With limited Modern Horizons the format at Magic Fest, Washington, D.C., this weekend we did not have many standard events of note. The one major event was Mythic Championship IV Qualifier in Tokyo #2. Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Teferi, Time Raveler led six of the Top 8 decks. Nissa has been a rising star over the last few weeks as players have found new ways to employ her. Congratulations to Tomoyuki Yamaguchi for winning the event with a Gruul Midrange deck featuring Nissa.

Tomoyuki Yamaguchi– Gruul,1st Place, Mythic Championship IV Qualifier in Tokyo #2

Land (23)
Stomping Ground
Rootbound Crag

Creature (23)
Llanowar Elves
Thorn Lieutenant
Zhur-Taa Goblin
Gruul Spellbreaker
Legion Warboss
Rekindling Phoenix
Skarrgan Hellkite

Spell (14)
Lightning Strike
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Sideboard (15)
Ripjaw Raptor
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Living Twister
Thrashing Brontodon
Lava Coil
Blast Zone
Forced Landing
Chandra, Fire Artisan
Sarkhan the Masterless

You can see all the Top 16 decks from Mythic Championship Qualifier Tokyo #2 here.

Gruul has performed well over the last few weekends. The deck has shifted to big flyers with Rekindling Phoenix and Skarrgan Hellkite. Early versions of the deck played a couple of copies of Phoenix, but most of the top finishers over the last two weeks played a full set.

Having four hard to remove flyers presents a difficult challenge for Esper Control, Grixis Control, and most aggro decks. Skarrgan Hellkite presents an equally challenging threat. In all the matches I have played against Gruul this season, rarely has my opponent not used riot to give Hellkite a +1/+1 counter. As a 5/5, very few cards can take it down. Hellkite’s ability also wants the counter. You can spend 3R to do two damage to one or two targets, if Hellkite has a +1/+1 counter on it. This allows Gruul players to take out an opponent’s small creature or do additional direct damage.The combination of Rekindling Phoenix and Skarrgan Hellkite presents a lethal threat on a limited clock.

Domri, Anarch of Bolas quickly found a place in Gruul decks. Giving each of your creatures +1/+0 is one of the best static planeswalker abilities. His +1 ability adds a red or green mana and prevents creatures’ spells from being countered. His -2 ability allows you to kill one of your opponent’s creatures. I have lost to many Venerated Loxodon and Benalish Marshalls to this ability to count. Against decks that do not have many creatures, this ability gives Gruul a big advantage.

The card that has accelerated the deck the most is Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Gruul wants a lot of mana to cast its big creatures. Her static ability allows each forest to produce two mana. The five-mana needed to cast Nissa quickly accelerates to eight to ten mana. Plus, her ability to transform lands into 3/3 creatures with vigilance and haste provides protection for her the turn she comes into play or an attacker. When Nissa goes unanswered, she wins the game by creating threats and making it possible to empty your hand quickly. I expect to see more decks find a place for Nissa as the metagame continues to evolve.

I really like where the Gruul deck has gone. Having the ability to act like an aggro deck with the acceleration that Domri and Nissa provide makes the deck quicker than earlier versions of the deck. I expect to see more Gruul at Friday Night Magic and other events, so be prepared to deal with Nissa and her friends.

Until next time, good luck finding your win condition!