I was going to write a PTQ report, but honestly, there isn’t much to write about. I died in round 5, and there wasn’t much memorable that happened. I actually overslept for the 2.5k, so I guess I’m just left with my thoughts, and without Magical technology.
I will tell you what’s on my mind, however.
As per the title of this piece, I am confused about Daze. I simply don’t understand why people can’t beat it. Most Magic articles are between 1500 and 2000 words. This one could probably be finished in three or four.
A month ago, I was oblivious about Legacy. Now, I’m obsessed. It’s all I think about.
You know what I think about?
Why in the WORLD is every single person’s deck SO BAD.
This is a format where you have access to nearly every card ever printed. OK, sure, [card necropotence]Necro[/card], [card yawgmoths bargain]Bargain[/card], [card skullclamp]Clamp[/card], [card oath of druids]Oath[/card], Tinker – and various other cards that were pretending to be Magic cards, but were actually from a different planet – are banned. WHO CARES. Combo is still the best, always has been the best, always will be the best. Why are people putting Wild Nacatl and Lord of Atlantis in their decks when there are multiple ways in the format to kill you on the first turn of the game.
Before I get massacred, just want to say I realize there are plenty of amazing disruption tools available, e.g., Force of Will, Daze, Stifle, Wasteland, etc. But also realize that most of that is mana disruption, and not that difficult to build with that in mind. Yet, people refuse to play more than like 18 lands in this format. The "control" decks play 22. It makes no sense to me. In Standard, Jund decks play upwards of 26 lands, the Bant decks have 25 and all their mana creatures, and the UG deck has 29 lands. Even the Mono-Red Hyper Aggressive Burn Deck plays 24-25 lands. Do Legacy players just not understand that Magic is a little more difficult when you can’t cast any spells? So many people are like, "Man! I got mana screwed again, stuck on one land to his Wasteland / Stifle draw, and got beaten down by like two Merfolk". Yeah bro, that really sucks. I really feel bad for you and your deck with 18 whole mana sources.
It’s almost like they are actually playing back in 1995 when every kid’s casual deck had 20 lands, and then if they wanted to add some sweet new card to their deck, they just added it without making the mana ratio better. Pretty soon their deck is 70-80 cards, but still only 20 lands. I see this a lot in Legacy. "Oh man, I really want to put this new card that just got printed into my sweet Legacy deck, but I like all the cards that were in there already. What do I do? I know, I’ll just cut some lands."
The "disruption" that people play in this format feels like Ponza to me. People don’t play Thoughtseize to disrupt the combo decks for some reason, they play Stone Rain. Sure, it costs one mana, but everything in Legacy is twice as cheap. I remember someone, I think it was Dan Paskins, said that Ponza’s only good matchup was the mirror, and even that matchup was only good when on the play. I feel like this is pretty accurate.
The only reason people win tournaments with these garbage Legacy Land Destruction decks (read: Merfolk) is because everyone else in the room is playing a deck with poorly constructed mana. When your two ways to win the game are 1) being on the play in the mirror, or 2) hoping your opponent constructed their deck incorrectly, it’s not a very good recipe for success. Although, the latter seems to be a pretty safe bet in most Legacy tournaments these days.
The only reason decks like Zoo and Aggro Loam and those awful Mono-Black midrange decks can even exist is because they get up in the morning, go to the kitchen, and fry up some fish to put in their omelet.
The problem with playing those decks because they prey on Merfolk is that Merfolk is bad too! Merfolk exists because a) it’s cheap, and b) "it beats combo." Well, a) that shouldn’t matter if you are actually trying to win a tournament, and b) no it doesn’t. At least, it wouldn’t if anyone built their deck correctly.
They way I see it, there are three pillars of the legacy metagame.
Red-based aggro (Zoo, Goblins, Dragon Stompy), Daze decks (New Horizons, Merfolk, Faeries, and the Bant Counterbalance decks. I would say that Stax falls into this category as well, despite not containing the card Daze), and Combo (Show and Tell, Reanimator, Enlightened Tutor Counterbalance decks, Dredge, ANT, Enchantress, Belcher, etc). The Natural Order Counterbalance deck is kind of a crossover between the last two, but I would say generally falls in the Daze section. I’m not sure what category the 43 Land decks fall into, but it probably has to be combo, since it is a Life from the Loam engine deck. As a somewhat obvious side note, I believe this is one of the very few decks in the format that plays enough lands.
Now, let’s break this down a little bit more. Generally, Aggro beats Daze, Daze beats combo, and Combo beats Aggro. This is the accepted wisdom. Now, let’s examine why this is so.
Aggro beats Daze by deploying threats that Daze decks are unprepared for, ie creatures. Daze decks are packed full of cards like Spell Pierce, Cursecatcher, Force of Will and, not surprisingly, Daze. Aggro decks are packed full of cards like Tarmogoyf, Goblin Ringleader, and Rakdos Pit Dragon. Since the Daze decks can’t really put pressure on the Aggro decks, it is pretty easy to minimize the effectiveness of Daze decks’ namesake card, which then leaves the Daze deck in a position where it has to fight undercosted giant creatures with 1/1s for 1 and 2/2s for 2. Whoops.
