Japanese Nationals Report *1st* Part 1: Standard


Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Katsuhiro Mori.

I am very happy to be given the opportunity to write articles like this one. For my first, I think I would like to write about how this year I put forth my best effort at the Japanese National Championship.

First of all, the big decks in the current Standard environment are Jund, Conscription Bant, and Naya, followed by Blue/White, Planeswalker Control, and Turbo Land, with Mono-Red in the minority. For past tournaments I had shown a tendency of choosing a strong control deck, but when I was testing all of the decks in this format I realized some things.

The first was that Jund was very strong, but the second was that Mono-Red’s main deck winning percentage was extremely high. I tested various things and came to the conclusion that playing Mono-Red would give me an advantage versus the rest of the field. So, I began fine-tuning the build.

Projecting the Meta

Tuning decks on Magic Online is not terribly beneficial even under normal circumstances, and Jund was sideboarding in Dragon’s Claw while white decks added Kor Firewalker. There were enough heartbreaking losses to make me want for a moment to retire Mono-Red and pick up Jund. However, because there was no Mono-Red in the most recent GP Top 8s, I thought this archetype would not be used at the Japanese National Championship and prepared my deck accordingly.

Here is what I played:


In tuning my deck, I discovered that if my opponent was not playing white I would almost never lose game one. I made the decision to put Quenchable Fire in the main deck strictly to combat Jund.

Usually if I had more than one land I could avoid mana problems because my deck’s potential for success was high with even just a few mana sources, and I made certain of this for a long time. Also, the six fetch lands I played were not just for Searing Blaze, rather, I used them because I thought that proactively thinning my deck with fetch lands served as a defense against drawing too many basics.

I put together this deck with the idea that Kor Firewalker was not being played, but I was uncomfortable with Kargan Dragonlord in the sideboard. In order to succeed even in the worst situations when games dragged on, I tried putting two copies in the main deck.

Because I became aware that Mono-Red was quite strong in the process of tuning my deck, I became worried about seeing four copies of Dragon’s Claw across the table. The mirror match would be decided by the number of copies of Dragon’s Claw in play, but I also did not know whether I would encounter this match-up. There were situations where I would want to use this card against other decks, and because playing the mirror and losing would be bad, I opted for two copies. Because I really dislike thinking “I don’t want to play against this deck!” I aim to give my deck an advantage against whatever I might encounter. Lately, the one thing I can’t stand is Kor Firewalker.

Because I had the sense that I would be able to shave off exactly 20 life with a seven card hand, I decided to proactively keep some hands that would otherwise make me anxious.

Incidentally, there are not very many players who choose not to attack with Goblin Guide when able. I am careful about creating card advantage for my opponent when I am only be getting two damage out of the exchange. I was unsure of what to do if my opponent were to turn up land, and because of this at times when it was better not to attack I resolved myself not to.

With these ideas, I finally reached the day of the Japanese National Championship.

The first round I played against Conscription Bant.

Putting in Cunning Sparkmage and Basilisk Collar from my sideboard resulted in a complete shutout. Please be cautious, because there are cases where a popular deck can become easy prey and lose to a deck that has been carefully tuned to the metagame.

Rounds two, three and four were all Jund!

My opponents boarded in Doom Blade and I took out all of my easily dealt with Ball Lightnings and boarded in Quenchable Fire and Siege-Gang Commander. Based on when my opponent had mana untapped, I would tap out completely for burn spells and was able to defend all of my creatures resulting in a winnable match with little risk.

Something I had to be especially careful of was if my opponent was approaching four mana and Goblin Guide was no longer in play. Goblin Guide being removed by the cascade of my opponent’s Bloodbraid Elf was unpleasant because the Guide did all of the work until around turn three. Although my opponents played defensively because they could not reasonably attack, they proactively played Bloodbraid Elf. Burst Lightning and Searing Blaze dealt with the Elf as much as possible, since protecting my own life total was the first step to victory.

And, because on the fourth turn I expected no creatures to remain on the board, I hoped my opponent would flip removal with Bloodbraid Elf. The card I would least like to see my opponent flip off the Elf was Sprouting Thrinax, but when I burned out the Bloodbraid Elf, even the worst did not become a threat. With the exception of the damage of the Elf, because of the assault of burn spells and fliers I came out ahead and won.

When Jund plays a red source, if they leave one mana up they are definitely holding Lightning Bolt. If you have gotten hit once, absolutely only commit to Ball Lightning when your opponent taps out. Because my opponents frequently tapped out for Bloodbraid Elf, burning it out and then playing Ball Lightning on the next turn proved to be the time I used that card the most.

