Before I get into the meat of this, I should note that I ended up converting this from being a “tournament report” into being an “”article””* including my thoughts on various things about the Legacy format… such as the Legacy format. I have helpfully included section headers for your convenience.
Durdling, Part 1
I made a realization a while back that I do not enjoy the physical act of playing Magic anymore. My body, despite being in the best shape it’s ever been (“I didn’t recognize you!” says one of my friends after I berate him for walking by my match during the main event and not saying hello), does not like sitting in chairs for 8 hours a day throwing pieces of cardboard at people. It’s just exhausting, and I get sick 50% of the time.
I still go to the occasional big event, though, because I have a fairly reasonable friend base through Magic that I don’t get to see except at these events. I’ll pay the $50 to hang out with people I like. Philosophical aside: Is this significantly different from an escort service? Please don’t answer this question so that in my ignorance I can pretend I still have dignity.
For this event, I borrowed Elves from a friend who has several Legacy decks built. The list was the following:
If you want to read about the deck itself, find another article. This is not my list and I am not an expert in Elves. I will talk about exactly one card, as it may be an unusual inclusion and worth discussing. Wren’s Run Packmaster is meant to add some resiliency in matches where comboing is difficult (Miracles) as well as be a threat that attacks from a different angle. It blanks a significant amount of the removal in the format and is a giant monster that produces an army all by itself. Deathtouch wolves match up very well against Tarmogoyf, as it turns out. Finally, the requirement to champion an Elf is easy to meet and will give you a bonus when it dies. Sticking Elvish Visionary under it is the ideal situation of course. It is slow and gets boarded out a lot, but when it is good, it is very good.
Everything else is fairly stock. Yes, I know that the deck has been moving more combo-orientated lately and increasing the numbers of Birchlore Rangers. Not a discussion I can really weigh in on.
Anyway, after shooting the ***** for literally two hours with [namedrops omitted] as we waited for the giant event to fire, it was finally time to play Legacy.
The Main Event
Armed with fewer than 20 games of experience with my deck, I valiantly strode into round one, promptly made a fool of myself against BUG Delver, and died. The only memorable play of the match was when I tried to exile a sorcery from my opponent’s graveyard with Deathrite Shaman on his end step while he had his own Shaman up. He naturally tried to exile it in response, but I had the Quirion Ranger to return my Bayou to my hand and untap the Deathrite! “Haha," I nearly said, until I noticed that I had no more black mana.
One of my greatest strengths as a Magic player is that I do not go on tilt. I was able to very naturally shrug this off as if I had intended it to be and play the rest of the game without a noticeable loss in play quality. Unfortunately, the bar had been set low already, and I haven’t even mentioned that I got my turn one fetch land stifled (when I had Bayou in my hand, obviously**).
My next rounds were somewhat stronger. I’ll just cover some of the memorable moments.
Round two I fairly handily beat a Punishing Jund list. Here I’d just like to mention that the Packmaster is an incredible trump against fair decks like these. They cannot Decay it, cannot Punish it (unless they have eight mana and two Groves), and Liliana is ineffective at best and laughable at worst. Finally, even if they do kill it, you get a threat back. I’d also suggest that a deck like Punishing Jund is just not a good choice in the current Cruise meta (see section “The State of Legacy” for more detail here). Fair decks don’t seem well-positioned right now.
Round three I defeated the Delver menace. I don’t remember anything about the games other than that in game 3 I had to do things the old fashioned way with attacks and Deathrite activations. Deathrite is a good way to combat the Cruises, incidentally, to the point where (as my R1 opponent clued me into) the Delver decks board some number of them out against Elves.
Round four I was against my friend playing Cruise Burn. This was not close, sadly. Two interesting points: I was (naturally) trash talking my friend the entire match while sitting next to Reid Duke, the consummate sportsman. Reid's introduction to his opponent with a cheerfully polite, but thoroughly redundant, “Hi, I’m Reid” juxtaposed very poorly with my own, “great, it’s you!” I will also say that during the course of the matches, only one of us told our opponent to kill themselves.
The second point of interest for this match is that my opponent destroyed me by playing turn 1 Grafdigger’s Cage followed by turn 2 Eidolon of the Great Revel. Later, my friend was in a feature match against Ross Merriam, also on Elves of course, and ran this same sequence of plays. He was not only soundly defeated but loudly berated by everybody for it. I suggested that because it had worked on me, he thought it was actually a strong line.
I just realized that I forgot about round four entirely, and that the previously-described round was actually round five. My apologies to “unintelligible scribble,” as it says in my score pad, but I forget everything about you. I’m sure we had great games, though.
Round six was against Omnitell. This featured my favorite moment of the event, so I’ll cover it in detail. Plus, I need to get at least one game recap in so that you know I actually attended the event. It’s game three. I keep Thoughtseize, Swan Song, and other cards on the draw. He leads Leyline of Sanctity. At this point, I am quite happy. Based on how he played in previous games, I predicted that he would overvalue the Leyline and not expect counter magic out of my deck. I try to sell that I’m weak through body language: Slumping in the chair, hand on face, everything. I want him to think that we’re just racing and go for it as fast as possible. I am rewarded when he goes for S+T around turn 4 or 5, and I Song it successfully.
