Royce Ming Huang Chai had a hard time getting to 2001 Pro Tour Tokyo. His flight hadn't been booked properly, so he had to pay more than double the price to get to the event. "My mother said that I shouldn't bother to go. I have assignments due, exams coming and two more projects to do and then I'm spending a weekend here. But I told myself that I had to give myself this chance - because I need to prove something to myself, and I need to prove to my parents that this is worth doing. You're only young once," Royce says.
Once getting to Tokyo, Royce ran into more problems. He got lost at the train station, and so he didn't meet the people that he was supposed to hang out with. Then, he left his deck in a locker at the station. "I wanted to play a five-color Domain deck, but I was afraid it wouldn't turn up. So I ended up playing red/black," he explains.
Chai's deck was a red and black aggro-control deck with a splash of green and blue. "It's based around disruption, it has a lot of discard. If my opponent has a slow deck, I have creatures to punish him, like Blazing Specter," Royce says. But in addition to the more common cards found in the red and black decks, the Singaporean player added some less played cards. "I play Thunderscape Battlemage and Lava Zombie. The Zombie is a good combo card along with Ravenous Rats, Flametongue Kavu and the Battlemage," he explains, admitting though to getting a few raised eyebrows when playing.
Royce started playing Magic back in 1994. He was one of the first ones at his school who played the game, and soon it became a craze. "Almost everybody played," he remembers, sometimes wishing that he'd traded the sought after Force of Nature and Lord of the Pit for the duals that were then priced at two dollars or so. But Royce was always more of a player than a trader.
"I have always been competitive," he reveals. Five or six years old he started to play chess, both international chess and Chinese chess. But when he discovered Magic, he realized it had an aspect that made it different from chess, a difference that he appreciated. "The thing about Magic is that it has strategy, like chess. But chess is just skill, and the games tend to be boring. Magic always changes, and sometimes luck plays a part. Even if you're a bad player, you do have a chance at beating Jon Finkel," he smiles.
It's not so much the winning part that attracts Royce to the game as the desire to excel at something. "I learn something in every game. That's the more important thing, to become a better player," he thinks. Royce is one of Singapore's best players along with Sam Lau. Twice, he has been on the national team, and he also made the Top 8 in Grand Prix Sydney. Tokyo is his fourth Pro Tour event, and at Worlds 1999 he almost made broke into the Top 8. "I lost in the last round and finished 14th," he remembers.
Now, he's hoping that his deck will take him to the Top 8. With two rounds to go, Royce had to win them both to make it. His spur-of-the-moment deck had performed. "I guess the only thing I regret is the sideboard. I've done some wrong card choices. All my removal is red, and that's why I lost a match," he says. Still, he believes it's possible. "You've got to have faith. I want to win a Pro Tour," he laughs, but adds though that he is serious about it. "I guess people think it's only a dream, but I want to make the dream come true."