Examining the Top 8 Decks at Tokyo’s Eternal Festival

On September 20th 2010, the Eternal Festival was held in Tokyo, Japan.

There were two hundred forty-five participants in the Legacy event, the highest number of players to date. I have heard that this tournament was the 13th most attended Legacy tournament of all time, and that if Grands Prix are excluded it holds 7th place. Furthermore, there was the astonishing fact that this tournament was not organized by shops; rather it was planned by ordinary players with a passion for Legacy. The surge of interest in Legacy has been truly amazing. The period where Legacy exploded in popularity has passed, but slowly and steadily the player base is constantly increasing. This time, I did not participate as a player. This was because in the planning stages for this fantastic event, I decided to run a trade booth. Therefore, the subject of today’s article is not a personal report. I will try looking at the Top 8 lists from this event and presenting my own point of view. I look forward to sharing it with you!

To begin with, let’s touch on the subject of what the metagame was like prior to this tournament. Following the banning of Mystical Tutor the frontrunners Ad Nauseam Tendrils and Reanimator were weakened, and the characteristic chaos of Legacy, a format which is diverse even under normal circumstances, further increased. Afterwards, decks using Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Show and Tell flourished and the use of Survival of the Fittest increased. In the midst of this, I went to Grand Prix Columbus and won with Merfolk with a splash of black, and then Merfolk decks gained in popularity. This was not limited to Merfolk with a splash of black, as mono-blue Merfolk showed up in Pro Tour side events and obtained good results everywhere, becoming the favorite deck in the format. With this metagame change, the number of decks that had a disadvantage against Merfolk like Countertop ‘Goyf and Show and Tell decreased, and decks that had the advantage like Zoo and Goblins became more popular.

So, what is the current metagame like?

32 Merfolk
30 Zoo
14 Bant Aggro (With Natural Order)
12 Goblins
11 Ad Nauseam Tendrils
10 Survival of the Fittest (With Loyal Retainer reanimation, with Madness)
9 Show and Tell (Hive Mind、Sneak Attack)
7 Stax (Mono-Brown、Mono-White, etc.)
6 Dredge
6 Mono Red
6 The Rock
6 Countertop ‘Goyf
5 Team America
5 White Weenie
5 G/W Aggro
5 Eva Green (With Dark Depths)
4 Goblin Charbelcher
4 Reanimator
4 Elves
4 Landstill
3 Enchantress
2 New Horizons
2 Aggro Loam

On the left is the number of players who used each deck out of the 245 participants.

Although it can be said that the environment has settled down as is expected with Legacy, there are still a variety of decks present. Merfolk was most popular, followed by Zoo in second, Bant in third, Goblins in fourth, and Ad Nauseam Tendrils in fifth. I think I would have used the fifth most popular ANT deck, the reasons for which are simple. It is strong against Merfolk, which had become the favorite deck in the format, and it basically has an advantage against rival candidates Zoo and Goblins, and the always present Bant decks. Moreover the circumstances were such that the deck it was weakest against, Countertop ‘Goyf, seemed to be in decline. If you look only at the deck distribution, it certainly seems like ANT would easily win.
So, let’s examine which decks made it to the Top 8 in this environment. Of course, I will include my own impressions and thoughts.

In terms of how the tournament was run, because the preliminary eight rounds were Swiss the Top 8 decks had to finish with excellent records of at least 6-1-1, standing out as gems among the others.

Elf Combo / Yuuya Hosokawa – Top 8



This was similar to the Elf Combo deck that demonstrated its power in Extended at 2008’s Pro Tour Berlin. If some warned that it would be weak in this format, this was the proof that Elf Combo can work in Legacy as well. As mentioned above, the number of Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance combo decks was declining in this environment, and at the same time the decline in the use of Firespout bode well for the Elf deck.