This is my opening. I know he can’t stop me right now, so I need to go for the kill this turn. I enter the tank. I have Deathrite and Elvish Visionary in play as well as Cradle, Bayou, and Trop. Cradle, Behemoth, and double Zenith in hand. Tap the duals to Zenith for Heritage Druid. Tap the team for GGG, Zenith for Quirion Ranger (G floating). Untap Deathrite with Ranger (returning Bayou). Cradle for GGGG, play Cradle, tap it and end up with GGGGGGGGG in the pool. Hardcast Behemoth from our hand. Attack for exactly lethal. Opponent scoops. Then realizes he has a bird token, takes back the scoop and blocks. He goes to 2. We pass it back and he slams a second Show and Tell. He puts in Omniscience. I put in the Bayou we returned to our hand. He casts Dig through Time for free. I respond by returning the Trop to untap Deathrite and exile a sorcery to kill him.
I love elves.
I unfortunately lost my R7 match against Sneak and Show (even after defeating a resolved Griselbrand in game one!). I kept the loosest hand in game 3, because I secretly just wanted to be done playing Magic for the day. I was technically live for prize at 5-3, but I didn’t want to be playing until midnight just for a shot at $50 store credit.
Elves is a good deck I played fairly suboptimally in most matches (though I would say that I am competent enough***), and won due to the power of the deck. I will also say that I think it is well-positioned right now, as it can fight through or ignore the Treasure Cruise menace. More on that later.
Durdling, Part 2
One of the reasons I dropped at 5-3 was that I had been roped into Fogo de Chao for dinner. I had heard tell of this mythical restaurant and wanted to experience it for myself. The food was fairly good. I would not have eaten lunch if I knew that we would be going here, though! The highlight of the night was half of our party being fairly drunk (I think) and convincing the server that we were attending a Doctors Without Borders convention, as well as tricking them into giving one of us free birthday cake, which was about fifteen times as hilarious as it sounds, as I haven’t yet managed to make this story be funny while retelling it, despite this being my fourth attempt.
The Other Main Event
I went 1-1 in a Khans of Tarkir side draft on Sunday.
The State of Legacy
After playing and watching a lot of Magic this weekend, I have the following opinion on the Legacy**** format: You either need to be playing Treasure Cruise or be playing a deck that doesn’t care about it. The traditional weakness of the Delver decks was that they would run out of gas if the game went late, with no effective way to catch up. This weakness has been solved in a conclusive fashion. You can’t effectively fight for the long game against Delver, as they now can easily draw into more gas and close out the battle. The easiest way to fight this is to be Cruising yourself. You can fight toe-to-toe with an opposing Cruise deck with your own, and at that point you’re effectively in a mirror.
But what about the other route? There are decks that can ignore or fight through Cruise. In effect, you need to answer the question, “does my deck care about Ancestral Recall?” I see two general paths to “no” on this question:
1. Fast combo decks. If your critical turn is before turn four (as it really should be in Legacy), you can get in before the first Cruise has been cast. The Cruise decks are still running the full complement of Forces and Dazes (reports that they have shaved countermagic for Cruises have been exaggerated), but this is nothing new for a combo deck to deal with.
2. Decks that invalidate the opponent’s strategy. Take a look at the T8 of Legacy champs. See that deck with maindeck Leyline of the Void? That’s what I’m talking about here. Having that card game one is normally “fine.” It has fringe benefits against Tarmogoyf and the degenerates that think Dredge is playable, but in the current meta it’s a great angle of attack against these Cruise decks. It’s not perfect (they don’t need to cast Cruise, and they still run Brainstorm to shuffle away the 8-drops they are never casting), but it goes a long way toward bringing the matchup back down to a fair fight. Another option is something like Blood Moon (not great against UR delver, but backbreaking against the 3-color options) or Chalice of the Void that can take them off of their early game.
To sum, you need to be able to match the ability of a Cruise deck to generate massive card advantage. You do that either by generating real cards of your own***** or by locking out their ability to do so (creating virtual card advantage). If your deck cannot do this, it is very likely bad.
Two different people on various levels on the friend scale made T8 in the different main events, so the weekend was fairly successful overall. I’m glad I attended this event to practice for Grand Prix New Jersey next month! I'm 90% on running Elves back at this point, as it's currently the deck I have the most experience with.
Props: My friends, for lending me cards and generally being good people to hang around with.
Slops: Fogo de Chao, for costing $20 more than I felt it was worth.
Thanks for reading.
*The more quotation marks I include around a phrase, the more accurately that phrase describes what I am talking about.
**Consider the following scenario. Your opponent (in the dark) leads Polluted Delta, pass. Your options are to T1 play Bayou, Deathrite or Verdant, Deathrite. What’s the right play? Playing around Wasteland and Stifle is tough, especially when the decks sometimes run both. I chose wrong, unfortunately. My logic was flawed as well, as the Deathrite I would have been casting would have provided mana even if I had gotten Wasted. Of course, to REALLY play around everything, the correct play is just Verdant, pass. This also plays around Daze, and is most likely the correct line. The opponent did not play a cantrip T1. Ponder/Preordain signals a combo deck, and against these decks you really want to be moving quickly. But you can take a turn off against the delver decks. With no indication of a combo on the other side of the table, Fetch, pass is the best play. You even get to grab Dryad Arbor when they fetch as a reward for your patience.
***Sort of. If you look closely, you can see that I made a major sideboarding error against my Omnitell opponent. I would say that this was a reasonable showing for a deck that I had very little experience with, though.
****And Vintage too, actually. But my understanding of Vintage is not sufficiently advanced past, “win the die roll against Shops, mull every hand that doesn’t have Bazaar, and don’t play your Delvers against Oath” for me to comment on it.
*****I suppose a third category here would be “decks that can draw as many cards as a deck running 3-4x Ancestral Recall without playing it themselves,” but I can’t think of any right now.