This past weekend, we saw a big Legacy tournament in Richmond, VA at the StarCityGames.com center and a positively gigantic Grand Prix in Madrid. Needless to say, we’ve got a lot to talk about! I’m going to be looking at both events this week side-by-side. Though Madrid had a little under ten times the amount of people that Richmond did, they’re both significant events and importantly, have very similar playoff decks. Let’s take a look at the results and then digest the most popular showings.
StarCityGames.com Richmond Open Results
A variant of Counterbalance/Sensei’s Divining Top strategies, this deck has seen a lot of success lately because it makes great use of the available counterspells and runs some of the best creatures around. It bears the hallmarks of CounterTop decks, running a mix of catch-all cards like Engineered Explosives, while also packing metagame-dependent cards like Rhox War Monk, a direct reflection of the rise in Zoo. The War Monk, incidentally, can create monstrous lifegains when paired with the Noble Hierarchs or Qasali Pridemages in the deck. Those green creatures can also jump in front of the bullet for Natural Order, cheetah-ing Progenitus into play.
If you’re interested in playing Threshold, it’s worth picking up those Natural Orders sooner, rather than later. The deck shows no signs of going anywhere and they’re a lynchpin in the deck. The strange thing is figuring out how much you want to pay for them… Currently, this site is sold out of them at $30, which is probably a fair price for the card. The Judge Foils are $50, and even that might be fair for standard Natural Orders by the time GP: Columbus rolls around. Consider that this is a consistently good deck and it plays blue cards, meaning that it will be very popular for people interested in getting into the format and actually winning. There are also some possibilities that it’ll go up to $40 or more, just banking on what’s already happened to Entomb’s price since the weekend.
I’m going to wrap up this section talking about Luis Restoy’s Natural Order deck. When I first looked at it, I assumed that either Survival of the Fittest or Counterbalance were in the list, since both are popular engines for the Bant colorscheme in Legacy. However, he was able to put up an incredible performance without either the soft-lock of Counterbalance or Iona, Shield of Emeria. I like the use of Sylvan Library, especially because it can turn Rhox War Monk into a sort of Ophidian. The deck has a lot of life to play around with, and repeatable card selection like what we see here is good, too. Without Tops to prevent drawing the Progenitus, he’s reliant on just Brainstorms without the Sylvan Library, emphasizing the importance of the green Enchantment. He’s got some strange 1-of creatures, like a single Kitchen Finks, but overall, it looks solid. I don’t know for sure, but we may be looking at the next evolution of Natural Order in this deck.
Between both Top 8s, Zoo has taken 4 slots, a full 25% of the field! Say what you want about the power of other Legacy cards, but Wild Nacatl is clearly a contender for one of the top critters in the format. Sylvan Library was a common theme, as was Chain Lightning, which waxes and wanes in popularity. Several players ran Gaddock Teeg either in the maindeck or the sideboard; while he doesn’t pack a big punch on the battlefield, he does randomly stop most of the spells that really concern Zoo. In addition to the Humility-style cards, he also, critically, shuts down Engineered Explosives. Perhaps the most interesting direction that these decks have taken, though, is that none of them run Price of Progress. Anywhere. Not even some to bring in against Lands. It’s only one of those things you notice by its absence; the long arm of the Price has retracted as opponents get wise to what lands to fetch and more aggro-deck mirrors make Price, um, pricier to cast compared to the damage it deals.
The Achilles’ Heel to Zoo has always been combo decks; I am torn at this point of whether it’s even worth sideboarding against them or whether those slots are better used elsewhere. The success of Ad Nauseam Tendrils at the Grand Prix will likely make the deck a bit more common, so there’s an added danger to playing the deck. However, all decks have something they lose to, and Zoo is still incredible.
If you’re looking for new innovation in Zoo, then Alix Hatfield’s deck is what to look for. Alix is practically the Zookeeper, thanks to his success with the deck and continuous improvements to it. The theme of Alix’s deck seems to be “longevity.” Note that he goes up to a full three Sylvan Libraries, ensuring he’ll continue to see a stream of threats as the game goes on. Those extra lands turn into food for his Steppe Lynx, better if it’s one of his ten Fetchlands. Most interesting to me, though, is his use of Treetop Village. Zoo decks in Extended have packed this manland before, using it as a way of getting in more damage through decks that can sweep the board. That Treetop Village on the first turn is best viewed as a creature, a 1-drop that leads you into the Qasali Pridemage the next turn or the Knight of the Reliquary after that. Alix shows us that the correct number of Kird Apes is actually zero, counting on his Nacatls and Lynxes to make up for the absent simian. I am excited to give Alix’s deck a whirl and see how his changes improve the deck over regular Zoo builds.
