The Pro Tour Hall of Fame

This week, Sheldon walks us through each of the candidates that made or came close to making his Hall of Fame selection. Find out who Sheldon thinks should get in and what changes should be made to the Hall at large.

I’ve been honored to have a vote every year since the Hall of Fame’s inception. I continue to take it as a serious responsibility which involves both my
discretion and effort. It would be doing a disservice to the Hall of Fame and to the individuals involved if I didn’t engage in due diligence and make an
intelligent, informed decision.

My personal criteria are relatively straightforward: a sustained high level of play, at least three Pro Tour Top 8s (as we go further down the road, that
number might change), and demonstrated excellence in sportsmanship. Top 16, 32, and 64 finishes also factor strongly into the equation. In fact, they’ve
become more important in my equations as time goes by. Being a Pro Tour commentator gave me an even greater appreciation of the thin slices of difference
between finishing high and barely cashing. Positive contribution to the Magic community is an additional factor although not required-but it can be
significant enough to push someone over the line (like I think it was for Bram Snepvangers). It’s certainly a tie-breaker. Part of the sustained high level
of play includes at least 30 Pro Tours, but that’s not a hard number. Had Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa gone into 2012’s ballot with 27 PTs, I would have voted
for him anyway because of the bazillion Top 8s, not to mention general awesomeness. Another part of that sustained high level of play is there being a
reasonable argument that the player was considered one of the best in the world during his or her peak. I know that that line is a little fuzzy and
completely subjective, but it’s something that coalesces for me the idea of Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good. When your peers and the experts who
judge and report on the game consider you the best of the best, it’s a factor worth considering.


Makahito Mihara:
Last year, I said “He’s pretty likely to get one of my votes for 2014.” He indeed is. An insane deckbuilder, he was sixth on my list on that ballot. I
don’t believe in using all of one’s votes if you don’t think there are five worthy candidates, but if I would have gotten six votes last year, he would
have gotten the last one. He’s definitely one of the strongest candidates in this class.

Paul Rietzl:
A year ago on these very pages, I said “Needs at least one more big finish for solid consideration.” Top 8ing Pro Tour Theros is more than enough for me.
Long out of the shadow of the YMG team he grew up with, he’s been an outstanding performer for his run on the Pro Tour, getting into the Top 64 43% of the
time. He’s also been an aggressive proponent of fair play, something which I appreciate a great deal.

Justin Gary:
I was a little cool on Justin as a candidate until last year. I thought that his resume wasn’t quite tight enough, but once you expand it out all the way
to Top 64, then you see how masterful he was, T64ing in 55% of his PTs, even more amazing when you consider his Top 32 rate is 45%. Justin was a US
National Champion when US Nats was equivalent to a Pro Tour, and a Worlds Team Champion. I used to call him Bernie Williams; further review reveals him to
be Ron Santo. It’s time to put him in the Hall.

Osyp Lebedowicz:
I took the data off the Pro Tour Hall of Fame website, put it on a spreadsheet, and added some fields to it. When I sorted on Top 64%, I saw that Osyp’s
was higher than even Justin Gary’s, at 57% (although Justin’s T32 percentage is much better). With a win as one of his T8s, he suddenly jumped up onto my
radar. Combined with his play resume, Osyp’s writing contributions in the early days of the game’s internet explosion are a significant factor in giving
him a vote.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
: Wafo’s off-the-field difficulty was enough to have me leave him off the ballot last year, because as I’ve mentioned, I want first-ballot Hall of Famers
to be the best of the best in all regards-unspotted, if you will. It’s not enough to leave him off this time, especially due to the many questions raised
about the circumstances of his suspension in the first place. His resume is by far the best of this year’s class, and he’s commonly regarded as the best
player on the ballot. With no other marks on his record, he’s worth a vote.


Tom Martell
: Tom didn’t get serious consideration because his run simply isn’t long enough yet. His 3-year median of 16 is kind of absurd. I want to point out that
with 212 Pro Points in only 17 Pro Tours (yes, I understand that one gets Pro Points at Grand Prix, so that can inflate totals-plus there are simply more
points available in the modern era) gives him the best average on the list at 12.47. The only other players on the ballot in double digits are Juza
(another GP point-getter) at 11.35 and Saito (ditto) at 11.14. Great performance at GPs can bump this number some, but this generation’s “Tight Tommy” has
T64’d 59% of his Pro Tours. All he needs to do is continue the run and I’ll vote for him in the next few years.

Martin Juza
: Not yet, Martin Juza, but some day. You have to break through with another Top 8 or two. I’m rooting for you.

Tsuyoshi Ikeda:
I’ve had him on my ballot before, but as we go deeper into the numbers, I find his not quite measuring up. It’s a little sad, because I always thought he
was fun to have around the Pro Tour.

Mark Herberholz:
Hezey’s averages started to concern me. He’s another guy I thought was good for the Pro Tour, but even with four Top 8s, his median finishes are pretty
pedestrian, meaning for me he’s just on the outside looking in. I wouldn’t be sad to see him elected, and if I had a sixth vote, he’d stand a good chance
of getting it.

Marijn Lybaert
: So close. Really, so close, but not quite there. I hope he comes back and wins a Pro Tour so he can be a slam dunk. For me, he’s in the same spot Rietzl
was last year.

Eric Froehlich
: At first blush, Efro compares quite closely with Justin and Osyp-same number of Top 8s, comparable T64%, extremely good 3-year median (just behind
Justin, ahead of Osyp). What pushes them ahead of him are the extra factors mentioned in each of their write-ups. Sometimes, you have to break ties.
There’s a reasonable argument to vote for Efro, and there is a reasonable argument to vote for other folks instead. I think the good news for him is that
he’s still an active player. Given his skill level, more high finishes are quite likely.

