The Japan Metagame Diaries: On the Edge (of Glory)

By now you’ve probably seen some of the Khans of Tarkir spoilers, especially the fetchlands. There was a lot of excitement during the Nagoya World Magic Cup Qualifiers in the room of 245 players, but the matter at hand was the current standard season. At this point in the format, most of the decks are a known quantity and measures have been developed to deal with each. This makes it hard to take on the metagame and places a lot more importance on skill and consistency. You could slip up at any moment and it could all be over. I was using my GR Hail Hydra deck, which had given me very good results over the last month and tweaked it for the Rabble Red and Mono blue match ups that I had problems with before.

Hail Hydra!
75 cards, 15 sideboard
1 Mana Confluence
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
3 Mountain
9 Forest
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Stomping Ground

24 lands

4 Elvish Mystic
1 Voyaging Satyr
3 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Courser of Kruphix
3 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Genesis Hydra
3 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Xenagos, God of Revels

27 creatures

3 Xenagos, the Reveler
3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Domri Rade

9 other spells

1 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Setessan Tactics
3 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
2 Pithing Needle
2 Reclamation Sage
3 Anger of the Gods

15 sideboard cards

There was a lot of Rabble Red actually, but not as much GW aggro or Mono blue devotion as I thought there would be. I started out 2-0-1, drawing with a UWR Control deck and beating both BUG Planeswalkers and B/x devotion, but then I lost against Junk midrange to place me on the edge. I beat my next opponent, Mono blue Devotion, to go up to 3-1-1, but in round 6 I faced Kenji Tsumura playing Jund Planeswalkers (who eventually made the top 8) and dropped the match to him after getting very unlucky and mulliganing down to 3 cards. From there I dropped the next 3 straight against Jund Planeswalkers, BW midrange, and RW burn to finish 3-5-1. It’s crazy how fast things can change. I had some great game one’s, but seemed to struggle at finishing my opponents in the following 2 games. Variance was a part of it, but I think preparing incorrectly for the metagame is part of it.

Another person that experienced this was Yuki Serizawa of Nagoya. He’s a hardcore Tribal player that picks a tribe during each standard and plays with them the entire time. He played GR Werewolves during the Innistrad block, and now during Theros he is using BR Minotaurs.

BR Minotaurs

BR Minotaurs

He was the top seed going into round 6 and was 5-0. A lot of people didn’t expect the power of this deck with 4 Rageblood Shaman and 4  Kragma Warcaller, and he caught a lot of people off guard. BR aggro has been doing well in this format and is under-represented so he got the jump on many people. He faced off against another eventual top 8 player Sakai-san who was using Jund Planeswalkers and dropped round 6 to go 5-1. From there on out he lost 3 more straight and finished the day at 5-4. I thought that it was awesome that he brought his own rogue deck to the WMCQ and did so well with it.


The Top 8


Throughout the day, I saw quite a bit of Jund Planeswalkers, Green devotion, Rabble Red, and BW midrange deck. It’s only natural then that the top 8 be made of up those.

  • Jund Planeswalkers (Kenji Tsumura)
  • B/g devotion (Genki Yoshimura, 2013’s runner up)
  • Jund Planeswalkers (local player Sakai-san)
  • Mono green devotion (Takuya Mihara)
  • Mono green devotion (Goto Yuusei, GP Kobe 2nd place)
  • Rabble Red (Toshiya Kanegawa)
  • Rabble Red
  • Naya monsters

(The top 8 deck lists  can be found at

Kenji Tsumura took out Genki’s B/g devotion deck in the first round of the play offs, while Goto Yuusei dispatched a Rabble Red opponent. Sakai-san lost to the green devotion deck piloted by Mihara, and Kanegawa took care of the Naya Monsters deck. Rabble Red had shown at the WMCQ that it can be oppressive with the right hands, and if you slip up the deck will take over.

In the top 4, Goto (Green devotion) played against Kanegawa (Rabble Red) and Mihara (Green devotion) faced off with Kenji Tsumura (Jund Planeswalkers). While it might not be new tech to people who have been following the metagame closely, I found a couple things interesting about some of these decks. I saw that both of the Green devotion decks were using Darksteel Citadel as well as Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx (Goto used Mutavaults instead) to give Nissa, Worldwaker a nice 4/4 indestructible creature to block with. I also saw Nylea’s Disciple main board in one deck and Mihara had Scuttling Doom Engine in his deck as a finisher. The Rabble Red deck that Kanegawa was using sported a full set of Young Pyromancer which worked great in conjunction with the Foundry Street Denizen and Purphoros, God of the Forge.

Goto and Kanegawa each split a game a piece, but in game 3 Goto-san stumbled on lands and Kanegawa blew him out of the water with a small battalion of goblins. At the other table, Mihara got some amazing draws and outpaced Tsumura’s removal to win his match and set up a face off against Kanegawa’s Rabble Red.


