My Daily Preparations for Legacy at GP: Columbus

(Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to Saito’s win at GP Columbus)

Hello, it’s Tomoharu Saito.
Grand Prix Columbus is swiftly approaching as I write this article. As the event draws closer, I have been committing a large amount of time playing and thinking about Legacy and in this article I am reflecting upon and writing about the decks I think are final contenders. I hope that this will be helpful to a few Legacy players, and I am also interested in making this a good starting point for those who have little experience with the format. After the event, it would be ideal if I could write a report about my success in Columbus, but I may also have a different story.
First of all, 2200 people participated in the last Legacy Grand Prix in Madrid, where I played Ad Nauseam Tendrils and was able to make it to the Top 4. Using my experience there, I thought that adding countermeasures against the winning Reanimator deck would be a good idea. Because of my understanding of the format, I had not planned to allot much time in preparation for this event. However, Mystical Tutor was banned on the first of July and this plan broke down.
The opportunity to rely on old builds had disappeared.
Without Mystical Tutor, I felt that Ad Nauseam Tendrils became overwhelmingly weaker. I could no longer say how I would use my time. Last time I was able to achieve good results at the event, and I had had a feeling that I would do well.
My own store, “Hareruya” had just opened in the first ten days of July. Even though my schedule was relatively busy, I was gradually able to come into contact with a variety of decks. In contrast with Standard, because there are many Legacy deck types it was not easy to test all of the decks in the format.
Because I could not cover everything, I tested the decks I had an interest in and those I felt had the potential to win.
The first deck I chose to pick up was the Goblin Charbelcher deck. Because Ad Nauseam Tendrils and Reanimator had become weaker, I started by trying out a different combo deck.
The deck list would be something like this:

This is approximately the same list as one I found on the internet, and I have made no significant changes. I tried playing this deck in a weekday tournament, and ended up going 0-2 drop. Afterwards I played it a little outside of a tournament environment, and its results caused me to remove it from my list of contenders.

The reasons are:

• Luck is a large factor

If my opponent was playing blue and held [card]Force of Will[/card], it was hopeless for me. Even having an active Charbelcher on turn one was not necessarily a win. There were times when I immediately turned up a land without even dealing a point of damage. Besides, even if I got a large number of Goblin tokens, if my opponent had Engineered Explosives, it was all over.

• It is not a particularly powerful deck

Imagining the match-ups with various opponents, I did not get the impression that Goblin Charbelcher was a deck with a high expected value of winning in tournaments. I feel that it is basically a weak deck, and that only a streak of continuous good luck would allow you to succeed. The chance of losing due to mulliganing hands without the combo was much too high.

• Play lacks the opportunity to gain an advantage

To put it strongly, with the exception of whether or not you are able to make the correct mulligans there is almost no opportunity to get an advantage when playing this deck. Basically, it is difficult to gain any kind of advantage either through strong or weak play, and this really cannot be helped.
And with that, one of my options was quickly eliminated.
The next deck I had my eye on was Counter Top Progenitus.
Although this control deck’s core was Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance, because it also had the potential for fast, devastating wins with Progenitus I had the favorable impression that it had the potential to beat a variety of decks. Top Japanese Legacy player and Hall of Famer Tsuyoshi Fujita had played this deck into the Top 4 of a side event at Japanese Nationals, and I decided to give it a try.
This is that list:


At the weekday tournament I went 2-1 with this deck, and 4-2 on the weekend: not amazing results. My thoughts after using this deck were there were neither many very easy or very difficult match-ups. But because I had not done a significant amount of tuning, I thought this deck was a possibility. First of all, if I was going to play this deck I thought it would be better to include four copies each of Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance. I had the impression that these two cards were much weaker independently and that a greater chance of drawing them together would be best. I believe this deck will be very influential in the metagame.
The next deck I tried out was Merfolk.
In the previous Legacy format, I recognized that Merfolk was weak to Ad Nauseam Tendrils, Zoo and Goblins, but because of the sharp decrease in the use of ANT in the environment following the banning of Mystical Tutor, I thought that now the number of bad match-ups for Merfolk had similarly decreased.
My starting list was this:


I played this deck in a sixty-nine player tournament, going 5-0 in the first rounds and then intentionally drawing twice to make the Top 4. I made a misplay there versus Ad Nauseam Tendrils and lost.

