Innistrad – Evil Rising

This has been a looooong time coming. I’m still in Japan and I still play any chance I get. I just ordered a complete set of Innistrad and it should be on my doorstep any time now. The set has been around for some time now and it has been “Returned To” because of it’s awesomeness. For those of you in the “Innistrad?” group, let me enlighten you. For the others, click here to skip to the juice.

Innistrad at a glimpse

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When the light fades and the moon rises over Innistrad, humanity becomes the universal prey. Packs of werewolves are drawn out by the moon, their humanity washed away by animal rage.

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Vampire families bare their fangs at the scent of human blood. Hordes of Walking Dead lurch across the manors and moors, driven by an innate hunger for the living.

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Alchemically created abominations twitch to life in alchemists’ laboratories.

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Geists haunt the huddled human towns and terrify travelers along the dark crossways in between.

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From Innistrad’s depths, powerful demons and impish devils plot humanity’s downfall.

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The humans of Innistrad have done their best to fight back. They form torch-wielding mobs to cleanse the abominations with fire. They train specialized holy warriors called cathars to strike back against the supernatural horrors. Most of all, they brandish the power of the Church of Avacyn.

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The Church is named for its leader, the powerful Archangel Avacyn who was created by the Planeswalker Sorin Markov to safeguard humanity and allow them to coexist with their predators.

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Innistrad’s last few years have been tumultuous. First the demon Griselbrand trapped Avacyn in the Helvault with him, weakening the strength of the rites that invoked her and lowering humanity’s defenses against the horrors of the night. When the situation was at its worst, with zombie armies marching on the high city of Thraben, the Helvault was sundered and Avacyn was released. But no sooner had Avacyn restored some measure of peace and balance to the plane then a new threat began to spin Innistrad toward its doom.

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Madness swept over Innistrad as the fleeting hope of Avacyn’s angelic protection turned to horror. Sorin Markov finally intervened, unmaking his beloved creation. But with Avacyn’s unmaking, the last protections over the plane fell as well, opening it to new otherworldly intruders….

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Back to the real world

From an outside perspective, Innistrad is a Victorian horror story with all of our favourite monsters, ghouls and ghosts. Then there are vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, geists, people and of course zombies of the best kind.

When I first got into magic, Innistrad had just been released and I fell in love. Every booster opened was a marvel at all the beautiful artwork, flavour text and everything in between. Me and J would stay up till early hours of the morning making decks to crush each other with. We’d hesitate about adding Liliana of the Veil to a deck because why would we want to discard a card? And most importantly, there were no zombies in the artwork. Everything about the set was so enticing that it drew me in to the entire world of magic.

After years of playing, I often go back to Innistrad and of all the sets that have been released, Innistrad remains to be my favourite. It may be flavoured with a splash of bias being my first box purchase and my introduction to Magic, but none the less my favourite.

Vorthos

Once upon a time, I was to write a series of articles for PucaTrade. It was to a story about the ‘Vorthos’ or ‘Mythology’ of Innistrad. It would include a short episode of each of the tribes within Innistrad and they would each include a deck. The stories would then combine to draw some kind of cataclysmic climax. I never got to finish those articles, and they didn’t even get my profile picture right, next to my articles. So now, I’ll release the articles on my blog, right from the start.

Part 1. Cry of the Wolf

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Deep within the realm of Innistrad, on the farthest stretches of Gavony, not so far from the Kruin mountain pass, a small and bleak farming town is on the verge of extinction. An epidemic is consuming the last of this once festive but now darkened village. Just on the outskirts under a tall Boreal tree, a man struggles with the last of his sanity. He must now choose to end his own life or confront a great pain he has suffered. This is a burden which drowns light; a sickness without cure. He must now carry the disease: Lycanthropy, or be consumed by it. He now speaks to a god he fears, that may not exist.

“There is a… place inside of me where… it is so… there is so much rage and just red and so… uncontrollable. I am scared. Every day, I fear this thing; it controls me. It burns my very core, it keens my senses… but it frees me from this, this every day – mundane prison. Where is she? She was supposed to protect us and now she is… not here. I gave her my entire life; my soul. My very being is just for her. And where are you when I need you?!”

“My name. My name does not matter any more. My family is no more. My entire family name. All of them, murdered… gone, by something so terrible, inside of me. Everyone is in danger. I; it is something else, it is an animal, a beast with nothing but savage, rage, lust and so powerful and it… lives inside of me.”

“Everything is so… All of this. Everything I have lived for. Why does she punish us like this?! This small town. This little, peaceful Effalen – is all I know, and soon it will be no more.”

“The dead walk freely, demons plague the fields and those arrogant Stensian spawns of evil will come to ‘sport’ on the last of us. While the rest of us become cattle there are some who resist. They fail and come to live an even more gruesome existence. We are lost. All of us will be gone soon.”

