Teams to Watch

Posted in GRAND PRIX KYOTO 2016 on September 10, 2016

By Ben Swartz

Every odd year or so, Magic returns to the former capital of Japan. Three short years ago, Triple-H, Rich Hoaen, Mike Hron, and Alexander Hayne, took down the trophy at the last team Grand Prix in Kyoto. While those three are not in attendance this weekend, Team GPs are always a Who's Who of the local Magic scene. Players come out of the woodwork to play with their friends for a weekend of fun.

Commemoration of Triple-H winning the previous event in Kyoto

It's tough to say who is the real front runner here this weekend, but there are a number of powerful teams in attendance this weekend:

Shota Yasooka, Kazuki Kato, Teruya Kakumae

(left to right) Kazuki Kato, Shota Yasooka, Teruya Kakumae

Hot off of his 4th place finish at the World Championships last weekend, (7) Shota Yasooka has re-joined forces with the team he brought to Grand Prix Beijing 2015, Kazuki Kato and Teruya Kakumae. Yasooka, the Hall of Famer, gets his pick of the litter when it comes to teammates and has no problem calling upon his friends to support him this weekend. While Kato has been a little quieter when compared to either Kakumae or Yasooka, he, has two Grand Prix wins under his belt. We'll see if Yasooka's momentum continues this weekend in Kyoto.

Yuuya Watanabe, Hajime Nakamura, Yoshihiko Ikawa

(left to right) Yuuya Watanabe, Hajime Nakamura, Yoshihiko Ikawa

While Hall of Famer elect, Yuuya Watanabe, was able to clinch second place at Grand Prix Beijing 2015, this weekend he has selected a new crew of players to team with. When it comes to limited, Yoshihiko Ikawa is no slouch--considered to be one of the greatest Japanese limited players by his peers. The third on this team is Hajime Nakamura, a long time player in the Tokyo scene with only one Grand Prix top 8 to his name. As they say, nothing beats the power of friendship, and even though Watanabe will ascend to the Hall of Fame later this year, he doesn't skip a beat choosing to play with his friends.

Lee Shi Tian, Tomoharu Saito, Katsuhiro Mori

(left to right) Katsuhiro Mori, Tomoharu Saito, Lee Shi Tian

After testing together for Pro Tours, Saito suggested to Lee Shi Tian that they team together for this event. Lee obliged and these three powerhouses entered GP Kyoto together. Although the three have never teamed together and there is a language barrier in the way, they were unphased. With a combined 45 Grand Prix Top 8s to their names, these guys are definitely a force to be reckoned with this weekend.

Kentaro Yamamoto, Hiroaki Kitahara, Ken Yukuhiro

(left to right) Ken Yukuhiro, Hiroaki Kitahara, Ken Yukuhiro

What once were the newcomers to the Japanese Magic scene, Kentaro Yamamoto and Ken Yukuhiro have cemented themselves as top Magic players with their combined 5 Pro Tour Top 8s. This weekend, they're teaming up with their long time teammate Hiroaki Kitahara. These guys have proven they are really good at limited and rarely make mistakes, so watch out for them this weekend.

Yuki Matsumoto, Yuuki Ichikawa, Kazuyuki Takimura

(left to right) Yuki Matsumoto, Yuuki Ichikawa, Kazuyuki Takimura

Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar champion Kazuyuki Takimura is teaming up with Yuki and Yuuki for this event. Yuuki Ichikawa has two Pro Tour Top 8s to his name and Yuki Matsumoto has a Grand Prix trophy from Chiba in 2015. Takimura and Ichikawa clinched the Top 4 at GP Beijing in 2015 and are looking to improve on that result this weekend with the addition of Matsumoto.

These are but few among many teams here this weekend. Stay tuned throughout the weekend for continued coverage of Grand Prix Kyoto 2016!