59th at GP: Richmond!

Legacy is great right now. The format is pretty wide open. Most games are more interactive and much more enjoyable as a whole than in our previous metagame. Accordingly, I played a ton of Magic in preparation for this GP. It looks like I played about 150 matches on MTGO with D&T specifically, and I probably played another 50 or so matches with other decks. These numbers exclude any special events I played in (e.g. Legacy Premier League) or dedicated testing sessions (e.g. playtesting sessions with a specific player). Here’s how things shook out prior to the GP in terms of my data in Legacy Leagues.


Click here for a bigger version of the same thing. So that ends up being a record of 107-42 (~72%). If you take a look at the graph there, overwhelmingly my matchups were positive against the field. D&T unquestionably felt like the best deck going into the GP. Unfortunately, this did mean that people were well-prepared for the matches…but Shadow was “well-prepared” for the matchup with its three copies of Dread of Night and that didn’t seem to matter very much, now did it?

In the week going up to the event, I played seven different decklists, all only a few cards different from each other. Here’s what I settled on, though I know I’m going to have to explain a few things.

Phil Gallagher, 59th at GP: Richmond

Creatures (25)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Phyrexian Revoker
Recruiter of the Guard
Mirran Crusader
Mother of Runes
Sanctum Prelate
Palace Jailer
Stoneforge Mystic

Spells (11)
Aether Vial
Swords to Plowshares
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
Lands (24)
Snow-Covered Plains
Rishadan Port

Sideboard (15)
Faerie Macabre
Walking Ballista
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Recruiter of the Guard
Surgical Extraction
Rest in Peace
Chalice of the Void
Path to Exile
Leonin Relic-Warder
Council’s Judgment

I expected to see a considerable amount of the mirror as well a large amount of fair black decks (Shadow, Grixis Delver, Grixis Control). There were my two biggest considerations going into the event and most heavily impacted my decisions. Let’s break down a few things:

1. No Brightling
I love this card. I wanted to play one so badly for the Miracles matchup, but it performs relatively poorly against the black decks. I didn’t think this was the right weekend for the card, but if Miracles sees an uptick in popularity (spoiler: it will), expect to see this in my deck again.

2. Lands
I have been testing 23 vs 24 lands quite a bit, and I decided that in the Wasteland-filled world we currently live, having extra stable mana is a necessity. Hence I also hedged by playing another Plains over the third Karakas. I almost always had something to do with my mana, and in the matches that go exceptionally long (e.g. Miracles and Grixis Control), you can just trim a land and go back to 23.

3. Maindeck Flex Slots
I knew I wanted a borderline unhealthy number of Mirran Crusaders to punish decks like Death’s Shadow, but I actually was unsure about what to do with the remaining slots. I wasn’t too keen on Revoker in the meta as a whole, so I dropped down to two. Palace Jailer had been wrecking Shadow and had other good game one results, so I kept it in the deck despite very frequently boarding it out. Sanctum Prelate was very underwealming as a whole, but since most of my flex slots in the main had been dedicated towards fighting fair, I opted for one card that would help my game 1 percentages vs combo decks like Sneak and Show.

Brightling, Remorseful Cleric, and Spirit of the Labyrinth were the other cards that I had tested and had very positive results with in the post-banning world. I think all three will continue to see play in the deck at the right moments, but I oped out of playing the Cleric and Spirit to keep my X/1 creature count a bit lower.

4. Sideboard Combo Hate

So…combo hate cards kind of suck right now. All of them. The metagame is exceptionally fair right now, hence I’ve dropped some common hate cards like Ethersworn Canonist and Containment Priest that otherwise are often deck staples. I opted to play Chalice of the Void over Canonist to diversify my hate package a little bit. I wanted a card that I could play against ANT, Sneak and Show, and Miracles, and the best two things that I came up with were Chalice and Spirit of the Labyrinth. I played Spirit quite a bit (and liked it), but again hedged against the -1/-1 effects by playing Chalice. The split of Surgical Extraction vs Faerie Macabre is to hedge against my own Chalices in the Reanimator matchup specifically, one of the few places where your chalices and 1 drops other than Vial truly are in conflict.

5. Sideboard Fair Cards

Grixis Control was one of the only decks that I was actively afraid of coming into the event, and so I really wanted to have Cataclysm for that matchup (and to a lesser extent for Miracles). However, for the metagame as a whole, I thought that was incorrect. Gideon was incredible in the Death’s Shadow matchup, so I was unwilling to make the swap. Otherwise most of what you’ll see here is pretty stock. The Walking Ballista performed quite well in the testing of the mirror I did, while also being able to pick off smaller threats like Snapcaster or Baleful Strix in the Grixis Control matchup. Walking Ballista and Sword of War and Peace both fall in the camp of cards that are great in the mirror that have good amounts of overlap elsewhere; accordingly, I’d play one or the other, but both would be overkill.

The Event

2-0 Grixis Delver
1-2 Eldrazi
2-0 Grixis Delver
1-1-1 D&T
2-0 Stoneblade
2-1 Burn
2-0 Lands
2-0 Red Prison
0-2 Grixis Control
2-1 Death’s Shadow
0-2 Lands
0-2 Grixis Control
2-0 Grixis Control
2-0 Grixis Delver
2-0 Miracles

Event Highlights

Round 3 vs Grixis Delver
In game one my opponent stuck a two Bitterblossom. This card is on the top of my “oh shit” list as far as game one scenarios go in this matchup. It makes it so that most of my creatures have trouble connecting, and it clocks pretty hard as the game goes on if you can’t force them into chump blocking mode. While things looks bad for a little while, Batterskull eventually gets there after being reset a couple of times.

