n little over a week there will be two Grand Prix tournaments taking place in two wildly divergent formats. Grand Prix–Strasbourg will be a Block Constructed format event with the same deck construction parameters that were in place for Pro Tour–Yokohama, which means there will be no Future Sight cards as those cards don't become legal for Constructed play until Sunday.
At first I was disappointed that we would not be seeing the game's top pros applying the new cards to the format. After thinking on it for awhile I reversed position as the new format will be reserved almost exclusively for players in the PTQ ranks. I look forward to checking the Tournament Center every week for the latest Top 8 decks to emerge from the giant laboratory that is the Pro Tour–Valencia PTQ season.
Back here in the United States, Columbus, Ohio will be playing host to the third Legacy Grand Prix—and the first one since the end of 2005. Legacy has gone by some other aliases in the past, such as Type 1.5 and Classic Restricted (the latter being quite the misnomer, since there are no restricted cards in the format—just a banned list that can be found here).
The banned list was at one time tied to the fate of Vintage—then called Type 1 or Classic—with any cards on the Vintage restricted list being banned in Legacy. That was eventually changed, and while the two lists are almost identical they are not bound to one another anymore. As Columbus looms there have been an inordinate number of eyes on the Legacy Banned list waiting to see if there would be a change, even though it is not due to be updated until June 1st when announcements are traditionally released.
has been very much on the mind of potential visitors to the Columbus area (and fans of Legacy worldwide) since it was returned to its original wording as part of the recent power level errata rollbacks. Flash
came out in Mirage
and was apparently designed to allow players to play creatures any time you could play an instant. The card was worded with the intent of obligating players to pay full price; if you didn't pay the difference between the creatures casting cost and the two mana reduction from Flash
, the creature would be put in the graveyard.
The only problem with putting the creature in the graveyard was that it was put there from play by sacrificing the creature. The card sat around rather unassumingly for about a year but just before U.S. Nationals 1999, power-level errata for the card was issued that said the creature card never hit play if you didn't pay the balance of the creature's cost when powered out by Flash. The reason? Academy Rector and Yawgmoth's Bargain were about to hit the tournament scene. And when I say "hit the tournament scene," I mean that players were going to be able Flash out Academy Rector on turn one or two and have the ability to draw cards at will.
Flash was consigned the bulk rare box and everyone went about their business as usual. People found other ways to abuse Academy Rector over the years. Phyrexian Towers were activated, Cabal Therapy was cast and Flashed back, and clerics were Reprocessed but at least people had to pay full price to get the Rector out there. When the recent decision to reverse power-level errata made it so that a creature played off of a Flash did hit play as its designers originally intended, it sent ripples throughout deck building communities worldwide. Obviously they were figuring out what cards to Rector into play in Legacy on turn one or turn two, right? Bargain is banned in the format but how about Form of the Dragon? What about Aluren? Was there some super-degenerate CAL variant waiting for Rector?
As it turns out, Rector was not even on the radar. The Flash
target of choice was actually the Ravnica
Block fattie Protean Hulk
. By Flash
ing out Protean Hulk
with the Mirage instant you can search through your deck for any combination of cards with a combined casting cost of six and put them into play—which in a card pool as wide open as Legacy just has to be a disaster. Hulk Flash
was born, and just like the Hulk of Marvel comics fame, there were many versions.
The earliest versions—akin to the original dumb angry version of Bruce's alter ego—featured a spread of four Disciple of the Vault, one Arcbound Ravager, and any number of Shield Spheres and Ornithopters to sacrifice to the Ravager. Of course that version was vulnerable to Sudden Shock taking out the Ravager or, more importantly, Engineered Plague on Clerics which would kill the Disciples as a state-based effect before there was an opportunity to use the Ravager.
The community went back to the drawing board to come up with a smarter—and presumably grayer—Hulk deck. The next one featured a kill that could not lose to either Plague or Sudden Shock. The deck parlayed the Hulk into four Disciples and seven or eight copies of Phyrexian Marauders and Shifting Walls. The latter are artifact creatures with casting costs of , which meant they would die as a state-based effect when they came into play. There was nothing to Sudden Shock and no window to do it, and even if the Disciples were going to hit the bin from a Plague they would still trigger from the artifact creatures and deal 28 or 32 damage.
The problem here is that there are 12 cards that you just don't want in your hand—they need to be in your deck in order to be effective. You want Disciples and X-creatures in your deck and Flash and Hulk in hand. Plus, at this point in the deck's development it seemed like every single group was working on either a copy of this deck or a deck to beat it.
White Weenie decks were packing True Believer, Meddling Mage, and Samurai of the Pale Curtain. Leyline of the Void was going to be seeing play maindeck. That 12-card combo was eating up valuable real estate in the deck that was needed to fight through all the hate that was going to be out there. Plus there was the mirror match to contend with—Hulk Flash decks were even running maindeck Leyline in anticipation of the deck.
