Crunch Time: Closing in on the 2012 Nagoya GP

After some rough weeks of Magic and very poor showings at Grand Prix Trials, I’m at my wits end. I have one final chance on Friday of getting 3 byes in the Nagoya GP. With only 40 competitors attending, it will be my best chance of making a top 8. I feel like I’ve learned my lessons from the past 4 Grand Prix trials, but I know I’m missing cards and might not have answers for everything. I’ve decided to put all my hopes into two different decks: My Izzet Delver Control and my GWB (Junk) Tokens deck.

First I’m going to talk about the results of last week’s trials and competitions. After that I’m going to make my case for each deck and I’d like you to give me your opinions on each. With less than 17 days until the Nagoya GP, I need to give it my all.

Last Week’s Results

  • Saturday, 11/17, Hobby Station Osu – GW human aggro (lost 0-2), RBW tokens (lost 0-2), UWR Traft Beatdown (lost 1-2), UWR control (TIE – need more speed in the early game. Should be more aggressive. You can win these games. Work on deciding what to side out), UWR Traft beat x 3, GWB token aggro (WINNER), GWB reanimator, GWBU reanimator, UW control (2nd PLACE), Bant hex proof, GW aggro, BG zombies, Bant control, JUND aggro x3,

The glaring weakeness of my deck against aggro was exposed in this regular standard tournament last Saturday. My first loss came at the hands of GW Human aggro. Cards like Champion of the Parish, Mayor of Avabruck, and Silverblade Paladin made short work of my deck. If I don’t have more on drops and acceleration, there’s no way I can handle decks like this. My second loss came against a RBW token player who was using red instead of green. With red he threw in Krenko’s Command and also Hellriders. With so many creatures on the table I was in deep trouble by turn 4. In the second game I lost on turn 5 when I took 8 points of damage from 4 Spirits/Intangible Virtue then a Burn at the Stake to the face for the last 12 damage. My lack of fast drops hurt a lot.

UWR beatdown was also a tough customer. I managed to win one game when I could gain life to stay in it, but when I didn’t gain life I was a goner. Trostani and Centaur Coursers probably would have been better than keeping my Angel of Serenity in, but I learned this after the fact. At 0-3 I was getting really angry with myself. Control should have been my strong point, but in my next match against UWR control I struggled to get a tie. My deck just had too many things going on and nothing strong to bring it together. I ended the day with a bye and raced home to work on building a better deck for the next day’s GP Trial.

Sunday, 11/18, Higashi Betsuin Kaikan Nagoya GP Trial

  • Mono red aggro (lost 1-2), GW token aggro (lost 0-2), GWB tokens (lost 0-2), GW aggro (won 2-0). JUND aggro (lost 0-2), bye

Apparently I didn’t do enough to change my deck at the GP Trial and I ended up getting my ass totally kicked. My sideboard was especially dreadful against the decks I faced. I had absolutely no fast spot removal against fast decks like Mono red and lost whenI could cast my Centaur Healers or Thragtusks fast enough. Playing JUNK (WBG) I have access to Ultimate Price and other removal, but I wasn’t playing it. I thought that Selesnya Charm would be enough, but it doesn’t do anything when a 4/4 Loxodon Smiter or a Hellrider hit the battlefield. Lesson learned, they went into my new build.

I previously had good match ups against other token decks, but ever since I took out Terminus I’ve been having trouble against them. When it’s token Vs. tokens it’s all about who can get them out the fastest. If you fall behind you’re dead, and that’s what happened to me. Terminus helps because you can hold back some cards in your hand and let them fill the board before wiping it. After it’s wiped, you can start laying down your tokens again and get the jump on them. This was my problem against both GW Token aggro and another GWB token deck that was running a build similar to 2nd place finisher in GP Charleston, Brian Eason. Collective Blessing, 2 playsets of mana producers, and Garruk Relentless was too much for me and I was overwhelmed.

My only win of the day came against a GW aggro deck, and mostly because the player was uncomfortable with it and played it a lot slower than other players. It allowed me to get a board presence and quickly take over. One thing I did learn from this win is that ABRUPT DECAY IS AWESOME against GW aggro. Being able to take out a Loxodon Smiter, Silverblade Paladin, or other 3 drop was very useful. I want more in my sideboard!

I ended up losing my next match to Jund aggro. It’s tough to play against when the deck has access to cards like Bonfire of the Damned, Rakdos’s Return, and Thragtusk. The way to beat this type of deck is to get out a lot of creatures fast and to not give them a chance to wipe your board. You also need to take care of Olivia Voldaren no matter what. Taking over your Thragtusk or pinging your spirits to death isn’t good for you.

