The week before the Atlanta Starcitygames Open was hectic. Potential rides were dropping like flies, and my last great hope, Zack Strait, lived three hours away from me. I just had to catch a train, to another train, to a ride, to our main ride, to Chris McCord’s house, who only lived a mere hour and a half from the event site. It was all so simple!
I’m used to tagging along with a group of reasonably responsible adults. The group of “Ridiculous” Rick Stout, Zack Strait, Devin Koepke, and myself wouldn’t meet most definitions of responsible, much less adult. Between the four of us, we had one and a half cars, two licenses, two phones (one that worked consistently,) one typical job, and roughly a fourth of the directions that we would need for the trip.
Yeah, this was real.
Since my train didn’t leave until four in the morning, I decided to ever-so-wisely forgo sleeping altogether. Rick, without power due to an April Fool’s prank from his landlord, didn’t receive Zack’s Facebook message telling him to pick me up at the train station. Pro tip: Always bring a book.
Rick’s car had a lot of character, meaning a dashboard full of exposed wires and broken plastic, and featured such special features as “drive” and “reverse.” We picked up Zack and barely made it to Devin’s house with the needle on empty. How would we get back? Who cares! We’re children.
Devin’s car, promptly nicknamed “Purple Rain,” was low to the ground already, and scraped after we’d stuffed it with sturdy magic players and Rick’s trade stock. Rick wasn’t coming to play in the tournament. He hadn’t worked a typical job in years, but was making child support off of trading. He’d even bought a house with Magic cards.
I caught roughly an hour of sleep in the car and, once we reached Chris’s house, I doubled that rest and tested some standard. Between Chris housing us and his mom making us a giant pile of french toast for breakfast, the McCord family won the award for being the all-time nut high.
We got off to a late start Saturday morning, with roughly an hour to make the hour and a half drive. We swerved, we sped, we probably almost died multiple times, but we made it on time, ready to play our children’s trading card game with dinosaur’s on the pictures.
I registered the following deck:
The interesting card here is the single Vendetta in the sideboard, added with the idea of keeping removal, as well as threats, on curve so that you can tempo the opponent out.
I liked the list, and still do, but the tournament didn’t go well for me. After I lost a tight feature match in round three to Taylor Raflowitz with RUG, misreading his hand and being generally outplayed, I stopped facing tier decks, and my tournament died in the face of turn four and turn five Massacre Wurm.
Sometimes, the ringer life isn’t pretty. Sometimes, it’s a Massacre.
Chris left the tournament early, but gave me his GPS with instructions to call him. Zack left us to go test some giant green monsters deck with Lewis Laskin, and Devin, our only remaining member with a phone, had failed to charge it. We plugged in the GPS, and it was set to “Home,” so we figured we were fine.
After an hour and a half of winding through back woods, the machine told us we were “Home,” which was actually a desolate wasteland in the middle of nowhere. No houses, no lights, nothing. It was three in the morning, and we didn’t even have directions to get back to the site, much less Chris’s house for some actual rest.
I couldn’t help it, and broke down laughing. It started as a bemused chuckle, lamenting how screwed we were, but gaining in loudness, growing into a hysterical giggle, higher-pitched than my usual self. My laughter went on and on, permeating the darkness of the twisting road and adding an eerie feeling to our isolation. Devin started freaking out, telling me to shut my “Mark Hamill mouth,” but at that point I couldn’t help it.
Somehow, after driving around crazily, with a few breaks to trouble the (very confused) locals, Rick manned up and figured out the GPS. We got to Chris’s house around four or five in the morning, which was just enough time to play some Legacy and eat breakfast.
We got to the event an hour ahead of time, and I promptly filled out my list and passed out.
Primer can be found here.
The main changes were the boarding of Sword of Feast and Famine for a Ponder and the switching of Misdirections for Mirran Crusaders. The Mirrans were also for Team America, but seemed more powerful and less situational than a one-time Misdirection.
Round one: David Butzen with affinity.
This was David’s first legacy tournament, but he had played affinity back in the day and knew how to tap his guys sideways. Still, affinity was just the type of deck I was rocking Bant for, and he fell to some Swords to Plowshares and Green Sun’s Zenith for Qasali Pridemage.
“Worse mistakes have been made, dude,” I said.
He looked at me, saw I was earnest, and calmed down enough to play some good Magic. He got down a Myr Enforcer, but I had a Trygon Predator to slowly whittle away his position, and he eventually scooped.
