“If Team America could play Lightning Bolt, it would be the best deck ever.”
– Me sometime in 2018
My testing for Masters consisted of three things:
- Mark Rippletoe’s Starting Strength program;
- Watching Black Hawk Down and Blade Runner 2049; and
- Coming up with a myriad of BUG Delver + Lightning Bolt decks while pretending to be working.
To say that the first half of 2018 was not my year would be an understatement. By the end of February my relationship of eight years ended badly, I was (mis)diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I had a falling out with a lot of what I had considered to be good friends.
Legacy took the back seat and I pre-occupied myself with lifting weights, working fourteen hour days, six or seven days a week and playing hours on hours of Red Orchestra 2 when not doing any of the above.
Legacy’s so fucking good though, even with Show and Tell, even with Deathrite Shaman, even without Goblins that I couldn’t just move on.
Picking a deck for Masters was tough. With the rise of Czech Pile came the decline of Team Australia. Baleful Strix and Diabolic Edict and Kolaghan’s Command and Snapcaster Mage to do it all again are really good against threat light decks and Stifle started to feel mediocre. Unless you had a seemingly endless supply of removal, Stifles and threats, the matchup felt horrible.
The main problem with Team Australia was it’s lack of a two mana threat. Young Pyromancer you say? Perfect! Then add four Gitaxian Probe, whatever flex slot Bob Huang ruled fit to play in the current week and jump in your boring grey Honda Civic with no optimal extras, constantly-variable transmission and wonderful fuel economy. Nah.
As I said on the most recent episode, I need to march to the beat of my own drum. I also knew that Tarmogoyf was secretly great because Fatal Push was barely played outside of Team Australia, and a creature dying to a removal spell is hardly a reason to not play it to begin with. The reason to play Goyf is that it comes out big, usually gets a little bigger and is mostly self-sufficient, and it allows for the “Zoo” draws that sometimes just obliterate opponents and that’s what we want in big tournaments. Another reason to play Goyf is that it’s the tier 2 to tier 5 deck smasher. At smaller tournaments with say 15-20 people, you’re likely to play against tier decks all day. At larger tournaments like these, the wider Legacy community comes out. They have their decks that they like to play and they’ll play them. They may be outdated but the good folk have them and by god they’ll play them. Whether it’s Soldier Stompy or Nic Fit or Goblins (R.I.P) Tarmogoyf is really good at beating these types of decks.
I experimented with a lot of four colour lists of which I’ll go into depth in another article (series?) but in short, I played lists with Stifle, I played lists with Painful Truths, Seal of Fire and Green Sun’s Zenith in the main deck, and everything in between and they were all honestly fantastic. Notably absent from these lists were True-Name Nemesis. The threat base was always four Deathrite, four Delver, three Tarmogoyf, two Angler.
Of the total three Legacy events I played in from March to June 2018, I 4-0’d two and lost in the semifinals to none other than Sean of the third.
None of my lists were the same, and they all played well. The Green Sun’s Zenith was a bit of a joke so I ditched that, but I really liked the staying power that Painful Truths and Night’s Whisper gave. Grinding out Death & Taxes without True-Name Nemesis was not only possible but common.
Toxic Deluge seemed like a great answer to the expected meta of Strix, Pyromancer and friends, Elves, White Women.dec and so on and so forth. Stifle was cut early because the meta was too pro-active and too often it just didn’t cut the mustard.
So the list was mostly settled but I decided that the fair blue mirrors were all about playing the arms race game and True-Name Nemesis is just too good not to play. With two True-Names added, I couldn’t risk the curve being so high with four three-drops in True-Name and Painful Truths. As a joke, Painful Truths became Golgari Charm after someone on The Source said that they were main decking Golgari Charm. Then it turned out to be good. Real good.
Imagine a card that could do all of the following:
- Counter an opposing Abrupt Decay on my whatever.
- Blow up a Blood Moon or Back to Basics
- Plague wind an opposing board before 5/6 Goyfs get in there.
