As I write this, I have the pleasure of watching the end of not one, but two highly competitive Legacy tournaments. Between the StarCityGames.com Open in Pittsburgh and the Season Eight Championship on Magic Online, many of our game’s brightest dove into the murky waters of Legacy today.
I’ve got Legacy on my mind. I’ve witnessed plays so complicated they’ll rattle your brain. I’ve been on both sides of beatings so gruesome they’ll chill your blood. I’ll share my firsthand experiences and then present the results of both tournaments for your consideration.
MOCS Tournament Report
Before today, I hadn’t played Legacy since Grand Prix Providence in May. For any other format, I’d be in a panic, as I hate copying other people’s decklists, and I wouldn’t have had the know-how to build my own. Fortunately, Legacy is both very open and very slow to change, so the thing to do was to simply play the deck I’m used to.
My maindeck was very streamlined, and my sideboard was geared a little bit for what I expected from the Magic Online metagame. Force of Will, on Magic Online, sells for about $125. Merfolk, while a relatively inexpensive choice in real life, is not an option for anyone building on a budget on MTGO. I expected non-Legacy players who qualified for the championship to play somethingâ€”anythingâ€”that doesn’t have Force of Will in it: Dredge, Zoo, Burn, or Elves to name a few.
Round One: Dzy with Aggro Loam
After two and a half months, I instantly remembered why I love Natural Order. Dzy assembled his engine: Forgotten Cave, Tranquil Thicket, and Life from the Loam, which I could never, in a million years, compete with in a fair game. I hurried to a Natural Order for Progenitus, and he Burning Wished for Perish, but thankfully his fifth land came into play tapped so he had to pass the turn. With some exalted triggers and a Lightning Bolt, I didn’t give him another chance to cast it.
Round Two: FoundOmega with Dredge
Game two I kept: four lands, Pyroblast, Brainstorm, Relic of Progenitus and led with the Relic. FoundOmega played Putrid Imp, which allowed him to discard not only a dredger, but extra cards to protect it from Relic’s tap ability. He discarded a Stinkweed Imp, but I opted not to crack the Relic because he could have easily had another dredger. More importantly, with my weak hand, I felt like I needed to squeeze every bit of value that I could out of the Relic. At least if it stayed in play, it would make him proceed more slowly with his game plan. Unfortunately, his first Dredge coughed up Ancient Grudge, so my Relic failed to take out much of anything. He tore apart my hand and finished me at his leisure with Ichorids, Narcomoebas, and that cursed Imp.
Round Three: pellenik with New Horizons
The story of this match starts long before the mulligan decisions. Last week I had a conversation with Alex Bertoncini, who’s recently adopted NO RUG and put his own spin on the deck. Of the changes he’s made, the one he absolutely insisted that I try was Sylvan Library. I have to say that he was dead right; the card is awesome. I just wish he had warned me that you need a 180 IQ to figure out how the card works on Magic Online.
After a bunch of early trading, I landed the Library and started doing my thing. Since he had no burn, I was able to play pretty fast and loose with my life total. Eventually I went down to three life, but I had Progenitus and two 4/5 Tarmogoyfs against pellenik’s 6/6 Terravore, Noble Hierarch, and Umezawa’s Jitte. I attacked him down to eight, and he attacked back with the Terravore. I double blocked, and he played Swords to Plowshares on one of my Tarmogoyfs.
I had five untapped lands with Lightning Bolt and Force of Will in my hand, so I could counter, but I could also let the Swords resolve and kill him the following turn in spite of his Jitte counters. In fact, all I would need to have lethal damage with counter backup is to have a land or a blue card in my top three!
The fatal detail was that his Swords took me from three life to five. While at three for two turns, I naturally hadn’t been given the option to pay four life with Sylvan Library, so in my haste to end the game, I carelessly double-clicked on an extra card, which shot into my hand and brought me down to one life! Now I couldn’t pay the alternate cost of Force of Will, and I lost my Bolt to his Mental Misstep. The following turn he trampled over Progenitus for the final one damage and won the game.
