Fighter's Spotlight

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters and their careers. Here you'll find names, regions, ages, the titles won by those fighters, their deck type and interviews with them. Fighters are listed by which competition they first appeared in, however they may be relisted in following competitions to remove ambiguity.

Current status describes the highest title that they currently hold, and whether they are a reigning or former holder of that title. Former holding is indicated by a year being written in place of “reigning.” A reigning holder has not been defeated at that level of participation, while a former holder either did not participate in the current tournament season or was defeated in a contest for it. Runner-up positions are not actually titles if no award was given, but are treated as such if the fighter has not won a title.

The order of magnitude for titles, listing from smallest to greatest, is Regional, National and International. Event titles are in their own class, and carry a different weight depending on the area and nature of the event. Note that in Japan national-level competitions have so far taken place twice a year; there always two reigning National Champions of each age division and three others of the triples division. Regarding style, terms like "national champion," "international champion" and "world champion" are usually only capitalized when using it to refer to a champion by title or when listing titles.

Estimates as of February 2013 project that there are just under 500 active pros in the Japanese scene, and less than 50 in the global English scene.

Summer 2011 National Championship
This was the first series of tournaments to be held under Bushiroad's management, naturally held in the native Japanese format, and the Summer ring for the 2011 tournament season. The entire tour lasted through eight regional events, culminating in the Tokyo finals. The tournaments were divided into two divisions, Seniors and Juniors, with the Juniors being comprised of elementary students and younger.

Many tactics still in use today were innovated during this time frame, with Soul Saver Dragon-based Royal Paladin being the dominant deck of the day. The available cards of the time were mostly from the first two sets, BT01: Descent of the King of Knights and BT02: Onslaught of Dragon Souls, with some promotional cards distributed with the official manga, in KeroKero Ace or in Cardfight packs. Following this tournament, Barcgal was restricted from being the FVG in Japanese play, due to a design oversight that led to Saver Dragon decks having a greater dominance over the pro scene. This restriction would later be applied to the English game, just a few months in advance of WCS 2012.
Seniors Division
Murakami Kazuya/村上和也 
Shitakawachi Kouta/下河内広太 (National Champion)

Juniors Division
Kamosaki Mayu/鴨崎真悠 (National Champion)

Vanguard Grand Prix 2011
Possibly the most well-received of the tournaments to date, this was the second and final leg of events for the 2011 tournament season, forming Japan's first Winter national from October to December. This was also the first event where BT03: Demonic Lord Invasion would see use, with the available card pool running up through BT04: Eclipse of Illusionary Shadows. The unique balancing of cards at the time created one of the most equal formats that Cardfight has yet seen, with a vast diversity of decks including rare appearances by Megacolony, Shadow Paladin and Dimension Police. (Due to EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1 and EB02: Banquet of Divas being released on the day of the Grand Prix finals, the cards from these sets were not usable in the tournament, so their debut takes place further down in the timeline.)

While the diversity of play at the regional level prevented any one clan from being called emblematic of the time, the tournament finals continued the trend of Royal Paladin dominance, while breaking the mold for the Juniors division with one of the first fully competitive Kagerou decks. Of note, this tournament marks the debut of Rikino Sakura in the pro scene, who would later appear in the Fighter's Road and be recognized as one of the most accomplished cardfighters in history. Her Goku deck, while previously extant in the Japanese format as played by overseas fighters, was not widely recognized prior to the Grand Prix due to the communication barrier between eastern and western fighters. Because of that, this tournament marked its first real appearance among Japanese cardfighters, concluding in a mirror match for the Juniors division, while Masuda would prove the continued viability of Soul Saver Dragon for the Seniors. Beyond these decks, Goddess of the Full Moon Tsukuyomi continues to be noted as one of the most successful decks of this era, falling victim chiefly to acts of collapsing on her own sword by decking out.

A major difference between the Summer and Winter nationals is that during the Grand Prix, Tokyo was not divided into two blocks as it was in the Summer national. This was possibly to consolidate the tournament structure so that there would not be nine tournaments before the finals, as the Grand Prix retained all of the locations of the Summer event while also including Kanazawa as a new entry in the regionals.
Seniors Division
Masuda Yuusaku/益田優作 (National Champion)

Juniors Division
Rikino Sakura/力野桜 (National Champion)

Vanguard Festival 2012 Trio Battle
The 2012 Trio Battles were a series of nine team tournaments from early in 2012, lasting from January to February. Unlike FR2012 and FC2012, the Festival did not crown a traditional national champion, nor did it have a championship of regional qualifiers as in prior events. This structure lent itself to a more diverse format overall, but came about in the wake of the release of BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades and its now-frowned upon crossride mechanic. While more diverse than the tournaments to follow in late 2012, the Trio Battles were approached as a repeated stalemate between Majesty Lord Blaster, The End and Phantom Blaster Overlord decks, with Tsukuyomi and Asura Kaiser/Perfect Raizer jumping in as fourth and fifth guns in their standoff.

