The Japan Metagame Diaries: 13 Ways to Die

(This article was originally for SCG but due to their busy summer schedule of opens, the World Magic Cup, and the release of Return to Ravnica, they were not able to put it on their website. Today’s article is a post I made about M13 Game Day and a report of the Nagoya metagame up until the middle of August. Some information might be old, but there are also some good deck ideas in there that you can use. Enjoy reading it!)

The Japan Metagame Diaries: 13 Ways to Die

 

I want to start out by saying I’m sorry for putting you through my Blue/Red Titan Control rantings. After a few weeks of playing through the NEW metagame with M13 cards, I realized that my set up just isn’t going to cut it anymore. There is just too much going on and too many ways to die in standard that you can’t prepare for everything. What I’m going to focus on in today’s articles are the interesting synergies that Japanese players were using in various decks during August’s M13 Game Day, as well as what has been popular in the Nagoya metagame in July and August.

13 Ways to Die

It took a month of dying and a 1-4-1 record at M13 Game Day in Nagoya, Japan before I realized my UR Titan Control build wasn’t going to work in the current metagame. It wasn’t just one card that was always killing me, but 13 cards in particular that were causing my death since M13 was released in July.

(In no particular order)

  • Card 1: Rancor
  • Card 2: Lingering Souls
  • Card 3: Geist of Saint Traft
  • Card 4: Wolfir Silverheart
  • Card 5: Terminus
  • Card 6: Thragtusk
  • Card 7: Blade Splicer
  • Card 8: Delver of Secrets
  • Card 9: Restoration Angel
  • Card 10: Huntmaster of the Fells
  • Card 11: Snapcaster Mage
  • Card 12: Bonfire of the Damned
  • Card 13: Geralf’s Messenger

These cards have been making the metagame in Nagoya, Japan incredibly challenging in July and August. Raise your hand if you’ve been haunted by the spirits of Lingering Souls or the Geist of Saint Traft. Who’s taken a Bonfire of the Damned to the face and lived to talk about it? I’m sure quite a few of you have been ravaged by Huntmaster of the Fells’ alter ego as well. These cards aren’t fun to play against but they are what have been winning the game for players not only around Japan, but around the world.

Lingering Souls

UW tokens

By Reona Furusawa

Standard

M13 Magic Game Day, Nagoya, Japan, August 4th, 2012

Creatures:4

  • 3 Snapcaster Mage
  • 1 Geist-Honored Monk

Spells:32

  • 3 Gut Shot
  • 2 Ponder
  • 4 Thought Scour
  • 4 Favorable Winds
  • 4 Intangible Virtue
  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 4 Midnight Haunting
  • 2 Oblivion Ring
  • 4 Talrand’s Invocation
  • 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

Lands:24

  • 3 Darkslick Shores
  • 3 Drowned Catacomb
  • 4 Glacial Fortress
  • 7 Island
  • 2 Plains
  • 4 Seachrome Coast
  • 1 Vault of the Archangel

Sideboard:15

  • 1 Gut Shot
  • 4 Celestial Purge
  • 2 Mana Leak
  • 2 Timely Reinforcements
  • 2 Day of Judgment
  • 3 Hero of Bladehold
  • 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

I think everybody can agree how good of a card Lingering Souls in. It has seen play in a wide variety of decks. It works well in both control (Esper Control) and beatdown (Frites) settings. But building a deck around these bodiless specters? It’s scarier than you think.

I played against Reona during M13 Game Day weekend in the 4th round, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve played (and lost to) him and his UW Token deck. It’s a rather simple idea. On the second turn set down a Favorable Winds or Intangible Virtue, then on the next turn cast a Lingering Souls or flash in some spirits with Midnight Haunting. On the following turns continue to set down more Intangible Virtue or Favorable Winds, flashback Lingering Souls or play even more Midnight Hauntings and before you know it you have nasty army of tokens that can’t be destroyed by anything weaker than a Blasphemous Act. Of course in the second game you could side in some Ratchet Bombs (which I think he should add Stony Silence for in his sideboard), but even then you aren’t guaranteed to get them all.

