I wanted to write the stories and the Legacy report in the same article, but it ended up being well over twice the recommended article size. Thus, I
decided to just break it up. This article, I don’t plan on doing anything too cutesy or artsy and instead just give the breakdown of the deck and the
plays I made. For people who only like the Magic content, consider this “the valuable stuff” and the next piece “the irrelevant stuff.” For people who
only like the stories, consider this “the boring part” and the next one “the worthwhile part.” For either camp or those in between, please enjoy.
The day before the event, I was brewing up a sweet Legacy deck akin to older Counterbalance builds with black for Dark Confidant and Thoughtseize. I
knew that it would be weak to aggressive strategies but had a great sideboard for them with access to both Perish and Engineered Plague. When I got it
down on paper, it felt like Smother was too awkward to cast for too little of an effect, and the Counterbalance curve was out of whack. I got the cards
together and goldfished the deck, which confirmed my suspicions.
Splashing white for Swords to Plowshares was suggested to me, but if I were to splash, then green for Tarmogoyf would be better anyway. It’s a much
stronger card, is helpful in every matchup including the aggressive ones I was looking for help against, and gives me access to Krosan Grip out of the
sideboard as well. The only problem was that it still left me with too many two-drops, and Thoughtseize was looking less impressive with the new mana
base, so I decided to just drop black altogether.
Instead of adding another color for removal or tech, I decided to just jam a Natural Order package into the straight U/G deck. Noble Hierarch is
incredible in a deck like this, as it allows you to maximize your cantrips and play around Dazes and Cursecatchers without having to Time Walk
yourself. It also allows for a fast combo-esque kill in conjunction with the Natural Order, and the exalted can turn Vendilion Clique into a very fast,
disruptive, and often surprising clock.
Here’s the list I played:
I needed a couple more green creatures to sacrifice to the Natural Order as well as some more two-drops for Counterbalance, as too many Dazes in a deck
with so many expensive cards is sketchy. In comes Wall of Roots. Without any removal, I wanted to hedge a little more against aggressive strategies,
and the Wall is quite good there. It also ramps into the Natural Order for a faster kill. However, the biggest draw to the card is its ability to
produce two mana in a turn cycle. You can now do sequences like playing Wall and Top on turn 2 and then getting to use Top on their end step. It also
is great against Dazes and Cursecatchers, which I feel is important.
In my GP Columbus deck, I was playing four Birds of Paradise because they allowed a turn 2 Show and Tell. However, Wall is a much better card when you
have to kill them legitimately rather than just smashing with some monster you cheated into play. I did split it and play three Walls of Roots and one
Birds of Paradise, though, and there are reasons for that. Despite wanting a lot of two-drops for Counterbalance to reveal, Birds of Paradise is much
easier on the curve of spells that you’re actually casting. It also flies, which is relevant. Being able to chump-block a huge flier can be the
difference between winning and losing, and having that ability in one of the mana producers was nice to have. There are corner-case scenarios where you
would even Natural Order for it, either to turn a dead Wall into an evasive creature thanks to exalted or to block a flier while you’re racing on the
I also didn’t want a lot of multiple-Wall of Roots draws, as there isn’t that much to do with a large excess of green mana. Drawing two is annoying
while three is just bad, so cutting one for the Bird seems pretty good.
The Dazes are mostly to synthetically up the two-drop count for Counterbalance and are just generally good cards. Especially when you have mana
accelerants to negate the drawback. It was important that these slots went to blue cards as well for Force of Will.
The five four-drops may seem like a lot, but with twenty lands and eight mana guys, they’re quite castable. Natural Order often wins the game outright,
while Jace can get you out of some seriously tricky spots and is just an overall powerhouse. They also make me feel more comfortable with only playing
one Progenitus, as they act as additional Brainstorms to put it back.
That Vendilion Clique is one seriously awesome Magic card. It’s a three-drop for Counterbalance, a blue card for Force of Will, a cycle outlet for an
excess mana creature or Progenitus, a Duress effect against combo, an instant-speed test spell against control, a removal spell against aggro, and an
evasive win condition. By itself, it’s about a six-turn clock. One Noble Hierarch and it’s more like a four-turn clock. That’s nothing to scoff at in
the air. Drew Levin basically forced me to cut one, and I wish I didn’t. They’re good in every single matchup except Merfolk, and I wished I had
another all day.
