Meet Teruya Kakumae

Posted in GRAND PRIX SHANGHAI 2015 on May 16, 2015

By Chapman Sim

Most of the Japanese players in the room today are household names. Just to rattle off a few, Shuhei Nakamura, Makihito Mihara, Yuuya Watanabe, Shota Yasooka, Kentaro Yamamoto, Yuuki Ichikawa.

Perhaps one of the lesser known players would be Teruya Kakumae, a 27-year-old player from Osaka that has been quietly rising up the ranks and deserves a lot more attention.


Gold Pro (38 Pro Points), Teruya Kakumae

Breakthrough

It is often said that the toughest tournament in the world was the Japan National Championships, owing to the high density of great Magic players. In 2004, during the Onslaught / Mirrodin era, Kakumae had his first taste of success at the National Championships.

At the tender age of 17, he played against and was defeated by many great players. That included Fujita Ken'ichi (winner of the first ever Grand Prix in Japan, Grand Prix Tokyo 1997) and legends such as Hall of Famers Shuhei Nakamura and Kenji Tsumura in the Swiss rounds.


Red fatties pave the way for Kakumae's first taste of success.

He showed up with Big Red, a masterpiece popularized by Pro Tour Champion Masahiro Kuroda. Using Seething Song to power out bombs such as Furnace Dragon and Arc-Slogger, he steamrolled his way through the competition and won all his other matches to attain his first Premier Event Top 8.

Kakumae recalls that it was a time before Skullclamp was banned and when Affinity ran amok, so he was well-prepared with practically a fifteen-card sideboard for the artifact-laden menace. The gamble paid off. He fell short of making it to the Japan National Team but is was a tournament to remember, at least for him.

Kakumae Teruya's Big Red – Japan National Championships 2004

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A Killing in Kōbe

Despite already possessing the skills to excel on the big stage, his moment had yet to come and he took a break off Magic to concentrate on school and work. Magic Online enabled him to hone his skills at his own time, at his own pace and in the comfort of his home.

Nearly a decade after his temporary hiatus on "paper", he decided to make a triumphant return. Grand Prix Kōbe 2014 was probably the most memorable moment in his entire Magic career.


Grand Prix Kōbe 2014 Champion

After hours upon hours of relentless playtesting online, he came to the conclusion that his choice was the correct one and he proved himself right with his results. Piloting a Boros Burn deck that was relatively under the radar, he was able to set his opponents ablaze to take home his first Grand Prix title in his first Grand Prix Top 8 appearance.

Kakumae Teruya's Boros Burn – Grand Prix Kōbe 2014

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Kakumae's pair of Vexing Devil secured him a Turn-three kill!

"I was very happy, of course. But at that time, all I thought about was attending the next Pro Tour and to hit Silver. After all, I had just returned to the game for not very long."

The "Grand Prix Race"

On February 7, 2015, Hélène Bergeot (Director of Global Organized Play) made an announcement that made a huge impact on Kakumae's traveling schedule.

"The player with the most Pro Points earned for Grand Prix in a Premier Play season will be awarded an invitation to the 2015 World Championship. The Top Pro Points earner in Grand Prix during the 2014–2015 is a new slot that awards the player who earns the most Pro Points at GPs during the season if Pro Point awards were uncapped. It offers players who have already reached the cap on the number of Pro Point finishes they can get at a Grand Prix an incentive to continue competing at GPs if they wish."

Kakumae professes, "I thought I had little chance of even having a shot at it. There were a lot of great players' names on that list. All I wanted was to do my own thing and try to qualify for the next few Pro Tours and maybe stay on the train for the next season too."

Little did he know that fate had much more in store for him than he had expected.

Auckland Arising

While Kōbe might have been the most memorable for Kakumae, it certainly was not the end of his hot streak. He followed up his victory at Kōbe with yet another 1st place finish at Grand Prix Auckland 2015, this time showing off his skills on the Limited arena.

Featuring Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury alongside a pair of other dragons and a plethora of quality removal spells, he picked up his second victory of the season.


Grand Prix Auckland 2015 Champion

Kakumae Teruya's Top 8 Draft – Grand Prix Auckland 2015

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It was at that moment that he started to be noticed on an international scale. Literally going from zero to hero, he managed to get onto the Pro Player Club on the back of just his pair of Grand Prix wins and three Pro Tour appearances.

Neck-In-Neck

Gold Pro Teruya Kakumae might have picked up three Pro Points at Grand Prix Paris last weekend, but his lead was upset when Alexander Hayne received six with his finals appearance at Grand Prix Atlantic City.

Pascal Maynard is also hot on is heels, as are Craig Wescoe and Eric Froelich. Christian Calcano is also a new contender, with his victory at Grand Prix Atlantic City granting him a considerable boost.

With just two and a half months left in the current Professional Season and Grand Prix taking place in seven of those weekends, it could be anyone's game.

But hey, a journey of a thousand miles beings with a single step. Kakumae is simply looking to regain the lead this weekend. Trailing by just two points, it is Kakumae's wish to be back on top before everyone heads for the monumental triple Modern Masters Grand Prix weekend.

As we speak, he is sitting at a 5-1 record at Shanghai, and we wish him all the best in his endeavors!

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