Day 1 Grand Prix Washington D.C. Coverage

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The letter T!he largest North American Legacy Grand Prix gives way to a pretty large Day 2 field. 235 battle-hardened players escaped from the nearly 1,700 that started the day, including seven players with pristine 9-0 records.

No. 20 Craig Wescoe, Andrew Cuneo, Mike Nyberg, Ted McCluskie, Chas Hinkle, Wayne Polimine, and Rudy Briksza may not be in the Top 8 yet, but an undefeated Day 1 is a pretty good start. Dustin Droggitis and Denis Ulanov also maneuvered through the field with nary a loss, clocking in at 8-0-1.

And though many ranked and well-known names fell by the wayside in the final round, there're plenty of top Pros still in the hunt. No. 10 Sam Black is the highest ranked player left, with No. 13 Eric Froehlich, No. 16 Brian Kibler, No. 22 Owen Turtenwald, and No. 25 Christian Calcano all making the cut as well. Other notable names to make the cut include Chris Pikula, Todd Anderson, Gaudenis Vidugiris, and Tomoharu Saito.

But with a wide-open field, nary a dominant deck to be found, and six rounds in front of us, it's just about anyone's game. Tune in Sunday as we bring you six rounds on the way to the Top 8 and the crowning of the champion of Grand Prix D.C. 2013.


  • GP Washington D.C. Winning Qualifier Decklists

    by Adam Styborski

  • Qualifier #1 - Marcel Shautz - RUG Delver
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #6 - Oren Ginsberg - Jund
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #7 - Matthew Orfanello - Ad Nauseam Tendrils
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #8 - Christian Espensen - Death and Taxes
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #9 - Matthew Parker - RUG Delver
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #10 - Ian Hendry - RUG Delver
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #11 - Branden Thoma - Death and Taxes
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner

    Qualifier #13 - Justin Beckert - U/R Delver
    GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner


  • Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – Interactions to Watch

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • If you're new to the Legacy format, especially if you've started playing Magic in just the last few years, there are going to be some interactions that might get casually mentioned by commentators or in match coverage that could leave you scratching your head and calling up Gatherer. And some rules interactions for cards printed sometimes more than a decade apart can be confusing enough that even the Oracle text won't clean it up for you.

    But that's why we're here. While we can't explain every single interaction to you, we can highlight some of the more common ones, talk about how they interact, and any rules quirks that might be involved.

    Show and Tell/Giant creature/Enters the battlefield effects

    This might be the most common sight this weekend, if recent trends hold. Show and Tell is a "balanced" card in that it lets both players put something into play. But because one player built their deck with it in mind, that usually a less than fair exchange. Dropping Batterskull into play isn't nearly as exciting as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn crashing onto the battlefield.

    First, the way Show and Tell works is that both players select their card (by setting it aside or otherwise indicating which one they've selected) before they are revealed. This means both players have to make their decision without knowing what card their opponent is choosing.

    Some players fight Show and Tell with creatures that enter the battlefield with an effect, such as Bone Shredder or Gilded Drake. In these cases, both cards are in play when the effect goes on the stack, so the following interaction can happen...

    Emrakul, the Aeons Torn/Karakas/Gilded Drake

    If Show and Tell puts Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and a Bone Shredder into play, the Bone Shredder will kill the normally nigh-unkillable Emrakul. Why? Because Emrakul's protection only extends to spells. Once a creature is in play, it's now a permanent and no longer a spell, meaning it's free to use its effect to target the Eldrazi. Same goes for Gilded Drake.

    Karakas works similarly. It's neither a spell nor does it have a color, so it is free to target Emrakul.

    Counterbalance/Sensei's Divining Top or Brainstorm

    This one is relatively simple compared to others on the list. Player A casts a spell. Player B has Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top. When Player A casts his or her spell, Player B gets a triggered ability for Counterbalance. In response, Player B can then use Sensei's Divining Top or Brainstorm to rearrange the top of his or her library to get the right card in place, then let the trigger resolve and (likely) counter the spell. If the spell costs one mana, in a pinch, Top itself can be activated to go on top of the library.

    Note that split second, particularly Krosan Grip, freezes this line of play out. Counterbalance still triggers, but Player B cannot activate Sensei's Divining Top. For this reason, it is sometimes advisable to keep a card that costs three on top of your library for just such an instance.

    That trick doesn't even work against Abrupt Decay, which says right on the card that it can't be countered. It doesn't matter what Counterbalance will resolve (same for Loxodon Smiter, Supreme Verdict, etc.).

    Helm of Obedience/Rest in Peace

    Helm of Obedience's purpose is to mill your opponent until you've milled X cards or a creature, and then you get that creature. Basically, it was meant to be Control Magic for a random library creature or a faster Millstone against players with no creatures (a common strategy when Helm was originally printed). However, for Helm to stop milling, it requires a card actually go to the graveyard. Rest in Peace (and Leyline of the Void) makes sure no card ever hits the graveyard, and thus Helm never stops milling. As a result, the entire deck is exiled and the milled player generally loses on their next draw step.

    Lion's Eye Diamond/Infernal Tutor

    Lion's Eye Diamond confuses a lot of new players. "Why would I want to discard my hand to get mana?" they often ask. "I can't even use the mana to cast my spells anymore!"

    The trick with Lion's Eye Diamond is to either A) Play cards from your graveyard or want to discard (like Dredge does) or B) play it in response to a card that puts other cards in your hand.

    Infernal Tutor is the poster child for B), as not only is it placing any card in your hand (say, a Past in Flames?), but it actually wants your hand to be empty when doing so, making these two a lethal combination.

    Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows

    This one is pretty simple. Grove of the Burnwillows gives opponents life on demand and, as luck would have it, pays to return Punishing Fire. Managing the triggers against Deathrite Shaman, however, can be tricky. And when there are multiple Groves and multiple Deathrites (unlikely, since they die to Punishing Fire), things can get complicated. Just know that Fire doesn't return until the trigger resolves and neither does Deathrite Shaman (or Scavenging Ooze).

    Gitaxian Probe/Cabal Therapy

    Cabal Therapy used to be a guessing game, but now Storm decks are packing these two cards to get a leg-up on decision making. "Blind" Therapies—casting Cabal Therapy with no knowledge of their hand—have become less common since Gitaxian Probe was printed.

    Shardless Agent/Ancestral Vision

    This works exactly like you'd like it to. Normally, Ancestral Vision has to be suspended, but if you cascade into it, you can cast it normally. And since its nonexistent cost is read as "0" for the purposes of Cascade (and things like Dark Confidant), it will always get cast if it's the first spell hit by Shardless Agent.

    This is the same principle that lets Cascade spells cast Living Death in Modern.

    Glimpse of Nature/Heritage Druid/Nettle Sentinel/Birchlore Rangers

    The key card to this chain is Nettle Sentinel, which untaps with every Green spell cast. With Birchlore Ranger or Heritage Druid, you can tap Nettle Sentinel and one or two more elves to make mana, letting you cast another Green creature and untap Nettle Sentinel. If you've already cast Glimpse of Nature, this lets you also draw a card, meaning every card usually nets you more cards and either more mana or breaking even on mana. The combo works best with multiple Nettle Sentinels.

    Painter's Servant/Grindstone

    Similar in execution to Helm of Obedience/Rest in Peace, this combination mills out an entirely library when cast, with some complications.

    The basis of the combo is that Painter's Servant makes all cards one color, even in the library, so Grindstone's "do this again" clause is always met.

    Where things get tricky is when a player has either Progenitus or an Eldrazi (or something like Gaea's Blessing) in the deck. Eldrazi have triggered abilities that won't go on the stack until Grindstone is done resolving (i.e., the deck is empty). The result will be that the entire deck will get reshuffled, undoing everything the Grindstone player did.