Talrand’s Invocation was thrown into the mix for more power on the 4th turn if you want it. If Reona wanted to play defensively he could play another Intangible Virtue or Favorable Winds, pushing his spirits’ power up even further, or he can put down the 2/2 Drakes. The deck sucks all of the power out of a control deck quickly, forcing them to use their counters to keep more spirits or enchantments from hitting the board, and also making people use their Day of Judgments to keep the board clean. Once those are exhausted, it’s game over.

Thragtusk

Bonfire of the Damned

Liliana Control

By Tasugi Keigo

Standard

M13 Magic Game Day, Nagoya, Japan, August 4th, 2012

Land  25

  • 11 Swamp
  • 2 Mountain
  • 2 Forest
  • 1 Blackcleave Cliffs
  • 4 Dragonskull Summit
  • 2 Cavern of Souls
  • 3 Evolving Wilds

Creatures 9

  • 3 Vampire Nighthawk
  • 3 Olivia Voldaren
  • 2 Thragtusk
  • 1 Zealous Conscripts

Spells 26

  • 2 Tragic Slip
  • 2 Victim of Night
  • 3 Mutilate
  • 3 Sever the Bloodline
  • 2 Curse of Death‘s Hold
  • 1 Sorin‘s Vengeance
  • 2 Searing Spear
  • 2 Devil‘s Play
  • 2 Bonfire of the Damned
  • 2 Ground Seal
  • 1 Staff of Nin
  • 3 Liliana of the Dark Realms
  • 1 Garruk Relentless

Sideboard 15

  • 2 Geth‘s Verdict
  • 2 Murder
  • 2 Liliana of the Veil
  • 2 Thundermaw Hellkite
  • 2 Ancient Grudge
  • 2 Magmaquake
  • 1 Garruk Relentless
  • 2 Torpor Orb

Most of the time you’ll see Bonfire of the Damned and Thragtusk in Naya or GR decks, but that’s not always the case. They usually find their way into any and all decks with one of those colors. Whether or not you can get good value from them in other decks depends on the build though.

Keigo’s deck was largely a BR Control deck with a splash of green for Garruk Relentless and Thragtusk. I played against him in the 3rd round of Magic Game Day and I think if I was playing a more aggressive deck I would have beat him. Just like any control match up, the game started off slow as we both put down our mana to set up the later turns. His deck did a better job or setting up the late game though.

Liliana of the Dark Realms was a key card in the deck as it helped to fuel the Mutilates and also built into a rather huge Devil’s Play or Bonfire of the Damned late in the game. With a board clear of blockers, Thragtusk can come out and beat the other player senseless for the remaining damage.  It’s a rather straightforward idea: Kill everything, then hit hard late in the game. There was a good balance of -X/-X effects, destroy, and damage effects that target groups in this deck which is important in the metagame when you have to go up against cards like Dungrove Elder or armies of creatures from a Token or GR aggro deck.

Bonfire of the Damned is an instant game changer in any deck, and is especially potent in decks like this when you can get mana consistently with Liliana.

Restoration Angel

Geist of Saint Traft

Delver of Secrets

UW Delver

User: Hiroetsu Sakai ( deck By Shinji Ishikawa)

Standard

M13 Magic Game Day, Nagoya, Japan, August 4th, 2012

(15 creatures)

  • 4 Delver of Secrets
  • 4 Geist of Saint Traft
  • 4 Snapcaster Mage
  • 3 Restoration Angel

(26 spells)

  • 4 Gitaxian Probe
  • 4 Ponder
  • 4 Vapor Snag
  • 3 Thought Scour
  • 3 Mana Leak
  • 3 Gut Shot
  • 1 Mutagenic Growth
  • 3 Runechanter’s Pike
  • 1 Sword of War and Peace

(19 lands)

  • 4 Glacial Fortress
  • 4 Seachrome Coast
  • 2 Moorland Haunt
  • 8 Island
  • 1 Plains

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Phantasmal Image
  • 2 Divine Offering
  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 1 Dismember
  • 1 Dissipate
  • 1 Mental Misstep
  • 1 Mana Leak
  • 1 Gut Shot
  • 1 Timely Reinforcements
  • 1 Day of Judgment
  • 1 Sword of Feast and Famine

We all know the drill here. As soon as you see a Delver of Secrets hit the table on turn 1, you hope to god you have a Gut Shot first turn or some other removal when it flips into a 3/2 on turn 2. And when that Geist of Saint Traft hits on turn 3, we all start to sweat. At that point if you aren’t rocking a Whiplare, Slagstorm, Day of Judgment, or other board wipe you’re as good as dead the next turn.

