Those really aren’t the results that you want to be putting up at big events, but in each of those tournaments you start to gain valuable information which fuels the next. This is where I was with NO R/U/G leaving SCG Cincinnati, and once again leaving SCG Pittsburgh. I had a lot of information. I just needed to know how to channel it into finding a better deck configuration. As soon as the drive home started, my three hours in the car was spent brainstorming ideas. I was eager for another shot at success. Well, it just happened to be that Legacy Champs was right around the corner at Gen Con.
Tweaking from Experience
Having only a week to prepare and literally no time for testing, I went off of my tournament notes and used my play experience to guide me along in tweaking the deck. I laid my deck out on my bed and started analyzing. This is the 75 that I played at SCG Pittsburgh to 30th Place:
I felt that the mana base was not going to be the issue, nor the creatures, but instead the spell configuration that I was previously playing with. These are the changes that I wound up making, with explanation:
-1 Ponder, +1 Sylvan Library: I wanted to diversify my ability to dig for cards when needed. Ponder in multiples was already something that I didn’t want to have; the deck had a higher density of business from only playing 2 Force of Will and generally anything after the first Ponder slowed the deck down and wasn’t necessary. Sylvan Library, however, gives a continuous effect: the ability to dig and to produce card advantage. I couldn’t always match the role Sylvan Library played in a G/W/x aggro-control deck, but I could against control decks and Hive Mind. I was sold.
-2 Fire/Ice, +2 Grim Lavamancer: I directly siphoned the Grim Lavamancers from the sideboard to make room for two copies of Umezawa’s Jitte. I originally did not consider Umezawa’s Jitte as part of my 75, but after looking at the card, it played a role similar to Grim Lavamancer (reusable card advantage), and imitated the Fire portion of Fire/Ice pretty well. However, out of the three cards, only two were maindeck candidates. It also freed up one slot in my sideboard.
-1 Green Sun’s Zenith, +1 Trygon Predator: It doesn’t seem to make sense taking out a tutor that finds creatures in order to fit in another creature. But after talking with fellow NO R/U/G players Max Jacob and Chris Kronenberger, I believed that there could be a negative redundancy with 4 Green Sun’s Zenith. I added in the Trygon Predator from the sideboard, as it was the only card in my specific 15 that was a maindeck candidate. It also helped maintain the blue count at an acceptable 18, not counting Progenitus, which ideally I wouldn’t be pitching.
With that said, the sideboard now looked like:
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Force of Will
2 Umezawa’s Jitte (Just added)
1 Grim Lavamancer (The third one)
1 Empty Slot (Vacated by Trygon Predator)
I decided that for Legacy champs, I would be playing the odds and completely dodging graveyard decks. Sometimes, this is a necessary risk, although retrospectively watching two graveyard decks make the Top 8 would have led me to prepare otherwise. That’s the beauty of Legacy: any archetype can get there on any given day. I also recalled from most of my notes that I almost never boarded in Terastodon. Krosan Grip was unnecessary in the format and Ancient Grudge would fulfill the role of handling would-be Terastodon targets (or red blasts for Jace, the Mind Sculptor). The maindeck Trygon Predator had the opportunity to catch people off guard as well. With three slots free after I cut the third Grim Lavamancer and Terastodon, I took from SCG Pittsburgh and added 3 Submerge to the sideboard. Zoo, Bant, and the mirror, were all decks where Submerge could swing the development of the game. This is the 75 that I registered on Saturday:
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Grim Lavamancer
- 1 Trygon Predator
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Vendilion Clique
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Progenitus
Out of my own preference, the 3 Counterspells remained. It was probably the card that got the weirdest looks on the day when it was boarded in against my opponent. I even had a friend come up to me during the day and tell me that his opponent last round was complaining about the dude that “boarded in ****ing Counterspell against [him]? Counterspell? Is that even a card?”
I guess I should at least defend the card choice instead of briefly mentioning an opponent’s dislike for it. Counterspell is definitely the most counter-intuitive (Eh? Eh? LSV would be proud) choice in the entire deck, as it’s a card that generates so much negative tempo and mana constraints because you have to keep not only mana open, but UU open.
