Bazaar of Moxen Paris & Storm Primer

So, I didn’t get to write about Magic in quite a while. Or rather, I didn’t really want to. My excitement for the game is higher than it has been in quite a while though and I actually think I have something to contribute regarding the format I spent by far the most time playing: Legacy.

Last week, I made the trip down to Paris, France, to play in the Bazaar of Moxen tournaments. Which ones? I wasn’t even sure, to be honest. Playing in the PTQ on Friday and the Legacy main event on Saturday and Sunday seemed like a good plan, although I didn’t have much experience with the current Limited format. My backup plan in case I didn’t make day two in the Legacy event was to play Modern on Sunday – despite coming fresh off a disappointing 6-3 performance at GP Antwerp the week before, I still felt good about bringing the Domri Naya deck me and Pascal Wagner played in the GP.

As a short aside, you probably have never heard of Pascal, but he’s had his hands in the design of quite a few successful decks, most notably Timo Sch√ľnemann’s winning Ad Nauseam deck from GP Ghent last year, but also the Grixis Control deck Carsten Linden Top 8’ed Vintage with at Bazaar of Moxen 7, and another Legacy Storm deck Pascal and I played to numerous Top 8 finishes in local tournaments. I’m positive you will become more familiar with his name in the not-so-distant future.

When it came to Legacy though, I wasn’t exactly sure what to bring. I basically played three different decks in Legacy over the last twelve months: BURG Tempo, Team America and Storm. While I’ve had a bit of success with Canadian Threshold in 2012, the BURG deck never really performed for me, so I didn’t really consider it. Team America I hadn’t played in a while and I wasn’t sure exactly how much Jund to expect, which I believe is not exactly the easiest matchup. That left me with Storm.

There were pretty much two possibilities. The first is the aforementioned Storm deck Pascal and I worked on. This is what the list looked like from late 2012 until GP Strasbourg half a year later:

Grinding Station, GP Strasbourg 2013

4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
1 Rain of Filth
1 Bayou
1 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta
1 Swamp
1 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Duress
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Infernal Tutor
2 Past in Flames
4 Ponder
3 Tendrils of Agony
1 Thoughtseize

Sideboard:
1 Helm of Obedience
3 Carpet of Flowers
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Burning Wish
1 Ill-Gotten Gains

(Note that I sometimes replaced the Leylines and Helm of Obedience with two Ad Nauseams and three pieces of graveyard hate, usually Tormod’s Crypt or Grafdigger’s Cage.)

So, what is going on here? For those of you who read some of my earlier writings, yes, this is just an updated version of Grinding Station. But what is Grinding Station?

Grinding Station, April 2012

4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
2 Rain of Filth
1 Badlands
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Swamp
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
3 Burning Wish
3 Cabal Therapy
1 Duress
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Past in Flames
1 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Rite of Flame
3 Tendrils of Agony
2 Thoughtseize

//Sideboard
1 Ad Nauseam
2 Chain of Vapor
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Chain Lightning
1 Empty the Warrens
4 Infernal Tutor
1 Infest
1 Past in Flames
1 Telemin Performance
1 Tendrils of Agony

The main theory behind Grinding Station is that Tendrils of Agony is by far the strongest win-condition you can play in Legacy. Therefore, it seems logical to focus on casting it from your hand as consistently as possible, reducing the amount of interaction opponents can have and decreasing the effectiveness of countermagic. Eschewing Ad Nauseam and instead focusing on casting cantrips for Storm, going off with Grinding Station is, almost always, of purely mathematical nature – you can always see what’s going to happen, unlike with Ad Nauseam, where at least some kind of variance is involved. Sometimes you have to go off with Past in Flames though, which can be countered. Luckily, Past in Flames has built-in protection against counterspells.

While countermagic isn’t as effective against Grinding Station as it is against other flavours of Storm, there still are other means of interaction. For stack-based interaction, there are two realistic possibilities: Stifle, which only sees play in one deck (lumping all the flavours of Delver/Tempo together) and Flusterstorm, which is a sideboard staple for all kinds of blue decks as of now. As for permanents, the main offenders are Gaddock Teeg, Ethersworn Canonist and the occasional Leyline of Sanctity, all of which don’t actually prevent you from setting up a winning hand.

There is another way to interact with the deck though, one that was not very common when I first played it, but is very prevalent now and potentially devastating: Discard spells. Thanks to the printing of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay, we encountered the emergence of Legacy Jund and the re-emergence of BUG Tempo / Team America, which has always been Grinding Station’s worst matchup by far.

