SCG Milwaukee Legacy Open Report – Winning with Sneak and Bargain

Game. Blouses. Time and time again this past weekend, that’s all I could think of. I casually rolled into Milwaukee on a calm Sunday morning, demolished nearly everything in my path, and then strode out with a trophy from the latest StarCityGames Legacy Open event.

I had been planning on attending this event for some time, but hadn’t really dedicated as much time to playtesting Legacy the past six months as I would have liked. When the fleeting times come that I actually am able to carve out some time for Magic I have more frequently been playing and building savage Vintage decks. After all, it is the gentleman’s format. But Legacy is near and dear to my heart, so I’ve kept abreast of what’s been going on in the format, as there have been a large number of bigger tournaments over the past few months (SCG circuit, LCL circuit, Bazaar of Moxen, Ovino, GenCon, etc.).

There are tons of options when building and playing Legacy, which is what makes it what I feel is the best and most well-rounded format. It has very strong cards like Vintage (well, maybe no Black Lotus, but Lion’s Eye Diamond is often close enough), unrestricted Brainstorms and Ponders, and a wider array of actually playable cards and decks than any other format. There are the ‘broken’ decks, the aggro-control decks, the grindy CounterTop decks, the 43Lands.dec builds, and cool stuff like Punishing Fires and Aluren that you don’t get to see in any other format.

I feel comfortable playing any type of deck, but I think that right now in Legacy you either want to play a relatively consistent combo deck (relative being the key word, as there is an inherent inconsistency in combo), or a deck with Punishing Fires that just annihilates every other fair deck. Sneak and Show is the deck that can most take advantage of having a Griselbrand in play, and does not rely on the graveyard like Reanimator or Tin-Fins. Sneak Attack can also reliably be hard cast in the early game, unlike Omniscience, which means that all of your combo cards are live, unlike the Omni-Show decks. I’ve been playing Sneak and Show on and off at tournaments for the past year, and still feel like it is well positioned. It’s simply harder to hate out than the other combo decks, plays four of the format’s best cards (Force of Will, Brainstorm, Griselbrand, and Show and Tell), does grossly unfair things, and is a blast to play. Here’s the version I rocked at the SCG event this week.

Sneak and Bargain, by Jaco, 1st Place SCG Milwaukee Legacy Open

Business (37)
Force of Will
Spell Pierce
Sensei’s Divining Top
Show and Tell
Sneak Attack
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Mana Sources (23)
Lotus Petal
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Volcanic Island
Sideboard (15)
Blood Moon
Defense Grid
Red Elemental Blast
Through the Breach
Echoing Truth

Sensei's Divining TopI’ve been tweaking this based on the metagame for every tournament, running things like Blood Moon main, Vendilion Clique main, and now Sensei’s Divining Top main. After going over my past tournament notes I found that only reasons I was losing individual games was most often because I either made a questionable decision, or more commonly I mulliganed to 5 or less. I wanted something to help overcome mulligans and excessive discard, and Top seemed to fit the bill better than anything else. It allows for more manipulation, allows you to utilize your otherwise wasted excess mana each turn or end step, and also allows you to overcome discard much easier. You can not only float cards on the top of your deck to shield them from disruption, but you can also combo off from 0 cards in hand. For example you can draw combo piece A for the turn, then tap Top to draw combo piece B from the top of your deck.

I also wanted a couple of Repeals in the 75, as I like bounce spells that aren’t dead, and Repeal cantrips. It also plays very well with Sensei’s Divining Top (tap Top to draw, in response Repeal the Top, Top goes to your hand, draw off Repeal, draw off the Top activation). Most of the other cards are in the standard rotation of available Sneak and Show options you consistently see. Pyroclasm is very good right now, having game against Elves, Shardless BUG, URW Delver, Goblins, Affinity, Veteran Explorer.dec, Belcher, and more. It can buy you a lot of time in the right situation.

The complete coverage for SCG Milwaukee can be found on SCG here. Here’s what transpired in my small sample size.

Round 1 vs. Paul Morelli (Shardless BUG)
Game 1: Paul win the die roll, mulligans to 6, and leads off the game with Verdant Catacombs into Underground Sea into something like a Ponder. I cast a Top and pass back. He untaps, plays another Verdant Catacombs into Bayou and goes for the predictable Hymn to Tourach. I attempt to Misdirect, he Forces, and I believe I Force back, leaving him with no cards. I do nothing for a couple of turns while setting up, and he plays a Tarmogoyf. I land a Sneak Attack into Griselbrand into game blouses.

