The Hall of Fame season is upon us! The period to hand in ballots concluded this week and like every year it brings its share of controversy, twitterstorm, slander – but also a lot of talk about some of the greatest players to ever play the game.
Every person has their own perception of what the Hall of Fame should be, who should be in and if there even should be a Hall of Fame, and what I want to talk a bit about is what it is for me, and why I like it.
Why did I get to vote?
To be able to vote for the Hall of Fame, you need to have accumulated 150 pro points or be given a slot due to your work with the players, coverage, content or have a relationship with Magic in some regard that Wizards finds special. I have the honor of being eligible to vote this year, having clinched 150 points before the end of the pro points era, and it is indeed an honor.
Lifetime pro points don’t really matter that much, besides ranking friends and foes in between, but for this particular thing they do. And while it might sound silly, it has been one of the things that I strived for, because I dedicated a fair share of my life to becoming better and better at Magic. Having 150 points might seem like a walk in the park, but for me it has been hard work, and it only came to be through dedication and some pretty wild years, doubling my lifetime count in 2-3 years. But a lot of the players that I respect immensely and know that I have to bring my A-game to play toe-to-toe with are in the range of 100-200 lifetime points, showing that when you play a lot and start to become very good, you will eventually cross the 150 points, but it still takes some solid finishes or consistent grind to get there.
Who I want to see in the hall
When I think about the Magic Hall of Fame, I think about the players that I have an insane amount of respect for, that I want to see play Magic the Gathering. This is different from other views, but I truly think that almost every Hall of Famer that I have encountered has been a unique individual that has dedicated the same amount of time, if not more than I have, to become great at the game both of us love, and has lived and breathed Magic, like I have for many years now. Not only is it about stats, but it is also the whole experience of being a magic grinder/pro player, taking long train rides, getting cheap shitty flight deals, sleeping in shady conditions with people that you might or might not know – to minimize the expenses so that you where able to keep playing the game.
All the above plus a lot more, for the sole purpose of self-improvement and to show the world that they where the best that there was in the multiverse. This spirit of the grinder is something I can relate to and it is one of the reasons that it is an honor that I can come remotely close to those people who did all of this, way before I even started playing the game, when it was harder to play/test etc.
This leads me to the list of people who (at the time of writing) I think I will give my vote to and the reasoning behind this ballot.
Reid Duke for me is the definition of a great Magic player. His stats are incredible, and he has dominated both the Magic Online platform and the GP/PT circuits, getting a sublime resume in almost no time. There isn’t really any spot to put a finger on for why he shouldn’t be part of the Hall of Fame. So instead of trying to elaborate on why, I want to tell a story about one of my first interactions with Reid, and why people feel very heartwarm when being around him.
At Pro Tour Madrid/Pro Tour Shadow over Innistrad, I had been a grinder for years, with no real results to my name, other than two GP top 8s. I had been testing with Cabin Crew, a former Czech/European team and we had found a sweet Jund deck that performed really well in the metagame. I was super nervous, since I was still in contention of playing for top 8 (I eventually lost my win and in to Luis Salvatto) and a qualification for the next PT. Near the end of round 13, as I came back to the playing area, I walked past Reid Duke. He saw my glance, walked over to me and told me this: “Hey Michael, I can see that you are doing well in the tournament, what a great job – keep it up!”.
I think I managed to say something along the lines of “thank you so much!” and shook his hand, but I was completely blown away by how nice this was, out of the blue. This might seem silly and stupid, but having someone that you have so much respect for and have been following on coverage, come over and congratulate you and just being there as a fellow Magic grinder was truly amazing, and it still puts a smile upon my face.
I think there are two slam dunks for this year’s Hall of Fame, and alongside Reid Duke, Marcio Carvalho is the second candidate. I have had the opportunity to get to know Marcio, play and test alongside him and he is both a fantastic, fun, smart person and an incredible player. A lot of the success that the Latam players are having comes from of course them being amazing at the game on the one side, but also having Marcio as a person to bounce games, ideas and everything Magic related off of on the other side. He has such an insane understanding of play patterns, board states, draft strategies and just an overall knowledge that runs way deeper than how I understand Magic. And it is not only admirable to watch, but sometimes also truly scary that one can understand a game on such a different level than what you know.
