Man, where to begin? I’ll start with an introduction. I’ve been playing for over 15 years, and up until GP Providence, I had a top 32 finish at GP Seattle (in 2003), top 64 at GP Vancouver, and I won a PTQ for PT Berlin. In Berlin, I learned a very valuable lesson. At that tournament I played Zoo, one of the fairest decks you can play, even considering you have 1 mana 3/3s and 2/3s. The deck was heavily outclassed by the very unfair Elves deck that ultimately won the tournament piloted by LSV. After that I made a decision that I was done playing fair decks, and I decided I wanted to be sure I was on the unfair side from now on. Which brings us to the present day.
A few months before the GP, my buddy Kyle Jefferson (kylezj on MTGO) told me that he had found a Legacy Hive Mind deck on a developmental forum and was going to start messing around with it. I thought nothing of it and just laughed it off. After about 100 2-man queues and many 3-1 and 4-0 daily finishes, we started to think this deck might be for real. So we tested it some more and began to realize that aside from it being a great combo deck, there really is no hard line hate available against the deck. We decided to talk to our buddy in Boston about staying with him about a month before the tournament and once we got that settled, I set my sights on the GPT at a local store in the area to lock myself to going for sure.
From having byes for my first GP back in 2003, I truly knew just how important they are when it comes to having a successful GP. Once we got everything settled in, I forbade Kyle from playing on MTGO anymore, it was painful for both he and myself because of the gross amount of profit he was giving up, but we both wanted to keep the deck under the radar especially after there was some Twitter buzz. After picking up my byes in a 22 man GPT, it was off to Providence. The deck we were planning on taking looked like this.
Once New Phyrexia came out, we really decided that Mental Misstep needed to be in the deck, considering it deals with the most important cards in the fish matchup, Cursecatcher and Aether Vial. Cursecatcher is important because it can negate a single Pact on its own, and Vial because it enables the fish deck to play out its threats much faster while being able to keep its mana up for Dazes and Spell Pierces. Not to mention how amazing it is in slowing down all of the Zoo/Goblins/Elves decks. The last reason being that while yes, the deck does dodge Misstep decently well, you do need to be able to protect your Ponders and Brainstorms, as they are what help you get to the combo pieces you’re missing. So after some consideration between Kyle and myself, we decided to take out 2 Slaughter Pacts and put in 3 Missteps. I hated the move going to 61 cards, as over my entire Magic career I have never registered a 61 card deck. But I just couldn't find anything to cut, so 61 it was.
The very last change we made kind of came at a whim. It was the Wednesday before the tournament and I was doing some last minute play testing with Bryan Jones, a local player in the Spokane area, and we were discussing how prevalent Team America was and how rough the matchup is. So the idea of Misdirection came to mind. I called up Kyle, who was already in Boston having left a few days earlier than I to see the sights. After about 30 minutes of discussing it, we decided to cut one Force of Will and the Lim-Dul's Vault for 2 Misdirections. The idea was that it has the opportunity to be exceptional against Team America, and in most other situations, you can use it as another Force of Will to push through counters. It also gave us the added benefit of sharpening up the mana base by cutting the 2 Underground Seas and adding an Island and 1 more Volcanic, because we realized through testing that running out Pact of the Titans, while very rare, sometimes can get you there. I honestly enjoyed the change more for fixing the mana than for the Misdirections, as I didn't see Team America all weekend, and I very much enjoyed having 4 Islands on the board at a time and not worrying about having my math disrupted by Wasteland.
The last thing I want to mention before getting to the information you're all here for is one that was pretty important. I almost didn't make it to the tournament! I got a standby flight through a family friend because it was much cheaper, and I needed it about 2 1/2 weeks before the GP. Leaving on Thursday, my flight from Spokane to Minneapolis went just fine, and I was the number one standby passenger for my flight to Boston, but sure enough, that flight filled, and I wasn't on it. What made matters worse, is it was literally the last flight going anywhere east out of Minneapolis, AND because of the holiday weekend there was a blackout on all standby flights on Friday. So I call our family friend to discuss alternatives, and she tells me she can get me into Providence on Saturday at about 12 PM. That wasn't gonna work. I made a few more calls, and did some research on my phone (which completely saved me on this trip; if you don't have an iPhone, you don't have an iPhone). To make a long story short, Mike, the friend we were staying with in Boston stepped up and got me a flight the next day at 3 PM to Boston with his miles. Certainly big props are in order for one Mike Mandella for saving me there.
