I wanted to do a video write up, but it’s cold and flu season over here, and somewhere between riding the train everywhere and working with kids 8-hours a day has left me with a scratchy throat. GP Osaka happened a week ago, and even if it was the last major before the banlist took effect, I think it’s worth looking at and a good predictor of what changes could potentially happen for post-NV2.
First off, I placed in 4th with Faerur Letoliel (ACN-093) // Faerur Letoliel, King of Wind (ACN-093J). Here’s the list:
|4th Place||Taylor Smith||Faerur|
Faerur Letoliel (ACN-093) //
Faerur Letoliel, King of Wind (ACN-093J)
Magic Stone Deck: (10)
4x Speaking Stone (TSW-150)
3x Spirit Stone (SDR4-012)
3x Wind Magic Stone (SDV4-023)
Resonators: (22 of 40)
3x Cecil and Tia (WOM-065)
2x Ciel, Sorcerous Priestess (ADK-088)
3x Ciel’s Familiar, Mikay (ADK-089)
4x Laurite, Seven Luminaries Astrologian (TSW-094)
4x Spirit Caller Elf (ACN-106)
1x Tia Letoliel, Archer Princess of Elves (ACN-108)
1x Tia’s White Falcon (ACN-109)
4x Viola, Treacherous Maiden (SDR6-007)
Chants: (15 of 40)
4x Faerur’s Spell (ACN-096)
4x Magic Boomerang (NDR-072)
4x Winds of Vitality (ACN-114)
3x Ruined Story (TSW-146)
Additions: (3 of 40)
3x Portal in the Woods (ACN-105)
Side Deck: (15)
2x Destruction of the Portal (ADK-091)
4x Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid (TSW-093)
3x Laurite’s Deletion Magic (TSW-095)
4x Scarlet’s Agony (TSW-104)
2x Black Tears (TSW-118)
I knew going into this event that The Time Spinning Witch (WOM-057) // The Time Spinning Witch [J-Ruler] (WOM-057J) // Unbound Princess of Time, Kaguya (WOM-057JR) would probably be the most-represented deck. While Japan tends to remain independent of the Western meta-game, many of the top players here like to take the top decks and alter them to fit their play style. The main one being variations of an “Anti-Witch” Witch, running things like Attoractia, City of Verdant Green (WOM-110) and Giga Thunderfish (TSW-061) as a boss while playing an even harder control game than the normal Mosasaurus (ADK-076)/The Distortion of Time (WOM-053) build. I needed a deck that could either recover its own entities through effects (getting around distortion) or played things for so cheap that the game ended before Witch could pop off and beat me in two turns. I was originally going to take Kirik Rerik (TSW-045) // Kirik Rerik, the Draconic Warrior (TSW-045J), but after his sweep at Orlando and my own experience playing him at locals, I was expecting players to actually bother to side in his counters…Which I don’t think actually happened.
Faerur was my fallback, and after testing for a few weeks, I found that flipping early and grabbing Cecil and Tia (WOM-065) put Witch on the spot while she would still be setting up, and often times the game would end on the next turn as the removal options for high-cost resonators are pretty limited in that deck. Faerur also puts out a lot of pressure on his own, and there’s not much affordable J-Ruler removal in what were the current popular decks. I also like that Faerur and his support force a lot of activated and automatic effects, making it hard for players to determine when and what to Laurite, Seven Luminaries Astrologian (TSW-094). Almost everyone was reluctant to stop anything that happened pre-flip if they didn’t have more than 1 Laurite in hand, letting me get away with some pretty big fields, and setting up lethal before even having to flip…also you can’t Laurite off his Gale counters, so even if you stop Cecil and Tia from coming in, a resonator like Ciel, Sorcerous Priestess (ADK-088) can do just as much damage from a 12/12 boost.
Osaka was the Japan standard: 5 rounds of Swiss with a cut to top 8.
Round 1: Attoractia Witch (0-0-0)
My first match was against a fellow Nagoya player running a variation of the Attoractia Witch I had talked about earlier. The deck was a mix of the standard Mosa/Distortion with Giga Fish as a sort of finisher. I had played this match several times and locals. I needed to wait until I had enough will to counteract him potentially Lauriting Faerur’s search ability, and often times I would wait until I had an extra will or two up when flipping just to stay safe. Distortion wasn’t much of a problem as I would chase to its cast with Viola, Treacherous Maiden (SDR6-007), and would keep them removed early on when he didn’t have a chance to cast them, and simply didn’t tap out later when it would be more difficult to remove them. Witch is a very slow matchup, and we almost went into time. We were some of the last players to finish the round, but I took the win.
