So Many Insane Plays – Shooting the Breeze with Lou Christopher, the SCG LA Legacy Open Winner

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Monday, January 11th – The recent StarCityGames.com Los Angeles Legacy Open saw Lou Christopher take home the bacon with the overlooked Enchantress strategy. Today, Stephen Menendian interviews the champion on his deck, his life, and his victory!

Which of the following is not true:

1) Lou Christopher stole Travis Spero’s 2006 Vintage Championship Painting in a drunken frenzy moments after Travis won the Vintage Champs.

2) Lou Christopher fought in the Iraq War, and was discharged for failing a urine test.

3) Lou Christopher is licensed to dispense medical marijuana in California.

4) Lou Christopher is the first 2010 SCG Legacy Champ

They are all true. He’s earned his cheeky nickname, which I can’t repeat here. As of this writing, Lou Christopher just won the StarCityGames.com Los Angeles Legacy Open event with Enchantress.

Here’s what he played:

I cornered him, and threatened him with a blunt object until he gave me an interview. Here’s what transpired:

Steve: Lou, you did it, dude!

Lou: Yeah!

Steve: Describe the feeling you had after winning.

Lou: At first I thought it wasn’t really a big deal. That morning I was thinking about quitting Magic. It felt like a waste of time, of little value. I was down on it. It was frustrating. This win vindicates me.

Steve: People say they’ll quit Magic, but you know…

Lou: No, I’ve quit multiple times. I felt like this one was for real, though… who knows?

Steve: You felt vindicated… but what was it you said to your opponent in that moment in final game of the Top 4? “Good Luck”? That was hilarious.

Lou: He was cold as ice for four turns. He was just searching, but couldn’t find anything. ‘Good luck, you’re done.’

Steve: Did you know that you had basically done it when you won your Top 4 match? That is, did you know you’d split the finals?

Lou: No, I wanted to know what the matchup was. People have been asking me why I split. One thing was that my ride was on his way.

Steve: Huh?

Lou: Our travel situation was terrible. We call the rent-a-car on the first of January… no way of knowing, right? We have to go to the airport branch to pick the car up. It’s 50 minutes Northeast, nowhere near LAX. It’s the John Wayne airport.

Steve: I’ve been there. I flew into it a few months ago.

Lou: We get there, and try to rent the car. But I don’t have a credit card; I don’t trust banks. I can’t rent a car. My buddy can’t rent a car. His dad can’t rent a car. So my buddy’s dad eventually says “screw it, we’ll drop you guys off.” We had a hotel on site, so it wasn’t that big a deal. But because he was on his way to pick us up, I didn’t want to make him wait — I was just appreciative.

Steve: When you got in the car, what’d you say to him?

Lou: I showed him the trophy!

Steve: That’s awesome. But I want to get back to that moment when you won. When you shook hands in that final match, how did it feel?

Lou: I felt terrible. I’ve been really careful about what I’ve been eating recently, since I saw Food Inc. I had a nervous stomach. I felt like I was about to throw up. My head and my feet were perspiring, and I didn’t medicate all day. I was a little highly strung. When I got home, I threw up everywhere.

Steve: Wow, that’s sucks. Winning a big tournament is like one of the best feelings in the world. It’s like a shot of endorphins. Your experience sounds like a crappy way to win. You know you are qualified for the SCG Invitational, right?

Lou: Yeah, that’s sweet. I’m stoked for that. And I get a round 1 bye! I’ll probably try to hit the Denver SCG Open Weekend as well.

Steve: I’ve read your tournament report, so I saw what you faced and what you did, but I want to know about the stuff that wasn’t in the report. Tell me how your opponents reacted to what you played, and the cards you ran.

Lou: Ben Seck thought he was going to beat me. And that match is a bye for Enchantress. They’ve got to get the nut draw to have any chance.

Steve: How can Goblins actually beat you?

Lou: Tranquility or Disenchant, but I had Sterling Grove. He won game 2 with turn 1 Goblin Lackey into two Goblin Piledrivers on turn 2, to win on turn 3. My round 4 opponent didn’t think Elephant Grass was a real card. He sat there and read it, and couldn’t believe it was a real card. ‘Black creatures can’t attack’?

