This week I will demonstrate how true to my word I am.
I Didn’t Even Lose a Bet
What I did do was play FNM on Friday. Some of you know this is uncharacteristic of me. I often say that actually playing Magic is the least enjoyable aspect of the game, so sleeving up for even the most casual of events is a bit outside my comfort zone.
“No one ever lost to variance during a trade,” I like to say, and I haven’t found myself missing the grind. The last major event I went to was a PTQ where I played against Bant Hexproof, if memory serves, four out of five rounds.
However, that PTQ was not a total loss because I got word that someone at the event was a listener and wanted to meet me. That listener was Ryan Archer and he has been laboring to make a card that many people have to pick up and read whenever it’s cast against them a real thing. That card? Scion of Vitu-Ghazi.
“What Happened to FNM? I’m So Lost…”
I’m getting to it, give me a break. Anyway, Ryan told me he was deep on Scion of Vitu-Ghazi because the card has serious legs and he agreed with my assessment that G/W would be a strong contender after rotation given how well it performed at the Block PT. It made sense given that G/W wasn’t going to lose anything and could only stand to benefit from new cards.
Ryan had constructed a robust list that shrugged off the Ratchet Bomb everyone assumes will keep this deck from ever taking off. I liked how the deck played and I kept it in mind over the last few months.
Recently we managed to get Ryan to join the staff at BrainstormBrewery.com and write about how Theros cards have impacted the deck, both in terms of additions and a new metagame. The first article discusses the list and card choices and makes, I think, a compelling case for the deck. He’s at work on a followup that should go live on our site this week wherein he’ll discuss sideboarding and additions he would make to the deck since getting 3rd at an SCG Open a few weeks ago.
I liked the deck and it uses cards that aren’t used in Esper Control. This became relevant when workout enthusiast and Magic sidekick Joey D browbeat me into hanging out with him on Friday which turned into me playing FNM. He was jamming Esper or U/W or some such nonsense and he had his Voice of Resurgences and Temple Gardens just chilling in a box.
What’s a curmudgeonly finance grinder to do when he’s offered 75% of a deck? Break his rules, I guess. I don’t like using the “n-word” in the shop, but I had to do it this week. The penalty for this particular n-bomb was paying the kind of prices for cards like Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage that will keep the lights on at an LGS.
Odyssey games store owner Johnny Blaze (that’s literally his actual name. He didn’t change it to Johnny Blaze because he likes comic books, his actual last name is Blaze. Mise) sold me everything he could and lent me everything he couldn’t. When your community conspires to make sure you can play crads, I guess you play crads.
I didn’t take notes because FNM, but I did mention that if I won I would write a tournament report. I didn’t expect to do well but I did want to get some firsthand experience in with the deck. Here is the tournament report I promised to no one in particular, constructed with about as much care as you’d expect from someone who spent the entire night telling his opponents that he doesn’t play Magic.
Round 1 — My opponent was playing a Bant deck that seemed like a homebrew. It had a lot of the same cards as my deck, but it splashed blue for Detention Sphere which helped against me. Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation were also in the mix. Advent of the Wurm battles ensued.
He must have gotten flooded game one because I had no idea what he was playing and didn’t know how to sideboard. I boarded in a Druid’s Deliverance for Detention Sphere because I never bothered to read Druid’s Deliverance. It’s not a Naturalize.
Game two went largely the same as the first one. He managed to keep me from playing Scion for any value. That’s not true. I played a naked Scion, held down the ground with a 4/4 and populated a second bird, which was enough to wrap the game up. I’d say that is value. Aerial beats are the best beats.
Round 2 — My opponent was playing a non-traditional Mono-Black with White (deck names are getting stupid) deck. It featured Nighthowler which I think it pretty good but also pretty slow.
Game one I realized that Ryan was right in his write-up; Blood Baron of Vizkopa is miserable. I eventually read Advent of the Wurm and saw that it didn’t make a token that had white anywhere in it. His deck had Whip but no Obzedat, which is fine albeit a little confusing. I think Nighthowler on a Blood Baron beats most anything, but he had mana issues games two and three, and despite vomiting nearly his entire hand stuck on three lands, I won handily.
I managed to live the dream and turn four EOT Advent only to untap and jam a Scion. People get really sad when you go from no board to fifteen power like that. Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage won game two on its own. I have been a believer in the card since the days of Séance.dec–it is better in the main than Trostani a lot of the time, which seems odd but is absolutely true.
