Insider: Legacy Izzet Audible in Columbus

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Last Friday Night

I'm writing this on Friday night from my hotel room in Columbus.

I just finished doing better in Standard than Legacy in an SCG Invitational for the first time ever. I won't pretend that my play was as tight as it could have been--save for a really sweet mirror that I played--but, at the end of the day, I can't help but wonder something...

Is Tarmogoyf good anymore?

Everybody is Abrupt Decaying, Plowing, Rest in Peace-ing... The card is too expensive to really want against combo decks, and playing with it and Nimble Mongoose often makes Deathrite Shaman a must-kill. I still admire Nimble Mongoose for the ability to dodge pinpoint removal, but it sure doesn't do a good job of attacking into True-Name Nemesis.

Speaking of True-Name Nemesis, that guy sure is annoying. It can't be Spell Pierced and it makes me want to keep some number of Force of Wills in against decks that it's otherwise terrible against.

Should I just be True-Name Nemesising?

Well, there's only one way to find out.

I'm going to audible the Open on Sunday. This might involve buying some cards at the booth that I left at home and perhaps eschewing a few things like the fourth Volcanic Island that I probably want, but if I'm boarding Tarmogoyf out against a ton of decks, it's definitely time for some experimenting.

So I know that I want True-Name Nemesis, and I know that I don't want Tarmogoyf... That's a start, but it's a far cry from a deck. It's possible that UWR is just the way to go, but I've never been a fan of white mana. Stoneforge Mystic is a very good card, but I'm looking to attack from an angle closer to what I'm used to. Something like Osyp Lebedowicz's second place list from Eternal Weekend:

At a glance, I either want one more or three fewer Stifles. I also would like my go-to additional land. I think that if you're playing Young Pyromancer, you have to play Gitaxian Probe, and that makes me somewhat suspicious of both. I know that I like the two Grim Lavamancers, but I'm uncertain if there is a better option than Young Pyromancer to go with them. Snapcaster Mage is an option, but that just puts another three-drop in the deck, which seems ambitious in an 18/19 land Wasteland deck.

I've written before that I don't really like Gitaxian Probe in RUG Delver, as all it lets you do is make sure the coast is clear for the very good but very beatable Tarmogoyf. Playing with True-Name Nemesis is considerably different, as playing around Daze by playing a fourth land is substantially worse than playing a third land. There's also the fact that once True-Name Nemesis resolves, it's not exactly easy to answer.

I need to cut something if I'm going to play a nineteenth land, and, if it's not Probes, then it probably has to be Stifle. With this deck being considerably more mana-hungry than RUG, I see no problem with this cut. People rarely play into Stifle like they used to, and with more expensive threats, I'd rather be more proactive about casting them than sit on and perhaps never get any mileage out of Stifle. Not to mention that this deck is considerably less Waste-able than RUG, so Stifle just matters less.

That leaves two maindeck slots, and I've been a fan of these for years:

As for the sideboard, I like a lot of what Osyp had going on. Vendilion Clique is an awesome option to board in against combo decks where True-Name Nemesis doesn't exactly shine, and Umezawa's Jitte is an excellent way to completely stomp opponents playing decks that aren't great against True-Name Nemesis. On the matter of Blood Moon, well, I'm just not that into Blood Moon, and I intend to stick to what I like.

Fast Forward

It's no longer Friday and I'm back from Origins, having posted a 7-3 record with the above list in the Legacy Open. There are a few things that I would change, but first let's go over how the battles went.

Round 1 vs. UG Infect (2-0)

This matchup is absurdly good. They're a combo deck that relies on 1/1s. I'm a red deck with counterspells. There's not much to figure out here.

Round 2 vs. Merfolk (2-1)

I was pretty tired on Sunday, and despite being right next to the event when the second round was announced, I somehow completely missed the announcement. It was only when a friend noted that the clock was ticking down from 48 minutes that I know that I was late. After receiving a game loss for tardiness, I led off "game 2" with a Gitaxian Probe and saw this hand:

I'm not sure how this hand is keepable, and it wasn't difficult to defeat. In the real game two, my opponent played Island into Cursecatcher and never cast another spell. I feel like Merfolk is a reasonably good matchup for my deck, but my opponent mulligaining would easily have made things more difficult for me.

Round 3 vs. Burn (2-1)

Leading on Gitaxian Probe against this deck felt significantly worse, and game one didn't go my way. I was missing the Blue Elemental Blasts that I usually have on my sideboard, but I at least had things that I could board in over Gitaxian Probe and Dismember that didn't cost me life.

I brought in Umezawa's Jitte, taking it 2-1. Despite getting it active in game three, I do not think it would swing any games that were going poorly in my favor, unless I were to curve True-Name Nemesis into Jitte+equip on turn four, and that wouldn't even always be fast enough.

Drawing Flusterstorm in this matchup was considerably worse than drawing Blue Elemental Blast, but that information was nothing new. Flusterstorm is obviously better against combo decks, but I'm convinced of its worth yet.

