The Legacy Banned List: A Review

Ari Lax reviews the Legacy banned list in response to discussion on potentially banning Brainstorm in Legacy. Should it see the banhammer? In addition, he tells his top 5 best beats stories.

Not to spoil my opinions, but there’s no need to generate fear and hype where it isn’t necessary. I really wanted to slow roll this article if I wrote it at all, but the bubble on this one definitely burst. Between the approximately ten threads on The Source about it and multiple articles in the past week, it’s evident that a relevant Banned-Restricted announcement could be coming up again for Legacy.

Rather than just talk about the elephant in the room, I’m going to start by reviewing the wildly unpopular/controversial suggestions I made last year. Some I think still apply; some don’t. Regardless, looking back can give us context on where to go.

The Bans:

Entomb and Lion’s Eye Diamond:

I stand by all my previous statements here. No one actually does anything fun or fair with these cards. They are marginally contained by the learning curve associated with them and the fact that they can be punished by hate, but it really isn’t enough. If anything, the skill issue is mostly caused by the fact most of the normal principles people have learned don’t apply to these decks, and given enough practice, most of the hate people use is laughable. Snapcaster Mage means they have more counters, but going long you can usually run them out of answers, and if they tap out early for a clock, you can usually win the fight on mana.

I own a playset of both of these cards and accept that any day they could no longer be part of the format. That is fine with me. Currently they aren’t blatantly oppressive, so there isn’t a reason to make a move, but if at any point this changed, I would not be shocked by an immediate ban. Even if everything is in place for the format to fall into a bad situation, it doesn’t matter until people realize and it actually does.

Sensei’s Divining Top and/or Counterbalance:

Despite Calosso’s recent win with these cards, they are currently hard to find in the current Legacy format. I personally think the lock is heavily underplayed, but here is why it lost power since last year.

First of all, Stoneforge Mystic changes things a ton. Back in the old days of Extended, Counter-Top battles were won by the first person to stick the combo (or even just Top)… unless the other landed early Goyfs that went unopposed. Stoneforge Mystic is just a harder to answer Tarmogoyf. If it sticks on two, the threat you get is not only something that is harder for them to match with their own copy of Mystic but something that can put you ahead by more than damage every time it connects. Before, they could just Top their way into another Goyf. Now their Goyfs lose the heads-up fight, and their Mystics take a turn to get active while every turn you are gaining more than just damage. Jitte counters, Sword triggers, and even lifelink mean that the Stoneforge player is generating a real advantage to beat the lock as opposed to just hoping to race.

Second, threat mana costs are shifting into the higher end of the curve. Compared to the heavy Tarmogoyf world of a year ago, we have more Jaces on four and Knight of the Reliquaries on three. While you can build your deck to combat that, it’s a lot easier for Counterbalance to hit ones and twos just because you are already going to be running Brainstorms, Tops, and Counterbalances to get to that point. You are likely going out of your way to fit in any three-drops in your deck. On top of this, Green Sun’s Zenith costing X lets you completely disregard the lock. Good luck finding a six-drop when X equals five; that sorcery is still getting a Knight.

Things have changed to take Counterbalance down to a reasonable maximum level of oppression and will likely continue to do so. I ended up being wrong here, regardless of what was right a year ago. More than anything, this means adaptation can occur in this format to beat threats that otherwise look problematic.

Wild Nacatl:

The amount this card has fallen out of favor this past year is astronomical. It went from being the card that singlehandedly trumped every creature matchup to just a deck. What happened?

First of all, Green Sun’s Zenith was printed and hit the deck two ways. First of all, it shifted other creature decks towards an opposing green base. This hadn’t been a concern for Zoo previously, but with an extra four copies of Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf, things got a bit harder.

