Roots: Legacy at the Local, March 2nd
By George Colby aka Mr. Safety
I have been officially bitten by the competitive bug. While I have no ambitions of becoming a professional Magic player, the desire to win the local Legacy event is strong. I have to thank my good buddy Russ for getting me involved in competitive Magic, something he dove into after only a few weeks of getting back into the game. I have always been short on time and really too timid to ever get out to a local event and compete. I also didn’t think there was a genuine Legacy scene to become involved in. Crossroads Games in Standish, Maine does a fine job of hosting an afternoon Legacy tournament each Saturday. Just like any other local scene, there are folks sporting top tier decks that cost more than my monthly mortgage (ahem, with me being one of them) along with folks bringing their favorite casual deck just so they can have an outlet to play. Most folks land somewhere in between with great decks that have powerful cards but don’t not necessarily register as top tier. It makes for a fluid and challenging metagame. You just don’t know what you’ll face.
On Saturday, I found myself among sixteen players huddled near the monitor screen to see what the pairings would be. According to Russ, this is the biggest crowd he has seen since he started attending two months ago. The usual crowd is about twelve, which was the number when I attended my first event there last February. The word is out: Legacy can be had every Saturday! I had taken off early for the tournament, intending on getting a sandwich on the way. An accident on my primary route had me detoured an extra fifteen minutes, so the sandwich plan went out the window. I made it to the store with only about five minutes to spare. As I waited for the pairings I was also strongly aware of the grumbling in my tummy, an ominous foreboding. I had skipped lunch for my last event, simply because the excitement made me forget about my stomach. This time, eh, not so much.
Even without sustenance, I was ready to start slinging cards with some really sweet upgrades to my Rock deck. Typical of my personality, I had my main deck sorted out two weeks in advance but I was making changes to my sideboard up until the night before the event. Sideboarding is one of the areas that I really need to work on improving, for sure. I had toyed around with Natural Order, having just invested in a set a week ago. I didn’t think I would be facing any decks that would warrant Legacy’s green Tinker though, so I opted instead for more streamlined and focused sideboard strategy. Russ lets me know while we wait for pairings that a ton of people have brought graveyard strategies. I do a mental fist pump because I included a Tormod’s Crypt in my sideboard for the Enlightened Tutor toolbox. That alongside four main deck Deathrite Shamans and an additional three Surgical Extractions in the sideboard has me feeling pretty good. Below are the seventy-six cards I brought to battle:
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(Note: Dryad Arbor is included in the deck, but a persistent bug in the site’s deck building program doesn’t allow it to show.)
Round One - Leon with No-Lands Combo (Balustrade Spy/Undercity Informer)
I win the die roll and start off with Scrubland into Inquisition of Kozilek. I see a hand full of non-land mana sources and Balustrade Spy. I had heard whisperings of this deck but I didn’t know there was a tuned list yet. I found out quickly that Leon not only had a tuned list, but one that he claimed could goldfish a turn one win about seventy-five percent of the time. He seemed fairly disappointed that I was aware of what his deck does, probably counting on a good amount of rogue-factor to get him some wins. I mentally cross my fingers and take Elvish Spirit Guide out of his hand, hopefully keeping him off his combo for at least a turn or two. My initial excitement about having an opening hand Wasteland disappeared like smoke in the wind, but Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler in hand give me hope that I might have a chance. Without the Elvish Spirit Guide he can only assemble three mana to play Undercity Informer; not enough to activate as well. I am nuts lucky to have the Swords to Plowshares in hand for the end of his turn, taking out his combo potential. He scoops after losing Undercity Informer. At the time I was surprised at how fast he conceded. I think he should have stayed in the game, but he scooped. I realize now that with only Chrome Mox in the deck for reusable mana he would have to spend at least five turns, drawing mana sources and another combo enabler, in order to get back into the game.
In game two he goes first and mulligans to six. I have brought in Hymn to Tourach, Pithing Needle for Undercity Informer, Tormod's Crypt, Enlightened Tutor to find Needle and Crypt, and three Surgical Extractions from my sideboard. I have a lot of hate, and I'm hoping I draw some. He doesn't look happy with his hand but keeps anyways. I again have the turn one discard, along with a Surgical Extraction, which is a perfect play to get his Undercity Informer out of the picture. As the saying goes, I’d rather be lucky than good, and my luck is serving me well right now. He loses four out of his eight core engine cards in one shot. I get a Liliana of the Veil into play on turn three, and he has to discard to her ability. He can’t afford to discard mana sources, so he is forced to discard a redundant Balustrade Spy. I pay two life for Extraction’s alternative cost and the other half of his engine is gone. He is upset, but a great sport after scooping.
