Settling Down

Anthony has tried a wide range of Legacy decks lately, and is looking for the one that is right for him – even if he has to invent it himself. Check out his thoughts about the Legacy format, and the challenges that come with trying to establish yourself within it when you can’t settle easily on a single deck.

I think I’ve had enough of turn-one Sire of Insanity for now.

I’ve been working really hard at Burning Reanimator for a few weeks now, and having quite a blast with it. I still think that the deck is quite powerful, especially in a field of “fair” Force of Will decks such as we have seen lately. You can easily push through a single piece of hate and an angle of attack with it, and most likely have enough juice to get at least one more attempt at reanimation or Storm.

The problem with the deck is when it has two pieces of hate and an angle of attack. If they wind up having, say, a turn-one Deathrite Shaman with a Nihil Spellbomb and a counterspell, then you’re really in trouble, as both of your plans are essentially shut down. Your lack of Brainstorm is exploited here as well, as you don’t get the chance to sculpt anything with any sort of ease.

I guess the look that Todd Anderson gave me when I told someone what I was playing makes so much more sense to me now. That “you can do better than that” look. When Joe Lossett told me how he’d love to play these different decks, but how important it is to just jam Opens with Miracles.

I think my issue is that I can’t fully identify with my own skillset, and thus, I can’t find a deck that I can safely invest in. Because of this, I resort to leaning on whims and going with something that I may not have full confidence in. I go in scared, and refuse to just work on something better. I would always want to be the rebel, the guy that goes against the grain and does what he pleases. That isn’t winning tournaments for me though.

I made an agreement with Roanoke native Stephen Horne in Columbus: to cut the crap and maximize every single thing we can in these Opens. As much as I love to play these really interesting and innovative decks, I need to pick the best possible deck relative to my playstyle, and fast. Stephen is in a pretty good spot to earn himself a bye, and I have some catching up to do; I’m about twenty-eight points from obtaining one, but if I’m going to have any chance at doing so, I simply have to bite the bullet and get to work. I took my first Invitational for granted, and I’m in a very lucky position to even be able to participate in these. I won’t ever make that mistake again. If I have to play a deck I may not necessarily like, but can at least get acquainted with, so be it. I know Stephen wants to do well, and his drive is something that I want to emulate.

Bottom line? We want to win. Period.

No questions asked.

So, here is a conscious effort to figure out what I would enjoy doing the most, and find a deck that I could invest the time, and most importantly the money, into – all while not going too far off the beaten path (though if I’m most comfortable with something that happens to be off the path, then so be it). I guess I’ll start from the beginning so we have something to work with.

I really felt that I found my place when I started playing aggressive big-creature decks. G/R Aggro during Delver Standard was the first time I saw any sort of placing at Opens and other smaller events, and I felt very comfortable with Strangleroot Geist and friends at that point. As contradictory as it sounds, I also felt pretty comfortable playing U/W/R Flash last year. And toward the end of the year, I wound up going back to R/G-based decks until Theros rolled in.

In Modern, I started with B/W Tokens, a deck that was filled to the brim with two-for-ones, and would out-value the value decks at the time. Later on, I would put most of my focus on Splinter Twin, and have been for a very long time now.

So…what do all of these different decks have in common?

Almost all of them have some insane over-the-top card or cards that blow the game wide open. Most of them involve large creatures and ways to push them through, and they all have multiple angles of aggressiveness and some form of staying power.

When it came to going over the top on your opponent, G/R Aggro had Bonfire of the Damned. Flash had Sphinx’s Revelation and Restoration Angel (that card was unreal over-the-top and you know it), then we had Hellrider, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Splinter Twin. Now, that card is Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos, World Eater.

However, my attention span is pretty short, and I get “bored” or disinterested very quickly. I react to this by simply playing another deck, or in extreme cases by just not playing at all. This process hastens if I get into a cold streak, or if I physically don’t feel up to playing (I never, ever play an event where I don’t feel physically ready to). I’m also easily influenced, and can make decisions on a whim without consulting myself before others.

So, we’ve established that I really like running people over and generally going big when able. Unfortunately, there doesn’t really seem to be a fair deck in Legacy that really allows me to do that. Not one that I can safely say that I can win a tournament with. Maybe Elves?

My issue with Elves is the way it operates. It’s obviously a very good deck, but I don’t think my strong suit involves the mechanics that Elves is trying to exploit.

It was suggested that I try a red Stompy variant, but again, I just don’t see myself winning a tournament with it. Same goes for Goblins (which was my first Legacy deck). Delver decks don’t have that over-the-top feel that I’m looking for, and neither do any of the Blade decks. Jund was the closest thing I had to something I could work with, but Bloodbraid Elf isn’t what it used to be and that stopped feeling like it was working a while ago.

