People told me this weekend that I can’t win them all, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.
My strategy for choosing decks in the StarCityGames.com Open Series has varied, but I think I have it figured out now.
1) Play the best deck, tweaking to fit the perceived metagame.
See: Valakut, Counterbalance, Caw-Blade.
Alex Bertoncini makes a living just jamming Faeries, Jund, Merfolk, or whatever the “best” deck might be at any given tournament. I kind of
feel like he’s cheating the system but can’t bring myself to do the same. Maybe it’s just because I get so much enjoyment out of
trying to be One Step Ahead.
2) Play something absurdly powerful.
See: Reanimator, Survival of the Fittest.
These are the easy ones. Unfortunately, these decks come along only once in a while and tend not to last very long. Fortunately, I’m quick to
pinpoint them, and the tournaments feel like wiffle ball.
3) Have fun/cross things off the Legacy bucket list.
See: Dredgevine, Sneak Attack.
Clearly option #1 pays higher dividends in the long run, but what about my happiness in the short term? I suppose winning is its own goal, but for some
reason, I seem to think I can play whatever 75 I want and do well. Perhaps Dredgevine had something to do with this mentality.
Either way, I should probably stop running with option #3 and try channeling Alex a bit more.
So what happened this weekend? Well, I spent the weekend at the Ben Hayes residence, and despite talking about U/W/B Caw-Blade, then finding out Gerard
Fabiano had the same idea, we opted for minor changes to our U/W/R list.
We played this, which AJ Sacher used to get third in SCG Open in Edison:
Overall, I think we were all fine with our decklist, but we didn’t have anything special. Despite winning the tournament the week before, not
everyone adopted our red splash. I didn’t expect a full conversion, but to see U/W outperforming U/W/R is somewhat surprising. The splash is
amazing in the mirror, so it would seem like U/W/R should be having more success. Without more information, it’s difficult to tell, so I eagerly
await the metagame breakdown by Glenn Jones.
Early in the morning before SCG Open: DC, I was talking to Drew Levin and told him that I had a weird feeling about the Caw-Blade deck we were about to
play. Typically, I feel as though I’m rolling the dice but have a shot to win, or I can tell when I’m going to do poorly. We had made a lot
of changes to the deck at the last minute, most without testing.
I was anxious, maybe even a little nervous for the first time in years. That either meant I was squandering away a chance at victory by not copying Ben
Stark’s list from the Pro Tour, or that we were onto something great. The kicker was that I couldn’t tell in the least.
As it turned out, one of those potential feelings was close. My deck was awesome; I ran well and basically felt like ridiculous things had to happen to
me in order for me to lose a game. The morning before Edison, I had that same mediocre feeling again. Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,
but I didn’t even crack the Top 32.
Our changes (swapping Inferno Titan for Day of Judgment, adding two Linvalas to the sideboard) were great, but it was nothing special. Our edge was
gone when everyone had essentially my entire decklist. By round four, I was convinced that Gerard and Ben Lundquist had the best deck in the room.
Round five, Ben destroyed me in a feature match. It’s things like that that really make me question if everything is simply a coincidence, or
rather a sign from the universe.
Regardless, I was more excited to play Legacy than Standard. Eric Mason finished second last weekend with an updated Doomsday list that finished in the
Top 8 of Grand Prix Columbus last year. I’m always on the lookout for the next Reanimator or Survival of the Fittest, and Doomsday seemed like it
could be it.
I fired it up on Magic Online and battled a few heads-up queues. In preparation for GP Columbus, I tested some Ad Nauseam Tendrils but quickly
discarded it. The deck seemed fine and was clearly capable of some busted draws, but I was out of my comfort zone.
There were too many different lines to take, too many cards to play around, and too many minor mistakes that would outright cause you to lose the game.
Without being a stone-cold master with ANT, I didn’t want to risk taking it to a tournament.
Doomsday, while similar, was easier to get into the rhythm of playing. There were only a few different piles you could make, and after you make some of
the mistakes, you don’t make them again.
