Unlocking Legacy — Far Beyond Driven

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With all the time we as players spend wrapped up in the latest tech and the hottest new decks to hit the scene, there’s a significant part of this game we often overlook, or take for granted. In the long run, it’s far more important than the results of a tournament, or the last-minute sideboard tweaks that helped you win or lose that match round 3. In a word, it’s the community that is the most integral part of this game, and it’s summed up in mere paragraphs before deck lists, and in lists of “Props and Slops” at the end of tournament reports

Adventure is just bad planning.
Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928)

With all the time we as players spend wrapped up in the latest tech and the hottest new decks to hit the scene, there’s a significant part of this game we often overlook, or take for granted. In the long run, it’s far more important than the results of a tournament, or the last-minute sideboard tweaks that helped you win or lose that match round 3. In a word, it’s the community that is the most integral part of this game, and it’s summed up in mere paragraphs before deck lists, and in lists of “Props and Slops” at the end of tournament reports. It’s shown little justice, even though it’s possibly the most important facet to the survival of Legacy. Every tournament has a story, and it’s these stories that lay the foundation for the community that supports the Legacy format from one Grand Prix to the next. This is one of those stories.

This weekend, three Legacy regulars (Anwar Ahmad (AnwarA101), Jesse Krieger (Kreiger), and Zohar Bhagat (powergamer1003)) pooled some prizes together, and set up an event in a rented room of a Fuddruckers Restaurant in Northern Virginia. Fifty-one people showed up for the chance at winning a playset of a Dual Land of their choice. Eleven of those players drove over seven hours from New York, and at least one (Chris Coppola (Machinus)) drove up from North Carolina. No pro points are on the line, no one can qualify for Worlds by winning this event. Nonetheless, we’re willing to spend the day in the car with four other hot, smelly guys just to play this silly game.

Except, the game is almost inconsequential. The real reason we’re putting ourselves in that small box in 90+ degree heat is the people. For most of us, the game is an excuse to spend a weekend with some of our favorite friends, even if they live 400 miles away. From the moment we step out the front door, we enter a world where the rest of our lives are irrelevant (unless we’re making fun of each other), and the most pressing issue on our mind is what part of the floor we plan to sleep on. It’s an escape from the rigors of the real world that many people lack, and it’s what keeps our minds from going crazy with the daily grind.

You see, Legacy isn’t privy to the same kind of events that the more mainstream formats are used to. We don’t have PTQs, we don’t have Regionals, and we have no Pro Tour. We can’t get by weekly on FNMs, and we don’t have the kind of player base to have a 100-person event every month in hundreds of stores across the world. But we’re okay with that.

Most of the major Legacy tournaments are run by players. They put up their own cards as prizes, hire their own judges, rent their own event space — be it a VFW, a college cafeteria, a restaurant, or just some store with room to spare. They risk money they can’t afford to lose, just so their friends have a tournament to play, and the format they love can continue to thrive on its own – with or without the kind of support that the PT formats receive. Legacy (and Vintage, as well) is a Do-It-Yourself format, by choice, but also out of necessity. It only exists today due to the hard work and effort given by dedicated people who do everything in their means to keep it alive. Without people like Matt Kadilak and Eli Kassis; Anwar and Jesse and Zohar; Ray Robillard; and others across the U.S. and abroad giving their spare time and risking their wallets, Legacy would never have been successful enough to have seen a single Grand Prix, let alone three. Without these 50-man dual land drafts, there would be no Legacy. It’s the knowledge that these events truly are that significant to the survival of the format that makes it worth piling into a car once a month, and driving to Virginia, or Massachusetts, or New York, or Connecticut.

For all these reasons, I want to try something different this week. This article could easily be a tournament report like thousands before, and skim over the trip itself — but it won’t. Instead, I’d like to take the time to recognize the memorable trip from front to back, and do justice to the enjoyable time I had for the whole weekend, not just the few hours I spent slinging cards in the tournament itself.

Five of us from Syracuse organized ourselves at the last minute to travel to Virginia, although seven of us wanted to go. We spent the entire week trying to figure out details — we had a place to stay, but no way to get there, as none of us have cars big enough to hold us all. After finding out just how expensive it would be for us to rent a minivan (almost $500), we were left with the difficult decision to cut people from the crew, and borrow someone’s mother’s car. We finally sorted these rather important details out at about 7pm Thursday night. It would seem that I work better under pressure.

We got off to a late start on Friday afternoon, because the car we ended up with needed new tires before the trip. While waiting for our chauffeur, the four passengers (Bryant Cook (wastedlife), Nick Wowelko (NickRIT2000), and Zach Tartell (LonelyBaritone), and I) enjoyed some Type 4 games and The Mummy Returns to pass the time. Eventually — read, an hour after we planned to be on the road — Matt Abold (bigbear102) showed up and we hit the pavement.