Defense GridI try out a sideboarding strategy where I side out most of my counters in favor of a bunch of bombs like Blood Moon, Defense Grid, and Through the Breach. The logic is that if your hand is getting stripped via discard and your opponent is gaining incremental advantages everywhere you really don’t want to have a million pitch counters. You want to be casting combo components and forcing the opponent to interact with you, and not vice versa. Sensei’s Divining Top really shines here, as it allows you to overcome discard easier, and battle back from an empty hand (as mentioned above).

Game 2: Paul doesn’t like his opening 7 full of Deathrite Shamans, and mulligans to 6 again, and lays a land and passes the turn. I kept and opening hand of creature + Show and Tell, Ancient Tomb, Defense Grid, land, and something else. I draw for the turn and lead off with Tomb into Defense Grid (dropping to 19). He says “OK,” and I stop him before he draws for his turn. I tell him “you better read this card,” and turn it around and he reads it. He looks up at me and then Forces the Grid. We battle back and forth for a few turns, with him countering a Show and Tell, and eventually I land a Sneak Attack, drop in Griselbrand, draw 7, and drop in Emrakul to wrap it up.

Matches 1-0, Games 2-0

Round 2 vs. John Bagley (Mono Red Stompy with Blood Moon/Magus of the Moon main)
Game 1: I keep an opener with Force of Will, good mana, and a combo piece or two. John wins the die roll and leads off with Chrome Mox plus City of Traitors into Blood Moon, which I let resolve. I draw for the turn and play an Island and pass back. He then plays a Magus of the Moon, which I also let resolve. He beats down with Magus for a couple of turns while I set up, then drops a Rakka Mar, which can become a significant clock. I end up Show and Telling in an Emrakul, which wins the race.

I sideboard in Pyroclasms, Repeal, and Echoing Truth (for any potential Ensnaring Bridge/Pithing Needle/Phyrexian Revoker speedbumps), taking out Misdirections and trimming Ponder and a basic Mountain probably. The strength of the mono-red Ancient Tomb decks are Blood Moon effects, and because those are very weak against me I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat against these decks.

Game 2: I keep an opening hand of combo pieces, search, lands, and Top. John lands a Phyrexian Revoker naming Sneak Attack, and follows it up with another creature (Rakka Mar, I believe). I cast Pyroclasm to wipe his board, then get a Griselbrand in play and draw a bunch of cards and win.

Matches 2-0, Games 4-0

Round 3 vs. Edmund Leung (4C Delver)
Edmund is a very nice fellow who used to play Vintage and Legacy a while ago, and is just getting back into the game. He played very well, and would go on to Top 8 this tournament.

Game 1: I keep an opener of mana and bombs, and lead off with Top. I screw around with Top and Ponder for a couple of turns while he lands a Delver that takes a couple of turns to flip, then another Delver. He is confused as to what I’m playing at this point, but has enough counters once my Show and Tells and Sneak Attacks start rolling out, and his double Delver plus Lightning Bolt eventually finishes me off.

I sideboard in Blood Moons and Defense Grids, trimming an Emrakul, Ponder, Top, and potentially Misdirections.

Game 2: He mulligans to 6, and I am able to punch through a Show and Tell into Emrakul, which he cannot answer.

Game 3: This is a very interactive back and forth game. I land an early Top and Defense Grid, but am unable to find red mana before Edmund blows up Defense Grid with Abrupt Decay on his turn and Wastelands my Ancient Tomb. I play more mana, but none of it is red for the Sneak Attack and tons of counters in my hand. I end up in a position where I find and can resolve a Show and Tell for Griselbrand, but it wouldn’t matter, because by that time I am down to 4 life, and his Deathrite Shaman activations on end step and then on his turn would finish me off. If at any point I could find a fetchland or Lotus Petal or Volcanic Island this game we would have golden, but it was not to be.

Matches 2-1, Games 5-2

Round 4 vs. Sean Michael Ryder (Goblin Charbelcher)
Sean was a pretty nice guy, and this was a very back and forth affair for a combo match.

