Even with a new, format-warping draw spell with a widely recognized “best shell” in UR Delver, Legacy continues to be the format of diverse Top 8.
Brainstorm still dominated, of course.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Let’s take a gander at the winning deck:
UWR, by BBD
The first time I met BBD I asked if he wanted to jam a few games, and he said sure and that he was still figuring his deck out. In those few games he played Stoneblade as good as just about anyone, and I’ve played some of the best Stoneblade players in the world. He impressed me then, and he never really stopped impressing me.
Most people know BBD from his Magic writing, but if you don’t follow him on Facebook you’re missing out. Every once in a while I forget why I have a FB account, and then he posts some epic blog-post style status update about missing a plane or some other story that’d be tiresome without his skilled wordsmithery.
But enough about him, let’s talk about this list. It’s easy to point to the winning deck and say it was a good choice. Everyone knows it takes some skill, a good list, and copious amounts of savage luck to win the largest Legacy tournament of all time. However, I want to talk a bit about why this deck is good.
For starters, the counter package of 2 Pyroblast 2 Spell Pierce is really strong. People play Daze in similar shells, but it really is a nombo with Treasure Cruise. You bounce a land and bin a card, so it’s technically even for Cruise mana, but the deck rewards you for chaining cantrips together, which is harder to do if you’re bouncing a land or two a game.
Spell Pierce doesn’t have this disadvantage at all, and it’s much harder to play around. Waiting a turn to stick an extra land for a key spell like Batterskull is common practice, but who’s willing to wait longer for Spell Pierce?
Another nice thing about this list is that he isn’t running Delver of Secrets. Delver sucks to draw off of Treasure Cruise, doesn’t leave behind value if it’s killed, and is weaker when people are maindecking Pyroblast. The worst part about the UR Swiftspear/Young Pyromancer decks is that you’re obligated to play Delver. I’m not saying Delver is bad, far from it, but it is worse than the other threats.
BBD’s deck isn’t all tasty, self-evident gravy, and it does have a few curiosities worth exploring. The most interesting is his choice of basic Plains over a Mountain despite having more red cards (9) than white (7) in the main.
There are a few possible explanations for this, starting with his choice of threats. With Young Pyromancer, you can merrily pump out Elemental tokens even after getting wasted off of red, but if your opponent wastes a Tundra post-Stoneforge Mystic they have a chance to buy some time.
Another big factor is that Island and Plains are the basics that the deck needs to function under a Blood Moon.
Once we’ve decided on Plains, Swords to Plowshares becomes better than Lightning Bolt because we’re more likely to be able to cast it. This isn’t a Delver deck, and Swords has less non-synergy than it does there because we get fewer “desperately racing” draws and way more “our guy with a Jitte is better than your deck” draws. While Bolt has some side uses like hitting Jace, I don’t think Jace is a big concern in the Pyroblast, Spell Pierce, Young Pyromancer deck.
As far as the sideboard goes, there are a lot of one-ofs here but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The one card that stands out to me is Vendilion Clique, which is best against Sneak and Show, but this deck should already murder that matchup. It does have some use in the Stoneforge Mystic mirror. I’d cut it for a second Grafdigger’s Cage or Wear // Tear.
Infect, by Tom Ross
I still think of this as Olle Rade’s deck, since that’s the first I saw someone doing well with it. At this point, Tom has done far more work popularizing it, and with the addition of the delve cards he has tuned the deck enough that you could call it his.
Tom is a great player and could probably play any type of deck, but consistently plays aggro. The first time I faced him he was playing Zoo in Legacy, then Vampires in Standard, and I’ve never seen him piloting a different archetype. He’s a strong deckbuilder, too. If aggro is viable, he’ll tune it to fit his playstyle. If it doesn’t exist, he’ll create it. If he can Sligh people he will, and he’ll do it better than anyone, but pure Sligh isn’t a thing in Legacy.
At its core, Infect is the old Invigorate + Berserk stompy deck. It’s just better with some blue cards and the infect mechanic, and it’s one of the few viable aggro decks in Legacy. The deck has a lot of strengths, and it can shift roles if it needs to. An opponent can never really tap out because Infect can always Crop Rotation for Inkmoth Nexus at the end of turn.
Here, Tom isn’t warping the deck by shoving in quad-Treasure Cruise, which is the tempting change to make when a busted card gets printed. Instead, he’s running a couple of delve spells that fit naturally, taking advantage of the raw power but not overworking the graveyard either. Cruise helps the deck grind, and Become Immense helps it burst. Become Immense in particular is like casting two spells in one and for a fairly cheap delve cost.
When I was making my predictions for the Top 8, I’m not sure why I didn’t include a lone copy of Infect. At this point, with two Invitational wins, two Open Top 8s, and now a GP finals appearance, it’d be foolish to bet against him.
MUD, by Joseph Santonassino
I’m no MUD expert, though I have beaten and lost to the deck a fair amount over the years.
