Grand Prix New Jersey is around the corner and it looks to be the biggest Legacy tournament of all time, and is en route to become the biggest Grand Prix of all time. The tournament hall will be full, and there will be plenty to do regardless of how well the main event goes. There will be people that are playing just to be a part of history, entering with their Modern or even their Standard decks to the event. Card availability will be an issue, and I wouldn't be surprised to face someone with Steam Vents in their deck because Volcanic Island is either sold out or too expensive.
Legacy is a format with probably 100 playable decks that at any given day could end up with their pilot walking away with the trophy. The card base is deep and rewards players for being very experienced in both in the intricacies of their decks and of all possible cards that your opponents could be playing against you. You could be paired against anything from a homebrew to the list that won last week. It's hard to prepare for every deck, but we do the best we can do. Today I'd like to talk about a few decks that I'm interested in for GP New Jersey and why I think (or don't think) they're good choices for such a huge tournament.
I played U/G Infect for the Legacy portion of SCG Columbus. I'd honestly hadn't gotten to play much Legacy since the updates from Khans of Tarkir, and I had a feeling like Infect was a tad underpowered in its old state but hey--it's what I had on me and I felt like I'd be better off piloting it at 100% as opposed to picking up something like U/R Delver and running with it cold. I knew I'd have to slog through Forked Bolt and people with better Treasure Cruises than me, but I still felt that Infect gave me the best chance to win the tournament. All it needed was a few updates. This is what I ran there to a 19th place finish.
I slimmed down on the cards that weren't great against U/R Delver and replaced them with more efficient options. This included going down to 1 Crop Rotation, 2 Force of Will, 2 GItaxian Probe, and no Ponder or maindeck Sylvan Library. Instead I had cards that fought their constrained manabase better, going back up to 4 Daze and up to 3 Spell Pierce. The 1 Piracy Charm is great when it has targets to kill like Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer while still functioning as a pump spell or discard spell in a pinch.
I initially tried jamming 4 Treasure Cruise alongside 4 Gitaxian Probe and 2-3 Crop Rotation. I tried to mimic the style of play of U/R Delver, but at the end of the day it was a worse version. Become Immense was more in the range of what Infect could reliably delve. Five cards ended up being worlds fewer than seven when playing the games with Infect. In any case, the delve cards were awkward in multiples even with Brainstorm so I felt one Become Immense would be great when I drew it, and it wouldn't be missed in the times that I didn't. To fit in the delve cards, I had to go up on fetchlands and down on Inkmoth Nexus. This led to me playing the delve game at a worse rate than my opponents. 20 lands + 4 Noble Hierarch has always been nice when people are trying to get you with Daze and Spell Pierce, and I was happy to stick to the old manabase for SCG Columbus.
I believe that the assumption that U/G Infect was dead were greatly exaggerated. U/R Delver was never a matchup what I wanted to face, but the problem was more so the combination of Grim Lavamancer, Wasteland, and Price of Progress than anything else. Sure Forked Bolt is annoying, but it's nothing that can't be overcome. I enjoy my matchups versus the rest of the field about the same. Infect versus any Delver strategy comes down to a ton of small decisions, and the player that outmaneuvers the other ends up on top. It's nothing that a few cards entering the card pool drastically changed. Any deck that can threaten a turn 2 kill with disruption and an alternative grinding gameplan shouldn't be ignored. For an example match of what Infect should be doing against U/R Delver, check out my Round 7 match at SCG Columbus against Peter Tragos.
Next is a deck that I really want to make work, and with Dig Through Time, it's getting pretty close to being a viable deck that contends with other Mono-Blue combo decks like Omni-Tell and High Tide. It's old school and takes much of its initial decklist from Kai Budde's winning deck from Pro Tour New Orleans 2001. It's an idea that I wanted to share, but I am very hesitant to run in the current metagame filled with Red Elemental Blasts and Pyroblasts.