The first stop was food, about two hours into the drive. We pulled off the highway somewhere in central Pennsylvania, to a Subway plus Ice Cream parlor. Whoever invented this place needs a pat on the back. Subway is the traveling man’s best invention — fast food that isn’t awful for you, and you can eat in the car. Adding man’s greatest frozen treats to that equation is a recipe for success. If only we hadn’t taken a wrong turn, and ended up over thirty minutes in the wrong direction, due in large part to faulty navigation by Zach — who admits he cannot read or write — we would be happy to venture back to this oasis of yum on a future trip. As it stands, we can only recommend any potential businessmen looking into a roadside food stand learn from this example, and add “plus Ice Cream Parlor” to whatever chain they decide to open.

The rest of the ride was pretty monotonous, with the exception of a few quotable moments best not repeated on this family website. When we arrived in Virginia, we made a call to our host, Allen Sorenson (URABAHN), and stopped for dinner at a small diner near his house. The food was bad, the waitress spoke broken English, and the booth we sat in had a window that reflected light strangely, which gave me a headache. All in all, it was exactly what I’ve come to expect from diners across the range of America. After we ate, we made our way the last mile to Allen’s house.

We were the last group to arrive, and as such, walked into a house full of Magic players scattered in small groups, geeking it out as hard as they could. Between the group playing Super Smash Brothers on the Gamecube, the three or four tables full of people getting in last minute testing sessions in before the tournament, and the rowdy group in the kitchen searching the cupboards for consumable beverages, it was quite a scene. I walked in and greeted the Hatfield brothers, Alix (Obfuscate Freely) and Jesse (Mad Zur), and met my fellow Unlocking Legacy writer Chris Coppola for the first time face to face. At this point, I knew the tournament itself would pale in comparison to the rest of the time spent just hanging out with the Virginia crew on their home turf. I joined the kitchen hooligans for a time, and then made my rounds. As the night wore on, I met a few new faces, and spent a lot of time catching up with some friends I haven’t seen since GP: Columbus. The crowd thinned out, either returning to their homes for sleep, or venturing to far corners to irk out a few meager hours of rest. Those of us remaining in the land of the waking broke out the Type 4 stack once more before falling asleep just after dawn.

The morning arrived as it always does, but this time a few hours earlier than I had expected it to. Those of us who saw the sun rise were noticeably sluggish, and even a shower couldn’t shake the exhaustion from the corners of our eyes. Fortunately, coffee could, and we proceeded to the Fuddruckers for the main event.

A small aside — for those of you who are considering running an event locally for a similar scaled turnout, you should definitely consider holding it at a restaurant. If the rental fees are reasonable, there is really a huge advantage in having the food at hand, rather than needing a lunch break or ordering food delivered. At any point in the day, be it between rounds, after a quick round, or during the Top 8 matches, you could run up front and order food, and return with it to the tournament, where there was plenty of space to eat. It was easily the most convenient food at any event I’ve been to, and for once I didn’t end up hungry and dehydrated by round 5.

As we filled out the deck registration sheets and signed up for the tournament, I made sure to greet those people who weren’t at Allen’s house the night before, and met a slew of new faces I’ve previously only known online. I made sure to give Anwar the German Ice Age Dystopia I’ve been saving for him, and worked out the last few kinks in my sideboard. For reference, I played the following list to a mediocre 3-2-1 record at the event.

4 Force of Will
4 Counterspell
3 Stifle
2 Fact or Fiction
4 Brainstorm
4 Standstill

4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Wrath of God
3 Engineered Explosives

2 Decree of Justice
2 Humility

4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Nantuko Monastery
4 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Academy Ruins
2 Tropical Island
1 Savannah
4 Flooded Strand
1 Windswept Heath
1 Polluted Delta
2 Island
2 Plains

2 Pulse of the Fields
2 Krosan Grip
3 Enlightened Tutor
2 Extirpate
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Planar Void
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Arcane Lab
2 Pithing Needle

It’s a bit different from the list I posted in my last article, featuring an experimental sideboarding strategy I wanted to test out for the weekend. I found I was having a hard time with Ichorid in testing, and wanted access to Extirpate and Planar Void to help with that matchup. I also loved the idea of Tormod’s Crypt locking them with Academy Ruins, although that addition was more for the recursion of the Explosives and the Crucible from the sideboard. The Decrees replaced the Eternal Dragons, because I was finding it difficult to reliably utilize my own Standstills when relying on Manlands alone. Because I no longer had the pseudo fetchlands in Dragons, I needed to add another land.

