(Back in) Black Friday MTG Weekend: Nagoya

In a rage

Losing can be tough. It drains you both physically and emotionally. You can start a day and feel totally prepared and ready to take on the world, but when all’s said and done and the numbers in the second column are higher than the first one, you take it hard. I’m not a rage quitter. I don’t scoop up my cards even if the odds seem impossibly against me. I fight to the last man (or creature) and don’t call it a game until the last life drains out of my total. With that being said, the FINAL Nagoya Grand Prix trial was hard for me to swallow.

  • Amenity Dream GPT, Friday 11/23 – Izzet/JUND death touch flash (tie 1-1), GW aggro (lost 1-2), UWR control, JUND zombies, JUND aggro (lost 1-2), mono red, Naya aggro (won 2-1), UWR control (lost 0-2. Need to put more pressure on the player!), GWB reanimator (tied 1-1-1. Should have killed him but didn’t check damage close enough. Be more precise!)

My first match up was against the recently popularized deathtouch ping deck from GP Bochum in November. It uses Olivia Voldaren or Izzet Staticaster, soulbounds it to a Nightshade Peddler (AVR), then proceeds to take out all of your creatures. I actually tied it, and probably could have won if I approached the battle differently. If you go up against one, throw in removal and take out the Peddler. Once he’s taken out the deck plays just like a weakened JUND deck.

After my first tie, I went up against both a GW aggro and a Jund aggro deck. I kept bad hands in both and they were my downfall. I can’t stress how important it is to know your deck and to understand what hands should be mulliganed and which should be kept. I kept hands that didn’t have the proper land, and it was my downfall. With just one tie, my seasonal points stood at 394 points, just 6 shy of getting a GP bye. There was no way I was going to leave the tournament without a win to push me over 400 points for the bye.

Going into my 4th game, I had pretty much given up all hope of getting into the top 8. Being X-2-1 pretty much spelled my doom. My opponent was a Naya aggro deck, using cards like Hellrider, Restoration Angel, and Thundermaw Hellkite. This was a perfect chance to push my sideboard to it’s limit and to see how it handles an aggressive deck. I had learned my lesson after the previous two matches, and was thirsty for blood. Having sideded in Ultimate Price (I went to 2 in my sideboard along with 2 Rebuke), his mono colored monsters stood no chance. If you’re playing against UWR aggro or Naya aggro and you’re playing white or black, I’d definitely recommend these spells. Ultimate Price is the better card, but with Rebuke you can take out multicolor creatures like Olivia Voldaren.

In my next match I got handled by control and don’t think I had sided in properly against it. I lost quickly and  fell to 1-3-1.

My final match of the tournament put me up against a GWB reanimator player. I pushed the match to a game 3, but ended up drawing with my opponent after forgetting to attack with my Avacyn’s Pilgrim, leaving him at 1 life and allowing him to make a comeback with Thragtusks and Angels . . . Make sure you are doing everything correctly before you commit. That’s the only advice I can give to you about that.

I had to run off to Friday Night Magic after the GPT, so I don’t have an update on who won it just yet, but I’ve heard from somebody there that they think a BR Zombie aggro deck won it and that a Bant Control deck was also in the top 8. I’ll ask one of my friends that takes notes on these events and get back to you with the correct information.

What I learned from Grand Prix trials

I finished 1-3-2 at this event, and the win and ties put me at 422 Planeswalker Points at the end of the day. After a month and 4 total events, my final record was 8-16-2. The level of competition was really tough, and I expect the same if not tougher at the Grand Prix in December (only 2 more weeks!). The players I went up against are fine tuned machines. They made mistakes only 5% of the time, so don’t expect any easy wins against Japanese players at the GP. Their decks are fine tuned and work very well, so if your deck trips up you can be sure that you’ll fall behind and won’t have any way to get back in it.

