The Japan Metagame Diaries: Out of Control

(NOTE – This is a Star City Games report that I wrote a few weeks ago. With all of the Magic news going on in August, I believe there is a good chance that it won’t be published on the website. However, the information is still useful for deckbuilding I think so I’m sharing it with my readers who are interested. It’s rather long, so prepare yourself! If the information is eventually posted, I’ll take it down and link you to the SCG content.)

On July 29th I attended my first ever Pro Tour Qualifier. Let’s face it, I’m not the best player and I wasn’t kidding myself that I’d come anywhere close to the top 8. I’ve only been playing competitively for about a year. Before that I was just a kitchen table Magic player. I planned on doing the event for the experience and a chance to see what the metagame was like at a higher level more than anything else. I used my UR Titan Control deck that I have been tweaking because I’ve gotten some good results with it against some of the most popular decks in the meta (I’ve actually won some FNMs and other tournaments with it in the past few weeks). If the World Magic Cup Qualfiers was any indicator of the metagame, then I’d surely be seeing a lot of Delver, Zombies, GR Kessig.

I’m not going to focus on my deck in this article, but I will point out how certain cards interacted against some of the top decks in the Japanese metagame. Hopefully it will prove useful in showing you what worked and what didn’t. If you’re more interested in the PTQ top 8 and what the other participants were using, please skip to the second part of this article. Otherwise, here’s the current build of the rogue Deck I’m using:

UR Titan Control

By Ryan Schwenk

Standard

81st place at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier in Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

Lands (25)

1 Cavern of Souls, 4 Sulfur Falls, 1 Rootbound Crag, 1 Hinterland Harbor, 2 Ghost Quarter, 8 Island, 2 Desolate Lighthouse, 6 Mountain

Spells (35)

1 Batterskull, 2 Zealous Conscripts, 2 Dungeon Geists, 2 Inferno Titan, 1 Augur of Bolas, 2 Snapcaster Mage, 2 Wurmcoil Engine, 1 Phantasmal Image, 1 Mana Leak, 1 Negate, 1 Dissipate, 1 Essence Scatter, 3 Red Sun’s Zenith, 3 Pillar of Flame, 1 Blue Sun’s Zenith, 3 Ponder, 4 Think Twice, 2 Whipflare, 1 Devastation Tide, 1 Ghostly Flicker

Sideboard (15)

2 Negate, 1 Surgical Extraction, 1 Spellskite, 1 Jace Memory Adept, 1 Whipflare, 2 Ancient Grudge, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Combust, 1 Blasphemous Act, 1 Zealous Conscripts, 1 Ghostly Flicker

I’m still in the process of building this deck, so I know it’s missing a lot of cards that would make it more effective. As always pick it apart and give me advice on what you’d use instead. Before I tell you how I did, lets show you how I set this deck up

Lands:

I had problems going up against other control players in the past because my Snapcaster Mage, Inferno Titan, or Wurmcoil Engine would always get countered when I needed it the most, but with the addition of  a Cavern of Souls I’ve really improved my win rate. One more would be great. Ghost Quarters are a must against GR Kessig’s dangerous lands and also get rid of Cavern of Souls in other decks. Desolate Lighthouse is a great land to have when games go long.

Creatures:

The current metagame in Nagoya has been largely aggro. They hit fast and hit hard but if you can stay in the game you can shift the tempo back into your favor. That’s why I added another Wurmcoil Engine. I’ve also been dabbling a little bit with Augur of Bolas and I think that the merfolk wizard has some potential in control. With so many creatures skittering about the board early in the game (Strangleroot Geist, Gravecrawler, etc), he is an awesome two drop that will give you a wall as well let you ‘Impulse’ for an instant or sorcery (like a Pillar of Flame against a Geralf’s Messenger). I plan on running more of him in the future to see how well he can help my early game.