I must’ve left a good impression, because he sent me a sweet message after the event, thanking me for making him feel welcome to a new format.
Keep playing legacy, David. It’s some of the most rewarding Magic out there.
Round two: Jesse Hatfield with High Tide combo.
High Tide is a miserable matchup for me, much worse than Tendrils combo because of the ability to answer a Gaddock Teeg by cantripping into Cunning Wish for a bounce spell. If it was a random opponent, I could hope to Force of Will a key spell and get there. Against a Hatfield, I was drawing dead.
In game one he spent the first few turns Merchant Scrolling for Force of Will, and I wished I was playing something with Cabal Therapy. Perhaps Meddling Mage could make for a useful sideboard card in the future?
I baited a Force of Will with Green Sun’s Zenith for two, which he had to counter in case I was running a maindeck Gaddock Teeg. He still comboed off easily, doing the High Tide math a click faster than myself, which impressed me. When the writing was on the wall, I started having fun.
“Casting more spells? You’re just pumping my Goyf again!” I said.
“Because that’s the whole point of Time Spiral, to shrink your Goyf,” Jesse replied.
My only hope was to Green Sun’s Zenith for an early Teeg.
A rocky start, but I’d gotten one of my two worst matchups out of the way (the other being his brother with an identical list).
Round three: Goblins
I don’t remember much about this match, but my opponent’s Ringleader whiffed, and my dudes were large enough to get there.
In game two I landed an equipment and it did its job.
Round four: Tempo Thresh
Game one I won the roll and Green Sun’s Zenithed for Dryad Arbor. He played a Volcanic Island and passed the turn. Since I’d seen a few of my Painter lists in round one, I put him on Painter rather than Sneak Attack or Tempo Thresh. Painter was the “flavor of the month” after Alexander Kwan (PanderAlexander on the Source) took down the LA 5k with it.
I Brainstormed on turn two, shuffling away a pair of Tarmogoyfs, useless against either Painter or Sneak Attack, and kept a grip full of disruption. He surprised me with a turn two Grim Lavamancer. This was Tempo Thresh, and it was one of the few matchups where Goyf really shines.
We traded spells for a bit, and I ended up peeling Sower of Temptation to steal his Tarmogoyf. He had a Jace with a single counter on it in play, and a Vendilion Clique in hand that I had had to bounce with a Karakas earlier to force through damage. I expected him to bounce the Sower with Jace and Vendilion Clique it away, trading his Jace for permanent control of his Goyf. He didn’t see the play, and I won.
My opponent was clearly competent, but he looked as exhausted as I felt. One thing that helps me do well at tournaments is practicing while exhausted. If I can crush an online tournament that starts at three in the morning, I can probably cash a 5k with it.
Pulling Jace felt odd, as this is the type of matchup where it truly shines, but I expected to name the card with Needle a good percentage of the games, since I’d seen multiple Jaces from him in game one, and didn’t want any dead draws of my own.
In game two I kept a hand with some good tools, including Submerge and Pithing Needle. I got some early threats down while he cantripped, trying to find a red mana. I sandbagged Pithing Needle until he went for Grim Lavamancer. If I had cast it earlier, he would’ve simply cantripped any Lavamancers away. By holding the hoser, I forced him to commit resources to the board.
I Wastelanded his red source, and he spent the rest of the game trying to find another one. I Submerged his Goyfs just to keep him off live draws while my team crashed in. He, clearly frustrated, threw down a hand full of Grim Lavamancers, burn, and Red Elemental Blasts.
Round five: Mono Red Burn
I kept a decent hand, but a little slow, exactly the sort of grip that might lose to Mono Red Burn.
In game three I Green Sun’s Zenithed for an early Rhox War Monk, which he had to Fireblast to stay in the game. My remaining creatures were larger than his, and I ground down his resources in typical Bant style, once again having a Needle for his eventual Grim Lavamancer.
“What are those Pithing Needles in your board for?” the masses ask.
“Everything,” I reply, “absolutely everything.”
Round six: Natural Order Bant
My opponent Green Sun’s Zenithed for Dryad Arbor on turn one, and I put him on AJ Sacher’s Natural Order list. I developed my board, and Force of Willed his Natural Order. He didn’t seem upset, so I put him on a second one in hand. I had a second Force of Will, but I decided to Vendilion Clique him on his draw to get more information and put pressure on the board. His face fell, and I knew I had the last of his gas.
