Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 3, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Yuuya Watanabe

Age: 25
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
Record by Format:
Vintage Masters Draft: 1-2
Modern: 3-1
Khans of Tarkir Draft: 3-0
Standard: 3-0-1

When Yuuya Watanabe sat down for his made-it-to-the-Top 4 interview, he flashed his right hand in his all-too-common victory pose. We've been here before, haven't we? "Yes, yes! I'm happy of course," Watanabe said. "Now I get to come back for the same title as before. I'm at the starting line again."

For a potential two-time World Champion, what would it mean to win it all? "I want to win it again. I'd win it again hundred times if I could."

Coming into the long week, Watanabe had the dual challenge of preparing for the World Championship as well as with team Japan for the World Magic Cup. How did he handle working with his World Championship teammates? "When we weren't playing together I gave advice to Kentaro Yamamoto about the event: what to expect, and how each round is played, that there's waiting time. I did the same with Ichikawa. For Standard we chose decks we were used to playing, but I think my deck was the best among us. I felt good using it, and other players—Patrick Chapin specifically—said my deck was great."

Watanabe's favorite moment in Magic isn't one you'd expect from the 2012 World Champion. "In 2008, at Japan Nationals, I lost to Masashi Oiso in the semifinals," he said. "That made me realize I wasn't good enough as a Magic player yet. That loss came after my Rookie of the Year title, and motivated me to become the player I am today."

What does coming back on Sunday mean for him? "I get to play on Sunday and I want to win the World Magic Cup so I can have two crowns," Watanabe said. It begged a simple question: is there any Magic title Yuuya Watanabe doesn't want?

"No. I want them all. My two goals is my eighth Grand Prix win to pass Kai Budde [in lifetime wins] and win a Pro Tour win. But now? I have to win this Sunday."

Patrick Chapin

Age: 34
Hometown: Denver, CO
Record by Format:
Vintage Masters Draft: 3-0
Modern: 4-0
Khans of Tarkir Draft: 1-2
Standard: 2-2

At the beginning of the 2014 season, Patrick Chapin famously and publicly set out to make this very tournament. He considered, he said, Pro Tours as something of a PTQ, as the best and most likely way he was going to earn his way back to the World Championship stage. It's the kind of audacious comment that few would dare to make—after all, winning a Pro Tour is something most players can only dream of—but coming from this particular Hall of Famer, it fits.

"It helps me be laser focused," Chapin said of his early season goal. "It let me pick the most popular decks in both Constructed formats rather than be fancy and clever."

But reaching the World Championship was never enough for Chapin. Happy to be here wasn't something on his mind—he wants another win.

"There are two more rounds till there are two more rounds," Chapin said of the tournament. "It's awesome to make the Top 4, but I'm also excited to have a few days to catch up on jet lag."

Chapin certainly put in the work to return to a World Championship Sunday stage for the first time since 2007, when he finished second. He said he played 40 hours a week—at least—and tested every format as thoroughly as possible.

For Standard, Chapin stuck with Abzan, a deck he believes is the best in the format, but which he was also very familiar with. With so many formats to prepare for, he said he wanted to make sure to optimize resources.

Speaking of optimizing resources, Chapin had a strong team helping him test. Paul Rietzl was the only other competitor to test with Chapin, but Kai Budde, Michael Jacob, Matt Sperling, and Allie Brosh also helped Chapin run through all of the prep work he felt he needed to do.

That helped him narrow down his options in Modern, a format he said they spent a huge amount of time testing.

"Modern is wide open, it's new, and there are crazy things happening," he said. "I knew I wanted to play Treasure Cruise and/or Dig Through Time, but we had to eliminate a lot of decks to get it down to Delver."

The choice paid off as Chapin aced the Modern portion of the event with his Blue-Red Delver list, spring-boarding him to the only undefeated record on Day One.

And now he has a chance to improve on that 2007 finish, battling with the best of the best for glory, history, and the title of World Champion.

Kentaro Yamamoto

Age: 30
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
Record by Format:
Vintage Masters Draft: 2-1
Modern: 2-2
Khans of Tarkir Draft: 3-0
Standard: 1-2-1

How does Kentaro Yamamoto feel about making the Top 4 of the World Championship? "Happy!" he said with smile. "I worked with Yuuya Watanabe and Yuuki Ichikawa. We shared decks for Modern, and we all tested online and shared our results together. We all used the same Modern deck and it played really well. There were a lot of combo decks and out deck played well against Combo. In standard I won one match and lost one, then drew with Watanabe so it's hard to say."

What would it mean to Yamamoto for a win on Sunday? "I would get to come back to play in the World Championship next year," Yamamoto said. "I have been playing Magic for ten years, but these past two years I've been playing Magic Online a lot. I've been trying to become a better player."

A prior loss is a moment that helped propel Yamamoto forward, and is one of his favored memories. "In 2007, I came in second place at the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour with Yuuta Takahashi. I wanted to find that success again so I worked on Magic Online to become a better player."

When pressed if he was trying to make this Sunday a better memory than his Pro Tour finalist finish his face lit up in a grin. "Of course!"

Shahar Shenhar

Age: 21
Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel and Sacramento, California
Record by Format:
Vintage Masters Draft: 3-0
Modern: 2-2
Khans of Tarkir Draft: 2-1
Standard: 2-2

"It's been too long!" Shenhar didn't hide his grin at being a back-to-back World Championship Top 4 contender. The Top 4 of a tournament filled with some of the greatest Magic players in history is quite a feat.

Of course, how does that feel? "It feels absolutely amazing," Shenhar said. "I don't know, it's been such a long tournament. I went 50-50 in Constructed. I felt like every match I won was tough. I wasn't very happy about the Standard deck and the Modern deck. I did very well in Draft, so I basically went 5-1 then went 2-2 and 2-2 in Constructed. I think the Limited rounds were really fun, but I also did well in them."

Does it feel different compared to last year? "Last year was my first time. I felt like this before but it does feel different. It feels great but it's still the second time. Last year was a new experience, and this year is not," he said. "Last year when I made Top 4 I didn't really feel it right away. It'll take another day again."

Like others, Shenhar had some help preparing for the event, and enlisted some more for the Top 4 showdown on Sunday. "I have an awesome team to work with: Tom Martell and three more players, Josh Utter-Leyton, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Will Edel," Shenhar shared. "Utter-Leyton's been helping me throughout the Swiss rounds. He talked me through his deck and what I should do against some opponents, and I wanted to give him a shout-out for that."

In his relatively short career, Shenhar has accomplished some of the greatest feats in the game. For him, his favorite moment in Magic was straightforward: "Winning the World Championship. Not even remotely close," he said. "Maybe it would have been my favorite if Martell, Damo da Rosa and I won Grand Prix Nashville. It's different when you're with a team. It's bittersweet since Matt Nass and his team—and I like Jacob Wilson too—did beat us then, and now he's qualified for the Pro Tour. We're testing together. It would have taken the bitter out of that if have won since Nass would still be qualified."