When preparing for GP Indy, I had my usual selection of brews and twists on existing archetypes that I thought might do well. The only way my testing differed from normal was that I focused against three specific archetypes rather than an extended gauntlet. This was largely because this tournament had an established tier one, which is rare for Legacy. Sometimes, a particular deck will dominate, but in general the format is fairly liquid. For Indy, we had UW, Canadian Thresh, and Maverick.
Before GP Providence, Bant was one of the decks I was considering, and after it took down the whole tournament I regretted my decision to play BW. Noble Hierarchs have been good to me in the past, so when considering decks for Indy that was where I looked first:
[deck]3 Tropical Island
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Windswept Heath
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Maze of Ith
1 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Vendilion Clique
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Sword of Body and Mind
3 Green Sun's Zenith
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Gut Shot
4 Force of Will
2 Spell Pierce
1 Tower of the Magistrate
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Mana Maze[/deck]
The deck is consistent, and has a strong game against the other Jace decks (the premier being UW Stoneblade.) The acceleration means that Jace comes online early, and is difficult for the opponent to pressure. Meanwhile, the Bant deck produces enough dudes to attack opposing planeswalkers. Another thing that I like about Bant is that it has a ton of shuffle effects, so [card]Brainstorm[/card] can be cast earlier than in most decks.
I couldn't think of a better answer to [card]Mother of Runes[/card] than [card]Gut Shot[/card]. Having a critical mass of free disruption let me beat Maverick post board by accelerating while answering their mana dudes. That meant I untapped with Knight earlier, and could land a Jace in time to bounce their Knight when it landed.
A couple of friends played similar lists, and, while they didn't day two, they thought the [card]Gut Shot[/card]s were good. It helps that, beyond Mother and mana dorks, it also kills [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card], your opponent's [card]Bridge from Below[/card]s, and a pile of other Legacy staples. As long as Maverick is tier one, I consider [card]Gut Shot[/card] playable in decks without better options. Here, fixing the opponent's mana with [card]Path to Exile[/card] detracts from the strength of the [card]Wasteland[/card] plan, and [card]Gut Shot[/card] looks better.
In the board, [card]Mana Maze[/card] raised some eyebrows, but it's hate for Storm and High Tide that pitches to [card]Force of Will[/card] and isn't vulnerable to Snap, Infest, or Massacre.
This is the second deck I considered:
1 Bojuka Bog
3 Windswept Heath
1 Barren Moor
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Marsh Flats
1 Maze of Ith
2 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
3 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Dark Confidant
3 Faithless Looting
3 Lingering Souls
2 Nameless Inversion
3 Life from the Loam
4 Mox Diamond
4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Mindbreak Trap
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Maelstrom Pulse[/deck]
“It's because of lists like this that I get up in the morning.” -Bronson
“Caleb, just play Bant.” -Gleicher
“I don't know what this deck is doing, but I love it.” –Vaca
The deck name is an elaborate troll, relating to a conversation I had about the bizarre deck names in Legacy (such as Nic Fit or Solidarity) and how we as a community allow them to continue.
I brewed up and proxied the initial list on whim, but the deck felt strong. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] was stealing games, and it interacted with [card]Life from the Loam[/card] favorably. I started with the [card]Punishing Fire[/card]s engine, but during testing I cut it for more powerful cards.
In the end, I scrapped the deck because it couldn't consistently beat Maverick, which was not a place I wanted to be in, and I didn't want to be vulnerable to random graveyard hate like [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] and [card]Grafdigger's Cage[/card]. I could see bringing this one back for a random cash tournament.
Several days before the tournament, I had a long conversation with Drew Levin about how Thresh was the best deck in the format. We almost never agree on the ideal deck for a tournament. One of the things I've learned over a few years of grinding is that, when intelligent magic players reach the same conclusion independently, they're probably right, especially if they have markedly different perspectives.
This was what I ran:
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nimble Mongoose
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Chain Lightning
1 Thought Scour
1 Forked Bolt
2 Sulfuric Vortex
3 Tormod's Crypt
2 Sulfur Elemental
2 Sensei's Divining Top[/deck]
I played the gauntlet decks a ton, and always looked forward to playing this one. My hands always looked sweet, and I was crushing. Every game was close, but I tended to win them. Cards like [card]Stifle[/card] gave me free wins, and even opponents that knew I ran the full four had to play into them or lose to a flipped [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. I heard a few different people call [card]Stifle[/card] bad over the weekend, but I think the naysayers were disproven by both Thresh decks in the top eight rocking the full four.
