Today, 2,471 challengers converged in Chiba to also try their hand at Core Set 2019 Limited, their eyes set on the ultimate prize of a gleaming trophy for their mantle.
Grand Prix Chiba also marked the final of five 25th Anniversary weekends, after circumnavigating the globe and making stops in Las Vegas, Singapore, Sao Paulo, and Barcelona. Let's take a quick look at the top highlights of the day before we cross over to Day 2!
Fond Memories of the Core Set
It's been three years since Magic Origins, which was the previous Core Set to be released. This year, Core Set 2019 brings us back to the basics, but with tons of new surprises. The importance of Core Sets is not to be understated. Many of us picked up Magic by through various core sets through the ages.
Since then, there have been eighteen expansions categorized under "Core Sets", such as Fourth Edition, Portal, Magic 2010.
Core sets have ranged from 249 cards (Magic 2010) to 449 cards (Fifth Edition), and there have been eighteen such expansions to date, spanning over two decades. Today, we interview some of the most tenured players who were in attendance and have them share some of their most cherished memories about Core Sets.
"The first remembrance which comes to mind was Grand Prix Shangai 2012, where the format was Magic 2013 Limited. I beat Yuuya Watanabe in the Swiss Rounds, and since I had much less experienced than Nabe-san (who was known the Core Set master), he taught me how to rebuild my deck and gave me many tips for the rest of the tournament. We were acquaintances at that time, so when Watanabe spent the time to help me out, I felt touched that he was willing to advise me. Motivated and better equipped with a better understanding of the format, I started to win more. In Round 15, I even beat Shota Yasooka to make the Top 8. That was a great Core Set experience for me."
As for grizzled veteran and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura, he fondly remembers the first time he purchased a Chronicles booster pack.
All cards in reprinted Chronicles were from the Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark expansions (14 from Arabian Nights, 21 from Antiquities, 71 from Legends, 19 from The Dark). Each card was white-bordered, while the cards in their original sets were black-bordered. Until the release of Modern Masters, Chronicles was notable for being the only tournament-legal non-Core Set that introduced no new cards.
"At that time, Revised Edition boosters were starting to rise in price due to its rarity, and it was getting difficult to get the older cards such as those from Arabian Nights or Legends. Chronicles was very affordable since the expansion was all reprints, plus I was attracted to the coolness of the Elder Dragon Legends, which I'm delighted to see return 23 years later - in a different form - in Core Set 2019."
Tzu Ching Kuo
Tzu Ching Kuo
World Magic Cup 2012 Champion and eleven-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Tzu Ching Kuo has a career which spanned two decades. His fondest memory was his crowning achievement at the inaugural World Magic Cup.
"In the 2012 World Magic Cup, we drafted Core Set 2013 in Day 1 and then played Core Set 2013 Team Limited in Day 2. I remember having a powerful deck during that portion."
That's double Vampire Nighthawk, double Searing Spear, along with a phoenix and a dragon. Pulling off the clean sweep with this great deck, Kuo's team eventually made it through to the Top 8, before steamrolling through the elimination rounds to clinch the trophies! Things can't go any sweeter than that!
As for nine-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Kentaro Yamamoto, his favorite Core Set story dated back to Grand Prix Niigata 2009.
"It was one of the first times where I went 9-0 in Day 1. However, I stumbled in Day 2 and failed to make the Top 8, eventually finished in 21st place. However, Tsuyoshi Ikeda won that Grand Prix, and we all celebrated for him because he was now a Grand Prix Champion after six trips to the Top 8."
Also, Yamamoto fondly recalls a product he purchased during the infancy of his career. "The Starter 2000 Game Box was released one year after Sixth Edition. I know I loved that product and had to own it because there was a very awesome-looking card on the front of the box. I later learned that it was Rhox!"
As for Pro Tour Champion and eternal road warrior Tomoharu Saito, he started playing Magic because he watched someone play a "really cool-looking card". With that distinct moment etched in his mind, he developed enough curiosity to learn the game and transform into one of the game's greatest players after two decades.
