Attacking Standard & Delving into Legacy

As I mentioned at the end of my last article, I opted to go to SCG Columbus to play in both Opens instead of PTQing. I gave up on a much closer tournament, a chance at a Pro Tour invite, and valuable Planeswalker Points for a rare opportunity to play in an SCG event. Sure, there are Opens almost every week on the east coast and in the Midwest, but they are usually a six- to eight-hour drive away, which isn’t worth it to me unless I have a car full of people to go with. Thankfully, I had such a car and group of friends that weekend.

Saturday

I woke up on Saturday with very little motivation to play Standard. I was already feeling more pumped for the chance to play some Legacy on Sunday. Nevertheless, I arrived at the Columbus Convention Center and devoured multiple breakfast sandwiches, using the leftover change to buy a [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card].

[deck title=GW Aggro – Alex Bianchi]
[Lands]
8 Forest
7 Plains
4 Temple Garden
4 Selesnya Guildgate
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Experiment One
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Boon Satyr
3 Banisher Priest
2 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Call of the Conclave
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
4 Advent of the Wurm
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
4 Skylasher
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Last Breath
2 Rootborn Defenses
2 Unflinching Courage
1 Banisher Priest
2 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

My starting point was Andrew Shrout’s deck from his Indianapolis Open and Las Vegas Invitational top eights. I also looked at Brad Nelson’s Chronicler of Heroes/Gyre Sage version. I ultimately liked Shrout’s version better, but I borrowed the four Ajani’s from Brad’s list.

Ajani adds a lot of extra power to the deck, and I made room for them by moving two [card]Skylasher[/card]s, one [card]Banisher Priest[/card], and one [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card] to the sideboard. Those cards are more situational than I’d like, and I would rather have the extra power for game one to just get the opponent dead as efficiently as possible. Many opponents will leave themselves vulnerable to Ajani if they aren’t aware of it, and then promptly take ten or more damage from a double-striking Wurm.

The Standard Open had a whopping 688 players, and my ten rounds went like this:

Win vs. Esper Humans
Loss vs. Rw Devotion
Win vs. BW Midrange
Loss vs. GW Aggro
Win vs. Mono-Green Aggro
Win vs. Gr Devotion
Win vs. Bg Devotion
Win vs. Rw Devotion
Win vs. RG Monsters
Loss vs. Esper Devotion

7-3, just good enough to top-64 and cash. A few of these matches were ridiculously close-I was a point of damage short of winning one match and had to topdeck an Ajani to win another. Frankly, those kinds of nail-biters are what you have to expect from a GW Aggro deck.

Though I didn’t play against Mono-Black Devotion exactly, I did face four [card]Desecration Demon[/card] decks. This matchup is where GW shines. [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] is hard for them to deal with; [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] hits their Demons; and our cards are so efficient that we can out-muscle a turn-two [card]Pack Rat[/card]. I didn’t play against Mono-Blue Devotion or any [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] decks, but I’d like to think that the eight pro-blue creatures push those matchups in our favor as well.

I think that [card]Call of the Conclave[/card] versus [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] is up for debate, as each of them has its strengths and weaknesses. Shrout advocated Call in his latest article. The Centaur token is better against [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] and Blood Baron of Vizkopa; it also can’t get Lifebane Zombied, and has synergy with [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card]. Fleecemane is better against [card]Ultimate Price[/card], bounce, and exile effects and becomes near invulnerable if you ever monstrous it. I’m still not sure if one is better than the other, but that’s the kind of thing that might change from week to week.

I believe that GW Aggro remains well-positioned and underrepresented at the top tables. Perhaps there is some aversion from experienced players toward a “GW Little-Kid” deck and the stigma that comes with it, but I have a lot of respect for a good aggro player when I see one. The release of Born of the Gods brings [card]Temple of Plenty[/card], which will automatically replace the [card]Selesnya Guildgate[/card]. [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card], is another exciting card, but the deck might have to favor white mana more heavily to support him. The archetype will definitely deserve a second look when the format changes in the upcoming week.

Sunday

I’ll start by saying that this was my first major Legacy tournament, but I’ve been following Legacy for a while, so I didn’t feel completely lost. On Saturday, I chose a Standard deck that I wouldn’t usually play because of its position in the format. But on Sunday, I chose the “best deck,” which also happens to match the type that I enjoy playing.

[deck title=UWR Delver – Alex Bianchi]
[Lands]
4 Tundra
3 Volcanic Island
4 Arid Mesa
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Wasteland
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Stoneforge Mystic
2 True-Name Nemesis
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Spell Pierce
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Gitaxian Probe
4 Daze
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Force of Will
1 Batterskull
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
2 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Wear//Tear
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Meddling Mage
2 Rest in Peace
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 True-Name Nemesis
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

There’s not much I can say about Jacob Wilson’s Delver list except that I really enjoyed playing it. It’s so finely tuned that I didn’t want to mess with it; though, I did consider making room for a [card]Runed Halo[/card] in the sideboard as anti-[card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] tech. I know that some lists don’t play the [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], but I found it to be very useful, especially since I’m not extremely well-versed in Legacy.

My nine rounds resulted in the following:

Win vs. UWr Miracles
Win vs. UR Delver
Loss vs. Dark Maverick
Loss vs. RUG Delver
Win vs. MUD
Win vs. Pox
Win vs. 12-Post
Win vs. Dredge
Loss vs. Esper Deathblade

Some rounds were a struggle to figure out what cards to expect from my opponent, but I played as technically sound as I could and learned enough to cobble together a 6-3 record and another top 64. I spent a good half a day getting reps in with the deck before the tournament, so I have to give credit to my testing partners for that.

I’m making qualifying for and playing in an SCG Invitational one of my goals for this year, and now I’m four points closer to that. (Hey, it’s a start.) After getting a small taste of the Open Series grind, I’m not crazy about it. But there are some nice incentives for amateur players, so I can see the appeal. It had been a year and a half since the last Open I played in, and I’ll be coming back much sooner than that this time.

Finally, I have to give props to KYT for his PTQ top eight in Toronto (and GP top 16); he’s clearly getting back into Magic shape quickly. I can only assume that I was the one who drove him to success after beating him in the Syracuse PTQ a couple of weeks ago.

Alex Bianchi
@Gemmanite