GP Philly and Its Effect on Legacy
By CynicalSquirrel on November 17th, 2005 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
Legacy players have awaited the arrival of GP Philly for months, ever since Wizards made the surprising announcement on their main page that Legacy, the least played of the four major formats, was going to get its very own Grand Prix. After this, months of rigorous playtesting and trashtalking ensued. Would the pros break the format that has unrestricted mana accelerators like Chrome Mox, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Lotus Petal? Could anything stop the big three of Goblins, Landstill, and Solidarity? Are there any new archetypes that could bust out and surprise everybody? All of these questions were answered on the weekend that every player or follower of Legacy player was waiting for.
So for two long, painful days, Legacy players battled and fought through 14 tough rounds of the constant variety and strangeness that only Legacy tournaments can bring. There were turn one kills, there were Twincasted Fact or Fictions, and there were old school decks like Suicide Black and Secret Force looming at the higher tables. Finally we came up with a top eight of two Vial Goblins, three Gro variants, a Gamekeeper/Salvagers combo deck, a R/W Rift deck, and Chris Pikula's WB deck, surprising everybody there.
So, predictably, Goblins won Grand Prix Philly. I wish I could say I am surprised, but I am not, and the Legacy population really isn't either. Important questions about Goblins coming into the GP that have been answered:
So is Vial Goblins the best deck in the format?
It is, without a shadow of a doubt. Vial Goblins made up 1/4th of the decks at Grand Prix Philadelphia, a whopping number considering just how many fairly viable archetypes there are. It also put two players in the top eight, and of course won the whole thing.
What makes it so dominating in this format?
It mostly comes down to the deck's lack of high priced cards. Most builds don't even run dual lands, and the Goblins are cheap and fairly easy to come by. Added to the fact that a lot of Extended players like to get into the Legacy format, and don't even really have to build a new deck (just add Aether Vials and Goblin Lackeys) and it's no shock that this deck shows up in such huge numbers. The deck itself wins because of its card advantage engine, featuring Aether Vial and Goblin Ringleader, which might be the two most broken cards in the format.
Is there any new tech in Goblins?
Not a whole lot. Of course, if you weren't running Wasteland and Rishadan Port, you really should. They increase the Landstill matchup by a large percentage, and also are good against other decks. There's also the conspicuous Patron of the Akki in the sideboard, which he used to fend off a turn one Engineered Plague in the deciding game against Chris Pikula. Patron does look nice because of how big it is, but I'm not quite sold on it being a must-of in sideboards. The fact that it's a Spirit and therefore is no good with Ringleader or Matron is a pretty big disadvantage to it in my opinion. More tech seen in some decks was splashing white for the obvious Swords to Plowshares and Disenchant, but also Armageddon. Having Armageddon is a great idea for Goblins; they can play stuff for free with Vial while their opponent playing MWC or some other control deck flounders.
Does anything need to be done about Goblins?
I think so. So far Wizards has been content with the Legacy metagame, but it's getting to the point now where Goblins is dominating the numbers of every tournament. Wizards should definitely not outright destroy Goblins much like
they did with Affinity in Type Two, but banning one or both Goblin Ringleader and AEther Vial which really break the deck would help make it more even with the rest of the field, and also make other aggro decks more playable. In a format without rotating and a deck like Goblins that's cheap and effective, the format could get very stagnant. People have thrown tons of hate at Goblins, and it just doesn't seem to work.
So this is the deck that was really the talk of the tournament. After months without playing competitive magic, Chris Pikula showed up and got second place. There's really one question on everyone's mind, so I'll just address that.
Is this deck really that good?
Not really. Not to discount any of Pikula's deckbuilding, or try to sound like an arrogant jerk because he did great with a deck that most people hadn't even thought of, but I think this was mostly the case of a player with immense playskill outplaying people and making up for a deck that wasn't as good as the rest of the field. Pikula even admitted he had barely tested, and just wanted to have fun, which he certainly did. The deck is still good, don't get me wrong, and it can definitely win your local tourneys. I just don't think it's going to show up enough to make it to tier 1 or 1.5 status.
This deck was another surprise. It has been talked about before, but most people didn't think it fit much into the metagame with the assumed abundance of Solidarity, which really hurts it.
Is this deck really that good?
Sort of. I know that's a stupid answer coming from an article like this, but this deck really relies on a metagame. If a metagame is full of a lot of creature decks, this obviously wins. With maindeck Rune of Protection: Red against Goblins, plus Humility, Slice and Dice, and an abundance of other removal, this deck destroys almost any aggro strategy. This deck got top 8 because the GP was just a perfect metagame for it. Solidarity was supposed to be the bad matchup, but didn't even make the top 8, or even really show up in huge numbers. With a lot of people playing random creature decks, R/W Rift thrived and this is the result of that.
Is THIS really that good?
I think so. This deck was another pretty big surprise. The original Game deck revolved around Gamekeeper to get Darksteel Colossus and simply beat down for the win, along with removing your opponent's resources with a huge amount of discard. This one goes for a more combo approach by getting the instant kill of Auriok Salvagers and Lion's Eye Diamond with Pyrite Spellbomb to finish them off. This deck could be a pretty big contender; people have been doing well with regular versions of The Game already and this seems to be a better win condition. With a disappointing performance by Solidarity, this could become the format's defining combo deck if people play it enough.
These are two of the three Gro decks that made top eight. One features the red splash, and one just goes U/G/W. I won't go into the splashes since they're metagame related, but I'll definitely talk about the Gro/Threshold archetype as a whole.