This tournament lacked a definitive conclusion to cement one deck as its defining point, and the diversity of play at the time was still enough to hamper attempts at pinning down who the real king was, but it did herald the entry of Dragonic Overlord The End into the game and his eventual branding as best deck in format by fighters in coming tournaments. Due to the smaller scale of the Festival compared to previous events, only Tokyo, Osaka and Hakata participated in the Trio Battles, with Tokyo once more being divided into two blocks. This was the first tournament in which there was no Senior-Junior split, which makes some fighters enigmas compared to those that came before and after them.
Kakuhara Misaki/角原美咲
Watanabe Genki/渡辺元気

Fighter's Road 2012 National Championship (Retroactively recognized as Summer 2012 National Championship)
This was a series of eight regional tournaments, culminating in the championship finals being held once again in Tokyo. Fighter's Road forms the Summer ring of 2012 tournaments, and is the true first national championship of 2012. This championship saw Dragonic Overlord The End as the most prolific deck, beating out many strong alternative candidates, including the limit break clans that many touted as the answer to crossride. The available card pool ran from BT01 up through BT06: Breaker of Limits and to EB03: Cavalry of Black Steel. Ultimately 2012 did not disappoint its fans, as both the Seniors and Juniors divisions were subject to massive upsets from the King of Knights, Alfred and Scarlet Witch, CoCo in the finals, both of whom emerged from left field as the secret decks of the championship. Until this point neither deck had curried strong favor for the title, with Gotou Kiyomi being one of the most underestimated cardfighters, while in the Juniors division many fans were unaware that Rikino Sakura had been participating--much less that she had switched decks--up until she won the national title.

One major controversy from the time were the results of Kanamaru Makoto's plays. Initially he was celebrated as a skilled underdog fighter, but on the day of the finals it was revealed that he had a history of cheating in his hometown, and may have tampered with FR2012. Because of this, the validity of his matches remains in question even today, and Kanamaru has been penalized from entering any official events until late January of 2014.
Seniors Division
Fukushima Takahiro/福島嵩大
Tabayashi Yoshiyuki/田林由行
Minami Takeshi/南武
Kanamaru Makoto/金丸眞人
Shibata Yuusuke/柴田祐輔 
Gotou Kiyomi/後藤聖弥 (National Champion)
Nakamura Seishirou/中村誠士朗
Yamaguchi Kouhei/山口晃平

Juniors Division
Chiku Fumiya/知久史弥 
Rikino Sakura/力野桜 (National Champion)
Horikawa Eiki/堀川詠生

Fighter's Climax 2012 National Championship
The second tour of tournaments in Japan for the 2012 national title, this series began in October 2012 and ended in December of the same year. Despite the upsets of the Summer title, Dragonic Overlord The End once again emerged as a strong contender alongside Majesty Lord Blaster. Both decks had since release hung on the edge of, but never quite taken a championship title, making the format very tense as it became apparent that they were both reaching a more mature strategy. The card pool for this tournament was initially BT01-BT08, but from Sapporo onwards EB04 and EB05 were usable. Also, because the national finals took place on December 9th, the finals coincided with WCS2012.

The titles eventually went to cardfighters with Majesty Lord Blaster and The End decks in the Seniors and Juniors divisions, respectively, marking the first and possibly last time that this will take place. Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi was a serious secondary contender for the senior title due to the innovations and prominence of Tanaka Shouta, which would go on to become widespread in the format. FC2012 ended in widespread shock as the restricted list was updated for the first time since after before the Grand Prix, with new rules instituted to clear Dragonic Overlord The End, Tsukuyomi and Majesty Lord Blaster from the pro scene. While The End's legacy was all but abandoned after this, Tsukuyomi was instead played into a BT09-on Goddess of the Sun, Amaterasu variant and Lord Blaster remained viable due to the effectiveness of his first vanguard and the release of Blaster Blade Burst for the weakened subgroup to fall back on.

Seniors Division
Watanabe Hiroki/渡辺紘生
Tanaka Shouta/田中将太
Nakamura Seishirou/中村誠志朗 (National Champion)
Murakami Ryuu/村上龍

Juniors Division
Nakagawa Yuuki/中川祐岐
Eboshida Hirmoi/烏帽子田拓海 (National Champion)

New Years' Trio Festival 2013
This series of tournaments served as a continuation of the previous year's Vanguard Festival, welcoming the new year with a three-on-three team format tournament that better lent itself to underdog and rogue decks. At the same time, these two tournaments served as a preview of what the BT09-on format looked like on a national scale. Unlike in the 2012 Festival, 2013 saw the tournament divided between Osaka and Tokyo, and further subdivided into individual blocks A through F and A through K, with each winning team member becoming event champions.

