Grand Prix Nagoya Primer: Trial and Error
Where will you be April 12th, 2014? I’ll be in Nagoya, Japan playing in a Grand Prix. It seems like there will be a decent number of foreign players coming to the event. But the question is, are you ready for it?
The format is going to be Theros sealed, with 3 packs of Born of the Gods and 3 packs of Theros. Since last season when we played with 6 packs of Theros, the format has changed and opened up from a few powerful strategies to more than handful. I’m not here to tell you which cards are the strongest or which cards to draft first. No, that’s what the pros can do for you on other websites. Truthfully, limited isn’t my strongest format. If you look back at my performance at GP Yokohama (2013, RTR block sealed), you’ll see that I was an absolutely miserable limited player no more than a year ago. Flash forward a few months and I’m suddenly an entirely different person. I read up on limited formats such as M14 and Theros and put up some very good numbers in limited in the second half of 2014. I made top 20 of some Limited PTQs, but more impressively, I went 8-1 at GP Kyoto with a blazingly fast RW heroic deck (too bad my team couldn’t capitalize on my good fortune. We finished 3-5-1).
So what changed? How did I improve so much in a year? Well, I didn’t play any more draft or sealed during that time than I usually did, but I did learn from my mistakes. Sometimes it’s a simple as that. You can listen to the pros all you want, and yes, they’ll be right 80% of the time, however sometimes you just need to go out there and fall flat on your face then pick yourself up. Just because you use all the cards the pros recommended doesn’t mean you’ll win. What it comes down to is understanding the synergy between the cards, knowing the cards inside and out, and not being afraid to go against the status quo. Just because people say GU is one of the best doesn’t mean you have to force yourself into those colors. Build a good deck. Plain and simple. If you build it, the wins will come.
From Failure to Fortune (and vice versa)
I’ve been keeping track of every deck type I’ve used since the Born of the Gods pre-release on February 1st, and I thought it might be useful to show you what worked, what didn’t, and why.
- 2/1 (pre-release 1), 16 people – used UG and went 2-1. I beat BWU, and UW heroic, but lost to UW midrange. Card draw and big creatures were great at this first event.
- 2/1 (pre-release 2), 50 people – Used UW heroic and went 4-1. I beat GB, UW flyers, RWB midrange, and GB midrange. I lost to BW because I couldn’t put out creatures fast enough. In the games I won, almost 90% of the time it was due to tempo cards and combat tricks messing up my opponent’s strategy.
- 2/2 (pre-release 3), 35 people – Used UB mill (opened both Phenax and an Ashiok!) and went 2-2. I beat GWU aggro and RW midrange thanks to Ashiok landing on the table early in both games, but lost to mono blue and Naya midrange. Xenagos was a beast in the Naya match up, and my mono blue opponent had a lot of tempo/counterspells to mess up my strategy with.
- 2/2 (pre-release 4), 25 people – used GB this time and went 2-2. I lost to UW midrange and UB control but beat GB and UB tempo. Those games I lost were due to my opponent having enough tempo cards to take control of the game. Even then I knew how important tempo was going to be
- 2/11, 6 person draft – I used UG and went 1-2 due to mana flooding and bad hands. Otherwise deck was good.
- 2/11, 6 person draft #2 – I used UR tempo and went 1-2. Great tempo cards, horrible finishers. I ended up losing all of my long games.
- 2/16, 8 person draft – used UW/b tempo and went 2-1 for second place. Beat UB and UW midrange but lost to BR minotaurs. Tempo and flyers really rocked in this tournament.
- 3/16, GP Nagoya Trial, 70 people – used UR tempo and went 1-4. Beat GW heroic but then lost to UW heroic, UW heroic, GB, and GR. Didn’t draw well in either of my games. I would have done better had I mulliganed more aggressively. Sometimes that’s what you need to do.
- 3/22, M2015 PTQ, 151 people – I used UG and went 4-4. I lost to RW heroic in my first match because it was too fast, beat GB thanks to a good curve, lost against UG because I couldn’t deal with the number of flyers my opponent had, beat RW midrange because of my tempo cards, beat GWU midrange because of bigger creatures and ramp, lost to Naya because of his Stormbreath Dragon, beat UW bestow cause he over extended and left himself open to my attacks, and lost my last game (against a deck I couldn’t remember).
