The Japan Metagame Diaries: When Will the Beat Drop?
I want to start off today’s article by congratulating my brother, who is a big fan of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), for finishing his summer DJ class. It’s great that he’s able to bring more energy and passion to his hobby. I look forward to hearing his mixes and sounds, but even with all of the new skills he possesses, I don’t think he REALLY knows how to bring the beats.
Going into Magic Origins standard, I knew I needed something different. Mardu decks are a known quantity now, and my mono white devotion deck needed a few upgrades before being truly competitive (looking forward to Archangel of Tithes when I can afford it). No, I was trying to look at standard from an entirely different angle and ever since Collected Company made it’s mark on Modern a few weeks back, I’ve been fixated on the card. Why haven’t any standard decks truly taken advantage of it yet? People had tried out Abzan Warriors to no avail, and there has been talks of RG Goblins and BG Elves becoming a strategy in the next standard cycle, but nobody has been out there actively brewing (at least not in Nagoya). If you’re looking for a powerful Collected Company deck to run before rotation this September, then look no further.
|Anafenza’s Dance Party 2015|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|2 Mana Confluence
4 Windswept Heath
4 Temple of Plenty
2 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
|2 Feat of Resistance
4 Collected Company
4 Dromoka’s Command
1 Ajani Steadfast
11 other spells
15 sideboard cards
During Origins standard, Anafenza is going to be my DJ because she knows how to bring the beats. In any aggro deck, you want to have a fairly large amount of easy to play creatures and no colors does this better than GW. The main strategy behind this deck is to play a lot of aggressive creatures very quickly, but there is a key tech that makes this deck better than any other Collected Company deck in standard and that is the +1/+1 counters. If you can, you’ll want to play Anafenza as early as possible then bring out creature after creature until you have an oppressive force of powerful, low cost cards. There are a variety of ways to put counters on a creature in this deck though, be it through megamorph (Den Protector, Hidden Dragonslayer), monstrous (Fleecemane Lion), leveling up (Warden of the First Tree), spells (Dromoka’s Command, Feat of Resistance), and even planeswalkers (Ajani Steadfast).
If playing cheap, powerful creatures and attacking quickly before an opponent can stabilize doesn’t work, there are a number of other angles of attack. Getting an opponent down to a few life then pushing through the last few points of damage with Feat of Resitance is possible, and leveling up your Warden of the First Tree and beating your opponent down with a 8/8 trampler isn’t bad either. However, the best way to win is to play an Abzan Falconer and going over the head of your opponent.
How It Plays
This deck is really fast, and the addition of Kytheon to the mix from Magic Origins should make it even better. Warden of the First Tree has been a great card for putting pressure on my opponents early and then taking over the game later on as a mana sink. Avatar of the Resolute has also been great in this deck. Most of the time you’ll be crushing with it as a 5/4 or bigger trampler if you’re playing it a few turns after Anafenza, but it’s been doing a great job of playing defense when dragons attack as well. I’ve played Collected Company a few times into the Avatar to block and kill Thunderbreak Regents and Stormbreath Dragons. It’s not a bad card and only gets better as a late game draw.
Den Protector has also been integral in winning me games. Besides becoming almost unblockable with an Anfenza counter and megamorph counter, she’s don’t a great job of returning just the spell I need from my graveyard. She’s also brought back an Abzan Falconer at key moments during games to let me fly over opponents for an alpha strike to end the game. I feel like the Hidden Dragonslayer is going to be needed in this deck as long as dragon decks are a thing. Having a main game answer to Dragonlord Atarka, as well as having uncounterable removal against a card like Dragonlord Ojutai is a good thing. The life link is also relevant against aggro decks. As for Ajani Steadfast, I like to be able to give all of my creatures counters with a card like Abzan Falconer in play to give everybody flying, but it also makes a card like Avatar of the Resolute scary if played after this ability has been used.