Other versions of the deck have emerged recently that favor a smaller set of combo cards in order to play a more controlling game that can fight through all the hate. The more discrete combo features Karmic Guide, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Carrion Feeder. In this version Protean Hulk fetches Karmic Guide and Carrion Feeder. The Karmic Guide returns Protean Hulk to play and it is sacrificed to the Carrion Feeder to bring out the breaker of mirrors. Kiki-Jiki then copies Karmic Guide, and with the copy's return-a-creature from the graveyard ability on the stack, the legend gets sacrificed to Carrion Feeder and is returned to play untapped by the copied Guide. This process is rinsed and repeated until there is a nigh-infinite army of hasty Karmic Guide copies to fly over for the win.
Interestingly this version seems to have the same, if not more, vulnerabilities of the first version but it seems to be gaining ground due to the decreased likelihood of drawing cards that are better left in your deck. As for the rest of the deck ... well this is where the deckbuilders will have their room to play. One of the appeals—or is appalled more appropriate?—of the deck, according to people posting the original lists, was that it could win the game on the draw during an opponent's first upkeep. The Holy Grail of victories required Gemstone Caverns, either Elven or Simian Spirit Guide, the two-card combo of Flash and Protean Hulk, AND for the opponent to not be holding Force of Will and another blue card.
While that seems like it is pretty unlikely to happen with any kind of consistency—and requires you to play with some unexciting cards—it did set off warning bells. While the prices of Flash continued to climb in the secondary market, they did so cautiously as everyone seemed to expect an emergency ban or re-errata of Flash to be coming. With each Latest Developments that came and went without an update, the price ticked higher—hitting $10 for many online retailers.
Any questions regarding an emergency ban were officially addressed by Aaron Forsythe in an Ask Wizards that appeared May 9. I checked in with Aaron for a little more clarity on the subject. He may be the Director of Magic R&D, but fortunately that did not leave him too busy to answer five questions...
BDM: When the power level erratas were rolled back did you guys look at Flash and think "uh-oh"? Isn't it better to let sleeping dogs lie?
No, we're generally not going to let sleeping dogs lie. All of the cards we changed in the previous wave (Cloud of Faeries
, Priest of Gix
, etc.) did things considered too ridiculous at the time, we rolled them back, and nothing bad happened. So we didn't expect Flash
to be different, especially since part of the combo that led to the initial errata—Yawgmoth's Bargain
—isn't legal in Legacy.
BDM: What scenario would need to be in play for Flash to get banned outside of the existing banned and restricted dates?
AF: I don't know what that scenario is for Flash, or if there even is one, but I know we aren't there yet. Memory Jar was banned because it impacted every Constructed format, and had proven itself in tournaments. That isn't the case for Flash. Most of Magic is untouched by it, but it certainly has shone the spotlight on the part of the community that is.
BDM: Is this a case of "The sky is falling!" or will Flash crush Chicken Little's dream house?
AF: It probably is the best deck in the format and will put up numbers accordingly. Something gets to be the best. As to just how good, we'll have to see. I don't want anyone to think we're happy with how this has played out, though, but I think the system still works. Sometimes the timing of stuff will make it far more relevant than we hoped, but we're going to keep approaching errata and the B&R lists the same way in the future.
BDM: Has there ever been a situation where R&D braced themselves for the impact of a card on a format with an eye toward banning only to see it not materialize?
AF: No, we're generally not the ones panicking. It usually comes from players—they want Quiet Speculation banned, Skirk Prospector, Goblin Lackey, you name it. We try to be the conservative group.
BDM: What deck would you play at Grand Prix–Columbus?
AF: A deck with Red Elemental Blasts and Simian Spirit Guides.
I will be heading to Columbus next week to cover this event and witness the impact of Flash first hand. If you want to catch up on the Legacy format to this point in time, you can check out the coverage of the last two Legacy Grand Prix–Philadelphia, won by Jon Sonne, and Lille, where Helmut Summersberger and Threshold took home the title. If you are looking for something more recent you can find the coverage of the 2006 Legacy Championships.
While not necessarily featuring the same level of competition found at these much larger past events, there have been Grand Prix Trials taking place for the past few weeks around North American in preparation for this tournament. Here are the finalist decklists from two of those events. The first one closely mirrors the results from Grand Prix–Philly when Jon Sonne's Goblins overwhelmed Chris Pikula's Deadguy Ale deck. In the second Trial, the 2006 Legacy champion Roland Chang made the Top 8 but did not reach the finals.
Firestarter: Banned and Predicted List
So should Flash be banned in June when the next B&R list is released? What will the deck do at Grand Prix–Columbus? Will it be like White Weenie at Pro Tour–Yokohama, hated out of existence on Day One? Or will a two-card, base blue, instant speed combo prove more resilient than Soltari Priest? And what happens when you add the blue and green Pacts from Future Sight into the mix? Head to the forums and make your thoughts and opinions known!