Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Guest Column: Trials of Legacy

By Sebastian Parker

Having played my first GP in 2009 in Brighton, frustrated that I couldn’t build a deck from my sealed pool to beat all of my opponent’s Masters of the Wild Hunt (4 of my 8 opponents had them…isn’t it supposed to be Mythic?!) and missing out on Top8 at Nationals on tiebreakers I am determined to break through and prove to myself that I can compete with the best. As such, I’ve decided to go to as many Pro level events as I can reasonably get to in 2010, starting with GP:Madrid. The format is legacy, so I did a bit of reading and made the decision to play Bant Pro and the GP Madrid Trial on the 19th December here’s the list:

Main Deck

4 Noble Hierarch

4 Tarmogoyf

3 Quasali Pridemage

3 Rhox War Monk

1 Trygon Predator

1 Progenitus

4 Force of Will

4 Daze

4 Counterbalance

4 Brainstorm

4 Sensei’s Divining Top

3 Natural Order

3 Swords to Plowshares

4 Misty Rainforest

2 Flooded Strand

1 Windswept Heath

3 Tropical Island

2 Tundra

1 Savannah

2 Island

2 Forest

1 Plains


4 Ravenous Trap

2 Tormod’s Crypt

1 Relic of Progenitus

2 Krosan Grip

3 Kitchen Finks

2 Umezawa’s Jitte

I borrowed all the really old (read old-bordered) cards from Peter and Darren in Cambridge except for 1 Tundra. So I ended up playing 1 tundra and 1 hallowed fountain, but fortunately it never cost me any life or tempo so it didn’t matter.

Round 1: White Stax, Lian Pizzey

Game 1

I win the die roll. I keep, he mulls. I play Tundra followed by Sensei’s Divining Top. He plays Ancient Tomb then Chalice of the Void for x=1, which I Daze. On my turn I replay the Tundra and spin the top. He plays Flagstones of Trokair and passes. I play windswept heath and pass, he plays plains and Crucible of Worlds. (Threatening wasteland every turn is not much of a concern to my deck since I play 5 basic lands and 4 noble hierarch.) I play island, Trygon Predator and he frowns – most of his deck is artifacts and enchantments so predator can lock him out of the game. He plays mishra’s factory and Oblivion Ring and so I Force of Will the O-Ring removing Daze. I spin the top at the end of Lian’s Turn. On my turn I attack and destroy the Crucible. He races for a while with the factory but can’t play any of the cards in his hand since they would just get destroyed. When I play a second creature (qasali pridemage) he scoops them up.

Sideboarding: +2 krosan grip, -2 rhox war monk. I would consider taking out swords to plowshares, but I reckon that he may well be playing Baneslayer or Exalted Angel and I don’t want to sideboard out my outs.

Game 2

He double mulligans, I keep my 7. He starts with wasteland. I start with Plains, Sensei’s Divining Top. He plays plains and passes. I play Tropical Island into Noble Hierarch. He just continues to play land. I play a Tarmogoyf and a Misty Rainforest, I have the opportunity to play turn 3 Natural Order but without knowing the format well enough he might have a Wrath or Mana Tithe and my hand is good enough (Brainstorm, Daze, Tarmogoyf, Fetches, Natural Order) that I can shuffle away the natural order and still have a plenty of action. He plays lots of mana and a Magus of the Tabernacle and I play another Tarmogoyf. I Swords to Plowshares the Magus, but he gets The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale down. I only have a few land in play so my mana is tight, but I think my pair of goyfs are worth keeping around. I pay the upkeep for two turns and attack for the win.

Win 2-0 Games 2-0 Matches 1-0

Round 2: Matthew Hawker

Game 1

He wins the die roll and mulligans and I keep my 7. He plays Wooded Foothills fetching Mountain and then casts Goblin Guide. He attacks and I reveal counterbalance. I play Misty Rainforest fetching Island and cast my Sensei’s Divining Top. He plays Taiga, attacks revealing Tropical Island and passes the turn. I play the Tropical Island, cast Counterbalance and he bolts me in response. He plays Wasteland, Goblin Piledriver and then wastes my Tropical Island. I replace it with another and cast Tarmogoyf, but he has a second Wasteland for my second Tropical Island. I have him counter-top locked floating a counterbalance on top so he doesn’t resolve anything and can’t attack, but I only have Island and no land on top of my deck so I can’t play out the rest of the creatures in my hand.

