The Japan Metagame Diaries – GP Nagoya: Bringing the Fury
As some of you may know from my Twitter and Facebook updates, I was pretty angry when Big Magic announced that Grand Prix Nagoya was going to cost 10,000 yen ($83). The format was OGW/BFZ limited which means those that forked out the cash got 6 booster packs, the GP Promo Stoneforge Mystic, and if you were one of the first 1000 (or perhaps it was 1500) players to register you would also get a playmat. The previous limited GP a year before had only cost 5000-6000 yen. Why the jump? Well, supposedly it it’s a mix of moving to a bigger venue (Port Messe seemed awfully similar to Fukiage Hall though), paying the judges for their time, and letting players that went 6-3 day one make it to day two.
I for one, was against the decision to raise the price from the start. I know that prices have to go up when things get popular (supply and demand) and they have to pay for things, but I felt like the double in price was simply too much. It’s something that should have been phased in slowly over time, or perhaps money should have been saved by booking an event that is slightly smaller (in the past, Fukiage Hall in Nagoya has hosted events, and the last limited event 2 years ago cost 5000).
People say that if you want to make a company take notice, talk with your wallet. I immediately boycotted Big Magic and refused to buy singles, participate in their events, or even go the store. Their prices are already rather high anyways, and although their pay outs for in store events are usually good, their new “Big Magic Open” is a joke. They charge too much and have horrible prize support.
Since I decided to forego the main event, and I wasn’t the only one (almost nobody from my local MTG group of 30-ish people participated in the main event), I instead tried to actually enjoy myself over the weekend. On Friday I arrived in the afternoon and walked around the hall and did a lot of trading. This was the first time I’ve ever had a chance to do so, and while I didn’t get a lot of the target cards I was hoping for, I did however grab some nice foils for my Ulamog EDH deck.
On Saturday, I managed to get in a booster draft before lunch, then did a little bit more trading. I also brought my Tempest/Exodus/Stronghold block cube and managed to get 7 of my friends to join me playing it. The side event area was packed and it was hard to get a spot for it, but once we did everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. There were some insane combos, interesting interactions, and lots of smiles on people’s faces as they tried to wrap their minds about how powerful some of the cards being passed to them were. I ended up going 1-2, but still had a blast. I can’t wait to try it out again.
All of these experiences were great. I got to socialize with a lot of people and enjoy trying lots of formats, but I was hungry for a bigger challenge. My entire weekend was leading up to the Super Sunday Standard tournament. I hadn’t really played much standard heading into the weekend due to work and other obligations, and I also didn’t have all of the pieces for the deck I wanted to play; Mono green Eldrazi ramp. I had been waiting for more than a week to get cards sent to me through Pucatrade, but by the time the GP came to town, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to put it together in time. Therefore I went with plan B.
During Battle for Zendikar standard I had toyed with the idea of GR Elemental ramp, and had played it a few times to decent results. There were some noticeable weaknesses, such as to Ugin or flyers, but overall it was a solid beatdown deck. Then came Oath of the Gatewatch. I mentioned before in my last article that OGW was bringing some interesting cards such as Mina and Denn and Embodiment of Insight, but I was totally caught off guard by the synergy between Sylvan Advocate and Embodiment of Fury.
Wizards tried to sneak this card past all of us, but Sylvan Advocate has been absolutely bonkers in this new format. Ramp and Abzan decks have already caught on to its power and are playing them in their decks, but that’s not where is truly belongs. If you want to abuse the Advocate and drain all hope from your opponent, I implore you to try GR Elemental Ramp, a.k.a. Zendikar’s Retribution.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Cinder Glade
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Blighted Woodland
|3 Crater’s Claws
4 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
3 Explosive Vegetation
2 Animist’s Awakening
12 other spells
15 sideboard cards
How it Works
GR Elemental Ramp is part ramp, part GR stompy. In other ramp decks, such as GR Eldrazi ramp, you want to play all your ramp spells as early as possible so that you can play a bomb like Ugin or Ulamog to take over the game. Once you have those cards on the board you can usually end a game rather quickly. In elemental ramp, the opposite is true. In this build you want to play your creatures first and then use your ramp cards to activate landfall triggers. You could probably consider this more of a combo/stompy deck actually, except that you don’t have worry about losing if one of your “combo pieces” is taken out.
