Earlier this year at the Los Angeles SCG 5k, I played sanctioned Legacy for the first time in my life. It was an unsuccessful outing with Patrick Chapin’s reanimator list. This time around, after not making day 2 in Pro Tour: San Diego, I played in a side event where 1st prize was a set of revised dual lands (10 not a full playset of 40) and 2nd place was a set of foil Ravnica duals. I already have 40+ original duals, and I try not to own any foil cards, but I wanted to play Legacy anyway, and it’s never too much trouble to sell some dual lands. I decided to sleeve up more of an established archetype this time and get a better feel for the format. CounterTop-Progenitus seems like both a fun and powerful deck, so I gave that a try. The total number of games I had ever played with the deck prior to the tournament was zero, so it would have to be a learn-as-you-go experience. I tried to locate and remember my mistakes, and learn from them. I describe all the ones I spotted below, and I hope this allows some of the lessons I learned to be passed on to you. I ended up splitting the finals, but the real reward was a newfound love of Legacy. I already love Vintage, and maybe one day I’ll get to play a sanctioned Vintage event (I wish the Southern California Eternal scene didn’t suck). In sum, playing with old cards is the best way to play.
I decided to add 1 Engineered Explosives to the maindeck, and I tweaked my sideboard a little bit, adding 1 Mindbreak Trap, 2 Trygon Predator, and a Tempest of Light. Even though I haven’t played much Legacy, I try to keep a general sense of the metagame for card collecting purposes (nothing swings prices right now like relevance in Legacy), as well as for casual Legacy purposes. I expected Merfolk, Enchantress, and Ad Nauseum/1-Land-Belcher to be a significant chunk of the field, so I wanted to hedge a little bit against those decks.
Here is the deck I played:
Relic of Progenitus is there for when regular Progenitus isn’t enough.
Round 1: Life
For those unfamiliar with the “Life” deck, it attempts to make Daru Spiritualist infinite toughness with Nomads En-Kor (or other En-Kor) and then sacrifice it to Starlit Sanctum for infinite “life” (get it?) or attack for infinite damage with Doran. Counterbalance, Force of Will, and Swords to Plowshares go a long way towards preventing any of these shenanigans. I start game 1 with Top turn 1 and Counterbalance turn 2, with a Force on Vindicate sealing the deal. Game 2, Swords to Plowshares trades with Doran and a second Swords breaks up an attempted combo. Goyfs finish the job both games.
Round 2: Merfolk
I get obliterated game 1, with Lord of Atlantis and friends islandwalking right through me. I board in the other 2 Engineered Explosives, 1 Spell Pierce and the third Wall of Blossoms, taking out 3 Natural Order and 1 Progenitus. 4 Mana is a lot versus a deck with Wasteland and Daze, and the 10/10 can’t even block if he has a Lord. Explosives is our main tool vs Merfolk and Goblins, so much so that I start 1 maindeck, and maybe should be boarding all the way up to 4. Game 2 he gets double Aether Vial, triple Cursecatcher, double Merrow Reejery on board to my Wall of Blossoms. Explosives for 1 leaves the board much, much more manageable (he loses his Vials in the exchange, and has only 1 land in play). I block a Reejery, falling to something like 5 or 8 life. Goyf halts the assault, and Rhox War Monk and Swords a couple of turns later seal the deal.
Game 3 I don’t remember much other than my Explosives and Swords doing what they do. This matchup seems less than ideal for my deck, so I felt lucky to pull out a win. He never resolved a Standstill, which was probably why I won the matchup. Again, look to board 3 Explosives and maindeck 1 or even go to 2 and 2 if you expect Merfolk to be popular, which seems to be the norm. Game 1 is pretty tough if they resolve Vial or Lord of Atlantis, as without Explosives it can be tough to catch up (they have counters too, and they don’t usually have to spend them trying to counter creatures or Vials or Standstills like I do).
Round 3: 2 Land Belcher
My opponent wins the die roll, makes 12 goblins on turn 1 with [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], and my Brainstorm doesn’t find the 1 maindeck Explosives. Ugh. You know that feeling when you get blown out in game 1, and feel ok about your chances games 2 and 3, but you know you have no room for error? Well that’s how I felt. I sideboard in 1 Mindbreak Trap (seems good here 😉 ), 2 Spell Pierce, 1 Krosan Grip, 2 Trygon Predator (not anything special but hey, its better than a 4 mana sorcery), and 2 Explosives, boarding out 4 Swords, 3 Natural Order, 1 Progenitus.
