I'm just getting back from a big trip over the past two weeks, and I want to talk about my Legacy Open win on Sunday, and share a few new standard brews with you guys.
This Monday marked the end of 11 days away from home for me, consisting of seven days in Costa Rica, one day dedicated to airports and airplanes, and three days in Atlanta. Despite finishing 17th Grand Prix San Jose, I could not help but be a little disappointed. I was 10-2 with two rounds left to go and a decent U/B aggro/tempo deck. My two losses up to that point had been to AJ Sacher and David Ochoa, and as chance would have it I wound up playing against the two of them again and losing both times. Only three people out of my final draft pod were to miss top 8. I didn't want to be one of them, but it's hard to complain when the other five were Shuhei Nakamura, David Ochoa, Ben Stark, Josh Utter-Leyton and AJ Sacher.
The trip itself was a lot of fun. On Friday I went on a tour with a bunch of magic players and a few assorted tourists. We saw the Doka coffee plantation, Poas volcano, and La Paz waterfall+ zoo. The coolest part was a visual trick that the guide pointed out to us at La Paz. I'm guessing that this works with any waterfall, but none of us had ever experienced it before. He told us to stare at the water for 40 seconds, and then look at the Misty Rainforest to the right of it. The result was a hallucination which made it seem like the whole mountainside was contorting and stretching.
San Jose itself was somewhat of a dingy city, but as soon as the tournament was over, I hopped on a bus with my friend and travelling companion Ozzie Smith, and we made the four and a half hour trip to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. It turned out to be a nice mix of tourist traps (they had the nerve to charge $10 for dinner,) local people, and expats. There were lots of friendly Rastas who live on the beach and constantly stopped us to talk for various reasons. I'm glad that the US doesn't have a currency based on oversized coins, but we found no shortage of impoverished people eager to take them off our hands. The coins were of much more value deposited in the Karma bank than filling up my pockets.
I was sad to leave the beautiful Costa Rican beach and return to magic, but I had a streak to uphold. After Top 8ing the first two StarCity Invitationals of the year, I had high hopes for this one. It was not to be though, as I followed a 3-0-1 start in Legacy with a 1-3 Standard record, missing day 2. I switched from Delver to Naya Pod for the Open the following day, and went 8-0 after losing the first two rounds to Zombies. It would have been nice to get more than $100 for winning that many rounds, but regardless, winning eight rounds in a row can do wonders to lift your spirits.
The format I was really looking forward to this past weekend was Legacy. I had brought Maverick, RUG Delver and Goblins with me to Costa Rica, but I had no real intention of playing Maverick and I've never played a game with RUG Delver before. Maverick is just terrible against the U/W Miracles deck and Show and Tell, which I expected to be two of the biggest decks for the weekend. RUG I knew was a solid deck even if I had no experience with it, so it was a good backup plan if I lost faith in Goblins. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized how well positioned Goblins is at the moment. Once we decided on the Angel of Despair sideboard plan on Thursday night, I really felt comfortable playing against almost any deck in the format. The only matchups I really wanted to avoid were decks that I couldn't interact much with like Charbelcher, Dredge, and Enchantress. Considering how many different decks exist in Legacy, it is pretty uncommon to be in a spot where your deck is good against almost everything, and great against some things. For example, RUG Delver is considered to have fairly even matchups across the board, but a skilled pilot has a lot of opportunities to outplay his opponent, so it is a popular deck choice for very good players. Goblins, on the other hand, has various matchups where it is heavily favored, some that are about even, and a few that are terrible. The trick is to try to break out Goblins when the metagame is weak to it. Right now, that is exactly the case. When control and combo start to dominate and become inbred to beat each other, Goblins has the chance to sneak in and catch everyone unprepared. I want to thank my friend Jim Davis, the Goblin King himself, for teaching me almost everything I know about the deck. I'm going to outline how some of the most popular matchups play out, then I'll give a round by round description of what happened in the tournament.
