Legacy’s Allure – Mining the Minneapolis Top 16

Tuesday, August 31st – What up-and-coming deck put a whopping five copies in the Top 16? What combo did the winning deck pack? Check out some of the coolest winning decks in this week’s edition of Legacy’s Allure.

This past week, StarCityGames.com came to Minneapolis for a two-day Open Series event, including a 170-person Legacy tournament. This week, we’ll take a look at these results and look at what they mean for the near future of Legacy.

First off, I don’t know if people from the frozen North just love attacking with shrubbery, but the Vengevine-fueled Survival Madness deck put five copies in the Top 16. That’s an impressive amount of copies for any deck, especially one as new as this list. Check out what the typical deck looks like:

Blake’s list is very close to what we first saw when the deck debuted at GP: Columbus. Blake cut an Aquamoeba for an Umezawa’s Jitte, making his Force of Wills weaker, but giving him an edge in creature matchups. Although some people have been changing around the deck (people like, oh, me), the list remains basically the same for these winning players. Other players in the Top 16 that piloted Survival Madness changed a few things around; some ran no Jittes, others ran Spell Pierces over Daze.

With such a strong showing, it’s safe to say that you will be encountering this deck a lot more than you wanted to. It is a challenging deck to play against, because Survival of the Fittest acts like such a trump card. For example, a player sandbagging a spare Noble Hierarch can rip that Survival, play it, and then get a blocking Vengevine out, only to attack with flying monsters the next turn. I have found that some of the most effective ways to fight the deck include stopping that early Wild Mongrel or Survival. Both cards (and Aquamoeba, to be fair) can take the deck from being good into busted realms. Another thing to keep in mind is that the deck often has problems pulling itself together in the midgame if it lacks Survival. If there are two Vengevines in the graveyard, I can recur them, sure, but I need to naturally draw two creatures and then cast them in the same turn. If I am a little mana-light, I cannot make that Trygon Predator and Noble Hierarch come in yet to trigger my Vengevines, and I also should not play them as chump blockers (since bringing back Vengevine is about the best thing you could do).

As a result, discard is strangely strong against the deck if you can make it happen early. Hit them with a Thoughtseize on that Madness enabler and watch the deck slow to a crawl. I have certainly paid retail on my Vengevines and attacked for the win that way, but let me tell you — it is much harder to win with this deck when it is forced to play fair.

I would be interested to hear from other players who like Survival Madness about their early-game techniques. You see, I tend to play toward the combo; that is to say, I don’t play a Basking Rootwalla on the first turn (ever). If I have the Wild Mongrel draw without a Vengevine in sight, I will hold the Basking Rootwalla in hand until the third turn, so I can see another card. Contrast this with discarding the Rootwalla on the second turn, allowing for a five-point swing in the third turn with a pump. Waiting a turn gives up two eventual damage, since you lose out on the Rootwalla but get a Wild Mongrel pump. Like I said, this deck really does not want to play a fair aggro game, especially because its Wild Nacatls take 1G to actually make into a Nacatl. I am also interested in working on the Aquamoeba/Merfolk Looter question more, and I appreciate hearing from readers on whether they loved the Aquamoeba (and whether it helped them win) or whether they wanted the card selection of the Looter.

Most players opted for a standard sideboard with Faerie Macabres and Krosan Grip. I want to draw special attention, though, to Sam Krohlow’s 8th place deck, and more specifically, his sideboard. He’s packing quite a surprise there — Natural Order and Progenitus! Sam’s deck can crank out a big Hydra instead of going for the typical plan. I am hard-pressed to think of when I would want to make that happen instead of just going for Plan A, but I can see it coming in against decks where you would rather have one big attacker and not worry about opponents blocking your men. The mirror match, which actually happened in the Top 8, would be a seemingly good place for this switcheroo.

Moving on to the actual winning deck, have a look at this number!

Ken Adams took that list all the way to the top, on the back of creature tutors Imperial Recruiter and Trinket Mage. One of the combos is to get Auriok Salvagers and Lion’s Eye Diamond working in harmony, which will create infinite mana. If you have access to Pyrite Spellbomb, you burn out the opponent. Otherwise, you can probably recur that Aether Spellbomb and turn it into infinite cards, so you can eventually find that Pyrite Spellbomb.

