In my recent exploration of offbeat formats (for example, Zero Variance), I have inadvertently discovered the difference between formats I will play and those I won’t. The formats I enjoy: Vintage, Zero Variance, Type Four, and Legacy, among others, all share one trait: they have access to every set in Magic. These formats force me to try to become knowledgeable (or at least conversant) with the entire Magic card pool.
Type Four is an incredible format. I recorded a draft of the format for perpetual review. What makes Type Four probably my favorite format is the fact that there are actually so many card interactions and combinatorial possibilities. It’s a hugely skill-rewarding format.
Zero Variance has also caught on. In the Magic General forums to this site, I have supervised a number of rounds of Zero Variance mental magic. You can go through and read other people’s games. The format is incredible, precisely on account of the full Magic card pool.
Legacy is challenging because it obeys the rules of fair formats, but it has a tremendous card pool to draw from. So as a format, Legacy is a very difficult puzzle. Grand Prix: Columbus was the exception to that rule. On the back of the obvious Flash combo, I finished 21st in the massive 1100+ player Grand Prix.
As I work on this puzzle, I have to come to terms with conflicting impulses. Ad Nauseam seems like an extremely attractive option in a format with Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Brainstorm, and Ponder unrestricted. I also have a general approach in Vintage, in which I take what I see as the most powerful cards in a format, and build a deck to those cards (with the caveats of my article last week in mind).
But I lacked data. It’s not that I couldn’t test a bunch online; I did. But there is no substitute for the crucible of a tournament. A tournament provides information in its proper context, and gives you information that can’t be gleaned from testing. There are additional pressures and factors that exist in a tournament setting that do not exist in testing. Regular tournament players know what I mean.
In my run for Grand Prix: Chicago, I decided I needed to start with a solid foundation. If I didn’t, I would be making theoretical assumptions and hoping that they were right. Early on I decided that I would play a proven deck, run it through the field, and then begin my learning from there.
I told Patrick that I’d play his 2007 Worlds Legacy list, card for card in the first tournament I could.
I wanted to prove a point. Magic players have this habit of making tweaks to decks, not so much because of a sound, proven reason behind it, but because most players feel compelled to “personalize” a deck. There is an ethos that, to some extent, frowns upon netdecking. Even when people netdeck, they often think that they can improve the deck with their minor tweaks. There is a mindset in Magic that every deck is a work in progress. It’s not that that approach is wrong, but I think it has to be firmly rooted, and too often it is not.
My point in playing Patrick’s list card for card, even though it was over a year old, was not to criticize people who netdeck or tweak without knowing completely what they are doing. On the contrary, it was an expression of my humility. It was an admission of my own limits in the face of a very complex system, not just the deck, but the metagame.
Although I had done a lot of testing with his list, I knew that my tournament experience would impart information and other critical lessons that could not be easily learned in testing. I was not wrong.
My hope was that teammates and other persons would play the role of trying out ideas I was interested in. I could then play Patrick’s deck as a baseline against which to measure their efforts and then develop a sound theory of not only the deck or the metagame, but the format in general.
We scheduled a Legacy tournament in Columbus, Ohio on December 28th, and Patrick agreed to participate to help promote the event.
A convergence of factors led to a massive turnout for a small scale event. The day before the tournament, December the 27th, the weather in Columbus, Ohio reached nearly 70 degrees. At the stroke of midnight I was on weather.com and the temperature was still 64 degrees outside. Even when Patrick and his crew finally arrived at my house shortly before 1am, the temperature was just one degree cooler.
Fifty-five players arrived at the tournament site the next morning to compete for some cash money, the maximum number of players that could fit in the store.
Here’s what I played:
Before I recount my tournament experience, a note. My procedure for tournament reports is to notate my opening hands and the play-by-play sequence for each game after the match concludes, in between rounds using a shorthand notation I’ve developed over the years. This procedure is based upon my being able to remember my opening hand for each game.
In Vintage, this is never a problem. I can recall, with crystal clarity, my opening hands for almost every game. For some reason, I have much greater difficulty encoding my Legacy opening hands. I am not quite certain why this would be the case. In Vintage, there are many more singletons, so that would seem to make it more difficult to remember opening hands. On the other hand, the fact that they are singletons may make it easier since each card is unique and therefore more memorable. I think the more plausible explanation is that I have a lot less experience and familiarity in Legacy, and therefore Vintage hands more easily imprint in my memory. Relatedly, it could be that with Vintage I see more possibilities and interconnections, and therefore remember each card more easily, whereas I do not put as much thought into evaluating each card in my opening Legacy hands, but hone in on key cards. Whatever the explanation is, some of my starting hands are incomplete.
