Grinders And Gallstones – Never A Dull Moment!

Chris VanMeter battled through crippling agony to place in the Top 4of the St. Louis Legacy Open this weekend. He’s also got his Standard list, and quite the story!

Gallstones suck. If you’ve ever had a Silver-Inlaid Dagger shoved into your side by an Invisible Stalker, then you know what it feels like. I’ve had a few Gallstone attacks before, but they are mostly just inconvenient, only last a few hours, and the pain can be dulled with a very hot shower and relaxing.

Friday night before the StarCityGames.com Open Series in St. Louis, I was in so much pain that I actually vomited twice. Now, I have a pretty high pain threshold, so for me to be vomiting and almost in tears from pain, I knew it was serious. After heart-filled suggestions from my hotel-mates AJ, Jeff K., and Heath D., we piled into the car at midnight and headed to the emergency room in East St. Louis. Pretty much the classiest place in all of the United States.

The car ride was agonizing. The whole idea of going to the ER when you’re in pain for something is just stupid to begin with. The number one concern on your mind is making the pain stop, but you know deep down that’s not going to happen, at least not in any timely manner. You get there and have to fill out paperwork, answer questions, tell them what’s happening, explain how your dying and that on a scale from 1-10 the pain is literally infinity.

After that you get to wait.

Oh, the wait. At least there was Mrs. Doubtfire on the TV in the lobby. I’m sure that was the only saving grace for my partners in crime.

Finally, I got to see the doctor. Feeling awkward as always in the backless gown, re-explaining everything I’ve already explained and written down in triplicate. “It’s probably your gall bladder, but since we only do ultrasounds Monday to Friday we won’t be able to know for sure. Let’s just do the tests that we can for now.” Oh great, this is awesome. Best case scenario, we still won’t fix what the problem is because they can’t even be sure. Hopefully they don’t find diabetes or something else, because that would just be perfect.

Still in pain, I get wheeled to the X-ray room. Still in pain, they take X-rays, which they have to do multiple times because the tech doesn’t line it up correctly. I even have to point out where my belly button is at one point so he can line it up. It’s a good thing I have the patience of a saint. Still in pain, I get wheeled back to my room (which is a bed with a drape pulled around it so I get to listen to all the nonsense that’s going on in the ER) and they take my blood and set me up for an IV. They still need a urine sample, but I haven’t been able to go since I arrived.

Finally, after I ask about the pain, they get the IV going and give me some pain medication. While watching the infomercials about Amish Electric Fireplaces and the like, it kicks in and I can relax. It only took about four hours in the ER (seven hours total). At around 5:30 AM the nurse comes in and informs us that they are only waiting on a urine sample to process before they can process everything and I can go (would have been nice to know over an hour ago while we all sat and waited). I did get to listen to the story of a gay man who was pistol-whipped in his face by his best friend’s boyfriend—was interesting.

After the urine sample is taken and processed, the doctor comes in to inform me of the verdict. Everything looks fine and I get a requisition for an ultrasound that I will need to set up during the week. He does notice that I was full of compacted stool however, which can play a part in the onset of the gallstone pain. This was interesting, since I basically go more than 2-3 times the normal person per day, but it was a long trip driving over there from Wichita. I get a prescription for my Tinea and some stool softener and laxative and go about my way. Six hours in the ER, and the doctor basically tells me I’m full of crap. Whatever, I’m already here, let’s battle.

A funny side story is how I trolled the nurse who took my blood and set up my IV. After coming back from the X-ray, she took my arm to take the blood and noticed the Tinea Versicolor I have on my arms. It’s a fungal discoloring that’s fairly common in 20-something males. When she asked me about it, I feigned knowledge asking her “What?” When she asked if it was there before I went for the X-ray, I frantically said “No?!” After a minor freak-out by her, I laughed and told her I was kidding, fully expecting to be stabbed in the arm with a needle, but she took it in stride.

After the ER adventure we all get back to the room, sleep for a couple hours, and get up ready to battle. Still in my hospital bracelets I freshen up, throw on some pajama pants and a sweatshirt, and we head out for the tournament. Here is the list I sleeved up for the Standard Open.

Last week I wrote about just how good Desperate Ravings is, and I still feel the same way. Ultimately I didn’t sleeve up Ravings and went with Illusions instead. With Ramp doing so well, I expected a tiny bit of a shift towards control decks trying to handle it and decided to go with a deck that I felt punished decks trying to beat Ramp. The Illusions deck is much more powerful that most people give it credit for, and with cards like Moorland Haunt and Snapcaster Mage you actually have a very good endgame.

I ended the tournament 7-2-1, and remained in Top 8 contention during Round 9 when I played against David Thomas in a feature match. As you can see from the picture, I looked like I was feeling on top of the world, but after a hard-fought match Dave crushed me in two. Dave was the second Flare type deck I played against in the Swiss, and it definitely felt like a rough matchup.

I was very happy with the deck and the list I decided to run, but there are definitely some changes I’d like to make. I really liked Pat and Mike’s lists from the Top 8 of the event. After chatting with them a little bit about their choices, I’m sold on Geist. He really is better than the Drake. In the mirror, Drake can be a liability, and against the control decks, Geist is a house, even winning the game on his own sometimes. I also was unhappy with the Revokes in the board. They should have been Oblivion Rings, but I wanted to take advantage of Snapcaster in the Steel matchup, which was almost nonexistent this last weekend.

The current Standard format is quite diverse with a clear sign of what the top decks are. Illusions, Ramp, Flare, and U/W Humans are the decks you need to be ready for. In addition, with its win this weekend, Mono Red will be on everyone’s mind too. If your deck has a tough time with Timely Reinforcements, you probably should be looking elsewhere next weekend.

