Welcome to the first of my new weekly column, Luck, Skill, Victory. I decided that despite ramping up video production, I really hadn’t been writing enough lately, so I’m committing to going back to writing on a weekly basis. I also wanted to kick things off with a new column name, or rather, a new old column name. Those who used to read me at Starcitygames.com might remember it, since it is such an awesome column name (thanks to Dr. Chapin for that one). Luck, Skill, Victory really does encompass all the things I look for in a game of Magic, and especially now that my Twitter handle has been changed to the perfect @lsv, it seemed appropriate.
Where shall I begin?
First off, Legacy.
Last weekend, I played the following:
Boy, was this deck mediocre. It did most of what we expected it to do, but there were a few key problems.
The main problem is that you aren’t really that fast, or that powerful. By trying to settle on a consistent deck, we settled on a deck that was consistently boring. I can’t name a single deck in the format that this deck crushes, and despite playing a bunch of sweet cards, that isn’t really a place you want to be. There is definitely something to be said for being consistent, but in this particular case, it came at too high a cost. Legacy is just too diverse a format to be able to cover all your bases, and even against the most popular decks, I never felt all that good.
My tournament didn’t go all that poorly, but again, that was in spite of my deck, and not because of it. I played against surprisingly few different decks, with the following results:
Round 4 vs [card goblin charbelcher]Charbelcher[/card]
Nothing like starting the tournament off with a bang, or in my opponent’s case, a whimper. I Force of Will’ed a Ritual of some kind once he was about to hit four mana (because of Empty the Warrens, you pretty much have to now), and he did nothing else relevant. After boarding in all the Spell Pierces, Mages, and Disenchant/Wrath/O-Ring for all the bad slow cards, I died on turn one of game two (well, essentially, since he made 10 goblins). I did mull to 5, looking for FoW, since you basically have to, but missed.
In game three, I had the FoW, and he once again lost horribly. I did Force Xantid Swarm this time, but also had Pierce and Leak, and he never really came all that close. This matchup seems fine, since you have Force in your deck, but you never really want to play it.
Round 5 vs UW Mystic
This is another fairly straightforward matchup, though presumably one of the better ones for me, since we were playing almost the exact same deck. I’m not saying I would always crush the mirror, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable assumption to think that I have more experience playing with this set of cards than most of my opponents. Regardless, I managed to win in three games, after a variety of countermagic battles.
Important things to consider in the mirror:
An active Stoneforge is almost always unbeatable, so consider it their best threat. Nobody ever got Stoneforge going in our games, and most games won’t come down to it, since Spell Snare, Force, and Swords are all good at stopping it.
An active Jace is sick, but vulnerable to Vendilion and Stoneforge, though obviously still pretty important. Jace is much harder to kill than Mystic, and ended two of the three games in this particular match. Much like old Stoneforge mirrors, you never let Jace resolve if you can help it. Because of Jace, draw-go starts to happen around turn four, since fighting a counterwar and then untapping and slamming Jace is the easiest way to win.
Don’t just spew off Wastelands on the first few turns. Games go long enough that you really need to save them for the special lands (Mishra’s Factory/Karakas mainly), so unless they do something like miss a land drop, there’s no reason to randomly Waste them.
I like sideboarding out Force of Wills, which is probably common knowledge by now, along with the lone Wrath, in order to bring in Spell Pierces, and the Disenchant and O-Ring. Getting Force Spell Pierced or Red Blasted sucks, and even if it resolves, they can often answer whatever you just played with a single card as well. The games just go too long for Force to be worth it.
Depending on their deck, they will have access to Spell Pierce, Mana Leak, Counterspell, Force of Will, Pyroblast, Daze, and Spell Snare, so do your best to consider each and every one at all times. That may seem like a lot, but you get so much information from how they play each turn that you should be able to rule some out, as well as by having knowledge of common decklists. Most don’t run Daze, none run Leak and Counterspell, Spell Pierce is more common post-board, and so on. This is where format knowledge in general comes in handy, and one of the reasons I enjoy Legacy. It also applies greatly to the RUG matchup, which has all of the above cards plus Stifle, though way less Counterspells and Mana Leaks (but more Dazes and Spell Pierces).
After this round, I had to battle against a deck which made me feel uneasy for the first time in the tournament.
Round 6 vs UWB Lingering Soul-Blade
This round wasn’t pretty, as I battled against Ben Rasmussen, playing the same deck Martell ended up winning the tournament with. It was definitely a grind, and game three was not my or Ben’s finest hour.
We split the first two games in uneventful fashion, with him resolving Jace game one and me resolving Jace game two. I wasn’t even sure how to sideboard, since the card Lingering Souls made me want both Wrath of God and Meddling Mage to some extent. I settled on cutting two of the Swords to Plowshares, and bringing in 2 Spell Pierce and 2 Meddling Mage (along with swapping out 4 Forces and bringing in Disenchant/O-Ring).
