For those of you who don’t know me (and there are a lot, I’m sure!), my name is Benjamin Stepka. I’ve been playing Legacy since it became a format back
in 2004. In those days, Exalted Angel was more expensive than a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author], and Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Specter on turn 1 was considered a broken
play. A lot has changed since then.
I’ve been participating on the SCG Open Series since early last year. While I have achieved many Top 32 finishes, including a win-and-in loss with
U/B/r Faeries at SCG Open: Minneapolis, I have not been able to break into the Top 8. At SCG Open: KC, I found a deck I thought would make my goal a
reality: Ari Lax U/B ANT list. It was just what I wanted in a deck. It had at least an 80% win rate against non-blue decks and easily a 60/40 against
non-Counterbalance decks. So, I played it to a mediocre finish at KC. I kept practicing and talked a bit with Ari on the SCG forums, learning secrets
from the master. I started to win locally, a lot. More so than any Legacy deck I had piloted up until that point.
It finally came time to test my mettle at SCG Indianapolis. With all the local tournament wins under my belt for the last four months, I felt I was
ready. Boy was I wrong! I went 2-7 on the weekend in a combination of an Invitational grinder, losing round one to a turn 2 and turn 3 Pyrostatic
Pillar in a burn deck, the Legacy Challenge, winning just one round, and finally the Legacy Open, climbing to an amazing 1-3 finish. I was heartbroken.
So, I went back to the drawing boards. During the tournament, I noticed that I would tell people which cards they were going to cast before the
actually cast them. It was so bad one game that my opponent accused me of cheating, which I wasn’t. I took that as a message from some higher
power that I should be piloting a deck that can interact with my opponent, other than with Thoughtseize and Duress. I knew I wanted to play control. I
also knew I wanted to include what has become the “standard” build for Legacy control decks:
I also am not very fond of swinging with creatures. I guess it comes from all those games piloting ANT laughing at my opponents who had dead creature
hate cards rotting in their hands. Playing with no creatures means I need to have a bunch of creature hate main to deal with the opposition. After I
got home from Indy, I read a bunch of GP Providence reports and found the deck that LSV and PV ran. I liked the four Pernicious Deed and two Life from
the Loam main, so I added them to my deck.
With all the Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull decks running around, having artifact hate main seemed good. The U/W decks all started to adopt
Elspeth, Knight-Errant as their weapon of choice against BUG also. Maelstrom Pulse takes care of her nicely with the added bonus of killing
Batterskull. I also wanted an instant-speed answer to Batterskull with all the Stoneforge shenanigans that can occur, so I added a Putrefy. They were
good to me all day.
I needed faster removal and a way to take care of random Progenitus and Emrakul running around, so I decided on having an Innocent Blood and Diabolic
Edict main, with one Diabolic Edict to bring in from the sideboard. Having an Innocent Blood instead of a second Diabolic Edict meant that I could
either curve out with counters, or curve out with creature kill. I like having options.
For my mana base I just went with what LSV and PV used. It seemed good, and I am a huge fan of Mishra’s Factory; especially since mine are from
Antiquities and purdy.
After all was said and done, the deck had everything that I wanted: no creatures, a broken win condition in Jace, 10+ counterspells, enough creature
hate, and a playset of Mishra’s Factory.
I started testing with Gene Richtsmeier, of Dead Guy Ale fame in KC, and almost instantly found I did not like Standstill. GerryT had just written an
article preaching that Ancestral Vision finally had a place in Legacy, and I swapped them. I loved the change. When Standstill is a dead card,
Ancestral Vision is not. I have no problem suspending a Vision when I am staring down at a hostile board state. If Vision was a Standstill in those
situations, it would just rot in my hand. I don’t like cards that are dead if the board isn’t favorable. I found that the only decks I would rather
have Standstill in than Ancestral Vision was against combo. Standstill is pretty backbreaking against my ANT deck when it resolved. Vision is still
good, but you have to guarantee you can survive until it resolves, which isn’t always a walk in the park; especially against a good combo player.
