Flores Friday – Two

Friday, March 11 – Mike Flores has approached Legacy, an umfamiliar format, with his years of experience and inherent understanding and has found a deck he worth running this weekend at the SCG Open in Memphis: Cephalid Life.

Two what?

Part two? I suppose. Here, I suppose, is Part One.

Day two? I guess. It’s certainly not not day two.

Turn two? Now that’s something worth talking about.

Last two… The last two rounds of this tournament are really the only thing worth discussing outside of the decklist itself. So we’ll do the one, then
the other, then leave you to enjoy your weekend.

I wasn’t particularly confident about the Standard portion of the Open Series event in Edison last week. There isn’t a huge amount of edge to be had in
Standard. The tournament would be long, and the games would be long. My deck was very good, in particularly good against Caw-Blade, but anyone in my
spot would have to be a combination of good and lucky to do well.

A good example would be my friend Josh Ravitz. He made Top 8 on consecutive weeks. Good? Obviously. Lucky? OBVIOUSLY. Right before I went out
for a dinner run, I watched Josh absolutely burgle a game. I wasn’t sure if his play was right (tap out on turn 3 for Stoneforge Mystic + Sylvok
Lifestaff), especially when his opponent just revealed a Bonehoard off his own Stoneforge Mystic.

The opponent didn’t play the Bonehoard. Instead, he ran out a Journey to Nowhere to move Josh’s blocker — chump blocker probably — out of the way
before putting Ravitz to three with an alpha strike. Josh played Day of Judgment on his fourth turn, hoping for the best.

Josh’s opponent didn’t kill him.

Instead, he ran out the Bonehoard.

It was at that point Josh played Divine Offering, went back up to seven, and won comfortably where a topdecked Lightning Bolt would have been it.

Good and lucky.

I didn’t think Legacy worked the same way at all. After some initial inability to win that I talked about last week, I figured out the best strategy.

And when I say the best strategy, I’m not kidding. I’ve played the best deck many times in my life; Necropotence, Napster, Bats, Hits… Never in my
life have I played a deck as good as the one I played on Sunday. The reason I was able to put this together, besides the fact that I got help from
Patrick Chapin and Drew Levin, was that I approached Legacy with literally no ego.

My first impulse was that I didn’t know the format, and that I just wanted to play the fewest number of turns possible, which would minimize my
mistakes. I realized by scouring the various Top 8 decklists that there simply weren’t enough anti-graveyard cards being played to compete with
a Dredge deck.

Most people don’t understand math.

They think in terms of broad brushstrokes of imagination without consideration of speed or expectation.

They also don’t realize things like “decks with Narcomoeba win game one” in an almost unconditional sense. Seriously, what kind of draw do you need to
beat a regular Dredge deck? Even when you Force of Will the Dread Return, you have to answer 6-12 2/2 Zombies over the next two turns, and most decks
don’t have the tools to do that.

Let’s say you lose the game, I don’t know… 100% of the time.

How much sideboard space do you need to win?

What does win mean?

In order to cross a 60% win percentage you need about 80% likelihood of winning sideboarded games to get there.

Do you think you can get from 0% (let’s say or some other small amount because it isn’t really 0%) to 80% with 4-5 sideboard cards?

Just think about it.

So once I was on Dredge, I realized that what I should really do is play Cephalid Breakfast. That’s the two. Turn two.

Turn one Nomads en-Kor.

Turn two Cephalid Illusionist.

If your opponent does something foolish like tap out for a Sensei’s Divining Top and only has single Force of Will backup, he’s dead.

The way the combo works is this (simple explanation):

You millstone your whole deck, flipping over three Narcomoebas.

You use the Narcomoebas to Cabal Therapy your opponent repeatedly, demolishing him to death. Sometimes you have to Cabal Therapy yourself if you’ve
drawn Sky Hussar or whatever in case you accidentally drew it.

You use three creatures (Narcomoeba, leftover Nomads en-Kor, whatever) to get Karmic Guide. Karmic Guide goes and gets Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker; the
Legendary Goblin’s job is to copy Karmic Guide, who now goes and gets Sky Hussar. Sky Hussar untaps everyone (including Kiki-Jiki). Rinse and repeat
fourteen trillion times.

