My First Hall of Fame Vote

For the first time in my Magic career, I am allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. The threshold is 150 Lifetime Pro Points, which I had at this precise time last year, but apparently the cutoff is made a few months before they send ballots to voters. I thought I would be able to vote last year, but that disappointment only created more excitement for 2017.

To prepare for this, I’ve been reading a lot of voters’ opinions on Twitter and other social media to give me an idea of their criteria. I don’t necessarily want to just copy them though—I’ll use what I think makes for a Hall of Fame inductee. For example, I don’t think “Player of the Year Top 10s” is a super relevant stat to my ballot, but I certainly respect high profile players who think it is.

4 Pro Tour Top 8s

This seems to be everyone’s baseline and I like it. I’m not closing my mind on it though—if someone has 3, I will just make a deeper analysis of their other statistics and achievements to see if they’re worth my vote.

On the other hand, 4 Pro Tour Top 8s will not be an auto inclusion for me. Lack of community involvement could downgrade my perspective on a candidate, especially if that means I have almost never heard of them.

Shady Past and Cheaters

Someone with a shady past is a no no. A great example is Scott Johns. Despite 5 Pro Tour Top 8s, I had never heard that name until I received the ballot. I asked a few people, and only heard “shady” and “cheater” in response. I don’t want someone who reflects these words to be in the Hall of Fame of the game I’ve played for the bigger part of my life.

Still, I’m a big believer in redemption. People can make mistakes when they are young, and they eventually learn as they mature that cheating is not just “taking advantage of opportunities.”

Sveinung Bjørnerud, a well-known Magic player for his thorough compilation of statistics, recently wrote these words:

“In football, it is arguably accepted, and certainly expected, that players take an opportunistic approach to the rules. Many players seize any opportunity to lie or act (dive) in front of the referee in order to win a free kick or get opposing players booked, or otherwise do their best to influence the match officials into wrongly ruling in their favor, and this perpetuates the sport due to ineffective punishment as well as children wanting to emulate their stars, and so when it’s their turn, they’ll continue the trend.”

As many of you know, football (soccer) is the most played (and probably most watched) sport on earth. Most mature people who have played Magic for a while understand that this is not acceptable, but because of things like soccer, newer and/or younger players may think differently.

Enter redemption. Candidates who have early stains on their resume won’t be totally disregarded for me. If I judge with certitude that they have moved on, are now clean, and have stats and achievements that fit my criteria, they’ll be considered.

Grand Prix Top 8s

This will probably be the category in which I differ most from other voters. As a player who has had more success on the Grand Prix level than at Pro Tours, I can tell you precisely why that is the case and why (spoiler alert!) I will be voting for Martin Juza.

The first reason is very simple: It is much easier to win on the Grand Prix level. Many players show up at these events like they would show up to any convention to have fun. We competitive players show up to win, and we prepare our decks and skills to be up to date. It’s no surprise that pros who attend many Grand Prix like me, Shuhei Nakamura, Martin Juza, Sam Black, etc. all have many Top 8s. It still shows dedication and love of the game to travel so much while preparing for all these events.

The second reason is a little more subjective and comes from me. Yet, I’m sure a ton of people who do well on the Grand Prix circuit that struggle with Pro Tours can recognize themselves here.

One particular reason why I do well at GPs is because they are very often “explored formats.” You can prepare with known information, open Magic Online, choose a deck, play a ton of games, tune your deck , learn how to sideboard properly based on how they sideboard, and learn every scenario, etc.

For Pro Tours, the information is not out there—it’s on your testing group and a little on Magic Online results for you to determine what people will play.

That means that whenever I show up to a Pro Tour, no matter how good my deck is, I never actually know until the event starts if I made a good deck choice (not often). Add on top of that sideboarding issues. If you face a deck you’ve never played against, you don’t really know what they could be sideboarding and of course that affects how you sideboard as well.

Players with raw natural talent, like Owen Turtenwald and Shota Yasooka, are unbelievably good technical players—you could give them the worst deck in the room and they will still always cash the event. They might not have the best deck or sideboard properly, but their in-game talent is good enough.

Where I’m going with this is that preparation is also a skill I value when judging someone’s overall skill of the game. If Sam Pardee was a candidate (he won’t be for another 3 years, I believe), he might not have the best Pro Tour results, but he’s the player I’d most want to test with because his preparation for Pro Tours (from what I’ve heard and seen) is stellar and that would make him a great Hall of Fame addition because his teammates owe him a lot for their success.

So when someone with 3 Pro Tour Top 8s and 26 Grand Prix Top 8s is not voted in because he doesn’t have the 4th needed, well, that person will have my vote and hopefully I can change other people’s opinion as well.

Josh Utter-Leyton

Josh easily has the results to get my vote. 5 Pro Tour Top 8s, and there’s nothing but good things to say about him. He’s been considered one of the best decks builder for a long time and he was part of the first super team, Team ChannelFireball, which changed the Pro Tour for the better.

Not that it should matter a lot, but he’s also just a super nice person. I don’t want Hall of Famers to give the game a bad rap, so that’s just a bonus here.

Martin Juza

As I stated above, Martin does not have the best PT results compared to others that have played as many, but that does not matter to me when you look at his number of Grand Prix Top 8s—he has 26!

Just like Josh Utter-Leyton, Martin was also part of the original ChannelFireball super team.

Living in the Czech Republic his whole life, you really wonder if paying his rent wasn’t just the worst economic move he made since he’s essentially living everywhere else in the world from planes to hotels.

Love of the game and dedication are the words that comes to mind when I think about Martin Juza, and he is very much deserving of the Hall of Fame.

Chris Pikula

Similar to Martin, Chris only has 3 PT Top 8s, but he doesn’t have the Grand Prix material. That is totally understandable considering he has a kid and a job outside of Magic.

Compared to most of the Hall of Famers, his résumé is lacking in results, yet, I’m going to vote for him. He is involved in the community. He has done coverage here and there. He keeps trying to requalify for the Pro Tour despite having adult responsibilities and actually can still win. He’s also very known for working toward catching cheaters in the early days of Magic when it was a rampant problem.

I personally got cheated in a match that, if I had won, would’ve put me into the Top 8 of a Grand Prix. If I had won the quarterfinals match, I would’ve made Platinum in 2015. I essentially got robbed of thousands of dollars.

I can’t imagine how many times that would’ve happened if Chris didn’t bring cheating to light many years ago. It may or may not have happened more than I think, but Pikula made a difference and we now have a much cleaner community.

Marijn Lybaert

Marijn’s career looks very brief to me. It has only been a few years, but he did rack up 4 Pro Tour Top 8s in 4 years, which is extremely impressive.

Those results alone were not quite enough to make me vote for him, but he’s been involved in the community in the last few years. Though he’s no longer a Pro Tour mainstay, he’s been doing coverage for European GPs and has helped the Belgian Magic community grow.

That gives Marijn just what it takes for me to vote for him. The results alone were almost enough, but his involvement with the community makes him a worthy Hall-of-Famer.


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