The one maindeck Spell Pierce was simply a mistake. I came up with the list and built the deck all within the ten minutes before the tournament
started. My last count came to 59, so I threw in the Spell Pierce because it was the sideboard card that made the most sense to maindeck. Turns out it
was sixty all along, so I ended up playing a 61-card deck. It isn’t too big of a deal in a deck with all of this card selection, but it was still
suboptimal and only that way due to time constraints and a mistake on my part.
The last thing to talk about in the maindeck would be the mana base. Drew insists that I play too many fetches, which causes me to insist that he’s a
big, fat dummy-head. The deck has four Tops, four Brainstorms, two Ponders, and two Jaces. Shuffle effects are good. The life loss is negligible as
long as you play a defensive game. You have Goyfs and Wall of Roots to block and keep your life total high, and what real deck are you afraid of losing
life against anyway? Goblins and Merfolk are both incredibly more played than burn-based aggro decks such as Zoo, and against those decks, your life
total doesn’t really matter all that much. You just have to kill them before they hit a critical mass or evasion you out respectively. Getting to look
three cards deeper for a Natural Order to race, a Blue Elemental Blast to stop a Ringleader, or a Llawan to win the game on the spot seems more
important than the one life.
Also, Dryad Arbor is very good and extremely important in this deck, and being able to go from no creatures to Natural Ordering them out is a very
helpful line to have available to you. However, that’s only the case if you still have an additional fetch left over from using your early ones to cast
your spells and your midgame ones to shuffle away unwanted cards. Having lots of fetches in your deck isn’t a liability; it’s a benefit. Do you really
think you’re going to run out of lands or something like that? Even with all of those mana creatures? Seems unlikely.
The sideboard is pretty straightforward. The only card that may seem out of place is Terastodon. It’s for decks like Enchantress or Moat/Humility-based
control decks. It’s also important for different reasons against Zoo and Ad Nauseam. After the tournament, I realized that I probably should’ve been
bringing it in against Merfolk as well, as you can kill all of your own Islands to prevent a Lord of Atlantis from killing you while making a ton of
blockers. You can also snipe an Aether Vial to make sure that Llawan locks them out. The only change I’d make to the deck is to cut a Krosan Grip for a
third Llawan, as Merfolk is a very popular deck that’s a very bad matchup if you don’t draw the legendary Cephalid.
Round one, I beat a fairly inexperienced Reanimator player. Game one, he was able to make a turn 2 Inkwell Leviathan, but I used Daze to return my lone
Island to my hand. If the Tarmogoyf that I Brainstormed into had been another mana creature, I could’ve turned it into a Progenitus on the turn after
casting it without having to replay my Island. That would leave me threatening to block after the first Inkwell attack, resulting in dealing twenty
while taking fourteen. However, that isn’t how it worked out. Game two, he blew a Brainstorm early and then cracked his fetches at the end of my turn
instead of waiting on them in case he drew another Brainstorm. Instead, he just flooded out while I topped into Jace and the mana to play it through
double Daze. In game three, I got a Relic of Progenitus down, which stalled long enough to get Counterbalance online.
Round two, I played against Dredge. Game one, I Force of Willed his turn 1 discard outlet, but he had another. On turn 4, I needed him to not have two
more creatures or two Cabal Therapies between his dredge and hand. He hit two Narcomoebas and cast Dread Return to kill me with Zombies. Had he not had
that, I could’ve Natural Ordered away a Dryad Arbor, removing his Bridges from Below and putting him on a two-turn clock. Looking at my Relics of
Progenitus, I remember thinking that it was pretty cool that Wall of Roots on turn 2 would allow one to play and activate a Relic of Progenitus if he
so desired. Sadly, it never came up.
I sideboarded in my graveyard hate but wouldn’t need it. He mulliganed to four or five and didn’t play a land until turn 3, which was far too late. I
Brainstormed on the last turn and hit a piece of hate but put it back to not give away any information, as the game was already won. Sure enough, he
Cabal Therapied me with his dying breath just to get a looksee and was disappointed when I didn’t show him anything new. For game three, I quickly
ticked down a Wall of Roots on both of our turns, “mana burning” in order to threaten to kill Bridges. He was incapable of attacking on the ground
without speeding up that process, so I was only being hit for three a turn by a Putrid Imp and a Narcomoeba. He hadn’t hit any Dread Returns or Cabal
Therapies with his dredges, but he had flipped up three Bridges from Below. His Ichorid made three Zombies, but on the next turn, when he attacked with
his fliers, I played Vendilion Clique, cycling one of my own cards away rather than give him an additional dredge and traded with the Imp. Not only did
this remove his discard outlet, but it also removed all of his Bridges from the game. He made a mistake here in not producing three additional zombies,
and that let me back in the game.
