Rocky: I can’t do it.
Rocky: I can’t beat him.
Rocky: Yeah. I been out there walkin’ around, thinkin’. I mean, who am I kiddin’? I ain’t even in the guy’s league.
Adrian: What are we gonna do?
Rocky: I don’t know.
Adrian: You worked so hard.
Rocky: Yeah, that don’t matter. ‘Cause I was nobody before.
Adrian: Don’t say that.
Rocky: Ah come on, Adrian, it’s true. I was nobody. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood
Just like Rocky, I’m a no one in competitive magic. I am the bum that Rocky so desperately doesn’t want to be but is – at least at the start of the movie series.
Ever since I fell in love with Legacy 4-5 years ago, all I ever wanted to do was to Top 8 Masters in Legacy. Top 8ing CanCon was nice, but CanCon is unlikely to ever be seen in the same light as Masters: particularly because it won’t be full of the same calibre of players as Masters nor will it carry with it the “prestige”, the prestige being wholly personal. In reality it’s as irrelevant as any other Eternal tournament, with the only real prize being the prize for 1st and 2nd as they carry some monetary weight and bragging rights… But I love Legacy, and I love playing this game and I want to give it my all every time I play. I’ll never be good enough to compete with anyone at your average PTQ, but if I can ever achieve the level of “good Legacy player” then I’ll have exceeded all self-imposed expectations. More importantly though, I wanted to prove to myself that CanCon wasn’t a fluke. These are probably signs of deeper personality issues but let’s leave Pandora’s Box shut just for the minute…
After CanCon I felt like a baked loaf of bread. I realised that I needed to lose weight and get fit if I wanted to play competitive Legacy – Delver isn’t exactly freewins.dec. I put myself on a strict protein heavy, carb devoid diet (a.k.a. hell) and started exercising, going boxing and running three times a week. Since then I’ve lost just shy of 30 kilograms, can run 7 kilometres without stopping and have a dope right cross – something I couldn’t have imagined back in Canberra. I would like to thank good friend James Fazzolari for indirectly putting me on this path. It has helped immeasurably in everything – not just Magic.
Personally there is no one “Creed” to go the distance with. I don’t even know if going the distance means Top 8ing. Magic is so full of variance, if my surname was Stavropoulos not Stamopoulos, I could have ended up with totally different opponents and been crushed under an endless wave of Lands and Turbo Depths style decks. But my surname is Stamopoulos, I played against mostly favourable matchups all day and my deck didn’t poop on me until it did at which point I was eliminated, having Top 4’d Masters – a personal level higher than Top 8ing and an improvement on my CanCon performance.
I played Team Australia for the event, a Grixis Delver variant I have “pioneered” and spoken about before on the podcast and have been playing for a few months now.
Team Australia is is essentially Canadian Threshold with better creatures. All of the deck’s creatures having evasion: Delver and Tombstalker fly, True-Name can’t be blocked and Deathrite eats away at you in your end-step like the shit-eating monkey it is (please ban this card). In the unfair matchups Tombstalker is just a slower Gurmag Angler but in the fair creature on creature matchups, Tombstalker largely rules uncontested as the only other notable fliers played in Legacy are opposing Insectile Abberations, Serra Avengers and Flickerwisps – none of which can 1v1 effectively with Tombstalker. Gunna fly now… Gunna fly now. It’s called Team Australia because I have a huge amount of love for Dan Signorini, Tombstalker and the original Team America builds. Also Straya cunt.
This was the list I played:
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Delver of Secrets
2 True-Name Nemesis
Non-Creature Spells: (29)
2 Fatal Push
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Spell Pierce
1 Spell Snare
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Dread of Night
1 Forked Bolt
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Marsh Casualties
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Winter Orb
I suppose I cooked them but still… I’m going to bash this Rocky theme like it’s the proverbial dead horse.
Round 1: Michael Mazzolini – B/W Pox
Michael is a great dude and a fellow enthusiast of the format, co-hosting on the “Mull to 3” Podcast. He was playing a home-brew based around Stone Raining/Hymning/Vindicating me a bunch and then hitting me with man-lands, Leonin Arbiters + presumably Aven Mindcensor.
Luckily for me, Deathrite Shaman is still legal and Daze, Wasteland and Stifle are incredibly potent against him. I cast early creatures, Daze his Sinkholes, jam True-Name Nemesis/Tombstalker and kill him in two cruisey games. Amusingly, I blew up more lands with Stifle/Wasteland in Game 2 then he did, such is the power of Ponder and Brainstorm.
Round 2: Jesse Dent – NO Elves
I loaned Jesse the deck, after borrowing a Cradle and a Bayou from Adrian Kitto. I had thought about playing Elves for this tournament but I refuse to play a deck that starts bent over for combo decks anymore.
I get there in two very close games on the back of Tombstalker’s flying.