Game 1: Sean leads off turn 1 with a ton of mana into Burning Wish into Infernal Tutor into Empty the Warrens for 16 tokens. I have a hand with fetchland, City of Traitors, Sneak Attack, Ponder, and Griselbrand. I play and sacrifice Misty Rainforest into Volcanic Island and cast Ponder on my turn, shuffle, and draw Lotus Petal. He attacks for 16 and passes back, and I draw another Lotus Petal on my turn. I am in a position where I can drop the City of Traitors to cast Show and Tell into Sneak Attack into Griselbrand with double Lotus Petals, but just lack the Emrakul in hand to flat out kill him (even though I already have the mana to activate Sneak again). I’m unable to draw any cards with Griselbrand (because I’m only at 3), and unable to get out of counterattack range with a potential Griselbrand attack, so I decide to just skip all of that and concede to hide any potential information of what deck I’m on. From what he’s seen so far I could simply be playing RUG Delver.

I sideboard out Misdirections, Repeal, and a mana source for Pyroclasms, Flusterstorms, and Echoing Truth.

PyroclasmGame 2: I don’t see any Forces or Spell Pierces in my inintial 7 or 6 card hands, so after mulling to 5 I keep an opener of Ancient Tomb, Top, Ponder, Spell Pierce, and Force of Will. I lead off with Ancient Tomb into Top plus Top activation, one of my favorite play with this deck. I see a blue land to enable Spell Pierce, and we’re off to the races. I Spell Pierce his Goblin Charbelcher. He is able to Empty the Warrens for 12 tokens a handful of turns later, and after some frantic digging I am able to find a Pyroclasm or Echoing Truth to wipe his attacking hoard. This buys me enough time to stabilize, and Sneak Attack into Griselbrand into drawing 7 cards post-combat finds an Emrakul for Sneak Attack next turn, and we’re on to the deciding game.

Game 3: Sean mulligans to 6 on the play and looks content. I keep an opener of Ancient Tomb, Lotus Petal, Force of Will, Ponder, Pyroclasm, and other stuff. This hand is sweet because it can defeat either the Goblin Charbelcher plan or the Empty the Warrens plan. Sean leads off with a bunch of mana into Empty the Warrens for 10 or 12 tokens, leaving him with 1 card in hand. I draw a card for the turn and Pyroclasm his board away, and he is devastated. I draw a bunch of cards over the next few turns and Sneak in Griselbrand, draw even more cards, whiff on finding an Emrakul, and then draw more cards post-combat. I find another Griselbrand as well as an Emrakul to seal the deal the next turn.

Matches 3-1, Games 7-3

Round 5 vs. Greg Smith (Imerial Painter)
Greg is a Chicagoland native representing the HotSauce Games crew.

GrindstoneGame 1: I win the die roll, keep a decent opener including Spell Pierce and combo components, and lead off with a Misty Rainforest, pass. Greg leads off with Mountain into Grindstone, and I let it resolve, because I just don’t care about Painter + Grindstone with this deck. I develop my board by playing another land and a Top, and Greg lands a Painter (naming blue) and follows it up the next turn with a Grindstone activation. He finds out about the quad lazer Emrakuls in my deck and looks crestfallen. During all of the Emrakul shuffle triggers I fiddle with Top to search for some combo piece or protection, and cash it in by tapping Top to draw, and it then gets shuffled away. Greg manages a couple points of damage with Painter’s Servant, and shortly therafter I Sneak in Griselbrand, draw 14 cards, and then Sneak in Emrakul. G-Gizzle.

I sideboard in Red Elemental Blasts, Repeal, and Echoing Truth for some combination of mana sources, Ponder, a Spell Pierce, and who knows what else. All that really matters here is keeping his Tormod’s Crypt and probably Goblin Welder off the table.

Game 2: Greg leads off the game with Mountain pass, and I play Ancient Tomb into Top, activate Top. He plays another Mountain into Thorn of Amethyst, which I can comfortably ignore with the land in my hand and Top in play to find more lands. I develop my manabase in the coming turns, and then Force through a Sneak Attack into Griselbrand + Emrakul the natural way for the sweep.