Spells:

For the PTQ I decided to go with a full spread of counters to see what was most effective. I used a Mana Leak, a Negate, an Essence Scatter, and a Dissipate. Leak for early in the game, Negate for Planeswalkers or Bonfires of the Damned, Esscence Scatter for that 6th turn Titan or Restoration Angel, and a Dissipate for cards I don’t want to see used again like Unburial Rites. They also help as a bluff. When you cast one, they’ll always be waiting to see another one and want to play around it, which might help you buy some time.

I’ve also decided to keep a Ghostly Flicker and a Devastation Tide in the main board despite my friends’ dislike of them. Devastation Tide is good against Tokens, lets you cast your Phantasmal Image or Snapcaster Mage, and also removes Oblivion Rings from Inferno Titans. It also works as a good stall. Ghostly Flicker has also been a fun card to play with as a one off. Since a majority of my cards have an enter the battlefield ability, this is a slick way to reactivate that ability in a time of need. Maybe you need to flash a spell back with Snapcaster Mage one more time, or you want to steal another permanent with Zealous Conscripts (especially while blocking so you can have your opponents creatures kill each other). Ghostly Flicker helps you do that. It can also save your creature from a Doomblade, Oblivion Ring, or other targeting ability or spell.

Sideboard:

 

Not much has changed from my Avacyn Restored Game Day set up except for the 2 Combust that take out Restoration Angels, as well as a Blasphemous Act to get around giant Dungrove Elders that have been popping up in the metagame recently. They also work really well against Titans since Whipflares just won’t cut it.

And so it begun . . .

Well over 140 people showed up for the PTQ, but there was only room for 105 players at the event. I had heard from the head judge the day before at different tournament that registration had already closed, but my friend said that not all of those people usually come. He said I should go there the day of the event and try to get in. It was worth a shot. I got to the event early and put my name on a waiting list and started filling out my deck list. Sure enough, by the time the tournament started, 18 people hadn’t showed up. Those that didn’t make a reservation drew cards to see who would make it, and I was one of those lucky 18.

But I wasn’t so lucky in my match ups . . .

Game 1

RUG Delver – (lost 0-2) This was a tough loss. I kept the first game close after mulliganing to 5 by constantly using Whipflare and Pillar of Flame on his Delvers and Quirion Dryads, but couldn’t draw any good cards late on in the game and lost to some a well-timed Vapor Snag on my Wurmcoil Engine. The second game went really quick when my opponent laid down a turn 2 Quirion Dryad that quickly became a 3/3 from the use of two Gitaxian Probes. He wasn’t going to risk it being obliterated by a Whipflare or Pillar of Flame on my turn 2. It was very good move and I couldn’t do anything as it quickly grew into a 6/6 alongside a second Quirion Dryad.

What I learned: Whipflare and Pillar of Flame are great against Delver of Secret decks, but not against Quirion Dryad. You either have to tap it, Doomblade it, or Vapor Snag it. Things can get out of control really quick if you don’t take care of that card early. The player, Jun’ya Nakamura, ended up making it to the semi-finals so I don’t feel too bad about losing to such a high level player. Talk about a bad draw. He’s one of the best players in the region!

 

Game 2

UW Delver – (lost 1-2) After that first match-up I was ready to go all out. The 2nd round matched me up with another Delver player. Well, I might as well get all of these Delver games out of my system early on. I’ve actually done well against them recently and thought I could win. But it wasn’t going to happen this time . . .

 

I lost quickly in the first game when I couldn’t draw any kill spells and his first turn Delver of Secrets flipped. For the second game I put in my Combusts to take care of his Restoration Angels and maxed out on Whipflares. My red spells scorched his side of the table each turn, quickly filling his graveyard with a few Geists of St. Traft and Delver of Secrets while keeping my life total high. I ended up tapping his sole Delver of Secrets out with my Dungeon Geists and won the second game after a few turns.

