The Japan Metagame Diaries: Double Whammy
I ended up going 4-0-1 at a small 9 person Game Day on Sunday due to a Typhoon in Japan. I know it’s not much, but there were some really good players there regardless. I am still having problems with focus and reducing play mistakes with my GR Hail Hydra deck, but I’ve gotten a lot better.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|1 Mana Confluence
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Stomping Ground
2 Voyaging Satyr
|2 Setessan Tactics
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Domri Rade
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
9 other spells
15 sideboard cards
I went 1-1-1 with the deck at FNM, I beat UWR control, lost to mono black aggro due to not keeping a hand with any removal, and tied Green devotion after drawing all of my mana creatures and no finishers. On Saturday, I wasn’t feeling too good but went to a 32 person Game Day anyways. I lost to a RW Burn/Devotion deck in game one (mulligan to 4 hurt pretty bad), beat UR Ensoul Artifact, lost to Brave Naya aggro, lost to Green devotion, and beat a 4 Color super friends deck in the last round. I made tons of mistakes on Saturday and had problems concentrating all day. I felt light headed and dizzy, and couldn’t even count correctly. I blame it on not getting enough sleep and skipping lunch.
On Sunday however, I finished in first, beating WR burn, GR Hail Hydra, and taking an intentional draw in game 3 to make the top 4. In the semifinals I beat a Black devotion deck, and in the finals I took out a G/b devotion deck (who managed to beat me with a turn 4 Garruk, Apex Predator in game 1). That raises my overall record with the deck to 23-10-2. Changes in the metagame are going to catch you off guard from time to time, and you’ll sometimes have to allow for variance such as bad draws, but overall I’m really happy with the deck. I feel like it has a lot of good match ups, and cards like Genesis Hydra give you a lot of card advantage, sometimes allowing you to combo out for the win.
My latest list accounts for mana problems I’ve been having, as well as decks like WR burn or RabbleRed that are incredibly fast and burn you out quickly. My first switch was to drop Gyre Sage for Sylvan Caryatid. I like Gyre Sage when I can turn him into a threat and use his mana consistently, but I felt myself losing a few games where having a Caryatid would have won me the game. The 0/3 body is also good against aggro decks and it can’t be killed by spot removal. I’ve also added in Voyaging Satyr to help get those really explosive Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx activations. I feel like a 2/2 split on these two cards is fine, because you don’t really want to be stuck with too many of them or drawing them late in the game.
I dropped a Stormbreath Dragon from my last list to add in Xenagos, God of Revels instead. I wanted a creature with Haste, but I felt like 3 Dragons was a bit much. Xenagos turns your 7/7 Genesis Hydra into a 14/14 attacker just like that. Xenagod can be insane sometimes and appears out of nowhere. Speaking of Genesis Hydras, I went up to 4 and dropped a Mizzium Mortars out of respect to how powerful the card is. He wins games singlehandedly for you most of the time. Some people are probably wondering why I’m not using a Nylea, God of the Hunt in this build. From my personal experience I haven’t been too impressed with her. If you could spare more than 1 spot for her she might be viable, but as a one of I didn’t feel like she impacted the board enough. Especially since I’m not really playing against people who have a lot of blockers. I feel better using Mizzium Mortars and Setessan Tactics to clear the board instead of pushing the damage through with her. Another big change was adding in Scavenging Ooze instead of Hydra Broodmaster. I loved Broodmaster, and I don’t know how many times I won the game with it by monstrousing it for 11+ mana. However, I was losing to faster decks, and the thing was a removal magnet. Since switching to Ooze I’ve done much better against aggro decks, and it’s become a beast of its own, usually reaching a power of 5 or more after playing him.
The sideboard has changed a little bit, but not much. I added another Nissa, Worldwaker in the spot Xenagod had before, dropped the Mistcutter Hydras because there is no control or Mono blue devotion in my metagame at the moment, and I also got rid of Garruk, Caller of Beasts for the same reason. In their place, I decided to go with Sylvan Primordial (good for control and Jund Planeswalkers which is on the rise), Ruric Thar (great against mono black devotion and control), and I thought I’d try out a Harness by Force for mirror matches to steal their strongest creatures and then attack.
The Current Standard Japan Metagame
Things are getting big in Japan. Lots of players in Nagoya have been switching over to Green/x devotion decks, Jund midrange, and Jund Planeswalkers. Green is everywhere to be seen. There are some stragglers though. You’ll find a good amount of Red/x aggro decks still, as well as some mono black devotion and Control players, but for the moment green is king. In the Tokyo area, my fellow Cardboard Samurai have said that GW and Jund Monster decks have been pretty popular up there. While we have GP Kobe coming up in less than 2 weeks, the World Magic Cup Qualifiers are also just around the corner. Having to juggle both modern and standard this month will be tough, but it’s better to get experience with both formats and to go into both events prepared. This weekend I’ll be heading to Hareruya in Tokyo for the World Magic Cup Qualifiers on Saturday and a Modern PTQ on Sunday.