I played against Sakai-san in round 2 of the Game Day tournament and both games turned out as I described them above, minus any removal. Playing against Delver players is definitely a flip of the coin. If they mulligan, get bad draws, or fail to flip their Delver in the first few turns (and that’s a BIG “if”), you might be able to pull off a win. That didn’t happen so I went 0-2 pretty quick.

Terminus

BW Control

By Takahira Shunsuke

Standard

M13 Magic Game Day, Nagoya, Japan, August 4th, 2012

Land 24

  • 4 Isolated Chapel
  • 4 Phyrexia’s Core
  • 1 Buried Ruin
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 2 Evolving Wilds
  • 10 Swamp
  • 2 Plains

Creature 7

  • 3 Solemn Simulacrum
  • 2 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 2 Wurmcoil Engine

Spell 30

  • 2 Mycosynth Wellspring
  • 3 Ichor Wellspring
  • 3 Go for the Throat
  • 1 Doom Blade
  • 2 Oblivion Ring
  • 3 Pristine Talisman
  • 1 Tumble Magnet
  • 1 Mimic Vat
  • 2 Trading Post
  • 1 Batterskull
  • 2 Curse of Death’s Hold
  • 2 Terminus
  • 2 Sorin Markov
  • 1 Mindslaver
  • 1 Spine of Ish Sah
  • 3 Black Sun’s Zenith

Total:61

Sideboard 15

  • 2 Nihil Spellbomb
  • 2 Duress
  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 1 Divine Offering
  • 1 Revoke Existence
  • 2 Vampire Nighthawk
  • 1 Timely Reinforcements
  • 1 Sever the Bloodline
  • 1 Karn Liberated
  • 1 Army of the Damned

This probably isn’t the best deck to showcase Terminus with, but it still has a very important role in control decks running white. Control decks usually run very few creatures as it is, and Terminus is a much better way to get rid of creatures than Day of Judgment in my opinion. There is too much graveyard manipulation going on to put anything in there to be played with, so I’m fine leaving all creatures on the bottom of the deck (as long as the other player doesn’t shuffle their deck right afterwards).

The runner-up of Nagoya’s PTQ for Return to Ravnica used Terminus to great effect in his UW Miracle Planeswalker Control deck and it’s definitely going to take Day of Judgment’s place in October (if DoJ doesn’t get reprinted of course). Shunsuke was my first opponent of the day in Round 1 of Game Day. It was also my first time playing against a BW control deck. I have zero experience playing against it so I didn’t know what to expect.

No, Terminus wasn’t the all star of this match, Trading Post was. This card has seen a lot more play lately in Japan as people are realizing how useful it is in a variety of decks. Shunsuke managed to deal a lot of damage to my board with Spine of Ish Sah, and also locked down the game for a few turns with the Mindslaver/Trading Post combo. For those of you that haven’t seen this combo, it’s not fun.

Your opponent sacrifices Mindslaver and takes over your turn, then on their turn they sacrifice a creature with Trading Post to bring Mindslaver back and repeat the process again. It works best with multiple copies of Trading Post so you can constantly pump out the sacrificial goats. Thank god he didn’t have his Wurmcoil Engine out to beat me senseless during these turns. He ran out of goat tokens after a few turns and eventually my turn was given back to me to control. By then, however, I was pretty much done for. I did manage a win in the second game though, and in the third game I played more conservatively. We went to time for a draw.