Game 2, he leads with Land Grant, forcing him to reveal his hand. He has Tinder Wall, Rite of Flame, another red ritual (maybe another Rite?), two Xantid Swarm, and a Goblin Charbelcher. My hand is Force of Will, Daze, Explosives, Tarmogoyf, and a couple of land. I Force of Will the Land Grant to prevent Xantid Swarm from hitting the table, untap, and play Explosives for 1 as some X Swarm insurance. We draw go for a couple of turns, with him not drawing one of his 2 land or pitch guides or Land grant/chrome mox. He then draws Chrome Mox, which I Spell Pierce. On the following turn, I have 4 mana and a Force of Will, with a Tarmogoyf in hand. I play the Tarmogoyf and pass the turn. He untaps and casts Land Grant. He reveals a Xantid Swarm (1 has been discarded), several rituals, and a belcher. I can’t counter anything, so if he goes for the kill, I’m dead. I’m acting confident, and making him pause extensively with Land Grant on the stack, just as I would if I was holding a counter but trying to get him to use his whole hand on a Belcher attempt. My bluff works, and he plays the swarm. Even if he is 75% sure I have a counterspell, he has to go for it here since I still have Explosives for 1 sitting on the table. If he plays Xantid Swarm, I just blow it up and get my turn. He then draws a card and unless it’s a miracle Pyroblast/Gutteral Response or something, the same counter he was playing around still wins me the game. I blow up the Swarm, draw a blue card to pitch to my Force, attack with Goyf, and pass the turn. He draws a card and tries to go off, but I Force Belcher and he loses.
For game 3 I board back in 3 Swords since he has Xantid Swarms, taking out slowish cards like Wall of Blossoms and 1 of the Goyfs. Rhox War Monk is better than Goyf because it’s a blue card. If I stick counter-top or he spends his whole hand running into counters, I’m going to win regardless of my clock, so 3 goyf is plenty.
He mulligans to 6 and only has Taiga, Lion’s Eye Diamond as a first turn. I also mulligan to 6, and I keep a no Force of Will but Spell Pierce and Daze and Explosives 6 card hand. His poor draw lets these cards counter his few attempted plays before I have a Counterbalance out, and the counterbalance counters a Desperate Ritual one turn (i.e. I get to Time Walk) and eventually I get Top out and lock it up. He made a mistake that ended up not mattering (I had a Force of Will extra even if he played it correctly), so I told him that so he wouldn’t beat himself up. I also told him that Legacy is such a complicated format that we all are going to make mistakes playing it. In the later rounds I would attempt to prove myself correct by making various mistakes. I meant what I said to my Charbelcher opponent following this match; Legacy has so many complex cards that if you lose your focus it is really easy to make a mistake.
Round 4: Threshold/Tempo (aka Tarmogoyf+Mongoose with Stifle+Wasteland)
My Round 4 opponent proves to be a very competent Tempo player and knows more about my deck than I know about his, which proves valuable as the games progress. In game 1, he leads with Wooded Foothills, which makes me think he is playing some kind of red deck, like aggro loam, zoo, or goblins (his keep would be pretty bad with Goblins and no turn 1 play, but I wasn’t thinking that hard, just giving it my best first guess). When he Stifles my Misty Rainforest, I’m fairly certain he isn’t playing a “red” deck, even if does have Fire/Ice or whatever. His Stifles and Wastelands put too much strain on my mana, and I lose.
Game 2 I am able to establish my mana and then resolve Counterbalance and Top. We draw go for a couple of turns while I top+fetch trying to find some pressure. He then plays Brainstorm. In response to me spinning the Top, he Krosan Grips my Counterbalance. I know there is a 2 on top of my library, so I don’t reveal. I then Daze his Brainstorm, which I didn’t need to do, since I could just put Top and Top to counter the Brainstorm. I didn’t realize that the Counterbalance trigger was still sitting on the stack above the Brainstorm, even though Counterbalance was dead. See, I told you this format was tricky. I win this game despite my mistake, on the back of some Goyfs that Top is able to find.