“Please. Give me something. Anything. I’M CALLING ON YOU!!”

“Nothing matters any more. Let them come. I’ll show show them my fear, my anger, my rage. I will show them pain and suffering. I will crunch their pale faces in my jaw. I’ll bury my claws deep in their chest, snap their fragile bones and tear them limb from limb…”

“Soon. Soon it will be they who fear us.”

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Cost / Land Ratio

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Mana Curve

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Grand Prix Japan, a different perspective.

GP Shizuoka, lets get ready to rumble!

Wait, what’s a GP?

Ok, GP stands for Grand Prix (Pronounced “Groan” without the ‘a’ or “Gone” with an ‘r’ and “Pre” as in Preordain or Preposterous), like the F1 Racing Cars in Monaco; except, it’s a massive card game tournament open to all players that grind it out swiss style to win the prize at the end of the gauntlet. It’s free to walk in, trade with other players, play games, shop and what not; but it usually costs to enter any tournaments or events. The first day usually involves about nine time limited games, depending on the format spanning over about 12 hours with tiny breaks between, lest you finish a game quick. That’s the main event. If did well, you’ll land a place in what people commonly ask “Did you make day two?”
Day two usually has more side events, even some funny ones and if you did make it to day two, you’ll probably have cameras on you which would most likely be streamed live on some website, just to add a little more pressure.

To sum up it’s a massive tournament, thousands of competitors, big prizes, free trade, shops, sometimes cosplay, card signing and an unhealthy gruel vendor.

I’m in. What should I bring?

  1. Yourself,
  2. A toothbrush,
  3. Fresh clothes,
  4. Lots of extra cash, should your budget allow,
  5. Explicit directions to wherever you’re staying,
  6. Your phone charger, if you have one,
  7. And, your cards. No bulk stuff, it’s just weight.

I explicitly recommend to pack in this order. Should you do the regular, reverse order; numbers 6 through to 1 will achieve a rather likely chance to be neglected, then forgotten.

What can I expect?

Fun. Lots and lots of fun. I recommend going with close friends and procure a meeting place or a way contact each other. The venues are large and it’s easy to detach from your attachment should you go AWOL. The announcements can be loud and annoying, so earplugs or an iPhone may be a plus. Toilets usually have a long cue so time your visits strategically. Buy bottled water if you want to keep your wits. Battle wise and true but most of all, have fun.

GP SHIZUOKA

Welcome, welcome, welcome my fellow MTG fans. This is GP Shizuoka in Japan on the early parts of the month of January of the 2015th year of the outdated Gregorian scrolled calendar. Take a peek inside and be marveled at the hoards of beautiful creatures gathered in a single venue and breath in the flavor of what is a Magic the Gathering Grand Prix, Shizuoka.

I don’t need to tell you about results, deck techs, general event information and what not. You can find those things like, everywhere else.

Tatami Match

Skewered rules are conjured for games to be played in an artificial but settling and comfortable setting. In this case, a typical Japanese dining room. Tatami matsShōji screens, Kotatsu and some Fuji wall hangings. Not so hard to pull off in Japan. It’s the ‘how to get it there (and back)’ that’ll kill your wallet.

The brave guy in the picture was well dressed for the event and there needs to be more people in Japan doing this. This is the damn Cosplay capital of the world and he seemed to be the only one in uniform.

Lola

After a brief ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ and a ‘can I post your photo on my blog?’ I came to a realization that this was actually no cosplay. He was dressed up for the event as attractive as he could be. Regrettably I didn’t get to know her so well but this wonderful human being is a genuine Lola and she wore it proudly among maybe some of the most judgmental and possibly inverted stereotypes that roam this planet. Damn proud to be human when I meet people of this caliber.

Hydra

My friend spotted it first and yeah, the inner geek wouldn’t allow him to let it go. Me too though. He had to get the photo with her, and he did get it too. For those of you who haven’t spotted it yet, here’s a clue:

Bitterblossom

I went the extra length to get that shot. Now, this is a DCI version of the card I made for her so I could get a more decent shot of the dress she wore. It’s Bitterblossom. A Bitterblossom dress and she printed it herself. She had a Liliana costume she would have loved to have worn, but she was too embarrased / considerate to flair? This is where it gets slightly complicated. As I mentioned above, there was no one else cosplaying; particularly, no girls cosplaying. If she were the only one to go as Liliana there would be a LOT of attention around her in which she most likely wouldn’t be able it make it through a game without a drooling nerd begging her for a photo (like me haha). Not only that, but the organizers may take offence as the ‘attention’ wouldn’t be part of the ‘plan’ therefore disrupting the event which may conclude with the T.O. asking her to either change or vacate the premises, worst case scenario of course. That’s what I got from my crappy Japanese anyway. Rules are rather bureaucratic here in Japan and there’s no exception for a Magic The Gathering tournament held here. I’m sure, being around this game long enough, you’d have tasted a bit of that poop in your life.

