Then we got to the event site, and I knew almost no one there. The people I did know were players, not traders, and had only their decks on them. I could cobble together a makeshift storm deck from my buddy Rob’s cards, but it was missing Burning Wishes. I first stopped by Jon Johnson, who was playing a match of Legacy Elves against Dredge. Through every step of the game, I saw what the deck wanted to be doing. I like playing engine-based decks more than most, and this one looked like a lot of fun.
Jon didn’t have the cards I was looking for. My next stop was Ari, who laughed at me.
“Burning Wishes? I’m Ari Lax. I’m using my storm stuff.”
He showed me his wish board, which included a Reanimate and a Bribery for opponent’s Griselbrands. I smiled a bit, but he must have seen the look of disappointment on my face, because he offered me his Elves! deck. After a few more minutes of fruitless searching, I took him up on it.
Ari and Chris Anderson were nice enough to give me a crash course on the deck. For the most part, it’s pretty typical engine stuff. Draw some cards, generate mana, look for the win, and play through hate. The deck gets tricky, however, when you have limited resources but access to an infinite combo.
Here are the three easiest combos that were shown to me:
1. Start with Priest of Titania, Mirror Entity, and Wirewood Symbiote. One mana activates the Entity, then Priest taps for three, then Symbiote bounces itself (untapping Priest). In the end, you’ve gained a mana (and a potential cantrip off Glimpse of Nature).
2. Start with Heritage Druid, Mirror Entity, Nettle Sentinel, and Wirewood Symbiote. One mana to activate Entity, tap Sentinel, Symbiote, and another Elf to use the Heritage Druid ability, then bounce Symbiote to hand (untapping the Elf that isn’t Nettle). Re-cast Wirewood, untapping Nettle—and you have the above starting position with one more mana.
3. This one’s trickier. Start with double Wirewood Symbiote, Mirror Entity, and Heritage Druid. Sink a mana into Entity, then tap any three for triple green. Bounce a tapped Symbiote, untapping an Elf, then replay it with two green in the pool. Activate Entity, and then Heritage again for four green in the pool. Now bounce both Symbiotes, untapping the other two Elves, and replay them. This is your starting position plus one mana.
Be careful with that last one if you need it to generate mana—Glimpse of Nature is not a may and you need to be careful not to deck yourself. Fortunately, Green Sun’s Zenith shuffles back in, making decking unlikely. It’s just a matter of cautiously executing a loop. Saying, “I’ll do this (loop #3) ten times,” after you’ve cast double Glimpse, for example, will draw you 60 cards. Not ideal.
Once you’ve achieved an infinite loop, activating Mirror Entity and bouncing Wirewood Symbiote over and over again will let you untap all your non-summoning sick Elves, which can then attack as 500/500s due to Mirror Entity.
Over the course of the weekend, I achieved an infinite loop three times, twice with #3 and once with #2. To win a Legacy event, you’ll probably have to do a loop at some point, but most of your games will be won by sequencing your spells in the right order and keeping good hands. Some games, you might even have to fetch correctly (either playing into or around Wasteland), or figure out how to win through massive amounts of disruption.
This is the deck I sleeved up:
Over the course of the weekend, I used every card in the board, except for the second Humility. It only comes in against the Show and Tell decks, but it should crush them. On the other hand, the first Humility did a lot of work.
Another difference between Chris Anderson’s list and mine is the [card umezawa's jitte]Jitte[/card]. He said it was fine, and I wouldn’t have Top 8′d without it.
Round 1: RUG
In game one, I dumped some Elves on the table and said, “You see the loop?”
After I drew a few cards, my opponent conceded.
In game two, he opened with an early Delver of Secrets and started beating down. After a few turns, I resolved a Humility at six life, turning his board of 3/2 flyer and double 4/5s into three 1/1s, staring down my board of seven 1/1s.
I won that game.
Round 2: ?
I can’t remember what I played against this round. My apologies.
Round 3: Jon Eldon with UW
This one was a fake feature match.
In game one, he [card force of will]Forced[/card] my turn one Heritage Druid. I vomited my hand, while he dropped an Umezawa’s Jitte. I Green Sun’s Zenithed for Viridian Shaman, killing his Jitte, and he tutored up a Batterskull with Stoneforge Mystic.
Fortunately, I had Wirewood Symbiote and enough dudes to make combat profitable. Every time he blocked or attacked with his Batterskull, I used the Symbiote to bounce whatever Elf engaged the Germ in combat. After a turn or two of this, Jon packed it in.
SB: -1 Birchlore Rangers
In game two I got [card swords to plowshares]Plowed[/card], [card vendilion clique]Cliqued[/card], then [card snapcaster mage]Snapcastered[/card] into Plow. A Wrath of God nuked my board, and I was never really in it after that.