Round 4 vs. Junk Dead Guy Ale (2-0)

Dark Confidant, Abrupt Decay, Stoneforge Mystic and Thoughtseize are all powerful cards, but none of them are Brainstorm.

Zealous Persecution is a real problem, but I was still able to take this match down. Despite winning, I found myself wanting for a two-toughness threat. Maybe the "-1/-1" problem is something that the deck just needs to accept, but it's a pretty glaring weakness. This is a substantial edge that Stoneforge Mystic has over the deck, but this deck has other advantages that I'll go over later.

Round 5 vs. BUG Delver (1-2)

I think that non-red Delver matchups should be pretty favorable. I have more reach and access to Pyroblast to stop their Brainstorms and True-Name Nemesis.

I convincingly won game one of this matchup, but proceeded to lose game two and punt game three. The long and short of it is that I Wastelanded a Tropical Island that was keeping my Submerge live that I really shouldn't have. I wouldn't have won for sure if I played correctly, but my odds would've been much better.

Round 6 vs. BUG Delver (0-2)

Unlike round 5, I wasn't really in this one. I got savaged by a Golgari Charm in a situation where I would have lost if I didn't play into it anyway.

Game one was somewhat interesting. I kept a hand on the draw that needed to Ponder to find lands. I whiffed on turn one but had another Ponder to try on turn two after Daze-ing a Hymn to Tourach. When my opponent followed up the turn after with Liliana of the Veil, I was pretty much dead.

I don't think that not Pondering for a second land was an option in the face of potential Wastelands, but I did have a line that might have kept me in this game. If I just let the Hymn to Tourach resolve, manage to keep my Ponder and find a land, then I could counter the Liliana and maybe do something.

I won't say that just letting Hymn to Tourach resolve would have been correct, but it was certainly a line that I considered briefly with the spell on the stack and one that might have just won me this game.

Either way, such decisions are exactly what makes Legacy awesome.

Round 7 vs. UG Cloudpost (2-1)

Pithing Needle on Wasteland made me wish that I had some kind of artifact hate on my sideboard, but shy of Ancient Grudge, I really don't see any of the available options as being good enough.

Anyhow, the only way to win this matchup is to be aggressive, and I got there two out of three times. I think that the matchup is probably favorable, but I wouldn't pump the fist when I saw the pairing.

Round 8 vs. Burn (2-1)

Nothing new was learned here and I 2-1'd Burn again. Once more I wished that Flusterstorm was Blue Elemental Blast, particularly when Eidolon of the Great Revel came to play, but the rest of the deck ended up being good enough. Despite the two wins, all of the games were close and I'm still considering the Blue Blast.

Round 9 vs. Zoo (1-2)

My opponent led on turn 1 Experiment One and I figured I was in trouble. Between Spell Pierce, Force of Will, Gitaxian Probe and arguably Dismember, I have just a ton of bad cards against this deck.

I ended up losing the match 1-2 and wishing that I had Osyp's third and fourth Submerges. Blue Blast would have also been reasonable here. The matchup felt bad but not that bad, and the extra Submerge would've gone a long way.

Round 10 vs. RUG Delver (2-0)

Man, casting Gitaxian Probe and seeing Stifle and Daze is hot. True-Name Nemesis is the truth and being the only one in the Delver mirror who can Submerge is oh so satisfying. A 2-0 here put me to 7-3.

Going Forward

One thing that was truly amazing about this deck was the ability to fetch lands in a way that would leave them speculating wildly about elements of the deck. A manabase of two or three Volcanic Islands could easily mean that I'm just off white or green. I know that at least one of my opponents brought Submerge in against me, and I wouldn't be surprised if I played against some artifact hate, too.

A manabase of Island, Island, Mountain out of a Delver deck will often cause players to play around Price of Progress. I had a number of opponents fetch out basics that hindered their mana in an attempt to play around a card that wasn't even in my 75. Fetching a basic and then playing a dual in a three-color deck is particularly weak against Wasteland, so I definitely gained some serious value on this one.

As I mentioned earlier, this deck is rather weak to global -1/-1 effects, and just playing UWR is a possible solution to this. Doing so, however, isn't exactly a freeroll. Playing a Tundra will assure opponents that I'm not playing green spells or Price of Progress. Artifact hate is also a problem for the UWR deck, but maybe it's not that bad. The other factor at play here is that Golgari Charm and Zealous Persecution are sideboard cards that are unlikely to appear as more than two-ofs.

I'll be thinking on solutions to the -1/-1 problem, which could range from finding a two-toughness creature, to playing something like Dispel, to just ignoring it outright. Whichever way that solution turns up, I would like to at least give straight Izzet another shot before I try UWR. With a few minor changes--notably jamming some more Submerge--I think the deck is extremely powerful.

Like the deck? Think that UWR is just better? Know of a sweet two-toughness creature that I could play over Young Pyromancer? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.
-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

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