Class of: 2014
Hometown: Boston, MA
Debut: Pro Tour Osaka 2002
Lifetime Pro Points: 307
- 2010 Pro Tour Amsterdam victory with White Weenie in Extended highlight his four career PT Top 8s
- His Pro Tour Amsterdam tournament report is considered the modern height of the form
- All of his Top 8s have come since his return to the Pro Tour in 2009 after several years away
- Ten Grand Prix Top 8s, including two wins
- Was still competing for Top 8 of a Grand Prix while simultaneously playing in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Paris
- Most closely identified with beatdown strategies like Boros
Paul Rietzl's life in Magic can be broken up into two sections. The start of his career dates back to the halcyon days of one of the game's first super teams, Your Move Games. Known as YMG, the Boston-area team already has four other players who have worn the iconic YMG shirt in the Hall of Fame, including Rob Dougherty, Darwin Kastle, Dave Humpherys, and Zvi Mowshowitz.
When those players were at the very top of their game, Rietzl was just getting started as a promising young kid who had to hold his own against the toughest local tournament scene you could ever imagine.
"I've said it before—if I grew up anywhere but Boston, I never would have seen the success I've had in Magic," said Rietzl about the foundations of what has turned into a Hall of Fame career. "Darwin Kastle, Robert Dougherty, Dave Humpherys, Justin Gary, and other lesser-known names like Chad Ellis, Chris Manning, Bruce Cowley, Danny Mandel, Chris Senhouse, and others had a huge influence on me. It was a brutal crucible to survive the local tournament circuit in the Northeast when I was a kid, but it made me the player I am today."
Rietzl began his pro career by winning an Extended PTQ for Pro Tour Osaka at the Brighton Knights of Columbus outside Boston—one of the tougher tournament venues to emerge from holding the proverbial blue envelope. He went into the Pro Tour without expectations but also did not want to have to go back for another round at that dreaded Knights of Columbus Hall.
"I used to both anticipate and dread coverage of Pro Tours," he recalled. "I loved watching the superstars, but hated that another opportunity to play had passed me by. I just wanted to be a part of the PT and hoped it wouldn't be my last shot."
It would be far from his last shot. Rietzl's second act began, fittingly enough, in the same city as his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. At Pro Tour Honolulu in 2009, he made the first Top 8 of his career. Since then, he has made the Top 8 three more times, including his win at Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010 with an aggro deck that has been his signature play style throughout his career.
He has become something of the patron saint for aggro players, with an affinity for decks that attack early and often and put his opponents under pressure right out of the gate, such as the Boros deck he used to Top 8 Pro Tour Paris—on the same Sunday he was playing for a slot in the Top 8 of a Limited Grand Prix held in conjunction with the Pro Tour.
It was a singular event in the history of the Pro Tour, with the big event starting on Thursday and concluding the Swiss rounds on Friday, with a day off before the Top 8 on Sunday. On Saturday, there was a Limited Grand Prix that the Pro Tour competitors could compete in, with Day Two running concurrent with the Top 8 of the PT. Despite knowing he was in the Top 8 on Sunday, Rietzl could not resist an opportunity to play more high-level Magic and went 9–1 (including his three byes) on Day One of the GP. Rietzl explained that he thought his quarterfinal matchup against Patrick Chapin in the Pro Tour was lousy for him and he expected to be dispatched quickly. He pleaded to be allowed to continue playing in the GP on Sunday.
The Grand Prix began before the Top 8 and Rietzl was able to draft his deck before having to report to his match against future Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin. He had to take a match loss in the first round of the Grand Prix while he was busy dispatching Chapin in three quick games. He would continue to play Grand Prix matches sandwiched around his semifinals and the Feature Match area was modified so he could play in both events on camera. He missed out on the Top 8 for the Grand Prix—that match loss while playing in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour was the culprit—but he made it as far as the finals of the PT before losing to another eventual Hall of Famer in Ben Stark. On the weekend, Rietzl played in 31 rounds of tournament Magic and posted a 24–6–1 record.
"The craziest, most exhausting, exhilarating week of gaming in my life," was how he described the event. "I just wish I had mana-screwed Ben Stark two more games."
Coming into the 2012–13 season, he had already been eligible for the Hall of Fame, but it was not until he earned his fourth Top 8 at Pro Tour Theros in Dublin that the electorate rallied to include him on their ballots in sufficient concentration.
"I thought I had a shot. I had a huge advantage in that some of my closest friends in Magic are respected pillars of the community with large megaphones," said Rietzl of the many people advocating for voters to include him on their ballots. Of course, the Pro Tour Theros Top 8 competitor let his results do the talking for him. "Since last year, I've made one PT Top 8, one GP Top 8, and one PT Top 16. I think a lot of my friends were looking for an excuse to include me on their ballots, and this helped them justify it."
Rietzl has maintained a Platinum membership in the Pro Tour Players Club and will continue to pursue that level of play for the foreseeable future. Despite that, knowing he is qualified for any and all upcoming Pro Tours is a relief for the Pro Tour Amsterdam champion, who already struggles to balance playing the game at a high level with his full-time job.
"As I move into the 'buying a house and raising a family' portion of my life, it's awesome to know I'll always be able to come back and pop in on a Pro Tour from time to time and crack some jokes and packs," he said.
Rietzl was humbled by the honor—one that he was not certain he was worthy of.
"I can play pretty well sometimes, I think, but I've obviously run significantly above expectation in some high-leverage situations throughout my career. The one thing I learned throughout this voting process was that everything you do has meaning. The things I've done throughout my life in Magic, whether positive or negative, have all been remembered by someone. They've all had an impact. If anything, I'm reminded to keep treating people with respect and appreciating every day. I'm a lucky guy."
When given the opportunity to offer thanks, Rietzl named his parents, who always supported his hobby and would not only drive him to events as a kid but even sometimes flew with him.
"I'd like to thank my girlfriend Kat, of course, who is so supportive and understanding when I have to be away," he continued. "But I also want to thank my two grandfathers. My grandpa Cameron has advanced degrees in mathematics and strategy and is a man of impeccable integrity and with an incredible sense of humor. And my Opa is a man with a lifelong love of games, especially cards. He taught me to live life with joy every day and that how you do something is more important than winning or losing. I hope I've made them proud."
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