Willy Edel
: Willy’s 4 Top 8’s are exciting; having no additional Top 16’s, only 2 more T32 and 2 more T64 are far less so. No one can take away those T8s, but he’s
going to have to put up a few more numbers before I put him on the ballot. If he T64s all the PTs this year, he’ll be a strong contender for 2015. His
contributions for the South American Magic community are well-known. I fully expect him to get there in the next year or two (fully considering that he
might actually get there this year).

Gerard Fabiano
: Here’s my annual shout out to GFabs, simply because he was always fun to have around, is a powerful voice in supporting fair play, and has the greatest
delta between how smart he seems and how smart he actually is (even better than Antonino de Rosa).

Let’s Talk Saito

Back in 2010, I said that I didn’t want to make Saito a first-ballot choice because of his past indiscretions, but since they were long enough ago in the
past and he seemed to have course-corrected, then I’d consider him for 2011. We all know what happened. I know that it looks like he’s trying to do another
turnaround with contributions to the Japanese Magic community. As far as I’m concerned, he has a great deal more work to do to make amends-and for me, it
might never be enough. I’m willing to let a mistake when you’re young not ruin the rest of your life, but when you repeat that mistake (and “mistake” is a
kind turn of the English language; we’re talking willful acts here) ten years later, it shows a significant character issue. That’s not the character that
I want to support for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. If he’s honest in his effort for redemption, I wish him all the best-but a Hall of Fame vote is not on the

It’s Time to Open the Hall to More Than Players

I’m going to make an argument here that I made last year (quite honestly, almost word-for-word), and I’ll make again. Some of you might think that it will
come across as a little self-serving, but it’s a worthy enough topic that I’ll suffer any criticism that comes along with it. Any appearance of
self-interest doesn’t undermine the value of the argument. Plus, it’s also a convenient excuse to recognize some people who have done great things for the
Pro Tour in their Magic careers. I can’t underscore enough that this isn’t an “I belong in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame” argument, but a reasonable discussion
of why there should be more than just players in it.

The first part of the argument is that it’s the Magic *Pro Tour* Hall of Fame, not the *Pro Player * Hall of Fame. The Pro Tour is made up of more than
just players. It wouldn’t happen without the judges, scorekeepers, coverage people, and staff. I’ll agree that players are the marquee individuals and the
primary reason it’s popular. No one tuned in to listen to me do coverage (although I imagine there are some folks who turn in specifically to hear LSV),
they put up with me because their favorite players are in the event and Magic is an awesome game.

That said, there are individuals who have made significant contributions to the Pro Tour in addition to their other community contributions. For the sake
of the argument, we’ll even exclude folks who were WotC employees (I’d start at the beginning with Skaff Elias and go all the way to the present with Greg
Collins with many stops in between), since that’s their job, and the list might be too long to be manageable.

The second part of the argument is that the contribution of these individuals has been truly significant. They’ve shaped the Pro Tour as we know it through
their hard work, ceaseless dedication, and remarkable talent. Putting these folks into the Hall of Fame doesn’t need to be an enshrinement equivalent to
the players (maybe leave out the big, fancy ring). There could be a Non-Player Wing of the Hall or something.

Brian David-Marshall
: In addition to being the Pro Tour Historian, BDM took an active role in pushing forward what we do with coverage, getting people to look deeper into the
standings than just at Top 8s. He was an original proponent of crafting the narrative that we’ve developed on the Pro Tour. He was the first person to
combine a real skill at the game with a real skill at broadcasting. He’s one of two individuals who have played in, judged at, and done both text and video
coverage for the Pro Tour. I believe that the Pro Tour Hall of Fame will never be complete without Brian in it-so much so that if they came to me and said
“We’re either going to put you in or Brian, but never both,” I’d choose him.

Rashad Miller
: With the creation of GGSLive, Rashad showed us that extended video coverage of Magic is possible and viable. He’s still the mastermind behind the GP
coverage, and the reason you don’t hear him on the air more is that he’s busy making sure the stream is live and the audio/video quality is up to snuff.
He’s the second person to do the four-bagger, even playing to a Top 16 finish (14th, to be exact) at Pro Tour Berlin.

Mike Guptil
: Back when we were still making it up as we went along, Judge Emeritus Mike Guptil was a major figure inventing how we judge at Pro Tours. He ensured that
it became so much more than just rules knowledge and tournament procedures. He created a continuity document chock full of instructions and suggestions to
make the event better for both judges and players, creating the beginnings of the judge community and culture that we know today. If there was anyone I
looked to for guidance as an up-and-coming judge, for a positive example to follow, it was Mike.

Toby Elliott
: Toby is a primary mastermind behind many of the tournament rules and procedures that define how the Pro Tour and other competitive events are played. He
helped make what was once policy by incomprehensible fiat into something coherent and understandable. From Toby’s fertile brain, for example, comes the
simultaneous mulligan rule. I don’t need to tell you that he’s also a member of the Commander Rules Committee, an excellent feather in one’s cap, and part
of a larger picture of a career dedicated to significant contributions to Magic.

I could certainly make arguments to also include Richard Hagon (and in a year or two, I probably will), Gis Hoogenjik (although he spent a fair amount of
time as an employee), Rune Horvik, and Collin Jackson as well (and I’m hoping I’m not forgetting anyone). My main point is that there are many people other
than players who have made the Pro Tour into the incredible show that it is today, and they deserve their own place in history. I hope someone other than
me has thought about this.

Normally, I’d add the updated version of one of my decks at the bottom in order to get it into the deck database, but since there’s a new set coming up
next week, I’ll hold off until then. I’m looking forward to talking a great deal about Magic 2015, which I think will turn out to be one of the most
exciting sets for Commander in quite a while.