Daze beats combo because combo players build their decks incorrectly. If you are building a combo deck, you literally have to beat three cards: Wasteland, Daze, and Force of Will. I’m not exactly sure what the best way to do that is, specifically, but I know it begins by adding a freaking land. The Daze decks are basically just starting the game with Thorn of Amethyst in play. Combo decks can beat that card all the time, so why can’t they find a way to beat a Daze deck? People play way too many nonbasics in their decks, and then complain when they get blown out by Wasteland. They complain when they get lead with Underground Sea instead of a Misty Rainforest so they can "get more value out of their Brainstorm" and then get "sacked" by the Blood Moons and the accompanying [card magus of the moon]Magus[/card] with a fetch still in their hand. They complain when their first fetch land gets Stifled, so they are unable to Brainstorm or Ponder into a second land. Well, maybe you should play more lands. Maybe you should put a basic into play on the first turn. Maybe you should mulligan one-landers because they get blown out by cards that are insanely popular, instead of thinking, "One land and a Brainstorm? This hand is awesome!" like so many people do.
Combo beats Aggro because they are interacting on completely different axes. Have you ever played a deck with Dark Ritual against a deck with Kird Ape? It feels a lot like cheating.
Wild Nacatl, g…
YOU’RE DEAD! JEEZ!
It really is that simple. It’s also the main reason I don’t understand why combo decks can’t beat a Daze. It is literally the only thing you have to worry about, so why do you worry about anything else?
Let’s take a look-see at some of the manabases from the recent SCG Open Series in St. Louis.
1st place – Counterbalance with Enlightened Tutor, 22 lands, 9 fetchlands, 8 basics.
2nd place – Merfolk, 22 lands, 13 basics, 4 Aether Vial, 4 Wasteland
3rd place – Merfolk, 20 lands, 13 basics, 4 Aether Vial, 4 Wasteland
4th place – Goblins, 24 lands, 7 basics, 7 fetchlands, 4 Aether Vial, 4 Wasteland
5th place – Goblins, 24 lands, 4 basics, 8 fetchlands, 4 Aether Vial, 4 Wasteland
6th place – Belcher, 2 lands (exception to the rule of playing more lands, obviously)
7th place – Zoo, 21 lands, 3 basics, 10 fetchlands
8th place – Show and Tell, 20 lands, 4 basics, 6 fetchlands
9th place – Faeries, 19 lands, 3 basics, 6 fetches, 4 Wasteland
10th place – Zoo, same as above
11th place – Aluren, 24 lands, 6 basics, 9 fetchlands
12th place – Dream Halls, 17 lands, 5 basics, 7 fetchlands
13th place – Goblins, 22 lands, 4 basics, 7 fetchlands, 4 Aether Vial, 4 Wasteland
14th place – Merfolk, 20 lands, 12 basics, 4 Aether Vial, 4 Wasteland
15th place – Zoo, 20 lands, 3 basics, 10 fetchlands
16th place – New Horizons, 23 lands, 1 basic, 8 fetchlands, 4 Wasteland
The New Horizons deck, the Aluren deck, the Goblins decks, and maybe the Zoo decks have enough lands. Of those, the New Horizons deck plays far too many non-basics, and the Aluren deck is the only deck other than the one that won the tournament to play more than 1 of each basic land in a multicolored deck. The 8th, 9th, and 12th place decks are hideously undermanaed in every way, and even the 1st place deck could probably use at least one more land given that you want as many as possible to maximize [card senseis divining top]Top[/card] and [card thopter foundry]Thopter[/card]/[card sword of the meek]Sword[/card] combo. The fact that his mana was nearly immune to Wasteland seems to have helped at least a little bit though, since four of the seven other decks in the Top 8 had 4 of them. Maybe he’s on to something?
You mean constructing my mana base around the existence of Wasteland is going to help me beat decks with Wasteland? I would have never made such a connection! That is so next level!
The other way to attack the Merfolk decks seems to be beating them at their own game. If you can destroy their Aether Vial, they only have 12-13 lands that are any kind of help at casting their spells. It seems to me like they are just asking for it at that point. Boy that sure is a sweet Mutavault you have there. Oh, what’s that, your hand is full of Lord of Atlantis and Merfolk Sovereign and Coralhelm Commander? Yeah, sorry, but I don’t feel bad for you. At all.
I honestly don’t have a clue why Merfolk decks even exist, because their strategy is inherently pretty weak. Daze is easy enough to play around, they are just as vulnerable mana-wise as the decks they are "feeding on", and they have only 4 copies of Force of Will to protect themselves from all of the broken things that you can do in the format. Unless they live in Magical Christmas Land where every draw is Vial, double lord, Standstill, Daze, double Force, I feel like their deck is only as good as their opponents are bad. I wonder what they will do when the combo decks realize they should start playing Force of Will themselves, and a manabase that doesn’t suck. My guess is they get scooped up in a giant net and become the stars of the next episode of Deadliest Catch.
business_socks on MODO
Special Extra: The Demonfire Story
This story was going to be my article last week but, admittedly, it’s a little low on relevant content so it got pushed back. It’s still a story worth telling, and a story worth hearing, so I’ve decided to include it here.
