Gearing up for Grand Prix Nagoya (a rejected SCG article)

This was an article I wrote for Star City Games but the editor felt that it wouldn’t be worth posting because not enough of the readers are going to Grand Prix Nagoya to make it worth their time. It contains a lot of information that I talked about in previous posts, but there are also added bonuses like deck lists that I got from fellow players. Please keep in mind the that deck lists have changed since I wrote this a few weeks ago. Enjoy and let me know if you have any suggestions for improving my articles in the future!

Gearing up for Grand Prix Nagoya

The Nagoya Metagame Diaries

It’s been QUITE a long time since I’ve done any reports about the metagame in Japan, but I think this time it will be useful to anybody who is thinking of playing in Nagoya on December 8th and 9th. I’ve been following Star City Games and other websites religiously these last few months, reading up on strategies, SCG Open and Invitation Results, as well as what’s been going on in the States competition back in the USA.

For the most part, Nagoya has been following the trends in the USA metagame, but the results have been radically different. During the first few weeks after the release of Return to Ravnica, UWR Midrange won event after event, setting up its dominance in the metagame. Not long afterwards, players fought back with control decks such at Bant control, Grixis control, and Jund control. Come mid-November, GW aggro and Frites (as well as GWB reanimator) dominated. This sort of thing always happens in the metagame though. When one deck becomes dominant, another one pops up and seeks to exploit its weaknesses. With less than a month until the big event, I can only theorize what the metagame will be like. If the pattern holds, I think Nagoya will be seeing a lot of control in the next week or two, and by GP Nagoya, we could be back to some type of aggro or midrange deck as the dominant strategy.

One deck many people have been having considerable difficulty with is Bant hexproof, which has been picking up in popularity as a way to get around pesky blockers as well as to deal so much damage that Thragtusk means absolutely nothing.

Bant Hexproof

By Takahashi Dai

Standard

Grand Prix Nagoya Trial, Nagoya, Japan, 11/12/12

Land 24

  • 4 Temple Garden
  • 4 Hinterland Harbor
  • 3 Sunpetal Grove
  • 3 Hallowed Fountain
  • 2 Cavern of Souls
  • 8 Forest

Creatures 28

  • 4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 4 Arbor Elf
  • 4 Invisible Stalker
  • 4 Geist of Saint Traft
  • 4 Loxodon Smiter
  • 4 Deadbridge Goliath
  • 4 Wolfir Silverheart

Spells 8

  • 4 Rancor
  • 4 Increasing Savagery

Sideboard 15

  • 3 Triumph of Ferocity
  • 3 Sigarda, Host of Herons
  • 2 Champion of Lambholt
  • 2 Wild Beastmaster
  • 2 Tree of Redemption
  • 2 Spectral Flight
  • 1 Witchbane Orb

After getting beat soundly in my first game at a Grand Prix Nagoya trial (and losing a somewhat closer game the second time for a match loss), I sat down with Takahashi and talked to him about his deck. His strongest creature cards by far are Invisible Stalker and Geist of Saint Traft. This deck is really efficient at getting those cards down quickly and then proceeding to beef them up through cards like Rancor and Increasing Savagery. I lost my first game to an Invisible Stalker all by his lonesome after he put a Rancor on him then put Increasing Savagery. It was an unblockable 8/6 hitting me on turn 5 and there was absolutely nothing I could do about that. Even with life gain, once he flashed back the Increasing Savagery I was done for. I think it’s one of the most powerful cards in this deck.

I switched my sideboard out to focus on stopping his flashback of Increasing Savagery, as well as to gain myself life while I put pressure on him with fast creatures, but even though I got later into the game, the results were the same. I focused so much on getting rid of those bonuses on his creatures that I was overwhelmed by Loxodon Smiter and Deadbridge Goliath (which acts pretty much the same way as an Increasing Savagery).

Against a control deck this deck might not be as strong, but against aggro and beatdown decks, this deck is pretty effective. It has the speed to get creatures out fast against midrange strategies, and the bodies to block an onslaught of smaller beaters from a human or zombie deck.