This new combo deck will be making waves in Legacy for sure, especially now that I know it has such raw speed. It's just like Belcher in that it is a glass-cannon combo, which makes the rounds short to say the least. Unfortunately, its primary weakness is itself. Consistent decks like the Rock punish decks with variance severely. Starting with a weak opening draw is a death sentence, especially after a mulligan against decks using discard. It’s ‘go big or go home’ and actually quite easy to disrupt with Force of Will or targeted discard. It trades that susceptibility for an absurd turn one combo percentage. This is a real Johnny combo player’s type of deck, living on the edge.
If you’re curious how the deck wins, this is how it goes:
1) Assemble four mana and play Balustrade Spy, or cast Undercity Informer and activate it.
2) Target yourself with zero lands in the deck.
3) With the entire deck going into the graveyard, free copies of Narcomoeba are placed directly onto the battlefield with their triggered ability (you need at least two to make the combo work.)
4) Bridge from Below, Laboratory Maniac, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, and two copies of Dread Return are put into the graveyard at this time as well.
5) Sacrifice three creatures in some combination of Narcomoeba, Balustrade Spy, or Undercity Informer to pay for Dread Return’s alternative cost and return Azami to the battlefield. Three 2/2 zombie tokens are created from Bridge from Below.
6) Sacrifice the three zombies you just created to pay for the second Dread Return’s alternative cost to return Laboratory Maniac to the battlefield. Tap either Azami or Laboratory Maniac to activate Azami’s ability to draw a card while your library is empty and win the game with Laboratory Maniac’s alternative win clause.
Round Two - Cody with CounterTop Miracles
I again win the die roll and start out like an annoying broken record with a targeted discard, this time Inquisition of Kozilek. I see a pair of Spell Pierce’s, some basic Islands, and a Trinket Mage. I pick Trinket Mage, he plays his basics. I play a turn two Dark Confidant and it feels really good. My opponent doesn’t want any of that good stuff happening so Confidant quickly gets hit with Swords to Plowshares on my end step. I have a few more tricks to play in the form of double Wasteland and an Abrupt Decay for his Counterbalance. I am able to keep him off double white mana for Entreat the Angels but he gets basic Plains from Flooded Strand so Terminus can still be used. The game slows down after he lands a Ghostly Prison, which I attempt to destroy with Vindicate. Force of Will says no to that, but I’m drawing a bunch of lands. Normally I’d be upset, but the extra mana is helping me attack with a big Knight of the Reliquary. I end up assembling a whopping seven mana to not only activate Treetop Village but also pay to attack with the 3/3 ape and Knight.
I sideboard in both copies of Hymn to Tourach and that's it, taking out Umezawa’s Jitte and Qasali Pridemage to fit them in. Game two he gets some good action going with a miracle Entreat the Angels for two 4/4 angels. I Decay one during the attack phase, but I also get Dark Confidant onto the battlefield and start drawing cards, the most important being a Liliana of the Veil. She deals with the other angel and I win at seven life after attacking with two Knights and Confidant. He boarded in Relic of Progenitus, which turned my Knights into Grizzly Bears, but I still have a board full of threats and I've dealt with his two copies of Terminus: one with Thoughtseize, one from Hymn to Tourach. No miracle for him, not even with an active Sensei's Divining Top. He could have gotten a Terminus around turn three, but I didn't have a board presence at the time. I was too busy attacking his hand to land my own threats, which I felt was a good plan that turned out right. He is at twelve life when he plays Jace, the Mind Sculptor and I think the game is about to turn. He uses the first ability to see my top deck. I am surprised at this, I would think he would at least bounce a creature to slow down my tempo or go for the Brainstorm to refill his hand. I don’t waste attacks on Jace but go straight for his life total, which I can take care of in two turns. He’s at six life and looking at one turn to do something. He goes for broke and fateseals himself so he can see a fresh card with Sensei’s Divining Top. He blanks and concedes. I am at 2-0 for matches and 4-0 for games and feeling good. Miracles could have been a disaster. I am reminded poignantly how good targeted discard can be. I play a lot of discard, more than most Rock players when you include Tidehollow Sculler in the mix. I have found that it makes difficult matches winnable and lets you steal wins you shouldn't get. Liliana of the Veil was just so great in this matchup. Whenever I get Liliana of the Veil into the fray it seems like my chances of winning go up dramatically. I would be foolish not to look into a third copy main deck, a potential future upgrade.
