Instant Analysis – SCG Orlando Legacy Open 2011

Instant Analysis SCG Orlando 2011
Another weekend has come and gone, but this was no ordinary weekend in Legacy. This was the first week that major tournaments around the world would have New Phyrexia legal, and along with it the most hyped card for Legacy in ages, Mental Misstep. While the massive Bazaar of Moxen tournament was going on halfway around the world in France, Americans had the opportunity to gather in sunny Orlando (Florida, USA) to play their weapon of choice in a new era of Legacy. The Mental Misstep Era.

Gerry Thompson (UW Landstill) scooped to Chris VanMeter (Tempo UBG) in the finals (lame!), and the decklists for the Top 16 in Orlando can be found here. Merfolk was all over the place, and I’d guess was the most played deck. The top finishing Merfolk player was Nick Spagnolo who clocked in at sixth place playing a 12-lord version with 2 Umezawa’s Jitte main and no Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. A whopping five other Merfolk players finished just outside the Top 8 in ninth through sixteenth place, and they were all playing 3-4 Missteps and they varied on what can be considered the flex slots with stuff like Merfolk Sovereign, Standstill, Kira, and more counters. The Orlando metagame seemed to be composed of Team America, Bant, Show and Tell, Zoo, BGW Junk, and Painter being played, along with another two dozen other lesser played decks in smaller numbers. The Top 16 included the aforementioned Merfolk, Team America, Landstill, Intuition Painter, Metalworker, and another Death and Taxes sighting! There were 146 players in this event and Legacy is still as diverse as ever, but things will start to get interesting as the metagame shifts around the perceived and real value of Misstep.

When the card Mental Misstep was spoiled I surmised to friends that the strategies that I thought stood to gain the most were Zoo, Landstill, Merfolk, UBG Tempo, and Dark Depths. Zoo, Merfolk, Team America, and Dark Depths gain the most by countering an opposing Swords to Plowshares for tempo in the early game, effectively acting as a Time Walk or more. Nearly every deck in the format outside of Aggro Loam, Metalworker, and Enchantress are relying on critical spells in the one casting cost slot, so even if a deck like Zoo is not countering a critical Swords to Plowshares it can still counter an opposing Brainstorm, High Tide, Dark Ritual, Goblin Welder, or something else important and will rarely be dead.

Landstill gains significantly from Misstep because it allows the deck to counter a first turn Aether Vial, Goblin Lackey, Wild Nacatl, or Thoughtseize with ease and usually won’t be a dead draw later. It also helps the deck set up devastating openings early by countering the first thing an opponent tries to do and then playing a quick Standstill, which can often lead to insurmountable card advantage (especially by drawing and chaining into more Standstills and keeping the battlefield clean with all of the removal in the deck). It looks like I was not alone in my thinking, as the UW Landstill played by a few semi-pros (Drew Levin, Gerry Thompson, and AJ Sacher) finished very strongly at Orlando, and UBG Landstill ended up winning the 633 person Bazaar of Moxen 2011 Legacy tournament this same weekend across the pond.

In analyzing these Landstill decks there are some very interesting choices. We’ll go more in depth about UBG Landstill in the BoM Instant Analysis article, but GerryT and the UW contingent at Orlando chose to include 4 Repeal main deck in lieu of other creature removal. Many Vintage players love Repeal because of the versatility and in this deck it is pretty awesome as it is never a dead draw against non-creature permanents, and once again helps facilitate dropping Standstill on an empty board (end of turn, Repeal or Swords to Plowshares your peasant, then untap and drop Standstill; I agree that was a fun game!). This means that Gaddock Teeg in Zoo or WGx Mangara of Corondor decks has a ton of value against the UW Landstill deck, as it shuts down 4 Repeal, 4 Force of Will, and 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor (and possibly Elspeth, Engineered Explosives, Humility, Moat, or Wrath of God), which is no laughing matter. I think those decks that can profitably play Gaddock Teeg should probably be playing 2 main deck going forward if we continue to see a growing UWx Landstill contingent along with the usual suspects like Tendrils of Agony, Natural Order, and (now) Sneak Attack variants.