I’m not going to go through a round-by-round report because one, I have a terrible memory, and two most of my matchups pretty much played out the same. What I will do is give a breakdown of what I played, how I feel about those matchups, and other prevalent matchups in the format. This is the breakdown of what I played against:
NO Bant 3
Now, I’m lumping in Reid Duke’s and James Rynkiewicz’s lists together in the NO Bant section together because although they are two very different decks on the surface, they interact with me the same way. They apply pressure by way of Stoneforge Mystic, Tarmogoyf, and Vendilion Clique, and attempt to disrupt me with Daze, Force etc.
Some memorable games that I had would have to start with Round 4 game 1 against Devyn March playing Fish. The turn before he was going to kill me, I had 2 Islands and 2 Ancient Tombs, and he was tapped out with 4 cards in hand. I had a Hive Mind, 2 Pact of Negation, a Pact of the Titan, and a Misdirection. Now before I go any further, I have to mention that when I was discussing the merits of Misdirection, I was imagining a scenario where I could Misdirect a counter to my own Pact of Negation on the stack that was already being countered, and I would gain an extra advantage by not having to resolve the 2nd half of the Pact after winning or losing a counter war.
So I tapped out to play Hive Mind, Devyn Dazed it, I targeted his Daze with a Pact of Negation like a good player should, and he cast a second Daze, again targeting my Hive Mind. I have no explanation for this play other than my brain temporarily exploded, but thinking I was getting an extra advantage, and not wanting to cast 2 Pact of Negations in the same turn in case he had another Daze or Force, I cast Misdirection targeting his 2nd Daze, diverting it to my Pact of Negation, which, if you’ve been following along, would clear the way for Devyn’s first Daze to resolve, and for me to be beaten that game, and eventually the match. I truly am not that bad of a player, I can honestly say that was the worst mistake I’ve ever made, and while I’m not going to say it propelled me to top 8 the GP, it certainly caused me to tighten up my play for the rest of the weekend.
The second highlight came against Rion Marmulstein, another Fish player, in round 7. After splitting the first two games, we came to a situation where I untapped on about turn 4 with 2 Islands and a Grim Monolith. Rion had a Coralhelm Commander and a Cursecatcher on the other side of the table with about 3 cards and is tapped out. I believe he was going to kill me either the next turn or the turn after that. Now, having tested this matchup a lot, I have become very good at playing around Daze, so this was a situation that I certain set myself up for. I already had a Show and Tell and Hive Mind along with a Pact of the Titan and Pact of Negation, so I could win through his Cursecatcher. Cursecatcher can effectively negate one of my Pacts, but I can still win through it with multiple Pacts.
I drew a Brainstorm and cast it, trying to find something useful. I found nothing, so I tapped my remaining Island and Grim Monolith to play Show and Tell, and after maybe a 1-3 second pause of him thinking about it, without saying anything I grabbed my green 6-sided die and placed it within a few inches of my Show and Tell to indicate 1 colorless floating in my pool. This isn’t my responsibility to represent, but I did it anyways.
After a few more seconds, Rion thought about it, then grabbed his Cursecatcher, gestured at my Show and Tell, and places it in his graveyard. I immediately informed him that I’ll pay for it with my remaining mana, and at that point he tried to take it back, saying that he didn’t actually say what he was doing. At that point there was no way I was going to let that happen, so I calmly called over a judge that seemed to be watching our game, but didn’t know what was going on. I explained the situation to him, and he went to consult with another judge, when that judge came over, he upheld the game state that the Cursecatcher was used. At that point Rion requested to appeal and the head judge was brought over. As the judge was gathering the information, Rion was using 3 bits of information to defend his case. First, he said that I never moved the die over and that it had never moved. Second, he stated that I had used the die for a Titan token the previous game, therefore setting a precedent of that die being a Titan token and not for floating mana. Third, he stated at least twice that I covered my Grim Monolith with my Island, both times he stated that he reached over, touching my Island moving it further over the Grim Monolith. All lies. And now comes my favorite part. After the judge gathered all of the facts, he stated to Rion that I had a very simple board, 3 permanents, and the only way I could cast Show and Tell was to tap the Monolith and the Island which at that point he stated, “and we know what Grim Monolith does,” to which Rion replied, with his completely foiled out Fish deck, and his SCG Open top 8 pin stuck to the corner of his playmat:
“I’m not familiar with the card.”