Steve: Did you show him Moat!?

Lou: Oh my god, he would have died!

Steve: He probably would have quit Magic on the spot!

Lou: Haha! I could tell he was not having a good time.

Steve: Let me ask you about your technical play. To win a tournament of this size and magnitude, you not only have to have a great deck, you have to play it very well. Tell me about some of the sweet plays you made, or amazing plays that you saw in the tournament.

Lou: One of my opponents played Predict after I activated Sterling Grove. It caught me off guard, but I owned him with Replenish. Vendilion Clique also on Grove was amazing for him. Here’s a badass play for me. I tutored up Moat (this was against Pat Sullivan), and he played Meddling Mage naming Moat. So I dropped Solitary Confinement, even though I don’t need it, just so I can discard Moat to get it back with Replenish.

Steve: That’s pretty savage. Tell me about why you chose Enchantress.

Lou: We [Team Meandeck] tried to test it out for Grand Prix: Chicago and I liked it ever since then. So I was familiar with the deck, had quite a few cards, had a good Aggro matchup, etc. I was a little worried about Loam, since it had just won (and made Top 4) at the SCG St. Louis Legacy Open, and I was also a little worried about all the graveyard decks. I just said “screw it,” it and stuck with it, and loaded up heavy with graveyard hate. I didn’t really anticipate combo. I expected it to do poorly, and for me to be at the Blue deck table all day.

Steve: I want to talk about your history with Enchantress. And your performance in Chicago.

Lou: Some of the Ohio guys played it in a local tournament just before GP: Chicago, and did well. It was already good against Goblins and Aggro, and it smashed Blue decks, so we [Meandeck] all hushed up and started working on it in secret with a few other guys. I guess it sort of imploded, and everybody chose other decks. But I stuck with it because I felt it was a good choice.

Steve: I think it was a really good choice. You almost made Day 2, didn’t you?

Lou: I was in contention until the penultimate round of Day 1.

Steve: Yeah, imagine if you had played Probasco, LSV, or Nassif. Enchantress owns the Blue decks. You didn’t lose to one, did you?

Lou: No, but a couple of guys thought they would beat me. The Blue decks are such a dog. It’s such card advantage, and when you answer everything with Replenish in the end, they just can’t stop it all.

Steve: Yeah. For the readers, our whole team almost played Enchantress at GP: Chicago. We did a ton of research, and we brought in a few key Ohio guys, like Sam Stoddard, to help out. We did a ton of testing. I talked a little bit about it in my GP Chicago Report. Enchantress was a great deck, but it had, in our final analysis, three key weaknesses: First, the manabase. Despite many attempts at alternative, more radical manabases, the manabase was (and remains) janky and inconsistent. It reminds me a little of Vintage Workshop decks, as that’s the feel. You get hands that you have to mulligan more frequently than with Blue decks, and you have some hands that die to Wasteland. You play a bunch of expensive spells, and you need to curve out quickly. The second main weakness, although this concerned us less, was that this deck had huge trouble with both Dredge and Aggro Loam. Interestingly, Lou, the main concern that Loam was going to be in force really didn’t matter, because those Loam decks didn’t run the one card that was so devastating our playtesting 10 months ago: Devastating Dreams.

Those two reasons weren’t enough for me, though. I bought all the Enchantress cards. My main concern was overall opportunity cost. I tuned my CounterTop list to even the Enchantress matchup with Thoughtseizes, Trygon Predators, and Cliques. I just felt that even though I thought Enchantress was a great metagame choice, I felt that the CounterTop deck was the best deck. I was probably right on both accounts. In retrospect, I wish I had played Enchantress in Chicago.