Round Three - Travis with Red/Black Goblins
Game one has me staring down a first turn Goblin Lackey (I lost the die roll). It’s quite possible my luck has just run out. I feel a glimmer of hope with an opening hand Deathrite Shaman to block the Lackey. He Lightning Bolts it, gets in with Lackey and gets a free Goblin Warchief. I draw into a Swords to Plowshares and I make a potentially colossal error by targeting Warchief with it rather than Lackey, hopefully blocking Lackey with my second Deathrite Shaman in my hand. Travis plays Mogg Fanatic and cycles Gempalm Incinerator to kill my second shaman and gets in with Lackey. I cringe, waiting for the big play, something absurd like Siege-Gang Commander or Goblin Ringleader. Amazingly, he bricks without anything to drop into play for free. I end up drawing a couple more removals and play Green Sun's Zenith for a Tarmogoyf out of my library. Wasteland is also dealing with his budget dual lands nicely, an Aunties Hovel and an Akoum Refuge. I keep expecting to see Warren Weirding or Mad Auntie. After Tarmogoyf decimates his life total for a couple turns, he shows me why he was playing black: Patriarch’s Bidding. Holy moly, is that card a back-breaking play against decks counting on board wipers. I snuck in the win with a few swings from a 5/6 Tarmogoyf and Treetop Village.
In game two I look to Enlightened Tutor and two copies of Pernicious Deed for help out of my sideboard, and a minor irritation at myself for taking out my singleton Engineered Plague earlier in the week. I hadn’t seen any tribal decks yet, so I was counting on Deed to carry me through. I took out Thoughtseize to make room, not wanting to give him a free shock, especially considering his Lightning Bolts. He gets a mind-numbingly fast start with a turn one Mogg Fanatic that attacks for one before killing my Dryad Arbor. I only have a Treetop Village left for land and I don’t draw any other sources of colored mana, just a Volrath’s Stronghold. Meanwhile he gets double Goblin Piledriver in one turn and follows it with Siege-Gang Commander the next. I'm dead with a Pernicious Deed stranded in my hand.
I get the nuts in game three - early discard, Tarmogoyf, and three spot removal spells that keep all of his creatures off the board. Goofy finishes fast and I don’t even need to pull the trigger on my Enlightened Tutor left stranded in my hand.
I was kicking myself for not having my Engineered Plague in my sideboard, but I didn't win either game by using wipers. Both game wins came from playing my normal game plan, which makes me feel good that I don't have a lousy aggro matchup pre-board. I was really shocked to find out Travis didn't have a sideboard. He said it was his first tournament since 2006 and just wanted to get his feet wet again. He ground out a Dredge deck 2-1 in his first round, so I think he's off to a great reintegration. His black splash for Patriarch's Bidding makes his deck quite resilient to board wipes, but in Legacy it's rather slow given the ability of Wasteland to deal with his dual lands and its five mana cost. I think it could become a part of this local meta-game sideboard, but I think Aether Vial, Wasteland, and Rishadan Port are all cards that would be better options in his deck. They cost a pretty penny though, so I can understand that it might be for budget reasons that he didn’t have them. Regardless, Travis is a great player, probably the most talented that I saw all day. Give him the right cards and he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Round Four - Nick with Show and Tell/Omniscience
I played Nick last time around and it's like a recurring nightmare for him. Show and Tell is absurdly weak to discard, and I have discard coming out my ears. Inquisition of Kozilek, followed by Sculler, followed by Liliana in game one. He top decks Emrakul twice after Liliana has his hand empty, making him reshuffle much more than he wants.
I sideboard in both copies of Hymn to Tourach, Gaddock Teeg, Enlightened Tutor, Oblivion Ring, and two copies of Surgical Extraction. I am already favored, but I take out Jitte, all three copies of Abrupt Decay, Vindicate, a Deathrite Shaman, and Eternal Witness to make room for blowout potential. It goes the same way, although he plays a Cabal Therapy I didn’t expect and nabs my Liliana. I still discard him into oblivion with Thoughtseize and Sculler after I get Sylvan Library online. I'm aggressively using the extra draws from Library because honestly I'm either going to win or lose, but neither will be a close call.
This matchup is actually about even game one and absurdly favored by me post-board. He boarded in Ensnaring Bridge that he never saw, but I would have pinged with grizzly bears anyways. Deathrite Shaman eats up his cantrips and whittles him down nicely after demolishing his hand. I get some banter going with him, mostly over Gitaxian Probe. He isn’t playing any dorks to sacrifice to Cabal Therapy so I’m really curious why he isn’t pairing Gitaxian Probe with it. It’s essentially a budget Thoughtseize for him, which is a little surprising because he’s playing with a pile of dual lands and Show and Tell, which are among the most expensive cards in the format.
