SCG Daily Redux – The Atlanta House Aftermath

I figured a follow-up article was in order for the Atlanta House Blog. Clearly much of the excitement occurred after the blog closed, so I wanted to fill you in on that. I also wanted to impart some of the general and specific lessons I learned during the flood of gamers. Finally, I wanted to discuss my picks for the Hall of Fame.

I figured a follow-up article was in order for the Atlanta House Blog. Clearly much of the excitement occurred after the blog closed, so I wanted to fill you in on that. I also wanted to impart some of the general and specific lessons I learned during the flood of gamers. Finally, I wanted to discuss my picks for the Hall of Fame.

The House

Two of the strongest qualified players in our group decided not to play, and we still managed to put two in the Top 8 – one of which made the team. While I don’t have the courage Flores does to pat himself on the back in a public forum, I would like to say the house, as a unit, performed fantastically, considering the last minute changes to the tournament roster.

While Ted irresponsibly made up a story about Crosby’s absence, the truth is he was up in time with a deck prepared, but due to fatigue from winning multiple late night poker tables he decided he simply could not put his all into this tournament. Joe has the utmost respect for the game and its events. This was not a case of forgetting to set the alarm.

Saturday night, Joe, Face, Cak, Kyle, Drew, and I stayed up most of the night, testing matchups for Timmy and Ben. Somehow, in the confusion, Tim wasn’t relayed the information we found out about his Top 8 match. I was in charge of the testing for that, so y’all can blame me for Timmy’s loss.

The most critical thing we discovered about Ben’s Top 8 match was to side out the Tidings. We were taking out Simic Signets, but it devalued the Wildfires so much that we were questioning their presence after sideboard. While the Okiba-Gang Shinobi does want us to replenish our hand, the main problem is the aggressive nature of that deck. With that in mind, it became apparent that the Tidings had to go. You can read more about this and other Tron strategies in Ben’s article.

The house was incredibly fun, and successful both in Magic and poker. It just goes to show what can be accomplished when you gather enough brilliant gamers in one place.

Here are the things I learned during my week of gaming:

Ben Lundquist really is the future of American Magic.
While I was the first one to say this, Antonino has made it his motto. I’m not really sure what this means. I think Ben can make a legitimate run at the Pro Tour, but I don’t know if his work ethic and approach to the game can revive the American Magic scene on their own. American players, by and large, are extremely loose. They all know how to play, but they are lazy and unfocused. I hope this can change. I am a guilty of this as anyone. Ben Lundquist does not show these attributes.

Billy Moreno is awesome at Magic.
While he is prone to the looseness I mentioned before, his game on a fundamental level is far higher than most people on the Pro Tour today. The fact is you can’t judge players by a single play, or even one feature match, but the time I spent that weekend working with Billy on Magic proved to my satisfaction that he’s the real deal.

Don’t let yourself run out of things that kill Rodman.
I think this one speaks for itself.

Coldsnap is boring as hell.
Not only is the draft pretty standard, there’s so little variation in decks. When the number of cards your draft is approximately 1/3 of the entire set… man, I was bored halfway through my first draft.

RGD is more than I thought.
While I have to admit I don’t know what yet, enough players as good or better than me have told me how great the format is. I just never feel in control. There’s no signaling in the format, so I’m still trying to figure out where to find my edge when the packs are going around, but I think I am getting there.

I miss Albany gamers.
Dan, Trish, Chambers, Hayner, Donnie and everyone else. I love everyone here, but it wasn’t the same not having them around for the gaming/partying experience. Having Ben represent them was nice, but homesickness can pop up at the weirdest times.

Sometimes skipping events shows them more respect than playing in them.
See above.

This week was an incredible experience. Drafting with Luis Scott-Vargas, playing Constructed with Billy Moreno, partying with Mark Ioli, each a master in his field. Not to say I wasn’t enlightened several times by the others in the house. You just can’t know what it’s like until you are in the situation. I’m lucky enough to live in it. Joe, Don, Aziz, and Justin will all teach me more about gaming than I can possibly imagine. It’s a very exciting time for me.

Hall of Fame

What an honor. I was so happy to be chosen for the committee. I had hopes it would happen this year, since I consider myself one of the few Pro Tour Historians that’s still active in the community. That said, the selection process is far more difficult than I imagined. You’ve seen it all a million times before, but here are the criteria we were given for voting:

You may vote for up to five candidates from the list. Voting shall be based upon the player’s performances, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, and contributions to the game in general.