I have historically been a huge fan of Painter combo in both Vintage and Legacy, playing tons of different versions over the years. The mono-red version is decent because of Blood Moon coupled with a combo kill in a Legacy format full of multicolor manabases and fair decks, but it is definitely an underdog to Storm combo and Sneak and Show decks.

Matches 4-1, Games 9-3

Round 6 vs. Alex Olson (Cabal Ad Nauseam Tendrils)
We are posted up on one of the camera feature match tables, but the SCG broadcast doesn’t switch to us from the other match before ours is over.

Game 1: I lead off with Volcanic Island into Ponder, and pass the turn. Alex plays a Tarn into Island into Ponder, and passes back. I Ponder again, then play another land and pass. Alex follows up with a Brainstorm plus fetchland activation and passes back. I cast a Top or something, pass, and on his turn Alex double Gitaxian Probes (dropping to 14 life), and sees my hand of counters plus creatures. I have been hiding my combo enablers on top of my deck with Ponder for the right time. I Spell Pierce his Cabal Therapy, and on my 3rd turn I drop City of Traitors into Show and Tell into Sneak Attack into Griselbrand, Lotus Petal, Emrakul, G-Gizzle.

I side in Red Elemental Blasts and Flusterstorms for a mana source, Misdirections, and Repeal.

Game 2: We both keep hands of 7 again, and Alex leads off with Gitaxian Probe into Bloodstained Mire into Underground Sea plus Ponder or something. At some point he casts discard at me, but I once again land a Sneak Attack after keeping him at bay for a few turns. I Sneak in Griselbrand, draw 7, drop an Ancient Tomb to cast Top + activate and look, then draw 7 more with Griselbrand (putting me at 3 life), and find the Emrakul to swing for 22 total.

Matches 5-1, Games 11-3

Round 7 vs. Taylor Sperberg (Grixis Burning Omniscience)
Taylor is one of the Wisconsin cats, and is friends with Derek Wochinski, who I know from battling Vintage numerous times over the years, and who designed the sweet deck Taylor and Derek were playing today.

Game 1: I win the die roll, and Taylor mulligans to 6. I play Misty Rainforest and pass, while Taylor leads off with fetchland into Underground Sea into Thoughtseize. I Brainstorm in response, hiding countermagic, and show Taylor a hand with 2 Griselbrands and I can’t remember what else. He takes a set up spell or Sneak Attack and passes back. I continue to develop my manabase and look for more countermagic, while Taylor spends the ensuing turns Burning Wishing for Show and Tell. He eventually casts the Show and Tell, I Spell Pierce, and he Forces back. I have a Force, blue card, and Griselbrand in hand at this point, so I just let it resolve, knowing that with his 2 cards in hand he probably has Omniscience + Enter the Infinite. I think Griselbrand in play plus Force of Will and the ability to draw 14 cards can reliably beat that, and it does. I Force his Enter the Infinite, and then we’re off to the races with Griselbrand.

I sideboard out Show and Tells, a mana source, and Repeal for Red Elemental Blasts, Flusterstorms, and Through the Breach.

Game 2: We spend the first few turns Pondering and Brainstorming and setting up, as is prone to happen in Show and Tell mirror matches. Once I have the appropriate mana I go for it, and Taylor Forces the first Sneak Attack from me. I Force through the second one, and Sneak in Emrakul to wipe his board. Griselbrand finishes the job a couple of turns later.

Matches 6-1, Games 13-3

Round 8 vs. Joe Bernal (Esper Control)
Another member of the HotSauce Games crew, Joe is a buddy of mine who has done very well on the SCG Open series in the past, with numerous Top 8 finishes in both Standard and Legacy. Every time we play it’s usually a good battle. We are again seated at the secondary camera feature match, and again do not make the match last long enough to make it on camera before the primary camera match finishes.

Game 1: We both keep our opening hands of seven, and I win the die roll and lead with a Sensei’s Divining Top. Joe plays land and passes back. I manipulate my deck a little bit and pass it back. Joes drops a Stoneforge Mystic and searches up Batterskull. On the third turn I play Ancient Tomb into Show and Tell with Spell Pierce backup, which is not needed. I drop Griselbrand, while Joe gets a free land, and then I pass the turn. Joe plays a fourth land and casts Jace, which I Spell Pierce. Joe concedes the game and we’re off to the sideboards for Game 2.