The deck starts on turn 2, and while playing one of the 6 mana creatures is usually best, you can also decide to play Sylvan Advocate instead. This is good if you see your opponent leading with red and want to sidestep losing a turn to playing another creature. On turn three, there are a number of plays available to you. If you have a mana creature in play, you can play an Undergrowth Champion and then play your land for a trigger (probably the best play), or you can play a Grove Rumbler. Rumbler is somewhat susceptible to removal, but he does survive a Kozilek’s Return or Fiery Impulse which is important. You could also play Explosive Vegetation or Embodiment of Fury on turn 3, but I wouldn’t unless you know they don’t have any removal/counterspells for it. You’ll want to hold back on these cards until you can take full advantage of them. Playing Nissa’s Pilgrimage is also an alright choice, especially if you need the mana but don’t feel bad dropping other mana creatures or another Advocate as well.
Turn 4 is where the deck really starts to work. If your mana creature is still alive and you have a red source available, THIS is the time you play Embodiment of Fury. Just as you did earlier with Undergrowth Champion, tap your mana creature and then play your land. The land comes into play as a 3/3 with haste thanks to the Fury and can attack. If you played Fury the turn before and it’s still alive, things really start to get crazy. Playing a Pilgrimage on this turn would net you two activations (one on an untapped land and one on your mana for that turn) and allow you to attack for 6 damage. The Rumbler line of play from turn 3 can also be pretty destructive. If your land set for turn 4 is a fetch, you can play it, grab a land, and attack for 7 damage. If you have a ramp spell to add to it such as Explosive Vegetation, it’s quite possible to hit for 11 tramp damage on turn 4.
You still following me at this point? All of the creatures in this deck are dangerous threats. Turn 5 (possibly turn 4 sometimes) can get downright absurd with the right type of cards. If you have both a Sylvan Advocate and Embodiment of Fury in play going into this turn, there is a very real possiblity to end the game with multiple landfall triggers. On turn 5 you’ll most likely hit 6 mana, which will turn on Advocate’s secondary ability. He becomes a 4/5 and turns all of your lands into 5/5 creatures with trample. Playing something like a fetch will give you two triggers, and if you have a mana creature in play you can even cast a Nissa’s Pilgrimage to get a 3rd trigger on the stack. That’s 19 damage from those 4 creatures alone, 23 if you count Embodiment of Fury. Your opponent thinks they’re safe behind a wall of thopter tokens? Think again. You can also add more Advocates to the mix to put your opponent in an even worse position (+4/+4 to a land creatures).
I think by now you can get a feel for how the deck works and can toy with it a bit yourself. You can probably guess how the other cards in this deck fit together, but just in case you don’t, let me quickly tell you about the other choices I made in this deck.
- Blighted Woodland – more landfall redundancy. Can’t be countered, played late game you can create 3 triggers on the turn you play it.
- Whisperwood Elemental – great to have against board wipes like Kozilek’s Return or Planar Outburst if you need it, and the morphed creatures also have a natural resiliency to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. I also think this card is good against aggro decks. It can really slow them down if played turn 4.
- Crater’s Claws – I initially played 2, then 4, but I think 3 is the right amount. This deck needs some kind of removal main board that can kill trouble cards like Stormchaser Mage, but it also lets you ramp up and just fireball an opponent for the win if the board is gummed up.
- Animist’s Awakening – No, you’re not seeing things. This card is a finisher in this deck. Played late game, you can create an army of 3/3 land elementals with Embodiment of Fury in play (untapped and attacking with spell mastery!), or give your Grove Rumbler and Undergrowth Champion a ton of landfall triggers.
I initially based the sideboard around my GR Eldrazi ramp deck, but made a few key changes here and there. Jaddi Offshoot is still my go-to defense against aggro decks and with the amount of landfall I have in this deck it should do a lot of work in this situations. Winds of Qal Sisma is the same way, good for aggro (especially Atarka Red and Abzan aggro). I had some trouble with Abzan decks (it’s currently a toss up) which is why I went up to 3 Roasts in the sideboard. I want to be able to kill an Anafenza or Rhino early and 3 seems like a good number. Windstorm is also in there as a one of to deal with decks like Esper Dragons.
Chandra, Flamecaller seemed like a good card all around. She deals with aggro decks well, attacks control decks each turn, and also gives you card advantage. Her elementals also work well with another card in the sideboard, Omnath, Locus of Rage (which I have in there for removal lite decks). Whenever they die, 3 damage can be done to a creature or player. I have a 3rd Whisperwood Elemental in the SB as well that I play when I’m facing control or removal heavy decks like Mardu and Abzan. The final card in my sideboard is Void Winnower. As I said before, one of the toughest cards for this deck to deal with is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. If Ugin wipes your board you can be in a tough spot, but you should be able to race your Eldrazi Ramp opponent to 9 mana and play it to stop Ugin or Ulamog from landing on the board (FYI, keep an extra Embodiment of Fury and some ramp in your hand just in case in these match ups).