Conversely, the fact that Merfolk included Engineered Plague in its sideboard was an obstacle, but I think that its main deck match up with Merfolk was favorable and that after sideboarding this was a point where Elf Combo would add four copies of Thoughtseize to help deal with this card. Even if it could not kill instantly with the combo, it was surprisingly resilient and strong and part of its appeal was the fact that Mirror Entity and Imperious Perfect together allowed for an alternative beatdown plan.

Mono-Blue Merfolk / Kitakyushu Yano – Top 8


This Mono-Blue Merfolk deck played fourteen lords. At Grand Prix Columbus I decided on four copies of Standstill, but in the current metagame I can understand this choice. In the mirror match I side out all copies of this card without fail, and against Zoo and Goblins it is not particularly strong. Additionally, it is suboptimal versus Ad Nauseam Tendrils decks.

Because the one main deck copy of Kira, Great Glass-Spinner can allow for a surprise win when played from Aether Vial, I will begin to include it when putting together Merfolk. And when your opponent is playing Merfolk, it is necessary to always be conscious of the possibility that they are playing this card.
There are two copies of Merfolk Sovereign in this deck list, a choice which seems to work well with Kira, Great Glass-Spinner as Aether Vial more frequently goes up to three counters.

Ad Nauseam Tendrils / Yuu Saitou – Top 8


My older brother, Japan’s most famous Ad Nauseam Tendrils player, similarly made the Top 8. If we are to overtake France’s Ruel brothers we will have to constantly strive to do our best. This is not really true; we only share our last name. An apology to Mr. Saito if he is among my readers.

All joking aside, Mr. Saito is among Japan’s most famous Ad Nauseam Tendrils player and the latest version of his ANT deck placed in the Top 8.

Why did he play Silence instead of Orim’s Chant? At first glance it looks strange. It seems to me that the clear reason for this is the need to work around Leyline of Sanctity, printed in Magic 2011. The benefit of Silence is that it does not target a player. As long as Ad Nauseam resolves, Leyline of Sanctity can be easily coped with by revealing bounce spells. However, having Thoughtseize in the main deck might have been better.

What would my list look like if I were to play Ad Nauseam Tendrils? The biggest difference would be that I might limit my deck to just blue/black. Or, I might also play several copies of Grim Tutor. At Grand Prix Columbus it was used by the only player I lost to, Ari Lax, and I remember admiring his choice: a perfect fit following the banning of Mystical Tutor and the corresponding increase in ANT’s instability.

Bant Aggro / Hisashi Udagawa – Top 8


Bant Aggro, a modern day version of Good Stuff. Although its numbers have declined a little recently, in Japan it is always a presence in the metagame, and it might not be an exaggeration to say that it is the most investigated color combination. Playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor – a card so powerful that it often sees play in Vintage – on turn three is outrageously strong, and being able to cram in Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary, Force of Will, Swords to Plowshares and more of the format’s best cards is a feature of these colors. Leyline of Sanctity is gradually becoming a standard sideboard inclusion, and even if you do not have it in your opening hand, the ability to usually play it by turn three is a large part of the deck’s appeal. Currently favored Merfolk decks are at an advantage here, with the Bant deck probably relying on Engineered Explosives. However, if the Merfolk player includes a splash of black their chance of success increases, and it looks to me like they are stronger against Bant, Zoo, Goblins and other decks. It seems that Bant’s success against Ad Nauseam Tendrils is dependent upon their opponent’s deck composition.

Merfolk is the most popular deck, but because it is only 13% of the field, Bant looks like a good deck choice in light of the rest of the format.

Blue/Black Merfolk / Shingou Kurihara – Top 4


Level 6 Pro Player Shingou Kurihara played Merfolk with a splash of black into the Top 8. Please excuse me for thinking that this was an uninteresting copy deck. This deck differed from my winning deck at Grand Prix Columbus by only one card. However I was astonished that this deck made it to the Top 4 at this event, given the fact that there was much less awareness of the deck at the time of my success at GP Columbus. It occurred to me that even if Merfolk was better known, it was still difficult to take stronger countermeasures against it, something that was a special characteristic of Legacy events. This is because having a huge card pool brings forth a great variety of decks in a format, and taking strong countermeasures in one direction is not always a profitable plan. I think this is the main cause behind sayings such as “In Legacy, using a deck you are accustomed to is best”, “Even if you play a deck you like in Legacy, you will have good matches” and “Play skill is very important in Legacy”.