Before the tournament began, I noticed that a lot of players were playing Affinity. I wondered whether I should cut sideboard cards for a couple of Energy Fluxes. A lot of my online opponents were playing Affinity as well. I decided against that tweak, and stuck to my plan of playing his deck card for card. I wondered, though, whether my stubborn insistence on refusing to make even one change was sensible or not.
With that in mind, I sat down to play.
Round 1: Justin Smith
My opening hand:
Swords to Plowshares
Force of Will
I won the die roll. Even better.
Deciding which land to play on the first turn can be tricky business in Legacy. If you play a dual land, you open yourself up to being Wastelanded. If you play a Fetchland with the intention of breaking it once you have acquired more information, such as seeing what your opponent is playing or waiting until you’ve drawn more cards, you risk being Stifled. If you try to avoid being Stifled by fetching out a land immediately, you risk finding the wrong land for the situation, such as an Island in a matchup where you would rather have a dual land or a dual land of the wrong color combination.
In short, no matter what you do, there are risks. Compounding these risks, the land drops are a critical decision in Legacy, where the tempo of the format is defined by the turn-by-turn progression signified by land drops (contrary to Vintage, which is not so defined).
I led with Tropical Island here instead of Polluted Delta for one main reason and a minor subsidiary reason. First of all, I am holding another Tropical Island. If my opponent Wastelands my Tropical Island on their first turn, that is either a tempo-neutral play or a tempo gain for me with no resource costs. My usual preference would be to play Delta and pass the turn, but I wouldn’t actually mind if he Wastelanded my Tropical Island here. It would give me another opportunity to draw a Blue spell and be able to both Force and Daze. Second, I am holding Daze. If I play Polluted Delta, there is a chance I may not want to break it immediately.
My opponent played City of Traitors. I began to brace for the worst. I started to regret not putting some Energy Flux in my sideboard, and my stubbornness for deciding to stick with my plan of playing Patrick’s deck card-for-card.
Justin then played a Chrome Mox, imprinting Gathan Raiders. I had to read the card. I was very curious about his next move.
He tapped his Mox and the City of Traitors to play Seething Song. I was somewhat inclined to counter the Seething Song with Daze. If the Seething Song resolves, there is a decent chance that Daze won’t be able to counterspell anything.
However, I let it resolve. Not because I thought it was the superior play, but because I wanted to see what he was going to do. The play that I was most afraid of was him storming out to Empty the Warrens, but I figured that this was a rather unlikely possibility.
He led with Magus of the Moon. This was a card that I had to counter. Even if I had led with Delta and fetched a basic Island, it would not have been enough to save me from Magus. Magus of the Moon is a card I had faced in testing, and it was a must-counter unless I already had threats on the board (or I could float a White and Plow it).
I played Force of Will, pitching Daze.
My opponent then used the two remaining Red mana to play Chalice of the Void set at 1.
In testing and in this tournament, it never ceased to surprise me how many opponents thought that a Chalice at 1 would cripple me. I suppose that other Grow/Threshold/Counterbalance/NextLevel pilots might have quickly succumbed to Chalice at 1, and thus given the impression that this play is a decisive game-winner.
Another recurring experience in this tournament and from my online testing is this comment, or one similar to it: “My deck is supposed to win this matchup.”
After playing all of those spells, my opponent now only had two cards in hand.
I untapped and drew a Ponder for the turn. I played Polluted Delta, broke it for Underground Sea, and cast Dark Confidant.
My opponent untapped and drew a card. He tapped the City of Traitors and played Umezawa’s Jitte and passed the turn. Jitte is a terrifying card. I just had to hope that I could get enough pressure on the board before he could equip it to matter.
I flipped a Bob and took two damage. I played a third land and cast the second Bob. I attacked him to 18 life.
Justin untapped and complained about his lack of creatures. He had imprinted one of his creatures and I countered the other one. Instead, he tapped his City and his Mox to play Sword of Fire and Ice.
At this point, I pulled way ahead. My Bobs revealed a pair of one-mana spells, and I drew a Tarmogoyf. I attacked him for four, sending him to 14.
He drew a card for the turn, and I don’t remember what he played, if anything.
On the following turn I swung for 7 damage, halving his life total, and he scooped very after drawing his next card.
This game illustrates, I think, the ideal game plan for the deck. Like it or not, Bob is the deck’s best draw engine. I prefer the two-step process of getting Bob online before Goyf. It fuels the Goyf by helping me draw more cantrips and disruption to protect the Goyf.
I sideboarded in at least two Krosan Grips for the Serum Visions and the Stifle. I may have also sideboarded in a second Engineered Explosives.
I fanned open this hand: Tundra, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Tarmogoyf, Thoughtseize, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Engineered Explosives. I mulliganed this hand. The reason is that I felt that turn 1 Top followed by turn 2 upkeep, use Top to search for a land, was too slow and too risky. It wasn’t that I couldn’t make do with this hand, but that there were too many cards that were conditional or contingent at the moment. I figured that a random hand of six would be at least as good and more immediately impactful.