Maverick against Zoo was still a very hard matchup for the Savannah side of things, but you weren’t just completely cold, as you actually had some kind of trump if you managed to enter the midgame on a reasonable board. People also tried to bridge Green Sun’s Zenith into Zoo, steadily pushing them away from the red spells towards the heavier green-white base. The burn-heavy Zoo decks that really excelled in the earlier metagame started shifting away.

Second, Mental Misstep and Snapcaster Mage “killed” Aether Vial. We went straight from Mental Misstep, which made relying on a one-drop sticking on turn one miserable, to a world where control suddenly could grind you out (or straight-up race with Delver). The decks you were choking out of the metagame before no longer brought anything to the table.

Obviously based on my previous comments about Wild Nacatl, I don’t think this change is a good thing for the format. Aether Vial decks were a good, cheap way to acquire players, and their role in controlling blue decks was an important part of the balance. I’m sure something can arise to take their place, but the shakeup is definitely rough. Pat Sullivan’s comments about Snapcaster when it was printed really ring true here. For reference:

“Tournament-level Magic is already too much about the stuff Snapcaster Mage encourages (cheap counterspells, cheap removal, and cheap card drawing), and I’m stunned that R&D shot this high on a card that works on that axis. It makes the likelihood much greater that the best deck in Standard is some Teachings/Faeries/Caw-Blade-esque deck yet again, which is not where I believe R&D should be pushing the envelope, especially in light of the last year or so of Standard.”

Depending where things go, Nacatl likely has a place in keeping the format interesting in the future. The days of the force oppressing interactive aggro decks are over. Things can and will change with future printing, despite how stagnant the format can be at times.

Life from the Loam:

I will admit complete defeat here. While the Lands deck is a miserable experience when you lose to it, it turns out that is a much rarer occurrence than was hyped up at the Grand Prix. The misery of sitting there waiting for the Lands player to find some way to actually assemble the win is something you can end whenever you want, while if they scoop, it’s rather satisfying to know they did all these shenanigans to just die.

It also turns out the other Loam deck, Aggro Loam, is far more interactive and uses Loam as a way to draw actual cards instead of just do the same thing over and over.

Life from the Loam in Lands still fails the test of actually being an enjoyable thing in the format, but the deck isn’t quite there to the extent it needs to be to choke the health/fun of the format. Cards that aren’t healthy can exist, but if they don’t have the necessary support to make things miserable, it doesn’t matter.

The Not Bans:

Show and Tell:

As long as no new Hive Minds pop up, this should be fine. Just Emrakuling someone is extremely beatable; it’s when Show and Tell turns into a Dark Ritual / Duress split card protecting a two-card combo that it becomes an issue. As is, both Hive Mind and Dream Halls are just a bit too shaky to make it a concern. Dream Halls involves a deck that is loaded with blanks, and there are just too many incidental cards that interact with Hive Mind. Like Entomb and Lion’s Eye Diamond, I would not be surprised to see this one go some day. The issue is that it is waiting on a mistake to be printed or errata-ed into existence while the other two have everything they need.


And here lies the crux of this discussion.

There have been a whole slew of arguments on both sides of this card as of late. To boil it down, the raw numbers are against it, with a 100% win rate in StarCityGames.com Opens since the last banning and several other “oppressive” numbers to back that up, but the core community is on its side.

There are a few different banning criteria to approach this one from.

First, there is the aspect of diversity and format dominance. Yes, Brainstorm is in fact the single most powerful and dominant card in the format. At this point there isn’t much of an argument against either half of this. But does this constrict diversity?

Let’s look back at the last three bannings. Mystical Tutor demolished the chances of every other deck bar maybe Canadian Threshold and Counterbalance, and even then combo could still fight those. Survival of the Fittest made two kings of the meta, but the difference between how things played out against the W/G/B and U/G versions was fairly marginal. They played the card, activated it a couple times, and the game immediately ended. Mental Misstep led to a slew of decks that were almost identical. Take your favorite two-drop threat, add the off-color removal of choice, then finish with Jace, Force of Will, Brainstorm, and Mental Misstep. There were a couple decks that had success basically not playing spells (like Dredge) and Reanimator, which just used Misstep to beat Swords to Plowshares, but all in all the format was homogenized to blue midrange.

