The Legion runs Pro Tour qualifiers and prereleases in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas, plus some Friday Night Magic and Grand Prix trials at Misty Mountain in Madison. Steve Port, the TO, also runs an annual Legion Invitational. Qualification is based on points earned from winning events or making top 8s, with Pro Tour Qualifiers worth more than prereleases, and FNM wins counting for very little.
Details are here: http://www.mistymountaingames.com/legionhome.html – click on the Invitational link.
The Legion invitational this year had three rounds of each of three formats: 5color, draft and post-November extended. Knowing that I was going to be playing 5color against people like Dan Flood and Dustine Stern, and Extended against Mike Hron and Brian Kowal, I didn’t figure my chances to be all that great, but what the hell.
5color was not good to me. My deck was fairly random*, with a mix of decent spells, land searchers and so forth, but despite a full forty duals, a bunch of Mirage fetch lands and Land Grants, I couldn’t draw them and kept getting color screwed. In seven games, I think I put more duals in the ante pile than I ever put into play. The three worst lands – the single random Tinder Farm and the Terminal Moraines kept reappearing. I came to my senses and yanked three Tinder Farms out before the start of the tourney, but missed the last one and drew it twice.
Another example of how 5 went this weekend – the last playtest game Friday night, I Demonic Tutored for a Mind Twist, emptied his hand… And he topdecked Contract.
This started out okay, but was decided by two Fact or Fictions.
His: Bird of Paradise, Wild Mongrel, Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Fact or Fiction. (I split Demonic and Dogs / the rest. He took Demonic.) He then cast Academy Rector and sacrificed it to Diabolic Intent. That combo got Recycle and Fastbond. Shortly after that, he drew Zuran Orb.
Game 2 was similar – he got an Avenging Druid into play, I could not find a blocker, despite having about ninety in the deck – mainly utility and 187 creatures, but nearly all capable of blocking the Druid. I finally Bolted it, but not until he had used it to bring out five more lands. He had another Eladamri’s Call and once again Desolation Angel sealed the deal.
I won a whole game here! Things were seesawing in game three here, but I had color problems. I had a Chimeric Idol (probably a bad call – I hated them a lot, and never drew them without also drawing either a Mishra’s Factory or a Treetop Village) in play. Eventually, I chumped an elephant token, floated six mana, and used Dismantling Blow on my Idol – after damage was on the stack – and drew the lands I needed. I also had to cast my Cloudchaser Eagle to chump block. Since I hadn’t seen any artifacts or enchantments in 2.5 games, I figured that was pretty safe…
Wrong. The turn after I used the Blow, he topdecked Mirari’s Wake.
The big swing turn came when he cast Treachery on my Shadowmage Infiltrator (tapping five lands for ten mana, then untapping them, cast Quiet Speculation for three Roars and cast all three Roars that turn, all leaving Counterspell mana up – and I knew he had Counterspell in hand, because he had Regrown it already).
Match 3: Chris Martinez (congrats, Chris, on finishing second)
I lost to a good beatdown deck that won the roll and cast Forest, Mox Diamond, Wall of Roots on turn one, land and Birds of Paradise turn two and Morphling on turn three. I was stuck with three land after turn 3 – two of them Lairs. (I ran four Lairs, total.) A turn 4 Blastoderm sealed the deal. Game two, I drew two lands in my opening hand, never drew another, and scooped to his turn 3 Blastoderm, turn 4 Deranged Hermit.
Draft: Since one person didn’t show and one person dropped, we had a pod of six people for the losers draft. I opened Ghastly Demise, Krosan Archer, and some mixed to poor stuff (the rare was Verdant Succession, and Aven Archer was the best uncommon – which seems pretty typical for my drafts). I took the Demise. I got a 2nd or 3rd pick (I think turn three, but that seems strange) Cephalid Looter and tried to draft U/B. Black wasn’t coming, but blue was fair – and even considering that it was a six-person draft, the card quality was pretty poor in Odyssey after the first few picks. I shifted to green and did get Werebear and Diligent Farmhand sometime around pick 8, but I was seriously creature short at the end.
In Torment, I opened the 5/5 Angel, Chainer’s Edict, and some moderately decent stuff. A lot of surprisingly good white cards had gone around and around in Odyssey, so I took the Angel. I then ended up shifting to heavily green, despite having green drafters on either side of me, because nothing else appeared. I did get a third-pick Nantuko Cultivator.
