The Japan Metagame Diaries: The A(ura)-Team
I pity the fool running black, blue, or red and having to play against me on my current streak. Well, at least after making changes following my 5-0 run at Big Magic last weekend. Using last weekend’s GW Auras build, I had high expectations going into this weekend. I had two Grand Prix Trials here in Nagoya, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The winner of each event will receive 2 byes at Grand Prix Shizuoka in December. After hitting 778 points last season, I don’t have to worry about having byes at the next standard GP, but I do want to make sure that I continue to carry on those 2 byes going into GP Nagoya in April 2014 as well.
With that being said, Saturday went bad. And by bad, I mean REALLY bad.
Amenity Dream in Nagoya had 35 players vying for those 2 byes, and both black and blue were out in force. I went 2-6, with my only wins coming from a bye and a no-show, so you could say I didn’t even win a game on Saturday. I played against BUG midrange ( lost 0-2, mana flooded and mana screwed), mono red/splash white (lost 0-2, mulligan to 4, didn’t play enough defense in game 2), mono black (lost 1-2, deck was just too slow, and his removal kept on picking off my creatures), and blue devotion (lost 0-2, Master of Waves wrecked me. I had no way to get rid of him and his arm of tokens). My problem on Saturday was a lack of one drops and a curve that was just a few mana symbols too much. I couldn’t get the right mana and couldn’t put pressure on my opponent fast enough. The top 8 was RW aggro, Black devotion, Colossal Gruul, Mono red/splash white, UB control, Esper control, white devotion, and Jund Midrange.
The most interesting deck from this weekend had to be the mono white devotion deck. It used Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx along with cards like Precinct Captain and Fiendslayer Paladin to drop cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Angel of Serenity around turn 4. It made the top 8 on Saturday, but also made top 16 at a more competitive Sunday GPT. Speaking of which, after an embarrassing Saturday performance. I knew I had to make some changes. With the help of fellow foreign MTG players here in Nagoya, we came up with a list that is close to what I had originally for Theros Game Day. (updated 11/7)
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
|1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Bow of Nylea
1 Spear of Heliod
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Unflinching Courage
4 Selesnya Charm
15 other spells
15 sideboard cards
My lack of one drops really slowed down my deck, and it was really exposed to all sorts of removal. Going back to Gladecover Scout was the best choice I ever made. When I first brewed this deck, I knew the deck needed a way to sidestep all that removal from red and black. The elf was an absolute all star for me all day Sunday. With neither a Celestial Flare or Devour Flesh in sight, the Scout had a field day. Early Ethereal Armors punished slow starts by my opponent’s, and following it up with Unflinching Courages made the games almost unwinnable for the other players, especially if they were aggro.
How the New Sideboard works (updated 11/7)
The most significant change came in the sideboard.
- Mono blue = +3 Last Breath / -1 Bow of Nylea, -1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride, -1 Boon Satyr – The addition of Last Breath finally gave my deck a way to deal with Master of Waves (not to mention Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Nightveil Specter, and any other 2 drop creature).
- GR Devotion = +3 Pithing Needle, +2 Banisher Priest / -1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride, -1 Spear of Heliod, -1 Bow of Nylea, -2 Voice of Resurgence – Upping my Pithing Needle count to 3 also helped me in my GR match ups since it stops Polukranos and any walker they drop, be it Xenaganos, Garruk, or Domri Rade. I recently revised the list to have Banisher Priest for this match up as well. With Pithing Needle stopping Polukranos, there is no way for your opponent to kill the Priest that is exiling his creature. I’m not totally sure about this sideboarding, but if you can choose better cards to take out, let me know.
- Esper Control = +3 Pithing Needle, +2 Advent of the Wurm / -3 Fencing Ace, -1 Bow of Nylea, -1 Unflinching Courage – When you’re facing 4 Jace Architect of Thought, Elspeth, and Aetherling as your opponent’s win conditions, Pithing Needles can single handedly win the game, especially if you play them the turn before the card would be dropped (T3 and T5). Advent of the Wurm is another card that sidesteps Supreme Verdicts, just as Boon Satyrs and Knight Tokens do. Since Fencing Ace is susceptible to just about any removal in Esper, it’s out.
- Mono Red/BR Aggro = +3 Fiendslayer Paladin / -1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride, -1 Spear of Heliod, -1 Selesnya Charm – Fiendslayer sets up a good defense against both those aggro colors, letting you beef him up with enchantments and gain life before going on the offense.
- Mono black = +2 Fade into Antiquity, +2 Fiendslayer Paladin / -3 Fencing Ace, -1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride – Fade into Antiquity gets rid of Erebos, God of the Dead, Whip of Erebos, and to a lesser extent Underworld Connections. Not gaining life can really hurt you, especially if you’re opponent is sucking you dry with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Fiendslayer Paladin is just a harder to kill creature, where as Fencing Ace would die to everything in this deck.
Sunday’s GPT event in Okazaki city drew a much larger crowd of 49 people, and with my new and improved deck, I was ready for them.
- Mono black control (won 2-1) – My first match paired me up with the same player that had beaten me on Saturday. He was unable to answer an early Gladecover Scout in both games, and he burned through his life using Underworld Connections to try and dig to his Devour Fleshes, which he never drew. I was able to finally beat him.
