Rounds One and Two—Byes
Round Three—Calosso with W/U/R Stoneforge: Game two I played an end-of-turn Vendilion Clique with nothing but four lands in play. With the trigger on the stack, Calosso used Swords to Plowshares on the Clique, leaving him with four lands but only Wasteland untapped. Force of Will was his only counter, so I took it and crossed my fingers. Because his hand also contained Jace, the Mind Sculptor—but no fifth land—he opted not to sacrifice his Wasteland. I played my fifth land, cracked a fetch for Dryad Arbor, and immediately sacrificed it to Natural Order. He hadn't drawn a Force off the Clique and wasn't able to answer Progenitus, as it has protection from Jace.
Game three was a messy affair where I resolved a Grim Lavamancer and searched up a Dryad Arbor to supplement my anemic beatdown plan. He kept playing Jaces, and I kept killing them by attacking, burning them, or Red Elemental Blasting them. Finally he hardcast a Batterskull, and I had to use Chain Lightning and Lavamancer to kill it. I won the game without a moment to spare because I wouldn't have been able to afford killing his Germ every time he bounced the Equipment.
Round four—Vivek with Artifact Poison: While the creatures in this deck are fully unimpressive, the mana denial is very powerful. Thankfully, every turn Vivek spent playing a Wasteland or a Rishadan port, I spent playing a land + Noble Hierarch or land + Green Sun's Zenith. Once I could cast my expensive spells, like Natural Order, I won handily. Progenitus has protection from Ichorclaw Myr.
Round five—Jon with Zoo: The NO vs. Zoo matchup can play out a million different ways depending on the players, the decklists, and what cards happen to be drawn. This time, I had Progenitus in play by turn 4 both games, and he definitely has protection from Wild Nacatl.
Round six—Mike with W/U Stoneforge: I won game three with my ballsy sideboard plan of taking out Tarmogoyf and Green Sun's Zenith and playing as a straight combo deck. I waited until I had a hand full of Red Blasts and permission and played an end-of-turn Vendilion Clique, which showed me two Swords to Plowshares and two Submerges. The whole game, I never passed priority with a green creature in play, so his removal was dead along with his Spell Snares. I Natural Ordered away a Dryad Arbor, and Progenitus has protection from Submerge.
In game two, I drew both Ancient Grudges and killed his first two lands—Seat of the Synod and Great Furnace. He had no permanents for a turn or two while I beat him down, but he got back into the game with a Mox Opal. Eventually Dale assembled his combo, but I flashed back my Grudge on the Painter's Servant in response to the Grindstone activation and finished him off. Game three, he resolved a Painter and named blue, which turned on his Red Elemental Blast but also allowed me to pitch lands to my two Force of Wills. We fought an epic counter battle over a Chain Lightning, of all things, which left him with nothing but lands and me with a Ponder, which found a 5/6 Goyf that killed him before he could draw into any action.
Round eight—Mike with Dredge: I have a lot of respect for Dredge, but I decided that it wasn't worthwhile for me to play with the four or five hate cards necessary to have a good matchup against it. When Mike told me on his first turn that he was moving to his discard, I was hoping that he had F6ed by mistake. Then it dawned on me that this was real life and that I was in trouble. I got him below ten with Tarmogoyfs, and two turns after he used Cabal Therapy to empty my hand, I topdecked Natural Order and won because Progenitus has protection from Zombie tokens. In game two, he used Firestorm to discard two cards (uncounterable), but I had lots of permission in my hand and never let him resolve a card draw spell. My Tarmogoyfs, with a little luck, were able to outrace his one dredge per turn.
Round nine—Jon with Goblins: Game one was the finest beating I took in the whole tournament, but in game two, I played a Noble Hierarch and Dazed his Aether Vial. After that, he went about aggressively attacking my lands with Wastelands, showing me that I would have been very dead if the Vial had resolved. Goblins is remarkable in its ability to close a game when it starts out ahead but sometimes has a hard time turning around a losing situation. Game three, I Mental Misstepped his Vial and Chain Lightning-ed his Goblin Lackey, and when he missed his second land drop, I used Umezawa's Jitte to lock up the game. Even though Progenitus has protection from red, sometimes all you need is that Jitte.