However, so far, it has been one of the MVP’s out of the sideboard. The control decks packing Wrath of God, the combo decks like Hive Mind and even the mirror sometimes, will all be doing their very best to find windows of opportunity to play around Daze and Spell Pierce. Sometimes, when the matchups are as tight as they are, there will be a very realistic chance at some point in the game where an opponent paying for your taxing countermagic can cause you to lose the game. NO R/U/G isn’t a deck that always kills fast, and sometimes it wants to play more of a control game. Counterspell is definitely the candidate in this situation. Generally in most post-board configurations there are 22+ blue cards including 3 Force of Will and 3 Counterspell as hard counters. That gives the edge over most decks that pack only 4 Force of Will as hard counters. I’ve also considered Negate as well to ease up on the color requirements, as well as the innocuous Envelop.
A Stranger to Gen Con
With most of my friends calling off work to get to Indianapolis on Thursday, I made the lone trek out on Friday night. I got to Indianapolis around 10 PM, where I was greeted by the Cincinnati crew having dinner at Jillian’s. I mised a parking spot right out front and got the scoop on how US Nationals was going, and headed back to the convention center with them where I forked over $80 for my first Gen Con badge. With a few hours to check out the booths that were still open, I decided to walk around for a while and then make my way over to the card hall. It was amazing. If you’ve never been to Gen Con before, I highly suggest you go. I’m not one that is used to people dressing up in costumes (I had my first exposure at Origins this year — another gaming fair I’d never been to), but these people did an amazing job and I’m definitely looking forward to next year. The energy level was always high no matter what. My favorite costumes of the weekend were, after an explanation of their origin from my friend Eric English, the Pyramid Heads from Silent Hill, creepy in their own right but definitely as realistic as they were from the video game.
When I finally made it to the card hall, things were cooling down for the night, but I managed to find a couple of friends in the sea of people. I hung out for a little bit, traded for a while, and before I knew it, it was 1 AM. I grabbed my room key and made the short walk to the JW Marriot across the street and crashed, but barely got any sleep due to sharing the room with six other people. Some people (cough, Jon Medina) are expert snorers and I stared at my ceiling from 5 AM to when my alarm went off.Â I pounded some coffee (which would be my only meals of the day), and was ready to roll. I was surprised to hear at the player meeting that there were more than 300 players in attendance, and that we would have 9 Rounds, despite US Nationals still going on. Apparently Legacy is pretty popular. Anyhow, I walk over to the pairings, and I see…
Round 1: Ben Steiner playing NO R/U/G, Win-Win
There’s definitely some cruel fate involved with this one. Ben is a really good friend from Akron and someone that I’ve talked to a lot about NO R/U/G in general. He Top 32ed the SCG Cincinnati Open with the deck, and he knows plenty about the archetype. It seems that whenever Ben and I are at the same tournament, we eventually wind up playing each other. Figures that we’d get paired in Round 1 of a 300+ man tournament, right? As weird as it is, this is actually my first time playing the mirror in a sanctioned environment, and would the first of three NO R/U/G mirrors on the day. Having the Submerges was definitely the right call.
Ben wins the die roll, keeps his 7 and leads off with only a Scalding Tarn. There’s a bit of information that can be gained from this lead. First of all, if he’s playing a generic list with four mana men (Dryad Arbor itself doesn’t count unless it’s found with Green Sun’s Zenith) and four Green Sun’s Zenith, then he has approximately a 65% chance to open with a first turn accelerant, which is not uncommon. Second, if he didn’t have that specific type of hand but was reluctant to keep, it means that there is some other business in his hand, either countermagic or removal, but probably not Natural Order itself. If it’s the latter, then me going the Natural Order route is risky, as he can burn my mana men and make Natural Order a dead card in my hand. When I am usually in this type of situation, I ditch the Natural Order plan and try to win the early game through Tarmogoyfs and Vendilion Cliques. I take this line of play and Ben is unable to keep up with the pressure, and when I cast a Vendilion Clique into an already superior board position, he scoops them up.
The second game is unfortunately a repeat of the first game, and not very eventful. With my sideboarded Counterspells, I can use my removal, mainly Submerges, aggressively in the early game, and slowly transition to a more controlling role. Attacking an opponent’s Hierarchs (or better yet, a first turn Dryad Arbor) is an incredibly powerful play and allows you to shift the tempo in your favor quickly, even on the draw. I wish Ben the best of luck and that he can come back from a 0-1 hole.
2-0 games, 1-0 matches
Round 2: Joshua Exe playing Enchantress, Win*-Loss-Win
Joshua actually gets a game loss for registering his deck incorrectly, and is not too happy when he sits down. I have no idea what he’s playing, but keep a removal light hand with Hierarch and double Daze.