Rebuilding Merfolk

I felt that Merfolk was a deck with a lot of raw power, and because it was easy to play I had an extremely favorable impression of its potential.
I also had the sense that thanks to the appearance of the amazing Jace, the Mind Sculptor I might be seeing more and more blue control decks: a positive sign for Merfolk since these are a good match-up for it.
Incidentally, because the finals of that tournament was an Ad Nauseam Tendrils mirror, I thought that ANT would be an excellent choice even without making many adjustments. And thus I narrowed my choices down to Merfolk or ANT for GP Columbus.
This was because of the impression I got from playing Merfolk and the fact that from the start I had a considerable amount of experience playing ANT.
To begin with, I knew I would like to tune the Merfolk list more, and I spent some time considering the list and tried playing in another tournament.
In the aforementioned list, I removed the three main deck copies of Stifle in exchange for three Spell Pierce, which I had frequently sided in at the last event. I tested out Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and Mindbreak Trap in the three vacated sideboard slots.
I went 3-0 in a weekday tournament, but only 2-2 drop in the weekend event.
As expected, Merfolk was clearly weak to Goblins and Zoo. But with the exception of these archetypes, Merfolk was quite strong. Against Goblins I was somehow able to manage, but Zoo was truly a difficult match-up.
In this state of affairs, I added a splash of black to my sideboard and put in Perish with the idea that in doing so my match-up with Zoo would overwhelmingly improve. I thought this would likely be a practical move against other decks in the environment as well, where cards like Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary, and Noble Hierarch see play. And, so I tried playing Merfolk with a splash of black.
And, following that decision, I put Standstill and Snuff Out into the main deck because I thought they would drastically improve my match-up against the creatures that are the natural enemies of Merfolk such as Grim Lavamancer and Goblin Piledriver.
As a result, I finished up this list:

When I played with this deck in a weekend tournament, I lost once to a Goblin deck and once to a Hive Mind deck, going 4-2. However, against the Hive Mind deck I lost a winnable game due to my own misplay. My opponent played Pact of the Titan using Hive Mind, but because the copy was under my control, I did not realize that countering it with Cursecatcher or Daze was an option and lost the game.
In short, in reality I could have gone 5-1. I considered my results and the feel of playing the deck. My only impression of Snuff Out was based on the fact that I did not play against any creature decks. Although I did not play against Zoo, I felt that Perish was promising because it was a certain kill against that deck. Following that, I thought that in order to improve my match-up with Goblins I needed to consider adding Hydroblast.
Until my departure, these were my considerations in tuning my Merfolk build.
On the other hand, with Ad Nauseam Tendrils I began by trying out the similar builds that had placed first and second in the event.


I felt the deck’s power level was high, but it is crucial to hit the right cards on the deciding turn and at these times I did not find the additional mana required for Orim’s Chant. My opinion diverged from his on the subject of the inclusion of Orim’s Chant in Ad Nauseam Tendrils, as I believed that having just two colors and increasing the amount of hand destruction would be best. Although it may vary due to the metagame, in the metagame I expect to see at present it is easier to have mana troubles playing three colors and Orim’s Chant, and I don’t think the one additional mana required for this spell is worth it.
This is because I think that if you play Ad Nauseam Tendrils it is very significant that you can cause your opponent to discard cards like Counterbalance or Aluren through hand destruction. Also, I think Orim’s Chant is rarely the most effective card in the ANT mirror. If the mirror match is common in the metagame, the possibility of metagaming against it is high and I would probably not play ANT in the first place.
Against an opponent playing beatdown you can use the kicker to have an attack-free turn, but conversely having fewer black cards means imprinting one on Chrome Mox is more difficult and you may fall behind.
Besides, if the pattern of surviving, setting up, and deciding when to take action is also something you need to be certain of in comboing off, I had the feeling that decks which included Force of Will like Hive Mind and other combo decks are better than a harsh deck that whittles down your life total like Ad Nauseam Tendrils. Also I felt that simply including Orim’s Chant would complicate play significantly.
So, keeping speed and the stability of early plays in mind, I tried putting together a two color version:

It is now right before I leave for Columbus, and this is what I am thinking about. A word of warning: I think this deck might be successful, but I am not sure if it is 100% perfect. As I expected, due to the banning of Mystical Tutor the speed and stability of this deck have declined, and I feel it has become more difficult to play. For example with this deck, assuming my opponent does not interfere I think that there is about a 10% chance of winning within four turns.

Merfolk splashing black and Ad Nauseam Tendrils are my final two contenders, but I think Merfolk’s raw power and stability are superior. If these two decks maintain the same level of popularity prior to the main event and Zoo and Goblins do not have a significant gain on that front, I will probably play Merfolk. Although I have been assisting Legacy players from the Tokyo region, this has also been my way of practicing as I approach my departure for Columbus.

I am a professional player.

When professional players enter a large tournament, they take into account the importance of understanding the size and composition of an environment. Right before such an event, a professional player may not completely understand the format, or instead feel that their practice period may not have been enough and give up. This is what Legacy is about. Actively playtesting and observing your environment can take up a lot of time. This too, is what Legacy is about. Although all your testing may not be enough, a format with few limits is very fun, and in that sense anyone can have a chance. This is also what Legacy is about.

At Grand Prix Columbus we have our first look at a new Legacy environment, and it is truly enjoyable. It’s hard not to have fun.
I would like to share the idea that Legacy is a really fun experience with more people.
Blue/black Legacy Merfolk is surprising less expensive to assemble than Standard Planeswalker Control. Besides, through participating in a variety of events, you will meet many new people and even feel happier as a result.
If you don’t yet play Legacy, please give it a try!

