Grand Prix Kyoto 2013

Congratulations to Rich Hoaen, Mike Hron, and Alexander Hayne, winners of Grand Prix Kyoto 2013!

The three foreigners stormed into Kyoto on a whim. After a long break from the game and armed with a weekend off work, Pro Tour Geneva Champion, Mike Hron, paired up with limited master, Rich Hoaen, to play in Kyoto. They needed a third. Recalling his experience in the finals of Grand Prix Montreal 2011, Rich Hoaen asked Alexander Hayne if he would like to join Mike Hron for Kyoto. Hayne obliged, and, after a tense finals match against Makahito Mihara, Kentarou Yamamoto, and Jun'ichiro Bandou, the three became Grand Prix Champions.

The last Team Limited Grand Prix in Japan was in Osaka over eight years ago. While many sets have come out in the interim, Japanese players came out of the woodwork to try their hands at Theros Sealed this weekend. Due to the skill required in Theros Team Limited, super-teams such as Martin Juza, Shuhei Nakamura, and Yuuya Watanabe, Akira Asahara, Shu Komuro, and Masaya Kitayama, and Shouta Yasooka, Katsuhiro Mori, and Tomoharu Saito were seen at the top of the standings throughout the weekend. Between absurdly powerful mono-color devotion decks, blazingly fast red-white decks, and masterfully controlling blue decks, 578 teams became 1 as we crowned the foreign champions.

As the sun sets on the autumn foliage a new page has been turned on Team Magic. Congratulations once again to Rich Hoaen, Mike Hron, and Alexander Hayne!

View live video at Nico Nico (in Japanese)

top 4 bracket


(1) Hron / Hayne / Hoaen

(4) Yasooka / Mori / Saito

(2) Shigehara / Kadono / Furukawa

(3) Mihara / Bandou / Yamamoto


Hron / Hayne / Hoaen

Mihara / Bandou / Yamamoto


Hron / Hayne / Hoaen



1. Hron/Hayne/Hoaen $8,100
2. Mihara/Bandou/Yamamoto $5,400
3. Shigehara/Kadono/Furukawa $3,000
4. Yasooka/Mori/Saito $3,000

pairings, results, standings


14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Top 4 Team Profiles

by Nate Price

Michael Hron (33, consultant from Madison WI)
Alex Hayne (25, magician from Montréal, Canada)
Rich Hoaen (28, management consultant from Toronto, Canada)

Where do you usually play Magic?
Alex: Face to Face Games in Montréal—the best store for Magic in Canada!
Rich, Michael: Magic Online

How did you form your team?
I met Alex in the finals of Grand Prix Montréal—he really likes team sealed. Mike and I were in the Philippines, so we were close anyway, and decided to come.

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Record: 9-0
Colors: GR / UW / UB

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
We had 5 mythic rares.

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Record: 3-2
Colors: BG / UR / WW

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
Dragon, Boulderfall, Hythonia, Whip of Erebos, 3 Ordeals and Favored Hoplite.

What is your strategy for the draft?
Hook people.

Who is your favorite artist (if any)?
Rob Alexander—love the lands.

What do you recommend people do to get better at Magic?
Practice, practice, practice.

How did you start playing Magic?
Through friends. Rich: "I was neighbors with Gab Tsang."

Jun'ichirō Bandō (34, prep school lecturer)
Makihito Mihara (30, salaryman)
Kentarō Yamamoto (worker)

How did you form your team?
Bandō and Yamamoto: We were looking for a third teammate, and we found out that Mihara was available. Lucky!

Where do you usually play Magic?
Magic Online

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Colors: WR (Yamamoto) / RG (Bandō) / BG (Mihara)

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
Yamamot won 9 in a row (18-1 in games)

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Colors: WG (Yamamoto) / UR (Bandō) / WUB (Mihara)

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
Yamamoto turned a loss around in the match that the Top 4 was riding on.

What is your strategy for the draft?
None in particular.

Who is your favorite artist (if any)?
John Avon.

What do you recommend people do to get better at Magic?
Bandō: Practice with someone better than you.

How did you start playing Magic?
Yamamoto: A friend got me into it.

