Legacy’s Allure – Deconstructing Denver

Tuesday, August 24th – Doug looks at the newest face of Counterbalance, dives into some economical Legacy decks that performed well, and highlights some of the fringe decks that made it to the end of the SCG Denver Legacy Open.

This past weekend, 124 players assembled in Denver for the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open Series and threw down with some of the hottest decks in the format. At the end, sixteen stood above the rest. Have you had a chance to look at the top lists? Take a look here and keep the page open as we go through the lists, checking out highlights and analyzing results so you can use this info in your next Legacy event! We saw the newest CounterTop lists, a healthy number of those tribal fan favorites in Goblins and Merfolk, and even some fringe decks piloted by dedicated players. Let’s get started!

Constantine Vigderman’s Merfolk

Starting right at the top, Constantine’s deck reflects a lot of current trends in Merfolk decks. First, he uses Spell Pierce as a soft counter. It is a one-drop, like Aether Vial and Cursecatcher, and it can snag some really powerful opposing spells — Sensei’s Divining Top, Aether Vial, Brainstorm, Ponder, and more. I like Spell Pierce in here because it works well with his Wastelands and Dazes, extending its useful life.

Constantine made room for those Spell Pierces by cutting out the Merfolk Sovereigns for Coralhelm Commanders. After getting smashed around by the Commander a lot, I will tell you that it is quite possibly the best Merfolk lord, and if it isn’t, it’s the best piece of the Merfolk infantry in the deck. It works splendidly under Standstill, which Constantine packs. Many players are dropping the Enchantment for the “sixteen lord” approach, but Standstill still has its uses in more spell-heavy environments where over-lording an aggressive opponent is not necessary (due to lower numbers on Zoo).

Matthew Dimalanta’s list also deserves a mention, for the curiosity of his counter suite. He has only two Force of Will — did he not have the other two, or did he consciously skip out on them? In their place, Matthew packs Counterspell to pick up some of the slack. He has the Sixteen Lords plan (well, fifteen in this case) and Standstill to refuel. He lacks the Wastelands and Mutavaults that usually show up in the deck, and I am guessing that he had card access problems. Nonetheless, he took the deck to a 13th place finish, all while running four Spreading Seas on his sideboard!

The CounterTop Decks

An impressive four players made the Top 16 with the Coldsnap soft-lock Counterbalance in their decks. The current flavor of the decks seems to be the four-color beast that packs plenty of removal in Swords to Plowshares and Firespout. This was popularized by the pros at GP: Columbus and it performed well in the hands of Adam Yurchick to a Top 8 finish at GenCon.

I like the four-color version because it is essentially optimized to make Jace, The Mind Sculptor work well. With its removal, Jace is unlikely to get attacked, and once the planeswalker is down, the deck can just ramp him to the Ultimate if it wants to kill the opponent without creatures. The lists usually run some number of Counterspell, and I love that option — a hard counter is great when you need to stop something from coming down and Counterbalance is just not going to hit it. Counterspell will still generate value in Legacy most of the time, countering more mana-hungry and devastating spells like Natural Order.

Adam Prosak list took a different tack; it skips out on Tarmogoyfs completely and just goes for solid Jace action. He skips out on Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek for a more streamlined main deck. His two Moats on the board do a number on aggro decks, and I love that single Cursed Scroll to get with Trinket Mage. In the coverage, the Shock-stick seemed to work out well for Adam. Theoretically, you can sit behind a Moat and just reuse the Scroll until the opponent is dead.

If you are looking to grind people with Counterbalance, consider either of these decks. Adam’s list appears to be a bit slower at winning, though no less powerful than the 4-color lists. I like that, absent those Moats, you can probably toss Adam’s deck together on the cheap if you already have access to most of the Legacy staples (and have a friend to lend Jaces to you).

Goblins: What Color To Splash?

I have been debating in my playgroup with what color Goblins needs on the sideboard to do well. Black offers the spectacular Warren Weirding and Wort, Boggart Auntie to get a serious edge. Green gives you that essential Krosan Grip, which lets Goblins fight through Counterbalance decks. The three Goblins players that made the Top 16 all had different ideas about what to splash. Hans Feng ran without any splash, which is pretty cool. In the place of cards like Krosan Grip, he ran Pyroblast, which will catch a Counterbalance or Jace before it can do damage. His deck is very lean, with three Stingscourgers to bounce opposing creatures and win the damage race. I am a little puzzled that he did not run more Goblin Chieftains in the maindeck, especially with his three Mogg War Marshals.

