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.

Vintage is Coming! Season 2.

Last time, I shared my thoughts about the restrictions of Monastery Mentor and Thorn of Amethyst and listed a few decks that I expect to break out as a result. Today I’ll address the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and list a few more decks you can expect to play, or consider playing your self, in the new environment!

Having played Vintage for 14 years, I have definitely resolved and faced my share of Yawgmoth’s Bargain. At a healthy life total, you can expect to win the game on the spot, especially since we now have Mox Opal to start your black mana chain should you already have made your land drop in addition to Mox Jet, Black Lotus and Lotus Petal, so this card obviously has potential. It does come with a few downsides.

You need Dark Ritual to power out Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Dark Ritual gets hit by Mental Misstep – a card that will increase its impact on the format after MUD and Eldrazi got weakened and killed respectively by the restriction of Thorn of Amethyst. Furthermore, it could be very difficult to support Dark Ritual and Mox Opal in the same deck.

The second problem is the lifetotal aspect of it. In different formats, a strength of Storm decks has always been its ability to win the game the turn before you lose the game in the hands of opposing creatures. In Legacy and Modern you win with Past in Flames in these situations. I imagine this Storm deck will also feature tutors and Yawgmoth’s Will for a similar effect, but my gut feeling tells me that a diverse threat base of Mind’s Desire, Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Necropotence, singleton Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Dark Petition in addition to the restricted tutors is a better way to go than maxing out on Bargains.

The third issue is the straight up comparison to Paradoxical Outcome. It costs less mana, it doesn’t care about your life total, and it makes it easier for your deck to support Force of Will. It should be fairly obvious that Paradoxical Outcome-based decks are the new sheriff in town, and this could cause an uptick in Null Rod and Stony Silence. Should this happen, then relying on Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual could be the way to go in Storm decks, and multiple Yawgmoth’s Bargains could become interesting. For now, I’m sticking to Paradoxical Outcome as my engine. If I was a betting man, this card would be at the top of my list of cards that should be on Wizards’ radar.


More New/Old Decks

Oath of Druids is in a strange spot. The biggest perk of playing this strategy before was preying on MUD decks, which will go down in the metagame percentages without a doubt after Thorn of Amethyst was restricted. It was also quite ambitious to justify playing Oath as long as quadruple Monastery Mentor was allowed, but that has changed now. The power of getting to summon a turn two Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn can’t be ignored, so people will look into different controlling builds of Oath in the weeks to come. The deck can splash black for tutors and Abrupt Decay or red for Pyroblast and Ancient Grudge if the metagame calls for it – or both because of Forbidden Orchard. While the land will sometimes give your opponent a relevant clock when you don’t draw an Oath, Forbidden Orchard is also a rainbow land that enables playing four colors.
For those of you who would be interesting in combining the speed of Oath of Druids with the power of Paradoxical Outcome, check out this deck that piloted to a top 4 finish a few weeks ago in the Vintage Challenge.

This card has definately seen play these past few months, but only as a win condition in Paradoxical Outcome-fueled decks. I think we will see classic Grixis Control decks pop up with this little combo as a finisher next to TinkerBlightsteel Colossus. Getting to run all the good cards in Magic and splash Pyroblast and Dack Fayden should be every Magic player’s dream. Time Vault + Voltaic Key is a powerful win condition because it can trump any boardstate from your opponent. You can go different routes within the Grixis shard with Goblin Welder/Thirst for Knowledge package, a Thoughtcast/Tezzeret well-oiled machine or the more streamlined way of life with “just good, restricted cards“. Being able to either control a long game or steal a quick one is a very good attribute in Vintage, and I believe we will see the power of Time Vault soon enough. If Oath and Time Vault both become major players in the metagame, Abrupt Decay looks deliciously well positioned.

Another archetype that has been horribly underpowered compared to Mentor is Blue/Red Delver. You have all the restricted blue cards at your disposal, you have the ability to pressure your opponent starting from turn one, and your support color is the best sideboard color in the format. Because of your low curve, you can use Wasteland and Strip Mine in combination with Null Rod to level the playing field vs. the heavy hitters of the format that need more mana to function.

A threat base of Delver of Secrets, Harsh Mentor or Young Pyromancer depending on your style and Snapcaster Mages combined with Lightning Bolt can put the game out of reach quickly with little to no time for the opponent to recover. You also have a solid amount of stack control with 4 Force of Will, 4 Mental Misstep and a few more cheap counterspells like Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm or Pyroblast, so you’re well setup vs. the unfair strategies in the format.

Once the format gets under way and I have access to more data from the Magic Online Leagues, I will go in depth with different decks and let you know about it. Until then, follow me on Twitter or on my Twitch channel and watch me take on the format later this week!