Modern Times: Shifting Gears

GP Kobe is in a few days and I couldn’t be in a worse position.

I went 2-6 drop at the Modern PTQ at Hareruya in Tokyo, Japan last weekend, winning my first two games against Mono blue Tron and Junk, but then losing 6 straight to Affinity, RW Burn, UR Twin, GB Rock, Merfolk, and RW Burn. Having only played in Nagoya at the previous PTQ (which had 2 Affinity in the top 8 and was won by it) and at other casual 30 person + events, I should have known my deck wasn’t going to be up to it. I had lots of dead cards in my sideboard while most of my opponents seemed to be on the ball and knew exactly what to play. I think I also lacked an understanding of most of the other decks’ sideboards and didn’t take the time to think of all the possible cards they could side in against me.

This just goes to show you how relevant the Tokyo metagame is to Japan overall. The largest number of MTG players in Japan live in Tokyo, which means most of those top players are going to be at the next GP and PTQ. If you ever plan on playing at a GP in Japan, a nice portion of your preparation should be looking at’s list of events at their store to get an idea of what everybody is playing. There are also many good players in Nagoya, but they get bypassed by the sheer number of players in Tokyo.

With that being said, I believe that the PTQ was a great learning experience for me. I ran into REAL Affinity hate for the first time last weekend, and it was better to learn what I did wrong and what I could do better then than at GP Kobe. I was running into hate cards like Gut Shot in Merfolk, Night of Soul’s Betrayal in GB, and I just wasn’t ready for it. Before I go into how I will prepare for GP Kobe and share my new list, I’d like to help YOU prepare by sharing what the metagame looked like at the 303 person event.


The Current Japan Modern Metagame


After dropping in round 8, I walked around the last few remaining tables of players with 5 wins or more to see what had done well. There was a large number of Affinity decks at the top tables. I’d say at least 20% of the players out of the remaining 80 or so were using it. I saw about 8-10 Birthing Pod decks and around the same amount of RW burn too. Junk and GB were also well represented at these top tables and I was surprised to even see multiple Merfolk decks doing well in that last round. What I didn’t see a lot of was UR/RUG Twin and UWR control. That’s not saying there weren’t any, but there were a lot less of them at the top tables than at the previous Nagoya PTQ.

This is where the Nagoya metagame becomes important. There are quite a few strong Twin and UWR control players in the city, and I think they will be out in force at GP Kobe. Not having a plan against them could put you in a tough situation, so keep that in mind when you’re building your sideboards. In my opinion, I would definitely be practicing the Affinity, RW Burn, Twin, and GB/Junk match ups. You’re going to see those decks out in full force at the GP. There should also be a large number of UWR control decks there. Tokyo loves their aggro decks, but almost everywhere else in Japan seems to favor control (UWR, GB, etc) and combo. I’m sure we’ll see some other decks such as storm, Zoo, or BW Tokens, but I don’t think they’ll be out in large numbers. To get a better idea of what we can expect at GP Kobe, let’s take a look at the PTQs in Japan since M15 was released. 

The Top 8 at the Hareruya PTQ decks were:

  • UWR Delver Aggro (winner)
  • Affinity x2 (2nd place)
  • UWR Kiki Control
  • Melira Pod x2
  • GR Infect
  • UW Control

Earlier in August, the top 8 of a PTQ in Fukuyama looked like this:

  • UR Twin x3 (Winner)
  • Kiki Pod (2nd place)
  • GB “Rock”
  • RG Tron
  • Affinity
  • UWR Kiki Control

There was also another PTQ in Itabashi (Saitama?) I believe around the same time. The top 8 this time was:

  • Merfolk (Winner)
  • Junk (2nd place)
  • UR Twin x2
  • Scapeshift
  • RG Tron
  • UWR Control
  • Mono red Burn

On the same weekend as the Nagoya PTQ, there was also one in Chiba.

