Thirst for Knowledge – Reflecting on the StarCityGames.com Indianapolis Open Weekend

Wednesday, March 17th – Last Friday, I packed my bags and headed out on the open road for Indianapolis, for yet another StarCityGames.com Open weekend. I’ll admit that I was slightly more excited for the Legacy Open on Sunday (because Legacy is awesome), but battling some Standard wasn’t out of the question by any means. If nothing else, these trips are always incredibly fun based on the sheer number of people and places to see, so as one might expect I had high hopes for the weekend.

Last Friday, I packed my bags and headed out on the open road for Indianapolis, for yet another StarCityGames.com Open weekend. I’ll admit that I was slightly more excited for the Legacy Open on Sunday (because Legacy is awesome), but battling some Standard wasn’t out of the question by any means. If nothing else, these trips are always incredibly fun based on the sheer number of people and places to see, so as one might expect I had high hopes for the weekend.

Unfortunately, I made two mistakes. The first was the deck I chose to play in Standard, and the second was the assumption that I stood much of a chance in a format that I just “enjoyed” playing. I mean, I sold a ton of cards and made a couple hundred dollars, but I can’t really feel too proud of my performance.

In the Standard portion, I decided to play Jund. I had planned on playing UW Control for weeks, but as the event grew closer I figured that playing the best deck was almost always right, and so I sleeved up Bloodbraid Elves and put my Jaces on the shelf. While I can’t say for certain that I would have done any better with Islands, the simple fact is that I just don’t win with Jund. I mean, I’ll absolutely smash in testing and I’ll hardly ever need to mulligan, but when I get to an event I’ll just fumble at every turn with the deck. I played a mirror in the first round, and my double mulligan to five was just sickening. I hate making excuses, and so I won’t, but in that particular match I don’t think I ever really had a chance.

I got wrecked by Spreading Seas a round later, and I suppose that’s just the breaks. I played Jund against a field that was obviously going to be gunning for it, and I played against those particular decks rather than Vampires and, well, even UW. I don’t feel that bad about it, though, as I made correct mulligan decisions and I feel I played well, but as I’ve mentioned before sometimes you just don’t get there. It’s discouraging, certainly, but I accept it for what it is and press on.

For reference, here is my Jund list:

The list is pretty stock, as is usual with this deck, but I suppose I should have considered playing Trace of Abundance. I don’t think Trace is the stone cold nuts or anything, but I can certainly see the merits of it. It blanks Spreading Seas, keeps your Raging Ravines from being Edged, and still accelerates your mana. It’s obviously pretty awful in the mirror game 1, as making their Maelstrom Pulses Stone Rains is pretty bad, but post-sideboard it’s much better as Ruinblaster is far less of an issue. However, you can’t play Garruk if you’re playing Trace, but I think Master of the Wild Hunt is fine in that spot. My friend Ryan Wall told me that Trace was amazing for him all day at the event, but in order to play it you can’t play Putrid Leech because of the mana requirements. I’m not so sure that’s true, however. And, if it is, I’m afraid that it just isn’t worth it. Putrid Leech is far too good to cut from the deck, especially with the advent of UW Control. But I mean, if we cut Rampant Growth and Garruk (maybe just three Traces, keeping a slot for one Master of the Wild Hunt) from the above list and replace it with Trace of Abundance, do we really need to change the manabase? After all, you already have 17 Green sources compared to only 14 Black, and Putrid Leech on turn 2 is fairly easy to do. With the same manabase, though, you have 16 Red sources. I’d say that is more than enough to support both Leech and Trace, wouldn’t you?

Still, I’m not sure that is the best way to go about things. Trace is a nice innovation, but it certainly isn’t necessary, as James Bush overcame Ben Wienburg Spread ‘Em list in the Finals on Saturday night without the use of anything fancy. He did, however, employ a new card in his sideboard that I was turned onto by my good friend Ceilyn Wemyss: Doom Blade. In almost every case, it’s just better than Deathmark most of the time. You can’t Deathmark a Black creature anyway, and Doom Blade is far more useful against decks like Mono-Red. If I were to play Jund again (which maybe I just shouldn’t), I’d probably play 2-3 over the Deathmarks. The additional mana is definitely worth it in the format right now, as Doom Blade is only really worse against Jund itself.

All in all, the Standard portion of the event was lackluster. I did poorly with the old hasty 3/2s, and I wasn’t really feeling that amazing about the next day. However, I greatly enjoy playing Legacy, and I knew that even if I did poorly in that event that I would at least have a good time. That being said, I went to bed early and woke up the next morning feeling chipper.