Aside from the Mindslaver/Trading Post combo, Spine of Ish Sah, Ichor Wellspring, Wurmcoil Engine, Phyrexian Metamorph, and Batterskull also work very well with this combo. All of these will be rotating out in October, so I suggest you take advantage of Trading Post as much as you can in the next month with the plethora of artifacts we have available right now. Once Return to Ravnica hits, Trading Post is going to become just another ho hum rare unless there are some killer artifacts in the new set.

Rancor

Wolfir Silverheart

Ueda Fever

By Komada Mitsuhiko

Standard

M13 Magic Game Day, Nagoya, Japan, August 4th, 2012

Land:

  • 23 Forest

Spells:

  • 4 Llanowar Elves
  • 4 Arbor Elf
  • 1 Birds of Paradise
  • 4 Strangleroot Geist
  • 4 Skinshiter
  • 4 Dungrove Elder
  • 1 Viridian Corrupter
  • 1 Thrun, the Last  Troll
  • 2 Wolfir Silverheart
  • 4 Green Sun’s Zenith
  • 4 Rancor
  • 2 Revenge of the Hunted
  • 2 Dismember

Sideboard

  • 1 Batterskull
  • 2 Sword of Feast and Famine
  • 2 Dismember
  • 3 Surgical Extraction
  • 3 Gut Shot
  • 3 Naturalize
  • 1 Thrun, the Last Troll

Mono Green has been back in the spotlight since the first day M13 was legal. All you have to do is whisper ‘Rancor’ to a green player and a smile will suddenly spread from ear to ear. Brad Nelson and Evan Erwin said it the best when they did their review of Green for M13 –  “Now is the time to play green”.

The sick combo of Rancor and Dungrove Elder are only going to be around for a short time (just over a month by the time this article is posted), so you should enjoy your trampling treefolk as much as possible until then. He does have some problems with Day of Judgment and Bonfire of the Damned (sometimes), but against most decks he’ll make your opponent sweat.

The card my UR Titan control deck was weakest to is Dungrove Elder. Aside from a lucky Blasphemous Act, there is no way I could handle it if it hits the board. I faced Mitsuhiko in round 5 of Game Day (seemed like he was having an bad day as well), and resigned myself to my fate after the first Dungrove Elder hit the table. In the second game I managed to hold on a little bit longer, but Wolfir Silverheart decided to make Mr. Elder his friend around turn 8 and that was it.

Even with Dungrove Elder rotating out, it doesn’t mean that mono green will suddenly become moot. Wolfir Silverheart hasn’t seen as much play as he did when Avacyn Restored was still fresh in everybody’s mind, but he has found his way into a number of Birthing Pod, beatdown, and mono green decks and is one of the best finishers for green in my opinion. He works ESPECIALLY well with Rancor in the current metagame. There will be some restructuring October, but I think these two cards will be seen in the same deck with each other a lot. I’ve recently seen Wolfir Silverheart being used a lot in WG aggro decks.

Blade Splicer

In my last match of the day I went up against a player using UW Tokens, but the deck was nowhere close to the hyper aggressive token deck I played against earlier that day. This player utilized Intangible Virtue and Blade Splicer, but was just too slow. I got my only win of the day here by picking off his creatures one by one with burn spells.

The loss wasn’t Blade Splicer’s fault, no, Blade Splicer wasn’t bad at all.  In fact I think it’s a great card. From a humble beginning in the Scars of Mirrodin block, it’s grown into a favorite of Birthing Pod, Solar Flare, GW Aggro, and UW Delver decks. With the introduction of Avacyn Restored and the ‘blink’ mechanic, Blade Splicer gained even more power. Restoration Angel has made great use of its blinking ability on Blade Splicer to create more tokens, and in Birthing Pod decks you can sacrifice it to leave behind the Golem tokens while putting a Huntmaster of the Fells in play. However, I think the card’s best fit in Japan at the moment is in Solar Flare.

Solar Flare has seen a resurgence lately in the Japanese metagame due to it’s access to Day of Judgment and ability to bring creatures back from the dead. Blade Splicer is a big part of the deck’s strategy, coming back into play as soon as a Sun Titan enters the field along with Liliana of the Veil, Phantasmal Image, and any other card that costs 3 mana total or less. The 3/3 first striking golem is an incredible tool against very aggressive 2 and 3 drops such as Strangleroot Geist and Mirran Crusader, and not only does Blade Splicer do well in the mid game, but it also has a lot of applications late in the game too.