I was blessed with the good fortune of success, but it is no mistake that you need to be careful because there are people not so different from me who consider Jund the strongest deck and want to win with it.

Look for the rest of this report later this week!

Editor’s Note: Due to the need for translation, the rest of Katsuhiro’s report will be up later this week, so please excuse the brevity of Part 1.

64 thoughts on “Japanese Nationals Report *1st* Part 1: Standard”

  1. Good report nonetheless! Ball Lightning is a beating as long as you make sure it can connect. But attacking with Goblin Guide is a bit tricky.. I think the dragonlord will slow red decks a bit, but it really depends if the opponent’s trying to win *primarily* through creatures (good) or through lockdowns/exiles (bad).

  2. I enjoyed the article. My only problem was that you only talked about jund and mythic conscription at the tournament. I’d like to hear how you played out against U/W control, specifically. I sideboard 2 Kor Firewalkers and whenever I resolve one, I win about 85% of the time. maybe combust comes in against the BSA/ Kor Firewalker decks.

  3. @chogath

    no, combust can’t even target the firewalker to kill the creature. The damage prevention doesn’t matter for pro-red.

  4. oops, thought that you were asking IF combust can kill a pro-red creature. Sorry.

  5. T1 Goblin Guide how many times during the whole tournament? From the features that I have read it seems like he had it most of the time, that raises flags in my opinion. I dont know if anyone has this suspicion as well but I doubt that it was legit. If it was then I apologize for bringing this up but if it wasn’t done legit and there was some cheatyface action going on then good job pulling the wools over everyones eyes.

    I have heard that Mori is known to scum a bit, I dont know if those accusations are true but I think if there is some kind of evidence of it happening in the past then I think it should definately be investigated further by WotC.

  6. protection on a creature isnt the same as shroud, you can still target the firewalker with a burn spell. it just prevents all the damage that spell does. but in this case, combust says “the damage cant be prevented” so combust targets and deals the damage.

  7. i typed that completely wrong, i was thinking of a different card entirely and realized it as i hit submit. please ignore that.

  8. @tuffy

    It “seems” like he had it most of the time, because in the limited features that were shown, he had it. This is no basis for accusation, and the fact that you have heard that he “scums it”, also isn’t a legitimate point.

    You are the scumbag.

  9. Really? Your Jund opponents boarded out Blightning? And it sounds like none of them brought in Dragon’s Claw either…I’m just dumbfounded by this.

  10. @Brandon

    No, don’t call someone a scumbag like that, particularly if he’s right. Mori has been suspended from play previously due to “suspicious play” before. Several top level players have called judges on him, and many times he simply claimed that there was a “language barrier” that caused the “confusion”.

    I’ll look further for what I’m mentioning here, but I think the final straw that got him suspended involved an attack into a quicksand that he took back after his opponent went to activate the quicksand on his creature.

  11. Ah, I was incorrect, that was at Worlds. The last mistake occurred at Pro Tour Yokohama, and involved Mori spending only 5 mana to flashback a teachings against Amiel Tenenbaum.

  12. @tuffy

    If there was something going on, I would like to assume that the infinite judges and spectators at Japanese Nationals would have figured it out and dealt with it. Bringing it up now seems like mudslinging for no good reason, since you aren’t adding anything new or useful. I wasn’t there, and have no idea what went on, but I also wouldn’t randomly speculate about it or call for an investigation for exactly that reason.

  13. Getting a turn one Goblin Guide a bunch of games (games that are being watched by judges and where the majority of his opponents were seasoned pros) is hardly proof of anything at all. I wouldn’t be shocked if there was something going on, but saying “he got turn one Goblin Guide a lot, what a cheater”, is an incredibly stupid way of looking at things.

  14. I really don’t think it’s relevant or appropriate to be calling someone out in a public forum.

    If you have issues with Mori and whether he should be writing, I would recommend taking it up with the rest of Channel Fireball and not calling him a cheater as a response to his first article.

  15. Hey uh, maybe he played intelligently and mull’ed hands to *get* the Goblin Guides. Maybe he got lucky on some of them like every other player does at one time or another. Maybe he’s a much better player than most everyone who comments on this site, and we should all just be thankful that he’s writing for it.

    Thanks for the article, I look forward to part 2.

  16. I was just saying it was suspicious, to me anyways. I was also just saying what I thought MAY have happened. Whether I am wrong or right will never be known to anyone but himself but for someone that has had questionable actions in the past, I wouldn’t rule it out.

