One Step Ahead – The Black Caw-Blade And Legacy RUG

Thursday, March 17 – Gerry Thompson put down the Lightning Bolts for Inquisitions and made 5th in Memphis and created a spicy Legacy RUG list. Check out what the brewmaster has to offer for this weekend’s Open in Dallas.

Rather than go home after the StarCityGames.com Open in DC as I had initially planned, I hopped on a bus with Megan Holland and Ben Hayes, two of my
favorite people in the universe (and, coincidentally, both of whom I met at Pro Tour Austin), and stayed in New York for a week. While I did attend
Worlds in New York sometime around 2007, I didn’t get much of a chance to explore the city.

Anyone who knows me likely knows that I’m not big on the touristy aspect of the traveling involved with playing professional Magic, but this was a
little different. I mean, c’mon, this is New York! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much in the city that time either. Most of our plans fell
through, but I still wandered the city a decent amount and have a much larger view of the New York mentality now.

After that, I looked at tickets home, but they were relatively expensive, so I flew to Louisville instead. There, I was greeted by Bobby Graves and
Phillip Green, who represent the epitome of southern hospitality. They are easily two of the nicest guys I’ve met in my travels, and I couldn’t ask for
better company.

I stayed with the two of them for a week while waiting for SCG Open ringers Christian Valenti and Chris Andersen to arrive. After that, much gaming
commenced. Most of it involved my fighting with U/W Caw-Blade against Bobby’s Grixis Tezzeret deck and destroying both him and Christian over and over

We dabbled in Patrick Sullivan Edison Red deck as well and figured that with either Leyline of Sanctity (with plenty of spot removal and answers to
Koth) or Kor Firewalker, we’d still be able to win.

Bobby loves him a spicy control brew, but nothing could convince him to play anything other than Stoneforge Mystic after the repeated thrashings I was
giving. Soon enough, Christian was on board as well, and we went about exploring the various splash options in Caw-Blade.

Straight U/W is definitely a powerful option, but we felt that splashing was the better call. Inquisition of Kozilek isn’t quite as bad as Spell Pierce
in the majority of matchups, especially now that everyone knows how to play around Pierce. Instead, Inquisition is a beast against Valakut, the mirror,
and aggressive decks alike.

Several times in testing game ones, either player would keep weak hands that included Stoneforge Mystic, simply because Mystic into Sword of Feast and
Famine is such a powerful opening that demands an immediate answer. With a single Mystic in your opener, your first four turns are often sculpted out
based on that one card, so you can afford to keep marginal hands containing only one other spell. While they struggle to deal with your Mystic, you’ll
(hopefully) draw into more gas, which you can use to press your tempo advantage.

Inquisition against a weak Mystic hand is often backbreaking. Even if they resolve a Mystic, using Inquisition to take their Sword away is better than
taking the Mystic. In addition to that, we had Creeping Tar Pits to break stalemates and start abusing Sword faster than Celestial Colonnade would
allow us.

We had our deck.

The creature package is pretty standard, although I’m tempted to cut a Squadron Hawk. Drawing two is the worst, and against some important matchups
(RUG, Valakut), I cut them entirely. It’s dangerous (since typically you do want to draw one), but it’s something that I’ll try in the future.

Grave Titan, which Ben Lundquist and Gerard Fabiano had, seemed completely unnecessary. If I wanted to play a Titan, it would most likely be Sun Titan

Spot removal is better than Day of Judgment right now, at least in this deck. When you’re playing against Valakut or RUG, Doom Blading their Titan is
much better than having to Wrath away the army you’ve assembled on the first few turns. Against red decks, being able to kill Goblin Guide before it
deals you eight damage is of the utmost importance as well.

Boros might be the only matchup where Day of Judgment is better, but that’s negligible. Killing Hero of Oxid Ridge late or Steppe Lynx early ensures
that you will live a few more turns. While Day of Judgment is necessary to draw at some points in the game, playing two is fine.

I hate to use the “they’ll play around it anyway” card, but it’s true in this case. Often, a Boros player will lead with Steppe Lynx and then deploy
some Squadron Hawks, keeping their heavy hitters in reserve. The same applies to Spell Pierce, where most lists play it, but this one doesn’t.