I don’t remember the hand I mulliganed into, but it had a Force of Will, and a nice mix of spells and land.
Justin opened with Mountain, go.
I played Polluted Delta and passed the turn back to him.
This was a rather uneventful turn 1.
Justin played a Mountain, and then cast Chalice of the Void, again set at 1. I thought about countering it, but Chalice at 1 hadn’t mattered last game, so I let it resolve.
On my second turn, I played Dark Confidant, again.
Justin played an Ancient Tomb and cast Seething Song. Again, I was curious what he might play, and I let it resolve. He thought for a moment, considering his options, and eventually settled on Rakdos Pit Dragon, another card I had to read.
I looked at my hand and realized that I wouldn’t be able to Plow it even if I found one, thanks to his Chalice, so I would probably be better off countering it. I had two Force of Wills, but only one Blue spell to pitch at the moment. I decided to Force it, going to 18 life. He mana burned, going to 17 life.
I untapped and revealed a one-mana Blue spell. I played a Tarmogoyf, attacked him for 2 and passed the turn. He was at 15.
Justin played a Morph off Ancient Tomb and a Mountain, going to 13. Should I counter that as well? I had little knowledge of his deck, and I couldn’t remember the details of the creature he had imprinted on turn 1 in the previous game, since I had never seen that card before. I decided to Force it as well. It was Gathan Raiders.
He played Pyroclasm and killed my Bob. Goyf survived the assault.
Goyf swung in for 4 damage, sending him to 9.
Justin played a Magus of the Moon. I hardly cared.
I attacked him with Goyf. He eventually blocked with Magus of the Moon and then died shortly thereafter.
Round 2: Rueben Bresler Playing Fish
I was aware of the fact that Reuben played somewhere in my area, but I had never met him before. I watched a video he had produced for SCG some time ago, and thought it was very funny.
We exchanged small talk before the match. He hinted that he was playing Mono-White Prison, but I am pretty good at detecting that sort of misdirection.
I won the die roll, and of course elected to play. I very quickly announced that I’d keep my opening hand and Rueben made a remark to that effect. Read of that what you will.
My opening hand was a one-lander:
Force of Will
Swords to Plowshares
Sensei’s Divining Top.
Reuben mulliganed, and then mulliganed again.
I led with Delta. I broke the Delta for Island so that I’d have mana stability, no matter what he was playing. I cast Ponder and stacked the top of my deck: Delta, Bob, and something irrelevant. The Delta popped into my hand with the Bob on top. I’d be able to shuffle away the irrelevant card after drawing Bob next turn.
Over the course of this tournament, my appreciation for Ponder, a card I had enjoyed abusing in Vintage, only grew. With hands such as this one, Ponder is actually superior to Brainstorm. In fact, in most cases, I prefer turn 1 Ponder to turn 1 Brainstorm in this deck. Given how powerful Brainstorm is, that is quite a statement.
Two things that really important in Legacy are tempo and consistency. Ponder melds both. I would be hard pressed to play a deck in Legacy that does not play with 4 Ponder.
One of the differences between decks that are great in design/theory and decks that actually win tournaments is consistency. A deck like Mono-White Prison may be a great metagame predator in theory. The problem is that you won’t get great or even good hands every game.
There is a sixty-card minimum decksize in Magic. That decksize limitation creates fundamental limits on what can be accomplished on a regular basis. This is something I’ve written about many times in the past. Given the all the possible opening hands that a deck may draw, the decks that can make do with the greatest subset will have to mulligan least and have an overall edge in the course of a many-game tournament.
Ponder lets you see over 5% of your deck on turn 1, and shuffle them away if you don’t like what you see. Decks that can run Ponder and Brainstorm will have fundamental advantages over any deck that can’t, and they will be much more consistent as a result. This consistency accumulates over the course of a tournament and translates into the difference between making Top 8 or not, or winning the tournament and maybe losing in the semi-finals. Sooner or later, it catches up to you.
At the end of the match, I asked Rueben if he was playing with Ponder or even Brainstorm, and he said that he was not. He showed me his curve, and even though he had quite a few one-drops, including Stifle and Cursecatcher, I still told him that he should at least be running Brainstorm. His high mulligan rate in this match alone attests to a consistency problem.
He played Island and Cursecatcher. I wasn’t terribly concerned. I could Daze it, but I wanted to be able to play turn 2 Bob and start drawing additional cards as quickly as possible. As soon as Bob was on the table, I could easily play around Cursecatcher.
I played the Delta into Sea, and played Dark Confidant, as planned. I passed the turn.
