By the time you all are reading this, I'll be en route to Boston from the Deep South here in Florida. Yes, you heard it right, Boston. A few local friends and I are making the trek to the very north of the East Coast to sling some old cardboard, hopefully better than the rest.
Boston isn't Worcester, of course. When booking flights for this trip, I had the option of paying roughly three to four times the amount of money to fly directly into Worcester. Rather than doing that, I looked at one of those handy-dandy maps all the kids talk about and realized that Boston is only an hour's drive from where I needed to be. So a rental card is in my near future and I'll be making my way the farthest I've ever been from home for a non-Pro Tour Magic tournament. I feel like Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring when he's taking the step at the edge of that corn field, realizing he's venturing farther away from home than he's ever been, into the unknown.
I'm doing this for Legacy, of all formats!
While a lot of the current buzz is on the fact that we're in full swing here in preview season for Amonkhet, which we'll get to in a moment, this weekend is perhaps one of my best opportunities to take back the lead on the Season One SCG Tour® leaderboard from Todd Stevens, who seized it from me when I decided not to attend the recent Dallas Open. While there might not be a Players' Championship to race towards this year, the incentives are certainly still there for coming out on top at the end of each season. Not to mention having two byes is something I'll never get used to, but something I know goes a long way and that I should strive for.
While last week I said I'd play a deck containing Leovold, Emissary of Trest; Deathrite Shaman; and Brainstorm, beggars can't be choosers. While I had the option to play those cards (since, frankly, I believe they suit my Standard playstyle best), this isn't Standard and it's probably best I stick to a more defined archetype. That being said, after much review of the numerous submissions I received, if I were sticking to my initial guidelines of registering 3 Leovold, Emissary of Trest; 4 Brainstorm; and 4 Deathrite Shaman I'd play this spice sent to me by my good friend.
Legacy is great!
Goblin Charbelcher is the deck you fear when you decided it would be a good idea to show up to the tournament without a card like Force of Will in your deck. It's literally the perfect example of why Force of Will is a necessary card for the format, even though it's inherently card disadvantage and often sideboarded out in a lot of matches. However tempted I might be to pull the trigger and just hope people decided to skimp on their blue cards (and have forty minutes left over in each round to relax and play on my Nintendo Switch), I don't think that'll be what I end up doing.
I am a very fortunate person when it comes to my friends.
I personally don't own many Magic cards to my name. The only cards I own are those in my Sidisi, Undead Vizier Commander deck (which I recently completed at Grand Prix Orlando!) and some scattered cards from various team drafts that have accumulated over the years. That being said, I'd like to give a shout-out to Nolan Blackwelder and Ashley Rozi for both lending me Legacy decks, giving me options for this coming weekend. Even now as I make my way to the event I haven't decided what deck I should play.
What I'll be deciding this Friday evening is whether to register Lands or Miracles with these respective builds.
These two decks have been stalwarts of the format for quite some time now. On the one hand, you have Lands, a deck that tries to restrict the opponent's mana and win the game with a giant, well, one of these:
It does this rather consistently. The only bane to this deck is that it can struggle with some of the more unfair decks of the format. As mentioned above, a deck like Goblin Belcher would utterly destroy Lands, seeing as they have no resistance on the draw and little to nothing they can do even if given a turn, which is often all you get when facing some of the less interactive combo decks in Legacy.
It's been many moons since I've been given the chance to cast the most powerful planeswalker in Magic. I recall the days when this card was Standard-legal and, strangely enough, it feels even less beatable if resolved in Legacy. One of the things I'll have to look out for if I decide to play Miracles is the least fortunate part of the legality of Sensei's Divining Top, the clock.
If Magic could be played with a chess clock, then there would never be an issue with the card Sensei's Divining Top and it probably would even be legal in Modern. We do not live in that world, however. As recently as the Team Open in Baltimore, when I was lucky enough to play alongside THE Tannon Grace and fellow SCG writer Todd Stevens, we picked up a draw late in the tournament, with it coming down to an incomplete Game 3 in Legacy against a Miracles opponent. To quote Tannon after the draw, “I believe I had priority for less than ten minutes in that match.” That is something that simply is not acceptable in my opinion and it is up to the Miracles player to make sure they are not taking up too much time in the mechanical process of activating Sensei's Divining Top.
