Hi All, Last weekend I attended Legacy Masters hosted by Axion Now. For those who know me, Legacy isn’t really a format I play anywhere near as regularly as Standard, Limited or Modern, but I do find it fun! With some very lucrative prizes on the line for winning this event and given that I would be playing the team RPTQ the following day at the same venue, I really couldn’t resist temptation to make a full weekend trip of things this time round. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the deck I played, walk you through the rounds and provide some thoughts and reflections on the deck and the event itself.
I was fairly convinced that I was best-off sticking to my guns from the GP and running back four-colour Leovold or ‘Czech Pile’ as it is often called. I touch on the deck in my event coverage article from GP Birmingham earlier this year and the same principal philosophy still applies. I will pretty much always play ‘fair’ creature-based decks in Legacy as I don’t enjoy playing ‘unfair’ combo decks. Grixis Delver is coined as the ‘best deck and likely would be the most popular archetype at the event. I don’t mind Delver, and you might ask ‘why not just play that instead?’. The honest answer is that I haven’t played anything resembling a ‘Delver deck’ since 2015 and my comfort zone lies more with playing more controlling strategies. If I had more time for Legacy, I’d likely try and practice with the Grixis Delver deck, but given I don’t, I think it’s important I stick to what I’m more confident in playing. Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa wrote a good article about this kind of dilemma exploring it in detail.
Czech Pile is well set up to fight the Delver menace as well as other creature-based decks due to a high concentration of removal and overlapping card advantage. You also get to play Leovold, Emissary of Trest, which I like very much in the format. On the flip-side, there are a few strategies that this deck is weak to. Combo decks can be troublesome, but, in particular, Blood Moon, Price of Progress and Dark Depths are all very strong against you. Here is the list I finally settled on and registered for the event.
The core cards
- Deathrite Shaman
- Baleful Strix
- Snapcaster Mage
- Leovold, Emissary of Trest
- Kolaghan’s Command
- Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- Force of Will
No matter how you tweak the Czech Pile deck, these cards will always be at its heart.
Key configuration cards
- Preordain: My first intuition was to run Ponder instead of this card, but I was advised to try Preordain before GP Birmingham and have liked it so far. Here are some comparisons between the two:
- Ponder will dig three cards deep, and allow you to shuffle your deck and draw a new random card when all of them are irrelevant. Preordain does a close impression of this, but has the added flexibility of filtering bad cards to the bottom while keeping the relevant ones on top at the same time. The cost of needing to keep one relevant card at the price of two irrelevant ones when you can’t shuffle them away is real in this deck is much higher than in other decks. You aren’t applying a fast clock like Delver and so drawing card that don’t impact the matchup comes at a greater cost. Comparing also to other control decks like Miracles, you don’t care about the top card of your deck and you don’t have ‘haymakers’ like Entreat the Angels, Counterbalance or Terminus, which are sometimes fine to keep at the cost of two bad cards in subsequent turns as cards like these have a much higher ceiling than the cards in Czech Pile.
- I think scrying two bad cards to the bottom and drawing a new one is a slight advancement on shuffling three bad cards away and drawing a random new card.
- When you Ponder and two out of three cards are good, you often keep them on top, put the third one last and try to shuffle it away. In the case where you keep all the cards you see with Ponder, it has the upper hand because the third card might be the one you need earlier than the others, however, in the case where you keep all three and only switch the top two around, Preordain is very similar, you just don’t know what the third card is and can’t consider it in your strategy.
- Removal with CMC 1: Last time I played 3 Fatal Push and 1 Lightning Bolt, but I’ve increased the number of Lightning Bolts so I now have a 2-2 split. Increasing your outs against Magus of the Moon, Planeswalkers and speeding up your clock in the mid-late game are good reasons for doing this. Tarmogoyf is not really being played in the format very much, so there are very few occasions where you would wish you had Fatal Push instead of Lightning Bolt (I think Thought-Knot Seer is the most common exception).
- Hymn to Tourach: I was previously down on this card, but I’ve realised that it’s one of the stronger cards in the mirror and gives you a better way to attack combo decks. The deck can’t apply a fast clock in the same way a Delver of Secrets will, but with Sensei’s Divining Top out of the format, putting your opponent in Topdeck mode early on is a good way of applying pressure on almost every opponent. They also board easily when they are not relevant (e.g. against Dredge or Reanimator).
- Thoughtseize: My previous sideboard ran 6 ‘Blast effects’, but I trimmed on these this time round for what I thought would be a good card for the mirror as well as provide additional disruption against Combo decks, where I sideboard out a lot of cards such as Baleful Strix and many of the removal spells.
- Diabolic Edict: A concession to Marit Lage tokens and True-Name Nemesis and to a much lesser extent Reality Smasher. They are very strong against your strategy and primary ways you lose games.
