A few weeks ago, I lost the my last match of the Legacy iteration of Grand Prix to miss Top 8 and finish 13th overall.
It wasn’t really until my flight reached peak-altitude on the Monday morning after the GP that the full heartbreak set in.
As a competitive Magic player, disappointment is something that you just have to live with. It’s truly a game of failure and if you can’t accept that reality it will be very difficult for you to have success in this game. Of course, because I’m writing it, I know all this. But it was the furthest thing on my mind when I was sitting next to the window on that plane trying to figure out how I could have beat Noah Walker in Round 15.
I know you’re here for my deck and how I’ll work on it going forward and I’ll get to that I promise. But the last thing I’ll say about my finish is this: the most important thing you’ll ever learn from Magic is how to lose.
Dealing with loss and knowing that your success at this game is not always (or often) going to be correlated with your results at tournaments, is the most important thing about competing at Magic. You are going to fail. Over and over again, and that’s the reality you’re living in when you get on a plane to play cards in another country. It’s how you respond to that failure that will make you a great player one day.
Now, motivational (sort of) monologue aside, Deathrite Shaman is not banned. Legacy is a complicated battlefield that continues to evolve. Let me tell you some of the lessons I learned in preparation for Seattle and where I’m going moving forward with my prep to play the Legacy seat at GP Toronto.
Legacy is a format for deckbuilders
How can I say something like this when the best deck in the format is largely solved in Grixis Delver?
Well, it was the single biggest advantage I got throughout the entire event. I tried so many things in the weeks leading up to the GP and every small intricacy about my final decklist paid off in a big way at the event.
Leading up to the event, I was on the hunt for the perfect threat, but I didn’t really find it. I tried True-Name Nemesis’, maindeck Umezawa’s Jitte, Lilianas main of all kinds, cutting Jace entirely and the list goes on. Ultimately I decided that you wanted a mix of the stock choices pre-board and to rely on the nigh-unkillable Liliana, the Last Hope after-board.
Your threat of choice is Kolaghan’s Command, which dodges Pyroblast and REB and that is what matters most in Legacy. Playing fair is largely about finding the best way to make sure your threats lineup awkwardly with your opponents answers. It’s on this premise that Grixis Delver has so much success, even in slower and grindier match-ups.
Prior to Toronto I’m challenging myself to try out more of these tricky-to-beat threats. Black permanents are just hard to beat in Legacy and that is something worth trying to exploit. Or even counteract, with something like Liliana’s Defeat.
Force of Will is good
Truly a hot take here, right? Honestly in my circle of friends it is. Edgar Magalhaes played zero copies in his 4C Leovold deck at the event and loved it. The truth is that you board-out Force of Will in the majority of your matches. But, I believe it’s still a necessary evil.
I landed on three copies for Seattle. I cut the fourth to make room for the second copy of Thoughtseize in the maindeck.
FoW is obviously great against decks like Reanimator, Mono-Red Prison and Storm, three decks that I faced during my run in Seattle. But it’s also just a free spell. Sometimes in such a powerful format, you’re able to leverage the hyper-efficiency of Force to help you win some game-ones you would otherwise get run over in.
It was for this reason I ended up keeping a Thoughtseize in my deck post-board on the draw against Grixis Delver. Traditionally, this isn’t the type of bad top-deck in the late game you’d want in that math-up. But I just wanted more cheap cards, and I think that should be on your mind when you’re building any Legacy deck.
Be ready for Swords to Plowshares
My prediction for Grand Prix Toronto is that players will find a way to have success with a Swords deck. I mentioned earlier that one of Grixis Delver’s greatest strengths is its ability to diversify its threats. Well, with the exception of True-Name Nemesis, Swords to Plowshares doesn’t care about what colour, converted mana cost or size the creature is, which makes it a great choice.
The exiling clause also makes it quite difficult to re-buy your creatures with Kolaghan’s Command.
If U/W decks can find a way to beat the 4C Leovold decks with solid post-board plans to grind. I think they could have a breakout weekend in May at the GP. I certainly miraculously defeated a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that felt like the best card in Magic against my deck while in Seattle.
Ponder versus Preordain
This was another hot topic of discussion leading into the Grand Prix. Preordain does a better job of sifting through your library quickly and letting you get what you need when you need it. It also doesn’t put as much pressure on your fetch lands as Ponder. Often you need to keep a fetch around to clear the third card at the bottom of your Ponder stack, leaving you fetch-less for future Brainstorms.
This all said, Ponder is one of the best cards ever printed at finding very specific answers. It simply gives you so many looks at what you need.
At the end of my internal dialogue on the subject, which felt endless, I decided that the choice depends on your exact decklist. Ponder is at its best when you have powerful one and two-ofs that you need to find in Game 1 situations. For this reason, I decided to play Ponder to help find my Toxic Deluge, Diabolic Edicts and Abrupt Decay in those critical Game 1 scenarios.
What I’m doing immediately
To start with I’m going to put a copy of Liliana’s Defeat in my sideboard. I think it’s good against Grixis Delver if you see Liliana, the Last Hope post-board and solid in the mirror. I’m also going to try to find something I can use to grind with against U/W decks that doesn’t rely on my own graveyard. Possibly a card like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Sylvan Library or Painful Truths.
Lastly, I’d like to find room for another Thoughtseize in my 75. I have a long-standing love affair with that card and playing with full information on Turn 1 in Legacy is exactly where I want to be.
Want to try out Keith’s deck at an event near you ? Come out to Face to Face Games’ Team Trios Open on May 5!