The Long & Winding Road – Metagame Analysis: The AU Legacy Showdown

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Tuesday, November 17th – On 11/7, Alternate Universe – Blue Bell ran their first Legacy tournament; to my knowledge, this was the first non-weekly Legacy tournament in the area since the Grand Prix Trial for Columbus in 2007. I’d been pushing the store to run a Legacy tournament since early in the year, when I caught the Legacy bug while testing for GP: Chicago…

On 11/7, Alternate Universe – Blue Bell ran their first Legacy tournament; to my knowledge, this was the first non-weekly Legacy tournament in the area since the Grand Prix Trial for Columbus in 2007. I’d been pushing the store to run a Legacy tournament since early in the year, when I caught the Legacy bug while testing for GP: Chicago. Eight months later, with a Saturday open, they caved and set up a tournament: The AU Legacy Showdown. I was expecting 16-20 players and hoping for 30, but was pleasantly surprised when the final attendance was 40 players.

The store was kind enough to provide me with a breakdown on the entire metagame, which I’ll list below. I was one of five Dredge players at the tournament, and thought I’d give the Bloodghast variety from the StarCityGames.com $5000 Philly Legacy Open a try. Here’s what I played:

My tournament went as follows:

Round 1: Win 2-0 versus Deadguy
Round 2: Lose 1-2 versus Dragon Stompy
Round 3: Win 2-0 versus Trinistax
Round 4: Lose 1-2 versus Affinity
Round 5: Win 2-1 versus Canadian Thresh
Round 6: Lose 0-2 versus ANT

Final tally was 3-3 matches, 8-5 games. I wasn’t impressed with Bloodghast at all. I’m fairly certain I could have won two game threes, in round 2 and round 4, if I had Ichorid in the list instead. When you’re lucky enough to open on Putrid Imp or Careful Study with Undiscovered Paradise and another draw spell, Bloodghast is amazing. If the game goes long, which happens more often than you’d think (as compared to Vintage Dredge games in particular), Bloodghast is far from optimal. The fact that Ichorid dies at the end of each turn provides you with an army of zombie tokens, while Bloodghast is a much slower clock that lacks haste and is harder to kill off without Cabal Therapies in the yard. Undiscovered Paradise itself proved suboptimal in three rounds, as it is terrible against Trinisphere, and the Affinity deck I played against had Thorn of Amethyst in the sideboard as well.

This was the first time I’d played Dredge in an actual Legacy tournament, and the difference in the amount and type of hate compared to Vintage is striking. I’m used to facing down between five and eight dedicated hate cards when I play the deck in Vintage, and most often (especially of late) they’re spread across a variety of different cards (typically a spread of Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Ravenous Trap, Extirpate, Yixlid Jailer, Leyline of the Void, and Pithing Needle). In Legacy, the majority of hate cards are either Tormod’s Crypt or Relic of Progenitus. The ability to run Ancient Grudge and Pithing Needle as anti-hate cards and know that, with rare exceptions, you’ll have everything handled (and often doubled up, as most people only have 3-4 dedicated anti-Dredge cards in the sideboard) is comforting compared to my Vintage experience. I found that the entire package of Chain of Vapor and Force of Will wasn’t really necessary, and would’ve been better off as another Ancient Grudge, some anti-combo cards like Chalice of the Void, and Firestorm or additional Dread Return targets for specialized match-ups.

I fully intend on running Dredge again, and I’ve been happy with both the LED and non-LED versions. I’ll probably play the LED version for my next Legacy tournament this month; right now my test list looks like this:

The AU Showdown Metagame

Here’s the breakdown on the full metagame:

Dredge – 5 (3 with LED, 1 with Bloodghast)
Burn – 3
Canadian Thresh – 3
Dreadtill – 3
ANT – 2 (1 with Burning Wish, 1 with 0 CC creatures)
Goblins – 2
Merfolk – 2
Trinistax – 2
Bant (with Natural Order)
Probasco Counter/Top
Dragon Stompy
43 Land
Eva Green
Other – 9

