Saturday, 12:45 p.m. – Magic Glossary of Terms
by Nate Price
Bob: After winning the 2004 Magic Invitational, Bob Maher, Jr. won the right to design his own card. His initial design turned into Dark Confidant, the Ravnica: City of Guilds rare. Like all Invitational winning submissions, Maher is incorporated into the artwork of the card. Dark Confidant is traditionally used as a source of card advantage in decks like Jund.
Burn: Since most of the spells that are capable of directly dealing damage to a player or creature use fire or lightning imagery, they are collectively known as burn spells, even if they don't actually use fire. Examples of burn common to Modern include Lightning Bolt, Shrapnel Blast, and Forked Bolt.
Cantrip: Cheap cards with minimal effects that have the primary purpose of replacing themselves by drawing you another card (ex. Gitaxian Probe, Ponder, Preordain).
Card Advantage: The concept of card advantage has received more discussion over the history of Magic than any other topic. In short, the concept of card advantage relates to the equivalences of exchanges in Magic. Basically, if one card allows you to draw two cards or destroy two of your opponent's permanents, you are gaining card advantage.
Combo Deck: Combo decks are decks that rely on a combination of cards to win their games. One example of a popular combo deck in Modern is Storm, which relies on the combination of mana-generating and card-drawing cards to play a large number of spells in one turn before playing a card with the storm mechanic, such as Grapeshot, to kill their opponents. Hive Mind is another example. It uses the card Hive Mind to provide copies of any spells cast to all players. They then use the various Pact cards, such as Slaughter Pact, to put a copy of that spell onto the stack for their opponent. When their opponent is unable to pay the costs of all of these Pacts during their next upkeep, they lose the game.
ETB: A shorthand acronym for "enters the battlefield". Creatures with ETB effects, such as Snapcaster Mage, have abilities that trigger upon entering the battlefield, giving a spell in the graveyard flashback in the case of Snapcaster Mage. Other textbook examples with cards in Modern with ETB effects are Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Kitchen Finks.
Fetch: Fetch is simply a catchall term used to describe the action of retrieving a card from the library. For example, lands such as Verdant Catacombs are called "fetch lands". Birthing Pod is another example of a card that lets players fetch a particular card.
Grindy/Grindier: A "grindy" deck is a deck that wins slowly through tiny increments, while at the same time establishing a board presence or winning an attrition war against the opponent. Esper Stone-Blade in Legacy and Bant Control in Standard would be considered "grindy" decks.
Metagame: The term metagame refers to the state of the current Constructed environment, most frequently speaking of the types of decks that are prominent and popular, as well as individual card choices within those decks. For example, if I told you that the three most popular decks in Legacy right now were BUG Control, Sneak and Tell, and Esper Stoneblade, you would have a pretty good idea of the Legacy metagame. Since each tournament gives players a chance to react to what they experienced in the previous one, the metagame is constantly changing. Staying on top of and correctly predicting the metagame is one of the most challenging aspects of the professional level of Magic.
Mill: A verb derived from the card Millstone, the act of milling a player is to put cards from a player's library into their graveyard. Since players lose the game when they can't draw a card, milling an opponent's entire library is one of the most frequently used alternate win conditions.
Mirror Match: A match between two decks of the same archetype. For example, two Jund decks playing against each other is called the Jund mirror match.
"#"-Drop: This terminology is used to describe a permanent of a given converted mana cost. For example, Tarmogoyf, which costs 1G, is a two-drop. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, is a fifteen-drop. This terminology applies most often to permanents, such as creatures and artifacts, but it can be used to also describe the cost of spells.
Pump: Pump is a verb that means to enhance the power or toughness of a creature. Pump effects in Modern right now include Giant Growth, Mutagenic Growth, and Groundswell.
Red Zone: The red zone is an allusion to the older play mats used for Feature Matches, which had a large red area between the players. Players would use this area to indicate the spells they were casting and the creatures that were attacking. Nowadays, the phrase "sends them into the red zone" is synonymous for attacking.
Silver Bullet: A reference to the very specific weakness of werewolves, the phrase "silver bullet" in Magic refers to a card that exists in a deck, usually only one or two copies, that serves the purpose of providing an advantage against a very specific deck or effect. A good example of a silver bullet is the card Ethersworn Canonist against Storm decks or Aven Mindcensor against any decks that rely on searching the library, such as Pod decks.
The Stack: The stack is the order of spells that have been played during a given priority step. For example, when you play a spell in your main phase, it is said to go on the stack. After that, any spells that are played in response to the first one are said to go on the stack above them. Spells on the stack resolve from the top to the bottom.
