Fujita Steps in for Oiso

Posted in Event Coverage on February 17, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

This may be one of the toughest ballots voters face in this year’s Invitational. Asia/Pacific players dominated the headlines here at magicthegathering.com, from the opening gun in Columbus to the photo finish in Japan. Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura, 2005 Invitational Champion Terry Soh, and World Champion Katsuhiro Mori already have their tickets punched for this year’s competition but that does little to alleviate the pressure on this year’s ballot, which features five Level 5 mages, two Level 6s, a six-time National team member, an historic Magic-al figure, and an inspiring hometown hero ...

Due to prior commitments, Masashi Oiso will be unable to attend the Magic Invitational. In his place, Tsuyoshi Fujita becomes the APAC Invitationalist.

(Profiles by Brian David-Marshall)

Winner: Masashi Oiso (40.4% of votes)

Four Japanese players achieved Level 6 Players Club status last season, so what’s the big deal about Oiso doing what three other players also accomplished? Well… he did it by attending one fewer Pro Tour than the others. Last year's top vote-getter in the APAC Invitational ballot, Masashi had to buckle down for school and skipped both it and Pro Tour-Philadelphia – before the announcement of the Players Club was made. Not only did Oiso achieve the highest level of membership, he nearly won the Player of the Year race, finishing a mere four points off the pace. Oiso also made headlines when he made a surprise trip to the U.S. to win Grand Prix-Boston.

2005 Pro Points: 80 (3rd place)

Akira Asahara (12.2%)

As he was closing out a season with four Grand Prix Top 8s (including a win in Matsuyama), Akira Asahara found himself in the Top 8 of the 2005 World Championships. It was the first Sunday stage of Pro Tour play but it looked like it was only going to be a cameo appearance, as his quarterfinal matchup appeared unwinnable on paper. Asahara decided that the only person who could win his match was 2000 World Champion Jon Finkel and decided to wear the same suit that Jon wore at the turn of the millennium. Channeling his inner Finkel got him through to the semifinals and foreshadowed big things for the Japanese deck doctor in 2006.

2005 Pro Points: 51 (tied for 13th place)

Tsuyoshi Fujita (18.5%)

Tsuyoshi Fujita was the first Japanese player to reach the elimination brackets of Pro Tour competition (way back in Tokyo 2000-01), and since then has gone on to be one of the most consistent Japanese performers on both the Pro Tour and Grand Prix scene. The incumbent Resident Genius had himself quite a year – actually more like two years. Not only did he get to the Top 8 of the Pro Tour twice last season (as well as a ninth-place finish); he helped Shuhei Nakamura achieve a similar result with Tsuyoshi-designed Constructed decks in Columbus, Philadelphia, and Worlds.

2005 Pro Points: 61 (tied for 8th place)

Tomohiro Kaji (5.2%)

Tomohiro Kaji has made a rapid ascent from PTQ player to Invitational candidate. After being in the running throughout the 2004 season for the Rookie of the Year title, Kaji followed up with a stunning sophomore season. After a number of near-misses and heart-breaking final rounds, Kaji stepped into the Sunday spotlight alongside teammates Tomoharu Saito and Kenji Tsumura as One Spin in Atlanta. Kaji then added a solo appearance in the final event of the season when he reached the Top 4 of the 2005 World Championships after posting a spotless Day One record.

2005 Pro Points: 64 (6th place)

Shu Komuro (1.1%)

Shu Komuro became only the second player from Japan to win a Pro Tour when he defeated none other than Anton Jonsson in the finals of Pro Tour-Nagoya. Shu was no stranger to giant slaying as he had first garnered attention the previous season when he had to get past Masashiro Kuroda in the semis of Grand Prix-Yokohama en route to his first high-level win. .

2005 Pro Points: 57 (10th place)

Masashiro Kuroda (5.9%)

Kuroda is the epitome of quality over quantity. The first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour can rarely attend events outside of his native country. After his win in Kobe during 2004, Kuroda got right back in the Top 8 saddle at Pro Tour-Nagoya. Last year Kuroda chose to compete in the Invitational (as a replacement for Masashi Oiso) even though it meant he would not be able to attend Pro Tour-Philadelphia.

2005 Pro Points: 22 (tied for 86th place)

Ding Leong (2.4%)

Ding Leong is a well-known player at Singapore Nationals where he has made the Top 8 six times and went to Worlds three times as a result. Ding graduated from Nationals to the Grand Prix circuit and made two Top 8s – winning Kuala Lumpur and finishing third in Singapore – before big-timing it at the 2005 World Championships with a Top 8 berth.

2005 Pro Points: 22 (tied for 117th place)

Masahiko Morita (2.3%)

Masahiko Morita is still waiting to call the front desk for his first Sunday wake-up call on the Pro Tour. He has only recently started traveling to Pro Tours, and based on his Grand Prix success it should not be long before he is fretting about a good night’s sleep on a Pro Tour Saturday night. Morita is tied for second on the all-time Grand Prix list with 15 Top 8 appearances. He racked up four of those berths in the 2005 season and achieved Level 5 status despite his highest finish at a Pro Tour being 24th.

2005 Pro Points: 51 (tied for 13th place)

Shuhei Nakamura (2.2%)

Shuhei started out the 2005 season with a trip to the finals of Pro Tour-Columbus and ended it with a Top 8 at the World Championships. Along the way he just missed the cut to the Top 8 at Pro Tour-Philadelphia. Throw in two Grand Prix Top 8s – including one in Seattle – and you have the formula for a Level 6 magician. One of four Japanese players with such status, you can expect to see Shuhei at just about every Grand Prix he can get to this season (including this weekend’s European bash).

2005 Pro Points: 67 (5th place)

Dong Zhong (10.0%)

A former member of the Chinese National team, Dong Zhong made history when he won the first Grand Prix to be held in China. It was a classic David vs. Goliath scenario as the unheralded Zhong had to face off with none other than Masashi Oiso – who was hot on the heels of the Player of the Year lead – in the finals of the Grand Prix. Although he played Rock at Pro Tour-L.A., Zhong loaded his sling with CAL for the Grand Prix and took down the Japanese superstar in one of the most thrilling matches of the year.

2005 Pro Points: 8 (tied for 218th place)

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