Instant Analysis – SCG St. Louis Legacy $5K

With temperatures in the 90’s and brutal humidity down near St. Louis this weekend, the weather was scorching but interest in Legacy was cool and somewhat reserved. While 192 people attended the StarCityGames Legacy $5K this Sunday, interest appeared slightly down, as this was essentially a lame-duck tournament, with the recent changes to the Banned-Restricted List that take effect next week. This weekend was the last chance for players to pilot Mystical Tutor-themed decks, so a lot more interest and buzz seemed to be in testing the format that the upcoming Grand Prix Columbus will be (no Mystical, but with Grim Monolith), as the rewards are much greater at a Grand Prix in terms of cash and Pro points.

Being that this was the last hurrah for Mystical Tutor, head judge Nick Rzeczkowski appropriately held a moment of silence for the sacrificial lamb. So how did the boogeymen perform this weekend? A whopping ZERO Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) players and ZERO Reanimator players made Top 16. As I argued in my last article, it would appear that the metagame has already been succesfully adjusting, and this is further proof of that. Way to go DCI! You banned something you didn’t need to, yet again. Great success!

The tournament was filled with every deck type under the sun, as is usually the case in Legacy. SCG writer Jared Sylva will probably have a complete writeup of the turnout in week or two, but walking around the tables the most played decks seemed to be Reanimator, Lands.dec variants, Merfolk, Zoo, and a surprisingly large number of Goblins players. Established pro players Owen Turtenwald and Noah Swartz could be seen rocking Goblins, probably as a foil to Merfolk, which they probably thought would show up in numbers to foil Mystical Tutor decks. They were right, as Merfolk was everywhere, and while Owen got knocked out immediately, Noah was able to capitalize and ride his Red-Black Goblins to a Top 8 birth. Anthony Avitollo also rode his Red-Black version of the little green men into the Top 8 as well.

Probably the most entertaining play of the day we witnessed was in a match between Pat Chapin (sporting UWR CounterTop Landstill, for some reason) and Chicagoland stud and Day 1 Finalist Joe Bernal (rocking an innovative Bitterblossom-laced BGW Junk deck). On consecutive turns Chapin drops a Humility to counteract Joe’s threat on the table, and then on the next turn drops a Baneslayer Angel. C-c-c-combo! That match went to time, which wasn’t too pleasing for the players involved, but the assembled crowd got plenty of laughs out of Chapin’s sick Humility + Baneslayer play.

So even though this was essentially a lame-duck format, what lessons can we take from it, or what technology can be harvested from the field? The first place to look is at Josh Guilbalt’s tournament winning deck, UWB CounterTop ThopterSword. This deck was very similar to the decks we’ve been seeing pop up from time to time in large European events, as well as in the States. ThopterSword variants have also finished in the Top 16 at SCG Seattle (Paul Waite’s version), SCG Philadelphia (Nate Chafe’s version), and SCG Orlando (AJ Sacher’s version), and seem to consistently be the best placing CounterTop variant recently. The strong defensive package of cards like Swords to Plowshares, Moat, Humility, Vedalken Shackles, and others, coupled with the Counterbalance + Sensei’s Divining Top combo buys time to set up the Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek kill. While not as powerful as the Natural Order into Progenitus play often seen in modern CounterTop decks, the ThopterSword kill is very good because in most cases you’ve expended life as a resource to buy time, and once ThopterSword hits the table you almost immediately gain a ton of life and quickly put the game out of reach.

Another deck that seemingly came out of nowhere to surprise at this tournament was Imperial Aluren, piloted by Scott Bielick. Scott has been playing and tweaking this deck for quite a while, and was on the brink of a Top 8 appearance in the final round of the Swiss portion when he received a game 1 loss for a deck registration error, and then wound up losing the match that propelled 13-year old newcomer Nick Marriot into the Top 8 with Mono Blue Merfolk. Scott’s take on Imperial Aluren is a pretty good one, in that he maxes out on Cabal Therapies to go along with his Force of Wills, and cuts most of the BS creatures. I’m not sold on Dream Stalker #2 in there (especially with Man-o’-War present as well), but this is still a solid deck, and now that the format appears as though it may slow down a bit with the loss of Mystical Tutor, Aluren makes for a nice choice for those competent enough to play it well. One of the advantages of Aluren has always been that most people simply don’t know how to play against it effectively, and this can often create free wins during the course of a long tournament, which is a welcome benefit for big events.

