Feature Article – Steve’s Worlds, Part 2

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New Level 3 Pro Steve Sadin rounds out his enlightening report from Worlds 2007 with a look at Legacy. He shares his thoughts on the deck that he and Zvi created for the event, plus his match walkthroughs and his ideas on the post-Worlds Legacy metagame. He also brings us a few insights on working with Zvi Mowshowitz…

When I left you last, I was just about to begin the Legacy portion of Worlds.

Zvi and I put most of our work for this event into Legacy. Zvi has already talked about our testing process for this portion of the tournament in detail here. While I don’t have much to add to what Zvi said on our deckbuilding process, there is one thing that I can talk about with much more authority than Zvi…

I can tell you what it’s like to work with Zvi Mowshowitz for a large event.

The best thing about working with Zvi is the sheer amount I learnt. The biggest thing that I learnt is to question every convention.

And I do mean every convention.

Sure, conventions (and rules of thumb) are very useful in allowing you to shortcut your work. You can say “this is always right, so it’s right for me,” and very often conventions are completely correct. But whenever your reasoning for following a convention consists only of “it’s a convention,” or “it’s what everyone else does,” it’s worth questioning it even if it ends up being correct. At the very least you will better understand why you are following the convention, which will give you the power to better identify exceptions to it in the future.

While this doesn’t mean that you have to agonize over how many copies of the card Brainstorm you should play (you’d better be playing four), thinking about it properly might reveal to you that you actually want more Brainstorm effects, like Ponder or Opt.

I am very interested in learning more about breaking conventions in Magic, and I plan to write about it more in the near future… hopefully after crushing a tournament!

Not only is Zvi really smart, he also thinks about Magic (and life) in a completely different way to everyone else. I am pretty sure that there isn’t a person in the world who can build a deck with 3 Counterspells, 2 Wrath of God, and 2 Standstill, and – and this is the key point – have it actually be right as easily as Zvi can. While I was a big part of the preparation process, this was definitely Zvi’s deck.

Round 12 – Steven Aplin: UG Threshold
Game 1 Aplin’s deck is straight UG, a fact that was given away fairly early in the match when he fetched for a Breeding Pool as his 5th land. No Red means no burn spells… armed with that knowledge I was able to wait for the absolute best possible moment to force through a Moat, which I rode to victory.

Game 2 he has a Krosan Grip for my early Moat, but I was able to set up Crucible and Counterbalance Top lock after surviving the first few turns.


Round 13 – Yuuya Watanabe: BWU Trinket Mage/Discard
Game 1 I mulliganed down to five, got stuck on one land for about five turns, and was never in any danger of losing.

Yuuya’s deck was designed by Saitou to destroy Threshold and Goblins. While his deck probably does a slightly better job of beating Threshold and Goblins than mine, Yuuya’s deck is about as big of a dog as you can possibly be in a matchup against me. All of my answers trump his threats, and my threats are resilient to his answers.

Game 2 I set up a quick Counterbalance Top lock and eventually closed the game with Eternal Dragons.


Round 14 Stuart Wright: Welder Survival
Game 1 I lose the flip and mulligan into a hand with a Top, a Counterbalance, a Counterspell, and three lands. A fine hand, but it definitely runs the risk of getting blown out as it has nothing reactive until my second turn. So Stuart “Welder plus Sundering Titan” locked me on his second turn (enabled by Cabal Therapying himself).

Game 2 I assume he is playing a Welder reanimator deck, not a Survival deck, and play accordingly. This unfortunately allows him a window to resolve a Survival, with which he easily beats me.


Round 15 Alex S. Majlaton: Affinity
Game 1 I am able to set up a quick Moat which gives me time to set up Counterbalance Top to completely lock him out of the game.

Game 2 I set up Counterbalance Top fairly early, and I have a Pulse of the Fields to buy me enough time to set up Crucible plus Mishra’s Factories, leaving him with no route to victory.


Round 16 Antti Malin: Sea Stompy
Game 1 I resolve an early Counterbalance, deal with his first few creatures while he draws several pieces of Equipment with nothing to equip. When he finally does start drawing creatures I am able to hit blind on my Counterbalance in two key spots, which gives me enough breathing room to find a Top and resolve an Eternal Dragon.

Game 2 was very close, but he eventually has one more threat than I have an answer for.

Game 3 is going very well for me, but I am almost certain that I will be unable to finish in time. Unfortunately, my path to victory involves abusing Crucible of Worlds and fetch lands, a very time-consuming activity.

Time was called, I made a series of shuffles and Top activations that would allow me to win in time if I drew both Eternal Dragon and Mishra’s Factory. I didn’t. Antti asks me if I’d like to concede, as he was playing for Level 3. Antti seemed like a nice guy who I’d rather have as a part of the Pro Tour than not, so I conceded.

10-6, and 55th place

I had a good season, finally reaching Level 3. I played very well at this event. I had a good finish at Worlds (and was minutes away from a very good finish), and I did the right thing by keeping a nice guy on the train.

As much as I’d like to be satisfied with these accomplishments, I can’t. This season has only made me hungrier.

