Winning Eternal Clash with Four Color

Hello and welcome back to another Legacy article with a fresh tournament experience to talk about.

A facebook post popped up about a Legacy tournament a four hour drive away from my house, in the German city of Flensburg, and I started to search for travel companions a week in advance. I still had my trusty Four Color Control deck in my bagpack after my top 4 finish at Danish Legacy Masters and decided to run the same 75 back. Never change a winning team, right?

I’ll not go into too much detail about my particular list, because I’ve talked about it a lot in previous articles, but instead I want to focus on what I learned playing against this super diverse field of Legacy decks. For reference, here are the top 8 lists from the event.

Czech Pile by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (13)
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Snapcaster Mage
Baleful Strix
Deathrite Shaman

Spells (27)
Lightning Bolt
Murderous Cut
Fatal Push
Kolaghan's Command
Brainstorm
Force of Will
Hymn to Tourach
Preordain
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Lands (20)
Badlands
Bayou
Island
Swamp
Tropical Island
Bloodstained Mire
Volcanic Island
Underground Sea
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn

Sideboard (15)
Pyroblast
Hydroblast
Red Elemental Blast
Blue Elemental Blast
Surgical Extraction
Grafdigger's Cage
Flusterstorm
Marsh Casualties
Toxic Deluge
Thoughtseize

Burn

I have played this matchup several times online, but never at a premier event in real life. Playing against a deck with aggressive one drops, Eidolon of the Great Revel and a full playset of Price of Progress might sound like a nightmare, but I’m actually really comfortable being paired vs. Burn.

First of all you need to kill their first creature fast to avoid taking a lot of damage and being finished off by burn spells. Aside from the obvious reasons, you also need fodder in the graveyard for Deathrite Shaman. You want to either gain life or force them to kill it – effectively the same thing.

Obviously, cards like Hymn to Tourach and Force of Will are good at denying them resolved burn spells, but even Kolaghan’s Command can help out by minimising their resources. Against a hellbent opponent, you can disrupt their drawstep if they draw a creature or sorcery, and that will be relevant in close games.

Playing against Price of Progress can be tricky, so make sure to fetch out basic lands when you can afford to. Deathrite Shaman fixes a lot of color issues, so prioritise your lifetotal over perfect mana.

Establishing a clock is also important, because they will reduce your lifetotal to 0 given enough time. The best way to do this is Leovold, Emissary of Trest which conveniently will draw you cards when targeted.

With cheap interaction (2 blasts and 2 Flusterstorm), sideboarded games will be easier. Also note that Murderous Cut kills Eidolon free of charge.


BUG Control

I had a great semi final match against BUG Control, which was basically my list without the Kolaghan’s Command and the Pyroblast in the sideboard. The fact that he couldn’t run any of these cards means a few things.

Command lets me grind very well in combination with either Snapcaster Mage and Baleful Strix, so I will be favored in a long game. It even turned out he played Umezawa’s Jitte which was just icy on my cake.

Pyroblast lets me answer haymakers like Leovold and Jace, the Mind Sculptor cleanly on the stack before my opponents gets any value from them. This means that a resolved Jace, unless I’m horribly behind, is often game over for the BUG deck. It also means that Leovold will always grant me card advantage.

The morale of the story is that Deathrite Shaman lets you play four colors without problems and that the red cards are very important in grindy matchups.


Grixis Delver

In my quarter final match I’m paired against Grixis Delver. I love this matchup because of the close games is provides and the numerous small yet important decisions you have to make during each turn cycle. But I wanted to include this, because a few interesting situations occurred that stuck with me.

My opponent is clocking me with a flipped Delver of Secrets backed up by Wasteland and soft counters. He has seen my hand containing Lightning Bolt and Kolaghan’s Command when I try to kill his creature with the Bolt. He counters it with a Force of Will and proceeds to Wasteland my only red source. The point is that you never want to Force of Will a Lightning Bolt, but out of respect for my superior lategame and card advantage he saw it as his most likely route to victory; trying to get lucky that I didn’t find another red source in time. I love playing a deck that incentivizes opponents to make these high risk plays, because when they don’t work out, I’m heavily favored to win the game.