- Toxic Deluge: I like having a catch-all answer in case your opponent overwhelms your spot removal suite, particularly through cards like Entreat the Angels or Empty the Warrens. It’s also very strong against Elves.
- Abrupt Decay: Again, it’s a preference of mine to have answers to cards like Counterbalance and Search for Azcanta and Blood Moon (if you can float the mana, or cast via Deathrite Shaman) in the maindeck.
I travelled to the event with Luke Kay, a local Leeds player. Luke was determined to cast as many Blood Moon effects against his opponents as quickly as possible to prevent them from playing any Magic. I can hardly say I blame him seeing as it was the victorious strategy from GP Birmingham.
Over a hundred players were in attendance, but not quite enough for eight rounds. Here’s how things played out.
Round one vs Miracles
- Game one: My opponent opens with cantrips into Counterbalance. Luckily I kept a hand with Abrupt Decay and I’m able to progress may gameplan without my spells randomly getting countered. Unfortunately, my deck doesn’t pressure particularly well and my strike force of two Baleful Strix is faced with Terminus. Deciding my Fatal Push is dead (and hoping for a lack of maindeck Monastery Mentor) I kill my own Strix and Kolaghan’s Command it back and cause my opponent to discard a card. I’m then able to use Force of Will on my opponent’s follow-up Jace the Mind Sculptor without removing my own. Once I get my Jace on the board and start to Fateseal, my opponent concedes.
- Game two: This game is a bit slower because we both have one mana spells that ‘counter target blue spell’ in our decks, but it’s essentially about letting him resolve pretty much anything except Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Search for Azcanta or Counterbalance. I’m able to apply pressure with Hymn to Tourach and force my opponent to dig for answers to Leovold. Although my opponent has Council’s Judgement to get rid of her, I arrive at the point where I can cast Jace with Force of Will backup and I’m soon Fatesealing my opponent into a concession again.
Round two vs Death and Taxes
- Game one: If there’s a matchup I want to face, it’s this one. I have enough removal for the troublesome creatures and Kolaghan’s command laughs in the face of my opponent’s equipment strategy. I take a few early beats from Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but resolving Leovold on turn three is very important as it deters the mana denial plan from the other side. My opponent doesn’t draw particularly well from there and, after removing his equipment and creatures, I take the game very easily.
- Game two: my opponent mulligans to five and I curve removal against Mother of Runes, Thalia, Stoneforge Mystic. My opponent actually draws quite well considering a mulligan to five, but given that no Mother of Runes ever lose summoning sickness, my removal package and Jace have a very easy time in this game.
Round three vs Storm
- Game one: My opponent opens with Island, Gitaxian Probe and a cantrip so I decide that he is likely on a combo deck. Although my opponent knows about it, having Force of Will is very important. As soon as I realise Cabal Ritual and Past in Flames might get played, I keep my opponent’s graveyard as empty as possible with Deathrite Shaman. I then use cantrips to try to draw into as many Hymn to Tourach and Leovold as possible. I instead get Jace and start to Fateseal and race my own Snapcaster Mage clock with loyalty abilities. Sooner or later I have multiple Force of Will in hand while putting cards my opponent needs to the bottom of their deck.
- Game two: My opponent has to mulligan but starts similarly to the previous game, Gitaxian Probe and Ponder, shuffling and drawing a fresh card. My hand has two Thoughtseize and Leovold but no Force of Will. When I cast my first one, I see my opponent’s hand has. Two rituals (one Dark, one Cabal), a Past in Flames two fetchlands and a Lotus Petal. I decide to take the Past in Flames as it will only give them one instance of ‘flashback my spells’ and tax their mana a little more than normal to do so. I’ve since thought about whether it was better to take either the Lotus Petal or Cabal Ritual, and still stand by my decision. The context is also important. My opponent knows I can play another Thoughtseize next turn and then Leovold the following turn, so they are sort-of pressured to try and go off next turn if they can. They also shuffled with Ponder so it’s not like they have a plan involving known cards on the top of their deck. I don’t die the following turn, take the Cabal Ritual, deploy Leovold, lock my opponent down, even missing a Leovold trigger on my oponent’s final turn (I was so far ahead I just forgot! I’m sure if my hand didn’t contain double Flusterstorm, Force of Will and Snapcaster Mage I would have remembered the trigger!
Round four vs Grixis Delver
- Game one: I have to mulligan a one-lander. My opponent plays some cantrips into Bitterblossom. That’s certainly going to be a troublesome card for me! She then follows up with a True-name Nemesis and counters my Toxic Deluge. On the ropes, I need to find a Snapcaster Mage and get to five mana pronto, but even then, I likely won’t kill my opponent before Bitterblossom tokens finish me off. Unfortunately the plan falls apart immediately as I’m unable to get rid of a Deathrite Shaman on the other side of the board before it loses summoning sickness and exiles my Deluge. Diabolic Edict is normally an out to the Nemesis, but not when there are Faerie tokens floating around.