I settled on two Feast and Famines because I wanted another in case the first was destroyed, which happens a lot in the post-board games. In game one,
having a Sword of Body and Mind is nice sometimes, especially when you don’t want your one creature to be bounced with Jace, but I don’t think it’s
worth it. Roughly 90% of the time, it’s correct to sculpt your game plan around connecting with Feast and Famine.

I split my removal spells in the maindeck and sideboard for a few reasons. First, Precursor Golem is a card that’s very good and very dangerous to not
have answers to. Still, I expected some amounts of mirror matches, and I heard rumors of Vampires making a resurgence. I didn’t want a handful of Doom
Blades while I was getting beaten down by Vampire Lacerator or Creeping Tar Pit.

Initially, I had three Disfigures in the sideboard, but I’d rather have different-colored removal spells. Sometimes, you’re choked on either white or
black mana but typically have W, U, and B available. At that point, it’s better to be able to cast Doom Blade and Condemn in the same turn rather than
only be able to play one spell per turn.

Condemns were useful against things like Bloodghast and Raging Ravine, where Disfigure would’ve been miserable.

As I said earlier, we discussed Leyline of Sanctity. However, the problem with that was that Valakut could still kill you with its creatures, and RDW
could ultimate a Koth, using its burn spells to protect it. There’s almost no way to beat a Koth emblem. Eventually, they’d just stick a threat while
we hoped to draw a Gideon. Even the Leyline wouldn’t save us if we couldn’t find Gideon in time.

Kor Firewalker was a little sketchy already, as we only had fourteen white sources, but a turn 3 Firewalker with a removal spell should still be enough
to beat them. Rather than play the full four Firewalkers, we opted for a Celestial Purge instead, which would be our answer to Koth.

Memoricides were clearly for Valakut, but with everyone (correctly) playing plenty of Inferno Titans and Summoning Traps again, Memoricide wasn’t very
useful. That could easily be cut down to one as Jason Ford suggested, or cut entirely, probably for another Flashfreeze.

For once in my life, I played “only” 26 land. This time, my mana was arguably worse, my requirements were more demanding, and my mana base as a whole
was worse, with barely over half my lands entering the battlefield untapped past turn 4. Still, I rolled with 26 and none in the sideboard as an
experiment. I wanted to see if I could make do with being land light in a few games in exchange for rarely being flooded. In the end, I’d say it worked
out the majority of the time, especially in my close games against aggressive decks, but my tournament ended on heartbreak.

In the Top 8 against Bobby Olesky, who I killed with Bloodghast out of my Reanimator deck last time we played, I maneuvered my way into a winning
position game three. On the draw, I started with three Creeping Tar Pits. My hand wasn’t the best due to a mulligan, but I was trying to make the best
of it. An Inquisition stole his Mana Leak and revealed what he was up to.

I played a Jace to bounce his Cobra and effectively Time Walk because he had to attack it with Raging Ravine. After that, I played a Stoneforge Mystic,
found Sword, and Flashfreezed his Garruk. A topdecked Inferno Titan was great for him but didn’t do it on its own. I was at a high enough life total
and had Creeping Tar Pit pecking away at his.

The next turn, he peeled a Burst Lightning, which he kicked at my equipped Stoneforge Mystic, despite my being at seven life facing down an Inferno
Titan. He realized his mistake and made a comment about “being dead,” which wasn’t the case. After he attacked with Titan, Cobra, and Ravine, I had to
chump block with one of my Tar Pits, leaving me with five land, not enough to activate Tar Pit and equip Sword to get in for the lethal five damage.

I probably could’ve said something along the lines of, “If I equip my Sword to Creeping Tar Pit, you’re dead, right?” and goaded him into conceding,
but I didn’t. Maybe if it were four years ago, I would’ve fought tooth and nail against Bobby, attempting to trick him into conceding, but apparently
that just isn’t me anymore. I feel as though our actions define who we are, and in that moment, I realized that I’m not quite as cutthroat as I used to

It was kind of bittersweet but kind of exciting as well, as I still had a draw step to draw an untapped land to kill him, but I drew a Seachrome Coast
instead. Embarrassed and somewhat disappointed in myself, I picked up my cards, genuinely wished Bobby good luck, and left the room.

