The Heat of the Grand Prix Master Race

Posted in GRAND PRIX TAIPEI 2016 on June 25, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Grand Prix Taipei and Grand Prix Pittsburgh are happening this weekend, while Grand Prix São Paulo is up next. After that, Eldritch Moon will hit the shelves (*gasp Emrakul!*), and a triple Limited Grand Prix will take place the week before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.

Current Grand Prix Master Standings

Taking a look at the Top 5 players, (1) Seth Manfield and (2) Owen Turtenwald are the only two to have sealed their seats at the World Championships. With the 2015 – 2016 Season coming to a close, the Grand Prix Master Race is in its final throes. These few remaining Grand Prix are especially crucial to the other three players in question. Tomoharu Saito is here in Taipei, and we should expect Brian Braun-Duin and (16) Reid Duke to be battling it out at Pittsburgh.

"At the beginning for the season, I made the decision to attend every single Grand Prix I can in order to make Gold Level. Mid-season, I achieved it and thus my goal changed. Attending the World Championship for a chance to become the World Champion is an opportunity of a lifetime."

Endless Dreamer, Eternal Warrior

Off the top of his head, Saito has lost count of the number of Grand Prix he has attended this season, but is pretty sure that he has "missed no Grand Prix weekends". He also estimates that he has flown almost over 250,000 miles in the last ten months, which is more than the distance from Planet Earth to the Moon.

"Moon Saito! I didn't know I had traveled so much."

Saito is a living embodiment of an eternal road warrior, perhaps the most relentless one who never cringes in the face of hardship and turmoil. What are the reasons behind his dedication to the game and his willingness to traverse uncharted paths?

"To be able to play Magic as a full-time career is something that I imagine a lot of people desire. I am really fortunate to have the freedom of time and the support of my family. Not everyone is as blessed as me to be able to play this much Magic and I count my lucky stars everyday, but all I want to say is you should never give up if it is something that you really want."

Indeed, every great dream begins with a great dreamer, and success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. We all have dreams, but in order to turn them into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, self-discipline and effort.

In Tomoharu Saito's case, excellence is not an act, but a habit.

Saito is currently sitting at 36 Pro Points, with his point cap packed to the brim. Since only the six best performances of each season will contribute to his eventual Pro Level, he is finding it difficult to gain headway in that aspect. However, things work a little differently for the Grand Prix Master race. Despite being capped, any Pro Points picked up will help Saito eke out his competitors.

"I am at 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 3. Those are my six best results, and I cannot expect to hit Platinum unless I do very well at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney. However, with the race (against Braun-Duin and Duke) being so tight, I need to pick up every Pro Point I can. To me, playing Magic is about having fun. Winning is important, but being happy throughout the whole process is even more important. A good challenge with great opponents such as Duke and Braun-Duin is very enjoyable."

Tomoharu Saito at Grand Prix Sydney 2014. Always having a good time!

At the end of the day, Saito Wayfinder is not just about perfectly-aligned cards. Even a player of his stature is wandering the world in pursuit of unfulfilled aspirations, and hopefully he finds his way into the World Championship this September as the Grand Prix Master.

"Wherever I go, I know many of you are here in spirit with me. To me, that is the biggest source of motivation and that's what keeps me going. Thank you everyone, I will try my very best."

At the time of press, Saito has squeaked into Day 2 with the bare minimum of 6-3 for a fighting chance with Bant Humans He'll need to keep his fingers crossed as Grand Prix Pittsburgh begins.