Player Profiles

Posted in Event Coverage on August 31, 2012

By Event Coverage Staff

Shouta Yasooka

Country: Japan
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 294

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Pro Tour Charleston 2006 Champion
  • 2006 Player of the Year
  • Grand Prix Kobe 2011 Champion

Player of the Year Top 10s: 2

  • 2006: 1st
  • 2011: 7th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 1

  • Charleston 2006: 1st

Grand Prix Top 8s: 15

  • Hamamatsu 2006: 2nd
  • Kuala Lumpur 2006: 6th
  • Toulouse 2006: 7th
  • Sydney 2006: 7th
  • New Jersey 2006: 8th
  • Strasbourg 2007: 3rd
  • Montreal 2007: 8th
  • Kitakyushu 2007: 2nd
  • Manila 2008: 2nd
  • Kuala Lumpur 2010: 5th
  • Sendai 2010: 3rd
  • Kobe 2011: 1st
  • Singapore 2011: 5th
  • Brisbane 2011: 8th
  • Boston-Worcester 2012: 8th

National Team Appearances: 0

Known by many of the big names in the Magic community as one of the game's most underrated players, Shouta Yasooka has been playing the game at the Pro Tour level for over a decade, and has a variety of titles that showcase his understanding of the game.

While Yasooka is one of the few players who have earned the coveted Player of the Year title, he only has one Pro Tour win (from a team event) and one Grand Prix win. But when you look deeper, you'll find that the Japanese player has plenty of high-level finishes to back up his record.

Yasooka is known for his creative deck-building, and is specifically famous for his blue control decks. Often remembered for running unusual blue control decks at the major events, Yasooka's off-the-wall card choices and solid play have let him pilot his own creations to success on multiple occasions. The Japanese pro continues to play what he knows on the Pro Tour, and it continues to serve him well.

Yuuya Watanabe

Country: Japan
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, Japan
Lifetime Pro Points: 277

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • 2009 Player of the Year
  • 2007 Rookie of the Year
  • National Champion / Top Pro on Japan national team at 2012 World Magic Cup
  • Grand Prix Kyoto 2007 Champion
  • Grand Prix Melbourne 2009 Champion
  • Grand Prix Shanghai 2011 Champion
  • Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011 Champion
  • Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2011 Champion
  • Grand Prix Manila 2011 Champion

Player of the Year Top 10s: 3

  • 2009: 1st
  • 2010: 8th
  • 2011: 7th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 1

  • Austin 2009: 6th

Grand Prix Top 8s: 16

  • Kyoto 2007: 1st
  • Kobe 2009: 2nd
  • Bangkok 2009: 6th
  • Niigata 2009: 8th
  • Prague 2009: 2nd
  • Melbourne 2009: 1st
  • Kitakyushu 2009: 5th
  • Sendai 2010: 6th
  • Manila 2010: 4th
  • Sydney 2010: 5th
  • Kansas City 2011: 2nd
  • Shanghai 2011: 1st
  • Pittsburgh 2011: 1st
  • Kobe 2012: 7th
  • Kuala Lumpur 2012: 1st
  • Manila 2012: 1st

National Team Appearances: 3

  • 2008: 4th
  • 2009: 7th
  • 2012: 60th

Rookie of the Year ... Player of the Year ... Surefire Hall of Famer ... One of the best ever ... Terrifyingly proficient.

Aside from those accomplishments, there may not be anything that emphasizes how important Yuuya Watanabe is to the Japanese Magic community and the global community as a whole than the following story.

There are two great ways to identify Watanabe in a crowd: the grin that appears on his face every time he isn't deep in thought in a match, and his black and turquoise checkered jacket. Since there is always the chance that he might be in the middle of a match, the first one is a little unreliable. Turns out the second may not be as reliable either, as the recent Japanese Grand Prix displayed.

