Profiles by Brian David-Marshall
We interrupt your regularly scheduled ballot to bring you the first of four regional ballots—and where better to start than with the APAC region? Japanese players have dominated the top tables of Pro Tour play and they continue that trend on this year’s APAC ballot with a combination of rising stars and familiar faces.
Note: Tomoharu Saito will not be able to attend the Invitational. His invite passes down to Shuhei Nakamura, the second-place finisher in the APAC balloting.
Winner: Tomoharu Saito (57.6% of votes)
In Japan he is called "PoY maker" because Tomoharu Saito was a key member of back-to-back three-person teams that played on Sunday which also featured a player who would go on to be the Player of the Year that season (Kenji Tsumura and Shota Yasooka). His fusion of Rakdos and Boros elements at Pro Tour–Charleston stood out from the field and propelled his team to victory in one of last season's rare Constructed events. Saito made an inspired run with Sea Stompy in Honolulu, and then followed up last season's breakout success with Top 8 in Yokohama playing Pizza Stompy. One refinement of the deck later and he was hoisting a trophy at Grand Prix–Strasbourg (his second Constructed Grand Prix Top 8 of the season).
Shingou Kurihara (1.3%)
Shingou ended last year with a rock-solid 21st-place finish in Kobe and has made a name for himself with three money finishes since the end of last year. His Top 4 finish at Pro Tour–Geneva was fueled by a 3-0 run at his final table and included victories over Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and Paul Cheon. While Kurihara may not be a household name, it was scratched into the top tables at Pro Tour–San Diego where he could be found round after round on his way to a seventh-place finish with teammate Chikara Nakajima.
Kazuya Mitamura (2.8%)
Kazuya Mitamura burst into the Sunday spotlight at Pro Tour–Charleston as a member of Ryuchi Arita’s third-place D-25 squad. He shook off the yoke of team results and took a blue-black Pickles deck to the finals of Pro Tour–Yokohama, beating Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler and fellow APAC candidate Tomoharu Saito before running afoul of Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in the finals.
Shuhei Nakamura (35.1%)
Shuhei Nakamura is the only player in the short history of the Pro Players Club to earn Level 6 status twice. While the Pro Tour Sunday spotlight has eluded him since his third-place finish in Prague, he has posted three Grand Prix Top 8s—including two wins—since the last Invitational. He continues to travel to virtually every major event and has averaged at least one sanctioned Magic tournament per weekend for the last year and a half.
Takuya Osawa (3.2%)
Takuya Osawa dominated the field in Prague with his mastery of BloodGraft. He combined the mechanics of Bloodthirst from Guildpact and Graft from Dissension to make impossibly large monsters en route to winning one of the very first Limited events to include all three sets in the Ravnica block. This year he reached the Finals of Pro Tour–Geneva. If two finals appearances in three Limited Pro Tours weren’t enough, Osawa globetrotted to a sixth-place finish at Grand Prix–Sydney, a cruel ninth-place miss in Phoenix, and 18th place in Kuala Lumpur.
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