Top Stories of Grand Prix Kobe 2017

Posted in Event Coverage on May 28, 2017

By Chapman Sim

Grand Prix Kobe was memorable for many reasons and here are just a few of the highlights throughout the weekend. In addition to a couple of deck techs, there were also a few moments worth remembering!

Deck Tech: Black-Green Traverse

Jeremy Dezani was a former Player of the Year as well as the Pro Tour Theros Champion. Currently residing in Tokyo, it was unsurprising to see him frequent Japanese Grand Prix. Today, he had brought Black-Green Traverse along, a deck he personally modified from Abzan Midrange, by removing cards like Siege Rhino.

Jeremy Dezani showed off his favorite cards from his deck.

"This is a 19 land deck because I'm running Mishra's Bauble and Traverse the Ulvenwald. I am also playing with Dark Confidant over Grim Flayer."

Since there was no Lingering Souls in the deck, he felt like Grim Flayer couldn't generate as much value as Dark Confidant did. Kicking off with Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize, you really preferred to drop Dark Confidant over Grim Flayer.

He explained that mana base was much better compared to Abzan, because there were still a lot of aggro decks in the format, including usual suspects Boros Burn and Affinity. Originally, he had wanted to play up to 23 lands to support the full playset of Tectonic Edge and/or Ghost Quarter to improve the matchup against Tron and Scapeshift strategies, but eventually decided against it because he didn't run Crucible of Worlds or Courser or Kruphix.

"Playing less lands gives you the advantage in the midrange and control matchups. If you're running 22 – 24 lands, you end up drawing a lot of blanks in the long run. The idea came from Willy Edel's suggestion to condense the deck with the help of Mishra's Bauble and Traverse the Ulvenwald."

  • Ishkanah, Grafwidow
  • Tireless Tracker
  • Chameleon Colossus
  • Tarmogoyf
  • Scavenging Ooze

Dezani had expected the top three archetypes to be Eldrazi Tron, Death's Shadow and Collected Company decks and he tuned his sideboard in anticipation of that. The Ishkanah, Grafwidow is pretty good against Death's Shadow since it creates a lot of chump blockers, and it was also good against Abzan mirrors who have Lingering Souls. With Traverse the Ulvenwald, it wasn't easy to find the Spider when he needed it. In addition, a singleton Tireless Tracker and Chameleon Colossus provided some options, even though Dezani professed that the tutor usually goes for Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze.

Shaving down Abrupt Decay, Dezani's decision was due to the Eldrazi menace. "Abrupt Decay doesn't do what you need to do nowadays. With Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang becoming increasingly popular, I prefer to go with Go for the Throat instead. I originally considered Victim of Night because it is better against Affinity, but then Gurmag Angler is a Zombie, which Victim of Night cannot deal with.

All in all, Black-Green Traverse was a very streamlined and well-balanced deck with great mana, a nice combination of discard, cheap removal, and efficient threats and even a silver bullet package!

"Plus, you also get to play with Ishkanah, Grafwidow," Dezani simply loves that card!

Jeremy Dezani's Black-Green Traverse

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Deck Tech: Vizier Knightfall

Kelvin Chew had a reputation for being an excellent deck creator and one of his biggest successes was Bant Knightfall. Popularizing the archetype that utilized Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm, the Platinum Pro was back with yet another iteration.

  • Knight of the Reliquary
  • Retreat to Coralhelm
  • Vizier of Remedies
  • Devoted Druid
  • Kessig Wolf Run

Chew said that Vizier of Remedies and Gideon of the Trials were the best cards out of Amonkhet for Modern. Numerous variants of Devoted Druid combo decks arose but none looked like what Chew had brought to Kobe.

"Vizier Knightfall was my deck (of) choice. I've always disliked the two drops in Bant Knightfall, so the Vizier combo helps with that. Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm is a finite combo, so adding an infinite combo is a huge improvement. Not only does the deck have two combos instead of one, they work well with each other. For example, once I get infinite mana, I can use Knight of the Reliquary to tutor up Kessig Wolf Run for the win. It is also good against opponents who have already gained infinite life."

Perhaps the most well-positioned card of all was Reflector Mage, which Chew describes as "gas”! It offers some disruption for the Vizier combo mirrors, keeping opposing Devoted Druids at bay, while also meddling with Death's Shadow, Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Tarmogoyf. The time Reflector Mage buys is incredible in a fast-paced environment such as Modern.

Kelvin Chew, piloting his product "Chew Knightfall

The Singaporeans who heard about the deck nicknamed it "Chew Knightfall”, because his decklist was made known locally and it was immensely revered. As a matter of fact, when he shared his decklist with Team MTG Mint Card, it impressed Tzu Ching Kuo so much that he decided to pick it up card for card. Most impressively, the duo both ended up at 12-3, which was an excellent showing considering that the field was over 2800 players!

So, aside from gaining infinite mana, and dealing infinite damage, what else did the Platinum Pro do all weekend? "This is a very short trip. I flew to Kobe on Friday and I'm leaving first thing Monday morning due to work commitment. However, I'm glad to have had the Kobe beef which Chapman Sim recommended me to try. It set me back $150 but it was the best steak I've ever had!"

