Unlocking Legacy – Play by Play

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Friday, November 14th – A Legacy tournament was held on October 18, 2008 in Binghamton, New York to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of The Source, a forum dedicated to the discussion of the Legacy format. It turned out to be largest (at least on record) Legacy tournament on the East Coast so far this year.

A Legacy tournament was held on October 18, 2008 in Binghamton, New York to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of The Source, a forum dedicated to the discussion of the Legacy format. It turned out to be largest (at least on record) Legacy tournament on the East Coast so far this year. 127 players showed up at the chance of winning a full set of Revised Dual Lands for first place with prizes extending all the way down to Top 16 players. Players from as far away as Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina were there. While there are many Legacy tournaments on the East Coast, they are rarely, if ever, as large as this.

I dropped after the first few rounds as I had two early losses. After dropping from the tournament, I heard that Dan Signorini was 4-0 and was playing for a Top 8 slot with his new deck, Team America. The deck is similar to Canadian Threshold decks with Stifle and Wasteland, but instead opts to play Black for Thoughtseize and Tombstalker. I decided to watch his match with Will Eldredge who was playing UG version of Canadian Threshold. I wrote extensive notes on this match and a couple of others as I observed them. What follows is mostly a play by play of what actually happened, along with my opinions and observations.

Round 5

Dan Signorini playing Team America


Will Eldredge playing UG Canadian Threshold

Team America
Suggested by Dan Signorini and David Gearhart

4 Tombstalker
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Thoughtseize
4 Snuff Out
4 Sinkhole
4 Force of Will
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Stifle
4 Wasteland
4 Flooded Stand
4 Polluted Delta
1 Bloodstained Mire
4 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
1 Bayou

4 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Krosan Grip
4 Blue Elemental Blast
3 Diabolic Edict

Will’s exact decklist is not currently available.

Game 1

Dan begins with a Polluted Delta, cracking it for an Underground Sea and playing a Thoughtseize. Will reveals a hand of Force Spike, 2x Brainstorm, Stifle, Counterspell, Force of Will and a Polluted Delta. Dan takes the Stifle, most likely because his next land is a fetchland. There is virtually no other purpose Stifle can serve in this matchup other than to stop a fetchland or a Wasteland activation. Will, on his turn, plays Polluted Delta and fetches for a basic Island, while Dan is tapped out from Thoughtseize. It looks like he is trying to play around Stifle and Wasteland in this case by fetching a basic Island. The next turn, Dan plays his land and passes the turn. The following turn Will plays a fetchland, which he tries to activate. Dan responds by attempting to Stifle the fetchland. Will casts a Brainstorm in response looking for an answer. Dan dazes the Brainstorm, but Will ends the sequence by casting Force of Will on the original Stifle.

This Force of Will allows Will to resolve the fetchland activation (for another Island) and pay for the Daze on his Brainstorm. Will loses Force of Will and the Blue card he pitched, and Dan used his Stifle and Daze, so they end up even on cards in the exchange as the Brainstorm resolves. If Will had not been able to resolve the fetchland activation, his situation would have become dire. He would have lost his land and his Brainstorm for Dan’s Stifle and Daze. The lost land could easily cost Will several turns, as with only 1 land he would have been stranded from playing most of his spells. Since each of these decks runs a fairly low number of lands, any lost lands early in the game are often difficult to replace in a timely manner.

On the following turn, Dan casts a Tarmogoyf, but Will is able to Spell Snare it. The next several turns involve each player passing to the other with very little interaction. Will is finally able to find a Tropical Island to drop a Tarmogoyf of his own, but Dan plays Snuff Out on the following turn and is able to Wasteland Will’s Tropical Island, keeping him off Green mana. Dan then plays a Tombstalker, but Will counters it by casting Counterspell, and Dan answers with a Force of Will (pitching Stifle). Will is able to find another Tropical Island and passes back to Dan. Dan swings with Tombstalker and then attempts to Wasteland Will’s Tropical Island, but it is answered with a Stifle.