And for easy reference, here’s the list:

David Bachmann
Trevor Blackwell
Noah Boeken
Kurt Burgner
Robert Dougherty
Sigurd Eskeland
Igor Frayman
Ryan Fuller
Donald Gallitz
Justin Gary
Svend Geertsen
Thomas Guevin
Brian Hacker
Yann Hamon
David Humpherys
Itaru Ishida
Scott Johns
Mattias Jorstedt
Mark Justice
Benedikt Klauser
André Konstanczer
Gary Krakower
Peer Kroeger
Janosch Kühn
John Larkin
Mark Le Pine
Peter Leiher
Raphaël Lévy
Michael Long
Bob Maher
Satoshi Nakamura
Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz
Chris Pikula
David Price
Michael Pustilnik
Neil Reeves
Shawn "Hammer" Regnier
Kyle Rose
Alex Shvartsman
Jakub Slemr
Bram Snepvangers
Gabriel Tsang
Terry Tsang
Trey Van Cleave
Matthew Vienneau
Tomi Walamies
Gary Wise

And they called this an easy year…

This could be an easy vote if I wanted to ignore all the factors. I could eliminate integrity since I have no real way of knowing who was clean and who wasn’t. Or I could go the other way and preclude anyone who doesn’t fulfill each requirement, including integrity. Either way, integrity is at the heart of my dilemma. I don’t want to name names, but there are many people on the list who would simply have no shot if integrity were an imperative to the Hall. The thing is, I just don’t think that’s fair. Magic was a different game back then. There are people on this list that I’m fairly sure are clean. In fact, if I wanted to go with my gut on who is completely clean, my ballot would easily look something like this:

Brian Hacker
Jon Larkin
Raphael Levy
Chris Pikula
Gab Tsang

Is that a reasonable ballot? I’m sure many people would consider it reasonable. Obviously Chris would love it. It includes his name and no cheaters. But what was Magic back then? Randy once described the old days as the Wild West. Players cheated in self-defense. Cheating was everywhere, and the judges were clueless… what’s a player to do?

Is that a good enough excuse? How can we tell the Black Hats from the Grey, or even the White? I’ve been wrestling with this issue. Integrity goes deeper than that. If you choose to ignore integrity and vote just on performance, it becomes unclear what a performance record would look like without cheating. And on top of all of that I could find out tomorrow that someone I voted for was filthy and I just never knew.

Then there are the benefits to consider. While this wasn’t a stated criterion, I want the player inducted to use their benefits. That means David Price and Scott Johns can’t get my vote. I’m glad Alan got in, but it bothers me that the level 3 is going to waste. Gab Tsang probably won’t get my vote due to his World of Warcraft addiction. Pretty much anyone who stopped playing while they were still qualified for the Pro Tour will never get my vote, unless there were extenuating circumstances.

Anyway, I’ve left you in anticipation long enough. Here is my ballot for the 2006 Hall of Fame:

Justin Gary

Justin is one of the most successful players on this ballot. He’s also given back to the community as a reporter, writer, and player. He’s shown he still has a great passion for the game, and I am proud to put him on my ballot. I personally think Justin is a no-brainer. I’d be shocked if he didn’t get in this time around.

Brian Hacker

The Godfather of Limited. He didn’t invent Limited, but he taught the world how to play it. Seventeen lands was an absurdly high number for a 40-card deck when he first proposed it. It’s now the gold standard. He also invented the Team Booster Draft format that has become the favorite side format of pros all over the World. No one on this list has done more for the game as far as I’m concerned, which more than makes up for anything he’s lacking in a resume.

Raphael Levy

Raph has been playing since the dawn of time and shows no signs of letting up. Raph has a love for the game that may be subtle in conversations with him, but his continued success at the top levels makes him fairly automatic for me. There’s not a format he can’t beat you in, and he’ll do it with a contagious smile on his face. I had the pleasure of teaming with Raph in a PTQ. He’s one of the good ones.

Bob Maher

Bob gets my vote for more than his resume. Bob was one of the few in the game with that “it” factor. Not many have it. Bob, Finkel, Huey, Neil, Chambers are the players that immediately jump to the front of my mind when I think of it. The “it” I speak of is the ability to play on instinct alone. When you watch these people play it seems like they are not even thinking, yet they are making plays you’d never conceive. Bob is the only person on the list who has the “it” factor, so he gets my vote.

Chris Pikula

Chris’s resume doesn’t stand up to a lot of them on this list, but he is doing the thing that is most important in my eyes. He still plays. More than that, he’s still putting up good finishes. Chris was good for the community, an honest and fierce competitor. Deck design, drafting, fun formats… Chris could do it all. Except Solomon Draft. Chris is someone who will not only use the benefits he receives with the induction, he’ll continue to succeed. Chris was the first Pro I ever met, and I promise you, he is very good to and for the community.

Honorable Mentions

Dave Humpherys, Gab Tsang, Scott Johns, Dave Price, and Mike Long are all people I feel deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. They are all great players who were critical to the game’s development into a true sport. However, I think these people won’t make use of the benefits they are given, and to me that’s a slap in the face to the Hall. This includes Scott. While I fully understand Scott’s decision to work for Wizards rather than play, it’s still his choice. As long as it’s the choice he continues to make, I can’t vote for him. If over the next year (assuming I can vote next year) these players prove that they intend to use the wonderful benefits that come with the Hall, they will certainly be at the top of my list.

So I hope this creates some discussion. And I ask that all of you who think the Hall of Fame (or Pro Magic in general) is a joke to keep your comments to yourselves. We all know how you feel a thousand times over. Some of us want to make this game we love legitimate, and we don’t really need you bringing it down while pretending you care about it.

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