The sideboard has been performing really well after the last few revisions, and I think this is where I want to be. There are some really cool cards in there that don’t see a lot of play in standard but work really well in this deck. By far my favorite card to use in the sideboard is Inspiring Call. It’s great against control decks whenever they use a board wipe (as long as it isn’t Languish), and it will usually net you a few cards when cast while keeping your creatures alive to attack the next turn. Here’s how the rest work in the current metagame:
- Ajani, Mentor of Heroes – great against control, but better to drop Steadfast for him against any deck that has removal to give you more card advantage
- Setessan Tactics – even though we have Dromoka’s Command, I think this card is necessary for those match ups where board states get out of hand (token and Mastery of the Unseen decks). Also good way to deal with flyers.
- Mastery of the Unseen – another good card against control, or any other deck that plays Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. If they are going to wipe your board, at least you’ll have something left afterwards to block/attack with. Good synergy with Anafenza as well.
- Reclamation Sage – we already have 4 GW Commands in the main board, but the Sage gives us targeted removal, and also hits artifacts if need be. This is a good card to have against Obelisk of Urd, and should be welcome if Constellation decks become a thing again in standard. Plus: you can play it with Collected Company.
- Valorous Stance – good against Abzan, Mardu, and other Dragon based midrange/control decks for both offense and defense. Sometimes you just want to kill everything they throw at you and that’s when you use Stance.
- Hornet Nest – this is something I side in against aggro decks, but it also does really well against midrange decks that don’t have a lot of spot removal. I especially like it against Abzan megamorph.
- Devouring Light – this card is mostly in there for dealing with unbeatable cards such as Dragonlord Atarka or, for getting rid of pesky Deathmist Raptors. I’d play this against most aggro/midrange decks.
I’ve been using the deck since the beginning of July, and it so far has a winning record. It’s first outing was at a 5 person casual event in town on 7/1, and I went 3-0 with it beating mono red aggro, GW midrange, and mono red goblin Obelisk. The deck’s creatures hold their own really well against fast aggro decks like mono red, and Abzan Falconer let me fly over the top of my opponent for the win against GW.
At its first FNM on 7/3, I went 2-1. I beat Mono black warriors and Jeskai midrange/control before losing in the finals to Mardu dragons at this 8 person event. At the late night tournament on the same day across town, I hit my first snag at a 16 person standard tournament and went 1-2. I beat a Temur colored Jeskai Ascendancy deck, but lost to a GW Mastery midrange deck thanks to Ugin, and also lost to a mono-blue devotion deck because I didn’t have anyway to deal with my opponent’s creatures (sideboard error I guess). Being a new deck at the time, I attribute these losses to not knowing my opponents deck as well. I’ve since then been more careful about cards such as Anger of the Gods and Ugin that can potentially make me have a very bad day.
I played again the following day at a 14 person tournament in town, but I ran into the same problem of not knowing my opponents decks that well and finished 2-2. I beat RW aggro and Temur dragons in the first two rounds, but then lost to a 4 Color Sidisi Whip deck cause I let my opponent stabilize without being able to finish him off (needed more removal). In the final round I had the game against Mardu Warriors in the bag, but I got greedy and level-upped my Warden of the First Tree to gain life which was then killed by a Valorous Stance (I was very low on life and wanted to get some breathing room. Otherwise I would have forced him to block and be able to kill him the next turn). Aside from myself winning that first small tournament with GW Company, the rest of the tournaments that week were won by Mardu Dragons, GW Midrange, and a Mono Red Goblin Impact Tremor deck.
