A decent performance leads to an ambitious decision; not home for but a day from New York and I was off to Memphis.
I have things to do. Nothing of importance mind you but things nonetheless. Words don't write themselves and language is my lover. Forget the fuel and the fire dies out. Bellowing the embers with some comedic haiku I catch a same-day flight.
With abject objection for my brash action of passion I aligned the universe to conform to my desire. Lacking common sense or a reasonable grasp on reality convincing myself of the feasibility of near anything has become as simple as signing a match slip.
Using what I consider to be a close approximation of a soul I willed myself from under the weather metaphorically to over the weather physically.
Do you know what aerosinusitis is?
Do you know what a 20-year-old Magic grinder weeping in the fetal position looks like?
Shocked and relieved that my eyeballs hadn't jutted from their respective sockets I get picked up by a curly-haired Ryan O'Connor. My bank account didn't quite agree with my plan of hitting up Memphis but it had no qualms with my going to Kansas City. And if while in Kansas City I just so happened to wander about and find myself in Memphis for a bit then who is my bank account to say anything?
At this point my body hates me almost as much as my bank account; I am left in disrepair pinned to a broken backseat window being held shut by a wedged bottle cap. The drive was probably fun. I can't recall.
I sleep poorly and awake in a quagmire of my own autoimmune responses. The hottest shower of my life makes me feel human again for about 20 minutes but then I sink back into my dank pit of stuffy hell.
Without cards or the energy to find them I sit alone prepared to miss the tournament. Ryan finds me nearly the entire deck via Chris VanMeter just in time and we settle in for the player meeting.
Defined movement and garbled sounds I fall asleep for a moment every time I blink. What the hell am I doing in Memphis mother----ing Tennessee anyway? They put up pairings as my brain swirls in a pool of mucus and loathing.
The world is spinning too fast; our cards are going to fly off of the table. The clock is ticking but my deck turns into ostriches. A man with a scar on his face and a peg leg asks me to go for a swim. Why the tournament is being held in my grandma's basement is beyond me. Apart from questioning the nature of reality it seems as though if I keep a low enough center of gravity I won't fall off of the edge of the earth again.
It's durdles all the way down...
Holding the cards really still and holding them right up to my face I can sort of figure out how the pieces might potentially fit together. The Stoneforge Mystics are smiling gleefully and Jace is trying to hand me a present. Did that Squadron Hawk just wink at me? Or maybe it was at you.
I play horribly all day but nearly everyone else plays worse and I'm able to draw into the Top 32 with Chris "The Chranderberries taste like Chranderberries" Andersen after losing my win-and-in. An eerily familiar feeling washes over me.
Existing is exhausting. It feels like any time I move I'm climbing stories and stories of stairs or other form of sequentially elevated flooring. I think I'm going to die.
"Oh mama can this really be the end?"
Reassurance as a theme; the worst bit is behind you now. Legacy is easy and your deck is a blasted masterpiece (blasterpiece?). You may not be at 100% but you had a hearty breakfast a light lunch and the full suite of Brainstorms in your deck. If that's not enough to make you feel as though you should be feared then I don't know what is.
Just beat the bloke across from you; how hard can that be? Why can't I just win every single goddamn tournament I enter?!
An in-depth match-by-match report of the Legacy tournament:
Round one opponent fetched Ravnica duals.
Round two opponent tried to play fair.
Round three opponent played a clunky pet deck.
Round four opponent cast his Brainstorms incorrectly.
Round five opponent played an outdated version of my deck.
Round six opponent tried to control every aspect of the game.
Round seven I intentionally drew with the eventual champion.
Round eight I tried to dream-crush a good kid in a bad matchup and got what I deserved.
Quarterfinals I had a plan and stuck to it.
Semifinals I messed up in a bad matchup and got away with it.
Finals I was outplayed outdecked outgunned out of luck out of time and out of my mind.
Tournament reports are so easy. Some people make them look so hard.
I take a walk through the forest of ineptitude gazing out over the field of neglect before taking a soak in the bathtub of ignorance. Stepping out on the bathroom rug of victory I slip and crack my head open. I wrote a helping friendly book about the experience called How to Ruin Perfectly Good Momentum in One Easy Step. The screen adaptation was met with mixed reviews.
Spoiler alert: the one easy step is to lose.
