Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Josh Bennett and Frank Karsten

Grand Prix Shizuoka was a last hurrah for Khans of Tarkir before the release of Fate Reforged. Here are five cards that sum up some of the biggest stories of the weekend.

#5 – Duneblast

By now everyone has a war story about getting blown out by this card, especially the Greek National Team in the wake of the World Magic Cup. Exactly as unfair as it reads, Duneblast was near the top of everyone's wish list for Khans sealed. However this weekend it proved eminently beatable. Two former Players of the Year – Shota Yasooka and Yuuya Watanabe – had sealeds packed with playable rares including the mighty Duneblast, but neither of them were able to notch more than seven wins in sealed.

Maybe it was saving all its power for the draft rounds? 23rd-Ranked player Yuuki Ichikawa had it in both of his Day 2 drafts and rode it to a Top 8 berth. In the first he showed off the downright rude interaction with Meandering Towershell. His second deck was a sheer beauty, a Five-Color monstrosity whose parts meshed like clockwork. The cherry on top was a splashed Ruthless Ripper that could only be unmorphed by three cards, including the Abzan ultimate weapon.

#4 – Windstorm

Some cards are better in Sealed than in Draft. The often-maligned Banners are one example. Windstorm is another. Several players ran it in the main on Day 1, and it served them well because it's common in sealed deck for the ground to get locked up, meaning that the player who rules the skies will take the match. This goes double in Khans, where the list of scary rares starts with Wingmate Roc and goes through Butcher of the Horde and High Sentinels of Arashin. Also, just imagine the look on your opponents face when you show him this one during a Flying Crane Technique attack.

Remember, it's not just about what you open, but it's tailoring your deck to beat what you expect to face. Look for this card's stock to rise further when the dragons of Fate Reforged arrive on the scene!

#3 – Archers' Parapet

As players have gotten more familiar with the format, archetypes have come in clearer view, card evaluations have changed, combos have become more ingrained. Archers' Parapet, especially when combined with Kin-Tree Invocation, is a good example of this. No. 23 Yuuki Ichikawa mentioned that he had grown to like defensive decks with high-toughness creatures in this current format, and he backed up his words by first-picking the 0/5 Wall in the Top 8 draft. No. 2 Ivan Floch mentioned Archers' Parapet plus Kin-Tree Invocation as his favorite two-card combo in the format. And Hall of Famer Makahito Mihara drafted a deck with 3 Archers' Parapet and 2 Kin-Tree Invocation on the way to a solid 20th place finish.

Archers' Parapet basically does it all. It happy blocks all kinds of aggressive creatures ranging from Alpine Grizzly to Bellowing Saddlebrute, and it can dominate the late-game in a board stall. But it's when combined with Kin-Tree Invocation that it really shines. You know, it's quite difficult to beat a third-turn 5/5 in this format!

#2 – Bitter Revelation

Even in an explored format it's important to recognize opportunities that fall outside of conventional plans. Take for example Finalist Bo Sun's Mardu deck and its flagrant disregard for aggression. Normally when you hear Mardu you think about Warrior synergies, or a wave of tokens backed by Trumpet Blasts. Instead, Bo plays a control game. His curve starts with a defensive trio of Disowned Ancestor and a pair of Jeskai Students, and he has a dense removal suite to meet what the enemy throws at him.

Bitter Revelation was the lynchpin for him in both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches. Not only did it power up his delve cards, but it helped get him the right tools for the job at hand. Taking a turn off for a four-mana spell that doesn't affect the board is a dicey proposition, and this one expects you to pay two life for the privilege. Bo always seemed to be walking a tightrope, especially in the deciding game of the semifinals where he went down to a single life from Bitter Revelation before emerging victorious.

#1 – Sage of the Inward Eye

And finally, the card that decided the finals and the semifinals. Akito Shinoda was seen mauling his opponents with a stack of bomb rares all throughout the Top 8, but it was Sage of the Inward Eye that stood out. It's not as aggressive as Mantis Rider, not as resilient as Ashcloud Phoenix, and not as swingy as Flying Crane Technique, but it did provide the life points that allowed Shinoda to survive long enough to take over the game with his powerful five-color deck.

Especially the turns where he combined it with Abzan Ascendancy were downright filthy: the lifelink trigger combined with a global pump led to incredible damage swings. And given that this is the last Grand Prix with Khans of Tarkir as the stand-alone Limited set, it was only fitting to see that it was decided by a marriage of Jeskai, Abzan, and various other clans into a beautiful five-color deck. Why pick one clan if you can have them all?