Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Nagoya 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on October 13, 2018

By Chapman Sim

It's been two years since the previous Grand Prix Nagoya, and the crowd was thrilled to return to this beautiful and picturesque city. There was a lot of Guilds of Ravnica action going on this weekend, and here are some of the biggest highlights from Nagoya!

Guilds of Ravnica, For Three!

Did you attend your local prerelease? Have you experienced Guilds of Ravnica on Magic Online? Or perhaps, you attended Grand Prix Mexico City or Grand Prix Montreal last weekend? If so, you might already have had a taste of what Guilds of Ravnica and have an idea of what the format is like.

Guided by five guilds - namely, Boros, Selesnya, Dimir, Golgari, and Izzet - it would seem like you could very easily assemble three decks but things were not quite obvious as it seemed. For example, Pro Tour Hour of Devastation semifinalist Yam Wing Chun shared that regular Sealed Deck and Team Sealed were quite similar but some cards were worth more and some cards were worth less. Using the example of Maniacal Rage and Disinformation Campaign, he illustrated this interesting phenomenon.

"In Team Sealed, decks are generally more powerful and decks are faster compared to regular Sealed Deck. There's likely to be more removal as well. Because of that, auras such as Maniacal Rage are weaker in Team Sealed. On the other hand, a card like Disinformation Campaign was easier to build around in Team Sealed, since you're also likely to gain more cards with Surveil with twelve boosters."

Yam added that there was also "less Boros" in the Team Sealed compared to regular Sealed Deck. You have only one-third chance to play against Boros, assuming that the opposing team even has a Boros deck. This also changes deckbuilding and sideboarding strategy quite a bit, since you don't have to be worried about The Boros Legion two-thirds of the time.

As you might already know, the Team Series Championship Format was Guilds of Ravnica Team Sealed, making it the first time the format was utilized at a Premier Event level. This weekend, Grand Prix Nagoya and Grand Prix Denver would be the next.

For additional reading, you might also want to check out these two exciting pieces for an overview of the format! Team Sealed is really exciting, especially multi-colored formats such as this one!

Using Only Four Colors

The biggest challenge of Team Sealed is to maximize your card pool and assemble three powerful decks. Guilds of Ravnica Team Sealed was no different, and teams needed to harness the power of the guilds to succeed. However, not all guilds were made equal, and some guilds seemed to be a little more potent than others.

The common consensus was that you'd begin by building a Boros deck, and then a Dimir deck, and then the "remainders" would form Deck #3.

However, not every team conformed to these guidelines and two of the top teams in the room had other opinions. Usually, you'd want three two-color decks, with one color overlapping. This weekend, both these teams dropped an entire color altogether, which was a somewhat counter-intuitive measure in a multicolored world!

20th-ranked Yuuya Watanabe and 23rd-ranked Shota Yasooka teamed up with Hajime Nakamura, a close friend of about fifteen years. Together, they made the Top 4 at Grand Prix Shizuoka last year, and this year they returned for a potential second helping.

Hajime Nakamura and Yuuya Watanabe show off their best bombs in their pool while shoving white to the side.

As I peered over Yasooka's shoulders, Watanabe got ready to showcase the most powerful cards in their pool. "Today, our strategy is to avoid playing white. White wasn't good enough. We threw all our white cards away, and we may only use them for the sideboard."

Hajime ended up with a Golgari deck, while Watanabe had an Izzet deck, leaving a very happy Yasooka with a Dimir deck.

On the other hand, 18th-ranked Kelvin Chew, as well as Pro Tour Hall of Fame inductee Lee Shi Tian, had different evaluations. The pair also made the Top 4 at Grand Prix Shizuoka last year alongside Jeremy Dezani, but since he returned home to France, they replaced Dezani with Tomoharu Saito.

Kelvin Chew, Lee Shi Tian, and Tomoharu Saito decided to stow away their green cards this weekend.

After toggling between a few configurations, Saito ended up with a Boros deck, and Lee had assembled an Izzet deck, while Chew took all the Dimir cards.

Lee added, "I think green is kind of awful. We tried a Golgari deck, and we tried the Selesnya deck, but none seemed to work out. In the end, we decided not to play green altogether. Our pool is very average, but I think we made three decent decks. Plus, my teammates are great!"

One strategy the team adopted was give all the green cards to the pilot of the Boros deck. That way, Saito could sideboard into Selesnya in Boros mirror matches to gain an edge. At least for today, that seems to be the only good use of their green cards.

No two card pools are ever the same, and no three decks from a team will ever be identical to another team. That's what makes Team Limited so fun and exciting. Let's wish both these teams the best of luck as they try to crack the Top 4 once more!

Top Teams To Watch

Shintaro Ishimura, Kazuyuki Takimura, and Yuuki Ichikawa

The trio of Ishimura-Takimura-Ichikawa has a total of 17 Grand Prix Top 8s including five wins among them.

Three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Ishimura and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Champion Kazuyuki Takimura have previously teamed together with Yoshihiko Ikawa to make the Top 4 of Grand Prix Nagoya 2015, but this was the first time they were playing alongside Ichikawa. Having already collected four Grand Prix titles, Ichikawa provided the pair with a huge boost.

