Playing Magic in Japan – How is it Different from overseas? (Part 2)

I think there are a lot more cultural differences between Japan and other countries when it comes to Magic so I’d like to continue my articles about how they are different. Today I’ll be interviewing myself, so don’t think I’m weird for talking to myself ^_^.

My Name is Ryan and I’m from Northern Indiana in the USA.

TJH: How long have you been playing in Japan and how long have you played Magic total?

I’ve been playing Magic in Japan since April 2011, right before M12 was released. Having left all my cards back in the USA, I had to start my collection from scratch in Japan and bought quite a few boosters from the Scars of Mirrodin Block. I started playing magic for fun back during Revised Edition and Fallen Empires (1994?), but my first tournament was in Ice Age. I actually stopped playing around Stronghold and didn’t start playing against until Shadowmoor. I guess I’ve been playing for about 6-7 years if you don’t count the years I didn’t play.

TJH: When did you come to Japan/How long have you been here(or were you here)?

I came to Japan my first time in July 2005 on the JET program and lived here until July 2008 before heading home. I never played Magic during that time, but was playing casually with friends back in Indiana before I had left and played a lot after going back. I came back to Japan again in April 2010 and have been here to the present. Overall I’ve been in Japan for about 5.5 years.

TJH: What kind of decks do you use? (ie, standard, Modern) /What colors do you like to use? What is your playing style(ie control, aggro)?

I usually play standard but I’m interested in the Pauper format and might want to pick that up in the future. I’m a control player at heart and love playing blue, but I also like to burn things so red is my second favorite color. Control has been kinda weak lately, so it’s been really hard for me to use colors I’m not used to and to play aggro decks.

TJH: What deck have you used the most in Japan? Why?

The deck I used the most of in Japan was my rogue UR Titan Control deck. It had some really good weeks against the metagame but lately it hasn’t been able to cut it so I took it apart. It had great card drawing while also allowing you to counter spells, and late in the game it could slam the opponent with various titans and Wurmcoil Engines, but it wasn’t consistent enough in the current metagame to continue using.

TJH:  What is your opinion of Magic culture in Japan? (for example, what are the differences in the meta, playing style, and evolution of decks)

I noticed that the players in Japan are a lot more polite and rule oriented than they are in the USA. For example, each player counts out their sideboard for you before each game to show you they aren’t cheating, as well as the number of cards in their opening hand. There is a lot of technical play in Japan, so it’s not strange to see people quoting each phase as they play or describe what each card does as they play it.

And just like Brendan said in the last article, the prices of cards are crazy here. At one time Bonfire of the Damned was selling for 5500 yen (about $70), and stores were buying it for 3500 yen ($44). If you ever visit Japan definitely bring your money cards and see how much you can sell them for! You might just double your profits if you buy them cheaply in the USA!

TJH: How have your  decks performed? (how could you explain these results?)

I’m always playing with my own original decks because I don’t have the resources to play what everybody else is playing in the metagame. This leads to a lot of unorthodox combos and playing cards that nobody else has thought of. I’m currently playing a WG Life Gain deck and that has performed the best so far and has been really consisent, either getting a tie or a win lately. It all depends on which decks I go up against, but against aggro decks like UW Delver and Zombies it does really well. My UR Titan control deck has had its ups and downs, sometimes dominating the metagame, but also getting crushed when I didn’t draw the right cards. Needed to be more consistent. I’ve also played a BR Blood Artist suicide deck and a GBW Token deck before, but both of those never really took off.

TJH:  What kind of difficulties have you had to overcome in Japan while playing Magic?

The language was hard at first, but I met some awesome people who sat down with me and we went over the card vocabulary together (which you can find on a tab at the top of this page if you want to study them!). Being a casual player most of my life, I also wasn’t ready for the level of technical play in Japan.

TJH: What have you learned/changed about your playing style since you came to Japan?

I made tons of play mistakes my first few months in Japan, my timing was bad, and I had a lot to learn about stacking and triggers. Duels of the Planeswalkers for the PS3 actually helped me understand combos and synergy of cards more, as well as timing. I was really impatient and aggressive at first and it usually never worked out to my advantage. Learning to wait and to get the maximum value out of a card when it is played has helped me a lot.

TJH: Do you have any interesting experiences or stories about playing Magic in Japan that you’d like to share?

While writing a SCG article on the World Magic Cup Qualifiers in Nagoya, I got to briefly meet Katsuhiro Mori, the Magic World Champion from 2005. I’ve also met 2 of the members of this years World Cup team, Yuuta Takahashi and Nakai Sunao.

I’ve also played during a typhoon before, and while I protected my cards well in transit to the store, my friend didn’t and 13 of his best rares were totally destroyed by the water.

TJH: What has been the best thing about playing Magic in Japan?

Definitely meeting all of the people. Magic is a great way to meet new friends from around the world as the game itself is a universal language. I’ve moved to two new cities and each time I found a Magic shop and made new friends there. The players in Japan have also helped me to greatly improve my own technical play and I think I’m a much better player now than 1 year ago.


That’s it for today’s article. Thanks for reading and hopefully you learned something interesting. I will do more of these articles eventually as I meet fellow foreign Magic players. Sometime this weekend I’ll have up the next ROTATION article and I also have 3 new store profiles I’ll be showing you sometime next week as well. See you then!