Weakness and Cheap Interaction

The weakness of Four Color Control is when you’re being overwhelmed early by combo decks where your expensive cards sit in hand doing nothing. I haven’t really thought about that for a while, but my matchup in the finals of Omni Sneak was kind enough to remind me. I sideboarded in the following against him:

   


Yeah, that’s a whole lot of CHEAP disruption. My philosophy against combo is that I feel like I’m winning games where I don’t die on the first few turns. Therefore, playing one-mana cards out of the sideboard to accompany Force of Will and Hymn to Tourach is crucial. In game two I even waited to play my Deathrite Shaman until turn two, because I wanted to keep up Flusterstorm plus Force of Will at all times. This is not to say it was a super clever play on my part, but only to emphasize the importance of getting to play a longer game with this deck and making plays that allow you do to so.

Until next time, may all your games end in double digit turns.

6 Lessons from Danish Legacy Masters

Last weekend I attended a Legacy tournament called Danish Legacy Masters with 70 players, and I learned quite a few things from it that I would like to share today.

1. Preparation

As a surprise to absolutely no one, I sleeved up my trusty Four Color Control deck which I have played for ages online to good results. The more games I played in a tournament setting with the deck, the more comfortable I have gotten playing from behind. The nature of a control deck combined with the blazing speed of the opposition in Legacy (tempo and combo decks) dictates that you will be under pressure and have to dig yourself out of holes from time to time.

In the beginning I felt very uncomfortable and not the slightest confident in these spots, but all the practice and experience has turned that on its head. The deck is very capable of epic comebacks thanks to cards like Baleful Strix (blocker + cantrip into what else you need), Snapcaster Mage for similar reasons and Brainstorm to find the two cards you need and put an irrelevant card back netting virtual card advantage. There is no way I was able to top 4 this event without the experience and muscle memory that endless testing has provided.

Now I’m gonna go through some of my matchups for the day and give you my thoughts on the decks and my role against them.


2. Eldrazi

Rewind a month or two back, and I’m in the Legacy Challenge top 8 with a 5-1 record feeling confident. I get paired against a deck I had happily forgotten and get #smashed in two super fast games, crack my 25 treasure chests and go to sleep. My previous removal suite was constructed with Delver, Death and Taxes and Elves in mind and I was poorly set up to beat Eldrazi. I knew the deck would rise in popularity like the top 8 decks from the Challenges always do, so I was determined to tweak my removal spells before Danish Legacy Masters.

The compromise ended up being adding the fourth Baleful Strix and two Murderous Cut. Against non-Eldrazi and Gurmag Angler, I would be over paying for my removal spell, but Reality Smasher and the zombie fish needed to be dealt with, and I was happy with the trade off. Long story short, Murderous Cut saved my behind in the event as I was paired against Eldrazi twice.


3. Grixis Delver

In the semi finals I fell to Grixis Delver after three great games that could have gone either way, but instead of talking about that match in particular, I have some thoughts on the matchup.

With the full playset of Baleful Strix, three sweepers and a smattering of spot removal, I still feel the matchup is slightly above 50% for me. A friend of mine made a great point on Skype one day where I was playing against Grixis Delver and thought about sideboarding out 1 Leovold, Emissary of Trest and 1 Kolaghan’s Command because I was afraid of soft counters and Pyroblast. I’m boarding out Jace, the Mind Sculptor because of Daze and the cards I just mentioned and was looking to be more low to the ground.

He basically said

“you’re playing more lands than them, so you still need to make sure you have better cards than them because it’s gonna be a long grind most of the time”.

That stuck with me and is an excellent point.What’s the purpose of going smaller if your deck wants to play a long game anyway? We need to take advantage of the fact that we have better cards for the late game and find the right balance between winning the late game and surviving in the early game. Lesson learned.