To make room for everything I wanted in the board, I had to cut down on the amount of slots I had for other matchups, and the Enlightened Tutors helped to offset that lessened density. Additionally, I ended up sideboarding Tutors in against aggro, to help find the Humilities faster. It ended up being effective, although in hindsight the Arcane Laboratory should have been Rule of Law — the Pitch-ability to Force of Will was overshadowed by the Pyroblast-ability. Overall, the new strategy worked fine for the metagame I was in; although I’m not sure it would be as good in my own local metagame, which is rife with Landstill mirrors.

As the tournament goes, my first loss was to the mirror — a matchup I’ve admitted I’ve never had success with — and my second was to Anwar’s new creation; a mono-Blue, sorcery speed High Tide deck, using Candelabra of Tawnos and Mind Over Matter as mana generators. The deck was close enough to Solidarity to make my matchup rather terrible, so again I’m not surprised at my loss. The draw was with the eventual tournament winner, Alix Hatfield, with Cephalid Breakfast. In the final turn of extra turns after time in the round, I attacked him to seven life with two Monasteries. Had I managed the clock better during game 1, I may have had the additional turn I needed to turn that draw into a win.

After the event’s conclusion, I came to a startling realization. Although I had missed out on prizes, and had a rather substandard day, I was completely comfortable with it. I was in surprisingly high spirits — barely disappointed at all. I realized that the tournament itself was a blast. I had fun in every round, I played no negative opponents, and I got to spend over seven hours playing a game I enjoy in the company of people I respect, and whose company I value. It was the success of the community, not the results of the tournament, which dictated how the day went for me. The tournament on the whole was a success, everyone enjoyed themselves, and so I was satisfied.

After the tournament, the group split in two. Those who got sleep the night before went to play Ultimate Frisbee on some lawn somewhere, like the silly hippies those Virginians are. Those of us who slept little the night before went back to Allen’s house, to draft some Tenth. I cracked the best rares by far in Troll Ascetic and Pithing Needle (well, money-wise the best), and ended up splitting the spoils with Bryant Cook in the finals. I drafted Blue/Green, and my list looked something like this:

2 Sift
2 Counsel of the Soratami
2 Cancel (one was last pick!)
2 Remove Soul
1 Boomerang
2 Spiketail Hatchling
1 Merfolk Looter
1 Aven Windreader
1 Cloud Sprite
1 Snapping Drake
1 Canopy Spider
1 Civic Wayfinder
1 Kavu Climber
1 Rootwalla
1 Stalking Tiger
1 Troll Ascetic
1 Commune with Nature
1 Icy Manipulator (MVP!!!)
1 Leonin Scimitar
16 Lands

It wasn’t the normal strategy I would pick up on in a draft, but it worked in this one. I dropped a flier or two, and drew cards to protect it until it won. Usually that involved Manipulating an opposing flier, and equipping my own to make the win faster. I also had a Rushwood Dryad to side in versus other Green, which picked up a sword and carried it home on two occasions.

After the draft, the rest of the crew from the night before had arrived, and we carried on well into the night once more. Saturday’s events included Guitar Hero and more Magic. I’m often amazed at just how much Magic is played on one of these weekends, especially after the tournament. You’d think that after a full night of cards, then a full day of cards, people would be sick of it. That never seems to be the case. Eventually, we all fell asleep in various places on the floor once again, and thus the night came to an end.

The ride back was, like most Sunday car rides, nothing to write home about. We all fell asleep, trying to catch up on some of the rest we managed to get so little of for the past two nights. Seven hours later, we all arrived home in New York, and went our separate ways, to recount this weekend in our own ways on various websites across the Aether. The trip gets boiled down to two paragraphs of inside jokes before a decklist, and a list of props and slops at the end of tournament reports. Those who couldn’t make the trip try to live vicariously through these simple recaps of the weekend. Those who were there continue the jokes as best they can from hundreds of miles away. The daily grind picks back up, and life goes on.

Soon, another pool of prizes will be scraped together by another organizer, and the trek will start anew. For those of us who live for these excursions, it couldn’t come too soon. We’ll pile into our cars, hit the road, and head to someone’s welcoming doorstep, where we know our faraway friends will be waiting for us, ready to muse over the last trip, this trip, and the next. It will be another weekend full of bad food, bad jokes, and best friends. We’ll get little sleep, and the sleep we do get will be uncomfortable. Most of us won’t win prizes. None of us will care. It’s enough that we’re there, together, creating our own Legacy as best we can.