In game 3 I didn’t have the same amount of Whipflares as I did in my opening hand like the last game, and I was done in after a few turns by a Geist of Saint Traft with a Spectral Flight on it. After talking with the player afterwards, I found out that he was a member of the 2012 Magic World Cup team, Nakai Sunao. I believe he went 5-2 on the day and just missed out on the top 8 with his Yuuya Watanabe UW Delver build. After playing against two extremely high level players I was actually having fun at the PTQ. I didn’t care that I was down 0-2 heading into round 3, I was enjoying the thrill of the match. Plus I won a game against somebody on the World Magic Cup team!!

What I learned: It’s always good to have flyers against a UW Delver deck. This type of build is also very weak against Whipflares.

Game 3

– Solar Flare – (lost 1-2) I actually won the first game and thought I had a chance for my first victory. Whipflares and counters kept the board Lingering Soul clean while I brought out an Augur of Bolas, using him to whittle away at the player until he was in Red Sun Zenith range. He sided out the Lingering Souls in game 2 to my surprise, while I sided in Ratchet Bombs for them. My opponent went into hardcore control mode and gave me a taste of my own medicine, countering just about everything I put on the board. He focused on Sun Titans, Blade Splicers, and Phantasmal Images which ended up being my undoing since I couldn’t deal with 2 6/6 Creatures and Golems with Whipflares. I sided in a Blasphemous Act and Jace, Memory Adept in the third game, killing his Titans and Images to stop that vicious cycle, but he dropped his Jace first and milled me to death to finish the match.

What I learned: Taking out the Sun Titan (or stopping it from getting on the board) is crucial to winning this game. The person who gets a Jace, Memory Adept out first in a Control/Control battle usually wins as well.

Game 4

– UB Control – (lost 1-2) Talrand, Sky Summoner, was an absolute BEAST in the first game. My opponent kept using Vapor Snag on my creatures and put in drake after drake token and before I knew it I was overrun. I pulled out a win in the 2nd game by taking Talrand out early and tapping his other creatures out with Dungeon Geists. I focused on countering and hitting him for 6 damage each turn and before we knew it we were on to game 3. My opponent did something I wasn’t expecting in the last game, switching to aggro mode when I was only expecting your typical UB control deck with cards like Grave Titan, Snapcaster Mage, and Consecrated Sphinx.

He put down a first turn Delver of Secrets that turned into an Insectile Aberration on turn 2, then cast a Treacherous Pit Dweller on his following turn. Talk about rotten luck. I was dead by turn 4.

What I learned: Talrand, Sky Summoner is very dangerous in UB control. More so than Grave Titan I think.

Game 5

UB Zombies – (lost 0-2) Yep, Blood Artists suck. Without any Red Sun’s Zenith or Pillar of Flame in my opening hand, I didn’t stand a chance. My brains were fresh for the eating. I came close in the second game when I had a Batterskull and Wurmcoil Engine in play, but the player managed to kill me by sacrificing his Geralf’s Messengers to his Bloodthrone Vampire. Jesse Smith was right about Bloodthrone Vampire in his Square One: B/U Zombies (Kamikaze) article. With Geralf’s Messenger, Blood Artist, and Gravecrawlers in play, you are getting a crazy amount of life while making your opponent lose life at a terrifying pace. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some people take Mortarpod out in favor of Bloodthrone Vampire since you don’t need the mana to activate the ability.

What I learned: In this game I think having 1 or 2 more Augur of Bolas would have helped. I could have blocked the Gravecrawlers early while searching out the Pillar of Flames or Red Sun’s Zenith to take care of cards like Geralf’s Messenger. I also think the kill priority in a Zombie deck should be 1) Blood Artist, 2) Bloodthrone Vampire, and 3) Geralf’s Messenger (with a Pillar of Flame hopefully).

