Notes From Grand Prix Sendai… No Strategy, Just Notes From A Sideboard Reporter

First off, this article will tell you absolutely near to nothing new or meaty about strategy, the metagame, or how to play any of the decks in this article. This is just a report to tell you a few things that happened and a few reasons why you should go play a Grand Prix in…

First off, this article will tell you absolutely near to nothing new or meaty about strategy, the metagame, or how to play any of the decks in this article. This is just a report to tell you a few things that happened and a few reasons why you should go play a Grand Prix in Japan (and maybe a few things people going to Osaka might want to know about).

Random Notes from Grand Prix Sendai:

1. If you’re going to a Grand Prix in Japan, be sure to get there early to play in the Trial. Japanese GP trials are huge. Over a hundred and thirty people made their way to play in the Trial from twenty-five (of forty-four) prefectures in Japan, and over four hundred played in the main tournament (which makes Sendai a small event in comparison to most Japanese GPs). The trial at Shizuoka had two hundred and thirty players (with six hundred-plus in attendance on Saturday), and I don’t even want to think about how many souls fought for byes at Kobe.

2. There are an awful lot of reasons to go play in a Japanese Grand Prix.”But Eli, why the heck should I fly halfway around the world to go play in another country when I can fly just two hours and play in my own country?” Here’s a few reasons why.

– You can get more byes. If you’re at 1800 and play in North America, you get one bye. If you’re at 1800 in Japan, you get two. Pretty nice deal, huh?

– Sick and tired of playing the metagame? Want to take a real challenge? Then come to Japan, where weird decks abound! Japanese deckbuilders created the first Trix archetype, though it needed a little tinkering to get up to speed. People made Day 2 at Sendai playing weird decks like Zombie Infestation/Opposition/Upheaval and Black Weenie! Who was expecting black dorks? Your guess is as good as mine. (Actually, I saw a few of the Black Weenie decks at the PTQ in Osaka the week previously. Who the hell would have thought Thrull Retainer and Paralyze were playable in Extended?)

– Japan is a really different country. It’s got stuff that’s super, super modern, from fully automated bus ticketing to high tech toilets. No one uses a CD Walkman anymore, since the damned things skip so much. They use Mini Disc Walkmans! And the video games are excellent. You can even try Pachinko! (Hey, you play Magic, right? Why not try losing your money playing a game in a totally different way?)

Of course, if you really want to get into specifically cultural things, Japan has no shortage of temples, shrines, ryokan (traditional inns), or hot springs resorts. Just don’t walk around looking for giant radioactive monsters. I haven’t found any. (Yet.)

– You think you’re the best? Then come on and try the biggest tournaments known to humanity.

3. After just a few nights testing it, I found that Miracle Gro is an interesting, easily-played deck that can deal out savage beatings, but Mike Long looked at it, thought about the fact that the Trial Top 8 indicated that the field would be more creature-oriented, and replaced it with a set of Threshold guys (Wild Mongrel, Werebear, et cetera) on the morning of the GP. He grilled me mercilessly about how to play it, and practiced a few games with Alex Shvartsman with the Fish in after the Trial to get the deck down. So I lend him the rest of the deck, he dumps the Fish for the Threshold people, and he Top Eights with it. Who the hell guts a deck and rebuilds it in an hour and a half and Top Eights with it? Good on him!

4. The actual physical conditions: The venue itself wasn’t bad at all, though it was a twenty-minute taxi trip from the central station. For a guy who had been homesick for snow in the winter, actually going north and being in the middle of it reminded me how good I was at shuffling to walk on ice properly. (Seeing a pack of Tokyo people slip and fall en masse outside the station gave me a slight guilty pleasure.) The Japanese players were mostly the diehards who traveled from Tokyo and Kansai, so the vibe was good.

5. Me? Who cares about me? I’m a random! A peon! A nobody! But seriously, I came in 129th with a record of 4-1-3 (all unintentional) playing classic Turboland (with the Oath of Druids engine). And I didn’t do badly at all on rating, jumping up at least sixty points. My only loss came in the final game, where I lost to Zombie Infestation/Upheaval. Who plays a Type 2 deck in Extended? I think I made the right call, though; I’ve been playing Turboland in Extended for over a year now and I had my matchups down pretty well, even beating a member of Satoshi Nakamura’s group in the mirror match 2-0. I also went 4-3 in the Trial playing a card-for-card copy of Alan Comer’s Miracle Gro deck. Two of my losses came to two double mulligans, and the others generally came up due to mana screw. I felt that with zero byes, I wanted to play the deck I felt most comfortable with, and if I had a shot at Day 2, so be it. And TL did the job, though I suspect I would have made it if not for a certain minor mishap… (See the Gratuitous Props and Slops for more, though that’s not a major issue)

So that’s a messy paragraph. Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t really matter.

Revision: So I dissed Hegstad for his choice of Turboland builds. I finally get back to my apartment, and read Zvi’s article. Boy, do I feel better. On the other hand, Hegstad still pulled 23rd place, which isn’t too shabby. So more power to him.

Anyway, that’s the basics of what happened with me, and mull these results well before you PTQ again.

Praying for the Day When Exploration Will Be So Good It’ll Be Banned,

Eli Kaplan

[email protected]

gaijineli on IRC

Since I know it would irritate some, I’ve decided to put at the bottom, some shamelessly (drum roll)

Gratuitous Props and Slops!

Props: Everyone deserves props, right? I mean, they ventured through the snow, and the cold, and the horribly irritating public transportation, right? That takes work, people!

To Team Invasion, who seem like a bunch of fun guys. Just be sure to avoid standing between them and a camera.

To Josh Bennett, for being a masterly editor, party host, and all-around amazing person to work with.

To the Fine American Servicemen who attended their first Japanese GP. Hey, this is the big time!

To the Judges, who I Pestered Mercilessly.

To the Wackizens. Because.

Slops: Judge Takeshi Aida, the HJ at Grand Prix Shizuoka. I play in the GP: Sendai trial on October 14th and finish 3rd out of 77th. 77 players and only the top 2 players get byes (3-2)? Why wasn’t it the standard split of 3-2-1-1? Sheesh. I come in top of the Swiss, finish 3rd, and all I got for my effort and 2000 yen (about seventeen bucks) was this lousy T-shirt and zero byes. (Actually, I didn’t even win a T-shirt. Talk about stingy prize support.)

Additional Slops: Judge Takeshi Aida, again. For a Premiere level tournament using DCI Tournament Reporter software to turn in a tournament report for less than six days is absolutely criminal. I got my rating pushed over 1700 on October 14th. Yet the tournament results weren’t in on the 19th – the latest deadline for bye appeals to be submitted for Sendai. Frankly, getting doubly-screwed out of a bye by the same guy makes me a bit sour. Especially since he told me at the tournament not to worry about it, since I would have my rating pushed well over 1700 in time for the Sendai bye cutoff.

If I were a person who spent their time thinking about what could have happened, I would be far more irate than I am now. But I’m not going to dwell on it. Honest! (Grrrr…)