I played a Grafdigger’s Cage early on and let him resolve multiple Zeniths and fetches for Dryad Arbor through it. Good for me. Jesse being still new to the deck didn’t see the interaction between Dryad Arbor and Wirewood Symbiote, which left him one mana short of hardcasting Craterhoof. Phew.
Round 3: Jarred Allsop – Sneak & Show
I win in three, riding Delvers and soft-counters to victory. Game 1 he casts Show and Tell and Flustered my Force of Will but I had the Daze for his Show and Tell anyway. Combo decks trying to use Flusterstorm defensively make no sense to me.
I almost won Game 2 under a Blood Moon lock but a timely Pyroblast during combat on my flipped Delver while my opponent was at 4 life, followed up by Grim Lavamancer to take out my Deathrite, sealed the deal.
Game 3 I Brainstormed into Force, Force, Edict in response to his second attempt at the combo, and I chuckled at how stupid Brainstorm is while defecating all over the combo yet again. I felt like I couldn’t lose and I didn’t.
Sneak & Show is by some margin, my least favourite deck in Magic. Sneak & Show is the Clubber Lang of Legacy decks.
Rocky took him out all the same, despite an early fall.
Round 4: Xian-Zhi Lai – Canadian Threshold
Xian (pronounced “Sin”) is a lad. We bonded over our love of Delver when he returned to the Legacy scene over a year ago, and we’ve been good friends since. Ever the voice of reason, he’s someone I look to for advice in all areas of life, in and outside of Magic. He also does all the ordering for me whenever we go out for Asian food. I’ve promised I’ll return the favour if we ever get Greek food but the odds aren’t in his favour.
Xian, like I, is a huge fan of Jonathan Alexander’s writing and deckbuilding and is playing his Canadian Threshold list: 4 Delver, 4 Nimble Mongoose, 2 Hooting Mandrils. This list is as lean as lean can be, and it plays the Stifle/Wasteland/Daze gameplan better than anyone else. It also plays Life from the Loam for the total lockout of either non-basics or creatures with toughness two or less (Barbarian Ring).
This match was recorded too!
The long and the short of it is that I draw four Delvers and one Deathrite Shaman in Game 1, and I drew my miser’s Surgical Extraction in Game 2 and take the cheesy win of Surgicaling all his Volcs. As fate has it, he manages to draw literally every Red card in his deck after I’m done being a griefer. Not very interesting, feelsbadman having to bash with a good friend.
Round 5: Brendan Watson – RUG Delver
RUG Delver, unlike Canadian Threshold, is the old 4 Goyf, 4 Delver, 4 Mongoose deck. While I love it, this matchup is much easier than Canadian Thresh because we have roughly the same amount of Stone Rains but I have one more Land and Deathrites as well as Spell Snare and Fatal Pushes for his Goyfs. Essentially, he has the better early game but I have the better mid and late game. Compare this to to Canadian Threshold which has the better early game, a slightly worse but still rather even mid-game and a much better endgame.
Game 1 I am tempoed into oblivion as three Force of Will’s are cast against me. The first two weren’t that important but the third one hit a Tombstalker that was ready to turn around the game. A few dead draws later and we were off to Game 2.
Game 2 was won on the back of my generically more powerful cards with Push taking out two Goyfs. I can’t remember exactly how I killed him but I assume Tombstalker was involved.
Game 3 seemed like it was going to be the easiest game of the match until he cast an Umezawa’s Jitte. The Red Blast and Flusterstorm in my hand felt pretty silly.
His only creature was a Nimble Mongoose but I panicked, forgetting that Jitte cannot be equipped to Mongoose and slammed a Tombstalker into Daze, only being able to Delve 5. I had a cantrip in hand which I should have cast, either found a land and played around Daze (how stupid is the Delve mechanic) or waited until the next turn to cast it around Daze if I bricked on a land. This made the game much harder than it needed to be but, mercifully for me, Brendan bricked on drawing a relevant creature to equip the Jitte to. I cast a Delver which flipped and later on a True-Name which bricked his Goose. A Tarmogoyf from Brendan threatened to put him back in the game if he had removal for my Aberration. A sandbagged Brainstorm found me the second True-Name Nemesis which sealed it up with Brendan at 6 life while I was on 8. Brendan attacked with Goyf and Mongoose, I blocked the Goyf and he Bolted me down to 2 before conceding. I nearly pissed myself from relief.
By far, the most memorable game of the day even though it didn’t need to be.
Round 6: Trent Clarke – Czech Pile.
Trent is one of the Sunbury boys, an all around good bloke and a good mate. We’ve shared a heap of banter between us over our time playing Legacy, and we get on like a house on fire.
This deck munches normal Delver decks, and Baleful Strix.dec is likely to munch on me with Tombstalker being the premier threat. While Winter Orb is likely to be excellent against him post-board, I wouldn’t expect it to hang around for too long.
