Memphis, a city of derelict buildings and sudden showers.
A city of warm faces and blues bars that party until three in the morning on a Sunday.
And, for one weekend, a city of magic.
We got in around midnight on Friday. Our hotel was surrounded by what appeared to be a ghost town, and the clerk had to unlock the door for us. After commenting on the quality of our teeth, and showing us her own, less stable grin, she left us to find our room. My friend Rob, a giant of a man, noted the safety inspection for the elevators was dated 2005, with a notice that it should be updated every six months. We had found the cheapest place possible, and it showed.
Our room was great. Extended stay hotels are nice because they have a full kitchen, so you can actually refrigerate and re-heat food conveniently. Rob, James, and Matt passed out and set to snoring immediately. I couldn’t sleep, and neither could Joe, so we went down to the lobby to play some low stakes Ascension until three in the morning, which covered most of my debt to him.
We got up early and made it to the event site. I didn’t feel the best, or the worst. I registered the following:
RB Vampires by Caleb Durward
The main change we made for this tournament was the swap of Dark Tutelage for Sign in Blood. The change came about after testing the Caw Blade matchup into infinity. Basically, the games were ending by turn six, give or take a turn or two, and it’s only after turn six that Dark Tutelage starts to look better. Meanwhile, the immediacy of the draw was relevant, as it gave information, land drops, and a steady flow of early threats. It also helped maintain velocity when the Caw Go player was telegraphing Day of Judgment for the next turn.
The maindeck Vampire Hexmages are a necessity anytime that Gideon sees heavy play.
My opponents played tightly all day, and my matchups looked like so:
UW Caw Blade: 2-1
Esper Blade 1-0 (Gerry Thompson)
Valakut: 2-0 (One was James Bush, a solid ringer and friend)
RG Aggro: 1-0
RUG: 0-1 (Ben Weinburg)
Losing to Poison stung a bit. I can’t explain the pain of losing to a single pumped [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] two games in a row. After the last game, I realized the Nighthawks should’ve been boarded in, but I was too focused on my removal options after game one. It’s hard not to feel awful after making a basic sideboarding error, but I was able to shrug it off and focus on my next match. It helped that my opponent was just about the coolest guy ever, showing off a Waffle House Menu as his play mat.
After the tournament, I found out that both Ryan Rolen and Alex Bertoncini had also lost to poison, and that helped.
Vampires performed fine, despite a few errors on my part. My most important lesson came up in an odd situation in my match against Gerry.
On his turn three he played a Squadron Hawk, dropped a land, discarded for end of turn (implying Squadron Hawks in hand) and then fetched up three Hawks.
It looked like shortcutting, but the order was strange, and meaningful. Had he simply forgotten his Hawk trigger when he played his land, discarding first to imply shortcutting was a good way to hide it. Not that I think Gerry would try and scum people, as I’ve never seen or heard of him doing stuff like that, but the point is that calling a judge would’ve protected me.
I’ve been unsure when I was actually cheated against before, and now I regret not calling a judge.
Unfortunately, I’m a slow thinker, and my desire to play a good game of magic led me to meekly asking him to announce his shortcuts next time, which was a huge mistake. After the match, Gerry tore into me for not calling a judge, as instead I had come to some middle ground that didn’t accomplish anything, which I agree with.
In our second game, I kept a loose hand with three powerful two drops and some lands, while he led off with an Inquisition of Kozilek on turns one and two, leaving me with just a Gatekeeper in hand. Fortunately for me, he missed his second land drop. I ripped Bloodghast on my turn, and played it without much thought. As I shipped the turn I realized I should’ve gone deeper into the tank.
If Gerry kept a one lander with double Inquisition, what could his other cards be? It was pretty reasonable that he had the third Inquisition and some powerful two drops, meaning I should’ve played the Gatekeeper unkicked, leaving the Bloodghast in hand to protect both threats.
As it turns out, he did have the third Inquisition, but going even deeper into the tank would’ve let me see that my play was still fine. By spending his third turn casting Inquisition, it meant he couldn’t play his Preordain to make his second land drop, so casting the Bloodghast instead made for a sort of awkward time walk.
At the end of the day, I didn’t cash, but I had made some splits when I was in the X-1 bracket that ensured I would have enough cash to play in the Legacy event.
That night, tired and exhausted, we went back to the hotel room and ordered some Dominoes. I got the Italian Sausage pasta bowl, and was so hungry that I picked it up and ate it like a sandwich. Tired and stuffed, I passed out easily.
When we arrived on site I found that my friend and modo ringer George Blankenship had arrived with my deck, which was a pleasant surprise.