Driven by the dual existence of Entomb and Iona, Shield of Emeria in the format, Reanimator has come onto the scene in a big way. It’s one of the few decks that can make use of Dark Ritual to fuel explosive starts (though Andreas Muller only ran one) and can put a Legendary Angel onto the table with blistering speed. The deck packs enough blue cards for Force of Will and has several “toolbox” creatures to revive along the way. Facing down Zoo? Hedge that painful Reanimate with a Sphinx of the Steel Wind and let Robokroma gain back some of that lost life. Blow past those Swords to Plowshares in the CounterTop player’s hand with Inkwell Leviathan. The only card I’m not that sure of is Blazing Archon; I wouldn’t want it unless I am at such a low life total that Robokroma wouldn’t pull me out with its delicious first-striking lifelink. It shines best against Merfolk, but it’s not amazing against anything else; I’d rather have Empyrial Archangel.
Entomb is at $45 now at StarCityGames; time to crack some Odyssey boosters for profit! It remains to be seen whether it will retain this price; a few more solid showings will set the price for several months, but if people wise up and play graveyard hate maindecked, we could see the price come down to earth. I especially like the Coffin Purge in Daniel Signorini’s sideboard, since it plays so well with Entomb. It’s not a bad card to run in decks that don’t even run their own Entombs, since it forces a Reanimator player to burn a creature to try to get rid of it and it can’t reliably be Thoughtseized away. It also cannot be bounced, meaning that the Reanimator player has to use their meager counterspells to stop a Coffin Purge or else, try for Show and Tell to power the monster out. It’s also a saucy little number when combined with Intuition!
The fish have been encountering a lot of haters recently, bagging on their blue cards with Iona or Llawan, Cephalid Empress. Merfolk still manages to perform well, though, and an impressive six Merfolk players made it into the StarCityGames T16. Tariq Zahzam, who took home the grand prize in Richmond, packed four Tarmogoyfs in his list; they give a good early blocker against Merfolk and can randomly get around those pesky color-hosing creatures that opponents seem to pack these days. Tucker Greer went so far as to run Jace, The Mind Sculptor, who lends the deck another way around those problematic creatures and can dig Merfolk into that Lord that puts them over the edge for damage. It’s an interesting choice; I’ve seen a lot of Merfolk lists that run one or two four-drops, and Jace is one of the best contenders for that spot. His Fateseal effect can buy a bit of time against opponents looking to topdeck out of your Merfolk attack waves and the Unsummon is also clearly useful in creature battles.
The players were split on whether to run Stifle or not, and Spell Snare must have been ditching class that day. Umezawa’s Jitte is de rigueur now, often seen powering up a Cursecatcher or Vendilion Clique. No matter what cards the players use to round out their spells in Fish, it remains a potent and frustrating deck to face. The Cursecatcher and Silvergill Adept suddenly power up with that Merfolk Sovereign on the third turn and the clock you’re facing becomes much faster than it previously looked like. The deck is one of the main reasons I’m probably not going to be playing control decks, as it just mangles anything that tries to be reactive. The best strategy against it seems to be outracing it, no mean feat.
Takeaways From These Twin Tournaments
From these two events, it’s clear that a Legacy metagame is forming at the top levels. The decks discussed in this article, along with possibly Ad Nauseam Tendrils, will form the core of what I’ll be expecting for Grand Prix: Columbus and beyond. We’ll see if the StarCityGames event in Indianapolis in two weeks will show a similar result, or whether we’ll have another joyous time where a new deck is in the spotlight. It’s not worth it to build a deck that can hate across all of these strategies, since they’re quite variable. I’d concentrate on being a really tight player with one of the existing decks, with Reanimator really piquing my interest. If I were to play an outlier deck to beat the metagame, though, it would likely be Enchantress with maindecked Ground Seals.
And please, run some graveyard hate!
Until next week…
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