"Later on, after I learned the game, I found out that that card was a Fifth Edition's Armageddon. I generally love the older versions of cards because they came first and they have their unique charm. They feel more iconic. For example, Might of Oaks came first in Urza's Legacy, but when it was reprinted in Seventh Edition, they changed the artwork which made the card feel less charming. New cards are lovely, but I will also think back on the older versions because they are part of our history.
Each Magic player walked a slightly different path to get to where they were today. Chances are, every Magic player's route had a Core Set along the way. As for the players who only started playing Magic this year, Core Set 2019 will be the start of their journey.
Mark Rosewater and The God-Pharaoh's Gifts
As part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations, Mark Rosewater was present at Grand Prix Chiba - but not in a form you'd usually expect. As quickly as tournament goers flooded into the tournament hall, large standees - in a variety of poses, bearing everyone's favorite Magic designer - greeted enthusiastic fans.
Together with these "photo points", Magic: The Gathering Japan also organized a "God-Pharaoh's Gift Giveaway". Thirty Black Lotus playmats, together with a bunch of coveted boosters (Arabian Nights, Legends, Antiquities, or Revised Edition), were to be awarded to a total of thirty winners who posted their well-wishes and selfies on Twitter using the "#gpchiba" and "#王神からの贈り物" (that's Japanese for God-Pharaoh's Gift). Props and shiny foil balloons - because everybody loves balloons - were also provided.
With so many awesome prizes to be fun and so many awesome moments to be captured, the Twitterverse was naturally abuzz with action! If you wish, you can join in too!
25th Anniversary Chronology - A History of Japanese Magic
The year was 1993, and I was 8. In that year, Kenichi Fujita won Grand Prix Tokyo 1997 and became the first Japanese Grand Prix Champion in the history books. Twenty-five years later, we've had 65 Grand Prix in this nation with around 100 Grand Prix around the world won by players from Japan. As one of the most dominant forces in our Magic world, the Japanese Magic scene is accompanied by a deep and rich history.
This weekend at Grand Prix Chiba, a special exhibition titled "25th Anniversary Chronology" was held at the Makuhari Messe. This attraction captured events which took place in Japan since the very beginning all the way through to the present day. This wall told the story of every major event to take place in Japan, ranging from Pro Tours Grand Prix, National Championships, and also prestigious local events such as The Finals.
Tournament attendees were also invited to participate in the creative process and join us on a cherished trip in learning more about how Magic came to be. Thinking about yesterday and yesterday - marking down the year I began playing Magic - I couldn't help but get a little nostalgic.
Nostalgia, to me, is not the emotion that follows a longing for something you lost. It is not the sentiment for something you never had to begin with. It is not even the feeling which arises when you realize you missed out on a chance to experience something or be part of an adventure which will never come again.
None of that.
Nostalgia, most sincerely and most meaningfully, is the experience - always momentary, always fleeting - of finding and repossessing what you had, of reuniting with people you met, or reliving what you saw. It's the feeling which overcomes you when some part of your past is momentarily restored.
In that little moment - even if just for a few minutes - you relate. Even though I didn't understand all of the Japanese words, I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, immersing myself in the sea of recollections as I reminisced the good old times. This unique exhibition, stretching no more than a hundred feet, may only take fifteen minutes to peruse, but it took me twenty-five years back in time.
The 9-0 Players
2471 players arrived at Grand Prix Chiba to partake in eight rounds of Core Set 2013 Sealed Deck. All players who scored 6-2 or better advanced to Round 9, where they played one additional round of Sealed Deck. When all was said and done, a total of 461 would return tomorrow for six rounds of Booster Draft, while there were a total of eight 9-0 players. These players were Naoya Nanba, Noriyuki Hagiwara, Kazuyuki Takimura, Yusuke Arai, Kazushige Shimamura, Hiroaki Mukai, Jun Takahashi, and Shozoburo Notake!
As the tournament came to a close, we witnessed captivating fireworks in the distant sky as part of Japan's summer celebrations, putting a wonderful end to our first day at Chiba. Thanks for staying with us all day and we hope you'll be back tomorrow as we crown a new Grand Prix champion!