For the record:
Painted Stone by Caleb Durward
The main between this list and my previous builds is the shaving of a Show and Tell and an Emrakul, which can still be tutored for via Intuition, for a pair of Pithing Needles. Against Zoo, the Show and Tell plan comes in alongside Painter Grindstone, so the Needles help against both Karakas and Qasali Pridemage.
R1: RB Goblins
In game one I kept the loosiest of the goosies, a five lander with Brainstorm and Grindstone. My opponent’s hand was slow for Goblins, so I had three draw steps before I had to blow my draw spell. I bricked, and we were on to game two.
I did this board plan mostly to be funny, as the cards I was cutting were mediocre against Goblins anyway.
My opponent began game three by mulling to five, but had a turn two Siege-Gang Commander. I one-upped him with a masterful turn two Emrakul off of my misers.
R2: Andrew Ellis with UG Show and Tell/Natural Order
Andrew is quickly becoming one of my favorite people to chat with at events, as he gives off a casual vibe.
In game one he crushed me, as expected. Painter Grindstone can’t really beat an Emrakul deck without a Tormod’s Crypt to sack after stacking the triggers. However, in this same tournament George did win a game against the Twelve Post deck by casting a turn one Painter’s Servant and blasting a Post on turn two. For the record:
Twelve Post by Andrew Steckley
I knew the deck was played a bit on Magic Online, but I hadn’t given it any respect until I saw Steckley cast Primeval Titan fetching double Glimmerpost, which is exactly the sort of thing I love seeing people do in Legacy. Terrible cards still lead to powerful interactions.
But back to my match. In game two I naturally drew Grindstone, Painter’s Servant, and a Tormod’s Crypt to put him away.
Game three started with me getting an early Painter’s Servant in play and topping into a [card]Grindstone[/card]. He tutored up a Progenitus, and I tutored for a Nihil Spellbomb to win the turn before he would’ve hit me for lethal.
R3: Sneak Attack
My opponent started out with a Volcanic Island and an Ancient Tomb, but I realized it wasn’t the mirror when he had to read Intuition. I lucked out when he scooped to a Grindstone activation, as I cannot actually beat his deck except by attacking due to the presence of quad Emrakul and Progenitus.
I considered bringing in the Emrakul package in case he figured it out, but banked on him scooping again, which he did.
After the match some friends told him his mistake, which he took in good stride.
R4: AJ Sacher with Bant
In game one AJ opened by tutoring for a Dryad Arbor, and I cringed. I didn’t want to face another Show and Tell/Natural Order deck. Still, he seemed very concerned about preventing me from completing the Grindstone combo. Near the end of the game he tipped his hand even further by casting a Swords to Plowshares, and I knew he was on Bant. Still, he had exactly enough disruption and pressure to keep me from going off.
In game two I was on the Emrakul plan, since he opened with an early Green Sun’s Zenith for Qasali Pridemage, but I had to go through too many cards to put it together. Meanwhile, he was applying the pressure. When he represented lethal my Top still wasn’t good to me, so I had to pull more tricks on my turn, which meant I was one mana short from holding up Red Elemental Blast when I went for the Show and Tell. He had the Force of Will, and that was game.
This was the first time I’ve played AJ, but I was impressed by his deliberate play and gamesmanship. I look forward to playing him again, but in the top eight next time.
R5: Ad Nauseam
In game two I mulled and kept a loose Top hand, and he won on turn one.
In game three I led out with Grindstone while he had a turn one Dark Confidant. I put a Painter’s Servant into play. His response was to imprint a Rite of Flame on a Chrome Mox, cast another Rite of Flame, and then Burning Wish for Shattering Spree to nuke the Grindstone. After the game, he realized that he should’ve used a Lotus Petal for his source of red so that he could double Rite of Flame into a Shattering Spree for three, nuking my whole board.
As it was, I was able to blast his Dark Confidant and he was never in the game.
R6: Chase McCoy with Rock
In both games I had some quick hands while he didn’t have enough disruption.
In game one I got to go turn one Artifact Land, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Mox Opal plus spin. I drew Painter’s Servant, and when he cast Hymn to Tourach I was able to Intuition for Grindstone and Brainstorm both combo pieces on top of my library, tapping Top to draw into both next turn for the win. This game illustrates one of the reasons I don’t play with discard in Legacy, despite my not-so-secret love affair with Cabal Therapy. Sometimes, the topdecks or draws are just too powerful, and wouldn’t I rather be the one doing the something powerful? Protecting my own nut draw, say with Duress in Ad Naus or Red Elemental Blast in Painted Stone, is a better plan than disrupting my opponent’s, which is opposite to the way I approach Vintage.
“Ah, going to Emrakul me, eh?” he said.
He took the Emrakul and then, with the trigger on the stack, he Extirpated it.