While sideboarding we talked a bit about Bant, and he explained his love for Natural Order.
“I just feel like Legacy is so powerful that you need to be doing something broken,” he said.
“That Vendilion Clique was pretty broken,” I thought, but didn’t say.
Game two wasn’t much of a game either, with me Submerging his Dryad Arbor on turn one.
Round seven: Goblin feature match against John Winters
John took second in standard the day previous. I showed him why he shouldn’t play an old standard deck in legacy (I kid, I kid.)
Game one started with me Force of Willing his Goblin Lackey. He looked concerned, but curved out with a turn two Mogg War Marshall and a turn three Goblin Warchief, which didn’t attack because I Vendilion Cliqued him on his draw step. He Goblin Matroned while I cast Stoneforge Mystic for Umezawa’s Jitte. I tanked about my attack, and realized that the only creature Vendilion Clique was holding back was Goblin Warchief, which would be trading my four damage (with exalted) for his two, and I wanted to apply pressure so I sent Clique in.
He had a couple cards I didn’t know, one of which was a Goblin Chieftain that he slammed into play, letting all his tokens get in. I soaked up eleven damage, dropping to two.
After I untapped, I realized I couldn’t go with the Jitte plan that turn, as he had lethal through it, so I Brainstormed, finding a Swords to Plowshares to go with my Tarmogoyf and Green Sun’s Zenith for zero.
John knew I was representing Swords, but he also saw that he couldn’t win through one anyway, and sent in the team. I removed his Chieftain, blocked everything favorably, and untapped at one life. Jitte equipped, and the game was over.
I flashed a Mirran Crusader at him and asked, “how good is this?” He laughed, and I agreed. While first strike looks tempting, the weakness to Gempalm Incinerator is palpable.
He opened with an o-so-hesitant turn one Aether Vial.
“Got the Force?” he asked. I shook my head no, frowning, but comforted by the Pithing Needle in hand.
“Ah, must have the Swords, then.” he said, referring to the old legacy dilemma of having an answer to either Lackey or Aether Vial, but not both. In reality I had an answer to Lackey too, but it was to crack my sackland for a Dryad Arbor mid-combat and hope to trade. Not an ideal play, and easily blown out by Gempalm Incinerator, but an out nonetheless.
I spent my turn developing my board with Noble Hierarch. He seemed cheery about his active Vial, but my turn two Needle dashed his spirits. The judge reporting life totals asked what Pithing Needle was set to, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that was his question or the coverage team’s. He cast Warchief, and I played Knight of the Reliquary. He went for Ringleader, which I Force of Willed. He Matroned for another Ringleader, but my Knight of the Reliquary fetched out a Wasteland while I deployed a Tarmogoyf and a Stoneforge Mystic. He drew for the turn, tanked a bit, then scooped.
Round Eight: Lewis Laskin with WB agro control
I asked Alex B before the round what to do if I was paired against Lewis, noting that it was a good matchup for me but that I’d like to see him top eight. He said drawing and crushing was a fine line of play, so I offered Lewis the draw, but another friend told him to play it out. I don’t know who that was, but whoever it was gave miserable advice.
In game one I sandbagged Umezawa’s Jitte, Brainstorm, and Swords to Plowshares, feeling fairly invincible since the Brainstorm could protect my hand from his numerous discard effects and the Swords could answer Dark Confidant, which was the only card I was worried about. I legend ruled his Jitte, answered Dark Confidant, and he ran out of gas while I ripped Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I hear that card is good.
In game two I got an early Qasali and Jitte down. He Revokered Jitte, which I Pridemaged, and he couldn’t really recover. Gogo Kamigawa block constructed!
Round Nine: ID w/ Todd Anderson rocking Natural Order Bant
Another line of play was to dream crush here, allowing me to avoid playing High Tide in the quarters of the top eight. This would increase my chances of making the semifinals and splitting there, but decreasing my chances of winning the whole thing because it would knock one of my few good matchups out of the top eight. Also, if I successfully dream crushed I would have a fifty percent chance of facing Dredge in the quarters anyway, which was another miserable matchup.
After signing the match slip, I walked around to see all my friends losing their win-and-top sixteen rounds. Devin had some weak draws against Green and Taxes, probably a tough matchup anyway, while Zack lost a tough Painter-on-Countertop match, the type of hyper interactive matchup that I love playing in legacy. Still, at least we all cashed, a fairly repeat performance of Memphis.
