Cincinnati has been good to me over the past few years of grinding. I managed back-to-back Top 8s there, and this past weekend I managed to take down the Legacy Open.
Er, spoiler alert.
Before the trip started I was waffling on even going. Since I was broke, and needed scratch for my upcoming journey to GP SJ and PT Seattle, staying home made sense. On the other hand, I had committed forever ago, and I didn’t like the thought of bailing on the car. I ended up selling some cards on MODO (not like my Legacy Burn deck was irreplaceable) and spent the rest of my time dividing my testing between the new Standard, Team Sealed, Draft, Modern, and my spicy Legacy deck.
On Friday night Jeremy and I left the apartment to pick up Joe Bernal and Chris Bergeson. We spent the bulk of the drive joking around and trolling each other about our deck choices. Joe kept pushing the rest of us to play Bump in the Night Zombies, which sounded excellent, but Jeremy wanted to play Sublime Archangel junk (his pet deck) and I wanted to play UR Delver (my pet deck), while Chris was there to sell alterations. At one point, someone noted that Chris was in the car the last time I won an Open. Foreshadowing?
We got in late that night. I put on some anime and, despite Bernal being his usual level of loud, I eventually drifted off.
We walked over to the site early and had time to find a few kindly friends and strangers to lend us some cards.
Here’s the list I registered:
I ended up 7-2, losing a couple of matches I felt I was favored in, but them’s the breaks.
Most of the maindeck cards performed well. [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card] and [card runechanter's pike]Pike[/card], while they won me a few games, aren’t nearly as consistent as they were in the old format. I’d be tempted to cut them entirely and become a UR aggro-control deck, but I do like how Delver draws the opponent’s Pillar of Flames so that [card talrand, sky summoner]Talrand[/card] has more time to do work.
I had a few side goals, or mini-quests, for the event, which were successfully completed.
I did this one on camera. My hand was a Dissipate, a Snapcaster Mage, the Redirect, and a [card talrand, sky summoner]Talrand[/card]. I had a [card tamiyo, the moon sage]Tamiyo[/card] tapping down his Thragtusk and a naked [card talrand, sky summoner]Talrand[/card] against his board of small bodies. Since I was at a fairly low life total, I really wanted him to cast a spell so I could get a Drake token off my Dissipate.
Then he revealed a Bonfire of the Damned.
“Yeah, I guess I’ll do it for all,” he said, tapping out.
I pulled a little slow-roll, here.
“Yeah, that’s pretty bad…
…for you,” I said, slamming the Redirect into play.
Something about this amuses me greatly. Maybe it’s that my opponent has this idea he’s going to cast a sweet creature and gain 5 life, but ends up with the opposite.
I got to complete this achievement pretty late in the tournament in the X-1 bracket. I’d lost game one to multiple Angel of Serenitys backed up by countermagic, but the Essence Backlash hit a Thragtusk to win me game two. In game three I stumbled and died while he played a few uncounterable 4/4s for three mana.
Maybe the 75 needs a couple more Mizzium Mortars?
At the end of the day, Jeremy and I collected our cash and waited around for Bernal to finish his Quarterfinal match. We all trouped off to meet other friends from IL. Everyone was in good spirits, largely due to the new Standard format. Getting repeatedly Vapor Snagged out of the game is frustrating, and the new format has none of that.
My buddy Sam was the one who got me excited about [card tezzeret, agent of bolas]Tezzeret[/card] and Baleful Strix. I did some research, and found that Adam Prosak had Top 32′d an event with a similar list. The Source had a thread on the archetype. Everyone was working on a shell with Brainstorms and Temporal Masterys and Sensei’s Divining Tops.
One fateful night, getting ready for a Legacy event at Hot Sauce, I realized I’d left my Nic Fit deck in a friend’s car. As Travis Woo said recently, “Restrictions breed creativity. Necessity births invention.” I had half an hour to build a viable deck without overlapping parts with RUG Delver or Maverick, and I didn’t have access to Force of Wills. I ended up with a list similar to the one at the end of my Spoiler Spotlight on Jace.
I knew that, for a larger tournament, I would need Force of Wills for the unfair decks as well as an answer to [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card] in game one. I tested Brainstorms, but they were underwhelming, as I wanted to curve out with artifact mana into planeswalkers. Meanwhile, Thirst for Knowledge was pure card advantage, and didn’t require a Stifle-vulnerable mana base.
Despite my preparation, I wasn’t confident in the deck. I tested and tuned, made sure I could beat random opponents on MWSplay, and jammed games with everyone I could in between Standard rounds. At one point, Bernal suggested more artifact mana.
