The Obligatory "I Told Ya So"
This past weekend was one of great remorse for me, as a terrible mistake made me absent for the Legacy Grand Prix in Providence. I would have loved to have been in attendance when Reid Duke went undefeated in the Swiss portion of the tournament with NO RUG, a deck I have been advocating for weeks to the opposition of many of the format's elite. Reid is no slouch, and he originated the concept a few weeks ago at a StarCityGames.com Open, but the naysayers have been constantly on my back for giving too much credit to a deck revolving around a combo that doesn't immediately win you the game. With such a dominant performance in the Swiss, falling only to an "outside the box" combo deck after going sixteen rounds without a loss, Natural Order—it is safe to say—is a real deck, no matter what your qualms are with large, green monsters. We aren't talking about Verdant Force. We're talking about "Protection from everything."
With Providence in the books, and the SCG Invitational coming up this weekend, my relentless love for Natural Order grows exponentially. I've recently procured an extended art Progenitus in the likely event I should be fetching him up in the weeks to come. I already own a lot of the cards for the deck already, but filling out the remainder will be rather difficult. I'm not usually one to go about building a deck for a format as expensive as Legacy, but I have a feeling that most of the cards will retain their value for quite some time. I don't think they're going to be banning Tropical Island anytime soon, unless they want an angry MTGTheSource.com mob at their doorstep the following evening. Legacy cards will only continue to rise as the format grows, and only reprints will affect the values of the staple cards.
I've talked about Natural Order extensively over the last few months, but people still don't take the deck seriously. I don't play a ton of Legacy, but I'm getting a good feel for the format, and I know that this deck has a lot of potential and definitely room for improvement. This week, we're going to try something different. For reference, here is the list of NO RUG I would play, based on an amalgamation of my list from last week, as well as Reid's deck from the GP top four (with a little spice thrown in):
Since Standard is so boring, and I'm on a Legacy kick, we'll go over some of the matchups for NO RUG in Legacy, as well as a sideboard guide for each (since you've all been clamoring for it). I'm pretty sure Standard is solved until Wizards decides to drop the hammer on Stoneforge Mystic, but they'll probably chicken out and just let M12 "fix everything," just like New Phyrexia did (thanks for Batterskull!).
On the other hand, attendance for Standard events is still decently high. Maybe Stoneforge Mystic is as oppressive as Affinity and Faeries but not nearly as hated. Skullclamp and friends sent shivers down the spines of the less seasoned players, pushing people away in droves. The numbers that U/W/x Stoneforge decks keep putting up are blowing those out of the water.
So what's the difference? Why is banning all of the artifact lands okay, but not Stoneforge Mystic? Hopefully people smarter than me can explain it to me in the coming weeks, but until then, I'll focus my energies on Block and Legacy.
Now, onto the show! Reid's list differed on a few key elements of the deck, but nothing I would wholeheartedly disagree with. It really just depends on your flavor and style. Again, like most decks I get ahold of, I'm an advocate of playing an extra land on top of what everyone thinks is conventional.
The twentieth land is another Dryad Arbor, which gives the deck some much-needed reach against a field full of Standstill and Force of Will. While Dryad Arbor doesn't match up well against Mutavault or Mishra's Factory, it can provide pressure and defense under a Standstill. It also plays a vital role in making your Green Sun's Zeniths absurd, on top of giving you a bit of leverage when banking on forcing through Natural Order. Your first Natural Order won't always resolve, so having a backup Dryad Arbor to sacrifice is often necessary and definitely welcomed. On top of all this, he blocks! He can save you in a race against an opposing Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary, which is just icing on the cake.
The second change to the deck was giving it a bit more game against the random combo decks, abusing the power of fetchlands to harmlessly splash another color. While it makes you slightly more vulnerable to Wasteland, swapping out one land for a single Savannah, you don't necessarily even need the Savannah to get your creatures into play. Noble Hierarch taps for white, allowing you to cast them if your opponent has a Wasteland for your Savannah. Green Sun's Zenith is also a great way to snag either creature without white mana in play.
Gaddock Teeg post-board helps fight off pesky combo decks like Hive Mind and High Tide. Having the one land in the deck to help cast the spells, should you draw them, shouldn't hurt too much, since neither card is particularly amazing against decks packing Wasteland. Should they destroy your white mana, just use Brainstorm to shuffle them away, or put them back in the deck and use Green Sun's Zenith to get them.
While the maindeck is pretty close to Reid's, the sideboard is wildly different for a lot of reasons. Reid is not a man who is afraid of a Dredge deck. His singleton Relic of Progenitus isn't scaring away an Exhume or a Bridge from Below, and I'm not even sure why he bothered playing any sideboard hate at all.
Surgical Extraction is great against a variety of decks and gives non-black decks a trump to anything revolving around Life from the Loam. There are so many strategies in Legacy that can revolve around the graveyard, and Surgical Extraction will almost always come as a surprise, usually blowing them out. I wouldn't leave home without at least three of these in my board, and I often don't feel comfortable without four.