Reuben played Waterfront Bouncer. To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t care. If I let it resolve, I would still draw an additional card with Bob. He’d then lose a card to bounce it with Bouncer, and then he’d have to do the same each turn. In addition, I had Swords in hand, so I could just murder it as soon as I found a Tundra. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to deal with the tempo loss. I played Daze on it.
Rueben sacrificed his Cursecatcher to counter my Daze. I then Force of Willed the Bouncer, pitching Brainstorm.
Bob revealed an Underground Sea. I played Top and used it to set the top of my library. I attacked him to 18 and passed the turn.
The rest of the game is a blur in its details, but very soon I had two Bobs, a Goyf, and a Goose on the table, beating him down. His life total fell from 18 to15 to 8 to zero. My guess is that I won on turn 6.
I sideboarded in:
4 Engineered Plague
3 Threads of Disloyalty
I sideboarded out:
1 Serum Visions
4 Nimble Mongoose
I may have also sided in the additional Engineered Explosives.
While I was sideboarding, I was wondering what all of the various creature types were. I didn’t want to ask him so as to cue him into my sideboard plan, and I didn’t want to call the judge to find out either. I decided I’d wait until the situation came up before finding out.
Force of Will
Again, another hand made possible with Ponder.
Reuben opened with Island, go.
I played Polluted Delta. At this point, I was a bit concerned that I could get Stifled here, but I had Force of Will to stop a Stifle, and Reuben mulliganed to six, so I figured he probably wasn’t going to be able to stop my Force with a Force of his own. A Daze would be more likely. In any case, he would be losing quite a few cards and a little bit of tempo, giving me some time to topdeck another land. I broke the fetchland for a Tropical Island.
For some reason, I decided that I wanted to lead with Top in this game. Given the insane amount of answers I boarded in, I was not concerned with tempo. I intended to slow things down. I was adopting, whether I realized it or not, the control role temporarily. If I played Top now, I could Ponder next turn and use Top if I Pondered into a land.
Very surprisingly, and to my glee, he Dazed the Top.
He replayed the Island and passed the turn.
I topdecked an Underground Sea and cast Tarmogoyf. Rough beats.
Reuben played another land and cast Silvergill Adept (another card I had to read) as he revealed Lord of Atlantis. I didn’t much care, and let it resolve.
I drew Brainstorm on my turn.
I cast Ponder, to pump the Goyf to 4/5, and attacked him to 16. Ponder set this as the top of my library:
Swords to Plowshares
I popped the Tundra into my hand and played it. I don’t know why I set Swords on top, but it turned out to be the right call. In any case, since I had two mana available, I could Brainstorm into the Swords and use it if I needed to.
Reuben played Wasteland and cast Lord of Atlantis. I let it resolve. I couldn’t Daze it thanks to the Wasteland. If he went to Wasteland my Tundra, I could respond by Brainstorming into the Swords to use on his Lord. He Wastelanded my tapped Tropical Island.
I untapped, drew the Swords, attacked him to 12 and passed the turn.
Reuben played Umezawa’s Jitte. This was something I just didn’t want to deal with. It was too annoying and would overly constrain my attacking and blocking options, and buy him a bunch of time. I Dazed the Jitte. I Plowed the Lord and attacked him with Goyf on my turn without doing anything else relevant. Reuben fell to 10 life.
And for his last gasp, Reuben tried to play a Waterfront Bouncer. I Forced it, pitching Brainstorm.
I had nothing better to do, so I played Engineered Explosives on 2. I attacked with Goyf and he blocked.
Reuben played a Standstill with my Goyf in play, a puzzling move, only explained by the fact that he had two other Standstills apparently in his hand.
Reuben complained that this was a good matchup for his deck, and I showed him my Threads and my Plagues as well as the four Plows.
Round 3: Adam Yurichick playing DreadStill
I had not actually tested this match, but I wasn’t terribly concerned about it. I have played heavy fetchland decks in Vintage for years and had to play around Stifle many times. It’s not terribly difficult to minimize your chances of getting Stifled if you play your cards well. That isn’t to say that you sometimes won’t get boned from time to time, but there is at least a choice about whether to break a fetchland and walk into Stifle in ways that are designed to minimize risks in a cost benefit analysis.
Adam won the die roll.
I had to mulligan a no-land hand.
My opening hand was:
Force of Will
Sensei’s Divining Top
Adam leads with Island, Brainstorm.
I play a fetchland, Top, and passed the turn.
Adam played Mishra’s Factory and cast Phyrexian Dreadnaught and responded with Stifle.
I played Force of Will pitching Brainstorm. He played Force of Will as well.
Adam had the god draw — the turn 2 Dreadnaught protected with Force.
I sat there, staring at an imposing monster, with faint hope that I would escape this game alive.