He opens with a Wild Growth on a Forest, which gives away what he’s playing. Enchantress is an impossible matchup in game 1 and without Terastodon, but it is the price I pay for the 75 I registered. In this matchup, Progenitus often gets neutered because of the effect Elephant Grass has on it, so NO R/U/G often has to be the aggressor. I play a Hierarch and pass. Josh plays an Argothian Enchantress next turn, which I am forced to Daze. He then realizes he should have played a land first, and passes. I play a small Tarmogoyf next turn and pass, and he runs an Enchantress’ Presence into another Daze. While I’m glad I’m countering his draw engines, at the same time I know that when he gets to 4 mana and beyond, I’m in trouble. I replay my land and find a Dryad Arbor, knowing that I’ll probably have to Natural Order for a Trygon Predator pretty soon. He finally does get to resolve an Enchantress’ Presence next turn, and on my turn, I Natural Order away the Noble Hierarch, getting the flying Naturalize-on-a-stick.
At this point, he has four cards in hand after his draw step, one of which is a Solitary Confinement. I don’t have countermagic for this one, and I know that as long as he can keep his Confinement alive, this game is over. We wait it out for a couple of turns as his hand dwindles down from three cards to none, and when he sacrifices Confinement and draws, I cast Vendilion Clique and target him with the trigger. It’s a Replenish, and I put it on the bottom immediately. He draws another off the trigger, and I don’t have the countermagic for it. I contemplate on hanging it up, but I want to wait one draw step to see what he gets. He has to blank on his draw step after sacrificing Confinement (he’s Hellbent), and the chances are pretty good with Enchantress playing 20 or more lands (depending on his build). He lets Confinement die for the turn… and draws another. Then draws two from his Enchantress’ Presences. He shows me two more enchantments, and I scoop.
I definitely wish I had graveyard hate here, but I have to make do with what I can. While boarding in Counterspell doesn’t necessarily help with being the aggressor, judicious use of it on Replenish and lock pieces once I have creatures in play is still fine. I open with a hand of Green Sun’s Zenith, lands, and a Counterspell, and lead off with a Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor, pass. He starts with Savannah, Wild Growth. On my turn, I draw my other Dryad Arbor, which joins the fight. On his turn, he plays a Forest, and enchants his Savannah with Utopia Sprawl, which I have to let resolve. He names white, and plays a Daze-proof Runed Halo. My heart drops into my stomach. If he plays this correctly, I will have no outs and I’ll be looking at losing this match. He tanks for a minute, looks at me, and says, “Progenitus.” I almost fall out of my seat. I untap and represent UU, while digging for a way to get Trygon Predator in play. He starts to draw land and only has an Elephant Grass in play as business, and I whittle his life down with Dryad Arbors and a Tarmogoyf, all while building up a hand that eventually turns into Daze, Counterspell, Counterspell. On his turn, he goes for an Enchantress’ Presence, which I Counterspell, and then he plays City of Solitude. I have no mana open from paying for Elephant Grass, so I have to let it resolve. On my turn, I finally draw Green Sun’s Zenith, which I use to find a Trygon Predator and pray that he doesn’t have an out. On his turn, he draws, stares at the board, and then says, “I should have named Trygon Predator with Runed Halo,” and passes back! I draw my third Counterspell of the game on my turn, and after the first time Trygon Predator connects, destroying his City of Solitude, he concedes the game.
4-1 games, 2-0 matches
Round 3: Robert Davis playing B/W Discard, Win-Win
We start shuffling up for the round and through our small talk Robert tells me he’s just coming off a fresh win over NO R/U/G (great…). I lose the die roll but Robert mulligans to 6 on the play. He looks at his hand unhappily and leads with a tapped Godless Shrine, pass, and I know the singleton is a tipoff that it’s going to be a derivative of Caleb Durward’s B/W Discard deck.