After a few turns he tries Aether Vial so I put my Sensei’s Divining Top on top of my deck to counter it. Next turn I replay the Sensei and he bolts me in response.

He hits his 4th land and goes for a Goblin Ringleader but I Daze – being stuck on one land for this long is not letting me play out any more defence than my goyf and I need to stop him from being able to use Gempalm Incinerator to kill it.

All the while he is testing my lock with Goblin Lackeys and Goblin Piledriver he manages to resolve a Goblin Ringleader, revealing Goblin Piledriver, Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Warchief to restock. He manages to find a window to resolve a Goblin Matron, searching for a Gempalm Incinerator.

After a few more turns of draw go and me drawing up to 4 land I play Rhox War Monk. He uses his next turn to cycle Gempalm Incinerator targeting my Rhox War Monk (his board is 4 goblins – lackey, piledriver, matron, ringleader).

I crack Flooded Strand to Swords to Plowshares the Goblin Piledriver in response to the trigger and he cycles a second Gempalm Incinerator in response to that. This turns out to be very bad for me because I end up with a forest and two duals on top of my deck and my Counterbalance lock is broken.

He still can’t attack through my goyf so he passes back. I play Qasali Pridemage and now all I have is a couple of dazes in hand and I pass back. Next turn he gets Goblin Warchief ( I spin the top, hoping for a Rhox War Monk but there are only dual lands) he plays a Goblin Piledriver and things start to look bad.

I have more land on top of my deck, what I would do for a shuffle effect right now!

He plays out more guys on his turn and attacks. I block what I can but his forces are too numerous and when the top of my deck reveals a fetchland I rejoice and crack it into a top 3 of double force of will and daze. I pass the turn and he sees the win on the board so it’s on to game 2.

Sideboard -1 Progenitus, -1 Trygon Predator, -4 Force of Will, +2 Umezawa’s Jitte, +3 Kitchen Finks, +1 Empyrial Archangel.

Game 2

My draw this game is amazing. I get Rhox War Monk on turns 3-5 and double Tarmogoyf and a Kitchen Finks for good measure. He can’t attack through my team but I can’t profitably attack him either because piledriver has protection from blue (which I find out the first time I attack him). He builds up his board, uses Gempalm Incinerator to off a Rhox War Monk. When he has about 10 creatures on the board he lays down a Goblin King and starts adding up the power of his guys and counting how many blockers I have. He looks confused, gives up on the maths and passes the turn. I know he needs about 30 creatures in play to get past my wall of blockers, so I pass back with a comment about how I’m probably dead to 2 more goblins. He believes me so he decides to play a couple of warchiefs and attack.

I block his guys and swords the goblin king for good measure, gaining 1 life overall in the damage step from letting some goblins through gaining 6 from 2 monks and I gain 2 from a persisting kitchen finks. I end up on 22 life and he loses his 5 best creatures.

He scoops when I move to declare my attackers.

There are only 5 minutes left on the round. In game 3 I manage to stick a turn 2 goyf and he tries his best, but he can’t deal 20 and we draw.

Draw 1-1 Games 3-1 Matches 1-0-1

Round 3: Dredge (no LED) Thomas Reeve

It was the Games Club X-as tournament day and Jason in his role as awesomest tournament organiser ever (sorry Rob, haven’t been to your tournaments yet (no problem - Edictor) had organised food for after round 2 – a full plate of Xmas dinner! Obviously going to time on round 2 meant I only had 5 minutes to collect my food before starting the next round.

Thomas Reeve 9-1’d the games club legacy league with dredge so I figure he’s playing dredge. I tell him I have 15 sideboard cards against dredge and he looks worried so I am pretty sure that’s what he’s playing. I win the die roll and mulligan a hand of 3 land and 4 creatures into a hand of natural order, 2 land, noble hierarch, force of will, counterbalance. Thomas keeps his 7.

