SCG Legacy Open DC: 13th

Rich Cali
October 31, 2017

Before my last article, I had spent a lot of my time playing Czech Pile and was pretty certain that I was going to play that at the Open. However, I thought Grixis Delver was more than strong enough to warrant spending at least a week finalizing my decision. My results in that week of testing were far better than my results with Czech Pile and it reminded me just how powerful this version of Delver was. Not only was I winning more with the deck but most of my losses were much closer than they were with Pile. It was hard to ignore this when it came to choosing my deck and by the start of last week I settled on playing Delver and wanted to lock in a solid deck list.

This is what I chose to play:

Grixis DelverRich Cali Young Pyromancer True-Name Nemesis Gurmag Angler Delver of Secrets Deathrite Shaman Wasteland Volcanic Island Underground Sea Tropical Island Polluted Delta Misty Rainforest Ponder Gitaxian Probe Stifle Spell Pierce Lightning Bolt Force of Will Dismember Daze Brainstorm Surgical Extraction Pyroblast Kolaghan's Command Forked Bolt Flusterstorm Fatal Push Dread of Night Diabolic Edict Cabal Therapy Ancient Grudge

The entire list is nothing special. Using LewisCBR’s list as a reference point, I cut the 1 Forked Bolt from the main deck for a Dismember and made some sideboard changes based on my playstyle and the expected metagame. I cut 1 Ancient Grudge, 1 Pithing Needle, 1 Grafdigger’s Cage, 1 Dismember, and 1 REB for 1 Fatal Push, 1 Forked Bolt, 1 Surgical, 1 Kolaghan’s Command, and 1 Dread of Night. I really wanted to emphasize removal to help shore up the matchup against Death and Taxes. Kolaghan’s Command seemed perfect for helping Grixis get back in the game against that deck, while also helping Grixis pull ahead against Czech Pile by clearing the board. I felt a little weak to board flood by only playing 2 Forked Bolts and no clean wrath-effects, but I generally tend to play this deck as an aggressive tempo-strategy and Forked Bolt made a lot more sense over something like Electrickery. The last minute cut from my deck that I made on the trip down was cutting the Needle for the 3rd Surgical because I started to anticipate a lot of BR Reanimator. As I played against 0 Reanimator, I almost never brought it in and it was the worst card in my sideboard.

Here’s the rundown of how my event went:

Past in Flames Tendrils: 2-0

Esper Deathblade (Jessy Hefner): 2-1

Death and Taxes: 2-1

Lands: 2-1

The Epic Storm: 2-1

Grixis Delver (Brad Carpenter): 2-1

Past in Flames Tendrils (Caleb Scherer): 0-2

Grixis Delver: 2-0

Esper Deathblade (Jon Goss): 0-2

Infect: 2-1

Death and Taxes: 1-2

Charbelcher: 2-1

Jeskai Stoneblade (My friend Luke): 2-1

Grixis Delver (Bob Huang): 0-2

Sneak and Show: 2-0

Where’s The Czech Pile?

The most interesting thing of note to me here is that I played against 0 Czech Pile decks. Even more so, despite being the most popular deck going into day 2, the deck did not place anywhere in the top 32. As an aside to my personal performance, I’m having difficulty properly interpreting this, especially considering how well the deck performs online. I do think the deck is challenging to play so perhaps the deck had more difficulty putting up good results because of pilot error. I’m less inclined to think this is true because the deck has a lot of appealing qualities that would draw in experienced Legacy players. Some people discussed with me the possibility that the deck is not as good as the online results would suggest. I don’t think this is the case at all, though. I have played with and against the deck many times and it has a lot of game against much of the field.

I think the most likely situation is that people were gunning for it and were able to successfully find plans that answered the deck. Many of the Grixis Delver decks adopted the list that Bob Huang has been playing a lot of recently which is more threat dense than most versions and runs 2 Spell Pierce. This seems stronger overall against such a removal heavy deck as Czech Pile. In addition, the top-end of the event had some more fringe-decks, like 4-Color Loam and Esper Deathblade each putting 2 in the top 16 and Lands putting 3 in the top 32. Maybe these approaches boast strong matchups against the Czech Pile decks and are a good answer to a Pile-infested metagame. It’s difficult to tell exactly what is happening with these results and i’m certainly interested in what people think was going on here.

The Event

Regarding how the event went for me, I went 11-4 overall, putting me in 13th place, with 3 of my losses coming to eventual top 8 competitors. I am pretty happy about this result. I haven’t been competing in tournaments as much recently and this event was kind of a return to form for me. It was nice to see that I can still keep up in paper Magic and post some decent results. In addition, this means that of the last 4 SCG Legacy Opens I have played in, I have placed in the top 16 or higher each time, which are a consistent set of results that I am happy with. In addition, it was rewarding to do it without Miracles in my hands. If i’m going to get back into traveling for Magic events, I would like to start to convert more of my deep runs into top 8s, but for now I am somewhat proud of where I am ending up.