While it’s still a work in progress, I think Dai-san is on the right track. He said his sideboard is the weakest part of his deck, and with a constantly changing metagame I think that can be true for just about any deck. He also said that land can be a problem sometime, and that it might be better to take out the Arbor Elf for a card like Abundant Growth to give you the colors you need and to get card advantage.

A Tale of Two Game Days

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”

Just like in the USA, Geist of Saint Traft became wildly popular in decks over here in Japan. People were using it in just about every deck they could think of. Bant, Esper, you name it. But after countless beatings by Geist of Saint Traft, people got tired of it. The ragin’ Loxodon Smiter has been a beast in the recently dominant GW aggro decks, hitting the board on turn 2 and absolutely OBLITERATING slow decks. There was a healthy metagame up until a week ago, but now if it’s not green or white, it’s dead in the water

My friend Hiroaki Takazawa won a game day with his GW aggro list, and the day before he came in second to a UW Humans list. A similar list showed up in the top 8 of the first Nagoya GP Trial on November 3rd. Both events were highly competitive.

GW Aggro

By Hiroaki Takazawa

Standard

Return to Ravnica Game day, 10/28/12, 1st place, Nagoya, Japan

Creatures:

  • 4 Arbor Elf
  • 4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 3 Strangleroot Geist
  • 4 Silverblade Paladin
  • 4 Loxodon Smiter
  • 1 Deadbridge Goliath

Spells:

  • 4 Rancor
  • 3 Selesnya Charm
  • 4 Call of the Conclave
  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 1 Sorin,Lord of Innistrad

Land:

  • 4 Temple Garden
  • 4 Sunpetal Grove
  • 3 Gavony Township
  • 4 Overgrown Tomb
  • 3 Woodland Cemetery
  • 2 Forest
  • 4 Plains

Sideboard 15

  • 1 Strangleroot Geist
  • 3 Centaur Healer
  • 2 Sigarda,Host of Herons
  • 1 Ray of Revelation
  • 2 Sundering Growth
  • 1 Rest in Peace
  • 3 Purify the Grave
  • 2 Divine Deflection

His deck is incredibly consistent. He’ll focus on getting a hand with Loxodon Smiter so he can get it out on turn 2 with the help of an Arbor Elf or an Avacyn’s Piligrim, then following it up on turn 3 by putting a Rancor on it. He’s absolutely demolished control decks with the sheer speed of this deck and can finish an opponent off in 2 turns if he’s uncontested. I personally like this deck more than UW Humans because it hits A LOT harder. Slapping down a Silverblade Paladin on turn 3, soulbounded to Loxodon Smiter with a Rancor on it pretty much ends the game. Selesnya Charm has also been incredibly useful for Takazawa-san, removing large obstacles for him as well as giving his big beasts trample.

I find it interesting that he decided not to run Wolfir Silverheart or Sublime Archangel like most other GW decks do. He instead tops out at a Deadbridge Goliath, which makes this a very fast, lean deck that pushes all of its damage out on the ground. It feels very much like UW Delver or Zombie decks from before the rotation where you could play with just one land and still dominate. By keeping your curve around 3, you can keep a very lean but very aggressive deck. It’s no wonder he’s had such good luck with it.

His sideboard is well set up to handle control match ups with cards like Sigarda, Host of Herons that are immune to spot removal, and I have also fallen in love with Purify the Grave. It’s so much better against control decks running Snapcaster Mage and it’s also pretty good against Frites/reanimator decks. Zombies, on the other hand, has been totally absent from the metagame in Nagoya lately. Pillar of Flame is still common in UWR beatdown and Jund control decks that Zombies get fried as soon as they hit the table. Thragtusk and other life gain is Zombies’ biggest problem though.

I’m still not at his level of technical play but I’ve gotten really close in the one year since I’ve started playing Magic competitively in Japan. I finished 2-2-1 at the Saturday Game Day for 11th place, and on Sunday (at a different place from my friend) I went 3-2, JUST missing out on the top 8 at 9th place. I think my deck is pretty powerful, it just needs some more fine tuning and I need to play test it more to learn all of its in an outs. There are also a few more cards I need before it’s complete, but it’s pretty close now.