Game 6

BR Control – (won 2-0) Remember all those Red Sun’s Zeniths and Pillar of Flames I didn’t draw in that zombie match up? I got them all here. This player was using Olivia Voldaren, Vampire Nighthawk and lots of kill spells in anticipation of decks like UW Delver and GR beatdown. However, because I had hardly any creatures in my deck, those spells went largely unused. I, on the other hand, kept removing his creatures from the game using my Red Suns. At one point I had an Inferno Titan and 3 Red Sun’s Zeniths in my hand, and when it seemed like his deck was stalling I dealt 8 damage each turn with the Red Sun’sZeniths until he was cinder. The 2nd game was pretty much the same. This was one of those instances where my deck works really well. I got all the right cards while keeping my opponent from doing anything.

What I learned: Removing creatures from the game cripples some deck types (Zombies, Frites, etc.). Pillar of Flame is very useful in the current metagame, as well as Red Sun’s Zenith against bigger creatures like Wurmcoil Engine.

Game 7

BR Zombies (won 2-0) I was smart this time and only kept hands with red burn spells. In my opening hand was a Ponder and a Red Sun Zenith. I drew a Pillar of Flame and kept his zombies off the board for most of the game. I ended up bringing out an Inferno Titan to kill him around turn 7. The second game was a little more dangerous. He had me down to 5 life from Gravecrawlers and Mortorpods, but I fought back with my Batterskull and followed the next two turns with two Wurmcoil Engines. Once I got back into the double digits, he conceded since all he had in play were Gravecrawlers and a Geralf’s Messenger.

What I learned: Without a Blood Artist in play, Zombie decks are a lot less scary to play against. Thumbs up again for Pillar of Flame.

A 2-5 record is nothing to be happy about, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of a Pro Tour Qualifier and I learned a lot. I’ll definitely be going to the next one later this year for Gatecrash. Hopefully by then I’ll be better prepared than I was for this one.

The Top 8

The fight to the top of the 105 player Nagoya PTQ was full of UW Delver, GR beatdown, Naya Pod, and UB Zombies, but some up and coming decks in the metagame also saw some play. Mono Green Elves (with Craterhoof Behemoth) and WB Tokens were really fun to watch in action and seem to be gaining popularity recently. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to walk around and see all of the decks people were using, but it seemed that there was a lot of variety and that no deck dominated more than another.

After 7 rounds of swiss, the top 8 decks to make it to the single elimination round were:

  1. Tsuboyama Shuta’s Solar Flare deck
  2. Ikedo Masakazu’s UW Planeswalker Miracle deck
  3. Takahira Shunsuke’s Naya Pod deck
  4. Nakamura Jun’ya’s RUG Delver deck
  5. Hirayama Hideyuki’s BW Control deck
  6. Mizuno Tatsurou’s BR Zombies deck
  7. Nose Kouji’s UB Tezzeret deck
  8. Yamashita Shun’s RWU Midrange deck

I was really excited about the match-ups in the top 8. It’s the first tournament I’ve seen in a while that hasn’t been dominated by aggro decks. There were a lot of players using control at the PTQ which leads me to believe that metagame is finally starting to stabilize in Japan. Players are finally finding answers to cards that have been destroying control decks past weeks.

Soon after the official release of M13, cards like Thragtusk found their way into all sorts of decks in the Nagoya area. Pretty much every Mono Green, GR beatdown, and Birthing Pod deck had at least one Thragtusk in it, and in order to fight back, a lot of players switched to fast, hard hitting decks like WR Humans, Delver, and Zombies. Many players, aside from myself, seemed to think control was a lost cause. For the most part they’ve been correct. It’s been painful playing control these last few weeks. It’s not just Zombies and Delvers anymore. Dungrove Elders with Rancor have been an especially nasty to play against. You have your good days and your bad days, but after this top 8 I think control will be pushing its way back into the metagame.

