love my involvement with Wizards of the Coast. I love the weekly platform they give me so that I can talk to you about the best and the brightest players in the game. I have the best seat in the house for all the biggest tournaments in the game. Yet more than anything, I enjoy my role as the Pro Tour Historian, because I get to help usher the game's greatest players onto center stage each year as they take their place among the all-time greats in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.
It can also be a bittersweet job when you see the likes of William Jensen fall just short of the mark—by the slimmest of margins—and have to wait for next year for his chance at induction. He was the fifth tick mark on my ballot, and the other four players who finished on the other side of the 40% threshold were all similarly marked down on the virtual ballot I cast for this year's class. Without any further ado, let's dig in and meet the 2012 Class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.
||Antonino De Rosa
||Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Patrick Chapin has been playing professional Magic longer than anyone else in this year's class, with a career that has its roots in the Junior Division of the Pro Tour that ran alongside the main event for the first couple of years of the program. He came out of the gates showing the promise of what would come when he started playing with the big boys with a 3rd-place finish in the Junior Division of Pro Tour Dallas. He finished 11th at his next attempt before starting to play on the Pro Tour as we know it today.
Patrick Chapin, 2012 Pro Tour Hall of Fame
"In the early days, the Junior division was as tough as the adult division, including such alumni as Jon Finkel, Zvi Mowshowitz, Kai Budde, Brian Kibler, and many, many more," recalled Chapin. "Dallas was my first pro event and it was life-changing. I remember meeting heroes of mine, like Brian Weissman and Mark Justice, as well as being inspired by great men like Chris Pikula and Brian Hacker. They filled me with so much pride in the Magic scene and so much confidence in myself and what I love."
Once he started playing on the Pro Tour, success came to him there just as quickly, with a Top 8 finish in the second Pro Tour New York—a Limited event. While Patrick is nearly unstoppable in the Standard format these days, that was not where he first gained notoriety for his mastery.
"My expectation for the adult division, quite frankly, was to dominate," admitted Chapin. "I was actually something of a Limited specialist, as there were only about forty of us in the world who were actually 'good' at Draft. So, even though I was very young, I had high hopes."
Within his first four events across the Junior and Adult Divisions, Chapin had posted two Top 8s and an 11th place finish, so the confidence was not unwarranted. It took him two seasons to get his next Top 8 and it was once again a Limited event that yielded the finish. He was gaining a reputation as a deck builder, though, and could easily have made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Secaucus had he not lost his deck and, as a result, enough rounds to leave him on the outside looking in when the Top 8 was called.
There are two distinct eras to Chapin's career, marked by his departure from the game shortly after becoming the first ever R&D intern during the early part of the last decade. When he returned he did so with a fury. He quickly became one of the most popular strategy writers and Magic personalities in the game. And he backed up those words with results. There was his memorable return to the Sunday stage at Worlds in New York—something that stands out for him as an inspiring memory of playing on the Pro Tour.
"My best memory of playing on the Pro Tour would have to be Worlds 2007, particularly my match against Nassif," Chapin recounted. "Mark Herberholz, Gabriel Nassif, and I had broken the format with Dragonstorm, it was my best finish yet (2nd at Words), it was my first individual PT in a few years, and we were all having so much fun. That match was so epic, I wrote a song about it."
His fourth Pro Tour Top 8 came at PT Paris, and the momentum to get Patrick Chapin into the Hall of Fame began to gather steam. He was close to getting 40% of the ballot last year and his continued success and tremendous community contributions finally got him there this year.
"I missed by only a couple of votes last year, but it was a very tough year. Since then, I have Top 8ed multiple Grand Prix, a heart-breaking 9th at Nationals, and just continued to help make Magic culture the most it can be," said Chapin when asked if he thought he was going to make it in this year, and how he felt when he received the good news from Scott Larabee. "I thought I had a decent shot, but knew it was a very tough year. I was in a daze, my career flashing before my eyes, a vision of things to come. It was very surreal, a supreme, but calm happiness. It means everything. It is the accomplishment in my life I am most proud of, and sums up what it is I have spent most of my life doing. I started playing Magic when I was thirteen and am now thirty-two. I am truly humbled and honored."
When a retired player gets into the Hall of Fame you always wonder if the player will come back. When a Pro Tour stalwart like Chapin gets in, I always wonder if the player loses a little bit of the fire and wants to sit back and relax a little. Chapin assured me that his Magic goals remain very much the same and will continue to work hard to unlock an achievement that is very important to him.
"My goal—on a personal level—is to win a Pro Tour," said the Hall of Famer-elect. "My top priority for tournament preparation, however, is helping my team do the best we can."
I gave Chapin the opportunity to thank some of the people who have helped him on his journey from the Juniors Division in Dallas to the induction ceremony taking place at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica this October.
"I want to thank my mom and dad for always supporting my passion for Magic and how happy it makes me. Mark Herberholz and Gabriel Nassif, for bringing me back and taking my game to the next level. Chris Pikula and Brian Hacker, for being role models who inspired me and gave me a blueprint. Michael Flores and Mike Long for what they taught me about writing about Magic. Richard Garfield and Mark Rosewater, for what they taught me about game design. Erik Lauer and Eric Taylor for what they taught me about deck building. Pete Hoefling and Pam Willoughby, for giving me opportunities to dedicate myself to Magic full-time. Luis Scott-Vargas and Brian Kibler, for sharing my vision of what Magic could be and conspiring with me to return American Magic to glory. I want to thank everyone who ever doubted me when I said I was going to be a Professional Magic Player when I grow up. Finally, I want to thank my fiancée Amanda, who has always had my back and helped make my dreams a reality."
Masashi Oiso, 2012 Pro Tour Hall of Fame
Masashi Oiso first stepped onto the Sunday stage at Pro Tour Yokohama when he finished 2nd during his rookie season. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year title that year and became the second Japanese player to take that title. He was not done blazing trails and became the first Japanese player to get multiple Top 8 finishes at a time when it was still uncommon to see a Japanese player in the Top 8 at all, much less in three across two seasons.
By the 2005 season, when he kicked off the year with his fourth Top 8 at Pro Tour Columbus, there were two other Japanese players there on Sunday with him. It started off a season that would see a Japanese player appear in every Top 8 that year—keep in mind that this was an extended year that featured seven Pro Tours. Oiso's real life began to intrude on his Magic career that year and he skipped a Pro Tour. Despite that, he still finished in the Top 3 for the Player of the Year that season and was within striking distance of the title throughout the World Championships in Yokohama.
One of the great regrets of my Magic coverage career was not attending Grand Prix Boston in 2005 when a contingent of Japanese Magic players—led by eventual event champion Masashi Oiso—shocked the world by making an unprecedented trip to North America for a GP.
All totaled, Masashi Oiso racked up six Pro Tour Top 8s—including an event that saw him come out of retirement and pick up a format cold at Pro Tour Yokohama in 2007. He also made the Top 8 of ten Grand Prix, including that dramatic win at GP Boston.
Editor's note: Attempts to interview Oiso prior to the publication deadline were unsuccessful. Oiso's reaction to his induction and thoughts on his career will be added here as soon as we conduct the interview.
Kenji Tsumura, 2012 Pro Tour Hall of Fame
Kenji Tsumura made a little bit of history himself in 2005 when he became the first Japanese player in the game to win the Player of the Year title during an amazing breakout season that saw him playing on Sunday three times—Pro Tour Atlanta, Pro Tour Los Angeles, and Pro Tour Philadelphia—and quickly become a fan favorite for his keen play skill and abundantly evident good sportsmanship.
His Pro Tour career started a few years earlier at Pro Tour Chicago 2002, which was the first time he was able to travel outside of his country and get a true measure of himself as a Magic player.
"To be honest, I thought I could make Day Two before attending the PT. Though my score was 3–4 and I wouldn't make Day Two until my fifth Pro Tour," recalled Tsumura. "I watched some games of Kai (Budde) and Masashi (Oiso) and I realized that I need more skills to win. However, I was really lucky because I met a ton of good friends and I could improve my skills with them. I made a lot of friends with Magic. Magic gave me everything: friends, experiences, and vital things for my life. It is not a mere game for me, it's my life."
Shockingly, Kenji was not confident that he would get elected this year and was nervous that voters would have forgotten about him and his good friend Oiso.
"No, I didn't, because there were so many good candidates," he admitted. "Hall of Fame is the most honorable thing for me, and furthermore, getting into Hall of Fame with my best friend is the best damn thing."
Tsumura would get six Pro Tour Top 8s in his career and became a powerhouse on the Grand Prix scene with twelve Top 8s and two wins. Like Chapin, Tsumura is driven by the lack of a Pro Tour win and will avail himself of the opportunity to play on the Pro Tour now that he can.
"I will play most of all Japanese GPs and PTs and some foreign PTs. Becoming a PT champion—maybe seven times—is still my dream," Tsumura said before tempering that with a nod to his adult life. "But I must spend my time for job hunting. Therefore, I will skip some GPs and PTs next year."
Stories about Kenji Tsumura are woven through his career, whether it was his despair over not being able to stop all of his opponents at Grand Prix Montreal from losing to their own Pacts or his dedication to becoming a Limited player after his Constructed-dominating 2005 season. Even with his Hall of Fame induction, Tsumura felt the need to give something back in the wake of his election.
"Again, it is the most honorable thing for me, and I feel that now is the time to do something good for the Magic community," said Tsumura. "Playing on the Pro Tour as a Hall of Famer is the kind of act which I can do, and I want to write more articles to contribute to the community."
Tsumura wanted to express his thanks to the people who have contributed to his career.
"I want to thank almost all my Magic friends, but especially Itaru Ishida, Katsuhiro Mori, Chikara Nakajima, Masahiko Morita, Rich Hoaen, and Masashi Oiso. I couldn't make good results, even make Day Two, without their help. I really want to say thank you for my family too. I was a really bad student and bad boy, but they always treated me with kindness and cheered me up even when they knew I was not good at Magic. I don't have a word which can be describe my mind perfectly, but I want to say... thank you."