That all being said, I consider myself one of the faster players on the SCG Tour® when I need to be, so if I do register Miracles, hopefully that's not an issue for me.
Even with some of the best-equipped decks of the format at my side, there still is the fact that Legacy is the format with the highest disparity between those who are well-versed in their decks and those who just picked up the deck for the first time. Another factor going into my decision is that I have played Miracles a couple of times in the past and the play patterns match something I feel is in my wheelhouse. I suppose you'll have to tune in to coverage to see just where I ended up!
It seems Wizards has been holding out on us until now, as I've not been terribly impressed by many of the Amonkhet cards that have been revealed thus far. It does seem clear to me at this point that this set wasn't designed with the Battle for Zendikar block still in mind, since that was originally intended to rotate with the release of Amonkhet.
Having two Gideons in the same format could cause some awkward tension, since this one seems like a home run as far as Constructed playability. It also seems to me that they will never print a one-mana accelerant such as Birds of Paradise or Elvish Mystic in Standard again, because having a planeswalker on turn 2 of the game seems like one of the most degenerate things you can do.
Gideon of the Trials checks almost all the boxes you want for a planeswalker that costs four mana…while only costing three! Protects itself? Check! Proactive on an empty battlefield? Check! Has a game-winning or highly impactful “ultimate” ability? Check! Gideon of the Trials literally has Platinum Angel's text on a planeswalker!
Did I mention this card only costs three mana?
I think this card has huge potential, not just for Standard but as an anti-combo card for older formats. Just think of this card against Storm in Legacy! With Tendrils of Agony being their only win condition, at least Game 1, how do they win? Seriously, this card is bonkers and I expect it to show up in every format in Magic all the way down to Vintage. Yes, Vintage! I don't consider myself an expert of older formats, but I know powerful lines of text when I see them, and some decks just don't have ways to interact with planeswalkers in older formats. Those decks are done when Gideon of the Trials hits the battlefield. I'm excited to see what it will do in the Atlanta Open at the end of this month and at the Pro Tour from there.
Quick note: I will not be hiding any of my testing for the Pro Tour. Every random deck that pops into my head (editor permitting) will be up for display and put on full blast, since I know there will be some stinkers.
Another mythic they dropped on us recently is Combat Celebrant. While the world hasn't been too high on low-toughness creatures making a splash in the face of cards like Walking Ballista and Liliana, the Last Hope, something like Always Watching can turn all of your Exert creatures into terrifying threats. Because the Exert mechanic doesn't actually require you to tap the creature for it to be Exerted, anything that untaps your creature or grants vigilance allows you to repeatedly Exert a Combat Celebrant for quite the quick clock. Whether it will be enough to replace a card like Pia Nalaar in some of the red decks we've been seeing remains uncertain but entirely possible.
Then there's Manglehorn! It's perfect in every way possible. It's great against Mardu Vehicles, killing Heart of Kiran, Scrapheap Scrounger, or, heck, even a Clue token generated from Thraben Inspector! On top of all of that, it's Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai insurance! Saheeli Rai has this weird little clause that it makes the tokens it creates into artifacts in addition to their other types, and Manglehorn causes them to all enter the battlefield tapped, giving you a hate card for the two most prevalent decks in the format that's all wrapped up into one awesome Traverse the Ulvenward target! I can easily see this finding its way into the maindecks of many G/B variants, with more copies hanging out in sideboards for sure.
We may have a Legacy Open this weekend, but you can be more than certain that the more we see of Amonkhet, the more I'll be brewing, and G/B is where I undoubtedly will be starting my testing!
All things considered, I'm very excited to see the rest of Amonkhet and play in some local Prereleases in the coming weeks. By the time we chat again, we'll have dozens more cards to talk about, and hopefully I'll have another trophy in hand to further cement my title of SCG Tour® Season One Trophy Mage!