Oh how pompous of me. Her name is Hydra. Yes, like the creature type, Hydra. Why Hydra? Because, Hydras. It was lovely to meet another person who showed love for the mythical beauty and tribe should Wizards keep up the good work of releasing them in almost every set. Hydra’s are awesome. If you don’t cut off their heads too fast, they just roll over things. Way better than dragons! Hydras!

She presented me with some card sleeves she designed herself. Thank you so much Hydra! Keep up the awesome work!

Guesthouse

Selfie!! There was an attendance of around 2800 for the main event and a crowd of around 4000+ so you can imagine the hotel owners looking at the books that weekend and remarking “…and business is ‘a’ boomin’,” and of course all the people who lost out and had to slump over a McDonalds table and call it sleep. This time I was a little more smart though. I booked a quiet little guesthouse on the outskirts of Shizuoka that was a little more difficult to find on the net (Good guesthouses usually are). It came with a fireplace, lounge, leather couches, large screen T.V. wonderful decor, interesting books, !!!Feijoas!!! and a comfortable sleep and for 2500yen (around US$20) muahahahahaha ahem. Yeah, we had the place to ourselves. Here’s some more photos to show off:

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Ok, that’s enough. I’d post more but WordPress has a kind of a limit thing. It was really nice. The photo’s don’t do it justice. So after a bunch of beers, four hours sleep and a sore head in the morning we were fully prepared and ready to take out the event and crush our squirming opponents and step on their heads and mount our flag on their deceased carcass’ in raging and glorious victory.

DAY 1

So the usual things happened, announcements thumped into our skulls every few seconds and in every language as we frantically tried to build a deck and list them down on the paper we were handed. I must admit, I got handed a very positive pool of cards which included synergy and a few combos. Of course none of those would be included in my mainboard because within my self inflicted state of brain hurt, I made five color abomination of puke and turds in which I won almost no game, except for when I actually bothered to side out 17 of the 23 card mainboard and insert something a little more playable. Head hurting, high energy and fun all around. Oh, this was before I had to sift through the crowd to find my chair:

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On the way to my seat, I saw a few interesting faces so naturally I pulled out the snapper. This guy plays Magic the Gathering and was situated quite comfortably waiting for his packs of cards to be cracked:

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I din’t ask him for permission to have his face here but it’s ok, cause he’s from Australia and I’m from New Zealand. We always do nice things like this for our friendly neighbours.

After came the grueling games, most of them, kind of grindy which inconveniently helped my hang over and impaired vision. But who cares? It was fun and I got paired up with two girls during the battle royale. 2800 competitors and about 10 of them being girls. Very sad. Not enough girls play this game and I intend to change that… somehow, I don’t know how but I’ll make it happen.

Pumpkin Cafe

Hmm, the name doesn’t come to mind but she works at a cafe in Hamamatsu in where everyone in that cafe plays Magic the Gathering. Very cool. I wanna open one of those in Amsterdamn 😉 Pumpkin Dumpkin, Culture Cafe. Free advertising guys!

After my complete and utter failure at getting any kind of respectable rank, I gave up and floated around trying to take interest in some of the more prominent matches taking place under the spotlight:

Match

After all the excitement settled down and people started clearing, I rendezvoused with the guesthouse friend who introduced me to some interesting characters I unfortunately didn’t take any photos of. One, a nuclear engineer, a logistics expert and a biochemist all taking a break from the boat to game it out. So naturally as a Kiwi, I kidnapped them and took them back to the guesthouse for beers and geek. I’m telling you, that was one interesting experience I… we experienced.

DAY 2

Hung over for two days in a row didn’t help my game aptitude at all. Yes it was my fault but that’s just cosmetics. Yup, I completely shippered out so I couldn’t do day two main game and my brains were too dysfumptional to take up in any serious side event, so I just went around interviewing and meeting interesting people and stuff. Please note, I’m doing this off warped memory so some of what I spit out may be a little off target.

IMG_2559Photoed here, on the left is one of the only Level 5 judges that exist here on Earth and to the right, a familiar good looking fellow. I was told that before he took up being a Magic Judge, he used to be some kind of detective or spy? Someone important anyway. He is very famous amongst the French Magic the Gathering community and I would love to know more about him. It was very inspiring to see them in action so I inquired and got the low down. Thank you so much, Stuart for giving me inspiration and showing me the door to become a judge. Here’s one of the red shirts in action:

Judge Action

Judges do a great job and service to the magic community and deserve more credit for it. They give their time and expertise voluntarily for a game that they love and follow. Admiration. Gratefulness. Awesomeness. Thank you guys!

