Spin It to Win It: Lucksacking into First Place at CanCon

At the Cancon 2017 Legacy event, I somehow happened to take first place with Miracles. How unexpected, I know. You might be wondering as to how I managed to pull off the Miracle (heh). Well do I have a good story for you.

Flashback to the Friday of CanCon. Originally, the Goon Brigade (Sean, Steve, Jesse, Matt, and myself) had planned a nice, relaxing drive to Canberra to make it just in time for Legacy FNM at Jolt Games. You know, have a bit of the pre-pump before the chump. Instead, some cucks (not looking at you, Sean, Matt, and Steve) decided that they wanted to make it in time for Block Constructed, which meant that we had to leave at the very toasty time of 7am. and gun the drive up. In retrospect, we should have flown, but it overall it was a decent drive full of good banter and socially inappropriate commentary. We end up arriving at CanCon at 2:45pm, and Block Lads manage to get themselves sorted for the event. If you’re ever making the drive up, I recommend making the noise of any animal that you pass. It’s a great game, and probably better than Magic to be honest.

Instead of being derps, Jesse and I, being the enlightened individuals of the group, made the correct call to take some time off at our apartment. Accompanied by a bottle of Tanqueray 10 Gin, Schweppe’s Tonic Water and a pack of darts, we made the best decision of the entire trip and relaxed on the balcony pondering the philosophical questions of life and as to how people could be so stupid that they wanted to play Block Constructed.

As predicted, the Block Lads scrubbed the event, and then, in the same vein as when your mother comes home from work and yells at you, they killed our vibe and made us go to FNM. This was by far the worst decision of the trip. Tipsy, dehydrated, and confronted by the heat, we proceeded to get mashed by Canberra players with powerful plays such as Chalice on one and Prelate on six. Such was the level of tilt, that we spent most of our time lying on the ground outside the store wondering why we had wasted the best years of our lives playing this children’s card game.

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The next day, i.e. the day of the event, we had a nice brunch at The Cupping Room then headed back to our apartment to sort out lists before the tournament. The food was good, but it was a shame we scared our waitress with our edgy banter to the extent that she wouldn’t bring Jesse a lighter for his schmoofty. How rude.

Originally, for the event, I had planned to play a tweaked version of BBD’s GP Louisville Top 8 list. My exact tweaked seventy-five is listed below:

Non-Creature Spells: (33)
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Terminus
1 Counterspell
4 Counterbalance
4 Force of Will
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Council’s Judgment
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures: (6)
3 Monastery Mentor
3 Snapcaster Mage

Lands: (21)
4 Island
2 Plains
3 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island
4 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Arid Mesa

Sideboard: (15)
3 Pyroblast
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Flusterstorm
1 Containment Priest
1 Rest in Peace
1 Blood Moon
2 Disenchant
2 Pithing Needle

For those looking for top quality Miracles content, I’d recommend checking out BBD’s GP Louisville tournament report. You can find the link here.

However, due to the unprecedented amount of tilt experienced the day before, I made some rash changes to the list and played this seventy-five instead:

Non-Creature Spells: (33)
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Terminus
4 Counterbalance
4 Force of Will
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Council’s Judgment
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Entreat the Angels

Creatures: (5)
2 Monastery Mentor
3 Snapcaster Mage

Lands: (21)
4 Island
2 Plains
3 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island
4 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Arid Mesa

Sideboard: (15)
3 Pyroblast
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Flusterstorm
1 Containment Priest
1 Rest in Peace
1 Blood Moon
2 Disenchant
2 Pithing Needle

The most notable part of this list was 2/2 Mentor-Entreat split as well as the zero Counterspells main. This was a hedge against a high predicted amount of D&T and Eldrazi, as well as a low Miracles presence. Entreat is a premium threat against non-blue decks such as D&T and Eldrazi and is often a lights-out KO if cast for four-five. I still wanted access to the absurd power of Mentor, which lead to the 2/2 split. In a more balanced metagame and under less tilt, I wouldn’t recommend the two main deck Entreats, and would instead advise the three Mentor, two Jace threat split as has become the norm.