And, a breakdown on the “other” category:

Suicide Black
Eva Green
Death Cloud Rock
Black/Red LD
Black/White Evershrike
Boros Deck Wins
Scepter Chant
Blue/Black Reanimator
B/U/G Hexmage Depths

After six rounds, the Top 8 was made up of the following:

Canadian Thresh — 2
Dredge (with LED)
Probasco Counter/Top
Merfolk (with Cosi’s Trickster)
Dragon Stompy

Here are the full lists from the Top 8:

1st – Josh Potucek – UWG Goyf/Landstill
2nd – Lucas Siow – Canadian Threshold
3rd – Michael Barnett – Dragon Stompy
4th – Ross Bower – Canadian Threshold
5th – Mark Tocco – LED Ichorid
6th – Thomas Evaristo – Zoo
7th – Rich Hawkins – Merfolk
8th – Jeff Folinus – Probasco CounterTop

The finals match was Josh Potucek with Landstill against Lucas Siow with Canadian Thresh, with Josh’s Landstill claiming first place. Congrats Josh!

One of the striking things about this metagame is the fact that only one player ran Zoo, while five players ran Dredge, perhaps expecting easy Zoo match-ups that never came. That was certainly my experience. You can also get a feeling for the breadth of Legacy at this event, with 25 different decks played by these 40 players (although you could easily argue for a further breakdown among the decks I grouped). However, we do see that the majority of the traditional “decks to beat” were played, and nothing from the “other” category was able to crack into the Top 8. Of the decks with more than one player, Canadian Thresh was the most successful, with two of three players making the Top 8, while Dredge was the least successful, putting only one player into the elimination rounds.

Eternal Cross-Pollination

In several articles earlier this year (when part of the Vintage community was having one of its recurring “our format is collapsing!” moments), I mentioned my belief that Vintage players need to show stronger interest in Legacy. One of the reasons why I think attendance was so strong at the AU Legacy Showdown is our strong local Vintage community, many of whom played in the Legacy tournament last Saturday. Philadelphia and its suburbs have had fifteen to twenty plus Vintage tournaments this year, making it one of the more active Vintage communities in the United States – which makes it all the more puzzling to me that we have had so few Legacy tournaments beyond the stores that run weekly Legacy. Then again, I’m constantly surprised that “regular” players of both formats don’t cross into the other Eternal format.

Obviously one of the key differences between Vintage and Legacy is the use of proxies in most Vintage tournaments in America. While I’m tempted to say that the majority of Vintage players should have the cards to build at least one Legacy deck, that isn’t necessarily true. For instance, a Vintage Tezzeret or TPS player may be using proxies for Underground Seas given their price at this point; in some ways, Legacy as a format can be the most expensive format to play. Still, a Vintage player that has invested in the format to the point of only proxying cards like the Power 9, Mana Drains, and Workshops can probably field a non-proxy Legacy deck.

Similarly, most Legacy players who have invested in a legitimate Legacy “deck to beat” can find an analogue in Vintage that can probably be built through the use of proxies. My hope is that some of the players from the Jupiter Games Legacy event in Vestal this past weekend might be up for a trip to Edison NJ to play Vintage on 11/21 at the Philly Open IV. While Legacy offers larger sanctioned events, Vintage still offers some of the best EV you’ll find in competitive Magic. Below is a small sample to show the ease of crossing over from Vintage to Legacy, or vice versa.

Legacy ANT -> Vintage TPS

Legacy players familiar with ANT, or similar Storm decks in Legacy such as Iggy Pop, would be comfortable playing TPS in Vintage. The main differences are the use of Ad Nauseam in Legacy, whereas TPS in Vintage uses draw engines such as Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Mind’s Desire, and of course the ability to storm to lethal Tendrils using Yawgmoth’s Will; the other key difference has to do with the mana base. TPS has restricted artifact mana such as the Moxen, Black Lotus, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, while in Legacy, storm decks rely on unrestricted Lotus Petal and Lion’s Eye Diamond. The latter card is something of an issue for Vintage players considering playing Legacy, as a set of Lion’s Eye Diamonds requires some investment.

