Ramblings About ANT – 2nd at Legacy Masters with Ad Nauseam Tendrils

This is going to be more of a brief recap than it is an actual report.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember most of my matches very well and I didn’t take notes. I never entered this event with any real expectations. I just wanted to come in and play and see how far I can go. Turns out variance was mostly on my side for the day, and I managed to not punt too badly, too often. I’ve included the full list below (scroll to the bottom). The list itself is seventy-four of seventy-five cards of the list I’d played to first in a Win-a-Dual a fortnight earlier. I’ll have a more in-depth look at the list later. Any sideboarding is from memory and may vary from guesses based on how I would normally board through to completely inaccurate.

The deck I was on for the day was Ad Nauseam Tendrils, a.k.a. the most common Storm variant (and my preferred version) in Legacy. I’ve been on this deck for a while now, having arrived here via Dredge (and LED’s), and it’s the deck I’m most familiar with in the format. I’ve faffed about with various fair decks, but have only ever really been taken by Delver, and I in no way feel confident playing any Delver deck. I’ve played unfair for way too long to know what most cards in the format do, let alone how creature combat works. One of the best things about ANT is the drastically reduced number of cards you care about, which really hamstrings you when you go to move to something a little more fair. Coming in, I wasn’t sure how well positioned the deck would be. Short of the brief stint of Eldrazi misery inflicted upon us by recent Wizards dick-moves, the deck’s been strong for a while, and has been over performing on MtGO. This led me to believe people might be teching for the matchup. Fortunately, either I was wrong or (more likely) I got really lucky.

The day started early. I had to be up at like 7am to make sure I made it there with time to spare. I’ve discovered I hate 7am on Sunday even more than 7am on a weekday. I’m pretty sure it’s not a healthy time to be up. Following an early start with a really, really long train ride sucks. Not gonna lie, I tried to nap, it didn’t work. I got there at about the same time as a bunch of mates and we went to grab coffee and some food. The morning got far better when Adrian Kitto handed me a grip full of FBB duals to replace my plebeian Revised ones to make my deck prettier for the day. I’m pretty sure this was the source of most of my good luck, so big thanks for the loan of the very pretty pimp. It definitely made me happy every time I fetched out a dual.

Underground Sea

Round One vs. Trent Clarke (4c Control)

There was a bit of standing about talking bollocks before this, but it was uneventful and was mostly just wishing people good luck. Exciting stuff. I got paired against Trent on 4c Control. Trent’s a local and a nice bloke and I’ve always enjoyed playing against him, but would rather be paired against someone else first; I hoped to see everyone I knew there in Top 8 or jamming up the top tables. Oh well, can’t win them all. As I promptly found out. The matchup is, I feel, good for me on paper, but Trent is a tight player, something that was further reinforced when we both wound up in Top 8. I cleaned up Game 1 pretty quickly. Game 2 started to go wrong for me very quickly. This was exemplified by him casting Thoughtseize when I had Empty in hand, I Brainstormed, stacked it back on top, but found a second duress. He took Duress then Surgicaled. To make things better, I tried to resolve a Probe with a Leo on the board. I went to draw a card off the Probe, Trent was saying “Leo, Leo, Leo” but I wasn’t with it and the card hit my hand. I appreciate Trent’s effort in trying to stop me, and I think the gesture speaks very highly of him. Game 3, he took my tutor early, then my Ad Nauseam. I tried to combo after having Probed his hand a turn earlier, and he Surgicaled my tutors. I tried to flashback Ad Nauseam, he had the Counterspell for PiF. GGs, and game well earned by Trent. Not a good start for me, but maybe this was something that was needed to actually get me started.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest Gitaxian Probe

Result: 1-2

Sideboarding:

Out:
1 Island
1 Preordain
1 Past in Flames.

Some might question the Island, but I know Trent doesn’t run Wasteland as he prefers the better mana from running basics. If I wasn’t so sure of the list, it would be a second Preordain or possibly a Cabal Ritual.

