Leaving A Legacy: Is This Good? *7th*

Rudy Briksza tells you about the Esper Deathblade deck that he played to the Top 8 of SCG Legacy Open: Philadelphia last weekend.

RUDY, RUDY, RUDY, RUDY, RUDY (now say it with me)


Come on, guys, this only works if I’m not the only one doing it.

Ever since I saw that movie (conveniently named after me), I knew that this is what I wanted when I made Top 8 of an SCG event (I still have yet to see this movie). Instead, when my name was called, I was treated to a scattered applause sandwiched between "who’s that guy?" and "isn’t that the guy following Gerard around?" Next time, I guess.

I only recently started playing competitive Magic, right around New Phyrexia. The first deck I played was Caw-Blade. After playing with Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor I knew I’d found something special. Even though I crashed and burned at my first Open, I promised myself I would be better prepared for the next one. Then the unthinkable happened: my two favorite cards were banned. I was crushed.

Soon after this happened, I was introduced to Legacy. I settled on playing Hive Mind combo—until someone mentioned to me that I could play Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in this format. I was overwhelmed by this fact. Legacy for a new player can be very difficult. There are a lot of different decks to play and a lot of different interactions to learn. Even now, there is still much for me to learn.

I showed up to Philadelphia this past weekend with high hopes of crushing the Opens and enjoying the Reading Terminal Market. After some bad plays, I quickly found myself 0-2 in Standard. I was going to play out the rest of the day for fun, but after getting another loss in round 5, I decided to pack it in and try to relax for a bit and play the Legacy Challenge. I was on Esper Deathblade and wanted to pilot it through the Challenge as a trial run.

I spent some time discussing with Matt Costa about how I wasn’t too happy with Dark Confidant in Deathblade. He agreed with me that he didn’t think it was that good right now. I pondered my options, but for the most part I couldn’t think of anything to replace Confidant. I asked Todd Anderson if he would be willing to give me any updates he had to his deck. He told me he didn’t want to give away any of his secrets, which is understandable. Left to my own devices, I was wondering how to get my ship out of this swamp.

I then thought about Geist of Saint Traft. Every time I watched people play that card in Deathblade, it seemed to take over the game. Geist of Saint Traft allows you to actually close out a game fast. Playing that card on turn 2 makes it feel even more unfair. After discussing the option with a few people, I confirmed my suspicions that Geist was where I wanted to be. Brian Braun-Duin was testing a new deck with Geist of Saint Traft and Armageddon, and after some practice games, Todd mentioned that I should be playing a Savannah instead of a Bayou if I was going to play Geist. All of a sudden I was now ready for the Legacy Challenge.

The Legacy Challenge is an awesome tournament. It’s a great way to test your deck, see if sideboard cards really matter, and learn your deck’s interactions. If you come to Opens just to play Legacy, I highly recommend joining this event on Saturday. I decided to take my tweaked version of Deathblade into the Challenge. The list was very similar to Todd’s from the week before except -4 Dark Confidant, +1 Thoughtseize, +3 Geist of Saint Traft. I didn’t want to overload on Geists, and Thoughtseize allowed me to be prepared for the combo meta I expected. There wasn’t really a point in the tournament where I wanted that fourth, Geist but I may be biased because I performed well with only three.

The Legacy Challenge was a fun affair. It mostly reinforced my thoughts on Dark Confidant and Geist of Saint Traft. The only real memorable moment was in round 3. I got a chance to play Chris VanMeter playing Omni-Tell. Game 1 I turn 1 Thoughtseized him and promptly died a few turns later. Game 2 I asked CVM the one thing he probably didn’t want to hear when he cast Enter the Infinite with no cards left in his hand:

"How many cards are in your library?"

This is the list I ended up settling on for the Legacy Open:

I felt really good about the list and spent a lot of time on my sideboard. The only change I wanted was having a second Flusterstorm instead of the Spell Pierce. However, Spell Pierce ended up being just as good. For the most part, my sideboard is self-explanatory. When Esper Stoneblade and U/W Miracles were the top dogs of the format, Jace Beleren was a key card in the matchups. It came down a full turn earlier than the Mind Sculptor, prevented your opponent from playing their Jaces, and is much better than trading your Mind Sculptor for theirs after they were able to activate it. It accomplishes much of the same in this deck. The one card you may be the most curious about is Golgari Charm.