Round ten—Wilson Hunter with Painter/Grindstone: Progenitus gives me protection from Grindstone—at least for one turn—because he shuffles back in when he goes to the graveyard. One turn was all I needed in game two to finish Wilson with Tarmogoyfs. Unfortunately, I had sideboarded out the hydra god who had been watching over me all weekend, and I lost! Game three, my sideboard cards kicked in, however, and I narrowly took the match.
Round eleven—Owen Turtenwald with W/U Stoneforge: Game one we traded cards back and forth until the disadvantage that came from Owen using Force of Will early in the game caught up with him. I Lightning Bolted one of his two Mishra's Factories while its partner was tapped, then the other one had to chump block before I beat him to death with an exalted 4/4 Dryad Arbor. Game two was similar, except this time Owen came out on top. Game three I was on the play and mulliganed down to five cards. I played a land and a Noble Hierarch, then a second land. Owen played an end-of-turn Swords to Plowshares, which I Spell Pierced. On his turn, he played a Standstill, which I Red Elemental Blasted, leaving me with only a land in my hand against Owen's seven cards. I drew Natural Order and after some brief thought, realized that nothing was going to get better for me if I waited. I fired it off, and it resolved. Progenitus has protection from Level Six Pros.
There are many great decks in Legacy, but most simply don't win when they mulligan to five. Not only do I very rarely mulligan with NO RUG, but it's also a deck that can easily win despite being down on cards.
Round twelve—Jon with New Horizons: Our decks matched up in an interesting way. I have a very hard time answering Knight of the Reliquary, and if one sticks, it blanks all of my ordinary creatures. However, if I'm able to resolve Natural Order, Progenitus trumps the Knights. Game one Jon beat me soundly with two 15/15 Knights and some filthy combos with Maze of Ith and Sword of Feast and Famine. Fortunately, Progenitus has protection from Maze of Ith, and he won me the next two games.
Round thirteen—Lance with Merfolk: Game one, I ran out of removal spells with a Tarmogoyf and Progenitus facing down Mutavault, Cursecatcher, Lord of Atlantis, and two Aether Vials on two and three counters. Lance, with one card in his hand, bumped his Vial up to four counters, played an Island (which he presumably drew that turn), attacked for five unblockable, and passed. I untapped and drew a second Tarmogoyf with myself at nine life and Lance at thirteen. I suspected Sower of Temptation but decided I'd be crazy if I didn't attack. I announced my attack and paused before tapping my creatures. Lance thought, then Vialed in a Sower. He had to take my Goyf because Progenitus has protection from Sower of Temptation, but now I'd be dead to the counter swing. I had no choice but to play my Goyf and pass without attacking. He drew a blank and couldn't kill me, so when I drew Chain Lightning, I was able to finish him on the spot. Had Lance waited for me to announce my attackers, I would have attacked with Progenitus, and he could have killed me on the counter swing. It's also worth noting that I would have lost had that Chain Lightning been Swords to Plowshares.
Rounds fourteen and fifteen—Intentional Draws
There are certain phrases that make you feel like such a stud—they're simply so cool—that you wait your whole life for a chance to say them:
“Baby, you want me to pick you up in the Porsche or the Ferrari?”
“Tell Barack I'll call him back when the Daily Event is over.”
“Hey Paulo, do you want to draw this round?”
Scratch one off the list.
Top Eight—Alex Majlaton with Merfolk: Game three, Alex had more Lords of Atlantis than I had removal spells, but I was able to play most of the game without playing an Island so that my Tarmogoyf could fight on equal footing. Alex went down to five life, so a hit from my Goyf would end the game. He drew his card and attacked with his two creatures, leaving Lord of Atlantis untapped. I drew Pyroblast and had to decide if I wanted to go for the kill. If the card he had drawn was Submerge, I really needed to counter it and force him to chump block with his Lord. However, I didn't want to miss a chance to kill him and allow him to draw another lord, a Silvergill Adept, or a real Submerge.
Perhaps a greater player than myself would have been able to read the situation or the opponent to determine what he had drawn, but Alex is a disciplined player and was doing the same thing whether he drew a land, a creature, or an instant off the top of his deck. Since I couldn't glean any hints either way, I decided to grow a pair and blast his Lord of Atlantis. He did have Submerge, and the game became dangerously close.