No Grand Prix is without vendors. I’m gonna pick on Tokyo MTG because we spoke briefly but when we did, it was on a mutual level, light, funny, friendly and welcoming. Here is their little stand of foily greatness:

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This may seem like no biggie but consider, this is Japan. These young men opened a shop in a foreign country where the native language is worlds apart from English and have been recognized among the card trading giants in Japan as one of the major players in this entanglement of sharks and barons called ‘The magic industry.’ They work hard and without sleep to get you those shiny cards you need. And they are based in Japan.

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That little piece of paper is probably worth more than the car you drive. And this is the business they have taken on. It’s cardboard crack and trades like it too. Bundles of notes being transacted for something that is literally four grams and to shuffled and flicked on a tabletop is an opener for the uninitiated.

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Ryan (almost bottom right), who I finally met, organized a cube from the Tempest set in which he’d been hanging on to for some time. There was even a pro tour winner amongst the players. I opted out so another could join, but wow. That looked like so much fun. I’m in next time Ryan for sure! Ryan is also a super hard worker who supports the Magic community in Japan. Go to his blog here and support him. The Japan Hobbyist. I order you.

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He did well, explaining in Japanese and in his American accent – the rules and how the cube works. So much fun, thanks Ryan – see you in Kyoto.

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And of course, there’s the usual Japanese shenanigans, this guy lifting up his ‘skirt’ apron to suggest a type kinkiness to attract people to the shop. I like it. Judging by the looks on peoples faces and rolls of eyes I can safely deduce that the locals grow tired of it… but they’re boring. I’d encourage and endorse it. Magic is a fun scene and things like this make the venue seem like entering an enchanting circus as a kid would see it. I guess this would be the only cosplayer here, but it doesn’t really count. He’s shop staff. It’s actually his uniform for a pack open type tournament they held that day. There should be more of this stuff. Enchanting. That was the word I was looking for.

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One of the many boxes of free cards littered all over place. Yes I grabbed as much as I could carry. There were even crappy rares in there. Still haven’t looked through them all yet. I swear, the guilt that comes when I think of the amount of trees that get sacrificed to keep this game prospering.

Playmat

A cool playmat that was a tournament win only mat that eventually came to be on sale. I figure it was some kind of Manticore but then remembered the house guardian doggies called Shisa from Okinawa. You can decide for yourself. If finance allowed, I would love to get my hands on one of those. I would trade a Japanese foily Vexing Devil for that 😉

Later I would actually meet a beautiful couple from Okinawa that I will hopefully meet again in the following GP. We shared stories of our dordles and travels. One of the couple members, Shawn left me dry on a story of how he almost met the Grim Reaper himself. As he neared the climax of the story the announcer posted the next event and Shawn’s story was cut short. Dammit. Here’s a whole team of judges waiting for Shawns partner to end a super grinding game. There were six judges there. Three missing off to the left.

The Grind

Lastly I’m going to leave you with one of the best memories of the tournament. This marvel of a beautiful being was single handedly the most positive, warm and humorous auras I encountered at the tournament. I don’t know his name or his judge level but he had me in fits of laughter every time he walked past. If you ever read this blog, whoever you are, thank you so much for giving me the pleasure of your presence and just general awesomeness. If you’re at the next event, I’ll have an expensive, cultural, Japanese square watermelon ready for you to stab your umbrella into.

Friendly Judge

And that’s it. If you’ve wanted to go to a GP but felt intimidated, short cashed for the payoff or just lazy; just go anyway. You’ll be glad you did, I guarantee it. I had the time of my life. I want everyone else too as well.

Thank you all the organizers for putting on such a great event. Thank you to all the people who came and most of all, thank you for reading this far. Hmmm, I feel like I should be handing out a prize or something. Ok, I’ve got it. Like my Facebook page and I’ll put your name into a randomization robot and post you the following foily vexing devil pictured below free of charge. The conditions are, you have to take a selfie of yourself holding the card to prove that you received it… and humbly for blog flair 🙂 Good Luck and don’t worry, I don’t post much so it won’t flood your Facebook page. Thanks again!

Foil VexiplexiDeadline is February the 1st. Then I’ll announce the name. LIKE!

Magic In The Hood

In and around Kyoto there are hidden Magic Shops. They’re not hidden from the radar, but you’re not likely to pass them on a random walk. This one isn’t on a ‘main’ street. In fact, it’s in a residential area. Very local. So check this one on google maps (Gmaps Link) and see if you live close.

Game Shop Bricks -> Wiz Link -> Gmaps Link

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Notice the upgrade? Before, it was an old rusty building. Now it’s a bustling game store. From the outside, you’ll know it’s a game store too. They’ve got gatcha pon machines out front and dozens of posters featuring our favorites Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, lots of others and of course our favourite, Magic the Gathering.

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The inside is rather narrow but the place is laid out the best it could be in such a tight space. There are walls of nice staples you may be after in glass display shelves. You can get the sleeves you always need. Yes, ultra pro is sold here.

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Just around the corner there’s a shelf about the height of your heels that shouldn’t be missed. They contain four ofs of most of the commons and uncommons from just outside of the standard sets. For now it was M13 and the Innistrad block.

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Near the counter we have rares, staples and a bunch of cards under a certain threshold. Most stores have them. This one is not exempt. Who doesn’t find lots of cards stacked neatly in clear plastic cases, sleeved and on shelves attractive anyway?

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Games Workshop merchandise fits right at home in any gaming store but much like many other stores around Japan, it lives in a lonely corner collecting dust. There are a few other card games played here as mentioned above so their schedule is set for Friday Night Magic nights, pre-releases and special events. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.

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The seating arrangement makes for a tight fit but allows more games to take place. The store could house around 16 games at a time I’d imagine with a crowded chicken shuffle. I visited on a rather lonely night so I was able to walk around and breathe a bit. All and all, it’s a great shop with staff that’s willing to help a foreigner.

Give it a visit!

Kyoto – Part 3

And for the last of the in-city trio of shops in Kyoto the support Magic The Gathering is dun, dun dun duuuun:

Dragon Star -> Wiz Link -> Gmaps Link

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Again, the trio of shops are very close to each other so if this one doesn’t have what you’re after, you can hop to the next one. Just to recap, the others were Yellow Submarine and Amenity Dream and they’re only within a few minutes from each other.

Here is a shop that stocks a broad range of card games from baseball cards to our all time favourites. Although they are a franchise with shops scattered around Japan, they stock and stack with no bias to one card game. On each floor they have their specialist for each brand of trading card but today we are focusing on Magic The Gathering 🙂

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The play space is appropriately sized for the stature of the shop. You can expect the same kind of competition as the other nearby shops (people here can afford the staples needed in Legacy, so if you’re entering a competition you can be sure to get healthy competition here.

As I was browsing and taking spy photos a customer asked if I wanted a game. It was great. We played modern, my elves vs his Jiki pod. He absolutely raped the elves and it was a lot of fun. Although it may be unusual that a stranger will approach you and ask for a game, especially in Japan, land of strange foreigner shy people, iy happens more often than not.

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Downstairs, close to the counter, you’ll find the magic showcase cabinet. It’s only one cabinet but they put only the cards you need in there. O.K. so I need a lot of cards, maybe more than could fit in ten cabinets. In saying so, there were a lot of all-stars that I’m not yet willing to fork out for. I’ll have to make do.

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The Dragon Star in Kyoto has two floors. On the second floor there is another counter where you can buy products. There are sleeves, card game accessories and generally anything in boxes and packs. Also upstairs you can find your boxes of bulk singles with only commons and uncommons in usually great condition but at ¥30. Yes it can help when you’re missing that extra ‘negate‘ you need to brush up your control deck but be prepared to fork out if you’re looking to build a deck from scratch.

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So, thats it. Dragon Star, in Kyoto, just off the main Teramachi shopping area. Go check it out. There’s more than just Magic here 😉

Kyoto – Part 2

And not too far from the flagship of card game shops is the mothership of them all, hovering above on the fourth floor to be feared by all. Actually the sign isn’t very big but the poster above the ‘unnarrowed’ walkway can be seen from the ground if you tilt your head up. It is:

The Yellow Submarine -> Wiz Link -> Gmaps Link

These guys are in almost every major city in Japan, and sometimes have branches within cities. They stock the most popular trading card games, board games, toys, games workshop products and more.

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In the Kyoto branch they have the largest play space of all the shops within the city. They stock most of the most expensive cards for MTG and they have the most accessories all round. As usual, they love to show off all the sparkling good cards they have on display. Usually only the cards that are in demand find their way into these cabinets. If you want something thats not in them, ask them. Someone will help you even if their English is not so good. Keep a picture of the card handy on your smartphone / tablet / sketch book just in case. And emphasise, “I want!” Most likely, they’ll have it.

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Legacy is big in this shop. It doesn’t happen so often but when it does, lots of people show. And they show off too. Modern gets plenty of love too. Even the staff play casual game now and again. Once you’ve found the shop, it’s best to check the events board as their Wiz Link information is somewhat generic.

Most of the cards you need are here. There are junk rares, bulk boxes, cheap bundles and such all sorted by color and set. Every now and again, you can find a sweet deal in here.

