I don’t claim to be a master of Legacy. I hadn’t even played a game of it before Sunday. My knowledge of the format comes simply from watching games in St. Louis and archived GGslive videos. Even though I had a deck sleeved up and ready to go for the St. Louis Legacy 5k, I felt that my time would be better spent watching experienced players play their decks and learn from them. It was basically a crash-course in Legacy.
I chose to play Zoo because its a deck that I like and I’m already familiar with. I played Naya in Alara Block…I play it in Standard….I play it in Extended….might as well play it in Legacy too! I’m a firm believer that its best to play what you know you can play even if it may not be the “best” deck in the format. Zoo is something that I’m comfortable piloting and I felt confident that I wouldn’t make too many mistakes with it.
Heres what I decided to play:
Round 1 – Scott Barrentine – Fish
My first Legacy match ever. I even get put into a feature match. Fortunately for me, I’m against a good matchup.
Game 1 goes according to plan. I cast a Wild Nacatl that’s Dazed turn 1 then follow it up with 2 Kird Apes on turn 2 against his board of 2 Cursecatcher. I remove the 2 Lord of Atlantis he plays with Lightning Bolts and his creatures are left outmatched in size.
Game 2 he exploits a weakness in the Zoo deck, destroying my non-basic lands with Wasteland (usually making my creatures smaller) and hitting my fetchlands with Stifle. He plays a Back to Basics, and because I didn’t fetch for basic lands early most of my lands are locked down. My opponent confesses that the only real way he can normally win is if I mulligan myself out of the game.
Game 3 I mulligan to 6, but an early Nacatl goes uncontested for while Scott spends his turns attacking my mana. Fortunately I draw more lands than he does Stifles and Wastelands. His fish get struck by lightning, and once he finally stabalizes with Submerge he’s at 2 life. Chain Lightning then gives me my first lifetime Legacy win!
Round 2 – George Blankenship – Charbelcher
Since we were both in feature matches round 1 we each know what the other is playing. I figure that the only way I have a reasonable shot game 1 is to mulligan aggressively to try to find my 1 maindeck Gaddock Teeg. My 5 card hand has 1 land, Teeg, and 3 other spells…. good enough for me to keep. Unfortunately, he wins the die roll and makes 12 goblins on turn 1 via Rituals and Burning Wish into Empty the Warrens, so there’s no way I can catch up.
Next game I mulligan aggressively again searching for a Mindbreak Trap or Gaddock Teeg. Unable to find one, I’m forced to keep a hand of 5 cards. I cast a creature on turn 1 and he again makes 12 goblin tokens on his first turn. A turn 2 and turn 3 creature + Lightning Helix and some blocks later and my life total is at 6 with the board being his 6 goblins vs 2x Kird Ape and Nacatl. I eventually overcome his explosive turn 1 play with a steady stream of animals.
Game 3 I have a Mindbreak Trap in my opening hand while my opponent once again has the opening hand to make 12 goblins on turn 1. He suspects that I could have the Mindbreak Trap but goes for it anyway. After the Empty the Warrens and the storm copies are exiled he’s left with something like 1 card in hand and 1 land in play. It only takes a few turns of attacks while he plays draw-go before I ‘m able to take match.
Round 3 – Ryan O’Connor – Counterbalance/Top
Not much to say about this match as it is over very quickly. My opponent mulligans to 5 both games and can’t compete with my fast draws.
Round 4 – Andy Truong – Enchantress
He wins the die roll and I’m sad to see a turn 1 Utopia Sprawl, signifying Enchantress, which is a tough matchup for Zoo. He quickly gets his engine of Argothian Enchantress and Enchantress’s Presence going. A Solitary Confinement, Moat, and Sigil of the Empty Throne later and the game is now unwinnable. I’m soon overwhelmed by Angel tokens.
I take out the Paths to Exile for Gaddock Teegs and the Helix and Knight
Games 2 and 3 I have exact same opening plays of turn 1 Nacatl, turn 2 Qasali Pridemage, turn 3 Gaddock Teeg. Game 3 he Oblivion Rings my Teeg but I have another next turn. Unable to cast the Moat in his hand, he succumbs to cats and apes followed by various direct damage spells.
