I come to you today, not from my previous holdings of Roanoke, Virginia (Site of the Players' Championship!) but from the Emerald City of Seattle, Washington!
But how did I get here? Well I drove left. I drove left until I couldn't drive left anymore. All things accounted for; it was only about a 3,000 mile drive. Not too bad, right? The first stop of my week long journey was GP Nashville! I was able to find an emergency team of the dreamy (and I don't use that word often)Dan Musser and Shardless Sultai aficionado Kevin Gerhart. I was thankful to find a team with some powerful magicians, and even more thankful that they allowed me to play the sweet Jeskai deck with all the rares and such, while they relegated themselves to Mardu Hateblades and Highland Games.
While I was a tempo sort-of deck (as Jeskai is wont to do) I had an End Hostilities that we agreed not to play. About one minute before time was called during deckbuilding, I decided to main it.
We were 4-0, and we got paired up against Team Thompson-Cho-Layton, and of course, the final match was mine vs Josh Utter-Layton. I was down a game but slightly ahead on the board (after blocking his Jeskai Elder three times) and decided that since his deck is a tricky one, I should go ahead and play a third creature. The only downside involved him casting End Hostilities.
Moral of the story? Wrath of Gods are good in Limited.
At least I got to Walk some Planes and represent the Jeskai Way the best I could.
Wedges are really just three guilds combined.
After losing a whole lot more, I kept hearing people lamenting about their eight or even twelve-hour drive ahead of them. Mine was 32.
For once, I had everybody beat.
And so the race was on. I drove from Monday to Friday by myself (mostly) across the country. After a while of no human interaction you start to go a little stir crazy, so be thankful for having people to talk to. I did get to see a few sweet lands on my cross-country trip though! Can you identify any of them?
It cracks to get an Azorius land!
Goes in Captain Sisay decks everywhere!
It can cast Chain to the Rocks all by itself!
Of course when I entered the actual "Badlands" in South Dakota, I knew I had to take a picture of me doing my best Grenzo, Dungeon Warden impression. He was my first preview card after all!
Merci beaucoup to the non-English speaking gentleman who didn't run off with my phone.
So I got to see all five colors of mana represented in our country on my trip. Now all I have to do is think about my journey and I can summon the mighty Polar-Bear-Eating Cromat! So I got that going for me I guess.
Did you know it's an illusion, but it was meant be a dragon?
I also got to do some soul-searching on my trip, but you probably don't want to hear me ramble on anymore. You want to actually see me talk about something Magic-oriented. Good on you.
In case you were living not only under a rock, but also at the bottom of the ocean a la Patrick Starfish, StarCityGames hosted a Grand Prix. A big Grand Prix. A Grand Prix that was won by no other than the heir to the great Robert Goulet fortune, and my ex-roommate: Brian Braun-Duin! Is there a connection to me moving across the country and then him immediately winning a 4000-person Grand Prix?
Oh, you mean he won one last year too?
Never mind then.
The format was Legacy and for once, we had an easy target to aim for: U/R Delver. I played this deck back when it was bad, but now it's good! What happened? Well Treasure Cruise Obv Nixilisly. Many strong players have suggested playing it, and for all very good reasons. But I don't want to tell you why you play my favorite color combination. I want tell you how to beat it.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em right? Many mages have done just that, and if all players are at equal skill level, in theory you have about the same odds to win. While playing maindeck Pyroblast Joe Lossett-style was once laughed at, playing two is now factory settings to facilitate Treasure Cruise advantage. There are fewer mana denial strategies in the format because you don't want to one-for-one your opponent with Wastelands and Stifles when that helps them cast Ancestral Recall. As a result, games go longer and people get to play more Magic and try to levy their skill versus their opponents. There's a reason why you always see some of the best in the game top 8 Legacy tournaments over and over again.
You can take this one step further like BBD did. How do you beat a deck full of 2/2s for two? Well, you play a bunch of 3/3s for three. But you can't go too big. If you play all 5/5s for five, you're going to get run over. I won't steal Brian's thunder too much, but by replacing the small Delver of Secrets with slightly bigger Stoneforge Mystics and True-Name Nemesis, he was able to survive U/R Delver's early barrage and bridge into a longer game where his cards were more powerful.
If there's a strategy you want to beat in Legacy, you can tune a sniper rifle as much as you want to do just that. Gerry Thompson recently wrote about a deck that's all about that base (that link just goes to the decklist, not some overhyped song). While Chokes and Chalices can certainly wreak havoc upon our Izzet overlords, four copies of Obstinate Baloth can only do so much. There are more Legacy decks than people trying to log into World of Warcraft right now, and if you want to do well in a long tournament, you gotta have game versus a large swath of the field.
This doesn't mean you have to play a deck whose entire purpose is to fight the "eight"-mana menace. Rest in Peace is startlingly good against a large number of commonly played cards (Reanimate, Tarmogoyf, Golgari Grave-Troll, Deathrite Shaman, Past in Flames), and you can even combine it with Helm of Obedience or Energy Field for a combolicious one-two punch! The downside is that sometimes it does nothing, and your combo is easily beaten by counterspells. They have yet to make a Cavern of Souls for enchantments (Cavern of Souls really did ruin the game, didn't it?).
Have you ever once met (or in my case, been) that blue player? The one that lives and loves to draws cards. And with those cards, what is he or she going to do? Draw even more cards! Ahahaha! I'm unstoppable when I have to discard due to hand size!
Just kill 'em, man.
Goblin Charbelcher. Ad Nauseum. Balustrade Spy. These cards can all win the game if they're cast on turn 1, and people only have around a 40% chance (taken loosely) of having a Force of Will in their opening hand (not taking into account extra blue cards and mulligans), if they even run four of the Alliances uncommon. If you just end the game before they draw all these cards, their Treasure Cruises are worth about as much as German Marks were worth in 1923.
Go Through It
Card draw is only as good as the cards they're drawing. If you can survive a Monastery Taylor Swiftspear onslaught, just cast something they can't Force of Will. Cavern of Souls, Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and Overmaster can help you with this plan.
Alternately, make their counterspells bad! Golgari Grave-Troll loves to chill in the graveyard, and if it is ever on the stack, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Gravecrawler and Bloodghast similarly enjoy turning your discard pile into a rave-yard.
Remember Jund? Punishing Fire shrugs off Force of Will. It's not like anybody can kill your Grove of the Burnwillows nowadays. Heaven forbid if you're playing with Chains of Mephistopheles in your deck. The perfect number to run is two.
Wait For WotC to Ban It
This might be the most ridiculous of all my ridiculous suggestions. Legacy is the most self-correcting format out there, and it will weather this like it has True-Name Nemesis, Wasteland, and Stoneforge Mystic before. Yes the card is good. You don't want to be playing the same decks for the next five years, do you?
I'm not calling for the banning of Brainstorm or anything. Fetchlands put its power through the roof, but cutting such a well-loved and skill-testing card would be disastrous for the format. No, if we even need a solution, that's not it.
Let's look at another card. Gitaxian Probe had fifteen copies in this top 8. While these numbers are not the largest set of data and not as aggregated as I would like, it's still a good idea of what we're working with.
Legacy's Three Musketeers
We've seen time and time again that free spells are bad. Or really good depending on your point of view. Cards such as Time Spiral, Bloodbraid Elf, Mind's Desire, and now Gitaxian Probe have all laid waste to countless magi. Gitaxian Probe can (and usually does) cost only two life to cycle, and you get an extremely useful effect for extremely good players to utilize.
Would you start the game at sixteen life to play with a 56-ish card deck?
If you take out the four worst cards of your deck and replace them with Gitaxian Probe, will your deck become stronger?
Without Gitaxian Probe, Young Pyromancer wouldn't always begin life as a CVM factory, Treasure Cruise wouldn't be cast on Turn 3, and players wouldn't always know exactly how to maneuver around the contents of their opponent's hand.
We'd also get to die knowing that at least we didn't have to reveal our miserable keep.
I'm not calling for bans of any kind right now. Treasure Cruise (and its cousin Dig Through Time) have pushed certain strategies to the front, and most everything needs to adapt or die. Modern is also adapting, as is seen by the recent GP's results of only four Gitaxian Probes and Treasure Cruises in the top 8, but twelve instances of Birthing Pod.
We know what the enemy is, and isn't that at least something to be thankful for? It's not like that in order to keep playing Magic, we have to wait on WotC to print something like this:
Just solve the puzzle for yourself with what you have to work with. That's Magic.
I mean it's not like you have to drive across the country.