Preparing for an Invitational – #SCGATL

For the last month, the only tournament on my radar has been the SCG Invitational in Atlanta.  For various reasons, I couldn’t play in anything bigger than a local TCGPlayer 1k recently, so I have been forced to wait very patiently for this Invitational to come around.  On top of that, organizing my trip down to Atlanta from Chicago has been quite the adventure.  I have been in three different cars with up to eight different people and even almost booked a flight.  It has finally settled down and I am driving down with a grinder friend from college bright and early Thursday morning.

What’s a Kessig Wolf Run? About 20 MPH.

I would talk about Standard, but it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me at all well that I am battling with GR Wolf Run.  I have taken this archetype to every major tournament since Cavern of Souls has been released and have had great success with it (won the WMCQ in St. Louis, undefeated in Standard at the World Magic Cup, cash finishes in a bunch of TCGPlayer events).  In fact, the only major tournaments that I did not play Wolf Run, I did not finish in the money.  The reason I like Wolf Run so much (particularly GR) is that it has a very favorable matchup with Delver, which I expect to be a strong majority of the field, if you know what you are doing.  It is also favored vs. Zombies and has decent matchups with Pod variants.

But anyways, I’ve already talked too much about Standard.  It’s time to talk about the best format, Legacy!  As I write this article, I realize that AVR was a wonderful set for me as a magic player.  It gave me Cavern of Souls for the aforementioned Wolf Run deck and Terminus generating the wonderful return of UW Control in Legacy.  Before I go into too much detail, here is the list I am currently on for this weekend:

Creatures: Instants: Sideboard:
3x Stoneforge Mystic 4x Brainstorm 1x Force of Will
3x Snapcaster Mage 3x Spell Pierce 1x Terminus
2x Vendilion Clique 3x Force of Will 1x Path to Exile
2x Counterspell 1x Umezawa’s Jitte
Artifacts: 4x Swords to Plowshares 2x Engineered Explosives
1x Batterskull 2x Enlightened Tutor
3x Sensei’s Divining Top Sorceries: 2x Relic of Progenitus
3x Terminus 1x Wheel of Sun and Moon
Enchantments: 1x Ensnaring Bridge
3x Counterbalance Lands: 1x Ethersworn Canonist
1x Oblivion Ring 5x Island 1x Circle of Protection: Red
2x Plains 1x Humility
Planeswalkers: 4x Flooded Strand
3x Jace, the Mind Sculptor 3xScalding Tarn
2x Misty Rainforest
4x Tundra
1x Glacial Fortress
1x Karakas

 

Now, let me start off by saying why I like this deck so much.  It is able to control every deck in the format.  The sheer number of two-for-ones and the power level that each of them offers makes game one winnable against every archetype.  This wasn’t really possible before Terminus was printed because the control decks would often be dead long before they could cast their Wrath of God against the creature decks and, even after casting Wrath of God, they were often behind and tapped out allowing the opponent to re-establish a threatening board.  Terminus is the perfect answer to a variety of these threatening board states at the low cost of one mana and a little bit of deck manipulation.  Then, this deck is still as powerful at controlling the unfair decks as any other blue deck in the format through Spell Pierce, Force of Will, and Vendilion Clique.  On top of all of that, you still have Stoneforge-Batterskull as a recursive source of a game-ending threat and Jace, the Mind Sculptor/CounterTop to maintain control once a favorable board has been established.  Lastly, this deck makes the absolute best use of Brainstorm in the current format.  Brainstorm was already an automatic four-of before miracles, and it becomes even more powerful in combination with miracles.

Next, I want to talk about each of the matchups that I am expecting this weekend and how I plan on winning them.

Esper Stoneblade:

I expect this to be the most represented archetype by far.  The deck is very powerful and has a lot of the same things going for it that the Terminus deck does.  This is a very close and skill-intensive matchup but I feel strongly that it is very winnable for the control player.  The key to winning this matchup is the one tool that we have that they do not, CounterTop.  If we can manage to assemble an early CounterTop, the game is essentially locked up.  Most of these games will end with the opponent conceding or with a Jace ultimate.  Our Swords to Plowshares become rather weak in this matchup but it is still important to have a way to kill their Stoneforge Mystic early on.  We want to use our Brainstorms to protect our key cards from hand disruption or set up a Terminus to wipe Lingering Souls tokens that pose a serious threat.  Our own Batterskull is a great way to stay alive going long.  It is very likely that whoever casts the first Jace, the Mind Sculptor is prepared to have a serious counter war, because that is likely what both players are saving Spell Pierces and Force of Wills for.

Sideboard:

In: 1x Enlightened Tutor, 1x Force of Will, 1x Engineered Explosives

Out: 1x Terminus, 2x Swords to Plowshares

 

RUG Delver:

A lot of my recent conversations with some of the bigger Legacy players around Chicago have been about how they think RUG Delver is not likely to be very popular this weekend.  I couldn’t disagree more.  The results of the SCG Open Series are a bit misleading as far as producing an accurate metagame for something like an Invitational.  A good RUG player is still one of the biggest threats in the room.  As long as they understand how to beat you, they have a shot at winning every single game.  Luckily for us, we have a lot of different tools to attack exactly how RUG tries to win.  Honestly, because I expect a bit more control and RUG at this tournament than at a typical open, I am choosing to not play Entreat the Angels at all.  The key against RUG is to do everything we can to make their counterspells bad while staying alive.  Things like aggressively Spell Piercing a Brainstorm, waiting to cast Swords to Plowshares until we can pay for Daze, and aggressively miracling Terminus to kill even a 1/1 Nimble Mongoose are all totally acceptable plays.  We need time to not only use Stoneforge to fetch up Batterskull, but to actually cast Batterskull as well.  Jace is fairly underwhelming in this matchup and is usually the first card I will pitch to a Force of Will.  Vendilion Clique’s sole purpose is to trade with Nimble Mongoose or eat a burn spell from their hand while burying another threat with its ETB ability.  The more times that we can 2-for-1 the RUG player in any form, the better off we will be because our cards are all more powerful than theirs.  One play that I will make very often against a RUG player is to just turn 2 slam a Counterbalance forcing them to use a counter on it.  I don’t know if this is correct, but whenever I win against RUG, it is not because I held counterbalance in my hand until turn 5.