My opponent was VERY unhappy to lose against Zoo. Everyone that I told about the match was in disbelief that I’d won it.
Round 5 – Simon Sung – Canadian Threshold
Game 1 he starts with a Nimble Mongoose that stays a 1/1 the whole game. He has big troubles getting cards into his graveyard for some reason. I win quickly and he mentions that he couldn’t even cast his Tarmogoyfs in hand because they would’ve died to Grim Lavamancer.
I side in Jittes but don’t side in Red Elemental Blast. I feel that it doesn’t target something important often enough in this matchup and would rather play more proactive cards.
Game 2 comes down to me never fetching for a Mountain and having my only Red source hit by Wasteland. I end up being stuck with a hand full of Red cards until I have to start discarding. In the meantime, a Nimble Mongoose attacks me for something like 18 damage.
Game 3 I mulligan twice, get my lands Stifled and Wasted, and get smashed by a pair of Tarmogoyfs.
Round 6 – Don Bruss – Dredge
Before the round my opponent claims how lucky he is to be here and expected to be 1-4 at this point. Something doesn’t seem quite right about his story of extraordinary luck. He won the roll and I’m dead on turn 2.
I get an opening 7 with Gaddock Teeg, and some other spells and lands, which I consider to be good enough. The crucial turning point in game 2 happens when I attack with a Wild Nacatl and Gaddock Teeg into his Tireless Tribe. He blocks the Nacatl and marks on his pad the 2 damage from Teeg, then attempts to discard to Tribe. I point out that it’s too late as he’s already confirmed the combat damage. With no discard outlet left, I’m able to win within the next couple turns.
Game 3 I have a Ravenous Trap in my opening hand and my opponent makes the dream play of turn 2 Breakthrough. He dredges through almost half his deck and I cast the Trap with a Narcomeoba trigger on the stack. He’s left with no cards in hand, a Tireless Tribe, and a Gemstone Mine with 1 counter in play. I Chain Lightning his Tireless Tribe on my turn and he has no way to recover.
Round 7 – Drew Feder – Imperial Painter
I go into the last swiss round 4th in the standings, with the highest tiebreakers of all the X-1 players, so I’m guaranteed Top 8 with a draw. My opponent is 6th and is very likely to be in with a draw as well, but there’s a chance that he may end up drawing himself out. Considering who’s already drawn and the matchups that must play it out I explain that in his position he’d draw into 7th or 8th but he’s nevertheless wary of knocking himself out of the tournament. He turns down the offer to draw so we shuffle up to play.
I don’t recall much about the match other than we split the first two games 1-1. After game 2 I offer the draw again. He feels that I’m favorite against his Painter deck and that his best bet would to take the favorable chance of drawing into Top 8. He ends up going into Top 8 as the 7th seed.
1 Andres Suarez – Fish
2 William Yowell – Fish
3 Simon Sung – Canadian Threshold
4 Richard Wayne – WWu
5 Kevin Ambler – Fish with Tarmogoyf
6 Tom Ross – Zoo
7 Drew Feder – Imperial Painter
8 James Palaima – 38 Land
Quarterfinals – Simon Sung – Canadian Threshold
He Stifles my early fetch lands and Dazes my early creatures. I manage to land a couple Wild Nacatls and they attack his empty board. Once he stabalizes, he’s already at 4 life and Grim Lavamancer + Chain Lightning finish the job.
Game 2 I spend my fetch lands getting Mountain and Forest while my opponent has 2 Wastelands in play. Simon kills my first 4 creatures but eventually runs out of removal. He doesn’t find a Tropical Island to cast his creatures and he has to settle with draw-go for many turns while a lone [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] does something like 12 damage. Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning finish the game.
Semifinals – Drew Feder – Imperial Painter
Game 1 an early Pridemage destroys his Grindstone and I keep him off his combo while my creatures clean up.
I side in Ancient Grudge and not much else.
