Season Three Invitational *Top 8*

With his first Invitational Top Eight now in the bag, Gerard Fabiano looks back at the decks he played and the Legacy format as a whole – and then looks forward to a new Standard thanks to Battle for Zendikar!

Last weekend was the Season Three Invitational. If you were able to watch SCGLive, you probably already know that I was able to make the Top Eight of the main event before losing to my good friend Josh Taylor. Josh and I have been friends for years and we even recently teamed up for Grand Prix Detroit. If I had to lose to someone, I’m happy that it could at least be to such a good friend. The format for the Invitational, for those who don’t know, was mixed between Legacy and Standard with a Legacy Top Eight. This was the deck I played to a 6-1-1 record in the Standard rounds:

I played U/B Control at Pro Tour Magic Origins about a month ago and I still think that it’s a great deck. For the Invitational, I worked with Reid Duke and Allen Jackson, both of whom helped me tremendously with the list. Reid wanted to continue to include Jace because he thought it was very powerful in the deck. Allen and I didn’t want to play Jace because we wanted to be able to blank all of our opponent’s removal. Players who have been playing for years may remember similar strategies being used by burn decks of old that just played Spark Elemental and Keldon Marauders in an attempt to make their opponent’s removal become irrelevant.

I don’t think there is a clear right answer in the Jace debate, but instead it likely comes down to the metagame that you’re expecting as well as your own preferences. For the Invitational, I chose not to play Jace and I was happy with the result. Reid also had the idea to play Evolving Wilds to help power our copies of Dig Through Time and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Evolving Wilds can also be tapped for mana right away if either player has an Urborg on the battlefield, something which came up a few times across the eight Standard rounds I played. You may be thinking that it’s obvious that Evolving Wilds would be able to tap right away when an Urborg is on the battlefield, but remember it is replacing Opulent Palace which would not be able to do the same.

Moving forward, I think that U/B Control is likely my top choice for the Open Series in Worcester next weekend. I’m actually looking to get back into streaming again and will likely be streaming with it before then. Stay tuned for a future article as well for an updated list as I make changes in reaction to different metagame shifts. For the time being however, I think the list I played at the Invitational is a good place to start. The only change I would make is to possibly cut one Tasigur from the sideboard for a copy of Ultimate Price and maybe add a 27th land. I think the decks to beat in the immediate future will likely be the various forms of Abzan and Mono-Red Aggro, so U/B feels well-positioned to me.

For the Legacy rounds I choose to play U/R Delver, and this was the list I played to 7-1 record in the Swiss:

After trying out a few different brews, including that Standstill deck from my last article, I ended up working on a few different Delver decks. I talked with Eli Kassis for a while and we both wanted to play a deck that was a bit smoother than Grixis Delver. The two copies of Blood Moon are really what drew me to U/R Delver, since it’s not really possible to play that card in an aggressive three-color strategy. Throughout the tournament I played against decks that would normally be a bad matchup, but because my opponents played very few basics I was able to Blood Moon them to my considerable advantage. Vapor Snag was also great as it allowed me to bounce a 20/20 Marit Lage token among many other useful interactions.

I utilized all of the different sideboard cards throughout the tournament, but I would still like to make room for two copies of Pyroclasm. Pyroclasm is great against Young Pyromancer and also helps against both Elves and Affinity. Affinity seems to be on the rise in Legacy, and even though it hasn’t really had any major finishes recently I think that it might have great future potential thanks to Hangarback Walker. That card seems to have exceeded everyone’s expectations and is seeing play in almost every format. It even saw play in Vintage during Eternal Weekend! Overall I think that U/R Delver is still a great deck, even without a broken spell like Treasure Cruise at its disposal. We still get to play Dig Through Time, but since it costs at least one mana more we’re only really able to play three copies.