Huntmaster of the Fells

No creature has found it’s way into more decks than Huntmaster of the Fells. Restoration Angel is a close second and is usually paired up with the Huntmaster in Naya Pod and beatdown decks, but there are some decks that only Huntmaster of the Fells can be in.

He has incredible value, gaining you 2 life and putting an extra creature in play on his light side, while his dark side lets you blast both your opponent and one of his creatures. You’ll always find the Huntmaster in Birthing Pod decks, GR beatdown decks, and Naya Decks, but the most ridiculous deck I’ve seen him in was Jun’ya Nakamura’s RUG Delver deck from the Nagoya PTQ back in July. Alongside Delver of Secrets and Quirion Dryad, Huntmaster of the Fells is LETHAL. The combination of a flipped Delver, a beefy Dryad, and an angry, trampling Ravager of the Fells is not good for your opponent, especially on turn 5.

His power doesn’t lie entirely in his dark side though. Being able to gain 2 life and put another creature into play when he flips back to his light side can be a useful tool when you really need it.

GAME DAY’S END

So I finished 1-4-1 on Game Day. Sometimes you need to get your face bashed in to learn your lesson. I’m okay with that. I’m ready to go back into brew mode and try to take on this meta in my own, unique way.

The top 8  (out of 47 players) at my Game Day event were:

  • – UB Heartless Summoning
  • – Mono Black Zombies
  • – Solar Flare
  • – BW Control
  • – Naya Beatdown (x2)
  • – UR Delver
  • – Grixis beatdown (with Torpor Orb)

I didn’t have time to stay around until the end of Game Day to see who won, but I did see who made the top 4: UR Delver, Solar Flare, Mono Black Zombies, and Naya Beatdown (which was using Gideon Jura). It’s a good representation of which decks are the most popular in this region of Japan at the moment.

 

The Nagoya Metagame since the World Magic Cup Qualifiers

A lot has changed in the metagame since the WMCQ in Nagoya, especially with the release of M13. I took part in 2 pre-releases and netted myself some pretty good cards on both days (I pulled a Liliana of the Dark Realms and a Sublime Angel at my first tournament and made a sweet WB Exalted deck).

Before the release of M13 I managed to dominate the meta, winning a Friday Night Magic against UB Zombies, Naya Pod, and WB Tokens and also going undefeated a few times the week before. It was my shining achievement of the month. UW Delver gained a lot of popularity after the World Magic Cup Qualifiers (one small tournament I went to had 12 Delver players, myself, and a Naya Pod player), but a Mono white Angel/human hybrid also won some events.

Geralf’s Messenger

RB Zombie Pod

By Nakagawa Hirofumi

Standard

Nagoya, Japan, 6/29/12, Friday Night Magic Winner

— (Spells – 38)–

  • 4 Gravecrawler
  • 4 Diregraf Ghoul
  • 4 Blood Artist
  • 2 Butcher Ghoul
  • 4 Geralf’s Messenger
  • 2 Falkenrath Aristocrat
  • 2 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 1 Zealous Conscripts
  • 1 Massacre Wurm
  • 2 Tragic Slip
  • 1 Bone Splinters
  • 1 Killing Wave
  • 2 Fling
  • 4 Birthing Pod
  • 1 Mortarpod
  • 3 Brimstone Volley

Land(22)—

  • 14 Swamp
  • 3 Mountain
  • 1 Cavern of Souls
  • 4 Dragonskull Summit

SideBoard(15)—

  • 2 Ratchet Bomb
  • 2 Surgical Extraction
  • 1 Memoricide
  • 1 Tragic Slip
  • 1 Bone Splinters
  • 1 Dismember
  • 1 Killing Wave
  • 3 Ancient Grudge
  • 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
  • 1 Sword of War and Peace
  • 1 Sword of Body and Mind

This deck list was put together before M13, but Hirofumi has won a few events with it and continues to do well with it in its post M13 form. Zombie Pod is no less potent since the introduction of M13, thanks largely to the ghoulish Geralf’s Messenger. Zombie Pod can be a little hard to play with at first, but if you can consistently use the Birthing Pod to ramp from a Gravecrawler to a Blood Artist to a Geralf’s Messenger you’ll be in pretty good shape.

