The StarCityGames.com Open Series in Cincinnati was an experience I haven't had in a while—a weekend with a pair of near misses that left me wanting more. Since Return to Ravnica was released, I don't think I've made Top 8 of an Open, and that left me questioning my deck selection.
Midrange blue decks are probably the ones I enjoy playing the most, but it's become increasingly difficult to make Top 8 of a nine- or ten-round tournament (let alone win one) when I can only afford one loss in the Swiss. Throughout PTQs, WMCQs, and Opens, I've been thoroughly punished for my decision to play U/W/R Flash, while I've typically succeeded in Grand Prix and Invitationals.
When your deck is consistent but not powerful, it's pretty easy to falter once or twice in the Swiss. Thankfully, it's almost impossible to lose five or more times during the Swiss, which is how I end up in Top 8 of the larger tournaments.
Last week I explained why I switched to Junk Reanimator, a deck that is obviously very powerful but recently fell victim to some new additions to the format like Scavenging Ooze. One of the best ways I've found to succeed in Standard is to kill their threats while simultaneously planning for a huge end game, and Junk Reanimator is great at doing that.
Unburial Rites and Angel of Serenity are possibly the easiest way to gain inevitability if you're able to consistently kill Scavenging Ooze. Decks based on synergy, such as The Aristocrats, need to become more aggressive in order to compete, as they can't possibly own the late game anymore. I'd rather be on the Thatcher Revolt side of things than the Skirsdag High Priest side of things, if that makes any sense.
I didn't make many changes, but this is what I ended up playing:
- 2 Angel of Serenity
- 3 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 1 Disciple of Bolas
- 1 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 2 Shadowborn Demon
- 4 Thragtusk
The changes I did make were ultimately because I lost to The Aristocrats twice in Baltimore. Naturally, I didn't end up playing against The Aristocrats in my ten rounds in Cincinnati, but my Blood Baron of Vizkopas did some work against the three (!) Naya decks I played against.
I also played against Jund, U/W Flash, G/R Aggro, and a pair of B/G Midrange decks. There are two matches that I can't recall, but I blame old age. My losses came at the hands of one Naya deck and one B/G deck, and it's not surprising that I remember my losses vividly. The other eight rounds my deck purred like a kitten, but obviously that couldn't last.
Finishing 8-2 isn't normally something I'd consider a success, but based on my previous results in Opens, I was more than happy to finish in fifteenth place. Angel of Serenity put in significant work, which made me very pleased with my deck choice.
As for Legacy, I still feel like Shardless BUG is the best deck in the format, but that could be changing soon. For example, a deck like Painted Stone is one that I never had to take into consideration when building my deck because very few, if any, people played it. Many people have learned that Shardless BUG is nearly a strictly better version of Esper Deathblade, and I saw several people that previously shunned Shardless BUG pick it up last weekend.
As for me, I decided to go a different route and play Hypergenesis. Originally, it was a deck I built for our esteemed copy editor (Kaitlin Lindburg, whose experience you can read about here), but it's one that I've always thought is very good. With counterspells at an all-time low, Misdirection picking up the slack versus Hymn to Tourach, and me wanting to play something different, I decided it was a good time to dust it off.
This was not an episode of the Legacy Bucket List; this was me trying to win the tournament. With a game win percentage of 80%, I feel like I did a good job.
I did it with this:
- 4 Shardless Agent
- 4 Elvish Spirit Guide
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 2 Terastodon
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Griselbrand
- 3 Progenitus
A couple days before the tournament, I posted on Facebook asking for opinions on what deck to play. Granted, I was mostly planning on playing Hypergenesis already, but it never hurts to get a second opinion.
Decks like Shardless BUG are great but grindy, and sometimes they fall apart in topdeck wars. I wasn't interested in any of that, at least for one tournament.
It was a combination of me knowing I had to change my strategy, me feeling Hypergenesis was well positioned due to the lack of countermagic in the format, and because it's a sweet deck.
On top of that, it's relatively easy to play once you get the hang of it. At that point, your plays are almost binary. Can I win with this hand? If not, mulligan. Can I play a land? If so, yes. Can I go off? If no, pass the turn. Should I counter their spell? If it causes me to lose either now or later, then yes. Should I go off now, or do I have the luxury to play around Daze / Spell Pierce / Flusterstorm / Force of Will? If no, attempt to go off. If I fail, rebuild and try again.
From my experience playing Hypergenesis, people are very likely to make mistakes against you. Legacy is a large format, and you can't expect everyone to understand every card interaction until they get some reps in. Anyone who actually tests against Hypergenesis is deranged, so it wasn't surprising to see people cast Chalice of the Void on one or counter my cascade spell. I wouldn't plan on people making those mistakes when I choose my deck, but it certainly doesn't hurt in the long run.
Against most decks, "show me your combo" actually kills them, which is nice. Griselbrand often allows you to combo again in the same turn, and Omniscience into basically anything is usually game. There are some sick, sick cards out there, and I wanted to put them all into play.
Hypergenesis was originally a deck in Extended, where it played the role of "bad guy" similar to Dredge. If it had just won a tournament, there would be an abundance of hate, but for the most part there was a gentleman's agreement that only a sadistic few would play the deck.
Every once in a while, I don't mind being the bad guy . . .
I started from Kaitlin's list, but I got to make some upgrades. Akroma's Memorial was there to give your guys haste in order to close the game before they could play something like Supreme Verdict. Instead of that, we now have Omniscience, which is perfect with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand while also being a blue card to pitch to Force of Will if necessary.
Enter the Infinite was another card I considered, as it wins the game in combination with Omniscience. However, I'm glad I didn't play any since it would have been unnecessary. You don't need to draw your entire deck to win, and for the most part it would have been worse than a creature. A fourth Omniscience wouldn't have been bad though.
