The Japan Metagame Diaries – Getting Over Game Day
Japan summers are hot. We’re talking losing 2-3 liters of water in sweat every day. It can be unbearable sometimes, especially at night if you don’t have an air conditioner in or near your room. It pays to be prepared so that you don’t overexert yourself and burn out. Knowing your limits, when to go outside and when to stay in, and staying hydrated is important.
Before Eldritch Moon standard we had to deal with the constant heat of Bant Company decks, namely the human type. I can’t even count how often I was burned by a well timed Collected Company that completely turned the game around for my opponent. The addition of Spell Queller to the Bant Company mix has relieved some of the pressure but also created new headaches. In the past my RW Tokens deck had put up decent numbers against the strategy but it was still lacking a card or two to get the edge. I think I might have finally been able to push the deck into Tier 1 though.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Battlefield Forge
4 Needle Spires
2 Stone Quarry
2 Westvale Abbey
1 Hanweir Battlements
|4 Dragon Fodder
4 Declaration in Stone
4 Secure the Wastes
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Collective Defiance
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
20 other spells
15 sideboard cards
There have been only a few changes to the deck, but they have totally transformed the deck.
I can’t not stress how important Hanweir Garrison is to this deck. It both is and isn’t Goblin Rabblemaster/Knight of Bladehold. During the last season I was playing Thopter Engineer, and while the 3 toughness was welcome, the overall power level and impact it made on the board was weak. Instant speed removal cards like Kozilek’s Return was a problem for the deck because it would wipe your board and make you rebuild it over the next few turns, but simply having 1 Garrison on the battlefield can win you the game in pretty much the same way Rabblemaster did in M15.
We all know how good 3 toughness creatures can be in this metagame (I’m looking at you Reflector Mage) because of how well they block and survive removal, but few can single handedly win a game. Consider this sample Bant Company match up if you will. Turn 1 set land. Turn 2 play Dragon Fodder while opponent plays Duskwatch Recruiter/Lambholt Pacifist. Turn 3 you play Hanweir Garrison while your opponent saves up mana for a Collected Company next turn. Turn 4, you play Gideon, ultimate him, and suddenly attack with 11 power of which your opponent can only block one. That type of early advantage can be overwhelming to any opponent, and if you have a card like Declaration in Stone and a Goblin Bushwhacker in hand for the next turn the game can easily end on turn 5.
Hanweir Battlements is also a good card in an of itself. Aside from being the other half of Hanweir Garrison’s Meld, it does a great job of giving creatures haste for those last few points of damage. His best target is obviously Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. If you draw him on an empty board late game, you can easily +1 him and then give his creature form haste with Battlements. So what if they Ruinous Path next turn? Getting in 5 points of damage can be huge, especially with how fast the deck already is between turns 3-5.
While it’s not as likely to happen during the course of the game, having that option to flip your Garrison into a finisher gives the deck a lot more reach than before. Any game that goes long suddenly has an automatic threat that can do 13 damage (or more with an emblem in play) in one turn. I’m considering adding in a 2nd Battlements to give me more chances to activate this ability, but I’m not sure what I’d drop. Perhaps if I added in Hangarback Walker instead of Thraben Inspector the mana wouldn’t be so strict and could support one less plains . . .
Strangely enough, Hanweir Militia Captain has really come into her own during this metagame. The lack of burn spells and the speed at which you can get to 4 creatures assures that you can consistently flip her on turn 4. She might not be that good against UR burn decks, but many of the other decks I’ve faced have underestimated her and paid the price when I flipped her. Once flipped, the Captain becomes very dangerous, especially with an attacking Hanweir Garrison or a Secure the Waste in your hands.
It’s no secret now how good Collective Defiance has become in this metagame. Burn decks have really taken hold of it and I must say that in testing this card has been very useful. Being able to burn an opponent or planeswalker out, kill a creature, or discard my hand to draw some gas later in the game has been absolutely huge. The deck has always lacked card advantage, and Defiance fills that hole fairly well (even if you’re tossing cards instead of straight up drawing them). I could possibly see myself going up to 4 of these in the future, but it would depend on the metagame.