As I walked by the feature matches I saw AJ had lost his win and top sixteen as well. He had been rocking Team America at the top tables, and I was glad I hadn’t had to face him.
“Sucks dude,” I said.
“It happens,” he replied, shrugging, “I made a bad deck choice.”
“Should’ve played Bant.”
“Right? The 5k metagame’s are soft enough that I would rather have forty percent against the field than a mixture of good matchups and unwinnable ones.”
I realized that that was the mistake I had made in standard. Vampires had good matchups against the top tier, but playing the most consistent deck possible was ideal for a softer tournament with many rounds.
Quarterfinals: Alix Hatfield with High Tide Combo
Speaking of unwinnable matchups…
I kept a hand with a turn five kill, hoping to rip some disruption. While I was ill-equipped for this match, my Dryad Arbor had a Sword of Fire and Ice on turn three and then a Jitte on turn four. I ripped four lands in a row, and Alix went off easily.
Sideboarding was the same as in round two vs. his brother.
In game two I got a Pithing Needle down, naming Candelabra of Tawnos, and resolved a Green Sun’s Zenith for Gaddock Teeg. He had Cunning Wish, but I had Vendilion Clique to remove the bounce spell before he could untap. He cast another Cunning Wish, but I just bounced Vendilion Clique with Karakas and took his next target too, ending the game on my next turn.
I’d evened the score, but knew I was still in rough shape.
My opener had a grip full of dudes, which I shipped to a no lander, and then a five carder with a single land, Green Sun’s Zenith, double Pithing Needle, and a Mirran Crusader. Not ideal, but it could get there if I ripped runner lands to Green Sun’s for Gaddock Teeg again. I drew the third Pithing Needle, and had to Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor, with a Mirran on turn two.
He went for it turn four or five, and cast Time Spiral. My seven featured a Vendilion Clique, a Force of Will, and a Blue card. I had a fetch open, but he had only cast one High Tide, so I had to sit tight if I wanted to Clique him. He played another High Tide, which I let resolve, and waited for him to spend his mana, tapping low for an untap spell, before I cracked my fetch for an Island, tapping it for three mana to Vendilion Clique him in response. Alix smiled.
“You know, you’re my first opponent to know how High Tide works all day?” he said.
“Didn’t you say you played David Gearhart?” I said. David is the designer of the old Solidarity deck, which you can read about in Adam Barnello’s article this week.
“Well sure, but it never came up,” he replied.
Alix’s hand contained:
I tanked for a time, then took the Force of Will with Clique. I could’ve taken Time Spiral, making him pitch gas to Force of Will if he wanted to resolve Meditate, but the card I cycled him into off of Vendilion Clique would probably be a blue card, so taking the Force and hoping to counter his Time Spiral seemed defensible. It didn’t matter, though, because the Meditate got him there.
I felt good about how the deck performed. Fantastic choice for the metagame, poor choice for that particular top eight.
I passed out for most of the ride home, with a few notable interruptions. For the first, I jolted awake, bleary-eyed and confused.
“How long was I out?” I asked.
“Five hours,” Rick said, smiling diabolically.
“Cool, how far are we?”
“Still in Tennessee. We were lost this entire time.”
The street lights ran together, and my head slumped back onto my rolled up jacket. My second wakening came with a flash of police lights in the back of the car. Devin, running on zero sleep for the weekend, had been going twenty over the speed limit, and tried pulling over on the left side of the highway, Tommy Boy-style. I woke Zack up, telling him to put on his seat belt. The cops took us out one at a time, and were generally genial, but somewhere in their searching the car Zack lost his Khalni Hydra deck and myriad of Khalni Hydra-themed playmats.
I dropped in and out of conscience as the car swerved towards an almost-missed exit, or when we’d run over a scrap of metal and Rick would crawl under to dig it out. After getting lost another couple of times, we finally made it back to Devin’s house, far later than the nine in the morning that we’d intended.
Rick was still missing a driver side window, and his car was much more cold and wet than it was on the way down. I was thankful we had enough gas/fumes in his tank to get us to a gas station, and enough time for him to get me to my train with thirty seconds to spare. Not bad.
As always, comment in the forums or reach me at [email protected]
Thanks for reading,