The judge comes over and tells us we are being deck checked. I apologise that we’ve already drawn our hands (DCI policy is to let players continue if they’ve already drawn their hands, but he seems not to know and not to care when I ask him about it). He insists he’ll preserve the hands so he takes the decks away. I don’t protest since I get an extra 10 minutes to eat my dinner and chat to ‘the Reeve’.

We talk about how I could say that he has brought me back the wrong 6 cards and search for a great 6 (which is probably why DCI policy is the way it is – the scenario quickly becomes complicated and there are many opportunities for cheating or corrupt judges screwing people over) but when the judge comes back he gives us both back the hands we started with so we’re happy and get on with the Magic! (the policy is to take the decks when players present them, no sooner or later – Judge Editor)

I play Misty Rainforest fetching Tropical Island and cast Noble Hierarch. He plays Putrid Imp off of City of Brass, which I opt not to counter – I am saving my Force of Will for a Breakthrough should he have it and I’d like to cast my Counterbalance if possible.

Turn 2 I attack and pass. He discards a stinkweed imp on his upkeep and dredges 5. He hits a Narcomoeba, Tireless Tribe, Breakthrough and 2 land.

Turn 3 I cast Natural Order turning my Noble Hierarch into Progenitus

On his upkeep he discards his Stinkweed Imp again dredges into a Bridge from Below, casts Cabal Therapy naming Force of Will, casts Breakthrough dredging 23 cards, then Dread Return on Iona, Shield of Emeria naming white. He flashes back 2 Cabal Therapy to take out all my non-land cards in hand and passes back the turn with 25 power of zombies/Iona in play. I have no outs so I scoop them up.

Sideboard +1 Relic of Progenitus, +2 Tormod’s Crypt, +4 Ravenous Trap -1 Trygon Predator, -3 Natural Order, -1 Progenitus, -1 Rhox War Monk

The judge comes back over and says sheepishly “sorry I dropped one of your bridge from below here it is”. Thomas is cool about it, partly because he still won the game but it definitely explained why he was a little bridge-light early on in the game.

Game 2

I mulligan a hand of Counterbalance, Sensei’s Divining Top, Tarmogoyf, Noble Hierarch, Daze, 2 land. (AKA the god hand against any other deck). I really need to draw hate to have a chance, I get a hand of 2x force, daze, top, 2 land. Not really what I want since but I can hopefully disrupt him enough to draw into hate from my top and lands, so I keep rather than risk 5 cards with no mana or disruption. Having played the game out, I think I ought to have mulliganed again since dredge is perfectly capable of playing through counterspells and you really have to have dredge specific hate to beat it.

I counter a Breakthrough with my Force, removing Daze but he gets a Putrid Imp down and starts dredging. When he has 3 Bridge from Below in the graveyard I draw a Relic of Progenitus and use it to wipe his yard, but I have no pressure so he just dredges the rest of his deck and my eventual Tarmogoyfs can’t get through the zombies while he attacks in the air with Narcomoebas and Imps.

Lose 0-2 Games 3-3 Matches 1-1-1

Round 4 Deadguy Mark Lailey

My notes get a little bit less detailed at this point, since the day is wearing on. I have seen Mark playing at a lot of PTQs and stuff and I know he’s really bad at playing the game (especially combat) but he likes good creatures and usually chooses a good deck, so I anticipate some powerful creature deck on his side of the table.

He wins the die roll and he double mulls while I keep a Counterbalance, Sensei’s Divining Top, Noble Hierarch, Force of Will, Daze and 2 land. He plays turn 1 Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Spectre, which I Force of Will removing Daze. Thanks to my Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top he doesn’t resolve a relevant spell for the rest of the game, but doesn’t concede the game until my tarmogoyf kills him just so he can see more of my deck.

While sideboarding I think if I resolve a Natural Order into Empyrial Archangel he’ll have no real outs so I side out a Trygon Predator for it.