Bloodthrone Vampire has been a great addition to Zombie decks as well in recent weeks, but Killing Wave can also be pretty gruesome in its own right when you have a full board of zombies and a full set of Blood Artists, then cast Killing Wave for 0. Instead of paying the cost, sacrifice all of your creatures and let your opponent lose 4 life for each one while you gain 4 life. This is a great tool to have against Venser Blink decks that keep blinking Stonehorn Dignitaries.

The New Nagoya Metagame

After M13 was released, the influx of new cards led to a lot of new competitors on the field. Those control players (like myself) that had built their decks to handle the giants of the past few months were in for a rude awakening. I did manage to squeeze out a few wins here and there in the month of July at some especially competitive places, but Delver decks (both UW, RUG, and Mono blue) and GR Beatdown or GR Kessig decks continued their dominance in the meta.

There were some outliers who pulled out a tournament win with WG Tempered Steel, UW Artifact Control, UW Tokens, Mono Green, but GR beatdown and Delver decks continue to be a huge part of the metagame. RUG Delver and UG Delver have also catapulted themselves into the spotlight on the backs of Quirion Dryad and Bonfire of the Damned. Quirion Dryad saw A LOT of play in July and I think it will continue to populate Delver decks in the coming weeks. In some cases it’s a lot more powerful than Geist of Saint Traft, but having hexproof gives the Saint the advantage.

Over the next month or so I see the meta game in Japan switching to mostly aggro, with a large amount of UW Delver players switching to UG Delver to use Quirion Dryad. I think this is because of the low number of decks using cards like Doomblade or Go For the Throat. When all you have to worry about is a Whipflare or Slagstorm early on in the game. Quirion Dryad becomes a much better alternative early on in the game that can deal a great deal of damage without having to worry about being blocked. I’ve also seen many players switching to GW or GWB Gavony ramp in order to gain advantage over the multitude of players using GR and Naya beatdown or GR Kessig Ramp.

Traditional control decks will fall out of favor, but lock down decks such as the WB Control deck that Takahira Shunsuke used on Game Day will become more popular as more players come to realize the usefulness of Trading Post in the current artifact rich metagame. I think UB Tezzeret Post decks will allow the planeswalker one last hurrah before he rotates out in October. Following the number of Zombie decks I saw over the last month, I think Zombies will gain in popularity as well. I think the control deck you will see the most of in Japan before rotation in October will be Esper or UW Miracle Planeswalker control since it’s the only control deck capable of clearing the board consistently with Day of Judgment while keeping threats such as Gideon Jura on the table.

Get a Life (or a thousand)

Like I said before, I’m ready to throw in the towel with UR Control. I can’t make it work with my current resources so it’s time to move on. There are too many decks that hit too hard, too fast. However, quite a few of these deck types have something in common. Once they reach turn 7 or so, they start to slow down. I noticed this when playing control for the last few months. If I could keep their board clean through counters and burn spells until turn 7 or so, my card advantage and heavy beaters like Inferno Titan would usually carry me to a win.

But how do I do it now in the current metagame? How can I stay alive that long and still have a chance of beating my opponent in the long game? Control? Nah, been there, done that. No no no . . . I have something quite different in mind for the rest of August and September

“My So Called Life” Gain

By Ryan Schwenk

Standard

Nagoya, Japan, August 20th, 2012

Land: 23

  • 2 Phyrexian Core
  • 4 Sunpetal Grove
  • 1 Seraph Sanctuary
  • 1 Cavern of Souls
  • 3 Ghost Quarter
  • 9 Plains
  • 3 Forest