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They have an event board that is updated daily and when the events gets larger a second room opens up for more players to game it. This place also has the best security of any shop I’ve been to so you can be sure that in the highly unlikely event that anything of yours is stolen, you can be sure that they’ve got it on camera. Thats something travel insurance can’t deny.

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Overall, if your looking to get real competition, finish off your legacy deck or you just want to watch the MTG trends in Kyoto, this is the place to come. Although not ‘huge’, this is the largest store in Kyoto.

Enjoy!

Kyoto – Part 1

This is a three part post including three shops in Kyoto that are within five minutes walk from each other. Firstly:

Amenity Dream -> Wiz Link -> Gmap Link

Yellow Submarine -> Wiz Link -> Gmap Link
Dragon Star -> Wiz Link -> Gmap Link

Today the focus is on Amenity Dream. Why? Because I like Amenity Dream. And there is good reason. Their bulk box is full of ¥15 ‘useful’ cards. I mean they’ve been pruned of cards that will just never go in a deck. You’ll never find a Pillarfield Ox or a prized Runeclaw Bear in these boxes unless of course they are in standard because often people like building the underdog deck that has a possibility of winning the FNM. As mentioned they are ¥15 as opposed to the regular city price of ¥30 bulk commons and uncommons and Amenity Dream throws in many rares. At ¥15 you can expect them to not be in near mint condition (although most of them are) as they aren’t sleeved. People usually don’t bother. I do. You’ll see why later on.

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You’ll find cards mixed from the respective standard sets separated only by color (as shown in the photo). On the opposite side of the bench, you can find ¥20+ bulk rares which are all sleeved. They are sorted into Legacy, Modern and Commander. They are completely unsorted and I am sure they insert presents on a daily basis. Here’s what I found today:

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In the distance there, that’s a Japanese Rhys, The Redeemed I picked up for ¥39, a Japanese Coat Of Arms at ¥19 and three tenth edition Japanese Grave Pact’s. That’s right, bargains can be found on a daily basis. And today, I got a bargain. For ¥125 or US$1.25 I picked up US$46.00 or ¥4600 worth of cards according to the US market. In Japan, they are worth more. How do they wind up in these boxes? There is a much more detailed answer but in short, these are chain stores that deal with lots of cards. They don’t have time to nit pick every card. If cards were sold to them as bulk rares, they on sell them as bulk rares. An employee will sift through the cards to look for expensive cards as quick as he/she feel his pay grade should allow. More often than not, money cards like these bypass the aforementioned ‘sift’. In hindsight they are still making a high margin profit selling Rhys at ¥39. It may seem like I’m a profit whore buying out the nice cards, but hey, I’m poor and the Coat of Arms and Rhys, The Redeemed are the beginnings of a great deck.

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As per usual they have cabinets full of nice and expensive cards you want to see in your collection. There is an even split of English and Japanese versions of the cards in this store. If you browse around a bit you’ll find the more expensive Legacy staples:

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They have a few Legacy dual lands on the shelf and a signed Black Lotus not shown in the photo. Overall, there is a juicy plethora of cards to get a decent deck going. I’m sure if you get on the ‘in crowd’ train, you’d be able to find what you want through trade. The seating space is smaller than other branches but optimal. The staff usually have their heads down ‘stickering’ prices and uttering a geek joke now and again.

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This place can be difficult to find. There’s no evidence that there’s anything Magic: The Gathering going on in the building until you actually go into the building. And the only way in or out is only by stairs, sorry to our wheel bound friends and family. So make sure to click the Gmap link at the top or click the one I just wrote or click here to get an exact location of the building and study it before you go. Getting lost sux especially if its keeping you from browsing Magic cards! When you get there, look for this sign and go up the plight of stairs. It’s on the third floor. Avoid Snob AnBlick unless you want to get a haircut.

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Happy hunting!

Magic Cat

Nothing makes a store as warm as having a cat. Today I found a shop that is off the Wizards radar. It is locally run by husband and wife with three rug rats and a cat. Sorry guys, no wiz link for this one:

Card Shop Avalon <- Shop Link

Super accurate ‘Google Maps’ location link ->

They don’t specialize in magic, nor do they have Friday night events. But they do have the odd organized event and I happened to visit when a legacy event was taking place.

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And there was the usual crowd of people packing US$1000+ decks. There was even a battle of wits deck with every dual and fetch land, ‘four ofs’ of the most expensive cards in the format. Do they play this deck to show off? I doubt they play it to win. Either way, all the decks showed overpowered and overpriced monstrosities of many different flavours but I didn’t see any reanimator decks… aaand that’s the only legacy deck i own. I’m in. Anyway, back to topic, there was this cat.

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It was sooo, right. It was the ultimate touch to make a store more local than a local store could possibly be. Her name is Aiko which means “love child”! How cool is that? Well maybe not so cool to the regulars but very cool to me. So during the ‘high stakes’, not-so-often legacy tournament there was a cat giving hints and strategy advice to both players. Isn’t there a rule against this?

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All aside, the shop had warmth and atmosphere. There’s not many places where its the customers that entice you to become a part of the Magic: The Gathering community. Avalon in Tottori is one of those places. It is also frequented by the local English Teacher from America.

The staff go that extra mile to help you get what you need. That’s how small local stores thrive. Avalon are doing the right thing in that department. They even gave me ‘freebies’ after I purchased a few items.

Avalon has stock. Maybe too much stock and nowhere to put it. The isle to the front counter it just wide enough for one person. This makes an incredibly interesting travel from one end of the store to the other (roughly four meters).

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Even though not dedicated to Magic, if you’re in the city of Tottori, this will be the only place you’ll get healthy competition. Ask in store for details about Magic Tournaments. They seems to be random and decided by the players.

And if you get bored there waiting for your next match, theres always kids programs on the TV. If you want to watch something else, you’ll have to battle children for the remote. Anyway, there’s plenty of people that like Pokemon right?

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What the tide brings

Merry Christmas everyone. I got a lovely pair of socks again. Wizards have done it again as they do every quarter. Just as my Magic addiction mellows they preview something that puts a bump in my pants. On Christmas day they gave us a sneak peak of a new planeswalker that strikes home.

Kiaora, the Crashing Wave

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I’m half Maori, but I don’t speak it, much. For those of you in the ‘not know’, Maori are the semi native people of New Zealand and Kiaora is the greeting, like ‘Hello’ or ‘Good day to you, sir’. As a kid, after playing a mini game in Final Fantasy VIII called Triple Triads, I was addicted. I drew up cards of the old stories of Maori Gods and wished that a company would produce something of that type. Ranginui – The Sky Father, Papatuanuku – The Earthen Mother, Maui – The Half God, Hinenuitepo – Gatekeeper of the Underworld all peaked my imagination. The stories were as great as any mythology in this world and although Kiora is not from myth or legend, she is of Maori origin, full name being Kiora Atua. The designer took the meaning of the word Kiora or ‘well being’ and ‘Atua meaning ‘god’, put them together and gave that name to her. Unfortunately for New Zealanders, when you put those two words together (Kiora Atua), it means “Hello, God” in a kind of casual way; like “Yo, God”.

Either way, it’s good to see some Maori in Magic. Come to think of it, there was a card way back in Mirage that has Maori decent. Taniwha, the river dragon. I think in those days, Magic was still in its infancy. They designed the set, then decided to give it an African theme, thus giving birth to Teferi and other cool ideas. In doing so, the poor little Taniwha from New Zealand must have lost its bearings and wound up in African waters. They released the card anyway.

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Without further ado, I wish you all the very best for the rest of the year and an enlightening start to a merry 2014. Here’s a little something Mr. Scott M. Fischer left for everyone.

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Grand Prix Shizuoka

After half an hours sleep and brisk walk through a chilling wind I was ready for Magic! Today we are in Shizuoka at the Grand Prix 2013! The event is huge with competitors and staff hailing from not only Japan but from all over the world. Two artists showed op, Lucas Graciano the designer of the recent Thoughtseize for Theros and Willian Murai who gave us art for Anax and Cymede and many other cards debuting from Return to Ravnica. Here’s a peak of the venue before people came:

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The shops were already open on the Friday morning before the event and even before registration. What was just a few people lurking the wares soon changed to hoards of scavenging vultures plowing through mounds of cards to buy up all the good deals. In most of the shops, they had a special ¥500 chance draw which includes a randomly made booster and a high chance of getting a booster along with it and also a chance to win a special rare card like a foily Jace or Bob, Force Of Will etc.

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On the first day crowds of people started pouring in and immediately sat and started playing. The tournament wouldn’t start till around 9am while everything would be set set up. They handed out our special participant card, a foil Batterskull with new and pretty art.

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In between rounds the good people at Hareruya were making noise for the secret booster prize winners. There were boisterous cheers, high five high energy and crowds of people around their shop. Yes! The awesome people at Hareruya know how to do and they do it good!

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John Avon was commissioned to paint a special painting of Mt. Fuji to be printed on a playmat just for this event. Big Magic’s Bigweb Man did a video interview with him earlier on. The team made a special display featuring his amazing artwork and they also boasted many sketches of his from the famous Unhinged lands, and they were for sale.

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The painting you see on the left is Mount Fuji, which is in Shizuoka, which is where this event is being held so the very limited supply of playmats that were being sold here have a somewhat sentimental value to the Japanese public. There was a queue of over a 300 people lined up to get one. Many people missed out but I was at the front… Taking offers 😉

There was break for food and refreshment and Big Magic were putting on a display in the Magic Ring having a special commander match with challengers chosen from the crowd that could answer special history questions about Japan. If you get the question right, then you get to be a competitor in the ring. You get your randomly handed out commander deck and challenge each other for a set of all five commander decks. The curator was also playing who is a high level judge and can speak fluent Japanese.

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And the Bigweb Man was flying around from event to event giving handing out candy and posing for the camera’s. Thank you Bigweb Man! Keep up the good work!

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Of all the games I played the very last one was the best. It was a tango of life gain, damage, removal of all kinds and elixirs to repeat the process all over again. I was running Golgari against Blue White Control with my biggest enemy, Sphinx’s Revelation. While I was getting life with a Whip of Erebos on field and Lotleth Troll pinging for large chunks of life while the Underworld Connections were spending that life to dig for large creatures. It was a very close win for me on the second round only seconds before time, with Golgari Charm clearing the board of 11 elemental tokens made from Master of Waves and 3 soldier tokens from Elspeth the previous turn to clear the the way for Lotleth Troll to trample over Nightveil Specter poking just 1 point of damage which was just enough damage to finish him off. He had Sphinx’s Revelation in hand and around 19 lands on board with only three untapped and 6 cards in hand that had been emptied of counter spells to a recent Duress. Jace, Memory Adept was on board and had 11 cards in library and was so close to death in every way. I got 2 wins with around 10 or so onlookers and being the very last match, this was the highlight of my weekend. My opponent had lots of fun, we exchanged contacts and agreed to meet each other for the next Grand Prix in Nagoya, April 2014.

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Thank’s Osashimi-san 🙂 for the amazing match and we’ll see you in Nagoya next year. Hopefully I can see you there too! Thanks for reading and please leave a comment.

For full coverage of the games, events and decklists, please visit the Nakada’s Orzhov Army Marches to Victory page.

Aroni out.

The Good Shop

I don’t know how I missed it last time. Maybe because it was overshadowed by the Big Magic shop across the street. Maybe because they didn’t have enough signage and neon lights for me to notice them but the the shop I found today was a gem of a find. The service was great, the store clerks super friendly and well stocked.

Game Shop Sakaiya <- Wiz Link

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This awesome little paradise of MTG heaven is the local shop of Osaka. It’s small, homely, comfortable and has a warm atmosphere. When you enter the shop, you are greeted with a beautiful display of Magic the Gathering goodies.

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Most of the big guys in Japan have multitudes of dual lands from way back, hundreds of $200 plus cards on display at all times. Sakaiya does it a little different. They care more for how the goods are displayed rather than showing off the quantity of their riches. The entrance display is humble yet manages to strike the wow factor.

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There are “Wanted” posters hanging all around the store with pictures of cards they… want. Also, what they offer for certain cards is quite healthy as opposed to the bigger stores.

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Their card range is almost equal in number from English cards to Japanese cards which is surprisingly awesome. They have on display staples for top tier modern decks and legacy for your eyes to feast and concoct.

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The store clerks here know their game. Customers would come in and ask for advice on their deck and the staff were happy to help as they did with me. I plan on winning the Grand Prix in Shizuoka next week 🙂 and the staff gave me honest advice on the meta and what has a high chance of winning. Hopefully their good advice won’t be in vein.

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The play area is small, very small. But I guess they’re lucky to even get a place to rent in one of the main city parts of Osaka. To me, this gives the shop it’s homely, local feel. It means if you come twice, people will remember you.

With the small space they do have, they have done right and stock all the goods you need to feed your Magic addiction.

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Just like many other shops, Sakaiya also use the folder browser for singles. Although the cards on the pages are written in Japanese, they do have English versions in stock. Prices vary from card to card, some being more expensive than the competition and some cheaper, but again, very well stocked.

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On my way out, a couple of girls entered the shop and used the Gatcha-Pon machine to get some cards. The good staff at Sakaiya have put a card vending machine in their shop and have made up their own boosters for the customers. On the outside are the cards that are in the machine, some marked off with little photos of the people who won that rare / mythic. I asked her if I could look at her prize. It was a shop made 15 card booster with Melek as the rare. Packs were ¥300 for the chance to win a nice and expensive standard card and ¥500 for the higher end cards. The ¥500 packs are a great way for people to open a booster that has a chance of winning something that boosters of today just don’t contain. I was thinking about it, but the cards come in Japanese and I still can’t read them yet.

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So, if you’re in Osaka and are looking for a magic shop, be sure to stop by Namba and give Sakaiya a visit. You won’t regret it.