“What about Dimir Signet? Turn two planeswalkers are your bread and butter,” Bernal said.
I tested a single Signet, and it was good enough to add a second. Thopter Foundry was another late addition, with the idea of protecting my threats from Swords to Plowshares. At the worst, it could pitch to Force of Will or chump block against an aggro deck for a few turns. At the best, it could create a vast army of flyers out of nowhere, [card meloku the clouded mirror]Meloku[/card]-style.
This is what I registered:
Round One: Jay Bullington with BUG Tempo
Before the event, Jay had given me a few perfect fits to finish sleeving, so he knew what I was on. Unfortunately, while I know it went to three games I don’t remember the match in detail, but I do have a couple notes.
Round Two: Bobby Kovacs (T32) with Lands
I’ve played Bobby twice. We played in the draw bracket of Cinci about a year ago, and again in the finals of a Detroit Open. He always plays Lands, a consistent deck, but one of those archetypes that gets a lot worse if you know what’s up—similar to Dredge. I hadn’t tested Tezz against the archetype, but I had some of the necessary tools to fight it.
We both spent the early game accelerating. He dumped lands into play while I cast Talismans. He stuck an Intuition for Creeping Tar Pit and Life from the Loam, and I started running out planeswalkers.
He dredged Loam, and soon Tar Pit was eating away at my board presence, but I wasn’t worried because I had more ‘walkers to run out. Tezzeret made me choose between Chalice of the Void or Relic of Progenitus. Since he had both Raven’s Crime and Loam in the yard, I took the Relic and popped it immediately. This drew me into [card karn liberated]Karn[/card], which I could cast to exile his manland next turn.
Except that he played an Oblivion Stone. I untapped and tanked. I could hit the Tar Pit, hoping it was his only path to victory, but that seemed shaky. Still, it felt awful to trade the Karn, my sure-fire win condition, for his Oblivion Stone.
“I wish I knew if you had another Creeping Tar Pit.” I said.
“I do. Honestly I run two.”
I looked in his face, decided to believe him, and exiled the Oblivion Stone. After a few turns, I found a Go For the Throat for his manland and, with my planeswalkers ticking up, I flashed him a Force of Will for the scoop.
In game two I Trinket Maged for a Chalice of the Void, which I set to 2 to shut off Life from the Loam (this is a terrific tool against Lands, for the record). Bobby casually ripped a Crucible of Worlds and started Wastelanding me anyway. I Vendilion Cliqued him, let him keep his Dark Confidant, and set Pithing Needle on Maze of Ith to start getting in some beats. Several turns later, he extended the hand.
Round Three: Evan Wagstaff with Maverick
My opponent opened with Mother of Runes into Qasali Pridemage and stopped deploying threats. Since he put me on UB control, he (correctly) played around Damnation as much as possible. He tried to Green Sun’s Zenith for 2 to fetch Gaddock Teeg, which I Force of Willed. On turn four I played an Ancient Tomb, and on turn five I played a City of Traitors into Karn Liberated.
In game two he started with a turn one Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor, which I answered with a turn one Cursed Totem. He played a [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card], I didn’t have an answer, and died.
Fortunately, I had a Dread of Night in game three, which gave me plenty of time to take over the game.
Round Four: Lance Behrens (T32) with Zombies
Lance is another Chicago player, but we met for the first time in the finals of St. Louis, where I crushed him very easily.
In game one he blind Cabal Therapy‘d me on the play, naming Brainstorm. He saw a hand with a turn one Chalice of the Void and slumped in his chair. The Chalice shut off his hand, and a few planeswalkers put him away.
He took game two with a pair of hasty Bloodghasts.
Round Five: Deshaun (T8) with Omniscience
I won the die roll, and kept a hand with a turn two [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] on the play with Force of Will backup. On Deshaun’s turn one, he played a Lotus Petal and Pondered. Scary stuff. He followed that with an Island and a Preordain, keeping both on top.
I jammed Jace, and we traded Force of Wills. I fatesealed away the second card he kept on top (Omniscience).
He passed the turn with mana up, and I didn’t want to waste my Jace fateseal if he had a Brainstorm, so I drew three (lands) and put two back. He Burning Wished for Show and Tell and put in a Griselbrand. I dropped a Baleful Strix into play, drawing [card tezzeret, agent of bolas]Tezzeret[/card]. Jace found me a Force of Will, and I passed the turn with mana open.
He drew 14 cards and attacked Jace (trading with Strix). He cast a Show and Tell, which ate my Force of Will before he passed. My Tezzeret stuck, and I had a difficult choice to make. My opponent was at 6, and making a 5/5 haster was very tempting. I had just put back two lands off of Jace, and there would only be three fresh cards to find an artifact.