    Progenitus, however, has a replacement effect, meaning that it gets shuffled back in while Grindstone is doing its thing. Barring anything else, this usually means one of two things. 1) If there's only one Progenitus, that card ends up as the last card left in the deck, and that card only 2) If there are multiple Progenitus, the game will end in a tie with an unresolvable loop, as Grindstone will continually hit two Progenitus that immediately are shuffled back in.

    Killing True-Name Nemesis

    True-Name Nemesis isn't completely unkillable, though it's close. If it's the only creature on the board, Liliana of the Veil will force its controller to sacrifice it, since it doesn't target or deal damage to True-Name Nemesis. Supreme Verdict also kills it, as would Celestial Flare if it's the only attacking creature. New Commander addition Toxic Deluge will also do it, as would Massacre or any other untargeted way of shrinking its power and toughness.

    Remember, "DEBT" to remember what protection stops: Damage, Enchanted (or Equipped), Blocking, Targeting. Any other way of killing True-Name Nemesis is fare game.


    I don't know. Ask a judge.


  • Saturday, 9:15 a.m. – A Comprehensive Guide to the Decks of Legacy

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • When players talk about diverse formats, they're usually referring to a format where five or maybe even six archetypes are viable and no one strategy dominates. If you stretch that into viable variations of archetypes, sometimes you'll see as many as eight or nine decks make waves at one time or another, similar to how Standard is right now.

    Legacy right now has somewhere around 20 viable archetypes, depending on how you define viable. That wasn't a type. Twenty. 20. Zwanzig. Viente. Vingt. There are 22 (zweiundzwanzig, for you German speakers out there) in this article alone, and I've left out decks that have Top 8'd Grand Prix (apologizes to No. 10 Sam Black and Goblin Bombardment).

    In other words, Legacy is diverse.

    In fact, Legacy might be the most diverse format on the planet, short of Commander or the kitchen tables around the world where anything goes.

    With 22 decks, I really can't waste this many words on an introduction, let alone counting lessons in foreign languages. Let's get to it. You can read on for the whole picture of the Legacy format, or click on any deck name here to get the full description below.


    Sneak and Show

    Sneak and Show is the deck de jour in Legacy at the moment, and it's easy to see why. Using Sneak Attack and Show and Tell to throw down Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand lightning quick, the two-color deck is fast, consistent, and can play all of the important Blue cards, particularly Brainstorm and Force of Will. Expect players to show up in droves with the deck, especially after William Jensen's twin 2nd place finishes at SCG Open Los Angeles and the SCG Invitational.

    Sneak and Show—William Jensen


    Death and Taxes

    Death and Taxes isn't the most popular deck, but it's certainly on everyone's radar after Ari Lax dropped his beloved Tendrils deck and picked up this Mono White deck on his way to the 2013 Legacy Championship.

    Yes, a White Weenie deck is a viable choice in a format with Force of Will, Show and Tell, and potential turn 1-2 kills.

    At its core, Death and Taxes is a disruption deck, attacking players' mana (Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) and presenting creatures that keep a number of Legacy decks unbalanced and unable to execute their gameplan (Aven Mindcensor, Phyrexian Revoker) before finishing them off with a few of the format's more dangerous creatures. If you've never attacked with a Mirran Crusader equiped with an Umezawa's Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice (or both!), you don't know what you're missing.


    Delver (UR, URW, RUG)

    There are a variety of ways to build around Delver of Secrets, but all of them involve cheap (or free) countermagic, Wasteland, low land counts, and the ever present Brainstorm. Where you go from there is often a matter of taste.

    RUG Delver has traditionally been the most popular, as Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf provide potentially giant, difficult to handle threats for very little investment, while Lightning Bolt increases a clock and clears out pesky creatures. Absolutely nothing in the main deck costs more than two mana, typically, and the deck thrives on keeping both players low on mana.

    Recently, however, players have come out from under RUG and experimented with other colors to pair with their Delvers and Bolts. Osyp Lebedowicz took second at the Legacy Championships with straight UR Delver, supplementing the Red-Blue core with relative newcomers Young Pyromancer and True-Name Nemesis. For his efforts, he gains Blood Moon in the sideboard and better resistance to Wasteland.

    Others have opted for UWR Devler, a slightly more controlling version that plays Swords to Plowshares and Stoneforge Mystics alongside heavy-hitter Geist of Saint Traft.

    RUG Delver—Ricky Sidher, SCG Open Los Angeles, 1st

    UR Delver—Osyp Lebedowicz, Legacy Championship, 2nd


    Ad Nauseam Tendrils/Storm

    There are various options for casting a lot of spells very quickly and very early to win the game, but Ad Nauseam Tendrils is the most common you'll see in Legacy. The deck plays a ton of "rituals"—cards that make more mana than they cost, like namesake Dark Ritual and successor Cabal Ritual—and deck manipulation to cast a lot of spells before finishing with a lethal Tendrils of Agony. Ad Nauseam and Past in Flames usually give the deck the extra kick it needs to hit enough spells in a single turn to win.

    The deck can win as early as turn one, though that's rare. It's more likely to clear the way with Duress and Cabal Therapy before winning sometime on or before turn four.

    Ad Nauseam Tendrils—Mark Tocco, Legacy Championships Top 8


    UWx Counterbalance/Top

    Counterbalance/Sensei's Divining Top has been a combo that has been potent against Legacy's low mana curves for quite some time, but really got a push when Avacyn Restored gave the world the Miracle mechanic, generally, and Terminus specifically.

    Between Brainstorm and Sensei's Divining Top—not to mention Enlightened Tutor—the Blue-White based Counterbalance decks have near absolute control over what's on top of their deck, letting them set up the Counterbalance lock against combo decks or getting incredibly cheap board sweepers against aggressive decks. Entreat the Angels is often a finisher, though players have also recently adapted the Helm of Obedience/Rest in Peace kill as well.

    Abrupt Decay has hurt the deck significantly, but clearly has not pushed it completely out of the format.



    When Griselbrand was first spoiled, everyone expected Reanimator to run rampant over the format, destroying people Turn 1 Necro-style left and right.

    That didn't quite come to pass—in fact, not a single copy made the Top 8 at its debut tournament in Grand Prix Atlanta in 2012—but Reanimator is still a powerful strategy thanks to Exhume, Reanimate, and Entomb. Deathrite Shaman helps keep the strategy in check, but the little 1/2 that could hasn't been enough to completely remove it from the format.

    Reanimator has also recently adopted Tidespout Tyrant as a way to utilize its plethora of cheap spells after it has achieved its "combo."

    Reanimator—Robert Cucanto, SCG Open Indianapolis, Top 8


    Shardless BUG

    The dark and Delver-less cousin to RUG, Shardless BUG plays a disruptive game that attacks the hand instead of the mana base. Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil keep hand sizes down, while Ancestral Visions, Shardless Agent and Jace, the Mind Sculptor keep its own hand size flush. Fellow Commander standout Baleful Strix offers utility, and Deathrite Shaman does pretty much everything. Plus, the deck gets to play format all-star Abrupt Decay in its main deck.

    Shardless BUG—Camden Atkins, SCG Invitational, 3rd Place


    Esper Stoneblade

    Esper Stoneblade has occasionally held the title of the best and/or most popular deck in the format. It is, at its heart, a Brainstorm/Force of Will deck that uses counters and discard to keep opponents off-balance while Stoneforge Mystic finds powerful equipment to kill quickly. The deck used to play Lingering Souls—thanks in no small part to No. 9 Tom Martell's success with that card in the deck—but recently players have been abandoning it for True-Name Nemesis, which holds equipment just as well, if not better.