I recently updated the sideboard, but not too much is different. Stasis Snare is now in the sideboard to deal with Eldrazi and other dangerous cards like Ormendahl, and Linvala is back to help against all of the burn decks that have popped up over the last few weeks. I’ve also added in Blessed Alliance as a nod to aggressive aggro decks like humans (which can also be used against burn), but I only just added Collective Effort and haven’t had time to test much with it.
I previously had some Thalias in the sideboard for Bant Company match ups, but this card seems a lot easier to utilize. The main reason for playing this is to have more ways to destroy enchantments like Virulent Plague, but in cases where Nahiri isn’t viable like white humans, Collective Effort shines by killing a creature and getting rid of an Always Watching in those match ups (thanks to Jose from the Cardboard Samurai for the idea!). It also works really well against midrange decks by killing big creatures and pumping up your team to survive an attack. You could easily win a game with a Gideon Emblem + Collective effort with a 6 mana+ Secure the Wastes at the end of turn. I’m excited to see how it fares in the current metagame.
The deck started off really well once Eldritch Moon was released in standard. I managed to win a 13 person FNM on July 22nd with it 3-0 (6-0 overall) by beating a UB Triskaidephobia, BR Vampire, and UR Goggles deck then the following week I posted another 3-0 result (6-1 overall). During this 16 person FNM on 7/29 I faced Esper Control, UR goggles again, and an Abzan Eldritch Evolution deck. They simply couldn’t deal with my decks speed and their removal wasn’t equipped to hand large amounts of tokens. Opponents had to waste burn spells on one or two creatures and couldn’t stop the onslaught. I found myself filling the board with tokens on turns 2 and 3 a lot and then using Gideon’s -4 to make it incredibly difficult for my opponents to deal with my creatures.
FNM is one thing, but bigger weekend tournaments tend to have a much more difficult crowd. However, I kept the streak alive on the last two days of July, going 4-1 at a 19 person Saturday tournament and 4-1 again at a friend’s new store tournament outside of town. Only 10 people were there, but I got some good practice against a variety of decks. At the Saturday event, I beat Grixis Midrange, UG Eldrazi Ramp, GB aristocrats, and a Temur Emerge deck before losing to a BR Aggro/Burn deck. I had no problems against Grixis’ Kalitas thanks to all of my tokens and good removal, and Hanweir Garrison did a lot of work against the Aristocrats deck until I could cast a Descend Upon the Sinful to take over the game. The burn/aggro deck was tough when I didn’t draw Blessed Alliance or get Ormendahl out fast enough for the life gain, and also didn’t draw my removal in a timely fashion. I was actually surprised to win against the “Temurge” deck but like I said before, my deck is fast. I managed to put too much pressure on my opponent game 1 and in game 3 my Impact Tremors let me continue to play tokens and play a defensive game while chipping away at his life.
At the 10 person Sunday event I beat Grixis Midrange, UG Ramp, a Jeskai Spirits/Tempo deck, and GB Delirium before losing to GR Eldrazi in the finals of the special tournament. I ended up having a good balance of removal and pressure in each of these games and Reckless Bushwhacker caught a lot of players off guard, screwing up their math and putting me ahead more often than not. The biggest problem I had this day was with Kozilek’s Return. I can beat Languish and other sorcery speed board wipes thanks to Bushwhacker and Hanweir Battlements, but Return destroys me. Its the one thing you should look out for if you play this deck.
I had a little bit of problem at the 8/5 FNM just before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, going 1-2 (lost to Esper Starfield control and 4C Season’s Past Control, beat Grixis Midrange), but during that same weekend I took down a 17 player weekend tournament 4-0 by beating UW Angel Midrange, UW “Boggles” (a special brew focused around equipment and enchantments), BW Angel Control, and GR Eldrazi Ramp. The deck was very consistent at curving out and it’s removal was more than sufficient. Nahiri saw some play this weekend, but it was the Mr. Garrison and Bushwhacker show all day long. Going into Eldritch Moon Game Day I was 19-4 overall and feeling really good about my chances.
Eldritch Moon Game Day
There wasn’t too much excitement about Eldritch Moon Game Day due to people still getting a feel for the metagame a week after the Pro Tour, but even more so because the Modern PPTQ season has just gotten underway. Half of the players in the city were more focused on getting to the Regional PTQ for a chance at the next Pro Tour than playing standard so there weren’t as many players as there have been in the past. Those that did show up though brought the beats.