I spent the three-minute sideboarding period rolling my tongue back into my mouth and picking my jaw up off the floor. On turn 3, I Brainstormed and had to make a firm decision about how I wanted to win the game. I was holding some utility cards: Lightning Bolt and Ancient Grudge (for his Stoneforge Mystic package) but decided to shuffle them in and go straight for Natural Order. I left myself with six mana, three green creatures, and two Natural Orders; Spell Pierce would be dead, and even Force of Will would only stall me for a turn. Unfortunately it wasn’t Spell Pierce, and it wasn’t Force of Will that pellenik had. It was Llawan, Cephalid Empress. He bounced Progenitus, played a Knight of the Reliquary, and finished me before I could recover.
Round Four: No_MilkshakeForYou with Team America
Well, I had two losses and was paired against a player who had declared himself in the chat log before the round to be “the worst Legacy player in the world.” He was exaggerating.
Game two was no better.
Round Five: DoubleDrain with Affinity
Post-sideboard, though, Affinity is a great matchup for NO RUG because the creatures are much, much better on their own, and there’s enough removal to defend against the handful of game-winning cards Affinity has. I won the next two.
Round Six: shaharshenhar with Hive Mind
Shahar and I had a quick chat about how cool it was to meet in the 2-3 bracket and how we’d try to do it more often in the future. He started the game by casting four Brainstorms and three Ponders in the first four turns of the game! People tell me that I’m prone to exaggeration, but may Gideon strike me blind if I’m lying about that. I was certainâ€”positiveâ€”that my meager game one defenses would fail to save me from whatever hand he had concocted, but I Forced his Show and Tell, and the game slowed down a bit. I Vendilion Cliqued him and saw two lands, Pact of the Titan, and Emrakul.
Don’t tell that Hive Mind is the best deck.
Round Seven: Jaberwocki
Jaberwocki is my cousin, Logan Nettles, so when I saw the pairing I started lamenting how annoying it was that we had to play…then I realized that I was talking to myself. I signed on AIM, Facebook, and even called his cell phone, but couldn’t track Logan down. After eight minutes I gave up trying; after ten I won the match; and after twelve, I got a series of frantic instant messages:
“Hey I fell asleep.”
“Did I miss round seven?”
I hate delivering bad news.
Round Eight: kannyabo1975 with Hive Mind
I waited for kanny to cast Show and Tell and Vendilion Cliqued him in response; he Forced it, and I Forced back. I stripped his Hive Mind, and as a little needle I put my Noble Hierarch into play for free. I was defenseless after that, but I Brainstormed into a Lightning Bolt to kill him on the dot and take away his chance to topdeck.
Two rounds earlier, I locked up a Hive Mind match with Jace, but this time Sylvan Library did the job just as well. Life total truly doesn’t matter, and after sideboard I have so many efficient one-for-ones that the Library ends the game after a turn or two.
Round Nine: EddieO with Painter/Grindstone
By this time, playing against combo postboard was a day at the office. I stuck the library, countered every spell Eddie cast, and finished him when I was ready. This time, I even had Ancient Grudge for an extra advantage.
Round Ten: ChiaLee with Blue Zoo
Game one I out Tarmogoyfed him, which is actually my preferred way to win against Zoo. If a Tarmogoyf sticks, it makes all of the smaller creatures ineffective, and NO RUG has Green Sun’s Zenith and Noble Hierarch to win the Goyf battle. If things get gummed up too much, Vendilion Cliques flying over is a very real way to win also.
Game two highlighted why Tarmogoyfs are sometimes the superior plan. ChiaLee got out ahead, and I had to rush for a Natural Order to try to keep pace. He played Phyrexian Metamorph to trade with Progenitus, continued beating the pulp out of me, and even stuck a Jace, the Mind Sculptor the following turn. I had Red Elemental Blast, which could have countered the Metamorph, but because of the pressure I was under, I couldn’t wait until I had five mana to cast Natural Order.