Toshinori Shigehara (27, salaryman from Yamaguchi)
Takayuki Kadono (20, salaryman from Yamaguchi)
Hiroki Furukawa (31, salaryman from Yamaguchi)

How did you form your team?
We put it together at the last minute following cancellations from the people who were supposed to be on our team.

Where do you usually play Magic?
Chameleon Club Ube Nishi-kiwa.

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Colors: UG / UB / WR

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
We won the 6th round after all of us starting off at 0-1.

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Colors: UG / WB / WR

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
Grey Merchant of Asphodel is strong!

What is your strategy for the draft?
Shigehara: I don't think we stand much of a chance against the other teams. We'll do our best.
Furukawa: I hope we can make the last train.
Kadono: We didn't practice much for the draft, but we'll give it our all.

Who is your favorite artist (if any)?
>Rob Alexander.

What do you recommend people do to get better at Magic?
We don't think we're good enough to tell people that. Just have fun!

How did you start playing Magic?
Shigehara: I played with my older brother a lot. I started playing in tournaments after going to the World Championships (which I qualified for through Magic Online).
Kadono: When I was in middle school, my younger brother brought back some Mirage tournament packs from a game shop. We didn't really understand the rules, but still had fun playing with the cards.

Shōta Yasooka Tomoharu Saitō (30, owner of Card Shop Hareru-ya in Tōkyō)
Katsuhiro Mori (30, owner of Card Shop Kateru-ya in Tōkyō)

How did you form your team?
Tomoharu took the lead.

Where do you usually play Magic?
At our stores or Magic Online.

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Colors: UG / UB / RB

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
The equipment that gives flying that we put in the sideboard of the green deck came in very handy.

What was your record for Day 1 (Sealed)?
Colors: WU / RG / UB

What were your key cards/memorable combos?
We talked a lot on the video coverage. We really appreciated Yasooka promoting our stores.

What is your strategy for the draft?

Who is your favorite artist (if any)?
Scott M. Fischer, Chris Rahn.

What do you recommend people do to get better at Magic?
Play to have fun.

How did you start playing Magic?

Semifinals - Hron/Hayne/Hoaen vs. Yasooka/Mori/Saito

by Nate Price

As soon as the Top 4 was announced, this became the talk of the event site. The two biggest teams in the Top 4 were poised for a Semifinals matchup that no one was going to want to miss. On one side, three of the best Japanese players the world has ever seen in Tomoharu Saito, Shouta Yasooka, and Katsuhiro Mori. On the other side, the foreign invasion force of Rich Hoaen, Alexander Hayne, and Mike Hron. Combined, the two teams have over fifty Grand Prix Top 8s, thirteen Pro Tour Top 8s, and five Pro Tour wins. This was set to be an epic match, and it certainly didn't disappoint.

It was very curious to see the two teams' decks after their draft. Somehow, the teams ended up splitting the colors such that Hayne, Hron, and Hoaen had no blue or green drafters, while Saito, Yasooka, and Mori had no black drafters. Such an extreme skew is rare to see, even in a six-man draft like this. In the end, both teams appeared quite happy with their decks.

Alexander Hayne (Black/Red) vs. Shouta Yasooka (Green/White/Blue)

Hayne and Yasooka were the first match to finish, though it took a full three games to get a result. Yasooka was the first up to bat, landing an early Fleecemane Lion, which he proceeded to turn into a monster on the fourth turn. Normally, this would signal an aggressive posture, but Hayne's deck had come out swinging, as well. Between Erebos's Emissary, Ill-Tempered Cyclops, and Felhide Minotaur, Hayne had quite an army, forcing Yasooka's Lion to play defensive duties. The role of offense was relegated to a Staunch-Hearted Warrior onto which Yasooka bestowed a Thassa's Emissary. The 7/7 got in for one hit before being cut down to size by a full defensive effort from Hayne, who lost his own monstrous Cyclops in the process.

Alexander Hayne

With one 7/7 removed, Hayne was disheartened to see Yasooka tap eight mana to make a 7/7 Mistcutter Hydra to replace it. He had to take the hit before he was able to untap and kill it with Sip of Hemlock. These two massive swings ended up being too much, as it let the Lion begin to attack. Hayne's defensive efforts proved futile, as Yasooka added an Agent of Horizons and Wavecrash Triton on his next turn to seal the way to victory.