I forgot to record what I lost to after that game, but I think it was a GW aggro deck. At that point I was 1-5, and I was furious with myself. I was even angrier when I was awarded a bye for 2 ‘wins’. I hate not getting to play for a win. Even if I would eventually lose, I want to  play the game out. A 2-5 record got me about 30 points for the day, and put me at 392 points on the season. With 1 more win on Friday, I’ll have reached the threshold for a 1 round bye at GP Nagoya. While I’ll take whatever I can get, I’d be more happy with 3 byes from a GP Trial.
Sunday TOP 8:

  • Frites, mono green aggro, GWB reanimator, Bant aggro, Bant control, BR aggro, UWR midrange/tempo, Jund zombies aggro

Top 4: BR aggro, GWB reanimator, UWR tempo, mono green Beatdown,

Finals: GWB reanimator,  mono green Beatdown (WINNER MONO GREEN)

During the day GW aggro reared its ugly head quite often, but the top 8 showed that there is more to the meta than just trampling elephants who are friends with knights that like to hit people two times. Reanimator seems to have lost some ground since the previous week, but it still made it to the finals. The eventual winner, a mono green beatdown deck, was a surprise to everybody. Rancor, Arbor Elf, Strangleroot Geist, Predator Ooze, Wolfir Silverheart, and a myriad of other support cards punished decks when they missed their land drops. The deck certainly did well against other aggro decks, especially mono red and GW aggro.

I also wasn’t expecting a Zombies deck to make it to the top 8 either. It was piloted by a friend I play with sometimes at Card Brunch, but lacked the power to reach the finals. The mix of the meta seems to be split from these results, but believe me when I say you’re going to run into GW aggro decks every other match. They are the UW Delver of this block.

The Gun Show

So now we come down to it. I’ve spent all week redesigning my decks to battle aggro decks and I think they will do a much better job this time around. My goal for Friday (and probably the GP)  is to beat the beatdown, so while you’re looking at my two choices, please tell me which one you think would do better in that match up. I’m missing some cards for these decks, so don’t be too hard on them. Give me some suggestions if you can

Izzet Delver Control? (By Ryan Schwenk)

Spells:

  • 4 Delver of Secrets
  • 3 Snapcaster Mage
  • 2 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
  • 2 Clone
  • 2 Izzet Charm
  • 1 Jace, Architect of the Mind
  • 4 Think Twice
  • 2 Inaction Injunction
  • 3 Unsummon
  • 2 Cyclonic Rift
  • 2 Devil’s Play
  • 4 Mizzium Mortars
  • 1 Essence Scatter
  • 2 Syncopate
  • 2 Dissipate

Lands:

  • 4 Sulfur Falls
  • 2 Steam Vents
  • 2 Desolate Lighthouse
  • 1 Izzet Guildgate
  • 10 Island
  • 5 Mountain

Sideboard:

  • 2 Zealous Conscripts
  • 2 Rolling Temblor
  • 2 Pillar of Flame
  • 2 Annihilating Fire
  • 1 Blasphemous Act
  • 1 Redirect
  • 1 Essence Scatter
  • 1 Syncopate
  • 1 Dissipate
  • 1 Clone
  • 1 Jace, Memory Adept

THOUGHTS:

This deck is lacking another Jace, Bonfire of the Damned, Steam Vents, and more Izzet Charms. Would they improve the deck? Yes. Having another Jace wouldn’t be bad, but with all of the card draw I have in the deck, I don’t think getting cards will be a problem. What I’m worried about the most is getting rid of aggro. Is Mizzium Mortars enough? For the most part, but later on in the game creatures get bigger and you have to hit hard. Bonfire would be great but I don’t have any. Another worry about this deck is that Cavern of Souls is on it’s way back into the meta. I might put some Ghost Quarters main and take out some Islands to deal with this. The sideboard is okay, but it could be better.

Against the meta?

Nobody has been expecting Delver lately and it’s caught a lot of people off guard. Getting one down first turn then protecting him with counterspells and burning beaters on the ground has been pretty useful. With 24 spells, there is a good chance of the Delver flipping that second turn. I’m worried that I haven’t played with this deck enough and I might make mistakes if I play it though. I might save it for FNM and see how it does. If you have any other thoughts on this build please post them.