In game 2 my opponent stuck an early Dread of Night, which many people assume is the end for D&T. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t always just win. I flopped down a Palace Jailer on my opponent’s only threat and rode the extra cards to victory, largely ignoring the powerful hate card.

Round 4 vs D&T
I initially wrote up a four paragraph explanation of the final turns of this round, but decided that it would be in bad taste to post it publicly. We have enough negative stuff floating around already. Essentially, I believe that I got a draw this round largely as the result of incorrect confirmation of the board state by a judge, followed by a poor decision by a judge, followed by a poor ruling by a judge. I’m still extremely frustrated by it, as it forced me into the draw bracket with considerably tougher matchups. The loss still falls on me, as I made an error, but it was an error I never would have made if not for the preceding actions.

Round 10 vs Death’s Shadow
I honestly don’t think Death’s Shadow should be running so many hate cards for D&T. The matchup is so terrible that even if you draw multiple of them, you still usually lose. My opponent lost game 2 despite having both Dread of Night and Liliana, the Last Hope in play. Mirran Crusader is really good. My opponent then lost game 3. Their Toxic Deluge for 4 was excellent, grabbing them a 4 for 1 or something of that ilk, leaving them with a Gurmag Angler and one life. Recruiter for Walking Ballista ended that one easily.

Generic Grixis Control on Day 2
I played against Grixis Control three times on day 2 and I only won the match where I got two free wins. This was one of the matchups I expected to lose given how I chose to build my deck (i.e. not playing Cataclysm). The builds I faced were radically different, but the core engine is incredibly powerful against what I was doing.

Round 14 vs Grixis Delver
My opponent this round was a pretty friendly guy, and it was clear that he didn’t get to play as much Magic as he wanted to. He was having a blast at this event though and was doing well, so I quite happy for him. Making a deep run at a GP is a really big deal for many people, and even if he didn’t end up cashing, I knew he’d be happy with his weekend. He was also a bit confused about why so many people had been chatting with me and asked if I was “Magic famous.” I got a good laugh out of that and explained my website to him. This is why I didn’t lose my mind when he played a Plague Mare in game 1. Under normal circumstances, I 100% would have called a judge to verify the decklist, as that’s a narrow enough card that I would have suspected that my opponent was playing a sideboard card in game 1. My opponent died to Crusader and Jitte the following turn. When I asked him about the Plague Mare, he said he didn’t really get how to beat D&T and he was having trouble with opposing True-Name Nemesis; he figured this was his best shot.

Round 15 vs Miracles
Miracles is a bit of a tough matchup. I was 6-4 against it in leagues going into the event. I got to steal game one easily. My opponent didn’t have a removal spell when I equipped Mirran Crusader with Sword of Fire and Ice. He died. Game 2 was more interesting. For the first time in the event, I boarded in the Chalice of the Void! Yes, in fact, I did go 15 rounds without playing against a dedicated combo deck! My curve was disgusting. It was approximately Chalice of the Void on 1 into Sanctum Prelate on 6 into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. There were a couple of cards between those, but that’s the gist of it. My opponent put up a hell of a fight, all things considered, by sticking a Jace and getting to Brainstorm for a few turns. Ultimately, I powered through Jace and a follow up Monastery Mentor and secured my top 64 finish.

Closing Thoughts and Stream Plans
My 10-4-1 finish was good enough for 59th place and $250. While that’s a fine finish, I can’t help but be disappointed with that result. My entire event was soured by my interactions with judges at the tail end of my D&T match on day 1. I can’t help but wonder what my pairings would have been like had I avoided that draw. D&T felt like the best deck in the format going into the event, so I was expecting a better finish. This is the life of a serious Magic player. You can have a good weekend and still walk away feeling terrible. c’est la vie For what it’s worth, I did think the decklist was pretty much perfect for the event, and I’d run it back in a heartbeat.

I’d like to take a moment to thank a few people who contributed to my success in the event. Huge props to the members of the Legacy Premier League as a whole. I used many of them as a sounding board for sideboarding and decklist options. In particular, Mike “Overvoltage” Danielson spent a few hours bashing my head in with Grixis Control so I could try out different sideboard options for that matchup. Similarly, MTGO user Piroko139 helped me test Walking Ballista in the mirror. Finally, mad props to my travel buddies: Zach Koch, Nick Miller, and Stefan Hench. Secretly one of the best things about these tournaments is exploring a new city, finding tasty food and drinks with friends.

Now that the GP is over, I’m going to spend a bit of time working on the 5c Humans archetype. I thought the deck was conceptually pretty good, but I just couldn’t justify putting in time testing it with before now. Expect to see me streaming with that from time to time. On that note, I recently changed my donation goals as well. Now for every three donation decklists I receive, I’ll do something special. At three donation decklists, I’ll be playing an Ensnaring Bridge and Mangara of Corondor deck that’s been at the back of my mind since the bannings. At six donation decklists, I’ll be doing an Infect stream with special guest Nick Miller. At nine donation decklists, I’ll be updating my Mono Black Control decklist and showing the world how great Vampire Nighthawk really is in Legacy.

The donation decklists have been a blast, and I’ve greatly expanded my range as a player by trying some of the odd things my followers wanted me to play. I’m excited to play some Death’s Shadow Burn on Thursday. Yeah, you read that right. It’s gonna be a good time.

Death's Shadow Burn

Lands (20)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Stomping Ground
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Wooded Foothills

Spells (26)
Diabolic Edict
Lightning Bolt
Snuff Out
Chain Lightning
Flame Rift

Creatures (14)
Death’s Shadow
Goblin Guide
Gurmag Angler
Street Wraith
Sideboard (15)
Defense Grid
Destructive Revelry
Diabolic Edict
Dread of Night
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast
Leyline of the Void
Searing Blaze
About the Author

Phil Gallagher

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