Dredge has always been my "boogeyman," and people aren't showing it enough respect these days. With Mental Misstep around, I don't blame them, but they could always evolve into a Lion's Eye Diamond with Deep Analysis engine, effectively blanking your Mental Missteps in the process. I also would not put it past anyone who is playing Dredge to continually choose to be on the draw so that they have a free source of discard for their Golgari Grave-Trolls. Just a thought.
Divert is a sideboard card I've been tossing around a bit lately, and it seems pretty decent. It is just busted against anyone playing Hymn to Tourach, which can be tough for you to beat normally. It was suggested to me in the forums last week, but I just don't know how good it is yet.
Misdirection would be cute instead, but costing that extra card is just too much of a drawback when you are also playing with Force of Will. The deck lacks a bit in the department of having redundant, excess blue cards, so it really hurts when you have to pitch anything.
Divert could take place of Spell Pierce in the old list, though both could be too weak to matter in the long run. The one thing Divert really has going for it is that it helps you win counter wars and can even be effective against decks packing Thoughtseize or Vindicate. It isn't the most absurd card in the world, but redirecting someone's Force of Will or Swords to Plowshares would feel quite gratifying, and you can bet no one would see it coming.
The Ancient Grudges are in the board over Krosan Grips because I'm under the impression that people have given up on Counterbalance, and there just aren't that many enchantments you need to worry about. Qasali Pridemage and Terastodon play a huge role in closing out the decks where you really need to kill a pesky enchantment, and the strength of Ancient Grudge far outweighs Krosan Grip against decks like PainterStone and Affinity.
Ancient Grudge even makes Stoneforge Mystic easy to deal with, as it can generate a huge amount of tempo against anyone trying to get tricky with Batterskull or using an entire turn to play and equip a Sword of Fire and Ice. By the way, am I the only one who wants to own a Dire Wolf (+2 nerd points if you get the reference)?
While it is hard to list every single matchup in Legacy due to the abundance of so many viable archetypes, there are quite a few decks floating at the top of the list that you really need to focus on. You shouldn't expect to play against any deck more than two or three times in a given tournament, making for lots of great interaction and gameplay. With that said, it makes Legacy the hardest format to prepare for, since almost every opponent will throw something different at you.
I will admit, this matchup is quite difficult before you sideboard. Their Aether Vials are quite troublesome if they stick, but Mental Misstep helps fight them off. If their draw involves a resolved Aether Vial and Standstill, you could be in for a rough time. It is best to just fight through their Standstills when you are at a disadvantage, focusing on stabilizing the board and getting your Progenitus onto the table. Vendilion Clique is a great weapon here, acting as a sneaky blocker against Lord of Atlantis, as well as clearing the way for your Natural Order.
I tend to cut Ponders against decks where I start jamming in a lot of removal. Your draws are usually a little redundant, and you don't necessarily need the blue card anymore for Force of Will, since it's quite mediocre against Merfolk. Your combo is a little hard to force through, so you don't want to have too many dead copies stuck in your hand. Their Wastelands can wreak havoc on your Dryad Arbors, but they have very little game against a resolved Progenitus.
Just use your abusive removal package to disrupt them while you focus on the beatdown with Tarmogoyf. If they happen to let you stick a Progenitus, it should be easy. If you expect some Umezawa's Jitte or other spicy artifacts, a few Ancient Grudges aren't terrible. If you know they're packing in the hate for your combo, just board it out for more removal and answers.
This deck is a little annoying to play against, but very beatable. Their disruption package varies based on the player, and they can have anything from Stifle to Sinkhole, depending on the flavor of the pilot. Most people will copy AJ Sacher, since he's an established name with a solid list, making your life a bit easier.
Hymn to Tourach is very good against you but is by no means game-ending. Brainstorm can help protect your important spells from Hymn, but also from their Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. They will often use up their counterspells on your early threats, since they can't reasonably deal with a slew of Tarmogoyfs or Vendilion Cliques, usually giving you a decent opening to resolve Natural Order. Daze is also great at stopping their Jaces, as they will rarely have time to wait until they hit five mana to cast it.
This is another matchup where potential mana disruption could keep your Natural Order from being effective, and you probably don't want to draw multiples.
The Mental Missteps are in no way necessary, but they are okay at helping fight off their Mental Missteps, Stifles, and Brainstorms. They'll usually have a few other cards you can hit, but Mental Misstep isn't nearly as good here since their removal of choice is usually Go for the Throat. Pridemage is mediocre, and I don't think you need the full complement of Lightning Bolts. Grim Lavamancer seems pretty solid since it effectively blanks all of their future Dark Confidants and is great for helping to kill their Jaces and Tarmogoyfs. Divert is great for reasons mentioned above.
Ad Nauseam/Hive Mind/Big Combo
Big combo can refer to a number of things, but often your goal is the same: kill them as fast as possible while using your counterspells to disrupt them. Hive Mind can be a little tricky to play against, but the Gaddock Teeg is key in helping win this matchup. Expect plenty of people with this strategy to adopt Slaughter Pact in the sideboard, since it was a subject of much lament during the coverage and is a great way for the deck to overcome cards like Gaddock Teeg. Hilariously enough, Daze actually works wonders against Hive Mind, since you can use the Daze to counter your copy of Pact of the Titan and just pay one mana for the copy of Daze that your opponent gets.