Dragon Stompy -> Workshop Aggro
Trinistax -> 5C Stax

If you’re familiar with Trinisphere Aggro or Trinisphere Control in Legacy, there are similar decks to some extent in Vintage. The key differences are the use of Goblin Welder in Vintage (thanks to the available restricted fast mana) and the access to Mishra’s Workshop. Legacy decks need to run the best fast mana available in that format, including lands like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, and artifact acceleration such as Mox Diamond. Workshop Aggro should appeal to Dragon Stompy players, while Trinistax (as a more controlling build with a few key finishers) more closely mirrors 5C Stax.

Noble Fish -> Bant

These decks are eerily similar, with the Bant deck in Legacy losing the Null Rods from Vintage but otherwise being nearly identical. There are a variety of Bant decks, some closer to Noble Fish, while others are hybrids running Natural Order and/or Counterbalance / Top. The idea of a disruptive tempo/aggro deck carries well between formats.

Dredge -> Dredge

The key difference here is unrestricted LED in Legacy, and the use of Bazaar in Vintage. Mana Ichorid decks in Vintage closely mimic Ichorid decks in Legacy, while mana-less decks that go all-in on Bazaar play slightly differently.

I could go on, but hopefully I’m getting the point across – if you play one Eternal format, you probably have most of the cards you need to play the other, along with some similar tournament experiences that can guide you for your first few tournaments. The compressed style of Vintage isn’t for everyone, just as the broadness of Legacy isn’t for all Vintage players, but I’ve found that playing both can give you the best of both worlds: access to large sanctioned events, AND the ability to join a close-knit community that runs high-EV local events.

Man versus Griddle

I know this article is short compared to most of what I’ve written this year, and I hope you’ll give me a pass on that. Last Saturday after the Legacy Showdown, I was home cooking dinner with my fiancee – breakfast for dinner, basically. What I like to make is a breakfast scramble, which I blatantly stole from a local diner. Take two potatoes and chop them up into thin hash brown-style strips. Chop up an onion and mix that in as well. Put some butter (or margarine or Olivio or similar product) in a frying pan and throw in the potatoes and onions. In another frying pan, cook up some breakfast sausages. I like to do this by filling the frying pan half-way with water, browning the sausages when it cooks off. I like to throw some peppers in there as well. Once the sausages are browned, take them out and chop them up and throw them in with the onions and potatoes, which should be browning at this point. Take three or four eggs and scramble them with a splash of milk, and pour into the frying pan with the other ingredients. The eggs should cook quickly, so make sure you stir everything together, and once the eggs are cooked in, throw some cheese on top. I like to have this with some white toast.

Here’s where the story gets fun. When I moved a year ago, Diane threw away the toaster oven we had, which worked great but was just filthy on the outside. The one we got to replace it is a constant source of frustration in my life. When used as a toaster oven, there isn’t enough clearance inside to heat up anything more than an inch or so thick. The top part can be used as a normal toaster, but stuff is constantly falling through the toaster part and down into the oven part, where you have to fish it out.

This particular Saturday we were out of sausage, so Diane cooked up some bacon on a separate griddle; when the bacon was done, she put the griddle by the toaster so I had room to finish cooking, and reminded me not to touch it. Naturally one of the pieces of toast fell through the toaster section, so I opened up the front to get it out. When I did, I put my fist on the counter – except instead of the counter, there was a just-unplugged griddle covered with hot bacon grease.

Thankfully, this only resulted in second-degree burns, but I’m writing this with a hand that has two fingers bandaged up, which makes typing a slow process. For those with a strong stomach, I posted pictures of the aftermath on Facebook.

Remember, kids, be careful in the kitchen!

Next week: Coverage of Vintage and Standard at the Philly Open IV in Edison, NJ…

Matt Elias
[email protected]
Voltron00x on SCG, TMD, and The Source