Playing Legacy at SCG Baltimore
Two weekends ago, I took the trek down to Baltimore to play in the SCG Team Open. Of course, I was the Legacy player. As has been the case recently, I couldn’t find a good reason not to play Grixis Delver. So, I decided to run back the same decklist I played in SCG DC with some minor changes in the sideboard.
I cut the Dread of Night for an Izzet Staticaster and the 3rd Surgical Extraction for a Pithing Needle. Dread of Night ended up being too narrow in the current metagame and Izzet Staticaster fills the same role, albeit much slower. As for Surgical, I do like having access to 3 pieces of Graveyard hate. But, based on the DC metagame, I did not anticipate a large swath of graveyard decks, and Pithing Needle overlapped with some of those decks, like Lands.
My team in Baltimore went 6-3, missing day 2, but it was a blast, as always. Our team’s losses came at poor times, but our individual records were 6-2-DNF, 6-2-DNF, and 6-3, with both DNFs being team wins. We weren’t too unhappy with the outcome, although at least making day 2 would have been nice.
My personal record was 6-2-DNF, and my matches broke down as such:
Mono-Black Pox - Win: 2-0
Esper Deathblade - DNF: 1-1
Infect - Win: 2-0
Grixis Delver - Loss: 1-2
Temur Lands - Win: 2-0
Grixis Delver - Loss: 1-2
4-Color Young Pyromancer - Win: 2-0
Czech Pile - Win: 2-0
Infect - Win: 2-0
To me, the most notable point here is going 0-2 in the mirror match all day, which I am not particularly pleased with. To some extent, this matchup is draw dependent. Sometimes one player draws an excellent mix of threats and disruption, and pulls cards off the top better in the late-game, but I don’t think that happened here. On occasion, games end completely on the mana-denial axis, and that happened at least once in each match. However, for the most part, I think I navigated the pacing in the early/mid-game relatively poorly. When the games were mostly at parity, I acted with too much urgency, thinking I needed to get something going. I would cast my cantrips more aggressively than I needed to, and force action by deploying threats I wasn’t ready to play yet.
In reality, I needed to exhibit more patience, which can be a weakness in my game. In addition, both of my opponents played Grim Lavamancers against me in the late game, which I wasn’t running, and they completely took over the game. While I don’t think one single card totally skewed the matches, it did give my opponents a small edge over me on the deck building side. I think I learned a lot from these games and hopefully i’m going to be able to apply these lessons to my game going forward.
The rest of my matches were relatively straightforward. The only other major point of worth is regarding Infect. While I do think this is generally a favorable matchup, I also drew incredibly well, and because of this the games didn’t look very close. Infect is by no means a bye matchup, though. It is relatively intricate and Infect has a lot of good tools for ending the game. It is definitely possible that all of Delver’s cards line up improperly and they can either combo-kill fast or grind out damage in a longer game. In general, though, I think if both decks have good draws, Delver has a significant edge in the matchup, and my draws were above average. In addition, my sideboard was also well set-up for the matchup with 2 Forked Bolts in the mix, which proved pivotal.
After finishing the day and getting food, I decided that I was going to play in the Legacy Classic. Instead of the same deck list, however, I decided to play Bob Huang’s decklist with some changes in the sideboard. I was pretty high on Stifle going into the event, but in the team event, I ended up sideboarding it out a lot. I still think that the card is great, and it’s a strong direction for the deck to take, but after losing to the mirror twice, and not getting much value out of the card, I decided I wanted to change it up.
Here is what I played:
Recency bias might have taken ahold of me and convinced me to play Grim Lavamancer in the sideboard. Usually I don’t play it because I don’t love having creatures that have to untap in order to generate any kind of value. However, playing against it twice the day before gave me a new perspective on the card. It seemed to be most effective as a 1-mana trump card in the late game that demands a removal spell in mana situations. I always viewed it as a split card which was early threat/mid-game removal stick, but against Delver, the threats get removed so frequently. Holding onto it until the game drags on for a bit seemed like a solid approach, and I wanted to try it out.