This leaves the unfair decks.

I could shoot for a more traditional Reanimator deck, being as aggressive as possible and being more willing to jam:

There’s a lot going for Reanimator. It has two angles of attack, which will keep me interested past two tournaments. It’s very good at running people over, it has a solid amount of disruption, and it goes over the top. It doesn’t go as big as Sneak and Show though.

Emrakul is as big as it gets, but we’re only really trying to do one thing here. Granted, that one thing is so unmatched if successful, and the deck can completely destroy opponents even through hate. I guess shooting for an early Blood Moon as sort of another angle out of the sideboard, but it isn’t as big a deal from this deck as it is coming out of something like Painter. I’m worried about getting bored after the third or fourth tournament and switching to something drastically different. I’m also not a big fan of the “throw it out there and hope it works” nature of some draws. In fact, that was the reason why I greatly preferred Omni-Tell over Sneak and Show. Every time you landed an Omniscience, they were just dead, but you needed an additional piece for it to work. A lot of times that piece wasn’t available and you were stuck with a whole lot of do-nothing, just dead to a Liliana of the Veil, a random assortment of hate bears, or an opposing Griselbrand. It’s hard to justify playing your own Griselbrands when you can just play Sneak and Show, but maybe Logan Mize was on the right track with his version. With Dream Halls absent, we can expand our range with Lotus Petals, fewer blue cards, and an uncounterable way of killing them through Emrakul (multiple times if needed). My issue is that I really don’t want to get completely thrashed by hate bears, discard into Surgical Extraction, or anything else that goes after specifically our Show and Tell. This deck also suffers the “only doing one thing” problem.

Maybe the type of deck I’m looking for in Legacy doesn’t exist in such a specific form, or maybe I’m just being stubborn and letting my personal preferences become a detriment to my progress. It’s kind of difficult to say, especially with so many people telling you different things. It’s a giant conflicting blend of “These are the best things and you’re doing it wrong if you aren’t doing them” and “you should do what you feel comfortable with.” Both sides have a ton of merit, but it’s become much more confusing to not only myself but also to a lot of other players in my position as well. Which one is it? Is it both, or possibly neither?

My other big fear is being completely awful at whatever deck I wound up playing. I’ve shredded away from a whole lot of decks before because of my lack of confidence I would be able to pilot it competently. I need to get over that fast, though, because I’m going to pilot every Legacy deck I play incompetently for most (if not all) of my entire time playing Legacy. I will get better and better, but hardly anyone that plays Legacy (or any format, really) is perfect at it. Imperial Painter was on that “stay away until you get better” list, but with that flawed logic out of the window, I’m pretty open to giving it a real shot:

Man, I’m going to absolutely hate it when I have to go on the beatdown plan with this. It doesn’t really have that “run them over” angle I’m looking for, unless we’re counting turn-one Blood Moon, and even then that may not always be good. I do like the fact that it has probably the best Enlightened Tutor package in the format, and that I can add or take away colors as I see fit. There are merits to the mono-red, R/W, U/R, and Grixis builds. The monored build, like most mono-colored decks in the format, is more resistant to Wasteland, and cards like Koth of the Hammer become better as well. R/W adds a ton of utility and comes with a tutor to boot. U/R gives you Dack Fayden, a major threat against anything playing artifacts. Finally, Grixis Painter is full of nuance, synergy, and inherently flexible engines and threats.

The last build I’m interested falls into the “off the beaten path” side of things, but is one I really believe can work if given enough effort. Stompy decks seem to be incredibly inconsistent, and don’t provide enough upside that Painter decks do. Well, why are Stompy decks inconsistent? From what I could see, the deck suffers immensely from the infamous “midrange problem”, also known as drawing the wrong part of your deck at the wrong time. Drawing Trinisphere isn’t very helpful against a deck that doesn’t need to cast spells that cost less than three, and playing Chalice of the Void on turn seven isn’t exactly optimal a large portion of the time. Getting rid of these pieces is also not advised, but if it’s those pieces that’s causing the problem, then there’s got to be a way to mitigate said problem. How outlandish is it to incorporate the Painter’s ServantGrindstone package into a Stompy shell? We’d have to drop Chalice of the Void for sure, and probably some number of Trinispheres for the sake of real estate rather than performance, but we still have overlap in Blood Moon and acceleration via Sol-lands and Simian Spirit Guide. I have no idea what a deck like that would look like, but I’m sure the great Legacy minds out there are more than capable of sketching out something along these lines that would work.

Finding a Legacy deck that I can call home has proven to be very difficult, but identifying why is the first step. Hopefully we can figure it out in time for the next batch of Opens coming up in a few weeks!