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Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame ballot 2012

July 10, 2012

It’s that time of the year again where the ballot for this years induction to the Magic Hall of Fame is out and is a, at least relatively, hot topic and thought I give you my two cents on the matter.

Before I start musing about this year Hall of Fame ballot, I want to stress that I’m not eligible to vote officially. This is just my own personal thoughts and who I would like to see get voted in and why.

So, if I got to vote, my first 4 picks of this years ballot are fairly straight forward and from what I have seen, heard and read so far, many a voter seems to be on the same page. You guy who are following me on Twitter might recall what I tweeted about a week ago:

I don’t think I have to say much to justify wanting to see PV and Kenji get inducted this year.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa has just been a part of the cream of the crop of competitive Magic the last…5-7 years. He has 9 PT Top8s, including a win in San Juan 2010, 12 GP Top8s and has a remarkable high median finish in the events he has attended to. In addition he is one of the best writers within in Magic community and just overall a very lovable guy.

Kenji Tsumura is the other slam dunk pick in my book. During several years during the second half of the last decade, he was just the best player in the game. It’s rare in the world of Magic that someone with somewhat of a consensus gets called the best player in the game, but Kenji is one of the few that has actually been called that. His resume is not shabby either by any means, 6 PT Top8s, 12 GP Top8s and a Player of the Year-title from 2005.

A part from also being a very lovable guy like PV, I remember him as just one of the most impressing people to watch playing the game, which I have gotten the opportunity to do both on camera and IRL. While you can from a players body language, demeanor and just how he/she hold his/her cards get an idea about how good a player is, when you were watching Kenji you just felt that this guy is playing the game one a completely different level than yourself. It was just uncanny.

While there are plenty of talented Magicians in the world, there are few that I really make me feel: “Man, I wish I could play Magic like he does!”. But Kenji was certainly one of those guys. Because of commitments to school and stuff, he faded away from the game during 2008/2009 but despite his relatively short presence at the top of the game, he made a truly lasting impression.

I wouldn’t call my next two picks slam dunks, but they are close to:

First we have Masashi Oiso, which is a name that I imagine that a lot of players who only started to play the game in the late in the previous decade haven’t heard about much. It’s a shame though because he truly is/was one of the finest players to ever play this game.

Like Kenji, because of other commitments in life he faded away from the game relatively quickly and he was already “on the way out” so to say when I picked up the game and got interested in the pro scene. Despite that maybe the top of his career was past him at the point when I started out, he still had a reputation such as his name might as well have been the name of a demigod rather than a human being. There are few names in the world of Magic I have heard people say with more respect and well, with a lack of better way of describing it, fear and tremble.

His resume is also really astonishing, 6 PT Top8s, 10 GP Top8s and a Worlds Team champion as a part of the Japanese team that helped to secure the Japanese triple crown at Worlds 2005. He is also consider to be the mentor of Kenji Tsumura, which whom have said in the past that he owe much of his success to Oiso. Another feat of his was that he was (and maybe still is?) the fastest player to get to 100 pro points or more and thus when the Hall of Fame was announced in 2005, he was was already eligble to be voted for when 2012 rolled around, a staggering 7(!) years into the future at the time.

All in all, a just truly remarkable player.

The next person is a interesting one since if we were talking about a Pro Tour Hall of Fame, I don’t think this man would really be in the conversation but since it is, at least in my mind, the Magic Hall of Fame we are talking about, he truly is.

The guy I’m talking about is off course Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin. His resume as far as finishes goes is on the weak side, “just” 4 PT Top8s and 3 GP Top8s. Like I just suggested, those numbers alone doesn’t get you in the talk about getting inducted to the Hall of Fame.

What is though is his remarkable list of contribution to the game besides the field of battle. The list includes the fact that he is, and has been for a long time, simply one of the best writers in the game and his weekly column over at Star City Games features ideas, breakdowns and stories that few other people in the business can provide. Particularly on a weekly basis.

More so he is one of the few people who can claim to have written an actual book about the game. He is also a part of the few number of people that has produced music(!) with relationship to the game. He can also brag about having worked for Wizards and actually contributed designing the game for a while.

It’s this list of things (which I just took a small excerpt from) that makes me feel like Patrick deserves a place in the Hall of Fame. There are few people who just lives and breathes Magic: the Gathering like he does, and I think that level of dedication to the game is worth the recognition of an induction into the Hall of Fame.