The following weekend was the MTG origins pre-release and I didn’t play standard, but I did pick it up again on 7/17 at a 11 person FNM in Nagoya. I unluckily got a bye first round, but won against UW Heroic in round 2 to head to the finals. GW Megamorph/Mastery and I traded games but in game 3 I missed my 3rd mana and had trouble fighting back against an army of Whiserwood Elementals. I finished 2-1 on the day and my opponent won. The next time I played was on 7/19 at a “Win-A-Box” tournament but only 8 people showed up due to another standard tournament and a Modern PPTQ going on the same day. However, I wasn’t going to let that deter me and I finished in first place going 2-0-1 (splitting the prize in an ID). I beat GR Atarka Devotion in the first round (finally have a good sideboard plan against it), then beat Bant Planeswalker Control in round 2 (triple Wardens early on put a lot of pressure on him). The other person in first was playing an Esper Dragons deck.
Lots of people are trying different permutations of the GW Company deck, but I think this is the best both for power level and synergy. Managorger Hydra, Elvish Mystics, and perhaps even Deathmist Raptors (for now) don’t belong in it. I believe speed is the key, especially as we go forward in a standard environment without 1 drop mana creatures for mana ramp after rotation. The slower decks get, the better this deck full of 1 and 2 drops is going to become. There will be a few missing elements to the deck come rotation (Lion, Mana Confluence), but there will also be some cards ready to step up and take over. I’m excited about the possibilities of Nissa, Vastwood Seer in this deck, if only to help you get that 4th mana to cast a Collected Company the following turn. I expect this deck to do well, and will keep you posted about it over the next month or so.
Modern season has been in full swing for more than a month in Nagoya but sadly I haven’t been able to go to that many PPTQs at all. I’ve only been to 2 since my last metagame update due to pervious plans with my wife as well as not signing up fast enough for the smaller tournaments that maxed out on people. As you know, I posted my previous Tempered Steel/Affinity deck last time and I’ve been playing that version ever since. I’ve been tweaking it and most recently I’ve been playing this new version
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Blinkmoth Nexus
|3 Ensoul Artifact
4 Mox Opal
4 Cranial Plating
4 Springleaf Drum
2 Tempered Steel
20 other spells
15 sideboard cards
The major difference between this version and the other version is that I’ve dropped all types of removal/burn to make it a pure beatdown deck. I’ve moved Etched Champion to the sideboard for a more explosive early play of Steel Overseer, and decided to go all or nothing with beating my opponent’s head in with Ensoul Artifact. I’ve also decided to add a second Spellskite to improve my game 1 chances against combo and to protect my important cards against removal. Overall I’ve been happy with the changes. With less Abrupt Decay in the metagame here in Nagoya and barely any Vapor Snags/Fish decks Ensoul Artifact has been able to shine. Turn 1 5/5 Darksteel Citadels are not unheard of, and it makes it harder for opponents to 2 for 1 me since they can’t usually take out artifacts in their main board. As I had guessed, cards like Tempered Steel and Ensoul Artifact are great against sideboard cards like Stony Silence since they don’t focus on activated abilities.
Starting on 6/28, I played at a casual 13 person modern tournament in town and went 3-0 for first place. I got a first round bye, but beat GR Tron (thanks to Inkmoth Nexus) and BR Suicide Aggro (kind of like Suicide Zoo). A Grixis Twin deck also finished 3-0 that day. On July 5th, I played in a 54 person PPTQ but went 2-3 drop. I lacked focus in my first match up and made some play mistakes to lose to Naya burn, but fought back with wins against Amulet Bloom and Grixis Delver in rounds 2 and 3. In round 4 I ran into an Olivia Voldaren I just couldn’t get rid of in a Jund deck and it killed everything I put on the board. Mono blue Tron sealed my fate in round 5 due to the Academy Ruins/Mindslaver combo and my inability to destroy Platinum Angel (opponent was at -20 life and 16 poison). Since I dropped, I wasn’t able to get the top 8 so I apologize.
On the 10th of July, I played in a 13 person Modern even for FNM before the MTG Origins Pre-release and went 2-1. I was taken out by a Grixis Twin deck using Gifts Ungiven and got wiped out by Vandalblast in two games after sideboarding. I beat Tribal Zoo in round 2 however, and then got rid of a mono red dragon stompy deck. The Grixis Twin/Gifts deck ended up being the winner.