    Ah, Jund. Good old Jund. Viable in every format ever, except maybe Vintage. Jund doesn't get to play Brainstorm, but it does get to play a lot of efficient, disruptive cards. It even closely resembles the Modern version of Jund prior to the banning of Bloodbraid Elf. Hymn to Tourach and the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo are the main differentiators, but otherwise it's a very similar concept to the Jund decks we've all come to love/loathe over the years.



    Bant doesn't get a ton of attention or play just yet, but that could certainly change after No. 10 Reid Duke won an SCG Open with it. Duke isn't the first to combine GW Knight of the Reliquary decks with Blue cards, but his win represents the most recent revival of the strategy.



    Part creature deck, part combo deck, Elves is a unique deck in the format. The linear tribal strategy can play for quick beatdowns with a plethora of quick creatures, it can combo off with Glimpse of Nature and various mana-producing elves, and it can go positively huge with Natural Order for Craterhoof Behemoth, Regal Force, or Progenitus. While it's weak to Counterbalance, Engineered Explosives, and more, it's also the deck best equipped to take advantage of Gaea's Cradle, a card that is not inaccurately described as the Green Tolarian Academy.



    Dredge has been a boogeyman of formats past, but has become less-so as graveyard hate becomes more prevalent. Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, and even Rest in Peace all see main deck play, and sideboards usually have even more ways to attack graveyards. Still, Dredge is deadly enough that if people don't come prepared to fight positively packed graveyards, it can do some dirty, dirty things.

    Dredge, Andrew Dziedzic, SCG Open Milwaukee, Top 8



    Merfolk has, at times, been one of, if not the, best decks in the format. However, metagame shifts and new cards have drowned out the previously unsinkable fish men and women. Punishing Fire, Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay, Terminus, and more have slowly, but surely, churned the format up enough that Merfolk can't simply be penciled in for a Top 8 anymore.

    However, the deck has some characteristics that make it occasionally good. It's Wasteland resistant while playing its own, it has disruptive elements, and a relatively fast clock for an attacking deck. And now it also gets to play True-Name Nemesis—which just happens to be a Merfolk.

    Merfolk—Alexander Dochnal, SCG Dallas, Top 8


    Everything else

    Legacy has such a wide variety of options, that it's virtually impossible to list all of the archetypes we might see here this weekend. While the tier one and tier two decks are relatively settled, Legacy has a large enough cardpool that innovation can be rewarding. Sam Black, for example, sacrificed his way to a Top 8 at GP Atlanta with a Goblin-Bombardment/Blood Artist brew that never caught on. Likewise, Caleb Durward—who invented the Survival of the Fittest/Vengevine deck that broke Legacy in half several years back—has long been a proponent of a Black-Green deck called "Nic Fit" that uses a lot of basic lands and Veteran Explorer to attack the format from a different angle.

    Still, here are a number of decks that, though they don't command much attention, do pop up now and then.

    Oops, All Spells!—Jeremy Barbeau, SCG Open Milwauke, 2nd Place


  • Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – More Than a True-Name

    by Adam Styborski

  • The Grand Prix is just underway here outside D.C. and there's one card on the tip of everyone's tongue: True-Name Nemesis.

    The standout Merfolk from the recent Grixis-themed Commander release found plenty of room for itself in Legacy. Delver decks of every sort have added the three-drop, including Osyp Lebedowicz's 2013 Legacy Championship runner up deck. Those who choose the less-common tribal Merfolk route have adopted the difficult-to-kill kinsman as well. But there's much more to what players want than the nemesis of their opponents.

    The next most request cards across several dealers on site were more Commander (2013 Edition) additions to the format: Toxic Deluge and Swansong.

    Non-Commander release cards requested included Cataclysm, Xantid Swarm, Nature's Claim, and Flusterstorm. What all these cards have in common is that they serve very specific purposes. Swansong is a cheap counterspell that can handle popular combo deck Sneak and Show. Toxic Deluge can wipe away the disruptive creatures in Death and Taxes, and reset the board for creature-based combos like Elves. It also neatly deals with normally difficult creatures like True-Name Nemesis. Xantid Swarm helps protect combos going off in the same way Flusterstorm specially answers Storm and Ad Nauseam Tendrils. Cheap, flexible answers like Nature's Claim are the archetypical options outside of the maindecks in Legacy.

    Perhaps the most intriguing tidbit came from one dealer who wished they had brought copies of Envelop, requested "by some key people." It isn't difficult to believe it's another specific card to be included in sideboards, meant for specific decks throughout the weekend. Who these players were remains a mystery, but we'll be keeping an eye out to find an answer.


  • Saturday, 12:00 p.m. – Players to Watch

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Legacy is a different animal. Including cards from as far back as Alpha, Legacy offers possibly the most diverse, most open, format available. It also only gets played at a high level a few times a year, meaning that even the best players in the world may not necessarily be among the best Legacy players in the world.

    But there are plenty of players who not only dedicate time to the format, but have shown time and time again their ability to adapt to and advance through the Legacy metagame. So while it doesn't take much analysis to tell you that you should probably keep an eye on 2nd-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton, we did comb through the players in attendance to pluck out those with particular experience and success in Legacy. These are a few of those players to watch.

    No. 3 Reid Duke

    Ranked 3rd in the world, picking Reid Duke as a player to watch is a little like saying "Hey, you should watch out for that Lebron James guy. I hear he's good."

    Duke is a threat to win, place, or show at any tournament he comes prepared for, and based on his recent win at the SCG Legacy Open in Indianapolis, he seems plenty prepared for the format. Piloting a Bant deck that hasn't been played much--if at all--in recent months, Duke picked his spot and poked at the metagame a bit on his way to yet another Legacy Open win.

    What makes Duke such a threat is his versatility. He won another Legacy Open a few months back in Philadelphia with Elves, a completely different style of deck from his Bant list. I've also seen him pilot Top/Counterbalance lists and have success with other archetypes. Given his close friendship with teammate William Jensen (see below), it's likely Duke knows the popular and powerful Sneak and Show deck inside and out as well.

    Given all of this, I'd be more surprised to see Duke miss Day 2 than almost anyone else in the field.

    No. 10 Sam Black

    Whether we're watching 10th-ranked Sam Black for his overall skill level (hint: world class) or his penchant for building new, seemingly odd decks in Legacy (fairly high), you can rest assured we'll be keeping an eye on the innovative deckbuilder all weekend.

    This was particularly on display back in 2012 at GP Atlanta, where Black took a RWB sacrifice deck to a Top 8 despite what, on paper, looked like a lackluster collection of cards. The synergy Black found, however, was enough to push the deck over the top. Since then, the strategy has virtually disappeared nearly as fast as it appeared in the first place.

    Ari Lax

    If Ari Lax were merely the 2013 Legacy Champion, he'd earn his spot on this list. But Lax is much more than that. A long-time leader in the Legacy format, and a champion of the Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) deck, Lax has served as a voice for the format and one of the true masters of the metagame. Even when Legacy isn't on the minds of most players, you can read about the ebbs and flows in the format on an almost weekly basis from Ari. And all of that work paid off this year when Lax set aside his pet ANT deck and won the Legacy Championship with...White Weenie?

    Basically the antithesis of Lax's pet combo deck, the Legacy champ proved his flexibility by switching to Death and Taxes when he deemed it appropriate and was handsomely rewarded. It will be interesting to see if Lax sticks to playing the Basic Plains that earned him the crown, or moves back to the deck that he's championed for so long.

    William Jensen

    Ever since re-entering the game last year, newly crowned Hall of Famer William Jensen has staked his claim as a player to watch. One of the game's true old guard, and now firmly re-established as one of the best in the world once again, Jensen has showed he can handle Legacy as easily as he's been breezing through Standard and Limited as of late. He took second at the SCG Invitational—which was part Standard, part Legacy—and showed that wasn't a fluke with a second runner-up finish at SCG Los Angeles. He was piloting Sneak and Show at both tournaments, but that deck has had a target painted on its back in large part because of how Jensen has finished. The strength of that deck might be gauged simply by whether Jensen has opted to run it back for a third time.

