Ever since quitting competitive magic when I got married and busy with law school in 2007, I have only attended a couple of tournaments a year. Just enough to scratch the itch that remains when you play and love a game for 12 years. I finally decided in 2010 that I did not really want to continue playing limited formats only, and a Grand Prix in the Legacy format was coming to Columbus.
So I did a little research into the format at the time and invested in my first real Legacy staple: Lion's Eye Diamond. I built Goblin Charbelcher to give the format a run and learned another storm deck inside and out. I have been a huge fan of storm and similar combo decks, and they probably hold my heart even more than the elf tribe and that little deck called Trinity Green.
At the time of Grand Prix Columbus, Survival decks and Aluren decks were the hot trend and blue decks were struggling. In other words, a great time to be on the quickest combo deck in the format, even if it has a huge glass jaw in its vulnerability to Force of Will. For the first time in my long magic playing experience, I had a couple real dual lands (which was admittedly, a mistake as you only need 1) and a good feel about a format that looked dead years before.
I certainly do not remember the exact match ups I faced, but I started 0-1 and 2-2 before ripping off five straight wins against the likes of Zoo, Enchantress, and Elves Combo. My deck was just faster than other combo decks and only lost when it shot itself in the foot. My poor start killed my tiebreakers, but my first real taste of Legacy gave me something I'd never experienced before: Day 2 of a Grand Prix. And despite starting 0-2 on Day 2, I stuck it out and won four matches in a row to close the Grand Prix and manage a 35th place finish and cashed out despite my terrible tiebreakers (I was tied for 18th place with the worst tiebreakers of the bunch).
Just like that, a love affair with Legacy was born. This is a format I can enjoy watching and keeping track of throughout the year at Star City events while planning my 1-2 events a year or so. Although Modern has my group of friends excited in 2012 and rightfully so as a fixed extended, Legacy is far more interesting to me.
Between that first Grand Prix and this past weekend, I attended a pair of Star City events in Cincinnati. In those events I upgraded to Ad Nauseam Tendrils thanks to the ability to borrow Underground Seas from Dave Bruce. ANT does not have nearly the glass jaw as Belcher but has just as much fun in it, as you are still counting to a high number with storm. The first SCGO was right after Mental Misstep was printed, and that card was just beginning to warp a format leaning blue heavy at that moment already.
I finished that event 5-3, which was pretty good fighting through effectively 8 copies of Force of Will (to my deck, it might as well have been). The second SCGO came a few months later in February 2012, and I managed to talk Mike and Mike and Joey to come down for that event. Joey audibled to drafting at the last minute, but Burton played Pox and Villa played Burn. Despite the removal of Mental Misstep from the format, blue is still heavily played enough to make Belcher a highly risky choice at best. I had built Elves and wanted to run that, but stuck with Tendrils because I knew it better. The results were not good, as the deck just had a very bad day. I squeaked out a .500 record somehow (including one of my best played matches of magic ever against Affinity, where I stormed off for 7 one turn and kept an Ill Gotten Gains back to storm for 5 the next turn when I needed to get to 12 total) and called it a day.
So with four weeks to prepare for Grand Prix Indy, I kept working with the Elves deck. Basically, I thought the format set up well for fair decks (UW Stoneforge, Maverick, and RUG Delver) which had made up about 35-40% of the format in the previous month. Although Elves is like drawing dead in poker when it plays against other combo decks, it is built to dominate the "fair" decks at the top of the format. I decided to roll the dice and play an elf deck for really the first time since my Trinity successes in 2004 and 2005. And man, did it feel good.
So the stage was set: hope to avoid combo decks and make Day 2, where the field would be littered with players on the top 3 decks in the format. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Here's the recap:
Round 1 vs. Sneak and Show: Game 1, he is on the play and comes out slow with a couple Islands and ponder, brainstorm. I actually had him on Tendrils and tried to set up for a turn 3 win. On turn 3 he played Show and Tell and Emrakul, while I awkwardly had a hand full of Chords and GSZ's which meant the heavy creature deck had no action on a Show and Tell (how lucky). I could not get there on turn 3. Game 2 he went off for a Progenitus on turn 2 and then Firespouted me on turn 3, wrecking any hope I had of a comeback. I could not win on turn 3 through that. Not a great matchup for me and his deck performed ideally. (0-1)
Round 2 vs. Reanimator: Lucky me, a second straight deck running Show and Tell. On the play, he laid a turn two Jin-Gitaxis and I was not able to put enough pressure on the board on turn 2 to overcome his advantage with drawing seven cards a turn. I mulliganed once to try and find a Leyline of the Void but missed and just went for it. That did not end well, as I faced a turn 2 Elesh Norn and a turn 3 Iona. There's no out for that in Elves, no matter how you build it. Sigh. (0-2)
Round 3 vs. RUG Delver: This guy had triple sleeved his deck. Triple sleeved...which means it looked like Battle of Wits despite only having 60 cards in it. Ridiculous! Game 1 he put some board pressure on with Tarmogoyf and Delver of Secrets, but I managed to combo out through his limited countermagic on the turn before he was lethal. In game two, I again fought through his countermagic to partially combo off and finished that turn with a Choke that locked the game down. A fair deck goes down in flames and hope is still alive. (1-2)
Round 4 vs. Goblins: When I see turn 1 Mountain, Goblin Lackey, I know I am in for a race. I laid out Nettle Sentinel and put the big elf on defense as I tried to assemble the combo pieces quickly. However, my deck came out incredibly slowly and was unusually decimated by a Gempalm Incinerator when I fell slightly behind on creature count. In game 2, I began comboing off in turn 3 and despite playing Regal Force, I completely whiffed on my draws. I had seen nothing but Mountains and Wastelands to this point and wanted to overwhelm my opponent while I had the advantage, so I went ahead and put most of my hand on the board. My opponent then goes: fetchland, B/R dual land, Perish.