I activated Top on my upkeep, and realized that every good turn deserves another, as Top revealed both Tundra and Swords to Plowshares on top of my library. I set the Tundra on top, drew it, and activated the Top to draw Plow.
I sent his Dreadnaught farming, bringing him to 31 life.
Undaunted by my power play, Adam ordered his men into the breach. Adam played a third land, activated Mishra’s Factory, and attacked me to 16.
I used the Top to manipulate my library to draw a Daze and passed the turn.
Adam played Trinket Mage, which I Dazed.
I Topped into a Brainstorm, which I used to put back the 2nd Tropical Island and get a Fetchland instead. I broke the fetchland and Topped again into a Ponder. I then played a Nimble Mongoose with Threshold.
Adam played a second Mishra’s Factory and attacked me with the first one. I blocked with the Mongoose and he tapped the second Factory to pump the first, trading the Factory for my Goose.
I found Counterbalance and played it.
I had assembled the Counterbalance combo, now I just needed to address the Factory beadown. I got a Bob online the next turn and he scooped soon afterward.
I sideboarded in:
2 Krosan Grip
3 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Engineered Explosives
I sideboarded out:
4 Nimble Mongoose
1 Serum Visions
I was disappointed to have to mulligan to 6 again, for the same reason. My hand of six was weak, but keepable. I had a Dark Confidant and two Goyfs. That was the problem. If he had a Dreadnaught early, I would be in trouble. I also didn’t have any countermagic or other way to interact.
Adam opened with land, go.
I played a land of my own.
Adam played another land and cast Standstill.
My experience in Vintage has taught me that breaking Standstill immediately is often the right play. If you wait, you play into their plan. You’ll give them a tempo advantage and be forced to break the Standstill when it is most advantageous for them. Sometimes, you can time Standstills so that they are forced to discard most of the cards they’ve drawn. But I had a Bob in hand. If I was able to resolve Bob, pretty soon Bob would recoup the lost card advantage.
I played another land and cast Bob. He drew three cards and then Forced it.
Adam played another Standstill.
Unfortunately, I lacked a third land drop. I played Goyf, breaking his Standstill, and he Dazed it.
Then things took an ugly turn. Adam played Counterbalance. At this point, I had two options. I could play the Counterbalance of my own or go for another Goyf.
I was not sure what to do, but I reasoned that my own Counterbalance wouldn’t help me force a threat through. My best bet for getting Goyf to resolve was to play it now. I am still not sure what the right play here was.
I cast Goyf, and his Counterbalance whiffed.
This is where his incredible card advantage kicked in. He played Top, which locked me out from playing anything else the rest of the game.
On my turn, I attacked him down to 12.
I tried to play the Counterbalance, but he Topped and his Counterbalance trigger countered it. It felt like Goyf would be the last spell I’d resolve this game. I had better make it count.
He Topped on my endstep, and then untapped and played Phyrexian Dreadnaught and Trickbind.
I had drawn Threads of Disloyalty, so I was not terribly upset about this play.
I untapped and cast Threads, which resolved. I took Dreadnaught and swung with Goyf. Adam Pyroblasted my Threads, blocked the Goyf, and untapped and swung back.
My top card was not Krosan Grip or a relevant answer. I scooped for game 3.
I stuck with the same sideboard plan.
This game was long and complex, and I have no notes.
Here is my recollection.
I fanned open my hand, and was happy to see a keepable hand with countermagic and a diverse assortment of cards.
The key to the early game was the fact that Adam Stifled an important fetchland activation (on turn 2), which kept me on one mana with a handful of two- and three-mana spells for several turns. He used that time to attack with a Factory for several turns. On turn 4 or 5, I finally drew another land and played Dark Confidant. This only staved off his attack for a turn, because he found another Factory a turn later.
Compounding matters, we both managed to get Counterbalance into play. I managed to resolve a Goyf in this madness.
However, he broke up my Counterbalance (aided by Blue cantrips) by playing Engineered Explosives and then paying an additional mana so that I couldn’t counter it with Counterbalance. I only got to swing once with the Goyf before his Explosives blew up the board.
I helplessly watched as he attacked me with Mishra’s Factories while I had a Threads of Disloyalty in hand, whittling my life from 13 to 11 to 9 to 7. In the midst of this beatdown, while I’m drawing even more Threads of Disloyalty, counterspells, and land, he resolved a Top and another Counterbalance. Then he found another Factory, and my life fell precipitously. By the time I was at 2 life, there were no topdecks that could save me without being able to find at least two answers.
Factory beats went all the way. At the end of the game, I was holding Daze, multiple Threads, and lands (and possibly some Forces as well).
