One of the most powerful black commons in Theros, Gray Merchant of Asphodel was seen throughout the top tables Saturday and Sunday at Grand Prix Kyoto. Thanks to the 12 packs opened by each team during Team Sealed Deck, some teams were able to create a dedicated mono-black deck with multiple Merchants. Played into a black heavy board, one of them could swing a game back into the black deck's favor and two or three would almost always spell game over for the opponent. In the penultimate round of day one, Kenta Shouji used Gray Merchant to buy himself enough turns to fend off Martin Juza.
When Theros first came out, people discounted Staunch-Hearted Warrior, claiming it was overpriced for it's ability. It came out in force here in Kyoto, with green based decks using him to great effect all weekend. Whether the Warrior was in green-white or green-blue decks, targeting it with Gods Willing or another combat trick usually spelled a two-for-one. When enchanted with Nimbus Naiad, Hopeful Eidolon, or even Aqueous Form, the opposing player was usually done for. With many sealed decks sporting two or more copies and being featured in both Finals and Semifinals decks, Staunch-Hearted Warrior proved its own.
One of the most powerful Mythic Rares in Theros, Polukranos, World Eater, found itself in many decks over the course of the weekend. With one of the most popular sealed archetypes being green based many teams were chomping off opponents left and right with the Hydra. In both the semifinals and the finals, Polukranos made an appearance. In the Semifinals, Kentaro Yamamoto played it on turn four destroying Takayuki Kadono and sending his team to the finals.In the finals, Jun'ichirou Bandou cast it against Rich Hoaen prompting Hoaen to turn to his teammate, Alexander Hayne, and ask, "You didn't pass this, did you?" For a green player this weekend, nothing was more desired than the World Eater.
2. Gods Willing
There are few cards that have been as innocuously powerful in Theros Limited as Gods Willing. In a tempo-oriented format such as this, the protection it offers and the potential unblockability it affords has left many opponents in the dust all weekend long. Wingsteed Rider is clearly the flashy choice for the best white common, but Gods Willing is right there behind it, sitting alongside Hopeful Eidolon as reasons the 2/2 flier is so feared. Combined with the various heroic creatures in white, blue, and even green, Gods Willing completely changes the clock for a game, often taking a huge chunk out of opponents' life totals, while leaving a monster in its wake.
In the finals of the Grand Prix, Mike Hron used Gods Willing incredibly aggressively, more for its dual role as a heroic enabler and free pass at opponents' life. In the final game of the match, he used it to turn his Centaur Battlemaster into a 6/6 unblockable beast, giving him exactly the damage needed to steal a game that threatened to slip away. Stories like this were common on the weekend, cementing Gods Willing its spot in the Top 5 cards of Grand Prix Kyoto.
One of the most popular archetypes this weekend during Sealed Deck was that of the Blue-Black. The most successful blue-black decks featured Shipwreck Singer. When paired with blockers such as Returned Phalanx, it was able to pick off small opposing creatures turn after turn. In the finals, Alexander Hayne used the combo to pick off Kentarou Yamamoto's creatures, while allowing him to profitably race against Anathousa, Setessan Hero later in the game.
It was certainly clear coming into this event how strong the Singer was, but it was in the redundancy offered by Team Sealed that really gave it a chance to shine. Black/blue was among the most common color combinations played at the top tables, and it was mostly thanks to the ability to play this powerful uncommon. The deep card pools offered a bevy of great defenders to use in conjunction with the Singer, forcing players to often trade down with weaker creatures. It also dominated one of the better aggressive creatures of the weekend: Vaporkin.