It’s A Pride Thing: SCG Legacy Open In New Jersey *1st*

Read about how Gerard Fabiano recently won the largest Legacy Open ever, SCG Legacy Open: New Jersey, with U/W/R Delver.

It’s a pride thing.

For me, the Invitational in Somerset started way before the actual play on Friday. Once I heard that the Invitational was coming to New Jersey, I started planning for it. Things like who would stay at my house, what fun things I would have in store for them, and it being my birthday weekend; what exciting ventures would happen all came to my mind. However, since Magic players including myself are notoriously bad at planning things out, not much of this actually happened. Besides a trip to Harold’s where Cedric battled this:

Ice Cream

He lost in three. [Editor’s Note: Dude, I got swept!]

Some friends who planned on coming out for the Invitational ended up not being able to make it, and I wasn’t really in the birthday mood to do anything.

Instead, the trip started off when Tannon Grace decided to make his way to the Invitational. Since flights from Las Vegas to New Jersey were very expensive, he decided to fly into the Philadelphia airport. The real reason was that he has a secret crush on the Delta Girl who works the check-in counter and wanted to try his luck. He lost in two.

Philly is a solid two hours of driving bearing traffic from New Jersey. Our other friend, who I won’t mention by name or point fingers at here (what’s up Rudy?!), planned to retrieve Tannon from the airport, but something came up. Since Tannon’s such a good guy, I couldn’t not take the trip down there to get him.

I left my house at about 7 PM and got there just after 9 PM when Tannon’s flight was landing. I picked him up and then headed back home for some sleep. We decided to stop at Wendy’s just after midnight to pick up food for a friend (not Rudy). I got him the new pretzel cheeseburger (which is actually pretty good, recommend with sea salt fries and a medium diet coke), but it comes with onions and my friend hates onions. I asked the lady in the drive through not to put any on, and she just responded with "$8.01 pull up to the window."

Which brings up the thought of why they even say pull up to the window. Have you ever seen someone who’s never been to a drive through before and thinks that the food is going to come through the little speaker box?

When I pulled up to pay, I asked to make sure there were no onions. The lady has this look on her face like she just forgot to pay for Slaughter Pact and yelled for a judge, but in this case the Slaughter Pact was the burger and the judge was the cook in the back. "No onions right?" was asked, and a response of "just tell him to take it off" was given.

Now let’s just hold up right there for a second. I get working the midnight shift at a Wendy’s in Clifton, New Jersey might not be an ideal job, but it’s still a job. And it’s not like I did anything to this lady. She was just being rude and lazy. For those of you who might not know what a rude and lazy person is like, let me relate it to the Magic world.

If she played Magic, she would be the player who doesn’t sleeve her deck, plays with faded back Ice Age Lands, eats her pizza at one of the table between rounds, doesn’t clean up after herself, and leaves everything behind  including a wet ring on the table from her Coke. To this, all I can say to this is thank god she doesn’t play Magic.

Anyway, the lady at the window turned to me and confirmed that there were no onions. I thought about calling her out on the spot, but I figured let me just make sure before I say anything. I pull up a bit to check for onions, and there were. So I did what any normal Magic player would do—pulled to the side and cracked the Innistrad pack I found in the arm rest of the car (the rare was Geist-Honored Monk). But I also drove around and went back to the window.

Before I went back I decided to mark the box with a small rip to see if the lady would just pick off the onions with her hand or make me a new one. She ended up trying to hand me back the same one that I handed her. I then told her how I marked the box and actually wanted a new one. She nodded and ended up making me a new one. As I drove away I felt both proud of myself and slightly outraged.

I mean seriously! A Geist-Honored Monk as my rare?

The next day as we went to the site hotel to meet up with Reid to draft Modern Masters for his Worlds preparation, I passed by the Wendy’s to have a talk with the manager. I won’t go into too much detail on what ended up happening, but let’s just say if you’re ever in Clifton and you really want Wendy’s, it will be on me. I could have just driven away and not pushed the issue, but it was a pride thing.

After a draft and a few test games, I was now ready for the Invitational. I felt confident going into both formats. For Standard I ran Esper Control, and for Legacy I played a U/W/R Stoneforge deck with maindeck Blood Moon. Both lists are below.

I was very impressed with the Esper deck. I ended up going 6-2 with it, my wins coming against a wide-array of decks including Jund, Bant Hexproof, and U/W/R Flash. My two losses were to a straight-up punt in the mirror match where I decided to play a Sphinx’s Revelation for five when my opponent was tapped out.

You be thinking how is that a punt, but at the point of the game we were in, it should have been clear to me that it was going to come down to decking. As it turned out, I got decked one turn before I’d win and lost because of it. I also made a poor choice when I tapped out for Jace, Architect of Thought after it resolved since my opponent only had two mana open. I was so caught up in the fact that my opponent didn’t have Syncopate or Negate that I forgot about Snapcaster Mage and decided to -2 it rather than +1 it and lost both my planeswalker and the game because of it.

