My Experience At The Invitational & Plans For Legacy

Sam writes about the lessons he learned this past weekend at SCG Open Series: Las Vegas featuring the Invitational and begins experimenting with token decks in Legacy.

This past weekend I played in the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Las Vegas. I played Mono-Blue Devotion in Standard and Bant in Modern. Despite going 5-3 in both formats, my takeaways in each were radically different.

In Standard I felt extremely comfortable with my deck and happy with all of my matchups. I generally felt like I had to get profoundly unlucky and/or my opponent had to get profoundly lucky for me to lose. That happened several times, and I ended up with a very disappointing 5-3, bringing my total up to ten losses in live events in Standard this season across five events (Pro Tour, 2 GPs, an Open, and the Invitational). I changed my deck a little from the video I recorded—specifically, I cut one Domestication for one Curse of the Swine in the sideboard. I never cast the Curse of the Swine, so I really have no idea if this change is good.

Throughout the tournament I just felt like it’s insane that more people don’t play this deck, and I never should have questioned it. Even Craig Wescoe, playing seven or eight creatures with protection from blue in his maindeck, managed to lose to it twice. I don’t think I care what other people are playing anymore at this point; I’m just playing Mono-Blue Devotion if I play in any other Standard events before the next set comes out.

Legacy was a completely different experience.

I started out by losing to Alex Bertoncini and then Todd Anderson, and both of them were playing mostly Esper Deathblade but with significantly different lists. The matchup against Alex felt bad, and against Todd it just felt completely unwinnable.

I was able to exploit a metagame that hadn’t adjusted for True-Name Nemesis in Washington DC, but now everyone who’s playing a fair control deck has realized that they need to be able to answer the card so my opponents had Zealous Persecutions, Diabolic Edicts, and Toxic Deluges. At the same time I hadn’t adjusted and had no way to answer their True-Name Nemesis, so I would just die if they resolved one. This meant that I had to keep Force of Will in my deck, but in a grindy midrange matchup against Thoughtseize Force of Will is absolutely horrendous so I was even further behind.

I felt lucky to escape the format with a 5-3 record. Playing against RUG Delver still felt like one of the best matchups in any format, but I just can’t expect enough people to play that deck anymore to justify playing Bant. Esper feels like it’s probably just the best deck right now, and I definitely don’t want to play a deck that has a borderline unwinnable matchup against what I consider to be the best deck in the format.

Despite this I played the deck again in the Legacy Open on Sunday just to be sure (and because I’m very lazy and didn’t want to figure out what else to play). Also, when I got to the site, I found out that there was a Sealed Classic tournament that had under 60 players signed up and paid to the Top 32, so I signed up for that and attempted the IRL double queue. I won my first match of Sealed in time to play and win my first match of Legacy in time to play my second match of Sealed, but that went long enough that I missed my second match of Legacy. I won my third match in Sealed in time to play my third match in Legacy, but I lost to Esper again and dropped at 1-2. I ended up going 5-0-1 in the six-round sealed tournament.

My pool in Sealed was outstanding. I had a Stormbreath Dragon, Boon Satyr, and Mistcutter Hydra that I didn’t play because I felt like I had a perfect U/W Heroic deck, which I think is the best deck in the format. I was mostly drawn to it because I had Favorite Hoplite, Battlewise Hoplite, and two Wavecrash Tritons with three Hopeful Eidolons and three other bestow creatures and several other ways to target them. Wavecrash Triton is the card in the format that is the most amount better than I thought it was when I first saw it, and I was quite happy to play a Horned Turtle with upside.

Locking down a creature is exactly what you want to do against both heroes and monsters, and the 1/4 body is great against the decks that are just trying to swarm where tying up one guy isn’t great. Additionally, the four toughness means that you can target it early without fear of Lightning Strike or Pharika’s Cure, and once you’ve bestowed anything on it, it lives through Lash of the Whip or Rage of Purphoros. When paired with an Ordeal or any other aggressive creature, it’s just incredibly hard to race.

In the Top 8 I drafted a W/R aggro deck that I was very happy with, but my draws didn’t come together in the Top 4. Still, thanks to Eric Froehlich for generously letting me stay at his house for the weekend, the $400 for third place in that tournament was enough to cover the cost of the trip despite just missing a cash prize in the Invitational, so that was nice.

So this weekend left me feeling comfortable with where I’m at in Standard and Limited but needing to find a new Legacy deck, so let me discuss where I’m at with that.

I want to play a fair deck. This is basically just a personal bias in my thinking about Legacy that has little to do with what’s most likely to win, but it’s definitely true that I don’t like feeling like I’m largely at the mercy of my opponent’s sideboard if I play a combo deck. This bias is a little weird—I should probably examine it given that I absolutely loved playing combo when I did it in Pro Tour Philadelphia and a few other times—but for now I’m still thinking about fair decks.