    Gaudenis Vidugiris

    Gaudenis Vidugiris is one of the most dangerous players around and someone I keep an eye on personally every time I do coverage. Part of the reason I always pay attention is that I was there at GP Atlanta when Vidugiris won the whole thing after virtually audibling into his deck (and out of Sam Black's). He even had booked an early flight that he had to run to as soon as the Top 8 was finished, not actually expecting to do as well as he did. Vidugiris is a naturally adept magician and has shown his ability to win an entire Legacy GP. It would shock no one if he did it again.

    Osyp Lebedowicz

    Osyp Lebedowicz is another longtime player who seems to have a penchant for Legacy. He recently took second at the 2013 Legacy Championship with UR Delver and has excelled in older formats. The former Pro Tour winner doesn't have any Legacy GP Top 8s to his name, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him finally claim one in D.C.

    Jacob Wilson

    One of the cool things about Eternal formats like Legacy is that you can often play the same deck for a long time. Jacob Wilson is one player who has taken advantage of that, winning the SCG Legacy Open in Seattle with RUG Delver as well as earning a GP Top 8 last April in Strasburg with the same exact archetype. Wilson has a penchant for performing at the Grand Prix Level, so keep an eye on him as the weekend progresses.


  • Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – Things To Do in Legacy for Fun and Profit

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • A lot of the press for Legacy goes, rightfully so, to the heavy hitting, spikiest of Spike cards like Force of Will, Brainstorm, Show and Tell, and other cards that aren't Blue.

    But as the most diverse format with the largest non-Vintage cardpool, a lot of crazy, interesting stuff happens. Since you aren't here to see all of the sweetness, we're more than happy to bring some snapshots right to your computer (you're welcome).


    Why start you off slow? Look at this insanity. Three Kobolds, two Phyrexian Walkers, and one very important Signal Pest. Oh, and this was turn two. You see, the Kobold lord playing this deck removed an Elvish Spirit Guide to power out the Pest, and relied on the zeroes in the upper right hand corners of the other cards to start getting in for chunks of damage immediately.

    Gearing back down for a moment, this should prove to be a common sight over the course of the weekend, as True-Name Nemesis attacks past...True-Name Nemesis. These Nemeses showdowns are, as in this picture, often going to be decided by who can enhance their Merfolk Progenitus with Equipment to turn the tide.

    Metalworker doesn't get nearly enough love in Legacy. Once one of the most feared cards around, you don't see it much anymore these days, in part due to the ubiquity of Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, Dismember, and other spot removal. But when it gets doing, well, this happens.


    One of the reasons people love Legacy is that it has a strong Tribal component. It's the one format where you can see two players battling in a Goblins Mirror and not immediately write them off. Plus, how in the world does one actually beat Krenko, Mob Boss and Siege-Gang Commander? Is that even possible?


    Speaking of tribes, Slivers! Counter Sliver used to be one of the most impressive decks in the old Extended format, and some players have chosen to port the tribe over to Legacy. Given their recent return in Magic 2014, it's not surprise to see some players trying out some of the new additions. There are more than a few players who picked up the deck, including one who won a Grinder on Friday (the deck list wasn't available for the Grinder roundup. Suffice to say it was Slivers, Dismembers, and Æther Vials).

    Once one of the most feared decks in Legacy thanks to the legacy of the Hatfield brothers, High Tide has fallen by the wayside lately. That doesn't mean it isn't something to watch out for. See those dice? They represent the amount of mana in the Mono Blue player's mana pool. Yeah, that Kira, Great Glass-Spinner isn't going to do much.

    Birthing Pod: It's not just for Modern anymore! A Legacy Birthing Pod deck has been popping up lately, chaining all kinds of value creatures into, well, other value creatures. The chain continues all the way up to Titans of the Grave and Primeval variety.


    This is your regular public service reminder that Dredge is a deck and you can leave your graveyard hate at home to your own peril. This isn't someone spreading out their deck—that's their graveyard above the Gemstone Mines.

    When the Legend rule was changed to its current form, it opened up a few more combos, the most notable of which was the Thespian's Stage/Dark Depths combo that lets a player copy Dark Depths with Stage, keep the Stage in play, and immediately make a 20/20, since the new Stage/Depths has no counters on it. This player was ready for almost anything with both Not of this World and Fling at the ready to go lethal with his indestructible monster, but his opponent was ready as well—with Stifle for the trigger that would have created the 20/20.


  • Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – All Lines Lead to the DC Metagame

    by Adam Styborski

  • When you want to talk about "the Legacy metagame" you have to take a step back. Well over 10,000 cards grants players access to nearly any deck their heart desires, leading to the format's legendary diversity. While there are frequent large tournaments sharing results, there isn't nearly the mass of events like those for Standard and Modern.

    Legacy sits out alone, but there are some guideposts to point the way.

    The 2013 Legacy Championship at Eternal Weekend is the most recent sign. Ari Lax's victory with the disruptive Death and Taxes deck firmly put monowhite as one road in.

    "I mean, I wouldn't call this deck fair," Lax said about his choice for the weekend. With access to the best dual lands in Magic's history it can be surprising to see just one color at work, but it's the army of creature-answers like Phyrexian Revoker, Mangara of Corondor, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that can make life difficult for whatever opponents are planning.

    Also featured in the finals was Osyp Lebedowicz playing a blue-red Delver of Secrets deck. Having lands other than the ubiquitous duals is something every deck needs to consider. "Being able to fetch out a first-turn basic Island is so good in many of the matchups here," Lebedowicz said. Having a little mane goes a long way for Delver decks.

    U/R Delver - Osyp Lebedowicz, 2nd 2013 Legacy Championship

    While creatures like Young Pyromancer and True-Name Nemesis don't shut down opponents, they do a great job ignoring whatever the enemy tries while applying pressure to life totals. Big decks with small creatures might seem strange for Legacy. Where are all the combo decks?

    The StarCityGames Invitational a month ago featured a mirror match finals of Sneak and Show decks between winner Brad Nelson and Pro Tour Hall of Famer William "Huey" Jensen.

    Sneak and Show - Brad Nelson, Winner 2013 StarCityGames Invitational Indianapolis

    There are no small fries here. Ordinarily nigh uncastable Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn are easily slipped into play thanks to Show and Tell or Sneak Attack, the deck's namesake combo pieces. With the best card filtering and mana acceleration in the format, games can end before anything else ever happens.

    Not all combo decks were laid out near Washington, D.C. either. Across the pond at the Legacy Bazaar of Moxen two weeks ago, 2013 World Champion and the 4th ranked player in the world Shahar Shenhar played Death and Taxes to a runner up place against winner Julian Knab's Elves.

    Like Death and Taxes there are plenty of creatures, but don't let the forestfolk fool you: This deck can be just as fast as Sneak and Show decks. Glimpse of Nature in combination with creatures-entering-the-battlefield-to-make-more-mana (See Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, etc.) creates a positive feedback loop for casting a singularly devastative Craterhoof Behemoth.

    What ties all of these three decks together is their prominence: Winners and runner ups from the most recent premier events always draw the eyes of deck hungry players. How do you plan for an event where all of these decks, and dozens more, will appear?

    "I think because monowhite did so well a lot of people will have hate for Death and Taxes," said Shahar Shenhar. "I decided to play Esper Stoneblade because we felt the deck is good against aggro, with Umezawa's Jitte, Liliana of the Veil, and True-Name Nemesis in the main, and there's plenty of hate for combos in the sideboard. Legacy has so many decks you have to be prepared against anything, but it's too big and diverse. We wanted a deck with game against anything."

