Matthew Vienneau, Pro Tour Player/Hall of Fame Candidate
Editor's note: Over the course of the voting, we will occasionally be posting ballots of voters who wish to make their choices public, along with any additional analysis they used to come to their decisions. If other Selection Committee or Player Committee members wish to provide analysis and explanation of their votes for publication, click here.
Last year I was extremely excited by the Hall of Fame process and keen to post my thoughts on who should and should not be admitted. I was further invigorated after the voting was finished as I received two more votes than I had expected. Overall it was a very satisfying experience that fed my desire to get back on the tour, something I have finally accomplished after a four-year break – look for me in Kobe!
This second ballot, I have to admit, is not exciting me quite as much. While I'm sure part of that is the lack of novelty, I think some of it also has to do with a lack of "star" candidates – something I believe will be corrected next year when Kai becomes eligible (is anyone else disappointed that he didn't drop in for German Nationals?).
It's also easier to be lazy this year and not write anything. Since the individual votes are not being published, it's easy to quietly submit your choices and then never have to worry about defending them. In the end, I decided that I would lead by example. I'm keen to see others' thoughts on their choices, and I want the Hall of Fame to succeed, so I've held off on drafting for a few hours and written out an explanation.
First of all, just like in 2005, I don't want to vote for anyone who has been suspended by the DCI. Last year that was an easy exclusion, but I knew even then that I'd be facing a much bigger problem this year. Bob Maher is a fantastic person and player whose company I really enjoy. Twice I have faced him at a Pro Tour or Grand Prix (including a Top 8), and not only do I remember both matches clearly (which is saying something after 12 years of Magic), they were both pleasurable to play (not so true of some of the other nominees). While Bob owned me in the world of side drafting, he was always honourable about it, once returning my "green points" because he wasn't certain his team had played ethically. And unlike some of the younger players, he kept the trash-talking to a friendly, not malicious, level. I also have fond memories of Bob's second Grand Prix win in Copenhagen and going out afterwards to an all-ages club to celebrate (it was a Sunday night), as well as an evening enjoying Toronto's finer entertainers after Worlds in 2001. Bob is a fun, decent and skilled – an excellent set of traits for the Hall.
But he was suspended from Magic for a period of time, and I'm not yet willing to waive that issue or go down the slippery slope of judging whether one suspension "counts more" than another. However, if there was one person I wanted to change that rule for, it's Bob. And to be fair, I'm a lot more comfortable holding the line when I know he's likely to make it in anyway.
It has occurred to me that there is no history of player suspensions that are readily accessible – only currently suspended DCI members are on the web. This is something I'd like see, as it's already very clear from various forums that most people are working on rumour and heresy when describing past misdeeds by nominees.
My second criterion last year was longevity. You needed to play in at least 25 Pro Tours to get my vote. I'm sticking with that because I like to see a bit of commitment to the game, not to mention a clear indication of skill levels.
My third criterion was average Pro Points per event. I set a minimum of six to be considered but I'm no longer as big a fan of this stat. As Randy stated in his 2006 vote explanation and later follow-up, averages distort players that kept playing past their prime. But I don't think Randy's three-year median is the answer either, and not just because I rank a distant last place in that category. Instead I'd like to see the average finish of each nominee's top 15 events, no matter how far apart they are. I think this better reflects people's skills when they're "on their game," even if there's a multi-year gap in between. Using three-year median means I could win the next four Pro Tours but still be last in the category – the stat doesn't properly represent the more erratic nature of competitive Magic participation.
Last year I put ability before everything when making my choices, but I wasn't as comfortable doing that this year. I wanted to vote in players who contributed to the game and were enjoyable to be around, people that made the Pro Tour better for their presence. And after receiving two votes last year and realizing how great it felt, I also decided to direct one vote to a lesser light that, while he may never wear the ring (or at least not anytime soon), deserves some attention.
Here are my 2006 picks for the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame:
1. Gary Wise
This will likely surprise many people, especially those in Canada who have seen the loathing and disdain that Gary and I have held for each other at varying times over the years. I have never considered team events to really "count" because that would be admitting that Gary has won a Pro Tour. I have mocked him openly in tournament reports. I have disparaged his skills and his writing. I have cheered when he made yet another mis-play to knock himself out of Top 8 contention in the final round or in the Masters. I have been a jealous and spiteful rival.
...And yet I also invited him to my Christmas party last year.
Gary can be a lot of fun. And he worked his butt off to succeed at Magic. And his desire to win was matched by his desire to promote the Pro Tour and the players on it. And not only did he attain levels that few others ever will, he did it in an entirely new way – networking. Despite not being qualified, he showed up at Pro Tour-Columbus just to be a part of things and meet people. From there, he rapidly picked up friends and acquaintances through aggressive socializing and being extremely extroverted in a world of introverts. He tangled with team politics; he negotiated fantastic deals, recruited star players and in a fitting reward, found himself teams that dominated the one non-individual format available. That kind of innovation and dedication deserves recognition. It also helps that we've both grown older and slightly more mature so I'm more willing to accept his accomplishments.
In 2001 I shared a room with Gary and two others at Pro Tour-Tokyo. This was always risky because Gary had a tendency to snore. Sure enough, by the middle of the night I'm unable to sleep due to all the racket from the next bed. In frustration, I punch Gary hard enough to wake him up and stop the snoring. A few minutes later the snoring starts up again. So I hit him some more. But this time it doesn't wake him. So I hit him again. And again. And again.
Finally Gary screams out, "Stop @#@% hitting me – I'm not the one doing the snoring!"
It turns out, one of the fellows on the floor was making all the noise and I had been beating poor Mr. Wise in error. Needless to say, we didn't talk much on the flight back. So this vote, while definitely earned on the basis of what Gary has done on and for the Pro Tour, is also a bit of an apology for all those beatings over the years.
2. David Humpherys
Five Top 8s, 281 Pro Points, 48 events – those are the numbers everyone else are mentioning and I doubt I can add much more. I haven't played Dave professionally (I don't think), but I have faced him in side drafts. He's always friendly and respectful, a trait that is sometimes in short supply when you gather 300-plus young men together. He does play awfully slowly, and that drives me nuts, but you can't let one flaw ruin a great career.
3. Raphael Levy
Fifty-one events. That is a lot of dedication. As people have pointed out, his stats aren't as strong as some of the other contenders, but it's also really difficult to stay consistent over 50 events. I'd have been delighted to spend 10 years averaging just under $2,000 per event! Raph has always been friendly, if quiet, and I think the Pro Tour could use more of that.
4. Tomi Walamies
I've included Tomi because not only does he have great stats, he also writes very entertaining reports and I want to reward such contributions. He barely squeaks in with 26 events, but it's hard to deny a 6.462 Pro Point average. Steve OMS has similar, if not better, numbers, and has always been a good guy, but he's never really given back and that's what keeps him off my ballots for now – he didn't develop a public personality. Tomi continues to give back and I look forward to him returning to professional play either through the Hall of Fame or his own attempts at qualifying.
5. Gary Krakower
I don't expect to see my former (and perhaps future) teammate on too many people's ballots, but over the years I've never really given Gary his due when it comes to Magic and here's my chance. We have a long and cantankerous history both as teammates and as driving buddies throughout the northeast. We have argued/discussed the minutiae of professional Magic for a decade – differences in play styles, ethics, future of the game, whether a Canadian National Championship can really be considered as good as a Grand Prix win, etc. He has recently taken to boasting of the $2,005 difference in our lifetime winnings (again from a team event – they really don't count!) while for years I have mocked his repeat telling of the glory days in the mid-'90s. A source of incredible frustration at times as he rails about not winning despite almost non-existent preparation, he is still able to pull out PTQ wins and Day Two at Grand Prix-Toronto with 0 byes. He makes odd deck choices (in both Constructed and Limited) and yet often does better than expected with them (leading one to believe that he has the genius, but not the playtest partners). And he is one of the few players who started when he was almost 30 who have ever done anything in professional Magic, a hard barrier to cross at times when you often need "tech" from a 17-year old to succeed.
As a teammate he was understanding when I started off 0-4 after six months of preparation or when I cost our team the finals at Grand Prix-Columbus. He was not quite so understanding when he threatened to punch me after not making Day Two of Grand Prix-Detroit, but I think I can safely say that of the two of us, he's been the better team player.
Last year my votes matched each of the first four Hall of Fame selections in order. This year I would be extremely surprised to bat 1.000 again. But with the greater number of voters I feel I've got a bit of room to appreciate those that do more than just play Magic well, they promote the Pro Tour and make it a better place.
As always, I look forward to next year,