On the other hand, I really liked the construction of the sideboard. The sideboard was a blend of BBD and Schönegger’s sideboard flavours, as well as some self-imagined spice. The sideboard was comprised of four main parts. Firstly, the Pyroblast / Flusterstorm / Vendilion Clique core provided a solid basis to attack the metagame, particularly combo. Secondly, a graveyard-hate package of one Containment Priest, one Rest in Peace, and one Surgical Extraction. I like having this split over multiple Surgical Extractions because of the increased flexibility of these cards – Containment Priest against S&S and D&T, Rest in Peace against Deathrite Shaman/Abrupt Decay decks, etc. Multiple Surgical Extractions have become the norm due to the presence of RB Reanimator, and while I think it is a good deck, I believe that having cheap countermagic along with the one Surgical Extraction provides enough protection that Miracles can get to turn two and cast on of its haymaker permanents such as Counterbalance or Rest in Peace. Thirdly, two Disenchants to deal with troublesome artifacts and enchantments such as the Sword cycle and Sylvan Libraries. I chose to run Disenchants over Wear // Tears as a concession to Wasteland decks such as Delver and D&T as because I was not running the basic Mountain in the sideboard, and did not want to find myself in a situation where I couldn’t cast the card. And finally, three flex slots which I filled with two Pithing Needles and a Blood Moon. The Needles were absolute all-stars, as the flexibility of the card allowed the deck to consistently answer threats such as planeswalkers, manlands and even Deathrite Shamans, which the deck usually has a hard time dealing with. The Blood Moon was a way to lock out Eldrazi as well as any of the greedy BUG decks that have been running around.

On a side note, I’ve dropped the basic Mountain from board following BBD’s advice. I believe he is correct in saying that having the extra sideboard slot provides greater payoff than negating the feel bad moment of not being able to cast your red spells. Red is such a minor splash in the deck that it is not worth running Wasteland insurance.

Overall, the deck played like a treat, and coupled with a mixture of tight and loose plays along with players thinking Miracles has it when they never actually do, I managed to end the swiss 4-1-1 and sneaked into the Top 8 as 8th seed. The decks I played against as well as how I sideboarded are listed below:

Round 1: Sneak & Derp (0-2)

Let me paint you a picture: you’re feeling a bit mellow and still slightly tilted, and you sit down and find out that your opponent is on one of your worst match-ups. You then proceed to get violated over two short lived games via Show and Telled in Griseldicks. The post-Sneak patented feel bads was strong is this one, I assure you. What a way to start the day.

-4 Swords to Plowshares +3 Pyroblast
-4 Counterbalance +2 Vendilion Clique
-2 Terminus +2 Flusterstorm
-1 Engineered Explosives +2 Disenchant
-2 Plains +1 Surgical Extraction
+1 Containment Priest
+2 Pithing Needle

Round 2: GB Budget Infect (2-0)

This was a bit of a non-game. He was playing Evolving Wilds and Giant Growths and I was playing the Countertop lock and Plows. Turns out 3K worth of cardboard beats a kitchen table deck. Who would’ve thought?

-2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor +2 Disenchant

Round 3: Miracles (1-1-1)

Ask and thou shall receive, and I had been asking for the Miracles mirror for forever. It’s by far one of my favourite matchups as there’s a lot of room for nuanced play. Game one I manage to resolve a Counterbalance before him, but he managed to resolve a Jace as I stall on lands. In the spirit of trying not end up in the draw bracket, I accidentally draw a card after a Top spin without tapping the Top first. I’m a powerful wizard, I know. I get some sort of warning, but the basic error makes me tilt out yet again. He eventually deals with my Counterbalance and establishes his, locking up the game. I managed to steal game two with an unanswered Entreat for four, and we ended up drawing game three as we had only had six minutes on the clock.

-2 Plains +3 Pyroblast
-4 Swords to Plowshares +2 Flusterstorm
-2 Terminus +2 Vendilion Clique
-2 Entreat the Angels +2 Disenchant
+1 Pithing Needle

The most important thing in the mirror is patience, as well as the ability to know when to fight and when to jam your win cons. I like to side out two Plains as the majority of the white cards are sided out for games two and three. Unfortunately, Plains don’t tap for blue mana, hence can be taken out in order to make space for more action cards. I still leave in two Terminus as a concession to my opponent’s Mentors, as well as way to counter my opponent’s Termini via Counterbalance. Lastly, I prefer being on the draw on this matchup because of the extra card drawn. Most of the time people’s aren’t jamming their Counterbalances unprotected on turn two into potential Pyroblasts anyway, so the drawback of going second is nullified. Any advantage is welcomed in the mirror.

Round 4: Death & Taxes (2-0)

These games were won in standard Miracles fashion. Game one I jam Mentor on three with Force back up, and rode the card to victory despite having my Tops Revokered. The card is incredibly dumb. My opponent wasn’t very happy after losing to an unstoppable tide of 1/1 idiots with Prowess, and was even more salty after I managed to find an answer to all four of his Revokers all naming Top, as well as Terminus his board three times in game two. The consistency of running four Top, four Brainstorm and four Ponder allowed me deal with whatever threat he provided, and set up a lethal Entreat for the win.

