No Fair

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What do you think when you see what is more or less a Modern deck taking up two slots in the top 8 of a Legacy Grand Prix? I imagine that answers to this vary greatly.

Fans of The Rock everywhere probably pumped their fists seeing Jund do so well at GP Denver. As for myself, I’m more puzzled than anything. All I can think when I look over Pat Cox and Josh Ravitz’s decklists is that something has gone horribly wrong.

During coverage of some SCG Open or another Mike Flores stated that a player leading on Scalding Tarn opens up millions (or was it billions?) of different universes. And here we see players deciding to battle with coin flip decks. That is, we see players deciding to battle with coin flip decks to a high degree of success.

How Did We Get Here?

It appears to me that the initial reactions to Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay have been dramatically overblown. This is not to say that BUG is a bad deck, and it’s certainly not to say that these cards don’t have their place in Legacy, but it is to say that they are currently overplayed.

The rationale behind the Jund deck and behind Matt Nass’s Elves! deck from the top 8 was that the pilots all wanted to find a way to beat the other fair decks. This is the sort of inbred mentality that brought us to Lingering Souls Jund in Modern, and in Modern I believe that this line of thought will lead a player to better and better decks.

But this is Legacy we’re talking about.

It seems strange to me that so many players are focusing on cracking fair mirrors when the ability to just do unfair things is at a premium.

Do you know what happens when you cast Show and Tell against Elves? You win.

When you cast it against Jund? They get a Dark Confidant, and then you win.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m going to stop playing RUG at literally every event ever, but this is in no small part due to the fact that I believe I can play that deck much better than any other. From the sense of strictly analyzing the metagame to determine a deck choice this is prime time for combo decks.

Most of the top 8 decks that even had Force of Will had trimmed down to three copies and all of the decks in the top 8 has a considerable focus on beating creatures. This sort of narrow-thinking metagamed approach to Legacy is exactly what leads to weeks when combo decks completely dominate.

If I had to settle on a particular combo deck I’d easily go with Omnitell. I would play something close to the list that local legend/heartthrob Troy Thompson top 16’d the L.A. Invitational with:

Now, one might think that the discard spells available to these fair decks allows them to have a reasonable matchup against such combo decks. Real talk- they’re kind of crappy. This deck has a dozen cantrips and four of them are Brainstorm. This coupled with the fact that the Omnitell player can just counter the discard spell if it actually matters or alternatively just go on a Jace plan makes life really miserable for the fair player.

Troy had some very interesting stories from the Invitational that I think bear repeating. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Me: How did your round go, Troy?
Troy: I killed him turn two and then I killed him turn three.

And then there’s this gem:

Me: Did you get it?
Troy: Yeah, my opponent did stuff and then I killed him.

I’m not about to say that Troy’s list is perfect. I’m not huge on the Lotus Petals and I would like to see three copies of more cards in order to Intuition for them (think Griselbrand and Jace), but the strategy of Omnitell is extremely powerful and well-positioned currently.

So What, Ryan?

I realize that I’m being a bit short in terms of actual strategic analysis, but it shouldn’t take too many games experience to see that discard just isn’t going to cut it against a competent Show and Tell pilot. When you have one player playing Thoughtseize to make sure that the coast is clear to cast a Tarmogoyf and the other playing Thoughtseize to guarantee that you lose this turn it’s plain to see that the player that kills faster benefits substantially more from their discard spells.

As Owen Turtenwald once so eloquently put it, Duress doesn’t have protection from bullshit. Discard becomes dramatically less good the more turns the player targeted gets to draw out of their predicament if the discard even fettered them much in the first place.

When it comes to preparing for Standard tournaments, teching out your build for prevalent matchups is an invaluable skill. When it comes to Legacy it is much more important to realize when the line has been crossed and the format is more inbred than the card pool justifies. When people are getting too cute trying to win the mirror then it’s high time somebody reminded them about the other decks. The ones that allow players to kill you now and maybe ask how you sideboarded while they’re having their hourly cigarette break.

Do you want to be the player that spends their day flashing cards and saying “one more turn and…” or the player who disregards whatever you’re trying to say as they walk away with the match slip? I should think the choice is clear.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

3 thoughts on “No Fair

  1. I think one of the core misunderstandings here is the motivation a lot of people have to play Legacy. If I want a purely cutthroat meta game where the only thing is to win, Ill play standard. In legacy, people get to play their favorite deck from their favorite cards. I’ve been jamming Elfball for years. Is it the best deck? No, but it was my favorite deck from standard and is still the most fun I have playing Magic regardless of wins or losses. Personally? I’ll take a single story of that time I hard casted Emrakul on turn 2 than ten rounds of “I paid 2U and then won the game.”

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