The Japan Metagame Diaries – GP Tokyo: Brew Brothers – Day 2

My hard hotel bed at Toyoko Inn made getting a good night’s sleep difficult, but that wasn’t going to stop me from taking part in my first ever day 2 at a Grand Prix. I was up and at ’em as soon as my alarm went off and was on the train by 7:35 to arrive in time for the 8:30 player meeting (or so the GP Tokyo pamphlet had said). However, I learned that the real player meeting didn’t start until 8:50 once I was already in transit, so it looked like I was going to have a lot of down time. In reality, the player meeting didn’t start until 9:10 am, and then a technical difficulty caused the pairings to be delayed until 9:40 am. I had woken up wayyyy to early, and my fellow Samurai Kal wasn’t too happy about it either.

Both Kal and I relaxed outside in the sun during the break and did our best to wake up and prepare ourselves for the coming 6 rounds of Magic.

We were both representing Team TokyoMTG at GP Tokyo on day 2. I was excited to support my friend Brent and Heiko’s store (located in Suidobashi if anybody is interested in check them out), and it was cool to be part of a team at an event. We’re also both part of the Cardboard Samurai Facebook group, so communication between us was pretty easy. We had both finished 7-2 at the end of day 1 and were hoping to convert that into something more substantial on day 2 alongside the other Cardboard Samurai that made day 2, Stephen and Aryabhima. As the clock hit 9:40 am, day 2 was finally ready to get going.

Day 2

  • Round 10: Bant Company (lost 0-2) – Bant company can always go either way with me. It’s a tough match up if only because bad draws can really screw me over. I played 2 very close games but a well timed negate countered a big Secure the Wastes that would have changed the tides in game 2, and in game one my opponent drew all of his Dromoka’s Commands to keep my team off of him just long enough for a win.
  • Round 11: Mono Red Aggro (lost 1-2) – WTF. Who plays mono red aggro anymore? I’m guessing only one person made day 2 with the deck, and I was unlucky enough to have to face it. Hyper aggro decks put my on the spot and force me to draw my removal in a timely manner. I managed to curve out well and do this in one of my matches, but lost to the spell that deals 1 damage to all of my creatures in game 2, and in game 3 I got burned out one turn before stablizing with Linvala.
  • Round 12: Mono White Humans (lost 1-2) – Come on, really? I had to face two hyper aggro decks in a row and just like the previous round when I didn’t draw my removal I lost but when I did I easily won. I can win these games, but it all comes down to maxing out on removal and drawing those cards in a timely manner. Another heartbreaker that left me one turn short from stabilizing.
  • Round 13: BW Eldrazi (won 2-0) – I was 7-5 by this point and totally out of contention for a cash finish or pro points, but I wasn’t going to drop at my first ever day 2 appearance. I continued my dominance of non aggro decks and easily beat this Eldrazi deck when they missed their 4th land drop in both games and were unable to cast any kind of finshers like Reality Smasher or Thought Knot Seer. Was able to Bushwhack him rather easily in both games.
  • Round 14: UR Goggles (won 2-0) – Another hilarious win. My opponent did nothing but draw cards and build up to a turn 5 Pyromancer Goggles, but in the mean time I was playing tokens, more tokens, and Reckless Bushwhacker. Before he knew it he was at 5 life and without a prayer. Game 2 was pretty much the same way, except I managed to play 2 Reckless Bushwhacker’s Surge cost off of a Dragon Fodder to put him within reach of a Fiery Temper the next turn. Easy peasy.
  • Round 15: UW Midrange (lost 0-2) – Finishing 10-5 would have been awesome, but my opponent had the right cards to answer my slow hand in game 1, and a more controlling build in game 2 made it easy for his Avacyn and Gideon to take over the game.


A 9-6 finish is solid, but it can definitely be improved upon. I believe the deck will continue to be strong against the various midrange, ramp, and control decks of the metagame, and it will also have the advantage against GW Tokens in the pseudo mirror match thanks to it’s speed and burn spells.