Another reason why Visions fits so well is that the entire Visions-BUG deck, minus the lands and Loam, is pure stall. Chances are, with all the
counterspells and creature hate, you will survive the four turns it takes for Vision to resolve; and be light years ahead of your opponent when it
After playtesting some games with Gene, it was time to make a sideboard. I figured the major players in Denver would be Zoo and Goblins (because of the
Invitational), Dredge, U/W Stoneforge, and some form of combo. Also, as always, the Folk.
Against Merfolk, I wanted Sower of Temptation for the simple fact that they don’t have an answer for it unless they are running Dismember. It is also
relatively good against decks with not many creatures, such as Team America and U/W Stoneforge. I figured that against my deck, most tempo and control
decks would side out all their creature hate games two and three, making Sower a bomb. I was proven correct.
Against U/W Stoneforge, I needed another way to deal with Elspeth, so I put another Maelstrom Pulse in the sideboard. I also added the standard three
Vendilion Clique to the sideboard to combat not only this deck, but combo as well.
I wanted to be able to have zero dead cards against combo post sideboard if I ever played it. That means I had to side out four Deeds, two Pulse, one
Putrefy, one Innocent Blood, one Diabolic Edict, and two Life from the Loam. That is eleven cards! I added two Spell Pierce, because it is good against
not only combo, but some slower control decks.
I also am a huge fan of Extirpate, which was added as well. I know almost all, if not all, of the elite Legacy writers would never think of putting
Extirpate in their deck because it is bad. I will respectfully disagree with all points people have made in the past. However, it is terrible to side
in against any deck that isn’t either combo or Dredge. If you do that, you probably should rethink your sideboarding approach. Extirpate slows down
Dredge and combo enough to make them play almost-fair. For those of you who watched the semifinals coverage when I was facing Joe Lossett, I would have
lost every single game without Extirpate. Had it been Leyline, I might have still lost because Joe, like every good combo player, had bounce and other
ways to deal with it in his SB.
After all that brewing, my deck turned out something like this:
One warning about this deck: If you are not intimately familiar with many of the Legacy decks and can’t play at a good pace, this deck is not for you.
Knowing what to counter, what to let resolve, when to kill something, etc. is a major factor when piloting this deck. It is very unforgiving and very
grindy to boot. While I never hit time during any match I played in Denver, I sure came close. I lost my semifinals match due to my lack of familiarity
with Cephalid Breakfast. I believe I could have won had I understood the deck on a higher level.
Onto the tournament report:
The Team set out for Denver early Friday morning on June 10. It was comprised of me, Gene Richtsmeier, and a teammate-hopeful-in-training, Gene’s wife
Bridget. It was her trial run to see if she was worthy of being accepted as a full-fledged team member of Team GnG. Her making us breakfast and packing
us lots of food and drinks was a good start. But things started looking grim when we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere (i.e. –
IowaNebraskaCornFieldsGGsKid), and she led us into Dirt Road Ville instead of back onto the highway. Thirty minutes and two dead ends later, we made it
back to where we needed to be. At least the scenery was rich and diverse…who am I kidding? It was all the same!
After running good for about an hour or so, we ran into road construction. Complete with closed roads and a detour that was marked about as well as a
sleeved Magic deck… Missing the turnoff to the detour, it was decided as a team that we would follow our trusty GPS to whatever end. A few roadblocks
later the road decided it would be the perfect time to vanish. There was nothing but mud for at least 50 feet; then the road reappeared. Being of the
intelligence many males come standard-equipped with, Gene and I decided it was time for some off-road fury! Bridget was asleep in the backseat at the
time. Let’s just say that 50 feet of mud woke her up. “What the hell is going ON!?!?!?” Good times. Seven to ten roadblocks and a few confused
construction workers later, we were free to go about our business of arriving to our hotel in Denver before midnight. Luckily for us, nothing more of
consequence happened until we arrived.