From Tomoharu Saito, to Magic players throughout the world

22 thoughts on “My Daily Preparations for Legacy at GP: Columbus”

  1. This was an amazingly helpful article, and though I have never played legacy before, I found some Aether vials from a long time ago (before I was serious) in my card box and think I will put together the list you played at the GP. It looks like a cool format. I would also like to say that you are an amazing ambassador to the game and thank you for what you do.

  2. I noticed one of the decks you practiced with contains Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That’s good. It sure would be embarrassing if you had to stop and read the card during a crucial match.

  3. Hey folks,
    This is a place for constructive criticism and comments on the article, not pointless bashing. Please refrain from pointless insults, as they get us nowhere. Thanks!

  4. I believe Amarsir was referring to a match in which Saito repeatedly stalled by reading an opponent’s Jace2, among other stalls

  5. Amarsir says: “I noticed one of the decks you practiced with contains Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That’s good. It sure would be embarrassing if you had to stop and read the card during a crucial match.”

    Translation: “I am an angry nerd who likes to passive-aggressively troll people based on second hand information.”

  6. I wish people would stop bashing this player.
    If you think your opponent stalls, call a judge or just, you know, shut it.

    This nerdrage relating to Saito is embarassing for the whole community and especially the legacy part of it – a part that already hasn’t the best reputation.

    Oh, and congratulaions.

  7. @Someguy:
    Talking about the alleged actions of Mr. Saito does not contribute positively to a discussion about his article and, therefore, does not belong in the article comments. I’m sure there are many forum threads on the internet specifically intended for discussion of this, and I think your comments would be more useful there. Does that make more sense?

  8. For anyone not playing Legacy, Why not? If you’re like me, you have collected all the cards since you started playing and you may already have lots of these cards. I like the fact of having this huge list of cards at my disposal to create a wider range of decks than standard or extended. I do know that a lot of people that only keep up with the current environment and may not have older cards, in this case you may want to start picking them up unless you like barrowing from your friends. I love the environment; it’s full of many possibilities for any kind of deck you can come up with. I only wish they had more legacy events near me!

    As for picking the cards up, I started buying cards for standard after they rotate but not when rotating into extended. You can get great buys doing this. As for older cards like Force of Will, you’ll just have to pick them up when you have the money. I bought mine for $25 Ea just before GP Columbus 2006, now up to $50 Ea. You can get great deals on collections off of eBay; this is a great start to gaining legacy cards. Go for it and give it a try! If you need a start on deck idea check out deckcheck . net they have up to date deck list as well as old formats of the past. Happy Stompy!

  9. Saito you’re a master, 5 pt top 8s and 16 gp top 8s speak for themselves. Haters are gonna hate.

  10. @Eric, I would say that an article by Saito about Columbus is a rather topical place to discuss Saito’s actions in Columbus, but I’ll cede the point that nothing will come of it. A half-hearted apology for bringing it up.

  11. Wow! I must extend an apology to you Mr. Saito, please disregard the ignorance of these people, for they no not what they say, and are out of line as Mr. Levine has stated. I hope that this dose not tarnish your visits to the U.S. as most of our patrons are not like this, especially in regards to Magic players. Your article was very insightful from many angles and I enjoyed it. We here in the U.S. do not get many chances to read articles about Magic from other players out side the U.S. and I for one enjoy the knowledge I receive by reading such article as yours. Keep up the good work and do not let ignorant people discourage you in any way!

  12. Thank you for writing about your thought process prior to the tournament. It is useful to see how your preparation led to your victory.

    You mad?

  13. Mr. Saito, you’re seriously improving your writing. Your first tries were rather on the awkward side, but this one is a fine piece of insight. Keep it up, and thank you!

    That being said, give Amarsir a break. From what I’ve read coverage-wise, it surely appeared that stalling did occur, so a comment in Saito’s own article is not unwarranted.
    No clue what Someguy said though, his comment seems to have beend deleted.

  14. Congrats on the win. Hope you get into the HOF this year as you are easily one of the most deserving. No one plays legacy around me but the cheapness and versatility of your merfolk list makes me want to build it anyways. I’m interested in what you think of Standard and what you would play right now. Hopefully a future article will touch on this.

  15. Arguing the semantics of what is “contributing positively” or “nothing will come out of it” could take millions of keystrokes… If we even get one stalling cheater out there to modify their behaviour for the better (i.e. the better ethical actions, not stalling etc), is it worth it?

    Arguing that what we’re (I’m not the only one) bringing up is not germane to the article… futile.

    @Mr. Saito – Congratz on your gains, ill gotten or not. I didn’t play in that GP, I didn’t really gain or lose anything by your actions… /shrug.

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  17. you sir are a scumbag. you made a player get a game loss for arriving a few seconds late. i didnt know you were so desparate for wins. that act made me lose any respect for you. you are a cheater and a bad guy. i think putting you in the hall of fame was a misstake.

  18. Amarsir says: “I noticed one of the decks you practiced with contains Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That’s good. It sure would be embarrassing if you had to stop and read the card during a crucial match.”

    Translation: “I am an angry nerd who likes to passive-aggressively troll people based on second hand information.”

    unfortunatly he was watched by all do these stalling tactics

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