While many several stories were shared in the Day One Highlights, here are some more stories that shaped Grand Prix Shanghai 2017.
Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
With 212 players making it through to Day 2, it seemed like a reasonable sample size. After a "few minutes" of browsing through all decklists, we proudly present the Day 2 Metagame Breakdown for your viewing pleasure.
|White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift||8||3.77%|
|Esper God-Pharaoh's Gift||5||2.36%|
To nobody's surprise, the format's pillars consisted of a strong aggro deck, midrange variants, as well as some control decks designed to prey upon them. The most dominant archetype might seem like Ramunap Red, with 48 out of 212 copies in Day 2. However, the number of decks running Rogue Refiner (and friends) totaled 96, which was double that of Hazoret the Fervent players. Collectively, energy variants occupied no more than 45 percent of the metagame which was close to what most players had expected.
The next most popular archetype was Blue-White Approach, followed by White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift. From among those categorised as others were the rogue decks, such as Grixis Tokens and Blue-Black Marionette (you'll find out more about these two decks in a minute or two), Blue-Green Pummeler and even White-Blue Aggro!
Innovating with Blue-Black Marionette
God-Pharaoh Gift decks have littered the Standard scene ever since Hour of Devastation and it came in many forms. We've seen Blue-Red, Esper, and Jeskai versions, and the White-Blue version was played by Pascal Maynard to the finals of Pro Tour Ixalan.
How about Blue-Black? Toshiya Kanegawa wanted to try something new.
Not only does he has four Grand Prix Top 8s, he also attended the 2014 World Magic Cup as a member of Team Japan. Within the local community, he was also a very popular streamer who was not afraid to share his wisdom.
Every so often, he would build decks together with his viewers and try out new strategies to determine if they were feasible. Naturally, this content appealed to many and their collective effort resulted in the birth of Blue-Black Marionette, as it was known all over Japan. In fact, this idea was suggested by a viewer, who had the deck concept but could not seem to glue the gears together.
Kanegawa got to work and decided to house the card in a God-Pharaoh's Gift shell. Possessing the same core of Minister of Inquiries and Champion of Wits, Kanegawa also had Chart a Course, Search for Azcanta, and Strategic Planning to fill up his graveyard.
Instead of binning Sacred Cat and Angel of Invention, what Kanegawa wanted were Marionette Master and - gasp - Metalwork Colossus! Losing the white creatures, he replaced them with four Seekers' Spire for some exploration goodness, as well as Kitesail Freebooter for a light touch of disruption.
He explained his combo earnestly, "the aim is to get God-Pharaoh's Gift in play and bring back a 4/4 Marionette Master and create 3 Servo tokens. Then, you sacrifice two artifacts to Metalwork Colossus, and then sacrifice another two artifacts (to Metalwork Colossus again) in response to the first activation. This will put four artifacts into the graveyard and since Marionette Master has 4 power, your opponent will lose 16 life!"
Naturally, if you have six artifacts on the battlefield when Marionette Master hits the battlefield, you would be able to sacrifice all of them to deal 24, resulting in a very dead opponent.
Kanegawa explained that it might not always be possible to attack through against Temur Energy and Sultai Energy, because a large Longtusk Cub, Bristling Hydra, or The Scarab God might just hold off your 4/4 tokens. With the combo kill in his deck, he can win outright without even entering combat, which was the biggest advantage of playing with Marionette Master.
By the way, he also considered Spell Swindle but the mana cost was more prohibitive in the current metagame. He went for solid options such as Duress, Fatal Push, Hostage Taker, Contraband Kingpin, and The Scarab God, resulting in an all-rounded deck which he felt had the tools to beat the field!
Star-Studded At The Top
As the best competitors rose to the top, as did the number of heavyweight matchups increase. There were numerous big-name players paired against one another, all trying to battle their way to the top.
(8) Kelvin Chew versus Yam Wing Chun
As early as Round 10 - which was the first round of Day 2 - fellow MTG Mint Card team members (8) Kelvin Chew and Yam Wing Chun were paired against each other. Chew opted to go with the perceived best deck of the format, Temur Energy, while Yam naturally showed up with Ramunap Red, a deck he played to a Top 4 finish at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation and also a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour Ixalan.
(12) Yuuya Watanabe versus Takuma Morifuji
Then, in Round 13, Takuma Morofuji drew (12) Yuuya Watanabe at table one. As the lone 12-0 remaining, Morofuji decided to further his lead by attempting to take down the strongest threat in his way. Despite putting up his best efforts, Watanabe lost and Morofuji was bumped up to 13-0.
