Grand Prix Kobe 2017 Day 1 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on May 27, 2017

By Chapman Sim

2,802 players arrived at the Kobe International Exhibition Hall but after nine rounds of Modern, "only" 868 players will return tomorrow for Day 2. What were the most interesting stories of the day and what has Amonkhet brought to the tables?

Let's find out in a matter of minutes!

Amonkhet Additions

As this was the first Modern Premier Event since Amonkhet's release, there was a lot of room for innovation. What were the most notable cards from Amonkhet?

Vizier of Remedies was cited as the most impactful card and it was seen in various shells including Elves, Abzan Company, as well as Kiki-Chord. Together with Devoted Druid, you were able to generate infinite mana as quickly as turn three. Once you were swimming in unlimited power, you could summon Duskwatch Recruiter to "draw" your entire deck before creating an infinitely huge Walking Ballista to seal the deal.

In fact, newly-minted Platinum pro Kelvin Chew had modified one of his pet decks to house the combo, a deck that his fellow teammates and friends had decided to nickname "Chew Knightfall".

More on that tomorrow, we promise!

What other Amonkhet cards saw play today?

Gideon of the Trials was sighted in several midrange decks. As a three-mana planeswalker, he could not be ignored for very long. Gideon locks down a threat temporarily, while transforming into a 4/4 attacker or a pseudo-Worship at will.

It is great against combo decks such as Ad Nauseam and Blue-Red Storm. The latter became increasing popular ever since Baral, Chief of Compliance entered the fray, which meant that Gideon of the Trials had relevant applications.

When it came to cycling, no other deck abused it better than Living End.

Now that you had Horror of the Broken Lands and Desert Cerodon, you were able to phase out clunky alternatives such as Jungle Weaver and Pale Recluse, while also upgrading Deadshot Minotaur into more formidable threats which don't accidentally end up killing your own Faerie Macabre. These were significant improvements because you could possibly shorten the clock down from two turns into one, making end-of-turn Violent Outbursts scarier than ever before.

On the topic of cycling, it was common consensus that two mana for cycling was an extremely huge cost in a mana-tight format as Modern. Additionally, they will never enter the battlefield untapped, which is why Modern players are adverse to playing more than one or two copies of it. For example, White-Blue Midrange or Jeskai Control decks were happy to swap out one land for Irrigated Farmland, but any more than that was potentially hazardous.

Sheltered Thicket saw a little more action, simply because it was a "Mountain Forest", coincidentally the exactly the subtypes you want in Red-Green Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Primeval Titan decks. Having extra Stomping Grounds and Cinder Glades were great but when you can cycle your lands, it could mean the difference between life and death! You never know when your game-winning Scapeshift is sitting on the top of your library!

Also, Canyon Slough in Dredge decks enabled you to dredge back important cards such as Stinkweed Imp and Life from the Loam at instant speed, a relevant ability considering that there are numerous graveyard hate cards in the format such as Relic of Progenitus, Surgical Extraction and Scavenging Ooze. However, I'm still searching for the Fetid Pools and Scattered Groves. Some players might be playing them but I haven't sighted any thus far.

Last but not least, Cartouche of Solidarity was seen in the sideboards of White-Green Hexproof Aura decks, also known as Bogles! If you ask any Bogles pilots, they will likely tell you to always play around Liliana of the Veil, because it is the best card to get rid of your untargetable creature.

In addition to keeping a fetch land to find Dryad Arbor in times of need, Cartouche of Solidarity can also create sacrificial fodder! Nifty!

Deck Tech: White-Black Eldrazi

"What were the top three decks you expected today?"

When the majority of the three-bye players were polled, their responses were a combination of "Collected Company decks", "Death's Shadow decks", "the usual aggro decks (such as Affinity and Boros Burn), as well as the immensely-popular and immensely-sized "Eldrazi Tron decks".

However, according to Modern Master Lee Shi Tian, he was quick to point out that Magic had five colors, so you were technically shortchanging yourself if you opted to play with none. Grand Prix Brisbane 2013 Champion Justin Robb and fellow Australian teammate Anthony Lee also felt that "the deck was so underpowered that it could not even beat Mardu Vehicles in Standard".