As a writer was looking to grab Watanabe for a quick interview, he took the visual shortcut to start walking toward that tell-tale jacket as soon as it was spotted. When the writer arrives, it isn't Watanabe sitting in the jacket, it's someone completely different. A bit confused, the search began again. This time, the jacket (and its wearer) was spotted getting ready to walk out of the door, going for a bit of fresh air. But once again, it was a Yuuya doppelganger. Yet another jacket was spotted near the feature match area, but once again that wasn't him ... but it was someone watching the real Yuuya finishing up his match!

The adoration and respect for Watanabe from the Japanese community is obvious, and he clearly deserves the adulation. His accomplishments in Magic often overshadow Watanabe's personality as an incredibly funny, very likable guy who never shies away from an interview, even knowing that his English isn't the best. He loves telling stories and acting out funny moments from his weekend. He just happens to win Grand Prix titles while he's doing it. And the Japanese love him for it, enough to emulate his trademark fashion. If more people could get past the statistics, they'd realize that he's more than just a great player. He's also a great guy.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Country: Brazil
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, Latin America
Lifetime Pro Points: 362

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • 2012 Inductee into the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame
  • Winner, Pro Tour San Juan 2010
  • Winner, Grand Prix Singapore 2011
  • National Champion / Top Pro on Brazil national team at 2012 World Magic Cup

Player of the Year Top 10s: 5

  • 2006: 3rd
  • 2008: 9th
  • 2009: 5th
  • 2010, 3rd
  • 2011: 5th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 9

  • Charleston 2006: 2nd
  • World Championships in Paris 2006: 6th
  • Hollywood 2008: 8th
  • World Championships in Memphis 2008: 5th
  • Austin 2009: 8th
  • San Juan 2010: 1st
  • World Championships in Chiba 2010: 3rd
  • World Championships in San Francisco: 5th
  • Dark Ascension in Honolulu: 2nd

Grand Prix Top 8s: 12

  • Porto Allegre 2005: 6th
  • San Francisco 2007: 3rd
  • Daytona Beach 2007: 2nd
  • Barcelona 2009: 3rd
  • Seattle 2009: 3rd
  • Houston 2010: 6th
  • Portland 2010: 8th
  • Providence 2011: 4th
  • Singapore 2011: 1st
  • Santiago 2011: 6th
  • Orlando 2012: 3rd
  • Baltimore 2012: 5th

National Team Appearances: 3

  • 2006: 4th
  • 2009: 5th
  • 2012: 20th

When you think of Magic and South America, one name should always come to mind: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa.

Known for always playing the top decks with flawless precision, Damo da Rosa has a record of consistent finishes. He has seen the spotlights of Sunday at the Pro Tour a whopping nine times, and has gone on to finish in the money of most of the Pro Tours that he has attended. The number of times he has finished in the Top 8 is unprecedented when compared to other players—and PVDDR has only played in 31 Pro Tours!

Damo da Rosa is also one of the youngest players to be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame. He is part of the Class of 2012, and was considered an easy in for voters this year not only for his incredible track record at events, but also for his active involvement in the Magic community as a writer.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is part of Team ChannelFireball, and shows no signs of slowing down as one of the game's top players.

Jon Finkel

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 486

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame
  • Pro Tour New York 1997-98 Champion
  • 2000 World Championships Individual Champion
  • Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur 2008 Champion
  • 1998 World Championship Team Champion
  • 2000 World Championship Team Champion
  • Grand Prix Rio de Janeiro 1998-99 Champion
  • Grand Prix Boston 1998-99 Champion
  • Grand Prix St. Louis 1999-2000 Champion
  • All-time leader in Pro Tour Top 8s with 14
  • Player of the Year in 1997-98
  • Winner of 2000 Magic Invitational and was immortalized as the Shadowmage Infiltrator

Player of the Year Top 10s: 5

  • 1997-98: 1st
  • 1998-99: 2nd
  • 1999-2000: 3rd
  • 2000-01: 9th
  • 2002-03: 9th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 14