Nagoya WMCQ finals - Kanegawa Toshiya Vs. Mihara Takuya

Nagoya WMCQ finals – Kanegawa Toshiya (left) Vs. Mihara Takuya (right)

It all came down to Green Devotion Vs. Rabble Red. Kanegawa had just dispatched Goto’s green devotion deck a few moments earlier, so I think he had the advantage of being used to how to play against it while Mihara was coming off a much slower match up against Jund Planeswalkers. Mihara Takuya had barely squeaked into the finals in 8th place. When his name was announced, his friends screamed out and jumped for joy, patting him on the back and mussing his hair. In the first game it seemed like destiny might be on his side when he laid down a Genesis Hydra for 3 mana and hit an Elvish Mystic as his next card, but Kanegawa was sure to put an end to that with an onslaught of creatures that proved to be too much. In game 2, Mihara got off to a fast start while Kanegawa tried to burn out his devotion, but on turn 3 Mihara managed to land 2 Burning-Tree Emissary with a Nykthos in play and played Nylea’s Disciple to go up 6 life. On the following turn he dropped a Nissa, Worldwaker  along with a Nylea, God of the Hunt and things didn’t look good for Kanegawa, but he managed to block all of Miharas’s creatures with 1/1 Elemental Tokens and burn out the 4/4 elemental land with a Stoke the Flames to stay alive. However, Mihara drew more creatures, activated his Nylea, and attacked Kanegawa’s exhausted forces.


Toshiya Kanegawa (from GP Singapore 2013, will take down the picture if asked)

Toshiya Kanegawa (from GP Singapore 2013, will take down the picture if asked)


It was at this time I had to return home, but I found out about 30 minutes later that Toshiya Kanegawa  had won it all and will be the 3rd member of Team Japan this year. A quick google search reveals that Kanegawa Toshiya is no stranger to doing well at MTG events. He’s made a few GP Top 8s and also is the owner of Card Shop Hamaya in Nagano, Japan. He should be a strong member of Team Japan this year alongside Aryabhima Rahman and Yuuya Watanabe. This leaves just one more WMCQ in Osaka before the entire team is decided! (I apologize for not being able to interview him. The final round started extremely late and I simply didn’t have any time to wait around for the game to finish.)


PTQ “Dewey” (8/30/14)


There was also a PTQ this weekend in Nagoya, and a healthy 150 players showed up. Since the format switched to M15 Sealed from Modern, this was quite a huge drop from 301 players at Hareruya’s PTQ in Tokyo, but for limited I think it was ok. Many big names were in attendance for the PTQ because of the WMCQ the following day: Kenji Tsumura, Saito Tomoharu, Hall of Famer Makito Mihara, and quite a few more. I have had bad luck with M15 so far, always seeming to get the worthless artifact or bulk rares, but this time I lucked out. I met a traveling MTG player from Germany, Henrik, and I decided to play with English so we could trade pools (all the other players were playing with Japanese cards). I had opened a Scuttling Doom Engine, Battlefield Forge, and Soul of Theros for Henrik, and this is what I got from him in return. 


PT Dewey M15 sealed deck

PT Dewey M15 sealed deck

This is probably one of the better decks I’ve ever made in a sealed PTQ. I had some great bombs (Soul of Zendikar, Ob Nixilis, Unshackled, and Ancient Silverback. I also really enjoyed having Hornet’s Nest to keep big attackers at bay. I was happy with the curve and the mana acceleration, but it would have been great to have any type of removal. I basically went with a GB “beat your face in until you die” deck with life gain and card advantage to win. I loved Roaring Primadox alongside Gravedigger and Living Totem. There were a few games I won because I kept making my unblockable creatures bigger, and other times when I kept bringing back my creatures from the dead every turn to win with attrition. It was a solid deck, but wasn’t what I needed to make it to the top 8. I won my first match against a RW deck thanks to that Gravedigger/Roaring Primadox combo, lost to a UW tempo deck with a lot of bounce spells and Spectra Ward in round 2, beat a UW flyers deck in round 3, lost to GW in round 4, then rattled off two more wins against UW flyers and a BW deck to get to a 4-2 record.

Funny story about round 6. I had played an Ob Nixilis, Unshackled and had my opponent at 7 life. He forgets about his second ability and cracks his Evolving Wilds and loses the game. He almost did it again when playing a Heliod’s Pilgrim but stopped himself ^_^. That will go down as one of my favorite PTQ moments. With the announcement of the Onslaught fetch lands being reprinted, it makes me think he might be fun to play post rotation when Khans of Tarkir is released. With a lot more fetch lands in circulation, I could see his value going up due to other formats as well. In round 7 I lost AGAIN to a UW tempo deck and Spectra Ward, but managed to beat my last opponent’s BR deck to finish a respectable 5-3 for 34th place. One of the other players in my Nagoya group managed to finish in 25th. Overall the set has grown on me, but I don’t think I’m confident enough in my skills to attempt the Osaka PTQ and WMCQ in the second week of September (the week before KTK’s pre-release). 


Setting a New Standard


As I said above, there are only about 3 weeks left of standard before Khans of Tarkir is released and all the cards from the Return to Ravnica block rotate. I’m feeling fatigued from 3 weekends of large scale MTG events, so I’ll probably be taking time off from constructed Magic and pouring over the spoilers from Khans as they are released. The Wedge colored cards are looking really good so far, especially the Charms and Khans, and the fetches are sure to shake up standard when rotation happens. I plan on looking at all of the Wedge colors and how they’ll affect prices and Theros block cards. I’m sure there will be a few cards that will shine in this new world (Sylvan Caryatid, Mana Confluence, and Courser of Kruphix come to mind right away), and the sooner you and I jump on these cards the better off we’ll be in October. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back for more Khans of Tarkir information as it develops!