Why no Krenko, Mob Boss? I had him in the deck up until the last minute, when I decided to switch him out for the second Siege-Gang Commander. My reasoning was that most of the time you play either one of these guys they will die instantly. Unless you have out a Warchief, Krenko leaves you behind with nothing, while Siege-Gang gives you three goblins. For the times when they survive, Siege-Gang rarely fails to provide enough ammo to win the game. He is also one of your outs to a Moat. One matchup where Krenko really shines though is Maverick, and I would put him in if that deck got big again.
This is one of Goblins' best matchups. Between Jim and myself, we played against the deck countless times during the Invitational and Legacy Open, losing only once I believe. I am lumping together the Miracles decks with the Stoneforge decks because a lot of the cards are the same, but in reality the Miracles matchup is easier.
The card you most want to see in your opening hand is Cavern of Souls, followed by Aether Vial, followed by Goblin Lackey. If I don't know what I am playing against I will usually mulligan a seven card hand without one of those cards anyway, but especially so in this matchup. These decks usually play few if any ways of destroying a nonbasic land, so having a Cavern in play immediately blanks all the Counterspells and Counterbalances in their deck for the rest of the game. Keep this in mind later in the game when you might want to play two Goblins in one turn with only one Cavern out. They are likely to counter any spell that you give them the chance to, knowing that they might not get another one.
The game plan is usually to resolve as many Goblin Ringleaders as possible. Against Miracles the only things you really need to worry about are overextending into Terminus, Entreat the Angels, and Moat. Don't feel like you need to kill them as quickly as possible, because most of their cards don't really do anything and you are better off having a reserve of goblins in your hand than trying to finish the game a turn earlier. If your opponent Terminuses you and then drops Jace the Mind Sculptor, you are still in good shape if your hand contains a Ringleader or a Warchief plus another goblin.
When playing against Stoneforge Control, you get the same benefit of having all of their Counterspells do nothing, but rather than worrying about Sensei's Divining Top plus Terminus, the game usually comes down to beating Batterskull and/or Umezawa's Jitte. The easiest way to do this is to kill Stoneforge Mystic on the spot, but you don't always have that luxury, especially when he comes down on turn two. Don't give up when you see a Batterskull come down on turn three, it is absolutely beatable! You might have to take a few hits while you set up, but you want to kill Stoneforge Mystic with a Gempalm Incinerator so they can't bounce Batterskull and replay it at instant speed. Then you can kill the token either by blocking or incinerating it. When they try to bounce and replay Batterskull, they will probably be tapped out and vulnerable to Tin Street Hooligan. Of course, sometimes they tap out preemptively or allow you to Wasteland them down to two mana, and it becomes a lot easier to get them with Tin Street. If you are fighting a Stoneforge Mystic, most likely you will not want to play Goblin Warchief, because he prevents you from destroying an artifact with Tin Street Hooligan.
Why not board in Red Elemental Blast? The only reason you want it would be to counter Jace or Snapcaster Mage, and neither one of those are really pressing issues with this deck. I have boarded one in at times, but I wouldn't go any more than that. Be careful about fetching your Taiga just in case they have a way of destroying it. Cavern of Souls can't cast Krosan Grip.
Before sideboard, this matchup is admittedly bad. Whether you are playing against Omni-Tell or Sneak and Show, your plan is to disrupt their mana as much as possible while putting on some sort of pressure. Ideally, you want a hand that casts turn one Lackey or Vial and uses its mana for Rishadan Port and Wasteland rather than actually having to cast goblins. This is where Goblin Piledriver shines, since they will have nothing to throw in front of him, and he is the quickest way to deal a lot of damage. Your only defense if they manage to resolve a Show and Tell is Stingscourger, so hold on to that Goblin Matron if you only have one in hand. If Omniscience comes down rather than a fatty, it's time to move on to game two…
After board, I would suggest mulliganing aggressively to find at least an Angel or a Blast. Krosan Grip is more situational, but worth bringing in, so don't snap keep a mediocre hand with a Grip. Angel of Despair is the best card to have in your hand because it stops Omniscience, Griselbrand and Emrakul, and will give you enough of a board presence to kill them within a turn or two. If you have Angel in hand but not Red Elemental Blast, you can try to purposely tap out so they will be more likely to go for a preemptive Show and Tell. Don't get too overconfident though, common answers to an Angel are Thoughtseize, Trickbind and Stifle.
