Grand Prix Yokohama Report: What I’ve Learned
Last weekend I went to Grand Prix Yokohama in Japan, which shattered all attendance records in Japan with 2,297 participants. It was the second biggest Grand Prix EVER (beaten only by Grand Prix Charlotte the week before). I started my GP weekend out in Nagoya, taking the night bus to Yokohama from 11:30 pm at night until 6am in the morning. All in all, I got about 3 hours of sleep due to the lack of space on the bus and the loud people around me. When we arrived in Yokohama at 6 am I was still a little tired, but due to all the adrenaline in my system (because I was about to participate in my second Grand Prix ever), I was hoping the lack of sleep wouldn’t be a problem. Well, I can’t really say that for sure, but I feel like I could have made some better decisions on the day that would have led me to a few more wins.
(NOTE: I would never recommend taking a night bus anywhere in Japan unless you plan on getting sleep at your destination. Especially if it’s a cheap night bus. Sure I saved about $50 on my ticket there and didn’t have to pay for a hotel room for an extra night, but I felt like crap throughout most of the day).
Getting to Pacifico Yokohama wasn’t a problem at all. It was close to my hotel, China Town, as as well a number train and subway stations. The hall was more than adequate for the number of attendees, and aside from a few mix ups in the seating for the initial draft, booster packs were opened around 11am and matches started around 12 pm. For an event this big (and hearing about the problems at GP Charlotte the weekend before), I was surprised that this one went so efficiently. I tweeted about how fast things were going and Helene Bergeot (Director of Organized play at WOTC) actually retweeted my post. That was the highlight of my first day.
My Deck – What I Learned
My sealed cards were alright. Green was my main color, and red also had some good burn cards in it, and because I wanted more speed and removal (such as Smite), I put in white as well. Here’s the list I was using as my main deck:
- 2 Smite
- Experiment One
- Boros Elite
- 2 Wojek Halberdiers
- Burning-Tree Emissary
- Disciple of the Old Ways
- Gyre Sage
- Prophetic Prism
- Boros Charm
- Skinbrand Goblin
- Arrows of Justice
- 3 Crocanura
- Ember Beast
- Verdant Gardens
- Assault Griffin
- Crowned Ceratok
- Ordruun Vetran
- Rust Scarab
I’ve done sealed about 10 times so I thought I had an okay deck, but after the first game I realized the glaring mistakes I made. First off, I had no bombs and no way to close out the game. I had kept Ruination Wurms out of the deck, as well as a Gruul Ragebeast and Homing Lightning. This was a huge mistake. When playing sealed you shouldn’t worry about mana costs. Sure you don’t want to play all 5 or 6 drops (you need those 2 and 3 drops to stay in the game), but having a strong 6 or 7 drop card is really important. I had actually practiced drafting on WoTC’s website and had read about the basics (such as separating your cards into color to decide where your strengths lie), but when choosing what cards to use the “find your bomb” advice totally slipped my mind. I don’t know why, but I thought speed was faster. Maybe in a booster draft where you can control the curve somewhat, yes, but not in sealed. You need those big bombs to end the game.
Aside from siding in 2 Ruination Wurms, a Gruul Ragebeast, Homing Lightning, and a few other cards EVERY game 2, I also learned the limitation of some of the choices I made.
- Smite – Originally I thought this was good removal. It destroys nasty cards like Boros Reckoner, Obzedat, etc. but ONLY if you have a blocker, and ONLY if they attack. I found myself holding onto these cards most of the time waiting for opponents to attack with their good cards but they never did. They would whittle me away with smaller attackers and force me to use up all my blockers or waste the Smite, then attack. You need removal that can target whenever you want. That’s why Angelic Edict and even red burn spells like Homing Lighting are so much better.
