Off the heels of two major Legacy tournaments we're set this week to take a look at some of the interesting trends and big breakouts of both GenCon and GP: Columbus. From deck tweaks to entirely new lists there's something for everyone between the Top 8 decks of these two events. Let's start out with an expected evolution of CounterTop...
Jace: Now Everywhere
Jace The Mind Sculptor has shown his power in every format at this point. He has a natural home in CounterTop lists since he has that ever-useful Brainstorm ability and a chance to control creatures on the board. Jace has been seeing more attention in the place of cards like Rhox War Monk meaning that CounterTop lists are shaving down to low creature numbers. I saw several performing well that had only four Tarmogoyf and some number of Vendilion Cliques to get there. Take a look at Tom Martell's Top 8 Columbus list:
Only six creatures! Tom uses those monsters plus Jace's Ultimate ability to end games.
While we're at it check out Adam Yurchick's Top 8 CounterTop list from GenCon:
It is very near to Tom's deck seizing on Jace's power to get away with running fewer creatures. Adam also ran a single Elspeth which can cause plenty of frustration for opponents. I watched one game wherein Adam used Elspeth to stall for at least five turns eventually assembling the Counterbalance lock. Adam later drew a Jace which sent back an opposing Tarmogoyf later countered by the Coldsnap enchantment locking down the board.
Apart from Jace these two decks have several other similarities. They run Firespouts to clear away swarms and have a miser's Oblivion Ring as a catch-all. Both players also ran a single Karakas which can bounce opposing Emrakuls or simply rinse a Vendilion Clique again. Adam also had the Venser-Karakas combination which he could board in and lock down opponents. These decks are impressively mana-safe in that they are unlikely to get locked out by a single Wasteland here or there. The bounty of basic lands protects them.
Combo is Still Alive
Bryant Cook one of the prolific Storm combo players from The Source brought this list and rocked to a Top 8 finish at Columbus:
Bryant fought through Counterbalances Spell Pierces and the lack of Mystical Tutor to show that Ad Nauseam is still a potent strategy. A core combination in the deck involves Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor letting the combo player dump their hand in response to casting the tutor and hellbend the spell netting mana in the process. A similar technique can be applied with Burning Wish. This effectively makes Lion's Eye Diamond a Black Lotus. Oh and you get to run four of them! Bryant's list uses Burning Wish to replace the conventional Mystical Tutor and it's a smart choice. Much of the things that Mystical Tutor could do are also accomplished with the red Wish. For example it can get removal or bounce spells it can set up disruption by getting Thoughtseize or it can access combo enablers like Ill-Gotten Gains and Diminishing Returns. Cook had mentioned that he was down to two Mystical Tutors before the banning so it had little effect on his final choice and performance.
If Wizards' goal was to decelerate combo decks to fair levels they may have only meagerly accomplished it. It remains to be seen whether this deck type will see continued success; Bryant is very good with storm combo decks and I don't know if other folks (including myself) have the "muscle memory" required to play combo decks at their best margins.
An Entirely Different Doomsday Scenario
One of the coolest breakout decks came from Christopher Gosselin slinging this sixty-card Doomsday deck through the Columbus Top 8.
All this time we have been trying to make complicated Storm combo piles with Doomsday. Can we get Painter's Servant and Grindstone in there? Can we make other complicated kills? Christopher skips the mental gymnastics and instead just summons Emrakul the Aeons Torn. His typical Doomsday piles will have him Brainstorming into Shelldock Isle and Cloud of Faeries. The Isle locks away the Emrakul and the Cloud of Faeries untaps it to go again. His hole card is a Solitary Confinement protecting him from being attacked back and stopping him from drawing any more cards from his nonexistent library. Since Shelldock Isle casts the spell he gets a free Time Walk to go with his Thing From Beyond.
Christopher's Doomsday deck can also Show and Tell Emrakul onto the battlefield skipping the need for a Doomsday situation. Postboard he can use Lim-Dul's Vault to go find a Form of the Dragon and safely hide behind a firebreathing Moat. My favorite part of his deck though is Shared Fate. He can run the card out at any time and kill an opponent with their own deck! The Show and Tells do not work because Shared Fate prevents an opponent from actually drawing; the Emrakuls are kept safely outside of the game. Meanwhile Christopher can beat the opponent with their own cards which is a more stylish way of Mindslavering them. He can also use Doomsday to eliminate all of their options.
The only cards in the maindeck that I am really unsure of are the Stifles. I recognize that you want some number of Blue cards to support Force of Will but Stifle doesn't seem to be in the game plan. It certainly does stop opposing Wastelands from hitting your Isles but is that worth packing them for? Wouldn't Pithing Needle be more effective there? Anyway I look forward to sleeving up this creation and giving it a try. I cannot wait for opponents to sideboard in their useless anti-storm hate!
Continuing on Blue-Green Madness
I wrote about Survival Madness recently and I wanted to share some more thoughts on it. There are a deceptive number of open slots in the deck and most of them must be Blue cards. For example you can go up to four Spell Pierce if you are encountering a more spell-heavy metagame. You can facilitate this by upping the number of Waterfront Bouncers in my list from one to three copies cutting on Merfolk Looters or shaving off the Counterspell. The reason you need to increase the number of Bouncers is that you have more dead cards in Spell Pierces against creature-heavy decks. Waterfront Bouncer is a great way to manage monsters of all kinds and while four is too many two or more is a good call. Combined with a Squee Goblin Nabob from the sideboard you can create a pretty solid soft-lock against creature-heavy opponents.
One card my list lacked that I might have wanted was that single Gaea's Cradle. I am unsure if I want the Legendary Land because on one hand it leads to kill scenarios that are impossible otherwise but it also is dead unless you have some great early creatures. I don't think it comes up often enough to make a big difference either way but I am inclined toward playing one. Situations where it is weak early can be overcome in that same game by the sheer amount of mana that it will generate.
Bonus Quick Hits Section
Saito's Merfolk list is interesting although somewhat boring.
I'm glad to see that Korey Age is running Woodfall Primus in his Sneak Attack deck; Persist is a beating with the Red enchantment!
Jason Ford's deck looks similar to Patrick Sullivan's brew posted the week before on this site and a deck I was considering packing for GenCon.
I love Brad Nelson's deck if only for the fun of seeing a successful Junk Deck.
If you have questions or comments sling me an email post on the forums or ask on Twitter!
Until next week…
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