Lord of Columbus: A Grand Prix Winner’s Report

I was the winner of Grand Prix Columbus. I would like to thank everyone who has congratulated me on this victory.

Before my departure for the GP I had come to the conclusion that the deck I would play would be Merfolk with a splash of black or Ad Nauseam Tendrils. When I arrived, I decided against Ad Nauseam Tendrils because I got the feeling that Countertop, the archetype that was generally weak to Merfolk, was having decent success in the Grand Prix Trials the Friday before the main event.

And so, I decided to play Merfolk with a splash of black. The night before the main event, I carefully considered my options and came up with this deck list for the tournament:

Improving against Goblins was a theme for me prior to my departure. At the Grand Prix Trials, Goblins was performing decently, and I was under the impression that this would be true of the main event as well. To this end, I committed to four copies of Engineered Plague in the sideboard. For this build to work, I moved the all-purpose Spell Pierce to the main deck. Although it is decent, I removed Snuff Out because it was not the strongest choice.

My main deck was strong against combo and control, and its composition was such that it was not unreasonably weak against Zoo and Goblins and that after sideboarding, it became even stronger in combatting these two archetypes.

The reason I played a copy of Perish and two Nature’s Ruins in my sideboard is that I believed dividing my card selection would be best in order to thwart Cabal Therapy and Meddling Mage as much as possible. Additionally, I had the feeling that the fact that Perish did not allow green creatures to regenerate was a lesser benefit than the unlikelihood of Nature’s Ruin being targeted with Cabal Therapy, and so I decided on this card distribution.

Zoo, Goblins, and most others were very strong, strong, or good matchups for me. I was only weak to ANT and some less popular archetypes.

I think I made the right choice.

The following is my tournament report.

I expected that I had made the right deck choice, and was confident in my ability to play it. With this feeling in mind, I headed into the 1296 player Grand Prix. Even if the event had fewer players than GP Madrid with 2200, it was still a huge tournament. At the morning player’s meeting, the head judge made the announcement: “Today we will have nine rounds, followed by seven tomorrow to decide the Top 8.” “Alright!” I thought to myself. There were generally only six rounds on day two. The larger the number of rounds, the less influence luck would have on the results.

The Tournament

Round 1 – Round 3 BYE
As usual at the professional level, my first three rounds were byes. This is one of the reasons I can continue traveling the world and attending Grands Prix. During my byes, the most important thing is to eat a proper lunch. If you are hungry, it is difficult to maintain your concentration for a long time. Other than this I bought and sold with dealers at the event site.

Round 4 Win-Loss-Win vs. W/B/G Survival of the Fittest/Recurring Nightmare

Game 1 Using mana-producing creatures, my opponent cast three Cabal Therapy. However, following that, I was able to smoothly develop my board and swing for the win. Because I saw Wall of Roots, I thought it was a Survival of the Fittest deck and sideboarded accordingly.

Game 2 With two Wall of Roots in play, I could hardly attack profitably, and my opponent played Survival of the Fittest. After this he developed his board little by little gradually dealing damage, and I lost the game through the combo of two copies of Yosei, the Morning Star and Recurring Nightmare.

Game 3 We each played a large number of creatures, and again I saw Survival of the Fittest. However, I drew Nature’s Ruin and wiped his board to win the game.

Thoughts This was my first time playing this matchup, and it was somewhat unexpected. I had also never played the opposite matchup, a Survival deck against Merfolk. Because it was a build I had not seen online, I considered it a lot afterwards. Wall of Roots is strong against Merfolk in a deck that does not play Islands.

Round 5 Win-Loss-Win vs. W/B/G Junk

Game 1 I won with turn one Aether Vial and turn two Wasteland followed up by drawing Standstill on turn three.

Game 2 A turn one Dark Confidant, followed by Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary led to a loss for me.

Game 3 Aether Vial allowed me to develop an extensive board position and win.

Thoughts It was also the first time I had played this matchup. Honestly, Dark Confidant is scary. I think that if you are not holding Force of Will and they use a Mox Diamond to play the Confidant on turn one there is a considerably high probability of losing. Unfortunately, after playing only two matches my stomach was already empty, and it became very clear to me that Legacy is something that really relies on one’s brain power.

Round 6 Loss-Win-Win vs. Hypergenesis

Game 1 Seeing the lands he had in play I thought of Show and Tell, but it ended up being Hypergenesis. I lost to an assault from Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Progenitus.