My first Game Day was at Midnight on Friday the 12th with 24 players and continued into the early morning of 8/13. I won my first match against Bant Human Company, but then lost my next three straight to Esper Superfriends, Sultai Emerge, and GB Delirium. I was able to get the Esper player down to one life but drew poorly for about 5 turns and wasn’t able to finish him before an Ob Nixilis counter killed me. The same happened in round 3 as I lost in three games to Sultai Emerge because I couldn’t take care of multiple Haunted Dead. A horrible play mistake of exiling my own Gideon with Descend Upon the Sinful ended up killing me in round 4 against GB Delirium but otherwise it was totally winnable. I managed to beat a GB Delirium Ramp deck in round 5 to finish at 2-3. Aside from a few small mistakes (mostly due to playing between 2 – 5 am in the morning), what really hurt me the most was poor card draws (and also the reason I added in Collective Defiance).
I ended my first tournament at about 5:30 am and slept in for a while on Saturday, but managed to attend a Game Day at a different place around 3:30 pm to get another chance at the Liliana playmat. Being at a smaller game store and later in the day only 9 people showed up, but beggars can’t be choosers. I won my first match against a GB Beatdown deck that used Reality Smasher and green threats such as Sylvan Advocate, but lost to GW Tokens in round 2. I have been doing really well against GW Tokens since I started using the deck, but none of my match ups are 100% in my favor. Poor draws hurt me here again as Avacyn wiped my board and went over my head with little I could do to stop her. I beat RW Humans in round 3 thanks to a good balance of removal and blockers until I could stabilize in both games, but lost to mono white humans in round 4 because I got stuck on 2 mana game 2 and couldn’t handle triple Always Watching in game 1.
I was getting pretty disparaged at this point as my record with RW tokens had worsened to 23-9, but I gave it one last shot on Sunday. Sunday had the largest number of Game Days around Nagoya so there was a low number of players pretty much anywhere you went. I ended up at a 10 person tournament in Osu shopping area at Amenity Dream and was 1-1 after the second round. I had beat an Abzan Control deck thanks to my speed in round 1, but lost a Bant Company deck in round 2. With only 10 people it would be tough to make the top 4 for a chance at the playmat, but I was going to stick it out and try my best. There were only 3 rounds so it was win and in. I was unlucky to face one of my harder match ups, Bant Company in the 3rd round, especially against one of the best Collected Company players in the city. We had two very close games and it came down to a 3rd and final game. I managed to overload my board very quickly in the final game with tons of tokens and quickly activated my Westvale Abbey to steal the game from my opponent and lock the top 4 for a chance at the finals.
I faced off against GB Delirium in the semifinals and managed to steal game 1 with a great curve and aggressive hand into a Gideon, but lost to Liliana’s ultimate and triple Sylvan Advocate in game 1. Luckily in game 3 my opponent got stuck on 3 land while I curved into a Chandra and a board full of tokens to find myself in the finals against Bant Company. Sadly it just wasn’t in the cards as I mulliganed in game 1 to 5 cards and got stuck on 3 lands while my opponent out tempo’d me then couldn’t find any of my board wipes in game 2.
Still, a 4-1 finish for second place at a small Game Day isn’t bad at all. It put my record back up to a nice 27-10, and led me to make some changes to the deck that you see in the newest version up above. In the coming weeks I think the deck will have no problem continuing its winning ways. There really aren’t any bad match ups for it, but there are some that could go either way. I expect decks like Emerge to do well against it because of its access to Kozilek’s Return, but I think it will do well against black based decks focusing on Languish as their board wipe. Bant Company is also problematic for the deck, especially if your opponent has a lot of tempo cards like Spell Queller and counterpells in their hand, but I think can go either way. I think the deck is favored against GB Delirium, slower decks like UR Burn or Goggles, and control decks such as BW or Esper also have trouble against it. I can’t recommend RW Tokens enough for this current season if you’re playing standard, and think you’ll have a lot of fun playing it.
Well that’s going to do it for today’s article, but I’m looking to get some Modern in over the next month at some PPTQs so you can expect another metagame update before GP Kyoto hopefully. Other than that, I expect I’ll be back in a few more days with articles about Puca Trade, and perhaps even something about Pokemon GO both here in Japan and Nagoya which has taken the country by storm. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back from time to time for updates! See you next time!