Other possible titles of this article included “How to Top 8 Without Testing,” “Judge, Can I Get an Oracle text?” or my favorite, “What Dual Land is That?”
My name is Corbin Hosler, and I split the finals of the Star City Games Legacy Open in Kansas City last weekend. If you’re not a Premium subscriber (you should be), you don’t see my weekly financial column, The Revenue Review. I’m a finance mind, not a game guru, and this is my first tournament report.
A little background about my playing history. Prior to Kansas City, I had played in exactly four non-FNM tournaments. I had one PTQ second-place finish, and two others in the Top 16. I also went 6-3 at GP: Houston to miss Day 2 on a punt. I entered Kansas City with a 1600 Eternal rating, having literally never played a Legacy game outside of a few Magic Workstation matches.
I’ve never considered traveling to a 5k before, since I live in Oklahoma City and 99 percent of tournaments are more than five hours away. Occasionally a tournament stops in Dallas (which is three hours) and some people make the trip. Having just started playing Constructed matches a little over a year ago, I never had.
Will Hooten, a friend of mine who was back in town for the holidays, invited me to KC a week before the tournament. I told him I didn’t think I could afford the trip and was sorry to pass. I changed my mind after he generously offered to cover most of the expenses of the trip and loan me a deck. After roping Tim Burke into going with us (with some 5 a.m. texts the night before we left) we had a plan. We didn’t have Standard decks to play, so we left around noon on Saturday and made the six-hour drive.
Once we got on-site, I divided my time between trading (picking up my first-ever dual land) and watching OKC native Darin Minard Top 8 the Standard tournament. When his match finally ended around 1 a.m., I had picked up seven copies of Genesis Wave to flip after Conley’s deck put two copies in the Top 8. We headed back to the hotel and I picked up Will Hooten's U/B Merfolk deck for the first time. We played some test games against the Zoo deck Will and Tim were running, and I soundly got crushed in most of the games.
After four hours of sleep and not waking up to my alarm, Tim yelled at me at 9:15 and we rushed out of the hotel to register with about 10 minutes to spare. With that, pairings were up and I was off to my first round.
Round One: Bobby Oleski (Counterbalance)
I didn’t take the greatest notes as I was playing (I didn’t expect to be writing this report), but I remember some of the interesting game states pretty well.
Game one I did what Merfolk does, flooding the board while countering his Counterbalance twice with Force of Will and then a Daze. With him on three lands and having a few creatures on board I Wastelanded his only White source, stranding two Swords to Plowshares in his hand.
Game two was one of many lucky breaks on the day for me. Having no idea how to board, I don’t think I even boarded anything in. Which, of course, left me incredibly dead to the Peacekeeper he played on Turn 3. Because I had ripped Aether Vial on Turn 1 like a champ, I had plenty of creatures, but couldn’t find an attack step to kill him.
The board state was his Sensei's Divining Top, Plains and two non-basic lands to my Vial, 3-4 random guys (lethal if I can swing), two Islands and a Wasteland. I Wasteland one of his lands on my turn and pass. He pays to keep his Peacekeeper in play and draws. Then I go, and pass. Then he pays Peacekeeper, and passes. For six turns. After a few Silvergill Adept, I find one of the three Wastelands left in my deck.
“That guy is buried.”
Round Two: Steve Perigo (Stax w/ Blue for Jace)
Obviously a matchup I had never played, so this didn’t seem like it was going to be fun. Game 1 I had a one- and two-drop while countering a Crucible of Worlds and Ghostly Prison, and got there soon afterward.
Game three is where it got interesting, and I continued to run well. I had a Vial and got a few dudes onto the board, and he countered with Magus of the Tabernacle, which caused me to lose a guy and get in a for a few damage with a Coralhelm Commander. I had a line of play where I could protect my Commander and probably get there flying, but then he drops The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.
“That’s an expensive card.”
I had a Wasteland, but he had Crucible out, so I was trying to devise a plan where I Vial in a Commander at his EOT, draw enough land to pay upkeep costs and level it, and ping away at him. I passed the turn back, he payed one mana for his Magus and drew.
“Your Magus is dead.”
Talk about running well. He binned the Magus and passed the turn. I misplayed on my upkeep, forgetting to put a third counter on my Vial to kill him with the Merrow Reejerey in my hand, and knocked him down to 1. This gave him a turn to peel Armageddon, but he blanked and I was on to Round three.
Round Three: Brian Baker (Dredge)
In Game 2 I mulled to six, but found a Tormod's Crypt in it. He had an Imp but only a Darkblast to Dredge. I held the Crypt in my hand for a few turns as he Dredged. He eventually swung at me with a Narcomoeba and the Imp with 5 cards in his graveyard. He discarded both his Dredge cards to pump the Imp, and I played and popped the Crypt on my turn, stranding him without any Dredgers. I won a few turns later.