Looking at the pile of creatures in my graveyard, as well as the Snapcaster on the other side of the board, I realized I mis-boarded.
In game three I mulliganed on the play, and he plowed my turn one mana dork. I still went off with an early [card glimpse of nature]Glimpse[/card] and killed him.
Round 4: Josh Glantzman with Maverick
This was a video feature match.
In game one, Josh played a Gaddock Teeg, which shut off a pair of Green Sun’s Zeniths in my hand. Fortunately, the rest of his deck was just more green and white creatures, and I eventually overpowered him.
In game two, I kept a Jitte hand, but he had Mother of Runes to contain it, as well as a Fauna Shaman to tutor up Linvala, Keeper of Silence. I almost scooped to the unbeatable 3/4 flyer, but I had a Birchlore Rangers to morph, hopefully getting colorless damage through his Mother and taking control of the game—but he had a Swords to Plowshares to handle that.
On Twitter, a lot of people whined about seeing yet another Elves feature match, as the coverage team had accidentally featured a slew of Elf decks in a row—mostly by accident. Glenn Jones, the coverage manager, Tweeted something to the effect of:
“How was I supposed to know? Caleb always plays something crazy.”
Round 5: RUG Tempo
I won this match in typical Elf fashion.
At this point, I met up with the other members of my car. Jeremy, on RUG, was also undefeated, and we were hoping to avoid playing each other. On the one hand, if we did, then one of us would make Top 8 for sure. On the other hand, our odds of both making it were higher if we didn’t play each other.
Round 6: Affinity (Win and Double Draw In)
The pairings go up, and Jeremy and I high five. We don’t have to play each other, and it’s one of those rare epic moments between friends that makes tournament Magic awesome and worth traveling for.
In game one, I have a decent hand, but his Cranial Plating and Inkmoth Nexus draw kills me for exactsies the turn before I can kill him. A Green Sun’s Zenith would’ve won this game, as I could’ve tutored up the maindeck Viridian Shaman and reused it with Wirewood Symbiote for an easy win.
In game two, he leads with an early Ethersworn Canonist and I, once more, don’t have a Green Sun’s Zenith for a Viridian Shaman. We play draw-go as he hits me with a Vault Skirge, and I’m stuck playing one Elvish Visionary per turn. Finally, on my last possible turn I rip Mirror Entity and make my team 15/15s. He has a Dispatch to keep me from killing him, but has to chump away his board. On his turn, he drops his last two cards in hand and activates both of his manlands to, once again, deal me exactsies.
From everything I know about Magic, going back to playing Affinity against Elves in Standard, this is a rough matchup for Affinity. Kudos to my opponent for getting there.
Round 7: Ryan with RUG Aggro (Supposed Win and In)
At this point, Jeremy was a lock and Rob Vaca, our third member of the car, was also X-1 playing with UW Thoptertop, the most durdliest deck in Legacy.
I knew Ryan, and we’d talked a bit about each other’s lists before the event. He was playing a more aggressive RUG list, more reminiscent of UR Delver than typical RUG Tempo. Green was there for Tarmogoyfs and Kird Apes. I’d also sat next to him while we each lost our win and double draw in the previous round.
I won game one, somehow, thanks to an early Glimpse of Nature.
I kept a triple-land hand with a Humility. A burn spell slowed me down, and he deployed a steady stream of threats. By the time I stuck Humility, he actually had more creatures than me, and a Mind Harness finally put me away.
In game three I dumped my hand on turn two, then played and equipped a Jitte on turn three, which ran away with the game.
As the X-1 with best breakers, I could draw into Top 8. As usual, I got paired with someone who couldn’t, and had to play it out.
After no-sirring my draw offer, my opponent shuffled up and drew his grip. After we kept, I dropped an Elf into play. He looked down, concerned.
“That’s not a Veteran Explorer.”
“No, it certainly isn’t.”
I was told not to shave Green Sun’s Zenith when bringing in Teeg, as I can just dump the Zeniths out of my hand before casting or tutoring for the legendary hate bear.
In game two, he mulled to four on the play. I almost offered him the draw again, but stopped myself. We were there to play Magic, and he’d already chosen to play Magic once. Asking again seemed disrespectful.
He had a turn one Sensei’s Divining Top, and I dumped some aggression onto the board. He miracled a Terminus, which left me with some cards in hand, but the game looked a lot more losable than it did the turn previous.
Eventually, I had enough pressure, and he dropped another Jace before I killed him once more.
Quarterfinals: Jon Eldon
The same UW Stoneblade player I faced in the swiss. Only this time, when I went to resolve a mulligan, some judges pulled him aside. I saw confusion on his face as he left the table.