These reasons are irrelevant once you realize that a Tezzeret ultimate wins the game next turn, but for some reason my brain glossed over that fact and I hit him to one. He [card show and tell]Show and Told[/card] in an Omniscience into [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card], and I died. I checked the top of my library, and there was a game-winning Baleful Strix chilling in the top five cards.
“Could you have beaten a Strix?” I asked.
“No,” he said, laughing.
Needle and Totem aren’t amazing, but it’s nice to have cards to put in off of Show and Tell that shut down Griselbrand.
In game two I kept a Force of Will hand, but he powered through it easily and stormed me out.
Round Six: Jeremy Stowe (T32) with RUG
Always good to drive five hours to play against your roommate.
Since RUG doesn’t have many threats, making sure they get handled is a terrific way to buy time. If the decks reach parity and get into top deck mode, Tezzeret should win every time.
In game two I went turn one Dimir Signet, turn two play another Ancient Tomb and shock myself to cast Duress, stripping Red Elemental Blast from his hand. On turn three I played a City of Traitors and a Wurmcoil Engine.
“Welcome to Modern.”
Round Seven: Christoffer Larson (T32) with Imperial Painter
Chris was one of three Europeans playing in this tournament. They’d planned the stop on their way to the Team Sealed GP, which sounds like an awesome trip.
I lost the die roll, and he opened with an Ancient Tomb into Sensei’s Divining Top + spin. A year or so ago, I thought that was the most powerful opening in Legacy. On turn two, he demonstrated why when he went land, Painter’s Servant, Grindstone, tap Top to draw, pitch triple Simian Spirit Guide for the win.
Game three he went turn one Grindstone, and I dropped a turn one Chalice of the Void. A few turns later he cast Shattering Spree, pointing a pair of replicate copies at the Chalice and playing around my Force of Will. He cast a Goblin Welder, which got Forced, and a Sensei’s Divining Top.
I drew a Vendilion Clique and worked out a line where I blow up Engineered Explosives for one, getting rid of his Grindstone and making him tap Top, and then Cliqueing him during his draw step to get rid of it for good. He had a Red Elemental Blast to put a stop to that nonsense, though, and kept Topping.
Chris was a terrific opponent and a blast to play against. Every time I interact with the European Legacy scene I’m impressed, and I’d like to make it out to the Bazaar of Moxen one of these years.
Round Eight: Gerry Thompson (T9) with Dredge
I did the breaker math and found I was a lock with a draw, but my opponent would be taking a risk depending on another match.
I sat down and he confirmed that he’d found the same thing. I let him know that the draw offer was on the table anyway.
“That depends, how much hate are you running?” Gerry asked. We knew what the other was playing, as we’d sat next to each other earlier.
“Enough,” I replied. Meanwhile, my head was screaming “Two!”. Two measly pieces of dredge hate between the main and sideboard.
“That’s what you always say!” said McDarby, laughing at me from a few seats down.
“What specifically? If it’s enough hate I’ll just take the draw,” Gerry said.
“You understand I can’t tell the Cabal Therapy deck what specific cards I’m running,” I said.
“I understand. Still, just with that I know you’re not on [card leyline of the void]Leylines[/card],” he said.
“What kind of Tezzeret deck would play Leylines?”
And we were done shuffling. We both mulled. My second hand had a Force of Will, some gas, a Signet, but only a single land. He won the die roll, and opened with a Lion’s Eye Diamond, which I Force of Willed. He shipped the turn to me, and I drew the land I needed.
Gerry started playing draw go, on the slow dredge plan, while I stuck a Solemn Simulacrum. He dredged, hitting a Narcomoeba and a Bridge from Below, before playing an Undiscovered Paradise and Cabal Therapying me for Force of Will (missing). I’m pretty sure he saw [card tezzeret, agent of bolas]Tezzeret[/card], [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card], Chalice of the Void, and Thopter Foundry.
He frowned, realizing that he’d have to take the Chalice, but aware that Thopter Foundry would act as a sacrifice outlet for my Solemn Simulacrum to get rid of future Bridges. Narcomoeba hit the bin to flashback Therapy on the Chalice.
I drew a land for the turn and tanked. Thopter Foundry was my safest line, but I didn’t like how it didn’t really pressure him. I attacked for 2 and Gerry blocked with his Zombie token, happy to trade one Bridge to remove the threat to his future Bridges. I played and upped Tezzeret, the idea being that if I bricked I could still drop Thopter Foundry, and next turn I could make a 5/5 and still threaten to remove his bridges. I hit my single maindeck Relic of Progenitus and cast it with a mana open. I passed the turn and looked up.