So, that was the 4 (relatively) easy names for this years ballot. Deciding on who should get the honor for the 5th and final slot on my ballot is a different story however. After pondering for a fair bit and been reading others opinion on the matter, it boils down to two different paths you can take with your vote if you ask me:

The first path is which I guess you could call the old school route, which is digging deep into Magic past and look at some of players in the ballot that has a really impressive resume but haven’t been playing at all recently.  There are a list of players, most of them Americans, that clearly has the playing achievements to be worthy of a Hall of Fame induction. Justin Gary, Eugene Harvey and Mark Herberholz are a couple of names on that list, but it’s really spearheaded by William Jensen.

“Baby Huey”, which he is famously known as, maybe got the most impressive resume among these names but what he for sure has is an overwhelming respect by people who has been around for a long time within the game. A lot of the really seasoned pros, including the likes of John Finkel, will tell you that Jensen might be the best player that isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and it’s hard to argue with those names.

However, Jensen has a weak point in his case for getting inducuted, which PV also points out in the article that I and many more who aren’t as old in the game can sympathize with: We haven’t actually seen him playing the game!

While numbers in terms of finishes and accomplishments means a lot as well as such kind words from people like Finkel and Budde, having a perception on your own of the people that you vote for is important in my book. And it’s hard to have one if you actually never seen the guy in question play.

What I’m trying to say here is that while for sure William Jensen is worthy of being inducted in the Hall of Fame and I will surely applaud him if he makes it, I understand that people like myself may not be voting for him. Since he faded away from the game relatively early (around 2005), there are a fair chunk of players that simply never got to see the man play Magic and thus have a hard time to relate to him.

The other school of reasoning is naturally a more present approach. To me, that school is spearheaded by Tomoharu Saito.

Saito is name that is a highly debated one. On the plus side, he has a very impressive resume, 5 PT Top8s, including a win as a member of Kajiharu 80 in Charleston 2006, 16 GP Top8s, including several wins and he is a former Player of the Year. He is/was consider as one of the premiere deck builders in the world during long parts of his career.

Now, that sounds remarkable, but why is his name when talking about the Hall of Fame so highly debated? Well, you see, technically he was already voted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, but was never inducted because he received a 18 month suspension just a few weeks before his induction.

The question is how one should stand regarding whatever it’s okay to have a suspension by the DCI (or several) on ones resume and to still be considered Hall of Fame material or not. Some people will tell you that such people have no place in the Hall of Fame, which is an admirable opinion to have although somewhat convoluted in my book. You see, another guy who is already in the Hall of Fame have been once suspended and there wasn’t much controversy about his induction. You know this man as The Great One aka Dark Confidant aka Bob Maher.

So to me saying that people with history with the DCI on the some level shouldn’t get inducted to the Hall of Fame is also implies that Maher should be ejected from the Hall, which is a ludicrous idea. I personally don’t think you need an absolutley clean sheet with the DCI in order to get inducted and I don’t think it’s an feasible ideal to enforce either. I agree that whatever you have a more or less “shady” pass or not may affect whatever you vote for a person or not but I don’t think guys like Saito should be no sired for all of time because previous suspensions.

In the case of Saito and the suspension he just came out off, I would argue that he is somewhat of a messiah figure in the sense that he payed a higher price for his deeds than most would consider fair. Yes, I don’t think it was out of line to suspend him for he was accused for and yes, I think it was a good call by the DCI/Wizard to put the foot down and make an example out of the situation and send a message to the community that the borderline shady plays that Saito was accused for is not okay to employ. That said, it’s unfortunatley that just Saito had to take that hit and really get a punishment that was more than a personal one. I my book, Saito has paid his dues and more.

With all that said, how do Jensen and Saito stack up compared to each other?

That is a difficult question and I’m glad I don’t have to make that one for real. For me it’s really a toss up. I think both these gentlemen have the resume to deserve an induction to the Hall of Fame and hope both of them will at some point, even if they don’t make it this year.

However if you would ask me to make a pick right here and now, I would have to go with Saito. Both players have an impressive resume but Saito has had most of his success in the later years while Jensen hasn’t really been showing up at events during the past ~7 years or so. The fact that I haven’t really seen Jensen play Magic along with the fact that Magic has argubly become a bit harder to dominate in during the later years than it was in the early 2000s and before that, are the deciding factors for me.

To summarize, if I would have a vote in this year induction to the Magic Hall of Fame, this would be my ballot:

  • Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
  • Kenji Tsumura
  • Mashashi Oiso
  • Patrick Chapin
  • Tomoharu Saito

Feel free to voice in your opinions, do you like my picks or would you have done something differently with your ballot?

Until next time,

Bernhard

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