I won that match 2-1.
The next day I was sitting with Kyle waiting for the last round of the Swiss to finish and I noticed a few people that I assumed were his friends, because I saw him talking to them earlier, sitting down the table from us. I relayed the story of that match to them, and needless to say they had a good laugh about it.
Other than that, in game 3 against Matthew Deering in round 12 playing Fish, he had a slow draw with no Vial and a turn 2 Lord of Atlantis, I stuck a Llawan, Cephalid Empress on turn 4, bouncing the Lord and a Silvergill Adept, and after a fight over an Echoing Truth and him not drawing any Mutavaults, the Llawan went all the way for 18 damage after he unknowingly Time Walked himself in the opening turn with a Mental Misstep.
I’ll start with the one that I played the most of. Fish. I went 3-2 against it, which I’m not too upset about. It was the matchup that we tested the absolute most against because we knew there was going to be a lot of it and against a good player, it can be a very tough matchup to win. It was one of the decks that helped convince me to play Misstep, because as I mentioned before, it counters the most important cards in the matchup, Cursecatcher and Vial. We came to Llawan in the board because we felt we needed a significant game-breaking card for the matchup and Llawan does so much. If it sticks, and you can keep Vial off the board, it can give you an incredible amount of time, especially with fewer Fish decks running the single Mishra’s Factory to force their Mutavaults through her. And if you look at the sideboard, every single one of those cards all have the same purpose in their respective matchups: to give you more time.
One of the things I love about the deck, which I’ve said before, is there is no hard line hate card for the deck. Sure, you can bring in Stifle, Meddling Mage, Ethersworn Canonist, extra Vendilion Cliques, or extra discard. But the deck can win through all of those because of its extreme versatility. Against Stifle and Cursecatchers, I can just build up to extra Pacts. Against Meddling Mage for Show and Tell, I can easily just hard cast the Hive Mind. If you rip my hand apart, I can be left with an Emrakul or Show and Tell, and just draw into the other with my Ponders, Brainstorms or Intuitions. Going back to the Fish matchup, I sideboard
I do hate to take out Emrakul in this matchup, because typically they’re only going to have one single card to deal with it, but in testing we found that they can actually race it quite a bit of the time with their Islandwalking capabilities, plus there’s just no other card you want to take out for it, so it’s really the best choice. Misdirection isn’t quite as good as Force in this matchup, so they get upgraded to better counters.
NO/Bant style deck
In these matchups it’s really about their clock vs. your clock, and your counters versus. their counters, which I feel that I end up ahead more often than not. The main thing to keep in mind is to keep playing and searching out Islands to build up your mana and be able to effectively play around Daze game 1, then Spell Pierce after board. Progenitus is just too slow, and if they’re tapping out for it, I should have more free counters than them to ensure I go off the next turn.
These matchups effectively play out the same; you’re trying to stall them long enough to get to your combo. Your Forces and Missteps work very well at countering their best cards. In both matchups I board:
Obviously both decks have cards they can put into play off of a Show and Tell to deal with Emrakul in the form of Knight of the Reliquary to fetch Karakas, and Goblin Matron to grab Warren Weirding. But you have nothing else to bring in, and they are nice to have as an emergency backup plan. You sideboard the same against Elves. As far as how the matchup goes I’m very confident that you hold your Missteps for Glimpse only as that is really the only card that can beat you.
I will admit that we didn’t test this matchup all that much, but having the maindeck Emrakuls makes game one a lock, and having more countermagic and a very easy ability to counter their Grindstones in the form of Misstep. This one is pretty simple. I will be testing this matchup more before playing this deck again just to sharpen it up, that’s for sure. While it would be nice to Misdirection their Red Elemental Blast to their own permanents, I still believe you want to have the best chance to hard counter their combo so I still like taking out the Misdirections.