Round 3 — This was a pseudo-mirror. I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the Magic metagame, so when I built what I thought was a relatively obscure deck I didn’t expect to see a lot of others running it. I got a downpair to someone running G/W Populate who had himself lost in the previous round to GWr Populate with Mortars. Fun night for him, right?
We went three games. I mulled to five game one but gave zero craps because the hand seemed curvaceous at least. I hit turn one Experiment One, turn two Fleecemane Lion, turn three Smiter and managed to hold him off despite him making things interesting with maindeck Unflinching Courage. I managed to get a few tokens from throwing Voice of Resurgence under the bus on two consecutive attacks. The stag tokens weren’t going to be enough–that is until I peeled Scion.
I went from two 2/2 tokens to three 5/5 tokens, a Scion and a bird. That felt truly oppressive to me and windmilling the Scion made my opponent frown. Peeling another Scion off the top made him concede at 40 life with me at 6. Lucky topdeck? Sure, but the first Scion was arguably more powerful because of how it improved my board. The card is a beast.
I swung awkwardly one turn in game two hoping he would get greedy. He was forced to play Rootborn Defenses to save his dudes and the resulting Voice of Resurgence tokens (one from playing a spell on my turn, one for blocking and murdering Voice) were joined by a Scion. I don’t know if there is a better one-two punch in Magic right now. Scion vomits value.
Round 4 — My opponent played Mono-Green. His deck was good and he was a competent player, but his only way to interact was to race. It’s tough to race my deck.
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage just sat there with a pile of untapped mana and when he was forced to trade in combat, I replaced the dying creatures with ready-to-go untapped dudes and he couldn’t keep up.
I sandbagged a few dudes in my hand, which may be one of the best things about Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage. You force them to deal with the same threat over and over, leaving you free to play around sweepers and generally just sit on some cards. Between the ability to sandbag and Rootborn Defenses, Ratchet Bomb and Supreme Verdict aren’t an issue. Ratchet Bomb kills like nothing in the deck, and what it doesn’t kill is very lethal. Losing a wurm token doesn’t feel all that bad if they still have to deal with a 4/4 Scion, a 3/3 or 4/4 lion and a Boon Satyr.
I won this round somewhat quickly due to the overwhelming card advantage populating gave me.
Round 5 — I might have played this out but first and second place are very close in value so there was no real incentive not to ID. My opponent would have been on Esper which I would like to test the deck against, but Ryan has already done way more testing than me and since I’m unlikely to play again soon, I wasn’t worried about it. I am now even more bullish on Scion, especially given its bulk rare status.
What puzzles me about how Scion is treated isn’t the reaction from the “I won’t test it because it must be bad, and if it weren’t bad, a pro would have already told me it was good” crowd that makes up the large majority of the player base. There’s no reaching those people, ever.
No, the real puzzling thing is that people were clamoring for Scion. People were disappointed at Wayfaring Temple and really wanted something that populated as an ETB effect. Not only does Scion populate, it also creates a token so you never play it for no value. But for some reason, the people that wanted that effect didn’t care.
There you have it. I didn’t know what a bunch of my cards did, I had no experience playing the format and I threw the deck together mere minutes before the event started and I sleepwalked my way to 4-0. Every time I resolved Scion it felt like cheating.
The deck is a credible alternative to the other decks in the format and Ryan Archer has played against all the matchups you’re already typing in the comment section that I didn’t face. Ryan has had several Top 8 finishes with several iterations of this deck, and other G/W Populate builds have been popping up, but those haven’t been running Scion which is a mistake. If you’re interested, check our site later in the week for a follow-up article where he discusses lines of play and sideboarding against the best decks in the format.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one who played Magic this weekend.
The Last Gasp of a Dying Format
1,700 people didn’t get the memo that Legacy sucks, is too expensive and is going away in a year, so they all converged in our Nation’s Capitol over the weekend to dish out some serious beats and bitch about True-Name Nemesis.
It’s been about three or four weeks since someone from my area wowed everyone with a spectacular performance at an event, so we were due. This last weekend, Michigan grinder Deshaun Baylock made his way into one of the most stacked GP Top 8s I have ever seen, eventually falling in the first round of Top 8 due to a combination of the overwhelming power of the player who finished second in the event and Deshaun’s own inability to correctly fill out a decklist sheet.
We were nonetheless proud of his accomplishments, and my only regret is that not everyone in the world will get the chance to go on a road trip to an event with Deshaun. He is literally the best value ever in that he’s a bottomless font of fast food lifehacks.