  • Chicago 1997-98: 3rd
  • New York 1997-98: 1st
  • 1998 World Championships in Seattle: 3rd
  • Chicago 1998-99: 5th
  • Los Angeles 1998-99: 2nd
  • Washington D.C. 1999-2000: 3rd
  • 2000 World Championships in Brussels: 1st
  • Chicago 2000-01: 5th
  • Los Angeles 2000-01: 4th
  • Chicago 2002-03: 3rd
  • Yokohama 2002-03: 4th
  • Kuala Lumpur 2008: 1st
  • Dark Ascension in Honolulu 2012: 3rd
  • Avacyn Restored in Barcelona 2012: 5th

Grand Prix Top 8s: 9

  • Rio de Janeiro 1997-98: 1st
  • Zurich 1997-98: 6th
  • Boston 1998-99: 1st
  • Vienna 1998-99: 3rd
  • Kansas City 1998-99: 5th
  • St. Louis 1999-2000: 1st
  • Pittsburgh 1999-2000: 3rd
  • Amsterdam 2002-03: 2nd
  • Washington D.C. 2003-04: 4th

National Team Appearances: 2

  • 1998: 1st
  • 2000: 1st

No one else at the Players Championship can match Jon Finkel's achievements in the game of Magic. After Finkel was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, however, he had a less-than-triumphant return to professional Magic. After stumbling in his first few tournaments back, players started to wonder whether Jon had what it took to ever win again.

"Yeah he was great back then, but he just isn't good anymore."
"I don't think he even cares enough to test."

Then Jon won Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur.

While that silenced Jon's critics for a while, it didn't take long for the peanut gallery to start up again.

"Sure he's good at Limited, but he just doesn't practice enough to win at Constructed."
"How is he supposed to keep up with players who play Magic Online for 20+ hours a week?"

That time around, Jon's critics may have been onto something. Jon was spending a lot of time focusing on his company, and not a lot of time trying to figure out what deck he should play at the next Pro Tour.

But then Jon decided that he wanted to start winning again.

So, he did.

After surrounding himself with a team of top deckbuilders, including Sam Black, and Patrick Chapin, Finkel was able to Top 8 the last two Pro Tours. Now, Finkel is once again universally considered one of the best players in the world.

And that isn't likely to change anytime soon.


Reid Duke

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: 2011 Magic Online Champion
Lifetime Pro Points: 50

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • 2011 Magic Online Championship Winner
  • Grand Prix Nashville 2012 Champion

Player of the Year Top 10s: 0

Pro Tour Top 8s: 0

Grand Prix Top 8s: 3

  • Providence 2011: 3rd
  • Montreal 2011: 5th
  • Nashville 2012: 1st

National Team Appearances: 0

Two years ago "reiderrabbit" was one of the most feared players on Magic Online, but if you mentioned the name Reid Duke to even the most grizzled Magic Online veterans they would have no idea who you were talking about. That's because Duke rarely ventured out to any live Magic tournaments, and instead spent his time on his computer winning Premier Events, and Daily Events under that feared username.

That all changed when Reid qualified for the Magic Online Championship in 2010 (where he ultimately finished in 5th place), and the World Championships (where he finished in 203rd).

After that weekend, Reid knew that he wanted to get back to the Pro Tour. So he began ratcheting up his Magic Online efforts to the point where he was planning his sleep schedule so he could play in every Online Pro Tour Qualifier. Reid's dedication led to success, and after winning multiple Online PTQs, Reid started making his presence felt at live tournaments as well.

Reid now has three Grand Prix Top 8s and a Magic Online Championship win under his belt. Now it's time to see if all that time put in at Magic Online translates into having what it takes to beat the best players in the world, and add a Players Championship title to his steadily growing resume.