 

Be Fruitful and Populate (Junk Tokens Aggro) – By Ryan Schwenk

Spells: (37)

  • 4 Thragtusk
  • 4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 2 Arbor Elf
  • 3 Restoration Angel
  • 1 Armada Wurm
  • 1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
  • 3 Call of the Conclave
  • 3 Selesnya Charm
  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 4 Intangible Virtue
  • 2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
  • 2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
  • 1 Midnight Haunting
  • 1 Ultimate Price
  • 2 Farseek

Lands: (23)

  • 4 Temple Garden
  • 3 Overgrown Tomb
  • 3 Woodland Cemetary
  • 3 Sunpetal Grove
  • 2 Gavony Township
  • 1 Vault of the Archangel
  • 1 Grove of the Gaurdian
  • 1 Swamp
  • 3 Forest
  • 2 Plains

Sideboard

  • 2 Terminus
  • 2 Purify the Grave
  • 1 Rootborn Defense
  • 3 Centaur Healer
  • 2 Golgari Charm
  • 1 Vraska the Unseen
  • 1 Abrupt Decay
  • 3 Rebuke

 

THOUGHTS:

The other deck I’ve been focusing on is my GWB tokens deck. It’s come a LONG way since my first build and it’s become really consistent. The mana and curve finally feel correct, and card choice also feels like it’s ready to take on aggro. I’m just wondering if my changes will be enough to handle the likes of GW aggro, BG aggro, and other fast decks. I’m trying to model it after the 2nd place Junk tokens deck at GP Charleston, but I’m still missing some cards. Take a look and tell me what you think. 

The biggest different main is the removal of Angel of Serenity. She had become a “Win More” card, not really helping me to turn the game around by the time I got her out. I also moved the Centaur Healers to the sideboard for aggro battles. In their place I put in the Arbor Elves and another Pilgrim, as well as a 4th Intangible Virtue and a Restoration Angel. I need speed for aggro, and a leaner, more aggressive deck is the way to go. 

I also took out a Charm for an Ultimate Price to give me a chance to kill a Silverblade Paladin or a Wolfir Silverheart before they become soulbounded. It’s not going to work against Loxodon Smiter, but it will help against any other mono colored creature. I went down to one Trostani main and took out a land to make space for the last two Restoration Angels. 

With 23 mana, 6 mana producers, and 2 Farseeks, I think this deck will be able to get to the cards I need faster than before without being mana flooded as much. I hope it will also lead to a faster start against aggro decks so I can drop things on turns 2 and 3 instead of 4 and 5 when I’m almost dead. I also threw in a Midnight Haunting, and depending on how it works out, I might put more in. 

The sideboard focuses more on aggro match ups now than before, with cards like Terminus to help give me the advantage after wiping the board, as well as Abrupt Decay to destroy cards like Loxodon Smiter and Silverblade Paladin which have been running rampant in the metagame. I would love to have 2 more in my sideboard, as well as another Ultimate price but I haven’t had a chance to buy them yet. Instead, I’m running Rebuke at the moment to punish the more aggressive decks. It will probably work better than Oblivion Ring, which hasn’t really done anything for me in my sideboard lately against aggro decks. 

 

Against the meta?

I’m definitely going to add another Ultimate Price and Abrupt Decay to this deck, but I’d also like to try out Garruk Relentless. They will help me out the most against aggro decks and up my win percentage by a few points. My new game plan is going to be to get my planeswalkers out as fast as possible with mana dorks, ten keeping pressure on the player while I support them with Thragtusks, Restoration Angels, and Intangible Virtues. Aside from Dreadbore in Grixis/Rakdos decks, there isn’t really a good way to deal with my Planeswalkers. I’m going to have so many creatures in play that it will be really hard to just destroy them through damage. They should be protected well and should reach their ultimates easily. 

The Restoration Angel and Thragtusk/Aramada Wurm combo should also put a lot more pressure on my opponent than having Angel of Serenity in play. It will also let me save cards from dying. Against control decks that will fill my graveyard with cards, I wonder if it would be worth having a Seance in my deck as well. Hmm . . . if so I’d need more populate cards. I took them all out from this build aside from a lone Trostani. 

 

Your thoughts?

I’d like to hear some feedback from you now on which deck you’d use in the metagame as I’ve seen it here in Japan, as well as which cards you’d be using instead. Although the GP Trial is important, I’d like to also get your opinion on the Nagoya Grand Prix. What would you run?

I’ll be playing in the final GP Trial this Friday, as well as 2 other regular tournaments this weekend, so I should have a lot of more metagame information by next week. Look for another update sometime on Monday or Tuesday about how the meta is shaping up. Thanks for reading!

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