Sideboard:

In: 2x Engineered Explosives, 2x Relic of Progenitus, 1x Path the Exile, 1x Terminus

Out: 2x Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 1x Counterspell, 3x Force of Will

Maverick:

I do not expect combo to be very popular this weekend, and I think that there are a lot of people who would agree.  Now, Maverick is not stone-dead to combo, but it isn’t a particularly great match up for them.  Therefore, I do think that Maverick will be more popular given the belief that Combo will be less popular (because of the immense popularity of Force of Will decks).  This is yet another reason that I think that a deck packing Terminus is a high quality choice for the weekend.  This matchup is fortunately a bit more straightforward than some of the others.  Use Terminus for value, Snapcaster/Swords to solve any additional problems,  CounterTop to lock them out.  The one line that is just brutal for us is if the opponent casts Mother of Runes into Gaddock Teeg.  This tends to come up more in post-board games, but is a serious problem for obvious reasons.  Another serious issue is the card Choke (which is the only reason I considered playing more Glacial Fortresses, but they have Wasteland too).  I think that it is very important to have a plan for these two lines of play.  I am a big proponent of an early Engineered Explosives on 1 or 2 depending on what has happened.  You obviously want to Swords a Mother of Runes immediately if it presents itself.  Post-board, I will do everything in my power to not cast my Oblivion Ring until I know that I have a way to deal with Choke.

Sideboard:

In: 2x Engineered Explosives, 1x Path to Exile, 1x Terminus

Out: 1x Force of Will, 1x Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 1x Spell Pierce, 1x Counterbalance

I am curious what some of you think about cards like Humility or Ensnaring Bridge vs. Maverick.  Post in the comments if you have any thoughts!

UW Control Mirror:

This is a terribly exciting matchup…But seriously, I really hope they don’t put much of this on camera for the viewers.  It is as Draw-Go based as it gets in Legacy.  I would actually prefer that my opponent miracle an Entreat the Angels as early as possible allowing me a chance to set up Terminus and then resolve Stoneforge or Counterbalance.  CounterTop and Jace are the big cards in this matchup and it is important to not get suckered in to fighting over the little things to the point that you then lose a fight over a Jace.  The best thing you can do for yourself is set up a situation with a Vendilion Clique on your opponent’s end step to then untap and fight over a counterbalance after interacting with their hand.  Having Sensei’s Top going every turn will also let you pull ahead rather quickly.  You just need to be patient and understand what your plan is for winning from the current board state.  I also really like that our creature based threat (Batterskull) is recursive while theirs (Entreat the Angels) is answered by one otherwise dead card.

Sideboard (assuming they are the Entreat the Angels version not the Stoneblade version):

Out: 1x Terminus, 4x Swords to Plowshares

In: 1x Force of Will, 2x Relic of Progenitus, 2x Enlightened Tutor

The key with this sideboard strategy is that you bring in cards that have inherent card disadvantage but allow you to set up your game-winning card advantage engines.

Quick question:  If anyone knows how the converted mana cost of a miracled Entreat the Angels is calculated, I would appreciate it.  I.E. does it apply the value of X to the mana cost at the top or is the CMC still the miracle cost.

 

So, those are what I expect to playing against most often this weekend.  I realize that this does not cover every matchup possible in the format, but that would be one extremely long article.  Some of the sideboard cards I never covered have some very game changing applications, but I will include a brief explanation below:

Ensnaring Bridge:  Merfolk decks literally do not have a way to beat this card.  It is also fairly effective against Emrakul, Griselbrand and company.

Humility:  Probably the best thing to bring in during your opponent’s Show and Tell.  Also effective against Goblins and Merfolk.  Conveniently pumps my germ tokens up as well!

Circle of Protection Red:  People still play Burn, it still can just get ya, and I don’t want to be gotten.

Wheel of Sun and Moon:  A much worse Rest in Peace (recently spoiled Return to Ravnica card that is not legal for this tournament), but it stops reanimator and dredge strategies in their tracks.  It is great alongside Relic of Progenitus + Enlightened Tutor because I can choose which one to tutor for depending on the situation.

Umezawa’s Jitte This used to be a maindeck staple, but I found myself never actually wanting to tutor for it.  Either way, it can come in against Elves, Goblins, Death/Taxes, and a few other archetypes.  I am actually considering making this sideboard slot just a second copy of Batterskull though.

Ethersworn Canonist Much like Burn, Storm and Charbelcher are real decks that just get ya.  Even with Spell Pierce and Force of Will available, it is great to have a tutor-able trump card out of the board for games 2 and 3.

 

That’s a wrap for this article.  I am looking forward to meeting a lot of the Roxie Cards community members this weekend in Atlanta and am hoping to have a good showing at the event.  I want to give a huge thank you to Adam for putting me at his place this weekend and for giving me the opportunity to write for Roxie.  See you in Atlanta!

Alex Binek

@PTQChamp on Twitter