Hyper aggro decks such as Mono white humans and Aristocrat builds continue to be a challenge though, so I think the mainboard removal package is going to have to be rethought. In all likeliness I will probably end up dropping Lightning Axe from the mainboard and switching it with Declaration of Stone. That gives me a better game 1 against GW tokens, bant company, and some aggro decks, while still leaving me 6 instant speed removal spells to deal with end of the turn shenanigans like Collected Company. It might not make a huge difference, but turning even a few of those 1-2 finishes into 2-1 will really help out this deck. Fiery Impulse might be a better card against aggro decks, but it lacks the versatility of being able to burn an opponent to the face which is sometimes just what you need.



Brew Brother


I wasn’t the only person running a brew in day 2 of GP Tokyo. My fellow spellslinger Kal also brought his own brew to the tournament. He had tested it out in the week leading up to the GP on MTGO and it had given him some promising results. He had finished 7-2 at the end of day 1 with the deck, and by the end of day 2 he had compiled a very respectable 10-5 record. The deck was an interesting take on the Crush of Tentacles archetype, but it’s a little hard to explain so I’ll let Kalim talk about the deck down below.


UG Crush (Tentacle Ramp)
By Kalim Oldziey
4 Evolving Wilds
8 Forest
4 Island
3 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
3 Yavimaya Coast
1 Wastes

23 lands

4 Den Protector
4 Deathcap Cultivator
2 Hangarback Walker
2 Drowner of Hope
1 World Breaker
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

14 creatures

4 Oath of Nissa
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Ruin in their Wake
2 Spell Shrivel
3 Kiora, Master of the Depths
4 Crush of Tentacles
2 Nissa’s Renewal

23 other spells

2 Negate
2 Stratus Dancer
3 Engulf the Shore
2 Jaddi Offshoot
2 Explosive Vegetation
2 Ulvenwald Hydra
1 Altered Ego
1 Island

15 sideboard cards


The Japan Hobbyist: What was your deck choice?

Kal: I ran UG Crush, something I’d been brewing for the past week and a half or so.

 I registered the list you see above.

TJH: Why did you choose that deck?

Kal: Partially due to card availability (didn’t really want to buy a playset of Avacyn or Jace), partly because I’m not so interested in playing aggro or a weak deck, and partially because I believe this deck abuses a hole in the metagame.

TJH: What are the deck’s best cards and how do you play the deck?

Den protector, Kiora, Crush of Tentacles, Traverse the Ulvenwald.

 At its core, this is a soft lock deck that is built around the 10 mana play pattern of Den Protector, flip Den Protector, return Crush, recast crush. 

This soft lock reduces the relevant cards in standard to a relatively few instant speed threats and removal spells; multiple archetypes in current standard cannot beat this combination of cards, once deployed. 

Kiora and Traverse add redundancy to the deck. Traverse enables Ruin in their Wake to function, while also fetching Den Protector, Ulamog or a silver bullet creature in the mid-late game. Kiora also guarantees delirium by herself, basically. 

The initial turns of the deck revolve around developing the board, not being rushed out, achieving delirium, and getting as many lands into play as possible. Card advantage matters very little against the deck, so feel free to make trades that seem bad on paper to advance the deck’s plan.

Eventually the game will come down to either this deck being dead, or how many cards you and the opponent can play each turn. 

In the mid-game, the goal is to get the opponent to commit expensive cards to the board without trading too many resources to do so, while still developing to the point of having 10/11 mana available. The deck ramps hard to 6 mana, but then makes 10 mana largely on the back of just hitting land drops with Kiora, Ruin or Traverse. 

In the lategame, replay crush over and over until you can recur multiple Den Protectors for an advantage or they leave their board in a position that you can afford to Traverse for Ulamog and start exiling them out of the game. Be sure to take advantage of Den protector’s interaction with countermagic to counter the most important cards when necessary.

TJH: How did the deck do, and what were your matchups at the GP?

