The Japan Metagame Diaries: Breaking Point

Here we are. It’s the middle of June, and Modern Pro Tour Qualifiers are firing up all over the world for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir later this year. Prices of Modern cards seem to have stabilized, MTGO is being affected by insufferable problems, and in Standard, mono black seems to have finally been unseated from its throne that it had sit so high on over the last few months. With Modern tournaments getting more numerous, you won’t find me talking about standard as much as I used to. However, I still plan on keeping everybody updated on the metagame around Nagoya and Tokyo when I can. M15 could totally rock the boat, or it could be a lot of the same old same old which means it will be useful to keep up on standard. Come August, the World Magic Cup Qualifiers will also be using the standard format, so don’t forget the format this  summer!

 

Time for a Change

 

In the first few weeks after Journey into Nyx’s release, Nagoya saw a huge metagame shift. Thanks to Temple of Malady, B/g devotion decks really took off, as well as a number of Junk midrange decks. As the weeks passed by and midrange decks became more common place, burn decks found their niche and showed up in large numbers. After Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, I also saw many control players give up their Esper and UW builds for more powerful Bant ‘Superfriends’ or BUG control decks. Abrupt Decay has shown how great of a card it is in standard against, and Courser of Kruphix has soared to new heights thanks to the number that saw play at the PT. Aggro decks are almost non-existent now.

I have to admit, it was difficult to get back into standard after testing block constructed and doing booster draft for so long. I definitely wasn’t at the top of my game like I was back when I won the PTQ in January. Without any idea of what to run, I decided to play for fun those first few weeks after Atlanta, and played a few casual events with my UB Master Thief deck. I actually did well against control and midrange decks, but the deck struggled against BW midrange decks. From that week on, I decided to switch to a standard version of the Eidolon of Blossoms deck from the Pro Tour (which finished 2nd). While the deck was fun to play, had great removal, and I drew a lot of cards, it lacked any finishers and couldn’t close out a game.

Green/Black decks were dominating the standard metagame at this point but I felt like GBW was really where I wanted to be for this standard season. I took a look at my list and dropped all of the creatures but kept all the removal. I added in cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Scavenging Ooze, and dropped my Vraska the Unseen to both reduce the curve and make it more aggressive. The deck started to do better almost immediately. I won a few small 12+ person standard events in town, I finished 3-2 at a 30 person standard tournament (losing 2 very close games to RW burn and Esper control. BW midrange and B/g devotion were the big winners that day by the way), and by the middle of June the deck was performing VERY well. No flashy names or sweet tech this time, just plain old GBW good stuff down below.

 

Junk Midrange
75 cards, 15 sideboard
2 Godless Shrine
2 Mana Confluence
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Malady
2 Swamp
4 Forest
2 Temple of Plenty


24 lands

4 Voice of Resurgence
3 Desecration Demon
2 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix


22 creatures

2 Bile Blight
2 Underworld Connections
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion


14 other spells

Sideboard
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
1 Whip of Erebos
2 Putrefy
3 Thoughtseize
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
2 Banishing Light
2 Golgari Charm
3 Lifebane Zombie


15 sideboard cards

 

The core strength of this deck is the removal. Abrupt Decay is amazing, hitting everything from Detention Spheres to rival Courser of Kruphix, Hero’s Downfall will stop planeswalkers, and Bile Blight has ended up being a show stopper against a number of decks killing multiples of Pack Rat, Mutavault, and Chandra’s Phoenix.  Courser of Kruphix has been pretty damn handy in the 3 spot as both a blocker and for the life gain (since you’ll be shocking in your lands a lot or using Mana Confluence early on to get the correct mana sources), and Scavenging Ooze has done well in this removal heavy metagame as well. Being able to block an opponent’s Blood Baron is a pretty big bonus too. As for the mana solution, I had originally tried out Elvish Mystic but it wasn’t really helping me accelerate into anything other than the Courser, so I decided to drop it in favor of a playset of Voice of Resurgence to hate on removal heavy black decks and control. Sylvan Caryatid on turn 2 still helps me smooth out my mana for spells that have a double color cost like Hero’s Downfall, while also letting me play a powerful turn 3 creature like Desecration Demon or Polukranos, World Eater. As we get higher in the curve, you’ll find Blood Baron of Vizkopa which amazing against black decks and pretty damn good in the control match up, and you couldn’t really call this a real Junk build unless you were playing Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. This deck looks to play removal and troublesome creatures early then slamming its way through with large beaters. I also decided to play Underworld Connections as a 2 of due to it’s synergy with Courser of Kruphix. Being able to draw removal when you need it is really important.

