The_Week_That_Was

The skinny on the 2008 Hall of Fame ballot, complete with exhaustive stats and a change to the induction process.

Wandering the Halls

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The letter T!he committees have been notified, the ballots have been sent out, the campaigning has already begun, and by the end of August we will know the make-up of the 2008 class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

Once all the committee members have voted we will know how many of these players will take the stage at the World Championships in Memphis this winter to be enshrined along with the likes of Jon Finkel, Bob Maher, and Kai Budde. For the past three classes there have been five guaranteed enshrinements on each ballot but some long-discussed rules changes mean that number is not assured for the 2008 class. It could be higher or lower depending on how many players appear on at least 40% of the weighted ballots.

"We have been talking about this since Year One," said Vice President of Organized Play Chris Galvin of the change from five guaranteed Hall of Fame spots to the new threshold system. "Now we are going to let the voters determine how many people get into the Hall of Fame. The theoretical maximum is—I think—twelve, and the minimum is one. We are handing over a lot of control to the selection committee and the players committee about exactly how many people deserve to go in from each class. I think members of the two committees are going to think more carefully about their votes; every single vote on every single ballot counts in a very different way than they have in the past."

The 2008 Hall of fame campaign marks the first time that players have been removed from the ballot. From the Hall of Fame rules: "If a player receives less than 10% of the returned, un-weighted ballots for three consecutive years of voting, that player shall be removed from the Hall of Fame selection ballot in future years."

Hall of FameHere are the players, despite their impressive Magic careers, no longer eligible for Hall of Fame induction unless they receive four Pro Points during any season, at which point they would be reinstated to the Hall of Fame selection ballot. For obvious reasons all of these players are from the first Hall of Fame ballot. The list features some impressive names including the first player to make the Top 8 of two Pro Tours: Shawn "Hammer" Regnier. The New Hampshire player was one of the game's very first stars and easily the first star of the Pro Tour with his trademark bandanna, intimidating offers to arm wrestle to see who would go first in a match, and a Top 8 finish and a win at the very first two Pro Tours in the history of the game.

Removed from Hall of Fame Eligibility:

  • David Bachmann
  • Kurt Burgner
  • Svend Sparre Geertsen
  • Thomas Guevin
  • Gary Krakower
  • Peer Kröger
  • Peter Leiher
  • Satoshi Nakamura
  • Shawn "Hammer" Regnier
  • Gabriel Tsang
  • Terry Tsang
  • Matthew Vienneau

Scott Johns, left, and Mike Turian, right, flank 2006 Hall of Fame inductee and Pro Tour teammate Gary Wise.
With the removal of those names and the six players inducted over the first two seasons there are only a smattering of players remaining from the first Hall-eligible season. Conspicuous on the list are Scott Johns's five Pro Tour Top 8 finishes—tied for the most of anyone on this year's ballot.

First-Year Players Remaining on Ballot:

  • Brian Hacker
  • Scott Johns
  • Mark Justice
  • Michael Long
  • Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz
  • Chris Pikula
  • David Price
  • Michael Pustilnik
  • Jakub Slemr

While some players have been removed from the ballot, other active players have crossed the magical 100-point threshold to fulfill the requirements needed to be eligible after ten years of Pro Tour experience. Notable among these players are last season's World Championship finalist and internet personality Patrick Chapin, four-time Pro Tour Top 8 finisher Ryuuchi Arita, and the completion of the first Hall of Fame–eligible brother duo with Daniel O'Mahoney-Schwartz.

Players Crossing 100-Point Threshold Since Last Ballot:

Class of 2006:

  • Patrick Chapin
  • Gerardo Godinez Estrada
  • Daniel O'Mahoney-Schwartz
  • Wessel Oomens

Class of 2008:

  • Ryuuichi Arita
  • Craig Jones
  • Mike Thompson

Putting all that together, here is the list of eligible players:

Ryuuichi Arita William Jensen Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz
Dirk Baberowski Scott Johns Wessel Oomens
Chris Benafel Craig Jones Brock Parker
Trevor Blackwell Mattias Jorstedt Chris Pikula
Marco Blume Mark Justice David Price
Noah Boeken Brian Kibler Michael Pustilnik
David Brucker Benedikt Klauser Neil Reeves
Franck Canu André Konstanczer Carlos Romão
Patrick Chapin Janosch Kuhn Kyle Rose
Daniel Clegg Masashiro Kuroda Ben Rubin
Sigurd Eskeland Nicolas Labarre Olivier Ruel
Igor Frayman John Larkin Brian Selden
Osamu Fujita Mark Le Pine Alex Shvartsman
Ryan Fuller Matt Linde Jakub Slemr
Donald Gallitz Raffaele Lo Moro Bram Snepvangers
Justin Gary Michael Long Mike Thompson
Gerardo Godinez Estrada Pierre Malherbaud Michael Turian
Brian Hacker Casey McCarrel Trey Van Cleave
Yann Hamon Patrick Mello Tom van de Logt
Masami Ibamoto Eivind Nitter Tomi Walamies
Tsuyoshi Ikeda Jin Okamoto Jelger Wiegersma
Itaru Ishida Daniel O'Mahoney-Schwartz David Williams

As soon as the ballots were sent out last week my various inboxes started to fill with requests for some statistical data about this year's class. The breakdown of stats for everyone on the ballot can be found here but I have pulled out the Top 10 in each of the relevant categories for those of you playing along at home.

