4 Lessons from Grand Prix Nagoya and Denver

The Results

It was another weekend of Guilds of Ravnica Limited, this time with team tournaments on either side of the Pacific. With both the novelty and quality of this new Limited environment, expectations were high!

The GP in Japan saw the biggest names in the east converge on Nagoya to battle it out across both Sealed and Draft, and a stacked Top 4 included superstars such as Shuhei Nakamura, who locked up his 30th GP Top 8. But all eyes were on the team named the “Japanese Peach Garden Oath” (perhaps the Karesansui Garden Oath should be considered?)—the powerful trio of Ken Yukuhiro, Rei Sato, and Kentaro Yamamoto were duly crowned champions!

In Denver, many of the huge names in attendance fell prey to the cutthroat competition. Peach Garden Oath, Hilton Garden Oath, Olive Garden Oath—none of them made it to the Top 4. But Steve Rubin made it that far with teammates Frank Skarren and Pete Ingram, and the trio of John Rolf, Brandon Ayers, and Peter Yeh made it as far as the finals. They were handily dispatched, however, by the unstoppable Jack Dobbin, Jacob Baugh, and Andrew Tenjum—the champions of GP Denver!

The Moments

Jason “Amaz” Chan continues to crush his enemies, as the Hearthstone training wheels come off—his team missed Top 4 by just a single match win:

Cosplayers were out in force in Denver, enjoying the camaraderie (and the snow):

The artists, too, were showcasing their incredible skills in Nagoya:

Side events, prize walls, vendor booths, voter registration—there’s something for everyone at a GP:

The Deck

We’ve seen decks of all types in the opening weeks of Guilds of Ravnica, from hyper-aggressive Boros Mentor decks to slow, controlling blue-based Izzet or Dimir lists. Jack Dobbin, however, wanted a little taste of everything. During his finals Draft, he put together this absolutely incredible monstrosity:

Sixteen-Land 4-Color Gate Control

Jack Dobbin, 1st place at GP Denver 2018

At first glance, it looks like Dobbin was well on his way to a decent Selesnya deck, then all the green and white cards left in the packs spontaneously combusted and he was left to do what he could with what remained. Curving Burglar Rat into Centaur Peacemaker, with seven of your sixteen lands being Gates? No worries at all.

Quite seriously, however, this deck does have a cohesive identity. It’s an overwhelmingly defensive deck, playing early creatures to gum up the ground, removal to control the board, and then wild off-color haymakers like Connive // Concoct to support late-game beaters like Gatekeeper Gargoyle. Ol’ Gatey-G isn’t the only Gate-related card—how about drawing a squillion cards off of Guild Summit, or attacking for two squillion with Glaive of the Guildpact? Yes please.

The question is, however, are Gate decks really viable? While the format’s speed remains largely undetermined, it’s not clear if loading a deck full of taplands in order to play the best cards across multiple colors is a viable strategy. The payoffs are there—most of the set’s best cards are multicolored, but finding the right balance between early board defense and late multicolored finishers can be very delicate.

The Takeaway

Guilds of Ravnica is proving to be a little knottier to figure out than many people anticipated. Even now, there is an argument among the pros as to which guild is the best, and which is the worst—even the oft-maligned Golgari is a guild some big names are looking to jump into early while drafting. Generally speaking, however, it seems that the blue guilds—Izzet and Dimir—are high in the estimation of the majority, which is worth remembering when you next sit down to Draft.

More and more, we’re seeing certain mono-colored cards fall into a certain guild, despite being technically playable in two. For example, Direct Current is considerably better in Izzet decks than in Boros, where a 3-mana sorcery-speed Shock would be better replaced by an aggressive creature like Wojek Bodyguard (and it’s no mistake that these cards are better in the decks that have their guild’s respective mechanics). This occurs with cards across all colors, even when picking early monocolored cards. Keep in mind which guild they may pull you towards.

Synergy-driven guilds, such as Izzet and Boros, are sometimes more difficult to pull together. Color combinations like Dimir require less in the way of synergy, as the best decks are often just a pile of good cards that can operate independently. That’s not to say Dimir doesn’t have synergy—if you’ve ever lost to a Thoughtbound Phantasm, you’ll know what I mean—but when drafting an Izzet deck, remember to balance enablers (i.e., instants and sorceries) for cards like Wee Dragonauts or Crackling Drake.

There are no GPs this weekend. The weekend after that, however, I’ll be with the rest of the EU coverage team in Lille to get across the new Standard format. See you then!

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