The cards that performed the best in these decks were Terminus and Day of Judgment. Time and time again I saw Day of Judgment clear the board and a few turns later a Terminus would put the player’s rebuilt army on the bottom of their library, allowing the control player to take over the game. In this creature heavy environment these two cards are all stars. If you’re going to run control in the near future, white should DEFINITELY be a part of it. No other board wipe aside from Bonfire of the Damned is as effective, and at close to 6000 yen ($76) a card in Nagoya, Terminus and Day of Judgment are a much cheaper alternative.

The Clash

Round 1 of the single elimination round pitted Tsuboyama Shuta’s Solar flare deck against Mizuno Tatsurou’s BR Zombies, Takahira Shunsuke’s Naya Pod deck against Hirayama Hideyuki’s BW Control deck, Ikedo Masakazu’s UW Planeswalker Miracle deck against Nose Kouji’s UB Tezzeret deck, and Nakamura Jun’ya’s RUG Delver against Yamashita Shun’s RWU Midrange deck. Just like the World Magic Cup Qualifiers, I didn’t get a chance to see all of these games so I apologize for a lack of commentary and notes. It’s probably just better to let the decks speak for themselves anyways.

Round 1, Match 1:

Solar Flare

By Tsuboyama Shuta

Standard

1st place at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Glacial Fortress
  • 4 Isolated Chapel
  • 4 Darkslick Shores
  • 3 Evolving Wilds
  • 2 Cavern of Souls
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 4 Plains
  • 2 Island
  • 2 Swamp
  • 4 Phantasmal Image
  • 3 Sun Titan
  • 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
  • 4 Thought Scour
  • 2 Dead Weight
  • 2 Go for the Throat
  • 2 Ratchet Bomb
  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 4 Forbidden Alchemy
  • 2 Oblivion Ring
  • 3 Day of Judgment
  • 2 Unburial Rites
  • 2 Liliana of the Veil

Sideboard

  • 3 Wurmcoil Engine
  • 2 Timely Reinforcements
  • 2 Divine Offering
  • 2 Flashfreeze
  • 2 Nihil Spellbomb
  • 1 Day of Judgment
  • 1 Liliana of the Veil
  • 1 Karn Liberated
  • 1 Ghost Quarter

BR Zombies

Mizuno Tatsurou

Standard

Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

 

Main

  • 4 Dragonskull Summit
  • 4 Blackcleave Cliffs
  • 4 Cavern of Souls
  • 10 Swamp
  • 1 Mountain
  • 4 Gravecrawler
  • 4 Diregraf Ghoul
  • 4 Bloodthrone Vampire
  • 4 Blood Artist
  • 4 Geralf’s Messenger
  • 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
  • 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 1 Stuffy Doll
  • 1 Zealous Conscripts
  • 4 Tragic Slip
  • 1 Mortarpod
  • 1 Mark of Mutiny
  • 2 Brimstone Volley
  • 2 Blasphemous Act

Sideboard

  • 1 Ratchet Bomb
  • 1 Arc Trail
  • 1 Mutagenic Growth
  • 2 Surgical Extraction
  • 2 Geth’s Verdict
  • 3 Curse of Death’s Hold
  • 1 Zealous Conscripts
  • 3 Manic Vandal
  • 1 Mark of Mutiny

Tsuboyama Shuta won 2 games to 1 on the back of Wurmcoil Engine and Day of Judgment.  Mizuno Tatsurou did manage to steal one win, but Shuta did a good job of keeping the board clear so the Blood Artist didn’t have a chance to be that effective. In the end it came down to Wurmcoil Engines overwhelming his zombies.