Swing/Smash/Battle/Bash: All of these words have at some point in Magic history been the preferred method of saying "to attack". Now, they are all interchangeable and frequently used as slang.
Saturday, 11:35 p.m. – The Decks of Legacy
by Steve Sadin and Frank Lepore
In formats with relatively small card pools like Standard, and Block Constructed, it can be difficult to find a good, consistent, deck that truly fits your playstyle. In Legacy, that's never a problem. If you like to play control, aggro control, combo, or even green white creature decks, then you're in luck!
However, these decks can't be built purely in a vacuum. In order to thrive at Legacy tournaments, then you need to have a good understanding of what you're going to face.
To help you find a deck that piques your interest, and to learn more about what to expect at your next tournament, we've collected some of the most successful Legacy decks from the past few months.
Ready to learn about Magic's most Diverse format?
Then read on!
Alexis Ang - RUG Delver
6th Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/16/12
While it might not look like much on paper, RUG Delver is one of the most effective decks in Legacy.
First, the deck looks to get off to an early lead by playing cheap creatures like Delver of Secrets and Nimble Mongoose. Then it maintains that advantage by disrupting their opponent's mana with Wastelands, and Stifles (which counter opposing fetchlands such as Misty Rainforest). Should their opponent finally get the mana that they need to cast their key spells, then the RUG Delver deck will be able to counter them with Dazes (which are particularly effective when you've been attacking your opponent's lands), Spell Pierces, and Force of Wills.
So while RUG Delver decks might get into trouble if they let their opponents gets to a point in the game where they're resolving all of their most powerful spells -- with enough disruption, it isn't particularly difficult to ride an army of one mana 3 power creatures to victory.
Jack Fogle - BUG Delver
1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/16/12
Before the release of Return to Ravnica, RUG Delver was the premier aggro control deck in Legacy. But Deathrite Shaman has threatened to change that.
The abundance of fetch lands, and Wastelands in Legacy means that Deathrite Shaman will almost always be able to produce mana for you. And should the game drag on, you can also use your Deathrite Shaman to drain away your opponent's life total 2 points at a time.
Plus, playing a heavy black base allows you to gain access to Hymn to Tourach (one of the most disruptive spells in Magic's history), Abrupt Decay (a great way to deal with everything from Counterbalance to Grindstone to Knight of the Reliquary), and Tombstalker (an incredibly large, and cost effective, threat).
Like RUG Delver, BUG Delver decks look to disrupt their opponents early, and finish them off before they get a chance to recover. But while RUG Delver decks are filled with all of the cheapest spells they can get their hands on, BUG Delver sacrifices a bit of speed for more raw power.
Joe Losset - Blue White Miracles
4th Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/9/12
If you're looking for a dedicated control deck, then Blue White Miracles very well might be the deck for you.
This deck can lock its opponents out early with Counterbalance plus Sensei's Divining Top; or it can settle in for a long game with counterspells, and board sweepers to deal with any threat that an opponent might present.
And while players piloting Standard decks full of Terminuses, and/or Entreat the Angels will often moan and groan when they draw their miracles, that's rarely a concern in Legacy. Here you can use Brainstorms, Sensei's Divining Tops, and Jace, the Mind Sculptors to ensure that your miracles are exactly where you want them - on the top of your deck.
Rob Hunsaker - Maverick
4th Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/9/12
In a field full of combo decks that can win as early as turn one, you might expect that decks without access to Force of Will would be completely out of luck.
Surprisingly, that's not the case.
Maverick, a green white deck full of disruptive creatures, has been a Legacy mainstay for a while now. This deck looks to accelerate its mana on turn one by playing a Noble Hierarch, or a Green Sun's Zenith for Dryad Arbor - and then play a devastatingly disruptive creature on turn two.
Depending on the matchup, that creature could be a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, a Scavenging Ooze, a Gaddock Teeg, or a Knight of the Reliquary (which can be used to find a series of Wastelands), or a Stoneforge Mystic. If things have gone particularly well, then you might even be able to supplement your turn two play with a Wasteland.
While it hasn't been topping the standings at many Legacy tournaments recently, Knight of the Reliquary driven Maverick decks have found a way to remain relevant in seemingly hostile formats for a long time - so don't count it out just yet!
Reid Duke - BUG Midrange
1st Place at StarCityGames Invitational 12/16/12
But Maverick isn't the only creature heavy deck that's found ways to succeed without maindeck Force of Wills. Reid Duke recently won the StarCityGames Invitational in Los Angeles with a BUG Midrange deck that moved its Force of Wills to the sideboard!
While most BUG decks have a very heavy blue base, allowing them to play an abundance of counterspells, Reid's deck instead relies on black discard for the majority of its disruption.
Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, Wasteland, and a single Daze were the only ways that Reid had to keep opponents off of their spells early - but that proved to be more than enough for him as he cruised to the top with his Deathrite Shamans, Tarmogoyfs, Dark Confidants, and Planeswalkers.
Dan Walton - Dredge
4th Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/2/12
Dredge is an unusual archetype to say the least. It prefers that, instead of the library, most of its cards are located and played from the graveyard. The premise is to get multiple Bridge from Below into the graveyard, while at the same time "milling" your Narcomoeba into play. Once this is accomplished, thanks to your multiple discard outlets and dredge cards, you are able to sacrifice your creatures to Cabal Therapy and produce multiple zombies from Bridge from Below, or remove those unwanted creatures to return hasty Ichorids to play. Out of the sideboard, the deck is able to assume a more "reanimator" role as it Dread Returns into things like Terastodon, Iona, Shield of Emeria, or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite (which will still net you a bevy of Zombies).
Shaheen Soorani - Esper Stone-Blade
1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/2/12
Esper Stone-Blade managed to take down 2012's Grand Prix Indianapolis in the hands of Tom Martell. The deck utilizes efficient creatures like Snapcaster Mage and Stoneforge Mystic for their immense value, while it equips its tiny army with things like Umezawa's Jitte and Batterskull. While the deck can be aggressive in nature, it has numerous controlling elements as well such as hand disruption, board sweepers, counterspells, card drawing, and Planeswalkers. Lingering Souls and Supreme Verdict were the most recent additions to the archetype and, in conjunction with the deck's control elements and lifegain, they give the deck a little more of a handle over the more aggressive decks in the format.
Rory Draxler - Elves
5th Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/9/12
While Elves might seem like an aggro deck, it has combo roots through and through. While it is packed full of its namesake creatures, the deck utilizes powerful engines such as Glimpse of Nature, Heritage Druid, and Nettle Sentinel to draw a large number of cards and "combo out." The basic premise is to play a Heritage Druid with multiple Nettle Sentinels in play. Once you have done that, a Glimpse of Nature will allow you to draw a card for every subsequent elf played. Each of those elves will also untap your Nettle Sentinels that you used to produce three mana with (thanks to your Heritage Druid). Eventually you should be able to draw your entire deck, with or without the help of Regal Force or additional Glimpse of Nature, play a Mirror Entity, and then attack with one or multiple 20/20 creatures.
Feline Longmore - High Tide
1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 11/18/12
High Tide is that outlier of Magic archetypes that enjoys as little interaction with the opponent as possible. The premise behind High Tide is to draw and cast multiple High Tide, tap all your lands for double, triple, or more blue mana, spend significantly less mana than you produced to untap them all with Candelabra of Tawnos, then cast Time Spiral to refill your hand, and untap those lands all over again. This ends up generating a nigh infinite amount of mana. Combine this mana with the decks extensive suite of one mana card drawing spells and recurring High Tides and eventually you will be able to Cunning Wish for your win condition: either a Blue Sun's Zenith, forcing your opponent to draw their entire deck or something like Brain Freeze, that simply causes them to lose on the following turn when they are unable to draw a card.
Richard Centanni - Sneak and Show
1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open 12/9/12
Show and Tell has definitely spawned numerous archetypes. The basic premise is to cast Show and Tell, then either play Omniscience or not, followed by nigh unstoppable creatures such as Progenitus, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Griselbrand. Certain decks eschew Omniscience and play Sneak Attack instead, allowing them a single attack with the aforementioned creatures, but also being able to utilize their abilities like annihilate or drawing seven cards before they are ultimately sacrificed. This maneuver puts the pilot in a tenable position and almost assures victory as their opponent is left with six permanent and fifteen less life, or they've taken seven damage and the pilot has drawn an impressive seven new cards. This almost guarantees them the ability to do it all again next turn.
Saturday, 2:55 p.m. – Legacy's Best Pairs: A Look at Combos
by Frank Lepore
When you have a format with over 12,000 cards unique available to it, powerful combinations are sure to follow. It's simply an inevitable when you have so many potential interactions. While we went over a few of the combo decks in Legacy here, the following are some more of the most powerful and popular combo cards in the Legacy format that you might expect to see this weekend!
Natural Order has fallen a bit off the radar recently, but several players have been talking about the powerful sorcery this weekend. The premise of Natural Order is to play a relatively aggressive deck with relatively unassuming creatures like Noble Hierarch, Qasali Pridemage, and Tarmogoyf until you're able to transform one of your weaker offerings like a Dryad Arbor into a game winning Progenitus. While not technically a combo, Natural Order and Progenitus is such a powerful two card interaction that the team is able to get away with the honorary title.