MetalworkerWhile the Sneak and Show decks didn’t do all that well in Orlando this weekend, they performed very admirably in the BoM (placing 3 or more players in Top 16), and they are one of the decks that is well positioned because they have good nut draws and are relatively unencumbered by Mental Misstep. Another deck that doesn’t rely on one drops are Metalworker variants, the most recently seen being the Blue splash for Thoughtcast (instead of Red for Goblin Welder). If you haven’t played with or against these decks I’d suggest taking a look at Josh Raflowitz or Ali Aintrazi’s decks from SCG Orlando this weekend. They have taken the concept of Mike Bomholt’s Forgemaster MUD from SCG Indy earlier this year and dropped the Red for Blue. Red provides the insanely powerful Goblin Welder, but Blue offers a deck with less Misstep targets and the card draw offered by Thoughtcast. One thing the Metalworker decks lack is card advantage, and Thoughtcast helps cheaply refill the hand after you have run out of gas if the game gets that far. Another intriguing option going forward for these decks would be to play more lands (probably Darksteel Citadel, as it’s Wasteland proof and plays nicely with Metalworker) and less Moxes, and then run Chalice of the Void main, which is still very strong and offers additional protection against incoming Swords to Plowshares. Playing more lands and fewer Moxes makes the deck less prone to mulliganing into oblivion, albeit at the cost of speed sometimes. I particularly hate Mox Diamond in this deck after having playtested it a while, as the odds of you having Mox Diamond and two or more lands in your opening hand is pretty horrendous. Karn Liberated (a singleton in Josh’s list and a two-of in Ali’s list) is a natural inclusion in the evolution of this deck, as it will totally dominate the board if left unmolested for a turn, and it also provides an out to Null Rod. I think 2-3 is a good number in the deck, and provides outs to many awkward situations (Moat, Humility, Ensnaring Bridge, Null Rod, Emrakul, etc.). Check out this list for the Misstep metagame:
Forgemaster Blue 20113Q 1.0, by Jaco 05-21-2011
Business (40)
4 Voltaic Key
4 Grim Monolith
4 Metalworker
1 Staff of Domination
3 Chalice of the Void
2 Lightning Greaves
4 Lodestone Golem
4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Sundering Titan
1 Blightsteel Colossus
2 Karn Liberated
3 Thoughtcast
3 Mox Opal

Lands (20)
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Wasteland

Sideboard (15)
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Chalice of the Void
3 Trinisphere
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Duplicant
2 Defense Grid
4 Relic of Progenitus

You have a variety of robots to Forgemaster out depending on the situation, less mulligans due to low land count, and are more Misstep-proof. The format is filled with 1-drops and Chalice of the Void is there to help combat that, as well as provide additional game against combo decks. If you are playing these lists I’d also advocate playing 1 Phyrexian Metamorph main to tutor up, as it can deal with both Emrakul and Progenitus, which was a small weakness of the deck previously. It doesn’t hurt to play more (and/or Duplicant) in the sideboard as well.

While some people think that Mental Misstep is overrated or is will just be used a lot in the “honeymoon period” after a new release, I think it will rapidly become obvious that it is the second best counterspell in Legacy, and I basically expect the metagame to warp entirely around the card. While it does only trade one for one in terms of cards (thank you, GFabs), the tactical and strategic uses of the card are much more important and game breaking than simple card parity. Tempo and card quality often trumps card advantage in Eternal formats, as the spells are much more powerful and mana efficient than in other formats.

So in the Mental Misstep Era what are the most attractive options you have as a player the next couple of months? If you have access to most cards and can build most decks, I would strongly recommend one of the following decks over the next few months:
Zoo w/Mental Misstep
Intuition Painter
Cephalid Breakfast
Sneak and Show
Dredge (probably with Gitaxian Probe)
Forgemaster MUD

I’m wary of playing High Tide, but Inaki Puigdoller’s list from the BoM with Misstep looks pretty savage, so it may be another solid option as well. You’ll notice that most of these decks will play Mental Misstep, and there’s a reason for that. It along with Force of Will provide fabulous protection early to get you to the mid-game to enact whatever plan you have to win the game. The decks that don’t have Mental Misstep are ones that don’t mind if the opposing deck has Misstep. So you can see what I think of the relevance of the card in Legacy going forward. I believe the only way you will see a reduction in the amount of Missteps being played is if many decks shift to playing fewer and fewer one casting cost spells (unlikely, with the quality and number of combo decks present).

While you’re here take a moment to check out Eternal Central in full if you’ve never done so before. We have the Top 16 decklists from the huge Bazaar of Moxen 2011 Legacy tournament (the largest privately held Legacy tournament ever!), and the results will be important to look at moving forward. We also have an Instant Analysis of that event, as well as tons of other Legacy and Vintage videos, reports, and strategy articles, so enjoy your visit!