There is one point in the game in which I immediately regretted a play of omission, but I’m not sure whether it would have made a difference. Adam played Brainstorm either after he played Explosives, used Explosives, or played the second Counterbalance. The reason I know that is because he tapped out to do it. I wanted to Daze the Brainstorm, but didn’t. At that point, he seemed to push way ahead and I never had another opportunity to use Daze.
At the very end of the game, Patrick pointed out that I should not have sideboarded out Nimble Mongoose. If those Threads had been Mongeese, I would have been able to block Factories and even win that game.
What I realized is that the real enemy in this matchup is Mishra’s Factory. It’s not only a great combo with Standstill, but also with Counterbalance, which functions like an uber-Standstill above it. Factory beatdown is as troubling as the Dreadnaught kill, and I shouldn’t sideboard out all of my Geese. A lesson well learned.
Round 4: Gus with Ad Nauseam Combo
I was looking forward to playing this matchup.
Gus’s deck was super-pimped out and foily. He had foil Timeshifted Gemstone Mines, foil DCI City of Brass, and the like.
Gus won the die roll, but had to mulligan to five. Despite the fact that this gave me a substantial advantage, equivalent to probably 1-2 turns in this match, I was somewhat disappointed. I wanted to see how my deck matched up against Ad Nauseam at full power.
My opening hand:
Swords to Plowshares
A keepable hand, I thought, especially since he mulliganed to five.
Gus opened with Gemstone Mine and meekly passed the turn.
My opening was more robust. I Thoughtseized him and saw:
Simian Spirit Guide
I took the Cabal Ritual and passed the turn.
Gus drew a card and played a City of Brass, which I knew he drew.
I played Counterbalance on turn 2. If he had a more robust hand, I might have held Stifle up instead, but in this situation, there was no question that this is the way to go.
Gus played yet another land and cast Simian Spirit Guide.
I played a Nimble Mongoose and passed the turn.
I ended up Plowing the SSG, mostly to help me achieve threshold. I began attacking with the Goose.
Gus went to play a Lotus Petal, and I let it resolve. He then went to play a Lion’s Eye Diamond, and I decided to trigger Counterbalance. A land was on top, and according to Gus, that countered the Diamond.
Soon afterward, he scooped.
I sideboarded in:
1 Engineered Explosives
I sideboarded out:
My opening hand was:
Force of Will
This hand was interesting, but risky. Almost any topdeck other than a land would be useful.
Unfortunately, I drew a land on turn 1.
Gus mulliganed to five again, played City of Brass, and passed the turn.
I drew a land, played a land, and passed.
On my endstep, Gus played a Brainstorm. He untapped and cast Mystical Tutor for Orim’s Chant. Then he played a Forbidden Orchard and passed the turn.
I drew a Dark Confidant, which I immediately played. When he Brainstormed again, I expected to die on his next turn.
Instead, he actually did nothing and passed the turn. I couldn’t understand what was going on.
That was his window of opportunity, and it passed.
My Dark Confidant revealed Ponder, so I had Force and Stifle available. I attacked him to 16.
From here on out, I just accumulated insane card advantage and blew him out.
Gus wasn’t running Ponder either. I couldn’t understand why people weren’t playing with that card!
Round 5: Jacob with Affinity Variant
Jacob had been very happy with his deck. After playing against it, I could see why. I think he beat Patrick in round 1 and it made his day.
My opening hand was strong. I had Daze and Force of Will.
Jacob won the roll and opened with:
Land, Lotus Petal, Ornithopter
Great, I mused. Affinity. I have to be on my guard here.
I played a land, and passed.
Jacob must have topdecked it, because he played Aether Vial. I played Daze, returning a land to my hand. I was surprised when he removed Elvish Spirit Guide from game to pay for the Daze. I now had to decide whether to Force the Aether Vial. Since I already used one of my counterspells, I decided to save the Force. This made little sense, especially since I even had Counterbalance in hand.
I learned my lesson.
I played a land and passed the turn.
Jacob ramped the Aether Vial to 1 and passed the turn back.
I played Counterbalance and passed.
Jacob ramped Aether Vial and passed back.
I played a Tarmogoyf, but on my endstep he used the Aether Vial to play Epochrasite. My Goyf was only a 3/4. His Epochrasite was larger already.
I couldn’t find a way to ramp the Goyf. Then, on the next turn he Vialed in another Epochrasite.
I ended the game holding Force of Will and with Counterbalance in play.
I sideboarded in Threads of Disloyalty, Krosan Grips, and Engineered Explosives for Geese, Stifle, and Serum Visions.
I opened game 2 with:
Force of Will
Force of Will
This is one of my favorite hands on the day.
I Sea, Ponder, and popped another Ponder into my hand, with another Daze on top of my library, and garbage below it to shuffle away.
Jacob opened with Land, Lotus Petal, and cast Tarmogoyf.
I played Daze, but, again, he had a Spirit Guide to pay for it. I Forced it pitching Ponder.
