Grand Prix Kyoto 2017 Day 1 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on July 22, 2017

By Chapman Sim

2,398 players arrived at Kyoto, one of two stops of this exciting double Grand Prix weekend! After nine rounds of Sealed Deck, 752 players will return tomorrow for six rounds of Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation Booster Draft.

Now that Day 1 is done, we invite you to be our guest and immerse yourself in the exciting sights and sounds of the day!

The Hour of Devastation is Nigh!

A lot happened in the last two weeks and the face of Amonkhet Limited has changed forever. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh descended upon Amonkhet to claim his Zombie army and easily defeated The Gatewatch, while Samut's planeswalker spark was ignited. Today, nearly 2,400 players were among the first in the world to experience this exciting format at the Premier Event level.

Embalming creatures was exciting, but eternalizing them is even better. As you can see, a dead 1/1 cat resurrecting as a 4/4 feels way more exciting. Afflict and exert offer aggro strategies ways to push damage and maintain pressure. However, in terms of Hour of Devastation gameplay mechanics, none other garnered more attention than Deserts.

  • Desert of the Fervent
  • Ifnir Deadlands
  • Survivors' Encampment
  • Painted Bluffs
  • Cradle of the Accursed
  • Desert's Hold
  • Sand Strangler
  • Shefet Monitor
  • Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
  • Wretched Camel

Deserts play a very important role in the format. From only four Deserts in Amonkhet, we now have a total of 20 in the mix. In addition, there are a number of "Desert-matters" cards such as Desert's Hold, Sand Strangler, and so on. The cycle of five common cycling Deserts are pretty much an automatic inclusion if they were on-color, but it is fair to also throw in a couple of colorless Deserts if you have enough cards which benefit from having them.

For example, two-time Grand Prix Champion Immanuel Gerschenson of Team EUreka pointed out that Painted Bluffs went up in value. It used to hover around the edge of mediocrity, it is now a nice tool. Facilitating splashes while being a Desert is a boon in Sealed Deck, especially when you lose four booster packs worth of Evolving Wilds.

What other tips and tricks were players eager to share?

According to Grand Prix Taipei Champion and Gold Pro Huang Hao Shan, having access to some of these efficient hosers was key in formulating a sideboard plan.

"In Sealed Deck, it is always about reacting to what your opponent has. You might want to change a few cards in your deck, or change out a single color altogether. Sometimes, you might even want to switch decks. In my case, I was playing a Blue-Black-Green deck today, but if I am playing an opponent who is playing white, I will swap out one of those colors to play Gideon's Defeat and Desert's Hold."

  • Sweltering Suns
  • [Rags] [//] [Riches]
  • Hour of Revelation
  • Hour of Devastation
  • Bontu's Last Reckoning
  • Chaos Maw

Shaheen Soorani weighed in on the increased number of board sweepers in the format. Never before has so many mass removal effects been featured in a single format.

"I had Sweltering Suns and I took advantage of that with a Red-Green Monsters deck. My deck isn't spectacular, but at least I have one spell that impacts the board greatly. Hour of Revelation is pretty good and Hour of Devastation is basically quite unbeatable."

Does this mean that Hour of Devastation might just be the best card in Hour of Devastation?

Yuuki Ichikawa and Yuuya Watanabe

Also, according to two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and three-time Grand Prix Champion Yuuki Ichikawa, splashing colors is not difficult and usually very rewarding.

"I have three Oasis Ritualists which means that I can splash the cards I want. One of my favorite commons in the format is Striped Riverwinder, which is a perfect turn-five play. I have a Bant deck today, but I had no problems playing Wander in Death!"

No. 3-ranked Yuuya Watanabe approved, as did Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Champion Kazuyuki Takimura.

Kazuyuki Takimura

"I'm working on my mana base because I want to splash The Locust God and two Open Fires in my White-Blue deck. The Locust God is such an annoying bomb to deal with and it is also very powerful. Open Fire is the best common in Hour of Devastation and it will provide my deck with additional removal."