These are the things that are good about this deck, in fact better than every other deck for the most part:

Fastest kill — You can reliably win on turn 2, and almost any keepable hand will win on turn 3 unless the opponent has Force of Will.

Completely non-interactive play, if necessary — You can lead on Aether Vial and win without ever casting a spell. For instance, against Counterbalance,
you can go Life win and literally never give the opponent a spot for non-point-removal interaction.

Force of Will — Unlike other reasonably fast decks, you also have Force of Will.

Super redundant — There are eleven copies of every combo piece in the deck. Any hand with, say, three lands and two tutors wins on the third
turn without ever drawing a sixth card. Imagine what you can do with the sixth card! LOL!

Bullets — You can play cards like Meddling Mage and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to create nifty, inevitable game states.

Opponents don’t have the right answers — I beat an Affinity deck that “went off” with mana and threats and graveyard hate on turn 1 with a
Living Wish and an Aether Vial. Half the time, the opponent dumps 100 pieces of graveyard hate on the board, and you just Life them.


Anyway, as you read on Tuesday, I no longer judge myself on whether I win or lose, rather on whether I play to my potential.

The problem going into Sunday — where I was super happy with my deck and even bragged that I’d make Top 8 over 50% of the time — was that I had
horrendous operations.

Josh made Top 8. Ergo, I got home at 2:30 am.

Not only is that bad in terms of sleep for a “regular” spot, but I was already running thin on sleep due to going out all night Friday night; it was
further complicated by Josh making Top 8. Edison was a long tournament, and they didn’t play any Top 8 matches on Saturday. Rather, play started super
early on Sunday, meaning I had to be on the road with Ravitz at 6:45 am the next day.

I think I got about two hours of sleep. Another two.

In sum, I broke Randy Buehler cardinal rule of Sunday play: “The best playtesting is a good night’s sleep” … Though I think you can see that it was
nigh unavoidable.

As for play, I was very happy with my play for the first seven rounds of the tournament. There were only two plays I made over the course of the day
that I disliked in seven rounds. I’m sure I made mistakes, and in hindsight, I could certainly have sideboarded differently. However in terms of actual
game play, given my knowledge of the format, I only disliked two total plays.

One was in my SCGLive feature match loss to Lewis Laskin.

If you watched the match, I won through Force of Will on I think the third turn in Game One.

In Game Two, I mulled to three and still had a third-turn kill assembled. If I had drawn a blue card instead of a Tundra, I could’ve gone for it
with Force of Will backup, but Lewis got the better of me. There wasn’t much I could’ve done differently there, I don’t think; all four of my mulligans
were correct (as usual, I checked), and I still had a third-turn kill assembled.

Game Three was where I made the play I’m not sure about. I had a turn 3 kill assembled and a Cephalid Illusionist in play. I decided to slow play it
because I didn’t want to get caught by Daze even though I had a Force of Will, so I didn’t play my Nomads en-Kor. I had a backup Cephalid Illusionist
and used that to Force of Will Lewis’s Swords to Plowshares. I had a Worldly Tutor as well, so I could reassemble in one turn, but he played Umezawa’s
Jitte into Dueling Grounds. I didn’t have my Ray of Revelation in my deck at that point, so I was kold to Dueling Grounds anyway.

I don’t think Lewis had the Force of Will yet, nor Daze, so if I had just pushed, I maybe could’ve won that turn through just his Swords to

Like I said, I was unhappy with two plays, and that was one of them.

The other was when I kept one land, Aether Vial, Worldly Tutor, and Meddling Mage against High Tide. I didn’t just Vial the Meddling Mage immediately
into play on turn 3, and I should have. He got an open to go off.

I knew that it was already too late to go Vial -> Meddling Mage for High Tide, so I responded to his High Tide with Meddling Mage -> Turnabout.
He had two copies of Cloud of Faeries to go off, but I won anyway.

I ended up losing that match to a Ravenous Trap when I played (I thought, anyway) super well to put him to four with Nomads en-Kor, Cephalid
Illusionist, and Meddling Mage in play. I didn’t stretch on my Millstone plays… only enough that I got a Cabal Therapy and a Narcomoeba, but I had
already milled most of my deck and all my big combo pieces. So I had to go old school and beat him down for two and then four a turn (after I emptied
his hand of every card, of course). He topdecked Cunning Wish and asked me how many cards I had in my deck. He got Brain Freeze and got me.

