For the majority of Magic's history, the Pro Tour's most prominent players from Asia have almost always been from Japan. The country has a history of old stars, highlighted by Hall of Famers such as Tsuyoshi Fujita, Masashi Oiso, and Kenji Tsumura but also prominent modern-day Pro Players such as Yuuya Watanabe and Kentaro Yamamoto. The number of solid players to come out of Japan has, for a long time, eclipsed those in other parts of Asia that were Pro Tour regulars.
In recent years, Hong Kong Platinum Pro Lee Shi Tian has shattered that general perception. The four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor has grown to tremendous heights in the last three years in particular, with the 2014-15 Premier Play season being his best yet.
He is also a championing force behind Team MTGMintCard, one of the breakout teams in 2014, and they continue to be a dominant force despite having a rotation of team members depending on who is actually qualified for the Pro Tour, a hurdle that the team continues to juggle all while putting up incredibly solid numbers at every Pro Tour.
2015 World Championship Competitor Lee Shi Tian
As one of Asia's biggest Magic players, where did it all begin for Lee?
"I started playing Magic with Odyssey," Lee recalled. "Back then, I played lots of card games at the same time. Magic was the most challenging one with instant spells and a balanced resource system in the form of lands. Combo was also the reason I obsessed over Magic. I piloted a Squirrel Nest-Opposition Deck in my very first Regional Championship. I finished in the Top 8 of that event and managed to earn an invitation to the Hong Kong National Championship."
"I was still a student at the time, and due to finances I was unable to have every deck available at my disposal, so I played my own Early Harvest Mischievous Quanar deck at the National Championship, almost finishing in the Top 8. I had lots of fun pulling off the combo from out of nowhere, and it helped define my love of combo decks over the years."
With an early spark for competition and an affinity for combo decks, Lee's Pro Tour aspirations didn't begin until he saw an opportunity to maximize his debut.
"After winning Grand Prix Birmingham, I started looking into the possibility of playing on the Pro Tour," Lee said. "I decided that I should start playing Pro Tours in a new season so that I could make an attempt at Rookie of the Year."
"I then finished in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Taipei 2009 to qualify Pro Tour Kyoto 2010. I made multiple mistakes in the last two rounds and fell one win short of a money finish and extra Pro Points. I still sometimes reflect on those errors I made from time to time. That feeling stuck with me for a while and it has motivated me to improve over the years."
Lee's first Pro Tour was a major learning experience, and one that has influenced his preparation even this season.
Lee's modern day reputation, unsurprising given his origins, is of one who masters combos as well as the Modern Constructed format. Three of his Pro Tour Top 8s has involved a Sunday stage appearance with a Modern deck, and he is the only player in the world who can say that he has Top 8ed 75% of the Pro Tours that have featured Modern as a format.
And that one Pro Tour Top 8 that was Standard? Lee was piloting the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck.
What sorts of decks will Lee bring to the World Championship? And beyond that, will Lee be Hong Kong's first Magic World Champion?
We'll find out at the end of this month.
The 2015 Magic: The Gathering World Championship takes place in Seattle, Washington, during PAX Prime on August 27, 28, and 30. To learn more about this year's competitors, head over to the 2015 World Championship Competitors page, and check back every weekday leading up to the World Championship for new profiles on each of this year's competitors.