4. Death and Taxes

This deck is very close to my heart, but in its current form you’re shooting your self in the foot by choosing it for a tournament. My friend and team mate Thomas Enevoldsen played three copies of Palace Jailer in his 75, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction. A few weeks ago I was checking decklists from the Legacy Challenge and saw a version splashing green for Choke and Sylvan Library in the sideboard. With 2-3 Jailers, 2 Chokes and 1-2 Libraries I can see the deck being competitive again. The mana base takes a small hit, but I think it’s worth it in a world of Kolaghan’s Command.


5. Black/Red Reanimator

The boogie man of the format was represented at this event, and I had the pleasure of losing to it in a match where we spent more time shuffling than playing. Yes, the deck is fragile and will sometimes mulligan to oblivion or lose to a Deathrite Shaman on the draw. Surgical Extraction and Flusterstorm try to up the percentages after sideboard, and Force of Will is sometimes enough.

My take away, and the reasons I played it at Grand Prix Las Vegas this summer, is that the deck punishes opponents who are either unprepared, unwilling to mulligan and players who simply didn’t find relevant disruption in their seven and six card hand. There are a lot of free wins playing a deck like this which will be important in a long tournament. Also make no mistake that this deck can produce a turn one Griselbrand a higher percentage of the time than you think and can beat a Force of Will even more often.


6. Elves

I had the pleasure of playing against Elves in the quarter finals. Not only because I was victorious, but because the games against a competent Elves opponent are always intense with a lot of punches being traded back and forth. Elves both has the ability to combo kill and grind you out, and an experienced green mage will search for a window to execute the combo plan while still playing for the long game with Elvish Visionary and Wirewood Symbiote.

Because their individual card quality is relatively poor, a simple spot removal is better than a one-for-one, Hymn to Tourach is more devastating than usual and sweepers and mulligans can really hurt their win percentage in the matchup. I was fortunate enough to experience all of these things this match and was able to take it down.

Until next time, may all your Hymn to Tourachs be double Sinkhole.

Beating Legacy #1

November 5th there is a huge Legacy tournament in Copenhagen called “Danish Legacy Masters“. As this is a tournament with great tradition and players coming in from not only all parts of Denmark, but also from Sweden and Germany, I can’t wait to play.

I have four top 8‘s with one win and one finals split in this tournament series over the years, and I’m hoping to add to my resume this time around. But I’m getting way ahead of me because in order to win, you need to prepare! So tag along as I try and break down the most relevant decks to prepare for. Welcome to “Beating Legacy“!

Storm

Storm uses Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Lotus Petal and Lion’s Eye Diamond to accelerate out Ad Nauseam or Past in Flames either natural drawn or found with Infernal Tutor. The tutor makes sure you can end your turn by searching up a lethal Tendrils of Agony. To clear the way of pesky counter magic, a total number of 6 or 7 Cabal Therapy and Duress are included.

Some opening hands allow for quick kills where others need to set up a later kill with the numerous cantrips. Gitaxian Probe provides free information about the opponent’s hand, while Brainstorm and Ponder do their usual job of digging for what you need.

In order to give yourself the best chance of beating Storm, you need to fight them on several axis. In my experience, if you can attack Storm on at least two of the following areas, you are in good shape:

1) Clock. The faster you can get them low on life, the better. The damage also interacts favorably with Ad Nauseam.
2) Counter magic. Counterspells are good, and Flusterstorm is the best of the bunch.
3) Discard spells. Going for their hand is good for obvious reasons and provides information on how to play out your hand.
4) Graveyard hate. Attacking the graveyard means that Ad Nauseam or Empty the Warrens are their only path to victory.
5) Hateful permanents. They will only have a few answers to permaments in their deck, so getting one into play around their discard spells is important.


