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Pre-GenCon Hodgepodge

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Introduction

This week, I’ll be covering several topics from around the globe. I’ll talk a bit about Legacy Champs at GenCon this weekend and the overall absurdity of Wizards-supported tournaments, including Legacy events. I’ll discuss some decks whose absence from the metagame I’ve been struggling to explain, as well as my view on the strong rumor that Modern is going to be the next Eternal format.

GenCon and Legacy Worlds

I won’t be able to attend to GenCon, although every time I’ve gone, it’s been a great experience. If you’re going and have not yet planned a full itinerary, I highly suggest that you make it a point not to stay in the TCG room all weekend, as this is likely the easiest way to waste your time without gaining anything tangible or really any memories to show for it. GenCon is primarily about role-playing games, so if you play any of them, do yourself a favor and sign up for a couple of games; not only is it among the most cost-efficient ways to spend your time, it also gives you the opportunity to meet some new people and perhaps even get invited to a party later in the night. I’ve had a lot of fun demoing games in the past; it’s great to try some of the new ideas, and sometimes you’ll even get some dandy swag. Speaking of swag—one year I went, the gift bag for the event had a starter kit for the WoW TCG, as well as a Maple Story booster pack, and it turned into a swell money-making opportunity simply to ask people if they wanted these items, as the WoW product ended up being a pretty hot item outside the convention center. If you take any advice from me regarding GenCon, play the Magic events you really want to, but allow yourself time to try new things.

Since you’re reading this, I suspect one event you’re likely to be playing in this weekend is the Legacy Championship. The title suggests that this is the premier Legacy event in the land, but generally, results from GenCon tend to be on the odd end of the spectrum and as such are generally ignored. However, this year may be quite a bit different. Since Nationals will be taking place at GenCon this year, there are going to be a much higher number of competitively minded people lurking around the event than in years past, when Wizards has often intentionally tried to compete with GenCon for competitive Magic players.

So what great prizes do we have lined up for players to battle over this year?

2011 Legacy Champs

Cost –$20 (+ GenCon Badge as with all Legacy Championships)

1st place – Oversized Force of Will trophy

2nd place – Ten Revised dual lands

3rd & 4th places – From the Vault: Exiled, four Italian Legends, four white-bordered Italian Revised, one Chinese Portal: Three Kingdoms

5th–8th places – Two Italian Legends, two white-bordered Italian Revised, one Chinese Portal: Three Kingdoms

Interesting prize pool; let’s contrast that with the prizes we’ve seen in the past for the Legacy Championship.

2010 Legacy Champs

Cost – $20

1st place – Forty Revised dual lands

2nd place – Ten Revised dual lands

2009 Legacy Champs

Cost – $24

1st place – Forty Revised dual lands

2nd place – Ten Revised dual lands

2008 Legacy Champs

Cost – $20

1st place – Forty Revised dual lands + other prizes

2nd place – Ten Revised dual lands

2007 Legacy Champs

Cost – $15

1st–8th – draft out the following “oversized Legacy cards”

Yep, in 2007, they decided to give out a giant Force of Will that numbered among the prizes.

I am disappointed in that first place will not be receiving a playset of dual lands this year as has been the trend for the last few Championships. With the rise in prices, if the tournament organizer had gone through with duals as prizes, this would have put Legacy Champs on the map as one of the highest EV Legacy tournament in North America and even in the world. It really feels like the mark was totally missed on the event this year. It isn’t as though the title of Legacy Champion holds any weight or merit; there are no benefits that go along with it.

Imagine walking into a new store during an event:

“Hey everyone, I just thought you should know that the Champion of all Legacy is in the house.”

Then no one even tries to engage you in conversation for the rest of the day. Even if you were to bring it up a bit more naturally in conversation with fellow Legacy players:

“Yeah, you’re right. Oh, by the way, I won Legacy Champs this year.”

“Oh, really? What did you get for that?”

“An oversized Force of Will trophy.”

“That’s sweet, what else?”

“Well, it was just the trophy.”

“Oh, that kind of sucks. Do you get anything for being Legacy Champ, like paid entries to events?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Well, did anyone offer you a spot writing for them since you’re the Legacy Champion?”

“No. GenCon events typically aren’t that competitive.”

“Oh, well, did you at least get a good amount of cash for your trophy?”

“I tried to, but it’s alternate art, so it doesn’t even look like a Force of Will, so I can’t get too much for it. I reconciled with myself that as long as I have it everyone will recognize that I’m the Legacy Champ.”