I’m not sure how I sideboarded here, but I believe I brought in at least Defense Grid and bounce for this one, in favor of Misdirections and an Island. I’m not sure if Red Elemental Blast made an appearance, but there’s a decent chance.

Game 2: We both keep our opening seven again, and we both have land light hands. After Joe discards a few times I attempt a Sneak Attack and Joe Hydroblasts it. I Force a Jace or something, and he later resolves an end step Notion Thief, which hits me a couple of times. Eventually I land a Sneak Attack (which his Flusterstorm in hand cannot counter, nor could the Misdirection he used earlier), and the Sneaky fellows Emrakul and Griselbrand promptly end the game.

Matches 7-1, Games 15-3

Round 9 vs. Joe Alane (Reanimator)
I’m the 4th seed while Joe is the 2nd seed, so we draw into the Top 8, along with tables 1 and 3.

Matches 7-1-1, Games 15-3

Quarterfinals vs. David Gleicher (RecPod)
David is a native of Chicago who I’ve had the pleasure of talking to and playing with numerous times over the past half dozen years, and I always look forward to seeing him at events, so we can compare what each other is playing. He normally favors BUG Tempo decks, but today sheepishly grins as I scan over his decklist of RecPod (Recurring Nightmare Birthing Pod, with the NicFit Veteran Explorer shell). It’s a very cool decklist, but doesn’t have a lot of ways to interact with Sneak and Show in Game 1, outside of Cabal Therapy. I have a ton of basics as well, so Veteran Explorer is just as good for me as it is for him.

Birthing PodGame 1: David plays first by being the 3 seed (I’m the 6 seed now), and leads off with a Polluted Delta into Bayou into Cabal Therapy. I have a juicy opening hand, and he names Show and Tell with Therapy, which hits. I then draw Brainstorm and spend my first turn with the Ancient Tomb into Top plus activation play. On David’s next turn he follows up with Veteran Explorer plus Cabal Therapy flashback, plus Veteran Explorer trigger to nab us both two untapped basic lands. I grab an Island and Mountain, and cast Brainstorm in response to his Therapy. I draw 3 lands, and my hand is now 5 lands plus 2 Emrakuls. I plop both Emrakuls on top of my deck and reveal my awesome hand of 5 lands after David reluctantly names Emrakul with the flabacked Therapy. I then Top end step to find a Force of Will as the third card down, and float it to the top of my library. I draw it the next turn, play a fetchland, and pass the turn. When David goes for Birthing Pod on the next turn I hard cast Force of Will. David casts the next couple of turns casting Baleful Strixes and Deathrite Shaman, and I spend the next couple of turns digging with Top and then Show and Telling in Griselbrand, drawing a bunch of cards, and following up with Sneak Attack into Emrakul, and the game is out of reach for David.

David can side in Mindbreak Trap, Swan Song, and Thoughtseize against me. I believe I sideboarded in Pyroclasm and Through the Breach against him, in place of Misdirection, a mana source, and something else.

Game 2: David mulls to 6, casts a Deathrite Shaman or something, and I go for the first turn Ancient Tomb plus Lotus Petal into Show and Tell into Emrakul plan. It worked out.

Matches 8-1-1, Games 17-3

Semifinals vs. Joe Alane (Reanimator)
Now we get the rematch from round 9 that we didn’t have to play. Once again we’re on the backup camera feature match, because apparently my deck is not baller enough. Coverage switches to our match at the beginning of our Game 2, after the other match has concluded.

Game 1: Joe is on the play, but mulligans to 5. I keep a hand with lots of protection and little in the way of combo cards, which is precisely the role you have to adopt to start the game against Reanimator. You want to shift into your own combo in the mid-game, once you’ve staved off the Reanimator’s plans. Joe leads off with Delta into Underground Sea into Thoughtseize, and sees a hand full of blue cards. He takes a Force of Will, leaving me with Spell Pierce, lands, Show and Tell, and cantrips. Joe spends the next couple of turns Careful Studying and discarding mana sources. I wearily decide to cast a Show and Tell, which you almost never want to do against Reanimator. However, in this case Joe had seeminly not found a creature off of his Careful Studying thus far, and I was going to be able to put a Sneak Attack into play, followed up with a Griselbrand to potentially end the game on the spot. Well I ended up putting in the Sneak Attack, and Joe put in a Tidespout Tyrant, having drawn it on his previous turn. Griselbrand Sneaks in, draws 7 cards, and gets bounced by his Tidepout Tryant. I pass the turn, and he attacks and ships the turn back. On my next turn I foolishly Sneak in both Griselbrand and Emrakul, and he bounces the Emrakul. I should have just Sneaked in the Emrakul twice in the event that he could bounce it, because the Annihilator trigger would have hit sooner or later, forcing him to lose his Tidespout Tyrant. I eventually kill him a turn or two later with the Emrakul.