Creatures: 24

  • 4 Cathedral Sanctifier
  • 3 Restoration Angel
  • 4 Elvish Visionary
  • 2 Wurmcoil Engine
  • 4 Rhox Faithmender
  • 4 Fiend Hunter
  • 1 Serra Avatar
  • 1 Suture Priest
  • 1 Stingerfling Spider
  • Spells and Artifacts: 13
  • 3 Pristine Talisman
  • 2 Ichor Wellspring
  • 2 Trading Post
  • 3 Cloudshift
  • 1 Batterskull
  • 2 Rancor

Sideboard: 15

  • 1 Stingerfling Spider
  • 1 Spine of Ish Sah
  • 3 Natural End
  • 1 Karn Liberated
  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 2 Chalice of Life/ Chalice of Death
  • 1 Grafdigger’s Cage
  • 2 Terminus
  • 1 Ratchet Bomb

This deck started out as largely a “for fun” deck, but as I kept on brewing it, the deck seemed like it had some teeth and could compete in the current environment. The theme focuses on gaining a lot of life as quickly as possible and this is important against decks like UW Delver and BR/UB Zombies. Cards like Cathedral Sanctifier are great at keeping you in the black early, and Elvish Visionary really helps you to get card advantage early on while putting a body on the table. As the game goes on you can keep on adding to that total with cards like Pristine Talisman and Trading Post.

What really sucks for your opponent is when you land a Rhox Faithmender on the battlefield. Since the abilities stack, you gain x2 life with one, x4 life with 2, x8 life with 3, and x16 life with 4 on the battlefield! To put it simply, one Cathedral Sanctifier could gain you 48 life, and a single attack by a Wurmcoil Engine will gain you 96 life! It’s sick what this deck can do if all the pieces fall into place. Once you gain all of that life, 3 damage from Delver of Secrets or a 10 point Bonfire of the Damned will be little less than a prick on the finger.

So you have all this life now, what do you do with it? I would definitely let Serra Avatar finish the game for you. Slap a Rancor (or a Batterskull) on it and watch your opponent collapse. Yes it could die to a Doomblade, and you DEFINITELY don’t want your opponent to use Tribute of Hunger against it if it’s the only creature on your side, but as long as an Oblivion Ring doesn’t touch it, you should be fine because it will just get shuffled back into your library. Restoration Angel and Cloudshift can also help protect it if worse comes to worse.

If you’re playing against a control deck, I’d side in Chalice of Life/Chalice of Death. It should be very easy to hit 30 life, and once you hit 30 it flips and drains 5 life from your opponent each time it taps.

There are also a few ways to get an infinite life gain combo in this deck. Just like any infinite combo, they are very delicate to removal (such as a Doomblade or Searing Spear), but if you can get it off it’s pretty much an automatic win. The first combo involves Suture Priest and 3 Fiend Hunters. Let your first Fiend Hunter take out their creature, then bring in the second one to target the first Fiend Hunter. Once they are in play, you can bring in the 3rd Fiend Hunter and then the combo starts. Fiend Hunter C targets B, which then frees A who then targets C, and then the combo starts again and again in an infinite loop. It’s tough to get all 4 cards safely onto the battlefield, but think of this as just another win condition. I’ve pulled it off against a Mono Blue Wizards player and he forfeited the game soon afterwards.

You can also do a similar infinite combo with a Restoration Angel instead of a 3rd Fiend Hunter. Just blink the 2nd Fiend Hunter with a Restoration Angel. When FH 2 leaves the battlefield the first one will return, targeting the Angel and removing it, and when FH 2 blinks back he’ll target the first one again, freeing up the angel once more to start the combo. You’ll have to state the triggers carefully, so get some practice with this before trying it in a game so you don’t mess up. If the Suture Priest isn’t in play, you can also do the 2 Fiend Hunter and 1 Restoration Angel combo with a Seraph’s Sanctuary to gain infinite life. Like I said, it’s delicate but fun if you can pull it off.