The solution is to move Infernal Tutor to the maindeck, making the deck much more explosive while making it slightly worse against countermagic. Note that Infernal Tutor is an attempt to let you go underneath their Deathrite Shamans with your Past in Flames; by searching up another Tutor before getting Past in Flames, one Deathrite activation will not stop you from being able to get Tendrils after your Past in Flames.

So why not play Grinding Station anymore? For once, although you can play through discard plus Deathrite Shaman I would rather not have to do that and instead find another axis to battle on. Further, Show and Tell Decks are not exactly the best matchups. Considering the amount of disruption they have and how strong their combo is, you are about half a turn too slow.

As you can see, we always had a sideboard plan consisting of an alternative combo, looking to sidestep opposing graveyard hate. Have I mentioned Reanimator being a bad matchup? It’s not that bad when your natural sideboard plan involves completely neutering their primary angle of attack. With Reanimator showing up less and less though, I ended up cutting the Leyline + Helm package for two Ad Nauseams and three pieces actual graveyard hate (Tormod’s Crypt or Grafdigger’s Cage mostly) with higher frequency.

Another piece of technology Pascal came up with was the inclusion of a singleton Burning Wish in the sideboard. Considering our plan was to board up on Tendrils against the blue non-combo decks anyway, this one was basically free protection against Surgical Extraction or a Deathrite Shaman activation on a discarded Tendrils of Agony, something that would prove relevant time and time again. In my version, wishing for the second copy of Past in Flames which went to the board when Ad Nauseam came in was just gravy.

In the later phases of that development, Adam Prosak picked up Storm and popularised the 16 cantrip version of Ad Nauseam Tendrils. That list is more or less the blueprint for Storm decks these days and most people are playing lists very closely resembling his these days.

While I did not like his exact version, I liked the prospect of having Ad Nauseam preboard against the non-blue decks. Like with Infernal Tutor in Grinding Station, you can often use it to go underneath your opponents’ interaction. The downside of Ad Nauseam is that it comes with some constraints regarding deck design. If I am going to commit to that, at least I want to be the best Ad Nauseam deck I reasonably can.

If I am going to cast Ad Nauseam, I want to do that early in the game so I can get maximum value from it – this goes hand in hand with making your Ad Nauseams deadlier even from lower life totals, seeing as the way to do both is to play additional fast mana. I always want to have the option to cast it on turn two and win from there. An additional bonus of Ad Nauseam is that it lets you go off from a minimal amount of cards in hand, often even Ad Nauseam plus just one other card, which is very relevant against discard spells.

All of this thinking led me to the following list:

Ad Nauseam Tendrils, October 2013

1 Chrome Mox
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
2 Ad Nauseam
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
1 Rain of Filth
1 Bayou
1 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta

1 Swamp
1 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
1 Burning Wish
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Duress
4 Gitaxian probe
4 Infernal Tutor
1 Past in Flames
4 Ponder
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Thoughtseize

Sideboard:
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Carpet of Flowers
2 Dread of Night
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Duress
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Ill-Gotten Gains
1 Tendrils of Agony

As you can see, this list has a whopping 69 cards in common with the latest incarnation of Grinding Station, essentially only reversing the deck. Ad Nauseam was moved to the main to be better equipped to win against decks without countermagic. Also, with a lot of blue decks cutting down counters, this plan is not as bad against them as it used to; often you can just Therapy them for Force of Will and then play through their softcounters (if they even have Force to begin with). To support the additional Ad Nauseam, I added a Chrome Mox in the slot of the second Past in Flames, which is definitely impossible to play with Ad Nauseam in the deck.

Graveyard hate is now completely absent due to the lack of graveyard decks. Dredge sees almost no play at all these days and even Reanimator players are few and far between. Instead, we have Dread of Night to deal with those pesky white creatures (Thalia, Mother of Runes), which are been popping up from time to time ever since Enevoldsen won GP Strasbourg with Death and Taxes. We also have another discard spell for the combo matchups; mostly the Storm mirror, which is very common over here in Germany. The last change I made was to replace one of the Tendrils with an Empty the Warrens, which should serve as the same card most of the time, but I still deemed itdifferent enough to be worth playing.

I played the above list in a local tournament a few weeks ago and finished first, so I was pretty confident in it. I brought a few alternative cards regardless (not that there’s much to change), but by and large, I expected to play this list.

Okay, enough theory. While I am not able to give you a full-on report of all the matches I played throughout the weekend, I should at least be able to give you explanations on the lists I played and how I felt about them. For the first tournament I played in, the five round trial on Friday, I played the exact 75 I posted above. I played against CounterTop Miracles twice and the Grixis Delver/Pyromancer deck, Sneak and Show and a sweet Standstill/Punishing Fire deck once each, going 5-0 and securing two byes for the main event.