Round 1, Match 2:

Naya Pod

By Takahira Shunsuke

Standard

4th place at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Razorverge Thicket
  • 4 Copperline Gorge
  • 2 Rootbound Crag
  • 2 Sunpetal Grove
  • 2 Cavern of Souls
  • 2 Gavony Township
  • 1 Slayers’ Stronghold
  • 2 Plains
  • 1 Mountain
  • 4 Forest
  • 4 Birds of Paradise
  • 3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 3 Strangleroot Geist
  • 1 Elvish Visionary
  • 3 Blade Splicer
  • 1 Daybreak Ranger
  • 1 Fiend Hunter
  • 1 Borderland Ranger
  • 3 Restoration Angel
  • 2 Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 1 Solemn Simulacrum
  • 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 1 Acidic Slime
  • 1 Zealous Conscripts
  • 1 Thragtusk
  • 1 Wurmcoil Engine
  • 1 Inferno Titan
  • 1 Sword of War and Peace
  • 3 Birthing Pod
  • 3 Bonfire of the Damned

sideboard

  • 2 Garruk Relentless
  • 2 Oblivion Ring
  • 1 Zealous Conscripts
  • 1 Wolfir Silverheart
  • 1 Thragtusk
  • 2 Hero of Bladehold
  • 1 Celestial Purge
  • 1 Ancient Grudge
  • 1 Combust
  • 1 Crushing Vines
  • 1 Sword of War and Peace
  • 1 Bonfire of the Damned

BW Control

Hirayama Hideyuki

Standard

Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Isolated Chapel
  • 4 Phyrexia’s Core
  • 2 Evolving Wilds
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 1 Cavern of Souls
  • 2 Plains
  • 10 Swamp
  • 3 Vampire Nighthawk
  • 4 Solemn Simulacrum
  • 2 Massacre Wurm
  • 3 Ichor Wellspring
  • 2 Mycosynth Wellspring
  • 3 Go for the Throat
  • 1 Doom Blade
  • 3 Pristine Talisman
  • 2 Oblivion Ring
  • 2 Curse of Death’s Hold
  • 2 Terminus
  • 3 Sorin’s Vengeance
  • 4 Black Sun’s Zenith
  • 2 Sorin Markov

sideboard

  • 2 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 1 Wurmcoil Engine
  • 1 Revoke Existence
  • 1 Timely Reinforcements
  • 1 Sever the Bloodline
  • 1 Karn Liberated
  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 2 Nihil Spellbomb
  • 1 Divine Offering
  • 2 Duress

Takahira Shunsuke Naya Pod was always a few steps ahead of Hirayama Hideyuki’s BW Control and Shunsuke took the match after two games. Hideyuki had difficulty setting up any kind of board presence and Shunsuke’s Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, and Blade Splicer just walked all over him.

Round 1, Match 3

UW Planeswalker Miracle

Ikedo Masakazu

Standard

2nd place at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Glacial Fortress
  • 4 Seachrome Coast
  • 3 Ghost Quarter
  • 7 Plains
  • 7 Island
  • 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
  • 4 Ponder
  • 4 Think Twice
  • 4 Mana Leak
  • 1 Oblivion Ring
  • 2 Day of Judgment
  • 4 Terminus
  • 3 Temporal Mastery
  • 4 Entreat the Angels
  • 3 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
  • 2 Gideon Jura

Sideboard

  • 2 Consecrated Sphinx
  • 2 Merfolk Looter
  • 2 Stony Silence
  • 3 Torpor Orb
  • 1 Safe Passage
  • 2 Grafdigger’s Cage
  • 2 Celestial Purge
  • 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

UB Tezzeret

Nose Kouji

Standard

Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, Nagoya, Japan, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Drowned Catacomb
  • 4 Darkslick Shores
  • 4 Phyrexia’s Core
  • 4 Buried Ruin
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 1 Island
  • 6 Swamp
  • 3 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 2 Wurmcoil Engine
  • 3 Nihil Spellbomb
  • 2 Mycosynth Wellspring
  • 3 Ichor Wellspring
  • 3 Ratchet Bomb
  • 2 Torpor Orb
  • 3 Go for the Throat
  • 1 Doom Blade
  • 3 Pristine Talisman
  • 1 Trading Post
  • 1 Batterskull
  • 1 Spine of Ish Sah
  • 4 Black Sun’s Zenith
  • 4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

sideboard

  • 2 Grafdigger’s Cage
  • 3 Vampire Nighthawk
  • 2 Curse of Death’s Hold
  • 1 Grave Titan
  • 1 Sever the Bloodline
  • 1 Memoricide
  • 1 Karn Liberated
  • 3 Distress
  • 1 Phantasmal Image