With zero cards, I drew a Brainstorm, put two cards back, and Lightning Bolted a creature. When I drew my next card, I attacked with Tarmogoyf, which Alex chumped, leaving himself at five, me at three, and him with Mutavault against my tapped Goyf. I played a fetchland.
Alex deduced that I must have wanted to shuffle away my top card, so the sly dog Wastelanded my fetch before combat, and I had no choice but to let the fetch die rather than go to two and lose to his Mutavault. I had a land on top and was at the mercy of the top of his deck. It didn't deliver for him, and I squeaked out the match. Progenitus has protection from everything, but that's only helpful if I can get him into play.
Top Four—Bryan Eleyet with Hive Mind: Game one he killed me on turn 2 with two hard counters as backup, and I knew I was in for a fight. Game two he patiently waited until turn 3 to fire off his Show and Tell. I Pyroblasted; he Mental Misstepped; I Red Elemental Blasted; he Force of Willed; I Force of Willed; he Pact of Negationed… The Pact resolved… Then I Forced again, and Bryan died to the Pact.
Game three we both played lands and passed, trying to set up for the inevitable counter war. I used Noble Hierarchs and Zeniths to build up my mana, so that I would be able to Natural Order and put on a clock. Unfortunately, the turn before I did, Bryan made his move and won the counter war, putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play. I still had a prayer because if I drew one more permanent, I could threaten a lethal counterattack even after Bryan annihilated six of my permanents. I drew Vendilion Clique, cycled my own Daze, but I drew a Tarmogoyf, for which I didn't have enough mana to cast.
As it turned out, Bryan left himself with Hive Mind in his hand (only card) and drew Summoner's Pact, which would have killed me anyway after I spent my hand fighting over his Show and Tell. Progenitus, unfortunately, does not have protection from Emrakul's annihilator.
Changes to the Decklist
If I could make it to the StarCityGames.com Invitational, this is what I would play:
The only disappointment of Grand Prix Providence for me was that I never got my match against Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. I spent a huge portion of the weekend thinking about how our decks matched up and how I could sideboard to have a chance at beating him. I wasn't happy with anything I came up with. For reference, here's his decklist:
He had boatloads of permission, answers to a resolved Progenitus, excellent defense against ordinary creatures, and brutal card-advantage engines if I waited around for too long. I designed the above decklist to have the option of sideboarding out the Natural Order combo. The fourth Vendilion Clique is one more win condition and gives me some value even if it's answered. Also, the Red Blasts give me a huge edge in fighting over Jace, the Mind Sculptor. While I don't like Jace as a maindeck card, he's very nice against control decks that can answer Progenitus. I wish there were enough room to sideboard three copies.
The fourth Vendilion Clique is also crucial for the combo matchups. I lost game three to Bryan because I couldn't put on a good clock, but Vendilion Clique lets you have your cake and eat it too; it's disruption, a clock, a blue card for Force of Will, and you don't have to tap out for it! It's always crucial to pair your disruption with something proactive to do against a combo deck.
There were two primary reasons why I played with Chain Lightning in Providence. The first reason was to have additional ways to kill Merfolk lords, but Grim Lavamancer is significantly better in the Merfolk matchup. The second reason was to have additional ways to kill Gaddock Teeg, Grim Lavamancer, and other one-drops out of Zoo. In this regard, Grim Lavamancer doesn't do a reliable job because Zoo can easily kill him if they want to. Cutting the Chain Lightnings will increase the chances of Zoo stealing a game with Gaddock Teeg. That said, Grim Lavamancer is still a fine card against Zoo, and the deck is not as popular as it once was, so I feel fine about the change. Most importantly, with the rise of Stoneforge Mystic/Mishra's Factory decks, Lightning Bolt remains a great card, but its sorcery-speed brother comes up short.
The oddest change may be the basic Mountain in the sideboard. After SB, I'll have eleven red cards against Merfolk, with only four dual lands to add red mana. Add Wasteland to that equation, and there's the potential for disaster. My solution during the GP was to make sure that almost every land I fetched postboard against Merfolk produced red mana. Having a basic Mountain provides more reliability and more flexibility in building your land base. It will also improve the deck's ability to function without Islands, when that's necessary.
I'm sorry that I don't have a full player guide in time for the SCG Invitational. Thankfully, Todd Anderson has done a nice job covering the deck, and he and I agree on nearly everything.
Best of luck to anyone who takes Natural Order for a spin in the coming weeks!