I think that Marcio is the best player in the world right now and has been for some time, and had I not teamed with him, I am unsure if I would have ever gotten a Mythic Championship top 8. My level of skill has improved by a lot over the years but getting into the inner circle around Marcio has enlightened me even further. He has some of the most insane stats in the modern era and it will be an honor to give my vote for one of the game’s greats.
Now there is a divider, since there are roughly two camps of voters for the Hall of Fame – those who vote for a small Hall of Fame and those who vote for a big Hall of Fame. In the last couple of years, the criteria to enter happened to switch from a clear “You have to have a minimum of 4 top 8s” to a more subjective scale that counted community contributions and the person in general. I can see arguments for both, and I have been talking to some other pros about this specific topic, and who to vote for and why. In the end, I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of Magic players out there, a lot of grinders and great personalities, who I like a lot! But there are only a specific few that I would like to see in the Hall of Fame. These specific few happen to all be on the ballot and while I think there is a hierarchy from 1 to 5 (or even up to 8 if there were that many votes) I would love to see all of these people in there, which puts me in the camp of a big Hall of Fame. This means that I am going to use all of the votes and give the candidates that I think should get in this year a shove in that direction.
Watching Magic before I started to play that much myself, Marijn was still on the scene, though on the tail end of his professional career. He somewhat retired after I started, and I never got to see him play that much – but through common friends and interests we got to know each other later on. Marijn has amazing stats – and while some would dig a bit deeper into (and dwell) with the deck choices of his PT top 8 decks, for me it is still amazing to have the strong top finishes regardless of decks. And to put those considerations to shame, he also has a top finish in a draft PT, which is one of the harder arenas out there if you ask me. Marijn has some great stats and by former metrics he would be a clear-cut inclusion. These results alongside his dedication to commentary and to the Magic scene of Belgium, I want to see him both in the Hall of Fame and at the upcoming Players Tours. He is a quirky outgoing person with a lot of energy and while some people find this a bad trait, I find it quite rare, unique and appreciated in the community. He will have my vote for this year.
The first time I saw Tomoharu Saito, was in the act of trading cards, and it was a true delight to watch – fast and swift. I have later gotten to know Tomoharu through a Team Tournament in Sao Paulo and like Marijn, he is really his own with an original and great personality.
He started a whole new era by sponsoring players across continents and later opening this even more with the Hareruya Hopes initiative. Sponsoring is of course a PR strategy mostly, but seeing how few shops and companies actually do it, it is clear that Tomoharus vision of giving the opportunity to play Magic to as many as possible is part of the mix. And I am sure that this has spread a lot of joy and meaning throughout the community at large.
There has been a lot of controversy around his person, and his original induction into the Hall of Fame was revoked due to a suspension. I believe that Tomoharu has done everything that he can to reform himself, play clean and show remorse as much as possible – and this is what the community is always asking for. So with great results, a great personality and being a true ambassador for a game that he loves all the way to his core he is getting my vote.
My last pick has been hard and has probably not been fair to some of the candidates. I have put some time into looking at stats, discussing with friends and felt what I thought was the best thing to do. And while I am happy with my ballot there are a lot of players that are left out, that I would love to see in as well and who would have gotten my vote had I had more. My last vote however will go to…
While writing this, I tend to see a theme where big quirky personalities have gotten my vote, and it may somewhat be my bias for better and for worse, but Carlos is also in this category. Carlos is an amazing person, that has come back from retirement and has just been crushing it since. Alongside Marcio Carvalho he is one of the reasons that we are getting our jobs set for us, when we face the Latam players. If you ask him to help you in testing or pretty much in any other aspect, he will do so with a huge smile upon his face and with a witty attitude.
Carlos is for me what an ambassador for the game should be. He is warm and welcoming, and he has an insane resume to back his career. I am looking forward to seeing Carlos do well on the scene and he will be getting my final vote for this seasons Hall of Fame.
There are still a lot of good players out there that I am leaving out and some of them are even my friends that I admire deeply. I have tried to get around some of my bias, but I think it is almost impossible to do so. With all of that in mind I have tried to form a ballot that I think is as it should be, with players that I love to talk to, watch and follow and I hope that with my push in the Hall of Fame direction, that it will get them there!
That was it for now and I am looking forward to seeing who will get the honor of getting inducted to the Hall of Fame class of 2019.