Top 8ing Players Tour Nagoya with The Trusty Vampires

Dmitriy Butakov


Hey Everyone!

Today I’ll tell you how Players Tour 1 went for me in Nagoya. First of all, I’ve already been asked a bunch of times: “Why Nagoya, not Brussels?”. I’ve had no theories about attendance or competition level, it was about playing the game and seeing the world, I am still enjoying my stay in Japan.

Players Tour Nagoya Tounament Report: Day 1

Day 1: Draft

Let’s start with the draft portion, I’ve hoped to open a Blue rare since I have a strong affinity for Blue in Theros Beyond Death (THB) Draft, it has incredibly strong cards and comes along with all other colors very well, UB and UG makes a graveyard-based deck, while UR flash is probably my favorite archetype, UW is not as good with Auras as GW, but it can exploit the full potential of 《Heliod’s Pilgrim》 as well.

Thryx, the Sudden StormStorm's Wrath

Gods of Theros have heard my pleas and Pack 1 I’ve opened 《Thryx, the Sudden Storm》, P1 Pick 2 was 《Storm’s Wrath》. Here let’s have a pause, the line of thought was we already have 1 absolute bomb and a very close to a bomb card (Even despite 4 damage will take down most of the creatures of the format I’d take 《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》 over 《Storm’s Wrath》), almost every good 2 and 3 drop in UR are Enchantments (《Oread of Mountain’s Blaze》, 《Mischievous Chimera》, and Omens, 《Dreamstalker Manticore》, 《Naiad of Hidden Coves》) so my priority was to draft them and 《Brine Giant》s high. As strange as it sounds Blue has the beefiest creature in the set and it survives the 《Storm’s Wrath》 your Omens will help to find.

Nadir Kraken

Pack 2 I’ve counterdrafted 《Elspeth Conquers Death》, a very powerful card out of a weak pack and proceeded with the plan, Pack 3 gave me 《Nadir Kraken》, still have mixed feeling about the card, like it’s obvious the Kraken is the nuts and I’ve expected it to simply obliterate my opponents in pair with 《Omen of the Sea》 and 《Thrill of Possibility》, but I drew it pretty often and it was just fine, usually, it was dealt with and even when it remained on the battlefield the growing number of Tentacles mattered only once.

The deck were:

From what I can tell, the deck was a complete success – bombs, sweepers and tons of enchantment synergy. But in the 1st round my Dreams of 3-0 were Trawled away by the Sphinx and a pretty good White Devotion deck, the other 2, however, went according to the plan. 2-1 in a limited portion and with a Round 1 loss, I’m pretty much out of any tie-breakers skirmish.

Dream Trawler

Day 1: Pioneer

I’ve chosen Mono Black Vampires due to its match against aggro decks, like my friend, said: “You start the match already sideboarded”, and it seemed I’ve figured a way to fight 5-Color Niv to Light. When the hype about the Dimir Inverter decks has reached its peak, I was already enjoying South Korea, that was grim news, but not grim enough to give up on a trusty deck. So, Vampires version 2.0, here we go.

Lost Legacy


I’ve made an article about Vamps not so long ago and there is not much to add, except 《Lost Legacy》 performed perfectly against Niv to Light during the tests.

Epic Downfall


Grasp of Darkness


Drag to the Underworld


A mix of sideboard removal is because you don’t want to overburden the deck with spells and sometimes you side in 1 out of 3, sometimes 2, it often depends on what you plan to side out.

Round 4: UB Inverter and Punt #1: LL

Presideboard Vampires’ chances are poor, without 《Thoughtseize》 even curved out Turn 3 《Champion of Dusk》 won’t be fast enough. A bunch of sideboard cards against Niv and UW also formed a sideboard plan vs Inverter.

Against UB Inverter


Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet


Drill Bit Drill Bit Rankle, Master of Pranks Rankle, Master of Pranks
Lost Legacy Lost Legacy Lost Legacy

Now we are ready to fight back. Game 2 I had a decent mix of creatures and disruption, and with opponent on ~10 life and 4 mana, I play 《Thoughtseize》 into 《Jace, Wielder of Mysteries》 and 《Inverter of Truth》.

Jace, Wielder of MysteriesThoughtseizeInverter of Truth

Then my mind just went dark and I’ve snap-chosen Jace. Like my logic was simple- if he bites the bullet with the Inverter, there are 4 non-Jace cards in the graveyard and I need only 2 more turns. With Jace installed he’ll probably mill me, but with only 4 mana grinding out would be hard and there are only 3 Inverters left with 4 cards in a graveyard.

There was absolutely no rush and I have no idea why I haven’t considered the options, next turn he played the Inverter, a turn later- 《Thassa’s Oracle》 which found him something on the top with 3 cards left in the library and provided a blocker to survive the combat. This situation ate me for some time, the right decision was to pick the Inverter and just attack the player and the correct play wasn’t even hard, it covered only 2 turns with little variables.

Anyway, the mistake here wasn’t the decision itself, but HOW it has been made, consider your plays, no matter how easy it seems at a first glance, don’t repeat my mistakes.

Round 5: UB Scarab Control: WW

Opponent’s decklist looked quite comfortable for me, not much countermagic to deal with 《Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord》 and ETB effects. It also contained some creatures to put your removal to use.

Round 6 and 7: Mono Black Aggro: WW WW

With the open decklists Vampires are favored at least 65% I think, there are usually 2 lines of Vamps losing:

If you can play with that in mind everything should be ok.

Round 8: Mono White Devotion: LWL

I’ve failed to prepare for the matchup, but somehow it felt 《Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx》 will be important since Mono White doesn’t deal with your board much. Game 1 I’ve quickly succumbed to the combo. The second one 《Blightbeetle》 was the MVP and I’ve slowly grown the board, with ~12 mana off Nykthos, 2 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 and Kalitas have started attacking past 《Heliod, Sun-Crowned》. We hadn’t much time for Game 3, I had a start with 1 and 2 drops into 《Champion of Dusk》, Turn 3 I’ve tapped out for Sorin and died to 《Walking Ballista》+《Idyllic Grange》 with Heliod in play.

Walking BallistaIdyllic GrangeHeliod, Sun-Crowned

Round 9: UW Control: LWW

SwampKnight of the Ebon LegionSorin, Imperious BloodlordKalitas, Traitor of Ghet

I’ve kept a one-lander with a Knight, 3 《Thoughtseize》, Sorin and Kalitas, with so much irrelevant cards biting the bullet seemed reasonable, never drew a 2nd land and conceded to turn 5 《Dig Through Time》. UW is a very good match post-board, no more useless removal, only discard, cantrips and haste creatures. And the #1 star 《Castle Locthwain》!

Day 1 record 6-3 was ok, I’ve felt comfortable with THB draft and could get some aggro pairings for the Vamps.

Day 2

Day 2: Draft

Alirios, Enraptured

The first pack brought no bombs, but 《Alirios, Enraptured》 was a solid 1st pick, a Penumbra Human for UB or UG (you can even untap it with 《Hyrax Tower Scout》) a blinking target for UW and a 《Final Flare》 fodder for UR. 2nd pick was 《The First Iroan Games》, I don’t remember were there 3 uncommons or not, but I probably would’ve taken this card even over 《Gary》, it’s not great vs Red with 《Omen of the Forge》 and stuff, but vs everything else it’s awesome – beef+draw+ramp for only 3 mana!

Towering-Wave MysticSleep of the Dead

Then I’ve picked up some mediocre Blue cards, but the signal for the archetype was 《Towering-Wave Mystic》 very late, like 11-12 pick, I’ve played this card quite a lot and it’s been very effective combined with 《Sleep of the Dead》, another card I’ve expected to wheel easily. 4 years passed in a split second and Pack 2 announced 《The Second Iroan Games》, not a fan of UG in this format, but the question is merely what color will you support U with, 2 Sagas were enough to give it a try, plus green have both graveyard fillers and graveyard abuser cards as well.


Nothing worth mentioning in the draft process again-good commons, late 《Sleep of the Dead》 and one more Mystic. The third one was awful with 《Ichthyomorphosis》 being the pick, a card I’d rather not play in my deck at all, it’s ok when you’re attacking in the air, but in an aggressive UG it’s terrible. I’ve expected to draft some 《Stern Dismissal》, but eventually ended up playing 《Ichthyomorphosis》 and it saved me a couple of times, but my opinion remains the same. Everything went according to the plan – more creatures, one more 《Towering-Wave Mystic》 and a couple of 《Relentless Pursuit》, one more card I’m not fond of. Ended up having double 《Sleep of the Dead》, but decided to play just 1, unlike UR we don’t have to push early damage through the blockers here.

The First Iroan GamesShimmerwing ChimeraThe First Iroan Games

Don’t remember when I got a very lucky pick of 《Shimmerwing Chimera》 which promised fun times on the Iroan Games.

Round 10: UR Flash and Punt #2: LWL

The opponent has played a pretty mediocre UR, at least I’ve seen no bombs, and can’t recall any rares he had. Game 1 I’ve played the Saga and got a creature targeted with +1/+1 counters killed in response, which ruined the game strategy and eventually led to a loss. The second game was a relatively easy win.

The third one I took some damage at the beginning, stabilized at 8 life and started 《Sleep of the Dead》 his biggest creature while growing the board. At some moment he makes a semi-suicidal attack to drop me to 4, I could’ve stayed at 6 and chump, but there were 2 Omens gone, 《Fateful End》 hits for 3 and I wasn’t going to take any more combat damage, the only thing to be cared about was 《Wrap in Flames》, that was relatively easy. Just Sleep his big creatures and slowly gain ground (He was low on resources, so it wasn’t hard to figure out a safe strategy), but a turn away from the win the blackout comes again.

Elite InstructorChainweb Aracnir

Main phase 2 I see an 《Elite Instructor》 and a 《Chainweb Aracnir》 in my hand, 8 mana open and an opposing 《Vexing Gull》 and think: “That would be quite a smart-ass play!”. I declare 《Elite Instructor》 and after spelling the card’s name realize I’m dead to 《Wrap in Flames》, but it’s already too late. I briefly think about calling a judge, but what am I supposed to say? “I am an idiot and want to replay”, even if that had a chance of success it would’ve been an offense to the very game. So I just Escape the Spider and prepare to hear my sentence. It is, of course, a well-deserved 《Wrap in Flames》.

Wrap in Flames

Twice I have treaded on the same rake of playing in a rush, the only positive thing is it is clear now I have a problem, and once the problem has been specified it can be dealt with.

Round 11: WR: WW

Heroic WR is probably the worst matchup for a deck like mine, but the opponent has the dilemma of trading with Mystics or letting them deal damage and any outcome fills the graveyard. I just got lucky with the curve and the Iroan Games I guess.

Round 12: BG: WLW

Sleep of the Dead

I like BG matchup with 《Sleep of the Dead》 decks, his creatures are clunky and usually come 1 at a time, removal is sorcery-based and situational (《Devotion》 or 《Power dependant》). Games 1 and 2 went straight with either player’s advantage. Game 3, however, took a while and showed it is a hell of a task to correctly play against 《Sleep of the Dead》 in 7 life.

Threnody SingerVexing Gull

My opponent started to quickly seize the initiative and grow the board, but the Sleep prevented him from full deployment, while I had 2 lucky draws between 《Threnody Singer》 to shrink 《Pheres-Band Brawler》 in response to Fight trigger and then a 《Vexing Gull》 to seal the match. Better lucky than good they say.

8-4 Total, Showdown.

Day 2: Pioneer

Round 13: Mono Black Aggro: WW

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Again, nothing of particular interest. At some point, you just play Kalitas and that’s it.

Round 14: Mono White Devotion: WW

Opponent got a mulligan every time, while I had a curved out Turn 3 《Champion of Dusk》 and a removal spell ready for 《Walking Ballista》.

Round 15: Mono Red Aggro: WLW

Gifted AetherbornMurderous RiderKalitas, Traitor of GhetSorin, Imperious Bloodlord

If there is a matchup better than Mono Black, it’s Mono Red, it has only 4 spells that deal with 9 of your lifelinkers, you have a ton of removal, Sorin works wonders and Kalitas is almost unkillable. But, despite all these things, turn 4 《Embercleave》 trampled over my average draw. Game 3 things went closer to the initial plan, first Kalitas got three -1/-1 counters and were used a cannon fodder by Sorin, but when the second has hit the board it was over.

11-4! I am going to the PT Finals! Wait, 11-4s make it into top 8 except but one, but I knew who that’s going to be, my tie-breaks were second from the bottom. I’ve already depleted all my luck sacks and was happy with the result. Now just wait for the Top 8 announcement, wish Lee Shi Tian luck, go home and fall asleep until the next PT. “…in 6 through 8 places, each with 33 match points, representing ALL players with 33 match points…”.

I am and have always been lucky. Pretty much any of my friends will tell you that. I’ve guessed a 3 digit number on my college exams. But that lucky? One of the feature tables drew and provided no X-4 to the Top 8. No need to say I was absolutely not ready to play, the tournament had already ended in triumph. At least there were about 20 minutes of pre-Top 8 procedures to barely put myself together.

Top 8

Quarter Final: Ub Devotion Inverter: LL


Shintaro “rizer” Ishimura
(Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast)

I’ve never been good associating Online nickname with a real person, so I’ve failed to recognize “rizer”, one of the terrors of Magic Online, in Shintaro Ishimura. When I saw his decklist, first thought was: “Hey, there are 27 lands, he can flood!”. But he didn’t. That was among the very few ways to win against midrange with a combo-out. I don’t see a point writing about how the match went, you can watch it on the coverage here, I got utterly crushed in under 10 minutes.

Sorry if some match descriptions are short, but that usually means there were no advantage shifts and I don’t think it would be interesting or informative to read it.


This was supposed to be the last “free invitation” tournament. I’ve parasitized on a 2-year-old MOCS win for far too long and have needed either an inspiration or a pause in Magic and am incredibly happy with how this tournament ended.

Dmitriy Butakov

(Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast)

I’d like to mention the high level of organization in general, the venue was great, there was a stage with daily public activities (haven’t understood a word, but that seemed fun).

Thanks to Hareruya for helping me find the missing cards, it was a pleasure doing business both as a member of the Pros and as a random client.

Thanks to all of you for the reading and I hope you found it interesting.

See you online,

Dmitriy Butakov (Twitter)

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Dmitriy Butakov A player from Russia who plays mainly on Magic Online. He was champion of the 2012 Magic Online Championship and in the following year, he top 4s the 2013 Magic Online Championship. In 2018, he becomes champion of the 2017 Magic Online Championship for the second time. Also, with his win at the Magic Online Championship, he achieved his prize to become a Platinum Level Pro. Having these tremendous results, in March 2018, he joins the Hareruya Pros. Read more articles by Dmitriy Butakov

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