Round 2: Pandas (1-0-0)
My second-round opponent was the creator of the Panda deck that showed up at Osaka and the 3rd place finisher for World’s 2018 (editor’s note: Naoyuki Yada). I wasn’t really prepared for this matchup, as I had only found out about it the day of, but I probably stood a better chance than the 12 Witch players at the event. The Panda build swarms hard with lots of weenie 1-drops and barrier resonators that are a pain to remove and then rushes out Rose Quartz, the Panda Queen (ADK-021) to stop distortion from messing you up. I needed to end these matches before he amassed too much of a field and too many gems, since Taegrus Pearlshine (ADK-024) // Taegrus Pearlshine, Lord of the Mountain (ADK-024J) could very easily wipe my field out with his J-ruler ability to give something -5/-5 for 1 Darkness gem. I opted out of a card to kill J-Rulers in favor of Black Tears, and this round made me question if I made the right choice. It was very difficult to keep pace with Taegrus. The only panda I could snipe with Magic Boomerang (NDR-072) was Gem Mallet Panda (TSW-010), and I didn’t have a deck that was naturally able to deal with wide fields. I was hesitant to flip Faerur early since I wanted to be able to snipe the Rose Quartz with Tia Letoliel, Archer Princess of Elves (ACN-108) and Tia’s White Falcon (ACN-109). This was my undoing though, I should have just pushed as early as possible instead of attempting to stall out. This game ended in a draw. In the last round there was a misunderstanding about when time was called. He had played Rose Quartz, and attempted to pass turn putting her recovery effect on chase. I responded by grabbing a Laurite from grave and casting it. The time call was as I was playing Laurite from hand to cancel the recover. I thought this meant that his turn had not yet ended and as such he was turn 0. He thought that since he passed turn that I was turn 0 even though I was chasing to an effect that happens at his end of the turn. The judge ruled in his favor but gave us a draw as a penalty for failure to communicate. It would have been a draw regardless since I top-decked Black Tears and removed most of his board, preventing lethal.
Round 3: Ayu (1-0-1)
Third round was against my main playtesting buddy (I was convinced the bracket was stacked for me to kill all my friends) on Ayu, Lunar Swordswoman (ADK-060) // Ayu, Shaman Swordswoman (ADK-060J). He was the only Ayu at the event and we had played this match out multiple times already and it almost always ended in my favor. Between Laurite, Faerur’s Spell (ACN-096), and 4 Scarlet’s Agony (TSW-104) in my side, this match is a living hell for Ayu since I can forcibly shut down most of her plays. Even so, she can still swing and hit really, really, hard if not kept in check. My best bet was trying to force an early flip, and keep ayu on her J-Ruler side so she would be reluctant to call stones while I continued to mass a lead with Cecil and Tia, and using Viola as a blocker when needed. The 4 Agonies ended up being the deciding factor in this match, and I ended up top decking them in round 3 to seal out the game.
Round 4: Attoractia Witch (2-0-1)
My round 4 opponent was another very strong JP player, and one running an interesting variation of Japan-made Attoractia Witch. His gimmick was to use Inheritor of the Stars, Gill Lapis (WOM-112) as a boss along with Giga Fish to push through for game. Gill is one of the few resonators with Barrier to everything as well as flying, making him hard to deal with. He also had a few Blue Leaf (WOM-044) in his main to remove blockers that might be able to stop Gill, and this is what screwed me up the most. Blue leaf was a 1-cost answer to my Elf Tokens, and could shut down my ramp early on and force me to play a bit slower. Ironically, slow is the way to go in this matchup, but I didn’t realize it until after I had lost.
