The 2015 Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame

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I started BMKGaming two years ago because I wanted to have a forum to discuss my thoughts on the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame. My very first article on the site was a discussion of my ballot for the 2013 class. The site has come a very long way since then, branching out into different kinds of content, different games, and even merchandise, but my heart still rests with what started it all. I care very deeply about Magic and the Hall of Fame, and want to see both of them thrive and be the best version of themselves that they can be.

In previous years, I’ve discussed the full breadth of the nominees on the ballot and given my thoughts on each of them. But since I’ve already done that, and most players who I’ve previously discussed haven’t made significant moves in the past year, I’m going to limit my analysis this year to the players whose stock has shifted meaningfully in the past year, or those who I feel are at or near the top of the list for consideration.

If you’re interested in reading my thoughts on previous years’ ballots, you can find them here:

The 2013 Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame

The 2014 Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame 

One thing I will repeat here is my philosophy regarding the Hall of Fame and what I’m looking to see in players who are to be enshrined within it:

In my mind, the Hall of Fame is meant to reward those who have made a significant positive mark on the history of the Pro Tour. I believe that it is essential that a player has demonstrated excellence in both game play and character. If someone has been caught cheating during their career, I will not vote for them.  I do make an exception here for players who made mistakes in their youth but managed to turn themselves around, but if someone has shown a pattern of indiscretion or was of questionable character during the prime of their career, I do not think they are deserving of Magic’s highest honor.

Magic Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Magic Hall of Fame Class of 2012

My idea of a Hall of Famer is someone who we ought to wish players would emulate. I want to elect players into the Hall of Fame whose behavior and character are such that we should hope that others look up to them as an example and try to be more like them. I believe it’s important that the Hall of Fame recognizes those players who have done good for the game, not simply those who are good at the game.

I place value on performances outside the pro tour – not only Grand Prix, but also Nationals and Master Series tournaments, neither of which are included in the official WotC stats page. I’ve been around the Pro Tour since the beginning, and I know that US Nationals was once regarded as the toughest tournament in the world, since there was a time when most of the world’s top pros were American. Similarly, the Masters series was the original incarnation of the “Player’s Championship” (now the World Championship) – tournaments featuring many of the game’s best players – and I believe that top results in these events ought to be considered as well.

Additionally, because I have been playing so long, I have the advantage of actually having known all of the major candidates during the periods in which they were competing at the highest level, so I know firsthand the way they were perceived by their peers. This matters to me, since being held in high esteem by the pro community is a certain measure of both a player’s character and their skill. Having a strong profile among one’s peers is not enough – despite the consensus that Neil Reeves was one of if not the best Limited player in the world for years, I’m not going to vote for him because of his lack of finishes – but it is certainly a contributing factor.

Magic Hall of Fame Class of 2011

Magic Hall of Fame Class of 2011

Lastly, my longevity also gives me context for understanding the significance of different resumes in different time periods. For instance, it’s important to realize that it is MUCH easier to earn pro points in the modern era than it was in the early days of the Pro Tour. Grand Prix didn’t even exist in the first year or so of the tour’s existence, and even when they were introduced, there were only a handful each year, and they gave out far fewer points. Winning was only worth 6 points, and points only went down as far as the Top 32 – in fact, for quite a while, you only got PT points for finishing in the Top 8, making 9th place on breakers that much more heartbreaking.

Even pro tours awarded fewer points. These days, a Top 16 finish is worth 15 points, but there was a time when it was worth half that.  Granted, there were far fewer players competing, so you had less competition for those top spots, but there were still less points available to be earned. It’s also worth noting that there wasn’t the same incentive to travel to GPs that exists now. For a long time, there was no Pro Player Club, no appearance fees, and no real reason to accumulate points unless you were in contention for Player of the Year. Fewer pros went to Grand Prix in the early days because they didn’t have the same motivations as exist now.

Lately, Hall of Fame voting always brings out the statistical analysis of players resumes, but I think it’s important that we’re careful that we don’t lean too heavily on numbers alone. There was a great deal of discussion on Twitter recently about evaluating players by things like “% of money finishes” and the like, with analogies made to batting averages in baseball.

I think it’s important to recognize that professional Magic and professional sports are very different things. Professional athletes are paid very well to be exactly that, and that alone. Professional Magic players frequently have to balance tournaments with other jobs, school, and family life, since pro Magic is not lucrative enough to pursue exclusively.

Magic Hall of Fame Class of 2010 (aka the best one)

Magic Hall of Fame Class of 2010 (aka the best one)

That means that I care more about peak results much more than lifetime medians. The nature of pro Magic and the relationship many players have toward it means that they have to pick their spots. I don’t like the idea of punishing players for attending events for which they might not have been fully prepared. I’ve gone to a number of events I knew I’d do poorly at just because I wanted to travel and hang out with my friends, because frankly that’s a huge part of the appeal of the pro tour in the first place.

I do think that sustained high performances are impressive, but I don’t find high variance in results to be a downside in a candidate. Perhaps that’s self-serving, since I don’t have a particularly good median finish compared to many other members of the hall of fame, but I think it’s important that we look at things realistically and not get caught up in sports analogies that simply aren’t appropriate for Magic.