Be Fruitful and Populate

By Ryan Schwenk

Standard

9th place at Magic Game Day, Nagoya, Japan

Land: (24)

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

Planeswalkers: (4)

  • 2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
  • 2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

Creatures: (15)

  • 3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 2 Angel of Serenity
  • 4 Thragtusk
  • 3 Centaur Healer
  • 1 Armada Wurm
  • 2 Trostani, Voice of Selesnya

Artifacts and Enchantments: (3)

  • 3 Intangible Virtue

Sorceries and Instants: (14)

  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 3 Call of the Conclave
  • 4 Selesnya Charms
  • 3 Farseek

Sideboard:

  • 2 Oblivion Ring
  • 3 Purify the Grave
  • 2 Vraska the Unseen
  • 2 Sundering Growth
  • 1 Rootborn Defense
  • 3 Golgari Charm
  • 2 Sever the Bloodline

After some frustratingly close games that I should have won (had I not made poor choices), I made some changes and I feel like this set up is going to perform the best over the next few weeks. The deck has been showing a lot of promise against a wide variety of decks and I think it’s going to be a great choice for the Grand Prix in December. It’s been doing well against GW aggro, can hold it’s own against UWR Midrange, and after the first Thragtusk (or a Trostani) hit the table, it’s pretty much over for mono red and rakdos aggro decks.

Call of the Conclave is one of my favorite cards in this deck since it does well not only against control decks, but also matches up against aggro well. I’ve been fooling around with using Arbor Elf, but I decided that using Farseek was much better at getting the mana I needed on the board in the early game. Mana creatures are just too slow. Sure they are great in the early game, but are almost worthless later on. I wanted something that would speed me up as well as get me to other cards in my deck like Angel of Serenity and Thragtusk.

The reason I went with Garruk, Primal Hunter instead of Garruk Relentless in this deck is because I wanted access to that late game card draw. This deck is more of a midrange Junk Tokens deck than anything else. Against control decks you might only have that one creature out, but with Intangible Virtue in play that one token could draw you a lot of cards. More often than not, a draw from a Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, or a pumped up token has won me the game. On other occasions, his -6 ability to put wurms into play has gotten me back into the game against late game decks like Bant control that tend to surge with Wurm tokens of their own from Armada Wurm.

The sideboard has changed a lot lately as well, but I think these cards are the best set up against the current metagame: Vraska the Unseen against control, Purify the Grave against Frites as well as control (much better than Rest in Peace in my opinion), Sever the Bloodline for quick decks that like to put out 4 Loxodon Smiters by turn 6 (as well as mirror match ups against other token decks), and Golgari charm to destroy enchantments or to regenerate your creatures/tokens against a Supreme Verdict of Bonfire of the Damned. More Rootborn Defenses might be great cause of the populate, but Golgari Charm is more useful. Give it a try, I think you’ll like it.

The Nagoya Grand Prix

Japan in the winter is cold. It’s freakishly cold, seriously. I’ve gotten frostbite (to some degree) every year since I moved here. I’ve put down heated carpets, worn double socks, and giant slippers, but it still gets me somehow. But come December 8th and 9th, it won’t matter. Fukiage Hall in Nagoya is going to be PACKED with players from around world and there will be more than enough heat from friction of all those cards being shuffled together. This year Nagoya is hosting the last Grand Prix of the season in Japan, and if recent GPs around the world have been any indicator, there should be a record crowd. Local players are expecting close to 1000 participants this year, and I think that’s where the numbers are heading as well.

Nagoya is no stranger to Magic action, having hosted a Pro Tour in June 2011, Pro Tour Qualifiers, a World Magic Cup qualifier this year, and previous GPs. Wizards of the Coast did a great job of profiling the city last year on their website (http://www.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Events.aspx?x=mtg/event/magicweekend/nagoya11), but I feel like I can do you one better if you’re planning on attending this year.

Nagoya is a great city for Magic, with dozens of stores located in the greater metropolitan area and all are accessible by subway or train. It’s not as crowded as Tokyo or Osaka, and it’s very easy to get there from Central Air (Chubu International Airport). Playing in Nagoya will be a great experience for anybody who decides to invest in a ticket to Japan. Where else can you play Magic to your hearts’ content one day, see temples and geisha another, sing karaoke until the sun comes up, and on the following day travel to the countryside for some breathtaking vistas? If you attend the GP, you might be able to catch a glimpse of legends like Yuuya Watanabe, Shuuhei Nakamura, and Jun’ya Iyanaga on their home turf (if they all decide to play). There’s something for everybody in Japan so hopefully you’ll consider taking a short vacation to explore Japan as well as to play some Magic this December.