Game 2 After my Cursecatcher, I was able to I was able to play all kinds of Merfolk. Being able to attack for one point of damage with this creature while effectively increasing the cost of my opponent’s key spells by one mana is a strong effect that also helped me develop my board unhindered. My opponent cast Show and Tell and chose Sphinx of the Steel Wind, but I used Merrow Reejerey to tap it and attacked with the team to win.

Game 3 An ideal start with Cursecatcher and Wasteland left my opponent stuck on land while I saved counterspells that led me to victory.

Thoughts Again, the first time I had played this matchup. Although my playing first might still have given me an advantage, each deck I played in the tournament thus far was a first for me. I was surprised; I did not think Hypergenesis was a Legacy deck. It played both Force of Will and Misdirection in the main.

Round 7 Win-Win vs. Aluren

Game 1 While beating down, I used Wasteland to destroy his Havenwood Battleground and won.

Game 2 I used Wasteland and various counterspells against my opponent’s threats, and he finally ran out of cards with just Aluren in play. On his next turn he was unable to topdeck, and following that I attacked for the win.

Thoughts I was hearing rumors that there would be many Aluren decks. It seemed like a good matchup for me. Because my opponents included either a lot of mana-intensive spells or counterspells, playing Wasteland in Merfolk was strong in the current metagame.

Round 8 Win-Loss-Win vs. Show and Tell/Sneak Attack

Game 1 I countered Show and Tell, and won by attacking.

Game 2 My opponent played Show and Tell on turn two and I countered it, but later he saved six mana and resolved Sneak Attack. On the following turn, I lost to an attack from Woodfall Primus and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Game 3 My opponent took a double mulligan, and since he was going second I countered his Ponder with Spell Pierce. I used Wasteland to stall him on one land, and won the match.

Thoughts In game two I was surprised because I did not think it was a Sneak Attack deck. Builds like Dream Halls decks, Sneak Attack decks and Mosswort Bridge decks really began playing Show and Tell after the printing of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Round 9 Loss-Win-Loss vs. Ad Nauseam Tendrils

Game 1 Following a Brainstorm, he hit me twice with hand destruction spells, disrupting me and getting a third turn kill. Excellent plays on his part.

Game 2 While drawing multiple Cursecatchers and Dazes, I was able to win by beating down.

Game 3 Two hand destruction spells led to a turn two kill. Great plays within great plays.

Thoughts This was a showdown to be undefeated in day one. Ad Nauseam Tendrils was the other deck I was considering for the GP, and although I was happy to see it had been successful thus far, thereby proving my judgment correct, I knew the matchup was a bad one for me. I was much more careful, but still lost. Excellent plays were made and I couldn’t get anywhere. There was no room to have things like Mindbreak Trap in the sideboard, so nothing could be done. At these times, after firmly renewing your resolve it is also important to proceed by playing with the same determination.

And so I went 8-1 on day one. It was a thrilling day playing so many different combo decks. Because things ended around 10:00 at night, I ate dinner, returned to the hotel and immediately went to bed.
And then, day two.

Round 10 Win-Loss-Draw vs. U/B/G Landstill (Opponent made Top 4)

Game 1 The long-awaited match versus blue control. My Standstills allowed for a good matchup, and I won.

Game 2 My opponent played a lot of removal spells and Pernicious Deed, and then I lost after getting hit with a Tsabo’s Decree found with Cunning Wish.

Game 3 This game followed the same pattern as the second with a huge amount of removal and Pernicious Deed followed by Tsabo’s Decree. We drew anyway because my opponent’s win conditions, Mishra’s Factory and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, were late to arrive.

Thoughts My opponent’s deck had elements of blue control, but it also had a lot of removal and played Pernicious Deed, so perhaps this matchup was a tough one for me. Destroying Aether Vials with Pernicious Deed is quite good against Merfolk.

Round 11 Win-Win vs. W/B/G Survival of the Fittest

Game 1 I developed a strong board using Aether Vial, and my opponent could not race.

Game 2 He played two copies of Fauna Shaman and a Survival of the Fittest, but I resolved all of my creatures and developed a strong board position, holding Force of Will and Submerge for my eventual victory.