We stayed at Hotel VQ, which was spitting distance away from Mile-High Stadium. It came equipped with an awesome, all-glass wall restaurant on the 14th
floor. The view was amazing. The beds, however, left much to be desired. I got little to no sleep in preparation for the Standard Open.
We woke up the next day and walked to Entrance 2 at the stadium. We were instantly greeted with Stadium Security who directed us to an elevator and the
third floor. Upon exiting said elevator, we were ambushed by more security who escorted us to the SCG Arena. It was an awesome experience playing in
the stadium to say the least!
In Standard I piloted B/R Vampires to a mediocre 4-4 finish after punting game three of round one pretty terribly. It was all good though. For our
troubles of signing up, we received free Lacrosse tickets and a 15-minute tour of the inner workings of the stadium. The Lacrosse game conveniently
started within minutes of the last round ending. It was good fun, but we were joined by few Magic players. It was kind of disappointing, seeing as how
all the tickets were free.
After the Lacrosse game, the Main Event occurred: Back to the Future Part 1 on the Titantron! I’m a total BttF nerd, and I was in heaven the
entire time. Lounging on the field made the experience one to remember.
After getting more miserable sleep because the beds at the hotel were The Level After Next, it was time to grind some Legacy!
Round one – Tyler Anderson piloting B/W Discard
Tyler was a very nice opponent who was playing with a slightly budget list of B/W discard. I didn’t see any Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author], just Ravnica Duals.
Game 1 – Standard kill everything he lays, swing with Mishra’s Factory to win.
Game 2 – I got massively mana-flooded and lost to Dark Confidant and Friends. After the game I took a look at the cards I had drawn. I had one
Brainstorm, one Spell Snare, and one other blue card with at least seven lands.
Game 3 – Suspend Ancestral Vision turn 1, get Hymned down to almost nothing, have Ancestral Visions resolve, recover lost card advantage. I believe I
won this game with Jace’s Ultimate, but I can’t be sure.
Round 2: Gene Richtsmeier piloting B/W Dead Guy Ale
This was the second day in a row I played Gene. I’m glad I drove 900 miles to face my bro. In Standard we played a 73-card Vampires mirror that was
100% skill and had nothing to do with who outdrew whom. This current match was heavily in my favor as our extensive playtesting showed.
Game 2 – Gene played a turn 1 Mother of Runes who met Innocent Blood. He played a turn 2 Dark Confidant who was Spell Snared. Later in the game he had
an equipped Mother of Runes with a Sword of Fire and Ice that I Deeded away. Then he played a Serra Avenger that I Pulsed. With the game firmly in
hand, I landed a Jace.
Round 3: Matt Johnson piloting Green Sun’s Zenith Bant
Another nice player, Matt was piloting what I thought was NO Bant with Green Sun’s Zenith. After the match, I talked with him for a bit and found that
he could only find one Natural Order and opted not to play it. Good thing for me, because both games I was dead to a Progenitus at one point or
another. Card availability strikes again!
Game 1 – Matt cast a turn 1 Green Sun’s Zenith for zero, fetching up Dryad Arbor. This was not a good sign at all. My current hand could not handle a
turn 3 or 4 Progenitus. He played a turn-two Noble Hierarch and a turn 3 Green Sun’s Zenith for three, which I happily countered. I drew into the
Diabolic Edict I needed for the pesky Progenitus that I thought was on his way to the prophesized Return, and Wasted his Dryad Arbor. I landed a Jace
soon after and played the standard Fateseal-Go until Jace Ulted.
Game 2 – More of the same, turn 1 Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor and me still fearing Progenitus. He had a much more aggressive hand this game, and
I was forced to blow multiple Deeds to wipe his board of Knights, Goyfs, and the occasional Qasali Pridemage. I believe I Ulted with Jace a second time
Round 4: Michael Osborne piloting Eva Green
Mike was a very tight player who knew his stuff. Although, he did put me on some sort of combo deck Game 1. I can’t blame him though; I didn’t do much
of anything until I won with Jace.
