Marcus Smith, whose real name has been omitted to protect his identity, was originally ecstatic when he won his win-and-in match to make Top 8 of a Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour earlier this year.
"This is why we do it, you know?" He said. "Hearing your name over that loudspeaker is a dream come true. It's hard to believe that all those weeks spent living in squalor with 11 other men in a two-room apartment to test 12 hours a day for this tournament actually paid off, and the moment you hear them say you made Top 8 makes everything worth it.
It wasn't until my wife called to tell me the bad news that I realized what I had done, and my victories turned to ash in my mouth."
What Marcus had done by achieving his recent Pro Tour Top 8 was meet the minimum requirements to be on the Pro Tour Hall of Fame Ballot. Players must have earned 150 lifetime Pro Points and two "Sunday finishes" – Pro Tour Top 8s or World Championship Top 4s – and wait for 10 years to pass since their first Pro Tour appearance to be eligible to be part of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame.
"Thinking back, there is probably something I could have done to avoid this. I could have played a worse deck or maybe punted a round earlier in the event and finished in the top 16 instead. I really botched it. I can't believe I got tunnel visioned and just missed it. It's all over for me now."
Players on the Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot are subjected to a month-long hazing ritual during the voting process each year that involves a council of their peers publicly calling into question their integrity and attacking every single one of their accomplishments as either not being good enough for the Hall of Fame or being the result of angle-shooting or cheating. It's been speculated that the Hall of Fame, an honor meant to celebrate one's professional Magic accomplishments and community involvement, loses all meaning if players aren't first forced to endure people they thought were their friends completely destroying them emotionally, learn how many people hate them in the community, and question why they ever thought it was a good idea to dedicate a minimum of 10 years into the game in the first place.
Non-professional players and community members are also encouraged to join in the process of tearing apart eligible players until any joy they once got from Magic has been stripped away.
"I played Marcus once back in 2009," says Eric, a player from Marcus's local game store at the time. "He forgot to take damage off of a fetch land, and me and my group of friends have known he was a savage cheater ever since. I'm glad he made the ballot for Hall of Fame. This finally provides me with the forum I desperately needed to publicly air this grudge I've been holding since that fateful moment nine years ago."
Chris, shares a slightly different story. "I played Marcus at a Grand Prix two years ago. He didn't acknowledge or laugh at my joke suggesting that he might be playing Manaless Dredge and thus choose to take the draw after he won the die roll. So yeah, I'd say he was a miserable opponent to play against. He doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame should be reserved for good role models and community leaders. Marcus is simply a bad person and should be punished by having to endure a month of spiteful, biased acquaintances trashing him personally and his legacy."
When asked whether his Magic career was completely ruined or if there was some chance at escape, Marcus did offer up one piece of hope.
"The good news...the light at the end of the tunnel as it were...is that if I do somehow manage to wrangle up enough votes to make it into the Hall of Fame this year, then everyone will forget all of this and nobody will ever bring up any of these accusations ever again. I'll be treated with kindness and respect, considered a valued and beloved member of the community, and it will be as if none of this ever happened. Everyone will congratulate me and tell me how happy they are for me, even though they didn't vote for me and tried to convince everyone else not to as well. That's something to look forward to."
Standard has been an oft-maligned format over the past two years of play, as players have endured numerous bans and format dominating decks and mechanics. Players feared that the current format was destined to fall into that same trap – doomed to be dominated by red aggressive decks headlined by the feared Goblin Chainwhirler.
However, recent Grand Prix results have suggested that the format is actually balanced and diverse.
"If you look at the Grand Prix Top 8's in Orlando and Providence, and the Grand Prix Top 7 in L.A., it's clear that the format has adjusted to Goblin Chainwhirler and that a variety of strategies are viable now." Said Ashley Johaneson, a Standard grinder on Magic Online. "I mean, L.A. alone had six different archetypes in seven decks. We're seeing success from aggressive decks, control strategies, midrange strategies, and even more combo-control decks like Turbo Fog do well. It's actually a pretty good format."
God-Pharaoh's Gift, Black-Green Constrictor, Black-Red Aggro, Grixis Midrange, Turbo Fog, and Blue-Black Midrange were all found in the Top 7 of GP L.A., which was eventually won by Magic Online superstar Logan Nettles piloting Black-Red Aggro.
The 8th-16th place decklists also added a few other options to the mix, such as Approach of the Second Sun and Green-Blue Stompy, proving that any given Sunday, any archetype is capable of making the Top 7.
"If you can master a Standard deck that properly attacks the metagame and have a strong sideboard plan for all the major matchups, the results will follow. With that level of preparation, it's so easy to Top 7 a major Grand Prix that it's almost like cheating."
Ashley received a lengthy ban from Twitch chat after mentioning the word cheating, and could not be reached for further comment.
Invigorated by the success of the Modern and Team Pro Tours this past season, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is experimenting with a new Pro Tour format for the following season.
That format is Chaos Reserved List draft.
"We ran some Chaos draft events on Magic Online and people seemed to like them, so we decided to last minute throw away everything we had prepared for the upcoming Pro Tour and instead just run a Chaos draft tournament instead, using only cards from the Reserve List," said one top member of WotC's Organized Play department.
When asked about how this would affect viewability of the Pro Tour, they had this to add. "Well, it's chaos. People like chaos. Not everyone, of course, there are some lawful goods out there, but we're really appealing hard to the chaotic neutral demographic with this one. We think it will be a big hit."
For players looking to qualify for Pro Tour Reserved List Chaos Draft, RTPQs are being held at the World Series of Poker, NFL Training Camp and the Hearthstone Regional Championships. Not everyone is guaranteed space to compete in the RPTQ, but anyone with over 50,000 Twitter followers gets free entry.
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