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, 2012 Pro Tour Hall of Fame
I had read Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's articles on Brainburst before he burst onto the scene at Pro Tour Charleston alongside his Raaala Pumba teammates Celso Zampere and Willy Edel. It was during our preparation for that Top 8 that Randy Buehler and I looked back at Paulo's Pro Tour career and saw a steady string of money finishes. Damo da Rosa became the poster child for getting airfare along with PTQ qualification, since that was what allowed him to start traveling to events—an expensive proposition when it includes flying over the equator. Fittingly, Damo da Rosa found out about his election into the Hall of Fame at a Grand Prix in Brazil last weekend.
"I thought there was a good chance I'd make it, especially after I saw the ballots on articles and on Twitter," said Damo da Rosa of how he thought this year's ballot would play out. " I was surprised to receive the news at GP Sao Paulo, since I imagined I'd only know the results on Friday along with everyone else—the guy congratulated me and shook my hand and it took a while for me to figure out what was going on, but when I did I was very thrilled and relieved that I had actually made it, and excited for what it meant."
I don't imagine that anyone who follows the Pro Tour was at all surprised by the news that Damo da Rosa was elected. His name has been circled on my ballot for as long as he has been over the 100 Pro Point threshold to qualify him in his first year of eligibility. Over the course of his ten-year career he is averaging just under one Pro Tour Top 8 per season with a staggering nine Sunday appearances to show for it.
Damo da Rosa, 2010
His first Pro Tour appearance came in 2003 World Championships when he qualified on rating.
"I remember almost everything... I qualified via Latin America rating—Top 8 qualified back then—and Devir, our distributor, paid for everyone's trips," said Damo da Rosa. "We met the people from Portugal and Spain in a resort in Spain and playtested for a while. I didn't have great expectations, I was very thrilled to have finished in the Top 64, and I remember I had to beat Darwin Kastle last round to do so."
Damo da Rosa built on the Top 64 finish and continued to post better and better money finishes before finally breaking through in Charleston. From there, he has gone on to be one of the best players in the game and not someone you want to face in a bubble match for the Top 8 of a Pro Tour—he has never lost a win-and-in match on the Pro Tour in his career. I asked him if there was a moment when he became aware of his emergence from the middle of the pack to one of the elite players in the game.
"This is a tough question... I don't think there was a moment; it's a very gradual thing—I kept getting better and at some point I was better than most other players, but it isn't like you accumulate experience and then level up all of a sudden," said the always analytical Damo da Rosa. "It's not really about results, either—even now, I sometimes think 'wow I played that game really well, most people would have played differently,' and sometimes I think 'wow I played that game terribly, I have to get a lot better' and it doesn't really have much to do with whether I won games or not, just my perception of whether I'm playing correctly, so I can't say the moment was 'when I did well at this certain tournament.'"
Paulo earned a trophy when he won Pro Tour San Juan, which is part of a triptych of treasured memories for the first South American Hall of Famer.
"Top 8ing my first Pro Tour, Charleston, with my teammates Willy and Celso was definitely awesome. I also have very fond memories of winning my first Pro Tour, San Juan, and then carrying the Brazilian flag for the first time in Paris."
Don't expect Damo da Rosa to ease up on the gas pedal now that he has a golden ticket to every Pro Tour. He is still playing with one goal in mind for each season.
"I'll still try to get Platinum. It might make a difference in the future if I happen to play less, though," said Damo Da Rosa who went on to talk about what being elected meant for him. "It means a lot; it's a great honor. It means I've made a permanent mark in Magic's history—no matter what I decide to do with my life, where I end up or how long it takes, I'll always be a member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame; that's going to be part of my life now and forever."
Don't be surprised to see Damo da Rosa rack up some more Top 8s and get into that rarified double-digit air that only Jon Finkel and Kai Budde have gotten a deep breath of in Magic history. You can also expect him to continue to delve deep into the strategy aspects of the game that have made him one of the game's most popular strategy authors. He wanted to take a chance to thank some of the people who have helped him along the way.
"There are many people I could thank, but the most important one is my mother—she was my biggest supporter by far when I started playing, and she still is. When I was young—very young, like nine—she didn't trust leaving me alone at the store, so she spent countless hours there waiting and doing nothing just so that I could play, and she paid for my first tickets even though there was no reason to believe I'd do any well. Without her, I'd never even have started playing, let alone gone to tournaments.
"Then, there's Willy—Willy was a big part of my transition from good to professional. He taught me a lot not only about playing but about the traveling lifestyle, and he's always been sort of an older brother to me.
"Finally, I'd like to thank LSV, who has been a big part of my Magic life in the past few years—without him, we wouldn't have the powerful team we have and I wouldn't be writing for ChannelFireball, which I really like to do. He is also a very good friend and has done a lot for me, both in and out of Magic."
There you have it—the 2012 Class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Dive in to discussion of this year's class on Twitter using the hashtag #mtghof. You can tune into the live coverage of Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in October for a live stream of the induction ceremony as well as a feature match area that will be littered with the freshly inducted Hall of Famers playing in Round One of the weekend's wall-to-wall coverage. See you all there!