Kwan Ching Yuen
Hailing from Singapore, the eighteen year old Yuen stormed into the Grand Prix with a vengeance, rattling off eleven straight wins before falling back onto the infamous "ID" game into the Top 8. He isn't a complete stranger to success on the competitive Magic, with a National Finalist title from two years ago, and has smelt greenbacks from the Pro Tour. One could say that his affinity for Affinity (if you'd pardon the pun) originated from Pro Tour- Kobe, the Pro Tour where he made money, and he has been playing the deck since. From his point of view, the format's certainly better than the Skullclamp era, although he still feels that Affinity is too strong for most decks to handle, although it's manageable to the point where he'd call the Standard format healthy as a whole. Outside of Magic, he is also currently pursuing a music diploma at the La'Salle College of the Arts in Singapore.
Sim Han How
The local, twenty-year old, ex-National Champion is back on track with his game with his own Affinity deck that brought him a comfortable second place finish coming into this Top 8. Other than winning the Malaysian National Championships in 2002, his proudest achievement is holding Malaysia's only Pro Tour Top 8 finish at the World Championships that same year. Another Affinity player at heart, he chose to run the grey based on consistency, and has tweaked the deck to offer up less of the hands that aren't worthy of the Affinity name. He is rather indifferent when it comes to this format, although he too admits that the power of Affinity is still a tad too high. He's about to embark upon "real life", completing his final year of study at the Systematic College in this very city.
There is little introduction needed for the five-time Grand Prix finalist, and Venice Masters champion (as part of PS2), Morita that hasn't already been said. Having played Ravager Affinity religiously since its inception, he gave little thought to any of the other deck archetypes in the current Standard format, although he did briefly consider following Fujita with Eternal Slide (Emphasis on 'briefly'). He feels that the format's a lot more enjoyable, now that Skullclamp is out of the picture, and definitely gives the nod towards the DCI's actions. His humble living at a convenience store lies in stark contrast to his accomplishments in the Magic world, and he sits here with yet another Top 8, hungry for that ever-elusive championship title (As I type this, he is playing in his sixth Grand Prix finals).
Zhen Xing Gao
Being the first player from mainland China to break the Top 8 of a Grand Prix (or any major event for that matter) has got to be an honour, and the twenty-one year old Gao from Beijing is glad that the honour has been bestowed upon him. Upon viewing the standings after the swiss rounds, he was elated, and many bear hugs from the supporting Chinese players ushered him into the Top 8. Running his own card shop in Beijing, China, the control-loving Gao chose the Eternal Slide deck with Affinity as the number one target on his hit-list. He was successful, meeting (and beating!) no less than seven Affinity decks en route to his Top 8 finish, and faces a Top 8 chock full of the much-hated (or much-loved, depending on your point of view) artifacts. He feels that Standard's balanced, with many viable archetypes, and wholeheartedly feels that Affinity isn't too strong for the environment, which his record can attest to. In any case, his accomplishment here is the start of his professional Magic career, and possibly the start of China's breakthrough onto the tournament scene.
Cheng Wee Pek
At twenty-seven and going strong, Pek had no intention of playing anything but Affinity coming into the tournament. As one of those fortunate enough to have spotted the gem more commonly known as 'Arcbound Ravager' upon viewing the Darksteel spoiler, he quickly bought up a set of Ravagers and sat back in maniacal laughter as their prices (and the popularity of the deck) skyrocketed. Interestingly enough, Pek feels things would've been fun if Skullclamp had not been banned, since Affinity players would now be forced with a choice between the almighty Clamp and Cranial Plating. He still wouldn't hesitate to give the Clamp its rightful due, but it was a thought nonetheless. The addition of Cranial Plating has made Affinity a lot more tempo-oriented, but overall, he too agrees that Affinity is largely contained, and feels that the archetypes in the current Standard environment are both numerous, and also have a definite counter, citing Eternal Slide or Blue-White control as a counter to Affinity. Outside of Magic, Pek is still a solid gamer, battling things out in the Warhammer Fantasy realms, and this could very well be the start of his Magic career.
Twenty-three year old Chan surprised himself by making the playoffs of this tournament. He's come close before, placing a good eleventh place back in Grand Prix-Singapore 2000, but his studies at the National University of Singapore have kept him from devoting too much time to the magical card game. Wielding yet another Affinity deck, this time built by his friends Royce Chai and Sim Loong Wang, he chose to run it since it simply "seemed good," as he so put it. He has no qualms expressing his satisfaction at the format, though he feels that the decks are all too-draw dependant for his liking. He also cites metagame considerations as part of a healthy environment, allowing players to actively counter the accepted best deck, or simply just run the best deck to success, as he has done.
Back for another Top 8 in the South-East Asian circuit, the twenty-nine year old player has been riding what has so far been a pretty darn successful season. Coming straight off winning the Japanese National Championships, his presence here adds to his list of Top 8s, too numerous to count. Unfortunately, he couldn't introduce something completely format-breaking this year, with playtest time devoted to Pro Tour-Seattle instead. Instead, he simply chose to run Eternal Slide because he played it here and there at his local shop tournaments. He wanted to play Affinity, but felt that the mirror matchup was too difficult, and claims that even he cannot play the Affinity deck well. The deck is certainly much harder to play with Plating instead of Clamp, and when asked, he quickly points towards Tooth and Nail and Affinity as being the two top decks of the Standard format. He was a little concerned just prior to the tournament about his matchup against Goblin Bidding and Tooth and Nail, but such fears turned out unrealized, with him beating numerous Goblin Bidding decks on the way here. He also feels that the results here are somewhat unusual, with the hate directed in the Kuala Lumpur field directed primarily at Tooth and Nail, thus giving Affinity it's success here.
Khang Jong Kuan
The youngest of the bunch, the seventeen-year old Kuan wasn't even going to play in this Grand Prix until finally being coaxed into it by his brother Friday night. He is a little embarrassed about his deck of choice, seeing as with the clock ticking against him the night before, he simply took something off the deck and played a few games with it to get a feel. He soon found the Red-Blue Obliterate deck to be a sound choice, and isn't shy claiming an astounding 80% record against Affinity. He has an 8-2-1 record against the artifacts to back his claim up, and though he was eventually defeated by Affinity, he attributes this loss to some mistakes of his, coupled with manascrew. It is somewhat ironic that his performance here comes in the middle of a quick siesta from Magic, as he completes his secondary education at St. John's Institution right here in Kuala Lumpur.