Ikedo Masakazu’s UW Miracle Planeswalker deck had dominated all day at the PTQ. Time after time I saw him using Terminus or Day of Judgment to clear the board and take out the player with Gideon Jura afterwards. He never had a problem getting the cards he needed with Ponder and Think Twice, and the lack of creatures on Nose Kouji’s side of the board worked against him.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas rarely made it to the battlefield, and most of the time Kouji was stuck with a lot of artifacts on the table and nothing to do. Mazakazu took the match in 2 games.

Round 1, Match 4

RUG Delver

Nakamura Jun’ya

Standard

3rd place at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Copperline Gorge
  • 2 Evolving Wilds
  • 2 Sulfur Falls
  • 2 Hinterland Harbor
  • 3 Cavern of Souls
  • 7 Island
  • 1 Mountain
  • 1 Forest
  • 4 Delver of Secrets
  • 4 Snapcaster Mage
  • 4 Quirion Dryad
  • 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 4 Ponder
  • 4 Gitaxian Probe
  • 4 Vapor Snag
  • 2 Galvanic Blast
  • 1 Gut Shot
  • 3 Mana Leak
  • 4 Bonfire of the Damned

sideboard

  • 1 Dissipate
  • 2 Ancient Grudge
  • 1 Arc Trail
  • 1 Crushing Vines
  • 1 Combust
  • 2 Mental Misstep
  • 2 Thragtusk
  • 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
  • 2 Phantasmal Image
  • 2 Zealous Conscripts

RWU Midrange

Yamashita Shun

Standard

Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Qualifier, July 29th, 2012

Main

  • 4 Sulfur Falls
  • 4 Seachrome Coast
  • 4 Clifftop Retreat
  • 2 Cavern of Souls
  • 1 Evolving Wilds
  • 1 Plains
  • 4 Island
  • 4 Mountain
  • 4 Phantasmal Image
  • 3 Snapcaster Mage
  • 4 Blade Splicer
  • 4 Restoration Angel
  • 3 Thundermaw Hellkite
  • 4 Ponder
  • 2 Pillar of Flame
  • 1 Vapor Snag
  • 3 Mana Leak
  • 2 Whipflare
  • 2 Dismember
  • 4 Bonfire of the Damned

sideboard

  • 2 Combust
  • 1 Steel Sabotage
  • 1 Divine Offering
  • 1 Day of Judgment
  • 1 Timely Reinforcements
  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 1 Dissipate
  • 1 Mana Leak
  • 1 Negate
  • 1 Volition Reins
  • 2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

Having played against Nakamura Jun’ya in my first match of the day, I knew how dangerous his deck was, especially Quirion Dryad. Yamashita Shun had some good cards in his deck but Jun’ya was a lot faster at setting up his board and owned the early game. I did see Thundermaw Hellkite hit the table near the end of the second game, but Jun’ya was able to take care of it and protect his lead for avictory in game 2.

Semi-Final Round, Match 1

It was Naya Pod Vs. Solar flare in the first match of the semi-finals, and Liliana of the Veil was a thorn in Takahira Shunsuke’s side as Tsuboyama Shuta got the first win. Thragtusk was essential in game two of the match, which was won by Shunsuke, but in the end it was Shuta’s patience and planning that sent him to the final to decide who would be playing for a chance to go to the Pro Tour. Tsuboyama Shuta 2 – 1 Takahira Shunsuke.