As exciting as the first game had been, the second was anticlimactic to the same degree. Hayne got rolling with an Arena Athlete wearing some big boy pants. Yasooka tried to set up defenses with Pheres-Band Centaurs and Mistcutter Hydra, but they both died to Sip of Hemlock. When Hayne used a third Sip to remove a Wavecrash Triton, Yasooka just laughed and picked up his cards.

"Ok," he said nodding.

Shouta Yasooka

That laughter died quickly in the final game of the match, as he found himself behind once again. This time, an Insatiable Harpy picked up a Dragon Mantle and began to drastically change both players' life totals. Yasooka looked to be getting back into the swing of things with a Fabled Hero with Feral Invocation, but a Sip of Hemlock sent it to an early grave. The same held true for a Nimbus Naiad-wearing Wavecrash Triton that Yasooka tried to use for defense. With his gas depleted and no answer for Hayne's troops, Yasooka conceded and turned to lend aid to his teammates.

Mike Hron (Black/Red) vs. Katsuhiro Mori (Blue/Red)

This match was not as quick as the one between Hayne and Yasooka, but it was certainly less interesting, mostly because both decks were so insanely defensive. Mori's deck featured two copies of Akroan Horse to spew out a neverending stream of defenders. Hron's deck, meanwhile, was a heavy black deck that tended towards longer games with his Gray Merchants of Asphodel.

Mike Hron

In the first game, things played out just like this, with Mori finding both of his Horses, while Gray Merchant drained a large chunk of life for Hron once the board cluttered with tokens. With the ground stall looming, Hron peeled a Mogis's Marauder, allowing him to swing with his team and knock Mori down to 4. He followed up with an Insatiable Harpy, and Mori couldn't find an answer before the flier finished him off.

In the second game, the Insatiable Harpy and Gray Merchant once again set up the lifegain express, matched by a more aggressive board from Mori. A Crackling Triton with Ordeal of Purphoros was able to deal with the Insatiable Harpy, but the pressure soon came back in the form of Mogis's Marauder. Again down to 4, Mori was forced to sacrifice his biggest threat, the Triton, to kill a freshly-cast Blood-Toll Harpy in order to stay alive. Mori did manage to slightly stabilize with a second Akroan Horse, but a pair of regenerating Deathbellow Raiders were able to rip through Mihara's defenses and eventually finish the match.

Katsuhiro Mori

Rich Hoaen (White/Black) vs. Tomoharu Saito (Green/Blue)

Though the match was already decided, and Hron, Hoaen, and Hayne were already headed to the finals, it would be unfair not to include the epic match between Rich Hoaen and Tomoharu Saito. Hoaen started down, forced to mulligan to six on the play. The board developed slowly, mostly due to Saito's reasonably defensive front. Sylvan Caryatid and Wavecrash Triton forced Hoaen to keep his team of small white creatures at bay, leaving him to just build up his board. This ultimately played into Hoaen's hand, as his ever-increasing number of white permanents allowed him to drop Heliod, God of the Sun, and animate it.

Tomoharu Saito

Saito kept things interesting, adding enchantment after enchantment to his Wavecrash Triton. This not only kept much of Hoaen's team intermittently tapped, it also gave him a potent attacker. Hoaen was forced to stop building his board at one point, needing to spend his mana to make tokens with Heliod to chump block with. Fortunately, he had already managed to sneak a Triad of Fates into play, giving him plenty of defensive options.

And he was going to need them. The attacks from the growing Triton had dropped him down to a meager 4 life before he was able to start chump blocking. This left a slight window for Saito to kill Hoaen, but the Limited master had a timely Ray of Dissolution to get rid of an attempted Nimbus Naiad, which would have been immediately lethal.

Rich Hoaen

As things slowed down, and Hoaen drew more and more mana sources, he began to crawl into control of the game. He soon found himself able to make two tokens a turn, and his army began to actually grow. Within a few turns, he dominated the board. Still at a perilously low life total, Hoaen managed to generate enough offense that he could finish Saito off before he could poke through for the last little bit.

"That was impressive," Hayne congratulated Hoaen after the game. "I wasn't sure if you'd pull that out early."

