The Japan Metagame Diaries: Listening to Your Inner Voice

You can’t always believe in what other people tell you. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and listen to your voice, your inner voice that is. Magic is the same way. You can grab a deck off the internet card for card and it might win you a few games, but if you don’t know your metagame and follow your gut with deck choices, you’re going to have problems. Just because a deck is doing well on Magic the Gathering Online doesn’t mean that it will do well where you play. You also can’t play with the same deck until the next expansion set comes out either. Not too long ago, you could play UW Delver, UWR midrange, or GR wolf run ramp for the 3 months leading up to the release of the next set and it wouldn’t change your win percentage too much.

That’s not true anymore. In the current meta you need to stay on your feet, tweak your decks for what’s big in your area, and also be willing to totally shelve that deck you’ve been using for the last month because it’s just not working anymore. I’ve had friends that tried forcing their decks into the metagame and they just weren’t enough anymore. Their deck had been ‘hated out’, and unwilling to change, those friends dropped out of Magic here in Japan for a while due their win/loss record. I, on the other hand, brew and test, fail (and fail again), and I do this until it works.

Token Surge, By Ryan Schwenk
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Gavony Township
Temple Garden
Sunpetal Grove
Grove of the Guardian

24 lands

Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
Restoration Angel
Armada Wurm
Arbor Elf
Loxodon Smiter

24 creatures

Garruk, Primal Hunter
Advent of the Wurm
Oblivion Ring
Selesnya Charm

12 other spells

2 Nevermore
Rest in Peace
2 Selesnya Charm
Renounce the Guilds
Unflinching Courage
Rootborn Defenses

15 sideboard cards

I’ve been using this GW token build recently and have been getting very good results. A few FNM wins (and a few 2nd place finishes), a top 8 in a 40 person qualifier for the Magic Market Open here in Nagoya (that will be taking place in September), and I’ve maintained a winning record at other events all throughout June. Just last Friday I hit 401 planeswalker points and achieved my first threshold for a Bye at the next GP I attend. In two weeks there is another PTQ in Hamamatsu, Japan, and I think this deck will do a lot better than my last two decks (BRU control and WBR vampires). There is a good chance that I will have close to 600+ points by mid July, and with a few more Grand Prix trials for Kitakyushu coming up I’ll be shooting for 750 and my second Bye.

This sounds like all talk, but this deck is powerful and very consistent. I’ve been dominating all sorts of popular decks in the meta: Esper control, UWR control, Naya blitz, BR zombie midrange, Aristocrats, and GWB aristocrats just to name a few. Unflinching Courage on a Loxodon Smiter turn 3 absolutely kills aggro decks. Since I talked about it in my last article I won’t go into it in too much detail, but I want to touch on some of the changes I made and how it’s effected play.

  • + 3 Oblivion Ring / -3 Acidic Slime => This is possibly the best change I made in the deck. I was having a serious problem getting rid of cards like Boros Reckoner and Voice of  Resurgence, and Oblivion Ring has been stellar. There are few times when I am disappointed in drawing this card. If my creatures can’t kill it, O-ring will certainly get rid of it.
  • +4 Advent of the Wurm / -2 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, -2 Selesnya Charm => The deck was lacking finishers and having trouble initially against some control decks, but the inclusion of Advent of the Wurm has been amazing. It combos great with Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, and it can put an insane amount of pressure on an opponent as soon as turn 3. If you thought a turn 2 Loxodon Smiter was bad, a turn 3 Wurm is even worse for your opponent.
  • +2 Selesnya Charm (sideboard) / – 2 Angel of Serenity (sideboard) => My curve was already huge, and with control decks on the wane, Angel of Serenity didn’t seem necessary in the sideboard. I moved the Selesnya Charms to the sideboard to make space for the Advent of the Wurm cards, and since quite a few of my creatures in my main board now have trample, the charm seems redundant unless I’m going up against large creatures in a midrange deck.
  • +1 Rootborn Defense, +2 Nevermore (Sideboard) / – 3 Oblivion Ring (moved to main) => I was still having a tough time against Supreme Verdict in UW/X decks, so I decided to go up to 3 Rootborn Defenses. I’m still waiting to see how useful it will be, but I think it’s good so far. In the other two spots vacated by Oblivion Ring, I put in Nevermore. It’s been great against control decks so far, targeting Sphinx’s Revelation and Supreme Verdict. I think both of these cards would also help out against Jund midrange too, but I need more testing before I can say anything for sure.

I’m going to keep grinding with this, but I’m confident it will continue to keep my win percentage above .500%.

Advent of the Wurm

Getting Qualified

June, July, and August in Nagoya is qualifier time for late summer’s big events. Grand Prix Kitakyushu is on August 24th and 25th, and the Magic Market Open in Nagoya is on September 15th. The Magic Market Open (MMO) is similar to an Invitational back in the USA, with the number of participants limited to 250 people. From now until these dates, the weekends are packed with qualifier events. We’ve already had our first Grand Prix Trial for Kitakyushu, and it was taken down by one of my friends, Isamu Mizuta using a Gruul aggro deck. At the moment, it’s the best aggro deck in the format. Its ability to get insane draws and attack for large amounts of damage early on in a match, as well as the consistency of two colors, puts it leagues ahead of decks like Naya blitz and Aristocrats. I think that archetype will see a lot of play in future GPs and other big events, so be ready for it over the next few weeks.