I learned that it’s also important to follow the metagame and plan accordingly. Just because your deck did really well a few weeks ago against a different metagame doesn’t mean it will continue that streak now. I had left in quite a few cards for control match ups, but I was totally outclassed against aggro decks. Another thing I realized in this format is that you shouldn’t overcommit against certain decks. When playing control or decks with red in them, you should always keep some resources available in case your board gets wiped. Always have a plan B. Taking everything into account, I rebounded from these losses and got back into the local metagame to test what I’ve learned.

The Nagoya Metagame Diaries

  • Card Brunch, Monday, 11/19 – GW aggro x3, UWR midrange tempo , UWR midrange, frites, UWR control (WINNER 1)l, Bant aggro, UWR tempo, UW control, Rakdos beat, Bant human aggro, GR werewolves, GW aggro (WINNER 2)

A good turnout on Monday made led to two winners who went 3-0 at Card Brunch: a GW aggro and a UWR control deck. GW aggro was popular at this event.

  • Hobby Station Osu,Friday, 11/23 (FNM) – RBW frites (won 2-1), GW aggro, Grixis control (won 2-0), UWR control (tied 1-1-1. Should have won but the round was cut to 40 minutes), JUND aggro

After playing a month of GPTs, Friday Night Magic is a walk in the park. There are some good players, but nobody near the level of those in the Grand Prix trials. My first match up was against a RBW Frites deck. I felt oddly nostalgic playing against these colors because I hadn’t seen one in such a long time. The player didn’t seem to sideboard in correctly against me and I won 2-1. He used spells instead of creatures to take care of my creatures, and my token deck just overwhelmed him.

My next opponent was using Grixis control and all I had to do was keep up the pressure on him and make him use all his cards to stay alive. Call of the Conclave and Lingering Souls were great against control, as well as Purify the Grave. In my last match, I played against the best deck at the event, a UWR control deck. We both took a game a piece, but due to the rounds being cut to 40 minutes, I wasn’t able to finish him before we ran out of time. I definitely had the upper-hand with my sideboard, but I couldn’t beat him fast enough.

A 2-0-1 record and 2nd place out of 18 people wasn’t bad, plus I got another Japanese Pillar of Flame promo! After talking to my friend on 11/24, I found out that he won the Card Brunch FNM with his GB zombie deck. However it, because of the GP Trial and holiday, only 8 people showed up so it’s not saying much.

  • Hobby Station Meitetsu Eki, Saturday,11/24 – Mono red (won 2-0), mono red, GWB reanimator (won 2-1), BR vampire aggro, JUND aggro, Selesnya aggro, Frites (won 2-1), GB zombies, Selesnya midrange (lost 0-2).

Now THIS is what I’m talking about. There were only 12 people at the event today (there are usually around 30), but I finished 3-1 and came in second place to get 1800 yen in store credit. My first match up was against a mono red deck, and it was nowhere near as nasty as the RDW (Red Deck Wins) decks that I saw in the GPTs. He did get me down to 7 life at one point, but once I started to drop Thragtusk after Thragtusk it was over. I sided in Centaur Healers in the second game and won it easily. Removal like Ultimate Price for Ash Zealot worked really well.

My second match up was against Reanimator and after a month of playing against it with the best players at the helm, I knew exactly what do to how to play against them. I lost the first game due to mulliganing to 5, but I put pressure on them quickly in the second game and was right back in it. By game three I was well in control, using Selesnya Charm and Ultimate Price like a master surgeon, waiting for my opponent to collect his dead creatures from the graveyard then removing the Angel to send his graveyard fodder to limbo as well. A card that I added in after the GP Trials was Collective Blessing and it did REALLY well in my mana creature filled token deck. It put me on equal terms with his big creatures and put a lot of pressure on him.

My next match was against a traditional 4 color Frites deck, and the results were the same. I lost the first game because I didn’t have enough removal, but in games 2 and 3 I sided in everything at my disposal and took out his creatures as soon as they landed in play. Collective Blessing saw play in this game as well. The great thing about it is that I can take out my finishers and focus on removal cards and just build up an army of small creatures until I can cast it.

