Legacy and Modern in the Magic Players Championship

While I underperformed (yet again) at Grand Prix: Worcester (by opening a reasonable pool that could masquerade as a W/U tempo Draft deck; having no removal in your Sealed pool is a good way to not do well), I did do manage to split Top 4 of the TCGplayer Legacy event with an old favorite: R/U/G Delver, or as people more familiar with the history of Legacy might know it, Canadian Threshold.

Originally, Canadian Threshold made Top 8 in GP: Chicago in the very capable hands of Dave Caplan (a.k.a. goobafish on Magic Online):

However, things have changed a lot since this era. For one thing, as people slowly realized that playing more lands makes your Legacy deck more stable, Stifle became progressively worse and worse. Fire // Ice is an extremely inefficient burn spell by modern Legacy standards (see Forked Bolt). Rushing River is interesting in conjunction with Wasteland and Daze (since it almost makes your Daze live again by itself).

What changes in three years? As you can see, not much:

While you might be tired of Delver of Secrets, it makes perfect sense in this shell of a deck with a whopping twenty-eight instants or sorceries to enable a blind-flip transformation, not to mention that Brainstorm virtually guarantees a transformation if you cast Brainstorm with the Delver of Secrets trigger on the stack.

The list was very good for me. Three Thought Scour is a metric ton of Thought Scours, but it’s the only way to reliably ensure a bigger Nimble Mongoose ahead of schedule. It also has synergy with Grim Lavamancer, sideboarded Life from the Loam, and Ponder and Brainstorm (to clear away chaff). Also, you can Thought Scour your opponent if he casts Ponder and leaves all three on top with no fetch land in play.

Forked Bolt
In this configuration, you are a bit soft to G/W, although the matchup is not completely unwinnable if you have a fast draw (involving Delver of Secrets) and draw all of your removal. If you expect more G/W in your tournaments, you should shave Spell Pierces for more removal spells (Dismember and possibly a second Forked Bolt) and potentially Spell Snares.

I wouldn’t mind having access to a second Life from the Loam, and Phantasmal Image was a card I wanted to try, as it is a reasonable card to have access to as a one-of.

My matchups were as follows: G/W (loss), three R/U/G mirrors (wins), one Merfolk (win), U/R Delver (win), Zombies (win), and a win against U/B/r Storm in Round 1 of the Top 8. The Top 4 (one G/W, two R/U/G, and one High Tide) agreed to a prize split.

For the most part, the plays were not very interesting, and they mostly consisted of figuring out what cantrip to cast on what turn and whether or not I should leave mana up for Spell Pierce or Lightning Bolt.

Two to three of my R/U/G opponents had Stifle, which made playing lands a bit trickier since if you do not play carefully, it’s easy to find yourself in a position in which you are unable to cast any spells.

Stifle
Here are some tips on playing versus Stifle:

  • If you don’t need to, don’t play and activate a fetch land into available blue mana. Just keep playing lands. (This is another reason to have nineteen lands in R/U/G as opposed to the commonly seen eighteen).
  • If you do need to activate a fetch land or Wasteland, do it during the opponent’s upkeep (to cast Brainstorm or Lightning Bolt) since this puts him down a mana for that turn.
  • Keeping a hand that is heavier on lands against Stifle builds is much better because you can just keep playing lands (as in the first point).

Overall, I don’t really like Stifle, and I think it is a terrible card.

One interesting play I did make was against R/U/G in the last round of Swiss.

His turn one was Volcanic Island, Grim Lavamancer, and pass.

My turn one was Volcanic Island and pass.

His turn two was Wasteland, activating it targeting my Volcanic Island. I cast Lightning Bolt on his Grim Lavamancer in response.

At that point, he should have been thinking, “Why is my opponent casting Lightning Bolt now instead of on his turn?”

The real reason was to try to bait another spell from him with a Daze in hand so I could basically negate the effect of the Wasteland. He did in fact cast Spell Pierce targeting my Lightning Bolt, so I was able to Daze his Spell Pierce. I honestly think it is probably better for him to just let his Lavamancer die and let the Wasteland activation resolve.

All in all, I would highly recommend playing R/U/G (even if it’s the most played deck) for live tournaments.

I’ve also been playing quite a bit of Modern, and I just looked at the Modern decks from the Magic Players Championship.

There are some . . . interesting decks here.

Instead of being on the more reactive end of Delver decks, Junya decided to just play eight under-costed fatties (four Tarmogoyf and four Knight of the Reliquary). His spell selection skews way more on the proactive side of the spectrum, with three Bant Charm, four Lightning Bolt, four Lightning Helix, and four Path to Exile all being removal spells. Bant Charm, Mana Leak, and Negate also let him have five counterspells in the correct matchups, and two Elspeth, Knight-Errant round out a good way to win creature mirrors. He has twenty-one instants and/or sorceries for blind-flip Delver transformations and two great utility lands (Moorland Haunt and Stirring Wildwood). Post-board, he is able to bring in the queen of creature mirrors Baneslayer Angel and have access to great hosers (Stony Silence, Grafdigger's Cage, and Arena).

All in all, I think this is a great deck with a lot of thought put into it, and it excites me a lot more than R/W/U or R/U/G Delver.

Shouta Yasooka came to the Modern portion of the Magic Players Championship with this spicy little number:

Aether Vial
It’s always hard for me to figure out what is going through Yasooka’s mind when he builds decks. That being said, this deck does look pretty interesting. It seems to be an evolution of the deck he played at Pro Tour: Philadelphia (G/W/U/B Vial Midrange). My guess would be that he figured out red provided all of the answers he was looking for and also strained his mana quite a bit less. Still, there are major issues with this deck. Having twenty-one lands with a ton of colored spells and expensive spells means you will have a lot of clunky hands if you don’t draw Aether Vial. Besides that, I look forward to trying this deck out on Magic Online and seeing why he decided on the numbers he did.

I don’t think the rest of the decks are very interesting, although it is notable that ChannelFireball chose to play Zoo, as did Reid Duke. Finkel and Kibler played an updated build of Tzu Ching Kuo’s Angel-Geist-Snapcaster deck. Kuo himself switched to artifact aggro, presumably on the hopes that people would skimp on hate for it. Juza, Watanabe, and Shuhei all played Jund to prey upon the expected Delver decks. Estratti and Hayne chose to play R/U/G Delver.

All in all, the metagame for the Magic Players Championship was quite diverse, albeit with a lot fewer combo decks than I was expecting.

I look forward to seeing the rest of the coverage for this week, and I appreciate any comments or concerns here or on Twitter @jkyu06.

Thanks for reading!