My first few interactions with Mark were during post-Pro-Tour Team Drafts. He liked to run his mouth, was fun to hang out with, and seemed to know what he was doing. I think the first time we played on the PT was in round 1 in New Orleans 2003, before we became good friends and he offered me a 5% or 10% split before the match even started. I was kind of startled, but politely declined. I’m glad I did, but don’t worry about him—he eventually got me good. Real good.
The first time we really “tested” together was for the first PT in Hawaii, in 2006. I say “tested,” because Herberheezy only showed up a few days before the tournament (exams, I believe) and used all of the accumulated knowledge to brew up his R/G Beatdown deck that would carry him to victory while the rest of the team stuck to some inferior Abzan Control deck.
In total, Mark and I tested for 14 Constructed Pro Tours together over a span of 4 years. Sometimes it was just just him and me, sometimes with a more or less big team. Here are the highlights:
World Championships Paris 2006
Worlds was conveniently located in my hometown and Mark showed up early to play test in Paris. Not only did we break Standard with Martyr Tron, but we also broke it with our playtesting system. Mark was jetlagged, so for most of the time we implemented the “shift change.” While Mark was sleeping I would grind on MTGO, we would test together while we were both awake, then it was Mark’s turn to grind the night away online. We eventually figured out that we should combine two popular decks, U/W Tron and Martyr/Proclamation into one. We went a combined 9-2-1 on Day 1 and I probably would have won it all had I not misplayed against Mihara in the semifinals.
Itaru Ishida, 6-0 Day 1 at World Championships Paris 2006
Alex Sittner, 5-1 day 1 at World Championships Paris 2006
Gabriel Nassif, 5-0-1 Day 1 at World Championships Paris 2006
The format was Time Spiral block Constructed, Mark and I played U/B/w Teachings, and I believe we had the best deck in the tournament. Our preparation was mostly online and this time around the team included Rich Hoaen, Antonino De Rosa, Ben Rubin, Mattias Kettil, Johan Sadeghpour, and John Fiorillo. I came in 28th and Mark only lost in the Top 4 to the eventual winner and arguably best control player of all time, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, who was playing a similar deck minus the white splash.
Mark Herberholz, Top 4
Valencia was Extended, and I believe our testing group was similar to the Yokohama one. Mark and I weren’t close to having our deck ready when we woke up on Friday morning. I couldn’t believe it when Antonino walked in and told us the PT was postponed because of a flood. In freaking Valencia. We eventually settled on what I believe is one of the first versions of Jund, and Mark ended up in 24th place, one win short of Top 8.
Mark Herberholz, 24th Place at PT Valencia
World Championships New York 2007
Dragonstorm. Chapin had told us about a deck that caught his eye while he was wandering between tables at some GP side event. I had decided to make my way to East Lansing Michigan to playtest IRL with Mark, and I ended up firing my first 8-man with the deck. Mark was cooking some Italian pasta dish and had some cut mozzarella out. I was grinding with some Skred Red deck online and I figured I’d help myself to a piece of delicious cheese. Mark told me not to take one. I started to mess with him and he warned me one more time, “don’t do it Gabe.” I obviously couldn’t resist. What was he going to do—cut my finger off? I got up to take another piece, he calmly walked towards my laptop, grabbed the mouse, and right click conceded my match. I couldn’t believe what just happened. All my Scrying Sheets dreams… dashed. Tix down the drain. My fate, standing right next to me. But what if that Stalking Yeti really couldn’t have helped me? Maybe Mark was right. Maybe it was all a trap. All night Skred, Skred, Skred. I decided to give the Dragonstorm list we had brewed up a try, and after going 6-0/12-0 in games in two consecutive 8-mans, we both agreed it was time to retire the deck from online play and to get to work. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gabriel Nassif, Top 4
Berlin 2008 Extended
As the PT was in Europe, Mark made his way over to my place and we tested as a two-man team once again. We kind of struggled for this one, but a day or two before flying out to Berlin, I brewed up a mono-blue Faeries deck that I felt might be good. Mark wasn’t convinced, or willing to switch it up at the last minute with minimal testing, and unfortunately decided to stick to some mediocre 4c Control deck we had been working on. I ended up in 23rd after throwing a match against LSV early in the tournament. Luis would go on to win the whole thing. Coming into the PT, I wasn’t sure how good my deck was, but after playing 16 rounds with the brew, I felt like I might have had the best deck in the tournament, which only made me feel worse about my sloppy plays.