Since I wrote about this deck in my Grand Prix Columbus report, please feel free to read more about it here.

Show and Tell/Sneak Attack / Yuuki Ookubo – Top 4

This deck uses Show and Tell and Sneak Attack to put huge creatures into play. Here, white and black were added to earlier blue and red versions, in particular Enlightened Tutor. Because of this card you can tutor for Sneak Attack, but also if you only have Show and Tell in hand you can search for Sphinx of the Steel Wind. As such, it seemed that due to the white splash the deck’s stability had increased considerably. I felt that Personal Tutor had much the same effect. And, it’s interesting to think that in a long game you could probably also win by hardcasting Sphinx of the Steel Wind. Because it is four colors, I had the feeling that this deck could still develop further. This build plays Enlightened Tutor, and as a result if I were to play this deck I have the feeling I would like to play one copy of Oblivion Ring in the main deck or sideboard to handle my opponent’s various enormous permanents in the mirror including Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Then, even if my opponent put Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play using Show and Tell when I have Progenitus in play, I could search for Oblivion Ring using Enlightened Tutor and regain control.

Team America / Shinya Satou – Finalist

Team America is the name for the fast Tombstalker deck. I think that this is a deck that can be classified in the common category of clock-permission decks. In this sense it is very similar to Merfolk, but it squeezes in just Tarmogoyf and Tombstalker as attackers along with a large number of disruption measures. Because it has somewhat fewer creatures and numerous disruption spells there are of course things that can backfire, but if it can make strong plays it is amazing. Team America has explosive power, whereas Merfolk is more stable. I feel this way, but obviously Merfolk is metagamed against and it is highly probable that Team America is a better deck choice at this time. Also, this deck has no need to fear Grim Lavamancer or Llawan, Cephalid Empress. Its flaws are that it does not include any basic land, and it seems like it would probably be weak to decks that include Wasteland and Back to Basics or other countermeasures against non-basic lands.

Zoo / Kouta Hattori – Winner


Legacy’s Beatdown King, Zoo, was the winning deck in this tournament. I was surprised that he played only two copies of Grim Lavamancer, which is extremely strong against Merfolk. From this point of view, it is a good choice against many decks: Merfolk, Goblins and Elves. The exception is slower control decks where it is less effective, but because their percentage of the field is 40% or less its power against the rest of the format might generally take precedence. I think that surely one of the biggest reasons for this deck’s success is the large amount of countermeasures against combo present in the sideboard. This is because typically Zoo throws itself at its opponent, and is considerably strong against control while facing combo is more difficult. On the other hand against decks with the same aggressive style such as in the mirror or versus Bant, metagaming in the main deck should become one of the causes of its success. In looking at this list, it seems that against similar decks the plan after sideboarding is to play without replacing any cards. My only question is the choice of Figure of Destiny: independently it is certainly a powerful card, but in Legacy it has not had a strong image and is rarely seen. My guess is that Zoo’s apparent rise in popularity in the metagame led to an increased awareness of aggressive decks and in order to become stronger at this sort of strategy, this player wanted to increase the number of fat creatures in the deck. However, this meant that their being bounced by Jace, the Mind Sculptor was a significant setback. Figure of Destiny’s low mana cost made this more manageable. The other reason for this choice that I considered is that it is more difficult to counter with Daze. Of course in a long game, it seems like the deck might also have an excess of mana.