I finished 10-5, with the matchups being:

  • R1 Bye
  • R2 Esper Dragons (Lost 1-2)
R3 Jund Delirium midrange (Won 2-0
  • R4 RG Goggles Ramp (Won 2-0
  • R5 GB Seasons (Won 2-0)
  • R6 GW Tokens (Won 2-0)
  • R7 GW Tokens (Won 2-1)
  • R8 Sultai Crush Control (!) (Won 2-0)
  • R9 GB Seasons (Lost 0-2)

R10 UR Goggles/Madness (Won 2-1)
  • R11 Grixis Midrange (Lost 1-2)
  • R12 GW Tokens (Won 2-0)
  • R13 Bant CoCo (Won 2-0
  • R14 Gr Eldrazi Ramp (Lost 0-2)
R15 Bant CoCo (Lost 0-2)



TJH: What you would change and why ?

Kal: The deck should have had 4 Kiora. Card is super important to the deck’s plan patterns and gains life when opponents attack her. 

I’m not so sure about Altered Ego; card is in the deck as a tutorable target to fight against Ojutai and Silumgar, but I just haven’t been able to test those matchups enough to be sure the card pulls its weight as a 1-of bullet. 

I’d like to not run Engulf the Shore because of what it does to my manabase, but I don’t think I have that option. I needed a one-card solution out of the board for Secure the Wastes + Avacyn decks (since those are the cards that are any good against me in those decks)… but I want that card to also be good against mono white aggro and other random token strats.

I want to make room for Nissa, Vastwood Seer, but the list is really tight as-is. I’d also like to have 3 Drowner of Hope instead of 2, but can only run so many 6’s. I’ve shifted the sideboard temporarily to accommodate.

 I’m not convinced World Breaker even earns a silver bullet slot in a format that is built to beat the card. I’ve cut it, for now. 

The island in the sideboard might seem weird, but it’s important to have access to 5 basic islands for engulf X=5 in some matchups.  The main just can’t afford any more non-green sources than it has, so the island hits the board and only comes in when needed.


TJH: What’s the sideboard guide like?

Kal: Unfortunately it’s not very cut and dry. This is a rogue deck, so sideboarding is where you get a lot of your percentage, and you want to know what you’ve shown your opponent in game 1. If they just got ramp-killed by a t6 Ulamog or something, sideboarding may go differently than if they got crush-looped for 10 turns.

Cards that go out:

  • Deathcap Cultivator (vs removal-heavy slower strategies where it’s poorly positioned)
  • Hangarback (vs any strategy which can deal with it easily or which doesn’t care about it)
  • Spell Shrivel (on the draw sometimes vs faster decks; vs any deck that can’t ever break a den protector-crush loop in their 75, or being replaced with Negate vs some decks)

Cards that come in:

Explosive Vegetation (vs ramp)
  • Negate (vs control or PW/spell heavy midrange)
  • Engulf (vs token-based strategies or low-toughness aggressive decks like white weenie or bant company). Island comes with it.
  • Stratus Dancer (vs control strategies that rely on 1-for-1 removal/sweepers more than planeswalkers or midrange value cards)
Altered Ego (counterspell heavy decks relying on a single threat to win; esp Ojutai or Silumgar – esper dragons, etc)
  • Nissa, Vastwood Seer (decks where the Crush loop needs a little help – especially decks with their own flip nissa)
  • Thought-Knot-Seer (most midrangey decks)


A Samurai’s Honor


All 4 of Cardboard Samurai that started the tournament together ended it together. Kal finished 10-5 and was the best of us all, Aryabhima finished 9-5-1 for second best, and both Stephen and I finished 9-6. While we didn’t get any pro points or make any cash this time around, the future seems bright for our team. There are dozens more cardboard samurai in our FB group just waiting for their moment to shine, and from here on out you can be sure we’ll have their back and support them however we can. I have a lot of confidence in both Kal and my own deck and you can be sure that I’ll be back racking up PPTQ Top 8s again now that I have a strong strategy and the focus to do so. Be on the lookout for more metagame updates in the near future. Until then, good luck with your own tournaments and if you try out the decks in either of the articles I wrote and have some ideas or feedback about them, it would be great to hear it.