Here is the list I am working on currently for the Invitational.


I really like Geist, especially after sideboard. The decks that he is good against, he is really good against. I also felt like I wanted one more hard counter most of the time post-board, which explains the third Dissipate. I also wanted some number of Negates. Previously, you really wanted at least five hard counters to bring in against ramp (two Dissipate three Flashfreeze), but since we went up to three Dissipates, we can now also have two Negate. This will give us more hard counters against the control decks, especially Flare, which will have Day of Judgment and Timely against us. The twenty-first land will come in along with the white spells, and when you bring in the Dissipates.

As of yet, I’m still not 100% on my Standard list for the Invitational, but this is where I’m starting.

Now for the real reason you’re reading this—my take on Legacy and the U/W deck I played. Here’s the list:

This list is only three cards off the list I talked about last week in my article. I decided to go with the Grips in the board (and the Trop in the main) rather than Spell Pierce. I really wanted something that was going to be good against Counterbalance and the mirror, and Grip was it. You get the added benefit of Grip being good against the Bant Blade decks and the random Affinity decks.

Unfortunately I didn’t play against RUG Delver, or anything with Loam or Crucible, or any of the BUG decks, so I didn’t side in the Crucible—but it still seems like something sweet to have. The twenty-fifth land was good, and being a Wasteland was great. I got to bring it in against Bant Blade and the mirror.

One of the great and frustrating things about Legacy is how difficult it can be to “metagame.” No matter how hard you try to predict what people will play from week to week, the nature of the format is that most people are just going to play whatever deck they have the duals or expensive cards for. At each of these Opens you could probably sit down and put together a list of the people who will be playing tuned, meta-specific decks and cards. In the seven rounds I played in the Swiss, I played against six different decks. Zoo twice, G/B Rock with Veteran Explorer, NO RUG, the mirror, and Esper Blade—and I even played against Bant Blade and U/R Delver in the Top 8.

Legacy is a very diverse format, however, you can still break it down and prepare accordingly. The diversity of Legacy is what makes sideboard cards so important. You can’t afford to play cards in your sideboard that are too narrow. Here is a breakdown of my last sideboard as an example of why the cards were chosen.

4 Path to Exile

With the combo decks of the format being held in check by Counterbalance, people are going to beat you down. Here’s a list of decks that the Path/Plow/Snapcaster strategy is trump against: Zoo, Merfolk, G/W Maverick, Affinity, Goblins, and it is even semi-effective against the Bant Blade decks.

2 Wrath of God

Along with the Path to Exile strategy, this card is good against the same decks. It also gives you ways to kill Thrun, the Last Troll, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Progenitus.

3 Purify the Grave

This is the most controversial card I’ve been using. Most people will automatically say that Surgical Extraction is better, but it really isn’t for this deck. You have so many other awesome spells you want to be Snapcastering. This deck is very grindy, usually just running your opponent out of cards while representing a mild threat that takes over the game—either Jace, Vendilion Clique, or Stoneforge Mystic. The primary deck this card is for is Reanimator, and you really don’t need to hit all of the cards you exile from their graveyard. You would much rather be able to counter two of their reanimate spells. It also has the added protection against Thoughtseize.

2 Krosan Grip

This spot was initially Spell Pierce, but I also thought about Disenchant. I wanted something against the mirror and Counterbalance. Pierce is also good against combo, but for the most part I wanted to rely on Force of Will to handle those decks. We played a Grip in Kansas City and never really used it, but it still feels like it’s right. It also hits Affinity and Bant Blade for splash damage.

1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

I just can’t say enough about This Girl. She is great against other Jaces, isn’t blue and avoids Red Elemental Blast, and is great against the BUG attrition decks. If I could play a second in the main, I would.

1 Crucible of Worlds

This is mainly to combo with the Wasteland in the board to fight the RUG Delver decks. With only eighteen lands and no basics, it’s easy to mana screw them. It is also good against decks with Loam or Crucible that try to Wasteland-lock you.

1 Wasteland

In addition to Wasteland locking people with the above Crucible, it’s also good to board up to twenty-five land against other control decks.

1 Umezawa’s Jitte

An extra piece of equipment to bring in against decks that have a lot of creatures, who are vulnerable to it. Mainly, Bant, Zoo, U/R Delver, Goblins, Elves, and Merfolk.

As you can see most, of the cards are good in different ways against different decks. This was always my issue with cards like Leyline of the Void, which is really only good against Dredge, even though it could be effective against Reanimator. If I had to list the decks right now to be worried about in Legacy, they would be:

U/W Blade

Bant Blade


RUG Counterbalance

RUG Delver

It’s also good to notice that there has been a G/W Maverick in the Top 8 of the last two opens. I feel like it is poised very badly against Punishing Fire and am surprised that it has been doing so well. It seems like it’s another one of those decks that people will play just because they have the cards for it, so it’s something to keep in mind that you might have to play against.

I was happy with all seventy-five cards in my deck and while I’m sure there might be a small change or two, I can’t say what they will be yet. I’m leaning towards changing the Crucible in the board to something, and if Blade continues to perform strongly then it might be right to play a Manriki-Gusari in the sideboard again. I felt like I played decent the whole tournament up until the quarterfinals, where I didn’t read Sulfuric Vortex and punted. Yes, I did have Snare and Spellstutter in my hand and could have won by just attacking with Snapcaster and Mutavault. I now know what the card does and will play accordingly.

If you have any questions, comments, or just wanna chat about Legacy, feel free to email me [email protected]. You can also check out my tweets from the events on twitter @Chris_VanMeter. I look forward to seeing everyone next weekend at the Invitational so be sure to say hi!

<3 CVM