As I announced two weeks ago, I am going to use this series as a platform to talk about the decks I play throughout the week. I missed last week because I barely played — I might have played around ten matches of Magic throughout the week because I was busy working and travelling. Those ten matches were all with Pauper Elves, the same 75 I’ve been playing the week before that. As a matter of fact, the 75 have remained unchanged throughout this week as well. I’m looking to experiment a bit over the next few days, so I guess that will make up next week’s article. If you need a reminder or haven’t seen the list, here it is:
I played this list a bunch this week, but as it remained unchanged, there’s nothing to talk about.
However, on Saturday the Monthly Legacy Challenge took place on Magic Online, which is what we’re gonna talk about today.
Disclaimer: It did poorly in the Legacy Challenge (3-4). This article is my attempt to showcase what went wrong.
#89 — Why I did not play Canadian Threshold.
I still think Canadian Threshold is the best deck in Legacy. However, I simply can not play it a lot. It’s a very hard deck to play and I can’t always muster up the “strength” required to play it. I only played Canadian in a handful events this year. Often, when I think about my deck choice for a tournament, Canadian is the clear frontrunner for what I should be playing.
Then I think about the metagame I expect and if it’s not “all Miracles”, I usually decide against Canadian because I don’t feel hot — most of the other matchups require too much concentration. Canadian is a very unforgiving deck; you often operate on very slim margins and if you mess up, you lose. Whenever I don’t feel like I can play well enough do handle that, I pick another deck.
#90 — Why I played UR Delver.
UR has a similar matchup spread as Canadian. It beats Miracles (it’s worse here than Canadian, more on that later), it destroys the other Delver decks, it beats Shardless (more so than Canadian), it’s worse against Eldrazi (despite the faster clock; the lack of Wasteland and the low amount of countermagic are issues), it has similar combo matchups and it’s better against the non-Eldrazi Cavern of Souls decks (Elves, Death & Taxes etc.) because it has a faster clock, more evasion and so much removal.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, if you play against creature decks all the time UR Delver is actually better than Canadian because it’s simply more powerful in those matchups — not to say Canadian is bad there, but UR has a tendency to just run away with games.
You could say it sometimes plays like a combo deck, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Take, for example, my match vs. Storm:
In game two, I literally Stormed my opponent out. That is not something you usually do with Delver decks. The ability to act as a combo deck is a really good thing in some matchups, but it can also be a liability:
#91 — The Combo Cap (and why Miracles is good).
If there is one problem that combo decks have, it is that their potential is inherently capped. I am not talking about the skill-cap that comes with a deck like Storm here. What I mean is that combo decks often come with fixed matchup potential.
To take it to the extreme, consider the Belcher mirror. The two players can not interact with each other. In this case, the matchup is fairly simple to play — you have a kill, you go for it, you don’t have a kill, all you can do is hope. No matter how much you want to or how much better you are than your opponent at piecing together combo turns, you simpy can not win without drawing a win-condition, or more accurately, a winning combination of cards.
With combo decks, there are some games you just lose, just like there are games you just win. Before I get called out on this, it is also something that happensto other decks: a Delver deck can simply never draw a creature, Miracles can never find Sensei’s Divining Top and almost any deck in the history of Magic can be mana screwed. That’s those deck’s way of fizzling, as players like to say about combo decks.
How severe this cap is depends on how well a deck can interact with opponents. The larger the amount of cards in your deck that will buy you time and thus let you draw deeper into your deck, the smaller this cap becomes.
If you take Miracles, the deck consists of four things: lands, card selection, interaction and win conditions. Card selection already helps making your deck more consistent (although not faster!), interaction amplifies this even more and to top it all off, Miracles has amazing win conditions in Jace, Entreat and Mentor that allow the deck to win games out of nowhere almost at any point.
Compare this to Delver decks for example. If you topdeck a creature in the late game, that will not just kill your opponent unless you already have done some work — Delver of Secrets doesn’t just deal 20+ damage out of nowhere like Mentor and Entreat do. Thus, Delver decks have a lower cap in some matchups. People like to talk about how important that turn one threat is, and while they’re often exaggerating, they are not fundamentally wrong. It is an important aspect of those kind of decks and reliance on a specific card in such a short timeframe contributes to those deck’s caps.