Game 1 – Mike and I played Draw-Go for many, many turns. He landed two Pernicious Deeds on an empty board. I let both resolve because they really don’t
affect me. If he is forced to blow his Deeds on my Factories, so be it. I can Loam them back. It finally got to the point where I countered all his
threats, including multiple Tarmogoyf and a Maelstrom Pulse targeting my Jace. I also had a Loam and enough Wastelands to deal with all his manlands.
Jace went Ultimate, like he’s wont to do, and we were on to Game 2.
Mike had two options at this point in the game: Point his manlands at my dome or give me a two-turn Time Walk and kill Jace. He chose the former. He
let Jace Fateseal him multiple times while dealing a steady stream of damage to me. I finally found some gas in a Mishra’s Factory, but forgot that if
you activate the Factory to block, it cannot pump itself if it has summoning sickness. Luckily a judge was observing the match and pointed that out.
Instead of me killing his Factory and my Factory surviving, both Factories died.
Soon after I topdecked a Life from the Loam with three Factories in my graveyard. I happily cast it targeting the three Factories and locking the game
up. Only, it didn’t happen the way I envisioned. Mike popped his Relic of Progenitus in response to my Life and my poor Factories all met the black
hole of Oblivion. Fortunately, fate was on my side, and I topdecked the needed Wasteland to lock the game up with Jace’s Ultimate.
After the game, Mike and I discussed if he would have won had he just attacked Jace. I had a second Jace sitting in my hand when I cast the first, so
I’m not sure if it would have mattered or not. When I was Fatesealing him, I didn’t really need to put much on the bottom. The only cards I put on the
bottom were cards that I would have had to use a card in my hand to deal with. I decided that having +1 card and not knowing what he was going to draw
was more important than knowing what he was going to draw.
Round 5: Feature Match – Erik Farnsworth piloting U/W Stoneforge
Erik was pretty quiet for the most part. He played the games really well, and it was a tough match to win. I heard on the commentary that he made a
misplay Game 3 in attacking with his Batterskull into my Sowered Mirran Crusader. While it was a misplay, I honestly think if he sat back on it,
nothing would have changed. He would have just had a 4/4 Germ token who couldn’t attack or block. I sure wasn’t about to attack him. I liked my
Pro-Batterskull wall just where he was. This match should be archived by the time this article is published, so I’ll just go over some of the more
interesting plays as I remember them.
Game 1 – I won the die roll and proceeded to suspend Ancestral Vision on turn 1. Erik copied me with his own Vision. Turn 2 saw more of the same.
Another Vision was suspended on my side of the field. I knew if they both resolved I was in a great position to win the game, which I did.
Game 2 – An EOT (end of turn) Brainstorm from Erik met my Mental Misstep, which met his Mental Misstep, which met my Mental Misstep, which was met by
his last Mental Misstep. Foiled again, Batman! Both down two cards and four life, the game resumed. At that point I learned something: I did not want
Mental Misstep in my deck while playing Erik’s deck. They were sideboarded out after the game for three Thoughtseize. If memory serves, I lost to an
Game 3 – It was turn 4, and I was staring down a field of Stoneforge and Batterskull with nothing relevant in my hand except for a Sower of Temptation.
I was prepared to use Sower as a martyr to buy me a few turns and Erik eight life. Erik played a Mirran Crusader however, and I was overjoyed. If he
didn’t have a Swords to Plowshares in his hand, I probably had the game locked with Sower. He hit me for five and passed the turn. I untapped and
windmill slammed Sower of Temptation. He let it resolve, and I seduced his Mirran Crusader to my cause. At this point, I was content with just playing
the Draw-Go game until I found Jace. It surprised me when Erik swung his Batterskull into my Mirran Crusader. I blocked, and he had an “Oh, crap…”
moment. From that point my army of Sower of Temptation, Vendilion Clique, and Mirran Crusader swung in consecutive turns for lethal.
After the game, Erik told me he sided out all his Swords to Plowshares. Sometimes you run good.