    I dont think it is wrong to point out a possibility to people that haven’t heard of these past actions. Also, I think people should know about what happened in every one of his feature matches which wasn’t even mentioned in his article.

    This just raises flags to me, that is all.

  17. Major props to channelfireball for featuring another top Japanese pro!

    That said, could you also post the Japanese original? No offense to the translator, but there were several important nuances that weren’t mentioned or wrongly translated.

  18. Congrats! And cut your hair! 🙂

    I enjoy seeing players from other countries writing – the metagames are often slightly different and perceptions of matchups can sometimes be different depending on what technology is popular.

  19. Of all the articles on this website I have read, I enjoyed this one most. Even with some parts slightly unclear due to the translation. I like the way you wrote in terms of strategy and specific in-game situations and how you would deal with them.

    Well done.

  20. @ mister miyagi

    I’m going to be posting his report in its entirety in Japanese when the next part goes up, which will be later this week.

  21. I’ve been playing RDW a lot over the last months, and Blightning is hands down the worst card to face when playing against Jund. If they resolve two early on and get full value out of them it’s almost impossible to win. And they sided them OUT? That’s like UW siding out Firewalkers against RDW or something.

  22. Awesome read and congratz.

    errr, I would like to see more video’s though…those things are kinda addicting and I havent had my fix in a while O_o

    Also, turn 1 goblin guide from mono red is almost impossible to beat unless mono red gets really unlucky with mana problems…with that said, him getting goblin guide in many games doesnt explain that he cheats; but it would explain how he won.


    No one here needs to hear your garbage OPINIONS; he may or may not have cheated, not for me nor you to say…so without evidence, all you represent is is lame accusations. There are better ways to point out that someone got goblin guides alot of his games, but calling someone a cheater is low, no matter the history.

  23. How stupid is it to post weak, non provable speculations as a response to an excellent article? And regardless of what you are ‘just saying’, this generates nothing but more speculations.

    If this raises flags to you, write an e-mail to WotC.

    BTW, I tested with my buddy (him playing MRB) and he had T1 Guide in nearly every match. What a cheater, have to quit friendship asap.


  24. @Goblin Guide accusations:

    He has a 40% chance of drawing one in his starting 7, 55% if he’s on the draw. So roughly half of the games, he’ll have turn 1 guide anyway. If you then take into account that he probably mulled weaker hands w/o guides, I’d estimate you can get to about 70% chance of having turn 1 guide. Only takes a little luck to get to the point where you have it almost every game over the course of a tournament.

    Anyways, great to have articles by japanese pros, keep it up.

  25. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  26. Out of interest, who does your translation work? (there nothing wrong with it at all btw)

  27. Love the article.
    I’m also curious about the Blightnings being sided out against RDW
    I was thinking of putting it in my RbDW sideboard against RDW (and against controll of course). My RDW plays have been wrecked by blightning. Sure we can ditch unearth creatures, but its still devastating to loose all your gas early or mid game.
    Does anyone thing Blightning is good against RDW?

  28. The argument over T1 Guide frequency is fallacious. You need to remember you are reading the *winner’s* report. If you read the report of the guy who went 0-6 with this deck you’d probably find he rarely had T1 Guide. That isn’t a coincidence, it’s just cause and effect.

    The red deck wins more frequently when it has T1 Guide. As Mori obviously had to win frequently to win the event we should *expect* any winner’s report to contain a greater than average incident of T1 Goblin Guide.

    The winner of the event often having T1 guide isn’t indicative of anything (and certainly not cheating). It is what we should expect to see.

  29. Deathrace King

    Am I to understand from this article that his win intentions v.s. kor firewalker was Kargan dragonlord? Ive been trying to figure out what he did about the firewalker. Seems to me the time it would take to make the dragonlord dangerous….if given to a control opponent would result in like 85% losses. I’d like to know how he would play around a turn 2 firewalker.

  30. just because I am exiled from magic all my guesses are right… and one of them was def play mono red these weeks.

    ofc when I bounce back to mtg I will lose my powers…

  31. I do the translations for ChannelFireball.

    @ Mister Miyagi

    As Luis said, the Japanese original for this article will be going up during the coming week. The Japanese originals for the Saito articles are always posted right under the English versions.

  32. Emily, do you tend to translate writing style when you translate? This article reads very differently than Saito’s to me. I find this one a bit harder to extract the true meaning from. I was curious if that was a result of Mori’s writing style.

