Between the SCG Invitational, Eternal Champs, and GP DC, Legacy fans have a lot to look forward to.
It’s hard to reconcile this slew of high-profile Legacy events with the number of people constantly ballyhooing about the death of the format. Sure, the format might die some day, but not soon. When Vintage “died,” there hadn’t been a giant, active tournament scene for a long time. In fact, I don’t think Vintage was ever as large and vibrant as modern Legacy.
I’m grateful to have a healthy format with big tournaments to prepare for. As always, my focus is on picking the right deck.
When it comes to decks for Invitationals, there are two solid strategies:
1) Play the best deck. Crush the folks tomfoolering with bad decks, maybe lose a couple to hate decks, and Top 8 after winning a pile of mirrors.
2) Play a hate deck. I expect [card]Blood Moon[/card] to be a great card for the Invi Invitational, making Mono-Red Painter a solid choice.
For this tournament, the “best deck” strategy is either fast combo (Storm) or Shardless BUG. Since the Storm decks are so hard to pick up and do well with, I expect the spikes to turn to Shardless.
Four-Color Shardless, by Peter Tragos[deck]Main Deck
4 Baleful Strix
4 Shardless Agent
2 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Force of Will
4 Abrupt Decay
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Ancestral Vision
3 Hymn to Tourach
3 Polluted Delta
2 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
3 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Arcane Laboratory
1 Force of Will
Why is this deck so great? It plays all of the best cards in Magic, and also [card]Ancestral Vision[/card].[draft]4 Baleful Strix
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Tarmogoyf[/draft] [card]Griselbrand[/card] aside, these are the three best creatures in the game. While [card]Baleful Strix[/card] and [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] are utility slots as opposed to raw power, they increase the consistency and resiliency of the mana base. While the [card]Wasteland[/card] + [card]Stifle[/card] plan works against everyone, this is as good as it gets without resorting to a pile of basics.
And who wants to play a pile of basics?[draft]3 Hymn to Tourach
3 Force of Will
4 Abrupt Decay[/draft]
The best disruption around, with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Flusterstorm[/card] out of the sideboard.
This makes every cascade a mega hit, with [card]Brainstorm[/card] to set up the specifics.
Many Shardless lists have eschewed [card]Force of Will[/card] in the main deck, but that creates a weakness to fast combo in game one. By maindecking Force, Tragos accepts that he will have to 2-for-1 himself in the fair deck mirror, but he balances that out by playing more attrition-based cards including the full four [card]Baleful Strix[/card], 2 [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card], and a [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card].
Last weekend, I saw Andrew Tenjum rocking the [card bloodbraid elf]Bloodbraids[/card] and the [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card]. Every time he put a Bloodbraid on top of his library it looked amazing. Since Tenjum has a few Top 8s with Shardless, including an Invitational, it could be that these friends and test partners are ahead of the curve.
On the other hand, it’s possible Tenjum was just trying it out for the weekend, and will revert to something more typical for Indianapolis. After all, while he went reasonably deep in the event, his results didn’t match his previous success with the archetype.
I’m not actually talking about bad decks, but rather suboptimal. They aren’t quite the same thing, as people do well with iffy, less than ideal choices all the time.
Even if someone knows what the deck to play is, that doesn’t mean they have access to it. That’s been the story of larger Legacy for as long as I can remember, and it’s especially true for Invitationals where a lot of players qualified from Standard events. This is fair since people that qualified from Legacy also have to play Standard, and it works out since most players good enough to qualify know people to borrow a deck from, but when a single deck lender has to equip multiple players the pickings can get slim.
I’m mostly thinking of tempo decks. The popularity of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] has put a strain on the [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]Daze[/card], [card]Stifle[/card] strategy, as it’s added a turn one “must kill” threat that, if it lives, invalidates this line of attack. While these decks are filled with efficient answers to Deathrite, it’s still a huge factor. Everyone thought RUG would be one of the best decks for a long time, and while it’s still fine, it’s no longer one of the best options for any given tournament. Still, everyone thought it would be great forever, which means it’s what a lot of people have access to.[card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Baleful Strix[/card] are particularly brutal answers to [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. On top of that, cards that hate out Shardless, like [card]Blood Moon[/card], also tend to hit the tempo decks.
The last Open featured a slew of Delver decks doing well including BUG Delver, four-color, UWR, and the classic RUG. Again, I don’t think this is because they’re well positioned, but because the decks had good pilots playing what they had access to, what they knew, or both. It’s also possible that the conditions that make the archetype lackluster weren’t in full force in this particular tournament.
Ryan Overturf is known for piloting RUG to decent results, and this weekend was no exception.
RUG Delver[deck]Main Deck
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
2 Wooded Foothills
4 Delver of Secrets
1 Grim Lavamancer
4 Nimble Mongoose
1 Fire Ice
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Grim Lavamancer
2 Sulfur Elemental
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Spell Pierce
1 Rough Tumble[/deck]
In its heyday, RUG had a slew of good matchups and some tough but winnable ones. Over time, the format has adapted such that there are some actual unwinnable matchups out there, with the rest of the field worsening as well.
Unlike Shardless, RUG isn’t focused around playing the best spells in the format, but rather the most efficient. Ryan’s curve stops at two. Two!
While most of Ryan’s list is stock, he is running a 1-1 split of [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] between the main and side. [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] has a storied history in tempo decks dating back to the earlier Fish decks in Vintage. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon to strap a [card]Curiosity[/card] on this bad boy and go to town.