Tomoharu Saito versus (12) Yuuya Watanabe
Then, Watanabe had yet another hurdle in his way in Round 14. In yet another win-and-in match, he was paired against Tomoharu Saito, who was running Ramunap Red as well. Not wanting to lose two in a row, he managed to take out Saito to advance to 12-2 and took an ID to make his 28th Top 8. Oh, by the way, Morofuji defeated former China National Champion Han Bing in Round 14 to go 14-0!
Background: (8) Kelvin Chew versus Liu Yuchen
Foreground: Shota Takao versus Yam Wing Chun
Meanwhile, another pair of win-and-in matches took place. After Yam Wing Chun defeated Kelvin Chew in Round 10, they both remained in Top 8 contention and fought their way up to the final round. It was Yam against Shota Takao and Chew against Liu Yuchen. When both Team MTG Mint Card teammates won together, both were ensured spots in the Top 8.
According to Chew, his best memory of the weekend was getting defeated by Yam and then making the Top 8 together. Grand Prix Shanghai also marked Chew's third Grand Prix Top 8 this year and he was happy to share this happy moment with Yam.
Swooping into the Top 8 with Grixis Tokens
While these were great cards in Kaladesh Limited, nobody had really expected them to see the light of day in Standard. Okada Naoya brought a delightfully fun - yet competitive - Grixis Tokens deck. To make things even sweeter, Naoya made the Top 8 this weekend from amidst the sea of energy decks and red decks.
Naoya might not be famous internationally but he was well-known in Japan for winning The Finals 2011, an invitation-only tournament which attracted hundreds of players from all over the Land of the Rising Sun. After making Day 2 with his deck, he was happy to share it with us.
"With 3 Animation Modules and Whirler Virtuoso, that is infinite Thopter tokens. It does not happen often, but it could. Even if it is just two Animation Modules, that is still a lot of energy and a lot of tokens which Temur Energy and Mono Red cannot handle," Naoya shared. Animation Module also bounced Maverick Thopterist - which can be recast cheaply - to generate even more tokens and energy. More importantly, he was able to use these resources to take advantage of the improvise mechanic fully. Aside from Maverick Thopterist, he also played with Reverse Engineer, Metallic Rebuke, and Battle of the Bridge.
Opening with Inventor's Googles and Aether Swooper, that created a 3/3 flying creature. Following up with Whirler Virtuoso or Aethersphere Harvester, that's a great offense and defense as early as turn three. Naoya said that the deck was capable of fast wins with the correct draw. If that was not possible, the deck still had a very strong late game. With a recursive engine, he could outgrind and win attrition wars if they arose.
"However, the deck is really bad against control decks with Sweltering Suns, Fumigate, and Bontu's Last Reckoning, which is why the splash of Duress was important." The next time you're up for a whirring time, try out Naoya's deck! Trust me, it's a load of fun!
Morofuji's 15-0 Run
Continuing the saga, Morofuji's perfect run with his trusty Ramunap Red deck was the talk of the town all weekend. After clinching his match in Round 14, he was paired against World Magic Cup 2012 Champion Tzu Ching Kuo.
"Going 15-0 is one of my dreams and this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go for it," Morofuji explained why he declined to concede or take an intentional draw. This resulted in a nerve-wrecking hour for Kuo, who had to fight for his life in this who finished Day 1 with a 7-2 record and won 5 in a row in Day 2. Since Morofuji had already played against the three other 36-pointers, Kuo would inevitably be matched against him. Unfortunately for Kuo - who would have made his 13th Grand Prix Top 8 if he had secured even a single match point - he fell to the seemingly unstoppable Morofuji.
As a man with equally big dreams, Kuo professed that he fully understood Morofuji's actions. "I guess it was just not meant to be. I won all my matches today but so did Morofuji. He beat me fair and square."
Indeed, going 15-0 was a feat of strength that will accompany one's resume for a lifetime. Despite falling in the quarterfinals, I'm sure this feat of strength will be etched in everyone's memories for a lifetime.
Song Seizes Shanghai
As a grizzled veteran of nearly two decades, Song Huachao made his first Top 8. Might as well make it good, right? And he did, by winning out in the Top 8. Taking down the trophy with Temur Energy, he defeated (8) Kelvin Chew in the quarterfinals, Okada Naoya in the semifinals, and then Tanaka Hironao in the finals!
As a Magic player of nearly twenty years, he professed that it was like a dream come true. It's been a few years since a Chinese player successfully protected the trophy from ending up on foreign hands and Song was glad to do it for his country!
Congratulations to Song Huachao, the Grand Prix Shanghai 2017 Champion!