Reanimator decks have been around since... well, since cards were printed that allowed us to reanimate creatures from graveyard. The fact is if we liked the creature enough to play it once, we probably like it enough to bring it back. But often, the creatures in Reanimator decks are never "brought back," as they never left the battlefield a first time! The basic premise of Reanimator decks is to get creatures such as Inkwell Leviathan, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Iona, Shield of Emeria, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Tidespout Tyrant, Griselbrand, Blazing Archon, etc., by bringing them back from the graveyard through cards like Reanimate, Animate Dead, and Exhume. How do they end up in the graveyard you might ask? Well, the deck plays cards like Entomb, Hapless Researcher, or in a pinch, a self-targeted Thoughtseize. After that, it often becomes academic to win a game on the back of your resilient, turn two behemoth.
Ad Nauseam Tendrils
Ad Nauseam was a card that was begging to be broken. Any card that lets you draw as many cards as you like will always have its powerful interactions. For Ad Nauseam that interactions includes playing cheap, one mana spells and cantrips (cheap cards that replace themselves by drawing you another card) until you reach Ad Nauseam. You are then able to draw as many cards as you have life for before playing them all into a Tendrils of Agony with a lethal storm count. The deck only runs one Tendrils of Agony, but with a full suite of Infernal Tutor and the ability to dig very deep into your deck, this is rarely an issue. In case the deck manages to run out of gas for some reason, there is also a single Past in Flames to help you "rebuy" all of your previously cast spells.
Hive Mind is simply another variation of the Show and Tell archetype. The idea is to cast your Show and Tell as normal, but instead of a large creature – or in addition to – you play out a Hive Mind. The enchantment allows you to play any of the "Pact" cards (Pact of Negaction, Pact of the Titan, Summoner's Pact, etc.) and your opponent must put a "copy" of that spell onto the stack. When their turn comes around, they are forced to pay for the Pact, lest they lose the game. This is often impossible given the restriction of their available mana or colors of mana, and the Hive Mind player will subsequently win the game.
Painted Stone is a deck that doesn't show up too often, but contains a powerful two card combo nonetheless. The deck operated by playing a Painter's Servant and naming any color, then following it up with a Grindstone. This allows the deck to activate Grindstone on the opponent, and since every cards will "share a color," the process will repeat ad infinitum. Eventually the opponent, with no cards in his library, will lose the game when he attempts to draw a card for his turn. While the deck relies on a single fragile creature, it is able to protect it with cards like Force of Will, and Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast; assuming the named color with the Painter's Servant is blue, this gives you six hard counters and allows you to exile any card in the deck to Force of Will.
Belcher is one of the most obscure creations in the Legacy microcosm. It revolves around casting and activating a single artifact: Goblin Charbelcher. Once this is done, which the entire deck assists in, you are able to reveal every single card in your deck to the Charbelcher, since the deck runs a mere – wait for it – one land! Yes, the deck runs one land, but an entire arsenal of supplementary mana producers like Tinder Wall, Land Grant (which should always be free), Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, eight Spirit Guides (Elvish Spirit Guide and Simian Spirit Guide), and an abundance of ritual effects. The deck is very powerful and has the capability of winning on turn one if it can assemble the correct combination of cards.
Saturday, 3:45 p.m. – Grand Prix Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
by Nate Price
Casey Hogan - Ad Nauseum Tendrils
GP Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
Tim Edwardson - Omnisneak
GP Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
Daniel Duterte - BUG Delver
GP Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
Jason Abong - RUG Delver
GP Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
Donny Peck - BUG Delver
GP Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
Dylan Hiester - UB Tezzerator
GP Denver Grinder Winning Decklists
Quick Hits – What's the Deck to Beat this Weekend?
by Steve Sadin
Conley Woods: The non Shardless Agent BUG decks. I don't think Shardless Agent/Ancestral Vision is the way to go this weekend. If you suspend an Ancestral Vision on turn 1 instead of playing a Thoughtseize against a combo deck you're just dead.
The format is really wide open though. Even though BUG is probably going to be the most popular type of deck here, I can't imagine it making up more than 15% of the field.
Gaudenis Vidugiris: I think that a BUG deck similar to Reid Duke's deck from the SCG Invitational (Hymn to Tourach main, Force of Wills in the sideboard) is the deck to beat this weekend. Whether or not it's the best deck...
Paul Rietzl: Black Green decks with Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. I don't know which version is the best though, probably whatever Reid Duke is playing this weekend.
Round Five Feature Match – Conley Woods vs. Luis Scott-Vargas
by Frank Lepore
The ChannelFireball was strong among the two players: the two friends wore the shirts and had the sleeves as they sat down across from one another. The Pro Tour Champion and the rogue deckbuilder chatted about past matches as you would expect friends of this degree to before the match.