Samuele Estratti

Country: Italy
Invitation Source: Winner, Pro Tour Philadelphia
Lifetime Pro Points: 113

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011 Champion
  • National Champion / Top Pro on Italy national team at 2012 World Magic Cup

Player of the Year Top 10s: 0

Pro Tour Top 8s: 1

  • 2011: Pro Tour Philadelphia, 1st

Grand Prix Top 8s: 2

  • Milan 2011: 3rd
  • Malmo 2012: 7th

National Team Appearances: 2

  • 2009: 41st
  • 2012: 39th

Even in a game like Magic that is constantly shifting and raising the bar, the game has only so many firsts. The first World Champion (Zak Dolan), the first Pro Tour Champion (Michael Loconto) and the first Player of the Year (Olle Råde) are forever part of Magic's history. Thanks to his victory at Pro Tour Philadelphia, Samuele Estratti has secured his own place among Magic's firsts as the first winner of a Pro Tour featuring the newly created Modern format, cutting a swath through the competition with his take on Splinter Twin.

It wasn't, however, Estratti's first dog and pony show. Estratti has represented Italy on the national team twice now, including this year as the nation's top pro at the World Magic Cup. He currently stands third on Italy's all-time Pro Points list with 113, but could easily move into second place this season with just 17 additional Pro Points. He has a ways to go to catch Antonio De Rosa's 269 lifetime points, but at just 25 years old, there's little doubt Estratti is capable of doing just that. And a win this weekend would give him another incredible first—first winner of the Magic Players Championship.

Alexander Hayne

Country: Canada
Invitation Source: Winner, Pro Tour Avacyn Restored
Lifetime Pro Points: 54

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Pro Tour Avacyn Restored 2012 Champion
  • National Champion / Top Pro on Canada national team at 2012 World Magic Cup
  • 2011-12 Pro Tour Rookie of the Year

Player of the Year Top 10s: 0

Pro Tour Top 8s: 1

  • 2012: Pro Tour Avacyn Restored: 1st

Grand Prix Top 8s: 1

  • Montreal 2011: 2nd

National Team Appearances: 1

  • 2012: 27th

Alexander Hayne has gone through quite a transformation over the past year. Before Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, he was a rookie best known for a second-place finish at Grand Prix Montreal 2011, where he was knocked out in the finals against seasoned veteran Rich Hoaen.

But then, a miracle happened. Actually, make that a few.

Hayne came equipped with a White-Blue Miracles deck at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, a deck that was tested and tweaked extensively by a group of Canadian pro players. And in his first Pro Tour Top 8, Hayne blew away opponent after opponent with a series of powerful miracles like Terminus and Entreat the Angels. A chorus of angels sang the rookie's praise in Hayne's final match, and the roar of Canadians he traveled with followed shortly after, as Hayne locked up a victory at his first Pro Tour along with a seat in the World Magic Cup and Players Championship.

Jun'ya Iyanaga

Country: Japan
Invitation Source: Winner, 2011 World Championship
Lifetime Pro Points: 105

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • 2011 World Championships Individual Winner
  • Grand Prix Kitakyushu 2007 Champion

Player of the Year Top 10s: 0

Pro Tour Top 8s: 1

  • 2011 World Championship: 1st

Grand Prix Top 8s: 3

  • Bangkok 2007: 5th
  • Kitakyushu 2007: 1st
  • Kitakyushu 2009: 3rd

National Team Appearances: 0

When he completed his studies, Jun'ya Iyanaga decided that he wanted to spend 2011 playing professional Magic for a full year before he began a career that would, in all likelihood, prevent him from traveling outside of Japan more than once a year.

He made the most of that year by finishing in 7th place at the Magic Online Championship, and winning the World Championships. A few weeks after winning Worlds, Iyanaga vanished from the competitive Magic scene so he could focus on his new job.

While Iyanaga couldn't take the time off of work necessary to play at Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu or Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, he was able to save up just enough vacation days to compete in the Players Championship.

And, just like at the World Championships in 2011, Iyanaga is ready to make the most of what may be the last professional tournament he gets to play in all year.