I should say that I am totally immersed in the world of Magic, and looking at only Limited and Standard I expect that I could mostly understand this world. But Legacy is not so simple. Within a truly enormous card pool, many people have constructed decks using a wide variety of ideas. As they play, the metagame continues to develop, the result of which is the continual creation of new deck lists. It’s amazing that even if a new set is released, it is false that the environment changes only a little because the card pool grows by no less than 5%. However practically speaking, depending on older card combos and synergy there are circumstances where new decks appear and old decks that have stopped being used come back into circulation. Of course, it seems that Jace, the Mind Sculptor and other simply powerful cards are a reason that new decks can be created and older decks can be further developed. Joining the new and old together also changes their form, and Legacy is continuing to evolve.

If the currently high number of Legacy players devote more time to the format, it seems that Legacy may become a stiff format like Standard. However, presently I am exhaustively studying before the release of the new set.

This is interesting and exciting: I don’t tire of it.
Considering how the Legacy format will change in the future is fun.
So, I hope your deck list has someone worried!
From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world

16 thoughts on “Examining the Top 8 Decks at Tokyo’s Eternal Festival”

  1. Nice overview and thanks for the article. The variety found in that top 8 is amazing. I believe that ANT list is missing some cards, though. I’m curious what you think of ANT lists including Burning Wish (particularly, 3 color versions). I find it does a lot for both speed and consistency, even if it is less reliable than Grim Tutor. It also gives a flexible answer to sideboard cards like Chalice of the Void and Leyline of Sanctity. I may have to drop the deck if more blue decks start playing Leyline of Sanctity and more aggressive decks start playing Pyrostatic Pillar, as seen in this top 8. Those cards are pretty rough to play against. Fortunately, people have been underestimating ANT since the Mystical Tutor ban, and I’ve been seeing less and less sideboard hate.

  2. grim tutor is pretty bad in ANT. It’s too expensive and the life cost is a big setback when playing against a aggro deck. Other ways to find ANT or a finishers are better, be it burning wish, cunning wish or just more cantrips.

  3. I’m confused about Kira and AEther Vial. Why does Vialing in Kira give a surprise win from out of nowhere? I mean, it does dodge countermagic, but it doesn’t blow them out in response or anything.

  4. There are 13 cards missing from the list, and it’s safe to say that they are 4 Infernal Tutor + 9 cantrips – but it would be nice to have confirmation.

  5. @Seeker vialing in a kira in response to a removal spell is a HUGE blowout, acting as a free counterspell

  6. That ANT list is missing 14 cards. Probably Infernal Tutor, Brainstorm, Ponder, and 2 other cards. Correction?

  7. @jur mom

    Vialing a Kira in response to a removal spell does nothing. The Kira has to be there before the spell in question is played.

  8. I definitely get a lot more from your legacy articles. It feels like there’s more content. Also, overviews of Japanese tournaments are sweet and save us lazy American players time scouring for lists.

  9. @ jur mom

    “Vialing a Kira in response to a removal spell does nothing. The Kira has to be there before the spell in question is played -Michael S ”

    this is how i understood it. maybe Saito could further explain what he ment.

  10. I’m pretty sure Kira does not work as a counterspell when using Viall. I believe it’s ability only goes on the stack when it’s first targeted. By the time they target Kira has to be in play or it’ll have already passed the trigger Kira gives the creature.

  11. Luis Scott-Vargas

    @ the ANT list

    It is indeed missing those cards, though that is the list I was sent. I’ll try and get the decklist figured out soon.

    @ Kira

    While Kira doesn’t work as a trick with vial, I think what Saito means is that most people won’t play around Kira, and just having one is going to make things difficult for them, as well as giving you more 3 drops for your vial.

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  13. The missing ANT cards are (according to a Japanese website):
    4x Infernal Tutor
    4x Ponder
    4x Brainstorm
    2x Sensei’s Divining Top

  14. what he meant was bascily kira by itself is a huge blowout in the mirror, jjust the card itself not anything else

  15. この素晴らしい記事ちょっと斉藤ティ、私は応じ、デュ館にする記事のomを考えていたのには、ミラディンの傷が好き.

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