Yuuki Ichikawa is one of the most beloved streamers in all of Japan, and has two Pro Tour Top 8s to his name. A year ago, on 17th May 2015 to be specific, Ichikawa sieged Shanghai, winning his very first Grand Prix title in his 5th visit to the elimination rounds.
Just two weeks after Ichikawa's win, Yuki Matsumoto took down Grand Prix Chiba, crusading his way through 3,550 players to be crowned one of four Modern Masters Champions that monumental weekend.
Yuuki Ichikawa, Grand Prix Shanghai Champion and Yuki Matsumoto, Grand Prix Chiba Champion.
Within a fortnight, both players (with audibly indistinguishable First Names) added an enviable accolade to their Magic resume. Allegiances aside (both used to be sponsored by Big Magic, but Ichikawa has since moved to Cygames), Ichikawa and Matsumoto are great friends in real life and constantly work together to break the format.
Today, the duo are running identical decks and profess that "no other pros" are on the same list. While the concept and framework of the deck is nothing new, the modifications they've made are cutting edge. In a nutshell, it's pretty similar to what Jon Finkel played in the Top 8 at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, except that it goes one step further to splash Blue for valuable additions. Well, no prizes for guessing what Ichikawa and Matsumoto are splashing for.
To build a good deck, or to even choose the right one, you'll need to have a keen sense on the constantly evolving Standard metagame. In order to stay afloat and get ahead, one needs to grasp these changes quickly and make certain modifications that will assist in the conquest for victory. Ichikawa and Matsumoto have the following predictions.
Firstly, they feel that the White-Green Tokens deck would definitely be popular, especially with it winning the recently-concluded Pro Tour. In addition, a few copies made it to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Toronto last week. White-Green Tokens is a very resilient deck and consists of a wide range of threats which require very specific and varying solutions.
For example, a regular kill spell that destroys a creature wouldn't be good against Hangarback Walker, you'll want to exile it. Declaration in Stone is good against Secure the Wastes, but it won't deal with the Planeswalkers or an end-of-turn Archangel Avacyn. Tireless Tracker and Den Protector also recoup value even when removed, while Westvale Abbey is just a time bomb waiting to explode. All these properties make the deck very appealing to many so players and it will likely continue to stay dominant.
Their other selection for "the top deck" of the weekend is the "Black-Green Sacrifice" decks featuring Crypolith Rite and Nantuko Husk. Using fast mana and Collected Company to build a wide board, it eventually aims to finish off opponents with Nantuko Husk and multiple Zulaport Cutthroats.
Since then, the deck has also evolved into another variant, what Eric Froehlich calls the "4.5-Color Company" deck. Both decks have the same core, except that the latter attempts to assemble the deadly combo of Eldrazi Displacer and Brood Monitor. Either way, expect to face Loam Dryad and Catacomb Sifter this weekend.
Ichikawa and Matsumoto, piloting Sultai Seasons Past side by side.
To combat these two decks, Ichikawa continues his analysis and foresees the rise of Grixis Control.
"We think that Grixis Control is the best deck to prey on these two decks. We've known about the deck for a while now, but Oliver Tiu's performance at Toronto last weekend has drew a lot of attention. It is a great deck, and we expect it to surge in numbers this weekend."
This is how Sultai Seasons Past ended up being their weapon of choice, since it is great against all three of the above- mentioned decks. The Seasons Past engine together with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy will be good enough to out-grind the control mirrors, while their toolbox courtesy of Dark Petitions will get them out of any fix in a pinch, mitigating the problems of requiring specific answers to specific threats.
Matsumoto summarized the benefits of getting a little greedy with the mana. "Adding another Planeswalker to the deck greatly diversifies the range of threats we can provide. Jace is also card advantage, and a great way to fill up the graveyard to extract full power from the deck's namesake Sorcery. Being in three colors also enables us to upgrade Read the Bones into Painful Truths, which is really good. The touch of Blue also enables us to run some counterspells, a luxury that the Black-Green player doesn't have."
In addition, the Blue splash also allows them to play with these Dimir goodies. Both cards are great against Planeswalkers such as Ob Nixilis Reignited, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and Chandra, Flamecaller as well as most of the transforming Planeswalkers from Magic Origins.
Matsumoto adds that they don't really like the Ramp matchup though.
"I think the matchup is winnable, but it is very difficult. Dragonlord Silumgar is very important here, which is one of the main reasons we added that in in the first place. But I don't think we need to worry about it today, maybe the numbers are low enough. Having said that, I really don't want to run into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger."
What about Bant Company and Humans? Ichikawa was quick to pass his cruel judgment.
"I'm sorry to say that Bant Company is a bad deck, in my opinion. Very bad deck. But many people will still play it because it looks powerful on paper. The only reason why it is showing a little result is because of how many people are playing it, therefore it will be popular but we can beat it. Also, White Weenie is just so-so. The numbers are also dying off because they didn't put up a good win percentage."
Ichikawa seated for Round 6, ready steamroll yet another victim.
Of course, there will be Bant Company advocates and Sylvan Advocates that will disagree with this conjecture, but the Sultai Seasons Past deck seems to be functioning as planned. At the time of press, the main event is moving into Round 8 and both players are 7-0.
Will both players' predictions pan out the way they wish? Only time will tell. But once this weekend is over, I'm sleeving up this deck and giving it a go. The deck is gas!