Five Biggest Names to Watch

Pro Tour Hour of Devastation – also in Kyoto - takes place next week, which marks the end of the 2016 – 2017 season. The top players around the world have converged in Japan, not only to playtest with their respective teammates, but also to put their findings to the test. It is uncommon for that many international players to be gathered in this part of the world, so we'd like to check in with five of the biggest names in the room today.

Jon Finkel

It is not an exaggeration to call Finkel a legend or an icon of Magic's professional scene. In 2005, Finkel was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the vote leader of the inaugural class. Naturally, his successes have spanned over two decades, with his Pro Tour debut taking place in 1996. Dominating for the next eight years or so, he took a temporary hiatus from the game, only to return back in 2008 to win Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur. "The Magic is Back" remains one of the most memorable headlines to this day.

To this day, Finkel remains an active player and is having him take this rare far-flung trip to Japan (in the midst of his busy schedule as a hedge fund manager) makes him the focus of attention at this event.

Alexander Hayne

Alexander Hayne defeated Finkel en route to winning Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. Despite being an unknown player at that time, Hayne proved that he was no fluke by putting up stellar results year after year. From there, he achieved Platinum four times in the last five years and quickly solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with, by also posting 11 Grand Prix Top 8 performances with 4 wins.

In fact, he took down Grand Prix Kyoto 2013, together with Rich Hoaen and Mike Hron! Kyoto seems to treat Hayne well, so we hope that he can shine in this lucky city of his.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

It is easy to lose count of how many times Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa has made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour (FYI, it's 11!). To date he is player with the second most Pro Tour Top 8s behind "Jonny Magic". During the early days, Damo da Rosa first appeared on the world stage as the finalist of Pro Tour Charleston, which was won by Shota Yasooka, Tomoharu Saito and Tomohiro Kaji. After falling in the finals, he earned the title of Pro Tour Champion by taking down Pro Tour San Juan 2010.

A widely-regarded writer and influencer Damo da Rosa is consistently ranked the top player in South America and as one of the brightest stars in the game, he is showing no signs of slowing down.

Owen Turtenwald

Turtenwald was inducted into the Hall of Fame together with Japan's very own Yuuya Watanabe. Among a long list of accomplishments, Turtenwald is perhaps the most proud to be one of three players to have ever won two Player of the Year titles, after Kai Budde and Yuuya Watanabe.

In addition, he has also been Platinum for the past five seasons, a streak that does not look like it is going to die out. Fresh off winning Grand Prix Cleveland alongside teammates Reid Duke and Willian Jensen, all eyes are also on the Peach Garden Oath to do well this weekend!

Marcio Carvalho

Marcio Carvalho might not be a Hall of Famer just yet, but he is one of the strongest contenders in the current ballot. Currently the top ranked player in the entire world, he has shown that he has the skills and aptitude to perform even under the brightest lights.

Having made 13 Grand Prix Top 8s (3 wins) and 3 Pro Tour Top 8s, he is also most well-known for qualifying for the 2016 World Championship by becoming the Draft Master that season. Having the ability to pick up Limited formats extremely quickly (remember, he won Grand Prix London just one week after Kaladesh's release), he is certainly a strong contender who has the ability run well.

In addition to having nearly a hundred three-bye players in the field, a whooping 24 out of the Top 25 Players were in attendance. At the Grand Prix level, these were unprecedented statistics.

In case you were wondering who was the missing 25th, he was none other than Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion Gerry Thompson, who preferred to stay home instead.

"I'll only be getting in on Wednesday, see you guys in Kyoto soon!"

Going for Gold

Just a few days ago, it was announced that the Pro Club will be undergoing some transformations after 2017–18. Before those fascinating changes kick in, we're still utilizing the present model and several Japanese players in the room are shooting for Gold.

To sum things up, Gold level pros are invited to all Pro Tours of that season, while also receiving complimentary airfare for those events. To many players, the ability to compete in a Pro Tour remains a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you can imagine how precious it is to reach the coveted Gold (or Platinum) level.

Several Japanese players are within reach of this achievement so we'd like to meet them for a bit. Thanks to Tetsuya Yabuto from the Japanese coverage team, we were able to better communicate with these five players as they share their goals for this weekend and the next.

