I haven't been able to travel too much since my last road trip to the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Nashville and Columbus and Standard was becoming pretty stale for a while anyway. Like most of you I was looking for reasons to step away from U/W Delver. Luckily for us M13 has now been released and we are looking at a pretty big shakeup in Standard. Before we get to the SCG Open Series in Buffalo there was a stop on the road in Columbus for a Modern Grand Prix.
Going into the first round of Day 2 of Grand Prix Columbus I was sitting at 8-1 and ready to make a run at my first GP Top 8. Unfortunately it was not to be as I ran into the buzz saw that was Orrin Beasley and I was the first of many victims on his way to his eventual Top 8 finish.
There was an interesting moment that came up when Orrin cascaded into a Liliana of the Veil. I had a Lightning Bolt and a Lightning Helix in hand and I asked a judge if from the time that Lily came into play from the cascade if I would gain priority to Bolt the planeswalker before she could be activated. Unfortunately I wasn't clear enough in my questioning and the judge could only inform me that from the moment that planeswalkers enter the battlefield the player casting them maintains priority. In this case since it was entering from a cascade I would have been able to play a spell when Bloodbraid Elf was resolving.
After this loss I went on a tailspin that could only be described as Todd Anderson-esque. 8-1 Day 1; 0-4 drop the next. This was certainly not the finish that I was expecting when I went to bed near the top of the standings but things like this happen. A lot. To Todd Anderson.
Fortunately Columbus was only the first stop on the three-week long road trip that will culminate in StarCityGames.com Open Series in Washington DC. But sandwiched between these two events was another SCG Open Series in Buffalo New York.
The Wednesday before the Grand Prix I was able to guest star on Gerry & Brad TV which was a blast to shoot and can be viewed here. If you haven't I definitely recommend watching this episode. It gives you a look at how we really interact with each other and yes we definitely crack as many jokes on each other as possible. On the show we talked about what we planned to play in Buffalo. Brad stuck to his U/W/B Trading Post decision and Gerry eventually swayed me turn away from Mono-Green Infect to the U/R Delver list that we both sleeved up for the event.
Here is that list:
There are definitely a lot of sweet elements to the deck. Talrand Sky Summoner is a huge beating when you get the opportunity to untap with it. The amount of "free" Phyrexian mana spells in the list give you the ability to create an instant army and you have plenty of ways to protect him as well. Pillar of Flame was a huge find as it gives you a great way to deal with a lot of the troublesome creatures that are currently seeing play: Strangleroot Geist Geralf's Messenger and Gravecrawler in particular.
Bonfire of the Damned gives you an excellent way to clear the skies for your army of Drakes and Delvers to deliver the beats. It's also is a great topdeck late because many times it's your only out to an overwhelming board from your opponent.
The problem that I found with this list also happens to be one of its strengths. It provides you with many different lines of plays that you can take to find your answers and you are usually never drawing dead. The main issue is that it felt incredibly underpowered. It was super complicated to play and outside of an early flipped Delver or a late miracle Bonfire you don't have a lot of auto-wins.
I probably wouldn't recommend playing this list this weekend in DC. There might be some tweaks to be made but it is really tough to pull the trigger on a deck that I feel has multiple poor matchups.
Next was a match against Brad Nelson who I have never beaten ever and I was out of the tournament. Trading Post is a nightmare matchup especially considering all his board sweepers and fantastic late game. Being out of contention after four rounds was pretty brutal and I was especially bummed about losing to Brad. I'll get you one of these days Bradley.
After a great night's sleep I was up and ready to redeem myself with a pretty sweet Merfolk list that Gerry and I had settled on the night before. Huge thanks to Ryan McKinney for hooking me up with the cards. Here's the 75 that I sleeved up on Sunday:
- 2 Coralhelm Commander
- 4 Cursecatcher
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 4 Master of the Pearl Trident
- 4 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
Merfolk is a very straightforward archetype. Aether Vial is by far the most important card in the deck. With Merfolk you are basically playing a deck full of Relentless Rats. Aether Vial allows you to have access to a Black Lotus every turn to play more and more creatures and lets you bypass any countermagic that your opponents may have for your Lords.