Well imagine no more because Golgari Charm is our card. The problem with Toxic Deluge was that despite being the more powerful sweeper, it’s still a three mana sorcery and three mana sorceries come in the shape of cards like, say, Doomsday or Show and Tell. The life-loss was also relevant often and it was too often Dazed/Pierced/Flustered for my liking. Golgari Charm, while certainly less powerful, kills enough things while being far more agile.
The list I settled on was this:
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Gurmag Angler
2 True-Name Nemesis
Non-Creature Spells: (26)
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Force of Will
2 Golgari Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Spell Pierce
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Dead // Gone
1 Life from the Loam
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Painful Truths
1 Spell Pierce
2 Surgical Extraction
I was so happy with it, I called it FULL POWER DELVER, in honour of it’s absolute fucking chad unitness and posted it on Twitter.
People were blown away…. and immediately decried it as lunacy. Even my brother from Sydney, Tom Gilmore, a man who normally trusts my madness and has had great success with my previous iterations of BURG said:
Maybe I had gone a bit too far… Others were less than impressed.
I tested the list once, playing a few games against Steven Capovilla’s Veteran Walkers deck. It won a few games so I decided that it was good enough and so we were settled for Masters. Until I decided that I didn’t want to play Legacy. Then I did another back flip and just decided to go to Masters. Anxiety hey.
Feeling a bit downtrodden from the somewhat aggressive Twitter response, I figured that I would just lose and drop early and head to the commentary both.
The day of Masters was brutally cold and I wondered if I should have stayed in bed. I picked up Graham and we hit the road, listening to a mix of Wave and Taylor Swift.
Round 1: Miracles
When my teenage opponent opposite me opened on Arid Mesa and fetched, I said “uh oh.” Thankfully it was an Arid Mesa into Tundra instead of a basic Mountain and a Lava Spike. My deck did a great job pretending to be a BUG deck, and the deck kept coughing up creatures for me to jam. Some were Plowed, others Terminused but a Gurmag Angler into a surprise Lightning Bolt ended things quickly.
In Game 2 I resolved a Liliana the Last Hope while my opponent spun his wheels pinned on White mana and an ultimate from the lass was more than enough to call it a day.
-1 Abrupt Decay
-2 Golgari Charm
+2 Painful Truths
+2 Red Elemental Blast
+1 Liliana the Last Hope
Total Record: 1-0
Round 2: Grixis Delver
This was a feature match and recorded for our future viewing pleasure. There were a few interesting plays but I’ll let the video do the talking.
In Game 1 I had an early Delver and had to make the decision of whether to Decay the opposing Pyromancer or the Deathrite. With access to two Wastelands, I hoped that I would be able to Stone Rain my opponent out of the game and leave him stranded with a 2/1. He ended up having plenty of lands and Pyromancer took over the game.
Game 2 was an all Goyf plus Wasteland affair if I remember correctly and Game 3 I was forced to fetch Red and never found another Blue land until it was way too late.
The match was certainly fun to play, and my opponent ended up making the Top 8 so I can’t feel too sad about losing to a great player.
Total Record: 1-1
Round 3: Burn
My opponent was playing the “Maslow” Burn deck which was talked about on reddit.
I’m a huge fan of Jared Dunner’s content but I was playing for my tournament life and so needed to win. My opponent stole a quick Game 1 from under my nose, but Game 2 and 3 were fairly one sided affairs. Early creatures bit the dust but in both post-board games, where he had Lava Spikes, I had Anglers and Goyfs and True-Names. I recall casting a Tarmogoyf and a Gurmag Angler in the same turn while still holding up spell pierce, and my opponent remarking that he was on a two turn clock. From eighteen life. That was pretty dope.
Total Record: 2-1
Round 4: Grixis Delver
The rematch! Time to run this Civic off the road.
Game 1: Well I mulliganed to five and got smashed. Probably justice because I decided to not play the “best deck in Legacy.”
