4 Lessons from Grand Prix Kyoto

The Result

Another Team Trios event hit the big stage, as Kyoto played host to three formats over the weekend. The tournament highlighted some important things across Standard, Modern, and Legacy: In Standard, players are finding ways to contain The Scarab God, in Modern the metagame remains dynamic and somewhat unpredictable, and in Legacy, Delver decks continue to dominate Legacy from a pure numbers perspective.

What perhaps turned the most heads, however, was the Top 4. Not only was it populated by players with developing careers—rather than established pros—it also featured 12 unique deck archetypes across the three formats! This, coupled with the data of the Day 2 metagame, speaks to the health and diversity of both Standard and Modern, and goes to show that just about anything can happen in Legacy.

The winners of the tournament—Ryouichi Yamamoto, Yuusuke Matsubara, and Kazuki Takamura—played Blue-Black Midrange, Affinity, and Sneak and Show respectively. Blue-Black continues to be the strategy to beat in Standard, Affinity proves to be a perennial performer in Modern, and the Top 4 in Legacy showed you don’t have to play Delver of Secrets to succeed (although it certainly helps). Congratulations to the winning team at GP Kyoto!

The Moments

The PGO by any other name:

I’m not 100% sure which planeswalker this fellow is cosplaying as:

“Garruk spent his entire life hunting bigger and bigger game, but in an ironic twist of fate was unprepared for the wrath of the smallest.”

rk post crushing it all weekend with various alters:


And post made a truly delightful appearance on coverage:

The Deck

Previously seen as a “fun” deck—“fun” in this case often a euphemism for “bad”—the Taking Turns strategy has been a minor player on the fringes of Modern. Unbanning Jace, however, seems to have been a real shot in the arm for this off-the-wall archetype, and it found its way to a Top 4 performance in Kyoto.

Taking Turns

Takahiro Uemoto, Top 4 at GP Kyoto 2018

This deck seeks to survive the early game, then chain extra turns with the assistance of the extra cards drawn from Dictate of Kruphix. From there it’s just a matter of ultimating Jace (or attacking with a Snapcaster for those playing on Nightmare Mode). It’s fair to say this is a combo deck, as there comes a point in the game where it will “go off”—you can beat it with the time-honored anti-combo strategy of disruption plus a clock.

The various forms this deck has taken over the years have all had the same core: Time Walk and Howling Mine effects coupled with cantrips and disruption. Mono-Blue has often been the default setting, but at different stages pioneers of the archetype also included green, for actual, literal Fog. That technology hasn’t stood the test of time, and today we see black as the backup color of choice.

Black offers all-star removal spell Fatal Push, as well as Collective Brutality out of the board, as a powerful hoser against Burn decks, Brutality also gains value by being serviceable against spell-based control as well as the early mana dork out of Collected Company decks. Apart from that, however, it’s all blue cards all day—this deck is a rare work of art!

The Takeaway

There continues to be so much to get across from these split-format events. Let’s look at the most important thing we learned in each format.

In Standard, The Scarab God is well and truly in the crosshairs. People came to Kyoto expecting to play against ol’ Scabby G and planned accordingly—Red-Green Monsters was the most strongly represented archetype throughout Day 2. This deck puts a tremendous amount of pressure on very quickly, and doesn’t leave a lot of breathing room for the deployment and activation of TSG. Nonetheless, if you combine the different Scarab God decks (Midrange, Control, Sultai, Grixis), the 5/5 was still enormously popular and continues to be the undisputed king of the Standard landscape.

In Modern, things are still in a state of perpetual flux post-unban. Neither JTMS or BBE had a particularly standout weekend, as many players looked to get very aggressive with both Affinity and Burn. Scapeshift had a good weekend—the continued trend of adopting BBE seems to power the archetype up significantly, and Hollow One decks keep making their mark on the format. With such a wide range of angles to cover, it’s difficult to say what the best way forward in Modern is right now and for that reason, Good Old Jund, the evergreen 51% deck, is probably a good choice.

In Legacy, people didn’t fail to notice the continued dominance of the two 1-drops that rule the format: Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets are massively overrepresented. Despite some less-popular archetypes—such as Aluren and Topless Miracles—snagging Top 4 appearances, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what really gets it done in Legacy. It remains to be seen as to whether action will be taken on these cards. There is no consensus as to whether their dominance is a positive or a negative for the format.

Next week we’re off to Amsterdam for another team event—it’s Team Limited this time around. I’ll be back then with all the highlights!


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