Gabriel Nassif, 23rd Place
A month later, in the Extended portion of Worlds in Memphis, we showed up with the updated version of the deck, and even though I did so poorly that I was already out of contention for even a min cash by the end of Day 2, Ben Rubin, Mark, and Jamie Parke all went 5-1 on the third day of competition, which was good enough for Jamie to make Top 8!
We tested mostly in Michigan with Mark, Chapin, and Manuel Bucher, as well as remotely with Wafo-Tapa. Most of us settled on a 5c Cruel Ultimatum control deck and while I didn’t feel especially confidant going into the PT (Mark actually chose to play a B/R Blightning beatdown deck), I guess things worked out just fine. For some reason, and mostly through harassment, Mark chose that tournament to secure a 25% split with me before the PT. It is also ironic that my first PT win came with the new era of split-format PT, playing a deck that was good but probably not the best deck in the field, and definitely not broken.
While neither Mark or I made Day 2 because of a poor showing in Draft (we went a combined 6-3-1 in Constructed), I feel like we actually had an excellent deck for the Extended portion of the tournament, one of those “I’ll put my money where my mouth is” decks where we would play pretty much anyone with any deck.
San Diego 2010
We joined forces with Chapin once again and decided to put our trust into one Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a world dominated by Bloodbraid Elfs and Blightnings. The deck was amazing and Patrick and I both fell a tiny bit short, ending up 14th and 21st respectively while Mark finished in 64th. I actually made a horrendous mistake in the last round, costing me the Top 8.
Unfortunately, that Top 64 wasn’t enough to keep Mark on the train, and this was the last PT in which we got to playtest together. Mark is one of the best friends I’ve made playing Magic and probably the best teammate I’ve ever had, always bringing out the best out in me. Out of the 14 Constructed PTs we tested for together, we had arguably the best deck in the tournament for close to half of them. But he didn’t wait for me to break it (Philly 2005), and he did it after me, and pretty much on his own for a PT he wasn’t even qualified for, providing David Sharfman the deck list that would lead him to victory in Nagoya.
Mark Herberholz, 7th Place
David Sharfman, 1st Place
While I feel more strongly about Mark’s candidacy than Paul Rietzl does, he made some good points:
“Mark is likely to miss the HoF this year again, but he has my vote. 4 PT Top 8s is solid—a better median than Wrapter, Ikeda, or Lybaert. He also has 2 Player of the Year Top 10s at a time when that was a real dark age for American Magic. But all that would add up to a near miss for me if not for 3 reasons:
- The signature PT win. I know a lot of people don’t value trophies as highly as I do, which is fine. But for me, the image of Mark’s googly eyes splashed across the WotC webpage in Honolulu, holding a trophy with a deck of his own creation, is indelible and exactly representative of the fame portion of HoF.
- Mark’s skill as a deck builder. Chapin and Nassif extol his virtues as one of the best of all time.
- Finally, my unshakable conviction that the PT would gain from his returned presence. That’s really a critical purpose of the HoF, to showcase lapsed players of the past and to allow us to explore and enjoy Magic history. Yes, I’m biased here. Yes, this is extremely subjective. And no, I don’t think it’s a tragedy if Mark doesn’t get in this year. But for me, the price is right.”
Mark is probably the best teammate I’ve ever had and a big reason of why I did so well during those 4 years and I will be voting for him. I’m sure you got that much. I will also be voting for Wrapter, and I’m still debating the rest of my ballot. I’m considering Lybaert, Juza, Pikula, and Osyp, but I won’t really be able to tell you anything you likely haven’t already read or heard about them.
If you’re voting for anyone beyond Wrapter, Mark should be on your ballot though, while I disagree, I can see why some people may value Juza’s or Pikula’s commitment to the game and longevity more highly.
Hopefully I was able to convince people who were on the fence, but even if I didn’t, I hope you guys enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. I sure did.