Round 5: Tempo/Standstill with Explosives
I don’t remember much about this match except me making a stupid play running into an Explosives. I knew he had one, but forgot about it. I ended up winning anyway when he made a mistake right back. He didn’t cast Explosives for 2 using 3-4 mana when I had a Counterbalance out. In case you don’t know this trick, Engineered Explosives costs X mana, and X can be any amount of mana you want to spend, even colorless. Explosives then checks how many different colors of mana were spent to cast it, and it comes into play with that many counters. You can spend 2 colorless mana and 1 blue mana, and get an Explosives for 1. You can also spend 3 blue mana and 1 green mana and get an exsplosives for 2. This is critical when you are trying to resolve an Explosives for 2 to kill a Counterbalance. Counterbalance decks don’t play many 3s and 4s, but play a lot of 2s. I might have won this game anyway, since I was ahead of him at the time, but I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who made a mistake in the game, as I might have lost.
Round 6: Goblins
Game 1 I get obliterated by a normal goblins draw of Goblin Lackey followed by Goblin Piledriver, followed by some other goblins. I’m able to counter a spell or two and play a Goyf, but he kills it with the goblin edict (Warren Wierding) and I die.
Game 2 I lead with Hierarch, and he answers with Lackey. I fetch a forest and drop another Hierarch and a 1/2 goyf, with Natural Order in hand, aka nut draw gui. He Warren Wierdings me again, and I sack Goyf since I have no land. I can sac a Hierarch and my Goyf will go to 3/4, but I don’t have a land in my hand (I just have a Counterbalance and 2 Natural Order), and when I miss a land drop, he’ll know to Incinerater of whatever on my other Hierarch. I figured I can take a Lackey hit, toss out a 10/10, and be fine. He drops Siege Gang off the Lackey, which is worst case scenario, but I’m still a favorite to win this game. I throw out a Progenitus and block the siege gang when he attacks with everything. He Lackeys in a Goblin Matron and grabs a Wierding and casts it, making me sac my Hierarch. If he Siege Gangs my Hierarch, Matrons for Wierding, and says go, next turn he can Wierding my Progenitus if I don’t have a creature (or if he happens to have land and Incinerator for my other creature). He doesn’t take this line, so I win. Thinking back on the game, I should just block Lackey so he doesn’t get a free Goblin. I was thinking that I would make him spend his mana or lose Siege Gang, but this play doesn’t really make sense. Letting the Lackey through saves him more mana than using the Siege-Gang costs. Again, I make a mistake, but my deck and opponents don’t punish me, and I advance. I keep my head up, since I don’t strive for perfect play, just good play and to learn from the mistakes I do make.
Round 7: Dread_Still
We can’t draw, so we shuffle up and play. Game 1 we trade some counters, and I’m left with a Goyf to his Mishra’s Factory. I then made another mistake, if you can believe it (hopefully at this point you can believe it). I use Top during his end step, and I see Island, Natural Order, and Tarmogoyf. I set up to draw the Goyf, I have a Wall of Blossoms and Goyf in play at this point, with 4 mana. I draw my card for the turn, and I remember he has Spell Snare in his hand. Uh oh. I have it written down that he has Spell Snare in hand, but that doesn’t help at all, it just slipped my mind when I was Topping. Now I have a choice, I can run the Goyf into Spell Snare and say go, or I can Natural Order my Wall of Blossoms and hope his other card in hand isn’t a Daze or Force of Will. I decide to go for the Natural Order, as my old plan of baiting a counter with the Goyf doesn’t work against Spell Snare, and I don’t want to give him time to draw a counter that he might not have now. I put Top on top of my library, and draw the Natural Order, but wait, this Natural Order looks a lot like a basic Island. I thought I put the Island and Natural Order back in the other order, oops. Now all I can do is play an Island and cast Goyf, which is Snared. On my next turn, I attempt Top, which I am now certain will find Natural Order, but his Counterbalance reveals a Top of his own, and I am punished for my mistake. Opponent then plays the Top that was revealed, and has this game fairly well set up, if he can keep me from resolving a Natural Order. He Force of Wills my attempt to Natural Order, and drops to 9 life from my Goyf attack, then 4 the following turn (while I draw a Swords to Plowshares). He then resolves a Phyrexian Dreadnaught + Stifle, and I untap and draw a Goyf. On my turn I present Goyf into his 1 mana + Top + Counterbalance (he is a little land light and he attacked with Mishra’s Factory, played Dreadnaught, and played Stifle on his turn). He spins Top in response, puts back 3 cards, and starts to turn over the top card, I quickly jump in and ask him to stop, since I intend to put another effect on the stack: Swords targeting the Dreadnaught. Opponent now has to choose between letting Goyf resolve or letting Swords resolve. The life totals are me=10, him=3. Goyfs are 