The deck that had a breakout performance in this tournament was Michael Pozsgay’s eighth place Show and Tell deck, highlighted by Bill Stark’s deck tech segment. The only problem with the coverage? Bill Stark incorrectly attributed the “innovative approach to deck building” in his quest to fellate Conley Woods, and neglected to mention anywhere that this is (surprise!) an established deck named Aeon Bridge, created by Legacy hitman Adam Barnello (aka Nightmare). Aeon Bridge was a cousin to the sketchy MossNought deck by iOWN, and the printing of Emrakul makes the abuse of Mosswort Bridge a viable strategy now. If you’re going to do coverage for big events (whether on Wizards’ flagship site, SCG, or wherever), please, please, please at least take the time to maybe do a little research on what you’re writing about.

So how did Michael Poszgay take this seeming pile of junk to the Top 8? Well for one, it has a lot of disruption to fight other combo decks, in the form of Force of Will, Thoughtseize, Stifle, Daze, and Duress out of the sideboard. It can slow down an opponent or force through its own plan, and the plan is usually a pretty powerful one, by either blasting the opponent with an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or by getting a quick Phyrexian Dreadnought into play and beating them down in two turns with a 12/12 trampler. The other avenue of attack, lifted from Parker Bowab and Andrew Shugart’s Show and Tell/Eureka deck from SCG Atlanta is the Show and Tell into Form of the of the Dragon plan. Similar to how old Rector-Bargain decks and Rector-Flash decks in Vintage would use Form of the Dragon as a backup plan, Conley and Mike adopted this as their backup plan when Form of the Dragon would be a better path to victory than trying to get through with a creature. I will give them props for adding this to Barnello’s deck, because it is an excellent main-deck addition for the upcoming Legacy metagame. A lot of decks just can’t beat Form of the Dragon, as funny as that sounds. I won’t go into all the details and tricks of the deck, as you can read all about it on the Aeon Bridge thread on TheSource, where Adam has done an admirable job of explaining the inner workings of the deck, card choices, and more.

Some things I don’t like about Barnello’s version of the deck are Wordly Tutors (to fetch either Dreadnought or Emrakul, speeding you up), and See Beyond. While See Beyond is nice to shuffle away an Emrakul or when paired with Lim-Dul’s Vault, most of the time I’d rather have a Ponder in my hand to cast first turn to set up, and Ponder also digs up to twice as deep in your deck for half the mana. Barnello replaced Ponder with See Beyond in his version, but I’m just not feeling it yet. I also don’t like Chrome Mox in any non-Storm deck, and really don’t like only 17 lands (especially at the cost of playing Chrome Mox). You realistically want to hit land drops the first 3 turns of the game, and 17 isn’t enough to get that done. Things I don’t like about Mike Poszgay’s version are the lone Vendilion Clique, and only 3 copies each of Emrakul and Show and Tell. Vendilion Clique doesn’t really do enough to just its inclusion, as it basically does the same thing as Thoughtseize or Duress, but at triple the mana cost. Show and Tell is the best card in this deck (followed closely by Lim-Dul’s Vault), and I would definitely be sporting 4 copies if I was going to take this to an upcoming tournament. Things I like about the Poszgay/Conley version are Form of the Dragons and the Pernicious Deeds out of the sideboard. This deck doesn’t necessarily have to speed out of the gates to win, and Deed seems like a great catch-all answer to a lot of crap that’s floating around out there in Legacy decks. As mentioned above, Form of the Dragon provides a nice method of attack against certain strategies in Legacy, and I think any dedicated Show and Tell deck can benefit from sporting at least a couple of copies of it in the sideboard. With that being said, here’s where I would take the deck in the post-Mystical Tutor environment:
Aeon Bridge 20104Q 1.0, by Jaco
Business (40)
4 Show and Tell
1 Form of the Dragon
4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Phyrexian Dreadnought
4 Stifle
4 Thoughtseize
3 Daze
4 Force of Will
1 Wipe Away
4 Brainstorm
3 Ponder
4 Lim-Dul’s Vault

Mana Sources (20)
4 Mosswort Bridge
4 Polluted Delta
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
1 Bayou
1 Island
1 Forest
1 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
1 Progenitus
1 Form of the Dragon
2 Pernicious Deed
2 Krosan Grip
2 Pithing Needle
4 Relic of Progenitus
3 Duress

Aside from the aforementioned decks, the only other deck that wasn’t your standard fare was Christian Valenti’s Goblin Charbelcher deck that snuck into the Top 8. It’s a pretty standard Charbelcher list, but those don’t often make Top 8, so it was different to see it there. I’m guessing he preyed upon the many Zoo, Lands.dec, and Goblins decks that were floating around the top tables. The rest of the Top 8 and Top 16 is filled with lots of Goblins, Merfolk, and Zoo, mostly with standard card choices.

I think that the Aeon Bridge deck and Aluren are both very powerful and can be pretty effective over the next couple of months. Like anything else, once more people learn how to play against them their value will diminish slightly. Please share what you think has a chance to shine, or will be the next big thing in the comments section below, or in the discussion forums. Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for more Instant Analysis articles for other big Eternal events around the globe!