"High roll?" Scott-Vargas asked.
"Let's just roll them all." Woods responded.
Scott-Vargas grabbed six dice from the container and rolled them all in good fun
"Fifteen?!" Scott-Vargas complained as he counted up all six dice. "That has to be the worst roll ever." However his roll would stand as he bested Woods' meager roll of 12!
Both players went to six cards and Woods joked about how Scott-Vargas could riffle shuffle his deck since it was composed of a bunch of Onslaught commons. Woods kept his six and Scott-Vargas went down to five.
Scott-Vargas led off with a Deathrite Shaman and Woods meticulously studied his hand. Marsh Flats found a Scrubland and Woods was able to send the Shaman to the field with a Sword to Plowshares.
Scott-Vargas followed with a Quirion Ranger, and Woods Thoughtseizeed Scott-Vargas, revealing... an unfortunate two lands. Woods played a Deathrite Shaman of his own off of a Tropical Island and now had access to all four colors. Woods added a second black with the Shaman's ability and cast Hymn to Tourach, dismantling the last of Scott-Vargas's hand.
Woods removed another land from a graveyard and cast a Dark Confidant before using an Abrupt Decay on Scott-Vargas's only nonland permanent: the Quirion Ranger.
Scott-Vargas cracked the two Windswept Heath he had in play, searching out a Bayou and a Dryad Arbor.
"Have you played a land yet?" Woods inquired.
"Nope," Scott-Vargas answered.
"So you have land and Natural Order?"
"I do," Scott-Vargas responded before tapping his land and searching out a Craterhoof Behemoth, attacking Woods for six. Woods dropped to eight life from his Dark Confidant triggers and was digging for an answer to a 5/5 behemoth. Woods managed to find a Jace to bounce the Behemoth, and after finding an Umezawa's Jitte with a Stoneforge Mystic it was on to game two.
Conley Woods 1, Luis Scott-Vargas 0
"I suppose I shall play," Scott-Vargas announced.
This time it would be Woods to go down a card, but his six was sufficient. Scott-Vargas would once again start with a Deathrite Shaman while it was land and pass for Woods. Scott-Vargas followed with a Green Sun's Zenith for zero, searching out a Dryad Arbor. After that a simple attack with the Shaman was all he could muster.
The Shaman was not long for this world as it Abruptly Decayed as quickly as it was cast. An Elvish Visionary drew a card for Scott-Vargas while a second Green Sun's Zenith found a second Dryad Arbor. Woods searched for his third land and cast an Engineered Plague naming Dryad, which sent both of Scott-Vargas's living lands to the graveyard. A third Green Sun's Zenith found another Deathrite Shaman for Scott-Vargas who seemed eager to get to four mana. It was not meant to be, however, as Woods had the Jace, the Mind Sculptor to bounce the versatile Shaman.
Scott-Vargas had an answer though. He cast a Quirion Ranger, untapped a land and bounced a land to cast a Qasali Pridemage, which gave his 1/1 Elvish Visionary enough power to take out the threatening Planeswalker.
Thoughtseize from Woods revealed Glimpse of Nature, Deathrite Shaman, Nettle Sentinel and another Green Sun's Zenith, and Woods sent the Glimpse of Nature to the graveyard. He followed it up with a Dark Confidant and passed the turn. A Swords to Plowshares on the Cat Warrior gained two life for Scott-Vargas, but he had the Heritage Druid to start his chain. Scott-Vargas's board was composed of a Nettle Sentinel, a Wirewood Symbiote, a Quirion Ranger, an Elvish Visionary, and a Heritage Druid.
Woods dug for an answer with Brainstorm after Brainstorm. He found another Swords to Plowshares for the Heritage Druid, ensuring that Scott-Vargas would only have access to a fair amount of mana. Another attack put Woods down to seven life and both players were looking for their trump cards.
It seemed as though Scott-Vargas had found his as he cast a Glimpse of Nature. Scott-Vargas managed to draw one card off of the sorcery before passing the turn.
"Bobs, don't kill me!" Woods hoped in regards to his impending Dark Confidant triggers.
The first card revealed? Detention Sphere, dropping Woods to a precarious four life. The next card? Liliana of the Veil, dropping Woods to a mere one life! Scott-Vargas' Deathrite Shaman would seal the deal and it was on to game three.
Conley Woods 1, Luis Scott-Vargas 1
"If I keep this hand, it might as well be a mulligan," Woods quipped.
He went to six for the third time as Scott-Vargas ran off for a quick drink of water.