The following turn, Will finds a Wipe Away and casts it on Tombstalker. This would normally be strong play, as Tombstalker is difficult to cast a second time, but the game had gone on long enough that Dan was able to replay him the following turn. Will finds yet another Tropical Island and is able to drop 2 Tarmogoyfs in one turn. The following turn Dan plays his own Tarmogoyf and Snuffs Out one of Will’s Tarmogoyfs. Will desperately tries to Force Spike the Snuff Out, but Dan has a free land to pay for it. Will loses to the Tombstalker that flies overhead.

Will always seemed a step behind in this game. He had to spend a Force of Will just to save his fetchland early in the game, and then he couldn’t find a Tropical Island… and when he did, it was immediately hit with a Wasteland. Tombstalker was also a huge problem for Will, as his only answer was Wipe Away. This can work earlier in the game but, as this game proves, it can be inadequate later in the game. Dan, by comparison, was able to answer Will’s Tarmogoyfs with either Snuff Outs, Tombstalkers, or Tarmogoyfs of his own. Dan was also able to more successfully disrupt Will in the early game with Thoughtseize, Stifle, and Daze. This put Will at a significant disadvantage. Once Dan was able to resolve creatures, the game became especially difficult, as Will had very few ways of answering them.

Game 2

Will begins this game with a fetchland and passes the turn. I found it particularly puzzling that Will did not activate his fetchland to avoid the Stifle that he ran into in game 1. Perhaps he was trying to play around Wasteland, but he had the option to fetch a basic Island. Dan plays an Underground Sea and pass back to Will. Will goes to activate the fetchland at the end of Dan’s turn, and Dan responds by attempting to Stifle it. Will answers the Stifle with a Force of Will (pitching Brainstorm), and gets a Tropical Island into play.

Will takes the next turn and fetches for Island, and plays a Tarmogoyf. Dan, on his turn, plays a land and casts Diabolic Edict. Will responds with Force of Will, but Dan Forces back and gets rid of the Tarmogoyf. Will, on his turn, is able to Wasteland Dan’s Underground Sea. On the following turn, Dan fetches for a Bayou and attempts to cast Tombstalker, but Will has a Counterspell for it. Will takes his turn and lands a Nimble Mongoose. Dan casts another Diabolic Edict on his turn, but it is answered with a Spell Snare. Will takes his turn and swings with the Nimble Mongoose. On Dan’s turn, he attempts to activate another fetchland, but it is cut off by Stifle. Dan decides to tap out to play a Tombstalker, but Will answers with a Daze. The next few turns Will rides his unanswered Mongoose to victory.

While Will survived the early just like last game, the difference here was that he was able to answer both Tombstalkers and was able to protect his Mongoose from removal long enough to ride it to victory. The fact that Will was able to use Stifle later in the game to make Daze a viable counter for Tombstalker shows the potential synergy that Stifle and Daze can have when restricting an opponent’s mana.

Game 3

The final game begins with Dan playing a Tropical Island. Will plays a Tropical Island as well, and passes back to Dan. Dan, on his turn, plays a Wasteland and activates it, but Will attempts to save it with a Stifle, but Dan Dazes the Stifle, and Will casts Force of Will to answer the Daze and to save his land. Will plays another land the following turn, and passes back to Dan. Dan, on his turn, casts Thoughtseize, but Will responds with a Brainstorm. Will ends up revealing his hand, and Dan takes a Spell Snare.

The following turn, Will plays a Nimble Mongoose and passes. Dan takes his turn and plays a Tarmogoyf. Will plays another Mongoose. Dan, on his turn, casts Diabolic Edict to answer a Mongoose, and swings in with his Tarmogoyf. He then attempts to fetch for another land, but its hit with a Stifle. Will passes the next turn without any play. Dan taps out for another Tarmogoyf, but Will has the Daze for it. Will finds another Nimble Mongoose and passes the turn. Dan, on his turn, answers it with a Tombstalker. Will follows the next turn with a Tarmogoyf. Tombstalker is the card that Will must answer to stay in the game. A turn or two later, Will top decks a Brainstorm with no cards in hand, digging for a Wipe Away with 3 untapped lands, but Dan Dazes the Brainstorm. Dan uses Tombstalker to secure his place in the Top 8.