Although the card seems like it’s out of place, it actually does a lot of work. I used all three modes of the card last weekend between the Challenge and the main event. I noticed the Shardless BUG decks had started using Golgari Charm as a way to combat Leyline of Sanctity. I realized that being able to kill Confidants in the pseudo-mirror as well as Detention Sphere would probably put me far ahead. It also allows you to have more flexible options against Goblins and Elves. Most of the creatures in both decks are X/1s, and a one-sided mass removal effect can be particularly devastating.

The entire tournament I felt like I had the best deck in the entire room. That is a very powerful feeling to have.

In round 2, I played against U/R Delver. For a while, I was strongly considering playing that deck because Price of Progress seemed very good against every non-mono-blue combo deck. However, I didn’t think the deck would be good as a whole or as consistent as Deathblade. Originally, I thought my opponent was on Dredge since during the Legacy Challenge he had a very pimped out Dredge deck.

However, when he played a Misty Rainforest for a Volcanic Island into a Goblin Guide, I looked at my hand of duals and lamented the incoming Price of Progress. I was treated to a nice surprise of two more Goblin Guides instead! I was able to use Deathrite Shaman and Swords to Plowshares to keep my opponent from burning me out while I used Geist of Saint Traft to dominate the game. I think in this matchup, similar to RUG Delver, you want to play around Daze and Spell Pierce as much as you can while preserving your life total.

Round 3 was awesome because I got a feature match. Before this tournament, I was 4-8-1 in feature matches (on and off camera) and was looking forward to improving that record. I got paired up against Theo playing Goblins. Theo mentioned that all he wanted during the weekend was a feature match and was happy that he got one. This ended up being the third time throughout weekend I got paired against him. I beat him in the Legacy Challenge, and we were both playing the same deck as we did in the Challenge. You can watch the tail end of it here (my match starts at 21:51:30).

At this point in the game, I had used a lot of my removal and my Geist of Saint Traft to deal some damage, and Theo had to keep refueling his board. I was able to use Golgari Charm to remove his blockers. The correct play here would to have been to regenerate my Geist of Saint Traft instead of giving -1/-1 to all creatures. This way without a Tarfire, Port activation, or Wasteland, my Creeping Tar Pit would have been able to win the next turn. However, that is a lot to ask for. Regardless, I should have made the correct play.

Round 5 was against the mirror match. As I stated before, having Geist of Saint Traft over Dark Confidant allowed me to use his Confidant as a pseudo-burn spell. In game 2, I was able to use my sideboard cards of Jace Beleren and Golgari Charm to have a leg up in the match. Jace prevented him from playing his own while it drew me cards, and Golgari Charm allowed me to set up a turn where he spent his turn equipping his Jitte to his Confidant to attempt to get back in the game.

Now 5-0, I was in an interesting predicament. If I won, theoretically I should be able to draw into the Top 8. I saw my opponent was playing Reanimator from the previous round. Knowing this, I struggled on keeping my opening hand on the play. In the end, I ended up keeping and got very lucky to win the game. Would you have kept this hand?

Deathrite Shaman Savannah Geist of Saint Traft Stoneforge Mystic Detention Sphere Abrupt Decay Jace, the Mind Sculptor

I would probably keep this hand blind against most opponents. However, my opponent Force of Willed my Deathrite Shaman and followed it up with double Thoughtseize. Then neither of us drew lands for a few turns. I drew another Deathrite Shaman and finally a Flooded Strand to cast Geist of Saint Traft to win the game. I made a mistake game 3 when I used Relic of Progenitus’ second ability to remove his Griselbrand and graveyard from the game when he had a mana open and I had a Karakas in play. He Entombed after it resolved and got a Tidespout Tyrant on the field—talk about having tunnel vision. Thankfully, some tight play, Geist of Saint Traft, and a timely Detention Sphere were able to lock the game up for me.

