Big Magic is one of the premier Magic brand names in all of Japan. Their mascot, an extremely cute anime figure with a gigantic blue afro, is also one of the most recognizable trademarks in the nation. They also happen to be the organizers of Grand Prix Nagoya 2016, and a Photo Essay has been posted here.
Behind every team is a story, and this one is about two particularly talented men who will be representing Big Magic at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.
Team Big Magic's Yuuki Matsumoto and Kazuyuki Takimura
Both "Yukis" have transitioned from "good Japanese Magic players" into international superstars. For those of you who need a recap, Yuuki Matsumoto was the winner of Grand Prix Chiba, a Modern Masters event that saw him ascend to the throne from amongst 4000 players. (24) Kazuyuki Takimura's win at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in Milwaukee has also made him world famous.
Yuuki Matsumoto, Grand Prix Chiba 2015 Champion
Despite their achievements, the general public knows little about these two unsung heroes. For one, Yuuki Matsumoto has a reputation for not only being a great player, but also an excellent deck designer. His most recent success story was masterminding the Esper Mentor deck that took Grand Prix Kobe 2015 by storm. The archetype was popularized by Shota Takao and Shuhei Nakamura who made the Top 8, but the roots of the powerful archetype featuring Monastery Mentor was a product of Matsumoto.
The reason I use the word "roots" is because he previously designed a Modern version, which he brought to the Top 8 of Hareruya-organized "God Series" tournaments. These tournaments regularly attract a couple hundred players, with the winner being crowned the "God". In the next series, that winner will face off against the reigning "God" in an attempt to wrest the title.
As a matter of fact, Team Cygames' Yuuki Ichikawa won that very tournament with the exact same deck as Matsumoto, allowing Ichikawa to retain the title of "Modern God". It was only then that it was brought to light that some of Ichikawa's winning masterpieces were the works of Matsumoto.
Kazuyuki Takimura, Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Champion
Even before winning Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, Kazuyuki has long been considered one of the most underrated players by the Japanese community. This well-deserved victory instantly bumped him up to Platinum status, pretty much assuring him invites for at least the next eight Pro Tours. He credits Yuuki Ichikawa, Yuuya Watanabe and Yuki Matsumoto for helping him prepare, and the story of how he promised his fiancé (now wife!) to achieve a Top 8 performance is yet another delightful dream come true. Making the Top 4 at Grand Prix Beijing the week after winning the Pro Tour is simply a testament of his consistency, or a unabashed display of a hot streak that he promises to continue.
Both players will be headed for Atlanta once Nagoya is said and done, and they'll attempt to break Modern. With Esper being Matsumoto's pet "Shard" and Abzan being Takimura's favored "Wedge", will they end up bringing these decks to the Pro Tour?