The trio put together a Selesnya deck, an Izzet deck, and a Golgari deck, eschewing Boros and Dimir altogether!

Ken Yukuhiro, Rei Sato, and Kentaro Yamamoto

This team was one of the very elite teams to be comprised of three Grand Prix Champions. Ken Yukuhiro clinched his title at Grand Prix Singapore 2013, while Kentaro Yamamoto and Rei Sato lifted their trophies at Grand Prix Chiba 2016 and Grand Prix Hong Kong 2017 respectively.

The trio was looking to take down Grand Prix Nagoya to each claim a second Grand Prix title for themselves. This was one of the deadliest teams on the roster and have displayed mastery across a myriad of formats, including Team Limited!

Yuki Matsumoto, Shuhei Nakamura, and Yoshihiko Ikawa

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura needs little introduction, but I'll do a quick recap regardless. As the most successful player on the Grand Prix Circuit, Nakamura has 29 Grand Prix Top 8s with seven wins, as well as six Pro Tour Top 8s to his name.

For the first time, he teamed up with Yuki Matsumoto and Yoshihiko Ikawa. Matsumoto himself was a two-time Grand Prix Champion, taking down Grand Prix Chiba 2015 (the largest individual Grand Prix of the time) as well as winning Grand Prix Kyoto 2016 with Yuuki Ichikawa and Kazuyuki Takimura. Yoshihiko Ikawa was no slouch himself, having made the Top 8 at Pro Tour San Diego 2010, as well as the Top 8 of two team Grand Prix - Nagoya 2015 and Sydney 2017.

With a wealth of experience among the three, we expect a great result from them this weekend.

Huang Hao-Shan, Tzu Ching Kuo, and Cheng Tung Yi

World Magic Cup Champions Tzu Ching Kuo and Cheng Tung Yi team up with eternal globetrotter Huang Hao-Shan.

In the inaugural World Magic Cup, Team Chinese Taipei shocked the world by taking down the whole show, solidifying themselves as one of the most significant forces to be reckoned with. Tzu Ching Kuo who led his team to victory did so with the help of a certain "Bonfire-flipping" Cheng. The two World Magic Cup champions picked up six-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor, Huang Hao-Shan and the three old friends got to work.

Despite have a rather lackluster pool, the wealth of experience was in their favor, and all three players were highly accustomed to high-level play. Having known each other for over fifteen years, it was also their hope that their close friendship and rapport will tide them through even the toughest of times.

Christian Calcano, Petr Sochůrek, and Yam Wing Chun

Christian Calcano, Petr Sochůrek and Yam Wing Chun demonstrate that Magic was indeed a global game.

Not all teams in the room were homogenous, and the trio of Calcano-Sochůrek-Yam was probably one of the very few teams - if not the only team - to be comprised of players from three different continents! Yam shared with me that Sochůrek would also be playtesting with them for the upcoming Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica in Atlanta. Talk about international magic cooperation!

Calcano and Yam each have a Pro Tour Top 8 to their name, while Sochůrek has three Grand Prix titles, most recently winning Grand Prix Washington D.C. with two "strangers" - Andrew Tenjum and Peter Ingram. Combined, the American, the Czech, and the Hong Konger have a total of 19 Grand Prix Top 8s.

Just like all the teams mentioned above, we expect the trio to do great things this weekend with so much high-level experience among them.

Two 8-0 Teams!

After eight rounds of intense competition, the field of 664 teams was reduced down to just 83. Among those were two 8-0 teams, namely the trios of Salvador-Kanegawa-Tomizawa and Umeno-Shiki-Katou!

(From left to right) Guillem Salvador, Toshiya Kanegawa, Shin Tomizawa, Umeno Kengo, Kazumasa Shiki, and Kazuki Katou

You might recognise Guillem Salvador because he won Grand Prix Chiba three months back, and he teamed up with newfound friend Toshiya Kanegawa and "business partner" Shin Tomizawa. Respectively, they piloted Izzet, Abzan, and Dimir to achieve the pristine record!

Guillem Salvador - Player A

Grand Prix Nagoya 2018 - Day 1
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Toshiya Kanegawa - Player B

Grand Prix Nagoya 2018 - Day 1
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Shin Tomizawa - Player C

Grand Prix Nagoya 2018 - Day 1
Download Arena Decklist

The second team comprised of three relative unknowns but these are names we're likely to see a lot of tomorrow. Umeno Kengo had a Dimir deck splashing Ral, Izzet Viceroy, while Shiki Kazumara had a juicy Boros deck with a bunch of Mentor creature. Katou Kazuki made use of the leftovers for an incredibly powerful Abzan deck!

Kengo Umeno - Player A

Grand Prix Nagoya 2018 - Day 1
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Kazumasa Shiki - Player B

Grand Prix Nagoya 2018 - Day 1
Download Arena Decklist

Kazuki Katou - Player C

Grand Prix Nagoya 2018 - Day 1
Download Arena Decklist

Be back tomorrow as we continue diving into the heart of Ravnica. Teams will return for a second Team Sealed tomorrow and six more rounds will determine the Top 4!

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