From Kyoto to Lille

Posted in GRAND PRIX LILLE 2015 on July 5, 2015

By Craig Jones

The last Legacy Grand Prix was GP Kyoto back in April. One of the players who made the semifinals of that tournament was Kai Sawatari. He was also playing in GP Lille this weekend and his story sounded fairly interesting. I caught up with him at the end of the first day to get more details.

Sawatari is half Japanese, half German. He spent the first five years of his life in Japan and then his family moved to Germany and he grew up there. He started playing Magic while younger, but didn't really take an interest in the tournament scene until 2011. Sawatari described himself as a Legacy specialist. The format was very popular in Berlin at the time and he tried out a lot of different decks.

So how did a German player end up making the Top 8 of a Grand Prix in Japan?

Kai Sawatari

Sawatari moved back to Japan about five months ago. The reason for this was a job with Sawatari is fluent in German, English, and Japanese, which is a useful combination of languages. Sawatari said Tokyo also has a very big Legacy scene. With multiple stores players can easily play multiple tournaments in a week if they want. One accepted strategy for Legacy is to pick a deck archetype and learn it inside and out. Sawatari reeled off a list of decks he'd tried out. The active Legacy communities in both his old and new home combined with a keenness to play gave him the practice and familiarity that's an important aspect of playing Legacy. This paid off handsomely with a fourth place finish at Grand Prix Kyoto.

Sawatari's deck choice for both GP Kyoto and this weekend was Ad Nauseum-Tendrils (the storm deck). I asked him why he'd gone with that archetype and he told me: "Free wins and fast kills."

Storm is one of the many viable combo decks in Legacy, but hasn't been a popular choice amongst players recently. I asked Sawatari why that might be and he said the deck was very difficult to play correctly. He'd been playing it for a couple of years. At the start he said he got crushed by everything—"raced by Goblins!" With more practice and advice from other experts he started playing the deck more optimally and all those other decks "became byes."

Kai Sawatari's Storm, Fourth Place at Grand Prix Kyoto 2015

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His main deck for this weekend is virtually identical to the deck that took him to fourth place in Kyoto. The major changes he made were to the sideboard. He showed me four Abrupt Decays and two Krosan Grips and said he expected the Miracles archetype (which revolves around Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance) to be more popular in Europe and these were his tools for fighting that matchup. Another change was to bring back an "old friend" from Urza's Saga—Carpet of Flowers. Sawatari said, "In this format with all of these blue decks, Carpet of Flowers is often just a straight-up Sol Ring that produces colored mana!" Having a card that's "better" than one of the cards restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy is a strong thing to have in a deck. He mentioned that the storm deck actually had plenty of pseudo-equivalents of cards restricted in Vintage. If you're aiming for power, playing a deck that has cards comparable to Vintage powerhouses Yawgmoth's Will, Demonic Tutor, Black Lotus, and Sol Ring isn't a bad strategy.

So what's a Japanese player doing at a European Grand Prix?

Same as all the other Japanese players that have competed in European GP events over the years—the hunt for Pro Points.

Sawatari's fourth place finish in Kyoto qualified him for Pro Tour Magic Origins at the end of the month. He felt good about his Legacy deck and thought he'd ride that wave here and see if he could replicate the success.

Pro Tour Magic Origins would be his first Pro Tour. Not only was that going to be a new experience, as a Legacy specialist he'd also have to get used to a much more limited card pool and learn both the Draft and Standard formats. It's a challenge he was looking forward to. One of the important things when playing, he said, was to smile and have fun.

He made it to the second day here at Grand Prix Lille with a 7-2 record and was able to continue doing just that.