Thoughts With Survival decks you do not always need to counter Survival of the Fittest, rather there are times when it is preferable to maintain your tempo and better develop your board. To give an extreme example, if you believe that you will win on the following turn it is not the time to counter Survival. Outside of this situation determining what to do is difficult.

Round 12 Win-Win vs. Zoo

Game 1 My opponent went first but did not have a turn one play. I played Aether Vial, and then on his next turn he played a Tarmogoyf which I countered with Daze. Next he tried Knight of the Reliquary, but I played Force of Will. I won a one-sided game with the creatures I amassed on the battlefield.

Game 2 My opponent was once again without a turn one play, and I started with Aether Vial. My opponent had the benefit of Qasali Pridemage as artifact removal, but thanks to drawing two copies of Silvergill Adept I was able to develop a strong board. When my opponent added Tarmogoyf to the field, I won with the Nature’s Ruin I had been holding.

Thoughts I was lucky not to have seen Grim Lavamancer, Merfolk’s natural enemy. After boarding, I can cope with it once with Engineered Plague or Submerge, but if I could not find an answer, I would pretty much lose.

Round 13 Win-Win vs. Four-Color Countertop ‘Goyf

Game 1 I played Aether Vial and Mutavault allowing me to win with Standstill. Strong plays.

Game 2 Because my turn one play on the draw was a Wasteland which I proceeded to use, I made the error of letting my turn two AEther Vial be Dazed. However, following this I won by playing three copies of Lord of Atlantis, making even Firespout ineffective.

Thoughts At last I was paired against CTG. It’s quite a good matchup for me.

Round 14 Win-Win vs. Merfolk Splashing White

Game 1 I countered his AEther Vial, and afterwards I won the development battle with a larger number of creatures. My opponent played Stoneforge Mystic and Umezawa’s Jitte, which may have been a tempo advantage for me. In the end, when both of our Merfolk had +3/+3, Jitte was less relevant.

Game 2 I opened with Cursecatcher. It became a game about developing board position, and I won the game with a larger number of Merfolk. Because my opponent was stuck with only two land, Jitte ended up being poor.

Thoughts Because we both had Lord of Atlantis, attacking with Cursecatcher proved quite powerful in this match. Depending on the situation, a one mana 3/3 islandwalk that can also counter spells can be amazingly strong. Merrow Reejerey was godlike, and Umezawa’s Jitte seemed weak for my opponent.

Round 15 Win-Win vs. Vengevine Madness (Opponent made Top 4)

Game 1 He resolved Survival of the Fittest, but I used Wasteland to deny him mana while I was able to maintain good tempo and develop my board, eventually swinging for the win.

Game 2 I kept a hand of one land and Aether Vial on the play but my turn one fetch land was Stifled, and before my eyes the number of lands I had became zero. The next turn I topdecked Wasteland, and played Aether Vial. However, following that my opponent played Trygon Predator and destroyed the Vial putting me in a desperate position. With the help of exalted from a Noble Hierarch, my life total was shaved away by a three damage clock from Trygon Predator. But all the while I continued to draw Islands and develop my board, and I was somehow able to build up enough damage and win.

This decided me for the Top 8.

Thoughts During my practice period before the GP, I had also tried Vengevine Madness independently for a short time, and I was surprised to see this deck remaining. It was a good matchup for me.

Round 16 Win-Win vs. Doomsday (Opponent made Top 8)

Game 1 While using Spell Pierce to counter his spells, I won by attacking.

Game 2 My opponent cast Brainstorm and Ponder but found nothing. I simply attacked for the win.

Thoughts A good matchup for me. My main deck Spell Pierces seemed quite effective against this deck.

And so, with 14 wins 1 loss and a draw, I went into the Top 8 in first place.

Quarterfinal Loss-Win-Win vs. W/B/G Junk

Game 1 My opponent played a first turn Mox Diamond and resolved Dark Confidant. GG.

Game 2 Silvergill Adept allowed me to stick Standstill, and the game continued in this way with the Adept whittling away 14 of my opponent’s life points. I won because of the disparity in our life totals and number of cards drawn.

Game 3 My opponent played Tarmogoyf, but I followed up with Silvergill Adept and then Submerge on the ‘Goyf twice over two successive turns. The third time my opponent played Tarmogoyf, I countered with Force of Will, and from there on I won with the tempo advantage I had gained.

Thoughts It seems to me that winning or losing in this matchup is directly connected to whether or not my opponent got a turn one Dark Confidant.

