The Japan Metagame Diaries: The Yokohama Big Magic Open

This last weekend the first large standard event for Dominaria took place, but it wasn’t in the USA. Yokohama held the first Big Magic Open of the season, and around 500 players showed up to play in a grueling 10 round event to see who would take up the prize of $2400. I thought I would try my luck at the new metagame with my PPTQ winning BW Vampire deck from Rivals of Ixalan standard, mostly because I wasn’t sure what kind of deck would come out on top and I didn’t want to waste my money on cards that flopped. I made only a few updates to the deck, mainly adding in some Isolated Chapels to help with mana, and some removal spells like Seal Away.

While I think the deck still has some potential, I realized its shortcomings all too quickly as I lost my first 4 matches to mulligans, mana screw, and flooding. The previous standard format had a lot of mono red and sultai counter decks, which hit hard but could easily be stalled if I got some creatures on the board. What I ended up running into a lot of at the event was UW historic, Green stompy, and Gift decks.

 

The Big Magic Open Metagame

 

I knew from the get go that Gift was a  bad match up for me. It’s why I was running 2 Scavenger Grounds main and Cast Outs so I could get rid of God Pharaoh’s Gift at instant speed. I also expected a lot of green stompy decks and had sufficient removal but I wasn’t expecting the level of hexproof effects that I saw in most players’ decks. It made it incredibly hard to get rid of their threats and put me on a defensive strategy rather early. Steel Leaf Champion on turn 2 was an absolute beating, and my opponents protecting them from Ixalan’s Binding on turn 4 usually ended up putting me into a very bad position on turn 5 when I couldn’t kill their multiple big beaters.

The other popular deck at the event was UW Historic. There were various builds of the deck, but most of them had Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Lyra Dawnbringer, and Karn, Scion of Urza. Some had Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage and would flash in their Lyra similar to Archangel Avacyn in SOI standard, but that deck would use Walking Ballista at instant speed as well which was a beating against my token deck without any buffs to protect my creatures from it.

Towards the end of the tournament about 50-60% of the upper tables were on some form of green stompy, and another 30% or so were on UW Historic. This pushed cards like Karn up to 5000 yen+ after the weekend, and both Rhonas the Indomitable and Ghalta saw spikes to about 1500 yen each. Jadelight Ranger also hit a high of about 1800 yen in the Yokohama area this week, and Steel Leaf Champion is starting to see some upward pressure into the 1000 yen+ range.

There was a smattering of other decks that did well that weekend; mono red decks showed up with Goblin Chainwhirler in small numbers, Shalai, Voice of Plenty was in some UW Historic decks as well as GW go wide decks, and of course Gift decks had some decent numbers at the top tables as well. I also saw some interesting decks, like mono green/GW legendary decks using Mox Amber and a full assortment of Legendaries (like Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Oviya, Rhonas, etc), a BW all-in tokens deck using various token effects along with Benalish Marshal and Angel of Invention that did pretty well and probably finished x-3, and an evolved UB deck that is more midrange than control now. It still had lots of removal and The Scarab God, but was adding in cards like Walk the Plank for more removal, Dread Shade for more power, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner for card draw.

For a full metagame run down you can check Big Magic’s article, but it’s in Japanese so you’ll have to run it through a translator. For those of you that can’t read Japanese that much or at all, here’s a run down of the top 8 archetypes:

  1. Green Ghalta Stompy – 17.86%, 85 players (green 68, GB 12, UG 5)
  2. Blue control/midrange – 17.86%, 85 players (Esper 39, UW 21, UB 14, Grixis 9, Sultai 2)
  3. Red aggro – 7.98%, 38 players (red 34, RW 4)
  4. GW Beatdown – 7.98%, 38 players
  5. Approach of the Second Sun – 6.72%, 32 players (UW 26, Esper 3, WB 2, White)
  6. BR Aggro – 27 players, 5.67%
  7. White Beatdown – 22 players, 4.62% (white 11, UW 6, Esper 4, Jeskai 1)
  8. Gift Decks – 21 players, 4.41%  (UW 17, UR 3, UB 1)

 

I’m not 100% sure how Big Magic categorized their archetypes, so there is some cross over between the blue control and the historic decks, but I’d expect that most of those UW versions are the ones that are more midrange than control.

 

At the end of day 1, a top 8 was reached, and quite a few pros and semi-pros made it.