How to Cast Doomsday
The goal is to resolve Doomsday and make this pile:
Play Shelldock Isle, removing Emrakul, cast Lion’s Eye Diamond and Sensei’s Divining Top with your last mana, activate Lion’s Eye
Diamond for blue, flip Top, drawing Cloud of Faeries, and cast it with the Diamond mana. Untap Shelldock Isle and a blue source, and cast Emrakul!
Because you’re actually casting Emrakul, you get the extra turn, and you should have enough cards in your library to not get decked. If they can
survive a hit and kill you on the swing back, your pile needs to include the Ensnare.
Sometimes you need to make slow piles with Ensnare and/or Wipe Away, or another Doomsday if you need more than two swings to ensure that you
don’t get decked. Solitary Confinement would be wonderful, but since I wanted green for Carpet of Flowers, we don’t have that luxury.
If I were to play the deck again, I’d consider either an overhaul, possibly nixing the Show and Tell package. It was fine but often a turn too slow
without an accelerator. Stifle is cool because it protects both your combos, but again, without acceleration, Show and Tell is just too slow.
Adding a land or two would be nice, as it seems like most decks in Legacy are packing Wastelands. Against decks without them, you would probably be
safe cutting a land.
Potential mistake #1: Making the wrong pile, typically involves including the wrong answer card or anticipating the wrong hate card.
Potential mistake #2: Casting Doomsday a turn too early or a turn too late.
Typically this happens against aggressive decks when you haven’t done the math correctly. Initially, I thought it was about going off as soon as
possible, but then I later came across a scenario where I needed to wait a turn. It would’ve given me an extra card in hand or an extra land drop, but
either way, it was crucial.
The thing is most decks in Legacy present copious amounts of disruption these days, so waiting is incredibly dangerous. Finding that correct balance
takes a lot of practice and anticipation.
Potential mistake #3: Using Sensei’s Divining Top, Brainstorm, and Lim-Dul’s Vault.
This part of the deck I could deal with, as I’m used to playing with those cards. It was just everything else that gave me trouble.
Trying new things was cool, and I definitely recommend it, especially to this degree. You learn so much more this way, in my opinion.
I played some games against Lewis Laskin’s Bant Green Sun’s Zenith deck and Alex Bertoncini’s Merfolk deck during my byes. That
helped a lot and bolstered my confidence. Care to guess who my round three opponent was?
Round Three, Lewis Laskin, GSZ Bant
I was a little worried about casting a Doomsday early, as I had no protection, but when he cast a Knight of the Reliquary, I knew I had to go for it.
He showed me Force of Will but no blue card, and Doomsday got me there.
Second game was interesting. He showed a lot of countermagic early and resolved a Jace, which cut off my backup plan. I thought it was over but kept
Topping, hoping that I could find enough threats. Carpet of Flowers blanked his Spell Pierces and Dazes, but I ran out a second one for no real reason.
I had illusions of grandeur regarding the hard-cast Emrakul I suppose.
He started fatesealing me, while keeping Noble Hierarch and Dryad Arbor back, representing a hardcast Force of Will. The turn before my library was
going to disappear, I cast a desperation end-of-turn Lim-Dul’s Vault, which met the Force of Will. I was then free to Doomsday on my turn with
We both agreed after the game that there were a few lines he took that could’ve cost him the game, but I also messed up. Had he not countered the LDV,
I probably wouldn’t have had enough cards in my hand to go off with Doomsday that turn, all because I decided to run the second Carpet out there.
Round Four, Bing Luke (aka Prolepsis9), 4C Counterbalance
Bing is a buddy of mine, so it sucked to have to play him, but he was a good matchup. In the first game, I was stuck on three lands, one of which was
the basic Island. Brainstorm betrayed me, and I was stuck for a few turns. Still, I was not down and out. With three Show and Tells in my hand, I
managed to get him to use Force of Will on the first one but didn’t cast the others because they could only backfire. Once he found a Jace, I was
pretty much dead.
