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My 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot

This year I passed the 150 Pro Point threshold and, for the first time ever, I’m finally able to cast my vote for the Hall of Fame. I don’t take this honor lightly and I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about who I’m going to vote for.

First, my criteria. I’ve always been a fan of the smaller Hall of Fame. I was glad to see that Wizards decided to move the threshold up to 60% of votes. For me, the Hall of Fame should be about the most excellent players who have ever played the game, and so I consider Pro Tour win percentage the most important stat. When you’re playing against the best in the world, a win percentage over 58% is quite strong.

When it comes to PT Top 8s, I think 3-4 is a must unless you’re someone like Shota, whom I would vote for no matter what. 5 is basically a lock in my mind. I try not to look at GPs as much because I know from experience that most pros don’t really care about them. They are fun, but kind of a necessary evil for picking up Pro Points. Community involvement is also something I look at, though I may not rate it as highly as the others. I’ve talked about basically all the candidates at length with other PT players, so I have a feel for how good each of the players are. I also know many of the personally, which helps me form my opinion.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the candidates.

Josh Utter-Leyton

Wrapter is at the top of most ballots, and rightfully so. He has had an incredible amount of success with 5 PT Top 8s, a Player of the Year title, he’s a U.S. National Champion, and lately a MOCS winner. He is also considered one of the best deck builders in the game. In my mind, he is the actual number one when it comes to constructing a deck. Being able to build a good deck is the highest skill a Magic player can have, as that’s where most of your edge comes from. I wasn’t so sure about his play skill as Wrapter has had a couple of quiet seasons since I’ve been playing PTs. So I talked to people who were top players back when he was most dominant, and they all assured me that Wrapter is fantastic player. I’ll cast my vote for Josh and I assume he is going to make it into Hall of Fame this year.

Martin Juza

Next on the list is my countryman Martin Juza. When I first got into the game, Martin was at his absolute peak when it comes to PT performance. He finished in the Top 50 in 6 PTs in a row around that time in 2007-9. This was a huge inspiration and motivation for me. If a kid from my country can make it at the PT, why couldn’t I? He has also been helping the up-and-coming Czech players by inviting them to the somewhat famous cabin in the Czech woods, which has helped my game immensely. He also has an insane record at the GP circuit, placing 3rd in the total number of GP Top 8s with 26 of them. I’ve mentioned that I don’t regard GPs as highly, but this is still impressive. Martin has also been a great ambassador for “play the game, see the world.”. Having traveled for many GPs, I’ve seen how draining that gets, and his ability to perform at a high level despite that is a testament to his skill.

It might sound like Martin is a no-brainer for the HoF, but unfortunately his PT results aren’t as great. He only has 3 PT Top 8s and he has been in a slump for the last couple years. He wasn’t exactly someone you would fear facing at the PT level. Still, it looks like he re-lit the fire this year as he’s been doing really well the whole season.

Making a final decision on whether I should vote for Martin or not has been tough for me. In the end, I’ve determined that he has done enough to get my vote. He has been an inspiration for young European players and he has done a lot for the Czech players. He is the reason you’re seeing all of us doing this well. He has dedicated his whole life to the game. I will be voting for Martin and I hope he makes it in.

Chris Pikula

Chris is probably the most interesting person on the ballot. There has already been a bit of Twitter drama:

For his part, Chris has wisely excused himself from debating about the Hall. For me, the problem with Chris is that I don’t consider him to be an elite player. Yes, he finished in the Top 8 of 3 PTs, but that was back when they were easier, and he hasn’t done well since I’ve started playing. I recognize that he has done a lot for the community with his anti-cheating stance and Gamers Helping Gamers, but this is the players’ Hall of Fame. If it was all about community, we could vote in BDM, Rich Hagon, or Kenji Egashira, who have all done a lot for Magic. It’s a bit unfair to Chris, as there are a lot of people from that era with similar results who made it in. .

I still have a lot of respect for Chris and am excited to see him back on the PT circuit. From what I know, he will be testing with the Pantheon so he has that going for him. If he does well there, I’m open to changing my mind.

Ivan Floch

Ivan is great at the game, and has a very strange play style where he values card advantage over basically everything—it’s a pleasure to watch him play control decks and I think he is one of the top players when it comes to that. He has 3 PT Top 8s and came very close to his 4th at PT Aether Revolt, where he missed on tiebreakers. The biggest argument against him is that he’s never really done any content and he hasn’t been involved in the community. His GP results are also uninspiring. If he worked on these factors a bit, then he would end up on more ballots. In my opinion, Ivan still needs one more PT Top 8 to end up on my ballot, but if he gets it, he will surely have my vote.

Tomoharu Saito

Let me share a story here. It was the summer of 2010 and my family went to visit our relatives in Slovakia. Do you know why I remember? It’s because I spent the weekend there glued to my computer screen watching GP Columbus. It was my favorite format Legacy and Saito won it playing my favorite deck Merfolk. He literally played circles around his opponent and he became my favorite player for a short while. You know why it was short? Because he got suspended a couple of months later based on stories about him cheating in that very tournament. Now I believe Tomoharu Saito is a great player. I have the utmost respect for what he’s doing for the Magic community with his Hareruya initiative. I believe that he has changed and he isn’t cheating anymore, but in my mind I’m not counting any of his pre-ban results because they’re all tainted with shady play. It’s a shame because my 15-year-old self would have been thrilled about an opportunity to cast a vote for him.

Marijn Lybaert

I absolutely adore Marijn. He is one of the most lighthearted and funniest people I’ve ever met. He has also been involved with the community a lot. He’s doing commentary and his name is synonymous with Belgian Magic. He loves the game, and I know that making the HoF would mean a lot to him. Looking at his results, he has 4 PT Top 8s, which is a lot, though he’s been hurt by his early exit in every single one of them. For some reason he’s been overlooked by his peers when it comes to HoF voting. I think this mostly comes from the fact that he isn’t American and doesn’t really get as much publicity as he should. I think he is more than a deserving candidate so for this year and upcoming years he has my vote.

Mark Herberholz

I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here as I didn’t play Magic at all in the days of Mark’s success. I don’t know much about him. What I do know is that his reports about the old days of PT were funny as hell. Still, that’s not enough for him to get my vote. His numbers are only okay, so I’m basing my decision on him not making it in the previous years. Since he didn’t have any new results in the past year I don’t see why I should vote for him. The same goes for people like Scott Johns and Justin Gary. I do hope Heezy makes it one day though, if only so he could write another masterpiece.

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

I think Ikeda is at a bit of a disadvantage as a non-American, as we basically don’t have any information on him. Despite his 4 PT Top 8s, his other stats aren’t exactly great. He mostly has so many finishes because he has played a high number of PTs. Also, when I talk with Shuhei about good Japanese players, which I do quite often, he never mentions him. For me, he is in the same boat as Herberholz in not having any new results, so there’s no reason to vote him in. I will not be voting for Ikeda.

So there you have it. My ballot for this year will be Josh Utter-Leyton, Martin Juza, and Marijn Lybaert. As for the other candidates, I think they all need at least one more good result to be considered.

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