Tezz For Prez

Three-time SCG Open winner Chris VanMeter writes about the U/B Tezzeret deck that he’ll be working on all week for Grand Prix Washington DC.

Grand Prix Washington DC is upon us!

Legacy is my favorite format, and I am stoked to be able to play in a Legacy GP so close to home, especially when I already have quite a good understanding of the "best deck" in the format.

You wouldn’t be able to tell from the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open: Dallas Top 16, but Sneak and Show is definitely the best deck in the format. I look forward to seeing it all over the top tables this weekend.

A few articles back I talked about how U/B Tezzeret could be pretty well positioned in the current Legacy meta, and Jody Keith lost playing for Top 8 with just that.

The list that I’d been working on for the last week or so was remarkably close to Jody’s list.

In fact, my maindeck was only one card off of Jody’s! I had a Pithing Needle in the maindeck over the Engineered Explosives, and that was it.

I like Jody’s sideboard for the most part, but when I played with The Abyss previously, I was extremely underwhelmed with it. He still has the Meekstone, which is a very easy way to control opposing aggressive cards like True-Name Nemesis, Tarmogoyf, and flipped Delver of Secrets. I also like the addition of Toxic Deluge since it lets us shave a Damnation, but we probably still want access to three sweepers against the Deathrite Shaman decks.

I think that U/B Tezzeret is a good choice in the current Legacy meta for a few reasons.

Chalice of the Void is still positioned well right now; even though it’s not very good against Sneak and Show, it’s good against the majority of the format. Most people are attempting to pair True-Name Nemesis with Deathrite Shaman and/or Delver of Secrets, and any deck using one of or both of those cards is going to be crippled by a Chalice of the Void on one.

Another way people might try to combat Sneak and Show is with faster combo decks like Storm and Dredge, and both of those decks are hurt pretty badly by Chalice of the Void too. Setting a Chalice on one can slow down the Dredge deck enough for you to establish Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek or just kill them with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Against Storm Chalice on zero and one are both very good and can completely lock them out.

Chalice of the Void was one of the main reasons I initially thought this deck was good a few months ago, and it still remains. One-mana spells are the lifeblood of Legacy, and being able to attack that fact without being hurt by it is pretty big game.

Transmute Artifact is one of the other reasons that I love this deck right now. Sneak and Show is cold to Ensnaring Bridge in game 1, and most builds only have one or two answers to a Bridge post-board too; with three Transmute Artifacts to find an Ensnaring Bridge, we have quite a good matchup versus Sneak and Show.

The majority of the fair decks in the format are pretty cold to the Thopter/Sword combo, and Transmute Artifact also facilitates this plan. Gaining lots of life and generating many 1/1s to kill our opponents with, this combo is pretty devastating against decks like Shardless BUG, RUG Delver, and any Stoneblade or Deathblade variant.

Unlike Tinker, when you cast Transmute Artifact you don’t have to sacrifice anything until after it resolves. This allows us to just jam our Transmute Artifacts without fear of being blown out. If they have a counterspell (most likely Force of Will), then they are expending their resources and we aren’t down an artifact like we would be with the real Tinker. This is because we can’t get "any" artifact no matter what with Transmute Artifact, but when our deck is built properly, it is basically Tinker for us, which is absurd. Remember when it was a fifteen-dollar card and I told everyone to get theirs?

Transmute Artifact also lets us play with a bit of a "toolbox" of artifacts in our maindeck and sideboard. All of these artifacts are situational but extremely powerful when their effect is relevant.

Ratchet Bomb
Pithing Needle
Nihil Spellbomb
Grafdigger’s Cage
Cursed Totem
Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek
Ensnaring Bridge

By keeping all of our "tutor" targets at three mana or less, we are able to turn all of our Dimir Signets and Talisman of Dominances into any of these high-impact artifacts for a marginal cost.

Meekstone and Trinisphere in particular are very powerful right now, with Meekstone being a great tool against the decks with True-Name Nemesis or Tarmogoyf and Trinisphere being very awesome against all of the combo decks in the format (Storm, Omni-Tell, Elves, etc.).

Imagine a world where you are playing four copies of a four-mana planeswalker and in the same deck only three copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is a very powerful planeswalker, and in a deck that is designed for him, I believe that he is even more powerful than Jace, the Minds Sculptor.

With seven lands that produce two mana (City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb) and a Dimir Signet or Talisman of Dominance, we are able to deploy either of these planeswalkers on turn 2, which is pretty insane. Getting Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas online early lets us rip through our deck, building to a critical mass of artifacts in play where we can hit our opponent for the full twenty, and having Jace, the Mind Sculptor in play on turn 2 is every bit as sweet as you can imagine. With so many resources dedicated to producing a lot of colorless mana for the early acceleration, we aren’t able to play as many fetch lands so our shuffles aren’t as plentiful as most other Jace decks, but he is still awesome.