I’m not a particular fan of this matchup because of the combination of Swords to Plowshares and Vindicate as the removal suite, coupled with Gatekeeper of Malakir in the maindeck. Naturally, these would be reinforced with Perish in the sideboard as well, seriously threatening the livelihood of the Progenitus plan. I lead off with a Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor, which eats a Wasteland. I resolve a Tarmogoyf next turn and pass, holding a Mental Misstep for the Swords that could be coming. He instead casts Stoneforge Mystic, fetching a Batterskull. I start the beats on my turn, holding a Vendilion Clique for the potential blowout. He starts his next turn with a Thoughtseize, which I promptly use my Misstep on, and he passes the turn. I beat for more on my turn, and during his end step, he goes to activate Stoneforge Mystic, and lays the Batterskull on the table. I announce that I have effects in response, and after targeting him with Vendilion Clique, drop his Batterskull to the bottom. He untaps and passes the turn. I finally draw removal, burn his Mystic, and swing in. He draws for the turn, and concedes.
In the middle of sideboarding, I ponder to myself how I would deal with a resolved Phyrexian Obliterator should Robert resolve one, as I don’t have Jace in my 75 to handle it. I almost board in Counterspell, but I form a strategy to use my Vendilion Cliques more aggressively in this matchup, relying on my Ancient Grudges to handle Equipment instead. I open with an acceptable seven that doesn’t have any accelerants or countermagic, but a Sylvan Library. We both open with land, go, and he goes for the Hymn to Tourach on his second turn. I lose a Tarmogoyf and Natural Order, and on my turn I cast Sylvan Library and pray that he doesn’t have a Vindicate. Instead, Stoneforge Mystic comes down the next turn for Batterskull, and I refuel my hand the following turn by drawing two extra cards with Sylvan Library, loading my hand with both Ancient Grudge and Grim Lavamancer. Mental Misstep keeps the red mage alive. Robert tries to clear the way for Batterskull with a discard effect, but one of my extra two cards the following turn with Sylvan Library happens to be Vendilion Clique. It steals yet another Stoneforge activation, and after I untap with Grim Lavamancer, the match grinds out in my favor. I never see anything bigger than two toughness. Sylvan Library was absolutely amazing against the discard effects.
6-1 games, 3-0 matches
Round 4: Enoch Kim playing 1-drop Zoo with Tarmogoyfs, Win-Loss-Win
Enoch is a really nice guy and is very excited to be starting off 3-0 (as am I). I’m running good from having a smooth Round 3, and open with a hand that can produce a third turn Natural Order. Enoch keeps a removal light, creature heavy hand, and loses development on his board position from my Mental Misstep. I get the Legendary Hydra into play on turn 3, which marks his first appearance in the tournament overall. We go to board.
It’s Enoch’s turn to repay the favor in Game 2. He resolves a first turn Grim Lavamancer, which I don’t have an answer for. I try to dig for an answer for it, but in the meantime he overloads the board with creatures. I don’t have time to get to 4 lands, play Natural Order fodder, maintain priority and cast Natural Order, so I decide to throw a creature under the bus so that my Goyfs are at minimum 3/4 (land, instant, creature). Unfortunately, when our favorite Lhurgoyf is that small, it really can’t block anything profitably with a threatening Lavamancer. I pack them up and get ready for Game 3.
I open with accelerants, removal, but no Natural Order, so I have to find a way to hold the fort down until I can find a way to break the creature stalemate. I manage to resolve a Sylvan Library, which digs me enough to find a way to get three Tarmogoyfs into play, halting an early onslaught of 1-drop critters. Unfortunately for me, Enoch answers my Natural Order fodder with burn spells, and then plays two Tarmogoyfs of his own. He eventually resolves Grim Lavamancer. I find Natural Order with Sylvan Library and after a little bit of math, I go for it, sacrificing a Tarmogoyf, getting Progenitus into play. I get hit with a Lightning Helix at my end step, which not only shortens Enoch’s clock, but potentially requires an additional attack step from me to end the game. On my turn, I go three cards deep with Sylvan Library, and the best available card is a Noble Hierarch that can be used for blocking duty. I bash in with Progenitus, and pass the turn at 6 life, with Enoch at 14. He has two Loam Lions, a Wild Nacatl, two Tarmogoyfs, and Grim Lavamancer, with one card in hand after his draw step, and one card in his graveyard. He attacks me with everyone but his Grim Lavamancer, and I match up Tarmogoyfs, chump Wild Nacatl and drop to 2. I look at him and wait for the removal spell that is to come, but he passes the turn. When I look at my board, I realize that I have exactly 14 damage available (Progenitus and at least one of my two 4/5 Tarmogoyfs getting through), and asks if he has any outs. He shows me a Red Elemental Blast, and extends the hand. After the match we review the situation for the last turn and determine that if he had held just one more creature back, I would have been forced to attack the next turn anyways, leaving the crack back to be lethal. I breathe a sigh of relief to have survived Zoo at 2 life.
