Grand Prix Yokohama: Limited choices (part 1)
This weekend is Grand Prix Yokohama, which is in Yokohama of course. Yokohama is about a 30-45 minute train ride from Tokyo, and is the second largest city in Japan. It has a long history of Magic, and has a Grand Prix every year be it Modern, limited, or Standard. This year’s Grand Prix is limited. Most new players don’t know all of the magic lingo yet, so if you’re wondering what the term limited means I’ll tell you. Limited is the term used for a Magic event where you open packs and make your decks using ONLY those cards. You can’t use cards you brought with you from other sets. You play with ONLY those cards, period. There are two types of limited: Sealed and draft.
Sealed events use 6 booster packs, and the player opens all of the packs and then makes a deck using those 90 cards (or so). This can be tough since you’ll be playing only one copy of powerful spells and might not have enough cards in the colors you want to play. Booster drafts use only 3 booster packs and are a little different than playing sealed. With drafts, you open ONE pack, choose one card you like from that pack, then you pass the remainder of the cards to the person next to you. You then receive a stack of cards from the person on the other side of you and have to make a choice of one card again. This continues until all cards have been chosen, and then a new pack is opened and the process is repeated again. Drafting allows you to focus your colors and to make a more potent deck, but making the correct choices and reading what your opponents are using can be difficult. To learn more about sealed you should check out the resources on Wizards of the Coast’s website (because they’ll do a better job of filling in all the missing details than I can do here). So now that you know what limited means, I can continue.
Right before the pre-release of Gatecrash, I went through each color and told you what cards I would choose to use in my sealed deck (search for Play to Your Weaknesses to read them). Now that a little more than a month has passed since the pre-release, a lot of drafting has been done and I think it would be a good idea to go through my choices one more time and to re-evaluate them. Today I’ll be going over Lands, Artifacts, Hyrbid, White, and Blue cards, and before the GP I’ll be posting about Black, Red, Green, and Multicolor. Let’s start before we run out of time!
There isn’t much to say about lands. If you get one in the colors you are playing in limited, great. Don’t feel forced to play it if you’d be forcing yourself to use those colors with subpar cards though. The same thing with Guildgates. Guildgates can be great to help you smooth out your colors, especially if you decide to run 3 colors, but they aren’t always an automatic choice. The pros have been saying that if you’re playing two colors it might not be worth it to play them at all, especially if you’re using an aggressive deck like Gruul or Boros. Do you really want to be stuck on turn 1 with two Guildgates that come into play tapped when you have some awesome 1 and 2 drop cards in your hand? No. Be careful how you use them.
In limited, Dimir Keyrune is probably the best one you can get (if you’re playing a UB or a WUB deck). It’s unblockable and puts your opponent on a countdown clock. The Boros one is great if you’re playing a Naya deck with a lot of Bloodrush cards, but otherwise it’s ‘meh’. My choice is still the Dimir one.
The prism is another card that a lot of the pros have been praising. It draws you a card an fixes your mana, and nothing is more important than card advantage and speeding up your attack in limited. The more cards you get put in your hand the better.
Another artifact that has been doing well in aggressive decks is Armored Transport. I talked about it before and how it can continuously beat on your opponent with no fear of dying, and I still think it’s a good card to use in GR, RW, or even UG decks that are all about attacking. Glaring Spotlight is another card that might have some uses in an aggressive deck to help you finish your opponent by making all of your creatures unblockable. In a deck with huge creatures like Gruul or Simic, this could be a nice one off if you’re having trouble deciding what your 23rd card should be.
Best enchantment of the set in limited HANDS DOWN. There aren’t a lot of flyers in Gatecrash, especially at the common/uncommon rarity, and being able to put this in a Dimir, Orzhov, or Boros deck makes your battalion, ciphered, or extorting creature that much harder to kill/block. Life gain is incredibly important as well, so this card can put you in a win/win situation. First pick in a draft, and definitely consider using it in sealed.
Rubblebelt Raiders is another card I think could be big in limited, especially in a Boros deck where you’ll be attacking with 3-4 creatures (giving it 3-4 +1/+1 counters), or in a Gruul deck with cards like Ghor-Clan Rampager that can give it another +4/+4 and trample. 4 isn’t too heavy, and in an aggressive deck this could be an amazing bomb to play against your opponent. Give it flying or trample and they are in trouble.
Boros Reckoner is another MUST play card. This card is insane in limited. It will kill a creature and kill another creature, it will block for you and kill a creature with first strike, it will block a creature and deal a lot of damage to your opponent . . . he’s just a great card all around. GWR and RW decks should have no problem playing with him.