Game 2

We both keep, this game is weird as we start by trading our entire hands 1-for-1. 2 Dazes and Force of Will (removing Rhox War Monk) and Counterbalance for Dark Ritual, 2 Dark Confidant, Hypnotic Spectre and a Vindicate - until all we have is empty hands and his board of 2 lands to my board of 1 land and top. I draw into a land and a goyf and so does he. I follow it up with a string of creatures and he has a string of removal. Eventually he draws a baneslayer angel, he follows it up with a tomb stalker. I am still in the game if I can get a swords for the baneslayer but spinning the top, cracking a fetch, spinning again yields nothing but land so it’s off to game 3.

Game 3

I keep a hand with creatures, Plains, Misty Rainforest, Flooded Strand. I play Misty Rainforest fetching Forest and cast Noble Heirarch and he plays wasteland. I play a Plains into turn 2 Rhox War Monk and he plays Dark Confidant. I swords the confidant, fetch an island (nice wasteland) and play a Tarmogoyf, he plays a Hypnotic Specter and passes. I play another Tarmogoyf and a Sensei’s Divining Top, my hand is now empty except for a land so his Hyppie is looking very weak too. He plays a Tarmogoyf and Swords to Plowshares on one of my Tarmogoyfs.

I draw Quasali Pridemage so I can use exalted to go on the offensive. My war monk is still bigger than his ‘goyf so that gets in for a few turns. He draws a Dark Confidant and uses it to chump block, which is pretty bad cause he needs to draw removal and he could double block to trade one of his creatures for my monk. This pumps the goyfs so I’m not gaining life when I attack but I can still get in with my exalted goyf. He can’t draw runner-runner removal and I have put on too much pressure for him to deal with. He chumps using topdecked creatures for a few turns hoping for a baneslayer but it doesn’t come and an extra exalted creature from me means my war monk can get up to 5/6 so he’s drawing dead.

Win 2-1 Games 5-4 Matches 2-1-1

Round 5 Goblin Charbelcher-Empty the Warrens Stephen MacIntosh

Stephen is a newcomer to legacy and wanted to play something where he doesn’t have to know what his opponent is playing. So he’s playing one of the turn 1 kill decks. This is exactly how game 1 goes when I don’t keep a hand with force of will. Game 2 he gets the Charbelcher out and flips over 3 cards before hitting stomping grounds so I take 6. He has a land and chrome mox in play so drawing any mana source wins him the game.

I take my first turn, tropical island into noble hierarch. He draws and passes. My turn 2 is trygon predator and with Charbelcher and mox in play, if my predator hits it’s game over for Stephen. I am holding daze so he has to draw an uncounterable mana source (Simian or Elvish Spirit Guide) of which there are 6 randomly distributed through the top 47 cards of his deck. He flips over the top card of the deck and it’s… Elvish Spirit Guide. W00t!

Lose 0-2 Games 5-6 Matches 2-2-1

Round 6 Mono-Blue Tezzeret Stax Rik Powell

Rik and I Facebooked before the tourney and we are going to GP Madrid together (along with me – sexy Editor), so I know what he’s playing and he knows what I’m playing. I have no idea if it’s a good matchup but my plan is to stick a Tarmogoyf and beat him up with it before he casts a Tezzeret.

Game 1 we both keep 7 card hands, mine is 2 Daze, 2 Force of Will, Sensei’s Divining Top, 2 fetchlands. He is so excited about his hand, he shows it to the people sat either side of him – not a good sign for me, but I hope I can counter his stuff and find a threat to mop up with before he does whatever brokenness he has drawn.

I play Flooded Strand fetching Island and cast Sensei’s Divining Top. Rik plays Ancient Tomb and casts Mox Diamond discarding City of Trators and then casts Trinisphere. I daze it. Next turn I replay the island. He plays wasteland and goes for trinisphere number 2. I Force of Will the Trinisphere, removing Daze. Next turn I use Windswept Heath to fetch a Forest and play a Tarmogoyf. Rik plays Island, tezzeret. I daze that too. Rik looks around in astonishment, his hand is getting smaller and the awesomeness he was going for just doesn’t seem to be happening. He makes a comment about infinite counterspells and passes the turn.

