Transforming into Platinum Pros

Posted in GRAND PRIX TOKYO 2016 on May 7, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Not that these players have never achieved Platinum before, as a matter of fact, everyone in this article has. However, while some have already secured the coveted level, others are still working their way towards it. At the moment, there are a trio of players within the Asia Pacific who are locked for Platinum in the upcoming season.

  • Hall of Famer and Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad Top 8 competitor, Shota Yasooka.
  • Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar finalist, Ryoichi Tamada.
  • Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar champion, Kazuyuki Takimura

Despite none of them actually in possession of 50 Pro Points at the moment, they'll lock it up once they show up at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney. In Takimura's case, he's Platinum by virtue of his Pro Tour win early this season. The work is not quite done for this trio, however, since they still have Japanese captaincy and the World Magic Cup to worry about.

Needless to say, there are many others who are present today in their relentless pursuit for the coveted level.

Yuuya Watanabe

For instance, fourth on the Asia Pacific Pro Point standings is the legendary Yuuya Watanabe. Sitting at 42 points, he needs to pick up at least 5 more in order to maintain his current level. This is somewhat surprising because most people would have assumed the stellar player to have locked it up by now.

Watanabe is a popular candidate for the Hall of Fame, and many are convinced that he is a shoo-in. His transformation is perhaps the greatest of all, rising from a relative unknown to become the Rookie of the Year in 2007, and then clinching Player of the Year in 2009 and 2012. 7 Grand Prix wins, 22 Grand Prix Top 8s and 3 Pro Tour Top 8s within a span of under a decade. Spectacular!

"Did you want to do a Deck Tech?" Watanabe asked. "Can this take place tomorrow? I promise I want to share my deck because I think it's so good for this tournament! I want to retain a little element of surprise!"

Well, sure. With Watanabe at 8-0, we'll be seeing more of him tomorrow anyway.

1 point behind is fellow Team Cygames teammate, Kentaro Yamamoto. Currently at 6-1 and fighting it out in Round 8, he's also looking for the home run that will put him in a more comfortable position going into Sydney.

Jason Chung

Moving down the list we've got Jason Chung sitting at 39, with the bulk of his Pro Points coming from a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Due to his geographical location (he's from New Zealand), he hasn't been able to participate in quite as many Grand Prix as he would like.

"My Grand Prix point cap has yet to be utilized fully. The system allows us six of our best Grand Prix finishes, but I still have two empty slots left. This gives me a lot of potential for improvement, which is why I decided give it a shot. I'm also looking at possibly attending three North American Grand Prix."

Aside from reaching Platinum, his goal is also to eventually qualify for the World Championship. One of the problems that accompany good results, is the increasing expectations he has for himself.

"Missing the Top 8 at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch due to an inability to secure an intentional draw definitely hurt. On the bright side, 15 Pro Points to lock up Gold isn't all that bad. In addition, I made Top 8 at Grand Prix Sydney and put up good finishes in all the Grand Prix I've attended so far. However, that's not good enough for Platinum and I'll work very hard to get there."

Would Chung say that he's transformed as a player ever since he began playing Magic?

"I feel that I've gotten a lot better over the years, and my recent results is the best reflection of my hard work. I never thought I could become a Platinum pro, and let alone give it a run for a second year running. So yes, I've definitely grown from strength to strength."

Lee Shi Tian

Next in the list is four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor, Lee Shi Tian. After an embarrassing, first-in-his-lifetime 0-3 start at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, he managed to go 9-1 at the Constructed portion with his trusty Bant Company to end up at 11-5, which was good enough for 10 points.

"Like previous seasons, I didn't play in more Grand Prix that I should. I'm also uncapped, which means I can afford to improve upon my Pro Point total significantly. I was pretty fortunate to have done really well on the Pro Tours in the last two years, but I started the 2015 – 2016 season relatively poorly. I'll need to fight back and cannot afford to be lazy anymore. I am considering making a trip to Europe for Grand Prix Manchester, but between my job, girlfriend and family, I might not be able to find extra time to travel."

At the moment, he is scheduled to attend Grand Prix Taipei as well as Grand Prix Sydney, the latter taking place the week prior to the Pro Tour which will lead to the conclusion of the current season. Aside from Platinum status, Lee also hopes that he will be able to clinch both the title of Hong Kong National Champion again, in addition to a spot on the World Championship for yet another attempt at becoming the World Champion.

Naturally, he's decided to come to Bant Company this weekend, a deck where he is more than familiar with. Aside from the 36th place finish at the previous Pro Tour, the deck has also brought him to the Top 8 of two MOCS playoffs.

"Did I transform? Most definitely. These few years have been a roller coaster ride, and I've definitely improved over the years. When I started playing Magic, I never thought I would win a Grand Prix (Birmingham), let alone do this well on the Pro Tour. Playing with so many different players all around the world, and receiving advice from them definitely helped me grow into what I am today."

Rounding off this list of the ranked players in the Asia Pacific are Tomoharu Saito and Shuhei Nakamura, both at 36 points and also present today.

Saito, however, has more than just Platinum status on his mind. He's also one of the frontrunners in the Grand Prix Master race, and the player who picks up the most Pro Points from all combined Grand Prix earns one of 24 precious spots at the World Championship.

Saito explains, "Fabrizio Anteri just won Grand Prix Barcelona, and he overtook me. He is at 43. Reid Duke is in second place, at 40, while I am at 38 myself. I won't give up and you'll be seeing me at most of the upcoming Grand Prix."

However, luck was not on his side this weekend, and he was quickly eliminated from contention. After his three byes, he quickly picked up three losses, which ensures that he will not be making the Top 8 this weekend. However, if he manages to rattle off nine straight wins, he could earn three Pro Points to assist him in regaining the lead.

"Camera shy" Shuhei Nakamura

On the other hand, Nakamura's going strong and was sighted lurking near the top tables. As we move into the final round of Day 1, let's wish all these aspirants best of luck in the quest for greatness.