The StarCityGames.com Invitational in New Jersey is this weekend, and I'm super excited. I've been preparing nonstop for Standard, and you could say I'm pretty familiar with my Legacy deck. I have been playing it for about three years now after all. Today I want to talk about my preparation for both Standard and Legacy at the Invitational.
I've been all over the place in the past couple months of Standard, but I've stayed pretty firmly in red, black, and green colors. I've moved from Jund Midrange ala Reid Duke to R/G Aggro, then Jund Aggro, back to Jund Midrange, and finally back to Jund Aggro. Our Jund Aggro list has like 50 times, including about five major changes.
I'm still not exactly sure what I'll be playing in the Standard portion of the Invitational, but I want to provide a rundown of the format from the eyes of a Jund Aggro player since that's what I know best. I still haven't settled on an exact list, but take a look at an article of mine from a few weeks ago to see where testing was taking me. The only thing I'm sure about is that Scavenging Ooze has a place in the list.
Going into the Invitational, we expect the major players to be U/W/R Flash, Jund Midrange, some kind of Burning Earth aggro deck, a Cartel Aristocrat deck, and Bant Hexproof. There is certainly room for other decks to make their mark, but these are the ones that my friend Anthony Lowry and I have been focusing on the most.
This matchup depends almost entirely on how the control player builds their list. If they are packing a bunch of Renounce the Guilds, Syncopates, and Terminuses, the matchup can be very hard. The game plan is to play a bunch of expensive threats and overwhelm their removal and counterspells. This is typically accomplished with Flinthoof Boar, Domri Rade, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Hellrider.
When they have a lot of answers for your Falkenrath Aristocrats and Domri Rades (i.e., Renounce the Guilds and/or Detention Sphere), you lose a lot of the punching power you need versus them. The typical way to win the matchup is to put them on the back foot and press your advantage with haste creatures and a Domri Rade threatening to go ultimate.
This matchup plays out very similarly to the U/W/R Flash matchup except that the particular build doesn't matter. You are trying to play strong, inevitable threats, and they are going to keep throwing removal spells at you.
Falkenrath Aristocrat is a very powerful threat in this matchup, and Thundermaw Hellkite can help keep their life total in check when they are trying to stabilize with Thragtusk and Huntmaster of the Fells. Post-board Zealous Conscripts furthers the plan of keeping them in check, and whatever removal spell you choose to play will usually be spent on Olivia Voldaren.
Flinthoof Boar is important in this matchup because of the life gain creatures. Unfortunately, your big creatures won't be able to consistently deal 30 damage on their own. Flinthoof Boar nickel and dimes them early to enable the big creatures to get it done.
I can't say for sure whether or not this will be the Burning Earth deck of choice, but it was pretty popular before M14. I used to love the R/G Aggro matchup, but that feeling has slowly deteriorated.
Stromkirk Noble represents a very relevant threat against our creatures. While we can produce a quick Flinthoof Boar to block it, we are pretty soft to a removal spell or Ghor-Clan Rampager. Post-board a Volcanic Strength can also represent a pretty serious threat.
The plan here is to overload on removal and play the control role. You stabilize because your creatures are bigger than theirs and use your hasty fliers to kill them through board stalls. The problem with this matchup is that Mizzium Mortars, the best removal spell for most other matchups, can be rough in this one. Ghor-Clan Rampager, Volcanic Strength, and Boros Reckoner make your Mortars look silly. It makes the decision between Doom Blade, Abrupt Decay, and Mizzium Mortars between the maindeck and sideboard pretty tough.
The last note about this deck is that Burning Earth from the sideboard can be a pain. While it may seem weird to board that card in versus an aggro deck, we have so much trouble with it. It makes stabilizing as well as racing virtually impossible. Try it out. You won't regret it.
Cartel Aristocrat and Friends
The big Cartel Aristocrat decks of the format are W/B Humans and Junk Aristocrats. These matchups are good but not great. Lingering Souls is a very problematic card to see on their side. While Thundermaw Hellkite can take care of one half, the rest of the Spirits can block your Falkenrath Aristocrats and such really well.
Also of note, if your opponent is tapped out when you play Falkenrath Aristocrat and they don't have a sacrifice outlet, consider sacrificing a Human if you have a spare. This makes your Falkenrath safe from their Tragic Slips for at least a little while. It's not always right, but in certain situations it can be.