What if you would rather kill the opponent in some other fashion? Well, Ken has that covered too, because he also packs the Painter’s ServantGrindstone combination, which will mill an opponent out of all of their cards. Note his Recruiter-friendly numbers on his Salvagers and the miserly Goblin Welder, which can pull back any critical artifact or basically blank a Counterbalance. This theme even extends to his sideboard, where Ken ran three “bullet” creatures that could be fetched with his Recruiter.

My first question when looking at this list was “come on, three Lion’s Eye Diamonds?” Do you really need so many of such a junky combo card? I didn’t think I would ever want to draw one from the top of my library, but there is a certain logic to the whole thing. For example, Ken can play one, then an Imperial Recruiter, activating his LED in response, getting an Auriok Salvagers, and using that mana to put the recursion engine into play (with a spare mana hanging around to fully cast it). He can go for second-turn kills if he leads with Grindstone and follows with Painter’s Servant. The Diamond can power up a large number of cards in this deck, beyond just the Salvagers combination.

One gripe I have with the list is that the only Jace, The Mind Sculptor is in the sideboard. Jace is meant for decks like this! When all you are interested in is drawing into one of the critical mass of combination pieces you play, Jace can make that happen, while protecting you in the meantime. I would make room for at least three in the maindeck, probably shaving down on single copies of Grindstone and Painter’s Servant. As it stands, the deck has a very greedy fifteen Blue cards for Force of Will, and I would be inclined to up that number while upping my deck power with Jace.

In fifth place, Josh Keesling ran a nominally-Faeries deck, packing the all-star duo of Spellstutter Sprite and Vendilion Clique, along with ample support. His list “goes for it” with Bitterblossom, which has been a hotly debated card in this fringe strategy. Some players want the Blossom for its Forcefield properties and ability to defeat a lot of annoying strategies, thanks to sheer numbers of tokens. Other players view it as useless at best, a liability at worst. The Extended Faeries decks skipped out on the card, but Josh made it work here. His deck runs Firespout, which can be tuned to only hit groundpounders like Basking Rootwallas, Goblin Piledrivers and Lords of Atlantis. He also picked up six removal spells and two Jittes, making it clear that Josh was serious about controlling the board! He also ran two Tombstalkers, which is sort of a trend in Legacy faeries; the combo is essentially playing spells plus casting Tombstalker cheaply. You get a 5/5 flier for doing what you were going to do anyway, and it leaves open some mana for Spellstutter Sprite, removal, or Riptide Laboratory activations.

Did you see what was missing from this event? There’s no X-Level Blue CounterTop deck, packing that single Oblivion Ring and a Karakas that are emblematic of the newest style of soft-lock control. I was not there, so we’ll have to wait for Jared Sylva breakdown of the event to see whether players were running the deck or whether they skipped out on it for a different list. This is important because it tells us whether the deck was underrepresented or did poorly, which are two hugely different things for me. We also did not see any Ad Nauseam combo, though that deck is often neglected (despite its strong showing in the hands of Bob Yu in Denver recently).

More quick hits:

• There was an absence of “trick combo” decks like Show and Tell/Emrakul, Aluren, Dream Halls, etc., although I suppose you could say that the winning deck was a bit of a trick deck
• Merfolk and Goblins both showed up in respectable numbers, with stock lists. Remember that these two decks are real workhorses in Legacy, and you would do worse than just learn them really well and win with them.
• Jason Schousboe’s Blue Lands deck is really cool, even if for no other reason than because it runs Urza’s Factory, which I kept wanting to run in my own list.

I am excited about the Minneapolis results, probably because I am biased in favor of Survival Madness and I like seeing the list prove up. There was nothing particularly earth-changing about the results of this event, but it showcases the many different strategies of Legacy and was capped off by a very interesting winning list. Congratulations to the Top 16 and everyone who made it out to play this last weekend in what turned out to be a great event!

Until next week…

Doug Linn

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