This is a pretty good matchup for Goblins, since their Counterspells are once again fairly useless, and their creatures are not too impressive. A draw with multiple Tarmogoyfs can be hard to beat game one, but most other draws are pretty beatable. They play few lands, so sometimes Goblins can just get a free win using Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Don't play a Cavern of Souls before you need to, because it will probably get destroyed by Wasteland.
Relic is an extremely useful tool for fighting Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose. Unfortunately, you rarely have the leisure to sit around and remove one card at a time with it, but a cantrip that kills a Tarmogoyf is nothing to complain about. If you need to be absolutely sure the Goyf dies, wait until after it has damage on it to pop the Relic, so they can't respond with a Though Scour or some other way of pumping it. The best card they might have against you after sideboard is Rough/Tumble. Not all lists play it, but if the game plays out so that you have the luxury to play around it, it's something to keep in mind.
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Despite the fact that Maverick can gum up the ground with big creatures, they have little removal or card advantage to control your horde of goblins. You want to chump block Knight of the Reliquary with Goblin War Marshall, while building up an insurmountable advantage with Goblin Ringleaders. Gempalm Incinerator is your most important card here so don't waste it on something like a Qasali Pridemage. Knight of the Reliquary and Mother of Runes are the two things you want to kill most.
Pyrokinesis can often be an absolute blowout in this matchup. It's ok to get a little greedy; trading two cards for two Noble Hierarchs might slow them down, but you are probably better off waiting until they drop a Knight or Scavenging Ooze. Trading two cards for a Knight of the Reliquary alone is acceptable since it can dominate the game if unchecked.
Here's how the tournament played out:
Round 1 Sneak and Show (2-1)
In the first game I essentially did nothing and died to Emrakul on turn two or three. The second game saw another quick Show and Tell, but I was ready with Angel of Despair to send Emrakul to an early grave. The look on my opponent's face and the reaction of the people around me was priceless. All I wanted to do going into the tournament was to get someone with the Angel, so doing it first round made my day. In the third game, my opponent tapped out for Sneak Attack using a Lotus Petal, but I destroyed his Volcanic Island and killed him before he could find another red mana.
Round 2 U/W/r Miracles (2-0)
This match was fairly uneventful, as my opponent never saw a Terminus and was unable to do anything. I was caught off guard by Fire/Ice, but it was hardly enough to stop my team.
Round 3 Maverick (1-2)
I made a mistake on turn 5 of extra turns which cost me the match. My opponent had out two Noble Hierarchs, a Mother of Runes, and an Ethersworn Canonist and I was at 4 with a Goblin Warchief and some other goblins in play, an Aether Vial on 3, and a Goblin Sharpshooter in my hand. The correct play was to vial in Sharpshooter at his beginning of combat and shoot a Hierarch, which would make him save it and let me chump block the Canonist. Instead, I allowed him to attack, and he gave Canonist protection from red after the exalted triggers resolved. I would not necessarily have been able to win on my next turn, but it I would not have minded playing with Goblins in the draw bracket.
Round 4 Junk (2-1)
This match came down to me disrupting my opponent's mana and trying not to extend too much into Pernicious Deed. The game he did win was a blowout, where he had Dark Confidant and Batterskull and I couldn't deal with either.
Round 5 B/W Discard (2-1)
My opponent lead off game one with a Dark Ritual, and I was pleasantly surprised to see him cast only three spells that turn rather than ten. A turn one Inquisition + Dark Confidant is still a strong play, but he was unable to find white mana until too late, and I beat him even though I was unable to remove Bob for a good five turns. Game two I got slaughtered, as I mulliganed to five and he played a turn one Liliana of the Veil. Game three I won through an Engineered Plague, with the help of Goblin Ringleader and three Piledrivers.
