There is quite a list to choose from -- a Pro Tour winner, several of the most successful Grand Prix players in the game's history, innovative deck builders, Rochester Draft strategists, a four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor, and a handful of Pro Tour finalists. Picking one player is not going to be easy -- but that is the task you face.
Due to conflicts with school, Masashi Oiso will not be able to attend the event. Replacing him in the field will be Masashiro Kuroda.
(Profiles by Brian David-Marshall)
WINNER: Masashi Oiso (31.8% of vote; cannot attend)
Since bursting onto the World stage with his Rookie of the Year performance in Yokohama, Masashi Oiso has racked up four Pro Tour Top 8 appearances. He most recently reached the Top 8 to kick off the current season in Columbus, following that up with a dramatic win at Grand Prix-Boston that completely sideswiped a metagame unprepared for Aluren.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 46 (17th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 43 (14th)
INVITEE: Masashiro Kuroda (22.3%)
What a year it has been for Masashiro Kuroda. In addition to being the first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour (Kobe) and making the Top 8 in another (Nagoya), Kuroda also won Grand Prix Osaka as one-third of P.S.2. Combine that with P.S.2's previous Masters Series win in Venice and you find Kuroda hanging around some pretty elite company that includes Bob Maher, Kai Budde, Dirk Baberowski, Marco Blume, Mike Pustilnik, and William Jensen as the only players to pull off the GP-PT-Masters trifecta. If you add in the Invitational, only Bob and Kai have won all four. With this vote, Kuroda could take the first step toward matching that.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 38 (t-31st) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 50 (7th)
Tsuyoshi Fujita (14.8%)
When you trace back Japanese dominance at the Pro Tour, all trails lead to Tsuyoshi Fujita. He became the first Japanese player to earn a Top 8 berth on the Pro Tour, grabbing the spot at Pro Tour-Tokyo in 2000-01. Since that achievement, he has become one of the most influential deck builders in the world. The green-red Goblins deck he used to win Japanese Nationals sent shockwaves throughout Standard (much the way his Grand Prix-Bangkok-winning Goblin Bidding concoction rocked Worlds the year previous). His Relic Barrier sideboard from his Top 8 at Grand Prix-Kuala Lumpur was even more significant.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 32 (t-45th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 36 (19th)
Tsuyoshi Ikeda (2.5%)
Tsuyoshi Ikeda is easily overlooked among the more well-publicized candidates, but that's a mistake. He is in the Top 10 players in the world on the Nagoya standings, with only Kuroda and Okamoto as players from the region sitting higher. That's nothing new for the quietly efficient Ikeda. His third-place finish at Pro Tour-Yokohama was overshadowed by Oiso's finals performance, and when he reached Sunday again in Seattle with Jin Okamoto and Itaru Ishida he was in the shadow of his more-famous teammates.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 41 (t-25th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 48 (10th)
Itaru Ishida (3.8%)
Itaru Ishida is among the very best players his country has to offer. While he has earned the respect and admiration of his countrymen for his individual play, it is at the Team Rochester table where Ishida has dazzled the world. At Pro Tour-Seattle, he led his www.shop-fireball.com2 squad to the finals against Von Dutch to finally bask in the Sunday spotlight. The squad followed up with another second-place finish at Grand Prix-Osaka -- the 13th time he has reached the Top 8 of a Grand Prix.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 50 (t-14th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 41 (t-16th)
Shuhei Nakamura (3.8%)
Nakamura may have seemed like a dark horse candidate to reach the finals of Pro Tour-Columbus when contrasted with some of the more well-known Japanese talent in the room -- but observers of the APAC Magic scene would have recognized his name from numerous Grand Prix Top 8 finishes. It is a pattern that many players on this ballot have followed with great success. At Pro Tour-Nagoya, Shuhei was by far the most successful member of the Class of Columbus with a 25th-place finish that has him near the top of the Player-of-the-Year race.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 18 (t-96th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 41 (t-16th)
Jin Okamoto (10.0%)
Jin Okamoto earned the title of Last Emperor when he won the final APAC Championship. He reached the finals of Worlds in 2003 and got as far as that again in Seattle with a second-place finish (alongside Itaru Ishida and Tsuyoshi Ikeda with www.shop-fireball.com2). Second place has been his bane of late as his team finished second once again at Grand Prix-Osaka. He finished in the top 16 at Pro Tour-San Diego and multiple money finishes that place him in the Top 10 on the Nagoya standings.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 44 (t-19th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 49 (9th)
Terry Soh (11.0%)
Much like the "The Catch" will always be associated with Dwight Clark and the 49ers defeating the Dallas Cowboys to go to Super Bowl XVI, "The Bluff" from the quarterfinals of Pro Tour-Nagoya against Frank Karsten will always be mentioned when discussing Terry Soh. As exciting a moment as that was, it may overshadow a tremendous year that has seen the young Malaysian player put up Top 8 at Worlds and Top 4 at Nagoya, showing that there is more to the APAC region than just Japan.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 20 (t-84th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 36 (t-19th)