-4 Counterbalance +2 Vendilion Clique
-2 Force of Will +2 Disenchant
-1 Council’s Judgement +2 Pithing Needle
+1 Containment Priest

Two Force of Wills are kept in not only as a way to answer turn one Aether Vial, but also to help turn the corner and protect a Mentor.

Before coming into the tournament, from my experiences of jamming the match-up against the esteemed MTGGoldfish writer and Legacy extraordinaire Sean Brown, I had always thought that after the introduction of Sanctum Prelate and Recruiter of the Guard, the match-up was unfavoured for Miracles due to the multiple beatings he gave me. But after the way my deck performed during the match, I realised that not every D&T player is Sean Brown, and that it was very much a 50/50 skill match-up.

Round 5: Miracles (2-1)

The mirror again? Lucky me, what a treat! Yet these matches weren’t as memorable as my previous mirror match. Game one I won with a small Entreat. Game two my opponent managed to establish Top plus Counterbalance to my naked Counterbalance, meaning I could never resolve my Top and subsequently lost the game. Game three I had the nuts and curved turn two Top into turn three Counterbalance with protection which pretty much ended the game.

Round 6: Dragon Stompy (2-1)

After losing the die roll, my opponent starts the game off with turn one Ancient Tomb into Chalice for one and my competitive spirit almost threw itself off a cliff. This was the tell-tale sign of the hated Eldrazi fun police and all I could think was “what a way to end the day”. However, instead of following up the Chalice with Thought-Knot Seers and other colourless bullshit, he plays a Mountain and hard casts a Simian Spirit Guide. My spirits are back to sky high, because games with involve hard casting Simian Spirit Guides can only be interesting games. I manage to hit land drops under the Chalice and somehow natural Miracle an Entreat for four to steal the game. Game two he curved Trinisphere into a turn two Sin Prodder. Luckily for me he is only able to flip lands and Chalices to the Prodder, but the 3/2 is too much to handle and I eventually succumb to Prodder plus Magus of the Moon beats. Game three I start the game off with a Top, and proceed to establish a board of Jace and Mentor to win the game. Chandra, Torch of Defiance did a good job of stopping Jace from reaching ultimate range, but the combination of Jace, Mentor and Top was too much for the deck to handle. My opponent was a really jovial guy and I had a lot of fun playing this weird match-up. It was a great way to end the Swiss, and really put me in a good mental place in case I snuck into the Top 8.

-4 Counterbalance +2 Disenchant
+2 Vendilion Clique

So, after finishing the Swiss 4-1-1, and starting round 6 in 12th place, I by the grace of God manage to slide my way into the Top 8! Well, in reality, two major events had to happen in order for me to sneak in. Firstly, in round three two fellow Salt Miners Steve Stamopoulos and Jesse Bartle were paired against each other. In the spirit of never dogging the boys, Steve offered to draw with Jesse. Jesse said no, and got subsequently crushed. Secondly, in the last round of swiss, Steve was 4-1 and offered to draw into the Top 8 with his opponent. His opponent said no, and also got crushed. By unintentionally jamming and winning, Steve created the space for my thirteen points to Top 8. So thanks to Steve, Jesse and mystery last round D&T guy (editor’s note: Dean Williams we love you!). Kisses all round!

Quarterfinals: True-Name BUG (2-0)

These were some really good games. Game one my opponent has a slower hand of mana dorks, which gives me enough time to get a Jace online, allowing me to set up an Entreat for two. He answers back with a Jitte equipped to a DRS as his means to stabilise. But through the power of Jace brainstorms, I find my misers Council’s Judgement and take away the Jitte for the win. Game two my opponent has a fast start with a Hierarch into a TNN. He starts bashing, chipping away at my life total, a gets me to a healthy life total of five. He taps out for a second TNN and forces me to have a Terminus or bust. Luckily, I am a skilled Miracles player, and I find the end of turn Terminus to wipe away his board. I untap and jam Blood Moon. He concedes.

