The Japan Metagame Diaries: Cat-atonic
Cats are creatures of habit. They enjoy doing the same thing again and again, day in day out. Our feline friends will wake up and stretch, look for some food and water, use the bathroom, find a nice warm spot in the sun near a window, then start the process all over again. Over the past few weeks I can say that the GW Cat deck that I’ve been playing is the same way. It’s a creature of consistency that doesn’t really like it when you move its toys, food bowl, or litter box. I’ve been thinking of using a different deck and have dabbled a bit in GR ramp or some version of the God Pharaoh’s Gift, but for some reason I can’t pull myself away from using my cats. It’s easy, it’s fun, and more importantly I’ve become lazy like a cat and don’t feel like doing too much work. I’ve recently adapted to the metagame and put together a rather strong and consistent build, but it by no means is going to shake up the meta.
|60 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Fortified Village
4 Canopy Vista
2 Westvale Abbey
1 Evolving Wilds
|4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
3 Declaration in Stone
2 Prepare // Fight
2 Cast Out
15 other spells
I’ve made quite a few changes since the initial version, and I can confidently say that this is the best version yet. Let’s start off by looking at the land. I dropped the Scattered Groves because I found myself drawing too many slow lands and losing momentum in many games. While I miss the ability to cycle, the land stability is most welcome. I’ve also added in an Evolving Wilds to both smooth out my mana as well as help with Delirium for Traverse the Ulvenwald.
The next big change was to add Oketra the True to the mainboard. I had played with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for the longest time, but time and time again I was disappointed with his ability to stay alive in the long run. Opponents would either burn the token and swing in to kill him the next turn, hit him with Hour of Devastation, or downright murder him with a spell like Never/Return. Oketra shores up all of Gideon’s shortcomings. She blocks if you are playing her on curve, she makes tokens the turn after she comes in and at instant speed no less, and most importantly she survives all non-exile removal effects. So far, I’ve been very satisfied with her inclusion.
With Gideon gone, I still wanted a way to make my threats huge, so I ended up putting in Nissa, Voice of Zendikar instead. She comes down a turn early, protects herself rather well, and is great against control if your opponent doesn’t take care of her early or counter her. More often than not, I found her impact to be about the same as it was in GW tokens a few standard seasons back. GW Cats can go wide pretty well, and casting double Nissas to give +2/+2 counters to everyone can end a game pretty quickly.
The other big change from my previous list is deciding to drop Oketra’s Monument. With so many Abrades in standard, it felt risky. It was also too slow against most of the decks at the moment. I’d much rather have Nissa in that spot.
I feel like the sideboard can handle a large variety of decks now, and I’ve found myself using almost all of these cards while in the past I had cards I rarely if every sided in. The metagame might be wide open, but for the most part I think it’s easy to build a sideboard that can handle most of what’s out there.
The first big change was putting Gideon in the sideboard instead of Nissa. As I said earlier, I had problems protecting him in this meta, and more often than not he was a speed bump and nothing more. He was rarely able to affect the board against mono red or other beatdown decks. Now he’s in there for control match ups mostly. Flood the board, then use his ultimate for the win.
I also adjusted the numbers for Prowling Serpopard, Fumigate, and dropped Forsake the Worldly so I could make some room for Crook of Condemnation and Sunscourge Champion. Crook is necessary to slow down or weaken God Pharaoh’s Gift decks, while Sunscourge Champion is some extra insurance against aggro decks like Ramunap Red. My deck already has a good amount of life gain, but I noticed I wasn’t always able to stay ahead of their pace so Champion is a welcome addition.
Here’s a rough sideboard plan that I’ve come up with so far:
- Ramunap Red = +2 Sunscourge Champion, +1 Fumigate,+2 Cast Out / -1 Traverse the Ulvenwald, -2 Oketra the True, -2 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
The idea is to take out those slow cards that don’t affect the board right away, and replacing them with more removal. Block early and often and when they run out of cards, you can stabilize and take over the game.
- Mono Black Zombies = +2 Dusk/Dawn, +1 Fumigate, +2 Cast Out / -2 Oketra the True, -2 Prepare/Fight, -1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Zombies like to go wide, which means you’ll definitely want to have some board wipes in this match up. Declaration in Stone is also a great card for getting rid of Zombie tokens. Cast Out is good at getting rid of enchantments as well as creatures.