Martin Juza

Country: Czech Republic
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, Europe
Lifetime Pro Points: 274

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Grand Prix Portland 2010 Champion
  • Grand Prix Bochum 2010 Champion
  • Grand Prix Hiroshima 2011 Champion
  • National Champion / Top Pro on Czech Republic national team at 2012 World Magic Cup

Player of the Year Top 10s: 4

  • 2008: 9th
  • 2009: 3rd
  • 2010: 4th
  • 2011: 3rd

Pro Tour Top 8s: 2

  • Berlin 2008: 6th
  • Austin 2009: 7th

Grand Prix Top 8s: 12

  • Brighton 2009: 2nd
  • Bangkok 2009: 2nd
  • Tampa 2009: 8th
  • Portland 2010: 1st
  • Bochum 2010: 1st
  • Nashville 2010: 7th
  • Denver 2011: 2nd
  • Kobe 2011: 7th
  • Santiago 2011: 5th
  • Hiroshima 2011: 1st
  • Madrid 2012: 8th
  • Manila 2012: 6th

National Team Appearances: 4

  • 2005: 32nd
  • 2006: 21st
  • 2007: 8th
  • 2012: 34th

If you go to a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour this year, there's a good chance that you'll see Martin Juza there. You see, Martin loves playing Magic and traveling more than anybody in the world (except for maybe his playtest partner/travel buddy Shuuhei Nakamura)—so if there's a tournament for him to play in, he'll probably be there.

While some of the other players in the event have been scrambling to prepare for all of the different formats that they will have to play at the Players Championships this week, Juza hasn't had to stress out at all. Because of his tireless dedication to the game, Juza has already played all of the formats featured at the Players Championship many times over this past year, and consequently he has great chance to win this event (as well as every other tournament he plays in).

Juza has cemented his reputation in the game with his tireless travel and exceptional performances at Grand Prix. That body of work has made him a fixture in the Player of the Year races for the last four years...will 2012 be the year he finally breaks through and claims the title for his own?

Brian Kibler

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: Winner, Pro Tour Dark Ascension
Lifetime Pro Points: 338

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame
  • Pro Tour Austin 2009 Champion
  • Pro Tour Dark Ascension 2012 Champion
  • Grand Prix Toronto 1997-98 Champion
  • Grand Prix Boston 2002-03 Champion
  • Grand Prix Sendai 2010 Champion
  • National Champion / Top Pro on United States national team at 2012 World Magic Cup

Player of the Year Top 10s: 2

  • 2009: 10th
  • 2010: 10th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 5

  • Chicago 2000-01: 3rd
  • Honolulu 2009: 7th
  • Austin 2009: 1st
  • Amsterdam 2010: 6th
  • Dark Ascension in Honolulu: 1st

Grand Prix Top 8s: 12

  • Toronto 1997-98: 1st
  • Houston 2001-02: 2nd
  • Tampa 2001-02: 6th
  • Milwaukee 2001-02: 6th
  • Boston 2002-03: 1st
  • Kansas City 2003-04: 4th
  • Washington D.C. 2003-04: 4th
  • New Jersey 2003-04: 2nd
  • Minneapolis 2009: 3rd
  • Sendai 2010: 1st
  • Denver 2011: 8th
  • Anaheim 2012: 6th

National Team Appearances: 1

  • 2012: 12th

They don't call him The Dragonmaster for nothing. Hall of Famer Brian Kibler knows his way around giant red and green creatures, from the Armadillo Cloaked Rith, the Awakener that earned him his nickname at Pro Tour Chicago back in 2000 to the Primeval Titans he used to win Pro Tour Dark Ascension this year—a win that secured his spot in the 2012 Players Championship.

Kibler is on the second major leg of his career, roaring back after a roughly five-year hiatus from the top levels of the game by Top 8ing Pro Tour Honolulu in 2009. Since then he has become one of the planet's premier players, winning two Pro Tours outright and collecting a slew of Grand Prix Top 8s. This year he also captained the United States squad at the first ever World Magic Cup as the country's top pro, helping the team to a Top 16 finish.