Stephen Oxford and Charles Mukhar opted for a splash of color in their Goblins lists, with both taking on Black for its aforementioned benefits. Charles took things one step further by splashing Green as well, getting him Krosan Grips and Back to Nature to fight dangerous enchantments. The success of all of these decks leaves me wondering what the correct color to splash is, or even whether a splash is necessary. I am no closer to an answer than I was before this event! If you have ideas on what Goblins should be doing, please post in the feedback thread for this article!

Bob Yu Storms Through The Competition

Bob is a teammate of mine and has been paying a lot of attention to Ad Nauseam decks recently. He was going to play Merfolk earlier this week, then changed to Storm; I bet he is glad he switched! Storm combo is relatively unaffected by the banning of Mystical Tutor, as shown by Bob’s performance in this event. Bob put in a lot of practice with the Storm deck, which is essential for success. For example, one needs to know in what situations Burning Wish retrieves Ill-Gotten Gains or Diminishing Returns.

Many of Bob’s games saw him making the combination in the first or second turn, which is amazing and powerful. He unfortunately ran into the eventual event winner, slinging Merfolk — Storm’s toughest matchup. At that point, his run ended and he settled for an admirable 5th place finish.

Elves and Burn: Two Inexpensive, Solid Performers

Adam Ramsay’s deck is unglamorous; he has no planeswalkers, no potent counterspells, no undercosted monsters. Instead, we get elves. Lots and lots of elves. They have a habit in his deck of making lots of mana, thanks to the Nettle Sentinel/Heritage Druid combination that generates obscene amounts of Green mana. Adam then funnels this mana into a Regal Force and draws an astounding pile of cards, or he may have naturally drawn his Grapeshot and can then just kill an opponent. Adam’s deck is interesting because, aside from the combination, he can board in Joraga Warcaller and go aggro on an opponent. He can pop out three elves, power up that Warcaller and go to town on an opponent that expected to simply Firespout the competition.

Kyle Miller’s burn deck is sure to draw some tired reactions: “that isn’t a real deck” and “that wasn’t a real tournament” are two of the most common. A burn deck placed in the Top 8 of GenCon, and we see one here as well. We can continue to kid ourselves that Burn is a bad combo deck, or we can accept that it is, indeed, a reasonable choice among many in the format. Though Burn does not do well consistently, it is still a fine deck for people who want to sling cards without a lot of commitment. Kyle’s deck packs twelve creatures, which is interesting to me; Burn usually skips out on creatures for more direct damage, which also shuts down an opponent’s removal cards along the way. He went for an interesting hybrid strategy, skipping the typical Ankh of Mishras and Flame Rifts. Though I won’t be picking up Burn any time soon (I have this emotional attachment to my dual lands, you see), I like that it exists as an option.

Quick Hits: Looking Through The Rest of the T16

• Harrison Beach ran with a carbon copy of Caleb Durward’s Survival Madness deck from GP: Columbus. Aquamoebas must have worked better for him than they did for me, and I congratulate him on his finish!
• Josh Napper’s deck bears a strong resemblance to Brad Nelson Rock deck, both of which are interesting, non-Blue control options for players who like to grind. Knight of the Reliquary adds not only utility, but also a serious clock for a deck that traditionally has problems winning after it has control.
• Alex Kiracofe’s UW Tempo deck sits on the margins of peoples’ attention, but it has a small core of fanatical players. The end result is that people who pick up this stack tend to be very good at getting every bit of utility out of every card, every turn.
• Anthony Hill’s Lands deck takes some adaptations from the Lands deck my team played at GP: Columbus and combines it with an interesting sideboard. The aim, as far as I see it, is that Anthony can turn his deck into an Eternal Garden deck, utilizing Dark Confidant, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, and Volrath’s Stronghold to play an entirely different game.

All in all, a pretty cool tournament! Congratulations to everyone in the Top 16 of the event. Playing Magic well for that long requires serious dedication and concentration. This was a balanced, diverse Top 16, and I hope we have many more like this!

Until next week…

Doug Linn

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