Round Five - John with 4-Color Cascade (Bloodbraid/Shardless aggro/control)
His deck is unbelievably good, basically trading Dark Confidant and Hymn to Tourach for Ancestral Vision and Force of Will. The longer the games go, the stronger he gets. Game one I destroy his hand only to see it refilled with Ancestral Vision, cascaded off Bloodbraid Elf. I get a Tarmogoyf online, he cascades into a Liliana of the Veil and makes me sacrifice it. It goes back and forth and then he cascades into a Pyroblast, one of his sideboard cards. This is game one, which results in an auto-loss for pre-boarding. I don't hesitate and take it shamelessly, it’s part of playing fair. I don't even feel bad about it. As I would soon find out it's the only game I would win. I figured if I could just work enough tempo game two I might be able to pull off another first place finish.
I go to my sideboard and I don't change much, just bringing in a pair of Hymn to Tourach. I don’t even remember what I took out for them. I have great card quality coming my way with Abrupt Decay and Dark Confidant, but he Lightning Bolts the dude. It’s my only source of card advantage outside of Sylvan Library; every other card he plays nets him massive card advantage. He cascades like a champ, getting Bloodbraid Elf into Shardless Agent into Abrupt Decay for my Tarmogoyf. He then starts to grind me out when an Ancestral Vision comes off suspend, refilling his hand. I try to exile his Deathrite Shaman with Swords to Plowshares, which would allow me to attack for lethal at one point in the game with Tarmogoyf and Treetop, but Force of Will shows up and stops that. The deck just doesn’t die, and even though I get him to two life he climbs back in by activating his own Deathrite Shamans to gain life. On to game three.
I don't remember much about the third game, but it was more of the same from game two. I am tired by now after playing four rounds on an empty stomach. I know in my head that this is just one of those matchups that I am not favored, and I don't feel bad about it. I play well and use my cards wisely, they just aren't enough. I am sad about leaving Natural Order at home; that combination could have given me the exact edge I could have leveraged into wins against this poor matchup. He can't deal with a Progenitus other than with Liliana of the Veil. I can planeswalker-rule his Liliana with my own and target Liliana with my discard and Scullers. Looking back on it, having that in my sideboard would have made the matchup winnable. Without it? No way, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. John is also a really good player, playing a tight game all day. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
I finish the day 4-1 in matches, 9-3 in games. I actually have a better win percentage than John who won the tournament, which makes me feel a little better about second place. I pick a Gigapede from the rare auction and I receive two packs of Gatecrash. I rip an Obzedat, Ghost Council in my first pack and a Sepulchral Primordial in the second. I would say that’s a nice payoff for a five buck entry fee.
Next time I'm sticking to my guns and taking Natural Order, I realize that it gives me an edge against absurd card-advantage-heavy, control oriented decks like Jund or Shardless Control. My sideboard made very little difference all day, but I had a great main deck that I was proud to pilot. I had a blast shooting the breeze and traded between rounds for a few upgrades, most notably a Sensei's Divining Top, Stoneforge Mystic, Life from the Loam, and a Blazing Archon for my Hypergenesis deck. Typical of lovely Maine weather, I drive home in a snow storm. My wife texts me on the way home asking if I want Thai food for supper, and I almost cry it’s such a thoughtful, nice gesture. I don’t even mind the grueling drive home because once I get there I find myself next to my glowing, cozy wood stove while munching on glorious panang curry over steamed brown rice. I figure she would be upset the tournament went so long, especially with two rug rats running circles around her at home. My luck holds out and she knocks my socks off with kindness. I am a blessed man, and I look forward to hitting Crossroads again in early April.
Stick to your roots and have fun out there!
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Love the article and recaps, but man...I could barely concentrate cause I forgot to eat before I started reading! lol. Kidding. Glad to see you, this deck and the competitive scene are having some fun. I'm still eagerly awaiting the hypergenesis phase in the future.
Short Bus All-Star
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I am actively tuning a Hypergenesis list, and testing it online. It will likely be my deck of choice in April.
Author of 'Roots', your weekly dose of fundamental magic.
Legacy - B/G/w Rock, Hypergenesis,
Modern - Quick 'n Toast, Notion Thief
Commander - Varolz, the Scar-Striped
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I tried to add dryad arbor to one of my lists too, it wouldn't work for some reason. I'm liking the list you made, i enjoy reading about competitive legacy builds, keep it up!
Mono-Green Combo Elves
Mono Red Burn
Working on for Legacy:
Mono Black Control
Mono Blue Tempo
Mono White Soul Sisters (may splash green)
Been playing magic for 4 years now and am pretty good. I'm an encyclopedia when it comes to cards and I've been playing competitively for the last two years. After I decided I thought standard was lame, I decided to skip modern and dive right into legacy, where I've had moderate success. Decided to get on because I like to help people with their decks and I enjoy helping other players grow their skills.