Fumiya Matsumoto

Fumiya Matsumoto currently stands at 22 Pro Points and, like everybody else, needs to reach 35 to hit Gold level. He finished 3rd at Grand Prix Kyoto 2016, and then won Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur that very same year. His Pro Tour debut also took place during this season, that being Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and he was also qualified for Pro Tour Amonkhet and Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.

"I need to go at least 12-4 next week at the Pro Tour to earn 15 Pro Points. However, if I make at least 1 Pro Point this weekend, I will go up to 23 Pro Points which means that need 11-2-2 to earn 12 Pro Points. Still, it could be tough and I'm not super optimistic about it, but I will try my very best!"

Jun Ishihara

This season, Jun Ishihara achieved his best lifetime results thus far. At Pro Tour Kaladesh, he earned 10 Pro Points and then he earned 10 more at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. If he manages to repeat his performance for a third time this season, he will be a newly-minted Gold Pro.

"This format is very important to me because we're at the final Pro Tour of the season. I practiced a lot on Magic Online but I haven't quite figured it out yet. This weekend is a good opportunity to practice as well."

In Ishihara's eyes, Gold is not an easy task but that's also why it is worth it. He dreams of a day where he can make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, which is why he will continue working harder to achieve his penultimate goal!

Keita Kawasaki

Keita Kawasaki's most recent success was making the Top 8 at Grand Prix Beijing 2017. He currently stands at 19 Pro Points, which means that including the minimum of 3 Pro Points awarded at Pro Tour Kyoto, he will cross over the twenty-point threshold to become a Silver Pro. Since there is a huge distance between 19 and 35, he will need to crack the Top 8 of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.

"I've attended two Pro Tours in the past but I have never done better than 10-6. If there is a time for a breakthrough, I hope that it is next weekend. And even if I don't achieve it, I am qualified for all the Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers (RPTQ) next year which means I can still try again."

Kazuaki Fujimura

Currently at 23 Pro Points, Kazuaki Fujimura earned the bulk of his points by making the Top 8 of Grand Prix Nagoya 2016 and Grand Prix Beijing 2016. Despite that, he has yet to have huge success on the Pro Tour but he believes that his time is "arriving".

"It's about time to win and I am fully focused for the upcoming Pro tour. I've been practicing ever since Hour of Devastation's card list was unveiled but since I am preparing for this event on my own rather than with a team, it could be an uphill battle".

In Fujimura's philosophy, he does not feel that Gold level "is a goal".

"If you become Gold, you get more opportunities to climb higher. In the current environment where you can always practice on Magic Online or local hobby stores, it is important to be able to motivate yourself to put in the hours. To truly be a dedicated Magic player, the goal should be to win a Pro Tour and not be content with only Gold."

Always begin with the end in mind. That's one of the seven things highly successful people do. Regardless of whether Fujimura gets there, there is a lot of wisdom in the way he approaches the challenges ahead of him.

Riku Kumagai

Last but not least, Riku Kumagai is the one Japanese player who is the closest to reaching Gold. At 30 Pro Points right now, he needs at least a 9-5-1 result at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, assuming he doesn't do well this weekend.

However, if history indicates, Kumagai wasn't about to go down without a fight. If he picked up 2 Pro Points this weekend at Grand Prix Kyoto, the minimum 3 he earns next weekend will secure Gold for him. The Grand Prix Tokyo 2016 Champion has a combined 64.6% win rate at his last three Pro Tours, which is a testament of his consistency.

"Gold has been my wish for quite some time now. It is inspiring to watch people succeed because then I want to be part of it and aim higher as I go forward."

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal and one way to keep the momentum going is to constantly reach for greater heights. If you aim for the moon but miss, at least you'll land among the stars.

The 9-0 Players

After nine rounds of intense competition, nine players managed to emerge unscathed. Let's get to meet them for a quick recap of their fantastic day!

Name: Martin Müller

Age: 19

Hometown: Jyllinge, Denmark

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

I had a Blue-Red deck with three really good rates, The Locust God, Pull from Tomorrow and Chaos Maw.