Thoughtseize revealed three lands for Scott-Vargas along with a Glimpse of Nature, a Deathrite Shaman, a Natural Order, and a Nettle Sentinel. Woods chose the Deathrite Shaman. Scott-Vargas took his turn and cast... a second Deathrite Shaman that was pulled off the top!
Woods cast an Umezawa's Jitte and Scott-Vargas cast the Glimpse of Nature to draw a card from his Nettle Sentinel before playing an Arbor Dryad and passing the turn. He was rushing to hit his Natural Order mana it would seem.
Woods found a Wasteland for the Dryad Arbor, but Scott-Vargas followed it up with a Quirion Dryad, followed by a Gaea's Cradle.
"Do you just draw the best cards of all time? You get to cast Natural Order after I put you down to two cards!" Woods joked.
Scott-Vargas found his behemoth and attacked Woods down to five life.
"And I'm... dead." Woods proclaimed before dropping his hand onto the table. The two players shook hands before discussing how the matchups had played out.
Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Conley Woods, 2-1
Saturday, 6:00 p.m. – Winning Without Force of Will
by Steve Sadin
With ultra fast combo decks like High Tide, Storm, Goblin Charbelcher, Elves, Hive Mind, and Reanimator that can kill you (or lock you out of the game) before you've taken a turn, playing a Legacy deck without Force of Will seems like a very frightening proposition. And with good reason.
But nonetheless, players have consistently found ways to succeed in Legacy with decks that don't have the format defining free counterspell.
To learn more, I asked world-renowned deck designer Sam Black what it takes for a Legacy deck without Force of Wills to win.
"If you're not playing Force of Will, you either need to be extremely fast, or extremely disruptive," explained Sam.
"If you don't have a way to disrupt your opponent, you need to trust that you're a plan can beat their A plan. So if you're playing a fast aggro deck (e.g. Mono Red Burn, and Zoo) or a fast combo deck (e.g. Charbelcher, and Storm) you can win before your opponent does whatever it is they're trying to do."
However, if you're unable to kill your opponent in the first 2-4 turns of the game with any degree of regularity, then you're going to need to have ways to stop your opponent from doing whatever it is that they want to do.
"There are a lot of different ways to disrupt your opponents," said Sam. "You can attack their lands with Wasteland and Rishadan Port if you're playing Goblins OR Wasteland and Knight of the Reliquary if you're playing Maverick. You can also play decks with Sinkhole and/or Pox, but those are less prevalent. Blood Moon also sees some play in Painter Servant + Grindstone decks, and there are Trinisphere + Smokestack Prison decks – but again, you don't see those very often."
But mana disruption alone usually isn't enough to win you any games.
"Unless you have some sort of recursive Life From the Loam, or Crucible of Worlds, engine going - when you're attacking your opponent's mana, they will eventually draw out of it."
So while mana disruption can be used to buy you quite a bit of time, you need to make sure that you're actually putting that time to good use.
"Maverick, and Goblins attack their opponents along similar axes as RUG and Merfolk. You have a little bit of mana disruption, and a moderate clock, and you hope that you can kill your opponent before they stabilize."
While there are plenty of good ways to disrupt your opponents, you need to make sure that your disruptions spells actually complement one another.
"You don't want to attack someone's hand and their mana. The point of attacking your opponent's mana is so they can't use the cards in their hand anyway. "
"Heavy discard decks usually have Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek and either Hymn to Tourach OR Cabal Therapy to attack their opponent's hand."
While some combo decks play targeted discard spells to clear the way for a quick kill, the discard heavy BUG decks that have been making their presence felt over the past few months use their discard spells for a very different purpose.
"The BUG decks that forgo Force of Wills in favor of more discard are playing an attrition game where they strip away the relevant threats and answers from their opponent's hand – eventually setting up a situation where they can ride a Dark Confidant, a Tarmogoyf, or a Planeswalker to victory over the course of several turns."
Even though Hymn to Tourach is a very effective card in BUG decks, Sam Black made a point to recommend Cabal Therapy as the secondary discard card (after Thoughtseize) of choice for any deck that can reliably afford to flash it back.
"You play Hymn to Tourach when you don't have good creatures to sacrifice. Hymn to Tourach is slow and non-specific, but it allows you to get ahead on cards. You play Cabal Therapy when you can flash it back (virtually) for free because it's just a better card at that point."
So as long as you have some cheap (or free) disruption at your disposal, and a way to kill your opponent before they recover – then you should be able to remain competitive against even the fastest decks in the format. But if your deck is slow, and it doesn't have any good ways to keep your opponents "off their A game", then you're going to be in a lot of trouble.