    2013 World Champion Shahar Shenhar is ready in D.C.

    What was Shenhar expecting to play against? "I think there'll be a lot of Sneak and Show and Blue-White-Red Delver. The European metagame of Storm and BUG Delver is entirely different from the States. Sneak and Show and Delver has done really well consistently, so these deck will be popular," said Shenhar, referring to Pro Tour Hall of Fame member William Jensen's impressive streak of high finishes with Sneak and Show in recent Legacy tournaments.

    But there was another nemesis on other players' minds.

    "I think anyone playing a midrange blue deck that's not playing True-Name and Umezawa's Jitte is fooling themselves," said Ari Lax, winner of the 2013 Legacy Championship two weeks ago. "Of all the midrange decks, with cards like Snapcaster Mage and Deathrite Shaman, I couldn't imagine playing without equipment on True-Name Nemesis.

    2013 Legacy Championship winner Ari Lax plans to succeed again.

    "I think there's going to be a lot of Show and Tell," Lax continued, agreeing with Shahar, "but a lot of people are going over or under it to win: Reanimator and Omnitell. Reanimator is a lot cheaper to build, and Omnitell doesn't need duals o it's accessible for more people."

    What will the top tables look like as the day goes on? "I think we'll see a lot of True-Name mirror matches, and decks that can just ignore it," Lax said. "There might be some Delver of Secrets decks. I think a BUG Delver deck that can choke them off three mana can do well. I think we'll see a lot more of things like Ancient Grudge in sideboards. You might be able to beat a True-Name alone, but it's impossible with Equipment."


  • Saturday, 4:00 p.m. – The Other Eternal Format

    by Adam Styborski


    Nearly 1,700 players started the main event at Grand Prix Washington D.C. but they were far from the only players in the room. While side events promised booster packs and boxes of Theros to winners, not every players was looking to compete. Legacy, Vintage, and Modern formats are common ways to play with cards across Magic's history, but there's another way that stands tall: Cube Draft.

    What is a Cube Draft? "A cube is a custom set of cards that you use for drafting," explained ardent cube drafter Eric Klug. "It's unique in that there's only one copy of each card. A big draw is you get to be the designer for once, and the ability to replay is good. Once you make that initial investment you can keep playing."

    Eric Klug is renown for his carefully maintained cubes: Both common/uncommon and Zombie-themed varieties.

    Why would someone want to play with a cube at a Grand Prix? "I don't necessarily enjoy Constructed formats. They're a lot of fun to watch but I don't like to play them. I enjoying playing cube, and it's very easy to find enough people to draft with," Klug said. "The benefit is a much larger access to players. It might be hard to find eight players on any given night of the week at home. Here, there are so many people ready to cube. Yesterday I cubed three times, with three different cubes, with only a few players overlapping."

    Klug wasn't the first to adventure down the road of building their own Limited set: A name familiar in the halls of Magic R&D tipped Klug off to the fun available. "Tom Lapille, Magic developer and Ohio native, introduced me to the idea in the early 2000's," said Klug. "After enjoying his cube I decided I wanted to start my own. My cube is consists of just cards printed at common and uncommon, and the idea is that when I first started building my cube I didn't want to make a gigantic investment. Obviously that has changed."

    The ability to find unique and rare versions of cards for one's cube is personalization shared with formats like Commander.

    Why would someone want to build their own cube?"I think building cubes taps into a different side of the game. It lets you express yourself in a completely different way compared to Constructed or other Limited formats."


  • Round 4 feature match (3) Reid Duke v. Allen Snell

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • "The joke last round was that I'm 3-0, so it's time to play against the big kids," said Allen Snell as he shuffled for his match against No. 3 Ranked Reid Duke. "I guess it's time to quit joking."

    Getting paired against Duke this early in the tournament was certainly no joke. The Platinum Pro was on everyone's short list of players who had a handle on the tournament, so much so that when I asked deckbuilder extraordinaire and No. 10 ranked Sam Black what he was playing, he essentially said "Whatever Reid told me to play."

    Duke was playing a version of the Bant list that he had recently taken to an SCG Open win in Indianapolis. He made some tweaks in the meantime, but the strategy—Stoneforge Mystic, Knight of the Reliquary, and a suite of ways to disrupt opponents in small but significant ways—was the same.

    "The Open was a dress rehearsal for this deck. When I saw True-Name Nemesis, I definitely wanted to play it and thought Bant was a good home for it, since it could often cast it on turn two," Duke said. "The Nemesis also gives you enough Blue cards to play Force of Will."

    That let Duke adjust several other numbers in his deck, changes we won't spoil just yet.

    Snell had a similar strategy but with very different colors. His RUG deck looked to keep players off balance early and often with Wasteland, Stifle, Daze, Spell Pierce and Force of Will, all while beating down with some of the most efficient creatures ever printed. It was one of the best decks in Legacy...

    ...and, according to Duke, one of his best matchups. Knight of the Reliquary is very difficult for the RUG decks to deal with, and Jitte is pretty close to unbeatable as well. Duke liked his matchup, but RUG had enough tricks up its sleeve that Snell certainly could have some game against one of the big kids.

    Game 1

    Both players started with one drops—Noble Hierarch for Duke, Delver of Secrets for Snell—and began to develop their hands and board positions, upping the ante with Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf staring each other down.

    The key early moment was when Duke attempted to get an Umezawa's Jitte going. Snell Brainstormed in response, then attempted a Spell Pierce into Duke's two open mana. If nothing else, it would keep Duke from equipping that turn.

    But Snell also had a Daze to follow up, hoping to catch Duke off-guard. Instead, Duke used Knight of the Reliquary to search up a Wasteland and find the requisite mana to pay. Duke couldn't equip Jitte that turn, but it resolved without him expending any more resources.

    Reid Duke gave Allen Snell plenty to Ponder in Game 1.

    However, that turn was often what RUG Delver needed to stay ahead, as it let Snell attack for six damage and cast a Nimble Mongoose, pushing Duke to eight life and on the edge of needing the Jitte active to stay in the game. And when Snell didn't fight over Jitte or the Knight of the Reliquary in any way, that was exactly the position Duke found himself in.

    However, the Platinum Pro was still under the gun. Snell swung in with his team and forced Duke to chump block with Noble Hierarch in order to stay alive. The next turn brought more of the same as Jitte plus a Stonefoge Mystic chump block kept Duke as a precarious two life with only one counter on Jitte.

    "That was a really complex and challenge sequence," Duke said after the match. "I was overwhelmingly behind, except I had my two best cards."

    Those two cards, Knight of the Reliquary and Umezawa's Jitte, put Duke in a position to swing for Snell's final 10 life points. However, even though the battlefield was open, that didn't make things much simpler for Duke.

    "The very final turn I had one Jitte counter and 2 Force of Will and I'm at two life," Duke said. "If I do things in the wrong order, I lose."

    Duke was worried about Snell having both Lightning Bolt and Stifle, a combination that he almost certainly couldn't beat.

    Staring hard at the counter on his Knight of the Reliquary, Duke thought and thought before ultimately deciding he had to go for it. He used Wasteland in his attack step on Snell's only Red source, a mistake Duke pointed out after the match. If he uses it in his main phase, he forces Snell to use the Lightning Bolt right then and there.

    But it turned out Snell didn't have the Bolt or the Stifle, so when Duke removed his last counter and pumped his Knight to a lethal 10 damage, Duke narrowly took game one.

    Duke 1 – Snell 0

    Game 2

    Once again both players spent their early turns jockeying for position, with Snell throwing out Daze, Stifle and a Submerge to slow Duke down enough to garner an early Tarmogoyf advantage.

    Duke, however, worked his way to a Knight of the Reliquary before things got too far out of hand, putting the breaks on any Tarmogoyf beats. A second Knight followed the very next turn, giving Duke firm control over the board and a pair of monsters at the ready.