What about Brainstorm?

Personally, I think Brainstorm decks are all fairly unique, if only because of the shifts along the Snapcaster-CounterbalanceStifle lines. Canadian Thresh is a completely different matchup for more decks than U/W Stoneforge or Counterbalance variants. Bant is basically the same decks as Maverick at this point, and the Brainstorm-fueled combo decks are all reasonably unique. You can argue Brainstorm eliminates non-Brainstorm decks, but if there are a wide variety of options within its world, is that a problem? In an outdated example, people remember Kamigawa-Ravnica Standard as one of the best formats of all time despite it being completely dominated by Umezawa’s Jitte and Remand. Each of those cards was used in tons of archetypes that were very distinct from one another, so their abundance was not as abrasive as past cards at their level.

Second, there is the fun factor. Cards that define a format in powerful, negative ways should be prime candidates for removal. Brainstorm’s impact on Legacy is powerful, but is it negative?

Brainstorm was a card that defined Vintage for years until its restriction. Brian DeMars has said on multiple occasions he lost more games to Brainstorm when it was unrestricted than any other card in the format. What would occur is his opponent would topdeck it with a couple blanks in hand and cast it into a sudden hand full of gas. He would work his way into scenarios where he had a marginal advantage, but a single card from his opponent erased all of it and then some.

In Legacy, things are a bit different. When you Brainstormed in Vintage, your extra lands turned into restricted cards and Mana Drains. In Legacy, your blanks turn into one-mana removal and two-drop creatures. You get ahead a few cards, but they only help you grind out a win as opposed to straight up ending it. The only deck that has Vintage-style Brainstorms is Storm, but that is mostly due to the fact you can cast it and draw cards that are actually restricted in Vintage. Instead of just dying on the spot, you are still playing the game. Simply put, it doesn’t really feel bad to get Brainstormed in Legacy even when it is played correctly. The reasons for your loss are fairly hidden and indirect, and the Brainstorm isn’t even what you see as deserving the blame.

Finally, there is the constriction of future printings. Looking at the prior cards mentioned, a lot of them were good at the time but gained significantly less than they lost with new printings. This isn’t quite true with utility cards like Brainstorm, which just keep getting better as you gain options. Wild Nacatl is going to get better with more Wild Nacatls and Lightning Bolts, which are rarer than what Brainstorm benefits from.

This last category only really matters once it is determined a banning is required and it comes down to a choice between cards. When Survival got banned, it came down to a choice between it and Vengevine. Moving forward, Survival was going to get more and more broken with powerful, high-end creatures to reanimate with Loyal Retainers and similar means as well as recursion like Vengevine. Vengevine would get more broken with more cards like Buried Alive and Intuition. The former class of cards are the ones that line up with Wizards’ current design philosophy better and are more likely to be printed in the future as opposed to powerful tutoring effects.

If this choice is going to come down to a heads up faceoff, it will be between Brainstorm and Snapcaster Mage. Again, we have the incumbent staple against the modern recursion engine. That comparison made, this time, things aren’t the same. Snapcaster Mage gains potential with instants and sorceries with converted mana cost less than two. Brainstorm gets better with situational cards and cheap shuffle effects.

Which of these is more likely to continue being printed? Well, there’s a lot of overlap. Turns out the cheap removal and counters that give you the best value with Mage are the exact kind of situational cards you want to ship away with a Brainstorm. So, does constricting cheap shuffle effects that will be printed in the future cause more problems than constricting cheap, unconditional spells (like Brainstorm itself)? I personally can’t say for sure either way, but recent philosophy changes make it obvious that cantrips are going to be highly regulated moving forward. Brainstorm comes out behind here, but not necessarily by much.