- Blue Devotion (won 2-0) – This was a real test for the deck, and the sideboard especially. Again, Gladecover Scout was integral in both wins. I kept loading him up with auras and attacking and attacking. Last Breath took out his Master of Waves, leaving his board incredibly empty and unable to block my elf in the following turns.
- UB Devotion control (lost 0-2) – This deck was a nightmare. The deck played a lot of the blue cards used in blue devotion like Master of Waves and Jace, Architect of the Mind, but it was also packed with removal such as Ultimate Price and Hero’s Downfall. It was okay to try and deal with Master of Waves by himself, but a 3rd turn Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver made it incredibly hard to draw the correct card I needed.
- GB Midrange (won 2-0) – This deck played similarly to black devotion with cards like Desecration Demon, but I never got a chance to see much of it because the Elf AGAIN finished the game for me by turn 5, and in the second game I sided in Fiendslayer Paladins, making it even more difficult for my opponent to stop my relentless assault.
- BR aggro (won 2-0) – this deck was similar to the one that won GP Santiago last weekend, and it was pretty damn fast. If I didn’t land a Gladecover Scout and 2 Soldier of the Pantheons on turns 1 and 2, I would have been in trouble. However, I managed to stop my loss of life at 14 after the 3rd turn, and from there on out I loaded up my elf with Unflinching Courage and Ethereal Armor and attacked while my other creatures played defense. Playing defense was integral in both my wins, as well as siding in cards like Fiendslayer Paladin that completely shut down my opponent’s attack. His Dreadbores, Rakdos Cacklers, and Rakdos Shredfreaks couldn’t do anything.
My opponent and I intentionally drew in the last match so that I finished 4-1-1 in swiss with both of us making it to the top 8. The top 8 on Sunday was Mono blue devotion, UB devotion control, GW Auras (me), Esper control, Esper control, mono red, junk midrange, and UW control. I was paired up with Esper control in the first match and ended up losing 1-2 due to a misplay. In game one I miscounted how much damage I was attacking with because I forgot to count Boon Satyr as an enchantment, leaving my opponent at 1 life and allowing him to fight back with a top deck Sphinx’s Revelation the next turn. In game 2, I completely shut down my opponent with Pithing Needles, waiting to cast them until the turn before my opponent would have dropped his Jace, Architect of Thought, or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. In game 3, I played hard and didn’t over extend, but my opponent cast Supreme Verdict after Verdict and drew 3 Sphinx’s Revelations to get superior card advantage. It’s a tough break, but I’ll use it as a learning experience. There is a silver lining to the day though. In my M14 prize packs (sponsor’s choice), I opened both a Chandra, Pyromaster and a Mutavault. The top 4 from this even were Esper Control, Esper control, Junk midrange, and mono red for anybody that was interested.
A few weeks ago, I posted a few lists of various Aura themed decks after making my GW one. Since then I have been play testing with them extensively (aside from the WR one). The WU Azoriusauras deck was interesting, but it’s power level was a little low and I don’t think it has the necessary tools to be a Tier 1 or Tier 2 deck. I have, however, made some updates to my BW “Orzhovsauras” deck, and it has been revised and reborn as Auraristocrats.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Temple of Silence
4 Godless Shrine
|3 Orzhov Charm
1 Spear of Heliod
3 Hero’s Downfall
4 Gift of Orzhova
4 Ethereal Armor
15 other spells
15 sideboard cards
I took out some of the more powerful cards such as Lifebane Zombie in favor of better synergy with this deck. The deck is now entirely human, which works in conjunction with Xathrid Necromancer to give Cartel Aristocrat a lot of sacrifices to push damage through with. You’ll see some similarities to the GW version, but with BW you get a lot of hard removal. Hero’s Downfall is the hottest removal card in the metagame right now, but Orzhov Charm is great in this deck. Of course you don’t want to use it as removal if you can help it, but its other mode of removal “return creature you control and all auras attached to it to your hand” is perfect for this deck. If you count Agent of the Fates, there is even MORE removal in this deck (he was amazing in play testing with auras attached, then using Orzhov Charm to bring him back to my hand while forcing my opponent to sacrifice a creature. The next turn I could then play him and put all those auras back on him again, wiping out their entire team of blockers).
I think where this deck really shines is in it’s sideboard. Cards like Thoughtseize and Sin Collector give your deck a better game against control (as well as Underworld Connections which adds to your aura count!), while it still leaves you with cards like Fiendslayer Paladin against red and black decks and Pithing Needles for GR match ups. I think there is still a lot of room in the sideboard for changes, but until I have a chance to play against a wider variety of decks, I’m going to leave it as it is.
Grand Prix Kyoto
For those of you living in Japan, you may have heard about Grand Prix Kyoto happening this month on November 23rd and 24th. The format is Team Sealed, and if you haven’t registered your team yet, you should do so by November 18th. If you register early, you only have to pay 15,000 yen as a team, but otherwise you’ll be charged 18,000 yen at the event hall.
Over the next two weeks I’ll be drafting a lot with my team members (an American from Buffalo, New York, and a British guy from near Oxford I believe), and I don’t know if I’ll have much time for standard. I don’t expect to make many metagame updates, but I will be posting about a few more MTG stores I’ve visited around Japan, as well as some information on playing team limited. Be sure to check back in a few days for an update! Thanks for reading.