Semifinal Win-Loss-Win vs. Vengevine Madness

Game 1 Since I was on the play and was able to develop my board position with two lords, I had an uneventful win.

Game 2 My board development was poor, and my opponent resolved Survival of the Fittest. I lost in what became a Vengevine feeding frenzy.

Game 3 My opponent took a double mulligan. I played a turn two Coralhelm Commanders, and with Daze and Force of Will as backup, I won.

Thoughts I think this is a very good match up for me. It is dangerous not to deal with my creatures once they hit the table.

Finals Win-Win vs. Four Color Countertop ‘Goyf

Game 1 Lord of Atlantis and its army applied pressure and pushed damage through, winning game one.

Game 2 If my opponent cast a last resort Firespout, I might lose since I had played out all my creatures. However, due to Cursecatcher he could not get the result he needed and I won.

Thoughts It was fortunate that I met the deck I most wanted to face in the finals. However, my opponent played one copy each of two scary cards in his sideboard: Llawan, Cephalid Empress and Grim Lavamancer.

And in this way, I was able to win the championship.

Here is a list of my impressions after playing Merfolk with a splash of black:

• I think four total copies of Perish or Nature’s Ruin might be desirable. [card]Survival of the Fittest[/card]-type decks were more prevalent than I had thought, and I would like to increase my winning percentage versus Zoo as much as possible.

• I preferred putting in Perish over Engineered Plague from the sideboard.

• As expected, my matchup against Ad Nauseam Tendrils was poor. If ANT were to become a bigger part of the metagame, I would play Mindbreak Trap and replace Tormod’s Crypt and Umezawa’s Jitte.

• I think the spells I played four copies of in the maindeck are fixed parts of the build for the time being.

• It is extremely important to know what to remove for Force of Will in this deck.

• After playing with this deck throughout my practice period, I learned that Merfolk takes few mulligans and is a very consistent deck. In comparison to other archetypes, I feel it is a deck that has the ability to make a large number of powerful plays.

And regarding my sideboarding decisions:

Legacy is a format with a huge variety of decks. Because builds often vary, I am not going to discuss all of the possible patterns. Essentially, through practice and experience you should come to your own conclusions; I am presenting only the basics.

• The candidates to be boarded out were Cursecatcher, Merrow Reejerey, Daze, Spell Pierce, Force of Will, and Standstill.

• Conversely, Silvergill Adept, Lord of Atlantis, Coralhelm Commander and Aether Vial almost always stayed in.

• If I was on the draw, the probability of removing Daze increased.

• To prevent not having enough Merfolk to put across damage post-board, I almost never removed all of the Cursecatchers.

I love Legacy.

Because the card pool is huge and there are many strong decks, I think it is a complex format with room for innovation. In short, I am not losing interest. It is a format with a lot of depth, and it’s fun. Because there are many things that depend on experience and judgments made on the spot, the differences in merit between players and decks are easily visible. But Legacy is not just fun: I thought the GP was exceedingly competitive as well.

Now I am the only one in first place in the Player of the Year race. This is a big step towards the double goal of being entered into the Hall of Fame and being elected Player of the Year at the end of this season.
I have a feeling that I can maintain this lead, and that other players may not catch up before the Player of the Year is announced at the World Championship.

There’s still more to come; I must continue to try my best. If you like, please feel free to support me in this endeavor!

From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world.

6 thoughts on “Lord of Columbus: A Grand Prix Winner’s Report”

  1. Saitosan ni Washington DC de atta koto ga arimasu. Ima Tokyo ni iru no de saitosan no Card Shop wo mini ikitaii desu. Saitosan no shop no juusho wo oshiete kudasai.

    PS: Washington DC de onigiri wo ageta saitosan ni.

  2. Great article. I watched the ggs coverage and saw most of your games there, a real treat. Congratulations on the win, hope to see you at GP Gothenburg next weekend!

  3. Probably the best modern player in the game. Everytime I attend a GP i make sure to go see a Saito’s game. I always learn something, and I know that the deck he is playing, is probably the deck I should be playing too.
    Not making Player of the Year or Hall of Fame would be a tremendous injustice.
    Looking forward to read more reports from you
    Kuddos! ^^

  4. Pingback: [Legacy] Metat på GP Göteborg? | elofs Mächtiger Magischerblog

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