I just got back from Grand Prix Lyon, in which I went 3-3, losing the last round for Day 2 when I expected my deck to go at least 8-1. The most frustrating thing was that I did not even lose to rares or good decks. I lost to my own deck, which betrayed me in every single one of the games in which I failed:
1 Ogre Sentry
1 Vent Sentinel
1 Rage Nimbus
2 Overgrown Battlement
1 Battle Rampart
1 Joraga Treespeaker
1 Kazandu Tuskcaller
1 Nest Invader
1 Sporecap Spider
2 Kozilek’s Predator
1 Stomper Cub
2 Artisan of Kozilek
1 Flame Slash
2 Heat Ray
1 Disaster Radius
1 Momentous Fall
1 Warmonger’s Chariot
Anyway, when I compare it to the deck with which my roommate finished 10-0 in the MTGO Championship last Sunday, this one is bad.
Every single time I play a Grand Prix, I wonder why I bothered attending. Even though the organization is very good, those tournaments are just negative EV:
GP: LYON – 1423 players x 35 euros = 49805 euros = $63712
GP: MELBOURNE – 416 players x 40 Aus $= 16640$ = 11591 euros = $14827
Not mentioning the 2200-player Grand Prix…
Prize pool for each event: $30000
I think that the amounts speak for themselves: even if WOTC has increased the price pool, there is something ridiculous in the business.
A European or American Grand Prix is a 16-slot PTQ where you can meet your friends and travel a little. There is no such thing as “earning money” from these anymore. It is actually quite the opposite, and if you take a look at it, most of the “pros” do not attend anymore.
Enough complaining for today!
We will now take a look at two Legacy matchups, as a change from the Jund matchup we see every week. I will play the two decks that met in the finals of the StarCityGames.com Atlanta Legacy Open, while ManuB will run two decks of his choice, according to the current metagame trends.
Reanimator and ANT seem to be the best two decks. As I am playing a large Legacy event in France next week, I would like to see their weaknesses, strengths, and gain an understanding of their inner workings in order to pilot or defeat them. The sideboarding seems rough, as it appears that anyone will bring in at least seven cards against these two decks, whereas their sideboards seem pretty ineffective, as their point is to fight against all the dangerous cards that are boarded in, rather than playing powerful spells.
Legacy is a weird format; it’s very hard to playtest due to the multitude of competitive decks. Lots of decks are based on totally different strategies such as Combo (ANT), Control (Counterbalance), Graveyard-centric (Dredge), aggressive (Goblins), midrange (Bant), lock (Stax)… From there, it is hard to have a deck that fights well against everything.
The two matchups will be 26 and 24 games. Even if such numbers are not enough to consider the win percentage accurate, it should still reflect the matchup tendencies.
Matchup #1: ANT versus Zoo
Manu played the following Zoo list:
- 4 Grim Lavamancer
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Figure of Destiny
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 2 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
Manindeck Games (6 wins, 6 losses, 50% games won)
On the play: 4 wins, 2 losses
On the draw: 2 wins, 4 losses
I tested this strategy once before, with a friend who had a weird version of the deck with no Lion’s Eye Diamond or Infernal Tutor. Maybe those two cards are not so good against Control, but they were broken against Zoo. For those who do not know how it works, play the sorcery, and as a response to it, sacrifice the artifact and you will be allowed to tutor for anything thanks to Hellbent. You can also sacrifice the “Black Lotus” in response to Ad Nauseam to have some mana in pool when you resolve the instant (yes, it is an instant, even though lots of people seem to believe it is sorcery).
The matchup is about who goldfishes the best. As you have to resolve Ad Nauseam in every game, you need to cast it with as much life as possible. Whenever you are on the draw, you might be on 9 life on turn 3. In such cases, you have to cast the draw spell and pray not to reveal too many Duress/Ad Nauseam/Tendrils of Agony cards, or you will lose before gathering enough combo cards. Any extra life you get will turn into more cards.
This means that you have to combo as quickly as you can, which means you must adopt an aggressive mulligan strategy. On the draw, you need to combo on turn 3 at the very least, while on the play it’s turn 4.
Be careful of your opponent’s burn spells. There is no need to be greedy with Ad Nauseam; as soon as you have enough to combo, you have to stop drawing. It is really important to practice with the deck a little and know exactly when you can stop drawing extra cards and risking your game. There was one game, maybe the tenth, in which I went into overkill mode and Manu, when tapped out, killed me with a Fireblast.
The only way you could ever interact with your opponent (besides Duress) would be to cast a small Tendrils of Agony a few turns before comboing off, to buy some time, but then you would lose most of your cards and might not be able to cast a second Tendrils before dying.
I should have won more games (at least the Fireblast game mentioned above, in which I played badly), but the game sample cannot provide accurate stats.
And, again, as you are both simply goldfishing, there is not much to say about the matchup. That’s why I chose to play two matchups this week.
Maybe I should have boarded in Ill-Gotten Gains, but I have no idea what it would be useful against, nor what the card really does.
Sideboarded Games (9 wins, 5 losses, 64.2% games won)
On the play: 5 wins, 2 losses
On the draw: 4 wins, 3 losses
Here, the deck decided to be nicer to me. I got two turn 1 kills on the play!
If you look at the deck, every card I boarded in is bad, as not one slows him down and not one helps my combo. All the spells are answers to his potential sideboard cards that would kill me otherwise.
Duress is quite bad, but it’s necessary for the Mindbreak Trap that most Zoo decks have in the board. Do whatever you can to force your opponent to discard his countermagic before comboing of. Manu got three of his five wins thanks to the Trap, including one where he had two copies, without which I would have won.