Joe Soh might not have been involved in that conversation, but he felt like White-Black Eldrazi was the way to go. As the Grand Prix Kobe 2015 finalist – he fell to Takuma Morifuji in the finals – Soh was back with yet another of his spicy brews.

"I had good results with Black-Red Eldrazi last season so I picked it up again this time. I found out that it had a poor matchup against Eldrazi Tron, which was quite popular. However, after adding white, it seemed to have solved my problem. In fact, going Thoughtseize, Tidehollow Sculler, and then Thought-Knot Seer is good enough to beat most decks."

After intensive playtesting on Magic Online, Soh found that Lightning Bolt had weakened. It was a poor answer to wildly popular cards such as Death's Shadow, Tarmogoyf, as well as opposing Eldrazi. 9 competitive Magic Leagues - 45 matches in total - scored him three 5-0 finishes and four 4-1 finishes, which were very impressive results.

How many matches did he lose to Death’s Shadow?

Just one!

Before Aether Revolt, Soh had already been working on his current list but he didn’t have enough one-costed removal spells now that he had cut Lightning Bolts. You don’t really want to use Path to Exile on turn one and yet you cannot play that many Dismembers. With Fatal Push, that made Soh feel more comfortable about switching from Black-Red to White-Black. In addition, he received a wide range of tools which he felt were all very well-positioned in the current metagame.

Before he left for his next round, he added that Death’s Shadow was still the best deck, while the Company decks have actually weakened with the addition of Vizier of Remedies.

What gives?

"I personally feel that devoting eight slots to the combo (4 Devoted Druid and 4 Vizier of Remedies) is too much. They don’t do much on their own and the combo is also easy to disrupt, given that Modern is filled with efficient cards such as Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile and more."

Thankfully, Soh felt that Death’s Shadow variants were his best matchups, which was also why he had selected this deck today. Maindeck Relic of Progenitus and Scavenging Ooze kept Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, Gurmag Angler and Dredge under control. On the flip side, he did not envy "the land matchups" such as Tron and Scapeshift strategies.

Finishing at 8-1, it seemed like his predictions had panned out! Good thinking!

Joe Soh’s White-Black Eldrazi

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Deck Tech: Blue-Red Gifts Storm

Nicholas Wong had played Magic from the very beginning and he was known for being Singapore's very first National Champion, in addition to racking up six lifetime Grand Prix Top 8s. Today, he showed up with Blue-Red Gifts Storm, an iteration of an existing archetype.

Nicholas Wong, showing off his favorite cards from his deck!

When it came to metagame positioning, Wong felt like he "was on Level 3. Level 1 were the Death's Shadow decks and then Level 2 were the decks which beat Death's Shadow, such as Dredge and Living End. Level 3 are the ones good against Dredge and Living End, so I feel like that's where I am. The Vizier of Remedies decks I categorize them somewhere between Level 1 and Level 2, because there hasn't been any track record of them succeeding on Premier Events just yet. Even the 5-0 decklists on Magic Online are quite different from one another so we're not quite sure which is the best build at the moment."

Eschewing Pyromancer's Ascension, the relatively-new Blue-Red Gifts Storm deck relies on Gifts Ungiven to gain critical mass. Wong shared that the most standard package to go for was Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Manamorphose and Past in Flames.

"The worst case scenario is them giving me Pyretic Ritual and Manamorphose, while putting Desperate Ritual and Past in Flames in the graveyard. This combination gives me the least mana (but draws me a card), while making Past in Flames cost one more."

Wong's mastery with Blue-Red Gifts Storm is mostly due to the fact that it was the only Modern deck he had played for the past four months, ever since Baral, Chief of Compliance saw print. That card allowed Storm players to run up to eight copies of the "mana reduction engine", making the deck way more consistent than before.

"Death's Shadow is going to be popular because it is considered to be the best deck, but this is Modern we're talking about. The metagame is always going to be pretty wide and even if Death's Shadow occupied 15% of the field, we're still only going to face it one every seven matches."

This property of the format is not without empirical evidence. Historically, no deck has ever occupied more than 20% of the Modern metagame with minor exceptions such as the Eldrazi Winter, because there were at least thirty to forty viable strategies across the board.