    Meanwhile, Snell was clearly not happy with his draws. Ponder shuffled away useless spells, but the shuffled didn't offer much help as Snell simply loaded his board with more Nimble Mongeese—smaller creatures equally unable to attack into the ever-growing Knights.

    With a Legacy Open already under his belt with Bant, Duke was on his way to staking an early lead at GP DC as well.

    Things only got worse for the RUG mage, as Stoneforge Mystic searched up Batterskull while Swords to Plowshares removed Insectile Aberration—Snell's only offense to speak of.

    "This is not the kind of place you come back from," Snell said as he attempted to Spell Pierce and Daze his way back in the game. Thanks to the mana from Knight of the Reliquary, it didn't take.

    A few Wastelands and some Battlerskull and Knight beats later, and Duke moved on to 4-0 over Snell who, despite his strong play, was not as experienced as he seemed.

    "I didn't want to tip my hand at the beginning, but this is my first Legacy event," Snell said.

    Some introduction to the format.

    Duke 2 – Snell 0


  • Saturday, 7:15 p.m. – Magic, the Hall of Fame,
    Family and Balancing It All with Chris Pikula

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Magic is a young man's game. The travel, the dedication, and the hard work can be difficult to fit in for people who have passed the part of their life when a 6-hour road trip for a PTQ sounds like a fun way to spend a weekend. Work, family and life in general offer different kinds of rewards that don't always jive with high-level Magic.

    Chris Pikula is one of those family men and former Magic greats that slowly moved away from the game. But like many of our best, he never quite left.

    And on the cusp of the Hall of Fame, he now finds himself back in the game, trying to balance work, time with his wife and 7-year-old son, and playing a game that has been a part of his life for nearly 20 years.

    "I'm trying to go to as many events as possible, but it's tough on my family," Pikula said. "The Pro Tour was especially tough because of the preparation involved."

    Let's talk about that Pro Tour for a moment. As anyone who followed Pro Tour Theros coverage closely might know, Pikula finished a heartbreaking 33rd, just short of the 25th place he needed to qualify for the next Pro Tour. Though his record was good enough, his tiebreakers fell just short of the level necessary to keep going. He even had to win his final match in order to reach that level.

    Still gaming, still winning, and still dangerous, Chris Pikula is learning to balance family and his quest for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

    Even more difficult is that Pikula was and still is chasing points to get back on the Hall of Fame ballot after falling off this year—a year in which he missed making the Hall by only a handful of votes. For the face of Meddling Mage (Pikula's prize for winning an old Invitational), it was a season of near misses that kept him from jumping back on the Pro Tour for good.

    "I want to do well enough to get back on the Hall of Fame ballot," he said. "And if I do well enough to get back on the ballot, that should prove to people that I'm worth voting for."

    For many players who grew up viewing the Invitational—and the prize of creating your own card—as something akin to the pinnacle of Magic achievement (this was before the Hall of Fame), the fact that Pikula isn't in the Hall is a shame. Fellow invitational winners Kai Bude, Jon Finkel, Darwin Kastle, Antoine Ruel, Bob Maher and Olle Rade are among the best to play the game, not to mention by and large in the Hall of Fame.

    The fact that Meddling Mage (the old art, anyway) is still a force to be reckoned with in Legacy only underscores Pikula's place in the game's history, as players still note.

    "He was one of the first players I looked up to," said Osyp Lebedowicz, who noted that their playing careers overlapped at his beginning and near Pikula's end. "His personality made him stand out. We played in the same area, so I always saw him at PTQs, and he was always telling stories and having fun. He was the first pro player to show me that you can take things seriously and still have fun with it."

    Lebedowicz added that, as the two became friends, Pikula became a significant influence on his playing career—up to and including Lebedowicz's second place finish at the 2013 Legacy Championship.

    "He built my deck. And not only did he build it, but he was constantly sending emails and text messages telling me how to play it. He wants his friends to succeed," Lebedowicz said. "It just goes to show you what kind of guy he is. He's been a huge influence on me."

    William Jensen, likewise, called Pikula "a positive influence on the community" and said he couldn't do his role justice with a quote.

    During Hall of Fame season, a number of players, including Jon Finkel, thought Chris Pikula should have been voted in not only for his play on the Pro Tour, but for the positive influence he had on players like Lebedowicz. As a result, Pikula fell 1.6 percent short of the level needed to make the Hall, and now will have to improve on his lifetime Pro Point total to get back on the ballot.

    But that's going to prove tough. His son is "at the age where he wants to hang out with me" and Pikula finds it increasingly difficult to pass on weekends at home with the family. Add in his work commitments and even his strong desire to prove he belongs in the Hall of Fame is running into resistance from reality.

    "I don't know if I can keep up this schedule," he said. "I have to try to make events where I don't have to do much preparation so I can find the time."

    That's what makes Grand Prix D.C. perfect for the Philadelphia resident. Legacy is a particularly Pikula format. Not only has the Meddling Mage been playing basically forever, but he's found success in the format, first when he finished second at the first ever Legacy Grand Prix in 2005 in Philadelphia, and then more recently on the SCG circuit.

    Chris Pikula

    "I remember back before Philly, the Legacy crowd was something different, and they all wondered 'Oh, can the pros play Legacy," Pikula said, grinning. "Yes, yes they can."

    Pikula certainly can. Playing RUG Delver, he stood at 5-0 after defeating Ben Friedman in the feature match area. He says the cards have changed in the time he's played, but the strategies remain much the same.

    "There are mana denial decks and Reanimator decks and combo decks, it's just now you're playing Tarmogoyf and reanimating Griselbrand. You should have seen some of the things we used to Reanimate," he said. "Everything is supercharged."

    Pikula's break from the game coincided with the birth of his son in 2006. In fact, Pikula said he didn't play a single sanctioned tournament in either 2007 or 2010, and only a handful in between.

    But then something of an old school renaissance happened. Jon Finkel and William Jensen came back to the game, and Pikula started watching coverage online. The bug bit him again.

    "I watched online coverage and thought 'this looks fun,'" and, just like that, Pikula was back.

    Except it wasn't that simple. Pikula received an invite to Pro Tour Theros and fell just short of getting back on the train. He was back on people's radars but, because of the new rule raising the number of required Pro Points for the Hall of Fame, he was off the ballot. And, thanks to family, life, and the real world, he can't quite follow Jensen's path back to the highest levels.

    "I could never do what he does. I can't be as good as the top players given the amount that I play," Pikula said with a nod toward Jensen's return. "I'm trying to do that on a miniature scale."

    To that end, Pikula plans to be at Grand Prix Dallas and some SCG Opens in the near future. He's also confident he can get back on the Pro Tour, even if he can't quite prepare like some of the game's busier players.

    "It's very difficult for people like me to be as good as them," the Meddling Mage said. "Instead I've just got to pick my spots and do as well as I can."


  • Round 6 Feature Match - Lewis Laskin vs. Josh Ravitz

    by Adam Styborski

  • Lewis Laskin has been on the hunt for years. Without a top premier finish to point to it'd be easy to overlook the talent in the affable player. A quick search online shows his name attached to dozens of decks, along with a victory in StarCityGames's Open Series. Deck diversity is a hallmark of Magic success. For this weekend, Laskin had brought his tweaked take on Counterbalance that he used to great effect winning a Qualifier event the previous day.

    Josh Ravitz has been battling along the Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuit for over a decade. With three Grand Prix Top 8s, his most recent at Denver in last year, and several high finishes at team Pro Tours Ravitz has been on the cusp of a premier win nearly as long as he's played. His travel around the United States and world is the hallmark of someone putting in the time to finally break through.

    Josh Ravitz says "Hello!" to Thea Steele out in Seattle as he shuffled up for the first game.