5/6, so if he attacks with Dreadnaught I can’t profitably double block, and I will have to chump block. He can then block my Goyf with Mishra’s Factory, and finish me off on his next turn. He knows I almost certainly don’t play Wasteland or Bolt (or maindeck Krosan Grip) to change this math, so his decision to counter Goyf instead of swords is a poor one. He goes to 15 life from the Swords, but my Goyf brings him back down to 10. He gets a Goyf of his own on his turn, but I draw Natural Order, grab big daddy Progenitus, and kill him on my next turn. Did I get lucky to win that game with that topdeck? Yes. Could I have won earlier by remembering he had Spell Snare when I saw the first Natural Order? Yes. Could my opponent have won this game if he played correctly? Yes. I LOVE THIS FORMAT! This is what Magic is all about! I love the feeling that both players control their destiny, and whoever makes less devastating mistakes (we all make mistakes) will win. There is a temptation to focus only my end of the game lucky topdeck, but both players in this game had an opportunity to win it before that draw step ever took place.
My sideboarding in this matchup is +1 Engineered Explosives, +2 Trygon Predator, +1 Krosan Grip, +2 Spell Pierce, -2 Rhox War Monk, -2 Wall of Blossoms, -2 Brainstorm. Siding out Brainstorm feels immoral, but its dead if he gets Counter-Top, and it gets Pierced and Dazed when I need it to find mana, and besides, what else can I cut?
Game 2 we both have Goyfs out, but he wins the counter war over a Sower of Temptation and steals my Goyf, forcing me to Explosives both Goyfs away (in a world where my deck played more land, I might have a Volcanic Island just to be able to Explosives for 4, but this is not that world). He is left with Sower and Mishra’s Factory, which attack me to death.
Game 3 I open with a Top and my draw is powerful enough to stick a Counterbalance turn 3 with Spell Pierce backup, which resolves and helps me easily win the game.
6-1 (1st place heading into the cut to top 4)
To reach the finals I will have to defeat the current endboss of Southern California legacy events, Lou Christopher, piloting his signature deck, Enchantress. His decklist can be found here:
Those are the results from the Legacy side event the day before this one.
My 1 sideboarded Tempest of Light would probably be a different card if Lou Christopher had never played a game of Legacy. As it stands, Enchantress has been gaining popularity, and devoting 1 sideboard slot to this card can give you serious percentage points in the matchup. You have Top+Fetchlands to essentially “ponder” several turns of the game, and eventually you’ll find the Tempest of Light. When you do, Enchantress better have some Angels from Sigil or be able to survive your attack, or you’ve won the game, regardless of how much “going off” has taken place prior. The 2 Trygon Predators don’t hurt either, and the Krosan Grip adds some splash damage (meaning it is intended for other matchups, but happens to be helpful here). Targeted removal sometimes gets shut down by Sterling Grove, which is again why I love having 1 Tempest and 3-4 Explosives as non-targeted enchantment kill.
Game 1 is another classic Legacy game, fun and complex. The game begins with a Daze on Lou’s Wild Growth, setting both players 1 mana back. Lou next tries an enchantress, which I counter, but his Elephant Grass halts my Goyf. I play a land and another Goyf and a Noble Hierarch, and pass the turn. Lou upkeeps the Grass and drops a Wild Growth and a Sterling Grove, leaving him with 4 mana, Sterling Grove, Elephant Grass with upkeep currently at 1. I untap and Natural Order out a Progenitus, sacrificing Noble Hierarch. I can’t attack with the Goyfs, so I’m done. Lou upkeeps the Grass and drops a Wild Growth, giving him a 5th mana. I untap and cast Brainstorm. Before I decide what to put back with Brainstorm, my hand is Counterbalance, Goyf, Natural Order, Misty Rainforest. I can attack with 1 Goyf here, dealing 4 damage, or I can play Counterbalance (I had tried to attack with just Progenitus but Lou informed me that black creatures can’t attack through Elephant Grass. This must be some thick F’ing grass! Too bad we weren’t at a kitchen table that allows flavor-based rules exceptions). I know Lou’s eventual line involves resolving Moat to permanently halt Progenitus. It looks like now is the time for him to go for it, i.e. if I was him I’d go grab Moat now. Knowing this, I put back Goyf and Natural Order, with Natural Order on top of my library, play Counterbalance, then play a Misty Rainforest (in case I need to desperation Fetch in response to something other than Moat) and pass the turn. Lou thinks for a bit, then says “Fuck it” and Sterling Groves for Moat. I pretend to read Moat like I don’t know what it does. This acting job is probably unnecessary, but I can’t show confidence here or he may not cast it. He of course casts it like he should, I counter it by revealing Natural Order, and I untap and attack him for 20 (goyfs are now 5/6). A spectator says something like “Wow, a 4 casting cost card in the dark!” before someone points out to him that I had Brainstormed.