Show and Tells, a mana source, and maybe 1 Misdirection get sided out here for Through the Breaches, Flusterstorms, and bounce. His sideboard contained Pithing Needles, so I wanted the Repeals to guard against Needle, and Echoing Truth to guard against that as well as any of his reanimated creatures.

The video coverage of this match starts in Game 2, at the 14:14:40 mark of the SCG stream, embedded below (just click play).

Game 2: Joe leads off with a Thoughtseize again and sees another controlling hand of Force, Spell Pierce, Repeal, Top, Volcanic, Tarn, and Sneak Attack. He ends up taking my Sensei’s Divining Top, and I’m guessing he’s playing for the long game, passing up my counters and Sneak Attack. Top would allow me to both dodge his future discard, as well as quickly sculpt a hand of more disruption and combo cards. I draw another Volcanic, play the first one, and pass back with Pierce and Force up. As can be seen in the coverage, I eventually land a Sneak Attack, and after landing a Griselbrand and drawing like 30 cards over the next couple of turns with this Griselbrand and another, am unable to find an Emrakul to quickly finish the job. I actually consulted my sideboard at some point during all of this to confirm that I did not side out any Emrakuls (I did not). I counter his attempts to Reanimate my Griselbrand, and find an Emrakul a couple of turns later and put Joe out of his misery.

This was the worst match of Magic I played in a long time, so I’m glad it was on camera. I made a number of errors this game, including the following:
14:21:57 – screw up first Brainstorm. Should have just put back Island and Sneak Attack and passed the turn with Flusterstorm and Force protection, being able to both Ponder and Brainstorm next turn after shuffling. Instead, put back Sneak Attack and Brainstorm, and drop Island and Ponder immediately. Then I probably should have also shuffled with fetchland before Ponder once committed to that line of play. The reason I didn’t sacrifice the fetchland is that I wanted to keep another shuffle effect available for ensuing Brainstorms or Top activations, but just shuffling there and finding a different shuffle effect later would have been more optimal, and yielded much better odds of finding the elusive Emrakul. Later I sacrificed a Lotus Petal instead of fetchland into Island for Spell Pierce, when I was going to crack the fetchland before my next draw anyway (had Brainstormed prior). 14:34:50 – should have Echoing Truthed Griselbrand back to hand to just Sneak it in again next turn. Instead I just let it die with no other creatures in hand and a grip full of counters, content to just wait and dig for Emrakul. I figured I had an unbeatable hand at that point (which I did), but that’s no excuse. I played well all day except this game and pride myself on playing tight, so I’m glad this was recorded to give me a reminder of what not to do.

Matches 9-1-1, Games 19-3

Finals vs. Jeremy Barbeau (Rogue Hermit)
Balustrade SpyI’m handed Jeremy’s decklists before the game to study, and it’s pretty close to what I’m used to seeing out of the Balustrade Spy/Rogue Hermit combo decks. EC’s very own author Stephen Menendian wrote both Vintage and Legacy intros to this deck strategy a while back, and if you study those or playtest against this deck enough you will realize there are a few key bottlenecks or conditions that must be met. First, they must have the actual black Rogue combo creature in their hand. Second, they must get to the critical amount of mana (4) in a single turn. Third, this will require at least 1 black mana. These play out like Storm decks, and if you are able to disrupt their mana production enough with counterspells, or can counter the Balustrade Spy/Undercity Informer itself you are usually good to go. Typically you can not reliably wait to try to counter the Dread Return against a competent opponent, because they will often have access to multiple flashback Cabal Therapies for your hand after flipping their whole library into the graveyard, depending on the version of the deck they are running.

