Here to kick off your Grand Prix enjoyment are some snapshots of some of the high-profile players competing this weekend. A little about their careers, a little about how they built their sealed decks, just a general heads-up so you'll know them. After all, these are the best bets to make Day 2.
Last year's Rookie of the Year, Katsuhiro Mori is an exciting player to watch. Perched half-on his chair, Mori's eyes flicker across the playing field as his whirlwind mind computes the possibilities, and his hands make plays faster than you can see. Permanently caffeinated, Mori can play a game of Magic before most players have finished shuffling.
This weekend Mori cracked a particularly potent concoction. Torment was kind to him, offering up Faceless Butcher and a pair of Crippling Fatigues. His strong removal is backed up by a horde of green monsters, and he touched blue only for Syncopate and Deep Analysis. Mori called his deck "A gift".
You may remember Tsuyoshi Fujita from this year's Magic Invitational. Best known for his finals appearance at Pro Tour - Tokyo, Fujita has been having a rough go of it since. Though he consistantly makes Day 2, Fujita has been absent from Grand Prix Top 8's. He's easy to pick out of a crowd, as he's usually craning his neck to get a better view of whatever game he's watching, and he's never without his trademark scarf.
Fujita was horrified at the cards he had to work with this weekend. Eventually he settled on a build that went across every color but white, dipping into red only for Rites of Initiation. His deck is short on spells, but chock full of creatures. He hopes to smash early and often, and then throw this one in the trash where it belongs.
You wouldn't guess it from looking at him, but this bespectacled and mild-mannered chap is an absolute beast at the gaming table. Not only is he the brains behind Japan's strongest team, Panzer Hunter, he also won the biggest Grand Prix ever, Kobe.
Showing his deck, Ishida starts by flashing Shower of Coals and Overrun, which he calls "A good start". One of the few players out there not playing black, Ishida is metagamed against them. He sports tons of pro-black creatures, and is helped by white's Floating Shield and Shelter. Of course, that's if his solid red-green doesn't pummel the opponent too quickly.
Never without a smile, there are few as happy to be playing the game as The Okamoto Djinn himself. Last year he earned the title of APAC Champion, and the elimination of that tournament has left him to be called "The Last Emperor of Asia".
Okamoto was even more giggly than usual when discussing his deck. Alongside the usual Torment unfairness, his deck sports the rather nasty Sengir Vampire, and splashes Bomb Squad. The best part is, that's just the icing on the cake.
Everyone knows Pro Tour Veteran Mike Long, whether by controversy, the strength of his accomplishments, or from seeing him in the picture of his Invitational card, Rootwater Thief. Recently, he's been enjoying Japan a great deal, and not just because he's a card dealer. At Grand Prix - Sendai last year, he revamped Alan Comer's nascent Miracle-Gro deck and took it to the Top 4.
Long's deck is a study in extremes. He has a number of power cards like Grim Lavamancer and Painbringer, and a fair assortment of creatures, but he's also running a number of filler cards. Long recognizes his deck's shortcomings, but is confident that it can carry him into Day 2.
Frankly, it wouldn't be an Asian Grand Prix if Alex Shvartsman wasn't competing. Another Invitationalist, Shvartsman is a fixture on the Grand Prix Circuit, and has enjoyed tremendous success there. He also pens The Sideboard's weekly feature, "Week in Review".
His cards were not kind today. Though he had plenty of good cards, in order to get to twenty-two playables, he was forced to spread himself evenly across three colors. His mana is literally 6-6-6. Complicating things is his lack of spectacular finishers. He did not mince words, saying that his deck was terrible, and he'd need some luck to get into the drafts tomorrow.