The Road Warrior is an unusual category for Invitational voters because many of the qualities that go into it are largely invisible to the viewer at home. Yet when a Dutch player wins in Mexico City, a Japanese player wins Boston, or a French player takes the title in Finland, we take notice. But the Road Warrior is about more than just going to other countries and winning. It is about living the Pro Tour lifestyle; seeing the World, making new friends from faraway places, and pursuing greatness until you are ready to drop from exhaustion.
(Profiles by Brian David-Marshall)
Winner: Olivier Ruel (53.3% of votes)
The Olivier Ruel Worldwide Tour took the French player to 14 Grand Prix stops last season – more than anyone else on this ballot – in his frustrated pursuit of the Player of the Year title. He won three of those events (Helsinki, Bologna, and Bilbao), made the Top 8 of two more (Copenhagen and Beijing), and just missed the cut in Vienna, Leipzig, and Matsuyama. He shot up the all-time Grand Prix Top 8 list into a third-place tie with Morita at 15 appearances. Top that off with a couple of Pro Tour Top 8 finishes in Columbus and Philadelphia and you begin to understand why Olivier looked so haggard in Japan for Worlds. He had been going non-stop for well over a year – he even attended a Prerelease in Japan!
2005 Pro Points: 83 (2nd place)
Antonino De Rosa (10.3%)
Antonino De Rosa followed up his U.S. Nationals title with a victory at Grand Prix-Salt Lake City. The Italian-American has played in both countries' Nationals competitions over the past couple of years and re-popularized the idea of traveling to foreign Grand Prix two seasons back with trips as far abroad as Hong Kong. He did not escape North America this year but still managed to rack up nine Grand Prix appearances – every GP on the continent!
2005 Pro Points: 50 (15th place)
Tsuyoshi Fujita (5.5%)
Tsuyoshi Fujita earned his Resident Genius invitation to last year's event by showing off his deckbuilding and play skill at double-digit Grand Prix tournaments and every Pro Tour. Fujita had long been the scourge of the Pacific Rim and a fixture in the Top 8 brackets of the Asian Grand Prix circuit. In the 2005 season, he expanded his travel itinerary to include Boston and Seattle. In Seattle, his Sneaky-Go deck caught the field off-guard and earned him yet another Top 8 berth. His dozen such appearances place him sixth on the all-time list. Tsuyoshi had a pair of Pro Tour Top 8s last season – including the second second-place finish of his illustrious career – and barely missed the cut on a third.
2005 Pro Points: 61 (tied for 8th place)
Eugene Levin (2.9%)
Eugene Levin quietly popped up in the Top 8 of Austin last season where he reached the finals. He would ultimately play in 10 Grand Prix last season wearing his trademark CCCP gear. He muscled his way onto this ballot with his appearance at final GP of the year, when he was the only American player to travel to Grand Prix-Beijing the week before heading to Yokohama and the World Championships.
2005 Pro Points: 32 (tied for 39th place)
Rogier Maaten (3.1%)
Less publicized than the Japanese caravan last year, the Dutch players doubled up on back-to-back North American Grand Prix. Salt Lake City is pretty far away from the Netherlands in more ways than one but that didn't stop Rogier Maaten from Top 8-ing in Utah. Add that to his Top 8 in his home country at GP-Eindhoven and again at Bilbao, and you see an up-and-coming Dutch player who racked up nine GP appearances last year – with results to boot.
2005 Pro Points: 42 (tied for 21st place)
Masahiko Morita (2.2%)
The secret is out of the bag. Masahiko Morita is really, really good. Morita was the prototypical Japanese Pro who rarely traveled outside of the events in his corner of the world. Quietly he racked up a double-digit Grand Prix Top 8 total and the respect and admiration of his local Magic community. With the advent of the Pro Players Club, Morita finally began traveling to all the PT events this year. He also was part of the tour group that hit Boston and Seattle. He made the Top 8 of the Boston tournament and brought his lifetime Grand Prix Top 8s to 15, tied for third place all-time with Olivier Ruel.
2005 Pro Points: 51 (tied for 13th place)
Julien Nuijten (8.5%)
Julien Nuijten he showed that his Worlds victory and Rookie of the Year title in 2004 were no flukes. He traveled all over the world, taking in 10 Grand Prix tournaments and hoisting the trophy twice – and was hoisted with the trophy once. Who can forget the indelible image of a victorious Nuijten being carried around on the shoulders of Olivier Ruel in Mexico City?
2005 Pro Points: 42 (tied for 21st place)
Masashi Oiso (6.6%)
Masashi Oiso played in 11 Grand Prix events this past season and finished third in the Player of the Year race despite missing Pro Tour-Philadelphia. Oiso created a sensation when he led a group of Japanese players to Boston for an Extended Grand Prix and won the whole thing with his Aluren deck. Prior to that event, Japanese players rarely traveled beyond the Pacific Rim for events – even Pro Tour events – but Oiso's performance in Boston (and then Seattle) is seen as a model for up-and-coming Japanese Pros. Expect the top Japanese players to become fixtures at Grand Prix tournaments the world over in the coming season.
2005 Pro Points: 80 (3rd place)
Jeroen Remie (5.1%)
Looking just at the numbers, Jeroen Remie did not play in nearly as many GPs this year as the other players on this ballot. But much like Oiso led the way for the Japanese players to fill their passports, Jeroen has blazed the trail for the modern Dutch players. Jeroen does more than embody the Road Warrior lifestyle – he inhabits it, literally. He took a flat in London for the Pro Tour, happily orders the usual at an Indiana diner, and is going to be living on the beach in Hawaii for a month before Pro Tour-Honolulu.
2005 Pro Points: 28 (tied for 52nd place)
Jelger Wiegersma (2.4%)
Jelger Wiegersma is one of the most successful Dutch Pros, as well as one of its most frequent fliers. Jelger racked up a dozen Grand Prix appearances last season including trips to the United States for Detroit and Salt Lake City, south of the border to Mexico City (with a nasty sunburn to show for it), and just about every stop on the European circuit. Only Olivier Ruel played in more GPs last season than Jelger.
2005 Pro Points: 36 (tied for 30th place)