Thankfully, we’re two of the three 5-0s with the other 5-0 being paired down. We draw and ID, electing to get food instead. We talk about life and about not letting personal grudges get in the way of life. I have a Marlboro Gold and a Pumpkin Soup while Trent has Green Tea and Chips. I win that matchup 2-0.
I am told I’m locked for Top 8 but don’t quite believe it.
Round 7: Thomas Selitto – Sneak & Show
I am asked to bash by one of the Sunbury boys to try and sneak one of them in, but don’t want to risk the loss, even if it is one of Delver’s few good matchups. I do some mental gymnastics but decide to just ID. I dry-wretch in the bathroom at the thought that I may have ID’ed myself out of Top 8 contention.
It ends up not being the case as I go into the Top 8 as the 4th seed, but one of the Canberra boys did manage to ID himself into 9th place due to an ID in Round 5. It just goes to show, nothing is set in stone in this game.
Quarter Finals: Brendan – RUG Delver
Sean did text coverage for this match, bless that child, which can be found here.
Thank god he did, because that match was absolutely thrilling to play, and I felt like I played my best Magic. I won 2-0, but mentally, I win when I (at least in my mind) outplayed him on the Goyf vs Snare and Submerge vs Delver play. I was never in a million years going to fight further over the Goyf. Spell Snare becoming Hymn to Tourach is literally the best that card will ever be in this matchup. I did however posture like I wanted to keep fighting and bluffed Force of Will back – something which I assume won me the next counter-war fight over the Submerge.
I attacked Brendan to three, cast Brainstorm and “Miracled” my Lightning Bolt as I drew the other 2 cards, the same way Miracles players do with Terminus/Entreat and Brainstorm. This was the best Magic I played all day, and to me, that was going the distance.
Semifinals: Mike Webb – ANT
Mike and I were lead to believe that we wouldn’t be playing each other in the semis. That wasn’t to be the case.
Mike’s someone who not that long ago, was interested in playing Legacy. We had a chat on r/mtglegacy and I convinced him to come down and try it out. Now he’s (in my opinion) the best Storm player in Melbourne. This match was recorded and so is viewable in all it’s glory later here:
I won Game 1 off a quick Delver/Stifle start but lost the following two; Game 2 to a metric fuck-tonne of discard from Webb and Game 3 with me going down to five cards and nothing in the way of protection, outside of a Thoughtseize which may as well have been a Lava Spike.
Result: Loss 1-2.
I’m not a Pro Player and I’m not anything special. I’m just a 25-year old dude that fucking loves Legacy, loves spending his Thursday evenings with the boys slinging cards, and loves creating content for the Legacy community. And I’m okay with that. I kicked my bucket list for Magic with this Top 4 finish, I did it with a deck I built myself and a deck that many people derided as “clunky” and just worse than normal Grixis Delver, which makes the mental victory all the sweeter.
Credit where credit is due, especially to Elton Wong and Sean Brown for their assistance with fine-tuning it. Both Sean and Elton disliked the Snapcaster Mage that was originally in the main. Elton went so far as to actually take the list he proposed I should play to a weekly in New York and crushed with it. I took his advice and 4-0’d our weekly, going 8-0 in games. That was pretty fucking exciting. That lead to the main board I am currently playing and which I think should be set in stone. Perhaps Counterspell could be swapped for Spell Pierce #2, but I love me a Counterspell in Delver.
Team Australia rules and if you’re bored of Honda Civic Delver, give it a shot.
The only changes I would make are in the sideboard:
-1 Dread of Night (too conditional, made me feel dumb against Elves)
-1 Forked Bolt
+1 Marsh Casualties (works against the decks Dread + Forked Bolt are good against, as well as being a second copy of your out to Empty the Warrens)
+1 Flusterstorm/Thoughtseize (ANT is much harder to beat now without Miracles containing it. Discard #3 is fantastic against all combo decks and also against Death & Taxes).
And thus concludes my overly introspective and exceedingly wanky report. I’m proud of myself though and no matter what, no one can ever take this meaningless result away from me. I was rewarded with a Future Sight Goyf for my efforts which was also much appreciated as I only owned two before.
I’m going to finish now but I would like to congratulate the real winner of the tournament: Melbourne Legacy. When Sean and I started working our asses off to promote Legacy nearly 2 years ago, we never dreamed that we would have such a huge community of Legacy bros like we do now. I dare say we have one of the biggest Legacy communities in the world with us averaging 30-40 players per week. 90 for Masters was an astounding number – a number which would have been bigger had the store not been forced to cap the event. For a nation of 25 million, I think that’s pretty sick. Even better was the feeling of looking round the room and knowing 90% of the people in it. Most from Melbourne, some from Adelaide, some from Canberra, and some from Planet Salt (<3 u Justin).
Till next time,
By Steven Stamopoulos