The video coverage of this match starts at the 14:49:31 mark of the SCG stream, embedded below (just click play).

Game 1: By virtue of being the higher seed Jeremy is on the play. I draw an unremarkable opening hand with all of the necessary combo cards and good mana, but no countermagic, so I mulligan. Jeremy deliberated over his opening hand for a minute, so I suspected he couldn’t necessarily kill me on the first turn. So I might not need Force of Will in hand, but definitely need protection of some sort (either Force or Spell Pierce would be live if I get a turn). I keep an opening 6 of 2 Scalding Tarn, 2 Spell Pierce, Sneak Attack, and Ancient Tomb. The plan is the just fight his mana production until I can draw a Force or can lay enough mana to just kill him in one turn with Sneak.

Jeremy passes the opening turn after doing nothing. Keeping his opening hand I know he’s just a mana or combo creature away from going off, so I need to just play defensively for a few turns. I lay a Scalding Tarn holding up Spell Pierce, and pass the turn back. He draws and discards Manamorphose. I draw, play another Tarn, and pass the turn back again, holding up double Spell Pierce. He draws, and decides he has to go for it. He leads off with Summoner’s Pact for Wild Cantor (which can help him fuel black mana). I can counter this with Spell Pierce, but if I let it resolve and am able to counter another critical mana component he will just lose to the Pact next turn. He removes a couple of Spirit Guides and casts Wild Cantor, which he sacrifices for black mana into Dark Ritual. I sacrifice Scalding Tarn into Volcanic Island and Spell Pierce the Ritual, and he can’t pay to Pierce and scoops.

I believe I sided out a couple of Show and Tells and Misdirections for Flusterstorms and Through the Breaches.

Game 2: Jeremy mulls to 6. I keep an opener that includes Force of Will, Spell Pierce, 2 Island, Sneak Attack, and some other unknowns.

Jeremy leads out with a Chrome Mox (imprinting Wild Cantor) and Lotus Petal, no doubt to play around Spell Pierce if possible, and passes the turn. I draw Through the Breach, play and Island, and pass the turn with Spell Pierce or Force of Will up, but not both, as I didn’t have an additional blue card to pitch to Force. Jeremy knows that he has to go for it sooner rather than later, as I will just keep drawing more counters and combo pieces, so he has to try to catch me without the appropriate counter. On his second turn he does indeed go for it, casting Summoner’s Pact for Tinder Wall, casting Tinder Wall off the Chrome Mox, then removes Simian Spirit Guide and sacrifices Wall and Petal to cast Balustrade Spy. I Force of Will the Spy and he extends the hand to concede defeat, as he will again die to his Summoner’s Pact trigger on the next upkeep.

Matches 10-1-1, Games 21-3

On a side note, the SCG coverage team of Riki Hayashi and Shaheen Soorani are pretty entertaining, and certainly an improvement over most of the other commentators I’ve seen, but like most of the others seem kind of slow when it comes to the Legacy format. For example just in my Finals match alone, Shaheen mentions “Jason Jaco has Spell Pierce in his hand, which isn’t even that good in this matchup.” You clearly do not understand how the Rogue Hermit combo deck operates and needs to generate black mana if you make this statement. Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual are critical to casting the Rogues, and if you can keep the opponent from resolving those you are in good shape. Later they question why I kept a certain hand without mulliganing, after my opponent had already conceded when I Forced his Balustrade Spy. Pretty loose play by play and color commentary. I’d love the opportunity to do commentary on Legacy and Vintage, so if you’re out there reading this, put in a good word for someone who knows the inner-workings and minutiae of Eternal formats. 😉

Bonus SCG interview where they think I’m Jason Statham at the 15:12:41 mark of the SCG stream, embedded below (just click play).

I was happy to have finally taken one of these down, after about a dozen attempts, cashing here and there. It was great to see all of the Wisconsin and Midwest Magic peeps all around, and cheer each other on throughout the day. Special shout outs to my Team Serious crew, Team Blouses crew, and Jimmy McCarthy, who brought us sandwiches midway through the day, and even stuck around all day as I won round after round, if only to share the post-victory late night Mexican meal I bought. Thank you to everybody for the words of encouragement throughout the day, and for the kind words after. It was a great experience, and I look forward to winning more of these in the future.

Jaco SCG Milwaukee