    Esper Stoneblade packs plenty of disruption, and Ravitz used it early in every game. Ravitz led with a turn one Inquisition of Kozilek in the first game to send Laskin's Sensei's Divining Top away, but Laskin used the Brainstorm left behind to hide the rest of his hand again and set down a second turn Counterbalance. They were content to add lands and pass for a time before Ravitz broke the silence with Thoughtseize. It rid Laskin of Jace, the Mind Sculptor as well.

    Laskin drew his second Top off the top, which resolved and allowed the Counterbalance duo to begin to go to work stopping Liliana of the Veil, but oddly not Stoneforge Mystic. However, Laskin's Vendilion Clique at the end of Ravitz's turn revealed lands, Swords to Plowshares, and the fresh Batterskull, all of which Laskin left in hand.

    Laskin's Swords to Plowshares slowed things by sending Ravitz's Mystic to farming duty, but the living weapon still came down on the following turn as Ravitz had more than enough mana in play. Detention Sphere undid the Equipment for a turn as Vendilion Clique attacked for Laskin, but at 10 life Ravitz still had time. Batterskull returned, but Laskin had a Jace, the Mind Sculptor to delay again.

    A Vendilion Clique of Ravitz's own led Laskin to use Enlightened Tutor to put Detention Sphere on top of his library for Counterbalance. With Laskin tapped low on mana, Ravitz slipped Swords to Plowshares through to remove Laskin's threat. With the tapped low tables turned, Laskin's Back to Basics locked down most of Ravitz's mana, and Counterbalance and Top came through stop Ravitz's attempt at a Jace of his own.

    When Laskin cast Thassa, God of the Sea, Ravitz's answers had ran out.

    "Thassa's pretty good against you," Laskin said.

    "You think?" Josh asked.

    "I mean, I get to scry every turn. It can't be that bad."

    Lewis Laskin drew upon the power of the Theros God to pull ahead in the first game.

    The second game wasn't as drawn out an affair. While Ravitz's Stoneforge Mystic was put out to pasture by Laskin, the Sword of Feast and Famine it found an early home with Snapcaster Magic: Ravitz brought the flashback-adding Wizard out to get a second use out of Thoughtseize. Laskin's hand was ripped apart as the blade bearing Mage attacked.

    Though Laskin found Jace, the Mind Sculptor, his power was short lived as Ravitz's Snapcaster Mage ate the planeswalker before a second Stoneforge Mystic added Batterskull to Laskin's list of problems. A timely Swords to Plowshares drawn off the top to Sensei's Divining Top let Laskin fall to just 10 life, but having his combo in play wasn't enough to stop the onslaught of creatures and Equipment from Ravitz.

    Throughout all three games, Josh Ravitz was never short on beautiful lands.

    The rubber match was even faster. With very limited mana available the entire game, Laskin's Meddling Mage that named Jace, the Mind Sculptor might have made a difference if not for a Sword of Feast and Famine fueled Vendilion Clique pouring the pressure on for Ravitz. When Laskin tried to draw a card using Sensei Divining Top's other ability, Ravitz cast Notion Thief to force Laskin to use his second Top in play to draw. What was he after? Enlightened Tutor... which allowed Laskin a shuffle to try one shot to stop the Thief from resolving.

    It resolved.

    Ravitz's next attack put Laskin at 2 life, leaving just Ensnaring Bridge as Laskin's lifeline to stay in the game. Force of Will was there for Ravitz, winning the match two games to one.

    With so many options in Legacy, I asked Ravitz why he chose to bring Esper Stoneblade to D.C. "This kind of deck is one I've done well with before," Ravitz explains. "With all the hype about True-Name Nemesis I wanted a deck that could play some cards that were really good against it. I played this at Eternal Weekend where I played against one Merfolk with it and trounced him. While everyone is excited about Nemesis, I don't think it's very good but you still have to beat it."

    Was True-Name Nemesis all Ravitz was really worried about? "On the other side of the coin, the format has forty decks that are viable," said Ravitz. "You want to have a more proactive plan. This deck can get in the middle, almost like a Rock or Jund, and can just grind them out. I also really like casting Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That factors into my deck choices these days."

    Was this how Esper Stoneblade usually played out against Counterbalance decks? "I think those games played out pretty typically, but if he didn't draw Sensei's Divining Top turn two of Game 2 the game's pretty much over. I got Notion Thief on camera which was really sweet. He wanted to draw something on top and it just shined, though it's not a card specifically against Counterbalance. It's a blue card to pitch to force of will, good against Brainstorms, and just flash threat when needed."


  • Round 7 Feature Match - Andrew Cuneo vs. Kurt Spiess

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Round 7 brings us something of an East Coast grudge match, and something of a snapshot of Legacy with combo, control, and tribal creatures all represented.

    On one side we have Philadelphia native and all-around control aficionado Andrew Cuneo, rocking, surprise, surprise...Elves?

    Yes, Andrew Cuneo, the master of Islands and Plains, a player who, as recently as a few months ago, was playing Trading Post in Standard, was attacking with small Green creatures. As it turns out, Cuneo always plays Elves in Legacy and has been for the last year. Despite my (apparently mistaken) impression that Cuneo plays mostly control, he finds himself attracted to creature combo decks in older formats.

    "I also play Melira Pod in Modern," Cuneo said. "You can combo or you can just attack for the win. With Elves, sometimes I just attack with 1/1s and win."

    On the other side we have Baltimore resident and local ringer Kurt Spiess playing what I might have expected from Cuneo, an Esper Stoneblade featuring Thoughtseize, Stoneforge MysticSwords to Plowshares, Deathrite Shaman, and a multitude of ways to disrupt opponents plans.

    It was a fairly classic combo/control matchup. Or aggro/control matchup. Could go either way, really.

    Game 1

    Cuneo started off dropping some, well, Elves, into play, as Spiess did his best to disrupt Cuneo's game plan with Thoughtseize and a pair of Deathrite Shamans. Cuneo fired back with a Wirewood Symbiote off Green Sun's Zenith to start protecting his team from the removal Spiess surely had at the ready.

    Though the Symbiote decided to take up farming, Cuneo used it to start cycling his Elvish visionary, pulling ahead as Spiess was unable to do much more than draw lands and stare at a pair of Force of Will in his hand.

    Kurt Spiess is a local ringer, but found himself flooded out early against Andrew Cuneo.

    Cuneo attempted to go off at one point with Green Suns' Zenith, but Spiess, flush with mana, was able to hard cast Force of Will to halt the progress. Snapcaster Mage plus the same Force of Will kept things copacetic the next turn too. At least that's how it seemed.

    But that turned out to just be so much bait, as Gaea's Cradle let Cuneo cast Craterhoof Behemoth and attack for the win that very same turn.

    Cuneo 1 – Spiess 0

    Game 2

    Stymied by a weak draw in game one, Spiess wasted no time enacting his plan in the second, playing a second turn Stoneforge Mystic to find Umezawa's Jitte, one of his best cards against Elf decks.

    Cuneo returned fire with a Glimpse of Nature, but Spiess was able to turn a Brainstorm into Flusterstorm, stopping it cold. He was then able to untap into attacking with a Jitte-equipped Stoneforge Mystic, which, if active, could destroy Cuneo's board.

    And destroy it it did, however, it was at the cost of the Mystic itself, leaving Spiess with no creatures and just a Sword of Feast and Famine to go with lands.

    Cuneo, meanwhile, started digging out of the Jitte-induced hole with three Elvish Visionaries, a surprisingly strong card in a format capable of putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in play on turn two. Stuck on two lands and no mana producing elves, it was all Cuneo could do for several turns.

    But it was really all he needed to do, as Spiess drew land after land after land. His first nonland card was, awkwardly enough, a Thoughtseize. It revealed a hand full of goodies on Cuneo's side, accomplishing, in essence, little more than helping to kill Spiess faster.

