At the final StarCityGames.com Legacy Open of 2010, James Rynkiewicz found himself crowned its champion. That meant he also qualified for the StarCityGames.com Invitational and, after starting that 3-2 on Saturday, James decided to drop. After all, he informed the peanut gallery crowded around to watch his match, there was Legacy to play on Sunday! His friends had been incredulous at that decision, but Chris McCord took the comment seriously. After all, someone playing for the Top 8 of a tournament with a $10,000 first place prize who dropped to play Legacy and made back-to-back StarCityGames.com Legacy Open Top 8s must CLEARLY know a thing or two about the format.
McCord opened on Noble Hierarch, then cast Qasali Pridemage on his second turn. That allowed him to use double exalted triggers in order to bash with his Noble Hierarch. Both players were battling with Survival of the Fittest decks, though James's version was an older blue-green deck while Chris's was a more Zoolike green and white version featuring beefier threats. For his second turn Rynkiewicz cast Wild Mongrel. He then pumped his 2/2 by discarding a Vengevine. He followed that up with a pump for discarding Basking Rootwalla, using the madness trigger to cast the 1/1. Because it was his second creature for the turn, the 'Walla triggered his Vengevine to return from the graveyard. He attacked for 4 with the powerful creature, then passed the turn.
Firing back at the explosive start from his opponent, McCord tapped out to cast and equip Umezawa's Jitte to his Qasali Pridemage. That allowed him to attack for 4, again benefitting from two exalted triggers, and charge up his Jitte. Worried about his opponent's powerful equipment, James cast Brainstorm to search for answers on his own turn. He then sent his team sideways, clobbering his opponent for 7 but passed after that.
Attempting his deck's namesake card, Survival of the Fittest, Chris tapped 1G in order to cast the enchantment. James immediately used Force of Will to counter and when his opponent attacked with the Jitte-bearing Qasali Pridemage, James pulled the trigger on Swords to Plowshares to exile the troublesome tiger. Post-combat a Basking Rootwalla joined McCord's team, but the Lizard wasn't scary enough to keep his opponent from coming back across in the red zone. James sent his team in but wound up on the wrong side of a Swords to Plowshares himself, exiling his Vengevine.
Chris found a second copy of Qasali Pridemage to replace his first and began attacking with Basking Rootwalla after the diminutive creature had picked up the Jitte. A Swords to Plowshares took the Rootwalla out, but McCord just switched to attacking with his Pridemage. James Rynkiewicz found himself down to just a single Wild Mongrel and had to keep it back to begin blocking his opponent's growing Jitte and Qasali Pridemage. A second Noble Hierarch hit for Chris, pumping the single attacker he sent in each turn even higher, but James found a THIRD Swords to take the Pridemage out, treading water while waiting for some action from his library.
Instead it was his opponent who found the gas in the form of Vengevine, attacking with the hasty creature after equipping it with his Jitte. The mythic rare combined with the powerful artifact was too much for Rynkiewicz who scooped a few turns later after being run out of chump blockers and lacking a Survival of the Fittest.
Chris McCord 1, James Rynkiewicz 0
Starting the second game off on a mulligan, James Rynkiewicz took the forbidden look at the top cards of his hand. He snorted with disgust and shook his head. "Man, the next three cards of my deck were INSANE."
Keeping on six he got underway with a Windswept Heath while his opponent opened on Noble Hierarch. The first Survival of the Fittest hit the match a turn later as James had it for his second turn play. "That's pretty good," Chris offered up before untapping and casting Qasali Pridemage, then using it to blow up his opponent' Survival.
"THAT'S pretty good," Rynkiewicz replied, sad to lose his enchantment before getting a shot at using it.
The next copy of Survival of the Fittest onto the battlefield was from Chris who also cast a second Noble Hierarch. When James couldn't blow the enchantment up on his own turn it looked like McCord was going to get the chance to make heavy use of the card. He binned a Vengevine on his opponent's end step to find a second copy of the 4/3, then repeated the play three times on his own turn. He finished the combo by fetching up two copies of Basking Rootwallas and using their madness triggers to cast them. That triggered his Vengevines in the graveyard.