Time went on, and a sinking feeling entered my stomach. Best case scenario, they wanted to talk to him about something irrelevant, and nothing would happen. After that, it would only get worse. Maybe I have more empathy than most of the cold-blooded competitors out there, but I don’t enjoy seeing my opponent beating themselves up over a mis-reging or whatever.
I knew this wasn’t a mis-reging, as they’d already checked our lists for Top 8, which meant it was probably an investigation of some type. I didn’t have any plays to make, so I hunkered down mentally and made some small talk with the judges. After this, I still had Magic to play, and if I wasn’t in game mode then I wouldn’t do my best.
Rob showed up with a pizza we’d ordered, and the judges were kind enough to let me eat while I waited. The caffeine and the stress kept my metabolism real low. Even though I hadn’t had anything to eat all day, I could only choke down a few pieces.
Eventually, the judges returned with Jon. This kid was no longer the confident, pensive player I’d faced in the swiss. He was wrecked, red-eyed. After a few minutes, they left again, and the judges returned to grab his deck, telling me to move onto the next round.
And that ended my least satisfying attempted mulligan of all time.
Later, waiting in the car on the way home, Rob showed me a video of the #twobatterskulls incident. Jon was [card vendilion clique]Cliqued[/card], then he shuffled from a fetchland and put the Batterskull from the bottom of his library into his hand. I was stunned, and didn’t know what to make of the video. Jon had been a pleasant opponent, and I didn’t want to judge him or hate him. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
I’ve had friends say things like, “lucky you had a bye in the quarters,” and other such statements, but I didn’t (don’t) feel lucky. I travel to play Magic, but for one excruciating round I waited while my would-be opponent was raked over the coals. Even if someone deserves punishment, I don’t take enjoyment from his or her misery, and find it sadistic that some people do. Cheaters, criminals, and people that cut in line at the supermarket are still humans, and largely products of their environment. They’re kids, in a sense, with lessons left to learn. The rest of us got to learn it the easy way, and we should feel grateful for that.
I don’t envy what judges do, and I’m glad that they’re there for the rest of us. I study to play the game, and they study for situations like this. In the end, I don’t think what Jon did on camera fits my impression of him. On the other hand, if you don’t get some harsh penalties for that, then you aren’t getting penalized for anything.
Semifinals: Chris Anderson with the Elves! Mirror
I knew I was on the play against Chris, and had a Umezawa’s Jitte in the board that he didn’t, giving me an edge. Still, Chris had helped me out with the deck all weekend, and it seemed like major weaksauce to no-sir the Top 4 split, since I wouldn’t have gotten there without his (and Ari’s) help. Besides, he has played the deck forever, and there’s always a chance I punt or stumble and lose.
On the other side of the bracket, Jeremy was playing RUG against Lands, too, a miserable matchup. Yet another reason to take the split.
“You know what, I think Mirror Entity might be better than [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card],” I said.
Earlier that weekend, I’d asked Chris if I should be playing Emrakul. My reasoning was that I wanted to put on the helmet, so to speak, and my inexperience with the deck might make Entity loops too complex. Chris had explained how poor my reasoning was, and how Emrakul was a virtual mulligan while Entity helped you both combo off and beat down. I would not have Top 8′d if I hadn’t listened to Chris. Consistent success in this game is a matter of balancing when to listen to your friends and when to listen to yourself. You can’t all be right all the time.
Chris drew his card for the turn, tanked, and scooped.
Chris mulled on the play, but seemed happy with his keep. I kept a Jitte hand.
We both led with mana dudes, and Chris dumped his hand turn two, ending with a Green Sun’s Zenith for Elvish Visionary. I just tapped three and Zenithed for a Priest of Titania. Since Priest taps for Elves on both sides of the board, Chris would have to either answer the Priest (with Mortarpod) or kill me that turn.
After the match, I waited around for Lands vs RUG matchup to finish. After Lands beat RUG, Rob was there to give Jeremy a consoling bear hug, but Jeremy wanted none of it.
“I don’t want you. I want pizza.” Jeremy said in the most whiny-child voice I’ve ever heard out of a grown man. Thinking of his miserable, pouty face still makes me laugh.
You don’t really want to read about Lands, do you? I lost. It is a good matchup, though.
If you get the chance, go to that article and read round three. That tournament has some crazy moments, like beating [card goblin charbelcher]Belcher[/card] in the draw bracket with Zoo—but the match against Lands is one of my favorite Legacy stories of all time.
I’m likely playing Elves! in the GP this weekend. The deck is consistent, powerful, and has strong matchups against RUG, Maverick, UW, and Sneak and Show. Reanimator, on the other hand, is rough, and I’ll be bringing more hate for the GP.
Thanks for reading,