Round 5: Kirik (2-1-1)
I was super nervous going into this round. I was sitting in a pretty bad spot, I had to win, and even then, I was scared I’d be sitting on the bubble to top 8 like so many GPs before. I needed a win, and I honestly couldn’t have been given a better match up for it. Kirik can’t do too much to Faerur, and I had all the side cards to deal with the Dragonoid King with ease. A lot of this matchup came down to figuring out how much damage I could take before needing to build a counter-offensive. I really didn’t want to give up my Spirit Caller Elf (ACN-106) or Token early on since they let me counter various spells, searches, and counter restocks. The magic Number is around 1000 life, that’s just out of range of a double Heaven Sundering Dragon Palm (TSW-040), and just high enough to survive a Pialle Eille, the Flaming Fist (TSW-048) swing. Faerur’s turn 3 flip is just too fast for Kirik to deal with and I ended up sweeping this match ending swiss (3-1-1).
Top 8 Round 1 Classic Witch
I ended up 7th seed in top 8, and my first opponent has gone undefeated until faced with the fuzzy panda menace built to stop him. This was also one of the few other foreigners in the event, so it was pretty cool to have at least two of us make it into the top 8. Despite knowing how this match is supposed to go, it’s still nerve-racking. I ended up winning 2-1 off simply starving him of options. Witch can only cancel so much, and the deck has a limited amount of resonators compared to most other decks. I’m pretty sure game 3 had me kill off all 4 Mosasaurus and a Dino-Rider (TSW-033) before claiming victory off a tiny field of Cecil and Tia and a Viola. The key to the witch matchup is to either force unsatisfying distortions or surfacings. Witch doesn’t deal well with reactionary play since she’s built to punish over commitment. If you don’t over commit, she can’t go in for game as easily.
Top 8 Round 2 Chamimi
My top 4 match was against the Chamimi (SDV4-001) // Chamimi, Guardian of the Sacred Bow (SDV4-001J) that would go on to win the event, and one of the harder decks to deal with. This was mostly just a variation of Quickcast Hanzo (SDV4-008) // Hanzo, Chief of the Kouga (SDV4-008J) with big Elephant Tokens instead of Sealing Scroll (SDV4-016). Chamimi is the better bet against a meta-game that’s not Rune Deck reliant, since Sealing Scroll doesn’t exactly do much to Witch. This matchup is a hard one, there’s a lot of pressure put on Faerur by the ticking time bomb that is Elephant Rush, and the Forest Meditation (SDV4-005)/Spirit Stone (SDR4-012) combo makes it very hard to flip and push for game. The free +5 Chamimi and Hanzo can gain from their Runes is able
to completely shut other Rulers out, and ensure they have plenty of answers and options. Faerur lacks affordable draw power like Meditation gives to Chamimi, so these matches ended mostly by me running out of steam when my opponent could restock.
3rd/4th Place Match
This was a rematch with my opponent from round 4 of Swiss. While I was more well prepared for the matchup, I was mentally drained. GPs in Japan are 1-day events, and my mind was mostly gone after 9 hours of playing. I played the matchup as I saw proper: slowly and hard-casting Cecil and Tia rather than flipping Faerur over to search for them. This worked pretty well until Gill to started to show up, and I suddenly had to outpace the damage on him and Giga Fish. I dropped two easy wins in this match by overthinking:
In game 2 he played a Laurite to block my Faerur from swinging for game. For some reason I decided to dig my own Laurite from grave and cast in response to cancel his cancel rather just blow the Laurite up with Cecil and Tia and let the swing go through.
In game 3 I was convinced I needed to clear his field every turn, which worked for a while, but I gave up a game-ending swing by overthinking when I could have just forced my way through.
After 3 hard-fought matches I lost out by being unable to top-deck a Viola or Boomerang to give something flying to stop a Laurite’s Seven Disciples (WOM-070) from swinging in for game. I certainly could have done better, but I’m proud of the fact I was able to take a Ruler I had been given trash for playing all the way into the top 4.
Cecil and Tia (WOM-065) put in the most work. These two are a godsend against Witch, and also let Faerur go full aggro against most decks while staying up in stones. The fact Faerur can flip off two-stones, grab these guys and have them recover the two stones rested to flip, lets the Elf King halt whatever response your opponent might have on their following turn. In all honesty, I
should have just had this card at 4. I ended up hard-casting them quite a bit against Witch and Chamimi, and I wish I had had more beaters.