Over the last few months I’ve joined a coalition of other foreigners in Japan, and we decided to put together a team for the GP named “UnPrixpared”. If you are at the event this December and would like some information about Japan and/or the Nagoya area, we’d be happy to help you out. We can help you with directions, suggest places to check out, or let you know where the nearest convenience store is. Just find one of us wearing that shirt and ask away.

Talk the Talk

If you take chance and end up in Japan for the GP, you might be ready to play Magic but it might be a little difficult to communicate with your fellow Japanese opponents. While there are quite a few players that speak English (as well as Judges to help you explain something), you might need something else to make your matches go smoother. Here are some words to help you get through your matches (you might need to enable Japanese characters on your PC to be able to see all of these).

The Basics:

The main phases are pretty much all the same, such as untap, upkeep, main phase, 2nd main phase, end step. The vocab you will need to know for attacking is as follows. Most players know the other phases in English.

こうげき = (cougeki) attack. “Punch” is also used as an attack word. こうげきをします。(cougeki oh shimasu = I am attacking.)

I believe some players also use the world “sento” phase which means something like “fighting phase”.

Card Types:

Like the phases, card types are all the same too. Artifact, Creature, Instant, Sorcery, mana, planeswalker, Enchant-Aura, Enchantment. The types are written in Katakana for those who can read it, but they are pronounced relatively the same way as their English counterparts. とち(土地 = tochi) is land.

Card Abilities:

Here is a list of the abilities found on most cards, or at least those that are currently found in Standard play.

  • いけにえ = (iikayniay) sacrifice
  • ぼち(墓地)= (bochi) graveyard
  • える(ライフをえる)= (aeru – life oh aeru) gain- gain life
  • ゲームからとりのぞく/すいほう= (game kara tori no zoku/sueiiho) remove from the game/exile
  • はんこん = (hancone) lifelink
  • ひこう(飛行)= (hikou) flying
  • さいせい = (saisei) regenerate
  • ぼうえ = (bouei) defender
  • はかい = (hakai) destroy
  • そこう = (socou) haste
  • せっし = (sayshi) deathtouch
  • じゅきん = (jyukiin) shroud
  • せんせいこうげき = (sensei cougeki) first strike
  • けいかい = (kaykai) vigilance
  • じゅごん = (jyugon) hexproof
  • きゅうち = (kyuuchi) fateful hour
  • じゅんそく= (junsoku) flash
  • ふし = (fushi) undying
  • すてる = (suteru) throw away/discard
  • いんうつ = (iinuutsu) morbid
  • はかいされない = (hakaisarenai) indestrucible
  • いかく= (iikaku) intimidate
  • きせき = (kiseki) miracle
  • けっこん/けつこん = (kekkon/ketsukon) Soulbound
  • にだんこうげき = (nidan cougeki) Double Strike
  • さんび = (sanbi) Exalted
  • そうび = (soubi) equip
  • はずれる= (hazurayru) unequip
  • ちょうか = (chouka) Overload
  • かつよう= (katsuyou) Scavenge
  • りゅうち= (ryuuchi) Detain
  • きょじゅう= (kyojuu) Populate
  • かいさ = (kaisa) Unleash
  • うちけされない = (oochi kaysaraynai) Can’t be countered
  • うちけす (打ち消す)= (oochi kay su) counter

Until next time . . .

I apologize for the length of the article, but hopefully you found the vocabulary useful, as well as the deck lists. I’ve been attending plenty of Grand Prix Trials and after the last one on November 23rd, I’ll be writing another article with a list of the Top 8s, as well as some of the winning decks from these events. If you have any questions about Nagoya or the metagame leading up to the Grand Prix, please feel free to leave your comments. You’re also welcome to follow my twitter @yoschwenky on the day of Grand Prix for live coverage. I’ll be talking to players, posting live tweets of big matches as they happen, as well as any other interesting news I might find out while I’m there. Thanks for reading.

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