“Do you want to draw?” I said.
“What, you think you’re winning this game?” he said, smiling.
“Just an offer.” I shrugged, not changing my expression.
Since all of Dredge’s threats deploy from the yard, cards like Tormod’s Crypt are similar to playing a sweeper against an aggro deck. As such, Gerry had to put on enough pressure to get me to blow the Relic, but not overextend into it. He dredged before casting Faithless Looting and continuing dredging. He didn’t hit any Narcomoebas (cracking Relic with the triggers on the stack is a fine play) but did see triple Ichorid. Realizing I would lose to the Ichorids alone, I sacrificed the Relic on his end step, drawing Karn Liberated. I drew a land for my turn.
Now I had a decision to make. I could make a 5/5 and jam both Thopter Foundry and Jace with a mana open, shutting off potential Bridges, or I could cast Karn and exile his single land. Since I didn’t put him on much in hand, I played the Karn and he scooped.
“I’ll take the draw now.”
I tried not to grab the slip too fast, but in seconds it had my signature and the words ID written on it. I wished Gerry the best of luck Top 8′ing before walking off to sort my deck.
Quarterfinals: Deshaun with Omniscience
In game one, I kept a hand with Force of Will. He Dazed my turn two Talisman, and then my Thopter Foundry on turn three. The second Daze was a little suspect, but since he didn’t have the full combo I think he was trying to buy time.
At this point I had to choose between casting Tezzeret or Jace. I figured Tezzeret was better pressure, and it could bait out a Show and Tell into [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] line that’s soft to the Jace in my hand. I played Tezz and ticked it up, finding Baleful Strix. He cast Show and Tell, which we fought over, before he dropped Emrakul into play. I was feeling safe at this point, as I had enough permanents for Strix to trade with Emrakul even if he had a Red Elemental Blast for my Jace or something. He didn’t, and the game was over.
In the second game, I drew like a god. I kept a Force of Will, turn two planeswalker hand, which seems exciting but I did lose with it in the swiss. He dropped an early Defense Grid and I tanked a bit. If the Grid had resolved, I could have dropped Jace undisrupted, but that would have left a turn before I could hold up mana for whatever future countermagic I drew. It felt safer to Force the Grid, and I did, but I’m still not certain.
It worked out, as a string of Baleful Strixs drew me into a pile of countermagic and blue cards to pitch. I dropped a Tezzeret and ticked it up. He went for a second Defense Grid, which I again countered before untapping and ultimating Tezzeret for the win.
As Deshaun walked away, I could hear him shouting to his friends.
“Couldn’t keep a good man down twice!”
I smiled and checked with the judges to see who I’d play next round, as that would impact if I chose to split or not. It was between the winner of Bernie Wen (UW Stoneblade) and Enevoldsen (D&T). I felt comfortable chopping with either of them. Bernie because I’ve played him before, and know he’s a strong player, and Enevoldsen because I’d be on the draw against the [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card], Wasteland, Rishadan Port deck.
Semifinals: Thomas Enevoldsen with Death and Taxes
We chopped the Top 4, which was good for a little over a grand. Not bad for a tournament I almost skipped.
He mulled and kept a weak [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card] hand. I mulled and kept a one lander with Force of Will for his Thalia. I got that one.
Both Chalice and Force are bad against Aether Vial decks, making sideboarding easy.
In game two I kept Ancient Tomb, Talisman of Dominance, and Dread of Night with no second land. He Phyrexian Revokered the Talisman, but the Dread of Night bought me enough time to draw another black source and another Dread of Night. At one point I made his Sword of Fire and Ice a 5/5 so that I could Damnation it away, and at another point I stuck a Karn.
Finals: Joey Andrews with RUG Delver
At this point I realized that I shouldn’t have chopped. Even if I wasn’t favored against Death and Taxes, or if the matchup was close, my high win % against both RUG and UR Delver (which was the other side of the bracket) made it better to not chop at all.
Ah well. I guess I gamble more conservatively when I’m broke.
Game one went as expected, and I answered his things before playing sweet spells.
Game two I didn’t feel good about my hand, but couldn’t rationalize shipping it. I stumbled on development and he rolled me with an early Delver of Secrets.
Game three I rolled him with a triple-Baleful Strix draw.
After that, I had a quick interview with Glenn Jones to explain how [card tezzeret, agent of bolas]Tezzeret[/card] and [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] are “really sweet together” and the magical weekend was over.
The whole car had done well, and the euphoria lasted the entire ride home.