- Game two: My opponent misses her second land-drop, but my hand is very reactive (full of threat removal) so unfortunately there is very little I can do to punish the lack of land drop from my opponent other than play more lands. She cantrips multiple times and starts deploying lands and a plethora of creatures. The crucial play is Marsh Casualties to wipe a significant board on the other side. The rebuild from my opponent includes a True-name Nemesis and the accursed Bitterblossom, but I have Liliana the Last Hope to deal with the token and Diabolic Edict to handle the Nemesis. My opponent then realises there’s not much of a way back and on to game three we go.
- Game three: My opponent plays a Young Pyromancer and Gurmag Angler and all I can really muster is a Leovold. My opponent uses countermagic to protect her threats and seizes the initiative, even following up with a second Angler. I reply with two Baleful Strix but she does one better by deploying her own Liliana the Last Hope to eat through my tokens and force damage through with the 5/5 fish. I have about four cantrips in hand and furiously try and find some answers but at this point it’s pretty much, Diabolic Edict, Jace, The Mind Sculptor. Toxic Deluge isn’t really an out as my health total is so low. I unfortunately don’t get there.
Round five vs Lands
- Game one: I mulligan to five on the play. This game is a prime example of why Lands is favoured in this matchup. My turn one Deathrite Shaman is killed on my opponent’s first turn as they play Mox Diamond, Exploration, two lands and Punishing Fire. The following turn my land is hit by a Ghost Quarter, which is retrieved by Life from the Loam and played again as a second land to destroy my other land. Good game!
- Game two: I mulligan again, but only to six. My hand contains Surgical Extraction and Snapcaster Mage so I’m feeling hopeful about this one. My opponent again promtly kills a Deathrite Shaman with Punishing Fire, but this time I use Surgical Extraction on it (though I have to wait for him to try and retreive it with Grove of the Burnwillows). I then use Snapcaster Mage to Flashback the Surgical on Life from the Loam. With my opponent squandered on ‘engine’ cards, they still continue to give me trouble with Tireless Tracker and Choke, but I bite the bullet and Diabolic Edict the Tracker with my Bayou and Swamp that are allowed to untap. Sooner or later I have the game locked up with the Shaman and Snappy.
- Game three: This game starts out with neither player being explosive, moreso my opponent hamstringing my manabase with multiple Wasteland effects. I manage to Surgical Life from the Loam again, but I have to play carefully as my opponent has Dark Depths and Thespian Stage. My ‘only hope’ is to play as if I have the Diabolic Edict ready (I don’t) and scare him into not ‘going for it’. This only works for a short time. Deathrite Shaman is immediately killed by Molten Vortex and more lands are destroyed by Wastelands. To add insult to injury, my opponent deploys Sphere of Resistance which will make any would-be Edict cost more mana than I currently have. As I fail to assemble three mana, he decides it’s safe enough to go for it. I Blue blast the Vortex, block the 20/20 once with a Strix, but don’t get either the third land (nor do I ever draw the Edict anyway) and lose.
Round six vs Miracles
- Game one: I open with Deathrite Shaman and Force of Will my opponent’s Counterbalance. After deploying Deathrite number two and using the graveyard to 4 him at each end step, my opponent decides its time to Terminus. Instead of Force of Will, I decide to Fatal Push one of the Deathrites for retrieval next turn via Kolaghan’s command, my opponent losing cards in the process. I then am able to cast Jace with Force of Will backup for his Force of will and I pull too far ahead.
- Game two: My opponent lands Counterbalance on turn two. I decide that it’s most likely my opponent has a ‘1’ on top so I play the Sylvan Library, but it’s countered with a flip to a revealed Counterspell. I think this was a big mistake as I had a Brainstorm I could have ‘tested the waters with’ first. The game then revolves around me trying to minimise Counterbalance blowouts, but this is tricky in the face of Monastery Mentors being deployed. I get the game to a bit more of a Standstill but unfortunately my opponent is able to use Brainstorm and Counterbalance to stop me progressing each time I try and advance my board or play things of significance. My Jace, the Mind Sculptor is short lived, and theirs sticks. On to game three.
- Game three: This game goes very long, but I’m unfortunately forced to play round Counterbalance and keep my head in the game, when I get ‘blind flipped’ by Counterbalance despite efforts to minimise blowouts. I’m soon put in a spot where I absolutely need to find Abrupt Decay but my opponent finds Search for Azcanta first, transforms it, and is in a position of utter dominance. I play out the remaining turns but the writing’s on the wall as I watch him reveal Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Force of Will.
Round seven vs Mirror
- Game one: My opponent leads with Deathrite Shamans and I don’t really have any removal for them. I instead focus on using Hymn to Tourach to run my opponent out of cards, Leovold, to create card advantage and ultimately Deluge his board and cast Jace with Force of Will backup. This is the general plan I adopt in the mirror and it seems to have worked as expected.