I think the moral of the story is that I’ll probably play 27 lands this coming weekend at the SCG Open in Dallas.

During Edison, I made the claim that Lunquist/Fabiano’s deck was probably the best in the room, and I don’t think I was wrong. Bobby and I both made
Top 8, and even though it was Edgar Flores and Joey Mispagel who met in the finals, I think we still had the best deck.

Next week, I fully intend on proving it, assuming I learn from my mistakes.

For Legacy, I had a spicy little RUG deck cooked up, but when Eli Aden (aka Daddy Warbucks) tossed me a nearly complete copy of Alix Hatfield’s High
Tide deck (missing only a single Wipe Away), I decided to play that instead. I used my resources to find Bobby the cards he needed for the RUG deck,
confident that he would do well.

As John Penick described in his deck tech, the list plays much like a cross between Canadian Threshold and Previous Level Blue. It was inspired by Eric
English’s Next Level Threshold deck from the SCG Open in Edison, but I decided to cut the Trinket Mage package to fit in more “real” spells. When you
cast Brainstorm or resolve Ancestral Vision, drawing into Spell Snare, Lightning Bolt, and Sower of Temptation is much better than drawing
Counterbalance, Trinket Mage, and some other situational card.

The idea is to trade one for one with counterspells and removal, restock with Ancestral or Jace, or simply kill all of their little fishies with Grim
Lavamancer. That type of strategy typically doesn’t work in Legacy because everyone is attacking you from too many different angles. However, with raw
card drawing and cheap answers to most threats, another cheap card that beats some aggro strategies on its own, and ignoring the strategies that beat
you, but that no one plays, I feel like the RUG Ancestral deck has a home.

Graveyard decks, Goblins, and Knight of the Reliquary are somewhat problematic, but the sideboard addresses most of those issues.

Anyway, I sleeved up this beast:

There wasn’t much I changed from Alix Hatfield’s winning list from Edison. On his advice, I added an Intuition so I could find Time Spiral by
backdooring Merchant Scroll.

Over the course of the tournament, I defeated Zoo, Elves, the mirror (ugh!), and lost to Team America, Team America, and U/R Painter’s Servant. All of
my losses were close, while, had I been playing correctly the entire time in my mirror match, none of my wins would’ve been. If I had a better
sideboard or was more familiar with the deck, I probably would be writing about my Top 8 finish.

I vow to find the right build of High Tide and learn how to play it, as though I had two brain cells to rub together, even if it kills me. In the
matchups I was favored, I felt as though my opponents had no chance, whereas against Team America, I was losing only to Hymn to Tourach (which some
people only play three of).

Overall, I’ll look back fondly on the weekend and the surrounding days. Somehow, I ended up in Alabama of all places, although with good reason. Plane
tickets from Louisville, Memphis, or Nashville to Minneapolis, back to Dallas, then to LA were well over $1000, so I rode back to Adam Cai’s place. Of
course, Alabama is roughly what every stereotype says it is, but the people are well worth it.

Memphis was full of swings. I thought I’d be able to draw into Top 8 but failed and had to play it out against Michael Pozsgay on camera. He killed me
on turn 4 game one, all the while offering the draw because he thought we were both safe with a draw. I knew differently and had to fight for my shot
at Top 8, rather than draw and be satisfied with ninth place.

There, I faced Bobby Olesky, came across that awkward situation in game three, and finally felt the crushing defeat of losing in Top 8. I walked away
with a mere $200, but the points I picked up allowed me to pass Alex Bertoncini in the Player of the Year race.

However, that feeling was fleeting, as he managed to win the tournament the next day! Alex is now in a commanding lead, and with AJ Sacher and Edgar
Flores pulling up the rear, I might actually be in trouble for Player of the Year.

The swings are incredible, and the degenerate in me is loving every second of it. If only the SCG Open Series existed when I was a kid… Anyone who
has a chance to show up to these events but doesn’t is doing themselves a great disservice.