It really isn’t a clear-cut choice as to whether Brainstorm is going to need a banning moving forward, but the one thing that is sure is that it can and will wait. Both Misstep and Survival made it through their first round on the chopping block. We are looking at only a few events’ worth of data to back this up, regardless of what we may or may not know. People haven’t had time to properly determine if they can adapt. Wait for March, and then a more educated, informed decision can be made not only in terms of results but also as to whether people are still enjoying the format.

To everyone defending Brainstorm: It isn’t a sacred horse. No card actually is. If there is a legitimate reason for banning a card, it can and should happen.

To everyone fighting against it: We are six events deep into this format and are coming off a format inbred to make people already want to Brainstorm. Let things shake themselves out and calm down.

P.S. If you want to know how to adapt without building a whole new seventy-five, consider starting on Enchantress. That deck has historically savaged blue decks and is relatively resilient to Spell Snare, especially now that you can Green Sun’s Zenith for Argothian Enchantresses. The drop in Wasteland counts also means your Serra’s Sanctums go actually insane. The deck is mechanically complicated, and you have to be very aggressive with the clock, but it has the power to back it up.

And now for the story time I promised last week.

Top 5 Best Beats:

I apologize these are so self-centered, but it’s rough. I wish I could tell these about other people, but when it comes to getting lucky it matters so much more to you than anyone else. Unless it gets caught on camera and immortalized for the ages, everyone else’s responses of congrats don’t have any resonance with them while it means so much to you. Compare to when you have the actual epic bad beats story, where everyone else gets to laugh at you and repeat your misery while you sit there trying to forget it, and you can see the difference. What can I say? Being sadistic is easier than being empathetic.

5. Back from the Brink

2009 was a wild year of Magic for me. Starting from having attended zero pro-level events lifetime, I had an insane run where I was sitting on 13 Pro Points before the start of the second Pro Tour of the year and with assured qualifications for the remainder of the year. For those who don’t know the Pro Club math, you got two points just for attending a Pro Tour and not being disqualified, meaning I had three Pro Tours and a Grand Prix to pick up one extra point. Easy game, right? I was even poised to potentially take down Rookie of the Year.

A bad deck choice, a bad Limited GP, a bad run with Jund, and a slew of misplays later, and I was sitting in Rome for Worlds at 2-4, looking like I was praying for some late-round concessions to not end the year on 19 points.

I woke up for day two, hoping for the best, opened my first pack of the triple Zendikar draft, and was not pleased with what I saw. The pack I was staring at was easily one of the worst I have ever seen. Kabira Crossroads was one of the most noteworthy cards in the pack, joined in the playable column by Teetering Peaks and Goblin Ruinblaster. The normally wheel-able Hagra Crocodile was pulled to the front at first, but the prospect of leading on Big Crocs, No Blocks was trumped by rare-drafting the Verdant Catacombs. Not only was it potentially more powerful, but it help me cut my losses from this train wreck by paying for dinner. Second pick put me up a Territorial Baloth, as I was extremely biased towards G/U Landfall in the format (or more accurately Dinosaurs 1.0), and I happily slammed a third-pick Rusty Machete. Fourth pick was another real winner, and Scalding Tarns joined the team as a second meal subsidy.

And with that, things took a U-Turn for the best. Extremely late red aggro cards started flowing, and pack two started with me grabbing a trio of premier black removal spells. My end deck was the epitome of Zendikar R/B with eleven Goblin Pikers and Bears, triple Hideous End, and a stack of Disfigures and Burst Lightnings. My matches took an average of eleven minutes, and I didn’t drop a game.

