Scouting the meta before GP Kitakyushu – a Weekend in Tokyo

Last weekend I went to Tokyo. My girlfriend really wanted to go to Disneyland this summer and there was a Theros Pro Tour Qualifier so it worked out perfectly. Friday was extremely hot (about 100 degrees F/37 C), I was soaked to the bone in sweat. Not to say I didn’t have fun though. We went on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, rowed on some boats, checked out the new Star Tours (not bad in my opinion), but the highlight of my trip to Disney had to have been this:

Captain Eo

Captain Eo

I hadn’t seen this movie since I visited the Epcot Center in Florida back in 1992, and it was just as bad as I remembered. But damn it’s a good sorta bad. It’s classic Michael Jackson, with hip thrusting, squealing, moon walking, and of course him ripping off his coat at the end to go all Care Bears on the villain to defeat her with the power of love (of course, this is Michael we’re talking about). This attraction defined my weekend in the Tokyo area: So bad it was good.

Theros PTQ – Chiba City

Going into the weekend, I was sitting at a very respectable 711 planeswalker points. I had already secured my two byes for GP Kitakyushu at a Grand Prix Trial the weekend before, so this event was largely to try to get on to the Pro Tour as well as to hit 750 PWP for a TEAM bye at GP Kyoto in November. PTQs give you a x5 multiplier, so a win = 15 points. I went 5-2 at my last PTQ, so I was pretty confident that I could get at least 3 wins for 45 points.

Boy was I wrong.

I thought I had been working my way up the food chain in Nagoya among the elite, but playing in Tokyo is a whole nother ball game. The gameplay and meta is radically different. At the moment, the favorite deck of players in Nagoya is Jund control and UWR control, with a good spread of other decks in an otherwise healthy metagame. In Tokyo, it was Jund midrange, GR blitz, and Big Gruul decks (which play cards like Thundermaw Hellkite as well as Hellrider). The game was faster, the creatures hit harder, and the players played better. Even on the top of my game, my GW Token/midrange deck wasn’t ready.

  1. Jund Midrange (won 2-0) – I was off to a good start. I had great mana acceleration for a Advent of the Wurm and double Thragtusks in the first game, and in game 2 I won with Ajani + Witchstalker (which is amazing against Jund btw).
  2. Jund midrange (lost 1-2) – this loss game largely due to play mistakes. I played too slowly when I had the advantage in the first game and could have hit him for lethal before his Bonfire of the Damned hit. In the second game I got off to super fast start and put out a turn 3 Advent of the Wurm token for the win, but in game 3 I got stuck on 2 mana and couldn’t catch up to my opponent. Getting mana early is super important for my deck!
  3. GR Blitz (lost 1-2) – this deck should have been an automatic win for me, but since taking out my second Trostani and 4th Unflinching Courage, it struggled against it. Nagoya’s GR blitz players have been dropping my flies, but going to Tokyo let me know that the deck is alive an well and will probably see a lot of play in Kitakyushu.
  4. Bant Hexproof (lost 1-2) – A lapse in judgment led to another loss in this game. I attacked when I should have been playing defense, and there is no way you can race a Geist of Saint Traft with 2 Ethereal Armors and a Rancor on it. This is another game where I could have benefited from a 4th Unflinching Courage in the sideboard.
  5. Naya Midrange (lost 0-2) – Holy shit, I was 1-3 and out of the running for top 8, and was tilting badly at this point. I just wanted one more win to get the bye at GP Kyoto to make this trip worthwhile but it was looking more and more unlikely. I made some bad decisions on which hands to keep, and just couldn’t get my deck to work well for me.
  6. Mono Green (lost 1-2) – I just couldn’t get a win at this point. I was totally unprepared for this deck and lacked the necessary removal to deal with Wolfir Silverhearts and Predator Oozes. I’m glad I’m learning what I need to improve, but can I catch a break? It all came down to the next match. If I lost I would be devasted.
  7. Bant Control (won 2-1) – Dear god I pulled this win out by the skin of my teeth. Witchstalker and Rootborn Defense helped me to steal both of these wins, and with the win I got 30 points +25 participation points to add a total of 55 to my PWP. I did it, I reached 766 points after Saturday and will get the bye for my team!
The Top 8