- Boros cards Vs. Gruul Cards – these cards don’t mix well in sealed. Boros wants fast and hard. All of the white cards I had in my deck should have been in a Boros deck, but in reality my deck was skewed more towards Gruul. I could have had a good Gruul deck if I had cut the 6 Boros cards and put in those cards I had kept siding in each game, as well as splashing white for cards like Boros Charm. It was explained to me afterwards that TWO COLORS are better in draft. If you’re going to do a 3rd color, only splash it for a few cards.
I ended up going 2-5 (which was with a first round bye) and dropping, and felt absolutely miserable about the choices I made afterwards. I knew going into the event that I wasn’t going to win that many games because I didn’t have that much practice drafting/doing sealed, but I thought I would have done better. The whole experience was very humbling and the losses and humiliations have ingrained the fundamentals of limited play in my head. I’m sure I will do much better in my next sealed event, and I will be sure to practice any time I buy a box. I recommend that whenever you buy a box of cards that you use that to practice sealed and drafting events. You never know when those skills could come in handy, and it will let you understand how cards can interact with others.
After my round 5 loss to take me out of contention for day 2, I decided to focus on trading for my Simic deck. I managed to get 2 more Hinterland Harbors for a full playset, and I THOUGHT I got my 4th Breeding Pool, but I seem to have misplaced it *sigh*. In all likeliness I set it down somewhere when I was putting the deck in new sleeves and didn’t sleeve it back up. It’s probably at the hotel room . . . gahhh. The deck still is pretty much finished though.
I also walked around to see how my friends were doing and my friend Sarah ended up going 6-3 on the day. It’s the best results that any of our Nagoya friends have gotten at a GP in Japan, but what makes it even more remarkable is that she was playing with a lot of junk cards and with 4 colors. She drafts every week and knows her cards very well, and I’m sure if she had gotten a better stack of cards she could have made it to day 2. My other Nagoya friend Brian ended up going 3-4-2, which is also respectable. He managed to actually put 2 decks together, a Naya and a Dimir one, but got most of his wins by siding into his Dimir one after a game one loss.
I saw quite a few Nagoya players at the event who made the trip all the way out to Yokohama, and one of the players from Big Magic that I play with on Sundays sometimes made it to the top 8! That’s the second time a person I know from Nagoya has reached the top 8 at a GP. I also got to meet some people (Donald and Donald from Tokyo) who read my blog, which was pretty cool. I’m glad that my blog has helped out some of you living in Japan.
I made it back to the GP for Day 2 and did some more trading, as well as testing out my Simic midrange deck against a variety of people. I actually wanted to participate in the Super Sunday event (which had more than 300 people I think), but I was late and unable to register. I did manage to get some cards signed by Daarken though and talked to him for a little bit about his stay in Japan. I also wanted to head over to Raymond Swanland’s line to get my Wolfir Silverhearts and a few other cards signed, but the line was too long.
I ended up going out and walking around China Town, Sakuragicho, and other parts of Yokohama for the rest of the day, meeting up with old friends and hanging out with my girlfriend. It’s a great city and is pretty easy to get around. If you are living overseas and are thinking about coming over to Yokohama for a Grand Prix in the future, I definitely recommend it.
I definitely think I have grown as a Magic player after this event and I can’t wait to put the lessons I learned to practice. After the Nagoya Grand Prix event, I felt like my standard skills improved a lot, and I think the same will be true of my limited skills after Yokohama. The next Grand Prix in Japan isn’t until August 24th-25th (Kitakyushu, quite a trek from Nagoya. It’s a standard event), but there are some big events coming up next month. The World Magic Cup qualifiers are coming up in April, so be sure to check Wizards’ tournament locator for events in your area. If you’re in Japan and changed your address to a Japanese one before Janauary 1st, you should be able to participate in the qualifiers for Japan. Otherwise, you’ll have to do it in your home country.
If you feel like traveling around Asia, there is a Sealed GP in Beijing on May 11th and May 12th, and one in Bangkok on June 22nd and June 23rd. If I have no work that weekend and enough money, I’d love to take part in one and to travel around those countries. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Good luck with your standard decks and I hope to see some of you at the World Magic Cup Qualifiers in April.