In any case, let’s talk about the candidates.

efroMy first vote this year goes to Eric Froehlich. Eric has been a friend of mine for a long time. We’ve known each other since the days of IRC being the primary means of online communication, and I’m sure a lot of people reading this don’t even know what that is. I tested with EFro for tournaments back in the early 2000s, and he was quietly instrumental in helping develop a number of decks that brought me and other players top finishes back then.

EFro rose to greater prominence more recently as a result of his own strong finishes, but received even more attention for his social media presence. I said last year that I felt he was his own worst enemy in the Hall of Fame voting process, because his venting on Twitter gave people a very narrow – and very negative – perception of him as a player and as a person. Since then, Eric has made a concerted effort to reign in his public negativity, and to contribute as a positive member of the Magic community via outlets like commentary and the Constructed Resources podcast.

There are those who believe EFro has just been paying lip service to the community in order to garnish favor for the Hall of Fame vote, but I do not believe that is the case. I think EFro is a very passionate individual who cares deeply about Magic. That passion has led him to vent his frustrations in a destructive manner in the past, but thanks to his friends and the community at large, he has learned the errors of his ways. I don’t think Eric is simply seeking to make amends to pander for votes – I think he genuinely wants to change the way he approaches Magic and the world.

As I mentioned earlier, I think the Hall of Fame ought to be made up of not just people who are good at Magic, but people who are good for Magic. I don’t think that is limited to people who have never made a mistake. In fact, I think EFro’s willingness to recognize that his past ways were not how he ought to behave is a factor in his favor. There are some people in the world who seem to believe that unwavering stubbornness is a virtue, but I for one disagree. The ability to admit when you are wrong and try to do better is a much greater virtue, and a much more difficult one to achieve on a public stage. I think EFro has made great strides toward being an excellent ambassador for Magic, and – given his similarly excellent pro tour results – I will be voting for him for this year’s class of the Magic Hall of Fame.

jgaryMy second vote is going to Justin Gary. Justin has not had any notable finishes since I last wrote about him, but I feel it is outrageous that he is not already in the Hall of Fame. Everyone cooing over Shouta’s results and insisting he should be in the Hall of Fame really ought to vote for Justin. He has more Top 8s (3 vs 2), more Top 16s (8 vs 7), more Top 32s (20!!!, the most of any player on the ballot vs 13), and more Top 64s (24 vs 21) in virtually the same number of pro tours (44 vs 43), along with a better lifetime and three year median finish. He also has an individual PT win, a Masters series finals appearance, a US National Championship win during a time period when that tournament was among the toughest in the world, and another US team appearance that resulted in a World Team Championship.

If there is anything negative about the fact that the Magic Hall of Fame inducts active players, it is the bias that generates toward recent results. Shouta is on the tip of everyone’s tongue because he just made another PT Top 8 this year, but even with that finish, he *still* doesn’t have a resume as strong as Justin’s, and Justin isn’t even mentioned in most conversations about the Hall. I don’t mean this to be a knock against Shouta, by any means – he is a great player with incredible accomplishments. But I think a world where Shouta is getting votes based on his stats while Justin is not just doesn’t make any sense.

On top of his personal results, Justin was a fixture on the most dominant team of that era – Your Move Games – with his win in Houston highlighting perhaps the most impressive performance of any team in a single event, where they finished in first, second, and third with three different decks, and their only GAME losses in the Top 8 were to each other.  The only real weak spot of Justin’s resume is in GP finishes and total pro points, but his stats come from the era I was discussing in which there were far fewer Grand Prix and much less incentive to travel to them, so it’s hard to count that as a serious strike against him, in my mind. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and contributor to Magic coverage, frequently serving as a coverage spotter and floor interviewer during the Top 8 of pro tours long before Twitch streaming was a regular thing.

Adrian Sullivan also makes an impassioned case for Justin here. I recommend checking it out.

I am voting for Justin Gary, and you should too.

willyedelMy third vote is going to Willy Edel. I’ve been on the fence about voting for Willy in the past, and while he hasn’t really had any particularly notable finishes since then, I have both gotten to know him better and learned more about his contributions to the Brazilian Magic community. While Willy’s results alone don’t make him a slam-dunk candidate for the Hall of Fame, they’re strong enough to get him into the conversation.

I don’t think I can do a better job advocating for Willy than Paulo did in his article on the subject, so I suggest you give that a read. The long and short of it is that Willy is essentially the godfather of Brazilian Magic, and has frequently put the good of the community ahead of his own success. I’ve seen this first hand, when Willy gave up the opportunity to test with ChannelFireball in order to help other Brazilian players. That kind of selflessness and dedication to his local community is worth a lot in my eyes, and as such, Willy has my third and final vote for this year’s Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

-Eric Froehlich

-Justin Gary 

-Willy Edel 

Remember that even if you don’t have your own vote for the 2015 Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame, you can submit your own ballot as part of the Community Vote, found here.

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