(Metagame Archive) Two Turns Ahead: East vs. West?

By Tim Willoughby

“Konichiwa, watashi wa Willoughby Tim des.”

Barring numbers, various martial arts terms, and a few choice phrases that have no place in the dojo, that is all the Japanese that I know. But right now, I wish that I knew more.

This weekend features Japan’s very first Constructed $10K event, and of all of the events in Vs. System, I have to say that this is the one at which I would most like to be. The Land of the Rising Sun might not be the first place in the world to have gotten Vs. System, but you can bet that now that they do have it, they will be competing fiercely for a long time to come.

The approach that many Japanese players take to gaming is something that appeals to me on a very simple level. They don’t just want to win; they want to take winning to an art form. It is not a coincidence that the Japanese fighting systems have been referred to as martial “arts.” (Jitsu, as in “JiuJitsu,” literally translates to “art.”) They take the idea of self-defense and push it far beyond simply hitting people, or even hitting people very well. There is a Japanese martial art that, in its entirety, is the art of drawing and sheathing a samurai sword. The Japanese discipline of archery is not really concerned with hitting a target so much as creating the perfect fluid motion of loosing an arrow exactly the same every time. After that, it’s just a matter of pointing yourself in the right direction.

The latest direction in Japanese gaming is not a game of black and white stones that has been played for millennia, nor a game featuring an Italian plumber jumping down pipes. This time, the game comes from the U.S., but just because Japan didn’t get it first doesn’t mean that a Japanese player is any less likely to strive to reach the very top. The special moves aren’t O soto gare; or my personal favorite, tai otoshi; or even “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, start,” but you had better believe that the Japanese players will be ready to show their best this weekend in the Marvel Modern Age format.

I would strongly recommend that you take careful note of what is played in this next $10K. Japanese TCG players have a history of starting out slow but then catching right back up through a combination of innovative deckbuilding and a technically beautiful level of play in any format.

Masami Ibamoto, one of the first Japanese players on the Pro Circuit, first came to my attention when UDE R&D member Antonino De Rosa was merrily circulating around Pro Circuit Los Angeles chanting, “Eeh-Bah-Mo-To!” with a big grin on his face. That grin was mirrored by Masami’s own every time he heard his name. Just one of the Japanese players to take the plunge into top-level Vs. System play, Masami could be seen at the last couple of Pro Circuits playing, drafting, and trading all day long. On my flight out of Atlanta, Masami was all ready to draft on the plane on the way back. Ibamoto’s gaming never stops because gaming is his life.

He mentioned in Atlanta that, back in Tokyo, he likes to draft, draft, draft, but at the same time, he said that the Japanese on the whole are more into Constructed play than anything else. It gives them an extra opportunity to show off their creativity and produce something perfect and devastating (like the kind of monster that lays waste to cities). With the PCQ format currently being Modern Age but most players now looking to Silver Age for their next big deck, it might be time to look to Japan. Believe it or not, Japan is a country that’s well regarded for its technology, and I’m not just talking about Walkmans and tiny cell phones.

Earlier this week, Steve Garrett spoke of finding your Tokui Waza. There are many incredible Japanese techniques out there, and if you are looking for the next place to find your own special technique, you could do a lot worse than taking a trip to Asia. The Japanese will be on your shores soon, and you’d better believe that they will be prepared to make their mark on Vs. System.

Have fun, and tanakarabotomochi!

Tim “Gaijin on the Dry Gin” Willoughby



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