The most important cards in this matchup are Thundermaw Hellkite and Ghor-Clan Rampager. These get you over their Lingering Souls tokens and hit very hard. Just keep applying pressure, try not to let a Blood Artist stick, and don't underestimate the overload on Mizzium Mortars. The board is easily clogged, and Mortars gives you the advantage.
I used to think this matchup was terrible, but similar to the R/G Aggro matchup, my feelings have changed over time. They have some draws that you can rarely beat, typically involving Ethereal Armor and Unflinching Courage, but you actually have a strong clock against them.
They can't interact well with you, which gives you the ability to kill by turn 5 pretty consistently even through them gaining some life. Abrupt Decay and/or Golgari Charm from the sideboard go a long way toward dealing with the Unflinching Courages that they might have.
Watch out for Fiendslayer Paladin, and if you are really concerned, leave in more Domri Rades than you would otherwise. Also, don't keep a slow or clunky hand with too many expensive cards. It's mostly just a race, and a slow hand will lose. You can have a four- and five-drop-heavy hand, but make sure you have at least a ramp spell and a Flinthoof Boar.
Before I get to Legacy, I'd like to briefly mention Junk Reanimator. The deck could always make its way back into the format, so don't lean too heavily on Scavenging Ooze. It is certainly an insane card, but it will not win on its own. Make sure to have a proactive plan when deciding whether or not to mulligan and let Ooze be the nail in the coffin.
I have been playing The Epic Storm for about three years now; although I'm nowhere near perfect with the deck, I do think I play it pretty well. I recently won a small tournament for a Mox Sapphire at my local game store, and while that's certainly nothing amazing, it does increase my confidence going into the weekend. I haven't played too much Legacy in the past few months, so knowing that I haven't lost form is nice.
The deck is pretty straightforward when you know how to play it. I expect the Invitational to be rife with Esper Stoneblade and Deathblade, assorted BUG decks, RUG Delver, and Dredge. I don't mention Dredge because it's necessarily overly powerful. I think Dredge will be well represented because of the Standard players who don't play enough Legacy to play something non-linear.
Storm has a pretty strong matchup against Dredge. You combo a little bit quicker than they do, and in my opinion they are less consistent and rely entirely on Cabal Therapy to stop you. You have Silence to put them behind a turn or two and cantrips to find whatever you need, whereas they are relying on their opening hand and first few draw steps to set up. It's certainly not an insane matchup, but I think it is slightly in my favor.
Against BUG, you also have a reasonably good matchup. The Dark Confidant versions play more counterspells like Flusterstorm, which can be annoying, but Silence does an absurd amount of work against them. Xantid Swarm post-board is also super strong. The Shardless Agent versions only have discard spells and Force of Will to interact a lot of the time, so a Brainstorm to hide pieces and any disruption spell is usually enough.
Esper Stoneblade and Deathblade are a bit trickier. Not only do they have discard and a bunch of counterspells, but Stoneforge Mystic and Supreme Verdict make Empty the Warrens almost impossible to win with in a pinch. When you combine it with Cabal Therapy, you can sometimes make it happen, but they have a lot of outs. The key is to use Brainstorm and Duress intelligently and not walk into anything like Snapcaster Mage or Vendilion Clique.
Finally, RUG Delver can be a tough matchup at times. Good disruption combined with Wasteland and a very fast clock is tough to play against. Playing around Wasteland is important, and otherwise you just stick with the normal game plan. Empty the Warrens is super important in this matchup. You typically just want to make a bunch of Goblins and hope they don't hit one of the very few outs they may have.
If you plan to play this deck, I would make sure you know what everyone else is boarding in. Knowing whether or not to bring in Abrupt Decay and Chain of Vapor is crucial, so the information is invaluable. There are a lot of playable decks in Legacy—be ready for anything.
Overall, I'm feeling pretty confident for this Invitational. I know both of my decks well and have done a fair amount of testing. Hopefully I can do well and maybe even write a tournament report about it. If you're at the event, feel free to stop by and have a chat as usual. While I'm still not finalized on my deck for Standard (though I will be by the time this article go up), I feel like my list will be well tuned and tested. If you're playing in an event this weekend, good luck. Until next time, may your seven-card hands be keepable and your miracled Bonfire of the Damneds be plentiful!