Here at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, over 650 players have gathered to earn the title of Grand Prix Shizuoka Champion. Day One is a Sealed Deck battle to determine the 64 players who will advance to the Rochester Draft portion tomorrow. As the players sat in their seats waiting for their card pools opinions were divided about the best cards to open. Molder Slug or Glissa? Oblivion Stone or Solar Tide? Spikeshot Goblin or Loxodon Warhammer?
There are countless stories to follow this weekend. It seems there are more and more each time the Japanese Magic community stakes out another chunk of Top 8 at a major event. Grand Prix Shizuoka is following right on the heels of Pro Tour New Orleans where Japanese players sat in two of the available seats on Day Three. Masashi Oiso and Tomohiro Yokosuka are both in attendance this weekend. It is widely accepted that Oiso--last season's Rookie of the Year--is Japan's best player. Will Yokosuka begin a challenge of that title this weekend?
While it is easy to focus on recent success, one would be foolish to overlook Tsuyoshi Fujita when projecting the Top 8 this weekend. Fujita has made the Top 8 of almost every Asian Grand Prix he has ever participated in. Most recently he won Grand Prix: Bangkok with his eye-opening Goblin Bidding deck. Will he put the young upstarts in their place with yet another notch in his Grand Prix belt?
One of Japan's leading deck designers is Akira Asahara. He has posted back to back Top 16 finishes in Extended Pro Tours with his Alluren deck in Houston and his Seething Gob-Vantage deck in New Orleans. He is thought by many to be the next breakout star from Japan. Will the spotlight seek him out this weekend or will he be left standing just outside the velvet ropes of the Top 8 once again?
Jin Okamoto--the Last Emperor--is perhaps the most well known of all the Japanese players. He came tantalizingly close to becoming the first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour earlier this year--at the World Championships no less--but success in his homeland has eluded him. Despite a nealry perpetual state of three byes he has often failed to make the cut to Day Two at Japanese events. He will certainly be hoping for a strong pool of cards to reverse that trend.
Masahiko Morita is known as the Silver Collector. Despite having little to no Pro Tour success, Morita has made the Top 8 of a staggering eight Grand Prix events and has even won a team Grand Prix in Nagoya with PS2. He is known here as the Silver Collector for his individual performances. He has made the finals of a GP four times. Will this weekend be his chance to color up to Gold?
Stay tuned to these stories all weekend--and many more. We will be bringing you all the action and looking at how the best of the best build their Sealed Decks as the field winnows its way to less than a 10th of its original size. And then we'll be back to do it all again on Day Two.