During the Invitational this past weekend I sent out a tweet about the Legacy format:

It was obviously a bit of a joke, because I do actually believe that Legacy is very skill-intensive. It’s one of the few formats where you can really play anything as long as you play the deck well enough. In the Invitational Top Eight this past weekend, there were a handful of different Legacy strategies. Each pilot in the Top Eight was confident in their deck, and it’s amazing to see so many viable strategies played by such good players. Cards like Wasteland may seem simple on their surface, but there are countless variables to consider in terms of using your own Wasteland and reacting to the possibility of your opponent’s. The thing that’s great about Legacy is that it allows players to play with all of their favorite cards. Burn players like Patrick Sullivan have a burn deck that they can play. Control players can play a classic U/W Control deck in Miracles. Combo is not as prevalent in the metagame right now, but there are countless combo decks that you can play as well. You might be scared off by the price of entry for the format, but what’s great about it is that once you invest in cards like Force of Will and dual lands, you’ll be able to use them forever. Legacy is an Eternal format which means that the card-pool will continue to grow without any sets rotating out. It’s also great that formats like this bring the old-school players out of the woodwork. I saw a lot of great people that I haven’t seen in a while at the Season Three Invitational since they enjoy Legacy and wanted to play. I think that Legacy is the best Magic format right now and we need continued support from StarCityGames and Wizards of the Coast in order for it to continue. I don’t think that replacing Legacy 4-round Daily Events on Magic Online was a good idea, but on the other hand, I think that Legacy and Vintage will both be great League formats when the Leagues are fully operational on Magic Online.

This past week marked PAX Prime in Seattle and with it came a lot of new spoilers and surprises from Battle for Zendikar. The first planeswalker we’ve seen from the set is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I think that Gideon is powerful enough just based on his zero ability. There’s precedent for four-mana planeswalkers that can consistently generate 2/2s in both Garruk Relentless and Xenagos, the Reveler. The ability to make a Grizzly Bear seems innocent enough, but games can quickly get out of hand when left unchecked. In addition, the other two abilities provide his controller with a great way to increase the clock after a few turns. Sam Black played Mono-White Devotion to the Top Four of the World Championships this past weekend and Gideon seems like a natural fit to that deck. After rotation, the deck loses its mana engine in Nykthos… so this new planeswalker could be exactly what the deck needs moving forward. The deck also makes great use of Knight of the White Orchid and it would allow you to curve into Gideon when you’re on the draw. It’s worth noting however that this strategy would likely also play Kytheon which means you could run into a legend rule situation.

The next major reveal of the weekend were the new dual lands. Mark Rosewater had previously teased these new lands on his blog, but I don’t think anyone expected another cycle of dual lands with basic land types. I think that all five of these lands will be great during their run in Standard, especially while they are legal alongside fetchlands. I don’t think they’re quite good enough for Modern, however they may see play as singletons that you can choose to fetch at end of turn when you weren’t planning on paying the two life for your shockland anyway. On the other hand, the existence of Blood Moon in Modern is a major strike against these lands. I think these will be staples in Standard and I look forward to being able to fetch a dual land in that format – something which, to the best of my knowledge, has never happened before.

The final reveal of the weekend was the inclusion of super-rare Expedition lands across Battle for Zendikar Block boosters. I think that this is a great promotion that benefits all Magic players. The “Hidden Treasures” promotion in the original Zendikar was great, but it is obviously not a sustainable marketing strategy. The Expedition system provides a great way for WotC to plant rare cards in boosters that players will want. Personally I think I’m going to stick to my foils from their original sets, but a lot of players will be looking for these cards for their Cubes and Eternal decks. Some people have complained that this promotion will not help with getting more copies of Modern staples into circulation, but I don’t think that was their goal. WotC will definitely reprint the enemy fetchlands in a future set, so just because they won’t be more accessible this time doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future.

Overall, the Season Three Invitational was a blast. I’m glad I finally managed to Top Eight and it was even better to achieve it alongside my close friends Josh Taylor and Erik Smith. I’d like the thank everybody that supported me over the weekend during my run to Top Eight as it meant the world to me. As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ll be attending the Open Series in Cincinnati or if I’ll choose to play in local IQs instead. School is starting pretty soon for me, which will make it harder to travel in the next few weeks. Either way my goal is to make the Players’ Championship again. I lost in the finals of the tournament last year, and there’s nothing I would love more than another chance to take home the trophy this year!