Ad Nauseam is a bit different and fairly tricky to play against. You should use your Mental Missteps to counter cards like Duress and save your Force of Will for their Infernal Tutor or Ad Nauseam. Without Mystical Tutor, this deck is not nearly as popular as it used to be, but it is still a fine choice for anyone in love with Tendrils of Agony. Gaddock Teeg and Terastodon play important roles in disrupting your opponent.
You can add in the Diverts if they're playing Orim's Chant or something, but I don't think it will be all that great.
Other combo decks like High Tide are vulnerable to the same stuff. Just use your counterspells wisely and put as much pressure on them as possible. Gaddock Teeg gives you an added element of surprise, since it locks down so many cards that affect you. While he does lock down your Force of Will, he will keep them from doing anything important. If they kill him, you can regain access to your Force of Wills anyway and protect yourself from there.
Knight of the Reliquary Decks
These decks can range so much in card selection that it's difficult to even figure out where to begin. If they're playing G/B/W, Divert can be amazing. Their Vindicates and Hymns will turn the entire game around on themselves if Divert sticks. Most G/W decks are incredibly vulnerable to a resolved Natural Order, so that should always be your main priority. Ancient Grudge is quite potent if they're playing Stoneforge Mystic, but not all of them do so don't go siding it in just because you saw them play a Savannah.
Grim Lavamancer is the only card I think you'll always want. He helps you win Tarmogoyf fights and keeps Dark Confidant off the table. He also gives you the ability to just burn them out in combination with Vendilion Clique and Lightning Bolt, which can be quite good. All of these decks play different cards and even colors, so figuring out a particular sideboard plan is impossible. CAUTION: NO LIFE GUARD ON DUTY.
Blue Control Decks
Recently made popular by StarCityGames.com's own Drew Levin and Gerry Thompson, "Mono-Blue" Control has made a comeback. They began as Standstill decks, abusing Wasteland and Mishra's Factory to gain an advantage while under the powerful enchantment. Since then, they have evolved the archetype into something of an old-school, grinding control deck that relies on raw card advantage in the form of Ancestral Vision, Jace, and (gasp!) Fact or Fiction! Drew ended up getting tenth place in Providence with their innovative list, and I expect their crew to be running something similar for a while to come.
Mental Misstep is decent in this matchup, but you can't afford to draw too many of them. It mostly protects your spells from their Mental Missteps, but they often run Swords to Plowshares, and stopping one from hitting your Tarmogoyf can be important.
Lightning Bolt is rather puny, only killing Jace when they're bold enough to Brainstorm on his first activation, but Pyroblast doubles as a Vindicate/Counterspell. If they begin playing more cards like Ancestral Vision, the matchup could become more and more difficult, but I don't think you should have a problem with either becoming the beatdown or resolving a Progenitus. They have a few more counterspells than you do, but you have a lot of threats that they need to deal with. After gaining access to a multitude of Pyroblasts, it should become considerably easier to resolve your spells.
It is important to note that Daze is much more potent on the play and gets weaker when the opponent sees it. Don't be afraid to side them out if you have a good reason to side in more cards, but don't dilute your deck with answers to things they may or may not have. Surgical Extraction should not be a weapon for fighting control decks, and Ancient Grudge shouldn't come in against every deck with an Aether Vial.
There is a plethora of decks to choose from in Legacy, which is what makes the format so vibrant and popular. While you could argue that it isn't as widely accepted as Standard in the Open Series, you have to realize that the Legacy Open is run on Sunday. Sunday is generally the day that a lot of gamers can't afford to stay. Most people have real lives and real jobs, and they use Sunday as the day to drive home from these extravagant trips to far-off destinations. If Legacy were on Saturday and Standard were on Sunday, I think the numbers would reflect the change significantly. The Legacy Open also competes with multiple Draft Opens, which can skew the numbers a bit as well. The Standard Opens do draw a lot of the newer players in the game and help StarCityGames.com be accessible to the FNM crowd. Standard sells packs, and this is why they're in business in the first place. They provide this awesome tournament experience so that they have a great venue to do business.
The StarCityGames.com Open Series is great publicity for the website and is stellar for the development of the game and tournament community. When there is a relevant event to prepare for every other week (and often back-to-back weeks), we have something to look forward to. Each weekend is an experience we anticipate and a chance to grow as friends and players.
These Legacy tournaments haven't just raised the prices of Legacy staples; they've raised our competitive spirits. With so much support coming from the player base, I'm hopeful that Legacy will eventually become much more of a stable format for Wizards, and they will in turn help out the community with some much needed reprints (or functional reprints).
The rising cost of cards is a problem, but only because the demand is higher than the supply. If the supply were to increase on a mildly significant scale, players would have access to a lot of the cards that are becoming overwhelmingly unaffordable. Certain cards cost as much as a car payment, and some decks run the cost of an average down payment on a house. It won't come as any surprise to me when the player support for Legacy outweighs the clamoring of dealers who have been hording Force of Will and Wasteland.
With great power comes great responsibility. Viva Legacy!
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on MOL