Overall, the mirror match is very tricky, but it’s something you won’t currently see too often as the metagame is flooded with other decks like Dragonmaster G/R, Jund, and U/W/R Flash. Even though 6-2 is nothing super special, I did feel I was just a few bad plays away from putting up a 7-1 or 8-0 record.

Legacy went a bit worse, and it wasn’t the deck’s fault. I lost games I thought I could never lose, and it was all due to me being lazy and losing focus, which is something I have been trying to work on. Magic is obviously difficult with lots of decisions and thinking on the fly, but that’s what makes it really fun and exciting. And there is no other format with more thinking on the fly and tough decisions than Legacy, so I couldn’t be too mad at myself.

However, I was disappointed on missing just outside the money for the second straight Invitational, especially when I knew I could have done better. Sometimes you have days where nothing goes right—we all have them. You lose all your die rolls, mulligan a bunch, get bad matchups, and burn your Hot Pocket. But in this tournament, I could have gone back to at least three of my matches and easily turned a loss into a win without a few terrible mistakes.

I was mad at myself and didn’t really want to be at the site anymore. Sure, it was my birthday weekend and a bunch of my friends were around, but it didn’t matter. Maybe I was being selfish, but I just wanted to leave and go home. I was super frustrated with Constructed, and before I left I signed up for the Classic, which was M14 Sealed Deck. I had experience playing with M14, and even though I felt confident in my Legacy deck, I figured I had a better shot at winning the Classic. My confidence was down, and I needed a pick me up.

As I walked outside heading home, I ran into four guys that no matter how bad of a mood you’re in will help turn a frown upside down: Reid Duke, Sam Black, Owen Turtenwald, and Cedric Philips. These guys were heading to Chipotle and invited me (see what I mean :D).

I decided to go, and talking to them really helped. I got to share some stories, go over some thoughts on my plays, and relearned something that I already knew—everyone punts every now and then. On the way back, I told Cedric I was playing in the Classic, and he responded with, "The Legacy tournament is going to be big and tough. You should play in it; it’s a pride thing," and when he said that it all made sense.

I don’t play Magic to try to win easy tournaments. I don’t play Magic to try to find a good value tournament. I play Magic to challenge myself against the toughest/largest fields out there. As I walked back into the site, I went to unregister for the Classic and registered for the Legacy Open. My mood changed, and I no longer wanted to go home and sulk in misery due to my poor performance.

I instead wanted to do everything I could to help my buddy Erik Smith win the Invitational. I tested against him, and we figured out Erik’s sideboard plan for his Top 8 match up against Bant Hexproof. Afterward we just sat around a bit and chatted. Erik mentioned he went 7-0-1 with his U/W/R Delver deck, and I asked if I could use it for the Legacy event. He said sure and handed me his deck with a sideboard guide.

Sunday came, and as 10 AM rolled by, it was clear this was going to be the largest Legacy Open ever by a lot. With over 500 players, this was going to be a long day with ten rounds of Swiss. Before I go any further, here is the list I ended up playing.

As I sat down for round 1, I was excited, and I got even more excited when I saw my hand:

Turn 1: Tundra + Delver of Secrets.

Turn 2: Flip!

What could go wrong?

Well, let’s just say The Epic Storm is a very good deck. However, my opponent seemed to get super unlucky and ended up fizzling out when I thought for sure I was dead after he played a few rituals and an Ad Nauseam.

For game 2, I had one of the most interesting opening hands I’ve had in a while:

Force of Will Force of Will Red Elemental Blast Surgical Extraction Brainstorm Daze Stifle

Would you keep this on the draw against The Epic Storm? Let me know in the comments please!

I ended up asking a few people whose opinions I respect, and here’s what they had to say.

First up on the list was The Epic Storm Master Royce Walter. Royce said that he would mulligan because if he turn 1 Gitaxian Probed me, he would be happy to see the hand I kept unless he mulliganed and kept a real loose one. His argument for mulliganing is that since The Epic Storm plays a fair amount of disruption, he could just wait and set up a Cabal Therapy / Duress turn and then go off the following turn. With me not having any pressure, he’ll have enough time to fight through the disruption even if I draw a land.

I then decided to ask Adrian Sullivan, who did coverage that weekend and saw the U/W/R Delver deck in action. He also sided on taking a mulligan. He agreed with the same points as Royce but really stressed the fact that even if I were to hit a land the hand still had no pressure. He thought if there were a Delver of Secrets mixed in the hand, maybe over the Red Elemental Blast, then he would have kept.

Finally, I decided to ask recent Invitational winner and the deck’s creator Erik Smith. Here’s what he said:

"I would have snap mulliganed this hand had it come up in a match of mine simply because it has no lands. However, after thinking about it further, I’ve come around to it being a close call, and I see the merits of keeping it. You have double Force of Will for disruption if you whiff on lands for the first couple turns, and if you hit a land, you’re obviously in a very favorable position of just needing to find a threat. Personally, I tend to err on the side of caution and rarely keep a risky hand though."

I ended up keeping, hitting a Volcanic Island on my first draw and then a Delver of Secrets, and the rest was history. There was a lot more to a decision like this, so I will try to break it down for you.

