Seventh Time's the Charm

Posted in GRAND PRIX HONG KONG 2015 on August 8, 2015

By Chapman Sim

The very first Grand Prix dates back to March 1997 and over 250 such large-scale events have taken place throughout Magic's illustrious history.

Today, the Grand Prix Circuit continues to dazzle and capture the hearts of millions of players all over the world as it continues to remain the pillar of Magic: The Gathering's superb Organized Play programs.

Three players in the multiverse hold a three-way tie for most number of Grand Prix victories, with seven wins each. If you're an avid fan, I'm sure it is not difficult for you to rattle off their names.

For the benefit of the newer players (and some absent-minded ones), here are the three players we're talking about.

  • Shuhei Nakamura (26 Grand Prix Top 8s, 7 Wins)
  • Yuuya Watanabe (22 Grand Prix Top 8s, 7 Wins)
  • Kai Budde (15 Grand Prix Top 8s, 7 Wins)

While everyone else is still building their Sealed decks, let's take a moment to learn about these three Grand Prix masters and their Magic Origins before diving into Featured Matches and Draft Reports!

#1 Grand Prix Master: Shuhei Nakamura

Shuhei Nakamura, the defending champion of Grand Prix Hong Kong who has opted to compete at San Diego this weekend.

When Shuhei Nakamura dispatched Ross Merriam in the finals of Grand Prix Dallas, he "gave us one better and tied the record for Grand Prix wins". With 26 Grand Prix Top 8s and 7 wins, he now ranks higher than both above-mentioned titans in terms of Grand Prix excellence.

Throw in the fact that he is the reigning defending champion of Grand Prix Hong Kong, it only makes sense for us to put him in the spotlight today.

Nakamura has already tasted success in the Magic Origins Limited format but refuses to rest and will be competing at Grand Prix San Diego, due to begin twelve hours later.

Nakamura's Magic Origins

The Hall of Famer has come a long way. His first success dates back to 2001, when he placed second at Grand Prix Kobe which qualified him for his very first Pro Tour in New Orleans. He declined to attend that one, making Pro Tour San Diego his debut instead.

Just four years after embarking on his magnificent Pro Tour journey, he made the Top 8 at Pro Tour Colombus 2004 and followed that up with yet another Top 8 at the World Championships that very same season.

That was just the start of the greatness the world was about to witness.

The Power of Shuhei Nakamura

There is no longer any doubt that Nakamura is one of the best players to have ever roamed the land. In a nutshell, here is a summary of his accolades accumulated over the past fifteen years.

  • 5 Pro Tour Top 8s
  • 26 Grand Prix Top 8s, 7 Wins
  • 2008 Player of the Year
  • 2009 Japan National Champion
  • Pro Tour Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)
  • Over 600 Lifetime Pro Points (30 Points shy of overtaking Raphaël Lévy for 1st place.)
  • #1 Planeswalker Points in the World (Over 90000)

A trip down memory lane: 2008 Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura yields to his friend, 2009 Player of the Year Yuuya Watanabe.

#2 Grand Prix Master: Yuuya Watanabe

Yuuya Watanabe, here at Grand Prix Hong Kong 2015!

(4) Yuuya Watanabe was considered the most prolific Grand Prix masters of all time. At least, that statement was true until Grand Prix Dallas a fortnight ago, for reasons you already know.

Regardless, it is no surprise at all that he is present in Hong Kong in his never-ending pursuit of Pro Points and glory. As we speak, he is putting together a Magic Origins Sealed Deck before heading off to enjoy a little break before Round 4 begins.

Watanabe's Magic Origins

Watanabe was first put in the international spotlight at Grand Prix Kyoto in 2007, when he was singled out by Kenji Tsumura prior to the event as the one person he expected to win the entire event. Tsumura's prophecy was transformed into reality, when Watanabe did in fact take down his first Grand Prix.

The headlines read: "Amateur Wins in Kyoto 2007". Funny how things turned out.

This qualified him for his very first Pro Tour in Yokohama and his strong finishes that season netted him the Rookie of the Year title.

That was when the spark within him ignited, and he started to engulf the world with his reign of terror and relentless pursuit for greater heights. He would later go on to do magic and follow up with a string of stellar seasons.

The Power of Yuuya Watanabe

Despite not being eligible for the Hall of Fame Ballot until 2017, Watanabe's resume has already had the world convinced that he would be one of the ballot leaders. In just 8 years, he racked up the following list of achievements that anyone would be envious of.

  • 3 Pro Tour Top 8s
  • 22 Grand Prix Top 8s, 7 Wins
  • 2009 and 2012 Player of the Year
  • 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Japan National Champion
  • Over 440 Lifetime Pro Points

#3 Grand Prix Master: Kai Budde

Kai Budde, the greatest Magic player to have ever lived.

And of course, we're not about to forget Kai Budde, who also has 7 Grand Prix wins under his belt and is more than worthy of a mention.

He ranks third on this list because we're comparing only Grand Prix results but let's not forget that Budde remains the most decorated player in the entire history of the game with Pro Tour successes that dwarf any other player!

Budde's Magic Origins

Budde started playing in 1994 and first qualified for Pro Tour New York before his 18th birthday. That allowed him to participate in the Junior Division of the Pro Tour, an event which saw him finish in the Top 32.

However, it was not until a few years later that he began to startle the world with his dominance. In the 1998 – 1999 season, Budde posted his first 4 Grand Prix Top 8s, winning three of them while also finishing off the season by winning the World Championships.

Later on, he proceeded to capture five Pro Tour titles in an alarming two years and everyone else on the Pro Tour was starting to think that they were "playing for 2nd place at best". The phrase "Kai doesn't lose on Sundays" began to take on and it was hardly an over-exaggeration.

Budde, with "yet" another Pro Tour Champion Trophy.

The Power of Kai Budde

To this day, Kai Budde holds the record for highest lifetime winnings and most Pro Tour victories. His performances has earned him the nickname "The German Juggernaut" and perhaps this list will explain why.

  • 10 Pro Tour Top 8s, 7 Wins
  • 15 Grand Prix Top 8s, 7 Wins
  • 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 Player of the Year
  • 1999 World Champion
  • 2002 Team World Champion
  • 2002 Germany National Champion
  • Pro Tour Hall of Fame (Class of 2007)
  • Nearly 550 Lifetime Pro Points

Find the Spark Inside

Everyone has a story to tell and everyone's spark is just waiting to be ignited. For full-fledged Planeswalkers like Yuuya Watanabe, he wasn't about to let history be so and intends to change the future today.

"I'm looking for my 8th Grand Prix title, so that I can be on top again."

Yuuya Watanabe had to be a red Planeswalker in his previous life for there was fire in his eyes as I bade him goodbye.