This has to be the worst matchup for the deck with its discard, counters and efficient clock. This deck does everything you don’t want your opponent to do, and is the sole inspiration for putting Misdirection in the maindeck. I believe the best way to win this matchup is to try to hold them off with your counters and attempt to combo off before they’re able to set up with a Sylvan Library or behind a Tombstalker or Tarmogoyf with counter backup. This enables you to get maximum value out of your Pact of Negations, using them to force through your combo before they can rip apart your hand with Hymn instead of waiting and trying to counter Jace, Library etc. Sideboarding for this matchup can be a little tricky. If you are able to determine that they have more discard than the standard 4 Hymns, then I like to take out 3 Emrakul and 1 Misstep for 4 Leylines, as you can potentially negate 8+ cards in their deck. If not, then I would leave in the Emrakuls and use your counters to keep Jace off the board, which is the only card they have to deal with Emrakul. In that case I would take out 1 Misstep for the 4th Force.
This matchup can get kinda tricky because they can drop their LEDs and sit behind those to pay for your Pacts and just pass back to you to die to your own cards. Or just go off through your counters before you can do anything. So because of that, we decided to devote a heavy portion of our SB to this matchup. Especially because most of the other matchups we felt good about. So we want to have the Leylines to negate not only their win condition, but also their discard, and the Mindbreak Traps give us extra help against that. And the one Force in the board is better than Misdirection in the matchup, so we would have:
The Misdirections don’t really do anything in this matchup, and Misstep doesn’t counter any real game-breaking cards. There are definitely games post sideboard where you will be sitting behind a Leyline running out multiple Hive Minds because they have 3 Lion's Eye Diamonds and 2 Lotus Petals in play and multiple rituals in their hand. So you need to be sure you can send enough over to them that they can’t pay for. If you are planning on playing this deck, I would suggest testing this matchup against a skilled ANT player.
When we first saw the list that got 2nd and 3rd in Orlando, we figured we should build it and test against it. And very shortly we learned that we really couldn’t lose to it. That build had 7 cards in its main deck that we cared about, 4 Forces and 3 Counterspells, and it just didn’t present enough of a clock before we were able to get what we needed to go off. Granted, we didn’t see the new Stoneforge builds until we got to the tournament site, but while being a great metagame choice, there aren’t many cards I wanna see my opponent cast over a Stoneforge Mystic. Yes, it does present more of a clock than say a Mishra’s Factory, but it doesn’t interact with anything in my deck, and frankly if it isn’t helping to stop my combo, I really don’t care about it. I went 2-0 against it in the tournament against two of the better players alive right now in Owen Turtenwald and Martin Juza. Against Martin we did go to 3 games, but I almost beat him game one when I kept a 1 land Brainstorm hand that drew into 3 non-land/non-Brainstorm/Ponder spells, when one single land would have enabled me to win the game. And my match with Owen was probably the most one-sided I had all weekend and I beat him very very easily. As far as playing the match, you can pretty much break Standstill at any time, as for the most part they will maybe net one counter from it, which again, are the only cards you care about, and you have much more counters than they do as a whole. In that matchup I sideboard -3 Emrakuls, because they have Jace, and you can just power through your combo, and put in +1 Misstep +1 Force +1 Mindbreak trap. The trap may seem strange, but worst case scenario it’s a 4 mana counter or a blue card for Force or Misdirection. Best case scenario, it’s a free counter.
I also played against a R/W/U Stoneforge deck on day 1 that essentially played as a mix between a Landstill deck and a Bant deck. And also an Infect deck that I thought was pretty funny, it actually got me a game, but since I can Misstep his Glistener Elf and Berserks, I was able to take it in 3.
In closing, I’m really excited about the opportunities that this finish has afforded me. At the very least, I’m going to be slinging spells at Nationals and PT Philadelphia, with an eye on qualifying for Worlds and making a run at getting on the Train for next year. With a few Grand Prix mixed in this year. I’m confident I should be able to get there. I still really like the deck, and am very interested to see the effect it has on the Legacy format. If there was anything I missed or any other matchups or questions you had about the deck, feel free to leave em’ in the comments, I’ll definitely address them. Hopefully you learned something from this. Thanks for reading.