Griselbeard & King Kitty

Chris VanMeter writes about how he made Top 8 of Legacy at #SCGBALT with Reanimator and shares some white-based aggro lists for Born of the Gods Standard!

Everything is winding down.

It was another cold weekend battling Magic. This time we were in the frozen tundra of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Walking to the site on Saturday morning, I remember having a few words with Patrick Sullivan about how if I have any clout with event location I should try to talk Papa Pete (yes, he referred to StarCityGames.com President Pete Hoefling as Papa Pete) into having all of the winter Open Series in places like Miami and San Diego.

We aren’t getting any younger, folks, and the cold wears on us.

Thankfully, grinning and laughing about it helped warm us up as we jaunted to the convention center. I was ready to do what I do best.

No, not spit mad game at all these B-town hunnys.

Cast Pack Rat and Thoughtseize!

Brad Nelson and Todd Anderson opted to play the newfangled U/W Control deck with a splash of black in the sideboard for the last tournament of Standard before Born of the Gods, and I was right along with them. I even had an entire copy of the deck ready to go. I had jammed a bunch of games with the deck and felt like I could pilot it decently enough, but something just didn’t feel right.

The weekend prior in Columbus I had played Mono-Black Devotion to a Top 16 finish and felt really good with the deck. I had navigated multiple mirror matches successfully and outmaneuvered some U/W and Esper Control opponents on my way to a couple bucks and some much-desired Open Series Points, and I really couldn’t come up with a good reason to not just play Mono-Black Devotion again.

I didn’t even want to change anything from the previous week’s 75. I still had an awesome sideboard plan against most of the top decks and could be flexible and attack from different angles depending on if I was on the draw or the play.

My only losses were to the mirror and the mirror splashing green, and even they were due to things like some timely Underworld Connections off the top to draw into gas as I bricked while being slightly to very far ahead or having all my awesome spells Thoughtseized while being bashed by Pack Rat.

I think that the Mono-Black Devotion mirror is pretty fun and enjoy trying to figure out on which level to attack based on hand texture and who is on the play.

This tweet from Matt Sperling pretty much sums up how I feel about Standard right now.

I’m glad that the Born of the Gods Prerelease is this weekend and we get to shake things up a bit because things will be shaken indeed. Like a Polaroid picture.

But first I want to talk to you about Legacy and beards—my beard in particular.

We had a close one this past weekend. After going 7-0 in the Swiss and double drawing into the Top 8, I was feeling really good about my chances to finally shave the legend that is quickly becoming my beard.

I had only lost like two games so far and had been drawing fairly well, playing with few mistakes, and I had some awesome support in my corner (friends, Roanoke family, the entire friggin Internet who wants me to shave my beard). But I was bested in the most uninteresting way by Esper Deathblade.

There’s always the next one, and I’m sure there are a handful of people who deep down aren’t that sad that I lost because they love seeing the beard.

It’s kinda growing on me, but I’m ready for that dubya.

The previous weekend I had played U/W/R Delver, but I opted for good ol’ Griselbrand this time. I really enjoyed playing a Delver of Secrets deck in Legacy and may go back to it at some point, but for now I’m still in love with being unfair. Decks like Reanimator put so much pressure on your opponents to have the right answer fairly early or just get buried, and because of Show and Tell, we now have multiple angles of attack that aren’t answered by the same cards.

Here’s the list I played.

I think despite putting up some awesome results over the last three Opens that Reanimator is still very well positioned right now.

My current view of the Legacy metagame is as follows:

  • True-Name Nemesis decks (Stoneblade, Deathblade, U/W/R Delver)
  • Combo decks that are looking to ignore True-Name Nemesis (Sneak and Show, Omni-Tell, Elves, Storm)
  • Metagame decks (Death and Taxes, Jund Depths, Jund, Counterbalance)

I think that we can really break things down into these categories. I feel like Reanimator is well positioned against the True-Name Nemesis decks, with Deathblade being fairly close, and is also well positioned against the other combo decks that are trying to prey on the True-Name decks.

The metagame decks can be a bit of a struggle, but I feel like Counterbalance is really the only strategy that we’re a pretty big underdog against.

The reason that I feel like we are positioned well in these spots is due to our reanimation targets and the way that we get to combat the smattering of graveyard hate that is seeing play.

Griselbrand is always a good Demon to have in play. The most common answer to it is Swords to Plowshares, and getting to draw seven is never bad even if we don’t hit an answer to the removal spell in that seven.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is very good against all of the True-Name decks and is also close to unbeatable against Elves. I had a match this past weekend against U/W/R Delver where I was able to navigate the game to a point where I got to Thoughtseize Lightning Bolt, Reanimate an Elesh Norn by Dazeing a Force of Will that exiled the last card in my opponent’s hand, and kill three Delvers (two flipped and one not flipped) all while going to one life. A few non Lightning Bolt draws later, he was dead.

Iona, Shield of Emeria is the other reanimation target that can just put a lot of decks away. Against Omni-Tell, I got to name blue and basically shut off every card in his deck. Against Jace decks, naming blue makes it so you only have to counter their Swords to Plowshares and they can’t even counter back. I got her into play early against Jund in my win-and-in match, and naming black shut off all of the answers in his deck.

We have a variety of targets that can gain tremendous card advantage, lock the opponent out of creatures, or lock them out of a large number of spells in their deck, and we get to play disruption like Thoughtseize, Daze, and Spell Pierce.

I played against U/W/R Delver in something like four or five rounds out of the seven that I played in the Swiss, and I won most post-board games even with a Rest in Peace and/or a Grafdigger’s Cage in play. Show and Tell is such a powerful card, and while they do have answers for each of the angles of attack with Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, Pyroblast, and Force of Will, it’s tough for them to have the right pieces at the right time. With City of Traitors coming in along with the extra Show and Tells, we are very fast.

Show and Tell also creates a bit of a side game where they have to decide if it’s a bait spell or not, similar to game 1 of my feature match against fellow StarCityGames.com columnist Jim Davis where I Thoughtseized a Force of Will and Entombed early to try to put him on thinking I was on the Reanimate plan. When I cast Show and Tell with a low number of cards in my hand, he let it resolve, thinking it was the bait. Iona, Shield of Emeria hit the battlefield and locked him out of half of his hand and answers, and a Force of Will on his Swords to Plowshares closed the game out after he bricked drawing another one over the next three turns.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Show and Tell banned in Legacy in the next year or so, but for now I’m probably going to be playing something that tries to get Griselbrand into play as quickly as possible.

All of these stories of Pack Rat and elementary school shenanigans aren’t the real reason I gathered you all here today. This weekend is the Born of the Gods Prerelease, and everyone is getting all revved up about the new Standard format.

Well, I’ll quench your thirst. I’ve got some pretty sweet ideas that I’m bogglin’ around in my noggin. I talked about G/R with the new Xenagos, God of Revels last week, and while I still think that deck has merit, I’m pretty excited about a W/R Aggro update.

I might have a sweet beard, but I’m also known slightly for my love of Brave the Elements and all things Boros Charm. Brimaz, King of Oreskos is one cool cat, and Spirit of the Labyrinth is worth consideration over Daring Skyjek.

Here’s where I’m starting with W/R Aggro.

This is a pretty rough list, but it’s where I’m starting this week as we prepare for Nashville.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos is obviously a very powerful Magic card that has the potential to take over games all by itself, and because of his token-generating abilities, I’ve moved Ajani, Caller of the Pride to the sideboard and upped the Spear of Heliod count to three in the main. I’m not 100% sure that this is correct, but it’s where I’m starting out. I do know that when I played the deck before with the three Ajani/two Spear split I always wanted another Spear but couldn’t really find room for it in the main. It may end up that Ajani works just as well with Brimaz since we can keep putting the counter on him and let him attack over and over until we can jump and double strike someone to death.

I like Spirit of the Labyrinth over Daring Skyjek, and it’s possible that we want a 3/3 split with Imposing Sovereign. But for now I’m going with the 4/2 split. Being able to stop Divination from digging for action and Sphinx’s Revelation from looking for a Supreme Verdict seems like it can be pretty useful. It may be that Daring Skyjek is still where we want to be for its evasion, but I’m definitely interested in trying out the new 3/1 Spirit.

Adding four more three-mana spells to the deck led me to move a Banisher Priest and the Ajanis to the sideboard so that we aren’t overloaded at the three spot. There are so many awesome white three-mana spells with WW in their casting cost that if we had Avacyn’s Pilgrim over Elvish Mystic I could definitely see W/G or Naya being a pretty big thing.

Revoke Existence is a pretty nice sideboard card that we gain from Born of the Gods since it can handle any of the Gods along with Detention Sphere. It may be that we just want Glare of Heresy still since that gives us another card to answer Brimaz against other white aggressive decks and Voice of Resurgence if G/W decks happen to make a . . . wait for it . . . resurgence (Brian Braun-Duin is giggling somewhere in the distance), but I’m going to try out Revoke Existence for now.

The other option would be to go with a black splash since Thoughtseize is one of the best cards in the format:

I think that we can replace Xathrid Necromancer with Brimaz, King of Oreskos, which makes us less reliant on Humans like Daring Skyjek. We aren’t trying to be reactive with Boros Charm but instead get proactive with Thoughtseize to push through and protect King Kitty and get the ball rolling.

I also want to try out having some number of Swamps in the sideboard, which will be useful for when we bring in the slew of black cards and enables us to go up to 24 lands and try out Blood Baron of Vizkopa. I have a feeling that some number of Devour Flesh is going to be shaved to make room for Bile Blight to fight the Pack Rat war that is the Mono-Black Devotion mirror, which makes the deck a little more vulnerable to Blood Baron.

I wasn’t really impressed with this strategy over the W/R list previously, but the power level of Brimaz makes Thoughtseize even more appealing than it already is.

All in all, I’m really excited to try out Brimaz, but my main concern is how weak these strategies are to Drown in Sorrow.

Have fun at your Prerelease this weekend, and make sure to open some powerful bombs to crush your opponents!