In game three, the board managed to get somewhat complicated. I had an Elspeth, a soldier token, and some Mishra’s Factories, and he had various dudes from Lingering Souls, a Sword of Feast and Famine, and an Umezawa’s Jitte. Swords to Plowshares kept the Jitte from getting counters for two turns, but he finally was able to accumulate two. I landed a Jace, and chose to Brainstorm, since bouncing a token wouldn’t really help. I then proceeded to take a turn that involved me not using Elspeth at all, and passed with one mana untapped. Lovely.
Luckily, he one-upped me, and chose to equip both his weapons on to the same Spirit token, which meant that my last card, Swords to Plowshares, was just a huge blowout. He didn’t get more Jitte counters, didn’t get to untap his lands (and it turned out that he had Jace in hand), and promptly lost as a result.
Even though I won, I didn’t feel great. Not only did I mess up badly by not using Elspeth, the matchup seemed very bad, and Martell was also 6-0.
Round 7 vs Tom Martell
And there we have it. Our match was on camera, and it was kind of a beating. I almost won game one, thanks to him stalling on three lands (helped by my Forcing of a Brainstorm after he missed a land drop), but the card Lingering Souls is just so insane in the mirror. I even Meddling Maged it game two, but was then forced to Wrath or risk losing to Sword of Feast and Famine, another trump card. Souls then lingered, and I died horribly.
This matchup alone is reason not to play straight UW Stoneforge, even if most of the deck is cards I like. I think a shell of Force of Will, Swords to Plowshares, Brainstorm, and Stoneforge Mystic is great, and a good place to start, but the rest of the deck needs reconsidering.
Round 8 vs Dredge
I battled against Adam Prosak this round, and the match was pretty sweet. Dredge actually lends itself to decent matches sometimes, mainly when they don’t just get to go nuts and have to play an actual game.
That was the case game one, where a few important things stood out that apply to any match against Dredge. Here was my opening hand of six cards:
This hand has a few things going for it. Swords is pretty good at killing Ichorids, and can definitely buy a reasonable amount of time. Most importantly though, the combination of Mishra’s Factory and Wasteland kills all their Bridge from Belows, which was the only reason he couldn’t just Dredge heedlessly and kill me immediately.
By Plowing his first two Ichorids and eventually removing three Bridges by Wasting my own Factory, I was able to barely hang on with Stoneforge and Batterskull, though I was at one life, facing down a horde of two Grave-Trolls, three Narcomoebas, and multiple Zombies.
I then ripped Sword of Body and Mind, saw that he had seven cards left, and no untapped black creatures. Whoops.
I sideboarded out Spell Snares, Leaks, Sword of Body and Mind, Elspeth, Vendilions, and Jaces, bringing in the whole sideboard minus the Disenchant and the O-Ring. Spell Pierce at least stops Careful Study and Faithless Looting, and Meddling Mage can name Cabal Therapy or Dread Return.
The next two games were pretty bad, with me never playing a second land in game two and him never playing a single card after I Forced his Careful Study game three. I suppose I’ll take it.
Round 9 vs BURN
There really isn’t much to say about this matchup. Take the path of least damage every turn, whether that’s Forcing Goblin Guide or saving counters for Fireblast/Price of Progress, and be sure to fetch all basics and leave Wastelands untapped to mitigate said Price. Twice he was forced to kill a Germ token with burn spells, and twice he lost rapidly as a result.
Web strategically drew into day two at 6-0-3, Wrapter finished 7-2, BenS was 7-2, Shuhei was 7-2, Owen was 7-2, and Kibler was 6-3. A great showing for the team, eh.
As I mentioned on Twitter last Saturday, I wouldn’t mind seeing an extra five minutes per round for Legacy Grands Prix. We got extra time at the Champions Block Pro Tour (and needed it), and I think that many of the undesirable unintentional draws would be solved by a few extra minutes. Legacy is a hard format, and even those who are very experienced still have trouble finishing three-game matches in time. BenS isn’t a slow player, and neither am I, and we both went to time or almost went to time multiple times. Web isn’t the fastest player, and picked up two draws in the first few rounds. In my experience, Legacy is the format most likely to go to time, even when both players are playing at a reasonable pace. According to the Head Judge, at one point, 150 tables were playing when the clock struck zero. One fourth of the field was still playing! That, if nothing else, should indicate that a small amount of extra time may be in order.
Sadly, this wasn’t a Gruesome Encore of day one, even if I played against a few similar decks.
After beating UR Burn (and getting very lucky in the process), in round 10, I faced the first of two High Tide decks in round 11.
Round 11 vs High Tide
Having played both sides of this matchup many times, the key definitely has to be pressure. The High Tide deck is very resilient to counterspells, especially given enough time, so UW has to actually pressure High Tide in order to not get drowned by an abundance of Islands. Once High Tide has six or seven lands in play, it’s very difficult to prevent it from going off. All High Tide wants to do is sit there making land drops and casting cantrips, so UW really has to make an effort to get some kind of finisher on the board, preferably without tapping too much mana.
