This is the second part of Thomas Enevoldens article series about his quest for Gold, his last trip to the United States and of course Death and Taxes. Check out part one here!
Welcome back to part 2 of my magical endeavours on the road to Goldenville and 3-bye city, this time with some Death and Taxes decklists. We left off after GP Minneapolis, which I unfortunately neither cashed nor pointed (if that’s a word), but the focus of the trip was of course centered on Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. It was the first Team Pro Tour in the modern age and the first one to feature 3 different constructed formats with one player each on Standard, Modern and Legacy.
A preface regarding team selection: I qualified for the PT by finishing 2nd at GP Madrid earlier in the year with Andreas Petersen (Modern) and Michael Bonde (Standard). However, Michael had already made plans with recent World Championship runner-up Grzegorz Kowalski to team with him for the PT. This of course posed a challenge to Andreas and I in finding a third. I am usually happy to team with Michael because we have so much fun together and he is a pretty good Magic player if I must say so myself (but don’t tell him I said that). This time, both of us felt like Legacy was our strongest format, so if we were to team together, one of us would have to “settle” for playing a less comfortable format. This was seemingly a widespread issue regarding the Team Pro Tour, but it was nice to see new bonds forming across the player pool over the love (or hate) of different formats, so ultimately I felt like it worked out fine for most people. As Andreas is primarily a Modern player, that left Standard for our team. While searching for potential candidates to fill out the slot, 2018 Draft Master and recent Worlds top14 competitor Elias Watsfeldt reached out to me, recognized the position Andreas and I were in and offered to fill the spot. I have played with Elias for a long time on the GP circuit and respect him very much as a player, so I was happy with the inclusion and our team was set.
Shelving the Plains
Everything changed when the Banhammer attacked
For my own preparation for the Legacy portion, it was a bit of a rollercoaster. At GP Madrid, I was playing Legacy and had recently swapped out my trusty allies Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Stoneforge Mystic and Mother of Runes for value creatures and card advantage while giving none to my opponents. I played the 4c Leovold control deck, the popularity of which had contributed somewhat to the hostile environment for small creatures at the time and caused me to shelf the Plains in the first place.
I played the deck again at GP Birmingham later during spring to an 11-4 finish, and loved most of it, except its coinflippy matchup versus Grixis Delver, which I knew would be popular at the PT. I discussed a lot with the Faerie Master himself, Yuuta Takahashi (who was also on 4c Leovold), on ways to improve the matchup. In the end our best solution was to play situational answers and hope to draw the right ones versus the right threats (which is obviously not a great strategy to begin with). So I was not very confident going into testing for the PT, but then the bannings happened and everything changed.
The removal of Deathrite Shaman (and to some degree Gitaxian Probe), opened up a spot in the metagame for more midrange decks, more glass cannon combo decks and more true control decks (such as Miracles), once the insane power of Grixis Delver was at least somewhat turned down. If you have a lot of experience with Death and Taxes, that is a lovely environment to be in. The mana denial plan of the deck was suddenly very potent again, and lategame powerhouse addition Palace Jailer also provided a much needed boost to shore up the deck’s control and midrange matchups like a planeswalker that could be very hard to remove for some decks.
Legacy Testing for the PT
New tech and words of wisdom
Suddenly I was full of hope and anticipation again, and excitedly jammed the Legacy leagues on MTGO in the weeks leading up to the PT. I tried out various versions of the deck, including an Ancient Tomb version, a Brightling version and an old school version with Mangara of Corondor and Smuggler’s Copter.
Death and Taxes V1 by Thomas Enevoldsen
Death and Taxes V2 by Thomas Enevoldsen
Death and Taxes V3 by Thomas Enevoldsen
I jammed the decks on my regular MTGO account, Scabs, since I figured there wasn’t much to be kept secret except potential new tech. However as I didn’t know if any of these new additions/versions were any good, I figured they might as well act as smoke screen for what I would end up doing. Of course I didn’t want my list published, so whenever I was 4-0, I would just concede (is what I figured but thankfully I was never 4-0 so didn’t have to worry about that thanks delusions of mediocrity).
