These were the cards that shaped the tournament, that sparked discussions and were the most debated, the cards that won games and turned Grand Prix Kōbe into an event to remember.
Surprisingly there were zero copies of Thoughtseize in the top eight of Grand Prix Kobe. Though Black-Green decks--The Rock, Jund, and White Rock--were popular this weekend, none of them made it through to the final stage. Robin Dolar showed the world the power of such decks, defeating everyone at Grand Prix Boston just four weeks prior. Perhaps because of his result, Affinity, Burn, and White-Blue-Red decks came out in force this weekend to keep down the menace. Interestingly, Pro Player Shota Yasooka, opted to play zero copies of Thoughtseize in his Blue-Black Control deck, playing the safer and more apt Inquisition of Kozilek instead.
It's back! Scapeshift, a very popular combo deck had fallen out of favor at the last couple high profile Modern tournaments. Here in Kobe, the Blue-Red-Green version of the deck could be seen ramping up to seven or eight lands and casting the four mana sorcery throughout the top tables all weekend long. Nagoya area player, Ken Sawada, made the top eight with a Scapeshift deck with a few out of the ordinary cards. The 27 year old farmer could be seen sowing his field with Kodama's Reach, for instance, all weekend long, ramping to the magic seven lands with grace before shifting his landscape into Molten Pinnacles.
Finding a home in both Splinter Twin and Blue-White-Red lists, the Legendary Faeries have a lot to offer. First and most obviously they'll strip a key card from the opponent's hand. That matches up well against combo decks like Twin and Scapeshift. Even against other decks, the information you gain is invaluable. Blue-White-Red flourishes when it can anticipate the enemy's plans. As a three-power flier, they provide a substantial clock also provide a substantial clock. However it's the Flash that really ties the room together. When you're playing countermagic and Snapcaster Mage, having threats to deploy at the end of the opponent's turn is crucial. Shohei Mita put all aspects of this beater on display in his match against Takuya Yamada's Tarmo-Twin, keeping constantly a step ahead, forcing Yamada to act, and knowing when it was safe to tap out for Elspeth.
It can easily be said that Ensoul Artifact had its breakout weekend at Grand Prix Kobe. A few players had dabbled with playing the two mana artifact in their Affinity decks shortly after Magic 2015 came out, but it wasn't until this weekend and until Yuusei Gotou's "No Affinity" deck, that the card came into its own. Being able to turn any random artifact laying around an instant 5/5 gave Gotou a more powerful creature than those regularly found in Affinity decks. In the Semifinals, Gotou powered up an artifact in both games, halving his opponent, Yuuki Akaboshi's, lifetotal. From there it was a cakewalk for Gotou to make it to the finals. In the second game of the finals, Ensoul Artifact allowed Gotou to turn his sideboard card, Sunbeam Spellbomb, into the creature that sent the match to the third and final game.
1. Vexing Devil
This little guy was at the center of a lot of discussions when he debuted in Avacyn Restored. Those than panned him said that giving your opponent the option meant that you would never get what you needed. Even Hall of Famer Tsuyoshi Fujita, mentor to Champion-to-be Teruya Kakumae and master red mage, expressed his doubts about the Devil at the start of the Top 8. However, having seen Kakumae's deck in action as he rolled to the finals, Fujita was forced to admit that he had been mistaken. Kakumae's deck embraces the Devil's nature. Is he baiting out a removal spell so he can stick an Eidolon of the Great Revel, or is he holding nothing but fire and hoping for a four-point payoff?
This was beautifully summed up in the deciding game of the final. Yuusei Gotou took four from a Devil on turn one, then had to decide what to do with a second one on Kakumae's turn three. He was down to just eight life, six counting the upcoming attack from Eidolon of the Great Revel. He chose... poorly.