I took four semesters of college calculus and I still can’t figure out how he manages to go into a McDonald’s and pay half price for breakfast sandwiches through a complicated series of ordering individual component parts and making substitutions. Watching him order a Sausage McMuffin with Egg for $0.37 must be how non-Magic players feel watching someone try to go off with ANT.
Did you know the best-tasting and cheapest fast food fried chicken is at Long John Silver’s? No! No one did, because who the hell eats at Long John Silver’s? Legacy GP Top 8 champion Deshaun Baylock, that’s who.
Up until last week, Deshaun was pretty sure he was running RUG Delver, but putting equipment on True-Name Nemesis was too powerful an urge to resist. He elected to run Esper while the event’s winner Owen Turtenwald elected to run an “I swear to God I will curb-stomp the next person who says ‘American'” color scheme. If Deshaun hadn’t lost to a deck registration error and a turn two Emrakul, we might have seen an epic Stoneblade mirror in the finals.
As cool as it is that Owen won the GP, it didn’t make me poop in my pants. A Baylock victory would have made me poop in my pants. Not even out of surprise or anything, but I’d do it because I said I would, kind of like earlier when I wrote a tournament report as a vague pretense for suggesting people buy a few Scions. There I’d sit, stoically filling my drawers, my heart swelling with pride for Kalamazoo’s native son taking down the event.
Would Esper Stoneblade have been able to unseat Craig Wescoe’s Death and Taxes? The White Weenie master himself threatened to take the event down with a Mangara-less build that is unfortunately the new face of the deck. Adrian Sullivan lamented on Twitter that people refer to Death and Taxes as White Weenie since the decks have such disparate plans of attack, but in my day Death and Taxes had a little more death and a little more taxes.
Without Mangara, you’re a white beatdown deck, albeit one with a significant number of “taxation” elements including a full complement of Rishadan Port and a baby named Karakas that was not thrown out with the Mangara bathwater. Karakas does tend to laugh at Emrakul.
Andrew Cuneo in the Top 8 was not that surprising, and I guess doing it with Elves is not that surprising either. Deathrite Shaman has made this deck a real contender. There aren’t enough Legacy Grands Prix in North America every year. We need at least three.
I should mention Dredge made it, blah blah, whatever. Not to denigrate the deck or its pilot, Drew Tunison, who played a version I like with Dread Return to bring back Griselbrand for lolz (and value). But I really want to talk about Sam Black’s Bant deck right damn now. So, Dredge, awesome, good to see it didn’t get hated out completely, and also Ted McKluskie and Shardless BUG, a deck I predicted would Top 8. Bant time yet?
Okay, so Bant. This is the third deck that already existed but got a lot better with True-Name Nemesis. Unlike the other builds, this one often gets a turn two TNN and has a lot of late game action. I like Maverick variants, but this particular configuration harkens back even further to the days of maindeck Terravore. I like this configuration a lot, and Stoneforge Mystic and True-Name Nemesis mean it’s competitive.
The format will evolve to be able to deal with this potent combination, but until it does, we had three decks with essentially the same core, but they were three deck archetypes that were totally different, existed already and don’t change a whole lot with the addition of TNN. I will always play “Mono-Black” and I’m glad he continues to come up with good stuff to keep the game interesting.
The Top 16 had a few copies of Team America, which I am surprised to see, given how all the BUG players seem to want to jam Shardless Agent now. Tombstalker is cool and all, but when your Gray Ogre has a Hymn to Tourach attached to him, your turn two couldn’t be better.
Some RUG Delver in the Top 16 as well, but I imagine they found out what Deshaun already knew–RUG Delver needs to get on the “Stoneforge-TNN plan” ASAP, or figure out how to beat it at least. Night of Souls’ Betrayal? Pyroclasm? Supreme Verdict? Adapt or die, Legacy folks. It seems like week in and week out, Legacy proves that it always has and always will elect to adapt.
I am forced to conclude that SCG ran the GP in DC and there was no Open this weekend. That suits me down to the ground, frankly. What better way to end than by only having to write about Legacy?
Flip those TNNs, guys. They’re “Legacy-altering” good, but they’re also getting farted out of the Wotc pipeline, and soon the price will come down a bit. I’d be watching cards like Ophiomancer, Toxic Deluge and From the Ashes as I think there is more money to be made buying low and selling high with those.
As always, this has been another installment of your favorite Magic article. Follow me on Twitter where I talked about Ryan Archer’s decklist so much the Scion car company thought I was talking about them and started following me. You can’t make this stuff up.