Michael was also on the deck, so he and I had some great discussions along with Gonҫalo Pinto (2nd place at Pro Tour Dominaria) to figure out what we liked. I would like to say that Márcio Carvalho also offered a lot to the team, like when he suggested the following in the team forum:
Yeah, sounds wrong. Mainly he just said: “Thomas, tell me what to play.” So in the end I did, and he apparently only heard 95%, as he played 71/75 from my list and added some useless sideboard cards instead because he was afraid of the dark. Now it can be daunting to take monowhite (or any other deck in any other format) into the shark pool of a Pro Tour, especially if you are new to the format and see all those shiny things going on. Being able to recognize the relative strengths and limits of a(ny) deck can really help put your focus right. As I tell anyone who chooses to wield the power of Basic Plains in Legacy, they have to adhere to the old Reinhold Niebuhr adage:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the thing I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to always tell the difference.”
And then Márcio proceeded to top4 the event with Carlos Romao and Thiago Saporito, so I’m not really sure what the lesson here is.
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Getting Gold with Death and Taxes in Legacy
For my own team, the tournament went great. We finished 9-5 for 23rd place and 8 pro points, which locked me for Gold and even put me in the running for Danish captaincy. My decklist can be found here:
My Death and Taxes list in paper.
Death and Taxes Paper by Thomas Enevoldsen
It was a rather stock list that focused on simple beaters and some (slower) utility. The standout cards are 2 Sanctum Prelate, 2 Recruiter of the Guard and 2 Serra Avenger as well as the singleton Ancient Tomb. The disamarment of Grixis Delver meant that the format as a whole could slow down a bit. RUG Delver, for instance, is a much slower deck than the Grixis variant, and since no one had really managed to crack the code on a new fast version of a Delver of Secrets deck, I figured I would have enough time in the games to utilise the relative power of Recruiter. The Avengers were a nod to my anticipated midrange creature fights, where flying is a surprisingly important ability to pressure life totals and carry equipment. The Sanctum Prelates were sort of a hedge “the other way”, as they can help shore up combo or control matchups, where the combat-focused part of the deck was less relevant. Finally, the Ancient Tomb is a new addition of mine to increase the volatility of the deck. While this Team Pro Tour with its added price purse of a total of USD 850,000 was a great tournament to finish with even just a decent record like 9-5 or 8-6 in terms of making money, obviously it was also the best one to spike, so I wanted to add a higher variance card for that reason. Tomb can help you (or outright win you the game) by jumping from, e.g. 2 to 4 mana, either for an early Umezawa’s Jitte + equip, a fast Monarch or even just something like Recruiter + Mom. Obviously it can hurt you too, due to the many WW cost restrictions in the deck (and the damage adds up too), so let’s call it a calculated risk.
Some highlights of the tournament
Maybe also one or two lowlights, may the readers judge that
- Losing to Josh Utter-Leyton in the first round and his sideboarded Dread of Night (pl.). As Death and Taxes is such an easy deck to dominate given the profusion of hate for the little guys, going into a tournament you always have small fear that everyone is packing plenty of sideboard hate. But as those cards are typically rather narrow in effect, decks often don’t have room due to the variety of strategies in Legacy. Josh certainly gave me a nice welcome to the big stage for my favourite format.
- Beating Gaudenis Vidugiris in round 5 playing Eldrazi Stompy. He tried to make me discard a card to Palace Jailer‘s ability removing Reality Smasher even though the card literally says “Whenever Reality Smasher becomes the target of a spell an opponent controls”. I called a judge and said I was surprised he tried that move, to which Zvi Mowshowitz (his teammate) exclaimed that it was ridiculous and that this was the first time Gaudenis played with the cards. Sure, man, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt even though he once “mulliganned” to 8 and just didn’t say anything at a Pro Tour. Everyone gets a second chance, but thirds? I later learned that he also forgot to remind his opponent to draw a card with Thought-Knot Seer in the same tournament, in a feature match no less. But that could also just have been an accident or him not knowing the cards. I guess if you forget everything your cards do, then the story checks out, but then how do you win matches of Magic?