“Well, does the trophy at least look sweet?”

“Sort of.”

“Can I see it?”

“It’s at my house, it’s kind of big to lug around.”

Most events give out a trophy and a prize, and I wish that this was going to be like most events in that regard, especially considering that the trophy for this year isn’t exactly unique. Imagine if the SCG Open series gave out $1,200 cash to second place but first only received a trophy that stated the recipient was the winner of the event. I imagine that would be a big disappointment and might even cut into the attendance a bit.

I think this prize format works a lot better for Vintage, for a couple of reasons. First, Vintage players normally play out the Top 8 or Top 4; Legacy players are far more inclined to prize-split at some point because there are so few large prizes that can’t be split, whereas Vintage players are generally playing for a specific, difficult-to-find prize, such as a Beta version of the piece of Power they currently have. In this regard, it makes sense for Vintage players to play it out for a unique trophy like a huge piece of Power. Second, when Mark Biller won his Timetwister trophy or when Stephen Menendian won his Mox Jet trophy, these were sweet because there could only be one in your deck, it makes sense to have a trophy of an iconic and elusive Magic card. Force of Will is a four-of in most decks that use it, and even on the rare occasion where you’re not playing a full set, you’re never just playing one. Granted, giving out four giant Force of Wills would be worse, but, I am sure we could have done better on this prize.

Star City Games, Jupiter Games, and TCG Player all offer large-prize events domestically that have prizes that rival or surpass that of a Grand Prix, and of course there is Bazaar of Moxen, which is probably the biggest independent Magic event in the world. I realize that for high-end prizes, Wizards offers the Pro Tour, but I’m just wondering why we so seldom see large-prize, standalone events sponsored by Wizards. These prizes can of course be cash or product, but I would really like to see unique, playable prizes offered. How much better would a playset of normal-sized, Magic-backed, alternate-art Force of Wills be as a prize than a single, large one? That would truly signify you as Legacy Champion in a way you can take to events. I think it would do no harm to dignify Legacy or Vintage Championships a little by offering a richer prize and perhaps even tacking on a couple of pro points into the Top 8.

Despite having a prize I don’t care for, the event should be a lot of fun for all those going. There is yet to be a year where something incredibly odd didn’t happen in the Top 8 of that event, so even if you don’t play in the event, try sticking around the top tables to see what is happening. There likely will be a good story to come out of just watching for a few minutes.

Modern

The word is out, and it seems that Modern gets the nod to become the new Eternal format. What does this mean for Legacy? Honestly, I don’t think it changes much in the short term, and who can say for the long term? Let’s talk about why the impact in the short term isn’t going to be strong. Legacy is a format that was built from the ground up by the players in many different areas, much the same way that EDH/Commander was created. For a very long time, there was literally no support from Wizards for anything other than FNM and Arena, so stores were given no incentive to run Legacy events from the top. Instead, people went out of their way to teach the format to prospective players and talk about its merits; after a group was cultivated, stores took the time with Legacy to see how well it would work, running small prizes that essentially mirrored that of an FNM, except without the Wizards-provided prizes. The major result was that Legacy became a format that people wanted to play and were often willing to go out of their way to partake in. Much the same way that everyone felt when they discovered The Shawshank Redemption, people felt that they were a part of this group of people who had discovered how fun Legacy was; it was shared with new people in a very personal way.

Compare the story of Legacy with how Extended has been pushed as a format over the years. Extended was essentially only a format for three months out of a given year, at the most, and people were only playing it as mandated by the need to know the format for PTQs. Once again, people did have fun with the format, and nearly every time an Extended season was ending, people tried to rally and get Extended to live on past its expiration date; stores would be quite willing to run Extended events because it was a format that was a lot more accessible than Legacy.

I understand that Modern likely won’t be a seasonal format, but I don’t think that it offers that much competition for Legacy, as Legacy has been established as a format that people want to play now. Although obviously Modern and Legacy will push prices of cards, I think that Modern may become a bit of a gateway for Legacy. To get back on topic, I think that the real tension is going to continue to be between Overextended and Modern. Overextended has a big push from the bottom, where Modern has now had a big push from the top. Both sides have advocates, both are interesting formats, and I don’t think that saying “We’re going to move ahead with Modern” is the end of the discussion on the matter.