You see, it makes sense to think that the “exile Bridge” trigger would belong to the Dredge player’s opponent, since he’s the one who’s trying to get
it to go off. This makes one think that APNAP (Active Player, then Non-Active Player) would come into effect, and the Bridges would be removed by the
time the “make a token if this is in your graveyard” trigger could resolve. However, the owner of the Bridge controls all of the triggers, so he can
stack them in a way that the “make a token” triggers go off first. My opponent didn’t realize this, as many players don’t, and it gave me an opening.
I still hadn’t drawn any hate despite playing multiple card manipulation spells. Punishment for playing 61 cards, I suppose. I did draw a Natural
Order, though, and made the wall that I’d been shrinking into a 10/10 with protection from quite a lot. A cool play here for a bonus mana is that when
your Wall of Roots has four counters on it, you can use it for mana and sacrifice it to the Natural Order. This is because you have to pay all
costs after announcing the spell, and state-based effects don’t check until after you have paid all of those costs. So you announce the spell, add a
counter for green mana, and add 2G more from somewhere else. Then the card asks you to sacrifice a creature, and you have a 0/0 to throw away. By the
time state-based effects check to kill the wall for having zero toughness, it’s already off of the battlefield.
So I make a Progenitus, and he attacks with his two Ichorids, dropping me to two. However, he bricked off of his dredge the turn before and was out of
gas. He had no more dredgers or black creatures in the graveyard to remove to the Ichorids. I topped into a fetch, drew it, and attacked for ten. With
no blockers, he could turn one of his Ichorids cannibalistic on the other and finish me off. However, the fetch allowed me to search up a Dryad Arbor
and block in order to survive for another turn and kill him with the Progenitus. I even had five other mana up, so that I could Force of Will if he had
anything, which was significant because Force’s alternate casting cost wasn’t an option, since fetching Dryad Arbor dropped me to one, so I didn’t have
a life to pay.
My opponent was a really awesome guy that took the loss well. We talked about the plays, and he learned and was glad that “the better player won,”
since he made a crucial mistake and was properly punished for it. He had a lot of kind words about my articles as well, and besides not making those
Zombie tokens, he played extremely well. People like this are the true cream of the community who make me happy to attend events. Nearly all of my
opponents on the weekend were awesome.
Round 3, I played a fake feature match against a Sneak Attack deck. Game one, I was able to contain his development with Counterbalance and Top. Game
two, a Noble Hierarch into Vendilion Clique draw put him on fast and disrupting clock, as is its wont. I had a lot more card selection, which allowed
me to sculpt an unbelievable holding that he was unable to break through.
Round 4, I believe I played against a Merfolk deck, which is surely this deck’s worst matchup. Game one, I have to Force of Will an Aether Vial, which
puts me pretty far behind. He had lots of follow-up, and I never was really in it despite the fact that he threw away a Daze at one point, forgetting
about my Wall of Roots. Game two, I have a great draw that allows me to resolve a Natural Order on turn 4 or 5 without being under too much pressure.
For game three, I’m burning through my deck looking for one of my two Llawans. He has two Lords of Atlantis that clock me fairly hard, but I eventually
find it at six life. When I cast it, he picks it up and reads it. He’s pretty shocked that such a hoser exists. Enough so that he shows it to his
friend sitting next to him, “Have you seen this thing?!”
The Lords go back in his hand, leaving him with just a Mutavault. I can’t race it, so we play draw-go for a few turns. Eventually he plays an Aether
Vial. I hard-cast a Force of Will, and he Forces back, tanking before pitching one of the Lords. I Force again, pitching a cantrip and going to five
life, and he Forces a second time, pitching his last card, the other Lord. I play a Vendilion Clique on his next draw step when Vial is at one to keep
him from getting a Lord into play and to increase my board presence. He draws a land, so I let him have it. On my next turn, I attack with both my
Clique and Cephalid Empress to put him on a three-turn clock. I have a Birds of Paradise and a Dryad Arbor that block his Mutavault over the next two
turns to prevent myself from going to three life and losing if he draws another Lord and Vials it into play.
Actually, I didn’t block it the second time because I’m stupid and forgot my game plan, but luckily he didn’t two-outer me, and I was 4-0.