In:
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Empty the Warrens

Round 2 vs. Brandon Owen (ANT)

I don’t know Brandon, but I was aware of what he was on, as he’d been asking in the Melbourne Facebook page a few weeks earlier. I was pretty nervy going in to this as I was doubly scared of a match-loss here. He’s a bit newer to the deck and I’m a bit of an egotistical prick, so really couldn’t stand the thought of losing the mirror to someone less experienced. I decided to put my utmost concentration into Game 1 and punted beautifully. I had a sure-thing Ad Nauseam turn from 17 with no mana floating, but I tried to find a Dark Ritual so I could Ad Nauseam with extra mana and make it a sure thing. I missed on the Ritual, passed the turn and got punished. Game 2 was a clean Ad Nauseam, Game 3 I think I Tutor Chained. Highlight of this match was one of his mates walking past and asking how he’s going. He comments he’s out-moneyed on board. I laugh at this. Borrowed pimp is intimidating.

Result: 2-1

Sideboarding:

Out:
1 Preordain
1 Swamp.

In:
2 Flusterstorm

Round 3 vs. Fernando (Goblins)

This was the first matchup of the day where I had no idea what my opponent was on beforehand. These game are even less memorable than the games against the mirror. I’m glad for my opponent’s sake I’m typically able to go through the combo quite fast. This was not exciting for anyone involved. Highlight of the match (other than my opponent’s decidedly upbeat outlook and personality) was comboing while my opponent had a Vial on 2 the entire time. For some reason I had it in my head he had an Ethersworn Canonist in hand. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for him to Vial it in. Fun fact: if I’d passed the turn in Game 2, I think I was dead. Goblins can kill fast into an empty board. We chatted for a bit afterwards, he showed me the sick tech he’s packing for Sneak & Show, which is a full four (I think) copies of Monkey Cage and then talked me out of ever visiting Geelong.

Monkey Cage

Result: 2-0

Sideboarding:

Out:
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Past in Flames

It might seem a little strange to drop therapy over Duress here, but I just don’t know what any of their creatures do. Or what they’re called. And Duress can just snag some random hate pieces.

In:
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Echoing Truth
1 Dark Petition

Round 4 vs. Jonathon (Death & Taxes)

Once again, I hit a mystery match and was left guessing until I saw a familiar Plains, Mom, go. I kept an okay hand, but it was mostly mana and, crucially, missing a Tutor. A Turn 2 Thalia at this point would have been difficult, although not unbeatable. I Probed, saw Revoker but no Thalia and mentally congratulated myself for my strong play of dodging Thalia. I played a basic Island, Preordained and passed, he played something like land, Mom, Vial. I did a good Sneak & Show impression by playing a Tarn and he avoided playing the Revoker into an empty board. I finally hit a cantrip to find the Tutor. I cracked the Tarn and played Ritual and he said “oh, crap, I wasn’t prepared for that”. Game 2 he mulled to five and decided he had to keep. I vomited 14 Goblins in excitement and he picked up his cards a turn later. This reinforces my view on the DnT matchup: specifically, it’s far, far better than people think.

Result2-0

Sideboarding:

Out:
3 Duress
1 Past in Flames
1 Preordain
1 Cabal Ritual

In:
2 Dread of Night
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Disfigure
1 Empty the Warrens

Round 5 vs. Graham King (Food Chain)

ID. I had people asking why we did this all day, as Food Chain is a positive matchup. So, in explanation, last time I played Graham in this matchup, Game 3 I mulled to five, Probed and saw double Mindbreak Trap, double Force.

Mindbreak Trap

I’ve had the fear since then. Choosing to try to win out the last two rounds sounds considerably less scary than a repeat of that. Funny story, I think this screwed up T8 math and breakers and may have helped Sneak (and Show!) me into Top 8.