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

The Locust God.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I summoned The Locust God on turn 6 and then cast Pull from Tomorrow on turn 7 to draw five cards and create 5 Insect tokens!

Name: Marcio Carvalho

Age: 31

Hometown: Lisbon, Portugal

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

My sealed deck was Black-Red splashing for two aftermath cards with Manalith and 2 Deserts. I had a pretty busted deck with five other rares!

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

The Scorpion God

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Winning a game after my opponent played Sifter Wurm revealing Sandwurm Convergence and casting it later.

Name: Steve Carter

Age: 28

Hometown: Lombard, Illinois, USA

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

It had lots of removal and I also had two tutors for The Scorpion God.

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

The Scorpion God

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Getting very lucky and beating Overwhelming Splendor!

Name: Jacob Nagro

Age: 22

Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

I had God-Pharaoh's Gift and drew it frequently in my Sultai deck, together with lots of solid removal.

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

God-Pharaoh's Gift

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I had Angler Drake and Giant Spider, both which got stolen by Kefnet's Last Word! However, I ended the game with both creatures back under my control again.

Name: William Jensen

Age: 34

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.


What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?


What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Playing a Nicol Bolas mirror Round 8.

Name: Lucas Kiefer

Age: 17

Hometown: Boulder, Colorado, USA

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

I saw two Samut, the Tested in my card pool and that felt food, but then things got better when I had great removal and great creatures to back them up.

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

God-Pharaoh's Gift. Turns out that "eternalizing" a creature every turn is very good.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Playing both Samuts in the same game but getting squashed by Glyph Keeper.

Name: Tatsuya Kusanagi

Age: 27

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

7 rares!

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

The Scarab God.

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

My The Scarab God was foil!

Name: Toshiki Okai

Age: 21

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

A straightforward Red-Green beatdown deck.

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

Sand Strangler

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

Insult // Injury gave so many wins!

Name: Haruka Miyata

Hometown: Toyama, Japan

Tell us about your Sealed Deck today.

Red-Black, splashing The Scarab God.

What is your MVP from Hour of Devastation?

Burning-Fist Minotaur

What was the most memorable moment of Day 1?

I sideboarded in Fling and won a deciding game with Burning-Fist Minotaur! Nice combo!

A Tale of Ten Thousand Words

A picture speaks a thousand words. So here's ten thousand words for you! Revel in the sights and sounds of Grand Prix Kyoto with this short tour!

Welcome to Kyoto Pulse Plaza, a multipurpose facility with exhibition halls to house a few thousand enthusiastic Magic players.

Nicol Bolas might have destroyed The Gatewatch but their spirit lives with us! Today, they're guarding the most precious prize of them all, the Grand Prix Kyoto 2017 Champion trophy!

In case you were wondering how a large-scale Magic festival looks like, here's a bird's eye view of Grand Prix Kyoto!

Participants receive two Amonkhet booster packs and four Hour of Devastation booster packs to build a forty card deck. How can you maximize the power of your card pool to assemble the best deck?

Once you've figured it all out, head over to the neatly color-coded Basic Land Stations! This is a great idea for your home or hobby store as well!

As Round 4 rolled along, titans begin to clash. Pictured is reigning World Champion Brian Braun-Duin facing off Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura in the Feature Match! Who do you think triumphed?

In between rounds, explore the Magic marketplace various events are being held all day round. This is an "Magic Charades" event where you try to use nonverbal ways of communication to help your teammate guess what card you're trying to describe. This guy does a Heart of Kiran impression. We're not sure if he succeeded in conveying the message.<

Hall of Famers William Jensen and Owen Turtenwald grab a hearty, healthy lunch in between rounds!

In between rounds, the Japanese coverage team delighted us with traditional Japanese snacks! That's (from left to right) me, Rashad Miller and Marc Calderaro with our bewildered faces. These things are incredulously delicious!

Sorry for the long post, but that's Grand Prix Kyoto's Day 1 in a nutshell. Thanks for staying with us. We're fresh out of potatoes, but here's a giant Takoyaki ball! See you tomorrow!

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