Round 5, I played another fake feature match against another awesome dude playing Rock. I ended up playing him in Atlanta this past weekend and have
confirmed that he’s an awesome guy. Game one, I had a nut-draw of Top into Counterbalance with Force of Will for his first play. The game lasted
another 20 turns or so, but we both knew it was over right then unless I messed up or got unbelievably unlucky. In game two, he pitched a Maze of Ith
to a turn 1 Mox Diamond. A million turns later, I had gotten him to two life, but he stabilized. We both had a bunch of dudes, but he had Knights of
the Reliquary, one of which could attack. I was forced to chump it for multiple turns while the other one sat back on defense. I topped into Vendilion
Clique the turn before he was going to finish me off. Assuming that I was going to lose to another Maze of Ith or a Karakas, I shrugged and tossed the
flier out there on his end step. He had neither and just died to the flier.
Round 6, I played a Time Spiral-fueled, High Tide-based combo deck in yet another fake feature match. Game one, I got Counterbalance and Sensei’s
Divining Top active early. Game two, he was left with just a card or two after using double Force of Will to keep a Daze-protected Counterbalance off
of the table. As he was that far behind, Vendilion Clique ensured that he wouldn’t have enough to go off and then beat the snot out of him.
Rounds 7 and 8 were spent intentionally drawing, eating Noodles and Company, and being told how lucky I was and that I was probably going to lose by a
very tired and bitter Ryan and Tim.
My quarterfinals match was a true heartbreaker and one that had a lot of intricate plays involved. Reading my opponent’s report confirmed my suspicions
that he had basically no idea what was actually going on. The official coverage can be found here.
Game one, being on the draw and facing down a turn 1 Cursecatcher, I knew that I’d be too far behind to get Counterbalance and Top active. However, I
chose to keep the Counterbalance on top with my Ponder as a blue card to pitch to Force of Will. I knew that the Tarmogoyf would be quite good, so
that’s the other card that I kept. It would’ve been nice to have my second turn be Wall of Roots and Birds of Paradise, but needing the other
two cards and being required to crack a fetch next turn for mana meant that I had to make a decision.
On turn 3, I Brainstormed and played a Tarmogoyf. He Force of Willed it, but I didn’t fight back. I was going to lose to his Coralhelm Commander, and a
Tarmogoyf wasn’t going to help me there. I decided to save the Force of Will to fight over something more relevant like a Natural Order that could race
him, or a Jace to bounce it, or the Commander itself when he recasts it, or a Lord to make the Commander bigger. However, I finished my turn by tapping
out for a Sensei’s Divining Top that he decided to Daze. The extra mana that would be allotted to me through the destruction of his Cursecatcher would
allow me to play a cantrip into a four-drop (which were my outs) on the following turn rather than having to just draw it directly. Also, that Daze no
longer being in his hand meant that he didn’t have enough cards that I couldn’t account for in order to have both Force of Will and a card to pitch.
Giving myself more outs while no longer having anything to fight against, I Forced the Daze despite not actually caring about the Top, baiting him into
using his Cursecatcher. He obliged.
The coverage actually missed a turn here that went rather quickly. All that happened was that I got attacked for four in the air. By the time I did
draw a cantrip (Brainstorm), which did lead into a four-drop, it was a Natural Order rather than a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. When that missed turn
occurred, my outs were cut from all of the four-drops to just the planeswalking ones. I still had another turn to find one. (Jace saves me at any point
by bouncing the threatening Coralhelm Commander, but Natural Order needed to be three turns before death. If I Natural Ordered at that point, I’d only
get one attack in before dying.) It didn’t matter, however, as he drew another Force of Will that he inexplicably used on a Ponder rather than waiting
for me to hit a relevant spell off of it.
Game two, I tried a couple of small baits at the start of the game by playing a nonbasic first, hoping to get it Wastelanded, since I had a Noble
Hierarch so he would set himself further back than I, but he just played a first-turn Cursecatcher again. I played a Brainstorm before laying a land
the next turn, hoping to make it look like I was digging for mana, so that he would Daze and Cursecatcher it. He thought for a second before letting me
draw three. I didn’t cast my Tarmogoyf in order to have mana up for his Cursecatcher in case I had to Force of Will a two-drop.