The premise of the deck is to cast Illusions of Grandeur, often early from Sapphire Medallion and Ancient Tomb. You gain 20 life and will sometimes pay the cumulative upkeep yourself for a turn. After that, you cast Donate giving them the Illusions of Grandeur. Now they have to pay the cumulative upkeep for it over several turns or else lose 20 life, which is typically enough to kill them. If you've paid the upkeep yourself once already then Illusions of Grandeur remembers and they'll start off having to pay two mana, reducing their resources while they try to muster a way to kill to you from approximately 36 life.
Fact or Fiction has been regarded as one of, if not the most skill-testing card ever printed. The interaction between it and filling your graveyard for Dig Through Time is what got my wheels turning trying to develop a competitive list. Intuition also has a nice side effect of being filling your graveyard in addition to being an instant speed Demonic Tutor, and all of the cards that helped you progress your game back in the day now work two-fold in this new age of delve.
This is something to keep in mind. I'll keep developing it, and like how it's a combo deck that isn't reliant on Show and Tell to accelerate its combo pieces. Any deck that was capable of winning a Pro Tour and yet has no pieces currently banned in Legacy has a puncher's chance of being a force.
The format is reaching an all-time level of fairness. U/R Delver is huge and Jeskai Stoneblade won the last SCG Open in Columbus. Treasure Cruise is simply too powerful to ignore and gives the decks that can benefit from it the best a huge edge. Jund is a great deck in an environment of fair decks and awful when people are trying to combo you out with things like Sneak and Show, High Tide, or Storm. Also Jund has never been poor against Burn where your Dark Confidants were blanks. However, those decks are on the downswing. Combo is being pushed out by the efficiency and clocks of the Delver decks, and the Burn players are playing U/R Delver now as it's a better version of their old deck while still fitting their style. I think Jund could be a good choice going into GP New Jersey.
Dark Confidant sucks when people are running Lightning Bolt and Forked Bolt. Liliana of the Veil, Bloodbraid Elf, and Punishing Fire provide natural card advantage while always being impactful in some way. Treasure Cruise may be "a one mana Ancestral Recall," but it is still situational and takes some cantripping from Ponder and Brainstorm to make happen, both of which do cost mana in the early turns, effectively making Treasure Cruise a delayed Ancestral Recall that costs UUU in full.
Jund wants to attack U/R Delver and the decks that are trying to go slightly over the top of them. There aren't many Tarmogoyfs going around, and people are adjusting their lists to ignore them. Also Wasteland isn't as big anymore, and this deck will punish players that think one land and some cantrips or a Sensei's Divining Top will get them there. The opposing creatures are very soft to removal that does two, which is why Forked Bolt is surprisingly playable right now. Punishing Fire does what Forked Bolt does while being long-term card advantage and sometimes a win condition.
One of the most appealing aspects of this list is the sideboard. Chains of Mephistopheles nearly completely shuts down any strategy reliant on drawing cards, which includes all of the Delver strategies. Engineered Plague has been somewhat off the radar recently, which is surprising given how big Elves is right now and that every creature out of U/R Delver happens to be a Human. As of now I like going up to three copies of Engineered Plague and playing no copies of Golgari Charm, as I think Engineered Plague is that much of a blowout versus such a large portion of the field.
For Grand Prix New Jersey, I recommend first and foremost playing what you know. After that you should adjust your list with U/R Delver and Jeskai Stoneblade in mind while having reasonable game against the unfair decks like Dredge, Storm, and Sneak and Show after sideboard. It will be a long tournament, and if you don't make things easy on yourself by playing something where you already know the correct play in the majority of situations, you'll end up draining your mental energy early and leaving yourself spent when it comes to the later rounds. I think that Infect and Jund are both great options for the Grand Prix as they have game against most anything while having a nice proactive plan on their own. Keep Donate + Illusions in mind as the metagame changes, as I can see how it could be one of the better decks during a short window of time in the future.