8-2 games, 4-0 matches
Round 5) Reed Hartman (Eventual Runner-Up) playing NO R/U/G, Win-Loss-Loss
I registered my deck next to Reed and we’ve taken different directions with our list, mainly in the other 4-mana bomb that I’ve decided not to play in my 75. I’ve elected not to play Jace, the Mind Sculptor to avoid clogging the deck at the 4cc slot, but Reed made space by cutting down to 3 Natural Orders to make room. I lose the die roll and mulligan to a hand with a combination of accelerants and removal, which is fine with the amount of cantrips and threat density in the deck. It doesn’t seem like Reed had a lot of business in the first game, as the only relevant threat he resolves is a maindeck Scavenging Ooze, which promptly eats a Lightning Bolt. I slowly build up board position with multiple Tarmogoyfs while keeping potential Natural Order fodder at bay, and he falls too far behind to keep up.
Sideboarding: Same as Round 1
One of the issues with the theoretical tweaks is that I didn’t have time to reconfigure some of the sideboarding strategies that could be affected by new additions, and this match definitely punished me for not doing so. We both start off with early accelerants, and I focus on keeping him off of Natural Order with removal, but Reed casts Jace with countermagic backup, which I have no answer to. Jace pulls him just far enough ahead that when I set up the Natural Order two turns later, he finds the Spell Pierce he needed to leave me with no board and end the game.
I board back in my Dazes for Force of Will for the third game, but mull to 6 to avoid an opener with Progenitus. We trade Missteps on our first turn plays, a Grim Lavamancer for me and Noble Hierarch for him. I resolve a Tarmogoyf but Reed finds his Scavenging Ooze — and starts taking over the game exiling enough creature cards to keep it out of Bolt range, and bigger than Tarmogoyf. The board is at a stalemate for just a moment, and instead of an answer I draw Progenitus for the turn, having to Clique myself to get rid of it. Clique gets red blasted before it can even do work, and when I draw Progenitus for the second time in the game, I have no business to fight the Jace that eventually comes down. I draw another Clique for the turn, attempt to cast it, and walk into another red blast, which puts me way too far behind. I die miserably, clutching a useless 10/10 in my hand.
After the match, Reed is kind enough to reveal to me his sideboarding plans for this matchup, which include the two copies of Umezawa’s Jitte and four Red Blasts, and taking out his Lightning Bolts. While I’m not sold on the blasts, I definitely forgot about Jitte being a great tool in the mirror, and take the rest of the time in the round to devise a new boarding plan for the mirror. Taking out Lightning Bolt is something to get used to, but it makes sense if Submerge can be used aggressively like I have previously been playing it. This is the new boarding plan that I decided on for the mirror:
9-3 games, 4-1 matches
Round 6: Ben Tash playing NO R/U/G, Win-Win
It looks like the sideboarding strategies I created in between rounds would have an immediate impact as I sat down for Round 6. I keep an aggressive hand with multiple Green Sun’s Zeniths, and after a couple of turns of playing some mana men back and forth, we both seem to realize that other doesn’t have the Natural Order. I draw incredibly well this game, naturally seeing two Tarmogoyfs and adding a third to the board with Green Sun’s Zenith. My opponent only plays one Tarmogoyf, but elects not to block with it fear of losing it to combat damage and burn. When his life dwindles low enough I show him some Lightning Bolts in my hand, and we move to Game 2.
I mulligan to 6 on the draw, but have Grim Lavamancer and Submerge. Ben opens with Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor, which I answer with Volcanic Island, Submerge. He looks at me and asks, “Really?” and I don’t make his day any better by casting Grim Lavamancer. I pass the turn and play out some mana men, and my opponent is debating on what to do with about the Grim Lavamancer in play. He passes the turn with an open board. I draw a Jitte for the turn, cast it, and equip it to Grim Lavamancer. He doesn’t have a response and I add two counters, knowing that Natural Order will be difficult for him. When Ben finally finds some business and adds multiple Tarmogoyfs to the board, I dig for Zenith to tutor for my own. On his turn, he goes to alpha strike, and then sighs in disappointment when he sees the active Umezawa’s Jitte. I use this as leverage, and with a combination of my Tarmogoyf going into the red zone, Jitte counters, and Grim Lavamancer activations, I reduce his board position to nothing over a couple of turns.