I am never sure how much weight to put into Pro Tours attended. When you consider that there have only been 70 Pro Tours over the past 13 years, playing in more than half of those events is a testament to endurance, consistency, and a love of the game. Bram Snepvangers does not top any of the other lists that I will be trotting out in this column but there is little doubt that he is among the game's most passionate and consistent Pro Tour performers in this regard.

Most Pro Tours Attended

1. Bram Snepvangers 54
2. Tsuyoshi Ikeda 48
3. Four tied: 46
  Itaru Ishida  
  Ben Rubin  
  Olivier Ruel  
  Jelger Wiegersma  
7. Justin Gary 44
8. Two tied: 39
  Osamu Fujita  
  David Price  
10. Three tied: 38
  Mike Pustilnik  
  Alex Shvartsman  
  Mike Turian  

Since taking on this column and becoming a Pro Tour commentator I have spent a lot of time discussing how important it is to look outside of the Top 8 at Pro Tours. I coined the term "virtual Top 8" for players who are on the wrong side of history due to cruel decimal points but there is no denying that the fame component of the Hall of Fame is fueled by playing under the bright lights of the Sunday stage. You could hardly go wrong voting for the four players on this year's ballot who have taken that stage five times.

Newly eligible Dirk Baberowski made three Sunday appearances alongside Kai Budde and Marco Blume as a member of the feared Phoenix Foundation and added two individual Sundays. Olivier Ruel continues to rack up achievements and it would surprise nobody if he added a sixth Sunday finish some time soon. I mentioned Scott Johns's five Top 8s earlier. He is joined at the top of this list by Mike Turian, his teammate from the Pro Tour-winning team Potato Nation, who was on the wrong side of the equation as one of the seven heavy hitters vying for five berths in last year's Hall of Fame.

Pro Tour Top 8 Appearances

1. Four tied: 5
  Dirk Baberowski  
  Scott Johns  
  Olivier Ruel  
  Mike Turian  
5. Eight tied: 4
  Ryuuichi Arita  
  William Jensen  
  Mark Justice  
  Benedikt Klauser  
  Nicolas Labarre  
  Mike Long  
  Kyle Rose  
  Ben Rubin  

Once you are talking Top 8 appearances you have to look and see how the players did once they got there. On this year's ballot only nineteen of the eligible players have won a Pro Tour—and only two of those players have won more than one. Baberowski and Blume both have two wins flanking Kai Budde on Phoenix Foundation. Dirk also has an individual win in Chicago to top this list with three wins, tying him with Jon Finkel for the second most Pro Tour wins all-time. Seventeen players are tied for third with one win.

Pro Tour Wins

1. Dirk Baberowski 3
2. Marco Blume 2
3. Seventeen tied: 1
  Sigurd Eskeland  
  Justin Gary  
  William Jensen  
  Scott Johns  
  Masashiro Kuroda  
  Michael Long  
  Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz  
  Brock Parker  
  David Price  
  Michael Pustilnik  
  Carlos Romão  
  Kyle Rose  
  Brian Selden  
  Jakub Slemr  
  Michael Turian  
  Tom van de Logt  
  Jelger Wiegersma  

I mentioned consistency earlier in regard to Pro Tours played but the real question for many voters is: "How do they do once they get there?" Median finish—the midpoint of career Pro Tour finishes—has been the centerpiece of many a Hall of Fame debate. Randy Buehler's remarkable Median Finish of 18th was oft cited by his supporters (while his detractors pointed to only twelve Pro Tours played). A similar debate has followed this ballot's Median Finish leader. Mark Justice was pretty much a 50/50 to finish Top 32 at any Pro Tour he played, but he only played on 18 of them in his meteoric career.

Median Finish

1. Mark Justice 28.5
2. Brian Selden 37
3. Michael Long 39
4. Ryan Fuller 41
5. Tom van de Logt 47
6. Dirk Baberowski 49
7. Scott Johns 52
8. André Konstanczer 53
9. Brian Hacker 54
10. Two tied: 55
  Donald Gallitz  
  Jakub Slemr  

Long-time Pro Tour observer and reporter Monty Ashley created the Three-Year Median Finish stat to evaluate how dominating a player was at career peak. You will not see much correspondence between the Top 10 list for Pro Tours played and the one for median finish. The Pro Tour is hard, and not many players can maintain the focus needed for consistent finishes across multiple formats year in and year out. Three-Year Median is a way to look at a significant cross section of a player's career. Mark Justice tops this list as well but it should be pointed out that his career was almost exactly three seasons long.