-4 Counterbalance +3 Pyroblast
-4 Force of Will +2 Pithing Needle
+2 Disenchant
+1 Blood Moon

Semifinals: Infect (2-1)

I’ve played this match up from both sides and it is not good for Miracles. In game one my opponent does not provide enough pressure, and after dealing with his Blighted Agents stabilise the board with a hoard of Mentor tokens to his Glistener Elf. Game two I fail to find an answer to his Agent plus Hierarch, and I slowly bleed out two infect damage at a time. Game three goes real long as I find answers to his threats but fail to provide any real clock of my own. Eventually I manage to stick a Snapcaster mage, which ended up being Berserked by my opponent, putting him to 1 life and leaving me with nothing. I spin my wheels for a very long time and see a majority of my deck before finding a Clique to close out the game. One cool play that happened was casting Disenchant targeting my own Counterbalance and then whilst holding priority casting a Flusterstorm with enough storm triggers for him to be unable to pay. He had been playing as if he had been drawing fluff all game, and I was happy in this late stage of the game to trade my Counterbalance for his Agent. With Top in play I felt like I was more likely to find a way to win before he find a threat and back up with pump spells.

(Editor’s note: Tang also made the excellent play of crack Scalding Tarn, cast Plow and then realised he had no more Tundras left in his deck, and got another violation. Powerful plays.)

-4 Force of Will +2 Pyroblast
-2 Entreat the Angels +2 Flusterstorm
-2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor +2 Disenchant
-1 Council’s Judgement +2 Pithing Needle
-1 Engineered Explosives +2 Vendilion Clique

Finals: Junk (2-1)

7th and 8th seed playing in the finals. What a narrative. Early into game one my opponent sets up a board presence of active Bob and a Deathrite Shaman after tapping out to Abrupt Decay my Counterbalance. I have a Top in play. At this stage, I have stalled on lands, and have two lines – jam my Mentor in hand and hope to cantrip into protection, or wait until I can get my Engineered Explosives live. I also know my opponent has a Swords to Plowshares in hand which had been flipped to Bob. I decide to take the aggressive line, as at worst I’d still have a monk token to block and jam Mentor plus a Ponder. I am rewarded and ponder into Force of Will, Brainstorm, and a land. I take the Force, which probably should have been left on top of my library, and use the Top to draw the Brainstorm in order to pitch to Force to counter the Swords. He fails to draw an answer, and I get him to a low enough life total that his Bob kills him by flipping a Liliana of the Veil. #Feelsgoodman.

In game two I cast a Rest in Peace in order to turn off his board full of Deathrite Shamans. However, his Bob draws him relevant cards and I whiff on any action. He eventually Decays my Rest in Peace and I die to the idiot brigade.

Game three is interesting. Well, not really interesting, more so a little sad. We had been playing Magic all day and we were clearly fatigued. There was some back and forth, and on the crucial turn my opponent had a tapped out for a board state of Stoneforge Mystic, Deathrite Shaman, and a Liliana of the Veil. I have a Brainstorm in hand, but had earlier prepped a Terminus on top of my library. My opponent ticks up Lili, and in response I cast my Brainstorm in order to trigger Terminus and put the other two cards back on top. I cast Terminus, and my opponent goes to pick up his creatures. Midway he remembers that he can activate Deathrite Shaman and asks the judge if it’s too late. She says it’s not, and he does. He puts his creatures on the bottom of the library and passes the turn. I go to draw a card for turn when he realises that he forgot to discard to the Liliana activation. I didn’t have any cards in hand so the lack of the reminder must have made him forget. He gets a Game Rule Violation (I think) and because he was already maxed out on the limit, he gets a game loss. Not the very best way to win, and he was a nice guy, but I’ll take it I suppose.

-4 Force of Will +1 Blood Moon
-4 Counterbalance +1 Rest in Peace
+2 Vendilion Clique
+2 Pithing Needle
+2 Disenchant

But… I had won it. Somehow, my first ever Top 8 ended up with a win. Usually, when people win things, they are overcome with a range of emotions – most are happy, some break out into a dab, and some even cry. My teammates were jumping around in happiness. Me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe it was the way in which the match ended, but I definitely felt more joy when I heard I had Top 8ed than when I won. I was bloody ecstatic about the Top 8 announcement, but dead inside after a win. Weird, isn’t it? I guess what mattered to me most was not the prize or even the title, but the opportunity of fighting through a tournament with some of the best mates one could ask for. Sean and Steve were already locked for Top 8, and it was the icing on top that I managed to sneak in. To me, it wasn’t how I won it or what I had won, but who I had won it with. That’s the power of Legacy – combining some of greatest people I know with one of the greatest children’s card games ever created.

Sean, Steve, Jesse, and Matt, thanks for the great ride up and back, and for the unlimited support, enthusiasm and energy that you guys brought to the table. A big thanks to the CanCon organisers, for sticking by the dying dog that WotC is so desperate to kill, and for giving us the opportunity to play the format that we love.

And finally, YEAH THE BOYS!

By Stephen Tang

2 thoughts on “Spin It to Win It: Lucksacking into First Place at CanCon

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