Feeling reinvigorated for draft two, I led on Hideous End into a couple other high-quality black cards, including two copies of the criminally underrated Mind Sludge. My end deck was a bit light on creatures and included multiple Mindless Nulls, but I got a real gift pack three. I opened it up to see a second Hideous End and started skimming for what I could wheel. I got towards the back, saw what would have been my second Marsh Casualties, and pulled it forward before seeing the rare. Both of the past two options got sent to the left in favor of the unbeatable Malakir Bloodwitch. Yet again, I was crushing. I lost a game where I mulled to five and punted against someone with at least one Pro Tour Top 8, but the other games were beatings. I made it to the finals against the other red-black drafter, who had just dispatched a deck with triple Devout Lightcaster.

The match ended up going to a tight game three. I finally stabilized at five life against a Bladetusk Boar and Blood Seeker, but he still had cards in hand. I had a ton of options and went into the tank. I realized that I had a line that killed him in three turns that involved casting Malakir Bloodwitch, but if he had Hideous End, I died exactly to the Blood Seeker trigger, two life loss, and the Boar. There was never a point where he could really cast the card, and I was even worse than I am now at reading people, so I had to decide between the safe line that likely ended in a top deck war where I was a bit ahead or just going for it. I decided to force him to have it, and just before I made my play I realized I had the chance to level him hard.

An aside on Blood Seeker: Whenever this card was in play, it led to the most ridiculous subgames of how you could make them miss triggers. Everyone accepted that anything legal by the rules was fair game, and I’m sure there are tons of stories out there about it. The game turned into a stream of misdirection tricks and timing breaks. At this very event, Raphael Levy got his friend Manuel Bucher by tanking every turn, throwing a ton of added shenanigans in, then just one-turn turboing land, guy, go.

I made my move. Malakir Bloodwitch? Okay. So, drain you for one? Okay. We paused, wrote the drain down, then he realized he should Blood Seeker me. I explained to him that my ability resolved after his trigger, and by marking the drain first, he had moved past resolving it and made the default choice of not making me lose one. He facepalm-ed at his mistake, and play continued. I was now out of Hideous End range, executed the rest of my plays, and easily won. He didn’t end up having it, but it was a fitting capstone to the 6-0 run.

Welcome to the Wild West of Blood Seekers and missed triggers.

4. Beginner’s Luck

A lot of people I know have stereotyped me as that lucky kid, but it’s not undeserved. I have years of experience in the role. I’ve already talked about mising my way into Top 8 of a Constructed PTQ in middle school, but that was my second Top 8 in a sample size of two. Easy game, right?

I went to my first PTQ on a literal whim. I had no goals to qualify, as it was both unrealistic, and going to the PT would mean throwing away basically free JSS money. Luck was very far on my side, and the sealed pool I was passed at that event is probably in the top ten I’ve seen lifetime. The format was five packs of Mirrodin, and my deck included around thirteen removal spells, including probably the best rare in the format and two of the top four uncommons. My opponents would resolve turn-five Living Hives, then scoop to being dead on board because my Spikeshot Goblin with Empyrial Plating was going to the dome for lethal.

After double drawing into top eight, I was ready to crush some more rounds and scoop the finals for the check (yeah, back then they just handed the winner a $500 check and told them figure out how to get to Japan with that). I then realized I had an issue. I walked up to the TO and asked him a very important question.

“Hey, judge, what’s a Rochester Draft?”

I was promptly demolished in Top 8 by someone who actually knew the answer.

3. Kryptonite

You know that guy who you just can’t seem to beat? Not the one who you know is much better than you and just savagely outplayed you every match. The random durdle. You know you should be beating him, and he probably does too, but no matter what the matchup, he just has the most unreal draws. He always rips the lethal burn spell, always draws that one random sideboard card he put in that incidentally demolishes you, and whenever it should be a tight game three, you just whiff on every draw step.

I’m that guy to Tomoharu Saito.

The first time we played was at Grand Prix DC. I was playing Jund; he was on U/W Control. For those who’ve never played the matchup, it was all about U/W trying to untap with a planeswalker in play so that they could get a second one down and start using them to match Jund’s inherent card advantage.