  • -RB Aggro
  • -UW Gift
  • -UB Midrange(Yuuta Takahashi)
  • -UW Gift
  • -Esper Control
  • -UR Gift (Makito Mihara, HOF)
  • -RB Aggro
  • -Green Stompy

 

Those that fell just short at the top 16 were:

  • -Green Stompy
  • -Mono Red
  • -Esper Control
  • -UW Gift
  • -Green Stompy
  • -Green Stompy
  • -Green Stompy
  • -UW Approach

While UW midrange/historic decks showed up in large numbers at this tournament, they had a rather hard time of converting those numbers into wins. Gift decks had a small number of players but did very well, putting 4 players into the top 16, but it was green stompy decks that were the break out archetype of this tournament I think. This is quite different from what showed up at SCG’s team open and the online MTGO PTQ last weekend. I’d be interesting to see how the archetypes clash in the next few weeks. The top 16 deck lists have been posted on Big Magic’s website, so if you’re interested in seeing them in detail feel free to stop on over there

 

In the end, it was Makito Mihara’s UR Gift deck that won it all.

 

My Next BW Vampire Build

 

Sadly I couldn’t convert my previous PPTQ success with the BW Vampire deck into success in this new metagame. I think it could be good, but it needed a better list than the one I brought with me to the open.

  • Round 1: Grixis Improvise – LOST 0-2. Mull to 5 game 1 and opponent played Herald of Anguish on turn 3 which destroyed my hand and eventually took over the game. Mulled again game 2 and never drew my 3rd land until my opponent had Karn, Scion of Urza on board making huge guys every turn. Stuck with lots of 3 mana cards.
  • Round 2: UW Gift – Lost 1-2. One of my worst match ups. I had Scavenger Grounds and a Cast Out for his Lyra Dawnbringer one game, but I couldn’t stop multiple Angel of Inventions in the other losses. Didn’t draw any of my sideboard cards.
  • Round 3: GR Monsters – Lost 1-2. Another game that was totally winnable but I couldn’t draw the mana I needed. Had some early threats and things like Ixalan’s Binding in my hand to deal with his Glorybringers and Rekindling Phoenix, but got stuck on 3 mana in both losses and ended up dying to things in the air. Fiery Cannonade also screwed me over one game. Drew poorly this match.
  • Round 4: Green Stompy – Lost 1-2. Variance reared its ugly head again in this match up. I won game 1 but couldn’t draw any land to use my Ixalan’s Binding in game 3, and mana flooded hard game 2.
  • Round 5: GW Cats – Won 2-1. I got my first win against a GW cat deck by going wider and having more anthem effects, and the other win my opponent kept a questionable hand and could never draw a 3rd land.
  • Round 6: Sultai Energy – Won 2-1. This deck was more of a Scarab God energy deck than a Constrictor/Ballista counter deck, so it was much easier for me to deal with and allowed me to go wide. No board wipes also helped me out a lot.
  • Round 7: Esper Historic Midrange – Lost 0-2. My first taste of the Historic deck. He had Raff Capashen and used him to flash in Lyra Dawnbringer and Walking Ballista. I realized I needed more than just enchantment removal for this match up, especially when it’s at sorcery speed.
  • Round 8: GW Stompy – Lost 0-2. Another deck I ran into in which my removal was ineffective. Between Blossoming Defense and Shalai, Voice of Plenty, my removal suite was rendered completely useless. I realized that I either need to be more aggressive in this match up and go wider, or to lower the curve of my removal effects to play them earlier.
  • Round 9: Esper Control – Won 2-0. I managed to get rid of my opponent’s History of Benalia with my enchantments before they did any real damage, and had exile effects for Lyra Dawnbringer which kept him from gaining life. Yahenni’s Expertise gave me some trouble, but I was able to bounce back from it. 
  • Round 10: BW Vampires – Won 2-1. I joked with the other player that we were blood brothers and he got a good laugh out of it. We discussed our card choices afterwards and talked about how to improve it for next time. I won thanks in large part to my sideboard Golden Demise. I cast it early game 3 and he never stood a chance. Basically whomever gets the anthem effect wins first, but having Forsake the Worldly was a great combat trick against him.