Any card that can speed up your attack is good, and the Emissary is great at letting you put down 2 creatures on turn 2 in a Gruul deck instead of just one. She might not be as useful in a Naya deck with white, but if you’re running GR she should definitely be included. Being a 2/2 for 2 and fitting your curve is another reason to include her.
Arrows of Justice is a decent removal card for Boros and Gruul decks as well. Four damage will take out a lot of blockers and attackers. Biomass Mutation might also be a card to try out as a finisher card. If you’re playing a light gruul deck with lots of 2 and 3 drops this could absolutely decimate your opponent when they are thinking they are taking 5 damage on turn 6 and instead take a ton. With the right cards it could be nasty.
Gatecrash has been a lot better than Return to Ravnica with removal, and whenever you’re playing sealed/draft taking some forms of removal are a definite must. Not being able to remove their bomb rare creature will end your day really quick. Angelic Edict wouldn’t be standard playable because it’s too heavy, but in sealed it’s fine. You should hit 5 mana on turn 5 which means you can take out any major threat they have before you die from it. Smite at one mana is also a good card to have for removal in your deck.
Angelic Skirmisher has proven to be an absolute BOMB in limited. It can turn the game around very quickly. If you lack life, give everybody life gain. If you want to be more aggressive, choose first strike. The choice happens each combat (on defense and offense), so having her in play basically turns your entire team into a very dangerous wall. And with flyers being few and far between, she’ll definitely be hitting for 4 damage almost every turn.
Frontline Medic is another amazing card in limited. Suddenly your team becomes indestructible and your opponent is either taking 6 damage every turn or blocking in hopes they’ll draw removal for him before it’s too late. If you’re playing against him, THIS is why you need to put removal in your deck. There are very few ways to take him out of the game in limited. As long as we’re on battalion cards, I want to also say that Daring Skyjek is also a great card to have in your white/X deck.
Syndic of the Tithes has also been a card that the pros have been singing praises about. If you’re going with an extort strategy, the lower the casting cost of your extort cost the better. You don’t want to be playing heavy costed extort cards because you’ll never be able to pay the extort fee to drain your opponent. You need to keep the cards cheap so you can pay multiple triggers and suck away 3 life instead of one each time. Blind Obedience is decent because it also costs two, but Knight of Obligation is a little less effective because he costs four. You should take into account his 4 toughness though, which is very good in a defensive Orzhov deck.
Gideon is another card that will simply obliterate your opponent in limited. There is no way to kill him except with Devour Flesh, and that’s ONLY if they have no other creatures in play. The only way to destroy him is to attack into him on your turn with everything you have.
There are some other cards that I think are good for limited as well, and you’re more than welcome to check my other “Play to your Weaknesses” articles, but I don’t have time to revisit them all today. I’m just focusing on the cards that will be the most useful to you in draft/sealed.
I said it before and I still think this is a good card in limited if you’re playing Simic or Dimir, but only if you have enough creatures to effectively evolve it. Your opponent might have flyers, but I doubt they’ll have one that keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Aetherize is another good card if you’re playing in blue. If your opponent is swinging in with everybody and is unafraid of your 2/2, 3/2, and 3/4 creatures, this is a great card to play against them to steal the win with. This is especially effective against Gruul/Boros decks that use bloodrush a lot. Control is never an effective strategy in limited, but having this in your deck to disrupt your opponent is worth it. Gridlock is alright as well, but not as good as Aetherize.
Thank goodness blue isn’t all about disrupting your opponent with returning things to hands and what not. Being able to permanently destroy something with a blue spell is very useful. You don’t want to use this against a card you can handle easily with your own cards, but you DO want to use it against cards like Boros Reckoner, Angelic Skirmisher, Aurelia the Warleader, and other cards that are impossible for blue decks to destroy. This is also good against bloodrush. Let them use up a card on their attacker, THEN turn it into a frog.
Two other cards I think are good in blue limited are Keymaster Rogue and Metropolis Sprite because of their evasion. Having a 2nd turn Sprite to attack for 2 damage each turn will allow you to attack for a few points of damage before your opponent takes care of it, and the Keymaster Rogue is unblockable, which puts your opponent on a countdown clock if they don’t have any removal for it.
RW, GRW, and WB have been doing the best in limited tournaments recently so when building your deck the first thing you should consider is HOW you’re going to stop that deck, especially if you’re not using those colors yourself. Once you’ve built a strategy around how to stop Boros and Naya decks, you should be in good shape. If you’re playing Boros or Naya yourself, consider a mirror match up against the same deck and how you could come out on top against it.
On Friday I’ll be covering the remaining colors in limited before the Grand Prix. Until then, if you have any suggestions on the colors I covered today or would like to suggest cards in Black, Red, Green, or Multicolor for next time, please leave a comment. Thanks for reading and good luck drafting!