A Silvergill Adept isn’t worth fighting over, as it’s merely locked out by the Tarmogoyf in my hand. My countermagic had to be saved for his Lords. I
resolved my Tarmogoyf, and when I passed the turn, he played a Lord of Atlantis before playing a third land. This allowed me to casually Daze it. He
Force of Willed, pitching Standstill, so I was forced to Force back, pitching a Vendilion Clique. I had two lands up, and he Dazed twice. Despite the
fact that I was obviously just going to be Cursecatchered out in the end, it was worth sacrificing my two fetches and paying for the Dazes in order to
get the soon-to-be 2/2 islandwalker off of the table.
I would’ve been in desperate need of a Natural Order or Llawan (or Jace and a way to counter or remove his Lord of Atlantis on the way back down) when
a curious thing happened. Staring down my 3/4 Tarmogoyf, he tapped both his Lord of Atlantis and his Silvergill Adept and said “attack for six.” When I
windmill slammed the Goyf onto his Lord, he pointed to it and said “islandwalk.” When I said that it didn’t have islandwalk, he startlingly asked if it
had been errata-ed. While it had, neither version of the card pumped itself. Otherwise it would be a 3/3 islandwalker for UU, which is just a bit over
the power curve. Keep in mind that this is the seventh round that he had played with four of these cards. If his opponents were letting him play them
as 3/3 islandwalkers for UU, then it’s no surprise he X-0d the Swiss as well.
By throwing away his Lord, he let me right back in the game. I played another Tarmogoyf and went on the offensive with the other, as he continued to
develop his board At one point, he played a Mutavault and an Umezawa’s Jitte. I Force of Willed despite having a Pithing Needle in my hand for two
reasons. One, he had the mana to equip that turn, which would eat some guys if it got counters, and that would make Natural Order worse, as it would
leave me with less blockers. Two, I wanted to save that Pithing Needle for Aether Vial if I ever drew the Llawan that I had been digging for all game
or for the Mutavault in play if it ever became threatening.
He Spell Pierced it, and I tapped out to pay in order to kill his Cursecatcher for free, as I was already going to have to Pithing Needle the Jitte,
and he was now a mana short of equipping. I drew my second Pithing Needle for the turn and went into the tank. I obviously had to Needle Jitte but what
to do with the other one?
Option A) Name the Mutavault in play. This is the obvious line to take, as the Mutavault represents a lethal attack in two. However, I knew that he
wouldn’t risk throwing two guys away for damage despite it leaving me dead the following turn. Going with my read, I figured I could get more value out
Option B) Save it for Aether Vial. This is only relevant if he draws Aether Vial and then I draw Llawan and am not dead by then. He also has to somehow
come back from that with two 3/4 Tarmogoyfs in play and him at nine life, which would likely involve multiple Mutavaults or a curve up to Sower of
Option C) Blindly name Coralhelm Commander. This cuts his outs from four Commanders of Coralhelm and three Atlantis Lords (Merrow Reejerey would do it
as well had he not inexplicably boarded them out) to just the Lords. This is what I chose to do.
If I had drawn a Natural Order or Llawan at any point, I would’ve won thanks to his misplay and my brave Pithing Needle name. However, despite the many
cantrips and card selection spells that I was maximizing, I failed to hit any of my five outs. Having played no card selection beyond a few Silvergill
Adept cantrips, he spiked his Lord of Atlantis and killed me. You can imagine my disappointment to die in such a fashion the turn after he peeled the
shut-down Coralhelm Commander, but such is Magic.
As for the deck, I still think it’s awesome. As I said earlier, I think you can cut a Krosan Grip for an additional Llawan. I also feel like the
graveyard hate may not be necessary anymore. I did board it in twice this tournament, but I didn’t need it round one and never drew any of it round
two, so they may just be superfluous. As I got deeper into the tournament, there were no decks that demanded the hate. Another Pithing Needle would be
nice, as Merfolk and Goblins are both huge contenders, and that card is very strong against both of them. I would then suggest putting that third
Krosan Grip that I just told you to cut back into the deck. The last slot could be either a fifth Blue Elemental Blast effect or something saucy like
Empyrial Archangel or Sower of Temptation.
I’m likely to play either a U/B/g Control deck or simply Goblins for the next event. U/B/g Control because I think it’s really good right now, and
Goblins because I used to play it back in the day, and it was a lot of fun. Also, it’s fairly popular right now, and everyone that I’ve watched play it
at these things is just horrible at the mirror. I kind of want to play it and do well just so I have an excuse to devote an article to it.
Anyway, thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed it, and tune in next week when I get to tell more stories from that epic week at the O’Connor
Twitter is not an animal: HUDBot