- UR Control = +2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, +2 Prowling Serpopard, +2 Gideon’s Intervention, +2 Cast Out / -2 Prepare/Fight, -3 Declaration in Stone, -2 Metallic Mimic, -1 Pride Sovereign
Pretty much the only way a UR control deck can win is with Torrential Gearhulk or a Thing in the Ice. Gideon’s Intervention will shut down their win conditions, and then it’s just a matter of time before you win. You want to hit fast and hard, and keep the pressure on them so they can’t build up a hand of cards to answer your threats. Cast Outs should handle any rogue planeswalkers in the deck.
- BG Constrictor = +1 Fumigate, +2 Dusk/Dawn, +2 Cast Out / -2 Prepare/Fight, -1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, -2 Metallic Mimic
Constrictor decks get big quickly, so board wipes are key in these match ups. Mimics get pinged easily by Walking Ballistas, and Nissa doesn’t survive long against huge Verdurous Gearhulks.
- Gift decks = +2 Crook of Condemnation, +2 Cast Out / -2 Prepare/Fight, -1 Oketra the True, -1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Still haven’t had much practice against these decks, but they are out there for sure. Crook slows them down and can destroy their graveyard. Fighting their cards once is doable, but fighting eternalized cards a second time make this a bad bad match up. Get rid of their graveyard quickly!
- Temur Energy = +1 Fumigate, +2 Cast Out / -2 Prepare/Fight, -1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
You’ll be dealing with lots of flyers and some planeswalkers, so my idea is to work on overpowering my opponents and using Cast Outs to take out their planeswalkers to stop them from getting card advantage.
Since the last time I posted on July 24th, I’ve had my ups and downs but overall I would say the deck is performing above average. I played in a large number of small tournaments so I can’t really saw I faced too much of the metagame, but all of these matches helped me to refine the deck into what you see today.
Starting off from 7/28, I went 1-2 at a small 8 person tournament, beating a Temur/Nicol Bolas midrange deck, but losing to UR control and GB Constrictor. I struggled against UR cause I had Nissa in the SB at that time, and wasn’t using Gideon’s Intervention to stop his win conditions. As for GB, I couldn’t draw my board wipes. At another small 7 person tournament on 7/31, I finished 2-1 but had a first round bye before beating a Grixis control deck then losing to mono black zombies. Mana problems and my opponent drawing 4 of his Zombie lords game 1 made it hard to beat.
Following that tournament, I wasn’t able to play again until Hour of Devastation Game Day on August 5th. I took part in a 28 person midnight event and decided to switch things up with a GR Ramp deck. I went 1-3 drop after some horrible mulligans and overall inconsistency. I was never able to draw my ramp spells and could rarely play my Ulamogs or Worldbreakers. Since this tournament, Ramp decks seem to have become slightly more consistent, so I might give it a try again but after that horrible result I was done with it for awhile.
I slept in on August 5th and the only other event available to me that Saturday was a late afternoon 8 person Game Day in the Osu Kannon area of Nagoya. I decided to revise and change my GW Cat deck after a disappointing outing with ramp. Luckily, I managed to finish in 2nd place but wasn’t able to do a top 4 playoff due to the low turnout. I felt like I really could have won the playmat, but wasn’t given the chance. I beat a UG Ramp deck, as well as a Sultai Reanimator deck, but lost to a Jund Midrange/ramp deck. My deck’s speed let me win the 1st and 3rd rounds easily, but without more boardwipes (I wasn’t running Dusk/Dawn at the time), I couldn’t get through the Jund deck that was heavy with removal.
With a few more changes, I was feeling good about my kitties again, so I took it to a 25 person Game Day on August 6th at Big Magic in Nagoya. It started off rough with a loss to a BR Midrange that went to time due my opponent making it hard to attack through his Kalitas. After that I was able to beat mono black Eldrazi 2-0 and a UR Control deck 2-1 to stay alive for the top 8. Oketra the True was doing really well in those first 3 games, and I felt like my changes were good to make the playoffs, but I mulliganed hard against BR Midrange in round 4, dropping me to 2-2. If there was going to be even a sliver of a chance to make the top 8, I needed to win round 5. I played against Ramunap Red in my final match, and while I lost one game to a mulligan to 5, the life gain of my deck proved to be more than enough to keep my head above water and I took games 1 and 3.