Game 2 I get a slow draw, but one that has both Trygon Predator and Tempest of Light. I Daze an enchantress or two, and eventually land a Trygon, which he answers with Runed Halo naming Trygon. His next turn he tries [card]Choke[/card], which I allow, since I have explosives in hand (and I fetched my Savannah and Forest earlier knowing he has Choke, so only 2 of my 4 land are affected. I explosives the Runed Halo, and attack and kill the Choke. This game feels over, and Lou even says “blowout” but there’s always Replenish or Sigil to worry about down the line. Sure enough, Lou resolves an Argothian Enchantress and gets back into the game. His next turn brings 2 Enchantress’ Presences down, and draws him a couple of cards. I drop a Hierarch, attack for 3 with Trygon Predator, and nuke one of the Presences. I have Tempest of Light in hand still and I’m thinking I better save it at this point for 1 big lethal attack down the line (if I just blow it now and say go, he still has Enchantress and plenty of fuel in his hand, and he may even have a Replenish or another Runed Halo to completely crush me. I have to play a long game. He untaps and tries Sigil of the Empty Throne, with a Serra’s Sanctum and a Fetch land untapped. Lou is at 4 life at this point (some turns went by of just trygon bashing into his empty board and me drawing land at some point earlier). I daze the Sigil so he has to fetch down to lethal or tap his sanctum for 1, hoping this means he won’t have the mana to drop an enchantment, and I can just kill him with Trygon. He pays with the Fetch land, dropping to 3 life, so I COULD Tempest in response, making his Sanctum produce only 1 white mana, now his only mana. Lou hasn’t played a land yet for the turn, so I feel like he could still cast an enchantment with W and a land drop, almost as easily as with WW and a land drop. The Tempest is worth more than cutting off W at this point. His next move is to play Chrome Mox. Perfect! I can Tempest in response (thank god this isn’t a Tranquility or Reverent Silence) and blow up the Sigil before he puts an enchantment on the stack. I do so, but Lou has a Runed Halo, which saves him from Trygon’s attack. Solitary Confinement would have worked almost as well here too, so its not like the situation is great for me, no matter how I play it. I don’t draw any non-trygon pressure and I eventually am locked out of the game by a second Sigil.
Game 3 is just total domination as I counter any attempted Enchantress or Enchantess’ Presence and establish Counterbalance+Top to keep them out forever (I keep a 2 and a 3 mana spell on top).
Adam Prosak tells me after the match that I had a better line game 2 with Tempest of Light that could have seen me win the game with Natural Order then Tempest next turn killing anything that stops a Progenitus from attacking or dealing damage. I didn’t see this play at the time, focused on stopping his Sigil from making too many Angels. Another lesson learned.
FINALS: Seismic Assault-Loam
We decide to split up the revised dual lands and foil Ravnica duals randomly (controlling for the possibility of one person getting more blue duals than the other) and he drops to give me the win.
Looking forward, I wouldn’t change my deck except to sideboard perhaps an additional [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] instead of a Wall of Blossoms.
I really had a ton of fun playing Legacy for the second time, and the amount of comfort with the format I gained was tremendous. This is the fastest growing format for several reasons. Many many decks are viable, skill is tested, powerful cards can swing games, old and new cards live together under the same roof, and no two tournaments will feel the same. I tend to have deck ADD, so who knows what I’ll be playing in the next event. Hope to see you there.