  • RUG Twin (Winner)
  • UWR Kiki Control (2nd)
  • Merfolk
  • UR Twin
  • UR Storm
  • Tribal Zoo
  • Affinity
  • Junk (GBW)

And finally, let’s look at the Nagoya PTQ from July to see how things have changed:

  • Scissors Affinity (winner)
  • RUG Twin x2
  • Goyf Affinity
  • Merfolk
  • UR Possibility Storm
  • Kiki Pod
  • RW/b Burn

Well, this time around Pod seems to be doing a lot better, and there was a drop off in Splinter Twin decks. However, Affinity continues to put up good numbers and has been popular in most areas for PTQs. I would expect it to be the deck to beat at Kobe, especially since Ensoul Artifact has shown it’s the real deal. What I think is interesting about the metagame in Japan recently is how many Merfolk decks have been popping up. At the most recent Hareruya PTQ I would say there were at least 20 of them. This doesn’t match number of Affinity and Pod decks, but they put up some very good results and propelled almost half of their players to 15+ points by the end of the day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Fish decks than usual at Kobe. UWR control for the most part has found the most success with Kiki Jiki, so be prepared for it. RG Tron seems like it could sneak some decks into day 2 as well. The overall vibe of the GP seems to be aggro. With UWR Delver winning the most recent qualifier, it just adds to the overall theme including Affinity, Merfolk, Burn, and Zoo. For a full deck list of the previous PTQ, you can find it on Hareruya’s website. You can also look further back for the other lists as well.


Domo Arigtao Mr. Roboto


Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto
75 cards, 15 sideboard
1 Mountain
1 Island
3 Glimmervoid
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Inkmoth Nexus

17 lands

2 Steel Overseer
4 Vault Skirge
3 Memnite
4 Arcbound Ravager
2 Etched Champion
4 Signal Pest
4 Ornithopter

23 creatures

1 Welding Jar
4 Ensoul Artifact
3 Galvanic Blast
4 Cranial Plating
4 Springleaf Drum
4 Mox Opal

20 other spells

1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Thoughtseize
1 Etched Champion
2 Thoughtcast
1 Torpor Orb
1 Annul
2 Spell Pierce
2 Wear // Tear
2 Spellskite
1 Grafdigger’s Cage

15 sideboard cards

I’ve made a lot of changes to my own Affinity deck, and I’d like to share it with you before Kobe. The biggest problem I ran into last weekend was power. Aside from Cranial Plating to boost my attack, I was lacking any way to finish my opponents quickly, especially if they had removal. Originally, I was using Master of Etherium but recently I’ve found him stuck in my hand while faster decks get the jump on me (especially Burn, Merfolk, and other Affinity decks). For that reason, I have gone back to Steel Overseer and added a 3rd Memnite to my list. I want to play fast and hard. I want to play the deck so that if my opponent makes ONE mistake, I will take the game over. I think this is the right move, especially with Ensoul Artifact to suck up more removal and act as a finisher. Another addition to the main deck is Welding Jar, and this is mainly to get around removal targeting my Cranial Plating and Steel Overseer. As a 0 casting cost card, it’s also a good target for Ensoul Artifact. With all the Affinity hate going around, it seems like the right move. 

In the sideboard, I have added Hurkyl’s Recall, Thoughtseize, Torpor Orb, and Thoughtcast. The reasoning behind Recall is because I wanted to create a huge tempo swing between my Affinity opponents and myself. Most players are using Ancient Grudge to deal with the mirror, but I feel that clearing your opponent’s board on turn 3 is much more effective. I was having a lot of problems against sweepers such as Creeping Corrosion, Shatterstorm, and even Night of Soul’s Betrayal, so I decided to add in Thoughtseize. Playing this card on turn 1 or 2 can end a game by taking away your opponent’s combo piece or “silver bullet”. I’ve also noticed that Twin has been totally disregarding my strategy as well, so taking my friend’s advice I’ve added in another stop gap measure in Torpor Orb. The other card I thought might be useful in the sideboard is Thoughtcast. I feel like the card comes into play against removal heavy decks, such as GB, Junk, and Jund. It’s not the strongest sideboard choice, but I don’t see anything else I would put in it’s place right now. 


Bouncing Back


For me, putting together a good sideboard and reworking my overall strategy for GP Kobe is going to help a lot. I hope that having access to metagame information just a few days prior to the event will be helpful to all of you attending. If I can do anything else prior to the event to help, please let me know. I’d also be interested in hanging out with anybody attending the GP, so if you’d like to join the Cardboard Samurai and myself, leave a comment down below or join our Facebook Group (the link is at the top of the page!). Most likely we will be going out for dinner on Saturday night after day one in Kobe, and depending how day 2 turns out, I’m sure quite a few of us will be up for hanging out then as well. If I don’t get a chance to see you, good luck in making day 2! Keep those mistakes to a minimum and you should make day 2 no problem!