Well played, goblins player. Well played. I cannot beat that. I lost a few long disappointing turns later to a deck I probably should beat. (1-3)
Thought about dropping for side events at this point but decided to keep playing to enjoy my entry fee rather than risk more money on a draft or a commander game that might not last long, since the girls were at an Indianapolis museum and would not pick me up until the evening. Might as well see if I can get on the winning side of the ledger, as I told myself I'd be disappointed with anything worse than a 6-3 finish on the day considering how well positioned Elves was for the format.
Round 5 vs. Burn: This matchup is all about winning the die roll, as the deck is just about as quick as the Elf deck. Game 1 I won the die roll and managed to stick a Mirror Entity on turn 3 with 4 mana available to protect it should that become necessary. It was not necessary and I swung for 33 on turn 4 to win. Game 2 my opponent went first and crushed me before I could combo out. Game 3 the first turn was back to me and I put about 6 elves on the table on turn 3, including Ezuri. I also had five mana available so when my opponent tried to kill Ezuri the next turn, I did the Overrun effect and forced him to use another burn spell. I still ground out the victory because he was inexperienced and played a second Pyrostatic Pillar when he was behind on board position and equal in life total. I swung over with the team and made it impossible for him to win without killing himself via Pillar, which he did. (2-3)
Round 6 vs. UW Stoneforge: Another fair deck I wanted to face, yay! These two games went a lot like the RUG Delver games, except that this player had slightly more countermagic and slightly less early threats. By the time he played Jace on turn 4 of game 1, I had lethal staring at him and even bouncing Ezuri was not going to stop that. In game 2 he played a stoneforge mystic on turn 3, which opened the door for me to force through a Choke after having my Glimpse of Nature countered on the following turn. Despite having the Wrath of God in hand, his tapped out Tundras made him an easy target to pick off from there. (3-3)
Round 7 vs. LED Dredge: Despite coming out a bit slow in game 1, the Dredge deck has a huge advantage here and he finally crushed me on his fourth turn. I boarded in my six hate cards and managed to pull a Leyline for game 2. That was enough when going first to allow me to win quickly while he stumbled to find an answer. In game 3 I mulliganed a great hand because I had a sneaking suspicion I needed Leyline on the draw to have any chance. A double mulligan later and I had one, and I followed that up with a second one after I comboed out Birchlore Rangers and some other elves on turn 5. As it turns out, my opponent had the enchantment kill for one of the Leylines, but the second one made the game academic. (4-3)
Round 8 vs. High Tide Combo: I went into round 8 knowing this was likely my last round, as the girls were picking me up and Pastimes ran way too slow for us to manage even 8 rounds in 10 and a half hours. Unfortunately, I ran into my worst nightmare in a quicker combo deck. He wrecked me both games and had the Candelabra tech, so his deck was high quality. I could see myself playing High Tide someday because it is a lot like Tendrils...deck manipulation to find the pieces and countermagic (instead of discard) to protect the combo. Anyway, not much to speak of here as I was one turn away from comboing each time he went off. Par for the course. (4-4)
Despite the terrible finish, I really would stick by this deck choice if I had the choice to make again. If the format stay pretty much the same, I still think Elves is one of the best options because it has such good game against the top decks in the format with their limited countermagic and their limited mass creature kill.
And in the end, I did enjoy playing the little elves again. Unfortunately my old nemesis Goblins was there to absolutely wreck my day, just like back in 2001 when Tom Wood wrecked me with Goblins against Elves in the finals of the MML league. So I have no idea when the next Adventure in Legacy will be, but that's OK because I've had a couple mediocre events in quick succession and have scratched the itch for now. I'm now going to eventually turn my attention to brewing for Modern with the boys, and then also to playing with the Commander decks, which you can still pick up at your local Target, Wal-Mart, and Meijer. Epic finds this late after release, but I'll take it.