As I have mentioned before in this article series, I don’t love breaking down every game and match because as a reader, it is tedious to me. Not every game from this event is worth breaking down, but there were some notable instances and takeaways from the event that I want to go over.

The first is that Deathblade seems like a difficult matchup and that people might be starting to pick it up as a response to Delver. The combination of proactive threats in Deathrite, Stoneforge, and True-Name, as well as efficient answers like Swords and Baleful Strix really seems quite bothersome. While on the play, some games can be taken over with Stifle and Wasteland holding back their mana development, on the draw the plan does very little. I think with this deck increasing in popularity, moving back to Cabal Therapy as a main deck engine could be a strong response. Jeff Hoogland’s list using main deck Kolaghan’s Command seems like a great approach to handle the matchup, as well.

In game 1 against both Charbelcher and The Epic Storm I lost to a relatively large amount of goblins from Empty the Warrens. That’s difficult to stop game 1, especially if it happens too early to have Stifle up, but going into game 2 I didn’t feel overly comfortable because I didn’t have a clean answer to it. I knew this was a risk going in, and I still like having the Forked Bolts in my deck, but perhaps it would be better to trim the Dread of Night in the sideboard in lieu of a more rounded answer, like Izzet Staticaster.

Speaking of Dread of Night, it was good against my round 11 Death and Taxes opponent, but it most certainly didn’t end the game on the spot. Stoneforge Mystic gives that deck a lot of game against the card, and the shift towards having multiple Mirran Crusaders in the deck (in game 3 he had 3! It was brutal and hilarious at the same time) still requires the Delver player to keep drawing spot removal, which can be a difficult task. Of course, I think Dread of Night positively warps the matchup in Grixis’ favor, but the fact that it is a dedicated sideboard slot that doesn’t properly answer the direction the deck has been going means it might be worth adjusting the slot.

Going into the event, my plan was to cut all of my Stifles in the mirror, regardless of play or draw. The mana denial plan is somewhat worth it, but does not have an impact on any other stage of the matchup. Overall, this went well for me, but against Bob in round 14 I decided to keep them in after losing game 1. It was just a gut feeling that I should leave them in and try to “get him.” Why I decided to try to “get” Bob I can’t tell you, but I did. Well, he proceeded to play a Gurmag Angler on an empty board and I drew 2 Stifles in a row and then died, so to say that went according to plan would be appropriate. I don’t think it’s explicitly wrong to do so, and trying to maximize the advantage generated in the mana denial stage seems ok, but so many games move past that part of the game relatively quickly, so I don’t think I would recommend it in the future.

Overall, however, I think Stifle was a good choice to have in my deck. Many opponents didn’t play around it and I was able to easily steal a few games on the back of it. My Dazes felt very relevant in almost every matchup because of it and it is really nice to have an answer to fast Empty the Warrens in game 1, even if it didn’t work out for me in the event in that way. I think I might be playing too aggressively against known Storm opponents and that could be costing me some games. I think I need to approach the matchup playing more of a control roles if I can’t deploy a threat and hold up Stifle at the same time on turn 2. Part of me just wants to cut the possible turns off that my opponent can have, but my results have suggested that this is likely too risky of a choice to make.

Legacy is Great

I think Grixis Delver is such a solid deck that at the moment that it seems difficult to choose to play anything else. I have never subscribed to the notion of playing the deck that beats the best deck. I would just prefer to play the best deck and Grixis is so powerful and consistent that passing it up seems silly. I’m not 100% sure that this is the best way to build it for another long Legacy tournament, but I think I would run it back if I had the choice.

That being said, using the SCG DC results as a snapshot of the format, Legacy looks healthy to me. 8 Grixis Delver decks in the top 32 is a bit high, but not devastating by my count. The rest of the top 32 was very well varied, with a bunch of less popular archetypes popping up and doing well. Temur Delver, Miracles, Stax, Deathblade, Maverick, and Punishing Abzan, are all awesome decks to see perform well. There were 14 distinct archetypes in the top 32, and more if each variant is separated out, and I think that’s a good sign for Legacy. Personally, i’m excited to play some of these awesome Deathblade lists that have been coming out. They look great and like a ton of fun, so that will probably be keeping me occupied for the near future.

In the end, though, i’m happy with my result but know I can do better. I’m going to keep trying to improve and figure out my weak points and hopefully next time I can put up another top 8 finish!