Over 2,500 players showed up at Grand Prix Chiba but only so many players can manage the pristine 9-0 record. In this case, we had a total of 8 players who finished unbeaten and at the top of the standings. To highlight their achievement, we really wanted to check in with all of them and get to know them a little but two of them—Tatsuya Nishimura and Bang Hyun Jung—were presumably whisked off by their friends for a celebratory dinner or something similar.
Without further ado, let's meet some of the 9-0 players and talk to them about their deck choices, their tournament experience and their involvement with Magic!
In Table 1, it was Taishi Aoki of Tokyo who triumphed with his Big Red deck. He attended Grand Prix Chiba last year, but only to play side events and to hang out with his friends. Since he plays only Legacy, he was waiting for a Legacy Grand Prix near home. His fiery deck is built around highly disruptive cards such as Trinisphere and Magus of the Moon and his win conditions include Sin Prodder, Thunderbreak Regent, Thundermaw Hellkite and triple Chandra, Torch of Defiance! It's awesome to see Kaladesh cards making a splash in Legacy. Also, the most interesting addition is the full playset of Fiery Confluence, which he named as his most valuable card of the day.
"I've only played Legacy for a year and I really enjoy the format greatly. Using online research, I built this deck five days ago and I'm really happy with my result. This is also my very first Grand Prix and I can't imagine that I am 9-0! There are a lot of decks in the format but my deck is best against Eldrazi, Shardless Sultai and Delver decks."
Next we have Utiyama Yasuyuki at Table 2 who was playing Shardless Sultai, a deck that Aoki had designed to beat. The maindeck is very Standard and textbook, but some cool cards in the sideboard result in some cool stories.
"Liliana, the Last Hope is an additional planeswalker against any deck that plays first-turn creatures, for example Death and Taxes and Delver. I sided it in many, many times and it won me many games."
"Also, my Japanese foil Leovold, Emissary of Trest is my lucky charm. My friend opened it in a Conspiracy booster and traded me a Savannah for it a few months ago. It is now worth about three Savannahs and my friend is 'crying'! Haha! I'm just joking, he is sitting right over there and he is very happy for my good result. Anyway, it is a 3/3 for 3 mana which is a very small creature but it is excellent in the mirror match and shines especially in the Lands matchup!" He'll be able to draw cards if the Lands player tries to use Rishadan Port and Maze of Ith on him and Punishing Fire is basically transformed from hero to zero.
This is also the first Grand Prix that he is participating in. Just like Aoki, he plays exclusively Legacy and usually visits Grand Prix nearby just to be with his friends. I asked him why he didn't attend Grand Prix Kyoto last year and he said that he was still a student and unable to afford the travel costs. I jokingly suggested that he cycle there slowly but then he replied...
"I can't! I'm from Hokkaido!"
Moving to the next table was Hata Hideaki who smashed through the competition with Reality Smasher and friends. To beat the metagame, he's running along with 2 All is Dust in the maindeck, as well as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to beat slow decks such as Miracles! However, the most interesting addition has to be Coercive Portal.
"It is an excellent card against grindy matchups such as Jund, Shardless Sultai and even the mirror match. You can either destroy everything if you are behind or you can just use it to draw cards. It's great and most importantly it cannot be killed by Abrupt Decay!"
If you're an Eldrazi player, you might want to consider these options consider how well they have served Hideaki!
Skipping past Tables 4 and 5, we arrive at Table 6 where Kageyama Koki won with the most interesting deck of all! This is his third Grand Prix and he started playing Magic only during Khans of Tarkir block.
"I am playing Food Chain today and it is a very fun deck. Using Food Chain and Misthollow Griffin or Eternal Scourge, I can get infinite mana to cast any creature I like, even Tidespout Tyrant or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn!"
Wow, just a couple of weeks after Eternal Scourge won a Grand Prix, are we going to see it win a Legacy Grand Prix as well? To search and exile his key cards, he runs Manipulate Fate which is definitely very, very sexy.
After speaking to a bunch of young players who're participating in their first or first few events, I arrived at the end of the spectrum. Kouichi Miyabe has been playing Magic for over 20 years and began during the times of Tempest. Today, he is armed with a White-Blue Control deck that looks like Miracles, but isn't Miracles.
"I don't have red mana at all because I am playing two Back to Basics in the maindeck. I also don't rely on Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance so much and I play less Miracles. In order to protect Back to Basics, I added Misdirection to save it from Abrupt Decay and sometimes it can also act as a fifth copy of Force of Will."
Kouichi's deck is his pride and joy and he has taken the effort to use all Premium Foil cards when possible. In addition to Premium Foil Unhinged Lands and Zendikar Expeditions, everything is "foiled out".
Well, almost everything.
"I'm deciding between the Force of Will Judge Promo or the Eternal Masters version. I'm hoping that it will make these cards easier to collect. This is a deck that I will be playing for a long time to come and I enjoy my cards looking shiny and pretty. I'm still saving up but if I win the Grand Prix tomorrow, I'm getting my playset immediately!"
Last but not least, the sixth 9-0 player we had a chance to speak to was Shimpei Toyota from Tokyo. Piloting 4-Color Delver, he explains that it was chosen because it is good against Miracles, Eldrazi and Shardless Sultai, three decks he had expected to be popular. In anticipation, he is playing four copies of Gurmag Angler which he cites as the most important card in his entire deck.
"It is a big-sized threat that is always very cheap to cast. Due to my play style, I always want to draw it and most decks actually have a hard time killing it."
Toyota shares a family name as a famous car brand but insists that he has nothing to do with the automobile industry.
"Haha, no, I'm just a Legacy and Vintage player. And this is my 10th Grand Prix. I hope that I can get a good result tomorrow and qualify myself for Pro Tour Aether Revolt in Dublin.
One common characteristic is that most of these players are big fans of Legacy and they have proven that they're good at it. I think its safe to say that some of them will be gracing the Top 8 stage by tomorrow afternoon and if you hang around for another day, we'll be posting all their decklists as soon as Round 15 begins!