Game one is tough, since Vendilion and Stoneforge are the only clocks UW has, and the four Forces and two Mana Leaks the only real counters. In this match, I was not able to pressure him enough, and in game one he resolved High Tide into Time Spiral, and I died shortly thereafter. Well, not that shortly, since the deck takes a while to kill, but definitely thereafter.
After siding in Spell Pierces and Meddling Mages, I now had a real route to victory. Meddling Mage naming High Tide is very difficult for Tide to beat, since it requires Cunning Wish into a bounce spell, all while attacking for two a turn.
Sadly, I never saw a single Mage, and despite winning game two after he fizzled, got promptly destroyed in game three.
Round 12 vs Belcher
I got to face Belcher again this round, and it went about how Belcher matches normally do. I had the Force game one, but kept a one-land hand (I knew he was on Belcher from sitting next to him in an earlier round), and he was able to reassemble a lethal Belcher the turn before I was going to kill him.
In game two, Force plus pressure ended it rather rapidly, sending us once again to a third game.
I started the game by mulling to four, though it was a spicy four:
As it turned out, I almost could have mulled to zero, since his entire game consisted of:
Gitaxian Probe you.
(His hand was double Pact of Negation and the nuts minus one mana, and he never ended up seeing that crucial kickstarter.)
Round 13 vs RUG
RUG is another deck it behooves you to practice against, since it has so many situational cards and is a deck built on incremental advantage. I’ve played a ton against it, and feel pretty confident I know what’s going on, none of which I really needed in this match.
In game two, he mulliganed, Preordained two to the bottom, Brainstormed, and missed a land drop. I then Forced his second Brainstorm and dropped Jace, to which he conceded.
Here’s where the wheels came off. It felt like GP Pittsburgh all over again. We had a mediocre UW deck, and I somehow found myself at 11-2, presumably playing for Top 8. I then got murdered twice, and finished somewhere in the Top 64.
Round 14 vs High Tide
I once again died to the Tide, this time piloted by Alix Hatfield, taking revenge for his loss to me in Pro Tour Amsterdam. I again never saw Pikula during postboard games, and again wasn’t able to force him to go off before he was well and truly ready. I also appreciated that all his Islands had the same picture, unlike my first High Tide opponent. That sort of thing matters, at least to me.
Round 15 vs Maverick
Ah, the dreaded Maverick. I was mildly surprised that I hadn’t faced it earlier in the tournament, though our match was so lopsided that I guess I should be thankful. I died in a matter of minutes, as Mother of Runes stopped Swords to Plowshares, Gaddock Teeg stopped Wrath of God, and other animals stopped my life points from existing. A great way to finish the event.
Despite the fact that I wouldn’t recommend my exact decklist, I still like the basic concept, and still think that practice playing with all these blue cards will pay off in the long run. I’d look at the deck Martell played, since it not only won the tournament, but looked awesome while doing so, or at RUG, with many possible builds. Martell’s tournament report should be coming soon, as he’s promised to have it done by tomorrow.
I want to play something sweet at the next Legacy Grand Prix, so hopefully I remember this and make a real effort to do so.
Moving on to my favorite current format, possibly because I get to play Tron, we have Modern. Modern is great right now. No matter what kind of deck you like, there is a good chance it’s playable, even if you are a sick freak that loves playing Jund (I’ve been told that they exist). I don’t want to do a full format breakdown, but just mention the decks I like, starting, of course, with Tron:
Efro played this list to an X-0 finish at a local PTQ, and it does about what I want to be doing in Modern right now. The sideboard can of course be adjusted to whatever you expect, but I really like the maindeck, and if I were to play in a Modern event, this is what I’d run. Other decks I’d consider playing are Loam (similar to the list from these videos, Part 1 and Part 2), or Melira, though I don’t have a current list for that.
I don’t really like Jund, though it’s a fine deck, mainly because I feel that if you are going to devote the time to practice and be prepared for Modern, you can do better. Jund really doesn’t reward you for playing well, and is about the most boring deck you can possibly choose. I realize that some people probably enjoy it, but I don’t, and I’m not going to play a deck I hate that much under any circumstances.
Affinity, Zoo, MonoU Faeries, and Splinter Twin are all decks, and I’d be prepared for them, but again, they don’t seem all that fantastic. If you want a control deck, play Tron, and if you want a combo deck, play Melira. I don’t see any point to messing around, and Tron especially is at the most extreme end of the spectrum, which is often where I’d like to be.
Of course, you don’t even need to listen to me, since Modern is filled with awesome decks. Pick the one that speaks to you best, test it, tune it, and really learn how to play it, and you will do well.
Here’s hoping I Conley it up in Nashville (double Bloodline Keeper, anyone?), and ideally break the draft format so I can write about it next week.