I know Paul Rietzl pretty well and feel he is one of the most deserving people right now of a spot in the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Paul has always and will always play the game in a straightforward, honorable manner and I trust him to never break the rules to his own advantage. He’ll do everything in his power to make sure that others also don’t take advantage of the rules to their own benefit. He has a strong moral compass and will do the right thing in almost any circumstance. Besides any of that, Paul is one of the most skilled Magic players I have ever met. Paul has nine Grand Prix Top 8s with two wins and four Pro Tour Top 8s with one win. That’s super impressive in my eyes and enough to be in the Hall of Fame conversation, nobody seems to disagree with that point.
Paul is an easy vote. His results and integrity are impressive, and I would hope to someday have PT results as strong as he does. On top of all that, he’s an excellent deckbuilder and I give him the lion’s share of the credit for the Mono-Black Devotion deck that he built and that I used to win Grand Prix Albuquerque. In that event, five people copied Paul Rietzl’s deck list, and their results were 1st, 8th, 9th, 14th, and 29th.
Lastly, I want to mention Pro Tour Paris where he finished 2nd place while also playing in Grand Prix Paris where he finished in 24th. You heard that correctly: he played in a Grand Prix and the Pro Tour simultaneously and had a great finish in both. They experimented with running a Grand Prix and a Pro Tour in the same location, and the final day of the Swiss ended in the Pro Tour before they started Day 1 of the Grand Prix, so instead of taking a day off to rest up and practice Paul played in the 2,182-person Grand Prix, and the way the coverage schedule worked out he was able to finish his first draft pod on Day Two, play his first and second round in Top 8 of the Pro Tour (if memory serves correctly, receiving a full match loss in the Grand Prix), come back to finish his Swiss rounds of the Grand Prix to finish with a record of 13-3 before playing out the finals of the Pro Tour, losing to Ben Stark wielding Caw Blade. That’s pure dedication and love of the game of Magic.
Makihito Mihara is my next vote and it’s pretty clear-cut. I have only interacted with him a small handful of times—we don’t attend many of the same tournaments, so I can’t vouch for his personality very well, but that isn’t a huge factor here. His results are great. Five Pro Tour Top 8s is about as good as it gets for people who are not already in the Hall of Fame and he also has a win at Worlds in 2006. Seven Grand Prix Top 8s is small but he does have two wins in that time and in addition to that, he has made Top 8 of Japanese Nationals five times which is absurd. I also believe when he was making all those Top 8s at Japanese Nationals, Japan was a true powerhouse of competitive Magic and that tournament might have actually been the single hardest Nationals. I have played against Mihara multiple times and I can say he is a tough opponent. I have a a lot of respect for his game and I haven’t heard a single shred of evidence to hint at even a slight amount of shadiness on his record.
As I write this article, I am unsure how I will vote on Guillaume Wafo-Tapa. His results are quite good, with five Pro Tour Top 8s including a win. Again, five Pro Tour Top 8s is incredibly hard to come by and having those results means you’re both great at the game and dedicated/skilled enough to achieve such a rare feat. His success isn’t limited to the Pro Tour either, as Wafo-Tapa also has seven Grand Prix Top 8s which isn’t amazing but also isn’t bad either—it’s respectable.o
The issue, of course, is the “God Book” scandal. The way I understand it is that WotC gave Guillaume Matignon an advanced preview of New Phyrexia so that he could write about the cards for the magazine Lotus Noir and have the paper copies of the magazine printed and released in time so that the material could be fresh and timed well with the release of the set and other spoilers. He signed an NDA and was trusted to keep this information secret. He showed the cards to Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Martial Moreau, and David Gauthier and then their negligence led to the cards being leaked to the public. This is bad for two reasons: The first being that Guillaume Wafo-Tapa had access to the new cards before anyone else on the planet giving him an unfair advantage for competitive play. The Pro Tour features a format with the new set so that everyone is on an equal playing field. If everyone but Wafo-Tapa and Matignon get the set three weeks ahead of time, while they get it six weeks ahead of time, they have an unfair advantage. Additionally, the fact that the set was leaked before it was supposed to is a disaster. Wizard’s ability to slowly reveal cards day by day and build excitement for a set’s release is very important to the overall success of the set and when that gets taken away it hurts the overall success of the product. Plain and simple: Wafo-Tapa was involved in an act that hurt the game of Magic. How much money did it cost Wizards? That I don’t know, but I speculate that it’s a large number. Will this prevent me from voting for him? Probably not. His results would probably be remarkably similar if not exactly the same since I have no idea how many Pro Tours if any he had this advantage for, and it’s extremely difficult to know exactly how much it helped him. Plus, he was suspended for 18 months as a result, and since his return to Magic he made Top 8 of Pro Tour Theros.
Tomoharu Saito is an interesting case. When I first started to play on the Pro Tour, Tomoharu Saito was a hero of mine. You just watch him play and he has a strong grasp of everything that’s going on and he almost always makes the correct play. On top of that, he had an incredible talent for coming up with innovative new decks and strategies. His accomplishments on the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuit are truly impressive with five Pro Tour Top 8s and 19 Grand Prix Top 8s. Tomoharu Saito is a Pro Tour Champion and a Grand Prix Champion as well as a Player of the Year. His resume speaks for itself. It’s clear to anyone that based on results alone he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and that’s how the people voted in 2010 when he was originally a Hall of Fame member-elect. Two weeks after he was voted in he was disqualified from Grand Prix Florence for stalling and this wasn’t the first time he was suspected of doing this. Since then Saito has been known as a cheater or at least someone who previously has cheated and is capable of cheating again.
I think Saito is an outstanding Magic player. I also feel strongly that if you could somehow remove from his resume all tournament results he got as a result of cheating that he otherwise wouldn’t have achieved then he would still be an all-star and a slam-dunk induction. I also believe that he is easily one of the top 10 players in the history of the game and that it isn’t close either. I have an extremely high opinion of Saito’s ability to play the game of Magic. I want to vote for Saito based on his accomplishments and ability but I will not this year and I won’t for the foreseeable future until his image and reputation have changed.
Saito has been suspended from the DCI twice, for collusion in 2001 and stalling in 2010. Cheating is terrible for the game of Magic and members of the Hall of Fame or people being considered for the Hall of Fame should be held to the highest standard of ethics. If ever someone doesn’t go to a Magic tournament for fear of being cheated that’s a tragedy, and when top-level players are caught cheating it cultivates the image of pros being cutthroat cheaters who will do anything to win, which isn’t the case. In this case I feel that the negatives of his cheating and suspensions greatly outweigh his accomplishments and that is why I will not vote for him. I don’t think he is someone who should currently be banned from the DCI, he made mistakes in his career and he paid for them by having his original Hall of Fame induction revoked plus the ban he received. He paid his dues and he should feel welcome to play any Magic tournament, but he also should not be considered for the highest honor this game has to offer.
Paul Rietzl and Makihito Mihara are slam-dunk votes for me and I will probably end up voting for Guillaume Wafo-Tapa as well. I will not vote for Tomoharu Saito this year, but I hope that I may vote for him someday. If he puts up a great second half of his career and displays good sportsmanship and shows strong integrity for the game then I could easily see myself voting for him, but it will take a long time and it’s an uphill climb for him.