Grixis Delver

Many color combinations of Delver decks have come and gone through the years, but in 2017 it’s all about Grixis. Deathrite Shaman is too good not to play and needs black mana, and your removal spell of choice – Lightning Bolt – can finish off players and still kill most of the creatures in the format. Furthermore, red offers some great sideboard options while also adding Young Pyromancer to the threat base. Speaking of which, their different threats can’t be dealt with by the same cards, so keep that in mind.

They usually run a full playset of Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets and then a mix of Young Pyromancer, Gurmag Angler and True-Name Nemesis. While Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt take care of the first two, and True-Name and Pyromancer die to various -1/-1 effects, the Angler is very resilient to non-Swords to Plowshares removal. The difficulty of dealing with its creatures is one of the deck’s greatest strengths.

Playing and hopefully winning against Grixis Delver demands that you can navigate around some of their most important disruptive cards. Let’s go through them one by one.

“Can I afford to play around Wasteland?” is the most important question you have to ask your self. I’ve seen my share of players who played around Wasteland and as a result weren’t able to cast all of their spells. Don’t be that guy. Sometimes you need to make them have it and power through it, and sometimes you need to bridge a gap between two turns where you are immune to Wasteland. Storm and Sneak and Show are the most common decks for these situations with turn 1 basic Island and a cantrip.

Daze raises different questions than Wasteland, but they have their similarities. Early in the game you have to take stand to whether you can play around Daze all game or you’re going to run into it eventually. Keep in mind though, that waiting one turn to boost your odds of resolving a spell can backfire against a tempo deck like Grixis Delver. Wasteland, Cabal Therapy and Force of Will from the top of their library can punish you for sandbagging spells in fear of Daze, so I suggest you cast your spells on curve the majority of the time unless it’s a crucial one.

Playing around Cabal Therapy can be a few things. You need a lot of knowledge about what your opponent is most likely to name depending on the situation, which can be very hard. You should make sure not to have two of the same card in hand if you can avoid it. Aside from Brainstorm and Ponder, another way to do this is playing out the card you have two copies of if you have to decide between two spells for the turn. For example, if you have two Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and one Stoneforge Mystic in hand, chances are you should be playing out the Thalia regardless of what the best play would be in respect of the Therapy.

Stifle in combination with Wasteland can really mess up your plans. In some scenarios, fetching out a nonbasic before the opponent has mana for Stifle, even though they run 4 Wasteland, can be the correct play. Sometimes you need to play out fetch lands and cast no spells and make your opponent keep up the mana long enough for the Stifle to be irrelevant or until they decide to make a move. Since they run relatively few lands, chances are that they will not be able to advance the board while keeping up Stifle. Be proactive if you don’t have the ability to keep making land drops or wait it out – your deck will typically be better in the long game.

That will do it for the first installment of Beating Legacy. Next week I will be back with some more tips and tricks for a few relevant Legacy matchups. In the meantime please add your best advice for beating Storm and Grixis Delver in the comments on facebook, twitter, reddit or where ever you are reading this.

Beating Modern #1

Hello and welcome back, this time for the first piece of an article series about Modern! Three at a time, I will be running through the most popular Modern decks out there and tell you how to beat them in your next Modern tournament. Feel free to add more tips and tricks in the comments! Also, you can skip the prologue and go straight to the matchup guides if you live outside of Germany and the Nordic countries.

Prologue

This article series is brought to you by Snapcardster and a Danish union called “Eternal Magic Kbh“. The union started out many years ago with the intentions to play a lot of Legacy and make great tournaments for the mature audience who were not very interested in Standard. Once or twice a year, around 100 players gathered in Copenhagen to play in “Danish Legacy Masters“, and the events were always a huge success. A few years ago, Modern was added as a supported format as a reaction to the high demand and broad audience of the format. Because of the support from the state, these tournaments have way better prizes than normal tournaments at your local game store.

Because I love watching the Danish tournament scene grow, and I am privileged to be a part of Snapcardster, I had to use this amazing platform to recommend this tournament to anyone within a reasonable reach of Copenhagen. I know many players from Germany, Sweden and Norway have previously visited this tournament and always had a great time – sometimes even brought back the crown and made some friendly rivalries along the way.