Well, glad I could help!

Kelvin Chew's Vizier Knightfall

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Play the Game, Meet the World

A recent announcement within the Japanese community had garnered a lot of attention. Known to the locals as the Youth Ambassador Program, it was the talk of the town all weekend.

Open to all Japanese teens aged 10 – 15, anyone could register for a chance to be shortlisted. You did not even need to know how to play Magic. Four registrants would eventually be granted a trip of a lifetime, not unlike finding a Golden Ticket to enter Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The four selected ambassadors will get the opportunity to visit the Wizards of the Coast headquarters in Seattle, to meet and greet key personnel and fellow Magic players, and they might even get the chance to play a few games of Magic with Chris Cocks, the President and CEO of Wizards of the Coast!

Jon Finkel, aside from being one of the most decorated players in the history of Magic, is a huge advocate of the program and he summarizes the spirit of the initiative.

"Magic is a way for people of all ages to learn critical thinking skills, develop teamwork, and make lifelong friends across borders. 'Play the game, Meet the world' provides a unique opportunity for exceptional Japanese youth to travel to America, learn more about their favorite game, and meet everyone from successful business people to game designers to other children like themselves."

In addition, the Japanese office had organized trips to Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon as part of the program. This is an unprecedented privilege and certainly something that should appeal to anyone who was interested to learn more about our world!

Tomohiro Kaji invites you to learn more about the YAP!

Pro Tour Charleston 2006 Champion and Japanese coverage coordinator and commentator, Tomohiro Kaji, was one of the many advocates of the program. "If you think this is interesting to you, that makes me very happy. Even if you don't know how to play Magic, there is no problem. as long as you're a kid who lives in Japan aged 10 – 15, you can apply for this program. It may feel a little frightening at first, but I highly recommend you to join us and discover the wonders of Magic and how it can show you the world."

Rintaro Funabiki had already applied to join the YAP!

Rintaro Funabiki is a Magic player who is currently in 7th Grade. Not only was he a participant in the main event of Grand Prix Kobe, he also registered to be considered for the program. The story of how he got involved in Magic was a rather interesting one as well.

His father doesn't play Magic, but he noticed that his son was a huge fan of other domestic card games. Thus, he did some research and recommended Funabiki to pick up Magic, because it had an international scope, a feature that was unlike any other game in the world. With that, Funabiki decided to drop the existing games he was playing and make the switch to Magic.

"I really enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and Magic offers me that possibility of expanding my horizons. My dream is to participate in a Pro Tour by the time I finish middle school, so I have two years to try and accomplish that goal. Of course, I also wish to be selected for the Youth Ambassador Program. Everything about it sounds so amazing!"

A potential Pro Tour Champion in the making!

It is rare that we meet a boy who is so motivated and passionate about his future and we certainly hope that his dreams will come true, through Magic.

Joe Soh Improved Upon His Previous Performance in Kobe!

Grand Prix Kobe 2015 - Joe Soh (left) and Takuma Morofuji (right)

The previous Grand Prix Kobe two years ago, Joe Soh made the Top 8 where he fell to eventual Champion Takuma Morofuji in the finals. While the Standard metagame at that time was predominantly Esper Dragons and Abzan (do you remember the Siege Rhino days?), Soh brewed up White-Black Warriors deck which completely slipped under the radar.

Joe Soh's White-Black Warriors

Grand Prix Kobe 2015 – Top 8
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Back with a vengeance, he went back to the drawing board and brought White-Black Eldrazi to Kobe this time, a deck which was featured in the Day 1 Highlights. For your convenience, here's the decklist for your perusal.

Joe Soh's White-Black Eldrazi

Download Arena Decklist

What were the similarities between both products?

"It's one of my all-time favorite cards and after this weekend, it could just be bumped up to my absolute favorite card."

Sneaking into his third lifetime Grand Prix Top 8 in 8th seed, he was disadvantaged in the playoffs due to the fact that he was always going to be on the draw, but he turned that around by defeating Tomoya Tsubouchi in the quarterfinals as well as Park Bi-o in the semifinals.

In the finals against Terumasa Kojima, Soh faced early pressure in the form of double Bloodghast, but a timely Tidehollow Sculler robbed Kojima of a very crucial Cathartic Reunion. Double Reality Smasher mopped things up quickly, before both players reached for the sideboard.

Soh was ahead all the way throughout the finals.

Already favored in the first game due to 4 copies of Relic of Progenitus in the maindeck, Soh supplemented his graveyard hate with a pair of Surgical Extraction as well as double Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. When Kojima mulliganed to four in Game 2, observers of the match knew that things were soon coming to an end. When Kojima discarded Bloodghast to Faithless Looting, they were all exiled with Surgical Extraction. Soh proceeded to put six Spirit tokens onto the battlefield with double Lingering Souls, forcing Kojima to extend his hand.

Improving upon his previous performance by one place, that was sufficient for us to award him a prize that he truly deserved, the Grand Prix Kobe 2017 Champion trophy! Congratulations to Joh Soh for this long-awaited victory!

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