Judgment was okay, if not spectacular, with a third-pick Wormfang Behemoth and a lot of little dudes. The fourth pack was the hardest – I had a choice of Wormfang Drake or Wonder. I took the Drake, because my creatures to that point were either 1/1 or 1/2 mana creatures or 2/2 fliers – and I needed a fat butt. (I’m still not sure that was right.) I did have two sac lands, a Coliseum, a Tainted Woods, Diligent Farmhand, Krosan Verge and Far Wanderings to help smooth the mana at that point, but it was a mess.
Here’s what I played – note the really bad cards at the end of each list.
Match one: I rolled Gary 2-0, partly because he drew too many lands, and partly because my fliers rolled him. Nullmage Advocate and Ray of Revelation from the sideboard did in his double Still Lifes. He didn’t see his bombs, so an Aven Fisher with an Ironshell Beetle token on it did him in.
Match 2: I lost to an R/G deck when I played Nantuko Cultivator and pitched 3 lands turn 4, and he responded with Fiery Temper – killing the Cultivator when it was still a 2/2. He ran me over reasonably well in game one… And spectacularly in game two with a Rites of Initiation, discarding Brawn, Fiery Temper, and Flash of Defiance, killing my Fisher with the Temper, and then flashing back the Flash so most of my creatures could not block the twenty-six points worth of damage coming through.
Match 3: He had Overrun and Glory in a solid G/W deck. (If I draft G/W, I never open Glory or Brushhopper in Judgement – if I’m G/x, I open Balthor the Defiled or, at best, Testament of Faith.) In the final game, I screwed up and let him cast Cagemail on my Angel when I had Hydromorph Guardian in play – I have no idea how I missed that – but the problem was that he already had Glory in the graveyard, fliers on the board and enough mana to activate it several times. I was just holding on and waiting to draw the Krosan Restoration. After Cagemail resolved, I was also waiting for the Nullmage Advocate – but it was the very bottom card of my library, so I got decked.
The final format was Extended, and while I don’t want to give away any of the other players tech (half these players are pros, after all), I can say that base blue decks were very prominent. The decks included Tinker, control blue and Turboland. The only non-blue decks I saw were mine, Enchantress and Fires, and the Enchantress and Fires decks did poorly.
In the two weeks between the time I got invited and the tourney, I looked at several decks. I considered Tinker strongly, but figured everyone else would be ready for it. I considered a blue Suicide Oath, with Cognivore, Gurzigost, or something like that, but didn’t have any chance to test it. Turboland looked good, but that would be playing a pure netdeck or borrowing other’s tech – I haven’t done anything original on that deck at all. In the end, I took an Enchantress build and a 5-color Rock deck.
The Enchantress deck had enough artifact removal with Seals of Cleansing and Sterling Grove to fetch them to handle Tinker, with luck. It had Auratog and Rancor for the kill, plus two Birds of Paradise and one Ancestral Mask and one Endless Wurm as alternate kills. It ran a toolbox of one offs to handle other decks.
2 Living Wish
3 Seal of Cleansing
4 Wild Growth
3 Sterling Grove
1 Ancestral Mask
1 Worship (nudges out Solitary Confinement)
1 Arrest (mainly for Masticore)
2 Flickering Ward
3 Gaea’s Cradle
3 Serra’s Sanctum
2 Krosan Verge
I am wondering about Golden Wish in here somewhere. It is almost good enough, and this deck can get enough mana to run it.
I did playtest against Tinker… And it all came down to Seals of Cleansing against the Metalworkers, Arrest against Masticores, and Light of Day to stop processor tokens (no one remembers that they are black). Unfortunately, nothing stops Upheaval if they can replay Processor and activate it several times in one turn.
Against control, it comes down to resolving a fast Enchantress, then crushing them with card advantage. This build has trouble with Sligh, but I didn’t expect Sligh and beatdown decks in this field (except maybe from Brian Kowal), and I was right.
The second deck I considered was a five-color Rock deck. I always liked Rock, but I think it is very vulnerable to fast burn and beatdown decks without Wall of Roots. However, given the field in this event, I figured that I could afford to ignore beatdown to a great extent, so I looked at janky but fun builds.
Note: This is wonderfully versatile build, but not against aggressive opponents. That’s an important caveat.
