This is the most exciting year yet in terms of voting for the Hall of Fame. I may be a little biased because this year is not only the first year I will be able to cast a vote but it is also my first year on the ballot. For those that aren't familiar with the Magic the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame it is a select group of the most elite players in the game. It is an honor to have a vote and be on the ballot this year.

It is easy just to focus on which players are doing well this month or even this year, but in order to get into the Hall of Fame it really does mean consistency year after year. The selection committee is comprised of players and other important members of the community, and each year each voter is allowed up to five votes. If a player receives 40% of the votes that is good enough to become inducted into the Hall of Fame. Looking at past years it is normal for three players to end up getting inducted each year.

There are a variety of metrics that measure whether a person should earn a vote. Community contributions, integrity, sportsmanship, and most importantly a player's performance are the most important aspect I am looking for as a voter. Most players on the ballot are in good standing, but there are a couple players who have been banned or suspected of some form of cheating. However, the majority has perfectly clean résumés so then it comes down to the most important metric, a player's tournament results and performance. In this case we are looking at events that award Pro Points.

The most important stat, which can clear out a reasonable amount of candidates, is number of Pro Tour Top 8s. For a while the standard was that a player should have four Pro Tour Top 8s before being inducted, but that standard has started to lower in recent years. Pro Tour Top 8s are not easy to come by, even for the best of the best, so sometimes a candidates' résumé is good enough with three or even two Top 8s. However, these candidates are considered outside the norm.

For this year, I don't think anyone with less than three Pro Tour Top 8s should be elected to the Hall of Fame, and that includes myself. Pro Tour Top 8's are not the only statistic that is important, but they are the most difficult tournaments the game has to offer, so it is necessary to have done well playing them in order to be elected. This helps thin out the field as far as this year's candidates are concerned. This year there are 15 candidates that do have three or more Pro Tour Top 8s to their name. I am going to start with the players that have the most Pro Tour Top 8s and work my way down.

Tomoharo Saito

Saito is one of the most polarizing figures in the game today. There are so many reasons to like Saito's Hall of Fame statistics, including the fact he has made 5 Pro Tour Top 8's and more than 20 GP Top 8's. These figures are staggering, and would be enough to be elected without any red flags to go along with them. However, Saito was banned for cheating, the greatest sin a magic player can possibly have. For some voters this means they will never vote for Saito. I can't fault anyone for taking that stance.

However, since returning from his ban Saito has come back and continued playing Magic at a very high level. He is also making significant contribution to the community, beyond just performing well in tournaments. He is regaining some of the trust he lost during the cheating scandal. He will not be getting my vote this year, but he is on the way to redeeming himself. All of my interactions with him have been very pleasant; it just takes time to recover after a ban, and he will likely need to add even another Pro Tour Top 8 to his résumé before having a legitimate chance to get in.

Scott Johns

Scott is for me the toughest candidate to evaluate on the ballot. Like some on the ballot, he was mostly before my time as a player. His results at the Pro Tour level are very good, including five Top 8s and a Team Limited PT win. However, the amount of Pro Points he has, and Grand Prix results are less than stellar. In addition, I have heard rumors there was a time where he was accused of "shady play." The fact that he has been sitting on the ballot for a while now, getting less and less votes each year, is going to hurt his chances. Scott doesn't have a legitimate shot to be elected this year. I have decided I will not be voting for him, based on the fact that I wouldn't feel confident in voting him in if I did.

Mark Herberholz

Now we are moving to the candidates which have 4 or fewer PT top 8's, and all of the rest of candidates I will be going into detail on have never been suspected of foul play (to my knowledge). Mark Herberholz is someone who I suspect will be very close to getting into the Hall of Fame this year. He crushed Pro Tours, consistently finishing in the money. His stats are quite good, with one of his PT Top 8s being a win, and also having additional Top 16 and Top 32 finishes to go along with the Top 8s. While his Grand Prix results and amount of Pro Points are unspectacular, he played during an era where there wasn't as much of an opportunity to compete in Grand Prix's.

Even though Mark Herberholz is an old-school player, I have seen him competing at GPs recently; it is clear that he legitimately wants to get back on the Pro Tour. I actually played against him last year and lost; he still has what it takes to compete at a very high level. I have decided I will be voting for Herberholz this year. What puts him over the edge is his reputation as a fantastic deck builder, and as one of the best in the game during his time.

