Experiencing Modern in Japan and GP Kobe

Magic: the Gathering is a big part of my life these days so when I travel, I look to play at some local events, and my current visit to Japan is no exception. However, as I only play Modern, I usually need to dig deeper to find FNMs and alike.

My plan to go to Japan was completely unrelated to Magic, but since I knew for a fact that card games are popular in the Land of the Rising Sun, I was set to play some and with Modern GP Kobe scheduled for the last weekend of May, I quickly signed up for it.

Upon arriving to Tokyo in the middle of May, I went to Hareruya for some Modern action and was amazed by the popularity of the store, MtG as a card game, and with the numbers of grinders. I have to admit that Hareruya is probably one of the best places that Magic player can visit and a true grinders paradise. While my results were far from my expectations (I played midrange Jund), it was a great experience that I look to repeat. Some may think that hanging out at some LGS is not the best way to spend time while in Japan, but I was fortunate enough to have visited the country many times before and already did the sightseeing in and around Tokyo.

Caption of Hareruya venue in Tokyo.

My days in the capital were over and I headed to Hamamatsu, a relatively large yet unknown coastal city in the middle of Japan. There, Magic is not as popular as other card games, but I managed to find some stores that sell Magic product, singles and even organize Modern events. On Wednesdays, there is a weekly Modern tournament at a store in Hamakita, a small town north of Hamamatsu, and I was set to participate since I wanted to playtest Abzan Midrange as I usually play Jund and don’t have much experience with a similar yet different BGx deck. After 1 hour of commute time, I arrived there and had a blast in this small yet cozy shop. However, my results were still below average since Hareruya so I started to tilt, and I have to confess that I don’t handle losing streaks that well.

Master’s Guild in Hamakita.

Speaking of losing, it’s not when I normally lose that it gets to me, it’s when I’m constantly feeling that I get screwed and flooded on lands, or have to mulligan frequently. Sure, topdecks happen to us and our opponents, as well as bad match-up’s, but that’s just part of the game. The not fun mulligans and mana problems are the ones that give me a bad feeling that I can’t shake. I don’t mind getting outplayed or making mistakes, since I at least get to play some normal games. But oh boy do I mind mana issues and bad starting hands; things that are usually out of our control.

But that’s Magic I don’t want to linger any more on this topic, so to continue my write-up, I left for Kobe on Friday morning to check in at my accommodation and also making a quick stop at the venue where I confirmed my registration for the main event. There was a Modern FNM scheduled at a local game store so instead of grinding GP Trials, I went for a more casual tournament as my last day preparation. Needless to say, my cold streak continued and I barely managed to win one game in three rounds.

Yellow Submarine in Kobe.

It was indeed hard for me to head into the Grand Prix with the feeling of a bad streak that is out of my control, yet I managed to get myself together for Day 1. While “bad luck” is our of my control, my mindset isn’t! I ate a healthy breakfast and walked for 30 minutes before taking a monorail to the venue. I had one BYE so that kept my hopes alive, but little did I know that fortunes have shifted. Round 2 and 3 I got paired with Bant Eldrazi and both of my opponents had to mulligan quite a bit, so I didn’t really play any meaningful Magic while starting the GP with a score of 3-0. Round 4 was against Bogles and while it is hard to say that we played some interactive Magic, it was ups and downs until I finally managed to beat it and improve my record to 4-0, which is by far the best start I had at any Modern GP to this date. Suddenly, my goal of making Day 2 became achievable. Next up I faced Titanshift and despite having an edge early in Game 3, it ended up as the usual uphill battle in this match-up and I lost my first game of the event.

What followed were two victories against Saheeli Evolution and Grixis Death’s Shadow and at 6-1, I secured my first ever Day 2 of a GP (third time is a charm they say). However, both of my opponents were again out of luck as they faced some mulligans and floods that helped me win the series with a relative ease.

A caption of GP Kobe 2017.

It seemed that I used all my luck and I lost my next two matches against BR Rack and Bant Company, both in three games that came down to topdecks and better draws as we entered the midgame on par and more or less hellbent. However, I realised that I should have mulliganed more aggressively against the Rack deck while making a mistake sideboarding against Bant Company, so all in all it was not just luck, it was also my decision that may have costed me either of the series.

But making Day 2, even with a 6-3 score, was a decent result for me and nothing was going to change that.

Day 2 started off with a match against Mono Green Eldrazi Tron that, well, I lost. Needless to say, some decks are harder to beat and there was not much I could do, I felt like I played well.

My aim was to make 10-5 and earn my first Pro Point and beating Jund Death’s Shadow in Round 11 was good and all, but I lost the following two rounds against Eldrazi Tron and Burn that sealed my fate. At 7-6, I dropped and went for some sightseeing of Kobe. I have no desire for additional Planeswalker points since I already achieved the threshold of 1500 points (but I don’t intend to go to Nationals anyways) so I had no reason to play, and Burn beat me in 15 minutes so I would have had to wait for quite a bit for the next round to start.

Now I am back to Hamamatsu with plans to attend a few more Modern events in Hamamatsu and Tokyo before returning to Europe and continuing with the grind. Oh, and here is the deck I sleeved up for GP Kobe!

Abzan Midrange, GP Kobe 2017 main event

Creatures (12)
Tarmogoyf
Dark Confidant
Scavenging Ooze
Grim Flayer

Spells (25)
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek
Fatal Push
Path to Exile
Abrupt Decay
Collective Brutality
Maelstrom Pulse
Lingering Souls
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope

Lands (23)
Swamp
Forest
Plains
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Windswept Heath
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Blooming Marsh
Shambing Vent
Stirring Wildwood

Sideboard (15)
Flaying Tendrils
Stony Silence
Fulminator Mage
Engineered Explosives
Collective Brutality
Damnation
Nihil Spellbomb
Grafdigger’s Cage
Surgical Extraction
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

The trip to Kobe was exciting and fun even if I dropped out prematurely on Day 2, and I got to eat the famous Kobe beef! While expensive, it was worth the bucks and let me tell you – it’s just amazing.

As far as deck selection goes, I will probably switch back to Jund, but will try to play some Abzan once in a while. I still feel I made a right call to sleeve Abzan for the GP despite being more keen on Jund, but can’t argue the power of Lingering Souls and Path to Exile. Now back to the grind.

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