The last card that gets me excited about this deck is Baleful Strix. Even though there are less Tarmogoyfs running around, Delver of Secrets is rampant, and this little bird is quite the word. Drawing a card when it comes into play and being able to trade with a Delver of Secrets would be enough, but there’s so much more. Baleful Strix is also an artifact, so we can find it with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas’ +1 ability and we can sacrifice it to Transmute Artifact to get whatever combo piece we are missing.

But wait—there’s more!

Baleful Strix is also blue, which means we can pitch it to Force of Will. With both of our planeswalkers being blue, Baleful Strix being blue, Thopter Foundry also being blue, and a few more spells contributing to our blue count, we get to successfully play Force of Will in our deck that is focused on artifacts.

Too bad it’s an owl and not a bat; I’d love to be spouting off many Christian Baleful Strix puns.

I’ll be working on this Tezzeret deck all week and hoping that it’s good enough against the rest of the field to pull me off Sneak and Show.

This past weekend I traveled to North Carolina a couple times to play in a PTQ and in an IQ, which both went miserably.

In the PTQ I opened a poor pool, and we ultimately got the "pleasure" of keeping our own pool after verification and had to build and play with that. I had a Thassa, God of the Sea and some Nessian Asps, but without any actual removal and no Voyage’s End or Sea God’s Revenge, I was just pummeled by everyone else’s decks.

Good guy Marius got to keep his own busted pool and made it into the Top 8 but ultimately fell short. Sometimes the good guys lose—gratz on your box anyway.

For the IQ I decided that I wanted to play the G/R deck that I had been working on. I tried a version at FNM that was similar to the second-place list from GP Santiago with Ghor-Clan Rampager, Flesh // Blood, and Witchstalker and didn’t like it. I was unimpressed with Rampager and Flesh // Blood since they were really only good when drawn together, but I was very impressed with Witchstalker; so much in fact that I decided to replace the Mistcutter Hydras from my maindeck with Witchstalkers. I also changed the sideboard around a little and ended up playing this list.

I was really happy with the deck and felt really good going into the IQ—that was until I got paired against the B/R Aggro deck from GP Santiago. Mogis’s Marauder and Madcap Skills tore me a new one, and it wasn’t even close. I honestly don’t think that the non-devotion based G/R decks have a chance against the B/R Aggro deck since you will just be too slow.

Burning-Tree Emissary fueled big Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx turns is what’s needed to combat the speed of the B/R deck, and even then it’s going to be tough.

I shook off the loss and tried to focus on the rest of the tournament, and after beating the mirror in round 2, I felt pretty good. I had navigated a tough match where I was behind early and managed to nickel and dime my way back into it.

In round 3 I was paired against a U/W Control deck and lost to him having the right answers each time I had an effective threat. Reading him on no counterspell, he had a Celestial Flare for every Stormbreath Dragon I threw at him. Mistcutter Hydra was able to get in some damage here and there, but again Celestial Flare and Supreme Verdict took care of my dudes left and right.

I’d like to think that I just got unlucky. I previously thought the U/W deck was a decent matchup as long as you didn’t play into their Supreme Verdicts, but after this weekend I’m not too sure.

I’m off the G/R deck for now and don’t really have any idea what deck I want to work on for Standard. Maybe Mono-Blue Devotion is poised to be well positioned. Maybe B/R Aggro or Esper Control is the way to go. I haven’t spent too much time on it though since GP DC is Legacy and that’s what I’m focused on, but I will be battling Standard soon enough so I’ve got to keep it on my mind.

What do you guys think is the best deck in Standard currently?

I want to take a second and talk about something awesome that happened at the IQ. Ever since the BBD vs. CVM video series has gained popularity, I’ve had a lot of people come up to me at events and thank me for the content and talk about how much they enjoy the video series. This weekend while trading with a nice guy he told me that his daughter loves the sound of my voice.

I was taken aback and didn’t really know how to respond. I wanted to sound as uncreepy as possible and just said "Oh, that’s not something I’ve heard before."

Apparently, his daughter is nine months old and is soothed to sleep by the sound of my voice. He will lay with her with his laptop and watch the deck techs and games with BBD and I to help her get to sleep—and he gets to learn about Magic at the same time.

This was by far the most unique compliment I’ve gotten, and it’s pretty awesome.

It’s things like this that make creating content for everyone so rewarding!

You are getting very, very sleepy . . .

<3 CVM

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