    Cuneo was anything but Green with envy in the second game. And other puns about Elves.

    But just when Cuneo thought he was going to deliver the killing blow, Spiess drew some spice in Zealous Persecution. It was enough to effectively Fog for a turn and wipe out two of Cuneo's creatures, but it also allowed Cuneo to cast Glimpse of Nature and draw a handful of cards. It was better than dying...but not by much.

    Brainstorm yielded some form of hope for Spiess, small though it might have been, but all Cuneo needed to do at that point was activate his Deathrite Shaman to drain Spiess's last few life points and take the match.

    After the match, Cuneo said he feels favored in the matchup against Esper Deathblade, even if he expects he'll have to overcome Umezawa's Jitte at some point.

    "You don't really feel like you're going to win," Cuneo says of being forced to block a creature with Jitte. "But sometimes it works."

    Cuneo 2 – Spiess 0


  • Round 9 Round-up: On the Bubble

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Round 9 can be brutal. Any player at 6-2 is faced with a do-or-die matchup, forced to win just to be invited back for Day 2. A loss means they're out of the tournament despite playing the full nine rounds.

    Grand Prix D.C. was especially brutal, as a number of ranked and notable players not only faced a win-and-in/lose-and-out match, but many of them fell to unranked opponents.

    In other words, if you were ranked, round nine was likely not kind to you.

    (2) Josh Utter-Leyton vs. Brandon Pascal

    Reigning Player of the Year and current world No. 2 Josh Utter-Leyton may have been playing a fast Elves combo deck, but his opponent, Brandon Pascal, was faster, thanks to an Affinity deck that put pressure on Utter-Leyton right from the get-go.

    (2) Josh Utter-Leyton

    (3) Reid Duke vs. Nick Bliss

    Continuing our theme of top players falling to Elves, Reid Duke tried everything to get a handle on Nick Bliss and his Elf deck, but even Vendilion Clique and Karakas couldn't prevent Bliss from powering out a Craterhoof Behemoth with Gaea's Cradle.

    Ari Lax and (3) Reid Duke

    (16) Brian Kibler vs. Geoff Mullin

    As ranked players fell all around him, Kibler, playing a version of Death and Taxes, managed to finish the day at 7-2 despite being called "not a Legacy player" on Twitter earlier in the day.

    (25) Christian Calcano vs. (22) Luis Scott-Vargas

    In our lone bubble matchup of ranked players, No. 25 Christian Calcano continued his attempt to climb up the rankings by taking out some of his nearby competition. As a result, No. 22 Luis Scott-Vargas won't be returning tomorrow.

    (22) Luis Scott-Vargas and (25) Christian Calcano

    Ari Lax vs. Mason Sokol

    Ari Lax retreated from the Death and Taxes deck that won him the 2013 Legacy Championship back into the familiar arms of Ad Nauseam Tendrils. Unfortunately, Mason Sokol sent Lax to a quick 0-2 loss and denied him an invite for tomorrow while securing one for himself.

    William Jensen vs. Philippe Asselin

    Despite playing the Sneak and Show deck that had served him well lately, Hall of Famer William Jensen wasn't able to Sneak his way into Day 2 past Philippe Asselin.

    Osyp Lebedowicz vs. Alex Majlaton

    Osyp Lebedowicz came armed with the same UR Delver he used to finish second at the 2013 Legacy Championships, but, like his finals opponent there, he made it all the way to 6-2 before missing, losing to Alex Majlaton.

    Brian Braun-Duin vs. Brian Coval

    The tone of this article, at least if you cheer for the Pros, has been pretty down. But not Brian Braun-Duin! Duin did it and will be back tomorrow.

    Conley Woods vs. David Rudolf

    Conley did what Conley does and brewed himself a solid deck, a hybrid Reanimator Show and Tell deck. Unfortunately, Woods wasn't able to escape David Rudolf in the final round and ended his weekend at 6-3.

    Melissa DeTora vs. Kevin An

    Melissa DeTora and her Death and Taxes list also fell short of the 7-2 record needed for Day 2, losing in the very last round to Kevin An, who will make the cut.


  • Saturday, 10:30 p.m. – The Battles for Undefeated

    by Adam Styborski

  • The end of the first day of every Grand Prix features two sets of stories: The rise and fall of those on the bubble to potentially miss Day 2, and the final clashes to remain undefeated on Day 1. Fourteen players entered the round with eight wins. This is how the final seven emerged with nine.

    Nick Narchus vs. Ted McCluskie

    Table 1 featured a common Legacy matchup: Nick Narchus with Blue-White-Red Delver against Ted McCluskie with Shardless BUG.

    Nick Narchus vs. Ted McCluskie

    McCluskie emerged victorious in a 2-1 split, and one card made the difference. As Narchus explained, "Shardless BUG has the advantage on Delver. Golgari Charm," with its -1/-1 effect for creatures, "is really good against me."

    Sam Copeland vs. Andrew Cuneo

    At Table 2 sat the Elves-packing Andrew Cuneo facing down another combo deck, Sam Copeland with Dredge.

    Sam Copeland vs. Andrew Cuneo

    Cuneo took the match in a 2-1 split. "Removing his entire graveyard made was all the difference," Cuneo explained with pithy succinctness. Against any combo deck, the right cards make all the difference.

    (22) Owen Turtenwald vs. (20) Craig Wescoe

    True to his familiar color, No. 20-ranked Craig Wescoe was playing monowhite Death and Taxes against No. 22-ranked Owen Turtenwald with Blue-White-Red Delver at Table 3.

    (20) Craig Wescoe vs. (22) Owen Turtenwald

    The critical third game, won by Wescoe, was captured on the live stream (Check out the replay to see it!) and came down to a grinding contest: An early Æther Vial for Wescoe allowed him to stay ahead on threats just long enough to edge the former Player of the Year out.

    Patrick Guardiano vs. Chas Hinkle

    Chas Hinkle, playing Sneak and Show, defeated Patrick Guardino with Blue-White-Red Delver at Table 4.

    Patrick Guardiano vs. Chas Hinkle

    In the 2-1 split, Hinkle won his first game from a slight miscalculation by Guardino: Hinkle's Show and Tell allowed him to put Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield while Guardiano was at exactly 15 life. While Guardiano had Stifle for Emrakul's annihilator trigger, not double-checking his life total was a fatal mistake.

    Josh Ravitz vs. Rudy Briksza

    At Table 5, Josh Ravitz with Esper Stoneblade lost to Rudy Briksza playing Esper Deathrite.

    Josh Ravitz vs. Rudy Briksza

    The 2-1 split match ended like most Stoneforge Mystic mirrors do. "The deck that manages to out-attrition took over. It comes down to knowing what's really important," Briksza explained. "Sometimes, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is just a Brainstorm that saves you 3 life."

    Kale Thompson vs. Mike Nyberg

    At Table 6 sat a Shardless BUG mirror match between Kale Thompson and Mike Nyberg.

    Kale Thompson vs. Mike Nyberg

    Nyberg took a clean 2-0 victory thanks to his deck's namesake card. "Shardless Agent let me out-card advantage his Dark Confidants," Nyberg explained.

    Wayne Polimine vs. Eric Berlett

    The final matchup for undefeated was at Table 7 and featured two lesser-played decks of the format today: Wayne Polimine with artifact-heavy Legacy MUD against Eric Berlett that played Merfolk, featuring True-Name Nemesis.

    Wayne Polimine vs. Eric Berlett

    The match was a decisive 2-0 victory in Polimine's favor that was over so fast I wasn't able to catch a quote. It's almost as if the machines ran like clockwork.

    We'll share all of the Day 1 undefeated decklists as soon as we move to the Top 8 on Day 2. For now, it's congratulations to all seven of our undefeated players!

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