Most of the reasons on why I should mulligan the hand given above are from the other players I asked. The obvious ones are no land and no threat. Besides that, what if I draw one of my nineteen lands and it’s a Wasteland? Wasteland won’t really help in this situation, which means I only have a 15/53 or 28.3% chance of drawing a land instead of a 19/53 or 35.8%. Even if I do draw a land, what if my Brainstorm completely misses and I hit three spells that don’t help my hand at all and Brainstorm lock myself? Sure, it’s unlikely, but it’s also something to figure into the scenario.

Also, like Royce said above, discard is a huge factor in this case. If our opponent leads off with a turn 1 Cabal Therapy and names Force of Will, my hand becomes almost unplayable. On the other hand, what if I mulligan? There’s no guarantee I will have lands, and there’s no guarantee I will have any disruption. Then what? Would I have to go to five?

However, looking at the deck and the matchup, going down on cards isn’t that big of a deal since there are no real attrition cards in the matchup. I don’t have to worry about something like Hymn to Tourach or Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so that’s a plus. At the end of the day, I just thought that if I did hit my 28% I would win a large part of the time, and that was one of the reasons that really pushed my decision to keep. (Also, Erik was behind me watching, so I thought he would think I’m cool if I kept and won. :D)

After that win, things got a lot harder. Almost all my wins went to three games and were just super close matches that came down to small decisions. In ten rounds of Swiss, I faced many different hard-to-play-against decks including The Epic Storm, Jund, RUG Delver, Death and Taxes, Shardless BUG, and Esper Deathblade. I also faced some very hard-to-face opponents like Lloyd Kurth, Royce Walter, Chi Hoi Yim, and Dan Jordan.

I ended the Swiss with a 9-0-1 record, which meant going into the Top 8 I was the first seed and would be on the play for every game 1. In the Top 8, I beat RUG Delver, in Top 4 it was The Epic Storm, and the finals was Death and Taxes.

The tournament felt much different than the Invitational. I took my time with my decisions and played with more confidence. Even though I still made some mistakes, I felt proud of my choices and didn’t let them affect me too much. After I won, I was so happy, and I have to thank Cedric for motivating me with his comment of "it’s a pride thing."

If you want to try your luck with U/W/R Delver, I would try a Karakas and Elspeth, Knight-Errant in the sideboard over the Sword of Feast and Famine and something else (depending on the metagame). For the maindeck, I could see adding a fourth Volcanic Island to bring the land count up to twenty and possibly cutting a Daze or a Stifle (again depending on the metagame).

All three of these decks are very difficult to play, so try to get some games in before the tournament. Since I have been testing my Esper Control deck out a bunch and Standard is pretty well defined right now, I want to go over the two key matchups, how the games might play out, and what you should do.


Jund will probably be the most popular deck in Standard until rotation, so you will most likely face it multiple times in any given tournament. Don’t worry, though, because you actually have a very good matchup here since you have a lot of things going for you. The first is you have a fair amount of counters and card draw, which is something Jund doesn’t really like to play against. Game 1 Jund has almost no way to stop a Sphinx’s Revelation, which means you just have to keep up in the early game and not fall behind. Try to save your counters for something relevant that your creature control cards can’t deal with.

Blood Baron of Vizkopa is also very good against them since most decks will have no way to kill it besides a Bonfire of the Damned, which is very bad against you. Sure, a Thragtusk matches up well against it, but once you clear that out of the way Blood Baron can close out a game rather quickly. If it doesn’t get the job done, a chain of Sphinx’s Revelations followed by a Nephalia Drownyard or Jace, Memory Adept should close it out. After board you get a handful of cards to improve the matchup even further with Negate, Lifebane Zombie, Sin Collector, Duress, and an additional copy of Restoration Angel. So far I’ve had a lot of success in this matchup, and with solid play and an understanding of what’s important, you can as well.

U/W/R Flash

This is another matchup you want to play against. They do lots of things, but most of the things they’re doing you don’t care about. You have the advantage with planeswalkers, discard spells, removal, and Nephalia Drownyard. Some lists do play Encroaching Wastes, which makes me want a third copy of Nephalia Drownyard somewhere. I would normally play at least three copies, but since the metagame is filled with aggressive decks right now, I decided having more colored mana is important so that you won’t stumble early on and are able to keep up with them.

In this matchup, you want to board in Sin Collector, Duress, Negate, and Restoration Angel. Remember, the games will most likely go long and there will be lots of decisions, but don’t worry because if you think about it you basically have more removal then they have threats and you have discard spells to help force through your key spells to close out the game.

Two of Esper Control’s weaker matchups are a deck that has taken the metagame by storm, Dragonmaster G/R, and a deck that Osyp Lebedowicz just won a PTQ with, Domri Naya (congrats Osyp!). None of these matchups are unwinnable by any means; it’s just that they have problematic cards like Domri Rade, Hellrider, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Burning Earth. After board you get some flexible cards to combat these threats, and it will mostly come down to tight play and not blowing through your resources.

Thanks for reading and keep it tight!

Twitter = @Gfabs5