#92 — UR is not good enough against Miracles.
I have already indirectly stated this, but I wanted to explicitely say it as well. UR is fairly low on interaction when it comes to Miracles (my list only has 4 Force and 2 Pyroblast for Counterbalance and just Force for Monastery Mentor). The deck has a bunch of Lava Spikes, even after sideboarding. The thing about Lava Spikes is that none of them matter, except the last one.
UR has to put together a lethal amount of damage before Counterbalance comes down or the board is dominated by Monastery Mentor (one of which will inevitably happen). Thankfully, UR still has a bunch of card draw, especially Bedlam Reveler, and some amount of interaction, so it does get to prolong games at least to some extent, but there are still games UR simply can not win because the Miracles player just plays that Daze-proof Counterbalance with Force backup on turn three.
To be fair though, this the only matchup where you can really feel that UR has a Combo Cap and the matchup still slightly favours UR. It’s just not a matchup you can reasonably expect to win three to four times in a row — I faced Miracles three times in the Legacy Challenge, winning convincingly once, winning narrowly once and losing narrowly once.
#93 — Burn has creatures with Haste.
And I am terrible at playing against those. I don’t know why, but I never seem to pay enough respect to Haste creatures. I played against Burn in round two of the Legacy Challenge and I lost game one by one life point because I needlessly attacked with all of my creatures and then couldn’t block my opponent’s topdecked Goblin Guide:
On this board, there’s no reason to attack with both Prowess creatures. I figured the extra damage couldn’t hurt, turns out they did when my opponent cast Goblin Guide into double Fireblast for exactsies on their next turn. This is not the first time I lost in such a fashion, but maybe publicly shaming myself will help?
#94 — The Chalice problem.
Chalice of the Void might be my least favourite card in all of Magic. I admit that I am biased here because it’s just that good against all the decks I like to play, but its presence just puts an unneccesary amount of stress on some decks. Let me sum up my round three match against Merfolk for you:
Game one my opponent killed me on turn two with Chalice, game two I had double Delver by turn two with lethal damage turn four at a very high life total, and game three I died with two useless cards in hand while already flooding out because I just couldn’t afford to not have any answers to a resolved Chalice in my deck, given the low amount of Countermagic UR has access to.
This is also why some decks have a very hard time against Miracles — if the only out you have to Counterbalance (usually Abrupt Decay) is really bad otherwise, you are fighting a losing battle. This is especially bad when your opponent sticking Counterbalance means you can’t do anything. It is however not as bad if you don’t care much about about your opponents other individual cards and/or have a very high amount of card selection (both of which are true for Storm vs. Miracles).
#95 — My problem with the Legacy Challenge overall.
If we’re being honest (no Johns though), the Legacy Challenge is not the ideal tournament for me. Despite the fact that I play a lot of Magic Online, I have a very real issue with the event, and that’s the starting time.
As you may or may not know, I live in Germany, so the Legacy Challenge starts at 8pm my time. I almost never keep playing until then, let alone start playing at that time. I am completely useless when I’m tired — I am literally not able to walk straight when I’m really tired, how am I supposed to think straight? This might be something that I will eventually find a solution for, but as of now, I haven’t.
So what did I do? Well, I woke up at around 9am on Saturday and knowing my mental prowess will start decreasing after about twelve hours of being awake, I went back to bed in the afternoon, trying to game the system (the system being my body, in this case). And while that definitely helped, I was still somewhat tired for my last couple rounds, despite eating and exercising inbetween matches.
#96 — I did not care.
This may or may not be the biggest reason for my failure. But I’m really not very happy with Legacy right now, mostly because I find it very bothersome playing against Eldrazi. I played the Legacy Challenge because it was there and I played UR Delver because it was there. Neither of those decisions was properly thought through. Maybe UR was the best choice for me that night — it probably was — but signing up for the Legacy Challenge in the first place certainly wasn’t.