Top of the Food Chain – Legacy Masters Top 8 with Food Chain

With two months to go until Masters I was fairly set on what I was going to be playing for Highlander and Legacy and was tossing up options for Vintage.

My idea was to run something that would beat Miracles, Death&Taxes and Sneak & Show. With that in mind I was going to play Cloudpost as I felt it had positive match ups against both Miracles and Death & Taxes and is usually ahead against Show and Tell unless they go for an Omniscience, in which case I have sideboard options.

Then April 24th happened.

“ Sensei’s Divining Top comes with its own host of issues that center around the timely conclusion of matches in a tournament setting. The necessity of repeated Top activations to play the card slows down match play and leads to tournament delays. Coupled with the power of the Miracles deck, this is reason enough for us to take action on Top. Therefore, Sensei’s Divining Top is banned in Legacy.”

Miracles was dead along with a lot of the reason to be playing Cloudpost. I had recently moved to the Repeal build of Cloudpost which was also hit by the loss of Top. I started playing various decks to test how they felt in the metagame. I ran through a couple of different decks including Delver, Lands, Dragon Stompy, Merfolk, Mono-Red Sneak Attack, Landstill and Food Chain. Nothing felt particularly well placed however after several conversations with the inventor of Legacy (Sean Brown), I decided on Food Chain. The deck has difficult match ups against the top combo decks in the format, namely Sneak & Show and ANT, however it has positive matchups against most fair decks and received a huge boost with the recent printing of Walking Ballista.

As a starting point I used the list Marius Hausmann ran to 1st place at MKM Milan (primer here). I made a few changes to the deck after running it in our weekly events, but functionally the deck stayed the same. I added Thoughtseizes to the main deck as a nod to the extra combo in the room, cutting into the Abrupt Decay due to the lower number of Counterbalance that I had to deal with, I also cut a Ponder for Sylvan Library for more consistent filtering.

The week of the event itself I decided to step back from playing, having already committed to what could be thirty hours of Magic already and did some commentary for General Games’ Legacy event. I had a poor showing in the Vintage event on Saturday finishing 2-4. However, I thought I had put enough work in with the deck that I would still have a chance for the next day.

This is the list I ended up playing:

Lands: (20)
2 Island
1 Forest
1 Swamp
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Polluted Delta
2 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
1 Bayou

Creatures: (18)
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Baleful Strix
2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
1 Eternal Scourge
3 Misthollow Griffin
4 Walking Ballista

Non-Creature Spells: (22)
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
2 Manipulate Fate
2 Ponder
2 Thoughtseize
4 Food Chain
1 Sylvan Library

Sideboard: (15)
1 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Engineered Plague
1 Flusterstorm
1 Hydroblast
2 Mindbreak Trap
1 Pithing Needle
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Vendilion Clique

I didn’t keep notes so I’m hazy on exactly what happened in every game, but I’ll do my best. After facing Sneak & Show four times though, I may have swapped some of the games between opponents in my head.

Round 1 vs. Marco Tessari (Esper DeathBlade)

I led on Deathrite on turn 1 which was immediately Swords, followed up by the same sequence on turn 2. I then proceeded to Manipulate Fate. I try to find some protection with Baleful Strix and find it in the form of Force of Will. I then proceed to combo off.

Sideboarding:

Out:
4 Force of Will

In:
2 Diabolic Edict
1 Pithing Needle
1 Vendillion Clique

Game 2 played out fairly similar. I resolved a couple of Strix and clogged up the board until I could combo.

Result: 2-0

Round 2 vs. Joe Fox (Grixis Delver)

Joe led with enough different colored mana to make me think he was on Czech Pile. I had double Manipulate Fate. I played two Food Chains in a row then played out nine power off Food Chain. Joe played a True-Name but it ends up being too little, too late as I beat in for lethal with Griffins.

Sideboarding:

Out:
1 Force of Will
1 Food Chain

In:
2 Diabolic Edict

I get Thoughtseized turn 1, I have Strix, Edict and Ballista. I play land and Joe plays Delver, then proceeds to counter three spells in a row as I try to kill it. On my fourth attempt Joe thinks about Forcing but then lets the kill spell resolve. My Deathrite gets Fork Bolted but then I slow combo again. I swing in and Joe Bolts my face leaving me with two life and some mixed feelings about the earlier Forked Bolt. I swing in for lethal with my Griffins.

Result: 2-0

Round 3 vs. Thomas Sellito (Sneak & Show)

Sneak & Show is a terrible match game one and fairly even games two and three. Tom fires off an early Show and Tell. I toss up between Food Chain and Leovold as my options to put in, and elect to use the Food Chain. Tom shows me Griselbrand and draws a million cards before killing me.