If Overextended is going to stay relevant as a format, this is crunch time. This is where the proponents of the format need to break out from the format’s being exclusive to MTGO, quickly get to gaming stores and start to pitch the format, get events organized, and get people interested—state clearly why having access to Fact or Fiction, Rishadan Port, Daze, Dark Ritual, and all the richness of Onslaught block is going to make for a better format. I find it hard to believe that the discussion is over on what the next Eternal format is to be. if it is, then it’s time to see if people jump ship from Legacy for Modern or if the two formats can live peacefully, as there has not been a format like Modern since the old days of Extended.

What Happened with Doomsday?

In the months between Mirrodin Besieged and New Phyrexia, we saw a bit of Doomsday running around, sometimes at the top tables of SCG events, and a lot over in Europe. Since Mental Misstep has been in the mix, I’ve yet to see the deck place in an event with more than six rounds. But why? Doomsday could play as a relatively fast deck, but I don’t think that the inclusion of Mental Misstep into the mix or even the fact that the field has more Blue cards really impacts the deck much, because Doomsday was a deck that could roll slowly and was highly favored against slower, Blue decks due to the heavy disruption package it offered.

I did scour a couple of sites that collect Top 8 deck lists, and found a couple, but I’d like to pose the question: Does Mental Misstep really kill Doomsday decks? Check out this Doomsday/fetch land/Tendrils hybrid that made Top 8 in a fifty-player event.

The Storm-centric builds are powerful and legendarily difficult to pilot, but for the current metagame, I tend to favor the plans that hybridize Storm and Emrakul, such as Rev 6:14, which allows you to choose whether you want to go for the Storm kill or the control-crushing Shelldock Isle route instead. Check out this list that placed just before New Phyrexia was released:

I really don’t feel that Mental Misstep is as back-breaking to either deck as the results suggest by their absence in Top 8s, but I’ve been focusing on tuning Reanimator and Counterbalance-Thopters, so I don’t have the results to suggest otherwise. For those of you looking for a new adventure, both of these Doomsday decks seem like interesting choices considering how metagame is relatively slow for the moment.

The other deck I’ve been pushing people to play since New Phyrexia was released is Junk, which is finally starting to get some play again. I think a large portion of the reason that Junk has been underrepresented has been the push to play more stable mana bases, such as in B/W Deadguy, and the apparent strength of Blue-based decks in the current metagame. From what I can see, the Junk game plan has not been too heavily impacted by the presence of Mental Misstep, but perhaps more seasoned pilots of the deck would disagree. If the metagame continues toward NO R/U/G, slower aggro-control decks with Stoneforge Mystic, and slower combo decks that are incredibly weak to hand disruption, I’d expect more people to read the signs and get on board. I mean, it has to be better than Pox, which made ninth place in Seattle.

While I’m thinking of decks that have been underrepresented in events, what’s happening with Merfolk? At the time of writing, over the last month, the results for fourteen events with thirty-three or more players was published. Of all those Top 8 results (112 decks), only a single copy of Merfolk surfaced. That’s astounding considering that this deck was dominating the metagame shortly after New Phyrexia released. I’m not anticipating revisiting the state of the metagame again until just before the release of Innistrad, but this is some astounding news—a great day for Landstill and U/W/x Stoneforge decks. However, some of you reading this should probably just sleeve up Merfolk and annihilate people.

If the trend of Merfolk being on the down-low persists, the last deck I can think to suggest is actually Counter-Top Thopters. Why? Because all of the decks have incredibly predictable curves at the moment, and the metagame is asking for a real control deck to lay down a Moat and counter any relevant spell. The tension right now is figuring out how to best build the curve of the deck so you’re not clogged on 1cc spells. Thopters is an easily customizable deck that easily adapts to punish Zoo, NO R/U/G, and the other miscellaneous decks that are running around, but it will take some serious brainstorming and tweaking if you’re planning on consistently trumping Hive Mind.

Conclusion

I would love to be going to GenCon this year to try to claim the title of Legacy Champion, but I’ll be leaving for a holiday (in the European sense of the word) this next Wednesday. For those of you who plan on attending the event and want a hot tip: Play a consistent deck. GenCon traditionally has a lot more casual players who will be bringing stacks of Hymn to Tourach and Inquisition of Kozilek, not to mention that everyone will boldly sleeve up their Smallpoxes now that it has placed in the Top 16 of a SCG event. Stax, Burn, and Elves have also been traditionally popular decks in the field, so keep that in mind when making your deck choice. Next week, I’ll be taking a look at some approaches for how to rebuild Counterbalance in the new Legacy metagame.

~Christopher Walton in the real world

im00pi at gmail dot com

Master Shake on The Source

@EmperorTopDeck on Twitter

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