It took a while to finally sink in. I could ID into the Top 8 at a SCG Open! I just had to wait another two rounds and some odd announcements before I
would be on the main stage. I had nothing but time ahead of me, so I refilled my trusty water bottle and ate some cheesecake from the Cheesecake
Factory Bridget bought for Gene and I. Ian Ellis and I went over some sideboarding tech concerning the matchups I was likely to face in the Top 8.
I am a huge fan of having a water bottle filled at all times during a big tournament. Ian Ellis introduced it to me during the Standard Open on
Saturday, and I invested in a water bottle of my own. I strongly suggest everyone start carrying a water bottle and filling it up between rounds. It
helped me greatly with my awareness and made me feel a lot better than I normally would without it.
Round 6: ID with Zachary Fager
Round 7: ID with Ron Natividad
I ended up in seventh place off tiebreakers.
Top 8 Quarterfinals: Scott Limoges piloting U/B ANT
After looking at Scott’s decklist, I knew I would have a rough game 1. I had no more than 11 completely 100% dead cards in my deck. Almost 18.5% of my
draws would be worthless. Playing ANT for the past five months taught me how easy it was to beat a blue deck, especially if they have dead draws.
Luckily for me, Scott did not have Grim Tutors in his deck. That would have been bad news.
Game 1 – I opened with a hand of double Force of Will, a few lands, and the rest… dead cards. Scott Probed me a few times before casting an Infernal
Tutor, which I could have countered but didn’t. His Tutor got him another Duress. By this time, I had drawn another Force of Will but didn’t have
another blue card to pitch to it. Sitting in my hand were three Force of Will and two dead cards. I believe it was turn 4 at the time.
For some reason Scott kept passing his turns until I had seven mana untapped. Then he EOT double-Dark Ritualed into Ad Nauseam. I let both the rituals
resolve and tapped five mana to Force the Ad Nauseam. I’m not sure why he didn’t Duress me before he tried that. He knew what was in my hand from
multiple Gitaxian Probes. The next turn he did Duress away a Force of Will and tried to go off. He didn’t generate enough mana and was forced to
Ill-Gotten Gains back two Duress and an Ad Nauseam against my three Force of Will.
He Duressed two Force of Will away from my hand and passed the turn. We played draw-go for a few more turns until I topdecked a clock. Go Mishra’s
Factory Winter! I was at 17 at the time, and Scott was at 19.
I attacked him down to one life, and he cast Tendrils of Agony for 12. I went down to 5 life and Scott went up to 13. Scott had left two Lion’s Eye
Diamonds on the board after the Tendrils ,and I Pulsed them away. I guess Maelstrom Pulse isn’t a dead card against ANT 1% of the time. I knew from his
decklist that he had no way of winning at this point, but he didn’t scoop. I drew another Mishra’s Factory and attacked him for lethal within four
Game 2 – This game was broadcasted on SCGLive. I had a good feeling that I would win this game fairly easily. My deck was nothing but hate now. I
opened with all blue cards, a few lands, and a Force of Will. Scott went first and cast Dark Ritual for a Dark Confidant. Card advantage is the name of
this game, and I couldn’t let that resolve, so I Forced it. I Spell Snared a turn two Infernal Tutor, cast Jace, and I let a Dark Confidant resolve the
next turn. I Cliqued him during his next draw step.
We had a good old-fashioned standoff for his next turn. On my turn, I bounced his Dark Confidant with Jace after Jace-storming into a Spell Snare the
turn before. He didn’t cast Dark Confidant on his next turn, but an Infernal Tutor, which I Spell Snared. I was Jace-storming every turn and attacking
with the Clique.
It came to a point where I had two Mental Missteps, a Spell Snare, and a Spell Pierce in my hand. He went for it, and I cast Mental Misstep to counter
his Dark Ritual and Spell Snare to counter his Cabal Ritual. Scott told me after the game that he had a double Tendrils hand and probably would have
won had I not countered his rituals. Good thing I played that deck and understood it well enough to know what to counter.