I felt like I could squeeze in to 8th place with some good tiebreakers, but I actually ended up in 4th place due to everybody else losing in round 5. I was happy to make top 8, but things would only get more difficult from there. I actually lost to mono black zombies in the quarterfinals, but the game was forfeited by the player when he realized he wouldn’t have time to stay for the finals. Thus, I was CATapulted into the semi finals against UR Control. I came so close to beating my control opponent in 3 games, but I mana flooded and drew absolutely horribly in games 2 and 3 with my opponent at very low life totals. My opponent then ended up making it to the finals against Ramunap Red. Frustrating, but that’s how variance works. Can’t say I felt bad about making the semis though!
I had to wait another week until I could play again on August 12th, but it was worth the wait. With the modern PPTQ season in full swing, only 13 people showed up for standard at Hobby Station near Nagoya station. I ended up beating a Mono red deck round 1, and a 4 Color Control deck round 2, but lost against another mono red deck round 3. I was playing too many tap lands during this tournament, which really slowed down my strategy. I was also still using Gideon in the mainboard which isn’t good against mono red decks. Still, another 2-1 finish was respectable.
There were a few more players at a 20 person event the following day, but I wasn’t really feeling the cards that tournament. Perhaps it was burnout, but regardless of what it was I didn’t really feel like playing a lot that day. I lost to mono red Eldrazi round 1, a UR control deck round 2, and got a 3rd round bye the decided that was enough. It was after this tournament that I decided to put Oketra in the mainboard instead of Gideon, and went about making a better sideboard plan as well.
I bounced back slightly at a 9 person FNM on August 18th, beating BG Constrictor and Temur Energy/Bolas control, but lost to a 4 color Turbo Fog deck that was incredibly frustrating to play against. However, I liked the changes that I had made to the deck, and I was happy to finish with a 2-1 record.
With the metagame still somewhat in flux last weekend in Nagoya, I took the cats out for a spin on Saturday, August 19th and found myself running into more and more strange brews that I wasn’t prepared for. At the 16 player weekend tournament, I beat a mono white life gain deck and Mardu Vehicles deck in rounds 1 and 2, but lost to Jeskai Control and mono white humans/Angels rounds 3 and 4. Truthfully, I could have kept better hands as a couple of them were questionable. However, the decks I did lose against I didn’t really have a strategy against. I would say I could handle them better now, but last weekend I was caught off guard and didn’t know how to play against them.
2017 Japan Nationals
So why share all these results? If I add in the first 2 tournaments I played trying out the GW Cat deck, I would still only be at 20-17. Those numbers are not that great, even though I do enjoy playing the deck a lot more than anything else I’ve tried this season. Well, the reason for sharing this information is that on September 9th and 10th in Shizuoka, Japan, the 2017 Japan Nationals are taking place.
There is a website with information about the even in Japanese, but if you can’t read Japanese I can go over the basics for you.
- Cost: 10,000 yen
- Format: 4 Rounds Standard, 3 Rounds draft on both days
- Promo: Inkmoth Nexus
- Cap: 1000 players
- Side Events: Legacy/Modern Eternal Party trials (1000 yen), Sealed PPTQ (3000 yen)
Between the standard tournament, 3 booster packs, and promo, the tournament doesn’t sound so bad value wise. I could probably take a local train there in the morning since the event doesn’t start until 11 am, which would further cut down on costs. I just wonder if I should even bother going since I don’t really have a powerful deck I am good at playing. I’m missing some cards for quite a few of the Tier 1 decks out there, and really don’t want to tack on another 6000+ yen to finish these decks, especially if cards are going to rotate. I also haven’t drafted HOU/AKH at all and not sure I’d do well in that portion, especially with Japanese cards.
However, this is probably the last big standard tournament I’ll be able to go to this year since the others are limited and team limited and way out of my price range. I could probably. Truth be told, I could probably work on reducing my misplays and keeping better hands with my GW Cats deck and it just might be able to make day 2 at this event (which I’m guessing is X-2 or X-1 to continue). Sure I said my current record with the deck is 20-17, but a lot of those matches were with a subpar, inconsistent deck and I made quite a few questionable plays. If I work hard and focus, I bet I could really improve my win %. Playing in another 40 matches before the tournament, I could probably finish closer to a 28-12 record which I think would be acceptable to take part in the tournament.
Whatever the case is, I have one week to decide. If you have any thoughts on the matter or comments on the GW deck, feel free to leave them down below. Thanks for reading and if you’ve been playing the GW cat deck during this standard and have some tips they’d be greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading and see you again soon.