Game 2: Tarmogoyf’s revenge. Typical early Delver grind mode, followed by some Wastelands on my opponent’s lands, and a Delver and Tarmogoyf from my end making quick work of the mid game.
A quick note, this is why I like TarmoGOAT. Where Pyromancer can be clunky, Goyf is just a big fat fucking fatty who likes to fuck.
In Game 3 I kept a hand with plenty of lands, Liliana the Last Hope and removal. We traded resources early on while I established my mana base. He dropped a Daze onto the table but it made no difference, I was going to play around it anyway. On turn six, with my opponent down to two lands, and me up to four, I cast Liliana. I had a Spell Pierce and Daze backup and felt fairly confident. My opponent Brainstormed into… Flusterstorm and confidently cast it. I politely explained the available targets for Flusterstorm and that planeswalkers weren’t one. He called a Judge on himself and I immediately went into full lawyer mode, pleading for clemency.
A Young Pyromancer came down but she died to the inevitable machine gunning of Liliana. My opponent threw out a Gurmag Angler but I was playing the best Blue moat in town: True-Name Nemesis. A few turns of this staring match ended when I drew Life from the Loam… with Wasteland in the bin.
Loam and Wasteland and Liliana, the Last Hope is what they call a combo, and after a second True-Name Nemesis was milled over by Loam and brought back, my opponent conceded, having no lands left in his deck anyway.
I now know why Sean is such a fan of Loam.
Total Record: 3-1.
Round 5: Infect
I hadn’t expected to get to this stage and with such a record. Surely no one else did either judging from the bemused looks of others as I sat to a match on table number 3.
For the first time this day, I felt confident in the matchup and that is the death knell for anyone in any competitive pursuit.
In Game 1, my opponent’s board was Tropical Island, Inkmoth Nexus, two Noble Hierarch and Blighted Agent. I had Tropical Island, Underground Sea, Deathrite Shaman and Delver in play. In my hand I had Golgari Charm, Abrupt Decay, Wasteland and Daze. There was a fairly easy line. Abrupt Decay your Blighted Agent, Wasteland your Nexus, clean up later.
Instead, I figured that Golgari Charm plus Wasteland would be the better play. Now technically, it’s a much higher value play but this was only in the first few turns. My opponent Dazed my charm, which I paid for with wasteland. Then it got Flustered. Then I died.
The next game was far less interesting, I started off on the front foot, before Brainstorming into Tropical Island, Underground Sea, Tropical Island, and my opponent’s Blighted Agent beat my Tarmogoyf. Not much to be done there, but my loser mindset before the match, plus the greed of Game 1 cost me the match and a Top 8 birth. Oops.
Total Record: 3-2.
Round 6: Red-Black Reanimator
With no way into the Top 8, the mood was lightened and everyone was happy to just enjoy Legacy.
In Game 1 I mulled to a useless five, before my opponent went Chancellor into Ritual, Entomb, Reanimate. Can’t be too sad about that.
Game 2 showcased the power of Deathrite Shaman against Reanimator decks when it’s backed by Spell Pierce.
Game 3 my hand was double Force, Brainstorm, Ponder, Spell Pierce, Fetch, Deathrite. Sweeeeet. My opponent mulled to 5. I drew a second land for my turn, and got my Deathrite out. My opponent went for it it, putting a Lotus Petal and an Animate Dead into the bin for me. I drew a Goyf that was now a 6/7 and attacked three times. Nice.
Final Record: 4-2.
I’m very proud of my final 4-2 record, which ended up being good for 15th place. In the moment, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret about punting what could have been a Top 8 birth but now I see it as just as meaningless as any other tournament. The best part of the day was hanging out with the eternal community, cheering on our boy Jesse in the Top 8 and hanging out with some of the stragglers at mine after the tournament.
I wasn’t going to write a tournament report for this years Masters, it honestly felt like there was no need.
Thanks for the motivation Lachlan.
By Steven Stamopoulos