Game one he played a turn four Elspeth and made a token to block my Putrid Leech, and I had a choice when it rolled around to my turn. I could either Maelstrom Pulse Elspeth for the sure kill or Bloodbraid Elf and see what happened. I spun the wheel, and it came up Maelstrom Pulse. He took the seven, played Gideon, and Assassinated my Putrid Leech.

I drew for my turn, and it was another Bloodbraid Elf. Yet again, I had the same choice. Pulse down Gideon for the sure kill or play the cascade lotto. I guess my choice should be obvious. Dealer, hit me!

Flip, flip, flip, Maelstrom Pulse your Gideon. Did I mention I only played three? I lost game two in standard Spreading Seas fashion, and game three his two-color mana base fell apart while my three-color one served up the perfect mana and perfect curve.

The second time was at Grand Prix Columbus. I was playing my Storm list that was directly inspired by his from Madrid while he had audibled to U/B Fish. After I chucked game two in about a million different ways, the most embarrassing of which was not realizing that if he sacrificed Cursecatcher he couldn’t attack with it, I Duressed him on turn one of game three. I took Spell Pierce and saw a hand of Cursecatcher, Lords, and land. He untapped, drew Aether Vial, and cast it. I untapped, drew Dark Ritual, and tanked. I looked down at the hand I wrote, back up at him, asked him how many cards in hand, back down at my pad of paper, back to him, back at my cards, asked cards in hand again. A grip full of Rituals and Tutors later, I exactly drained him for twenty without any intermediate. The kicker? Had he not drawn Vial and just cast Cursecatcher, I would have had to pass the turn back to him, giving him more time to get to a real answer.

The last time was probably the least realistic. We played for a third time that year at Pro Tour Amsterdam in an uncovered feature match. The format was Extended, which at the time went from Time Spiral to M11. He was playing a Pyromancer Ascension list with maindeck Tarmogoyf and Countryside Crusher while I was playing Hive Mind.

Game one, he led on Preordain, and I matched. He played a Tarmogoyf on two and a Countryside Crusher on three, to which I responded with a Telling Time. On my third turn I tanked, determined there was no way he had double Simian Spirit Guide or maindeck Trickbind, and casually triple Ritualed into a Hive Mind and Pact of the Titan for the game. That was the only turn-three kill I ever had with the deck. Not just the only one that event, but the only one in around 100 test games as well.

Game two wasn’t much better for him. He had the same curve, while I let him have a fourth turn. He put me to dead on board, and I end-of-turn Telling Timed into… two Pact of Negations. I countered both of his interactive spells, and he was stuck trying to pay 4R with four lands in play.

Sometimes, no matter how much better you are, someone else just has your number.

2. Infamy

Yet another story comes from Grand Prix DC. When you played Jund, there was a lot of mising involved. Day one of the event, I played a mirror, and game two I was definitely on the high end of the variance distribution. The only spells I drew or cascaded into all game were Bloodbraid Elves, Blightnings, and Sprouting Thrinaxes. To be exact, all four Elves (an extra one was discarded to Blightning), three Blightnings, and a Thrinax. That said, it was nothing to write home about.

My opponent got up from the table and walked over to a friend of his and recounted the story. The response: “What, did you play against Ari Lax?” He responded with a surprised yes, and there was a moment of complete disbelief.

Let’s take a trip back in time. It is round 16 of the last JSS Champs in Ravnica-Time Spiral Standard. I am playing W/U/R Momentary Blink to my opponent’s R/B Aggro. Game one, I Lightning Helix his Dark Confidant, Lightning Helix his next Dark Confidant, Lightning Angel him, play a second Lightning Angel, and then finally kill him in turn six with a third Lightning Angel and Lightning Helix. Game two I decide to change things up and play one non-Helix removal spell in the middle of a full house of Lightning.

Guess whose friend I just played against?

1. Grand Prix Seattle

This story starts a while before the actual event.