When I arrived at the tournament site on Saturday, I quickly found a seat and began registering my deck. My pal Joe Bernal found me soon thereafter, and we chatted for a good while about the format. I knew that he played far more Legacy than I did, and so I inquired as to how much graveyard hate I should have been playing in my sideboard. He told me that he’d never run less than four cards-worth, and maybe even as much as five. I didn’t end up having the room, and registered this:

While I pretty much despise turning guys sideways, at least with Merfolk I get to do it with Islands and Force of Wills. Merfolk is not only one of the better decks right now in Legacy, but also the deck I actually own the cards for. It’s fast, efficient, and it’s the only mono-colored deck that can actually beat an Iona from Reanimator. More importantly, though, is that it has a very strong match-up with CounterTop Progenitus, another popular deck. That being said, I knew the mirror would be popular and so I decided that dedicating two sideboard slots to Llawan was alright, despite her narrowness just about anywhere else.

I cut back on my graveyard hate so that I could play a ton of Zoo hate (the other deck I expected lots of, especially at an event like a StarCityGames.com Open), but that ended up being a big mistake considering that I played against two consecutive graveyard strategies in a row at the start of the tournament. I took Dredge to game 3, but drew my Relic the turn after he made four guys with Bridge from Below, costing me that particular game. I then lost to Reanimator the following round, though I’m not so sure I stood much of a chance against that guy’s build — it was more or less Bubble Hulk in Reanimator’s shell but with lots more reanimation spells and first-turn kill enablers. In short, I didn’t have Relic when it mattered and I definitely lost because of it. The lesson? Play more graveyard hate, even when you’re not sure you need to. Thanks for trying, Joe. I should’ve listened.

More interesting than my bad beats against graveyard decks, though, was the winning deck of the event: 43 Land. I’ve always liked that deck, though I admit I was never truly impressed by it. It was actually one of the first Legacy decks I worked with, and it helped me to understand just how degenerate lands can get in that format. Life from the Loam is showcased at its very best in that archetype, and the Blue-based version of the deck makes it all even more explosive. For reference, the list:

Now, let me just say this: Chris Woltereck is obviously a master, as his track record at these events is simply absurd. I think it has gotten to the point now where his opponents at these Opens just auto-scoop to him, because they already know of their impending doom. I mean, this guy just steamrolls SCG Opens. He’s clearly unstoppable.

Still, everything aside, his deck is really good. I’ve only given it a handful of games since the weekend, but it tested very well. The Blue-based control decks can’t overcome the deck’s simplest tricks like Wasteland locks, and the aggressive decks can’t really beat an Intuition for Glacial Chasm. The issue with all of these things before was that there was never a way to quickly find the cards you needed aside from Gamble, and I must say that Gamble has always left a bad taste in my mouth merely because it’s, well, a gamble. Magic is already a game with random elements, why make it more random? I can’t tell you how often I’d Gamble for that crucial Manabond/Exploration and end up having to pitch it because of the coin flip. Intuition is much more reliable, albeit a lot slower.

However, adding Blue has other merits as well. Primarily, it allows the use of Tolaria West. Tolaria West and Life from the Loam pair to allow you to get any land (or Zuran Orb, Chalice, and Crypt) in your deck each and every turn, and along with Wasteland you can even do this trick after you’ve been forced to play West from your hand for mana earlier in the game. Cephalid Coliseum is also just amazing with Life from the Loam, and Academy Ruins allows for the use of Mindslaver to give the deck a plethora of inevitability.

I realize that the Blue version of this deck isn’t anything new, but it’s the first time I personally have seen it heavily played. I’m actually so happy with the deck that part of me really wants to give the deck a shot in the format, although the issue is obviously that I don’t own a copy of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and borrowing one seems like a long shot. Still, the deck does stupid things and I’m more than interested in it. I noticed, though, that it needs to find Chasm fast and early against the aggressive decks or else it just typically folds, because often Tabernacle and Mazes aren’t enough to stave off wave after wave of Nacatls and Silvergill Adepts. I’d probably play one maindeck Zuran Orb to help remedy this, as that card is simply unbeatable for the Zoo deck in particular.

Moving forward, Legacy is a very open format. The best decks going in to the event were CounterTop Progenitus, Merfolk, and Reanimator, and now it’s plain to see that forgotten decks like 43 Land and Team America still have a ton of fight left in them, as well as Dredge and Goblins. The stage has been set for Grand Prix: Columbus, and I for one cannot wait to dive back in to such an amazing format.

A long story short, this particular trip to Indianapolis wasn’t half as great as last year’s, and overall I have a sour taste in my mouth about it. Still though, some trips are like that, and I for one am well aware of how they feel. The Standard portion still frustrates me, however, as I know that I’m better than that record, but at least in the Legacy event I simply knew I was outmatched. My only regret was not staying in that event longer just to play and enjoy myself, as I truly wish I got to play Legacy more often.

I have no idea what next week holds, but that about wraps up this week.

Until next time…

Chris Jobin
Team RIW
Shinjutsei on MTGO