Result: ID

Sideboarding:

Out:
Urine, in the happily-empty single-urinal, single-shitter toilets.

In:
A couple of Bureks and a coffee.

Round 6 vs. Andrew Anastasi (BUG Aluren)

I feel a bit bad here. Andrew was feeling pretty good, he’d beaten Storm earlier in the day, so while he knows it’s a bad matchup for him, he felt more confident going in. I punished his newfound bravado on turn three. Game 2 I Probe-Therapy’d, taking his Force, leaving him with the normal Aluren chaff. I passed the turn and he played a Cage which he’d clearly just pulled off the top. I main phase Brainstormed into stacks of mana and a Tutor and killed him again with a Tutor chain. Andrew is yet another local guy, so it was sad to take him out of the running.

Result: 2-1

Sideboarding:

Out:
1 Cabal Therapy
1 Island
1 Past in Flames

I cut a Therapy here as I expected my opponent to be a little light on interaction.

In:
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Dark Petition

Round 7 vs. John Atkins (Elves)

Like Trent, John’s a mate, so another person I didn’t want to compete against. Especially in contention for the top tables. I was 10th in the standings, so I really needed this. I asked John to scoop as I didn’t think he could make it into T8 with his current record (4-2), but he thought he had a chance so opted to bash. With the exception of Round 2, I think this was the most nervous I got all day. Only this time it wasn’t about my ego, this time it was how close I got to T8. I really didn’t want to punt now. Elves tends to be reasonably easy, but can quickly be lost if they wreck your hand enough post-board. Game 1 went as expected. He did land DRS, but only had access to Green mana. Game 2, he found a Surgical which I baited in my combo turn to get lethal storm without PiF. John told me afterwards that he’d seen I was a bit stressed so was trying to stay upbeat with me. It’s great to play against friends, but upsetting to knock them out of contention. Another fun fact: John brought a 67 card deck. He was telling us at the beginning of the day he was originally intending to bring DnT, the deck he’s most proficient with, but was out of practice so just wanted to enjoy himself.

Result: 2-0

Sideboarding:

Out:
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Island

I actually know what the creatures in Elves are, and what they do. It’s just they’re all redundant 1/1’s, so I’d rather snipe their business spells or opposing pieces of disruption.

In:
2 Fluster
2 Echoing Truth
1 Abrupt Decay.

I was 5-1-1 at this point. People were telling me this is a lock for T8 for a while, but I wasn’t convinced. I’d heard a few good records going round the room, and honestly I have little to no idea how the calculations are done for this. So I just kicked about for a bit, waiting to find out. Someone told me one 5-1-1 won’t make it. I was pretty sure that would be me at that point, sure that my Round 1 loss and my Round 5 ID would come back to bite me. I was pretty stoked to see Trent and Graham were a lock, and Steve, another mate, was also definitely in. Eventually they showed standings, and I made it to 8th. I didn’t relish being on the draw the entire time, but whatever, I got there.

Top 8 vs. Lewis Adams (Shardless BUG)

I don’t know my opponent, but had overheard what he was on. I don’t think there were many mysteries this late in the day. He mulled, I kept a hand that was a T1 kill if he didn’t have Force. He mulled to five, played a Creeping Tarpit for his land and I decided to just go for it, knowing the odds of Force plus Blue card would be slim. I got yet another Tutor chain, and my only t1 win for the day. Game 2, he mulled to five again. I Probed and saw a hand with lands plus Goyf. Next turn when he played Goyf, I went for it as only Surgical or an unlikely Mindbreak Trap is relevant now, and I was pretty sure I could beat that. I feel a bit sorry for the guy, he got so far only to be wrecked by awful mulligans. In the meantime, I heard Steve had made it through, but unfortunately Trent and Graham were both out of contention.