Another punishing card that you can bring to the table is Standstill. Turn 1 Aether Vial into turn 2 Standstill was a combination that I was able to pull off a number of times on my way to the Top 8. Standstill gives you the additional cards that you need to pull ahead something that is only achieved with Silvergill Adept.
On the play the Dazes are fine but I would recommend taking them out on the draw. This is a pretty good rule of thumb for most matchups.
The real strength of this archetype is the ability to summon an army of Islandwalking Plague Rats. Islands are currently everywhere: RUG Delver Sneak and Show and Reanimator all provide you an Island of some sort to make your Merfolk unblockable. Maverick is really the only matchup where you have to overwhelm them with creatures to get through something that the sideboard Submerges help a lot with.
Let's look at a quick matchup guide for the more popular archetypes you will likely face with Merfolk.
Aether Vial is what really pushes this matchup in your favor. RUG Delver is able to function well on one or two lands and their creatures can easily outclass yours if they are able to keep your Lords under control. Landing an early Vial allows you to keep dropping more and more threats protected from their Dazes and Forces and lets you use your mana to either attack theirs (via Wasteland) or to activate and attack with Mutavaults. If they are able to deal with your Vial you are forced to fight fair something that favors them.
Sideboard on the Play:
Sneak and Show
To keep up with an early threat (Griselbrand Progenitus or Emrakul) you have to have early pressure backed by disruption in the form of countermagic. Cursecatcher is awesome here; it is basically an Isamaru that Time Walks them. Wastelanding their Ancient Tombs and City of Traitors is huge and will buy you a couple extra turns to end the game. Letting them resolve a Sneak Attack or Show and Tell is going to be game over unless your clock is good enough to kill them the next turn. Hopefully you will have dealt enough damage to them early on to prevent them from drawing too many cards with Griselbrand.
Dismember does nothing against their win conditions so that makes it an easy cut. Commander is a fine card but a bit too slow to really warrant a spot against an explosive archetype like Sneak and Show. Cutting these allow you to load up on more answers.
Phantasmal Image is one of the only ways that you have to deal with their legendary threats. Having an Aether Vial with two counters will allow you to flash in an Image to copy their threats Emrakul in particular to deal with them before they can connect on the battlefield. Spell Pierce and Blue Elemental Blast will give you additional ways to fight their combo pieces. Again your path to victory is to apply early pressure and disrupt them from going off.
You should be fast enough to race a Stoneforged Batterskull. Of course Dismember is your good friend and you should remove Stoneforge Mystic if you can but having an Islandwalking army should provide you with a quick enough clock to race Batterskull. Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares can be pretty rough to fight through especially mid-combat on Master of the Pearl Trident or Lord of Atlantis to turn off your Islandwalkers.
Maverick can be pretty tough. They don't have the Islands to make it easy on you. You will rely more on your Lords to boost your team to overwhelm them. Fortunately with twelve different Lords Aether Vial to help flood the board and Standstill to give you the card draw you can definitely put up a great fight against them.
These are just some of the different archetypes that you will run into at a Legacy event. Four pieces of graveyard hate is necessary for matchups like Dredge and Reanimator but what I really like about this sideboard is that you are flexible enough to adapt to the diverse metagame.
The SCG Legacy Open In Buffalo
Here is how the event played out for me.
Round 1: Hank Mead (U/W Stoneforge 2-0 W)
Round 2: Dan Jordan (Esper Stoneblade 2-0 W)
Round 3: Jonathan Benson (Goblins 2-1 W)
Round 4: Gerard Fabiano (RUG Delver 2-1 W)
Round 5: Nathan Jones (RUG Delver 2-1 W)
Round 6: Eli Kassis (Sneak and Show 2-0 W)
Round 7: Travis Allen (Show and Tell 0-0-1 ID)
Round 8: Jamie Naylor (U/W Miracles 0-0-1 ID)
Quarterfinals: Jamie Naylor (U/W Miracles)
This match can be seen here.