"Triggers on the stack," his opponent said, pausing the game. Cracking a Windswept Heath James found himself a Bayou, then tapped the source of black mana to cast Extirpate. Chris seemed to know it was coming and resigned himself to losing his 4/3s, though he did pick up the two free Rootwallas.
Rynkiewicz's powerful sideboard addition to his deck for the mirror didn't mean he was out of the woods just yet. His opponent, after all, still had Survival active and far more creatures on the battlefield. Chris cast a Qasali Pridemage and sent a single Basking Rootwalla to the red zone, which immediately turned into a 4/4 from three exalted triggers. Before damage Chris opted to pump the creature making his opponent take 6 in total. At the end of Chris's turn, James used Swords to Plowshares to knock out the Pridemage, clearing the way for him to untap and cast a second Survival of the Fittest.
Doing exactly that, James found himself on two mana with the enchantment active. McCord fired back by continuing to attack with Basking Rootwallas, but had a second copy exiled by Swords to Plowshares, a card his opponent was proving VERY adept at drawing. James attempted to "go off" with his Survival, but Chris was able to use his own Survival to turn a Tarmogoyf in his hand into Faerie Macabre. That allowed him to take out two of his opponent's Vengevines but still meant Rynkiewicz got one copy of the 4/3 to the battlefield as well as a Basking Rootwalla and a Shield Sphere.
An Umezawa's Jitte joined McCord's side of the battlefield, and he ground his opponent's creatures down with an exalted-pumped Basking Rootwalla one chump blocker at a time. James used his Survival to fetch up a duo of Basking Rootwallas and return a Vengevine from his graveyard to the battlefield, but Chris made short work of the team with his Jitte and a Swords for the 'Vine. Rynkiewicz cast Qasali Pridemage but was falling behind to his opponent's equipment, the second time in the match that had been true. Luckily for him his 2/2 answered the artifact while he still had a bit of breathing room with which to maneuver.
Working his Survival as hard as he could, James found a Stoneforge Mystic and used it to fetch up an Umezawa's Jitte of his own. He held off on casting it, however, for fear his opponent could Survival up a Pridemage and blow the artifact up. Instead, Chris found himself a Knight of the Reliquary, though he also came up with a Pridemage too. On top of the gold creatures he sent in another attack with a Basking Rootwalla, gaining a ton of advantage out of his exalted creatures yet again. Despite the format being Legacy, you couldn't blame someone for mistaking McCord's deck for being some weird Shards of Alara block construct.
Finally getting the chance to cast his Jitte, James immediately equipped it to his Stoneforge Mystic and attacked. The artifact picked up some counters, but James took a return-swing from his opponent's Pridemage and Knight of the Reliquary. That left him at 2 life and in desperate need of a solution to his opponent's creatures. He came up with a Swords to Plowshares for the Knight, then forced the Pridemage to sacrifice in order to take out the Jitte.
Still Chris pushed on, casting Mother of Runes and pressing with Noble Hierarch. James had secured his life total a bit with some help from his Jitte counters and cast Intuition to see if he could dig himself up some more help. What he found was a Wonder to provide him a blocker alongside Mother of Runes leaving McCord unable to Mother of Runes his way through for at least an additional turn.
The play was stymied by Swords to Plowshares from his opponent, which removed the 2/2 Incarnation, but McCord allowed James to chump with Stoneforge Mystic. James was trying to set up a Natural Order for Progenitus, but he couldn't do it in a fashion that would allow him to maneuver around his opponent's Mother of Runes. With that a matter of fact, James took one final turn to see if he could come up with some other plan. When he didn't, he extended his hand to his opponent in defeat.
Chris McCord 2, James Rynkiewicz 0