Grand Prix Kyoto 2018 Day 1 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on March 24, 2018

By Chapman Sim

After the dust had settled and the sun had set, Day 1 of Grand Prix Kyoto 2018 is in the books. What were the most compelling stories of the day? Let's check out the highlights in a matter of minutes!

Team Trios Constructed Makes A Grand Prix Debut In The Orient!

After stops at Santa Clara and Madrid, Team Trios Constructed makes a debut in the Orient! Here in Kyoto, the format was welcome with open arms, resulting in the largest attendance so far with 757 teams present. That’s a total of 2262 players in our Team Trios Constructed debut! Check out this breathtaking bird’s eye view of the tournament site!


Pulse Plaza, hosting yet another sold-out show.

The new format certainly appealed to the community, an avid fan based littered not only with Standard players but also Eternal players. As such, it was not difficult to find two teammates to buddy up with. As Modern and Legacy were wildly popular here, we expected the tournament to fill up to the cap, and we were not disappointed.


Dezani/Lee/Saito, one of the many powerhouse teams at Kyoto.


Harane/Fujimura/Saitou, a trio led by the reigning Japan National Champion.

We also witnessed the creation of numerous powerhouse teams in the region, such as the trios of:

  • Jeremy Dezani/Lee Shi Tian/Tomoharu Saito
  • Kenta Harane/Kazuaki Fujimura/Nobuo Saitou
  • Ryoichi Tamada/Hiroki Hayashi/Tsuyoshi Fujita
  • Kazuyuki Takimura/Yuta Takahashi/Atsuki Kihara
  • Eng Chu Heng/No. 13-ranked Kelvin Chew/Nicholas Wong
  • Yam Wing Chun/Huang Hao-Shan/Eduardo Sajgalik

…and many more.


Hall of Famers Shuhei Nakamura and Makihito Mihara in the booth.

Also, to further commemorate this weekend, it also marked the first time that World Champion Makihito Mihara entered the coverage booth! Joining the Japanese coverage team as a commentator, it was a rare sight to see two Pro Tour Hall of Famers join hands on camera. With three formats being featured at Team Trios Constructed, it was great to see two seasoned veterans offer their opinion on all the different decks being showcased this weekend.


Cherry blossoms sighted all around Pulse Plaza and Kyoto!

Grand Prix Kyoto 2018 also coincided with the cherry blossoms season. The sakura was typically in full-bloom around this period, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists from all around the world. It was a perfect opportunity to visit Kyoto’s 2000 shrines and temples, cradled by mountains and surrounded by breathtaking flora.

All in all, we’d like to say that everyone’s having a great time in Kyoto, playing the format they love the most, and spending quality time with their friends and family.

Musashi A & Musashi B

Team events are a great opportunity to not only hang out with your friends but also your most trusted teammates. For the elites of the game, it was also about getting to the Top 4. In the case of Team Mushashi, the reigning Pro Tour Team Series Champions, it was easy to split up into Musashi A and Musashi B.

Just like that, two of the most formidable teams in the room was born.

Despite the division, the team stayed united as ever and one of their primary goals this weekend was to qualify Kakumae for Pro Tour Dominaria. As the only player on Team Musashi who did not have a Gold or better level for the current season, the team made the unanimous decision to keep him on the roster no matter what, for Kakumae had been an integral part of Musashi’s victory and success.


No. 4-ranked Yuuya Watanabe, Teruya Kakumae, and No. 6-ranked Shota Yasooka


Kentaro Yamamoto, No. 20-ranked Ken Yukuhiro, and Yuuki Ichikawa

According to Tomohiro Kaji, a former Pro Tour Champion turned Coverage Coordinator, “they paired two of the best players together with Kakumae. Watanabe and Yasooka will try their best to help Kakumae earn a qualification." Seeing how Watanabe and Shota already dominated in the last few tournaments they participated in (rewind to Japan Nationals and the 2017 World Magic Cup), it was not an insurmountable goal for them to rise to the top this weekend.

At the moment, Musashi was second on the 2017-18 Pro Tour Team Series Leaderboard, trailing by just 3 Pro Points behind Ultimate Guard Pro Tour. Hence, it was imperative for all six members of Musashi to pull through for them to have the best shot at a repeat victory which all six members were hungry for.

“We want to win the Pro Tour Team Series again," Watanabe added, “and we want to do it together." As usual, anything less than number one was unsatisfactory for a group of six talented players who were en route to even more greatness.