As the fastest "goldfishing" deck in the format, Wong was hoping that his gambit would pay off. So far, he seemed to be having a great day and finished at 7-2 to make Day 2.

"So... the Storm count is at 10?"

"Against the Vizier of Remedies and Devoted Druid combo decks, I have some disruption to break them up. Also, the deck is pretty consistent and I can reliably win on turn three or turn four. In very rare situations, the deck can even win on turn two!"

Nicholas Wong's Blue-Red Gifts Storm

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Deck Tech: Esper Polymorph

Joe Lam is a dedicated grinder from Hong Kong and he had been playing Magic for over fifteen years. He routinely attends regional Grand Prix and he is known by the local community to never be afraid to brew. Naturally, with Amonkhet in the mix, he wasted no time conjuring up yet another concoction. Here were just some of the juicy cards in his 75, a few of them from recent expansions!

"I believe that Vizier of Remedies and Gideon of the Trials are the best cards in Amonkhet for Modern. In turn, this creates a creature-heavy metagame which relies on Collected Company. In order to keep that card effective and to have the potential of turn-three kills, this means that they need to play many creatures, which means they also have less removal."

Notably, Lam explained that Gideon of the Trials was very effective in locking down Death's Shadow, and they have a hard time dealing with planeswalkers since they don't have that many creatures. Gideon was also great against unfair decks, which makes him very playable in Modern.

Of course, he also transforms into a creature and is ready to take the Polymorph bullet.

"Since I have no other creatures in my deck, I am sure to hit Emrakul, the Aeons Torn if I resolve Polymorph. My creatures are in the form of tokens, such as Lingering Souls, Hidden Stockpile, Beckon Apparition, Start // Finish and Gideon himself."

Joe Lam never was afraid to experiment with new brews.

Those were a lot of unorthodox cards but Lam was quick to explain his choices.

"Hidden Stockpile might not be very good in Standard but there are fetch lands in Modern. I'm able to create tokens and scry with every revolt trigger. Start // Finish is also great against Death's Shadow, because it stays in the graveyard even after they've used Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek on me. I'm always guaranteed to have a removal spell since it sits in the graveyard."

Esper Polymorph's ideology is similar to existing control decks such as Jeskai Control, Grixis Control, and similar variants. Using cheap disruption to hamper your opponent's game plan, it has great resilience against midrange decks while also being able to go over the top with an unfair win condition, not unlike cheating out Emrakul with Nahiri, the Harbinger or Platinum Emperion with Madcap Experiment.

Finishing Day 1 at 7-2, he proved that his product was viable and he was excited about making Day 2. No matter what happens tomorrow, Lam wasn't going to return to Hong Kong disappointed.

"I flew to Kobe on Friday night after I ended work and I was very much looking forward to a vacation. The weather in Kobe is great and everyone was so nice and friendly. After the Grand Prix, I'm looking forward to a Kobe beef meal as well as a visit to the hot springs!"

In the meantime, he's going to keep churning out Emrakuls for 4 mana and hope to reach the Top 8 in glorious fashion!

Joe Lam's Esper Polymorph

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A Battle of Wits

Masakatsu Imai had a very interesting inquiry to the Head Judge as he stepped into the the tournament venue today.

"If I am unable to balance my deck in a single pile, can I be allowed to separate my deck into two piles?"

Naturally, that left the men in red confused (at first), but upon further investigation we discovered that Imai had brought a Battle of Wits deck to the main event of Grand Prix Kobe! For some reason, he felt that bringing 75 cards wasn't enough, so he chose to show up with 300 cards instead!

Masakatsu Imai won numerous games with his deck's namesake card today.

Regretfully, he finished Day 1 with a 5-3-1 record, which was perhaps one match or even just one game short of making Day 2! He wasn't playing slowly, but in order to randomize his deck sufficiently, he might have burned away a minute or two which ultimately resulted in a draw.

Not sure if Search for Tomorrow or Searching until Tomorrow.

No matter, he's won our hearts for being the happiest Magic player in the entire room, who came to Kobe to have fun more than anything! Most importantly, he nearly made Day 2, which meant that his choice wasn't utterly terrible!

If you're keen to build a Battle of Wits deck, here's Masakatsu's decklist in its entirety!