Junk’s sideboard gives you a pretty good plan against most of the metagame. Lifebane Zombie is great against BW midrange and green decks, Golgari Charm is good in control match ups as well as Thoughtseize, and Banishing Light is a solid card in games where you don’t have to worry about an Abrupt Decay (like playing against Red devotion and getting rid of a Purphorose, God of the Forge). I believe that Ajani, Mentor of Heroes has 2 very relevant +1 abilities in control match ups and his card advantage is why I’d use him instead of Vraska in the sidebaord. Whip or Erebos is another card I would probably bring in against control players, but it could also see play against RW burn or other fast aggro decks. Putrefy was a tough call. I could have chosen Devour Flesh, Ultimate Price, or Doom Blade, but I felt as though the “cannot be regenerated” line was good for GB dredge match ups playing Lotleth Troll, and it also targets artifacts like Bident of Thassa or Spear of Heliod. It’s definitely what you want to be playing in those match ups. The only card I’m having trouble placing is the Obzedat, Ghost Council. I don’t feel that it’s really needed right now, but until I can think of a better sideboard card it will stay in.

I have to admit, the hardest part of making this deck was the mana base. I found myself getting stuck with a lot of green and black, but not getting any white mana sources consistently, so in this current build I’m trying out 2 Godless Shrines and 2 Mana Confluence. Some people say that the deck could support 4, but I’m not sure if that’s the right call or not. I’d like to do a bit more testing before I settle on this combination of land. It looks good though. Being able to cast double black or double green early is paramount, but it’s also important that I have a white source by turn 4 if I can sneak out a Blood Baron or put out a Voice of Resurgence on turn 2. I’ll keep you updated on any developments!

 

Selesnya Midrange
75 cards, 15 sideboard
4 Temple Garden
3 Mutavault
3 Mana Confluence
4 Plains
6 Forest
4 Temple of Plenty


24 lands

2 Kalonian Hydra
4 Sylvan Caryatid
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Voice of Resurgence
3 Archangel of Thune
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Courser of Kruphix


27 creatures

2 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
4 Advent of the Wurm
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion


9 other spells

Sideboard
2 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Sundering Growth
3 Banishing Light
1 Bow of Nylea
2 Rootborn Defenses
1 Pithing Needle
3 Selesnya Charm
2 Deicide


15 sideboard cards

This next list is just a fun deck I’ve brewed up. People have definitely forgotten about Selesnya midrange due to so many people wanting to play black for its removal, but that doesn’t mean the deck is bad. I’ve played against a number of GW decks and have struggled against many of them. Voice of Resurgence is really good against black decks, as well as a end of the 5/5 trample Advent of the Wurm token. This deck is all about ramping you into a Loxodon Smiter or Advent of the Wurm early, following up with a Archangel of Thune or Ajani, Mentor or Heroes, and then gaining life through Scavenging Ooze or Courser of Kruphix to pump everybody up. The fun part comes with Kalonian Hydra. Yeah you can put Polukranos, World Eater in this spot and you probably should, but I want to play this guy for the flavor and the synergy he has with this deck. Being able to double the amount of counters on a creature makes your Elvish Mystics a lot scarier, and even your Coursers become monsters. Of course black’s removal spells are going to be a problem for this deck, but hopefully Ajani’s presence will help you maintain card advantage over your opponent. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is your other finisher in this deck. She is just too good not to be playing in your main board, especially with so many mana creatures to help get her out as soon as turn 4. As for the sideboard, it’s pretty generic right now, but if you decide to play it, let me know how you’d change it!

 

Coming up Next time

 

With both modern and standard articles up to date for the current metagame, I’ll be going back to talking about some MTG stores in Japan next time. I’ve been sitting on a large amount of pictures I took over the last few months and haven’t really had the time to put them up. I’ll be talking about new stores in Hamamatsu, places I went in Tokyo, and even stores I visited while in the USA for the Pro Tour. I also have some more original work planned for The Japan Hobbyist, so be sure to check back in the coming weeks! Thanks for reading and good luck. I hope this information helps you out.

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