This game, like the two before it, had Will desperately trying to protect his land in the early game. While he successfully survived the early part of the game, the late is game is what killed him, especially Tombstalker. Will’s deck seemed to lack a good answer for the Black menace, and is probably the reason this matchup turned out the way it did. In contrast, Dan’s sideboard card of Diabolic Edict was powerful in that it gave Dan yet another way to answer the few creatures that Will was playing.

After the last two rounds were completed, the Top 8 was announced, and it turned out as follows:

2 Dreadtill
1 Team America
1 Goblins
1 Mono Blue Control
1 Armageddon Stax
1 The Epic Storm (TES) with Ad Nauseam
1 EPIC Painter

I decided to cover the match between EPIC Painter and Team America in very much the same way I covered the earlier match.

Top 8

Carl Dillahay playing EPIC Painter


Dan Signorini playing Team America

EPIC Painter
Suggested by Adam Barnello

4 Force of Will
4 Painter’s Servant
1 Echoing Truth
4 Ponder
3 Dark Confidant
3 Counterbalance
4 Grindstone
3 Lim-Dul’s Vault
1 Executioner’s Capsule
2 Trinket Mage
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Thoughtseize
4 Brainstorm
4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
4 Underground Sea
3 Tropical Island
2 Island
1 Swamp
1 Academy Ruins

4 Tarmogoyf
3 Tombstalker
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Blue Elemental Blast
3 Krosan Grip

Game 1

Carl begins with an Underground Sea and passes the turn. Dan begins with an Underground Sea into a Thoughtseize seeing Daze, Brainstorm, Counterbalance, Engineered Explosives, and Dark Confidant. Dan decides to take the Confidant. Carl plays another land, and plays a Counterbalance which resolves. Dan attempts to Brainstorm, which resolves through Counterbalance. Carl, on his turn, plays another land and passes the turn. Dan activates a fetchland and casts a Sinkhole, but Countebalance flips a two-mana spell. Carl, on his turn, plays yet another land and passes the turn. Dan attempts to play a Thoughtseize, but against Counterbalance is there to prevent him from playing Magic.

Carl, on his next turn, Brainstorms and then attempts to fetch, but Dan tries to Stifle it. Counterbalance counters the Stifle and Carl finds another land. Dan, on his turn, tries to play a Tarmogoyf, but Carl Forces it since Counterbalance misses. Carl passes the turn without any play. The following turn Dan attempts to cast Tombstalker, which resolves. Carl, on his turn, tries to play Painter’s Servant, but Dan answers with a Force of Will. He also plays a Grindstone afterwards, which resolves. Dan’s Tombstalker goes the distance, while Carl attempts to find another Painter’s Servant but is unsuccessful.

This game seemed like Carl should have had full control, especially considering how many spells Counterbalance was able to counter. The problem was that Carl was not able to resolve his combo before Dan was able to resolve his Tombstalker. Carl’s deck has very few ways to answer Tombstalker, so it has to essentially try to win before that happens. The problem was that Carl’s deck also had to resolve the combo through Dan’s countermagic, which proved too difficult in this case.

Game 2

Carl begins with a fetchland and plays Ponder. Dan does the exact same thing on his turn. Carl plays a fetchland and a Sensei’s Divining Top. Dan, on his turn, plays a main phase Brainstorm which fails to find him his second land. Carl takes his turn and Thoughseizes a Tarmogoyf. Dan plays a Thoughseize of his own and hits a Tombstalker. Carl passes the turn without a play. Dan plays another main phase Brainstorm, but still fails to find a land. A few turns seemed to pass without much happening on either side. Dan was stuck on one land, with very few options during most of these turns.