You might be thinking “sure, this all looks good on paper and in theory, but how does it fare against the metagame?” Glad you asked. At the Super Sunday Standard tournament of 230 players (115 in 2 different tournaments), I managed to go 5-2 and finish in 21st place. I had tested the deck against friends the night before so I was confident I could get a few wins, but this result was above and beyond my expectations. Here’s a quick run down of each match.
- Round 1: UR/b Prowess (Won 2-1) – I mulled to 5 in game 1 and lost without playing more than a mana creature, but my sideboard of Jaddi Offshoots and Winds of Qal Sisma bought me enough time to win game 2. In game 3 my opponent mulled to 5 and then missed his land drops which made him an easy target for all of my x/3 creatures.
- Round 2: Abzan Aggro (Lost 0-2) – My first loss of the day came against Abzan. I kept a threat lite hand game 1 and his removal spells picked me apart. In game 2 I put up a much better fight and almost killed him but I couldn’t close the game. I made the mistake of siding out my Crater’s Claws for Roasts when I should have kept them in.
- Round 3: UR/b Prowess (lost 0-2) – I lost to a Stormchaser Mage over the course of a few turns when I didn’t draw my removal in game 1, and noticing my weakness my opponent followed the same strategy game 2 and killed me. At the time I wasn’t running Chandra, Flamecaller in my SB so I believe I’ll have a much better match up in the future.
- Round 4: G/r Eldrazi Ramp (won 2-1) – with my back to the wall already in round 4, I was ready to fight with all I had. My opponent initially thought I was playing Eldrazi ramp too game 1 as we played similar cards, but once I played Embodiment of Fury it was too late. I lost to a well timed Ugin game 2, but Fury was a beating in games 1 and 3. I managed to hit for 33 damage in game 3 to finish it.
- 5 Color Bring to Light (won 2-0) – Undergrowth Champion and Whisperwood Elemental easily helped me to deal with his board wipes (Languish, Crux of Fate), and both Grove Rumbler and Fury put the hurt on him as well. I hit for 19 in one turn in this game.
- Mardu Green (won 2-1) – this was a really tight match. He was able to stabilize with Siege Rhino and draw all of his removal when he needed it game 2, but Fury again allowed me to deal a lot of damage early in game 1 and alpha strike for 22 damage game 3.
- Abzan Aggro (won 2-0) – I played very aggressively game one and managed to overwhelm his removal, and in game 2 I was able to stall the board with double Whisperwood Elementals, Sylvan Advocate, and mana creatures until I could deal 44 damage in one turn thanks to 4 landfall triggers with both a Fury and Rumbler in play (all while I was at 6 life and sure to die the following turn!).
I have to admit, the look of utter disbelief as I combo’d out against my opponents to hit for massive amounts of damage put a smile on my face. Thinking they were safe at 18, 21, or 26 life and attacking aggressively put them in exactly the type of situation I wanted them in: wide open with no blockers. I managed to get a few more games in at an 8 man casual tournament the Monday after the GP and finished a respectable 2-1. I absolutely destroyed a mono black Eldrazi deck round one (2-0) thanks to triple Undergrowth Champions fighting their way through multiple Thought-Knot Seers, then beat a very capable GR Eldrazi Ramp player (2-1) in round 2. The Advocate/Fury combo was able to win the game for me out of nowhere again. I lost in the final round to an Abzan Midrange player (0-2) which had a lot more removal than I was used to. I initially sided in thinking it was Aggro but had trouble putting pressure on the board through all of his hand disruption and removal. It’s a lot tougher than Abzan Aggro, but not unwinnable I think. Next time I would definitely want to play Chandra from the sideboard.
7-3 after two tournaments is very promising, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I haven’t matched up with Rally or Atakra Red decks yet, and I also haven’t seen how it does against Esper Tokens or Dragons. I’m sure I can develop a good strategy for each one, but it’s still too early in the OGW standard metagame to make anything definite. I have a few small tournaments this week and a bigger casual one, but I won’t be able to take it to something big until Oath of Gatewatch Game Day on the 13th and 14th. Until then, I think it should be able to fly under the radar and take some tournaments my storm. Eventually I’ll have a sideboard plan for the deck as well, but until then experiment with what you think is good for your metagame.
Being a new archetype, I’m incredibly interested in your feedback on the deck, as well as how playing the deck goes for you over the next few weeks. If you start winning a lot and people want to know where you got the idea from, be sure to tell them it was The Japan Hobbyist! Thanks for reading and be sure to check back soon for more articles!