Another great addition to this deck is Trading Post. It will survive Day of Judgment and Terminus and if any of your artifacts are in the graveyard you can sacrifice a creature to it to return an artifact before the creature gets removed. Better to get something than nothing, right? Ichor Wellspring Spine and Ish Sah both work well with Trading Post too, getting you card advantage over your opponent and also destroying the card you that’s hurting you the most. Even if you don’t have the ability to use the Trading Post’s 4th ability for their going to the graveyard ability, you can use Phyrexian Core to activate them and gain life in the process. The beauty of Trading Post is that even if your board is cleared you can pay life (which you should have plenty of) and start bringing back your Wurmcoil Engines, Batterskull, and even other Trading Posts with Goat tokens. Your Wurmcoil Engine gets taken out by Day of Judgment? Pfft, just sacrifice your Deathtouch creature token and get it back at the end of the turn. Have too many land? Discard it and gain 4 life (or 8 if you have a Rhox Faithmender in play).

The deck isn’t without its weaknesses though. Two cards this deck will have problems with are Jace, Memory Adept, and anything with infect. Inkmoth Nexus is very popular in the current metagame in GR Kessig decks, which is why I went with 3 Ghost Quarters main. You could also put in Melira, Sylvok Outcast in your sideboard if you’re worried about infect, but most of the time your large number of blockers and Ghost Quarters should keep you poison free. Just be sure to keep a fast hand! Natural End will also help you get rid of Inkmoth Nexus and gain you life in the process. This deck still has problems against 3rd turn Birds of Paradise with Sword of War and Peace on it, but it doesn’t die as fast as other decks do.

Jace is a little trickier to deal with. Oblivion Rings would be the obvious choice at getting rid of him, but you can also use Spine of Ish Sah to destroy him for good (which works great with Phyrexian Core or Trading Post). That card can be a little heavy, however, which is why it might also be a good idea to have an Elixir of Immortality to shuffle your graveyard back into your library in a worst-case scenario. I haven’t played against many control decks lately though, so I don’t have one in my sideboard at the moment. The great thing though is that even if the Elixir of Immortality gets milled, you can get it back for a goat token with Trading Post.

For decks using a lot of spirits or Insectile Aberrations, I’d recommend Stingerfling Spider. It can block a flipped Delver of Secrets easily, as well as destroying cards like Griselbrand , Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and Restoration Angel. It’s also perfect for this deck because Stingerfling Spider’s ability is perefect with Cloudshift and Restoration Angel, letting use it again and again.

I’d love to add some Thragtusks into this mix, but I’m still in the process of procuring some. If you have any other suggestions on which cards would work well with this deck, I’d like to hear them. I’m sure it could be a little faster in the early game or use some mana acceleration, but at the same time it should still gain you a lot of life really quick.

I’ve played tested it a lot over the last few weeks and the results have been VERY promising. UW Delver pretty much loses to it every game due to its lack of removal and being unable to deal large amounts of damage in one turn. I’ve also done well against most aggro decks. I went up against a WG beatdown deck recently that had cards like Blade Splicer and Wolfir Silverheart in it, and I managed to gain over 300 life before the player gave up. Even with a full board he was unable to do anything against me. GR and Naya beatdown/Kessig Ramp decks are half and half against this deck. They are faster at getting out their attackers and can hit for a lot really quick. Zombies hate this life gain especially (but you should still take out those Blood Artists right away!), and most control decks have lost to it after being unable to deal critical damage to it.

I think you’ll enjoy playing with it if you try it out. Just watch out for poison and Jaces! Tempered Steel, UG Infect, Mono black infect, and control decks with Jace, Memory Adept will be your biggest challenges. Of course feel free to change a few things up if you want depending on the metagame in your area. I’d like to thank Chris Bradford, a fellow American Magic player living Nagoya, for helping me to put the finishing touches on this deck after my first few rough builds.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article about the metagame in Nagoya, Japan as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always if you have any suggestions for future articles I’d like to hear them so please feel free to leave a comment. By the time you read this August will almost be over (or September will have started) and we’ll be a lot closer to the release of Return to Ravnica. Be sure to get as much value out of your Scars block cards before that happens. There are a lot of great combos that are only going to be available to us for a short time! Good luck gaming!

(NOTE: I want to point out again that this is an old article that wasn’t posted when it originally happened. The deck lists are old and have likely been changed since then, but hopefully you’ll get the gist! If you have any questions please ask. Thanks again for reading!)

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