Saturday, 6:15 p.m. – Winning with Creatures and Force of Will
by Frank Lepore
In March of last year, Tom Martell managed to battle through a field of Delver of Secrets, combo decks, and Tarmogoyfs as he took his Esper Stone-Blade list all the way to the hoisting of a trophy at Grand Prix Indianapolis. His build was unique in that it was able to efficiently utilize the newly printed Lingering Souls: a card that is perfect for a deck containing equipment. Later that year in July, Gaudenis Vidugiris battled his way to the top with those same aforementioned Delver of Secrets and Tarmogoyfs to claim the title of Grand Prix Atlanta Champion with RUG Delver (or Canadian Threshold for those old schoolers).
Gaudenis Vidugiris and Tom Martell: fans of attacking with tiny creatures.
We sat down with these two titans of the game to discuss how they felt about winning with creatures and Force of Will in a format that is so heavily orientated toward combos and powerful strategies.
You both won a Legacy Grand Prix in 2012 with efficient creatures backed up by things like Force of Will and Brainstorm. Do you feel like those strategies are still viable and why?
Tom: Force of Will s pretty bad. It's always been mediocre and it's only gotten worse because the control matchups are much grindier. And by "creatures," I had Lingering Souls tokens and Stoneforge Mystic and a Germ, so it wasn't a traditional creature deck. The deck is more of an attrition deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Lingering Souls is the ultimate attrition card.
Gaudenis: Yeah, no reason those decks wouldn't be viable. Not much has changed. Deathrite Shaman is really the only big change and that doesn't make those decks worse, it kind of fits into it.
Do you ever feel outclassed in a format with such oppressive combos like Show and Tell (with Sneak Attack or Omniscience), Ad Nauseam Tendrils, Hive Mind, Dredge, Reanimator, Natural Order, High Tide, etc.? What strategies are you able to endorse to defeat such decks?
Tom: Yeah, and that's a big reason why I think the deck isn't better positioned and why I'm not playing it this weekend, cause it takes a lot to get me off of Esper. But I think there are just too many fast combo decks now and BUG which is just a grindier version of you because they have more discard. Against those more powerful decks you need Force of Will to stay fair, and then you're putting yourself at a disadvantage against everyone else.
Gaudenis: Force of Will mainly, and you have a lot of various disruption between Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach, and Force of Will, Spell Pierce. Even Abrupt Decay, depending on the situation. You just have a lot of ways to disrupt and usually a lot of those unfair decks don't take that much to disrupt.
The decks you both piloted to your respective wins have very strong control elements, but they arguably won with small, aggressive creatures. Do you feel as though those decks are more control decks or more aggressive decks?
Tom: It's definitely more of a [board] control deck, but with more discard than counterspells and really powerful one for one spot removal, then you get ahead with a sweeper or a Jace, which is card advantage. And there isn't a lot of card advantage in Legacy, which is why I think the Shardless Agent Bug decks are an interesting take because Ancestral Visions is awesome and with all the discard you really want to put your cards on layaway. It's hard to find card advantage in Legacy, and that's where card like Lingering Souls and Jace, and even cards like Terminus and Perish give you a lot of play.
Gaudenis: I think more control. I mean, it's an aggro/control deck I guess. I would say in a lot of my matchups I was the control deck; I was the control deck against most of the other creature decks, and I was the aggro deck against the combo decks.
Seeing as Legacy is a format that evolves heavily with each tournament, what do you see as some of the best decks in the format right now? Do you have any ideas as to what might take down Grand Prix Denver?
Tom: Everyone's playing BUG. I don't really like it, and I haven't had much time to test, but I don't really like Wasteland decks. I feel like my lands in play have a lot more value as they let me cast a lot more spells and play more Magic. I think a lot of people will play BUG and the deck is just fine. But I wouldn't be surprised if a deck like Ad Nauseam Tendrils or High Tide won. I think High Tide is super well positioned, and if I could play anything and had time to practice it, I would have played one of those two decks. I tried to play Tendrils actually, but the deck is really hard to play.
Gaudenis: Clearly BUG has been doing well as of late; I don't necessarily know it it's the best deck or not. People still seem to be reacting and overreacting to Deathrite Shaman so I'm kind of interested to see where that settles in and unfortunately I don't have a good prediction of how it's all going to play out.
Quick Hits – Best Combo in Legacy?
by Frank Lepore
William "Huey" Jensen: Probably Storm. Ad Nauseam version.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: I'm
playing Show and Tell, so probably Show and Tell, the Sneak Attack version. It
could be Elves. It could be Ad Nauseam. I honestly have no idea. I think they're all pretty good decks and it depends on what you expect to play against.
Conley Woods: Uh...I'm gonna go with... probably Ad Nauseam Storm.