    On second thought, I think perhaps you translated the sentences in the order the words were written in Japanese. Reordering the various parts of the sentence when translating from Japanese to English would make it a lot easier to read for me.

    Enjoyed the article, though I too am very confused on the anti-control plan. Maybe the plan was to play nothing but Jund all day. =P

  33. My apologies for all of the misunderstandings, I misread Ball Lightning as Blightning. To clarify, Mori took his Ball Lightnings out against Jund. The article reflects this correction.

  34. in 1st place i dont speak english.. my apologizes if my writting is bad..

    blightning isn´t that good against RDW..if he plays T1 gg and/or T2 hellspark elemental you are at 14/11 at least (and only if u have a bolt or terminate).. playing it turn 3 or 4 means 5-8 dmg from he´s next turn.. and a hellspark in he´s graveyard! leaving u in 3 life.. and u dont want stay in that situation..

  35. @Runner/Mogg/Herby

    I’m confused: where in the article does he even mention Blightning, let alone say that his opponents sided it out>

  36. @Istarion:
    This whole blightning thing is addressed in Emily Porcher’s last comment. Reading the whole comment thread helps 🙂

  37. @Eric
    Her post had not appeared while I was commenting – I’m thinking I left my browser open for a while before reading the article. Thanks for the advice, though!

  38. This is a clear example of how woefully behind the meta paper magic is, RDW is all over modo and you would not find too many decks without significant hate in the sideboard.

  39. Great article! I like the translation and everything 🙂

    I also find it funny that when people start their comment with, “I’m sorry my English is bad,” have great English!

  40. I never knew there were so many talented female Japanese MTG players. It’s nice to get the female perspective of the game from time to time. The diversity is nice to see as well in your stable of writers. We have come a long way since the fifties that’s for sure! If there is ever a Channel Fireball swimsuit calender, my vote goes to the two babes, Mori and Saito together on the cover.

    Thank you,

    Ron Burgundy

  41. Okay, glad to see that his Jund opponents didn’t take out Blightning. That’d be insane.

  42. I immediately regretted my prior post. I have had a few too many glasses of Scotch today it appears. I apologize to the two ladies if I was out of line.

    Yours truly,

    Ron Burgundy

  43. @Fading Thought;

    The paper meta isn’t any less developed than the MTGO meta, it’s just that it’s almost a different meta entirely. There is a whole laundry list of reasons for the popularity of RDW online but I’m not going to get into it here.

  44. @ Paper meta comment: actually, the paper meta is AHEAD of the online meta… Red decks vary in popularity on a monthly basis as the meta shifts to accommodate or frustrate them.

  45. @KramlmarK

    That’s the primary factor, and I guess most of the other factors lead back to that in some way, but there are others. For one, the level of competition is higher at paper ptqs than online ones; if your a good player you want to play a deck that rewards your player skill, not one that relies on whether or not your opponent sticks a Kor Firewalker or not. I could write an entire article on explaining this, and maybe somebody already has or is planning to, but not on the comments section to be read by a dozen people.

  46. To the people who said “Always had Goblin Guide…Seems suspicious” …well…I can come back and say..”.Always has Putrid leech…seems suspicious”, or “Always Had Noble Heirarch…seems suspicious”. Not defending either way, but maligning someone who was watched, I have no doubt, by Judges and spectators is just stupid…Just seems he had good draws..That does happen from time to time.

    Mr Katsuhiro, I have been running RDW for the past few months and with the introduction of Ember Hauler from M11, do you think it could take the place of Kargan Dragonlord? I have wanted another 2 drop in that slot for the longest time and feel it might be better since RDW’s objective is to deal 20 asap. Waiting to spend mana to “hopefully” get a charged Dragonlord seems kind of defeating the purpose, whereas a turn 2 Hauler could get in earlir damage with less of an investment. Yeah it dies to everything arguement holds, but youve got a response if you have open mana,. With the Dragonlord, if a path hits it….well….hit the bricks Dragonlord.


  47. Cliff: if you wanted his opinion on something I would recommend that you learn some Japanese, as he doesn’t speak much English.

  48. Good article Mori.

    P.S. I really hope there are no more comments about “looking like a girl,” as it’s pretty juvenile. The non-apology afterward made it worse.

  49. Pffft, I like Mori’s hair >>

    Grats Mori, and love seeing more Japanese pros on the site.

  50. @Tuffy

    Have a little class dude. Don’t accuse someone of cheating if you have absolutely no evidence of it.

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