Three-Year Median

1. Mark Justice 17
2. Justin Gary 25
3. Ryan Fuller 26
4. Olivier Ruel 27
5. André Konstanczer 29
6. Kyle Rose 30.5
7. Scott Johns 32.5
8. Jelger Wiegersma 37
9. Franck Canu 37.5
10. William Jensen 39

Lifetime money winnings are not currently up to date, but lifetime pro points are certainly a fine indicator of performance and consistency at the highest levels of Magic play. Of the overall top four players in this category only Olivier Ruel—who enters the ballot this season—is not in the Hall of Fame.

Lifetime Pro Points

1. Olivier Ruel 413
2. Jelger Wiergesma 319
3. Ben Rubin 279
4. Bram Snepvangers 263
5. Justin Gary 251
6. Itaru Ishida 250
7. Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz 237
8. Michael Turian 234
9. Alex Shvartsman 232
10. Tsuyoshi Ikeda 221

A good share of both Olivier's points and those of Alex Shvartsman—who is in ninth place in lifetime Pro Points on this ballot—are from dominating Grand Prix competition. These two world travelers are the only two players in the history of the game to rack up more than twenty Grand Prix Top 8s, with little danger of anyone catching them anytime soon.

Grand Prix Top 8 Appearances

1. Olivier Ruel 23
2. Alex Shvartsman 21
3. Itaru Ishida 17
4. Jelger Wiegersma 13
5. Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz 10
6. Ryan Fuller 9
7. Four tied: 8
  Osamu Fujita  
  William Jensen  
  Brian Kibler  
  David Williams  

Olivier continued to headline the categories when you look at victories once the Top 8 of those Grand Prix grind to a single winner. Olivier is tied with Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz atop the Grand Prix winners list on this year's ballot with four.

Grand Prix Wins

1. Two tied: 4
  Olivier Ruel  
  Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz  
3. Five tied: 3
  Alex Shvartsman  
  Ryan Fuller  
  Chris Benafel  
  Trey Van Cleave  
  Carlos Romao  
8. Twelve tied: 2
  Itaru Ishida  
  Jelger Wiegersma  
  William Jensen  
  Brian Kibler  
  David Williams  
  Noah Boeken  
  Daniel Clegg  
  Masashiro Kuroda  
  Michael Pustilnik  
  Ben Rubin  
  Michael Turian  
  Yann Hamon  

Of course, the Hall of Fame is not merely about statistics. You can look at notable accomplishments of a player such as Carlos Romao becoming the first Brazilian player to win a Pro Tour or Masashiro Kuroda becoming the first to accomplish that for Japan. Voters can consider contribution to game such as Chris Pikula's work as a Pro Tour commentator or Patrick Chapin's deck building prowess.

How will it all play out? Tune in the first Friday in September and we will introduce you to the 2008 Hall of Fame class.

Worlds Formats Announced

While Two-Headed Giant may be a popular format at the local level—I know I love playing it at every Prerelease if I can—it was not the most popular choice for last year's World Championship team competition among the qualified players.

"They haven't announced the format yet," said eventual U.S. National Champion Michael Jacob as he played out the finals against Sam Black at Nationals a couple of weeks back. The two players were both assured berths on the team at that point and were hoping that Paul Cheon would emerge from the remaining playoff match as the third member of the team.

Three-player teams ruled out Two-Headed Giant, but Jacob was still wary.

"I heard a rumor about team Constructed," said Black.

The U.S. National Team (from right: Paul Cheon, Sam Black, National Champion Michael Jacob, and alternate Marsh Usary) seem to like their chances in the new team Constructed format.
If you have checked the Worlds information page then you know that the rumors Sam heard have proven to be correct. The team format at this year's World Championships will be Constructed but not the unified version that was last used at Pro Tour–Charleston. Instead the format is harkening back to the early days of Worlds Team Competitions with each member of the team fielding a deck from a different format: Standard, Extended, and Legacy.

Paul Cheon is one of the best Constructed players on the Pro Tour right now and has experience leading a National team from when he burst onto the scene in 2006. I caught up with the Level 8 player for his opinion on the newly announced formats for Memphis.

"I'm very excited about it," said Cheon who finished in the Top 16 of Worlds in 2006 when he was last on the National team. "I think we have a really solid team for this architecture. Sam Black has been playing forever, so we will probably slap him with the Legacy deck. I have been playing mostly since the Extended format starts so that's my area, and Michael Jacob doesn't seem to lose in Standard."

While I had him on the phone I also wanted to check up on a rumor I had heard that he would actually be making a Grand Prix run in the time between the next Pro Tour and Worlds.

"After Berlin I am taking a three week swing through Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand," confirmed Cheon, who has not traveled to GPs as extensively as other players who have reached his level in the Players Club. "I haven't really taken a big trip before and I want to see what happens. While I have my level 8 benefits I would like to see how far I can get with this game. The only GP I ever really traveled to was Krakow."

He added with a chuckle, "I am kinda hoping for a repeat performance."

Firestarter: Play Along at Home

After looking over the players eligible for the 2008 Hall of Fame, crunching the numbers, and gently folding in the intangibles what would your ballot look like? You only get five votes and every one counts. Head to the forums and make your case for the heads of the 2008 class.

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