The tournament is reaching its final throes and the Top 8 is starting to get shaped up. With two more rounds to go, I took the liberty of checking in with the top three foreign players lurking near the top of the standings.
Their decision to fly to Chiba has paid off and with the guaranteed expanded $70,000 payout, all these three players should be assured a money finish for the efforts. Of course, they are aiming for much more and are hoping to make history in the largest tournament they've ever played in!
Huang Hao-Shan hopes that his hot streak won't burn out!
With only one undefeated player left in the room, it was not difficult single out the person we wanted to put in the spotlight. I know for a fact that Huang Hao-Shan is one of the best limited players in the region, as evidenced by his stellar draft records.
"It gives me pride and joy whenever I go 6-0 at the Booster Draft tables at the Pro Tour," Huang humbly professes. "I've done it twice in the last six Pro Tours I've played in, including that time at Pro Tour Fate Reforged when I came in 14th.
The Grand Prix Taipei Champion is a mainstay in the Grand Prix Circuit and you can read more about his "Magic origins" here. Huang is a natural when it comes to brand new limited formats and Modern Masters 2015 is no exception.
He has been tearing up the tournament all weekend, winning twelve straight matches before falling to fellow MTG Mint Card teammate in Round 13.
"Well, at least I lost to a good friend of mine. I've got one loss now and my fate hangs in the balance. Anything can happen now, but of course I hope we can both make it to the Top 8. Regardless, I am just one Pro Point away from locking Gold once again."
Which brings us to the leading Korean player in the tournament...
Lee Joonsoo is just two matches away from qualifying for Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver!
Lee Joonsoo is one of the best players in South Korea and fellow Team MTG Mint Card members Nam Sung Wook and Park Jun Young can both vouch for it.
"He is a really good player! The reason why you haven't heard from him in the past two years was because he was away in the army. Now that he is done with his service to the nation, he's trying his best to play more Magic again."
I guess old habits die hard. Lee had once been the National Champion of South Korea prior to Nam's and Park's ascension. In the year 2013, he was crowned the prestigious title but was stabbed with a heart-wrenching twist of fate.
Lee shared with me, "Because of compulsory conscription, I was forced to pass down my captaincy to Cynic Kim. It wasn't so bad actually, because Cynic is very deserving to lead the team."
Platinum Pro Nam Sung Wook added, "At that time, I won a World Magic Cup Qualifier myself, and if Lee had attended the World Magic Cup in Amsterdam, he would have been my Captain!"
Only a couple of months out of the army, he has already attended Grand Prix Shanghai and has now found his way to Chiba where is currently stands at 12-1. If he wins the next round, he would be able to take an intentional draw to make it into the Top 8. If he doesn't win, he will need to win the last round and hope his tiebreakers are good enough.
"In any case, I'm just so happy to be back to play Magic. It is one of the biggest joys in my life! To meet up with all the friends I haven't seen in a while. The funny thing about Magic is that, the friends you make stay with you forever. The last time I played Professional Magic with my friends was at Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal, if I win just one more round, I will be back in Canada for my first Pro Tour in two years. Fingers crossed!"
Albert Budisanjaya is here to enjoy the Modern Masters Weekend while trying to clinch a National Champion title!
Budisanjaya is no stranger to big events like this though. Just last year at the World Magic Cup, he represented Indonesia as one of her team members, winning a World Magic Cup Qualifier in the rustic city of Bandung.
"That was a great tournament for me and it has given me the spark to travel to more events. After going to the World Magic Cup, it has made me love the game even more. That's why I rallied four of my friends to come to Grand Prix Chiba with me."
It turned out to be a great decision for him. Budisanjaya is having a decently great tournament so far, despite being on the bubble. To be fair, in such a massive tournament like this, almost everyone is. He would win his next two matches if he wanted to make the Top 8. With his stellar tiebreakers, an X-2 record should be sufficient to put him in his very first Grand Prix Top 8.
"If I manage to win at least one more, that would give me enough Pro Points to take the lead in the race. Then maybe I can return to Barcelona in December as the National Champion of Indonesia and sit out on the WMCQs."
With that, we wish all these three players the best of luck in the last two Swiss Rounds of Grand Prix Chiba. Stay tuned! The Top 8 is about to emerge!