The in game decisions felt intuitive to me, and after some matches I realized why. When I started playing Legacy heavily, Thresh was evolving, and I'd played a multitude of versions including [card]Werebear[/card], [card]Meddling Mage[/card], [card]Mystic Enforcer[/card], and [card]Fledgling Dragon[/card].
Thresh was just like riding a bike.
R1-2: Vs Noodle and Company
R3: Vs The Yost with the Most
Yost has won an Open or two with mono red, and I beat him on day two of the last Invitational when I was playing Nic Fit. I remembered ticking up Liliana to get creatures in my graveyard for [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] to munch on, slowly getting out of burn range. I usually don't respect Burn in my board, as I think the deck is underpowered and beatable through tight play.
Game one developed awkwardly, and I [card]Predict[/card]ed to draw two cards when I could've left up [card]Stifle[/card] to counter his suspended [card]Rift Bolt[/card]. This did bring me closer to Threshold, though, and I was able to eat his [card]Goblin Guide[/card] with a [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] after Wasting myself.
A few turns later, I had to waste myself against when he cast [card]Price of Progress[/card] while I was at four, but the [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] got there while I was at one life.
In game two I boarded out Wastelands and some [card]Daze[/card]s for the Countertop combo, and a blind [card]Counterbalance[/card] countered three or so spells.
After the match, David Sharfman asked to read [card]Predict[/card], and then told me I'd forgotten to draw a card for my turn. Fantastic. Good thing I didn't need it.
In game one I got utterly demolished.
For game two I pulled [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s, the [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], the [card]Thought Scour[/card] and the [card]Predict[/card] for Elementals and Submerges.
[card]Sulfur Elemental[/card] ate double [card]Mother of Runes[/card], letting me crack in for lethal.
On the draw I brought the cantrips back in for a pair of [card]Daze[/card]s. Since [card]Stifle[/card] protects the manabase from [card]Wasteland[/card], as well as buys tempo when the opponent tries to equip, I leave the full set in on the draw in most matchups.
There was one point where he had a [card]Karakas[/card] out and he just let his [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card] die in combat, which was a little odd. Later, he tapped the [card]Karakas[/card] to play a Thalia when he didn't need the mana, which would've let me burn it out if I'd had the burn spell.
In game three [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card] devoured a Mother and I burned his mana dorks.
After the match I saw Drew Levin, some dude who told me about [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card], and I ran up and hugged him.
I was in a good mood.
R5: Reid Duke with Natural Order RUG
Reid also has a Legacy GP top eight to his credit, and we've never played before, so I was looking forward to this feature match. We each knew what the other was on, and I kept a hand of double [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], [card]Daze[/card], [card]Stifle[/card], double [card]Wasteland[/card], and [card]Volcanic Island[/card]. This wasn't a hand I would've kept in the dark.
I ended up Stifling his fetch and then Dazing his force. He didn't hit another land.
Game two was a highly interactive and close game where we both jockeyed for position. At one point, [card]Forked Bolt[/card] ate two creatures, and had it been another burn spell I would've lost. On his last turn, Reid tutored up a [card]Progenitus[/card], but I was able to win through it. I'm convinced that [card]Natural Order[/card] is a half a turn or so too slow for the format, and weaker than Jace in a lot of respects, but strong players will pick up the archetype and do well so take my view with a grain of salt.
After the match, I asked Reid about [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card].
“I know you probably don't want to talk about this right now, but what do you think about the Ooze in a deck with only three permanent green sources?” I asked. Sometimes, my curiosity gets the best of me.
“Well, how many [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s are you running?”
At that, I could almost see his brain exploding as he realized he'd just lost to the Tempo Thresh player running two Tarmogoyfs. He collected himself before answering.
“I would run the full set of Goyfs first, but it's a good card,” he said.
R6: Four Card Dredge
My sixth round opponent had an interesting strategy where, rather than keeping hands with lots of cards, he mulled very low two games in a row. Despite his innovative approach, I got there with a few counterspells.
After this loss, he went on and day twoed anyway. I was lucky we didn't play a real match, as a strong Dredge player can win through just about anything.
R7: Vs Pascal Maynard with Maverick
Again, I get crushed by Maverick in game one. The GW deck is very good at answering a Delver, then dropping a [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] to brickwall any efforts to break through on the ground. Game one against a competent opponent, it's almost unwinnable.