Game 2 was a long, hard-fought battle. Expecting an early Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon I have to decide between playing Wooded Foothills or Arid Mesa on my first turn to fetch Forest or Plains. I decide that Forest would do the most good, and he does have the turn 2 Blood Moon. I’m still able to cast Kird Ape, Wild Nacatl, and Tarmogoyf and some Lightning spells, but around turn 10 or so I have a hand of 7 cards that are at least partially white…I really need to draw the 1 Plains in my deck. I use Sylvan Library to draw 3 extra cards at the price of 12 life just to dig deeper for that Plains, but it wasn’t meant to be and I die to Magus of the Moon attacks.
Game 3 I’m able to use 2 fetch lands to get my Plains and Forest so we don’t have a repeat of game 2’s Blood Moon shenanigans. I get some big creatures in play including a 6/6 Knight of the Reliquary and a 4/4 Figure of Destiny but he sneaks in a Painter’s Servant while I’m tapped out and gets to cast his Pyroblasts on my “blue” creatures. He eventually gets a couple Figure of Destinies of his own in play but he’s under too much pressure due to Tarmogoyf and friends to ever pump them up more than 2/2. A couple chump blocks then a concession a turn later and I’m on my way to the finals!
Finals – James Palaima – 38 Land
I’m happy to make the finals, which is much farther than I expected to get for my first attempt at the Legacy format.
I win the die roll for game 1 and start with Wild Nacatl while he has Manabond. I remove it with Qasali Pridemage and add pressure with Tarmogoyf and Grim Lavamancer. He has Maze of Ith to slow me down but I’m able to put him to 0 life before he can do anything too crazy with Life from the Loam.
I side out the Paths for Ravenous Trap and Tormod’s Crypt.
Game 3 I choose to destroy his Mox Diamonds instead of his Zuran Orb to keep him from casting Life from the Loam during the early turns. At some point he plays 2 lands in a turn, which goes unnoticed by myself and the judges. Luckily, a few of the spectators catch it and we can back up the game to fix the problem. This gives James his 2nd game rules violation and another offense will result in a game loss, so he’s now sitting on pretty thin ice in the judges eyes. I desperately need to draw a Crypt or Trap to disrupt his engine but it doesn’t happen until much later than needed. The last 10 minutes or so are pretty agonizing, as I have little chance to come back, but still have a possibility of drawing multiple cards in a row so I have to go for it. Unfortunately, my opponent violates the game rules for the 3rd time by attacking with Glacial Chasm, in play and receives a game loss for the infraction.
Thats it! I won the tournament, far exceeding expectations. I played 8 different opponents with 8 different archetypes and am thrilled to be able to come out on top.
The game loss is not my ideal way of winning a tournament, but the rules are there for a reason and breaking them doesn’t happen without consequence. Shame it was in such an important game, but leniency can’t be given because of the importance of the game or because its on camera. I remember my first US Nationals; I had something like 5 different, unrelated warnings, each one due to sloppy play on my part. Crisp, clean Magic is something that comes with experience slinging cards.
Remember, you never have an obligation to concede to your opponent. You paid good money to game in a competitive environment and theres nothing wrong with wanting to win. Of course, there are times when conceding is correct, such as to save time for the next game in a timed match or in response to something like Duress to hide information when the game looks unwinnable anyway. In untimed rounds such as the Top 8 of a PTQ it’s wise to keep playing even when faced with insurmountable odds just for the off-chance that you opponent makes a mistake, though mistakes are usually technical or strategic mistakes as opposed to the rules-violating mistakes that occurred in the finals here.
As far as the deck is concerned, not playing Price of Progress was a mistake, as it’s really needed to make the the 38-Land matchup even close to winnable. I’m not convinced that it needed a place in the maindeck, but a few slots in the sideboard should be dedicated to PoP or some card that interacts with 38-Lands. The deck could also use another land maindeck, likely another Taiga. The Extended Zoo lists can get away with such a low number since they don’t have to worry about Stifle or Wasteland inhibiting mana development. I really liked the maindeck Gaddock Teeg as it’s good versus cards in just about every deck such as Force of Will while completely shutting down some plans such as Charbelcher or Tendrils. I was unimpressed overall by the Path to Exiles. If I were to play the tournament again I’d play the following list:
Thanks for reading!
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