The classic ended up being 7 rounds. Here’s how the swiss of the classic went for me:
Food Chain - Win: 2-1
Death and Taxes - Win: 2-0
Cloudpost MUD - Win: 2-0
Sneak and Show - Win: 2-1
Death and Taxes - Win: 2-1
The first thing to note is that I did not play against the expected metagame even slightly. Food Chain was a nice curveball to start the day, and it’s definitely a deck I don’t have a ton of practice against. I think when the games go long it can be tough to power through their Misthollow Griffins, Leovolds, and the potential for infinite combos. Because of this, I decided my best route was just to get aggressive, make all of my decisions with the intent of getting their life total low, and end late-game stalls with a Deathrite Shaman activation or Lightning Bolt, which seemed to work here. I’m not sure what is the best approach to this matchup, in general, but i’m certainly looking to get some more reps in against it.
On paper, MUD looks like an awful matchup to me. They have a ton of mana to ignore the taxing counters, lock pieces which just about end the game on the spot if they resolve, and threats that cannot be beaten. However, in practice it isn’t that bad. Wasteland + Delver of Secrets really make stealing games much easier, and Delver having early pressure makes Ancient Tomb much more of a liability to them. Even if they can get a lock piece into play and deal with the early pressure, Gurmag Angler and True-Name Nemesis can end the game in short order. I don’t know if I would choose to play against this deck in any given event, but it is definitely not as bad as it looks.
Against Sneak and Show I want to say that nothing of worth happened. That the games played out normally, with the combination of pressure and counters either being good enough or not, and this is mostly true. Except that in game 2, on the play, I mulliganed to 4 and won that game. I kept Ponder, Volcanic Island, Daze, and Gurmag Angler. My opponent kept a 6 that involved Brainstorm and 2 Emrakuls, and I countered the Brainstorm aggressively. They were able to cantrip into more threats, but I kept drawing disruption for the threats they played. One nice advantage about mulliganing low is that when you have the answer, the opponent is probably not going to play around it. Eventually, I found an Underground Sea and Gurmag Angler closed the game just in time. This was the least likely victory of the weekend, but hey, i’ll take it.
My games against Death and Taxes in round 5 were really intricate and incredibly close. Palace Jailer show its face in game 1, and I played some True-Name’s to take the crown every turn, thus attempting to continue my steak of never losing a game wherein my opponent was the monarch. However, a timely Flickerwisp came down on one of the last turns of the game, had a Batterskull put on it, and closed the door on my streak. Luckily in the post-board games I was able to grind my opponent down with removal and a diversified threat base. My opponent did cast a Holy Light against me, which I never saw coming, but luckily my board was full of Deathrite Shamans so I was able to get in the last few points of damage without the combat step.
My top 8 match was against Miracles and I wish I could say it was closer. Somehow my closest game was the first one in which I mulliganed to 5. I was able to assemble a board with True-Name Nemesis and defend it from a Counterspell with a Daze relatively early. Terminus has some words for the sneaky Merfolk, though, and it became much too difficult to claw my way back into the game. I think I messed up my priorities in game 2 early on. I had to decide between taking Swords to Plowshares or Back to Basics with my turn 1 Cabal Therapy. My hand had a few creatures in it, so I decided I was going to take the Swords, and Therapy away the Back to Basics next turn. My opponent found a Brainstorm, though, and Back To Basics essentially ended the game. I know I should have taken the Basics, but I definitely just made the wrong call. Part of it might have been not having a good enough knowledge regarding my gameplan in the matchup. I think this is a matchup I need to play against a lot more really understand what makes it tick.
Regardless of the event ended, I was happy enough with the top 8, and relatively happy with how the Open went. I have been performing very consistently in Legacy lately, but I would like to convert this consistency into a higher finish. I think I have spent a lot of time focusing on make a lot of the small choices correctly and this has really paid off for me. However, I think I might play too conservatively and I haven’t been willing enough to take risks. This has gone a long way towards getting me to where I am now, but I think I have to figure out how to adjust this part of my game.For now, though, the Invitational is in a few days and I need to figure out how to improve at both Standard and Modern and see if I can get a solid finish in Virginia. In general, I don’t love Modern, but this Standard format is awesome. Regardless of format enjoyment, it is nice to be deeply focusing on learning the keys of each format and it’s an excellent change of pace. Hopefully, I can get a good enough view of what matters in each format and put up a strong result. It will be nice to get back to some Legacy afterwards, though!
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