I drew Daze, played a Fetchland and shuffled my library.
Jacob played another Vault of Whispers and passed the turn back.
I topdecked Brainstorm, and Brainstormed and then played Dark Confidant.
Jacob played Vorath’s Stronghold and passed.
I played a Tarmogoyf and passed the turn. On my endstep, Jacob used the Stronghold to put his Goyf on top of his library.
He played his Goyf.
I played Threads of Disloyalty and stole his Goyf. He scooped soon after.
My opening hand:
Force of Will
Swords to Plowshares
I kept it on account of the multiple Dazes and Thoughtseize.
Jacob led with: Ornithopter, Lotus Petal, Vault of Whispers, and Disciple of the Vault.
I let it resolve.
I drew Krosan Grip. I played Delta into Sea, and cast Thoughtseize. I saw this:
Disciple of the Vault
Vault of Whispers
I took Cranial Plating.
Jacob topdecked another Disciple, because he played his second Vault and cast two more Disciples. He attacked me to 16.
I drew and played turn 2 Brainstorm and saw Engineered Explosives and two land. Perfect! I put back Grip and a land. I played a land and cast Explosives for 1.
Jacob attacked me for 3, sending me to 13. He then played Epochrasite as a 1/1.
I untapped and activated Explosives. He used that trigger and sacrificed his Lotus Petal to deal 6 damage to me, sending me to 7.
I Plowed the Epochrasite and passed the turn.
Jacob played nothing relevant, and I cast Counterbalance. My hand was: 2 Force of Will, 2 Daze, and Krosan Grip.
Jacob Krosan Gripped my Counterbalance, however.
I mattered little, since I followed it up with Tarmogoyf, which handily won the game.
Round 6: Mark Trogdon with Fish
We ID into the Top 8.
Top 8: Adam Yurichick, DreadStill Rematch
I was really looking forward to this match. I thought it was perfect karma that my first round opponent would be my only swiss loss.
Adam and I shuffled up and presented.
I won the die roll and elected to play first.
My hand was full of Blue cantrips (a Ponder and a Brainstorm) — the kinds of hands I like most — but only one land, Polluted Delta. In addition, I had Daze, Dark Confidant, Thoughtseize, and Swords to Plowshares in hand.
I led with Polluted Delta, but debated what to find with it. Under normal circumstances, it might make sense to find an Island, to have a stable mana source to work with, immune from Wasteland attack. However, if I found Island and Pondered into a Tropical Island or a Tundra, I’d be unable to play turn 2 Bob.
I decided to find Underground Sea. I played Ponder, saw another Fetchland, which I popped into my hand.
Adam led with Wasteland, and Wastelanded my Sea.
Turn 2 was a repeat of the first.
I played Polluted Delta, fetched out another Underground Sea.
And again, Adam Wastelanded it. In response, I Brainstormed. Thank goodness I saw another fetchland.
I played the Flooded Strand and broke it. I wondered… should I get a basic Island? I figured there was little chance he had a third Wasteland. I found Underground Sea, and this time I played Thoughtseize.
Here’s what I saw:
I took Phyrexian Dreadnaught because I shuffled my Swords to Plowshares away. In addition, I knew he’d tap down for Trinket Mage, and I could just Daze it.
Adam drew a card, played one of his Islands, and passed the turn.
I topdecked a second land, played it, and cast Dark Confidant.
Adam must have drawn Spell Snare, because he cast it. I played Force of Will, pitching Counterbalance. I am not sure why I didn’t just play Daze here.
In any case, my Bob resolved.
Adam played Mishra’s Factory and passed the turn.
My Bob revealed a land. I drew another card and passed the turn.
Adam played his Snow-Covered Island and cast Trinket Mage. On cue, I Dazed it.
One would think that I would have wrapped up this game at this point. Bob was generating card advantage, and my hand was stacked, while he was playing off the top. After all, I knew most of Adam’s hand. He’s only drawn one card we haven’t seen. How good could it be?
Yet his Mishra’s Factory begins to beatdown, and I couldn’t block. The good news is that I return to the favor with my Bobs. Soon, however, he has found a second Factory. Then, I misplayed a Swords to Plowshares, which led to an unfavorable creature trade. Then, amazingly, he topdecks and resolves Counterbalance. However, without Top to manipulate it, it’s a porous lock. I manage to resolve my cantrips and almost everything else (including Counterbalance and a second Bob) except for a needed Tarmogoyf, which triggers Counterbalance revealing Daze. His Trinket Mage resolves, finding a Top, but I am able to counter the Top with my Counterbalance.
I furiously manipulate Top to ensure that Bobs don’t kill me, but I end up taking some damage anyway. I manage to get a Goose on the table.