Marijn Lybaert

Marijn Lybaert is still an important fixture in Magic, as he plays as well as commentates. All of my interactions with Marijn have been very pleasant, and I believe that he is close to getting into the Hall of Fame, and very well could be in the near future. His stats are actually quite similar to Mark Herberholz. Lybaert has not won a Pro Tour, but he does have six Pro Tour Top 16 finishes, which is certainly an important statistic. I will not be voting for Lybaert this year, as I would like to see him put up one more result before making it in.

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

Tsuyoshi Ikeda does not just have the four Pro Tour Top 8's, he also has a whopping 12 Pro Tour Top 16's. This should be enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame right? Well unfortunately for Ikeda he is not getting a lot of attention right now, and I actually don't think he will get in this year. He has put up very good results at the Pro Tour, and has six GP Top 8s as well. There is really only one negative about his stats: his median finish at Pro Tours. This is something that should count against him, and while the number is high, Ikeda also played in 59 Pro Tours. Simply qualifying for 59 Pro Tours is pretty amazing. This is a player who dedicated a large portion of their life to the game. Despite perhaps not having all the details about the playing career of Ikeda, nor having personally met him, I will be voting for him this year. His results at the Pro Tour are worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.

Craig Wescoe

Craig is a good friend of mine, as well as a writer for TCGplayer! He does have a Pro Tour win which definitely helps his case. He is someone I want to vote for, but it won't be this year. Wescoe is still in his prime and I have no doubt he will get into the Hall of Fame, if not this year, then within the next year or two. I would have liked to see a lower median PT result number for Wescoe, but he is close to making it. His contributions to the community have been extremely relevant, as well as being one of the nicest players I know. If he continues to pad his stats I will be very likely to vote for him if I once again am given that opportunity.

Justin Gary

Despite never having met Justin Gary I have heard good things about him. He is someone who is not immediately relevant on the Pro Tour today, but when he was playing his results were fantastic. There were two years where he finished in the Top 10 for the Player of Year race. He also won U.S. Nationals, which was not easy to do when that tournament was still around. His median PT result number is very low considering how many PT's he played, meaning Justin constantly did well at the Pro Tour. 20 Top 32 finishes is just absurd, and based off of that number alone I feel compelled to vote for him. One of his Pro Tour top 8s being a win also makes a big difference. This year, I'll be voting for Justin Gary.

Osyp Lebedowicz

Osyp has a similar resume to Craig Wescoe. Compared to Wescoe his results at the Pro Tour are better, but he hasn't done nearly as well as Wescoe on the Grand Prix level. Lebedowicz still needs another result to show that he is still one of the best in the game. He is someone who warrants consideration, but is unlikely to make it in this year, and will not be getting my vote just yet.

Owen Turtenwald

A name that should be very familiar to most current players. Tutenwald is one of the best in the game right now, and has been year after year. Reputation however is not enough, you do need the stats to back up that reputation, and Turtenwald has them. While he has not made the finals of a Pro Tour yet, he makes up for it in other ways. Turtenwald's Pro Tour results alone would not be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but when you add on a Player of the Year Title, a 2nd place finish at the World Championship last year, and more than 20 GP top 8s, he has proven himself. He is someone who I fully expect to make it into the Hall of Fame this year, and continue to keep doing well. I will be voting Owen Turtenwald into the Hall of Fame.

Yuuya Watanabe

This year I fully expect multiple players with three Pro Tour Top 8s to make it into the Hall of Fame. Yuuya Watanabe is in many ways similar to Owen Turtenwald. He has been considered one of the best players in the game, and plays flawlessly. His Pro Tour results are not insane, but they are solid. Watanabe continues to put up strong results, even though I'm sure he is itching to add another PT top 8 to his already impressive resume. What stands out the most though is Yuuya's dominance at the Grand Prix Level. His numbers in terms of both amount of GP Top 8s and GP wins are off the charts. Beyond all this he is a player I have a lot of respect for. He is even gracious in defeat, and in many ways this helps make for a true winner. I will be voting for Yuuya Watanabe.

My Pro Tour Hall of Fame Ballot

Mark Herberholz
Tsuyoshi Ikeda
Justin Gary
Owen Turtenwald
Yuuya Watanabe

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield