Legacy is really coming into its own as a format. GP: Madrid was the largest Grand Prix ever, and even with just the Spanish players, it was the largest Constructed Grand Prix ever. That’s amazing. It’s interesting to see how Wizards will react to such strong support for the format demonstrated by the community as a whole. Legacy has clearly exploded in the last few years, and many cards have jumped in price as a result. Despite this, I think that now is a very wise time to invest in cards for Legacy, as I can only imagine that turnouts like this will result in more support for the format, which will result in more players, and cause prices to continue to jump. This is almost as self-defeating as it is self promoting, in that the barrier to entry becomes greater as prices go up, but with numbers like this, that may just be something we’ll have to accept.
Anyway, top 150 or something at a Grand Prix isn’t too impressive, but when there are over 2200 players, it’s slightly more respectable. I may not have a lot to show for it, but in a 17-round tournament, I got to play quite a bit of Legacy, and the format is definitely growing on me. There are a huge number of different viable decks and strategies, and clearly the cards exist to beat any of them.
I played Lands, with a build very similar to Owen Turtenwald deck from SCG Saint Louis, because watching him is what inspired me to pick up the deck in the first place, and in discussing it with him he was adamant about not changing most of the cards. My list was:
The second Misty Rainforest is embarrassingly obviously due to card availability. I didn’t have a Wooded Foothills and the difference was small enough that it wasn’t worth getting one. In reality, I’m not sure splitting the fetch lands is the right way to go. No one is going to needle your fetch lands, and it might be better to chose the land that is least likely to give your opponent information about your deck. I played Misty Rainforest and found Taiga on turn 1 of one of my games, and my opponent announced that he thought I was playing Lands as a result. For this reason it might be best just to play Wooded Foothills or Windswept Heaths so that someone might put you on Zoo or Aggo Loam or something.
Owen told me Zuran Orb wasn’t needed, and that you just find Glacial Chasm and use Nomad Stadium to beat the decks where you’d want it, but I’m not convinced that it’s not worth having access to it. The card seems very powerful in this deck. He suggested cutting Firebolt and playing Punishing Fire instead, with a single Grove of the Burnwillows main, but the inability to get it from your graveyard if Magus of the Moon is in play, combined with the fact that Grove of the Burnwillows is pretty bad, and I didn’t want to side it in often, convinced me to stick with the Firebolt, but I’m not sure that it’s worth the slot. Losing to a resolved Magus of the Moon might actually be a better plan.
Owen told me the second Barbarian Ring was important for some arcane reason involving Loaming two of them to win faster or something, but I didn’t like the second one at all. More man lands or Gargoyle Castle seem better if you want a way to end the game, and it generally doesn’t seem worth the slot to me.
The last decision I was trying to reach on the deck was whether to play Chalice of the Void or Mindbreak Trap in the sideboard, but I concluded that, while Mindbreak Trap might win game 2, it would never work in game 3, so I went with Chalice, partially because it also has applications in other matchups, unlike Mindbreak Trap. I’m extremely glad I did. Chalice performed well above my expectations, as it is extremely hard for Ad Nauseum to win through Chalice for 0 while they’re getting Ported and Wastelanded. I was assuming that Lands was slow enough that they would always have time to win through Chalice, but the pressure you put on their mana is so great that they usually just can’t. That matchup was much better than I expected.
All of these decisions were theoretical, as the only games I had played with the deck before the tournament started were a few games with Gaudenis playing Merfolk a few days before I left for Spain, a few games against Paulo playing Enchantress Friday night in our hotel room, and a few random games the morning of the GP while waiting for the player’s meeting after I had filled out my decklist.
I’m going into tournament report mode, where I talk about what happened to me in the event now, but given the nature of Legacy, I want to use each round as an opportunity to discuss the format and my opponent’s decks rather than focusing entirely on Lands, since I think that’s a bit narrow for such an open format.
The turnout was much higher than the staff was prepared for. On Twitter the day before, I saw people predicting numbers around 1000 for the Grand Prix, which seemed absurdly low to me given how popular Legacy is (if you’re unaware of this, it’s true: dramatically more Legacy events are run around the World than Extended events, which almost never happen outside of a PTQ season) and that it was in Europe, where Legacy is particularly popular and GPs are always huge.
The start of the tournament was delayed by over an hour to allow everyone time to register and to rearrange things to “accommodate” the large number of players. Accommodate is in quotes because announcements like, “As you go to your table you may notice that you don’t have a chair… We don’t have enough,” and, “If your table number is greater than ____, please go outside,” were heard before seating for the players’ meeting. My table didn’t have a chair, and neither did the table next to me. The two tables combined might have barely had enough space to fit one chair, so there wasn’t really even enough room for me to stand at my table. Side events were cancelled for the first several rounds due to space concerns, and there was no room for a feature match area on Day 1. This was a large event.
In round 4 I played against Eva Green, an oddly named almost Mono Black deck that splashes Tarmogoyf. The deck has a lot discard, like Hymn to Tourach, and land destruction in the form of Sinkhole and Wasteland. Presumably it also has some creature removal. At the very least, my opponent played Gatekeeper of Malakir. It wins with Tarmogoyf and Tombstalker. All of this is to say that it should almost never win game one against lands, since Hymn to Tourach, land destruction, and creature removal are all terrible against Lands once Life from the Loam is going.
In this round, my opponent waited too long to concede game 1, and in game 2 I managed to get several man lands, two Maze of Ith’s, some Rishadan Ports, and some other lands in play before he found Extirpate for my Life from the Loam. Extirpate is probably the second best card in the format against Lands after Price of Progress, and once he did that his Sinkholes were actually quite good against me. He eventually managed to get to the point where he had enough creatures in play to get through my defenses, but not quite in time to do it before the end of the round and I won 1-0-1.
Extirpate is good enough against me that, if he had conceded game 1 as soon as I played Life from the Loam (at which point I’m pretty sure he couldn’t win), I think it’s reasonably likely that he would have won the match (depending on how many Extirpates he had in his board). I might have had to board in Chalice of the Void for game 3, just to put on one to stop myself from getting Extirpated, which, while awkward, would probably be correct given how good my deck is against the rest of his plan. 4-0
In round 5 I played against Counterbalance, and things seemed to be going quite well, except that his deck had an unusually high number of basic lands. This made him generally less vulnerable to my mana denial, helping his matchup quite a bit. Still, he wasn’t able to assemble Top plus Counterbalance before I had enough lands in play to win, and I took game 1.
Boarding in Krosan Grips, I felt pretty good about winning this match. Game 2 was going according to plan. I was keeping him relatively low on mana and putting tons of lands in play. My engine was running smoothly and I was starting to attack him. Then he played Price of Progress and I took 22. I wasn’t expecting it from that deck.
Game 3 I had to try to keep my land count relatively low, and I had a Raging Ravine that I had to try to race his Tarmogoyf with, but the turn before I’d get to attack for lethal, he was able to play Ponder to make his Goyf bigger to put me at exactly dead to Price of Progress after he attacked. 4-1
He said that he had tested against Lands and couldn’t win without Price of Progress, so he added them, and he mentioned that he also liked them in the mirror. This decision doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since I don’t think the Counterbalance mirror is that aggressive in that way, and late in the game, when Price will do a lot of damage, one of you is probably winning with Counterbalance, and Price of Progress won’t matter. I don’t think there are enough Lands decks to justify playing bad mana in addition to dedicating that many sideboard slots, but sometimes you just play against someone who wants to beat you.
In Round 6 I played against Zoo. I Wastelanded him enough that his creatures were smaller than my lands, and he lost. Game 2 was basically the same, except that he mulled to 5. The thing about playing a deck that’s doing something as fundamentally unfair as Lands, is that sometimes you just win without ever really letting your opponent play. It’s not technically a turn 1-2 kill deck, but every now and then it might as well be. 5-1
I’ve been reasonably impressed with Legacy Zoo since watching it win some random tournament at a GP in Japan, but it might be the case that there are too many decks that threaten Zoo in a way it can’t deal with. Zoo’s card quality is high enough and the number of different kinds of threats in the format creates a situation where Zoo is generally well positioned against the answer decks in the format, reactive decks that are trying to stop the opponent from winning and have some kind of inevitability, mostly Counterbalance decks, but it’s weak against the other threat decks, mostly combo decks that win faster than it does. Still, there are enough disruptive creatures that if you choose the right mix to deal with the combos people are playing, it seems like it should be a viable deck. Lands, oddly enough, falls into the category of decks that pose a more powerful threat than Zoo, in this case, essentially a soft lock.
In Round 7 I played against Threshold, and this is another matchup where he didn’t really have any hope of winning. Nimble Mongoose seemed to be his best card against me, and that just traded with a Mishra’s Factory or Treetop Village. He had very few basic lands, and he didn’t even have graveyard hate. All he had to bring in against me were Krosan Grips and Ancient Grudges, which don’t really do anything, though they were a little better than they might sound at first, because I sided out my Intuitions for Chalice of the Void. It seemed extremely unlikely that he could win if I played Chalice for one, and that seemed better than another way to find my engine. 6-1
In Round 8 I played against Goblins, which apparently is almost like a super fast combo deck in Legacy. In the first game he played a Lackey on turn 1, and I didn’t have a Maze of Ith, so it hit me and let him put a Goblin Chieftain in play. There was probably a Piledriver or something involved in my almost immediate death.
Game 2 looked like it might be okay, since he didn’t play a Goblin in the first two turns, but on turn 3 he played a Warchief and followed it up by putting me to one with some Piledrivers. On my turn I was trying to figure out how I might be able to dig for Glacial Chasm to stay alive, and at some point my opponent put his cards face up on the table, extended his hand, and said good game, because his two Wastelands meant there was nothing I could do. LSV, who was watching, commented that he was impressed that my opponent managed to combine, “still had these,” the pre-emptive GG, and offering the hand after winning (all the things people who care about proper tournament etiquette like to complain about) into one fluid motion. It didn’t really bother me; he was pretty young and presumably happy to be 7-1 and looking to move things along, but I didn’t find LSV’s observation on the situation amusing. 6-2
In Round 9, playing to make day 2, I played against ANT (Ad Nauseum-Tendrils). As soon as I saw the Underground Sea in game 1, I thought my chances of making day 2 were probably pretty low. Luckily for me, it was extremely late in the day at this point (I was actually resting my head on the table before the round started because I was extremely tired), and my opponent was more affected by the fatigue than I was. Somehow he ended up sacrificing his Lotus Petal to play Dark Ritual and the Cabal Ritual, and then realized that he couldn’t actually win and just passed the turn with two cards in his hand. I was expected to lose, since he was under no pressure and easily could have waited until he knew he was going to win, but somehow he just misevaluated his hand, and that left him in a position form which he couldn’t win.
Game 2 I had the exact draw I’d want against him (I might have mulled into itâ€”I don’t remember). I put Leyline of the Void into play on his turn (I have to side out 4 Maze of Ith and 2 Tabernacles, and the only really good card against him is Chalice of the Void – I could just bring in Ancient Grudge and Krosan Grip to try to attack his artifact mana, but for the most part he has no reason to expose himself to those things, so I’d rather make his Cabal Rituals worse and disable his Ill-Gotten Gains). On my turn I played 2 Mox Diamonds, cast Life From the Loam to return the lands I discarded, and Wastelanded his land. Wasteland kept him off being able to go off while I used Loam to get 6 cards in my hand do (relatively) safely Gamble for Chalice of the Void, which I didn’t discard, and the game was basically over.
In round 10 I played against Elves with Natural Order for Progenitus. He said he had only actually won 5 games with Grapeshot, and usually just won with Progenitus. Lands is generally weak against combo decks, where the soft lock that it establishes doesn’t really stop them and it doesn’t have time to take advantage of its card advantage engine. This combo deck is particularly good against Lands due to the fact that it has a lot of basic lands, so Wasteland, the best weapon against some combo decks, doesn’t work. On the other hand, Tabernacle and Chalice of the Void are very good against them. Game 1 was basically a lost cause, but he won with Progenitus.
Game 2 I Chaliced for one and I had a Life From the Loam. My dredges were pretty bad, so it took awhile, but with him unable to play most of his spells, my man lands eventually beat him.
Game 3 I kept a pretty weak hand that had Chalice, since I don’t think I can really afford to mulligan any hand that can cast Chalice, and, after playing it for one, proceeded to draw Explorations and Manabonds for 3-4 turns, and couldn’t find Life from the Loam or a man land or anything, and he was grinding me down with an Elvish Visionary and a morphed Birchlore Ranger. Eventually I found Barbarian Ring and cast all my enchantments to get threshold to kill his morph, but I was still losing to Elvish Visionary. I drew Raging Ravine exactly in time to stabilize, but then he cast Natural Order, so I lost. 7-3
I’m not sure what to make of his deck. Natural Orders don’t take up that many slots, and they give him an extremely powerful second path to victory, but it’s also very telling that he had only really combo’d five times in day 1. Those slots are extremely valuable if you want to actually play for the Glimpse of Nature combo. It seems likely that the deck should have the ability to sideboard to move all in on the combo or to have the Natural Order plan, but I’m not sure if the Orders should be main or in the board. I think I like the idea of playing a dedicated storm elf deck game one so that you can be a little faster, and then boarding Progenitus to beat the hate.
Round 11 I played against a turn 1 Goblin Guide, which, as you might expect, gave me a card every turn. Next turn he played a Keeper of Kookas, and I was pretty happy that wasn’t any other creature. It took me a little while to find a man land to trade, but I was at 6 and going to start using Nomad Stadium and he was on one land, so I felt pretty good about things. Then he drew his second land and I found out he was playing Price of Progress.
After game 1 we got a mid round deck check, and I was awarded a game loss for “presenting a 16 card sideboard” because my unsleeved Umezawa’s Jitte that was given out at the tournament was in my deck box with my sleeved sideboard. I tried to appeal, since there’s no potential for abuse and it doesn’t seem safe to carry around a backpack at an event that crowded, so I didn’t have anywhere else to put it, but apparently there had been an announcement about it that I had missed during the overcrowded players’ meeting and the head judge felt he had to stand by the guideline. I talked to him about the rule throughout the day, and I hope it gets changed at some point. In general, I would like the philosophy on setting the penality guidelines as, “a game loss should only be given if there is some potential for abuse or an action is particularly disruptive,” neither of which was the case here (admittedly, there is some potential for abuse in having extra cards with your sideboard, and if I had been playing a deck with Umezawa’s Jitte, or one that could reasonably want it in some matches, it could be a problem, but I trust any qualified head judge at an event like that to be able to determine if there is a potential for abuse, the same way I would trust them to be able to determine if there was intent to cheat in some action taken during an event). 7-4
As for my opponent’s deck, I didn’t see much of it, clearly, but he said it was a burn deck with 16 goblins to support Goblin Grenade. That seems fine, except that Burn is pretty bad (the comment was made recently that Burn has never actually won a major tournament in any format, despite regularly being played forever), and I’m pretty sure Keeper of Kookas isn’t one of the first 16 goblins I’d play, ranking somewhere below Raging Goblin.
It was tempting to drop in frustration at the game loss, particularly since it was announced that tiebreakers were all being reset for day 2 because DCI Reporter can’t have 2000 people in a single event, so they weren’t able to combine the two pods to figure out people’s tiebreakers. This is clearly terrible for anyone with 3 byes, and it meant that I now had the worst tiebreakers. With 6 round left to play, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic, but obviously I realized that 13-4 could still win quite a bit (how insane is a 17 round GP?), and I had to just keep going.
In round 12, much to my surprise, I uneventfully beat Ad Nauseum. In game 1 I guess Wasteland was just good enough to stop him from going off, and in game 2 I somehow had a 3 Chalice, Wasteland opening hand, so he didn’t have much of a chance. 8-4
In round 13 I played against a Merfolk deck that didn’t have any graveyard hate in his 75, so it was another one of those matches where he just had no realistic hope of winning. Clearly I think Merfolk is a reasonable Legacy deck, but I don’t understand not playing any Relic of Progenitus – well, maybe in his deck. I was going to say that I like it against almost every deck with Tarmogoyf, so it has applications in a lot of places other than just against dedicated graveyard decks, but then I remembered that he was playing Tarmogoyfs (which made my wastelands even better against him), so maybe Relic isn’t the way to go. I’d still rather splash white than green if I’m going to play two color Merfolk though. 9-4
With a couple easy wins and a respectable sounding record, I was starting to feel a little better about my chances at this point.
In round 14 I played against Ad Nauseum again, and at this point I was starting to feel more comfortable with the matchup. Game 1 is still pretty rough, but Wasteland slowed him down enough that I was able to start attacking with Treetop Village, but then he went for it and despite needing to flip another card with Ad Nauseum when he was at 2, he managed to find what he needed and win.
Game 2 is the only game of the event that I felt like I could have won if I had played differently. I played a Tranquil Thicket on turn one, and at some point I had Loam going, but it was slow. He had 2 basics, which is more than my other Ad Nauseum opponents had, and I was using port to lock down his swamp every turn. Eventually he tutored for Echoing Truth for my Chalice and I realized I was under pressure. I dealt with his echoing truth by porting his Island in my main phase, so that he wouldn’t be able to bounce my chalice at the end of my turn, and realized that I could waste my Thicket and Loam it back to start dredging faster. I was using my mana for most of the game to do important things, but I think I could have done that one or two turns earlier at least to very good effect. When I went to tap his Swamp down in his upkeep, he responded by Echoing Truthing my chalice and went off with the artifacts that had built up in his hand. He only had 6 life at this point, thanks to my Treetop Village, but again he went to 2, and had to keep going, but got what he needed to kill me before flipping something that would kill him. 9-5
In round 15 I played against a Blue/Black control deck with Tombstalker, Bitterblossom, and Spellstutter Sprites. I found a Maze of Ith either the turn after he played Tombstalker or after taking one hit, I don’t remember which, but I know that it was barely online in time to stop him from connecting with Jitte. He followed up his Tombstalker with a Bitterblossom, so he’d be able win through my maze, but I had my engine going and was hoping to find Tabernacle to essentially beat him with his own Bitterblossom. He put Jitte on his Tombstalker and Stifled my Maze of Ith, and then things were starting to look bad. The next few turns he Spellstuttered my Life from the Loam and I died.
I put him on Leyline of the Void, since he had Black mana to cast it and counters to keep it in play, and brought in Krosan Grips. It turned out he and Extirpate, so I lost. 9-6
It’s a little awkward to just lose to Extirpate, and that might be my biggest problem with Lands as a deck. At least with Price of Progress you can play Zuran Orb or Glacial Chasm (I know I said earlier that Price was the best hate, and that’s because it can instantly win from out of nowhere a lot of the time, really I’m not sure which card is better, and it probably depends on what deck it’s in, but they’re both huge).
I liked the cards in his deck, and it seemed pretty good, but I’m not sure trying to answer things and win with Bitterblossom is where I’d want to be in this format. Merfolk is either a pretty bad matchup for him or he has to go pretty far out of his way to beat them with cards like Engineered Plague, and he’s the exact kind of deck that Zoo is probably good against, and that seems like two fairly common matchups that are both severly problematic before even getting into whether he can actually answer all the combo decks and stuff. I’m guessing he’s reasonable against Counterbalance, since Faeries are generally good against other control decks and Tombstalker is pretty good against them as well, but that just seems like it leaves his deck in roughly the same place in the metagames as Merfolk, except I think a little worse.
In round 16 I played against Zoo again, only this time my draws were essentially perfect. Game 1 I played manabond on turn 1 and put 4 lands in play, discarding Life from the Loam, and in Game 2 I had the double Mox Diamond, loam start. 10-6
In round 17 I played against UW Control. Game 1 he wasn’t doing much, but I couldn’t lock him out because he had a lot of basics (3 Islands and 3 Plains in play). He had Jace for awhile, but he was building it up by targeting me with it, which seemed pretty ineffective against my Life from the Loam, and I had a few man lands who I knew would be able to kill Jace before he became a real problem. Eventually I dealt with Jace and started attacking him, and then I found out that he was playing Painters Servant and Grindstone and suddenly lost.
Game 2 my draw was good and he was stuck on only one land, which was getting Ported, for a long time. Every turn he took a long time topping in each upkeep when I ported him and he had me wait for him to think and then do nothing every time I cast Life from the Loam, so we went into game 3 with very little time.