The Top 8

This was a pretty start-studded top 8. Sitting in the front row with the hat was none other than the legend Tomoharu Saito, who used a mono red deck and went 6-1. Behind him is one of his coworkers from Hareruya, and to the right of his coworker was Kawasaki Keita (top 25 player in PWP in Japan). The top 8 was totally not what I was expecting:

  • Mono Red (Saito), GR blitz, Jund midrange (Kawasaki), Big Gruul (the Kibler build with Hellkite), GR Domri blitz, Jund midrange, BR Zombies, and Mono Green Elf Garruk

This top 8 was full of green and red. There was no blue or white to be seen anywhere. The top 4 was Jund Midrange, Jund midrange, Mono Green Elf Garruk, and Big Gruul. Saito’s deck went 1-2 against Jund and his day was done. That was all the time I could spend to stay at the event, so I left and went back to my hotel. It didn’t matter tho, I had seen enough. I learned a lot about the Tokyo metagame, and with quite a few going to GP Kitakyushu, I feel better prepared now than I did before.

What I learned about the metagame before GP Kitakyushu

Food was delivered and you could eat it between rounds at the PTQ! Amazing idea!

Food was delivered and you could eat it between rounds at the PTQ! Amazing idea!

First, it’s a given that Jund is a big part of the meta game. However, Nagoya players tend to play control while Kanto players play a more agressive midrange deck.

2nd, Nagoya players like control such as UWR and sometimes UWB, but Tokyo players not so much.

3rd, Kanto players like aggro decks. GR, mono red, BR zombies, bant hex proof – all we’re out in numbers at the Chiba PTQ. Big Gruul was another deck that saw a lot of play alongside Naya midrange.

If we take all this into consideration, I think we can expect about 30% of the field to be a type of Jund, 25% to be an aggro type deck like blitz or zombies, about 15% for UWR and other control decks, about 20% to be midrange decks like Naya Domri and elf wave/Garruk, and 10% to be others.

How will this affect what deck I choose and how I play? Well, I’ve decided to stick to my guns and continue to play my GW token/midrange deck. I’ve decided it’s the best choice for the metagame because it is fast enough to go toe to toe with aggro decks, it has a good sideboard for Jund and control, and it’s also lesser known which means people will have less of a plan to deal with in their sideboard. However, it needs an update before Kitakyushu. 

GW Token Midrange
By Ryan Schwenk, 1st place at GP trial for Kitakyushu, 8/4/13
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Grove of the Guardian
Gavony Township

24 lands

Loxodon Smiter
Avacyn’s Pilgrim 
Voice of Resurgence
Scavenging Ooze
Restoration Angel
Arbor Elf
Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

24 creatures

Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Advent of the Wurm
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Oblivion Ring

1 Garruk Relentless

12 other spells

Pithing Needle
Unflinching Courage
Selesnya Charm
Rootborn Defenses
Triumph of Ferocity
Rest in Peace

15 sideboard cards


The big change I made after the PTQ in Chiba was removing my Armada Wurms from the deck. They were powerful, but slowing down my play. Against faster decks and faster players from the Tokyo area, I needed to be faster myself. Therefore I added in a 4th Oblivion Ring and Garruk Relentless to give myself more removal (which was sorely needed). I also dropped a Triumph of Ferocity from the sideboard to go back up to 4 Unflinching Courages. I’ve considered dropping the Triumph of Ferocity altogether to go up to 3 Rootborn Defenses, because the card can wreck control and Jund match ups when they try to use a turn 4 Verdict or Bonfire on your Loxodon Smiter or Advent of the Wurm token. The decks are so slow that if you manage to postpone their destruction even one turn it usually means you win. Ajani has been great against slower midrange decks, but I think it might be better to have a second Garruk Relentless instead. I have about 3 more standard tournaments between now and the GP to think about it, so we’ll see. 

That will do it for today’s update about the weekend, but I have tons of new content coming your way this week and next! Be sure to stop back in the next few days to check it out! I also want to point out that I have updated my “Magic the Gathering” tab at the top of my page to say “Magic the Gathering stores in Japan”. You can now see a list of the stores I’ve visited and their directions on the tab itself. More to come in the following weeks! Thanks again for reading and see you next time.