Post Magic Origins, I participated in another 50 person Modern PPTQ with my Real Steel deck. I faced my worst match up in round 1, BW tokens, and simply couldn’t deal with his numbers without drawing my Whipflare. I lost and then lost again in round 2 to Naya burn (triple Searing Blaze suuuuuucked). I was about to give up as I was down 0-2 and had very few chances to finish for a prize, but I stuck with it and ended up beating Affinity, RUG Twin, and 2 Jund decks. The 4-2 finish was enough to get me 16th place and 2 packs. Ensoul Artifact and Tempered Steel were absolutely amazing in both of the Jund match ups.
The Top 8 of this event was:
- Grixis Twin
- Soul Sisters
- Esper Tokens
- Amulet Bloom
- UWR Control
I found the Soul Sisters deck to be rather interesting as it played a little like tokens and a little like soul sisters.
As you can see in the picture, it uses Archangel of Thune and Hero of Bladehold to go BIG and make your creatures huge. I find the 2 main board Blood Moons interesting, and I guess it helps with the combo match up by stopping Snapcaster Mage and other blue cards to be played. I’m also surprised at the hate it was preparing for Affinity. The top 4 ended up being Amulet Bloom, Soul Sisters, UWR Control, and Grixis twin, but UWR control was the deck that won it all and the invitation to the PPTQ. You can see the list below in this tweet.
Notice the singletons of Gideon Jura, Keranos, and Ajani Vengeant. It has a lot of burn and card advantage like most UWR Control decks, but it has a stronger finisher in Ajani and Gideon I think. I was able to play against the winner the following day in a free-play match after the Win a box tournament and beat him (go Ensoul Artifact go!), but the deck is good and almost got me.
While I didn’t go to the modern PPTQ the following day on 7/20, I did stop in to say hello to some friends and to check out the metagame. 46 people showed up and the top 8 was totally different than the day before. Burn was out in large numbers and managed to place 3 decks in the top 8.
- Atarka Burn
- Naya Burn
- GR Tron
- Mono Blue Tron
- Grixis Twin
- GR Shaman Company
- Naya Burn
The top 4 was comprised of Atarka Burn, Grixis Twin, mono blue Tron, and Naya burn, which means Burn had a 50% chance of winning it all. But which one would win? GR or GRW burn?
The Atarka burn deck proved to be too much and Motomura Shigeru ended up taking home first prize. However, this green deck wasn’t the talk of the town. That distinction belongs to the crazy GR Shaman brew that made its way into the top 8.
The deck plays a ton of Shaman typed creatures then puts a counter on all of them with Rage Forger. When they attack, they all deal one damage to the opponent. The deck went 4-1-1 and did pretty well for itself, and I’m not surprised it snuck under the radar. The reasoning and synergy are sound and I actually feel like trying it out myself (it’s not that expensive if you have the rares.) I’m not sure if it’s a fluke or not, but we’ve only scraped the surface as far as Collected Company decks go. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the card break out even further outside of Elf and Abzan Company.
Until Next Time . . .
That does it for this month’s installment of the Japan Metagame Diaries. Hopefully you find the information useful, as well as the deck lists. There are still a few modern tournaments going on, but slowly I’ll be focusing more and more on standard again. My next goal is to do well at the WMCQ (World Magic Cup Qualifiers) in Nagoya, and perhaps even travel to Osaka or Tokyo to participate in a tournament there. I’ve got a lot of the staples I wanted from Origins and I’m looking forward to sharing some new brews with you in the near future. As for what’s coming up next with the Japan Hobbyist, I plan on doing another Puca Pals article soon before the Pro Tour, and after that I’ll be looking at how Magic Origins will affect prices of cards currently in standard in my Bang for your Buck finance series. Be sure to check back whenever you can. Thanks for reading!