Yuuya Watanabe Member Statement

Life with a Hint of Magic

As I mentioned in my profile, a friend in elementary school asked me to play, and I’ve been playing for 15 years ever since. It didn’t take long for me to become the top player of my class, so when I heard that other people were playing at card shops, I had to check it out. They were generally older than me by quite a bit, and I couldn’t win at all. It was then I realized Magic was a very multi-layered, complex game. I hated losing, so I decided then and there to devote myself to the game.

At school my friend would divide up the colors, and I ended up going white. I remember casting Angelic Blessing on a bunch of my creatures and simply attacking. Of course that didn’t work well at the shops, and I switched to using midrange, tricolor decks. Lightning Angel and Fact or Fiction were my go-to cards.

My friends stopped playing when middle school began, so I became good friends with the regulars at the shops. I used all of my allowance on buying new cards—even my lunch money (laughter).

I still like Lightning Angel, and Fact or Fiction is practically burned into my brain. Everyday after school I spent about 2 hours practicing by myself how I’d separate the card piles (laughter).

When I play Magic, I go all-in, even when it comes to practicing. I think that all those 2-hour days of separating the cards helped me form a solid foundation. Even now, I spend each day leading up to events practicing. You can’t use Magic Online for Pro Tour practice, so I’d gather up some friends and practice like it was a Grand Prix.

There are times that I practice myself into exhaustion. Once, for example, the Worlds (individual) and the World Magic Cup (team play) overlapped, so I had to practice 7 formats. I’d only get about an hour and a half of sleep each day for a month. Then about two or three days before the events, I fainted.

You can’t slouch on your team members and winning the individual event is extremely gratifying. All of your actions are your own, so you can’t skimp on practice.

The Pro Player

In my school days, my interest in Magic extended as far as local tournaments. Even when I got invited to play in Pro Tours, I never thought about playing magic overseas.

The turning point was when I won Grand Prix Kyoto. Someone—I don’t remember who anymore—said to me, “You should try to become Rookie of the Year (the player who has collected the most pro points in their first year as a pro).” I didn’t even know that was a thing, but I thought, “Sure, why not?”

Yuuya Watanabe and friends at Grand Prix Kyoto in 2007.

My first Pro Tour was in Yokohama, and I fell out on the first day. The next Po Tour I paired up with Shuhei (Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura), got into the next Pro Tour, and it kind of snowballed from there. My Pro Players Club level had hit Gold at the time (levels for the next season are determined by total pro points earned in the previous season), so I thought, “How about just one more year?” I was totally caught in Magic’s grasps (laughter).

I became a sponsored pro after Mint approached me with an invitation, but I’d actually discussed it earlier with an international team. I ended up turning the international team down because I believed that receiving money from abroad would not be an effective way to encourage my own country to support its players. Therefore, when Mint, a Japanese sponsor, came to me, I joined them with the intention of raising awareness for more Japanese pros to be sponsored by Japanese companies. Since I joined them in 2013, the number of Japanese companies that sponsor has gone up, which I’m happy to see.

Then Cygames came to me with a great opportunity. I talked it over with Mint, joined Team Cygames, and I hope this growth in Japanese companies that sponsor continues. Speaking of which, I’m familiar with their games, but I haven’t played any yet. I see players totally absorbed in those games; I’d be in trouble if I got hooked on them too (laughter).

About the Team

Out of the Magic players who came after me, I think Sebata (Yuuki Ichikawa) is the best. He’s especially good at deck building, with a clear vision in his mind of what he wants; he always has a reason for, and not for, using a certain card. And he’s good at talking. He’ll be the star of Cygames’ videos (laughter).

I’ve known Yamaken (Kentaro Yamamoto) the longest of the three. We see each other a lot through work. He’s got a controlled play-style, almost zen-like. He has this approach toward Magic of not beating himself up on a misplay, and I think he’s the example of what we as a team should try to be.

I haven’t known Teruya as long as the other two, but I can feel his passion as a pro and his excitement to play overseas. He’s an all-in practice-type like me; I always see him on Magic Online. I’m rooting for him. He has endless potential, and whatever weaknesses he has is addressed with practice. We could get a lot of practice in if he moves to Tokyo. I’d love to see him here.

What’s Next

My goals each year never change: reach Platinum level, win a Grand Prix, and make a Pro Tour Top 8.

Advancing to Platinum is the lowest hurdle in my mind, and not making it sends a shiver down my spine. Winning a Grand Prix is more important to me than a Top 8 because then I would break Kai Budde’s (legendary player nicknamed the German Juggernaut) record with 8 Grand Prix championships.

I’ve been playing with the goal of being voted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. The next vote is this summer, and I hope I can get at least 90% of the votes. There are a lot of voters who think I should be in the Hall of Fame, so I want to be able to meet those expectations.

(Hall of Fame candidates are selected by a committee of players and personnel who meet certain criteria. Only 2 players have ever received over 90% of the committee’s votes: the aforementioned Kai Budde and Channel Fireball’s Luis Scott-Vargas.)

My dream is to never retire from Magic, and that’s something I can’t do without everyone and everything around me, like the sponsors and the fans. I want to see Magic continue to grow, and I want to do that with everyone.

To My Supporters

We’re aiming to take this new environment and transform it into a winning team. We have our own decks and play styles now, but in the near future I think we’ll make the adjustments to think and win as one.

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