 

I probably should have dropped after hitting 0-3, but I was curious about the new metagame and wanted to stick around to see what cards were being played so I punished myself and stayed until round 10. I ended up meeting some of my old Nagoya friends who made the trip and they helped me to work on this new list which I’m going to give a try in the upcoming week to see if the deck can evolve or have to be retired. I’m not ready to give up on BW vampires just yet, but I’m not confident it will have the tools it needs in order to keep decks like green stompy and UW Historic in check. Anyways, have a look and tell me what you think.

 

BW Vampires
60 cards, 15 sideboard
4 Concealed Courtyard
5 Plains
4 Swamp
2 Ifnir Deadlands
4 Shefet Dunes
2 Isolated Chapel
2 Scavenger Grounds
1 Field of Ruin


24 lands

4 Legion’s Lieutenant
4 Martyr of Dusk
4 Dusk Legion Zealot
2 Champion of Dusk


14 creatures

4 Legion’s Landing
3 Ixalan’s Binding
1 Settle the Wreckage
4 Radiant Destiny
2 Vicious Offering
4 Call to the Feast
4 Queen’s Commision


22 other spells

2 Profane Procession
2 Golden Demise
2 Doomfall
2 Forsake the Otherworldly
1 Arguel’s Blood Fast
2 Vraska’s Contempt
2 Duress
2 Cast Down


Sideboard

 

The creature selection is still the same, but removal package is entirely different. Gone are Fatal Pushes and Thopter Arrests, and in their place I’m trying out Vicious Offering, more Ixlan’s Binding, and a one off of Settle the Wreckage. Offering’s -2/-2 or -5/-5 effects gets around a creature costing 3 mana or more (like Jadelight Ranger) and also being legendary (like Lyra Dawnbringer). I feel like it’s a better choice in the metagame for token decks than either Fatal Push or Cast Down. Seal Away was also tried out this last weekend, but that card is really only good against aggressive red deck which weren’t played a lot. They were horrible against Angel of Invention and Heart of Kirans, and green was able to hexproof their guys rather consistently which made it hard to get any value from it. That’s also the reason I’m playing a Settle the Wreckage in the mainboard. If I can’t target your Steel Leaf Champions or Ghalta’s, I’m going to just exile them all when you attack.

In the sideboard I went with Cast Down to have more early removal against aggressive decks like mono red and green stompy, and I also added in Golden Demise for token strategies like GB Saprolings or BW with Benalish Marshall/Angel of Invention. Forsake the Worldly seems much better in a metagame with Refurbish to get back God Pharaoh’s Gift, and Doomfall doubles as both removal and hand disruption against those black/blue midrange decks.

The problem that BW Vampires is going to run into are cards like Lyra Dawnbringer that are very tough to get rid of and help opponent’s to stabilize quickly. GB Saporlings is another token deck that could end up being better because it can go wider, but it loses the extra anthem effects that Vampires gets from Radiant Destiny. Due to a lot of people turning to enchantment removal to exile, many players at the Big Magic open who were playing green decks played a large amount of enchantment hate such as Naturalize and Thrashing Brontodon. Going forward I think enchantment based removal is going to be less optimal than people realize. Having a balance is going to be more important.

 

What to Expect in the Coming Weeks

 

Don’t let people tell you green stompy decks aren’t playable. They are and they can be rather dangerous. That turn 1 Llanowar Elf means some pain is coming the following turn. It plays a lot of value creatures like Jadelight Ranger and has more than enough win conditions to get the job done. It’s removal might not be that good, but it forces their opponent to have it more than they need it. I expect this deck and UW Midrange to go head to head in the coming weeks and for the lists to get more refined before the pro-tour. God Pharaoh’s Gift decks should also continue to do well as long as there isn’t too much graveyard hate, and with The Scarab God taking the back seat to green and UW strategies, it should gain more of a position.

Settle the Wreckage is going to become your best choice in white decks for dealing with these green decks, while card disruption will be key against UW midrange. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a BW token deck do well against both of these decks in the future since that color combinations has the tools to beat them. Approach of the Second Sun decks might also still be able to compete in this format, but they’ll have to retool their lists a little bit to deal with these new threats. Fumigate won’t cut it for much longer. I also think that the RB decks will do well in the future. We’ve only scratched the surface of Dominaria standard, so don’t be surprised if another few archetypes rise out of the Pro Tour.

Anyways, I hope you found this article informative and helpful, and if you have any other comments about the Big Magic tournament or suggestions for my new Vampire build, I’d like to hear them down below in the comment section. Thanks for reading and stop back soon for more content about Standard and Frontier!

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