Semi-Final Round, Match 2

This match was downright vicious. Terminus and Day of Judgment proved their worth again after Jun’ya’s RUG Delver populated the board early on with Quirion Dryad and Delver of Secrets. With a clear board Ikedo-san took the first game. Nakamura played very aggressively in the 2nd game to even the score at 1 game apiece, but the defining moment came in game 3 when Masakazu miracled a Entreat the Angels to put 4 flying 4/4s into the battlefield. With the battlefield empty from a Day of Judgment on the previous turn, Jun’ya prayed that his next card was a Bonfire of the Damned. It wasn’t. He scooped, and that was it.

Ikedo Masakazu 2-1 Nakamura Jun’ya

Final Round

In the Final round Tsuboyama Shuta and his Solar Flare deck faced off against Ikedo Masakazu and his UW Planeswalker Miracle deck. They had both fought hard to reach this point and both desperately wanted the invitation to Pro Tour Return to Ravnica.

From a threat standpoint, Shuta’s deck was able to put more on the board early on thanks to cards like Lingering Souls. The decks shared some of the same cards, such as Day of Judgment and Elesh Norn, but Masakazu played more of a reactionary game to Shuta’s combos. It seemed kind of dangerous to depend solely on Entreat the Angels and Gideon Jura as your finishers, but then again he WAS playing in the final.

Tsuboyama took the first match behind Lingering Souls but Ikedo fought back with the help of Tamiyo, the Moon Sage in game two. It came down to a game 3 again for both players, and just like their previous games, and once again, Tsuboyama Shuta’s Wurmcoil Engines saved the day. With most of his removal spells exhausted, Ikedo Masakazu had to concede defeat against the pounding of the Wumcoil. The players shook hands and that was it.

Tsuboyama Shuta  2, Ikedo Masakazu 1.

I had a chance to talk with Tsuboyama Shuta briefly before he left the event hall and asked him a few questions about himself and how he felt about his performance. Tsuboyama Shuta is from Nagoya, Japan and has been using Solar Flare since Innistrad was released last year. It’s his favorite deck and it’s the only deck he plays with, so he knows where its power lies and what its limitations are. It has explosive power over the board and works well with Day of Judgment, which is essential in this environment.

He’s been able to fine-tune his Solar Flare deck, especially to UW Delver and GR beatdown match ups by using plenty of Wurmcoil Engines, Day of Judgments, and Flashfreeze. He said that Day of Judgment and Sun Titan were especially effective at the PTQ.

Final Thoughts

It seems as though control decks are making a comeback in the Japanese metagame, with decks like Solar Flare leading the way. White is by far the most powerful color in control at the moment. Cavern of Souls has crippled blue, while black has largely been relegated to spot removal. While I like cards such as Mutilate and Killing Wave, they haven’t had that much of an impact in the metagame.

I thought that Terminus, Day of Judgment, Quirion Dryad, Wurmcoil Engine, Bloodthrone Vampire, Trading Post, and Bonfire of the Damned all did well at the PTQ. I was a little surprised to see so many decks using Trading Post, but it seems to have found a nice niche in the metagame in Japan. Quirion Dryad has been showing up a lot more recently as well and I wouldn’t be surprised if more Delver players switch from a UW build to a UG or RUG one. Wurmcoil Engine is going to be incredibly important in this hard-hitting meta all the way up to the release of Return to Ravnica, so there’s a good chance there are a few creeping in every control deck you play against. Bloodthrone Vampire is also going to be popping up a lot more in Zombie decks.

I know this isn’t one of my best articles, but hopefully you’ll find the deck lists useful as well as my limited insight about the Japanese metagame. If you think this article is missing some important information or could be improved please leave me some constructive criticism. Let me know if there is a certain part of the metagame you are curious about and I will be sure to research it in depth for future articles. I’d like my articles to evolve past mere tournament reports from Japan, so don’t be shy and share your ideas with me! Thanks again for reading.

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