Hall of Fame Daily – Brian Hacker

Today’s subject is one of the original bad boys of Magic, current Vs. System designer Brian Hacker.

Before I get started with today’s forgotten hero, I feel I really need to address the “integrity” issue. This issue seems to be the most hotly contested topic related to the Hall of Fame. When I first heard about the Hall, my initial reaction was that there should be no criteria beyond “fame” that should be counted. After all, it isn’t a “Hall of Integrity.” I was convinced to change that stance by Zvi, Bennie Smith, and to a lesser extent Chris Pikula. Their argument was that if the person used dishonest means to achieve this fame, then it was unfair to those who achieved similar levels of fame playing honestly. This logic seemed great. Then I took another look at the list of nominees. I had an incredibly difficult time finding 5 people who I didn’t think cheated in some way or other at some point, and it was impossible to make a list of 5 in which I was completely convinced they didn’t cheat.

I don’t come down with the heavy hand of justice that I used to. Not all cheaters are bad, and there are degrees of cheating. As much as I would like to make it a black and white issue (if only for self-punishment), there are gray areas. To say that player X and player Y have the same grade for integrity simply because both have cheated before is preposterous. So while I don’t think a person’s lack of integrity should completely remove them from Hall of Fame contention, it should be considered. I suggest to the voting members that you grade integrity as you would every other aspect. You could very easily make a scale of 1-10 when it comes to integrity and use that as a guide. This has to be the best way to handle it.

I want it clearly stated that this preface had nothing to do with today’s player. The above was simply something I needed to get off my chest. I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that today’s player has ever done anything dishonest.

Brian Hacker was my idol when I was an aspiring pro. I loved that he would come to each event with a different hair color. I felt it gave him personality and really made him stand out. On the local level you get this impression of Magic being filled with freaks and geeks, but seeing a cool, laid back guy like Hacker playing Magic quite conspicuously removed a lot of the shame we may have associated with the game.

Brian was quite the deck innovator in his day. His designs ranged from a simple, straight forward White Weenie deck that he piloted to a Worlds Top 8, to incredibly complex designs like a Yawgmoth’s Will-based Academy deck that he played at Pro Tour: Rome. This deck was the consensus best deck in the tournament, but Brian failed to make Top 8 having to settle for a disappointing, but still impressive Top 16 finish.

Before this, at the PT: LA that David Price won, Hacker played another complex combo deck. The deck was based around Humility and Orim’s Prayer. It was Blue/White with a splash of Green for Reclaim. I was so taken with this deck I brought it to my first Grand Prix in Boston. I failed to make Day 2 due to an unintentional draw caused by a poor ruling by someone who would become one of the best judges in the game. We all have to start somewhere. I have nothing but love for you, Mr. Fairbanks!

Brian Hacker, while clearly having a great Constructed game, is probably best known as being the father of modern limited theory. Brian created the formula of 16-18 land, 5-8 spells, and 14-19 creatures. We all take this strategy as “well, duh,” but at the time, this was a huge innovation. Believe it or not, before Brian came along most people were playing 13-14 land in their Limited decks.

While Brian has only 2 Pro Tour Top 8’s to his name, he did find himself in 3 Grand Prix Top 8s as well. He made money it at least half the Pro Tours he played in. He was one of the original Money Draft pioneers, and is well known for both his contributions to the PT and the game itself. These days, Brian is contributing to another game as an employee of Upper Deck Entertainment.

Do I think Hacker should be inducted this year? Probably not. However, if they don’t reserve wall space for him in the future, then the Hall will be missing one of the very few true innovators of the game.


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