Kibler is also a prolific writer and video streamer, sharing his outsized personality—and taste in music—with the Magic community on a weekly, if not daily, basis. One of the game's foremost ambassadors, Kibler is a deck designer with serious chops and a strategist with few peers.

Tzu-Ching Kuo

Country: Chinese Taipei
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, Asia Pacific
Lifetime Pro Points: 166

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • 2012 World Magic Cup Team Champion
  • National Champion / Top Pro on Chinese Taipei national team at 2012 World Magic Cup

Player of the Year Top 10s: 0

Pro Tour Top 8s: 0

Grand Prix Top 8s: 8

  • Taipei 1999-2000: 6th
  • Singapore 2000-01: 3rd
  • Kaohsiung 2000-01: 2nd
  • Taipei 2000-01: 3rd
  • Singapore 2009: 8th
  • Kobe 2009: 3rd
  • Yokohama 2010: 5th
  • Kuala Lumpur 2012: 6th

National Team Appearances: 5

  • 2002: 35th
  • 2005: 32nd
  • 2010: 24th
  • 2011: 4th
  • 2012: 1st

Less than a month ago, it would be surprising if Tzu-Ching Kuo wasn't the least-recognized name on the list of invited players, at least for the majority of readers. Prior to the World Magic Cup, he hadn't done anything except play on the Pro Tour nearly two dozen times, rack up over 150 Pro points, Top 8 eight Grand Prix, and make back-to-back Team Top 4s.

Now, after captaining Team Chinese Taipei to a victory at the inaugural World Magic Cup, Kuo's name is getting a bit more circulation. All weekend at that event, you could see other professional players walking by the feature match area, watching Kuo play, and commenting "Who is that? Whoever he is...he is good." Now, the who is less of a worry.

The World Magic Cup gave Kuo a chance to finally get recognition for the incredibly broad body of work that he has produced. The Players Championship is a chance for him to get some vindication, to show the Magic world as a whole that they should have taken notice of him long ago, that he is Tzu-Ching Kuo, long established Pro, captain of the current World Champion Team, a force to be reckoned with. If you like to root for players that deserve more respect than they've gotten, diamonds in the rough, no one in the field glitters quite the way that Kuo does.

Shuhei Nakamura

Country: Japan
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 470

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame
  • Player of the Year in 2008
  • Grand Prix St. Louis 2006 Champion
  • Grand Prix Hiroshima 2006 Champion
  • Grand Prix Stuttgart 2007 Champion

Player of the Year Top 10s: 6

  • 2005: 5th
  • 2006: 2nd
  • 2008: 1st
  • 2009: 5th
  • 2010: 5th
  • 2011: 5th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 5

  • Columbus 2004-05: 2nd
  • 2005 World Championships in Yokohama: 7th
  • Prague 2006: 3rd
  • Valencia 2007: 4th
  • Hollywood 2008: 3rd

Grand Prix Top 8s: 18

  • Kobe 2001-02: 2nd
  • Fukuoka 2001-02: 8th
  • Nagoya 2001-02: 2nd
  • Utsunomiya 2002-03: 2nd
  • Yokohama 2003-04: 6th
  • Seattle 2005: 3rd
  • Matsuyama 2005: 6th
  • Toulouse 2006: 3rd
  • St. Louis 2006: 1st
  • Hiroshima 2006: 1st
  • Stuttgart 2007: 1st
  • Copenhagen 2008: 4th
  • Rimini 2008: 2nd
  • Rotterdam 2009: 3rd
  • Houston 2010: 5th
  • Florence 2010: 3rd
  • Prague 2011: 3rd
  • Nashville 2012: 8th

National Team Appearances: 2

  • 2004: 3rd
  • 2009: 7th

There are few players in the world who can match Shuhei Nakamura's dedication to the game of Magic or his skill slinging spells. The Japanese Hall of Famer is a true world traveler with 18 Grand Prix Top 8s on three continents in basically every format known to man. The 2008 Player of the Year has more than 400 lifetime Pro Points and is a constant presence at Magic events worldwide—even when not competing.