Not complaining (even though it sucked). I wasn’t complaining a round earlier when I topdecked Starlit Sanctum against Zoo, was I (to be fair he wasn’t
winning, and I was about to, but whatever)?

In fact, I played with remarkable discipline, especially for me.

In the first round, I opened the tournament with a mana-screw + Brainstorm against 43 Lands. He immediately went Exploration-happy, and though I had
Force of Will for his Intuition, he had another. After many grueling turns of taking two points from a Barbarian Ring, I finally drew into Aether Vial.
I’d been holding land and a Ponder for several turns but would not make a play until I either drew another land or an Aether Vial.

Now that I had the Vial, I could set up a kill in two turns.

So of course that was the turn he flipped over Mindslaver.


It was so painful for me to stare at land and Ponder for so many turns, while I was being ground down, with no permanents in play! In Standard, I
would’ve given up long before, but I knew I was actually favored to win the game, so I held on.

Oh well, I won the next two.

So I was happy with my play the first seven rounds, but the wheels fell off the last two.

I started 5-2 and finished 5-3-1, actually winning (but not executing on wins) in each of the last two rounds. I can only plead exhaustion. Not an
excuse (pointless, no excuses) but a good reason in both cases. I simply wasn’t the same player who held on with no permanents in play against a 20+
card deficit in Round One, Game One. I left two wins on the table and managed to forget game-state conditions that I had labored over for an hour just
beforehand. No excuses, but a lesson later, I hope.

In Round Eight, I actually had to play my heart out to get my opponent to one. He gave me some cards by attacking with Vendilion Clique, and I used
Nomads en-Kor + Cephalid Illusionist to get Narcomoeba to block. He tried it again with a Jitte, but I had a Krosan Grip he had actually seen. Ting!

The problem was that he had played a second-turn Gaddock Teeg and followed up with Dueling Grounds and Wheel of Sun and Moon. I actually had to fight
superior green and blue creatures until which point I hard-cast a Karmic Guide and started to go beatdown. I got him to two until he broke a fetchland,
played a desperation Brainstorm… and found Swords to Plowshares.

We had 30 minutes for Game Three but went to time.

He had no way to remove his Wheel of Sun and Moon, had made multiple mistakes, and would not give me the game. Had we not gone to time, there was
actually no way he could win.

So why am I only mildly salty?

I could have nugged him for one with my Starlit Sanctum.

What the!?!

Come on, Megan!

A few hours earlier and that would have been a win.

I had six turns of him on one and me with my one Underground River in play (I got it early in the game to Cabal Therapy a Jitte he showed me with
Stoneforge Mystic).

I played through every hate card in his arsenal, survived seven mulligans… and left the win on the table.

Same deal in Round Nine.

I had a turn 4 Life combo win against Junk in Game Three with triple Force of Will backup, and I didn’t Force his Gaddock Teeg. Forget about the
fact I had just played a 40+ turn game where Gaddock Teeg turned off Forces of Will. Just exhaustion. So instead of being able to Force his Engineered
Plague and use Living Wish to get Starlit Sanctum, I had to use it for Harmonic Sliver. He drew three Swords to Plowshares and two Engineered
Plagues… But it didn’t matter. Literally left the win on the table again.

This time, I didn’t get away with the draw.

So three lessons from this week:

Even though I wouldn’t have made Top 8, I would’ve been happy being happy with how I played. 8-2 would’ve been fine. I’m much sadder that I didn’t hold
it up than I am I didn’t make Top 8.

Many Legacy decks people choose to play are unrealistic. I’m sure I’ll be criticized per usual about “not knowing about Legacy” despite playing the
fastest, most consistent, most powerful combo deck in the format… when almost no one else even thought to; the same people who would criticize
me probably think CENSORED or CENSORED are realistic decks to play. What percent of the time do you think a deck without Force of Will or black
disruptive sorceries that won’t reliably kill before turn 4 should win in Legacy? How about if all its opponents actually play real decks? I mean LOL.

Get enough sleep. I wish I did!