After 12 rounds of competition, Yohei Yamamoto stands on top of the mountain in first place, with a record of 9-1-2. Prior to this weekend, he has done nothing noteworthy in the realm of competitive Magic, and actually had to grind into this weekend’s tournament. While many players consider the power of Psychatog to be far less impressive than it once was, Yamamoto has proven that it’s still a force to be reckoned with. The deck gave him an invitation, carried him through the swiss rounds, and may end up giving him a spot on the Japanese National team and maybe even a National Championship. Joining him in the Top 8 are Nao Atsuta, Kazumasa Shiki, Makihito Mihara and Tooru Maegawa, all of whom were relatively unknown before this weekend. Last year, however, Kazuhiko Mitsuya came into Japanese Nationals as an unknown commodity and walked away with the National Championship trophy, so there is precedent for it to happen again.
This is not to say that the Top 8 is not without its share of star power. Osamu Fujita has had plenty of success on the Grand Prix circuit, and was featured in Gary Wise’s recent article on Magic for his “insatiable Magic appetite”. The man simply loves to play, and apparently he loves to win too, as he made it to Sunday with the help of his mono-black control deck. Kotarou Ootsuka has a chance for redemption, as he made Top 8 of this tournament last year, but failed to make the National Team. Tomorrow, he gets a second chance to represent his country at Worlds, and will be playing his green/blue madness deck. Squeaking in at 8th place is Hisaya Tanaka, who came in thirteenth at Pro Tour Chicago. Tanaka is running what is certainly the most shocking deck of the tournament- Ponza. To be fair it’s not quite Ponza, but rather a Goblin deck with land destruction. He anticipated a field with Clerics, Wake and Psychatog, which are matchups where the speed of Goblins with the disruption of land destruction would make a potent combination. Tomorrow will be the true test, as Tanaka looks to silence the naysayers and play his deck to a National team berth. Rounding out the standings and barely missing Top 8 on tiebreakers are Pro Tour veteran Ken’ichi Fujita, PS2 member Masahiko Morita and Hirotaka Hata.
Japan has had an incredible season on the Pro Tour, with three Top 8 finishes. The country has gained respect by leaps and bounds within the international Magic community, becoming a significant force to be reckoned with. An impressive team finish at Worlds in August will put the cap on this season, showing to the world that Japanese Magic has arrived. Who will carry the Japanese flag at Berlin and represent the nation? Tomorrow, we will find out.