- Game two: I adopt a similar strategy to game one, and again, draw no Push/Bolt early on which means Leovold becomes a bit of a problem. I have to flash in Snapcaster on Kolaghan’s Command, block and use the command to finish off the Leovold and return Snapcaster. The plan starts to come together, but I can’t find Jace and my health total is low enough for Bolt, Snap, Bolt, Snap K Command to simply burn me out.
- Game three: My opening hand is very good in Thoughtseize, Hymn, Leovold and Lands. I dismantle my opponent’s hand but they kill Leovold and rebuild with cantrips. The game stalls a little, but unfortunately for me, my opponent also draws Pyroblast and Snapcaster Mage, with the current gameplan involving only blue cards (Snapcaster and backup Leovold), this is terrible for me. I decide it won’t get any better so I play into it, forcing my opponent to basically Blast, Snap Blast me and put us both into topdeck mode. The problem is, I am at 5 life, my opponent is on about 16 and my card advantage is that I have two more lands in hand to his nothing. I draw a bunch more lands and my opponent draws a Kolaghan’s Command allowing them to burn me for 2, retreive Snapcaster Mage and flashback a Lightning Bolt from earlier. I feel games two and three slipped away from me somehow.
Despite a 3-4 finish in the swiss, I was still eligible for a single-elimination 8-man free of charge to try and win a Badlands.
Round eight vs Burn
- Game one: I play Deathrite Shaman and am a bit dismayed to see my opponent open with Mountain, Goblin Guide. This matchup is annoyingly difficult. I use Brainstorm to filter lands back on top and have Fatal Push ready. I Force of Will and Eidolon of the Great Revel and start to use Jace Fateseal early on while picking off Grim Lavamancers and causing my opponent to discard cards with Kolaghan’s Command. I’m also able to use Deathrite Shaman to gain life and stay alive. I eventually get to the point where Jace is having Chain Lightning thrown at him to prevent his Ultimate ability, but it only delays the inevitable.
- Game two: I mulligan to five but keep a promising hand of Deathrite, Blue Elemental Blast, Snapcaster Mage and two lands. Unfortunately Deathrite is Searing Blazed but I’m able to Blast an Eidolon and a Price of Progress. Unfortunately my opponent gets a Sulfuric Vortex down and I’m ground down, not being able to use Deathrite’s ability to gain life.
- Game three: Another mulligan but at least I’m on the play. I’m able to control the board and land a Jace but multiple Exquisite Firecrafts later laugh at my Flusterstorm and I’m now desperately digging for that Deathrite Shaman to give me a cat in hell’s chance of stabilising. My opponent slows down but I’m only on three life so all burn spells are lethal. I’ve got the Flusterstorm for one of them, but my opponent draws another one to put me away. No Badlands for me!
A good start went very much downhill into a negative record for the tournament. The result wasn’t very good, but I have reflected on things since and decided that there were quite a few more mistakes I made than the above story tells.
- I forgot to sideboard out my basic lands in the Mirror match! This really shows that I didn’t have my head in the game – and I did flood a bit in the games I lost, so I guess I deserve that one.
- I also didn’t change my gameplan in the mirror match when I was too far behind to play for card advantage. Generally you want to be the one with the card advantage and inevitability, but I was actually under the pressure of 2 damage a turn from either a Deathrite or Snapcaster Mage throughout. I should have re-evaluated and maybe made some more defensive plays, instead of purely plays that generated card-advantage.
- Bitterblossom was absolutely not on my radar and I got pretty handily outdone by it except when I could counter its productivity with Liliana the Last Hope. I think the technology was in a list that made Top 8 of the last Legacy GP so I should have had it on my radar. This is a case of lack of preparation really.
- I lost a lot of sideboarded games which suggests this is an area to put more thought into for next time round. I cut on Red/Blue Blast effects which made me a bit weaker in the matchups I ended up playing. It’s difficult to not be results-oriented here, but part of me is thinking that it’s safer to play three Red blast effects in the sideboard instead of two.
I still came away from the event having felt challenged and having had fun. All the games, except game one against Lands felt like real games of Magic with plenty of interaction and tense moments. I could have played better, but I was thinking a lot more about the Standard RPTQ the next day.
Speaking of which, my next article (coming soon) will cover that event, my experience preparing for Team Unified Standard as well as a look back at some of the decks we’ve seen at events from UK PPTQs to Standard GPs around the world. It’ll be our last dip into Standard before we start the next PPTQ season which will be Modern.
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@Chris54154) or at most PPTQs in the North of England, RPTQs, GPs in England and some other large competitive events like Mega Modern and Legacy Masters that arise during the year.
As always, thanks for reading, good luck and have fun in your next event!