In game 3 I managed to start attacking pretty early with a Mishra’s Factory and a Raging Ravine, but he had Painter’s Servant to block. I had to Krosan Grip a Moat, and Ray of Revelation Back to Basics, but it looked like I was going to exactly kill him on turn 5, since he was at 4 with a Painter’s Servant against my Mishra’s Factory and Raging Ravine that was going to be 7/7. I drew Mishra’s Factory, attacked with my other Factory and my Raging Ravine, and he blocked my Raging Ravine and I pumped my Factory. When I told him he was dead to Trample from my Raging Ravine, it was pointed out to me that it doesn’t have Trample. That was awkward.
I was frustrated about losing this game, even though I was out of contention, because I felt my opponent had been playing unreasonably slowly despite the fact that a judge had been watching our entire match, and I knew time was going to be an issue 20 minutes earlier. I pointed out to the judge that I felt that my opponent had been intentionally playing slowly, and that he hadn’t been given a warning because each single action was performed within the maximum time allotted, but that collectively, his pace was not reasonable. I’m not actually sure when the correct time to bring this up is. If I do it while it’s happening, there’s not enough time to have a strong enough case and it just looks like I’m fishing, and if I wait until after the fact, as I did here, it just seems like I’m desperate. I’m interested in people’s thoughts on this in the forums, but I’m not optimistic about finding a good answer, given how tricky dealing with slow play is in all cases. Anyway, the judge told me that he felt that my opponent had difficult choices to make (with one tapped land, when all he could do was rearrange the order in which he drew spells he couldn’t cast), and that the time he took was reasonable. Obviously I can’t appeal that, because the judge was there and the head judge wasn’t, and he’ll just have to take the floor judge’s word for it.
Anyway, after all was said and done, another judge who came by at the end believed that I should, and probably did, know what my Raging Ravine did, and that I was intentionally misrepresenting my card to win a game I couldn’t win. When I said it was awkward earlier, it was, a little, but nothing compared to this. Suddenly I was looking at a possible disqualification in a situation that I immediately recognized (once called on it) looked terrible. He was right, I probably should know that. I was playing with the card. I had just played in a Pro Tour in which the card was reasonably widely played. The judges were pretty skeptical when I told them (truthfully) that I have never actually been involved in a match in which Raging Ravine was blocked. I’d been playing with the card for 17 rounds, surely someone must have blocked it… That assumption misses a lot about this format and my deck, but it didn’t occur to me to show them the notes I had been taking on every round to prove that point, and honestly, whether it had come up before in that tournament wasn’t particularly relevant anyway, since it’s reasonable to expect me to know it regardless.
In San Diego, I was playing an extremely aggressive deck. Jund wasn’t usually in the position to be attacking me, and certainly not with a man land while I had creatures that can block it. If they’re winning a game, it’s by killing all my guys.
Anyway, I explained the situation as best I could, pointed out that there were two judges watching and 4 other spectators who had already interjected in the match to correct the game state (when one of my man lands was plowed and I put it in the graveyard – I had stopped thinking about my graveyard because my opponent had Counterbalance out, so my Loam was off), and that it wouldn’t make any sense to try to lie about my card with so many people to correct it, particularly when I wasn’t playing for anything. But, in my frustration about how the match had ended, I also asked my opponent if he wanted to concede, since I was clearly winning, and so it was apparent that I wanted the win even if it was for nothing, so maybe I would cheat for it, I guess. I mean, I wanted the win entirely on principle, which cheating for it would kind of defeat, but I can’t really expect that judges to think about it in exactly that way. They’re probably not aware of all the details like the fact that my rating is meaningless, and only have my actions, which clearly indicated caring on some level.
The final result, luckily, was essentially what I understand to be a “stern warning.” No disqualification, but it will be specifically noted and tracked, presumably in some way that’s more serious than their “tracking” of normal warnings. I told him that I understood and appreciated that ruling, and that I believe that it is correct to track such behavior, as I do recognize that what I did looked really suspicious, but I hope this explanation helps clarify what happened for any judge that may be involved in tracking that particular warning in the future.
Anyway, that was the end of my tournament. One hundred and something or other’th place, a frustratingly awarded game loss, and nearly escaping disqualification. The result? I’m satisfied with my decision to go to Madrid, I enjoy Legacy, and I look forward to playing the format again. I want to try playing more decks, and I wish I could play the format more regularly to get experience with things. I’m looking forward to battling in some Legacy Opens soon.
Thanks for reading…