Gruulhammer, By Isamu Mizuta
75 cards, 15 sideboard
12 Mountain
Temple Garden
Stomping Ground
Rootbound Crag
Kessig Wolf Run

23 lands

Stromkirk Noble
Boros Reckoner
Burning-Tree Emissary
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Flinthoof Boar
Thundermaw Hellkite

29 creatures

Searing Spear
Pillar of Flame

8 other spells

Mizzium Mortars
Volcanic Strength
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Thundermaw Hellkite
Kessig Wolf Run

15 sideboard cards

Isamu’s deck is Gruul blitz at the core with cards like Burning-Tree Emissary, Flinthoof Boar, Hellrider and Ghor-Clan Rampager, but he tops out with 2 Thundermaw Hellkites and added in Kessig Wolf Run like Big Gruul does. What makes his deck more aggressive is that he starts with 23 land and 2 Hellkites instead of 4. This lets him use those 2 spots to put more pressure on his opponents. I think it’s also important to note the inclusion of Stonewright in this list. It combos well with Kessig Wolf Run and is great later on in the game if you have another creature in play that it can soulbound with. Isamu was 3-2 in swiss, barely making The top 8, but he fought back hard at the 25+ person Grand Prix Trial and won 3 in a row to finished 6-2. The tournament was dominated by red decks. Jund midrange, Gruul aggro, and Jund aggro were all represented.

There has also been 4 trials for the MMO already as well. The first was won by Aristocrats, the second by Naya Domri, 3rd by Jund Midrange, and today GWB aggro/aristocrats. Attendance for these events are averaging around 28 players at the moment, but as the summer gets closer and students get off of school, I expect the number to hover around 40. It doesn’t seem high, but considering that there are over 12 stores in the area and they do these WPN qualifiers every weekend,  it’s a pretty impressive number of players coming and going in Nagoya.

GWB “arrgo”-risticats, by Yoshikazu Okada
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Isolated Chapel
Godless Shrine
Woodland Cemetery
Sunpetal Grove
Gavony Township
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden

24 lands

Sublime Archangel
Knight of Infamy
Blood Artist
Cartel Aristocrat
Voice of Resurgence
Deathrite Shaman

20 creatures

Tragic Slip
Abrupt Decay
Advent of the Wurm
Lingering Souls

16 other spells

Appetite for Brains
Golgari Charm
Ray of Revelation
Pithing Needle
Divine Reckoning
Curse of Death’s Hold
Barter in Blood

15 sideboard cards

The winner of June 23rd‘s qualifier was Yoshikazu Okada and his absolutely punishing GWB aggro deck. I mean his GWB aristocrats deck. I mean his . . . well I had no idea what the heck it was. It was extremely versatile and kept me guessing in the 3rd round of the qualifier. It plays a little bit like GWB aristocrats, and also plays like GW aggro. While it’s missing key cards from both (Silverblade Paladin, Doomed Traveler, Skirsdag High Priest to name a few), it still has great synergy. Voice of Resurgence, Lingering Souls, and Sublime Archangel were deadly against me in my first game against Yoshikazu. I had to be careful around Voice, holding back my attacks sometime, but not doing so let my opponent get an insane board state that at one time had 2 Sublime Archangels and about 5 spirit tokens in play.

Advent of the Wurm takes the place of cards like Loxodon Smiter from GW aggro is very effective when teamed up with exalted. The built in trample makes it possible to play only 2 Rancor in this deck while still putting a lot of pressure on your opponent. Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, and spirit tokens still do their job just as well as they do in an Aristocrats deck, and even at 69 life (from Unflinching Courage on my Thragtusk), my opponent was still able to fight back thanks to  Divine Reckoning and 3 Blood Artists with 8 spirit tokens. I took 18 damage in his last attack after slipping my Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice in game 2 and that was it.

The deck seems a little hard to pilot at first, but if you’re used to playing Aristocrats, this build is worth taking a look at. Okada-san got the original deck idea only, but after switching around a few cards he made it his own. He took down Bant hexproof in the finals against one of the top 10 players in the prefecture in the last game.

Voices in My Head

With less than a month until M14, I’m STILL brewing up decks for the metagame. They might not take off as well as my GW token deck has, but it’s good to keep your thinking fresh. Looking at the 158 cards that have already been spoiled for M14, I’m a little worried about Ratchet Bomb and how it’s going to affect my token strategy, but I’m also looking forward to testing out Archangel of Thune and the Angel token creators. I don’t think that the core set will change the metagame too much in July, but it should compliment the archetypes we have already. Slivers will see some play, but won’t take over the metagame, and black seems like it’s getting a boost in power thanks to the reprinting of Doomblade and new cards like Grim Return.

Well, this does it for today’s article. I’ll be grinding over the next two weeks and tweaking my deck in anticipation for the Hamamatsu Pro Tour Qualifier. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please be sure to leave them below. There might be a few pro players in attendance as well, so if you’d like me to ask them anything, please leave me some ideas for topics. Thanks for reading.