Is this tier one now?
Yes. With three players finishing in the top eight with similar builds of the deck, I think it's safe to say that Not Quite Gro is a legitimate tier one deck. The three top eights here plus the win it got at another major Legacy event called Big Arse II have proven that this deck isn't a fluke, and is a major contender in this format. It has a strong draw engine, good disruption with Meddling Mage, and also a fairly solid counter base to fight off threats. With a dissapointing performance by Landstill with zero top eights, Not Quite Gro might have bumped it in the food chain and become the format's defining control deck.
So that's the top eight in a nutshell, although there were many more metagame developments that happened than just that. Possibly the biggest story of the weekend were the decks that didn't finish in the top eight.
What happened to Landstill?
The complete lack of Landstill in the top eight was a really big shock to some, but not as surprising to others. Landstill has been openly criticized recently of being a bad control deck with a conditional draw engine, and I think some of those criticisms finally caught up to the deck. The Not Quite Gro decks that made the top eight have better draw engines than Landstill, along with better mana bases and better disruption with Meddling Mage. Combine that and the fact that a quarter of the decks were Goblins running around with Wasteland and Rishadan Port, and it appears from a distance that Landstill was hated out of the top eight at Grand Prix Philadelphia. With Not Quite Gro looking like the better deck right now, Landstill could be completely modified, or could lose its tier one status.
What happened to Solidarity?
This one is really puzzling to me. Solidarity came in as a legitimate top tier deck and the best combo deck in the format. Many people considered it to be the best deck. Instead Solidarity didn't make the top eight at all. I don't really know what could have caused this, other than some decks just doing better. There's also the scarcity of Reset, one of the vital cards in the deck. I know that a Solidarity player finished ninth, so the deck is definitely not dead. I think this was just a bad day for Solidarity, and one that probably won't affect it's place on the tiers.
Where was Tog?
A lot of the discussion prior to the Grand Prix was Psychatog decks and Life from the Loam tearing up the top eight. This didn't happen. I think this really only has to do with people not having time to prepare enough with Ravnica being released so soon before the Grand Prix. You'll definitely be hearing from Life from the Loam and its toothy friend soon enough, probably at Grand Prix Lille in Europe.
Where were all of the pros and their savage turn one kill decks?
Some certain pro players did a lot of trash talking prior to this event about how people dedicated to the Legacy format simply hadn't thought it through enough, and there was a huge diamond in the rough laying in the format. However, the only top eight deck that people hadn't really heard of was Pikula's deck. Everything else had at least been discussed. This probably had more to do with the pros just not caring as much about the format. It seemed many of them played just to use some of their older cards. Nothing wrong with that, but I don't think the professional players walked the walk in this event.
Is Survival dead?
It would definitely appear so, from a distance. The issue of Survival is one of the most confusing ones in recent memory. Early on in the format people were discussing banning Survival, and now it seems to be completely gone from the format. What gives? I think it's more the cost of Survival decks money wise, and the playskill it takes to play them. A Survival deck with a good pilot can definitely win tourneys, but right now it appears that there aren't any of those people left. If Survival decks cost as much money as Vial Goblins does, it would be overrunning the format like people thought. That's not the case though, and until it is or a key piece of Vial Goblins is banned, I don't see Survival doing a whole lot in major tournaments.
Where was that Flame Vault deck I kept hearing about?
Another big piece of hype going around was the Flame Fusillade/Time Vault combo. There were really two factors that hurt this deck. The first being that it's a pretty expensive deck, simply because Time Vaults are currently going for well over fifty bucks apiece. A lot of players just weren't willing to shell out that much money for a deck that hadn't gotten a whole lot of testing. Second was that the deck was really overhyped to begin with. The combo itself isn't really any faster than Solidarity, and it doesn't have the ability to fight through hate like Solidarity does. It does have a strong counter base, but really the deck isn't a whole lot different from Trix, which is a deck that has struggled in Legacy for quite some time now.
So what now?
The biggest impact of the tournament was probably Chris Pikula's deck. Not really because of the archetype, but because he showed that a mostly black based deck can do well in a major Legacy tournament. Forever Black has been considered the worst color in Legacy, despite powerhouse cards like Hymn to Tourach and Duress. Swords to Plowshares was a white card that was better than any of Black's removal, and a lot of the creatures were too conditional. However, with the addition of Dark Confidant along with the possibility of Engineered Plague, Black is not going to be the joke it used to be in Legacy.
This also means bad news for some decks, namely Solidarity. Solidarity has been cruising in a format where Black barely existed, but those times are changing. Solidarity is well known for its vulnerability to discard and resource denial strategies, and with Pikula's deck the chain reaction of people trying out Black decks and seeing they're not so bad after all could result in a chain reaction that results in the unceremonious death of Solidarity. Not only that, but the Salvagers Game deck in the top eight is also mostly black based, and runs the same cards that Solidarity hates. If these two catch on, the results could be interesting.
The other thing is possible sideboard cards. With Gro appearing to be one of the top decks in the format now, and discussion going around everywhere about Dredge-a-Tog, Legacy sideboards are going to look much like they did before the list separations when Worldgorger Dragon reigned supreme. In other words, expect a lot of graveyard hate, including Phyrexian Furnace and Tormod's Crypt. With these two powerful cards soon to become sideboard staples, Gro is really going to be tested in the coming months.
Well, that does it for me. Hope this helped you understand what to make of the results of GP Philly. Thanks to the editors, and iloveatogs for the banner.
By CynicalSquirrel on November 17th, 2005 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now