Lou, let me say what I think seems to be the pattern in Legacy at the moment. It’s really interesting. If you look at the last three SCG Legacy Opens, the winner has been a 1% deck. By that I mean that if you look at the last three winners: Mono White Stax, Aggro Loam, and now Enchantress, these are archetypes that, before their wins, were roughly 1% of the field. Look at Enchantress. There was exactly 1 Enchantress pilot in St. Louis, 1 in Philadelphia, 0 in Charlotte, and 2 in Boston. Then, in each case, these 1% decks won a tournament and blew up and became a sizeable part of the field in the next event. Look at what happened to Aggro Loam, the most recent case. It went from having one pilot in Philly to tie for the third most popular archetype in LA. That’s in contrast to the previous main winners: CounterTop, Dreadtill, and Zoo. Those decks were already large presences in the field when they won.

It’s interesting that LSV played Aggro Loam. No deck wins event to event. It’s always a different deck that wins the next event. It’s like the winner gets hated out.

More to the point, I think that the Top decks are so metagamed against, that’s it’s difficult for them to win through a Top 8, let alone make Top 8. The 1% decks are not hated out, and are often just untested against. What I think is going on is this: at each event the metagame is shifting in clear ways, either because of regional differences, new printings, or other factors, like previous tournament results. But what’s going on is that at any given event, one of these 1% decks is perfectly positioned, given these factors, and the composition of the metagame at that moment. I think that’s the basic dynamic, at least to a certain extent.

Despite the bizarre large turnout of Ad Nauseam, Enchantress seemed every well positioned for this event. Aggro Loam without Devastating Dreams is not that bad. You had plenty of graveyard hate for Dredge, and the rest of the field is good matchups. So long as you survive the first two-three rounds, you probably won’t be facing Combo, and thus you’ll be winning. That appears to be what happened.

So, you were very successful against CounterTop, but what about Zoo?

Lou: It depends on how fast they can find Pridemage, and Gaddock Teeg can be a beating. And I do have Oblivion Ring. And I did O Ring against Wong.

Steve: I was tuning in and out of coverage during the day, and what was so amazing was how proud you made so many people. Conley Woods (and the Colorado Crew) was rooting for you in the chatroom, the Mana Drain was shouting out for you, and of course Meandeckers were incredibly proud. I guess what I’m saying is it’s so cool how you made so many people happy by winning.

Lou: My friends were definitely the best. I find the game to be very stimulating, but if it wasn’t for all my friends, I wouldn’t be playing. Props to those guys.

Steve: What’s the most important Magic skill someone needs to play Enchantress well?

Lou: Realizing what relevant threat the opponent is going to bring at you, and being prepared for it so you can get to the end game.

Because Enchantress can finish the game so strongly, the only thing you need to do is survive. Because of this you might name the wrong card with Runed Halo, or run Elephant Grass out too early and not be able to pay for it when it’s important.

Knowing your match-ups and what decks might show up is crucial. Against Bant, you might want to allow yourself to use your life total as card advantage (maybe not card advantage…? Thoughts?) and take a few points of combat damage from a Tarmogoyf if you have a Runed Halo, because you really need to name Vendilion Clique. Clique isn’t stopped by Moat, and it can put a damper on cards tutored for with Sterling Grove or Enlightened Tutor, and can trump an ensconced Replenish. Then again, Tarmogoyf is a beating, so you’d better answer it soon.

Steve: What are some tips on beating Enchantress?

Lou: The key to beating Enchantress, in my opinion, is to stop the draw engine. The reason Enchantress is able to finish the game in such an extraordinary fashion is because it overwhelms its opponent in never-ending threats. If Enchantress is only drawing one card a turn, the threats are going to dry up quick.

Only one of my opponents kept board sweepers in against me (that I noticed), but I’m sure there were more in their sideboards. Killing an Argovian Enchantress is under-looked.

The worst card for this deck to face, aside from board sweepers like Tranquility and Reverent Silence (both available to Burning Wish sideboards), is Devastating Dreams. Because it is ideal to cast 1-2 Wild Growths in the first few turns, a Devastating Dreams can be backbreaking, setting Enchantress back many cards. It also kills Argovian Enchantress.

Steve: Let’s talk about Vintage. Tell me what you are hot on in Vintage right now.