Top 8 Semifinals: Joe Lossett piloting Cephalid Breakfast
The Feature Match coverage can be found here.
I hadn’t played this matchup since it featured Sutured Ghoul way back in the day. Back then I beat it with Swords to Plowshares fairly easily.
Up until this point I honestly thought it was a dead deck. Unfortunately for me, I was dead wrong. I strongly believe I lost because I had no
experience either piloting Cephalid Breakfast or playtesting against it. Had I sideboarded better Game 3 I might have been in the finals playing for
the trophy. This is why Legacy is the best format in Magic. A deck thought to be dead can come out of nowhere and completely crush a tournament.
Game 1 – Nothing very spectacular happened. I lost on turn three, I believe, after he milled his entire deck via an en-Kor targeting Cephalid
Illusionist. He then Dread Returned a Karmic Guide to Resurrect Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, who copied the Karmic Guide to Resurrect Sky Hussar, who
untapped all his creatures. Kiki-Jiki went to work with Sky Hussar, and I lost to one-hundred-bajillion 4/3 angry Sky Hussar.
Had I understood this matchup better, I would have kept in my Deeds and sided out all my sorcery-speed removal. I would have also sided in Thoughtseize
and sided out Jace. Fortunately I got lucky in how Game 2 unfolded.
Game 2 – I kept a hand with an Extirpate and a land to cast it. I let everything he cast resolve. He proceeded to mill his deck until he had a
Narcomoeba trigger on the stack, then I Extirpated his Dread Return. He was still in the game though, with a relatively fast clock of three creatures.
Luckily I had a Vendilion Clique and a Mishra’s Factory. I saw a Misdirection in his hand, which is why I didn’t Putrefy one of his creatures. I got a
few questions about that after the match. He scooped soon after.
Game 3 – I kept a rather greedy hand of one fetchland, two Brainstorm, one Extirpate, and a few other blue cards. A turn 1 main phase Brainstorm met a
Mental Misstep from Joe. The following turn I Forced his Cephalid Illusionist, then Extirpated it. It was rather infuriating that I didn’t draw any
lands for a few turns as I watched his Aether Vial steadily tick up to five. When I drew my third land I had two options; both were gambles: Option 1
was to lay a Pernicious Deed and hope he didn’t have his combo to wipe his board the next turn and have the game locked at that point. Option 2 was to
Vendilion Clique him on my turn just in case he had the combo in his hand and prevent him from going off. I chose Option 1, which ended up being the
wrong option. He Vialed in Kiki-Jiki at the end of my turn and a Sky Hussar on his turn. I could have Deeded away all his tokens and given myself
another draw to see if I would be able to win, but I chose not to.
It was unfortunate to go out on a mana screw and a possible misplay, but I knew exactly what I was getting into when I chose to keep those seven cards.
I also knew exactly what I was doing when I played the Deed instead of the Vendilion Clique. Joe just had it.
After everything was said and done, SCG Denver 2011 is by far my favorite SCG Tour® nament I have attended thus far. Even if I hadn’t Top 8ed in Legacy,
I would still say the same thing. The venue was amazing!
I wouldn’t change anything about the deck, except for the sideboard, depending on what I think I would face. I am anxious to playtest with the new
Commander card, Flusterstorm. I think it has a place in my BUG deck’s sideboard over Spell Pierce. It seems amazing against all combo decks.
Gene Richtsmeier for tweaking and playtesting with me the week before Denver.
Bridget Richtsmeier for making me food and bringing me cheesecake. You might make the team yet!
Matt Skinner for letting me use his Jace, the Mind Sculptor for the tournament
Alex Krenik and Matt Volkenant for playtesting with me.
The Minnesota Magic players for all their support.
Douglas Shuler for making me a bad-a$$ playmat.
The SCG team for hosting a Magic tournament in a football stadium. It was awesome!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via Facebook or the SCG forums. I will try to answer any questions asked.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!