Yeah… I played Infect again to the surprise of exactly nobody.
Part stubbornness, part gut instinct, and part faith, I knew going into the tournament that U/R Delver would be a very difficult matchup to beat consistently. Fortunately, I dodged both it and Brian Braun-Duin's Jeskai Stoneblade all the way until the finals. In a field as big as a 4000+ person Grand Prix, I knew things would be more diverse and that there simply wouldn't be enough Volcanic Islands going around to allow everyone that wanted to play U/R Delver access to do so. People would come out of the woodwork and play their homebrews to be a part of Legacy's biggest tournament ever. I didn't recognize the majority of my swiss opponents, which often isn't the case in SCG Invitationals or even Legacy Opens, but I just ran with what I knew and everything else worked itself out.
It can never be stressed enough to play what you know for huge events like Grand Prix. Going into the event, my main goal was to get back on the Pro Tour, and I felt that Infect was a deck that I could get through the swiss with two losses. Making the top 8 was nice, and getting to the finals was even better, but after I knew that I had my qualification to Pro Tour Fate Reforged, everything afterwards was icing on the cake.
This is what I played to a 2nd place finish at Grand Prix New Jersey, ultimately being dispatched by Brian Braun-Duin's innovative Jeskai Stoneblade deck.
There was an interesting strategy that with two byes you can take some risks and count on not playing some of the more fringe decks in hopes that they'd be weeded out by the third round. Realistically, anybody can win matches on any given day in Legacy, and there are likely approximately 100 viable decks that you could be paired against at any time during the swiss. These are the matchups I played by round.
3 Win Fuzzi, Stefano Merfolk
4 Win Lebron, Anthony Elves
5 Loss Guido, Matt Sultai Delver
6 Win Delano, Jonathan Omni-Tell
7 Win Shane, Kyle Sultai Reanimator
8 Win Westfall, RJ Miracles
9 Win King, Patrick B/R Reanimator
10 Win Naidu, Akash Omni-Tell
11 Win Frady, Keane Dredge
12 Win Tibbetts, Jeremy Jeskai Stoneblade
13 Win Phan, Lam U/R Landstill
14 Win Huang, Bob Jeskai Delver
15 Draw Braun-Duin, Brian Jeskai Stoneblade
16 Win Phan, Lam U/R Landstill
17 Win Schnegger, Philipp Miracles
18 Loss Braun-Duin, Brian Jeskai Stoneblade
Only two Delver decks in swiss, which I think is slightly below average. I faced a fairly decent mix throughout the tournament, more so than the weekend before at SCG Columbus. Infect is a deck that has game against any deck and doesn't have any incredibly bad matchups. My hopes were to face the decks that beat up on the Stoneforge Mystic and Delver of Secrets decks, and in general, the intended pairings happened.
The deck has a few tweaks from the list from SCG Columbus to fit better against a more wide open field of decks. Here's what I played the weekend before.
I wanted the third Force of Will maindeck as it's insurance against anything that an opponent might bring to the table. The cost is being a touch weaker against decks with a bunch of attrition and cheap disruption, which may exist in a metagame such as an SCG Invitational. Daze works better against decks with fewer lands in their deck but gets clunky in multiples against opponents that aren't tapping out very often. The manabase incorporated the ninth fetchland over the second Pendelhaven. This allows for more keepable hands overall since it adds an additional blue mana source and goes well with the second delve card, which was a maindeck copy of Treasure Cruise. It's uncertain if the Treasure Cruise was better than a second copy of Become Immense (which has been performing way above expectations), but I did want a card-drawing spell maindeck, and it fills the role similar to what a maindeck Sylvan Library did in the past while being a twentieth blue spell to keep your blue count high enough for reliable Force of Wills.
Crop Rotation is another card that sacrifices a bit of deck strength for more utility against a broader range of strategies. It also goes well to fuel delve, and in one game against Bob Huang, I basically used Crop Rotation to cycle as it got a fetchland to put three cards in my graveyard to enable a quick Treasure Cruise.
I was really close to cutting Bojuka Bog from my sideboard, but thankfully Todd Anderson and Brad Nelson talked sense into me before the tournament. I'd played something like 30 events with Legacy Infect without ever using that Bojuka Bog. They said that they'd used it plenty so I put faith that matchup variance was the issue at hand. Who knew that I'd be matched up against Reanimator twice and Dredge once? Crop Rotation into exiling the opponent's graveyard was as awesome as I hoped it'd be. The card single-handedly attributed to three of my match wins on the weekend. With that said, I feel like the amount of hate that you want to bring in against any deck, and for graveyard decks in particular, should remain fairly low. Remember: most if not all people will be more scared of you playing Infect than you are of them. The worst thing you can do is to dilute your deck so much with situational cards where it interferes with your main gameplan functioning.
Moving forward, the deck wants more game against BBD's Jeskai Stoneblade deck. It's troublesome that his threats and answers are so cheap, and it's difficult to play around both spot removal and possible sweepers like Electrickery and Pyroclasm.
BBD took a gamble that the numbers of Wastelands running around at Grand Prix New Jersey would be low and he was right. With only eighteen lands, his deck is vulnerable to the traditional mana denial strategies of Delver decks from the past. The current consensus best Delver deck is U/R, which runs no Wastelands or Stifles. Many lists have been cutting on Daze as well, as it's a fairly weak card without the other resource denial cards.
I spent the week between SCG Columbus in Roanoke, VA testing with the rest of the local StarCityGames writers. I'd brought Infect and Jund along with me and was willing to put together Jeskai Stoneblade if I figured it was strong enough and a good choice for myself to play. Overall, I felt that I could pilot Jeskai Stoneblade quite well, but in a fifteen-round tournament where mental energy is at a premium, I wanted something that I was more familiar with. I'd gotten some testing with Jund a few weeks prior and very much liked how it was positioned for the Grand Prix. For many days, I was 50/50 on my decision of playing either Infect or Jund.
This is what I came inches away from playing at Grand Prix New Jersey.
Legacy Jund has always beat up on the other fair decks in the format, and this deck looks to punish the Stoneforge Mystics and Delver of Secrets that are trying to back up small threats with high amounts of disruption. The card advantage of Jund comes more naturally in their spells like Dark Confidant, Hymn to Tourach, and Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows, so each spell is doing at least something to progress its gameplan and affect the battlefield. This often makes the card advantage of Treasure Cruise too slow, putting them so far behind that the three cards gained to pull them back into the game don't matter. I also like the fact that Jund dodges the maindeck Pyroblasts and Red Elemental Blast that people are currently playing. Tarmogoyf is simply bigger than the other creatures in the format, and I expect a resurgence of everyone's favorite Lhurgoyf in the upcoming weeks. Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze are cards that I really want to be playing right now, as the Khans of Tarkir delve cards are all the rage, and Dredge seems to picking up a bit of popularity since it's pretty good against those strategies as well.
Without Bloodbraid Elf, the Pyroblasts and Red Elemental Blasts become cards that you don't have to worry about cascading into. Chains of Mephistopheles and Engineered Plague are cards that I feel are great against the current builds of Delver decks. Even Courser of Kruphix and Darkblast seem really sweet with all the small creatures people are trying to win with.
As much as I love Infect, I really hate the freeroll damage that the current builds of Treasure Cruise decks get to have against it. Four Gitaxian Probe and upwards to twelve fetchlands often has my opponents on 10-12 life while I'm getting in chip damage with poison damage. Jund is a deck that hits hard and fast and is a real wake up call to people's starting life totals. In fact, I can see a Zoo variant doing well in the current metagame, and I will likely put thought into developing a list for the SCG Legacy Open in Portland before the SCG Invitational in Seattle. I like any deck that has bigger creatures, especially ones that aren't blue. A non-gimmicky beatdown deck backed up with nice burn spells like Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and Lightning Helix just may be the right mix to get the job done.
I really like Jund as a metagame choice going into an event like SCG Richmond. Wasteland and graveyard disruption are where you want to be right now, and Jund's bigger fears, like Sneak and Show, aren't as popular as they once were. Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows is looking as good as ever when there aren't opposing Wastelands going around, and Deathrite Shaman is better enabled with all the fetchlands people are using to cheapen Treasure Cruise.
Make them fear the Jund Machine! Punish them!