The innocuous 1/1 sees play in this list as a way to pressure Deathrites without committing much in the way of slots or resources. It’s also a fine way to eat [card]Shardless Agent[/card]s and [card]Baleful Strix[/card]s without losing value, which can otherwise be troublesome for RUG to deal with. After all, RUG’s main strategy is to extend the early game with cheap or free one-for-ones, letting an efficient threat and some reach go the distance. If an opponent can stick a few cheap two for ones like [card]Baleful Strix[/card], RUG’s whole plan falls apart.
I was curious as to how the Lavamancers played out for him, so I messaged Ryan after the tournament. He said they were more theoretically good than actually good, but that he plans on keeping them. He ended up beating the one BUG deck he faced with more typical means, but he never minded drawing it in other matchups.
If I was going to play a fair red deck in the Invitational, I would be playing two [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]s in the main. Remember that it can hose Elves as well, and picks off opposing [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] in the mirror.
Regular readers might recall that I wrote about BUG Pod a while ago. At the time, I was sure the deck had potential, though I was worried about its game against fast combo. After all, it doesn’t provide a very fast clock.
After testing the deck online, my fears were realized, and exacerbated by inconsistencies in the mana base. If a draw had too many basics, it clunkified things something fierce, hindering development. On the other hand, early duals were vulnerable to [card]Wasteland[/card]. I messed with the land counts, even adding more acceleration like [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] and [card]Wood Elves[/card] to potentially smooth things out, but to no avail.
The week before the Open in Milwaukee, my buddy Gleicher shot me a message.
“Sup guy, I’m gonna play the [card]Birthing Pod[/card] deck. Any updates since your last article on it?” he asked.
“Ooh don’t do that, that deck is terrible,” I replied.
“What, you said you really liked it before.”
“Then I played it more. The mana base is real bad. It’s like the biggest crap shoot ever.”
“I’ll probably take the gamble cause it seems fun. Besides, I keep hitting multiples with [card]Cabal Therapy[/card], and this is the only Therapy deck that plays [card]Brainstorm[/card].”
It’s hard to argue with that. Gleicher knows what he likes and thinks for himself, which are two valuable virtues for a Magic grinder.
We talked about a few tweaks he was considering, including adding a second [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] and a miser’s [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] to act as [card]Veteran Explorer[/card] number five.
In the tournament itself, he tore through the competition. He gave up a few games to play errors, but that’s to be expected with one of the most difficult, mentally taxing decks in the format, and I’m impressed that he managed to top eight with it, as there are almost no easy wins with this deck.
This is the list he played:
BUG Pod[deck]Main Deck
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
3 Tropical Island
1 Underground Sea
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Phyrexian Tower
3 Birthing Pod
4 Baleful Strix
1 Acidic Slime
1 Bone Shredder
3 Deathrite Shaman
1 Eternal Witness
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Grave Titan
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Veteran Explorer
1 Wood Elves
2 Pernicious Deed
2 Recurring Nightmare
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Notion Thief
1 Sadistic Hypnotist
1 Pernicious Deed
2 Golgari Charm
3 Mindbreak Trap
3 Swan Song
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
If Shardless plays the best spells, and RUG the most efficient, this pile of Pod targets has the weirdest. The [card]Veteran Explorer[/card] into [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] combo is ideal for accelerating out and protecting a [card]Birthing Pod[/card]. When Pod comes into play, the variety of utility creatures ensures that it has an immediate impact on the board, and over several turns it generates a win.
After the tournament, Gleicher suggested -1 [card]Bone Shredder[/card] -1 [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] for +1 [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] +1 [card]Brainstorm[/card].
In the sideboard, he thought [card]Golgari Charm[/card] was fine but not essential, which is about where I fell on the card. It’s nice to have against Elves, though it doesn’t even kill all of them, and it looks silly against draws full of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]s and [card]Nettle Sentinel[/card]s.
Wizards, y u no make Deathrite a 1/1?
Charm hits the enchantment-based combo decks like [card]Omniscience[/card] and Sneak and Show. Being able to hit the combo pieces, as well as [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], should be relevant, but I haven’t had enough experience in the matchup to ensure they’re worth it.
I didn’t have access to [card]Swan Song[/card] when I last played the deck, but the card fits perfectly. Giving the opponent a random 2/2 isn’t that big of a deal, here, as there are plenty of ways to make it a non-factor. [card]Baleful Strix[/card] or [card]Pernicious Deed[/card] can eat a token, and eventually [card]Grave Titan[/card] will combine with [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] to really not care.
We agree that [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] is worse than other options and that [card]Sadistic Hypnotist[/card] is stone unplayable. He thinks that a plan of 4 [card]Swan Song[/card], 4 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], and 3-4 [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] is the best approach because it disrupts while applying pressure. The main problem with the unfair matchups is that Pod takes too long to get going. You need to accelerate into [card glen elendra archmage]Glen Elendra[/card] to lock up the game, but that could require multiple turns of durdling with Pod.
On the other hand, Gleicher has the instincts of a Team America player, the type of person that wants to shred your hand while cantripping into pressure and beating down with a giant monster.
I have a different mentality. In contrast, I like [card]Arcane Laboratory[/card] to lock up a game. It doesn’t close like [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], but it can act as that final nail in the coffin, and it’ll randomly win games that no other card can.
That’s all for this week. Whatever type of deck you seek out, make sure it’s one that you can enjoy playing and that plays to your strengths.
Of the upcoming events, I’ll be missing Eternal Champs as I’ll be commentating the TCGchampionships. If you’re a fan of my videos, you’ll like my commentary.
I’ve played in the TCG circuit a lot, and they’re a nice set of tournaments. If the championship is anything like other years, there’ll be some strong players in attendance. They’ve decided to adopt the SCG dual-format approach, only with Modern and Standard, which should be interesting.
Competing tournament circuits does a lot for the game and for the players. It reminds me of Marvel and DC copying and learning from one another over the years.