I attack with the goyf but I’m out of gas so I pass the turn back. Rik draws and then smiles as he plays another island and tezzeret number 2. Got a 3rd Force? He asks. No, I reply. Tezzeret does his thing (fetching thopter foundry out of Rik’s deck) Rik explains he can sacrifice and artifact to make a blocker for my ‘goyf and search out a Sword of the Meek next turn so I’m drawing dead and scoop them up.

Game 2 I take out my 3 Swords to Plowshares for 2 Krosan Grips and a Kitchen Finks thinking that Rik has no targets for them in his deck but he’s sided in Sower of Temptation so when my Forest-Noble Heirarch into no-land, Quasali Pridemage gets turn 3 Sowered I’m in for a race. I draw a Tarmogoyf and play it and another Pridemage but with 3 per turn from the exhalted Sower I can’t disrupt Rik’s Ensnaring Bridges and Tezzerets and Chalice of the Voids and put on enough of a clock so I lose.

Lose 0-2 Games 5-8 Matches 2-3-1

I really like Rik’s deck since it really takes advantage of Tezzeret. I can see it might have problems with super fast weenies and burn (looking at you Rob (my weenie is super fast.. and burnt – Pained Editor)), but it can make a turn 1 chalice for x=1 or propaganda to shut down those decks and then get thopter foundry to lock them out of the game. It also doesn’t look terrible against combo with maindeck Trinisphere and Chalice. So I might have put some work in and see if I can get a version which can perform better than Rik’s 3-3 record here.

Overall I wasn’t too pleased with my performance since I thought that counter-top was supposed to be the best deck, but I came to the realisation that although there is a lot of great library manipulation in the deck with shuffle effects, top and brainstorm there aren’t many ways other than counterbalance to gain card (quantity) advantage, which is especially difficult after pitching spells to Force of Will.

If I were to play the same deck again, I would remove the Natural Order engine because it was never essential – either replacing it with ponder or something more effectual like kitchen finks or stifle. I would write off dredge – even with hate cards you can’t put any sort of clock on – I’d use those 7 slots in my sideboard to play some more broadly useful cards. (e.g. hydroblast, sower of temptation)

Next time I play legacy I will try playing either some card advantage engine like life from the loam, survival or standstill or some super-fast combo deck like the ad nauseum-tendrils-doomsday deck which Top8ed. I’ll also put some work in with mono-blue stax. Hopefully I can settle on something I like in January so I can spend February practicing with it.


  1. Quote: "Overall I wasn't too pleased with my performance since I tought that counter-top was supposed to be the best deck"

    This comes across as more than a little arrogant... It may well be the best deck, but what if all/some of the other players in the room are "better" (at lejacy?) then you are? In that instance, you're clearly not going to be able to translate the "best deck" into a top 8/victory. You point out a number of errors that you make (loose keeps, mis-sideboarding), so maybe there's more to your 2-3-1 record than the deck not being the correct choice for the format.

    Nice report, though!

  2. That Rik? I think anyone can just pick up a deck in Lejacy and make top 4 or so tbh. I don't think Counter-top is the best deck, I'm 3-0 in real competition. It has a variety of answers to stuff but so much card disadvantage until it can get its Engine up and running. I agree on solid report though, nice play-by-play coverage with honest remarks.

  3. I definitely made some decisions which ended up in me losing games - not mulling to 5 vs. dredge, taking out swords to plowshares against Rik, not mulliganing into force of will against Stephen.
    That doesnt necessarily mean they were better than me, but it does mean that I probably didn't understand well enough how to maximize my opportunities to win.

    I'm think I'm gonna end up playing a more proactive (as opposed to reactive) deck in Madrid, probably something fairly linear so I don't have to worry as much about my opponent's deck.
    I'm gonna set about analysing the results from the 5k too - there's a lot of data to analyse but hopefully it'll have some useful information hidden away in there. I'll write about it if anything interesting crops up.