Saturday, 6:55 p.m. – Musings on BUG with Reid Duke
by Steve Sadin
Three weeks ago, Reid Duke won the StarCityGames Invitational with a BUG Midrange deck that has since become the model for the deck to beat in Legacy.
Reid Duke - BUG Midrange
1st Place at StarCityGames Invitational 12/16/12
While he's gone in a slightly different direction with his base black green deck this weekend, the reigning Magic Online Champion was still happy to answer my questions about what made his BUG deck from the Invitational tick.
Why did you cut the Force of Wills from your maindeck?
"Legacy is full of grindy creature decks right now. BUG, RUG Delver, and Maverick are all very popular, and none of those decks really hinge on any one card. So any time you Force of Will against them, you're just down a card. And you really can't afford to give up a card in those matchups."
Were you worried about your deck being too slow?
"Definitely. For example: I only played 3 copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, even though it's a card that I pretty much want to draw every game, because it's too bad to draw 2 copies of it in certain matchups."
"You'll even see some people playing 3 copies of Hymn to Tourach in their BUG decks, even though it's arguably the best card in the deck. If you're on the draw, if you try to play two copies in a row, if you fall behind on the board, or if your opponent's hand is already empty – then having a Hymn to Tourach in your hand can be really bad."
What were your best matchups with the deck?
"Miracles, RUG Delver, and Elf combo were all pretty good – but it's honestly just a really well balanced deck that's a little bit above 50/50 against most decks in the format."
Do you foresee a situation in which BUG will be a bad deck?
"No. BUG is really adaptable. So if you see an explosion of something like combo, which was a bad matchup for the exact deck that I played at the Invitational, then you could play more discard spells, and more permission between main and sideboard, and other forms of disruption (graveyard hate, Null Rod, Chains of Mephistopheles)."
"As long as all of the best cards in the format are in the BUG colors (Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay, Tarmogoyf, and the Planeswalkers) then BUG is going to continue to be one of the best decks."
Round Eight Feature Match – Josh Ravitz vs. Patrick Sullivan
by Frank Lepore
Patrick Sullivan is well known in the Magic community for being a red mage through and through. He seldom plays anything other than Monored decks. Joshua Ravitz is a long time pro from the Ney York area from the same circles as Jon Finkel and Michael Flores. The two players were all too familiar with one another and Ravitz gave Sullivan a hard time about his deck while they joked about their previous matchups.
Sullivan won the die roll and after two yes's from each player they were ready to begin. Sullivan led off with a Scalding Tarn into a Mountain into a Grim Lavamancer. Ravitz had his own one drop in the form of a Deathrite Shaman. Turn two allowed Sullivan to shock the Shaman with his Lavamancer thanks to a second fetch land and after suspending a Rift Bolt it was back to Ravitz.
A Tarmogoyf for Ravitz meant that Sullivan was going to have to work for it if he wanted to win through attacks, but Sullivan assured us it wouldn't be a problem. A Flame Rift and an unsuspended Rift Bolt from Sullivan dropped Ravitz to 12, then 11 from Ravitz's own Wooded Foothills. Liliana of the Veil came down for Ravitz forcing Sullivan to sacrifice his Lavamancer, but he dealt two to Ravitz and shrank the Tarmogoyf in the process.
Sullivan untapped and laid on the table a Price of Progress, a Lightning Bolt, and a Fireblast - about 11 damage in total - all in the same turn, would make short work of Ravitz.
Patrick Sullivan 1, Josh Ravitz 0
"Dangit!" Sullivan exclaimed as he shuffled his deck backwards by accident.
"First time shuffling, is it?" Ravitz shot back.
Sullivan let out a sigh as he looked over his opening hand. It was questionable, but he decided to keep. Ravitz led off with another Deathrite Shaman and Sullivan managed a Mountain into a Chain Lightning on the tiny Elf Shaman. A Duress from Ravitz revealed a Searing Blaze, a Price of Progress, two Flame Rift, a Fireblast, and Sullivan's secret tech for the weekend: one Guerrilla Tactics.
"Do I want to take that?" Ravitz asked.
"I mean, it's a lot of damage to both of us," Sullivan joked.
Ravitz ultimately chose the Searing Blaze and passed the turn.
Sullivan managed to top deck a Scalding Tarn and cast a Flame Rift, dropping the life totals to 15 for each player. Ravitz, not content with having missed Sullivan's Guerrilla Tactics the first time targeted Sullivan with a Hymn to Tourach. His first hit? A Price of Progress. The next hit? Sullivan's Guerrilla Tactics, putting Ravitz down to a dangerous ten life!
A Flame Rift from Sullivan dropped the players to 11-6 in Sullivan's favor and with no action from Ravitz that would be the game!
Patrick Sullivan defeats Josh Ravitz, 2-0