He had a case of falling for the cool play. This let me cast both Welder and Intuition fetching a pair of Painter’s Servants and a Grindstone, handily winning. A few people I’ve told the story to have said he should’ve taken the Goblin Welder, but this is also false. The correct play was to strip my Intuition, because it could complete both combos.
R7: Drew Levin with Team America
We played our win-and-in round on GGslive, which should be up in their archives soon if you didn’t catch it. In both games I kept a hand with Top, but didn’t see enough action to take advantage of my early tempo. Drew played tight, and it was a well-deserved win for him.
That match makes it two for two in him crushing me in win and ins (the other was the standard portion of Indy). I’m starting to feel like Dr. Claw, the villain from Inspector Gadget.
I’ll get you next time Drew Levin, next time!
R8: Gerry Thompson with High Tide Combo
I knew from scouting that he didn’t have Emrakul in his deck, which brought the matchup from slightly unfavored to very much favored. Painter is a good turn or so faster, but with more disruption in Red Elemental Blasts and more resiliency in Goblin Welder.
When he sat down he told me that he had asked AJ to dream crush, and if AJ was successful then the winner of our match should scrape in on breakers. At this point I kicked myself for not asking Alex B, the other undefeated, to do the same. Instead, I wallowed in my misery at losing my win and in. GT, on the other hand, kept fighting until the last minute, which is the correct play.
In game one I mulled to six and kept the incredibly loose double Grindstone, double Intuition, Force of Will, Volcanic Island hand. I drew a pair of Goblin Welders before hitting my third mana source, and resolved Intuition through a Force of Will, which won me the game.
In game two I had a turn three kill, but without a source of red for my Red Elemental Blasts. Still, the hand was good enough, and Gerry wished me the best of luck. Despite our altercation in the standard, he left me with a good impression, and I hope to face him again.
That’s eight rounds with eight different decks. How is Legacy not the best format of all time?
After the round I went over and saw AJ losing, and I couldn’t stand it. My nerves were more frazzled than they had been in a long time, and I couldn’t watch my chances of top eighting being played out by another pair of hands, however capable. After the round a friend came over and told me AJ had lost. It took me a moment, but I cheered up. Top sixteen was still fine, and now I could relax, at least. George and I got ninth and tenth, so if any X-2 had made it it would’ve been with a Painted Stone deck. Another friend and member of the car, Joe Bernal, clawed his way from the 0-2 bracket into the top sixteen, which is fairly impressive. Here is his list, for reference:
The Rock by Joe Bernal
Joe is single handedly the reason I give the Rock any respect in Legacy. He plays it in every event, so his lists tend to be very good. The Sword of Feast and Famine was my idea, as I thought it would be better than Elspeth in the rock mirror. After the tournament, he was convinced that a hate bear, such as Gaddock Teeg or Ethersworn Canonist, would be better in the Cabal Therapy slot to diversify the disruption, and I have to agree with him.
While I waited for my prize so that I could leave, I got a chance to say “hi” to Rashad. He asked me how I did, I told him I top sixteened, and he smiled and said at least I had my hotel and gas covered.
I responded by saying, “Yeah, and now I can eat dinner, too.”
He just about choked on his bagel laughing. “I didn’t know it was that much of a grind!”
I laughed along. I had made the trip with actual zero cash, and was netting nothing after gas and hotel, but I had played some fine magic and met some great people.
That night we headed out to the infamous Beale Street to get a taste of Memphis. After being no-sirred by the first few joints for lack of both space and food, we ended up at a sweet place that, while appearing expensive, was well worth the price. A large, thick-fingered man scratched out blues on a twelve stringed guitar while we ordered. I thought I was getting a single sandwich, but what I got was closer to four. The slices of seasoned chicken were heated just enough so that the layers of cheese softened, letting the bacon bits sink in. The ups and downs of Magic fled from my mind as I focused on the toasted feast before me.
The waiter, as good-humored as everyone else we met in Memphis, advised us to check out the blues band playing next door: The Plantation All-Stars. They were rated best in Memphis, with a few members from Buddy Guy’s lineup. I, having had the pleasure of seeing Buddy Guy, didn’t take the recommendation lightly.
The band was even better than expected. They made their living from tips, apparently, which must be a heck of a grind.
Matt became inebriated quicker than the rest of us, and started dancing like a madman, his tongue flailing as much as his arms and legs. He danced with a black midget for most of the night, who cautioned us about the two ladies that sat by the door, as “those be working girls.” I recognized how out of place they looked with their gaudy garb, high heels, and heavy makeup in a room full of tourists, but the other members of my car didn’t, and we ended up chatting with them, playing some strange video game, and apparently buying one a drink. She was about as startled as I was.
Overall, Memphis was the blade, and I will definitely be back. I feel legitimately bad for anyone that missed out. I know the town is probably too small for a GP, but I can dream…
Thanks for reading,