After an intense first game, the second game was a more straightforward affair. Hoaen got on the board early, using a Triad of Fates and Cavalry Pegasus as a source of offense. It got even more dangerous when he bestowed a Hopeful Eidolon on the Triad. Thanks to the Pegasus, the Triad flew over for large chunks of life each turn. Saito tried to stop it with a Spearpoint Oread/Leafcrown Dryad combination, but a Battlewise Valor put an end to that plan. From there, Saito found himself unable to stop Hoaen from attacking a few more times to kill him.

Hoaen/Hron/Hayne defeated Saito/Mori/Yasooka in a 3-0 sweep to advance to the finals!

Semifinals - Mihara/Yamamoto/Bandou vs. Kadono/Shigehara/Furukawa

by Ben Swartz

It has been a little over a month since Pro Tour Theros. Two Japanese players made the top eight in Dublin: Makahito Mihara and Kentaro Yamamoto. This weekend they teamed up with friend Jun'ichiro Bandou to form one of the most feared teams of the tournament. After ending day one with a single loss, they powered through day two picking up only a loss and a draw on their way to the top four.

There they faced off against relative unknowns Takayuki Kadono, Toshinori Shigehara, and Hiroki Furukawa. Toshinori is well known in Japan for qualifying for Worlds via Magic Online in both 2004 and 2008. They ended day one with a loss and a draw and had to go undefeated on Sunday to make their way into the top 4.

Mihara/Yamamoto/Bandou vs. Kadono/Shigehara/Furukawa

Kentaro Yamamoto (Green/White) vs. Takayuki Kadono(Red/White)

Yamamoto got off to a quick start with Leafcrown Dryad and Ordeal of Nylea. Kadono countered with Minotaur Skullcleaver and Ember Swallower. When the Leafcrown Dryad hit three +1/+1 counters, Kadono removed it with Divine Verdict.

Yamamoto rebuilt by playing Vulpine Goliath, Nessian Asp and Chosen by Heliod. A second Divine Verdict came down to deal with the 6/5 while Kadono traded with the Asp.

Yamamoto had a trick of his own—Divine Verdict—which he used to get rid of Ember Swallower. He followed that up with Agent of Horizon. With both players sitting at 5 life, Yamamoto made the Agent unblockable, cast Feral Invocation, and attacked for the win/

Yamamoto 1 – 0 Kadono

Kentaro Yamamoto

A pair of Minotaur Skullcleavers traded with a pair of Leafcrown Dryads to start the second game. On his fourth turn, Yamamoto cast Polukranos, World Eater. After a few pieces of removal hit some of Kadono's creatures, Polukranos became monstrous and Yamamoto took the first match.

Yamamoto 2 – 0 Kadono

Jun'ichiro Bandou (Blue/Black) vs. Toshinori Shigehara (Black/Green)

Play started somewhat slowly between Junichirou Bandou's and Toshinori Shigehara. After a couple turns of back and forth, Shigehara tried to resolve a Boon Satyr during Bandou's combat step. Luckily for Bandou, he had a timely Dissolve to shut it down. Bandou then played out a couple of flyers: Vaporkin and Blood-Toll Harpy.

Shigehara was prepared; he cast a Nessian Asp and a Baleful Eidolon. Facing down an army, Bandou hit eight mana and dropped a Colossus of Akros.

Shigehara was holding a Fade into Antiquity for a situation just like this and exiled the 10/10. Unable to find anything to deal with the Shigehara's army, Bandou conceded and went to the next game.

Bandou 0 – 1 Shigehara

In the second game, Shigehara got stuck on lands while Bandou amounted a quick army of Blood-Toll Harpy, Vaporkin, and Omenspeaker. After discarding for a couple turns, Shigehara attempted to claw his way back into the game with a Nessian Courser. Bandou destroyed Shigehara's only chance with a Sip of Hemlock and sent their match to a third game.

Jun'ichiro Bandou

Bandou 1 – 1 Shigehara

For the third game, things looked hopeful for Bandou as he cast a third turn Ashiok. Unfortunately, that was about all he could cast as he failed to draw another land. Meanwhile, Nylea's Emissary picked up a Boon Satyr on Shigehara's fifth turn, took out Ashiok, and eventually went on to win the match for Shigehara.