Result: 2-0

Sideboarding:

Out:
1 Cabal Therapy
1 Preordain
1 Past in Flames

In:
1 Empty the Warrens
2 Abrupt Decay

Top 4 vs. Steven Stamopoulos (Team Australia)

I was expecting to get paired against one of the Sneak & Show players, but unfortunately once again got stuck bashing against a mate. Sometimes Magic sucks. We briefly discussed ID’ing, but someone told us that’d just lead to whoever won the Sneak and Show mirror taking the prize, and neither of us wanted to see Griselbrand take it out. Sad days. Game 1, I got wrecked by early DRS into Delver into game over after I couldn’t punch through in time. Game 2, I kept a fairly aggressive seven, with mana, a Tutor and lots of discard. I wrecked his hand then saw an avenue where if I could clear his hand of interaction, I could get 12 goblins. Steve decided he thought this was a great idea (not surprising, Steve has been an aficionado of Goblins for years), and Brainstormed for me to get me an extra two. He scooped not long after. Game Three, I lost a tutor early to a Thoughtseize, and Steve dropped two Delvers. They did their best not to flip and the lack of clock let me Ponder into Duress plus Petition. I already had mana in hand, so I took it, Duressed him seeing only Daze, then killed him with a PiF loop.

Result: 2-1

Sideboarding:

Out:
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Past in Flames

In:
1 Dark Petition
1 Empty the Warrens

I’ve taken to sideboarding really lightly in this matchup. It seems likely Decay is rarely relevant again Deathrite.

Finals vs. Patty Robertson (Sneak & Show)

Game 1, I had an aggressive hand that I tried to leverage into an easy victory. Unfortunately, I bricked pretty hard on a Tutor. He killed me with a hand full of mana and nothing to do with it. I remember something like Sneak Attack into Griseldouche, into draw seven, Emmie into me not even bothering. I picked up my cards and went to sideboard. Game 2, I almost shat myself when I heard the phrase “pre-game actions”. I could’ve cried with happiness when he dropped a Black Leyline. My sideboard plan this time didn’t allow for White Leyline. The hand I kept was pretty similar but with more cantrips, but quickly turned into a repeat of the previous game. I was attacked by an Emmie, but didn’t feel too bad; I’d sand-bagged a Petal so I could still cast spells. He passed, I drew and packed it up.

I’m still happy overall with my results. I got to finish the day in the very final round, surrounded by friends cheering me on. And to be fair, I spent almost the entire rest of the day always having the correct cards when I needed them. It’s just a reminder that variance cuts both ways.

Result: 0-2

Out:
2 Preordain
1 Past in Flames
1 Swamp

In:
1 Dark Petition
2 Flusterstorm
1 Xantid Swarm

I deliberately didn’t bring in an answer to White Leylines here, I just hoped he wouldn’t be on the plan, as it seemed less common right now.

Lessons learned: borrow FBB duals whenever I can. Maybe sub in new ones for the last round. It only seems to last for a while. I’m bad at paying attention to permanents on board, especially when they interfere with something fundamental to what I’m doing, such as drawing a card. And finally, I might have gotten better compared to last year. Last time I ended up 2-2 drop, although I think having a better built list and deeper format knowledge also helped.

List Discussion

Xantid Swarm

The difference between this list and the one I was on a couple of weeks back is just that I cut a Pyroclasm for a Xantid Swarm. I knew the list was reasonably sound, I’d been working on the sideboard since the Top banning and felt pretty good about it overall. The Xantid Swarm had actually been decided on far earlier, I just hadn’t wanted to show anyone just yet. I haven’t run it in over a year, as generally I’m pretty down on it. I think it’s almost always awful and only really good against Sneak & Show, or occasionally Reanimator or Infect. However, I expected Sneak & Show to make a relatively big showing this day, so thought some free wins off it might be handy. I’d also learned new Miracles sideboards are starting to run White Leylines, so decided it may be a necessary evil in that matchup too. I’m absolutely positive that this was correct, unlike normal where it’s a maybe at best. There were six Sneak & Show decks at the top tables, I believe, and while I feel pretty good about the matchup in general, when it’s going to be that over-represented, it’s worth a sideboard slot that can get me free wins.