Lou: Dredge is definitely the deck I get behind.

Steve: I do a lot statistics, and Dredge is consistently the top performing and its sometimes obscured by the stats. Dredge isn’t a huge part of Top 8s, but it generally has the greatest margin increase of percentage of the field to percentage of Top 8s. So it may only be 8% of Top 8s, but it’s something like 2-3% of the field. Dredge is a tremendous performer, and a great deck choice in Vintage.

Lou: The last Vintage tournament I was in, I split with Conley Woods with Dredge.

Steve: What is you like about Dredge?

Lou: I think it’s extremely unfair. It goes outside of the constraints and rules of Magic. And it totally ignores the opponent. A lot of people find that frustrating, and maybe I’m a masochist, but I enjoy it. I like to mess with people.

Steve: You know what’s cool about how you mess with people? They don’t even know it. The only other person I know like that is Paul Mastriano. He can be laying into you, and you’ll be there laughing with him. That’s a tremendous skill.

Lou: Sometimes they smell through it, and you really look like an a**hole.

Steve: But sometimes they deserve it!

Lou: Oh yeah.

Steve: Didn’t you win the Vintage prelims with Dredge in 2008?

Lou: Nah, I was at the Cubs game. Jim Gaffney won with my Dredge deck, and I forced him to give it back for the main event.

Steve: You like the Cubs?

Lou: Oh man, I love the Cubs! I’m a die-hard Cubs fan.

Steve: How did you become a Cubs fan?

Lou: I’m an Illinoisan originally, but I moved.

Steve: Would you recommend others to play Dredge?

Lou: Look at your local metagame and see how much hate is there. If it’s hate-free or minimal hate, go for it. If most people are packing 7+ hate cards, then you have to worry. If it’s 6 or less, you should be alright. If they see three pieces of hate, you will have problems. Less, and you should be okay. The deck is super resilient. Super resilient.

Steve: You know I have a question: why not play it in Legacy?

Lou: It’s not that good without Bazaar of Baghdad. Bazaar is ridiculous. It’s has to be the best unrestrictecd card in Vintage. It’s certainly better than Thirst for Knowledge or Ponder

Steve: Vroman said that Bazaar is most skill intensive card in Vintage. What do you think?

Lou: Vroman has a lot more skill than I do, so I’ll take his word. It’s definitely a tough one. You need to be counting ahead at least a few turns. And a lot people don’t count anything.

Steve: You are in California?

Lou: It’s 76 out here today, brother. 76.

Steve: Holy crud, we just got a few inches of snow.

Lou: I can’t imagine why anyone would live out there.

Steve: Do you get to play cards out there? Vintage?

Lou: Just with my testing partner, my roommate (a PTQ grinder). I hate MTGO. It’s forever crashing.

Steve: Now you’ve got a big ass target. People will be saying things like “Yeah, I beat Lou”

Lou: I’ll have to make sure that we both enjoy the experience.

Steve: You called yourself a ‘farmer’ for the SCG Top 8 Profile?

Lou: I actually work in a medical marijuana center. I help patients with their symptoms, and choose the right medicine.

Steve: So how did you get into that business?

Lou: I used to be in the navy, and that experience shaped me. That time in my life really set up my future, and how I am now. All of the messed-up stuff out there… I was in East Timor, and there was a civil war. People lived in huts, and they didn’t have running water. Just terrible nasty stuff.

Steve: I’m wrapping up the interview now. We’ve been talking for almost an hour. In your deck, you packed a lot of graveyard hate…

Lou: I didn’t use one piece.

Steve: But did you feel good having it there? Be honest.

Lou: Not really.

Steve: So, you’ve lived everywhere. What’s your favorite?

Lou: The East Coast sucks. It was the worst. Everyone is so rude, people need to relax and love one another. Favorite placed I’ve lived: I love the weather here in California, but I love Denver the most. It’s just such a great city.

Steve: Are you going to Gencon this year?

Lou: I’m going to try!

Steve: Can’t wait to see you there!

Until next time…

Stephen Menendian