Shigehara 2-1 Bandou

Toshinori Shigehara

Makahito Mihara (Blue/Black) vs. Hiroki Furukawa (Blue/White)

With the matches split, it all came down to Mihara and Furukawa's match.

Game one started with Mihara using Pharika's Curse to two-for-one Furukawa's early Hopeful Eidolon enchanted with Ordeal of Heliod. Furukawa, unphased, cast a Triton Fortune Hunter and another Ordeal of Heliod.

After a couple turns of draw-go, Mihara was a little behind and needed to get something going. He found exactly what he needed in Abhorrent Overlord. Though his devotion to black was only three, he followed it up with an Underworld Cerberus and, finally, a Sealock Monster. A few attack steps later, Mihara was up a game.

Makahito Mihara

Mihara 1 -0 Furukawa

In the second game, Furukawa came out of the gates with a Vaporkin, Observant Alseid and a Favored Hoplite. Mihara, on the backfoot, could only come up with a Sealock Monster to attempt to defend.

That was only for a turn, however, as Mihara again found an Underworld Cerberus. After a couple turns the two large creatures proved too much for Furukawa and Mihara won the match to send his team to the finals.

Mihara/Yamamoto/Bandou defeat Kadono/Shigehara/Furukawa sending them to the finals of GP Kyoto!

Finals - Hron/Hayne/Hoaen vs. Mihara/Yamamoto/Bandou

by Nate Price

Hron/Hayne/Hoaen vs. Mihara/Yamamoto/Bandou

It all came down to this. It has been a rare occurrence for a non-Japanese player to take home a Japanese Grand Prix, and an even rarer one still for it to be a team event. The last time that happened was all the way back in 2001, when Chris Benafel and Team ABU stole the show in Yokohama. Here in Kyoto, over a decade later, Mike Hron, Alex Hayne, and Rich Hoaen have the chance to repeat history. Standing in their way is the highest-ranked player left in the tournament: Makihito Mihara. Joining Mihara are Jun'ichiro Bandou and Kentarou Yamamoto, both with Grand Prix Top 8s to their name. The battle would be fierce, as there was quite a lot on the line. Beyond money and prestige, there is pride on the line, as Japan has a long history of defending its Grand Prix from outside victors.

Rich Hoaen (Red/Black) vs. Jun'ichiro Bandou (Green/Red)

Rich Hoaen

Hoaen's match was the first to draw blood and the first to end it. His aggressive red/black Minotaur deck opened with Deathbellow Raider and Felhide Minotaur. His aggression was much faster than Bandou's but fell short on size. While the Canadian's early forces were able to whittle away at Bandou's life, the Japanese player's monsters soon began to assert control of the board. Ill-Tempered Cyclops, Vulpine Goliath, and a massively-enchanted Borderland Minotaur simply outclassed Hoaen's creatures, taking control of the game. With Bandou sitting on single digits, Hoaen could do nothing but watch as the game slipped out of reach.

Jun'ichiro Bandou

In the second game, things didn't go much better. Hoaen opened with a quick Firedrinker Satyr, putting the beatdown down on Bandou. The Japanese players didn't offer much resistance until turn four, when Polukranos, World Eater, made his appearance. From here, the game turned extremely sour for Hoaen. Polukranos went monstrous on the following turn, killing the Satyr and damaging Hoaen for quite a large amount. Hoaen had a chance to prevent Bandou from getting too far ahead, but he failed to find a sixth land for his Sip of Hemlock. This let Bandou deal another large amount of damage, as well as add a Vulpine Goliath to his team. Now well behind, Hoaen could only sit and sigh as Bandou cast Coordinated Assault and attacked for lethal, giving the first match to the defending Japanese team.

Alexander Hayne (Green/Black/Blue) vs. Kentarou Yamamoto (Green/Blue)

In the middle game of this match, Alex Hayne's BUG deck had its hands full with Kentarou Yamamoto's green/blue tempo deck. Yamamoto began with an aggressive foray involving Triton Fortune Hunter and a pair of enchantments, forcing Hayne to reset things with Voyage's End. Rather than replay the Triton, Yamamoto switched gears, adding a Staunch-Hearted Warrior to his side, enchanting it with Aqueous Form and Ordeal of Thassa.