It was my first finals match appearance EVER at Hobby Station, and I was psyched (even though it was only with 12 people). My opponent was using GW midrange, and I made the mistake of thinking it was GW aggro at first. I kept waiting for him to drop big creatures so I could use Selesnya Charm, but he kept dropping Thragtusks, Restoration Angels, mana dorks, and Borderland Rangers. When he dropped a Collective Blessing against me, I knew I was in trouble. I did all I could to stay in the game, casting and flashing back Lingering Souls. When he dropped a second Collective Blessing, I knew it was over. I lost the game by siding in incorrectly. If you’re playing against GW Midrange, side in something that will destroy enchanments, as well as something that can wipe the board and get rid of all of their creatures (especially tokens). I should have used my Terminus cards, but didn’t cause I thought it was GW aggro.

2nd Place at Hobby Station prize

Back in Black

The 3-1 record today and 2-0-1 record at FNM yesterday puts me “back in black” territory as far as win percentage is concerned. I went 2-1 on 11/2, 1-2 on 11/9, and 1-3-1 on 11/17 for a total of 9-7-2 at regular Magic events in the month of November. I have one more tomorrow, and as long as I manage to get 3 wins I should be able to stay about .500 winning percentage going into Grand Prix Nagoya. 

I’d like to share some of the strategies I’ve been using against the top decks in the metagame, and hopefully you’ll get some good tips from them.

  1. GW Aggro – I’ve been  using Abrupt Decay, Ultimate Price, and Selesnya Charm to great affect against GW aggro. Killing a Silverblade Paladin or a Sublime Angel before a Rancor touches them is a great way to get rid of two problems. Abrupt Decay kills just about everything in this deck as well, so I’d definitely use it. Taking out those creatures is essential.
  2. GWB Reanimator/Frites – I’ve been siding in Purify the Grave and maximizing my removal spells like Ultimate Price. One Terminus is also nice to have just in case the board state gets out of control. Making your opponent use up their Unburial Rites while also getting rid of their target is very effective. Having Selesnya Charm/Ultimate Price is also a good way to take out their Angel of Serenity after they stack which creatures from the graveyard they want. Graveyard removal spells and creature removal spells are your biggest assets in this matchup. 
  3. UWR Beatdown/Midrange – This is another match up where removal like Ultimate Price is good. It takes out both Restoration Angel and Thundermaw Hellkite and leaves them in a bad situation with nothing in the air. Rootborn Defenses is also good against their Bonfires of the Damned. If you can take out their Hellkites and Angels, the deck loses a lot of oomph and Geist of Saint Traft will lose out to your creatures, especially Thragtusk. 
  4. Mono Red/Rakdos beatdown – We all know that Mono Red and BR beatdown decks hate life gain, which is why they are trying to push as much damage across the board as they can before turn 5 when a Thragtusk would hit the table. For that reason I have put some Centaur Healers in the sideboard, and this is another deck where Ultimate Price is amazing. Taking out cards like Ash Zealot and Hellrider will go a long way to killing any hope they have of dealing enough damage to you. Keep the creatures on the board and kill those troublesome creatures and you’ll be fine.
  5. Various control (Grixis, UW, UWR, Jund)- Against the blue variety, Purify the Grave and Golgari Charm work well. The Charm allows your creatures to survive a Bonfire or Supreme Verdict, and it will also destroy an Oblivion Ring or Detention Sphere. Keeping pressure on these decks early is a must. Mana creatures and tokens are great, but don’t overcommit or you could lose all of your resources. JUND (GBR) control is a bit more tricky because you have to worry about Bonfire, Olivia Voldaren, and Rakdos’s Return, but I think the cards will be the same aside from Purify the Grave. Golgari Charm and Rootborn Defense will be good cards to side in. 

Well that’s it for today’s article. Hopefully the metagame info will help you a little bit and give you some insight on how to handle the problems you’ve been facing. If you’d my insight on anything else over here in Japan or have some comments about the cards and strategies I’ve used, please be sure to leave a comment. Thanks for reading.