Your game plan is easy: kill your opponent whenever you can, trying to “disrupt his own disruption.” Zoo is still beatdown, and it deals you damage, so you still need to resolve Ad Nauseam as quickly as you can.
The more sideboard cards he draws, the less pressure the Zoo deck will have, so you will have more time to handle his disruption.
Mystical Tutor becomes even more of a key card, as it provides the combo, the Duresses, and the Boomerangs. The bounce spells might help you to return an early Wild Nacatl for the tempo, but they are mostly there to bounce a Gaddock Teeg (for example) before you combo off. It is very important to reduce the effectiveness of the Pyroblast by luring your opponent with some Brainstorm or anything else you do not care about. Otherwise, just try to cast your important Blue spells while your opponent is tapped out, which requires you to be able to read a few turns into the future, to understand what is going to happen in the game.
Even if the Zoo players have a different sideboard, you do not necessarily choose when to combo; it is all about his aggression, about when you have to try to do something or you will lose, and gambling that if he has one more trick, you just lose.
When playing in the sideboard games, I felt that I should have won many more games main deck as even though the matchup should have been much worse than game one, I still won easily. I mulliganed a lot with the deck, so in the end, the quality of the draws has to have a high variance.
Anyway, playing first in Legacy seem to be even better than in Extended or Standard, as the decks are super violent.
I would be very confident playing against Zoo with ANT if I was to play the deck.
Matchup #2 : Reanimator versus Survival Bant
Manu played this:
- 1 Loyal Retainers
- 1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Spellstutter Sprite
- 2 Vendilion Clique
- 3 Rhox War Monk
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
Maindeck Games (7 wins, 5 losses, 58.3% games won)
On the play: 2 wins, 4 losses
On the draw: 5 wins, 1 loss
Once again, you play a goldfish here. Your goal is to reanimate by turn 2 or 3, then protect your creature and survive with your cheap counterspells. In order to have explosive draws, you need to keep a very strong hand. If you do not have one part of the combo (some way to put a creature in the sideboard, or some way to reanimate it), and some draw spells to get the second, you have to mulligan. The worst hand you can keep is something like Brainstorm, Careful Study, a creature, and lands including a fetch. If the hand does not guarantee you a creature by turn 3, you will lose, plain and simple.
The results from playing first or second are linked with my mulligans; drawing first when you mulligan a lot is somehow far from being that bad.
Manu’s deck was really annoying. It has a lot of permission spells, some aggression, and some combo pieces. The counters are already a pain, and the aggression is also really annoying. If you Reanimate a creature, you will lose the race to a single Tarmogoyf.
The first plan would be to use Exhume, but the card does not work that well against Daze, and you do not necessarily have the choice. Reanimate, on the other hand is a very good target for Spellstutter Sprite, but it avoids Daze.
The most important thing to consider with the deck would be to optimize every single turn. It is really complex. You need to be able to use as many counterspells as you can whenever you bring your creature onto the battlefield.
None of the creatures in the deck is really satisfying to rise from the dead. Iona might be okay when on Green, but it gets removed by Swords to Plowshares. I did not win a single game in which I brought a Terastodon to battle. Blazing Archon seem to be in the deck for some specific matchups (Dredge), so it does not really fit maindeck here. Inkwell Leviathan is pretty good, but it costs 9 life to Reanimate, so if your opponent has any kind of pressure you cannot win the race. Last up, Sphinx of the Steel Wind gets targeted by Swords to Plowshares, but it wins all by itself If you can protect it.
Any time I was in a race, I would try to get a Sphinx on the table and pray that my opponent did not have a Swords to Plowshares, or that he could just counter it. Whenever he had no creatures on the board, I would usually use Inkwell Leviathan.
The Bant counters were really effective, but mine as well, and that’s why I won more. I countered the Survival of the Fittest when he would have time to take profit out of it, and kept my counter in case something in my plan went wrong, and it seemed to work.
Just as ANT before it, I feel like he would board in a lot of cards that straight-up kill me. Let’s see.
Sideboarded Games (2 wins, 10 losses, 16.6% games won)
On the play: 2 wins, 4 losses
On the draw: 0 win, 6 losses
And… I got slaughtered. I even felt I got lucky to win a second game.
In the first game, I can either spend my turn casting Pithing Needle on Faerie Macabre (I do not know if he only runs one at this point, to search for with Survival of the Fittest) and Exhume next turn, or just play the Black sorcery straight and hope that my creature will win. He, of course, has a Faerie and kills me with it. The card is just too good against Reanimator; you cannot put three guys in the graveyard and then Exhume, as it would take an age.
Pithing Needle was the best sideboard card, as it dealt with either Survival or the 2/2 flier’s ability, but it was not enough. There is definitely no way that I’ll play this deck at my tournament next weekend if everyone’s sideboard is as crazy as Manu’s. Even stupid Ethersworn Canonist was sick, as I could not protect my spells with my counterspells.
Show and Tell was pretty good. I wish I had two more copies of it in my sideboard, but then I would have had to keep more guys in the deck.
Also, I had to mulligan less than I did main deck, as Manu had no dead cards anymore. The one card missing from the mulligan would frequently cost the game. It is very hard to win a game at Magic when every single card in your opponent’s deck is a great topdeck because they are all too efficient.
The matchup seemed pretty good at first, but I hope that I will never have to play the same configuration in a tournament. This was probably the worst time I’ve had when testing for this column.
Next week, I will try to pick some interesting matchups once more, and then the polls will return!
I am not a regular Legacy player, but I have played some matches before, and I played Reanimator twice at Pro Tours back in the day. I hope that I did not get anything totally wrong here; if I did, please let me know.
Until next time, have fun playing Limited games which are longer than four turns!
PS: I hope that everyone likes the Rise of the Eldrazi Draft more than Zendikar, for the sake of Magic.