I don’t think the modern metagame has changed too much and plan to continue using my Mr. Roboto deck this weekend, but standard will be an entirely different ball game. Metagames can be pretty volatile here in Japan. Just the other week, almost half of store I went to for FNM was on UR Ensoul artifact or the UR Generator Servant into Scuttling Doom Engine deck (Scuttling Doom Engine is selling for around $14 here btw). I’m worried I won’t have enough practice against some of these standard decks by the time I arrive in Tokyo for the weekend, so I’m going to focus on reducing play mistakes and keeping aggressive hands instead. However, there is one more option. If people are going to be playing a lot of Jund Planeswalkers and Green/x devotion, perhaps I could use that to my advantage. While I don’t think I’ll change from Hail Hydra right now, I did put together a deck that might be worth trying out if you’re having problems with other green devotion decks.
|Devotion to the Conclave|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Mana Confluence
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Plenty
1 Sylvan Primordial
|2 Chord of Calling
2 Nissa, Worldwaker
3 Selesnya Charm
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
12 other spells
15 sideboard cards
It’s pretty much a fact that Genesis Hydra is a beast in standard. You get a card no matter what happens to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s countered or killed, it’s pretty much a win win situation for you either way. Green Red has some good planeswalkers that let you speed up your draws and also has some strong creatures like Xenagos, God of Revels and Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. However, no matter how you look at it, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is still THE BEST planeswalker in standard at the moment. It’s really a pity that barely any decks use her anymore (some Junk and Naya midrange decks, as well as some UW or Esper control decks). What happened? Mono black isn’t even as oppressive as it was before so we don’t even have to worry about Hero’s Downfall. I personally think it’s time for her return, and she should return with a bang. With a little help from my friend Kurt here in Nagoya, we came up with a pretty sweet GW Hail Hydra deck. I’ve seen just about every other color combination (GR, GB with Garruk Apex Predator, GU with Prophet of Kruphix, and plain old mono green), but I haven’t seen GW Hail Hydra at all.
We start off with the core of a Hail Hydra deck: Elvish Mystic, Courser of Kruphix, Polukranos, Genesis Hydra, Burning-Tree Emissary, and your choice of 2 mana costing mana creatures. I decided to go with Sylvan Caryatid and Gyre Sage (more on that in a moment). Once we have those cards in place, we can start to add in our explosive drops to win us games with. If you’ve played with or against a Hail Hydra devotion deck, then you know those Genesis Hydras have no problem coming into play with 5, 6, or even 7 counters on them. That means it wouldn’t be too difficult to play triple BTE on turn 3 with other mana creatures and cheating out a win condition.
I’d like to start off with Elspeth as my first choice for a bomb in this deck. It would be no problem to ramp into her on turn 4 with some mana creatures in play, but bringing her out with a Genesis Hydra would be even more explosive. Her -3 ability has never been more relevant than now due to the growing popularity of Green/x devotion decks. She will wipe the board out of nowhere sometimes with that ability, and allow you to to take control of the game with her soldier tokens after that. As she’s spitting out all these 1/1 creatures, she’s also making it incredibly easy to play Chord of Calling too. Chord of Calling hasn’t seen too much play outside of green Devotion so far, but I think it’d be great in a deck with Elspeth. Being able to grab a Sylvan Primordial, Polukranos, World Eater, or Archangel of Thune at instant speed has game over written all over it.
With enough mana from a Nykthos, Polukranos could wipe your opponent’s board, Sylvan Primordial could take out opposing planeswalkers (such as in a Jund Planeswalker match up), and Archangel of Thune with dozens of 1/1 soldier tokens would spell certain doom for your opponent (especially with Courser of Kruphix in the deck). Nissa, Worldwaker is another card that can quickly get out of hand with this deck. You’ll have to be careful with her +1 4/4 elemental land ability around Elspeth’s -3, but she also helps to speed up your ramp with her other +1. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes seems like another good fit for this deck to help draw the other 6 planeswalkers or 24 creatures. There are only 3 cards that he can’t draw for you, so you should be successful with his +1 ability most of the time. His other +1 is also a good way to beef up your mana creatures, and works especially well with Gyre Sage.
In the sideboard, I have decided to keep some cards intact while changing others. Pithing Needle should be good against Jund Planeswalkers and for Aetherling in control decks, Voice of Resurgence will be good against control too and give mono black devotion (or any removal heavy deck) fits if you drop it on turn 2, Arbor Colossus seems like it should be in there to handle Stormbreath Dragon and Desecration Demon, Reclamation Sage has been good against mono black, UW control, as well as mono black aggro, Bow of Nylea helps gain the edge in mirror matches with an attacking Polukranos, Scavenging Ooze is something you want against RW burn or any other aggro deck, and Banishing Light is good for just about everything (but especially Jund Planeswalkers and other Green devotion decks). I haven’t tested it out yet, but on paper this deck feels like it will perform well. I’ll let you choose which one you think is the best, but both should hit pretty hard regardless of your choice.
Haaaaallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
As I said up above, I will he going to Tokyo this weekend for the World Magic Cup Qualifier and Pro Tour Qualifier at Hareruya in Tokyo, so If I’m not able to post anything before the weekend, please follow me on Twitter for tournament updates and pictures. It will be my first time at the 300 seat tournament center at Hareruya, so I’ll be taking a lot of pictures and posting them on my blog when I return as well. Grand Prix Kobe will be the following week, so I will definitely be talking about the modern metagame in Tokyo prior to the event so that anybody planning on attending can prepare for it. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to check back later for more updates!