11-3 games, 5-1 matches
Round 7: Craig Spitzer with Reanimator, Win-Win
I get a chance to do a little bit of scouting last round and I see pretty much the expected metagame of U/W and NO R/U/G mirrors, with a couple of decks scattered in between. Nothing seems too out of the ordinary. I sit down across my opponent, who is a very nice guy from one of the northwestern states, and we strike up a conversation about how it took to drive here and so forth.
He wins the die roll and leads off with Underground Sea, Ponder, which trips a bunch of alarms in my head. Was he playing Ad Nauseam? Odd splash of Hive Mind? Team America? I start off with a turn one mana bug, and pass it back to him. He digs more on his turn, and plays a basic Swamp, where I put him on Ad Nauseam. I untap, attack, and resolve Grim Lavamancer. I don’t have any countermagic and I haven’t seen a Vendilion Clique, so I prepare for the worst. On his turn, he cantrips for the third time in a row, fetches, and casts Careful Study. Whoa. I have to let it resolve, and he dumps an Angel of Despair into his graveyard. It’s not the worst case scenario for me, and I Brainstorm into a pair of Lightning Bolts and a Tarmogoyf on my turn. I hold the Tarmogoyf, knowing the Angel is about to come into play. I let Animate Dead resolve the next turn, and Craig elects to destroy my mana bug. On my turn, I Lightning Bolt the Angel of Despair, and Lavamancer it away. He stalls for a turn and I cast Tarmogoyf, ready to start the beats. I’m able to connect for some damage, but Angel of Despair gets Exhumed and destroys Tarmogoyf. I use my second Lightning Bolt and a Lavamancer activation to get rid of it again, and I Zenith for a second Tarmogoyf to go on the offensive again.
After the third reanimation effect hits, this time my Lightning Bolt plan is cut short by a Mental Misstep, and I absorb some hits while trying to cantrip into some business. I Brainstorm into a Birds of Paradise and a Green Sun’s Zenith, evaluate the board, and realize that he’s incredibly low on life. I’m just four Grim Lavamancer activations away from killing him, so I calmly play the Birds and pass the turn. It provides more fuel for the fire and I keep whittling away at his life. Craig is clearly upset that he can’t find an Entomb to get some business creatures, but I throw another flier in the way (Trygon Predator) to buy more time and keep Lavamancer active. When I finally draw Clique, I wait for the alpha strike, and cast it at his end step. He looks at his hand, concedes, and we go to sideboard.
Not having any graveyard hate makes me incredibly vulnerable, but I’m okay with having the extra red blasts to stop his cantrips and of course, Counterspell. I’ll have to shift to a tempo role to try and stop him. I keep a hand with countermagic, but not a lot of pressure (just one Noble Hierarch) and hope for the best. I Misstep his first turn Ponder, and resolve Hierarch. We both stall on board position, but I start picking away at his life total. I sculpt my hand into: red blast, red blast, Counterspell, Force of Will, with RR and UU available, but not both. He decides to go for the Careful Study, and I instead opt to save my red blasts to protect my counterspells. He dumps Elesh Norn and Jin-Gitaxias into the graveyard and passes the turn. Without the Natural Order package I’m completely cold to an Elesh Norn, but I’m hoping my opponent doesn’t know that. If I draw a blue card, I can Counterspell with Force of Will and red blast backup. If I don’t, I’ll have to pitch it to Force of Will and then be cold to another reanimation effect. I draw a land for the turn, which is incredibly disappointing. So, I start to casually chat about how awesome Jin-Gitaxias is and how I use him in my EDH deck, and how powerful his effect is. If there is any way that I can get value out of my red blasts right now, I can stay alive through another reanimation effect with the blue countermagic. I’m absolutely shocked when he casts Reanimate on his turn targeting Jin-Gitaxias, and I allow it to resolve, dropping him to a dangerous life total. I announce that I have effects before we change phases to the beginning of his End Step, and I cast a red blast targeting his Jin-Gitaxias. He Forces and I do a mental fist pump, showing him the second red blast in my hand. It resolves. On my turn, I Brainstorm into Fire/Ice and Lightning Bolt, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s one more reanimation effect before I close the deal, but now I have Counterspell with Force backup to stop his attempt. I attack with Noble Hierarch on my turn, and burn him out to secure the victory.
