Phil Taylor starts out as the inevitable favourite for a record 13th World Matchplay title when the event gets underway in Blackpool this weekend.
The Power has dominated the prestigious event over the past two decades and his hunger for glory shows no sign of diminishing as he heads to the Winter Gardens for darts summer showpiece.
The Matchplay suits Taylor down to the ground; the intense heat on stage is handled by the Stoke ace with consulate ease and the long format offers a safety cushion for his quality to shine through should he fall behind early in a match.
Should the 15-time World Champion lift the title this year, it would equal his record between 2000 and 2004 in which he was unbeaten in the event. He is the 6/4 favourite with Bet365
and will be out to avenge his defeat in the UK Open final by going one better in Blackpool.
One thing for sure however, this year's Matchplay line-up is the most fiercely competitive since the event was introduced back in 1994, and The Power is sure to face a tough challenge if he is to successfully defend his crown.
Here is the low-down in the potential contenders for glory in the second biggest event on the darting calendar:
Where better to begin than with the reigning and two-time World Champion, a man out to prove he is no one trick pony.
No one would argue that there is no bigger tournament to win than the World Championship, but aside from his back-to-back crowns at Ally Pally, Adrian Lewis is yet to win any other major.
Jackpot has blown hot and cold in 2012, failing to reach the Premier League play-offs and suffering an early exit at the UK Open.
Although his two European Tour campaigns brought little success, recent performances on the floor suggest he is ready to turn on the style at any time.
His undoubted natural ability and power scoring make him a formidable opponent on the big stage and he will be hoping to go one better than his run in this event last year which took him to teh Semi-Finals.
Dave Chisnall heads into this event as darts' man of the moment; since bursting onto the PDC scene by beating Phil Taylor in the World Championships, Chizzy has shone on the circuit and is now a firm fixture inside the world's top 16.
He has picked up countless titles on the ProTour as well as proving his calibre on the big stage in European Tour events and at the UK Open in June.
The St Helens star is displaying a new-found confidence on the doubles, combined with a clinical scoring game and looks good value at 12/1 should he hold it together under the heat of the TV lights.
He could run into Phil Taylor in the Quarter-Finals, but has two previous victories over the Stoke great already under his belt and will fear no one.
Aussie ace Whitlock is one of the most consistent performers on the PDC circuit and possesses a superb all-round game.
The unflappable Wizard will take encouragement from his run to the Premier League final in May and will be out to set the record straight by banishing his defeat to Andy Hamilton in the Quarter-Finals of last year's Matchplay, in a game which saw him lose nine straight legs after leading 15-8.
The 43-year-old is regarded as one of the best players yet to have won a major ranking title and has a genuine chance of doing so this time around.
Raymond van Barneveld 14/1
Popular Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld heads to Blackpool on the back of a terrific run of form off-screen.
Barney ended a long wait for a PDC title by winning the European Open earlier this month and has displayed a new-found hunger to succeed on the ProTour, gaining vital match experience week-in, week-out in floor tournaments.
One factor that often halts Barney's progress in major events is his inability to beat the higher ranked players, but the five-time World Champion has defeated the likes of Phil Taylor and Dave Chisnall in non-ranking tournaments of late.
Barneveld is likely to face a tough run-in if he is to reach the latter stages, and could run into either Terry Jenkins or Kim Huybrechts in round two. Nonetheless, he has made it to the final of this event in recent years and on current form, Barney provides strong each-way value at 14/1.
Multiple major winner Wade is no stranger to the famous Winter Gardens stages having won the title in 2007 and reached the final on three other occasions.
The left-hander often produces his best form in this event and will be out to banish a poor year so far by his standards with a strong run at the World Matchplay.
On current form, many would suggest The Machine is short priced at 11/1 for the title, but he is renowned for going on to lift the trophy after Phil Taylor has exited the competition, something which, he will be hoping happens again this year.