I’m running eight business spells main, with 2 PiF, 1 Ad Nauseam, no Empty. I’ve liked the stability of 2 PiF, and haven’t liked Petition in general. I also don’t like Empty all that much, since much like Ad Nauseam, it gets worse as the game goes on. Unlike Ad Nauseam, however, it doesn’t normally just win the game if it resolves. I’m on fifteen lands, with only two basics. Obviously I’m running a Green splash; I’ve found Decay too good to leave behind, being one of the broadest, cleanest answers available. I’ve also found I don’t particularly like having two basic Islands main; I find myself extremely uninterested in fetching a second basic Island, even in Delver matchups, as it doesn’t allow for shenanigans like responding to a Duress being Spell Pierced with a Ritual. I’ve come to the opinion that people who are too concerned about Wasteland will likely lose themselves matches from it. And also, the Badlands. This has become more standard and I’ve liked having the extra Red source main for added stability.

Finally, for maindeck considerations, I’m running seven discard main. After the Top ban, I found many Blue decks boarding into absurd numbers of counters, so started running a therapy in the board. This migrated to main as I found myself bringing it in so often. I figured opening up a board slot and being pre-boarded against Blue decks was worth cutting Rain of Filth for.

Onto the sideboard, beyond the Swarm, I have an extra Tendrils as I expected to see more Burn and UR Delver than normal, as they’re both more budget-friendly and still quite effective in their own right. I have Empty for the fair matchups that are soft to tokens. This includes Delver, SFM decks including Blade and DnT and as potential extra outs against Miracles if I see a Leyline.

Flusterstorm

Two Flusterstorms. These days I’m using these strictly for combo mirrors, including Reanimator, the mirror, Infect (here it sometimes get used proactively), Sneak & Show and even Elves. It looks bad against Elves, but often they will need to try to kill you on turn 2 or 3 to stop from dying, and then pass the turn as they are often constrained on mana at the time. One Disfigure, which is for DnT, Infect and decks playing Canonist. I’ve been asked before why it’s not Fatal Push, my reasoning is simple: this hits Prelate without needing Revolt while still hitting everything else I need it to. It’s possible it should be Push, but I rarely find myself wishing it was. There’s two Dread of Night, obviously for DnT specifically. Historically, DnT has been over-represented at these events, something that likely has to do with both the affordability of the deck and the number of people that have a spare copy of it. Two Hurkyl’s Recall are because I’m trying to not lose to random Moon Stompy decks. Two Echoing Truth; it’s possible these should be Chain of Vapor, given I have Hurkyl’s and Decay to deal with Chalice, but I hadn’t had time to test with Chain, so left it as something I’m more comfortable with.

Abrupt Decay

Two Decays are the correct number, I’m fairly sure, for those still running it. These hit random hate pieces from BUG decks such as Null Rod, while also being able to deal with Chalice, random beaters and Deathrite Shaman. Additionally, Leovold, if that comes up. Finally, one Dark Petition. I said earlier I haven’t liked Petition, however I did see someone recently suggest adding it to the board for those times where you would normally go below eight pieces of business. I’ve been trying it and have generally liked it as an option, even if I do think it’s too clunky for the main deck.

Non-Creature Spells: (45)
1 Ad Nauseam
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Dark Ritual
3 Duress
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Tnfernal Tutor
2 Past in Flames
4 Ponder
2 Preordain
1 Tendrils of Agony
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal

Lands: (15)
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Swamp
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
1 Tropical Island
1 Badlands

Sideboard: (15)
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Tendrils of Agony
2 Flusterstorm
2 Echoing Truth
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Disfigure
2 Dread of Night
1 Xantid Swarm
1 Dark Petition
2 Hurkyl’s Recall

By Michael Webb

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