Round Four: Mike Hawthorne (New Horizons)
Game one he kept a two-land hand, and I played a Vial on Turn 1 and Wastelanded his land on Turn 2. He bricked for 2-3 turns and scooped, with me having seen only a Force of Will, Brainstorm, Island, and Tropical Island.
After some thought, I put him on Countertop, and boarded in an Engineered Plague so I did’t auto-lose to Peacekeeper. In retrospect, this was a mistake, because even if he was Countertop, the Tropical means he had Tarmogoyfs.
So of course in Game 2 he played Turn 2 ‘Goyf and I drew the only Plague in my deck.
“Engineered Plague. Naming ‘Lhurgoyf.’”
I didn’t win that game.
As a sidenote, congrats to Mike on his 12th-place finish!
Round Five: Ben Wienburg (Countertop)
Game one I kept Counterbalance off the board, but his use of Top and ‘Goyf eventually killed me while I had him on one life.
I don’t remember much about game two, but I know I ended up racing his ‘Goyfs by Islandwalking.
“What colors does that dual land make?”
In game three I assembled a pretty good board, but he eventually got a Counterbalance on the board. I had him at two life, and I elected to send in my team, allowing him to eat a guy with ‘Goyf, but putting him at one life while I have another Cursecatcher in my hand. My reasoning was that resolving the 'Catcher and drawing a Mutavault or slipping a guy past his Counterbalance would win me the game, and I needed to end the game as quickly as possible since he has a Top going. In addition, by putting him at one I was able to turn off his free Force of Will plays and fetchlands, creating more blanks in his draw step. I tried the Cursecatcher, and he revealed a Top blind on top of his deck, putting me into the lock on the next turn.
We played draw-go for a few turns, and I drew into a Force of my own, as well as two Lord of Atlantis. I elected to run the Lord out there and tried to get lucky, as it was my only play to win. We were at Table One, and almost to time, so the judge call that ensued from this sequence of plays delayed the round for a good 15 minutes.
I put the Lord onto the board, he tapped 5 lands and played Force, picking up my Lord and throwing it into my graveyard. I picked the Lord back up, set it back down, and responded with my own Force. I’m already annoyed he was messing with my cards, since he wasn’t exactly congenial about doing ‘Goyf checks and so forth. Then he said “So I have two Counterbalance triggers on the stack.” Obviously I disagreed with this, as he didn’t announce anything, and a judge was called.
The initial judge ruling was that since he didn’t announce his trigger before playing Force, it was not put on the stack. Ben appealed to the head judge, and after 10 minutes of talking to me privately, talking to Ben privately, looking at the top three cards of Ben’s Library, then talking to us both again, the Head Judge gave us both a warning for Failure to Communicate and backed the game up.
This situation was very upsetting. If the trigger had to be put on the stack and that’s how the Judge rules, that’s fine (though I would disagree with it). But I absolutely had a problem with being given a warning for player communication for not reminding my opponent of his “may” triggers.
I asked, point blank “In the future, if I want to avoid a warning for player communication, I have to remind my opponent of their 'may' abilities?” The response, verbatim, “If those abilities are important to you, yes.”
In this instance, I’d love to hear the opinion of a better judge than I.
Obviously, I was very tilted after this call, but in a colossal waste of time, Ben bricked on the top 3 cards of his library, and I won the game.
Round Six: Drew Idoux (Canadian Thresh)
Game one he kept most of my permanents off the board and beat me down with a Nimble Mongoose.
Game two I got there with a Perish and bashed through for the win.
In game three he played a Turn 1 Grim Lavamancer, which had me pretty worried as he killed my first two creatures with it, while I have a Vial with two counters. After countering a few of his plays and Wastelanding away two of his lands, he tapped out to play something, and I was able to Vial in a Coralhelm Commander and pump it out of Lavamancer range. This allowed me to equip my Jitte to it and bash, getting a counter to kill the Lavamancer. I played out a few more creatures and tried to figure out if I can race the ‘Goyf that already had me down to five life. He played out another Lavamancer, forcing me to spend my last Jitte counter to kill it. When he swung back with ‘Goyf, I took the damage to go to one life. I Vialed in a Reejerey at the end of his turn and the board looked like this:
I activated the Mutavault and moved into declaring attackers, with a “Swing for lethal?” He responded by attempting to tap down my Commander with Fire/Ice. I Dazed his play, and he opted not to play for it, dying to my attack. His reasoning was that he needed to Wasteland my Mutavault to survive. I think the pressure may have gotten to him a bit here on our win-and-in match (it certainly did to me all day), because the math shows that if he payed for the Daze, he can only lose to another Daze, because my Merrow Reejerey and Mutavault get in for just 7 to put him at one life. His crack back with the ‘Goyf would have killed me, even if I spent my two Jitte counters to go up to 5 life. Luckily, he didn’t see the play, and I locked up the Top 8 at my first-ever Legacy tournament.
