committees received the same ballots and voted. Selection committee votes were weighted as 2/3 of the vote vs 1/3 for players’ committee. Top 5 weighted vote-getters were elected
  • 2007-2013 – The same committees existed, but instead of the top 5 getting elected, you needed a 40% weighted threshold.
  • 2014-2016 – There was now only 1 committee, consisting of the 2 former committees merged. You still needed 40%

Now we have the same, singular committee but instead of appearing on 40% of the ballots, you need to appear on 60%. They’re culling the list of available players by increasing eligibility requirements as well as making it harder to stay on the ballot. The stated intent is that votes would be more concentrated. I have my doubts about this logic, but I’ll leave those to Twitter fights. For now, I want to focus on the what-if. What if these rules had been in place all along? What would our Hall of Fame look like now?

First, there are 43 people currently in the Hall of Fame. Of those, the average voting percentage (weighted or not, depending on the year) is 59.19%. So, the average Hall of Famer would fall juuuuuust short of getting into the Hall of Fame under the new system. Of the 43 players, 23 would not be in the Hall of Fame. Or, at least, not from the same class.

So, of those 23, how many have continued to put up results? Just because they didn’t get in one year, doesn’t mean they couldn’t get in the next year, right? By getting enough under the old rules to be inducted, they surely have enough under the new rules to stay on the ballot.

7 of those 23 have continued to cast spells and come up with another PT top 8. 2 of them even got 2 more top 8s!

  • Raphael Levy (elected in 2006, top 8 Yokohama 2007)
  • Tsuyoshi Fujita (elected in 2007, top 8 Nagoya 2011)
  • Nicolai Herzog (elected in 2007, top 8 Kuala Lumpur 2008)
  • Jelger Wiegersma (2) (elected in 2008, top 8 Fate Reforged 2015 and Dark Ascension 2012)
  • Brian Kibler (2) (elected in 2010, top 8 Dark Ascension 2012 and Amsterdam 2010)
  • Patrick Chapin (elected in 2012, top 8 Journey into Nyx 2014)
  • William Jensen (elected in 2013, top 8 Magic 2015 in 2014)

These players very possibly would have been elected in future years even under the new rules. Of course, they got these additional accopmlishments with the added benefit of being qualified for every PT as a result of their HOF status, but they frequently had other qualifying methods and even still made the most of it. I’m comfortable here.

The other players, however, very likely would still not be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe coming so close and missing out would have pushed them. Maybe they would have quit all together. I don’t know. But based on their existing results after inclusion, I don’t think they would have made the jump to 60%

  • Tommi Hovi – 52.17% in 2005
  • Alan Comer – 46.38% in 2005
  • Olle Rade – 29.20% in 2005
  • David Humphries – 56.78% in 2006
  • Gary Wise – 39.03% in 2006
  • Robert Dougherty – 38.20% 2006
  • Randy Buehler – 35.58% in 2006
  • Dirk Baberowski – 52.36% in 2008
  • Michael Turian – 50.13% in 2008
  • Oliver Ruel – 46.01% in 2008
  • Ben Rubin – 45.62% in 2008
  • Frank Karsten – 44.79% in 2009
  • Tomoharu Saito* – 47.74% in 2010
  • Bram Snepvangers – 40.03% in 2010
  • Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz – 50.57% in 2011
  • Ben Stark – 58.96% in 2013
  • Willy Edel – 47.60% in 2015

*reminder – Saito was subsequently banned and did not get included in the Hall of Fame

All of this is, of course, revisionist history. Perhaps if the new rules had been in place from the beginning, voting patterns would have been significantly different. After all, the voting body is made up primarily of folks who game. If there’s 1 truth I’ve learned in my decades playing Magic, it’s that gamers gonna game. You give them a system and they will game it to their advantage.

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.


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

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