At about this point of the game, Adam quietly remarked that this game has been very interesting and it would have been nice to have it on tape to review. The game was longish and fairly complicated. My second-half recap is, of course, just highlights.
At this point, I have two Bobs and Goose. He has two Factories and Trinket Mage. One of the softer areas of my Magic skillset is creature combat, a function of playing too much Vintage. I am also holding a Swords and a third Bob. My life is slowly falling, and I need to find a way to finish him off before my Bobs do me in.
I map out a plan of attack. He is at 10 life, and I am 8, I believe. I attack with Bob and a Goose. He goes to 5 life.
He contemplates his move, but I think passes the turn back. My Bobs send me to 6 life.
I attack him with my whole team this time. He activates a Factory, and I Plow it. He trades his other Factory for the Goose, and lets Bob take him to 5 life.
I play a third Dark Confidant, which resolves, putting me in a very precarious position, but the idea is that I can then block his Trinket Mage if he attacks, and can swing for the win if he doesn’t.
I manage the top of my library and only fall to 4 life before he scoops.
This had been a great game. It’s too bad that I can only remember its general contours.
As I began to sideboard, I reflected on the lessons of my swiss match. I only sideboarded in Krosan Grips and 1 Threads and 1 Explosives for Serum Visions, Stifle, and two Geese.
Adam announces he’ll keep his hand and leads with Mishra’s Factory, Sensei’s Divining Top.
He quickly passes the turn, which I read as a subtle signal to let his Top resolve. I’m trying to read the situation here. Why would he lead with Factory? One explanation is that he intends to attack on turn two. Another, equally plausible, explanation is that he doesn’t have blue mana. My guess is that he has a pair of Factories or a Factory and a Wasteland, with Top as his chance to find blue mana. With this in mind, I still let Top resolve. With my luck, I could counter Top only to have him topdeck exactly what he needs.
I play a land and pass the turn.
Adam activates top on his upkeep. He plays a Wasteland and Wastelands my dual land. At this point, I sense he doesn’t have the Blue mana he needs.
I play another dual land and pass.
Adam Tops, but his lack of a land drop confirms my suspicions. Adam is not going to be happy about the conclusion of this match.
I play a turn 2 Bob, which he Forces. I let his Force resolve since I have another in hand.
Over the next few turns, he tops and tops, but can’t find a Blue land. To make it worse, I Krosan Grip his Top and litter the board with good cards. He does manage to find an Island, but it’s far too late.
I win the match 2-0.
The other matches had been over for some time. The rest of the Top 4 is my teammate Brian DeMars, and two guys from Rittman, Ohio. Since this isn’t a sanctioned event (on account of proxies), we all agree to Top 4 split. It was past 9pm, and we all wanted to go get some food and play Type Four. Because of the swiss standings, I was third place.
The Top 8 decklists are available here.
Patrick, Paul Mastriano, Doug Linn, Brian and myself played an Epic 8-man Type Four game that concluded our evening.
First of all, Ponder is often better than Brainstorm, and may actually be a better overall card in this deck on account of its turn 1 utility. It’s probably not, but it isn’t obviously inferior. With a one-land hand, I’d rather have Ponder every time. My rant on Ponder in this report encapsulates my feelings on the card. If you aren’t running Ponder and Brainstorm in this format, your deck better be amazing.
Second, Patrick’s sideboard was so well balanced and well designed that even though the metagame is very different, the functions remained the same. For example, goblins may have disappeared, but Engineered Plague is still good against Fish and Elves (which I expect to be a Legacy player at the Grand Prix).
I can’t think of anything in the board I’d change. I never used the Leylines, but that’s only because I never faced Dredge or real Affinity. I do not want to be caught with my pants down in the dredge matchup.
I feel like the deck could be very vulnerable to enchantments, but I’m not sure how to shore that up. Cards like Moat, Back to Basics, and Blood Moon are all problems. Even Propaganda or Ghostly Prison is annoying. These weaknesses need to be addressed somehow. I could see putting Serenity or Aura Fracture in the sideboard. I don’t know how relevant the combo match might become, but a pair of Ethersworn Canonists might be better than Stifles in the sideboard.
Third, the obvious weak spots in the maindeck are the Stifle and Serum Visions, as they were sideboarded out almost every match. Nonetheless, that isn’t to say that I was right in doing so. Serum Visions tested surprisingly well. It’s not clear that I should be sideboarding it out, except for the fact that it’s so random. Nonetheless, the maindeck has some potentially open slots. It might be best to simply put two strong metagame cards in the Stifle and Serum Visions spot.
This tournament experience has given the solid foundation I need. I will build from this experience. I don’t know whether I will end up playing Patrick’s deck at the Grand Prix, but for now, this is the deck I am working on.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it? A lesson well learned.
Until next time…