Miracles is a pretty simple matchup in my experience. For game one, you are trying to kill them before they can resolve Counterbalance and in the postboard games you can set up a winning hand, then destroy their Counterbalance with Abrupt Decay and go off. I will give you more detailed boarding strategies with the current list later on.

Delver decks all function more or less the same. They are never going to beat you unless they have an early creature (or you fizzle). They are often very heavy on disruption though, so I don’t like the Ad Nauseams all that much. They’re also not good if you have to cast them from a low life total. Again, full-on sideboarding guide coming at the end of this article.

The three games against Landstill were the most intense ones I played all weekend and I very much like to play these matchups where they have a ton of counterspells you have to play through. I boarded out the Ad Nauseams, the Chrome Mox and some Cabal Rituals for the storm spells and Carpets. One interesting piece of technology is to let them play first – the matchup is all about setting up a perfect hand and not throwing valuable cards into their softcounters. I ended up discarding to hand size with Standstill on board at least five times throughout the match.

Sneak and Show is definitely the worst matchup out of these four, although it’s also pretty simple. You’re usually going off with Ad Nauseam here, especially postboard, as they tend to have Leyline of Sanctity and you often have to find Chain of Vapor to get rid of it. While I did manage to win my match against this deck on Friday, I’m the first to admit that the matchup is far from good, mostly due to Leyline. This deck’s presence was the reason I changed around some sideboard slots for the main event.

So on Saturday I registered the same maindeck with this sideboard:

  • 1 Sensei’s Divining Top
  • 2 Xantid Swarm
  • 3 Carpet of Flowers
  • 2 Dread of Night
  • 3 Abrupt Decay
  • 2 Chain of Vapor
  • 1 Empty the Warrens
  • 1 Tendrils of Agony

Just minutes after deck registration, I thought that I should have cut a Carpet for another Swarm and just played the third Tendrils over Empty the Warrens, a card I got to cast a total of one time in all the matches I played it in.

During the seven rounds I played, I faced Miracles, UB Death’s Shadow, Affinity, UWR Delver, Merfolk, Elves and GWu Maverick. My sideboard mistakes never came up and overall the matches were very uneventful. I cast Ad Nauseam on my first turn of the tournament, then fizzled from 18 life, going down to one, but lucksacked at another point when I had to go off with Past in Flames with exactly one Gitaxian Probe as the only way to draw into business, finding Burning Wish for the win.

I ended up losing to Miracles, Death’s Shadow and then Maverick in the last round, which was the first time I lost to Mindbreak Trap. Although that felt pretty bad, I immediately went to play some more matches with TES against Dredge, which just didn’t feel like playing real decks at all, but was fun nonetheless.

On Sunday I played the same maindeck once more, this time realising the changes I had in mind for the sideboard:

  • 1 Sensei’s Divining Top
  • 3 Xantid Swarm
  • 2 Carpet of Flowers
  • 2 Dread of Night
  • 3 Abrupt Decay
  • 2 Chain of Vapor
  • 2 Tendrils of Agony

Again, most of my matches were uneventful, although I had some sick luck at times. In the first round, against Elves, I kept Polluted Delta, Ponder, Ad Nauseam, Infernal Tutor, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Thoughtseize in game two on the draw. He started on Bayou, Cabal Therapy on Lion’s Eye Diamond and I drew Dark Ritual from the top. At another point, I won off an Ad Nauseam from 6 life. The next round I fizzled with Ad Nauseam from 20 with my landdrop open and all four Petals plus Chrome Mox still in my deck. To even it out, in the fifth round, against Stoneblade, I went off with Past in Flames with three cantrips in my graveyard but couldn’t find Infernal Tutor or Tendrils. I finished 4-2 overall.

The only play that was actually sweet at all was in the last round, against Merfolk, where I had Xantid Swarm going and was down to six life. I had both Tendrils and Ad Nauseam in hand but couldn’t find a Tutor or Past in Flames, so I couldn’t Tendrils him for lethal. Thanks to Carpet of Flowers though, I was able to cast Tendrils to go back up to 14 and then cast Ad Nauseam with RBBUUU floating. Yes, I got there.