Laurite’s Deletion Magic (TSW-095) is such an underrated card. It’s really only good in decks that can ramp. This shuts down just about everything, and Faerur can stop most turn 2 or 3 plays with it. I sided this in almost every match, and, if I could go back and alter the deck, I would have swapped out the 3 portals and just put all 3 Magics in main instead. It being a Spirit Magic also made it easier to recover Laurite, and I find it to be a much better option for Faerur than Elemental Blast (ACN-090).
Scarlet’s Agony (TSW-104) is a very good card. It shuts down Ayu and Kirik, and stunts plenty of other decks while giving you a draw. Having 4 in the side felt right despite most people settling on 3.
Viola, Treacherous Maiden (SDR6-007) provided a lot of utility. Her boost let Faerur or C&T swing in without fear, she could remove Distortion before it could be used, and having quickcast let her be a good reactionary dump on turn 2 or 3 to build pressure on the following turn. I foresee her being a green staple until rotation.
Ciel’s Familiar, Mikay (ADK-089) was a last-minute addition, and ended up being a smart choice. Faerur doesn’t have any real draw power now, so Mikay provided a decent way to dig for what I needed, and allowed me to setup turn 3 and 4 flips by clutching out to a Laurite or Faerur’s Spell.
Thoughts on the Meta Game
I think it’s rather telling that a healthy amount of the Witches for this event ended up bottoming out. We had plenty of 1-of Rulers that ended up in or near the top cut. The Kirik I fought, as well as the event’s only Brunhild (SDV1-005) // Brunhild, Caller of Spirits (SDV1-005J) and Hanzo, ended up in a 3-way tie for the 9th/10th place cut. While Witch is very strong and annoying, she can be played around by adjusting how you deal with her. Like I said, reactionary play makes it harder for her to gauge when to Surfacing or Distortion, and with Distortion now gone she’ll have to find a way to use her unique Will-ramp ability to stay relevant.
I want to reiterate that I don’t think a lot of people know how to play against Witch. Light in general is really strong going into NV2. There’s no real check for life gain, and the color now has multiple options to ramp early with Acolyte of the Sun (SDV1-001) and Gem Mallet Panda. Brunhild got a lot of love in NV2 through Misteltein, the Pious Sword Saint (SNV-009) and her new Master Rune, which gets around Faerur’s Spell by not having quickcast. White also has one of the cheapest answers to the Sandstorm (NDR-034)+Table Flip (SNV-077) combo that has so many casual players in a tizzy with Barrier of Faith (SNV-002). I think Darkness has a lot going for it now. Spirit Stone+Forest Meditation screwed up any discard strategy pretty hard, but, with it gone, Lucifer (SDV5-011) // Lucifer, Fallen Angel of Sorrow (SDV5-011J), Lich (SDV5-009) // Lich, the Saint of Death (SDV5-009J), and Reiya, Fourth Daughter of the Mikage (WOM-102) // Reiya, Fourth Daughter of the Mikage [J-Ruler] (WOM-102J) are free to rip apart hands and fields without the fear of having a 0-cost restock option available. I think Blue will continue to struggle. Loki’s archetype isn’t very well focused on a particular strategy and Arthur’s new Master Rune doesn’t really help him. Machines lack protection and a comeback game, so they can get torn apart pretty easily. I certainly think there’s room for Shaela (TSW-076) // Shaela, the Mermaid Princess (TSW-076J) to show up now, she’s been rather unrepresented, but she can play a decent aggro game with resonators like Mega Thunderfish (ACN-073) and Raijuu (TSW-073) while also going into hard control with Blue’s myriad of bounce options and even her own Destructive God’s Art. Red is weird, I personally don’t think it should be good. Lightning Cave (TSW-064) and Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid (TSW-093) ruin most Fire deck’s day, and Table Flip only adds to that. If players continue to be ignorant of Red’s power though, I don’t see why it wouldn’t keep topping. It honestly still blows my mind that 3 Kiriks topped in Orlando because everyone slept on his obvious counters. I think Green still has room to represent, but losing Spirit Stone really hurts. Full quickcast decks like Hanzo and Chamimi are about half the reason Speaker of Eternal Night (TSW-109) // Scheherazade of the Catastrophic Nights (TSW-109J) was so stupid in the 6 months she reigned over tournaments. Green has plenty of strong options, but the meta shift that white and black will cause might push it back a bit, but we’ll see.