Carl plays a Lim Dul’s Vault at the end of one of Dan’s turn. He takes his turn and attempts to cast a Counterbalance. Dan casts Force of Will, but Carl Forces back. Dan on his turn passes without making a land drop and having to draw through his Brainstormed cards. Carl takes his next turn and plays a Tarmogoyf. The following turn Dan casts Snuff Out on the Tarmogoyf which resolves. Carl plays another Lim Dul’s Vault at the end of his opponent’s turn. On his turn he plays a Dark Confidant. On Dan’s turn he finally draws a second land, but it’s a Wasteland. He casts Diabolic Edict and it resolves. Carl passes the turn without a play. Dan draws another land and casts Tombstalker, which resolves. Carl is unable to answer the Tombstalker and dies to it in just a few turns as his life total is already pretty low because of Lim Dul’s Vault, Thoughtseize, Force of Will , and fetchlands.

In this game, like the first, it seemed like Carl was in control, but he never quite found the right cards to finish off Dan. He was not able to make any use of the time where Dan was stuck on one land. He kept digging for cards, but the cards he did come up with like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant were answered by Snuff Out and Diabolic Edict. Once Dan resolved Tombstalker it was as if Carl had lost the game, as he had very few cards left in hand, partially due to 2 Lim Dul’s Vaults, and he had very few ways to answer the card anyway.

Top 4

Rodney Hannigan playing Dreadtill


Dan Signorini playing Team America

Suggested by Rodney Hannigan

4 Force of Will
4 Brainstorm
4 Standstill
4 Daze
3 Spell Snare
4 Stifle
2 Trickbind
3 Counterbalance
2 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Engineered Explosives
4 Phyrexian Dreadnaught
3 Trinket Mage
6 Island
3 Flooded Strand
3 Polluted Delta
4 Mishra’s Factory
3 Wasteland
2 Volcanic Island

3 Red Elemental Blast
3 Blue Elemental Blast
3 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Pithing Needle
2 Echoing Truth
2 Pyroclasm

Game 1

Dan kicks it off with a Underground Sea into Ponder. Rodney takes his turn and Wastes Dan’s land. The next turn Dan plays a fetchland and passes. Rodney does the same on his turn. Dan takes the next turn and plays another fetchland, and gets another Underground Sea. Rodney, on his turn, plays a Mishra’s Factory and passes back to Dan. Dan Wastes the Factory. Rodney plays another Factory and passes back to Dan. Dan activates his fetchland and puts a Bayou into play, and taps out to play Tombstalker. Rodney attempts to Daze Tombstalker. Dan casts Force of Will, but Rodney has his own Force of Will to win the counter war.

The following turn, Rodney casts a Standstill. This is probably where the tide started to turn towards Rodney. Not only had he just won an important counter war over Tombstalker, but now he had Standstill to recover from his Force of Will, with Dan having no way to generate similar card advantage. Dan takes his turn and breaks Standstill with a Sinkhole targeting Factory, which resolves. The following turn Rodney plays another Standstill, but Dan has the Daze for it. This second Standstill would probably have been game over for Dan, as being behind that many cards is really hard to recover from, especially with no creature in play to put pressure on Rodney to win in short term.

The next turn, Dan passes without a play. Rodney attempts to activate a fetchland but it is Stifled. He is able to resolve a Counterbalance and a Trinket Mage, which searches up a Phyrexian Dreadnought. Dan passes again with no play and Rodney attempts to cast Dreadnought, which resolves, but the Stifle that he casts to counter the trigger is answered by a Force of Will. Dan, on his turn, attempts to play Tarmogoyf, but Counterbalance flips a two-mana spell on top.

