Class of: 2019 Hometown: Sugar Loaf, NY Debut: Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010 Lifetime Pro Points: 530
- Has been playing Magic since he was five years old
- Won the 2011 Magic Online Championship
- Six Top Finishes including four Mythic Championship Top 8s
- 23 Grand Prix Top 8s highlighted by six wins
- Won the second Pro Tour Team Series with Team Ultimate Guard
Reid Duke goes into the Magic Hall of Fame as the only member of the 2019 class—the first time there has ever been a one person class in the decade-and-a-half history of the Hall. While the voters could not find consensus on any other candidates, the mandate for Duke was loud and clear as he appeared on 94.28% of the ballots which was the third highest in the history of the Hall of Fame, exceeded by only Jon Finkel (97.1%) and Luis Scott-Vargas (95.6%) and one spot ahead of Kai Budde.
The Sugar Loaf, NY resident was born in 1990 and has been playing Magic since he was five years old when he and his older brother Ian Duke were each given a Starter Pack: Ice Age for Ian and Fourth Edition for Reid. Neither player has put the cards down since. As the two brothers puzzled out the rules from the tiny enclosed booklets neither of them could have any idea how profoundly their lives would be changed by a mere deck of cards.
Reid Duke reflected about the arc of his life from when he peeled open that cellophane wrapper to his current role in the game as a mentor, teammate, content creator, and now Hall of Fame member.
"Everything about me is tied in some way to the game. My values of honesty, sportsmanship, self-improvement, and open-mindedness all come from a lifetime of playing Magic." Duke said. "I've met so many great people, and used the game to strengthen relationships with people that I already knew. Now that I'm in a position where lots of eyes are on me, and where I might have the opportunity to set an example for younger players, my life with Magic has become much more than simply playing the game."
Duke was always a competitive child and was drawn to playing tournament Magic for as long as he could remember. He was a fixture at local tournaments but it was not until his teenage years that he took those first steps toward becoming the ubiquitous global tournament presence he is today. And it was not until after high school when digital Magic launched his career in earnest.
"I traveled with my brother and friends to two or three Grand Prix tournaments while in high school and I absolutely loved the experience, but I never really had the means to travel as much as I wanted." Duke said. "The big breakthrough was when I started playing Magic Online in college. Finally, when they introduced online PTQs and the MOCS, I had opportunities to compete that I never would have had otherwise."
His first Pro Tour came in 2010 when he won an invite by virtue of winning a spot at the MOCS coming up later that season. In many ways that tournament was a harbinger for trademark Reid Duke behavior. For one thing, he played Jund.
"Ha ha, laugh it up," smirked Duke, who also would not let himself get down after a rocky start to his PT career. "I started out 0-6, but I still had the time of my life and stuck it out to earn two good, honest wins at the end of the day."
Duke struggled at that level of play early in his career with his first six invites having to be earned on a one by one basis. The tide would turn for him at the World Championship in San Francisco in 2011—his sixth professional event. It marked the first time he posted a winning record and earned him enough Pro Points to reach Gold level in the Player's Club, and found himself qualified for multiple events for the first time. On top of that, there was the whole matter of the Magic Online Championship taking place that weekend which he would win.
"Winning the MOCS was the first accomplishment that felt like it could set me apart. I finally had a title, instead of just being 'some guy who plays a lot.'" Duke said. "Although we tend not to talk about these things, it also marked the first time in my life where I had a standing balance in my bank account, which gave me a lot more freedom in pursuing my Magic goals in the years to come."
Magic Online played a huge role in Duke's career, something he had already identified at the onset of his career when he was interviewed for the MOCS in 2010 on the eve of his third Pro Tour. Without the means to travel for tournaments, he relied on the online version of the game to not only qualify repeatedly—while many of his peers were relying on physical tournaments like GPs and PTQs—but it also fed his near-insatiable appetite for high-level competitive play.
"Magic Online really made the whole thing possible for me...I'm only good at Magic when I can really sink my teeth into things and practice and learn." Duke said. "So Magic Online made it possible for me to practice as much as I wanted, on my own schedule."
While he had nabbed Gold, earned his first title, and finished second at the World Championship in 2013, Duke was still chasing something that eluded him throughout 2012 and 2013: A Pro Tour Top 8. That would happen for him in May of 2014 during Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx. As someone who had followed Pro Tour coverage for even longer than his playing career, the glaring lack of a Sunday finish was becoming a chip on his shoulder. He found himself in the feature match area deep on Saturday playing against end boss Guillaume Wafo-Tapa for a win-and-in to his first Top 8.
"When I won my win-and-in match against Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, all of my friends and teammates were waiting for me on the sidelines. There was an endless amount of congratulating and hugging. It was one of the more memorable moments of my life." Duke said. "I'm almost thankful that I had to go through so much effort and frustration before I made it to that point, because the feeling of a life-long goal finally being achieved was priceless."
There would be no slowing him down from that point. He would rack up three more Pro Tour Top 8s, pile up countless GP Top 8s with his share of victories, and even win the Pro Tour Team Series with his Ultimate Guard teammates. The Hall of Fame is about more than just results though and Duke is known as a content creator, teacher of the game, and beloved community figure.
"My proudest creation is my Level One course, which you can still find on the Wizards of the Coast website." Duke said. "It took me a year of hard work—a year where my tournament results really suffered—but it was totally worth it. It's rewarding to be able to put into writing two decades of knowledge about Magic, and to impart that to readers who want to improve their game."
All of this made Duke a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer for almost anyone with a vote, but Duke tried his best to not allow himself to think that he would be getting sized for a ring even when his friends and teammates would tell him that he was a lock.
"In the end, all I could do was to let my last ten years stand for themselves, and it would be up to the voters. Just like every year, I took my own ballot very seriously and tried my best to submit responsible votes." Duke said.
The call did indeed come—the only such call Scott Larabee would make—and the ever quotable Duke found himself at a loss for words.
"I asked him, 'What do people usually say in this situation?' There are simply no words for being elected to the Magic Hall of Fame." Duke said. "Anything I could say would be cliché and fall short of really conveying what it means to me. I get to see my picture next to the legends of the game whom I've looked up to for almost two decades."
This is normally the point in the interview where I ask players about how the induction will or won't change the way they play the game. But the game itself is very much in a state of change and that was very much on Duke's mind as he looked forward to the induction ceremony.
"There's a lot of nostalgia that comes with seeing things I've loved for years go away. But I'm also hugely optimistic about the future of Magic." Duke said. "As a newly-elected member of the Hall of Fame, I hope to stand for the incredible history of the game while also being a leader as it enters its greatest chapter yet."
Which is not to say he doesn't still have some unfinished business. Obviously every player would love to win a Mythic Championship, but the trophy that Duke wants more than anything is the one that eluded him in 2013.
"My biggest remaining goal is to become World Champion, which is something I've dreamed about for most of my life, and something that has taken on extra weight after my runner-up finish in 2013." Duke said, "Although I've competed in the World Championship half a dozen times, I treat each time as though it could be my last. I'll be putting everything I have into making sure I can be at the 2019 Magic World Championship."
While there is an entire career of thank yous to teammates, friends, opponents, and tournament officials that make up a Magic Hall of Fame Magic career, Duke knew none of that would matter without the close family that shared his earliest Magic experiences with him.
"It's truly taken a lifetime of supportive friends, family, and teammates in order for me to get to this point." Duke said. "But when forced to narrow it down, I'd have to name my brother, Ian, and my cousin, Logan. The earliest stages of my career were the most difficult, and these are the two people that have been with me every single step of the way."
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