I boarded like I did in round four, but an early [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card] locked me off [card]Submerge[/card]. He had triple [card]Mother of Runes[/card] down, and I never saw a [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card] to clear the way for the Bolts in my hand.
R8: Vs Bant
I'd sat next to this kid the round previous, so we knew what the other was on.
I can't remember how the games went exactly, but I was able to keep him on low mana. The matchup felt better than Maverick, perhaps because his curve was higher. It's hard to tell from one match, though.
R9: Vs Andrew Shrout with Bant Maverick
Drew is the innovator behind the UR Counterburn deck that he took down an Open with. However, at the last Invitational he said he didn't like the deck anymore, and I had no clue what to put him on.
Game one was a typical Maverick game, and I lose to a [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] + [card]Sword of Light and Shadow[/card].
For game two I hadn't seen any [card]Mother of Runes[/card], so I boarded like he was normal Bant and brought in [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card] instead of [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card]. A [card]Submerge[/card] helped me push through lethal.
In game three I dropped a pile of [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card]s, sticking a [card]Submerge[/card] in his hand. At one point he Submerged a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] in response to a fetch, and I accused him of giving me live draws.
The game was long and close, with topdecks from both sides. At a crucial moment, I [card]Stifle[/card]d a [card]Sword of Light and Shadow[/card] trigger to keep him at lower life, and on the last possible turn I ripped a Snapcaster to flash back a Bolt on his 3/3 [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] token, forcing him to send his own [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] farming in order to stay alive. The pile of [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card]s got there.
It's at that point that I realized a [card]Green Sun's Zenith[/card] to act as a fifth [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] would've been better than one of my two drops.
R10: Vs Not Doomsday
He Duressed me on turn one, seeing a hand of [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], [card]Daze[/card], [card]Predict[/card], and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and taking [card]Predict[/card]. Over the next few turns, he [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]d me a few times, but didn't see when I drew a second [card]Daze[/card], which prevented him from going off.
I was surprised by the [card]Duress[/card], as most combo players take the [card]Daze[/card] there, but my opponent appeared competent and entered day two with a strong record. I put him on Doomsday, as [card]Predict[/card] can actually shut down that deck by messing up an intricate five card stack.
I boarded out burn for the Countertop engine and a couple of [card]Tormod's Crypt[/card]s. I had enough disruption in game two, and after the match he told me that he was on normal Ad Nauseam, making the Crypts strictly worse than Bolts. Oh well. I enjoyed starting the second day off with a favorable matchup.
R11: Vs Maverick
I can't remember this match, but I know that I once again didn't win game one. Having answers to both [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] and [card]Mother of Runes[/card] post board changes the entire dynamic, as equipment by itself is too slow and clunky to get there.
R12: Vs Tom Martell
At this point, Tom was still undefeated. We knew what the other was on, and I didn't feel bad about accidentally flashing him a [card]Predict[/card] while shuffling.
I mulled to six on the play, keeping [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], Fetch, [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]Brainstorm[/card]. He cast [card]Force of Will[/card] on the Mongoose, and I forced back pitching Snapcaster. On his turn, he fetched a basic Swamp before Thoughtseizeing away my Brainstorm. At this point, my board was a [card]Tropical Island[/card] and a 1/1 [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card], and my hand was a single [card]Wasteland[/card] against Martell's grip of four cards or so.
Things didn't look good.
I ripped a Brainstorm for my turn, which drew hotness, and I was able to fetch out a [card]Taiga[/card] and drop a second [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] before passing the turn with no cards in hand. Martell appeared frustrated that I appeared to be in this game that he'd thought he had locked up.
He dropped a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], fetching [card]Batterskull[/card], and things are looking bad again. I ripped [card]Ponder[/card], which found me a [card]Forked Bolt[/card] for his Mystic, giving me Threshold and letting me crack him for six on turn three. The top cards of my library are third [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] and [card]Thought Scour[/card].
He cast a second [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], getting [card]Umezawa's Jitte[/card], and I hit him down to three and played my Mongoose. He untapped and shipped the turn back. I [card]Thought Scour[/card]ed and bricked (worthless [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]) before passing the turn back (attacking would put him to two.)
He puts in [card]Batterskull[/card], but has to cantrip to find his fourth land, preventing him from dropping [card]Umezawa's Jitte[/card] and equipping.