Alexander Hayne

Hayne used Erebos, God of the Dead, to dig through his deck searching for an answer. He found a Prophet of Kruphix, which he used to begin building his team, but it failed to help him deal with an Agent of Horizons that Yamamoto got in play. The Agent dropped Hayne all the way down to one before earning the concession.

Hayne turned things around in the second game, using a hastily-assembled Shipwreck Singer/Returned Phalanx duo to utterly dominate the early board. Even when Yamamoto got an Anthousa, Setassan Hero, into play and enchanted it with Aqueous Form, Hayne was able to race it. When he flashed in a Horizon Chimera to both add to his clock and detract from Yamamoto's, Hayne's advantage was sealed.

Kentarou Yamamoto

For such a well-fought first two games of the match, the third left a lot to be desired. Yamamoto's deck failed to cough up more than two lands, and he conceded without putting up a fight.

Mike Hron (Green/White) vs. Makihito Mihara (Blue/Black/White)

The first game of the final match was a short and sweet affair. Hron opened with a Favored Hoplite and Wingsteed Rider, enhancing them with Feral Invocation and Dauntless Onslaught. A Gods Willing for good measure dropped Mihara to two on the fifth turn, and he was quick to reach for his sideboard.

Mihara exerted control of the second game early, stripping a Wingsteed Rider from Hron with a Thoughtseize. He then let his rares do the talking, adding both Triad of Fates and Daxos of Meletis to his side of the table. The Triad was used in an offensive capability against Hron, providing the safety of a Flicker should Hron have anything too crazy to stop Daxos.

Makihito Mihara

Mihara tried to force his way past Hron's 2/4 Leafcrown Dryad with a Battlewise Valor, but a Gods Willing kept things as they were. He tried again on the following turn with a Boon of Erebos, but a Feral Invocation again kept things static. Still, Mihara was able to ratchet up his offense. He added two Vaporkins to his side of the table, and Hron was unable to block them, as his Dryad was tied up dealing with Daxos.

And then, one turn, Hron began to attack. He sent his team in, leaving two mana open and a Nemesis of Mortals in play. Smelling Savage Surge, Mihara just took the damage and geared up to remove the potentially threatening Dryad with his Triad. Now safe from a trick, Mihara used Griptide to send the Nemesis to the top of Hron's deck, right where it could be removed with Daxos. A Cavern Lampad gave Daxos intimidate, and he attacked over to remove the Nemesis and gain an important six life. With that attack, the wind left Hron's sails, and he conceded the game soon thereafter, unable to deal with Daxos.

Mike Hron

The final game was the perfect way to end an incredibly interesting event. Stalling on lands early, Hron looked like he might fall behind, yet he was still able to churn out a reasonable army, including Leafcrown Dryad, Chronicler of Heroes, and Traveling Philosophers. He even managed to crack through Mihara's defenses with a Dauntless Onslaught, getting through for a reasonable amount of damage and killing one of Mihara's creatures.

From there, however, Mihara took over. He began to accrue flier after flier, adding a pair of Prescient Chimeras to his Coastline Chimera, stopping Hron cold. While Mihara was assembling his air force, Hron began to draw lands, creating larger ground creatures. With things nearing a potentially epic end, the levee broke. Mihara added a pair of Scourgemarks to his fliers and attacked, forcing a chump block from Hron. He then added a Cavern Lampad to his largest flier, doing exactly half of Hron's remaining life in damage. With one turn left to go, Hron had no choice but to go for it. With Mihara down to eight life, he used Gods Willing on his Centaur Battlemaster, making it an unblockable 6/6. Combined with his other attackers, he was able to force through exactly the amount of damage needed to finish Mihara off, ending an incredible match, the perfect cap to an incredible tournament.

Makihito Mihara Congratulates Mike Hron

Mike Hron, Alex Hane, and Rich Hoaen defeat Makihito Mihara, Kentarou Yamamoto, and Jun'ichiro Bandou to become the 2013 Grand Prix Kyoto champions!

Top 5 Cards

by Ben Swartz
Gray Merchant of Asphodel

5. Gray Merchant of Asphodel

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.

Staunch-Hearted Warrior

4. Staunch-Hearted Warrior

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.

Polukranos, World Eater

3. Polukranos, World Eater

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.

Gods Willing

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.

Shipwreck Singer

1. Shipwreck Singer

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.