Second game was insane. I went for the Doomsday after setting it up perfectly and was brick-walled by a blindly revealed Krosan Grip with
Counterbalance. Had Bing continued to float the Grip, I would’ve likely been dead, but he used it to kill my Divining Top instead. My backup Doomsday
resolved, and I managed to steal game two.
The final game was another nail biter. I led with Verdant Catacombs, and he played a Pithing Needle on turn 2. My hand was full of lands, so I let it
resolve, and he thought he “got” me by naming Catacombs. I knew I had to settle in for the long game with my hand anyway, so I was fine
with him using one of the few ways he had to interact with my combo as a Stone Rain.
I resolved a Carpet of Flowers and began using that to my advantage. His Spell Pierces were basically dead draws, and I was able to play two spells a
turn to overwhelm him. I finally resolved a Doomsday after Pithing Needle-ing his Jace and messed up three times.
First, I put Repeal in the pile, which didn’t do anything. I figured I might need a second bounce spell after Wipe Away, but the Repeal would
deck me (which is probably a case for it to not be in the deck at all).
Secondly, I forgot about the Carpet of Flowers I’d been using every single turn up until that turn. Instead of Wipe Away-ing his second Pithing Needle
(this time on Shelldock Isle), casting Emrakul, and winning on the spot, I had to pass the turn. This meant that I fell to one from his Trinket Mage,
couldn’t cast the Doomsday that I put in the pile, and ended up decking myself.
He was dead on board, but I messed up. A lot.
Bing is a friend and someone who I’d like to see do well in these live events, so I wasn’t upset to lose to him at all. Going in, I just
hoped that whoever won that match would end up finishing well.
Round Five: Jon Barber, Team America
Awkwardly enough, Jon loaned me some Doomsdays through Adam Barnello, so he already had an idea of what I was playing. Meanwhile, I was in the dark. I
started the game with a Thoughtseize, seeing two Hymns to Tourach and some other cards that didn’t really matter. Naturally, I took a Hymn, Force
of Will-ed his second, and set up the Doomsday win.
That all went to hell when he peeled his third, and I assume last, Hymn. Still, I was able to assemble the Show and Tell combo, but he peeled Vendilion
Clique that turn. After that, I drew all lands.
Supposedly, Team America is the worst matchup, but it didn’t even seem that bad. Surely, Carpet of Flowers was going to be integral to my winning
the post-board games.
Second game was kind of cool. We traded disruption, and I set up the Show and Tell plan with Lim-Dul’s Vault knowing that he had Vendilion
Clique. However, because he correctly took Emrakul in game one (because I have less Emrakuls than I have Show and Tell), I knew he would do the same
thing again. I drew an Emrakul that I had stacked on top with the Vault, and we were headed for game three.
This one was a heartbreaker. Despite his Pithing Needle-ing Shelldock Isle turn 1 of game two and never using Wasteland in game one, he Wasted my land
and Needled my Top. I was short on lands; my last Top served up nothing; and Hymn to Tourach left me with two Lim-Dul’s Vaults.
I promptly drew the third Lim-Dul’s Vault.
My last-ditch Carpet of Flowers got Dazes, and I discarded for seven turns in a row while we played draw-go. Eventually, he found a Jace, and despite
my Needle-ing it the turn before it went ultimate, I was still too far behind to come back.
Round Six: Omar Hernandez, Forgemaster MUD
He won the die roll.
Seriously, that was about all that mattered.
That left me at 3-3, 1-3 in matches played, but each one felt easily winnable with more practice. Right now, I’m not planning on putting myself
through that ordeal again.
With the level system in these Open events, I feel like it’s imperative to level up as quickly as possible. At that point, I can durdle around in
the last half of the year. Not only that, but there’s the Player of the Year race to consider. You can expect to see me playing
“real” decks for the foreseeable future.
Alex, I’m coming for you.
P.S. The following is a list of players that I feel are criminally underrated right now:
I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but these are the ones on my mind right now. Look out for these guys!