My combined record throughout the weekend was 13-5. So if I didn’t actually do well, why am I telling you about this? The reason is that sometimes you’re just not running well. I still believe that the list I played on Sunday is very close to the best thing you can do in Legacy right now. The deck is very well rounded and stands a reasonable chance in pretty much every matchup, while being positive against some of the more popular decks. I can only recommend you trying this out. As for changes I’m considering, I’m not quite sure if the Sensei’s Divining Top is actually necessary with the second Ad Nauseam in the deck. The only other slot I’m not sure about is the second Carpet of Flowers. While Carpet is insane, multiples are not always welcome and it’s really just an update on Cabal Ritual for postboard games against blue decks. I’m considering a second basic Island in the maindeck, with the Tropical Island taking up the slot in the sideboard and the fourth Tendrils of Agony. As I said numerous times, casting a lethal Tendrils straight from hand is by far the strongest play there is in Legacy.

Oh, I almost forgot, here is my sideboard guide:

RUG Delver / UWR Delver

-1 Chrome Mox
-2 Ad Nauseam
-1 Cabal Ritual
-1 Burning Wish
+1 Sensei’s Divining Top
+2 Carpet of Flowers
+2 Tendrils of Agony

Right now, I’m not quite comfortable with letting them play first in this matchup, but if you’re running the second basic Island, I think it’s a real possibility. Your main goal in postboard games should be to get rid of their Flusterstorms and Stifles, then Tendrils them straight from your hand. Infernals are not that good in this matchup but I think they’re a necessary evil (plus, there’s not enough to bring in to be able to board them out). Sometimes they draw only one hardcounter plus a Daze or something similar and in those games you can often win via Past in Flames so it’s still okay to have the package in the deck. If they’re on UWR, you might want to shave a Ponder and a discard spell to fit in Abrupt Decay; sometimes they have Ethersworn Canonist or Rest in Peace.

UW/x Miracles

-1 Chrome Mox
-2 Ad Nauseam
-1 Cabal Ritual
-1 Burning Wish
-1 Duress
-1 Ponder
-1 Thoughtseize
+1 Sensei’s Divining Top
+2 Carpet of Flowers
+3 Abrupt Decay
+2 Tendrils of Agony

This is what you do if they’re on the play. As I’m perfectly fine with letting them play first, this is all I do. You could also not bring in the Tendrils and keep one Ad Nauseam and the Wish instead, but it’s almost impossible for them to beat an in-hand Tendrils, so I don’t see why you would want to try to actually resolve spells. It’s also possible to shave an Infernal and a Lion’s Eye Diamond to keep in all discard, I’m not entirely sure on that.

Death and Taxes / Non-blue with hate permanents

-3 Cabal Therapy
-1 Duress
+2 Dread of Night
+2 Chain of Vapor

This is pretty simple. You just do what you always do. If you can’t kill them before they can land a bear, set up to kill their bear, then kill them. If they’re playing neither Mother of Runes nor Thalia, swap Dread of Night for Abrupt Decay.

Jund

-1 Duress
+1 Sensei’s Divining Top

If you expect them to have Thorn of Amethyst or something else (Chains of Mephistopheles?), bring in the two Chains for two Cabal Therapies.

Show and Tell variants

-4 Cabal Therapy
-1 Duress
+3 Xantid Swarm
+2 Chain of Vapor

Xantid Swarm is a beating. So is Leyline of Sanctity. I don’t expect my discard to be live most of the time, so I’m boarding out almost all of it. Note that it’s possible for them to have Sneak Attack, so sandbagging Xantid Swarm in the hopes of putting it into play with Show and Tell might not be the best plan – I prefer to use it as a discard spell (letting them Force it). If they don’t have the Force, congratulations, you have likely won.

Storm mirror

-1 Burning Wish
+1 Sensei’s Divining Top

You should be the favourite in most Storm mirrors as you have the second Ad Nauseam and more fast mana. Wish is irrelevant and Top is additional digging power plus discard protection. If you run the list with Ill-Gotten Gains, board it in for the second Ad Nauseam when on the play. If they have white for Chant effects, leave the top in the board and shave one Therapy and one Probe to bring in Swarms.

Shardless BUG

-1 Chrome Mox
+1 Sensei’s Divining Top

Yes, that’s all you’re doing. This matchup feels more like playing against Jund with Mindbreak Trap than against an actual blue deck. Right now, I don’t want to bring in Carpets to turn on their Decays or Golgari Charms.

Esper Stoneblade / Deathblade

-1 Chrome Mox
-1 Cabal Ritual
+2 Carpet of Flowers

This is almost the same as Shardless, only they have less discard and less (no) ways to get rid of Carpet. Just don’t run into Vendilion Clique.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.

J

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One thought on “Bazaar of Moxen Paris & Storm Primer

  1. Thanks for your fantastic insight and thanks to pascal for telling me where to find the article!

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