When I beat it, it’s by finding my one-of Sower of Temptation after sweating an uncounterable Wurmcoil Engine with a pile of Force of Wills in hand. When I lose to it, I’m not running a miser’s Sower. Kind of narrow thinking about it like that, but then MUD occupies a strange place in the metagame.
Naturally, a pile of Chalices, Trinispheres, and Cavern of Souls looks strong on paper in a cantrip-dominant metagame, and uncounterable Wurmcoils are particularly good against blue tempo decks. In fact, in his Top 8 profile Joseph said he wanted his fourth Wurmcoil but forgot it at home.
The main reason I never recommended Chalice of the Void decks for GP NJ is because I was under the impression they’re too inconsistent to be solid choices for a 15-round GP. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe shaving Wasteland and adding the Post package makes the deck considerably more consistent. Maybe this was a fluke—who knows.
I wrote off Death and Taxes similarly. The deck looks great on paper, with Thalia being good against cantrips in general and D&T being one of the few decks that can maindeck Sword of Fire and Ice. Again, my main reservation with it is that you’re giving up some consistency by not playing blue with its ability to Brainstorm and fix hands, and there are only a few people in the world that can pilot D&T well enough to overcome this deficit. If you aren’t one of them, you shouldn’t pick it up as a metagame call.
If you love a deck though, and you’ve been playing it to death, then definitely pull that trigger. That lesson is all over this tournament, from Joseph here to Tom Ross to the German Miracles player that also Top 8’d GP Paris to Wescoe going undefeated Day One with white creatures. If you play the crap out of a deck and learn its matchups better than your opponent, you’ll have an edge.
And then there’s Dan Jordan.
UR Delver, by Dan Jordan
I’m always happy to see Dan do well. I wouldn’t call us friends or anything, but I have played him and crashed at the same place for various events and he’s a good guy, the kind worth rooting for. He’s the hero Gotham deserves, or something.
Dan has an unassuming, lowbrow, and boisterous personality, and if I met him on the street I wouldn’t expect him to be a cardshark.
My first encounter with Dan was in a SCG Top 4, and when the judge said that there wasn’t a split we all kind of sighed. Then Dan said: “all right who didn’t want to chop,” and looked at his opponent.
“Hey, I wanted to split.”
Then he looked at my opponent.
“Hey, I wanted to split too.”
Then they all turned and looked at me, and for that second I was utterly baffled. Then Dan burst out laughing, owned up to it, and crushed his opponent.
The next meaningful interaction I had with Dan was when we were paired at some Invitational. I was tired, and after we started 1-1 I thought the match was over and started deboarding face up in front of him. In game three, I’m pretty sure he waited for me to remember a Consecrated Sphinx trigger. Of course people change, and he’s a different person than he was three years ago, but it left a good impression.
People speak reverently of Kenji Tsumura reminding his opponent of a Pact trigger. Since triggers became optional, I can count on my hand the number of people I’ve seen remind their opponents of any kind of trigger (I teamed with two of them for GP Nashville, but that’s a different story). I’m not saying those players don’t exist, but they are rare.
Like me, Dan has played all sorts of decks in all sorts of tournaments. He’s not the type to stick to a single archetype. Unlike me, he’s almost always on a tier deck, and over the past few years he has piloted Merfolk, Maverick, UWR Delver, and a host of other strategies to top finishes.
With a format in flux, I’m not at all surprised to see him pick up UR Delver. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up any other tier deck either, just like I’m not surprised to see him winning. I guess what I’m saying is that you’re boring, Dan. Pick up five-color unicorns and lose a little.
UR Landstill, by Lam Phan
In his Top 8 profile, Lam said he wanted to make Sudden Shock a thing. Maybe he did.
At its core, Landstill is doing a lot of good things. It runs lots of efficient disruption, a robust draw engine, and attacks from an unexpected angle. On top of that, Sudden Shock is an amazing bit of technology against UR Delver.
The maindeck is weak to Tarmogoyf, which is on a downturn but if you do face it you basically have to counter every one they play or lose.
Post-board it becomes much more manageable, with both Engineered Explosives and Relic of Progenitus. That’s not enough if I can expect a Tarmogoyf deck in every eight decks or so. If the number is less than that, this is probably fine. We’ll see where the metagame settles, though maindeck Explosives would be a fine hedge. I like drawing live and Jace bounce is not a realistic answer.
The other change I’d make is a single Crucible of Worlds somewhere in the list, probably in the sideboard. While we have a few delve cards that go against that plan, it’s only a few, and you can always draw more lands. Crucible is so good with what the deck is doing, and if your opponent is three colors you have a great shot at wastelocking them out of the game.
Still, these are more personal qualms than valid concerns. Lam brought a deck tuned for the meta and then feasted on said meta. I don’t know how long this particular build will be good, but Landstill as an archetype is older than Legacy as we know it.
The last three lists, the two Miracles decks and the Storm list, are fairly stock versions of decks we knew could compete in a Cruise and Delver-centric metagame. I’m not saying this to diminish the efforts of the pilots, who should feel awesome after Top 8’ing the largest Legacy tournament of all time. Heck, anyone that did any kind of winning should feel pretty good.