13-3 games, 6-1 matches
Round 8: Brian Boss playing GWr Maverick, Loss-Win-Win
This is a must win match for me and possibly the win-and-in match, as I look at my tiebreakers going into the round. I watched Brian play one of my friends earlier on the day and his deck is not friendly to the archetype. This is the first Knight of the Reliquary deck on the day and I hope I can come out of this with a victory. Between Mirran Crusdaers and equipment, Knight of the Reliquary and Wasteland, and the possibility of Aven Mindcensor coming out of the sideboard, this one is definitely an uphill battle. I win the die roll but have to mulligan on the play, and I keep a weak hand without countermagic or Natural Order, but with Tarmogoyfs and a Vendilion clique. At this point, the fatigue of the tournament catches up to me and I fetch a basic Forest to Zenith for Dryad Arbor, which eats a Swords to Plowshares immediately. I play a Taiga and cast a Tarmogoyf, which is met with his. On my third turn, I play a Volcanic Island, and intend to Vendilion Clique him at his end step (see the issue here?). I Clique away a Mental Misstep and draw, and go to my turn. Brian sees the illegal play and calls a judge right before I draw a card for the turn. I look down at my lands and am a little phased that I had the misclick, and I apologize to him and judge to ensure that I had no ill will. According to the judge, the draw from the Vendilion Clique is fine and can be backed up, but I would have gotten a match loss for drawing extra cards if I had done so for my turn. Brian winds up crushing me anyways with double Mirran Crusader, and I pack it up for boards.
I take out the Cliques because Maverick is generally pretty threat dense anyways and they also have the option to find Karakas with Knight of the Reliquary, which just makes Clique a crappy 1UU Duress. Most Maverick decks have Stoneforge Mystic so I board accordingly. I keep a very aggressive hand with Noble Hierarch and double Submerge, which allows me to double Submerge his Hierarch as I build my board position. Apparently it was the cog that Brian needed to advance his board state, and I wind up getting a quick Natural Order in before he has much business. I’m glad to have evened the score, but being on the draw should be a challenge.
I keep a hand with lands, Green Sun’s Zenith, Grim Lavamancer, Misstep, and an Ancient Grudge, which is acceptable. Brian leads with Savannah, go, and on my turn I’m surprised to be clashing Mental Missteps over Dryad Arbor. Brian attempts to Wasteland me out of the game, which is fine since he doesn’t have any positive tempo or board presence. I eventually resolve a Grim Lavamancer followed by Tarmogoyf, and I start the beats. He plays a Jitte on his turn without a creature, and I have the Ancient Grudge in my hand to bump Tarmogoyf up to a 5/6 with the help of Ponder.Â Brian plays his first Knight of the Reliquary on his turn, which I have to Force of Will, and leads up with another one the following turn. I am okay with letting his Knight untap and grow, since I can trade my Tarmogoyf for it with the help of Grim Lavamancer. I continue to bash in, completely abandoning the Natural Order plan. On the next turn, I attack with Tarmogoyf, leaving Brian at 6 life. He tries to dig with Horizon Canopy at my end step, untaps, and passes the turn. I Lavamancer him down to 4. On my turn I draw for the turn, pass, and pray that he doesn’t have a removal spell. Brian sees the light at the end of the tunnel from my Lavamancer, and on his turn, he plays a Horizon Canopy, draws, finds another with Knight and draws. He shows me his hand devoid of any removal, and offers the handshake. I leap up out of my chair, and literally hug the first person who I see. It actually happens to be Todd Anderson, whose articles I read to prepare with NO R/U/G.
15-4 games, 7-1 matches
Round 9: Eric Markowicz with Reanimator, ID
My heart is beating at a hundred miles an hour from the last match, and I rush over to see the standings going into Round 9. I’m in third place with 21 points and 63% tiebreakers, and am paired with Eric, who is in second place with 21 points and 68% tiebreakers. He has no problem drawing with me, and I take the hour to collect myself, get some more coffee in me, and take a breather. I walk around and I watch my friends Mark Larson and Bernie Wen win their bubble rounds. Bernie winds up sneaking in as the eighth seed. Not a bad day for the Ohio crew! While we’re waiting for the final standings, I start chatting with my eventual quarterfinals opponent, Jared Kohler. He’s an incredibly nice guy and it actually happens to be his first sanctioned Legacy tournament! Pretty awesome for a first time Legacy experience, for sure. We head over to fill out our Top 8 profiles, and we head right into the business.