- Losing game 2 of round 6 to Elias Klocker playing Maverick where I played a turn 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the play (thanks, Ancient Tomb!). His singleton Scryb Ranger got him back in the game after a lot of spins and tricks that made both his offense and defense unstoppable. After that game, I was sure that I could have done something differently, since it is rare to lose to a creature deck with a turn 3 Gideon on the play. In the end he just masterfully worked around it to beat me. So I guess it is actually a lowlight, but it was still impressive to watch, so let’s keep it in here!
- Mulling to 5 twice against Monored Prison in round 7 and still easily beating it 2-0. The deck is basically a bye for DnT, but unfortunately only 2 people in the entire tournament played it.
- Beating all-around good guy Chris Pikula with Steel Stompy in round 11, where we had a crazy game 3 that took forever to finish. I finally came out on top after drawing 3 Flickerwisp with 1 land and an Aether Vial conveniently set to 3.
- Winning the next round (12) against Lands to lock Gold and really put us in top4 contention with Elias and Andreas already splitting their matches and me being down a game. I was reasonably ahead in game 2 with some small critters and a ruling monarch situation fueling me up. Everything seemed fine, so I did that smart thing I rarely do, where I think about what sequence makes me lose the game. In my main phase, I had 6 mana (including a Wasteland) against my opponent’s 6 untapped lands (including a Thespian’s Stage and a Rishadan Port). As my Wasteland was only pseudo-protecting me from a Marit Lage token and I had no fliers on the board with a life total at a crisp 20, I figured the only way my opponent could steal the game was to have Crop Rotation in hand (to find Dark Depths) for an end of turn 20/20 token with Port protecting him from Wasteland. So I played my Recruiter of the Guard), fetched up a Flickerwisp and crossed my fingers he didn’t topdeck a Punishing Fire to take out my blocker. Everything happened as foretold, he made the token, I watched in horror as he drew his card, flipped it over and we went to game 3 (where I once again got an early monarch and a timely Surgical Extraction took out his win conditions).
A new team and new goals
Some thoughts on the cycle system
With 8 points from the tournament, my chase for Gold was over before it had even really begun. It was a very enjoyable Saturday night, as we also celebrated our good friends from Hareruya Latin’s top4 as well as their qualification for the Team Series Finals (which they then went on to lose, disappointing us greatly …).
Michael’s team also had a great finish, so a a fancy steak dinner at Manny’s was in order for the new Team Snapcardster x MTGMintcard.
My god the taste of Gold is delicious!
Now the rest of my tournaments for the 2017-2018 suddenly seemed a bit less important – so little, in fact, that I managed to forget that I had booked a ticket to GP Stockholm prior to leaving for the States and then promptly booked another upon my return, ensuring me the aisle and window seat both ways, how extravagant!. On the other hand the new cycle system of course meant that every point at every tournament counts. This added motivation is a great trait of the new system, I believe. So while I understand people’s complaints regarding less stability, predictability and overall swinginess (where you can go from plat to silver/unqualified in the span of 3 months), I think the cycle system does a great job of having every tournament matter. That way ensuring tournament integrity and better entertainment for viewers as well, especially towards the end of a season as people make (or don’t make, as so often has been my experience) their target goals.
So while I still had 3 Grands Prix left in Brussels, Prague and Stockholm, that tale will have to wait for part 3 of this series. That will contain moderate amounts of Modern strategy as well as inspiration for a fun game to play between rounds with your friends! Until next time!
This article was written by Thomas Enevoldsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com