A year ago, you've probably never heard of Team Cygames. I didn't either. That's probably due to that fact that it didn't even exist at that time. Ok, let's just take a look at which "scrubs" this team is made up of.
Team Cygames. From left: Teruya Kakumae, Yuuki Ichikawa and Kentaro Yamamoto
Wow, I take it all back. Gomenasai! Cygames is one of the leading mobile game app developers in Japan and they've got three new faces as ambassadors for their ever-growing brand name.
Let's start off with some factoids about Yuuki Ichikawa. He is the #1 Magic streamer in Japan, with over a million views on his channel. This statistic has caused him to exceed even Kenji Tsumura's popularity in Japan, which is probably why Cygames is so keen to have him on board.
The truth is, Ichikawa began playing Magic in Elementary school, and he sucked at it. He started in when Mercadian Masques was in print, and stopped around the Invasion Block. Perhaps Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero and the endless wave of Fires of Yavimaya decks were too hardcore for the casual player to beat.
Disheartened, he drifted away from the game, before returning TEN years later during Scars of Mirrodin. No longer a little child, Ichikawa was determined to excel at the game. He opened his very own channel and started to stream.
Here's the plot twist. He didn't stream because he was good. He streamed because he was terrible, and the objective of his stream was for the audience to correct his bad plays.
Yuuki Ichikawa, an inspiring story of how a scrub becomes a Pro through relentless learning and humility.
That's a rather refreshing premise, and probably unheard of in the entire Magic universe. The idea was popular and the concept of watching a "newbie" make "scrubby plays" had certain entertainment value. Viewers, mostly good-natured because you know how polite the Japanese folks are, are often kind enough to give him advice on how to pilot his decks, which cards to pick in a Booster Draft, and believe it or not, within five years, Ichikawa has risen to the star that he is today.
Of course, today he streams because he's one of the very best, and his modest and humorous demeanor makes him one of the most popular personalities. Previously sponsored by Big Magic, Ichikawa now officially joins the ranks of Team Cygames.
Teruya Kakumae, the fairy tale of sudden ascension.
Teruya Kakumae's ascension is also another amazing fairytale. Except that its true. From a previously unknown player, he proceeded to win Grand Prix Kobe 2014 and Grand Prix Auckland 2015 within the same season, catapulting himself into the limelight and into the front of the "Grand Prix Master" Race. If you need a poster-boy for "winning two Grand Prix out of nowhere", Kakumae is probably the prime candidate. On the back of his solid performances, Kakumae locked Gold quickly, ensuring that he would be invited to all the Pro Tours during the 2014—2015 season, as well as the current 2015—2016 season.
That's a rather impressive feat for someone relatively new to the competitive circuit and the fact that he was running for a seat to the World Championships was equally surprising. Of course, we all knew how it ended. Unable to capitalize on his momentary lead, (11) Alexander Hayne gained on him and eventually clinched the seat over fellow countryman Pascal Maynard in a nail-biting race.
Nonetheless, Cygames was happy to invite Teruya Kakumae to bolster the new team, and they even managed to convince Kentaro Yamamoto to switch over from Hareruya Pros.
Kentaro Yamamoto, a Hareruya Pro no more.
Yamamoto has been Platinum for the past two years and has three Pro Tour Top 8s and four Grand Prix Top 8s to his name. He's hardly as jovial as his two teammates, but that's because he's usually deep in thought. As a matter of fact, he was the brains behind the Mono-black Devotion decks that wrecked havoc in Standard a couple of years ago. On hindsight, he might have gotten the number of Pack Rats wrong (only playing with 2 copies at that time), but the fact that he was the visionary cannot be challenged.
Together, the trio will be working hand in hand to solve the Modern puzzle that has been bestowed upon all of us. With Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom out of the picture, it has shaken up the metagame considerably. Do they have time for this massive undertaking?
Well, here's another piece of gossip for you nosy rosies. (14) Yuuya Watanabe is currently sponsored by Team Mint, one of Japan's largest accessories retailers, but he will be joining forces with Team Cygames in preparation for Atlanta.
Team Cygames was already solid to begin with, and the addition of Watanabe can only elevate their position. I'm always excited to see Watanabe's token cards that Team Mint has produced for him, and he fervently handed me this one.
Top left: Yuuya Watanabe. Right: Yuuya Watanabe's new token card. Bottom left: A zoom-in of Yuuya Watanabe's new token card.
"Don't ask about why Cygames is on my Team Mint token card. It's a 'secret' for now!"
Those were the parting words from Watanabe-san. Regardless, keep your eyes peeled for Team Cygames. They'll do wonders in Atlanta.