Besides the dollops of illness-goop I am also filled to the eyeballs with disappointment and shame. Level 5 is nice and all but it won't keep you warm at night. I mean neither would a trophy but at least you could spoon with it.
And so goes another decent performance leading to an ambitious decision. Sunrise sunset. May the circle be unbroken. I'll see you in Dallas.
Bonus: A whole second half to the article full of actual strategy content!
In Standard I would cut an Island for a third Glacial Fortress as getting double white for Wrath is much more important than being able to Preordain on turn 1 which is rarely correct anyway. It could be the fourth Seachrome Coast but I think I prefer the Fortress. The Sword of Body and Mind can finally go for another copy of the good one Sword of Feast and Famine. I had considered it and knew that many others had made the switch but my mind was working too slowly due to illness to pull the trigger in time. The sideboard needs a little reworking as well for the newer metagame. Here is what I would play for Standard today:
Mortarpod is great against Boros and the Sparkblade mirror which are two very important matchups to consider. The Condemn could be the fourth Bolt if you see fit but I think killing Vengevines and being easier on the mana is more important than being able to nix a Fauna Shaman or Hero of Bladehold before they get active.
As for my Legacy deck I think it's still really well positioned. I'd make only a few changes starting with the cutting of that god-awful Terravore for the third Tarmogoyf from the board. Terravore was supposed to be a "trump creature" for Tarmogoyf stand-offs but with exalted creatures turning them into cold races Swords to Plowshares breaking it up and Natural Order filling the role of Trump the three-mana fatty was unnecessary and awkward in a lot of matchups.
The Flooded Strand for a green fetch is a simple swap. It's far more likely that you'll need a Dryad Arbor late than you'll absolutely need an Island early and don't have a Misty Rainforest to find it. All that's left after that is to find something for the Goyf and the second War Monk in the board to become. That leaves us with:
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Rhox War Monk
- 1 Scryb Ranger
- 3 Tarmogoyf
- 1 Progenitus
- 2 Dryad Arbor
Then the nominees for the last two slots are in order of how realistic an option it is:
The 2nd Sower of Temptation
The 3rd Llawan
The 4th Needle
A Path to Exile or two
The 2nd Cold-Eyed Selkie
An Autumn's Veil or two
A quick word on Scryb Ranger:
It is by far the card under the most scrutiny when someone first looks over the decklist. The unassuming 1/1 for two may seem a little underwhelming but rest assured that she earns her slot. Being able to produce a mana by untapping Noble Hierarch or Dryad Arbor is its main use but the fact that it can often produce even more mana than that either by replaying a land when there isn't one otherwise or untapping a mana creature on both yours and your opponents turns are both ways to get extra value out of her.
She also flies. The deck needs a tutorable flier and this role was previously held by a singleton Birds of Paradise. The reason for this is to have a creature that can attack over a stalled ground with the help of exalted as well as the ability to chump a large flier such as Tombstalker or Coralhelm Commander. Since Scryb Ranger flies it can take that job away from the mana birds and you aren't even losing out on a mana source in your deck because of the Ranger's aforementioned ability.
She also has protection from blue which you may know is quite relevant in Legacy. I ate a Vendilion Clique and blocked many Merfolk with it over the course of the day. In addition to locking down blue creatures she can also lock out a ground pounder with a Dryad Arbor at the low cost of your land drop. You simply block and return the Forest to your hand before he is dealt damage. This also prevents lifelink from happening and Jitte from triggering.
Some more interesting uses are pulling up all of your Islands. As long as you don't have your Tundra or basic Island in play you can use her ability to return your Islands to your hand to bounce all of your Tropical Islands leaving any islandwalkers blockable. Remember that you can speed up this process by doing one on your turn and one on theirs. With this same ability you can protect your Tropical Islands and Savannah from Wasteland.
Not only is getting two or more activations out of your Fauna Shaman a turn often important you can also bounce Dryad Arbors and then pitch them for real creatures. This turns fetchlands into Eladamri's Calls.
There are also small uses such as after you've played a lot of land returning them to your hand to be put back with Brainstorm and shuffled away. You can also just pad your hand in case of a Hymn to Tourach but those situations are rare.
So as you can see the card does it all. I highly recommend you play it if you are running Green Sun's Zenith in Legacy. I know I will be.