The draft portion of this year's Nationals is over, and leading the pack is Goro Matsuo. Many were surprised by his performance, as he has been semi-retired for several years, and his last major showing was at 1997 Nationals, when he became a member of the national team. However, judging by the performance of Jason Zila and other "forgotten" players at US Nationals, this may be the year of the comeback.
Following Matsuo in the Top 16 are many familiar faces, including Masayuki Higashino (8th), Masaya Mori (9th), Masashiro Kuroda (11th), Satoshi Nakamura (12th), and Reiji Ando (16th). Several other well-known players, such as Koichiro Maki and Tsuyoshi Fujita, are also in a position to pull ahead of the pack and make it to the Top 8 depending on their performance tomorrow.
As the final draft round wound down, there was only one topic in the air, and that was what to play tomorrow. Many players could be seen carrying around printouts of both the US and Japanese grinder winning decks, debating not only deck archtypes but individual cards. It would be an interesting bet to see whether US or Japan Nationals has more Juntu Stakes, one of the most frequently mentioned cards here today.
Will Fires continue to dominate the environment, or will it be smothered by Opposition-Orb? Is there another completely new deck type out there, waiting for its moment in the spotlight? We'll find out tomorrow, as Japan Nationals 2001 continues with the Standard portion. As always, the Sideboard will be bringing you up-to-the minute coverage, so be sure to check back regularly for updates.