I drew [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] for my turn and pass. He moved to put Jitte into play, and I Bolted his face. He cracked his fetch to [card]Brainstorm[/card] in response before scooping up his cards.
“I think I was over 93% to win that game at one point,” he said.
Thinking back to the start of my turn two, with a Trop, a 1/1, and a dead Wasteland at my disposal, I imagined the percentage was higher than that.
I boarded out the sorcery speed burn, a [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s for a [card]Sensei's Divining Top[/card], the [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card]s, and [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card]es.
Game two was a brief affair. I kept a loose five lander with a [card]Wasteland[/card] and a [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card], and he made me discard the [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card]. I drew spells, as the deck does, but he smacked me with a [card]Batterskull[/card] and I didn't draw [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card].
In game three he double mulliganed. I had a [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card] against his [card]Lingering Souls[/card] opening, and rode it to victory, giving Tom his only loss of the tournament.
R13: Vs The Mirror
I cracked a fetch into his open blue source, and he didn't have [card]Stifle[/card].
“Phew,” I said.
“Stifle's so bad right now,” he said, grinning.
I grinned back. I lost game one to him riding an early [card]Delver of Secrets[/card].
I boarded out three Delvers, two [card]Force of Will[/card]s, and the sorcery speed burn for the Countertop Engine and three [card]Submerge[/card]s.
I won game two off of a [card]Stifle[/card], and his face fell.
Game three was typical. I crippled his mana, and he couldn't do much about it.
“I think in the mirror, [card]Stifle[/card] is ideal,” he said.
R14: Vs A Draw
There were four of us at X-1, so it looked like we could draw into top eight. Even if one of us got paired down and lost, he'd be the X-2-1 with best breakers. I had already played Tom Martell and Pascal Maynard, so I drew with Colin, a Jupiter Games regular piloting High Tide.
R15: Vs A Friend
Oops. Kenny had won his last round to tie us in the X-1-1 bracket. That meant there were five X-1-1s and seven X-2s. The X-2s had to play it out, and one X-1-1 got paired down.
Since I'd already faced three of the possible four opponents, I was paired down and had to play. If I lost, there would be four X-1-2s and four X-2s making it in. If I won, I'd enter at first seed.
My opponent was Garret Young, one of the friendlier opponents I've ever encountered at an Open, and possibly the best Belcher player of all time. I met Garret in the X-4 bracket of the second Invitational, were we were both playing for kicks, and he left me with a good impression. I faced him again in the standard portion of Cinci, where he was playing Tempered Steel and I was on UB. Again he struck me as a remarkably cheerful guy.
Now, the smile was gone. He had ground Belcher for forever, losing more than his fair share of win and ins, and this was his chance at a serious top eight. We shook hands and wished each other luck, but he had a hard stare in his eye. He was here to murder me. But we needed dice first. I wrote eleven down on a piece of paper, and asked him to guess even or odd. He went even, and the table judge laughed at my methods.
I opened a grip with [card]Daze[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], and blue card, snap keeping. Garret also kept.
I went land, go, and he started things off with a [card]Lion's Eye Diamond[/card]. If I'd had a [card]Daze[/card]+[card]Stifle[/card] opening, there's no way I [card]Daze[/card] there, and if I hadn't had another piece of disruption with the [card]Daze[/card] I wouldn't have kept the hand. As it was, I Dazed his LED, floating blue, and Brainstorming. I saw a red source for my [card]Chain Lightning[/card], and put back Goyf underneath the land. He cast Land Grant, revealing a hand of [card]Land Grant[/card], [card]Pyretic Ritual[/card], [card]Tinder Wall[/card], [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card], [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], and [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]. The scariest type of hand for a blue mage to face.
He grabbed a land and Probed me before sticking [card]Tinder Wall[/card]. He pitched Guide, attempting to resolve a [card]Rite of Flame[/card] he'd drawn off of the probe. This was the correct time, and I Forced, keeping him at three possible mana. He shipped the turn back, and I burned his [card]Tinder Wall[/card]. Next turn I Wasted his Taiga, and by the time he was ready to go off again I had Brainstormed into Force+blue card.
I pulled the [card]Forked Bolt[/card], a [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], and two Wastelands for the Countertop Engine.
Some people make the mistake of cutting all of their spot removal. Those people lose to the odd [card]Xantid Swarm[/card] or [card]Goblin Welder[/card].