…Stop laughing. Adding the Utopia Trees gives you seven mana creatures that provide all five colors. Combining this with the Yavimaya Grangers and City of Brass means that you really can get all colors of mana without straining. The build sacrifices the maindeck Dustbowls… But since I expected decks with lots of Islands, or Tinker decks where killing lands turn 4 or later would not be worthwhile, that didn’t seem too bad. On the plus side, you can run Sliver Queen – but not so much for the janky Coalition Victory** as a means of breaking a stall, but because the Sliver Queen is a 7/7 for five mana and it generates lots of little Slivers to use with Recurring Nightmare. Plus, Rock has Pernicious Deed and the five-color build allows it to play like ErnieGeddon against control, fast massive creatures against agro or find other useful options against other decks.
Utopia Tree sucks against beatdown, but I didn’t expect any.
No Choke, although it belongs. I wanted to play with the Living Wish, and I was more concerned with Tinker than control blue or Turboland. I could not quite find a slot for the Nantuko Monastery… But I should have.
Match 1: I played a novel blue-green control deck that drew cards like mad and regrew them. He cast Accumulated Knowledge at least four times game one – after Intutitioning for three early in the game. I started beating down with a Spike Feeder, then he cast a Wall of Blossoms. I moved two counters onto my Bird of Paradise and beat him to twelve, but then he topdecked a Powder Keg and killed the Birds. Eventually he drew Morphling and countered everything I threw at him. I cast Vampiric for Duress, cast it, and saw a hand with three Counterspells, Accumulated Knowledge, and some other bad stuff. I had resolved a Living Wish for Genesis, but he had let Genesis resolve and simply chumped with Wall of Blossoms until he got enough mana to untap Morphling and pump its toughness to five and still have counterspell mana up. I had Living Death in hand, but drew only lands instead of things to bait that counterspell mana with.
Game two was mixed. He Opted during my end of turn, which let me cast Seedtime, which allowed me an unopposed Elder on turn 2.5, but he gradually stabilized. I traded the Hermit for a Call token (after adding one spike from a Feeder), but he hit critical mass and started countering everything I had. His friends had been kidding him about never going aggro, so he tapped everything but one Island for Morphling. I had a Pernicious Deed, two Birds, and a Hermit on the table – and he would have been completely happy having me use my reset to clear the board.
Game three I got a fast start after he mulliganed, and after I nailed his early options with a Duress. I was beating with a Treetop, Elder, and Feeder. He never got enough land to effectively counter everything and never drew Wall of Blossoms, so he had to drop Morphling in a last-ditch attempt to stall my attacks.
I had Edict.
Next match, I had the bye, because I suck, especially in 5color and draft. I could have used that bye in 5color…
Final round, versus Turboland. Game one, I beat him down to almost nothing, but had to Deed too early to kill Scroll Rack and he had had a few turns to build up a good hand. I cast Vampiric Tutor end of turn and had to decide what to get. Treetop Village could kill him in one more turn, and could not be countered. Pernicious Deed would mess up his Rack/Exploration/Horn of Greed engine, but he had seven cards in hand and four blue untapped.
I went for the Treetop, and he went infinite.
I would love to say I outplayed him, but he double mulliganed to find answers, and I opened Forest, Bird. Turn 2 was Swamp, Duress (nailing Oath of Druids – and, really, the game) followed by Utopia Tree. Turn 3 I cast Genesis, and he had to let it resolve. I killed him with Genesis and an Elder.
Game three was almost as anti-climactic. He mulliganed. I dropped a turn 1 Elvish Lyrist. I tried to bait counterspells with an Elder and a Pernicious Deed, and both resolved. I was beating with a Lyrist, Treetop and an Elder. Out of options, he dug with Scroll Rack and dropped Oath. I beat with the Lyrist and Elder, then blew the Deed for two, killing the Lyrist, Scroll Rack and the Oath, then cast Armageddon. He scooped, because he would be dead in three turns – too few to drop two lands and use Oath.
That was it. After nine rounds, I was 4-5, and one of the wins was a bye.
I had a few lessons drummed into me. First, I cannot build a 5color deck from scratch Thursday night and be competitive with some of the best 5color players in the Midwest.
Second, since spring and early summer is a bit busy, what with working full time and living on a farm, having played at most a dozen OD/TO/JU drafts, I’m not practiced at the format.
Third, the post-November Extended will be a base-blue format, with explosive mana and tricks abounding – with the caveat, of course, that the new set doesn’t bring something more interesting. Remember Entomb and Benzo?
That’s it for now.
* – I haven’t played any 5 for a year or more, and threw a deck together the night before the tourney. It was bad.
** – Andy Stokinger has played a 5 color Rock with Sliver Queen and I owe him some credit for the Armageddon idea – it beat my initial Desolation Angel/Living Wish plan, although the Living Wish/Angel call still works in game one.