Sideboarding:

Out:
4 Food Chain
1 Eternal Scourge
4 Walking Ballista
3 Abrupt Decay

In:
1 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Diabolic Edict
1 Flusterstorm
1 Hydroblast
2 Mindbreak Trap
1 Pithing Needle
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Vendilion Clique

Post board you play hard control and try to cut them off their threats. It makes for some very grindy Magic, but you’re usually ahead if you can survive the first couple of turns. After I play land, Tom goes for the turn 1 Show and Tell. Griselbrand comes into play again but I get a Strix to block and then in response to his Griselbrand activation I Surgical Extraction his Show and Tells. I see some Grim Lavamancers that have come in out of the board and not much else of relevance. I land a Leovold and do some slow beats, eventually bringing him down to lethal.

Game 3 I get hit by a Kozilek’s Return early on, hitting two Deathrites and a Baleful Strix. This is followed up by Show and Tell into Emrakul. I think about it for a moment and can’t work out a way to get to the required six permanents I need to survive the Annihilator trigger.

Result: 1-2

Round 4 vs. Chris Darmanin (Sneak & Show)

Having come off my first loss of the tournament I’m feeling quite apprehensive seeing Sneak Attack across the table again. Unfortunately for him, my opponent mulligans to four in the first game seeing no land. I lead on Deathrite into Leovold and my opponent autopilots and casts Brainstorm, putting two cards on his library but not drawing anything. The rest of the game goes as expected.

Game 2 I counter Show and Tell early on, then slowly chipped away at his life. A later Show and Tell resolves, but he couldn’t activate Griselbrand due to being below eight life. I cast an Edict then finished him off.

Result: 2-0

Round 5 vs. Michael Webb (ANT)

I sit down about to face my worst match-up in the room and Mike says he doesn’t want to play against me as I’m too much of a lucksack. Being in the same boat, I think about it and offer an ID which would require us to win out to make Top 8. We discuss with some input from Nick Chmielewski on the table next to us, and then proceed to ID and go to the bakery for lunch.

Result: ID

Round 6 vs. Thien-an Lam (Death & Taxes)

As we head into the round where the IDs are meant to start, Thien is kind enough to inform he’s never won a match against me in this particular match-up. As Walking Ballistas can kill most of their threats through Mom and Thalia, it takes away one of the deck’s primary game plans. We trade early threats back and forth to start with, he gets a Sword of Fire and Ice which I Abrupt Decay, and then I manage to combo off.

Sideboarding:

Out:
4 Force of Will
1 Manipulate Fate

In:
2 Engineered Plague
1 Pithing Needle
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Vendilion Clique

Thien plays turn two Revoker on Ballista and I play turn two Food Chain. I then a turn later play a very large Ballista which dies almost immediately to a Flickerwisp. I draw a Manipulate Fate and the slow combo is enough to get there.

Round 7 vs. Joe Michael Caragan (Sneak & Show)

Checking standings, I’m in 9th place for my win-and-in. I knew Joe Michael as a Miracles player pre-banning, so I’m not 100% certain what to expect as I get pairings. My question is answered quickly by a Show and Tell and we go into game 2. I Force a Show and Tell and then land a Leovold. I Vendilion Clique his hand and see no Red mana, Sneak Attack and a Griselbrand. I get rid of the Griselbrand, Surgical it and then Pithing Needle the Sneak Attack.

Game 3 went on in a similar manner with a Vendilion Clique getting in the last couple of points of damage.

Results: 2-1

Top 8 vs. Patty Robertson (Sneak & Show)

It turns out the Round 5 gambit paid off, and I make it into the Top 8 in 7th place with Michael behind me on 8th.

My match with Patty is on camera somewhere if you feel like watching.

Game 1 I once again lose to an early Sneak Attack like my other matches and board similarly to the other games. Game 2 was quite long, I think I used every part of my sideboard. I get into an early counterfight, Force of Willing Show and Tell which I then proceed to Surgical. I manage a second Surgical on his Force of Will as well, making the few removal spells I have, such as Diabolic Edict, easier to resolve. He now could only rely on Sneak Attack to win. I slowly grind down his life with Deathrite while he lands a Jace. I eventually hit a Pithing Needle and choose Sneak Attack over the Jace in play. I get down a couple of Baleful Strix and beat in for the last points of damage. Game 3 I keep a hand with double Mindbreak Trap as my disruption. Patty casts a Show and Tell early on without playing three spells to trigger the Traps, and seals up the match.

Result: 1-2

Thanks for reading, thanks for everyone who came out and played, over 90 players is amazing for a sanctioned event, and props to Fry and Lachlan for judging. I hope to see everyone there again next year!

By Graham King

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