As the second Japanese player elected to the Hall of Fame, Nakamura has served as one of Japan's ambassadors to the world racking up frequent flier miles as a true road warrior. As part of the American-based Team Channelfireball, he'd have to be, and he's one of the few writers who speak to both Japanese and English-speaking audiences.

The one hole remaining in Nakamura's otherwise rarified resume—which includes three Grand Prix wins and five Pro Tour Top 8s as well as his Player of the Year trophy—is a win at a Pro Tour. However, as one of the at-large invitees to the inaugural Players Championship, a win from Nakamura this week would add considerably to his already sizeable legend.

David Ochoa

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 153

Player of the Year Top 10s: 0

Pro Tour Top 8s: 0

Grand Prix Top 8s: 4

  • Minneapolis 2009: 6th
  • Portland 2010: 7th
  • Austin 2012: 6th
  • Orlando 2012: 8th

National Team Appearances: 1

  • 2011: 3rd

If there were ever living proof that actions speak louder than words, it would be named David Ochoa. As one of the most recognizable personalities at the core of one of the strongest teams in Magic history, Channelfireball, Ochoa has done an immense amount to further the art of communication in Magic, ironic considering how relatively taciturn he is.

Despite his reserved demeanor, Ochoa is one of the funniest, most insightful writers of Magic that the game has ever seen. As the face of Good, Ochoa's articles breaking down drafts and discussing Limited strategy are absolutely must-read. Bright, funny, and incredibly insightful, they encapsulate how the face of Magic strategy has changed over the past decade, from the old days of message boards and regionally shared ideas to single-serving strategy, with each new article containing a lesson, though the articles don't necessarily start out with that lesson in mind.

David Ochoa, Ocho, Webb...whatever you choose you call him, one thing is for certain: he earned his spot in the Players Championship. He really is Good.

So watch out, Evil.

Luis Scott-Vargas

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 308

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • Pro Tour Berlin 2008 Champion
  • Grand Prix San Francisco 2007 Champion
  • Grand Prix Atlanta 2008 Champion
  • Grand Prix Los Angeles 2009 Champion
  • Grand Prix Kansas City 2011 Champion
  • Won a Pro Tour-record 17 matches in a row at Pro Tour San Diego 2010

Player of the Year Top 10s: 4

  • 2008: 2nd
  • 2009: 7th
  • 2010: 7th
  • 2011: 2nd

Pro Tour Top 8s: 5

  • Berlin 2008: 1st
  • Kyoto 2009: 2nd
  • San Diego 2010: 3rd
  • Nagoya 2011: 7th
  • 2011 World Championships: 6th

Grand Prix Top 8s: 8

  • San Francisco 2007: 1st
  • Philadelphia 2008: 3rd
  • Atlanta 2008: 1st
  • Los Angeles 2009: 1st
  • Seattle 2009: 5th
  • Sydney 2010: 2nd
  • Kansas City 2001: 1st
  • Lincoln 2012: 3rd

National Team Appearances: 3

  • 2006: 13th
  • 2007: 24th
  • 2012: 12th

"You can't spell ELVES! without LSV."

It's hard to forget that line from Pro Tour Berlin back in 2008, when Luis Scott-Vargas earned his first Pro Tour Top 8 and victory with the ferociously fast Elves! combo deck.

Scott-Vargas has been playing the game for years. He made his first Pro Tour appearance back in 2004, but didn't blow onto the scene until he earned a spot on the U.S. Nationals team in 2006 alongside Paul Cheon and Ben Lundquist. From there, he went on to win the 2007 U.S. National Championship title, and he also secured his first Grand Prix win that year in San Francisco.

But his first Pro Tour win didn't come until Berlin in 2008, where he stormed through the competition (literally) with his Elves! combo deck. Today, he's earned himself five Pro Tour Top 8s and eight Grand Prix Top 8s, including four wins.

