We're approaching the end of the 2014–2015 Professional Points season. This adds an extra subtext to the tournaments as players attempt to lock up levels in the Pro Players Club for the next season. While the higher profile stories involve players attempting to reach the top level (Platinum) or the epic tussle between Alexander Hayne and Pascal Maynard for a spot at World Championship, some of the quests for lower levels can be equally compelling.
Tomoharu Saito is one of the most famous Magic players to come out of Japan. He has five Pro Tour Top 8s and was the Pro Player of the Year in 2007. Going into the weekend, Tomoharu Saito found himself without an invite for Pro Tour Magic Origins at the end of the month.
However, the Pro Points on the line at this Grand Prix might enable him to cross the threshold into the Silver level of the Pro Players Club. That's a pretty big deal as it would not only earn him an invite to PT Magic Origins but also the first Pro Tour of the next season.
Saito currently had 19 Pro Points. The threshold for Silver level is 20 points. On the surface that would seem fairly straightforward. All records of 33 match points (eleven wins) or better at a Grand Prix net a player one Pro Point. But there is further complication here, namely that only the best six GP finishes count toward a player's point total. This was Saito's haul for the season so far:
- Grand Prix Portland 2014: 3
- Grand Prix Memphis 2015: 1
- Grand Prix Paris 2015: 1
- Grand Prix Shizouka 2015: 3
- Grand Prix Sydney 2014: 4
- Grand Prix Copenhagen 2015: 1
- Pro Tour Fate Reforged: 3
- Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir: 3
He already had six Grand Prix finishes. A one-point finish would simply replace another Grand Prix one-point finish and he would remain at 19 points. In order to increase his tally he needed to have a finish that nets more than one point.
Looking at the pay-out schedule from the Fact Sheet, we can see that the next bracket is 36–38 match points. So in order to achieve his goal Saito needed a record at this Grand Prix of twelve wins or better. He couldn't have asked for a better start as he was one of the three players with perfect 9-0 records yesterday. Day 2 had seen a wobble as he picked up two early losses. I just watched the end of a very tight match against Kai Sawatari where Saito Force of Will'ed a key card in extra turns to take the win. With two rounds to go, that put him at eleven wins and one win away from his goal.
As he put it: "Next round is a double PTQ."
For Saito these next two rounds were going to be massive. One win, two Pro Tour invites. No pressure at all ...