Two weeks before the Grand Prix, I wasn’t even planning on going. I was scheduled to go to Pro Tour Honolulu and had already shifted a test to the Monday before, and the concept of flying across the country to play a Grand Prix only to red eye it back with a couple hours until an exam was insane to me.

I drove up to a friend’s house to hang out and help him test for Regionals on Thursday, and after a few games with Chapin’s Five-Color Bloodbraid list decided it would be fun to play on Saturday despite not needing the invite to Nationals.

Eight crushing victories, two scoops to friends, and some inspiration from Patrick later, I was looking up flights and trying to figure out if I could win the Grand Prix and make it home in time to ace an exam and immediately leave for Hawaii. I had only lost a single game on the day to a seventy-three-card mirror; how could I not crush the GP with this deck?

A PTQ where I very nearly lost my ratings byes and some matches against the breakout Swans deck later, and I was doubting my decision to book. I audibled to Faeries based on it having a great Swans matchup, but my testing started showing it was much closer than everyone thought, and I wasn’t sold. After losing round four to Bloodbraid Elves and my poor decisions, I was pretty tilted. I cooled down just in time to play a round against Reveillark, and it just started clicking. I was playing the best Magic I ever had at the time, and I was running equally well. I played a ton of Cruel control and Reveillarks instead of Red Decks and mirrors; my Bloodbraid Elf opponents mulliganed to five and were missing colors; and none of my Tokens opponents had turn-two Bitterblossom.

That is, until Steve Birkland. Steve had started the event off 11-0 and needed to win one of his next two to double draw into top eight. He had just lost to Michael Jacob and was ready to come back and crush. We traded games involving uncontested Blossoms, and game three we decide to play it fair and each have one. Due to some early Anthems, he ended up pushing ahead on life, but I used the full arsenal of Fae tricks to get back to a board state where we were even on tokens and both in topdeck mode. The only issue was that I was down five life, and his deck was mono-threats. I assumed my out was to match his draws, then mise a very opportune Cryptic Command for lethal, especially as I had sideboarded out my Scions of Oona and had no other way to trump the token parity.

I paused, drew my card, and with a bemused shrug commented, “Guess that’s one vote for this one.”

The night before the event, I was trying to figure out my deck choice with help from Gavin Verhey and a cross-country phone call from Chris Jobin. After talking me off of scrambling to assemble Patrick’s newer aggro Bloodbraid deck, we got around to settling on a Faeries list. The first seventy-three cards went easily; the last land slot was decided by some precise mana counts that I’ve referenced every time I’ve built Faeries since then, and I was left needing one spell. We started cycling through the options. I wanted something spicy, some miser action card that would steal me games I had no right winning. After a quick Gatherer search, we came back to my Kyoto list and settled on the only acceptable option.

Over the course of the event, I drew the card probably four times. Once it was a total blank; twice it was actually just Bump in the Night and won me games where I was extremely ahead a turn earlier.

This time, the one Loxodon Warhammer stole me a top eight slot, a Pro Tour qualification, and in the end allowed me to Level Four and hop on the train. I went from down five life to ahead and threatening to easily pull ahead. Steve was still in it, but it wasn’t in the cards. His first draw failed to yield anything; his second wasn’t an Anthem effect, and his last one wasn’t the Zealous Persecution that at any point would have immediately put me to basically dead.

My ten-match dodge of Fae mirrors ended when I lost a nail biter to Paulo in the top eight, but at that point I didn’t care. The last Pro Tour wasn’t a complete fluke, and in a trend that continues till today, I could play well when armed with overpowered decks and perfect information. I got to the airport on time for my flight, landed at home three hours before my exam, casually crushed it, and took a 12-hour “nap” before boarding a plane to Hawaii, but that’s a story for a later time.

Next Week’s Story Time Topic: Top 5 Worst Beats I’ve Seen, now with a minimum two of five stories not involving me!

Next Week’s Article: A Look At Modern From Worlds

Ari Lax

@armlx on Twitter