As a member of Team ChannelFireball, Luis Scott-Vargas is one of the juggernaut players from the Pro Tour, and his solid play and sense of humor will make him a pleasure to watch at the Magic Players Championship.

Owen Turtenwald

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: 2011 Player of the Year
Lifetime Pro Points: 155

Professional Magic Accomplishments

  • 2011 Player of the Year
  • All-time single-season record holder for Grand Prix Top 8s (7 in 2011)

Player of the Year Top 10s: 1

  • 2011: 1st

Pro Tour Top 8s: 0

Grand Prix Top 8s: 11

  • Columbus 2007: 2nd
  • Minneapolis 2009: 5th
  • Washington D.C. 201: 2nd
  • Atlanta 2011: 8th
  • Denver 2011: 3rd
  • Dallas/Fort Worth 2011: 3rd
  • Providence 2011: 5th
  • Singapore 2011: 4th
  • Santiago 2001: 3rd
  • San Diego 2011: 6th
  • Seattle-Tacoma 2012: 8th

National Team Appearances: 0

"Owen Turtenwald is probably the luckiest Magic player I have ever seen."
- Brian Kibler

Owen Turtenwald's incredible run in 2011 to take the Player of the Year title didn't happen (entirely) because he was lucky. It happened because he was playing out of his mind. It is rare to approach a wide variety of players before an event, ask them who is going to win the tournament, and get a unanimous decision. For multiple events. Yet that is exactly what happened during virtually all of last season. There was one man that everyone in the room was afraid of, and it was possibly the goofiest person in the room.

Turtenwald's meteoric rise wasn't the first exposure that the Magic playing community had to him. He has been playing the game for quite some time, but it wasn't until he found a home on a team that worked together as well as Channelfireball that he was truly able to blossom. Always the joker, and incredibly self-deprecating to boot, Turtenwald snapped into game mode. If he made a mistake, it was pointed out. But rather than brush it off, he recognized that the only way he was going to get to that next level was to heed the words of those people he respected and grow as a player. So he did. Each session brooked fewer mistakes, until it reached the point that people were watching him for insight, not to correct. Despite this, he still remains the first person to joke about himself.

"I'm probably the worst person on the team. Actually, it isn't even probably. But I sure am the luckiest," he will candidly say when approached. There are those that say better lucky than good, but Turtenwald has shown that it's probably better to be both.

Josh Utter-Leyton

Country: United States of America
Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, North America
Lifetime Pro Points: 152

Player of the Year Top 10s: 2

  • 2010: 9th
  • 2011: 7th

Pro Tour Top 8s: 3

  • San Juan 2010: 5th
  • Philadelphia 2011: 2nd
  • 2011 World Championships: 7th

Grand Prix Top 8s: 4

  • Nashville 2010: 5th
  • Dallas/Fort Worth: 6th
  • Nashville 2012: 4th
  • Minneapolis 2012: 6th

National Team Appearances: 1

  • 2010: 15th

Josh Utter-Leyton is a Pro's pro and member of Team Channelfireball who enjoyed a career year in 2011. He had his best Pro Tour finish ever at Philadelphia, where he took his "Counter Cat" strategy all the way to second place, falling just short to fellow-invitee Samuele Estratti. He also finished in the Top 8 of the World Championships as part of a platoon of Channelfireball players who took half the Top 8 slots.

Utter-Leyton now has three Pro Tour Top 8 finishes to go along with four Grand Prix Top 8s, all since 2010. Representing the top North American Pro at the Players Championship, Utter-Leyton appears to be at the height of his powers, adeptly piloting just about anything to strong finishes. Be it Standard, Modern, Limited or Legacy, Utter-Leyton is a force to be reckoned with at any event.

"Wrapter," as he's known, has also stretched his writing muscles as part of his "Utter Beatings" series, often breaking down and explaining some of the most complicated decks around.

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