One key development from this tournament was further exploration into decks which ran only four grade 4s. Infamously, the restricted list caused Majesty Lord Blaster to take on the best aspects of Tsukuyomi under Tachibana Souten, with a similar list emerging in Tokyo and another, Murakumo-based variant under Kagawa Hitori. As with previous team tournaments, the rules for the Trio Festival provided that no decks could mix cards from different clans, with Royal Paladin as the soul exception, being able to have up to 10 Shadow Paladin cards in their deck. Furthermore, no team could have repeating clans among their roster, so each fighter had to use a different clan.

Osaka Tournament
D Block
Tachibana Souten

Tokyo Tournament
F Block
Kagawa Hitori

Planet Cray Total War
A tournament set to begin in March, which operates under special rules that make it the first unrestricted tournament since NC2011. With special attention paid to restricted cards the Epitome of Knowledge, Silvest grade 4 promo card, any official card available to the public may be used in this tournament. The event is highly anticipated because it will allow a revisiting of the old Barcgal strategy and provide a view of its effectiveness with Exculpate the Blaster, giving foresight into just what the situation surrounding a pro scene with Barcgal is. Silvest's full effectiveness will likewise be on display; grade 4s are heavily panned for upsetting smooth deckbuilding and locking oneself out of riding grade 3s for the rest of the game, so any match where he is in play will be watched closely.

Fighter's Road 2013
Set to begin in May, this will form the first half of the 2013 tournament season proper. Notably, FR2013 will be BT11-on, with BT10 and EB06 newly introduced to the format. The result is that even before their releases, the world of pros has its eyes on the performance of the Liberator, Eraser and Jewel Knight cards, the new Blaster deck that debuted back during the Trio Festival, EB06's Eternal Idol Pacifica and BT11's Seal Dragon Blockade crossride.

World Championship 2012
This was a global tournament lasting from September through December of 2012, to determine the first world champion. Easily the largest-scale competition in Cardfight history, this championship included participants from fifteen different countries, with an estimated 1600 fighters participating in North America alone. Notably, some titles from 2011 like the Australian national title were scaled back into being regional qualifier titles, while others that represented a nation were put in a similar frame, to fit with the overall context of an international system. This was also the first series of global tournaments to be managed and overseen by Bushiroad directly.

Due to the strange circumstances of the English format and the massive scale of WCS2012, the card pool was very diverse between individual tournaments. Limit break was introduced to the format ahead of crossride, so the card pool initially ran from BT01-BT03 and BT06-EB03 with no EB01 or EB02. Post-Chicago the tournament included BT07, and by the time of the Asia-Oceanian championship in November EB02 was released. This limited card pool, unorthodox application of Gold Paladin cards and a degree of bandwagoning greatly bolstered the popular of Great Silver Wolf, Garmore decks, which eventually gave way to the greater influence of Brandons Smith and Bastianelli's Spectral Duke Dragon builds. At the same time, the popular perception of the English pro scene as stagnant combined with the multiple new set releases during the championship still lead many fighters to seek innovation rather than become cemented in the state of the game. Because of this, decks that were mostly unproven in the Japanese format began to see further experimentation in the English scene, eventually putting unexpected clans like Pale Moon in the spotlight.

Ultimately Spectral Duke Dragon took the international title, with Pellinore, Garmore and Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion as the runner-ups.
North American National Championship 2012
Toronto, Canada
Brandon Smith (International Champion)
Dallas, Texas
Thomas Cassidy
Chicago, Illinois
Brandon Bastianelli
Los Angeles
Donald William "Will" Buckley

European National Championship 2012
Christopher Fernau (National Champion)

North America
Stand Up Challenge Cup 2013
Beginning on March 8th and ending on June 2nd, this will be the second national championship to be held in North America. The Challenge Cup is a three-stage tournament progressing from 270 shop qualifiers at the local level, to 25 regional tournaments, and from their to the national finals. The winner will be crowned National Champion. Due to the set releases of the time, BT04 and BT05 will both be available at the onset of the tournament season, while EB01 will join two days before the shop qualifiers end and TD07 will become available during the regionals. Because of this, the Blaster deck will receive a severe upgrade immediately preceding the regional tournaments in Exculpate the Blaster, who will be packaged with EB01 boxes.

Fighter's Shoplight
Fighter's Shoplight is a subproject that aims to distribute information regarding local shop and play spaces. In addition to the stores tracked down here, the section is open to reader submissions.

United States of America
Rockin Rooster Comics & Games

The Burrow