Quarterfinals: Jared Kohler playing Merfolk, Loss-Win-Loss
I definitely had the Top 8 jitters for this one, playing in the roped off area in front of a small crowd. I lose the die roll and we both mulligan to six, and I don’t have the Misstep for the first turn Aether Vial, and start off with a Birds of Paradise. Jared accidentally misses his Aether Vial trigger for the turn, but attacks in with Mutavault to start the beats. I draw a Natural Order for the turn, resolve Tarmogoyf, and get a Noble Hierarch Dazed, and pass the turn. On his turn, Jared bumps the Vial to 1, and plays Silvergill Adept revealing Cursecatcher. He passes the turn. When we get to my turn, I make the worst and now most memorable misplay that I have ever made on a stage this big. Jared is only playing 3 Daze and with the mulligan to 6 for each of us, I take the chance on him not having the Force of Will. I completely forget about the Vial at 1, with my natural MTG instinct registering “Turn 3, Vial at 2.” Knowing that he revealed the Cursecatcher, I lose my Natural Order and my Birds of Paradise, leaving a lone Goyf to hold the fort down. Over the next couple of turns, I draw no gas while Jared is able to curve into a second Adept, Merrow Reejerey, and Sower of Temptation on Tarmogoyf.
I mulligan on the play into a hand with Noble Hierarch and Sylvan Library. Jared has the Misstep for my Noble Hierarch but I have the Daze. Tarmogoyf comes down next turn and a Daze-proof Sylvan Library resolves the following turn. I start to pay life aggressively with Sylvan Library to offset the mulligan to 6, while matching removal spell/red blast with each of his Lords. I eventually find a Grim Lavamancer, which is able to seal the deal behind a Tarmogoyf swinging in. I don’t change anything for Game 3. I keep a loose hand with only one land but the potential for a first turn Dryad Arbor. Jared leads with a Cursecatcher which I Misstep, and I draw a second land on my turn. Neither of our boards develop well, but Jared has three Wastelands to cut me off of red, hitting 2 Volcanics and a Taiga over the next three turns, while my Dryad Arbor gets in for a few points of damage. I cantrip into my last Volcanic Island, and I start to match removal 1-for-1 with his lords. We hit a stalemate in the board and my hand is Green Sun’s Zenith. I draw a Lavamancer for the turn and decide that casting Green Sun’s Zenith for Birds of Paradise is a good line of play, to protect my red source for a Grim Lavamancer activation. After casting both, Jared draws for the turn and plays a Coralhelm Commander, taking it to Level 2. Whoops. My life begins to drop slowly from the damage and I’ve used enough spot removal that it isn’t incredibly likely to topdeck a piece. I draw into a couple of Lands and a Mental Misstep, and I’m overwhelmed by what Merfolk does best.
Everything slowed down for me at the end of the match, when I realized that I was going to lose. I shake Jared’s hand and wish him good luck into the Semifinals, and I discuss my lines of play with Eric English. We both agree at the end that I should have not worried about losing the last red source in the deck but instead focus on finding Tarmogoyf to apply immediate pressure, and it’s possible that I could have outraced with Lavamancer backup. Them’s the beats, I guess. I collect my packs and am cheered up with a shower of hugs and congratulations from my friends, as well as some text messages from back home. We get the rare chance to pack war some Italian Revised and Italian Legends, opening nothing but having a good time, as we should. It was the best Italian Land Tax ever.
Final Record: 16-6 games, 7-2-1 matches
Being able to finally produce some solid results with NO R/U/G gives me a lot of confidence going forward with it. I’ll continue tweaking the deck and find new answers for the next big event that I attend. I was very impressed with Reed Hartman’s maindeck Scavenging Ooze, a card that I have only run in my sideboard and never even considered for the maindeck. In the mirror Scavenging Ooze can escape Lightning Bolt territory quickly, be used to control the size of Tarmogoyf, and become large enough to turn into a win condition on its own: all amazing qualities that not a lot of other cards can replicate for 1G. Other areas I would focus on for the future would be finding a place for the third Grim Lavamancer, which was incredible throughout the day, having both an impact in the mirror and against other Noble Hierarch type decks. It would have been great to have a third against Merfolk as well.
The SCG Open schedule gets thin for me in the upcoming weeks, but I’m currently planning on attending SCG Open Atlanta next month. I love to network at these events, so please come say hi when you get a chance! Thanks for reading,