Round Seven and Eight: I.D. with AJ Sacher and Chris Osinski
Top 8: AJ Sacher (CounterTop)
This match is covered here, so I’ll just hit on the high notes. I won game one handily, and game two is where it got interesting.
To me, the pivotal play of the match came on Turn 3 or 4 when AJ cast a Tarmogoyf. I had Force and Daze in hand to his two open mana. I could try to Force the ‘Goyf, but it was only going to be a 3/4, which I decided I could race with my Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept, and Lord of Atlantis in hand. If I Force his Goyf, I’m leaving myself open to getting blown out by a Force back, which I was pretty confident he had. Instead, I let it resolve, hoping he would tap down for something else, and I could fight over my Lord of Atlantis.
Unfortunately, he didn’t tap for anything else, and just shipped the turn back. I drew a second Daze and attempted to play my Lord. He responded by Forcing it, and I Forced back. He Forced my Force, leaving me in a precarious position. He had two open mana, so he could pay for my Dazes, but not my Cursecatcher. This is effectively a three-for-two, as I have to trade two Dazes and a Cursecatcher to try and resolve my Lord, and I would still lose to another Counterspell effect in his hand. But with the race solidly in my favor if I resolve the Lord, I Dazed twice, which he payed for. When I used Cursecatcher to stop his Force, he cursed, which led some spectators to believe that he forgot about it, which I’m not sure I buy. He had to counter my Lord, as he couldn't stop my Islandwalking, and there was no reason for him to play around two Dazes by not engaging in a Counterspell fight. Once he was committed, he had to continue the fight, even though he was just paying mana to pay for Dazes. He had to go through the motions there to make me lose my Cursecatcher.
Needless to say, I took this good play on my part and punted it by misremembering Oracle text on Lord of Atlantis and running it into ‘Goyf (going on four hours of sleep and 13 hours of Magic with no lunch or dinner at this point). [Note: The original Lord of Atlantis was a "Summon Lord" and pumped "all Merfolk." The current Oracle text instead makes him a "Creature - Merfolk" and boosts "all other Merfolk" -Dylan] This gave him some turns, but I drew another Lord 3-4 turns later and eventually Forced a Ponder to keep him from finding answers.
Top 4: Lewis Laskin (Green and Taxes)
Finals: Chris Osinski (Goblins)
The match is covered here, and finally one of my punts caught up to me. I failed at using Reejerey triggers right in game one, which would have allowed me to beat his turn 1 Goblin Lackey-into-Siege-Gang Commander play, even through his triple Goblin Piledriver. It’s a pretty inexcusable misplay on my part, but I hadn’t had much experience with Merrow Reejerey all day and didn’t play when they were legal in Standard, so I failed to get multiple uses out of my one Island, stranding a Lord of Atlantis in my hand that would have won me the game.
Chris ended up taking it down in 3 games, and I’m excited for him. He hadn’t played Magic in two years until that weekend, and since we split the Finals beforehand and neither of us cared about the Open points (not able to travel for more tournaments) the Finals felt like a kitchen-table game of Magic.
All in all, it was a great weekend and I’ll do my best to be at the Invitational in June.
I know this was extremely long, but there’s one other thing I wanted to address. I’ve taken some heat for being a “bad player who got lucky,” as has Chris, but the truth is both of us are decent players. I’m not the next great Magic player, but I do know how to play the game and was more familiar with the games and decks than I let on during the day. If my opponents make even one misplay because they think I’m bad or go on tilt that they’re losing to me, then that’s another thing working in my favor. Also, it’s incredibly fun to act like you don’t know how to play the game when you’re winning.
The first PTQ I ever played in, I took second place using dice to keep track of life totals the entire day. It really does throw people off their game if they think they “should” win. I didn’t have to mention to every opponent that it was my first Legacy tournament, nor did I have to ask them what their dual lands did or read every card they played, but there’s no reason not to, either. Chris and I both entered the tournament with Total ratings of over 1900, which, like I said, isn’t great, but it’s not the rating of a scrub either.
If you’ve lasted with me this long, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my first tournament report, and hopefully I’ll have another one for you to read someday.
@Chosler88 on Twitter