Men on a mission.

Just like most things in life, many things are cyclical, or has its ups and down. The same is true for Magic. Sometimes you win two Grand Prix during a season, and sometimes you encounter a rocky path. However, the story of Musashi and Kakumae teaches us not only about friendship and brotherhood but also sticking to your dreams through thick and thin even in the face of adversity. Despite sailing against the wind for the time being, Team Musashi could well be your repeat team champions once more, given their track record in overcoming the impossible.


Team Musashi at the 2017 World Championship.

Matsuda, the Blind Seer

Magic is a game for everybody. It truly is.

Regardless of your age, gender, race, religion, or disability, the game, and the community will always welcome you with open arms. It’s not always easy, but somehow the human spirit naturally works its magic, by empowering these individuals with extraordinary resolve and determination to overcome any potential challenges.

This weekend, I’ve had to pleasure to meet Hideyuki Matsuda and marvel at his unparalleled intellect and powers of memory.


Hideyuki Matsuda, “reading” his cards at Grand Prix Kyoto 2018.

To identify his cards, he developed a method to mark each sleeve with braille characters. Deck construction, something we do on a daily basis, was a significant challenge for Matsuda. As a blind Magic player, there were plenty of other difficulties such as keeping track of which cards are on the battlefield, in graveyards, and in both player’s hands.

Even with my eyes wide open, there are still plenty of things I miss. Managorger Hydra triggers especially. Matsuda is a memory master, no doubt. Spectators are often amazed at how much information he has to manage at the back of his head. Yet, Matsuda still manages to deliver perfectly-played games.

Matsuda said, “especially in Standard, the board state can get more complicated. I have to try and remember as much as I can, while also getting my opponent’s help in clarifying the board state. Today, I am playing Modern, so I hope there are fewer permanents on the board. In future, I’ll also want to try Limited events in future!"

To this day, Matsuda remained an avid grinder who was well-known within the Magic community, not for his impairment, but for his unwavering will and passionate outlook towards life. “I’m delighted I learned how to play Magic. Due to my lack of sight, I cannot always engage in other activities such as sports. Through this game, I’ve met a lot of friends and my life is much more interesting."

Majoring in algebraic number theory in college, he got interested in Magic after reading one of Richard Garfield’s books on mathematics. If you’d like to learn more about Matsuda and how he overcomes his challenges, check out this Enter the Battlefield: Tokyo clip if you haven’t done so yet. The story is not only interesting, but immensely inspiring.

Two Trios Lead The Way

Out of 757 teams at Kyoto, only two teams emerged unscathed after eight rounds of intense competition.


Che Ling, Ding Yi, and Lu Bo from China

The first team to secure their 8-0 result was the trio of Che Ling, Ding Yi, and Lu Bo. Ding was the most experienced of the trio, having won 2008 China Nationals. Grand Prix Kyoto also marked the first time teaming together and to come up tops was a huge surprise to all of them.

Che was the Standard player, while Ding played Modern, and Lu had Legacy entrusted to him. Interestingly, he went 4-4 but luckily his teammates won out when he lost! Without counting uncompleted games, Che chalked up six match wins, while Ding picked seven wins!

According to Lu, “I have the most experience in Legacy, but only because I play it once a year! I’m really not very good at the format! However, since Ling and Che had zero experience, I decided to take the job. As for Che, he picked his favourite two-color combination and went with it, while Ding simply chose what he thought was the best Modern deck."


Akira Sakuta, Keiichirou Matsumoto, and Yuuya Kawabata from Japan

The second 8-0 team was a relatively-unknown Japanese team, who have played Magic for only around ten years. Collectively. Akira Sakuta, Keiichirou Matsumoto, and Yuuya Kawabata had five years, three years and two years of gaming experience respectively, meaning that they were quite new to the scene.

For them to stand tall above the pack was an amazing feat.

According to Matsumoto, the Modern player of the team, the team performed averagely individually. “I had only six match wins myself, while Matsumoto and Kawabata each only won five matches, with several matches unfinished. However, together, we went 8-0 and that’s the best part about team tournaments!"

With any luck, the up-and-coming Japanese players could just be qualified for their very first Pro Tours if they could keep up with their stellar showing. With that, we’ve come to the end of Day 1. Do join us tomorrow as the sun comes up! Day 2 is going to be even more exciting, we promise!

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