YUUYA WATANABE

Class of: 2016
Hometown: Machida, Japan
Debut: Pro Tour Yokohama 2007
Lifetime Pro Points: 512

2012 World Champion ... Two-time Player of the Year in the 2009 and 2011-2012 seasons ... Rookie of the Year in 2007 ... Three Pro Tour Top 8 appearances ... Twenty-four Grand Prix Top 8 appearances, including six wins ... The only player in the world to have competed in every World Championship since 2012.

Japan's Yuuya Watanabe was the leading vote-getter, appearing on more than 90% of the ballots cast for this year's class. He debuted in 2007 at Pro Tour Yokohama. The format was Time Spiral Block Constructed. He played a Mystical Teachings–based control deck to a 4-4 finish on Day One—which was not enough to advance to Day Two at the time. He knew as soon as he experienced that level of play that he wanted nothing more than to get back to the Pro Tour.

Watanabe had won Pro Tour invites in the past but was daunted by the legends of players like Jon Finkel and Kai Budde. He had passed up on those opportunities to play at the highest level until he won Grand Prix Kyoto, which convinced him to take the plunge. Despite that modest 4-4 record, the environment of competitiveness and sportsmanship made him regret not taking the opportunity to compete at the Pro Tour sooner.

Watanabe currently sits on 24 Grand Prix Top 8s and has won five more times after that victory in Kyoto. During the 2011 season, he went on a torrid stretch that saw him finish second, first, and first again across three consecutive weekends in Kansas City, Shanghai, and Pittsburgh.

Boosted by that first win in Kyoto, Watanabe would go on to win the Rookie of the Year title by the time he was in New York playing in the World Championship. He immediately established himself as a star to be reckoned with for the next decade. After making the first of three career Top 8s at Pro Tour Austin, he would go on to be crowned the 2009 Player of the Year. There were two more Top 8s at the Pro Tour level in his future, along with a second Player of the Year title at the end of the 2011–12 season. He became only the third player, at that time, to win multiple Player of the Year titles, joining those long-ago bogeymen Jon Finkel and Kai Budde.

The following season he won the Player's Championship, which has since been renamed the World Championship, and is the only player to compete in that tournament for every year of its existence. His win over Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka in the finals of that tournament is one of the highlights of his career, and closely rivals Watanabe's most precious Magic memory.

"Winning the Players Championship might not be my most treasured win. It is close between that and winning Grand Prix Kyoto—I am not sure which one was more important," reflected Watanabe on the eve of playing in his fifth straight World Championship. "Nobody knew about me when I won, and it was the first time I could show my skills."

Watanabe goes into the Hall of Fame still playing Magic in peak form, and heads into his eleventh season on the Pro Tour in the Top 25 ranking of Pro Tour players. He is often cited by other competitors at the Pro Tour and World Championships as being one of the most feared opponents in the game. Watching Watanabe play, it is easy to get an image of him being every bit as intimidating as his images of Kai and Jon were a decade ago. Although he is stone-faced at the table, Watanabe describes himself as "funny and goofy," and takes great joy in talking about Magic through articles, videos, and streams in Japan.

Watanabe wished to thank all the players who helped him along the way, and had especially warm wishes for the Japanese Magic fans who have cheered him on throughout his career. Despite all of his success, there is still a trophy missing from his collection.

"I have accomplished almost all of the career goals that I laid out for myself upon winning the Rookie of the year title...Player of the Year, becoming a World Champion, Hall of Fame. I want to win a Pro Tour."

CAREER STATS

BY FORMAT

Format W L D Matches Win %
Limited 545 272 23 840 66.70%
Constructed 531 309 40 880 63.20%
Total 1076 581 63 1720 62.50%

BY EVENT TYPE

Event W L D Matches Win %
Pro Tour 333 210 13 556 61.30%
Grand Prix 722 351 47 1120 67.30%
Total 1055 561 60 1676 62.90%

 

Stats are current as of the week of October 3, 2016.

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