This was a very interesting matchup and one that I had playtested a lot. Jamie's access to four Terminuses made things very interesting as he could Brainstorm the board sweeper to the top of his library then draw on my turn to rid my board of threats. Jamie seemed pretty experienced and I knew that the matchup would be tough.
The most interesting game was the rubber match. I had a pretty rough start keeping a one land Aether Vial Standstill Silvergill Adept and three Lords hand. I knew that the Vial into Standstill start would almost certainly win me the game but unfortunately Jamie had the Force for my turn 1 Vial. To make matters worse I failed to draw lands for two consecutive turns.
Luckily for me Jamie wasn't doing too much on his side either and I was able to get a Lord of Atlantis on the table to go along with my two Mutavaults. The turn after my Lord was able to get on the battlefield Jamie threw a pretty big haymaker in the form of his one of Humility. This would negate any Lord advantage I would get from emptying my hand but the Mutavaults turned out to be huge because they remained 2/2s even with Humility in play. On a crucial turn Jamie Brainstormed then revealed his miracle Entreat the Angels. He made a key error when he only created two Angels leaving two mana up to potentially play around double Daze. This allowed me to keep cracking into the red zone with my manlands and drop him to one.
The play that I was most happy to see was Jamie's last-ditch bluff. He tanked for a while and then played his Peacekeeper. To sell his bluff he asked if he could use my dice as a reminder for his upkeep effect. Unfortunately for Jamie the only thing that this did was make it clear in my mind that he had nothing so I gave him the dice untapped activated my Mutavaults then gave him the business. I love that he took that gamble because he did everything that he could to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Major kudos to you Jamie and I hope that that bluff works out in the future.
Semifinals: Morgan McLaughlin (RUG Delver)
This match was covered in text here.
Morgan was another Canadian who made the trip down to Buffalo and turned out to be car mates with Jamie. He was piloting RUG Delver and he also seemed very confidant in his play and mannerisms. Unfortunately his draws didn't keep up with mine and a quick two games later I was on to the finals.
Finals: Kenny Castor (RUG Delver)
This match can be seen here.
Kenny is a good friend and a very talented player. We worked together for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored as a part of Team SCG Blue and I was happy to see him in the finals. Unfortunately I knew that this would be no walk in the park for me to take home my first trophy. This match really showed the advantage that Merfolk has over RUG Delver with the absence of Snapcaster Mage and Grim Lavamancers. Kenny executed his game plan as best he could but he got overrun in the first game then mulled to five on the play in the second.
And with that I finally had a trophy to call my own!
It was extremely gratifying to take down my first StarCityGames.com Open Series trophy after many close calls. I think back to how awfully I played in my first finals and I really feel like I have matured as a Legacy player since I folded to Austin Yost earlier this year. It was definitely a tough road against many very talented players but I finally have a first place finish to add to my mantle of semifinal finishes.
Looking forward to this weekend the SCG Open Series is returning to my hometown of Washington DC and it marks the end of my month-long trip across the US. I have my sights set on playing Merfolk again on Sunday for the Legacy Open. To be honest I don't see myself changing anything from the maindeck. The numbers are really tight and it's right in my wheelhouse for the type of deck I enjoy piloting. The one change that I am considering is adding some number of Llawan Cephalid Empress to the sideboard for the mirror match.
As far as Standard is concerned there are a number of decks that I am considering. Mono-Green Infect is definitely among them but I would not be surprised if someone convinces me otherwise. U/W Delver is still a force to be reckoned with and that siren's call is pretty powerful. The great thing about the release of M13 is that there are plenty of options for the metagame and I look forward to trying to figure out this new Standard world. I've even heard rumblings of a sweet Battle of Wits challenge occurring this weekend.
I look forward to seeing as many of you at the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Washington DC this weekend as possible. Now excuse me I have to find some clippers.
The call of the Cho-Hawk beckons…
Thanks for reading!