When Wizards posted the Grand Prix schedule for the first 2/3rds of the year earlier this week, it was like Christmas come early for me. So far, barring some life changing event, there are seven GPs that I know I will be attending: Vancouver, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Madrid, Denver, and Copenhagen.

I might be able to go to Brussels, but I probably won’t be able to skip any more classes that semester.

All the GPs after Copenhagen are going to be during my Fall ’08 semester, so I figure I’ll be able to go to one for sure, and maybe as many as three, depending on my class schedule and the locations of the PTs and GPs.

Post-Worlds Thoughts on Legacy:

It was very frustrating to miss out on a Top 24 because of a couple of minutes on the clock, but that was a risk that I took into account when I chose my Legacy deck. It was a small risk (of the five players who played the deck, Finkel and I were the only one who ran into time limit troubles), but it was a real risk nonetheless.

While running into time limit troubles was a slight issue for us at Worlds, it is a huge issue for most local tournaments. At Worlds there were sixty-minute rounds, while at most other tournaments they are only fifty. Fifty minutes, unfortunately, just isn’t enough time to consistently finish a three-game match with this deck. While I absolutely love this deck, I would recommend that you stay away from it unless you have tested it considerably (you can’t spend much time thinking about 90% of your plays) and are playing in a tournament with at least 55-minute rounds.

The Legacy metagame for Worlds was almost exactly the one that we were expecting as we were finalizing our deck.

Threshold: 76
Goblins: 34
Cephalid Breakfast: 26
Landstill: 24
Dredge: 24
PT Junk: 16
Charbelcher: 15
Survival: 14
Stax: 14
Dragon Stompy: 11
Affinity: 11
38-43 Lands: 9
White-Blue-Black: 8
Aggro Loam: 7
Enchantress: 7
Solidarity: 6
Black-White: 6
3Deuce: 6
Counter Goyf: 5
Black-Blue-Green: 5
Slivers / Meathooks: 3
Black Splash Green: 3
Aluren: 3
Monoblack Aggro: 2
Mono-Blue Control: 2
The Perfect Storm: 2
Iggy Pop: 2
Rifter: 2
White Weenie: 1
Life: 1
StifleNaught: 1
Sea Stompy: 1
Stompy: 1
Other: 10

There was a ton of Threshold (duh!), a lot of Goblins, then good amounts of Cephalid Breakfast, Landstill, and Dredge.

I thought there would be slightly more Affinity (only eleven people came packing Ravagers) and slightly less Landstill (there were 24 people with Landstill, though my team was responsible for five of them so I guess I wasn’t too far off on this prediction).

While I believe that Topstill was the best deck for Worlds, Dan OMS and Chapin can both make legitimate claims that their Counterbalance Threshold decks were actually the best. As Topstill just isn’t a reasonable choice for most tournaments, that makes Counterbalance+STP Threshold the top deck to come out of Worlds.

Chapin talks about his Legacy deck here:

Dan OMS, Counterbalance Threshhold. 5-0

4 Flooded Strand
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
4 Tropical Island
2 Tundra
3 Underground Sea
4 Dark Confidant
4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Brainstorm
3 Counterbalance
4 Daze
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Force of Will
4 Ponder
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Stifle
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Thoughtseize

1 Engineered Explosives
4 Engineered Plague
3 Extirpate
2 Krosan Grip
2 Stifle
3 Threads of Disloyalty

Dan and I were on the same mailing list for Worlds so I got to witness this deck’s evolution. I was wary about his deck because it isn’t as good as other Threshold decks are against beatdown, but Dan (correctly) didn’t think that there would be many beatdown decks at Worlds. This deck absolutely destroys other, less prepared, Threshold decks. Swords to Plowshares is the best removal spell against other Tarmogoyfs, Counterbalance plus Top is awesome, and Dark Confidant is great against other Blue decks.

I was talking to Dan last night and he told me that he felt the deck was, and still is, great. The only thing that he wanted to change about the maindeck was to add more Engineered Explosives, and maybe a Threads of Disloyalty. While he wasn’t sure about the maindeck Threads, he was confident about the Explosives.

As Threshold is sure to remain the top dog in Legacy (at least for the forseeable future), I expect that UGwb versions of Threshold, like Dan’s, will quickly rise in popularity. This change should push less mirror-focused versions out of existence… at least until people start exploiting the new holes that this version brings with it (holes that aren’t really exploitable until this version rises in popularity and the format starts to adjust itself around it).

If you have a Legacy tournament coming up soon, then I would strongly recommend that you play UGwb Threshold. Who knows how long it will last…

Take care, and Happy New Year!

Steve Sadin

P.S. – I noticed a couple of people on my forums asking for clarification on why I included Hurly-Burly in my deck from the first draft pod. I really like Hurly-Burly, especially in decks that are positioned very well against non-Faerie decks but would be weak against Faeries. This was exactly how I had assessed my deck, so the Hurly-Burlies were an easy inclusion. While I did board them out in two of my matches, I still think it was definitely right to start them as they allowed me to pick up a lot of points against Blue decks (they were very good in my match against Bob Maher), without giving up too much (when compared with the average value that my other options would have offered) against non-Blue decks.