In the Top 8, I faced an uphill battle against Jack Wang’s Maverick deck. With the exception of a severe misplay in the opening turns of game 1 (not taking Sylvan Library with Thoughtseize) and a poor decision at the end of game 3 (Detention Sphere targeting Deathrite Shaman instead of Knight of the Reliquary), I don’t feel like I could have done much to win the match. It seems like every time I play a friend in the Top 8 and Glenn Jones covers my match I lose 2-0.

I really liked where the deck went, and in case you couldn’t tell by the short breakdown of the matches, Geist of Saint Traft is still absolutely absurd. However, I don’t think I want the fourth one. I really liked having three discard spells and have no intention of playing less than that. The only change I’m considering making actually lies in the sideboard. The maindeck was very solid for me, and there wasn’t a card I didn’t want. Detention Sphere overperformed for me. I know some lists are cutting it, but the card is too flexible to not play in the current metagame. I have entertained the thought of a Liliana of the Veil in the main, but I don’t think it’s necessary at this point in time. However, with the new rules change, Liliana’s stock is going to jump.

As far as the sideboard goes, I really liked Relic of Progenitus over Nihil Spellbomb. While it is true that Relic has the downside of affecting your own yard, it has the added benefit of being good against opposing Deathrite Shamans. The other bonus is Nihil Spellbomb can only be used once while Relic has the ability to keep your opponents yard in check constantly throughout the game. Golgari Charm was another card that overperformed for me, and I highly recommend playing with the card before dismissing it.

The cards in the sideboard I liked the least were the extra discard spell and the second Detention Sphere. The card I have been thinking about playing in my sideboard a lot lately has been Phantasmal Image. For the next few weeks, I would strongly consider playing Image so you can kill opposing Geist of Saint Trafts without playing your own to legend rule one. It also has a lot of other uses like copying your opponent’s Stoneforge Mystic to fetch your own equipment or even get techy and copy your opponent’s Mother of Runes to protect your own creatures. If Reanimator is going to be played more, then it also serves as a non Show and Tell answer to those creatures.

This deck really isn’t going to change drastically. I would suggest being prepared for the mirror in the sideboard but not to overload for any one deck. Jon Sonne told me once that if you’re too focused on trying to beat one or two tier 1 decks that you’re going to lose to some tier 2 aggressive strategy or some random tier 1.5 deck that you didn’t even think about. Legacy is a vast format, and it’s better to be open and flexible than trying to focus on a few matchups solely.

The beauty in playing this deck is you aren’t limited to winning in any strict way, which allows you to play a completely different game from your opponent. This deck has a lot of play to it, and if you aren’t willing to put the time into testing the deck or aren’t willing to accept that you’ll have to change your game plan on the fly, this isn’t the deck for you. However, if you want to challenge yourself as a player, then I highly recommend this deck.

I would like to take some time to congratulate my friend Lloyd Kurth on making Top 8 in Standard and thank Gerard Fabiano, John Aleksandravicious, and Ben Mason for making sure I could play Legacy on Sunday. Even though I’m very happy that I made Top 8, I’m not satisfied. I had several disappointing losses in Standard, and I let them affect me badly. I didn’t really talk to anyone for a while and kind of avoided everyone in my salty mood. I started having some fun once I began playtesting with friends. I knew if I wanted to do well that I couldn’t sit around moping and waiting for people to hand me free wins. I had to work for what I wanted.

Making Top 8 was no accident. I got there through playing smart and not letting a bad situation get to me. I am a fairly emotional person, and as much as I would like to pretend losses don’t bother me, they do. I go over scenarios in my head for every game where I made a mistake. These losses and mistakes bother me. They hang over me like a dark cloud for what feels like the entire tournament. I don’t like losing. No one does. But I need to find a way to break through the monotony. I am a fairly lucky person. I get to travel the country with my friends to play a card game. I love this game. I need to start treating it with the respect it deserves, and I need to start respecting myself. Being grim and dark isn’t going to get me another Top 8 spot.

I hope Worcester is ready.


Twitter = @ItsSoBza

I also have a podcast called Glory Seekers (check us out on our Facebook page) that I host alongside Chris Andersen and Daniel Dusang. You should check us out!