On Rodney’s next turn he attempts to cast a Standstill, but Dan responds by casting Snuff Out on his Trinket Mage, which leaves him with no way to attack Dan under the Standstill without drawing a Factory. After the Snuff Out resolves, Rodney decides to Spell Snare his own Standstill. This was easily the most confusing play of the day. It’s hard to know why Rodney decided to do this. It’s possible that he thought Dan might have been playing Mishra’s Factories of his own, or possibly because it would give Dan enough time to build a good enough hand and then break Standstill at the end of Rodney’s turn, thus limiting the card advantage from Standstill. Or perhaps Rodney thought that, without a way to win in the short term, he might lose to Dan in the long game. Whatever his reasoning, the next turn Rodney played a Trinket Mage searching for another Dreadnought. He put it into play with the Trickbind that he had drawn, and won two turns later.

Game 2

Dan starts this game with an Underground Sea into Thoughtseize, but Rodney decides to Force it. Rodney plays an Island on his turn and passes back to Dan. Dan plays another Underground Sea on his turn and passes back. Rodney plays another Island and passes back. Dan plays a Wasteland and ends his turn. Rodney plays Island #3 with no other play. Dan casts Ponder on his turn. Rodney plays a Sensei’s Divining Top on his turn. Dan, on his turn, plays a Bayou and then casts Krosan Grip on the Top.

The early game was not very eventful, but the turning point in this match would happen next. Rodney on his turn goes for the Stifle Dreadnought, which resolves. Dan, on his turn, Snuffs Out Dreadnought and attempts to cast Tarmogoyf, but it is answered with a Spell Snare. Rodney plays a Factory and goes for the Stifle Dreadnought again, and again it resolves. Dan Wastes the Factory at the end of Rodney’s turn, and on his turn Snuffs Out the Dreadnought and plays a Ponder and Tombstalker. Rodney has no play, having lost most of his cards to the Stifle Dreadnought plan. Dan, on his turn, plays another Ponder and plays a Tarmogoyf. With little or no cards in hand, Rodney concedes the game with an empty board against Tarmogoyf and Tombstalker.

This game shows how devastating removal can be against Stifle Dreadnought. Rodney attempted it twice, but since it was answered each time he was down -2 card advantage and had very few cards left in hand to do anything about the threats Dan played.

Game 3

Rodney begins the game with an Island. Dan plays a Bloodstained Mire and passes back to Rodney. Rodney plays an end of turn Brainstorm and on his turn plays a fetchland and passes back to Dan. Dan plays an Underground Sea and attempts to activate his Mire, but it is stopped by a Trickbind. This was a crucial moment in the game as Dan, like Will in the earlier game, could have played around Stifle or Trickbind, but chose not to. It’s hard to know if he was playing around Wasteland since his deck has no basic lands, but Stifle and Trickbind are a real concern for Dan especially earlier in the game.

Rodney takes his turn and Wastelands Dan’s Sea, but Dan responds with a Brainstorm to the Wasteland activation. Rodney then plays a Counterbalance, which Dan tries to Force of Will, but Rodney Dazes the Force with Dan having no lands in play. Dan, on his turn, plays a Wasteland as his only land. Rodney plays a fetch and passes. Dan has no play and passes back. Rodney plays a Brainstorm then activates a Fetchland and plays another Brainstorm. He plays a Mishra’s Factory and passes the turn. Dan, with virtually no lands, passes the turn. The next several turns involve Rodney swinging with his Factory and passing the turn without playing a land. Dan eventually draws a land, but it is too late as the Factory will kill him the following turn.

This game was decided early with the Trickbind and the Wasteland to leave Dan with no lands. Like the previous games, Stifle, Trickbind, and Wasteland all made for potent land destruction suite that was very devastating, especially when employed in the early game. It is quite possible that these spells, along with Force of Will, Daze, and Brainstorm make for exceptionally powerful template for building a deck in Legacy. The number of similar cards between all the decks in this article is surprisingly high, even if the decks themselves are distinct. They all try to employ a highly disruptive strategy with the very same cards, but win the game in different ways.

Dreadtill won the tournament by defeating The Epic Storm (TES) in the finals.

Anwar Ahmad

AnwarA101 on The Source and StarCityGames Forums