Game three ChiaLee mulliganed to five, and I had a great hand with a turn 3 Progenitus.
This tournament only had 160 players, so with ten rounds, four players made the Top 8 at 8-2. I finished in 37th place because I had, as you might expect, the very worst tiebreakers of the 7-3s. Even with the no-show opponent, I went 6-3, which I consider a record to be proud of. However, I’m still sour over the Sylvan Library misclick in round three, and it’ll be a while before I can look back on this tournament without cringing.
Natural Order RUG is still a great deck; it’s certainly among the better choices for someone who’s comfortable playing with all the library manipulation. In particular, Hive Mind and Painter/Grindstone are great matchups. Compared to the list I used at Grand Prix Providence, they’re even better because of Sylvan Library and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The Natural Order package is overkill in those matchups, and it’s better to sideboard it out and play a Threshold strategy with lots of one-for-ones and creatures that can come down with only two or three lands in play.
However, I certainly felt the pain today of playing a deck that was on the radar. For the first time, I genuinely feared Progenitus being answered after he was in play. The “fair” matchups, like Zoo, New Horizons, and Team America, are significantly harder now that everyone’s prepared for Progenitus and knows what you’re up to. RUG has a hard time answering Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf, so if opposing decks can answer Progenitus, they’ll frequently get the leg up.
I was happy with my decklist today. The maindeck is pretty set in stone now that I have confidence that Sylvan Library deserves its slot. Vendilion Clique is one of the most important cards in the deck and has to be played in four copies. The sideboard, however, is flexible. I see 2 Relic of Progenitus, 2 Ancient Grudge, 2 Red Elemental Blast, 2 Pyroblast, 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor as the core so long as the metagame doesn’t change in a drastic way. The final five slots can be changed depending on what matchups are important. More Dredge hate would be a good choice, Grim Lavamancer or Umezawa’s Jitte against Merfolk, or some silver bullet targets for Natural Order or Green Sun’s Zenith.
The State of Legacy
The MOCS ended for me after round ten, but eight players with sixdistinct decks battled on. While decklists were not available at the time of writing, these were the top finishers:
[Decklists now available! —LL]
Compared to StarCityGames.com Open Pittsburg:
In my mind, the success story of the weekend was Reanimator. It’s a fast, streamlined combo deck that packs plenty of disruption, which serves to both force through its own game plan and stop other combo decks in their tracks. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t need much mana to operate and can easily come back if one of its combo pieces is countered.
- 1 Angel of Despair
- 1 Empyrial Archangel
- 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 3 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
I also think that Team America can make a comeback. I got thrashed in round four, and while I consider it a winnable matchup for RUG, it wasn’t a fluke that I lost. Team America is adept at forcing its opponent to play fair. It’s hard to assemble any combo under the constant strain of Hymn to Tourach, Vendilion Clique, Force of Will, Stifle, and more. Once unfair combos are out of the picture, Team America’s card advantage, permission, and card selection let it grind out a win without the risk of losing a topdeck war. To put it simply, it’s a deck full of cards that are great on their own, full of ways to break up opposing synergy, and enough card advantage to pull it all together.
I’d call Hive Mind, U/W Stoneforge, and Natural Order RUG the decks to beat for the time being. However, there a dozen other major players, like Reanimator, Team America, Zoo, and Merfolk that deserve respect and could become top dogs at any time.
Congratulations to Gerry Thompson, the StarCityGames.com Pittsburgh Legacy (and Standard) champion. Congratulations also to Toffel, the newest of 2011’s Magic Online Champions. For everyone else, I hope you learned something from my MOCS Legacy experience. Best of luck to everyone whether your next tournament is live or online! Take it slow with those Sylvan Libraries.
And in case you were wondering, yes, I Flame Slashed a 3/4 Tarmogoyf today.