P.S. Don’t Demonfire You
Gather round the campfire kids, Grandpa’s gonna tell you a little story!
People have said that I’m a pretty good guy to have on a road trip, especially a Magic road trip. I have some pretty sweet stories hanging out in my back pocket that I like to whip out from time to time.
Now is one of those times.
I’ll say up front that this story is better told in person, but it is so unbelievable that it’s probably worth it anyway. I will also say this story doesn’t specifically relate to Magic skills or strategy or deck choice. It does have one very useful lesson though. You’ll see.
I don’t know who that Occam guy was, but he sure had a razor sharp wit.
This, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is the Demonfire Story.
Setting – US Nationals, Ravnica/Time Spiral Standard, Baltimore, Maryland. Round 3, FIGHT!
I had traveled to US Nationals with a fairly large contingent of Alaskan Magic players (or as large as such a contingent can be…). Some of us were playing in the main event, and others were playing in the last ever JSS Championship. So, I sit down for round three after just embarrassing Conley Woods in round two (sorry Conley, I had to, I just had to), and my opponent is my Chinese friend from Alaska, Wu Jia. Wu (his given name is Jia but everyone calls him Wu) and I are pretty good buddies and we are playing an exact 75 card mirror.
Somebody wins game one, and somebody else wins game two. It’s not really important. What is important is how game three went down.
He had a couple early dudes, but I eventually killed them, and he had taken a couple damage from lands/combat early. At the critical juncture of the game, my turn 6 first main phase, the board is as follows:
Well, here we go!
Demonfire you. 10-8
Draw, Rift Bolt you. 10-5
Demonfire you. 5-5
At this point, I have full confidence that I have won. I mean, who would slowroll in this spot? He ultimately says go, and I flash him the lethal Demonfire in my hand. He gives me a look as if to say "I dare you to put that spell on the stack, just wait and see what happens."
Uh-oh. What does that mean? Every time I have ever played against Wu and shown him lethal he has scooped it up. Why is this time different?
I start to untap, tentatively, trying to figure out what is going on. Now my brain starts reeling.
Why wouldn't he just scoop ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“em up there? He must have lethal in response"¦ but then why wouldn't he just kill me on his turn? I was tapped out… He must be slowrolling me"¦ but why would he do that, we're friends? He doesn’t have a very good grasp on American humor, maybe he thinks slowrolling here would be funny? Maybe he doesn't know what life I'm at? No, when he Rift Bolted me last turn we verified life totals. And even if he had forgotten or something, surely if I play the Demonfire, he will double check all that and if he does have lethal I'll be dead"¦
I'm completely stumped here, but as I come out of the tank, I decide I just have to play the Demonfire and hope he was running the Big Chief Bluff’ems and doesn’t actually have it. As I start to tap my lands, I look up at him, and this is what I saw:
Wu is furiously flipping the cards in his hand, usually a pretty good sign of nerves, and generally a sign of weakness.
I can almost make out the cards, as they are so low to the surface of the table.
Then he stops. I can see the card he flipped to the top. You know how in combat a lot of players will flip their trick to the front of their hand before they figure out their blocks? Almost like they are afraid to forget about it, so they make sure it’s cocked and ready to fire? That’s what this was like. He flipped it to the front and was getting ready to fire it. And I saw it. Plain as day. I saw it as clearly as anything I have ever seen in my life. The top card of his hand was Incinerate. 10thEdition, dude-with-flaming-orifaces-Incinerate.
He was slowrolling me! What a jerk! Guess I can’t play my Demonfire now, because then I’ll just be dead. How can I possibly win this game? Hope he continues to slowroll me and peel runner-runner instant speed burn spells? That seems pretty thin. Better than just dying though, I suppose?
I pass the turn. I cannot believe I’m doing this.
Wu draws, plays Rift Bolt, sacrifices his Seal of Fire, and kills me.
I am a little stunned, and ask him why he slowrolled me. He acts incredulous, saying he has no idea what that means or what I am talking about.
I explained that he had lethal last turn when I was tapped out and didn’t kill me, and I felt that was pretty unsporting.
WJ: I didn’t have the kill last turn! I topdecked Rift Bolt!
YT: Why didn’t you concede if you didn’t have it, then? Also, I’m not talking about Rift Bolt, I’m talking about Incinerate. I know you had it, I saw it in your hand when you were flipping through it.
WJ: I don't have Incinerate! Don't concede ’cause I bluff! See, look!
He showed me his hand.
Land, Land, [card hit]Hit/Run[/card], Hit/Run, Dark Confidant.
I was horrified. I couldn't figure out what happened or how it happened. As I reached for the slip I looked, ever-so-slowly, to my right and, sure enough, plain as day, as clearly as anything I have ever seen in my life, sat the top card of his graveyard: