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 Modern #4

Welcome back to the fourth and last edition of “Beating Modern“. The decks are becoming more and more fringe, which is why I’m rounding off the series today. It sure has been a pleasure with a project like this, and I will gladly take suggestions for a similar one in the future!


Black/White Eldrazi Taxes

Aether Vial

This deck is trying to borrow the blueprint from Death and Taxes in Legacy, using resource denial and respectable beats to win the game. In a deck with only 4 Aether Vial and 4 Path to Exile as non-creature spells, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a great hatebear, and Leonin Arbiter lets the deck abuse Ghost Quarter while also disrupting opposing fetch lands and various tutors. With an active Aether Vial on three, Flickerwisp can do a lot of tricks which I will tough on later. Wasteland Stranger synergizes with Tidehollow Sculler, Flickerwisp and Path to Exile and can do nasty things to you if you are creature-based. The double team of Tidehollow Sculler and Thought-Knot Seer combined with Thalia makes sure that piloting a spell-based combo deck against Eldrazi Taxes can be bad news. In the later turns, Eldrazi Taxes wants to abuse Eldrazi Displacer for either recycling all of their enter the battlefield triggers or clearing opposing blockers.

When playing against this deck and your opponent plays his Tidehollow Sculler and takes your best card, it is very important that you don’t think to your self “no worries, I will just get my card back in a few turns when I draw a removal spell” because Wasteland Strangler can return the exiled card to your graveyard for good.

Another key to getting an edge in the matchup is understanding Flickerwisp. You should pay attention to your opponents body language to try and get information. Furthermore, if you plan on pointing a removal spell on your one of your opponent’s creatures with the fear of Flickerwisp lurking, play it on his upkeep to minimize his chances of having it (compared to the attack step), so the Flickerwisp and the targeted creature at least can not attack you that turn. In some scenarios you want your opponent to commit a big attack, and thus you should wait to set up the trap. Consider all of these options when facing Vial on three.

Maybe the most important thing I can tell you is to use your fetch lands early and often. Get them out of the way, so Leonin Arbiter does not disrupt you more than necessary. This can also mean that shocking your self without having a play is often correct, so you have two open mana in case Leonin Arbiter + Ghost Quarter happen.

The deck is super resilient, and there aren’t really any good sideboard cards in particular except various mass removal spells.

Good Sideboard Cards


Ad Nauseam

Ad Nauseam

This is a non-interactive combo deck that tried to win the game with either Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife combined with Ad Nauseam to draw their whole deck and finish off the opponent with Lightning Storm or Laboratory Maniac. It utilizes Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism as acceleration and a smattering of cantrips to find its’ combo pieces. Throw in a free counterspell in Pact of Negation, and you have a deck that forces the opponent to have very specific cards at a certain time or just lose the game. Let’s see how we can exploit some of the deck’s weaknesses.

Ad Nauseam once was a very bad choice when Infect was a top dog in Modern because of Angel’s Grace and Phyrexian Unlife‘s inability to combat poison-based damage. Now, their enemy number one is Grixis Death’s Shadow because of their fast clock and big pile of disruption. The nature of the deck dictates that timely discard spells and cheap counter magic are great ways to beat it. However, you also need to establish a relevant clock unless you want the Ad Nauseam player to claw back into the game. This also means that Black/Green Midrange is a great strategy for beating Ad Nauseam thanks to discard spells and Tarmogoyf.

Consistency issues are also a real concern, so expect to win a game here and there where they just don’t find their copy of Ad Nauseam. This problem should improve with Opt available to them as cantrips 9-12.

Most versions will play Leyline of Sanctity in the sideboard, so make sure that all your eggs in the basket are not discard spells, or you could find your self in a lot of trouble before the game even begins.

Speaking of Leyline of Sanctity, because of Laboratory Maniac, that card does little to nothing against Ad Nauseam. Neither does getting infinite life or dropping a Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker naming “Lightning Storm“. Note that the Laboratory Maniac kill is a bit more mana intensive, since they need to filter red mana from Simian Spirit Guide into colored mana for their Pentad Prisms, and then play Laboratory Maniac and Serum Visions to win the game. In this scenario, cards like Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile on the Maniac do nothing because they have drawn their whole deck and will have Pact of Negation available.

Good Sideboard Cards

Dispel

Rule of Law


Green/X Tron

Karn Liberated

The old version of Tron has fallen a bit out of favour lately, but it’s still a relevant deck to prepare for when entering a huge Modern event like Danish Modern Masters. Modern is a beautiful format with a lot of appeal to players who don’t necessarily play Magic every week, because they can pull out their trusty pet deck from the closet and still be competitive. Tron is a perfect example of this and should not be underestimated.

Tron is a simple deck that aims to have one of each Urza land in play to get a mana advantage over its’ opponent and keep playing big threats until the game is over. The industry standard these days are a playset of Karn Liberated and a split of Wurmcoil Engine, World Breaker; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. The split of threats offers flexibility and covers the most angles for the deck. Karn is your best play from turn three Tron, Wurmcoil Engine provides lifegain and laughs in the face of non-Path to Exile removal, while Ugin will sweep the board and Ulamog will end the game a majority of the time. Instead of focusing on dealing with the threats of the deck, I suggest we attack the manabase.

Some decks have Ghost Quarter or Spreading Seas in their deck already and that adds valuable percentages to your game ones vs. Tron. Note that a good Tron player can play around Tectonic Edge by only sitting on the three Urza lands, and that a Ghost Quarter on the battlefield can “counter” your Crumble to Dust. There is nothing you can do about these things – this is just a friendly reminder of situations that will come up.

Aside from attacking the lands themselves, Tron can be beaten if your deck is resilient to their threats. Take Splinter Twin back in the day as an example. Splinter Twin didn’t care too much about neither Karn Liberated nor Wurmcoil Engine and thus was heavily favoured against Tron. Decks with Path to Exile and a lot of creatures, like Humans, can somewhat ignore the same two, but will lose the game to Ugin and Oblivion Stone when the opponent hits eight mana. The best strategy against Tron is presenting a fast kill, ideally disrupting them in the process. Grixis Death’s Shadow is very good at establishing a clock with Thoughtseize or Stubborn Denial backup, and that should do the trick most of the time. Affinity and Burn also have great Tron matchups because of their speed and tools like creature lands and anti-lifegain cards.

Keep in mind that almost 1/3 of their deck are artifacts with activated abilities, so Stony Silence is a great addition to your anti-Tron arsenal.

Good Sideboard Cards

Stony SilenceFulminator MageCrumble to Dust


That does it for my Beating Modern series unless I come up with three more relevant decks one of the following days. I will make sure that next week’s article will also be relevant for Modern!

It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory

© 2017 photo credit: magiccardmarket.eu

Editorial Note: “It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory” is a guest entry by Johannes Gutbrod. Read more about Johannes in “Meet the Pros: Johannes Gutbrod, Legacy”. Johannes Gutbrod is not affiliated with Snapcardster.com

After Show-and-Telling in Frankfurt I was testing a lot of different archetypes but mostly various miracle variants. In may I began testing an UWB MentorMiracles deck. It was the Ovino list from my good friend Claudio Bonanni, which I thought had more potential as he seemed to think himself.

After months of testing we both came to the conclusion that the red splash is superior to the black one at the moment. Blood Moon is a hell of a card and helps with the harder MU’s like Eldrazi, Czech Pile or Lands. Pyroclasm is great against Delver, Elves and Death and Taxes and Pyroblasts are still superior to Discard effects in the control mirror.

We figured if we could somehow fix the combo matchups (we upped the number of Ethersworn Canonist), the UWR-variant would be better in every regard.

In the last weeks we settled on a quite stock list, but were still differing in 4-6 cards in the 75. This is the 75 I registered for the Legacy Main Event:

Not Quite Miracles by Johannes Gutbrod

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Monastery Mentor

Spells (33)
Brainstorm
Ponder
Portent
Counterspell
Flusterstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
Engineered Explosives
Predict
Lands (20)
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa
Island
Plains
Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Flusterstorm
Pyroblast
Blood Moon
Surgical Extraction
Ethersworn Canonist
Vendilion Clique
Pyroclasm
Wear // Tear
Relic of Progenitus

The Relic of Progenitus was a late addition as I wanted another card for Grixis/ Grixis Control and still have the same amount of graveyard-hate. We were 295 players, and here is the part you all came for:

Round 1: Deathblade 1:2
G1: My opponents overextends and Force of Wills two Terminus, of which I force back to resolve the second one. I try to fetch for a Dual to make him use his Wasteland and turn on my Daze for a potential True-Name Nemesis. He does so but finds another land with his last draw slams True-Name Nemesis and I don’t find an answer in four turns.
G2: Opponent keeps one land.
G3: Double Lingering Souls are quite good in this matchup…

Round 2: OmniSneak 2:1
G1: I’m still trying to figure out what my opponent is on until he plays a Boseiju, Who Shelters All turn three. I think I’m pretty much dead, as my hand is slow. Next turn I can resolve a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and manage to lock him out with Portent + Jace while countering all his cantrips aggressively.
G2: Got combo’d out.
G3: Ethersworn Canonist rides to a close victory.

Round 3: Grixis Control 2:1
G1: Hymn to Tourach and early beatz bring me into Lightning Bolt range, and when I finally stabilize it is too late.
G2/ G3: My superior control cards (Predict!) take those games.

Round 4: Czech Pile 2:0
G1: We play draw-go for a while until I find a window to resolve my Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He fights back quite well with several Snapcaster Mages and Kolaghan’s Command, but in the end Monastery Mentor joins the party and he gets monk’d out.
G2: Blood Moon is a fair magic card, no?! 😉

Round 5: SneakShow 2:0
G1/ G2: These games were similar to my first match against OmniSneak. In the first game Jace, the Mind Sculptor drew me a lot of cards as well.

Round 6: Elves 2:1
G1: Can’t find a Terminus in time before I get run over.
G2: Is a long fight, involving Pyroclasm, Nissa, Vital Force and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The blue planeswalker helps me establishing control in the end.
G3: We go to time. My opponent kindly scoops, as a draw in this stage of the tournament is pretty bad for both of us. Thanks again!

Round 7: Lands 2:0
G1/ G2: I aggressively counter Gamble to prevent Life from the Loam-shenanigans and win with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It helped that he didn’t find Punishing Fire in game one as well (I fatesealed him out in the end).

Round 8: Goblins 2:1
G1: My opponent is seemingly nervous and mulls a hand that’s good against miracles but bad against the rest of the format as he fortunately doesn’t know what I’m playing. He ends up going to 4 cards, though.
G2: Aether Vial on four and several Goblin Ringleaders find too much gas for me to handle.
G3: This one is really close, I can Force of Will a crucial Tarfire targeting my Mentor. Next turn I resolve Jace, the Mind Sculptor and keep my army back to defend him. He taps out for Goblin Ringleader and I have the window to prowess my army and slam Pyroclasm to extinguish his board and swing for the win.

Round 9: TurboDepths 2:0
The draw could leave me at a potential ninth place, so I decide to choose my fate myself and play it out.
G1: I play Monastery Mentor, Swords to Plowshare on Marit Lage and beat him slowly down while he bricks and gets Portented out of the game.
G2: Instead of cantripping I decide to leave my mana open, even if he just has a forest. He tries to play Crop Rotation, I have Flusterstorm and the game is basically over as he can’t cast any spells.

After the dust settles I’m 8:1, and second place in the final standings.

Quarters: Elves 2:1
G1: I fail to find cantrips and die with all the good stuff in hand.
G2/ G3: Mass removal, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a hail-mary Terminus for his Progenitus.

Semis: UnexpectedMiracles 2:0 (these matches are covered on the MkM-site as well)
G1: My hand is very blueish, and I resolve Predicts and Snapcaster Mages while countering his.
G2: I manage to tap him out with an end-of-turn Vendilion Clique and mainphase Monastery Mentor, so that my hand with Daze + Ponder can go completely out of hand. Later I manage to fateseal a crucial Terminus to the bottom and make my way to the finals.

Finals: RUG Lands 2:1
G1: The game lasts for forty minutes and in the end I have just 8 cards left in my library. The game is basically Life from the Loam vs. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Unfortunately after 14 hours of Legacy I miss a trigger of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, that might have enabled another sequence and could have won. Happens!
G2: Relic of Progenitus takes away a lot of goodies and Jace, the Mind Sculptor fateseals him out of the game.
G3: I can clear away his first turn Chalice of the Void on one with Engineered Explosives and play my hand with a lot of cantrips. I hold my Blood Moon for a long time until he finally taps under three mana. Then I cast the enchantment and he scoops them up. Props to his beautiful foiled out lands deck though.

Hope you enjoyed the read, see you all in Hamburg!

Johannes Gutbrod