The maindeck split of fatties is a discussion entirely on its own, as which ones you play depends on what you expect to face. For example, if Omni-Tell were popular, I could see playing maindeck Iona, Shield of Emeria. Terastodon is fine against them while also being an out to crazy stuff like Ensnaring Bridge. It's also one of the few creatures that doesn't get bounced by Karakas. Angel of Despair is yet another option.
I think you can get away with only six counterspells, but I liked having the extra Misdirection against Hymn to Tourach. Since you have access to four Misdirections, it's possible that you could cut Leyline of Sanctity entirely. However, there are some matchups where Leyline can protect you from multiple Cabal Therapys or buy you a turn against their combo. Goblin Charbelcher is particularly troublesome when you can only win by casting Hypergenesis or Show and Tell.
The City of Traitors out of the sideboard are very nice. They allow you to play around soft counters like Daze and Spell Pierce while also paying for taxing effects from Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Thorn of Amethyst. I bring them in for several matchups, and I wouldn't cut them for anything.
There are other versions of Hypergenesis with Chancellor of the Tangle or depletion lands like Saprazzan Skerry, but they have their issues. Chancellor is there to give you more of a shot of going off on turn 1, but that's not exactly necessary. The depletion lands are reasonable if you want to play a more resilient deck against things like RUG Delver, but those open you up to Wasteland.
I liked my list a lot, and going forward there isn't much I would change.
Here are some highlights from my matches.
Round 1: Dredge
In the second game, he Cabal Therapyed me on turn 2, but in response I became hexproof—I'd drawn a Leyline of Sanctity on turn 1 and only had an Omniscience to put in otherwise. Thankfully, Emrakul was waiting on top of my deck.
Round 2: MUD
He started with Chalice on one followed by Trinisphere, a great start against nearly anyone—except for the guy with Elvish Spirit Guide into Show and Tell / Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Second game he had a Blightsteel Colossus and Spine of Ish Sah to put in off my Hypergenesis, but I used Violent Outburst on his turn to put in Progenitus and a couple of guys to chump block with.
Round 3: Goblins
Nothing out of the ordinary happened here. [Editor's Note: So Goblins won as usual. Got it.]
Round 4: Chris VanMeter with Painted Stone
If he assembles his combo and I have a Progenitus in my deck, it's a draw, but if I only have Emrakul, I probably win. I ended up casting Hypergenesis, which he Pyroblasted (thanks to Painter's Servant), but I had a follow-up the next turn, putting Progenitus and Griselbrand into play while he put in the combo.
He considered when he wanted to actually use his combo and decided to just do it right away. In response, I drew fourteen cards, including the remaining two Progenituses in my deck, so Emrakul shuffled in the rest.
CVM decided his best course of action was to side out his Grindstones, which I agree with, but he couldn't quite beat me down. His turn 1 Thorn of Amethyst did shut down my turn 1 kill, but Ingot Chewer bailed me out.
Round 5: Elves
In the second and third games, he had his one-of Emrakul in his hand both times, something that I certainly did not expect once let alone twice. In the second game, I had a lone Griselbrand to his Thorn of Amethyst, Emrakul, double Craterhoof Behemoth, and pair of Elves, but I had some outs.
At the end of his turn, I drew fourteen cards but was unable to find four Spirit Guides to combo again (which is understandable considering I kept a no-lander and used three Spirit Guides to go off the first time). After drawing for my turn, I knew I was dead but decided I still had a chance!
I attacked with Griselbrand . . . and he took it!
After drawing another seven cards, I was still a Spirit Guide short of going off. At the very least, it was a moral victory.
I was chastised for not waiting for Omniscience in game 3, as he kept a hand with zero castable spells so it should have been obvious he had it. However, my deck doesn't have access to Brainstorm and Ponder, and I only have three Omnisciences in my deck. What if he kept a Cradle hand on his mull to six because it had a Thorn? He could also potentially have a Cabal Therapy.
By waiting, I'd give him more turns to draw into those sorts of things, so I went for it.
Everyone went crazy about that match. It seems like those moments typically happen at my expense, but I'm fine with that if it creates an experience the viewer will remember.
Round 6: U/W Miracles
I was surprised at how resilient my deck was, as I was able to fight through multiple Flusterstorms. The fact that his deck killed rather slowly certainly gave me plenty of time to reassemble my combo though.
Round 7: Dredge
In game 2, I had Leyline of Sanctity to protect myself from Cabal Therapy and Flayer of the Hatebound, plus turn 1 Show and Tell. What I didn't have was a giant monster, and I didn't draw one for the rest of the game.
The second game was kind of similar, as I started with a Leyline, was very close to assembling my combo, but fell short. This time I had two mana sources and needed another, but it never came.
Round 8: Death and Taxes
My opponent's deck is typically good against the decks I like to play, so it felt very satisfying to obliterate him. Game 1 I went off during his turn 2 upkeep; game 2 he had an Ethersworn Canonist and Karakas, but I had Shardless Agent into Hypergenesis into Terastodon.
Round 9: Justin Uppal with Shardless BUG
We decided to intentionally draw since we'd both make Top 32 and with it $100. I didn't see any reason to knock him down to Top 64 where he'd only get $50, but I wanted to play it out anyway.
Each of my match wins were 2-0 victories, while my match losses were 1-2, leaving me with a game count of 16-4. I don't know about you guys, but that seems very good to me. Granted, I only played against two decks with counterspells, but they seemed relatively easy. It's the Delver decks I'm worried about, but even those are beatable.
I'm not sure if I'm going to Philly this weekend, but I'd likely play Hypergenesis again. It was powerful and resilient, my game win percentage was insane, but, most importantly, it was fun!
@G3RRYT on Twitter