Round 6 Maverick (2-1)
Game one I was fortunate to draw all four Gempalm Incinerators and Goblin Sharpshooter, but it was still pretty close since I only had two Goblins in play, and had to use two Incinerators at a time to kill Knights of the Reliquary. Game two I lost to Umezawa's Jitte, and game three came down to one crucial turn where I had a few unimpressive goblins on the field and had just managed to kill the one big creature he had left. When his play for the next turn was Sylvan Library, I had all but locked it up due to the three Rishadan Ports and three other lands I had in play. This game could have been a lot easier if I hadn't made a significant error early on. I attacked with my Goblin Lackey into his Forest, which turned out to be a promo Dryad Arbor. I had never seen one of these before, but be careful, it looks exactly like a basic land.
Round 7 U/W/r Miracles (2-1)
This round was against Christian Valenti, probably the most polite opponent I've yet to encounter. Game one I was stalled on land and he resolved a Jace and fatesealed me, putting a land on the bottom. Fortunately, I ripped a Taiga and proceeded to resolve the seven goblins in my hand over several turns thanks to a Cavern of Souls. Game two I thought was mine, but he wound up having a few too many Terminuses (Termini?) and a second Entreat the Angels to seal the deal. Game three started with less than ten minutes on the clock, but Christian kept the game pace up like a true gentleman and I was able to win a game that he certainly could have stalled into a draw with slow play.
Round 8 Omni-Tell (2-1)
A mulligan to five game for my opponent one allowed me a rare pre-board win. He was still able to get out a quick Emrakul, but I had Goblin Matron for Stingscourger. Game two I opted to cast a Goblin Lackey on turn one to put on some pressure rather than keep up mana for Red Elemental Blast, and I died on turn two. Game three I had two Angel of Despairs and felt like I couldn't lose. It turns out I couldn't, as he didn't play any Stifle effects.
Round 9 Esper Stone-Blade (2-0)
I had poor tiebreakers and was forced to play out the last round vs. Matt Hoey. I won the first game through all four Swords to Plowshares and an active Jitte after I killed his Batterskull. The second was a little easier and I breezed through into the top 8. Being second seed was really important, letting me play first every round, and was part of the reason why I accepted no splits.
Quarterfinals Maverick (2-0)
This was a rematch against my round three opponent. In the first game he decided to go aggro, giving his 8/8 Knight pro red and attacking. The next turn I vomited eleventy hundred goblins onto the table with Skirk Prospector and Goblin Warchief, and killed him. Game two was a Pyrokinesis blowout. After I killed two Hierarchs and a Dryad Arbor, he was left with just a Wasteland, and it wasn't much of a game.
Game one I mulliganed and he dropped three Tarmogoyfs, making me feel like maybe I should have accepted a prize split. Game two double Relic of Progenitus did some serious work, and game three I Wastelanded his only two lands and won easily with Goblin Lackey and friends.
Finals Esper Stone-Blade (2-1)
This was a grueling way to end the day. I think the match took around an hour and twenty minutes. Games one and three where I won didn't take so long, but the second game was a drawn out affair. I got him down to two life, but he stabilized with a Terminus followed by a Jace. I made a few questionable plays, but I was very tired at this point and just wanted to win. Fortunately, game three involved a turn one Lackey, for which he had neither a Force of Will nor a Swords to Plowshares, and I won while keeping his white mana tapped to avoid Terminus.
After 13 hours of magic it felt great to walk away with a trophy, and I couldn't have asked for a better way to end the trip.
Return to Ravnica Standard
For those of you out there who are all about returning to Ravnica to play standard, here are two concoctions from the mind a friend of mine, deckbuilder extraordinaire Dan Jessup.
This is a deck that has been testing pretty well so far. The basic idea is to play one of your bounce spells on turn two to stop the early pressure and buy time so you can forge an unstoppable late game. Restoration Angel has some sick targets in this deck, and I think this could be a good starting point for people who enjoyed playing Birthing Pod type decks in the old environment.
This list is a little more experimental, but it has appeal for people who enjoyed Solar Flare. Underworld Connections is a cool way to go for miracles on your opponent's turn. You have a variety of enchantments that can slow down the game and make it hard for your opponent to do anything, while you set up for a big Entreat the Angels or mill them out with Jace.
Good luck to everyone at the prerelease this weekend, Return to Ravnica looks like a lot of fun and I can't wait to play it myself.
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