I want to play Zealous Persecution, but I could settle for Toxic Deluge; Golgari Charm; or maybe even Diabolic Edict, Night of Soul’s Betrayal, or Engineered Plague. What I really want to do is make a token deck with Zealous Persecution that can take advantage of the +1/+1, but this runs straight into my opponents’ increased incentives to play similar cards. Still, there might be a way to do it—maybe Intangible Virtue?

I can also see basing this on my old Zombie deck in some way. Let me give you a list of the cards I’m thinking about before I start trying to turn them into a deck:

Cabal Therapy
Dark Confidant
Carrion Feeder
Deathrite Shaman
Zealous Persecution
Tidehollow Sculler
Lingering Souls
Spectral Procession
Battle Screech
Doomed Traveler
Stoneforge Mystic
Intangible Virtue
Swords to Plowshares
Faithless Looting
Lightning Bolt
Goblin Bombardment
Young Pyromancer
Quiet Speculation
Gitaxian Probe
Thought Scour
Careful Study
True-Name Nemesis
Meddling Mage

This is basically just a list of every card the last few decks I’ve tried to build has had organized by color rather than by what they do. There are a lot of different possible approaches and color combinations, so let’s take a look at a few examples.

The biggest problem with this deck is that it’s a Legacy deck with no ability to manipulate its draws. I’m also not sure if Windbrisk Heights is good enough with such a low curve, but I definitely want to try it with this much token generation. I like the discard suite against combo, particularly with Dark Confidant and Surgical Extraction after sideboarding, and I think the deck can get into combat well.

It doesn’t have Wasteland, it has Deathrite Shaman, and it has a lot of basics—this is so that it can compete with the mana-denial decks despite relying on three mana spells. I’m a little concerned that this might not be enough token generation to support Intangible Virtue. I switched from three Intangible Virtues to two and a Bitterblossom to help with that issue, but I’m still relying on drawing at least one Spectral Procession or Lingering Souls with no way to find them outside of normal draw steps.

Obviously I need to watch out for the interaction between Dark Confidant and Spectral Procession, but it seems like I usually wouldn’t want both in my deck anyway.

My next take is to add red to try to deal with the low amount of token generation and control of my draws:

Here I’m using Flashback spells to power Young Pyromancer and Faithless Looting, which gives me some control of my draws. I’m a little worried that I’m not sacrificing Bloodghast enough to get the most out of it, which makes it tempting to cut Intangible Virtue for another Goblin Bombardment, and about the fact that I need Lingering Souls to make Battle Screech work, but I want to have both of these cards to make sure I have things I want to discard to Faithless Looting.

I’m happy with the number of interactive cards I managed to fit into the deck. The discard is extremely important, but it’s also necessary to make room for Lightning Bolt to answer opposing Deathrite Shamans.

I gave up Stoneforge Mystic to make room to have enough spells to power Young Pyromancer and lost quite a bit of power to do that. There’s some chance it’s better to play Stoneforge Mystic and two pieces of Equipment instead of Young Pyromancer and something else, but I want to see how well Young Pyromancer performs with all the Flashback first. I think it’ll make a lot of tokens if it ever lives.

I’ve also been curious about legitimately building the deck around Quiet Speculation:

Doomed Traveler over Stoneforge Mystic and Deathrite Shaman is a hard sell, so let me start with that. I need a white creature for Battle Screech, and I think I’m good enough at having mana to spend that I don’t know that I want to tie it up with using Equipment. Doomed Traveler is also ideal for sacrificing to Cabal Therapy, and then it gives me another token for Intangible Virtue. That said, it’s likely this deck wants one of the other cards anyway. I’m not sure which one, but either is an easy switch.

Here the sideboard plan is the same against combo—overload on attacking their hand—but now with Meddling Mage instead of Dark Confidant to seal the game. The interactive spells against fair decks have been tweaked slightly based on the colors available and the supporting cards in the deck; for example, Perish is better now that I have no Deathrite Shamans. Opposition is the plan to trump other fair decks, and if it plays well, I could see having access to more of them.

I think that’s a reasonable sampling of the ideas I’ll be starting with as I continue to explore token decks in the new landscape of Legacy, which brings me to my final order of business:

Next week I’ve been told to take a break from the standard hard strategy article have been given freedom to write about something “fun” or something else I’ve wanted to write about that’s outside of the usual scope of SCG Premium. I have a few ideas, like Cube design or getting further into my thoughts on the potential role of Magic in the future of education, but I’m also thinking about doing one of those article other authors do periodically where they just answer question their readers ask. I’ll be asking again on Twitter later, and whether I end up doing that kind of depends on how interesting I feel like my answers to the questions would be. If you’re interested, the comments here would be a good place to post AMA style questions you’d like to see answered in next week’s column.