Catching up with the Top 25

Posted in GRAND PRIX SHANGHAI 2015 on May 16, 2015

By Ben Swartz

Three members of the Top 25 Pro Rankings have made their way to Shanghai this weekend: Yuuya Watanabe, Shota Yasooka, and Lee Shi Tian. I caught up with them and asked them about their decks, their Modern Masters Weekend plans, and their desires for the rest of the season.

Standard in Shanghai

All three players brought a different deck with them this weekend. No. 4-ranked Lee Shi Tian came sporting Abzan Aggro.

"The meta is really diverse; there are too many different deck types. I want to be the one taking active role"

Similar to the deck that Aman Dosimant used last weekend to win GP Paris, Lee Shi Tian hoped to crush opponent after opponent with aggressive cards such as Siege Rhino and Fleecemane Lion. In preparation for this tournament, Lee mentioned: "The meta is full of Raptor Decks or Control decks and I think that Abzan Aggro has a better sideboard plan against these decks."

His expectation for this weekend? "Abzan Control, Abzan Aggro, then Esper Dragons—those are the top 3 decks." Lee Shi Tian remarked.

Not on his list of decks were likely those that no. 17-ranked Shota Yasooka and no. 6-ranked Yuuya Watanabe brought. Yasooka's deck of choice is 4-color Jeskai Ascendancy Combo.

"There are a lot of Deathmist Raptors [in the field]; I wanted to play a deck that wasn't affected by it."

Unlike the Jeskai Tokens deck that has fallen out of favor recently, Yasooka looked to combo out his opponents using Jeskai Ascendancy and Sylvan Caryatid, After casting some instants he looked to complete his combo with Retraction Helix and Tormod's Crypt, which allows him to cycle through his entire deck. Finally he has a copy of Altar of the Brood in his deck, which, with Tormod's Crypt allows him to mill his opponent's deck.

Yasooka mentioned that his toughest match is Mono-Red, "other than that there aren't really bad match ups."

Watanabe had a similar read on the format:

"I'm playing 5-color dragons--the same deck as Mihara. It's really fun; Mono-red is bad but I board 10 cards."

Watanabe's deck seems to feature all of the super powerful cards in Standard.

Yuuya Watanabe

"There's nothing more fun than playing a deck with Den Protector, Deathmist Raptor AND Dragonlord Ojutai. I really hope that people have fun playing it [after this tournament]."

Modern Masters Weekend

For all three players, GP Chiba will be their first Modern Masters GP—none of them participated in GP Las Vegas in 2013. All three players are excited to tackle a new limited format featuring some of their favorite cards from the past.

"I'm trying to find a draft [arche]type that it's easy to get the deck. Underdrafted but powerful and consistent. I need to play some drafts to see what cards are underdrafted and then [I'll] try to break the format," explained Lee Shi Tian.

Lee Shi Tian

While Lee Shi Tian didn't have any card in mind, Yuuya Watanabe knew of one that would be really powerful right off the bat:

"I haven't played but, Rusted Relic is really strong. I remember it from back in the day. I think that artifacts are going to be really good"

Shota Yasooka also had a particular card in mind: "Strong limited card? Waxmane Baku!" Similar to Lee Shi Tian, Yasooka was also very excited about the limited format that the new set will bring:

"There are a lot of archetypes from old formats: Eldrazi, Artifacts, Spirits. I think it will be really interesting."

Road to the World Championships

It seems likely that all three of these players will qualify for the World Championships one way or another. The three players are currently top 3 in the running for the 3 Asia Pacific slots that the World Championships has available, but there are still a number of tournaments left in the season.

Lee Shi Tian seems confident about his chances:

"[I'll go to] Chiba, Copenhagen, Singapore, and Dallas before the Pro Tour. I'm 4 points behind top ranking for player of the year. Asia only gets 10 GPs a year, I've only used 3 slots for GPs"

Both Shota Yasooka and Yuuya Wantanabe have plans to go to Chiba and Singapore, Watanabe is considering going to Dallas before the Pro Tour as well.

As for players they're afraid of playing at the World Championships, all three players had a response:

"Yuuya. I've never beaten Shaun McLaren or Cifka," Lee Shi Tian mentioned. "my win percentage in the matches where we know each other's decklists is very low for me. I'm trying to improve in this area, because I do quite well in PT for those decks that people don't know what I'm playing; in the World Championships they know my list so there's not much room for outplaying. Playing something tricky may not be the plan...but I don't like mainstream decks"

Yuuya mentioned a number of players:

"Of course the strong players: Lee Shi Tian, Shota [Yasooka], [Teruya] Kakumae, Josh [Utter-Leyton], Owen [Turtenwald], Efro. But Finkel—I want to play against him!"

In responding to this question Shota Yasooka thought for a quick moment and the shot back confidently: "I'm not really afraid of anyone."

Shota Yasooka

As of this writing, Yuuya Watanabe was the only one with a perfect 7-0 record. Lee Shi Tian had a single loss while Shota Yasooka had his back against the wall at 5-2. Check back throughout the weekend to see how these players fare here in Shanghai!