In game two I kept a brutal Force+Stifle hand, and naturally drew into Counterbalance + Top. After I've established the lock, Garret asks for the draw, and I redo the math again before agreeing. I was still in top eight with a draw, and saw no harm in giving a friend some extra green. Garret ended up tenth place, right behind Jason Ford on breakers.
Quarters: Vs A Friend
In the start of our game one, I realized I'd never really seen Kenny play before. I think “freaking good” is a fine way to describe him. We played pick the card to decide who went first, and he won. I lost game one after he Dazed my Force on his Delver.
I boarded the same as in the swiss, mulled to six and kept a sketchy hand with a lone [card]Taiga[/card] for land and the Countertop engine. I bricked on my upkeep spin, and he stuck a [card]Counterbalance[/card]. I found a Misty, which shuffled me to another land. He dropped a 1/2 [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and started beating in. I diddled around with instants to feel out the top of his library before sticking [card]Counterbalance[/card], exultant. I was so happy with my convoluted line that I forgot to Bolt his [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and proceeded to lose to it.
I felt like John Finkel not choosing to block. Not a subtle mistake, just an outright punt. They happen. Some happen on video for the world to see. This one missed the coverage team, and I suppose no one would've known if I hadn't just written about it here.
See? Another punt. They happen.
I wished Kenny good luck in Barcelona and shook his hand.
The list was tight, despite how odd double [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] looks on paper. Often, the card is too much mana, and is almost completely dead against [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] decks. Post board, the card is a liability because it eats Submerge and Plow effects. All weekend, I wanted a fifth [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card], and a [card]Green Sun's Zenith[/card] (replacing either Goyf or the Ooze) would be a fine swap.
The Taiga was better than the third [card]Tropical Island[/card] in almost every game, and I was happy I made the change from the stock lists. My reasoning was that with Trop Trop Volc or Volc Volc Trop out I could get Wasted off of a color, but with Trop Volc Taiga I was more invulnerable, leaving me with a stronger manabase. This came up several times against Maverick, and I recommend trying it out.
In testing, I never lost a game after resolving [card]Predict[/card], though running two was clunky and it'd sit in my hand sometimes. In the tournament, I won a couple of games due to the card giving me Threshold or netting gas in an attrition battle. I never got to Snapcast it, but having it as an option increased my Snapcaster's potential, which I liked. [card]Thought Scour[/card] was similarly decent, and I'd run a split again.
[card]Forked Bolt[/card] overperformed, and if I played the tournament again I'd cut a [card]Chain Lightning[/card] for a second.
The sideboard slots have some spice, but I ended up using every single card, and I think my list was close to ideal for this tournament. In the future, [card]Sulfur Elemental[/card] and [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card] will only increase in value as UWb just won the GP, and those cards are both strong there.
Back to the Grind
This finish renews my faith in my column title, even if I have to take frequent breaks from the format to test what's profitable. I'm now 2/4 for Legacy GP top eights, as I scrubbed out of both GP Hulk Flash and Providence with Sui-type black decks. Note to self: cast more blue spells. Tom, OwenT, and Saito are the other players I can think of with multiple Legacy top eights, which isn't a bad group to belong to. Tom and Saito both have a win under their belts, so I guess Owen and I have some catching up to do.
Next time, eh?
Overall, I played some great magic to make that top eight, and Kenny outplayed me in the Quarters. I ended up exactly where I should've, which is rare in Magic, but left me a little salty about being a match away from Barcelona two weekends in a row, as you might remember from my PTQ report last week.
I vented my frustrations to those kind enough to listen, and Todd Anderson provided an interesting sort of comfort.
“That's it? Two weekends? I hit three in a row once!” Todd said.
No matter what your story is, there's a better one out there.
I ran into Reid, who had some wisdom to impart.
“How many PTQs do you have left?” Reid asked.
“I don't know, one?”
“One's all you need, right?”
Hmm, I thought, if Reid Duke has faith in me, it'd be a poor play not to have faith in myself, wouldn't it? Hopefully, this finish will give me the momentum I need to get there in Nashville. After all, I did qualify for Hawaii off of limited, and I should be able to do it again.
For those testing for Nashville, be sure to treat sealed as its own format and test for it as you might for a constructed event. I 6-3'd my first three limited GPs, losing the last round in all of them, but for GP KC I treated sealed different and built pools, ran them against each other, talked with other players, and got my hands on the cards as much as I could. I ended up going 8-0-1, and I'll definitely prepare similarly for Nashville.