Who was the best Player of the Year ever? Part 1 – The rise of Japan by Michael Maxwell

Who was the best Player of the Year ever? Part 1 – The rise of Japan by Michael Maxwell

This years PoY race was one of the most exciting in a long time, Brad Nelson’s seemingly insurmountable lead quickly looked all too small as his bid for glory at Worlds fell by the wayside. PV sailed into the top 8 and Guillaume Matignon decided that after going 3-3 on day 1 he had had enough of losing, with the end result being Matignon taking the whole thing down to end the PoY race in a tie for the first time.

Player of the Year 2010 will be determined in a play-off match in Paris at the first Pro Tour of 2011. But this article isn’t about that. What I want to know is this – who was the best Player of the Year– ever? You could just compare the Pro Points totals of each winner, but that isn’t at all fair since the number of events and the points payout at those events changes from year to year.

In this article, hopefully part 1 of 2, I am going to cover each player of the year from 2010 back to the 2003-2004 season. I say hopefully part 1 of 2, as information on the Pro Points given out at each event is hard to find pre-2003, although with a bit of luck I will be able to dig it up at some point and write the second half of this. The way I will determine the best PoY ever is to calculate how many Pro Points they could have accrued by winning every event that year, then divide their winning total by this number. Whoever has the highest ratio wins. Now, I know that players do not attend every event, but looking back through the coverage to find out exactly how many events each PoY attended would be very time consuming. If you want to see a breakdown of that too then let me know in the comments and I’ll try and get around to it!


In the 2010 season 25 points were awarded for a PT win, 10 for a GP or Nationals win, and 6 for winning Team Worlds. With 4 Pro Tours and 18 GPs, none of which clashed, a grand total of 296 Pro Points were available in 2010. Matignon and Nelson tied at 66 giving a ratio of 0.222. It’s worth noting that Matignon got 28 points at worlds, 20 at PT San Juan at 8 at French Nats, meaning he got 56 of his 66 points from just 3 events. If Worlds started the year rather than ending it, leveling Matignon high enough to allow him to travel, I’m sure he would have won PoY.

On a side note, Martin Juza and Shuuhei Nakamura both made level 8 without making top 8 of any Pro Tour this year. Talk about consistent. Simply amazing.


In 2009 Yuuya Watanabe converted his earlier Rookie of the Year title into a full PoY title, denying countryman Tomoharu Saito a repeat of his 2007 success in the process. 4 PTs and 19 GPs meant 306 points were available. Watanabe racked up 78 points, giving a ratio of 0.255.

2009 was also the first year that 10 points were awarded for a GP win, previously it had been 8.


4 Pro Tours and 21 GPs took place in 2008, and 2008 was also the first year Pro Points were given out at National Championships. Also, although there were 21 GPs there were 2 weekends with simultaneous events, so any one player could only win 19 of them giving a grand total of 284 points on offer. With a total of 70 points Shuuhei Nakamura comfortably took home the title and obtained a ratio of 0.246.

2008 also saw a resurgence in American Magic as the USA took home 3 PT titles, including a sensational victory for Jon Finkel. The United States also won the Worlds Teams trophy.


2007 was the last season we had 5 PTs, along with 16 GPs although there was one weekend with simultaneous events, giving a possible total of 242 points. Tomoharu Saito won by 6 points with a total of 68, giving a ratio of 0.281.

2007 also saw the first and quite possibly last Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour, famously won by the ‘Sliver Kids’ Chris Lachmann and Jake van Lunen. 20 points were awarded to each player for this win, and only 6 each for winning any of the Two-Headed Giant GPs.

2007 also saw Kai Budde make his unquestioned entrance into the Hall of Fame.


In 2006 we had 5 PTs and 22 GPs, although a whopping 5 weekends saw simultaneous events. 2006 was also the first year that 8 points were awarded for a GP win whereas previously it had been 6, although it was still 6 for a team GP win. Given that the 2 team events were run at the same time as individual GPs for the sake of this article I’m going to count the individual event towards the possible total. The number of points for winning Worlds was cut from 32 to 25, and 20 were given for a team PT win, giving an available total of 262.

Shouta Yasooka squeeked home ahead of who would turn out to be the 2008 PoY, Shuuhei Nakamura, with a total of 60 points for a ratio of 0.229.

2006 saw 2 Pro Tour debutants in the top 4 of PT Kobe, including eventual winner Jan-Moritz Merkel. The last Team Pro Tour was won by team Kajiharu80 featuring Yasooka and Tomoharu Saito. Probably the most exciting top-deck ever was also witnessed at the first Pro Tour Honolulu as Craig ‘Oh my God it’s Lightning Helix’ Jones dispatched Olivier Ruel in the semi-finals.


2005 saw one of the most epic battles in PoY history as Kenji Tsumura and Olivier Ruel chased each other all over the world in pursuit of victory. The longest season in Pro Tour history lasted 15 months, 7 Pro Tours and an incredible 31 GPs. There were 6 weekends of clashing GPs, and only 6 points for a win (4 in Team events). There were 32 points for a Worlds victory, 25 for an individual PT, and 20 in Team events giving a grand total of 329. Tsumura beat Ruel by a single point, 84 to 83, giving a ratio of 0.255.

2005 saw the inaugural Hall of Fame inductions, Jon Finkel leading in a class of 5 of the earliest greats of Magic.


In the 2003-2004 season Gabriel Nassif famously beat out Nicolai Herzog for the PoY title, despite winning zero Pro Tours to Herzog’s two, thus becoming the first PoY not to win a Pro Tour in that year (although he did finish second twice) and ending Kai Budde’s 3 year reign. 7 PTs and 26 GPs, with 4 weekends of clashes, meant a total of 354 points were up for grabs. There were 32 points for an individual PT win and 24 for a team win, with no team GPs being held. Nassif, the last non-Japanese winner of Player of the Year until this season, picked up 86 points for a ratio of 0.243.

The 03-04 season also saw Pro Tour debutant Julien Nuijten win the World Championships and Rookie of the Year in the same weekend. Masashiro Kuroda became the first of what would be many Japanese Pro Tour winners in Kobe.

It is also interesting to note the number of points for a PT/GP win compared to modern day. 32/6 placed a lot more emphasis on doing well at PTs than the current 25/10 scheme does, although this is probably necessary given the reduced number of PTs.

End of Part 1:

So, going back through the years to the 2003-2004 season, we see that the Japanese dominated the PoY race in recent times producing 5 straight winners. The highest ratio so far is 0.281 obtained by Tomoharu Saito, quite a bit clear of Kenji Tsumura and Yuuya Watanabe who are tied for second with ratios of 0.255. The lowest ratio so far is… this year, actually. Nelson and Matignon could only manage a ratio of 0.222 resulting in the easiest to win PoY race for at least 7 seasons. Interesting stuff.

The small difference in the ratio needed to win PoY over the years is also interesting, with the gap between the highest and lowest ratios being only 0.059. It seems that if you can get near 25% of the maximum points on offer then you have a very good chance of being Player of the Year.

So, can anyone knock Saito off his perch as best PoY ever? Has there been an easier race than in 2010?

To find out, join me next time for Part 2 – the early years and the reign of Kai.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Maxwell

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