- 3/23, 8 person draft – I used UG again and went 3-1 for 3rd place. I lost to GR thanks to mana flood, but beat RW heroic and GB thanks to all the tempo/combat tricks I had. Bigger creatures definitely helped against the RW match up. Get one decent creature and it can block all day. Enchantment removal was also really important I think.
- 3/30, 6 person sealed practice – I went with a UR deck again and went 1-2. This is the last time I use those colors. Lack of 2 and 3 drops really hurt my build. Both colors were really deep, but I lost to BW and UW heroic pretty easily since I had no early board presence. I beat a UW heroic deck, but that was thanks in part to bad draws by my opponent.
- 4/5, Hamamatsu Magic 2015 PTQ, 70 people – I played with a UW flyers deck but splashed in too many black cards and went 2-4. Three colors really messed up my mana and I had horrible draws all day. I beat GWU and GW, but lost against GR, BUG control, RW heroic, and 5 Color green (he was playing Brimaz, Nylea, Chromanticore, and Brimaz! Absolutely sick).
What I’ve Learned
- Two colors are the best unless you’re lacking bombs/finishers. If that is the case, splash in a 3rd color to give yourself some more power, but don’t go too heavily into that color or you’ll really screw up your draws. Consistency is key.
- Two and three drops are extremely important in this format. Being able to trade with heroic decks early or to put pressure on slower midrange decks is the key to doing well in BNG/THS limited. Having a good curve that is heavy on 2 and 3 drops is a good idea.
- Removal isn’t necessary. It’s pretty weak overall in this format and forcing a color or splashing for removal is only going to make your deck slower and weaker.
- Combat tricks and tempo cards are the key to doing well. Using creatures to kill your opponent’s creatures is better than straight out removal. It allows you to dictate the pace of the game and to keep your opponent guessing all the time. Heroic is a good strategy, but just having spells in any deck that can fill two roles is better than straight out removal sometimes.
- Focus on good strategies and synergies, not good cards. This means don’t build around your best card, build around your best strategy. Which cards will help you to accomplish this strategy the best? Back during RTR block, I used to build around bombs and it rarely worked out well for me. Find cards that work well together and have a goal in mind when you’re building your deck. Don’t be afraid to put your best card in your sideboard.
- Last but not least, make sure you have win conditions/finishers in your deck. You need to be able to close out a game. You could have tons of tempo, removal, and card draw, but if you don’t have have a big creature or powerful card like a planeswalker in play, you’re just postponing the inevitable. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to load up on them either. Make sure you still have a decent curve that you don’t straight out lose to lightning fast decks like UW or RW heroic.
I really wish I had a few more sealed tournaments/events under my belt heading into Grand Prix Nagoya, but I feel much better about my limited skills now than I ever have before. After a number of high finishes at events around Nagoya, I feel very confident in my skill as a player. I’ll be on the top of my game come Saturday when it comes to timing spells, making decisions, and being precise. It might not seem like a lot, but taking your play skills to their limit can do a lot. Even if you don’t get an amazing pool of cards, bringing your “A” game will steal you wins that you otherwise wouldn’t get. Make sure you’re focused and no matter what happens, fight through your difficulties.
Before I go, I’d like to remind everybody once more about my Friday afternoon MTG store tour around Nagoya. We’ll be starting at the main exit of JR Kanayama station at 11 am. The station can be reach from Nagoya or Gifu on the Tokaido line, and you can also take the Meitetsu line there. If you’re coming from Chubu International airport, you can take the MuSky express to Kanayama as well. Our schedule for tomorrow is as follows:
- Prinny Club Kanayama – 11:05am – 11:20
- Card Brunch Kanayama – 11:25 – 11:40
- Amenity Dream Osu (and Lunch break) – 11:50 – 12:40
- Advantage Osu – 12:45 – 1pm
- Yellow Submarine Osu – 1:05 – 1:25
- Hobby Station Osu – 1:30 – 1:40
- Big Magic (Yaba-cho) – 1:45 – 2:25
- Toy and Hobby Mishimaya (Ozone) (and 2nd break) – 2:50 – 4pm
- Grand Prix (Fukiage Hall – Fukiage Station) – 4:30 – 9pm
If you’d like any other official information about Grand Prix Nagoya, pleaes visit Wizard’s website at http://www.wizards.com/magic/tcg/events.aspx?x=mtg/event/grandprix/nagoya14