Hometown Heroes: Analysis of the Japanese decks

Posted in Event Coverage

By Adrian Sullivan

Ken'ichi Fujita and Satoshi Nakamura's contention for Top 8 at Pro Tour Los Angeles was exciting news to the Japanese players. In past events, hosting a Pro-Tour has often proved inspirational to the players from the host country, with people like Federico Dato pushing into the Top 8 at Rome. The top four players from Japan at this event have been surrounded by crowds of Japanese spectators, hopeful for a Japanese breakthrough.

One of the biggest frustrations for Japanese players has been their isolation from dialogue about decks. While Japanese tournaments are common, few players outside of Japan have an opportunity to see the successful decks, and as a result, Japanese deckbuilders rarely know how their decks might perform out of Japan, or even how they are received.

I took some time with deckbuilders Dave Price, Alan Comer, and Brian Kowal to see what we all thought of these decks.

Tsuyoshi Fujita

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We were all impressed by the low curve of the deck, and the use of two-casting cost discard spells and only instants for the three-cast slot.

"Not using Bog Down and Probe is very interesting," commented Dave Price. "Fujita is going to be able to have a second turn discard, and he'll never have to decide between discard or countermagic. He has two different significant paths to victory to keep him safe from Lobotomy. I really like it."

Deckbuilder Brian Kowal (a primary part of the deckbuilding team that brought Dave Williams to Top 8) loved the deck. "It's a really good deck. The deck has an excellent set of pacing, and shows a real understanding of the metagame. I think he maybe should have played a fourth Recoil, but you have to cut something. The Ravenous Rats are really interesting in the deck. They may die to his own Shambler, but they can stop the early attackers."

"The deck is really quite reasonable," said Alan Comer.

Tomohide Sasakawa played this Black/Red deck designed by Kazuya Hirabayashi to within a match of Top 8.

Tomohide Sasakawa

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Kowal once again liked the curve in the deck. "He has a lot of two drops, and that could be why he's doing well. Everything he's put in this deck seems really reasonably thought out, and is a good card."

Price liked the deck but thought that it might need more lands.

"He's probably going to be getting to Pyre Zombie recursion, and in many matchups, he might need it to win. One more land would be great."

Comer liked the creature selection quite a bit. "I think that the creature-based discard is the right call. I like 3 Pyre Zombies too. A lot of players are running 4 Pyre Zombies, but you can never really start recurring that many Zombies, and they just end up clogging your hand."

Kiyoshi Sasanuma also played a Black/Red deck, but his version contained several different selections.

Sasanuma Kiyoshi

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Comer liked the deck, but with reservations. "It looks like this deck is fast enough to keep up, but the Vicious Kavu seems wrong. It looks like the deck might be on the defensive until the card economy starts catching up, and then he can start attacking. If I changed one thing about this deck, I'd take out the Vicious for Flametongues.

Price agreed. "Vicious Kavu and Shivan Zombies aren't that good in the mirror. I don't think his deck will do that well in the mirror match. It seems like he just couldn't decide on what cards to go with."

Kowal had the harshest critique.

"This deck doesn't make much sense. I think he must be doing well from a combinations of luck and matchups, because I don't think the choices are very good. He's got some really exciting sideboard cards though. His use of Tsabo's Assassin is exciting, and I think that using Dark Suspicions is really cool too, though."

Eisaku Itadani is also using a deck designed by Japanese deckbuilder Kazuya Hirabayashi.

Eisaku Itadani

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Brian Kowal couldn't keep from suppressing a big grin after reading this list.

"This deck is exciting. If I had gone with the deck I wanted to make the night before the tournament, I might have ended up with something like this. It looks really good. Unlike a lot of decks it avoids a topdeck war. I really like it."

Comer also liked the deck. "I like the Nishoba a lot. I'm surprised he doesn't have anything against Black besides the Pheldagrif, but maybe he was gunning for Red. If that's why, he made just the right call."

"The Angelic Shield is really unusual," said Dave Price. "I think the deck is very interesting. There are a lot of good cards against Black/Red and it seems very similar to Van Cleave's deck."

Regardless of how well Top 8 competitor Fujita finishes, there is a palpable excitement among the Japanese players. We can probably expect to see more decks from them in the future.

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