Masakatsu Imai's Battle of Wits

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Planeswalker (3)
3 Nahiri, the Harbinger
302 Cards

The 9-0 Players

When all was said and done, 10 players out of 2802 managed to win all their matches. Since they wanted to head home for a good night's sleep to get ready for Day 2, we didn't have a whole lot of time to chat more, but let's get to know them a little as they summarize their amazing day!

Name: Hiroshi Shiroma

Country/Prefecture: Okinawa

Deck Choice: Eldrazi Tron

Magic Accomplishments: Yaruo Cup Top 8

Why did you choose this deck?

Among all the decks which I own, I figured that Eldrazi Tron was the most well-positioned and had the best chance to win!

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I feel sorry for my opponent but I did win one game because he submitted a decklist with an error. This taught me to always be careful.

What's the key to winning at Modern?

You have to teach me.

Name: Genta Sakamoto

Country/Prefecture: Ibaraki

Deck Choice: Esper Control with Monastery Mentor

Magic Accomplishments: Winning a Grand Prix Trial

Why did you choose this deck?

It's a lot of fun to put a bunch of Monk tokens onto the battlefield. Plus, I get to use my special token cards.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I topdecked really well today. I felt very lucky!

What's the key to winning at Modern?

I've got no idea.

Name: Kenta Masukado

Country/Prefecture: Niigata

Deck Choice: 4-Color Company

Magic Accomplishments: Nothing much in particular.

Why did you choose this deck?

It is not difficult to play.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Going 9-0 is pretty great!

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Play a lot and practice a lot and be ready to take advice when it is given.

Name: Kazuhiro Noine

Country/Prefecture: Hiroshima

Deck Choice: Ad Nauseam

Magic Accomplishments: 30th place at Grand Prix Guangzhou

Why did you choose this deck?

Ad Nauseam is the only deck I play in Modern.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I won a really close game in Round 9 to go undefeated.

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Practice. And a little bit of luck!

Name: Yu Sugiyama

Country/Prefecture: Gifu

Deck Choice: Boros Burn

Magic Accomplishments: 9-0 today!

Why did you choose this deck?

I have played with the deck for many times and I felt comfortable with it.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I mulliganed to five cards in one game and actually won. That was pretty amazing.

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Follow your heart and do what you want.

Name: Koji Kawakami

Country/Prefecture: Shizuoka

Deck Choice: Red-Green Tron

Magic Accomplishments: I attended a few Grand Prix but nothing special.

Why did you choose this deck?

I thought it was better to play a deck I've played with before rather than build a new deck.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

There was no Matsuya at the food trucks unlike other Grand Prix.

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Understanding the format.

Name: Takeshi Kagawa

Country/Prefecture: Hyogo

Deck Choice: Affinity

Magic Accomplishments: None.

Why did you choose this deck?

It suits my play style the most.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I played Steel Overseer and Welding Jar on turn one. Then, my opponent played Stony Silence and Blood Moon but I won with Ghirapur Æther Grid!

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Drawing the correct seven cards in your opening hand.

Name: Wu Kon Fai

Country/Prefecture: Hong Kong

Deck Choice: Boros Burn

Magic Accomplishments: 2nd at Grand Prix Guangzhou

Why did you choose this deck?

I trusted Lee Shi Tian who asked me to play it and I had good results with it in playtesting.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Topdecking Shard Volley when my opponent was at 2 life.

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Be fast, be proactive and know your deck well.

Name: Shin Jong-ho

Country/Prefecture: South Korea

Deck Choice: Red-Green Titan Shift

Magic Accomplishments: None.

Why did you choose this deck?

I like Scapeshift.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

My opponent resolved Madcap Experiment against me!

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Playing 1000 games with the same deck.

Name: Huang Ta-chi

Country/Prefecture: Chinese Taipei

Deck Choice: Eldrazi Tron

Magic Accomplishments: None.

Why did you choose this deck?

Ugin and Ulamog are my best friends!

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Casting a turn four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

What's the key to winning at Modern?

Choose a deck that suits you.

Anyway, that's all we have for today but we promise to return tomorrow with more updates and deck techs. The format is still filled with surprises, we assure you. In the meantime, swing over to Grand Prix Copenhagen where the Modern action continues!

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