You can find the event information about “Danish Modern Masters”, which is also a PPTQ, here.


Grixis Death’s Shadow

This deck is a tempo deck most of the time, but don’t underestimate its’ ability to grind with the best of them using Kolaghan’s Command and Snapcaster Mage – especially together. Its’ low land count make it possible to gain virtual card advantage over a long game of Magic where the opponent will naturally draw more lands, assuming they play more than 18-19. Also expect to face both versions of Liliana after the new planeswalker rule is in effect.

You want targeted removal spells and lots of it to beat it, preferably paired with Snapcaster Mage. Fatal Push, Engineered Explosives and Abrupt Decay do nothing against the delve creatures, and Death’s Shadow can live through Dismember some percentage of the time, while Path to Exile and Terminate do the job against all of their threats.

Death’s Shadow is weak to heavy boardstate decks like Abzan Company, Affinity and Humans because of their ability to race and deal a lot of damage out of nowhere. Similarly, if you are playing Burn, don’t Lava Spike them for three every turn. Instead you should aim to do large chunks of damage in a few turns to limit the number of big attacks from Death’s Shadow. Some games Death’s Shadow will take advantage of the small damage you are dealing them and stop the last lethal burn spell with a timely Stubborn Denial or two. Don’t play into their lifeloss plan at their pace.


Sideboard Options


Affinity

Affinity is an aggressive deck looking to win the game via the combat step. Most of their cards are not very impressive on their own, but synergize very well. You will be taking advantage of that in your quest to beat them.

The deck is composed of bad cards and payoff cards, with the payoff cards being: Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, Master of Etherium and to some extent Etched Champion and Signal Pest. If you manage to deal with these, you will win the game most of the time. Don’t Spell Snare a Vault Skirge, don’t Fatal Push a Memnite, and don’t Thoughtseize a Galvanic Blast.

Arcbound Ravager is a very complicated card to play against. Just like the Affinity player, you have to do exact math and be aware of each and every modular option at their disposal. I like killing the Ravager early to make them make a decision about additional +1/+1 counters, and some people like having the removal spell at the ready when your opponent goes all in. Find your style and stick to it.

The eight creature lands of the deck represent a very effective angle of attack, so always pay close attention to which Nexus they are sitting on. You can die from poison out of nowhere from either Ravager’s modular or the double black costed activated ability on Cranial Plating, and the Blinkmoth Nexus can pump even Inkmoth.

Keep an eye out for Blood Moon out of their sideboard if you happen to play a deck that is weak to it.


Sideboard Options


Burn

A very linear deck with one simple goal: reduce your opponent’s life total to 0 as fast as possible using hasty creatures and direct burn spells. While dedicated lifegain, Kitchen Finks and Lightning Helix for instance, is great for obvious reasons, let us talk about other ways to get an edge in the matchup.

First of all, your mana base is super important. Some decks can afford to run a lot of basics and fastlands (Spirebluff Canal and its’ friends), and this is a great start to beating Burn – actually forcing them to do the full twenty damage to you. You need to watch out though, because sometimes fetching a basic instead of shockland will cost you tempo and there for indirectly life in the long run. That brings me to the next point.

You need to establish a clock against Burn and not give them too many draw steps to find enough gas to finish you off. Delve creatures, Tarmogoyf, Master of Etherium, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are all great at pressuring their life total at a fast pace.

Because Burn needs a critical mass of relevant cards, one-for-one answers are good against it. Spell Snare‘ing an Eidolon of the Great Revel, Fatal Push‘ing a Goblin Guide or Inquisition of Kozilek‘ing away a Boros Charm are all great plays that improve your odds of beating it. The more you trade spells one for one with the deck, the more firmly you put your self in the driver seat.

Sideboard Options

Please share all the inside information you have about the above decks. Sharing knowledge is power! Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time where I cover three more decks you can be sure to face in your next Modern event!

If you want more Modern action, tune in to my twitch channel and follow me on twitter!