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This Week in Legacy: GP Shizuoka and Beijing Orlov Legacy


Welcome to a New Year This Week in Legacy! In this article I’ll be summing up some events in Asia that happened towards the year’s end. The first I’ll look at is GP Shizuoka, the final premier-size Legacy event of 2018, held in Shizuoka, Japan. Lastly I’ll look at something quite smaller – but quite significant within Asian Legacy – the Beijing Orlov Legacy event held in Beijing, China. Both of these events I also personally attended and will also be summing up my own experiences in this report playing Legacy across Asia. So, let’s dive in!

GP Shizuoka

Let’s have a look at the breakdown of GP Shizuoka’s Top 16:

Deck Player Placing
Eldrazi Stompy Teruya Kakumae 1
Dragon Stompy Hiroyuki Kaga 2
Lands Toru Takihisa 3
UR Delver Takahiro Ishikawa 4
UW Delver Akihiko Shiota 5
Grixis Control Kenji Tsumura 6
UW Stoneblade Akihiko Shiota 7
Grixis Control Yuuta Hirosawa 8
Miracles Tatsuumi Kobayashi 9
UR Delver Huang Ta Chi 10
Grixis Delver Kohei Fujihara 11
Steel Stompy Gen Shinohara 12
ANT Tsubasa Sekikawa 13
Turbo Depths Daichi Akimoto 14
Turbo Depths Yusuke Shinomiya 15
Grixis Delver Katsuya Miura 16

The winner of this event ended up being Eldrazi, which has continued to prove its strength in the new metagame. With an excellent Miracles matchup, some crazy nut draws and some new technology to go over the top of the Grixis Control matchup (which can otherwise be quite difficult), I’m not surprised to see it rise to the top, despite the high variance hands a Stompy deck can end up drawing. It’s pretty neat to see a non-Brainstorm deck take it down.

The big draw to this style of list is Oblivion Sower.

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Sower’s on-cast ability likely steals a bunch of lands from the opponent, and although this ability was insane when people were leaning on Deathrite Shaman, it is still equally useful as a ramp tool  now. This ideally lets the Eldrazi player ramp up to enough mana to start tutoring for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and create an inevitable end game. This really helps against Grixis Control, which looks to have the tools to deal with all of Eldrazi’s weapons via Baleful Strix blocking and Kolaghan’s Command negating Chalice of the Void’s effectiveness.

Note that Oblivion Sower is also a castable threat under a Blood Moon, which lets what would seem like an unwinnable matchup against Dragon Stompy to be actually quite reasonable with Mimic, Endless One and Oblivion Sower all castable while the Dragon Stompy durdles around.

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Speaking of Blood Moon, this list is incredibly insulated from that card, with Grim Monolith and Wastes allowing colorless creatures to be cast. This can be seen in the final match, where most of the Blood Moons, although slowing down the Eldrazi deck, could be played through.

I expect Eldrazi to continue to be the big Stompy deck of choice, with Blood Moons less effective due to Delver decks becoming much less popular and the premier control strategies, Grixis and Miracles, being basic-heavy and able to use Blood Moon themselves! That being said, the eight Goblin-touting list took itself all the way to the finals, so it is certainly very viable.

The other surprise is the appearance of Stoneforge Mystic in the top ranks!

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The Squire has met quite a few of problems after Kolaghan’s Command was printed, but shells have been continually tweaked and modified to find her a place in the metagame. Interestingly, this has been typically alongside Back to Basics and a pure Blue-White shell.

The first of these is the so-called “DelverBlade” deck popularized by Owen Turtenwald a few months ago that has really invigorated those who loved the old Jeskai Delver deck. It’s a wonky-looking concoction, I must say, but I actually like it quite a bit (surprisingly) because once you cut the Red cards (and the extra removal that cluttered up the deck), it is a package of cards that is ready for a wide variety of matchups. The plethora of counterspells plus Delver give it a strong gameplan against combo, more so once you factor in the White sideboard hatebears. Jace, although looking clunky, gives the deck a critical endgame to actually push it’s midrangey plan over the edge (and at least pitches to Force otherwise). And Snapcaster is the card I feel bridges all these plans together effectively, perfect for when the deck is planning to control the game with Plow-Snap-Plow or when the deck needs to Snapback that Spell Pierce to stop a critical combo turn. The basic lands are also excellent in letting the deck hit the three-mana point where the deck can fully operate.

Oh, and the sideboard is excellent in these Blue-White decks, getting the powerpack of Blue countermagic, White sideboard pinpoint hatepieces, and, tantamount to this deck’s sideboard strategy against non-basic heavy strategies, Back to Basics.

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I’ll also just give another shout-out: Top 8er Akihiko Shiota I played against (he was playing Jeskai Delver at the time) in Eternal Weekend Yokohama, and I must say he’s quite the player and loyalist to these Stoneforge-Delver shells. Congratulations on the finish, and long-live this odd couple.

The next we’ll look at is Blue-White Stoneblade, a little more traditional in style:

This is a relatively straightforward Blue-White Blade list, featuring a few bits and pieces of spice in the form of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Flusterstorm, and the given Back to Basics in the main. What I like the most is the sideboard Counterbalance as an additional axis against both combo and control. Against combo, it is a powerful hate piece that should usually get the job done, particularly against Storm. Against control, it can act as a powerful card advantage engine in conjunction with cantrips, Jace, and Snapcaster Mage flashing back Brainstorms… or even just getting lucky with some blind flips. I think a lot more players should be considering Counterbalance as a powerful sideboard slot to fight both combo and control in any of their fair Blue decks, because if recent Miracles lists have proven anything, it’s that you don’t need to Top to make Counterbalance effective.

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Grixis Delver continues to place results and has also found itself in the same place as these Blue-White Delver variants – an odd concoction of tempo-ish Delver pieces plus random midrange cards from whatever the color combination provides.

Of these, I like Takahiro Ishikawa’s the most, distilling the core to the threat package of just Delver, Pyromancer, True-Name, and Angler, who are still proven great. Cards like Bitterblossom and co. I’ve found most people have mixed opinions on. An excellent turn two play and a powerful weapon against midrange/control strategies, it’s a huge liability against both combo and anything aggressive.

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Discard too, although an excellent weapon in old Grixis Delver in the form of Cabal Therapy, has always been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to Delver strategies, being a tempo-negative play. The life loss of Thoughtseize is also an issue if you’re including Bitterblossom. With no more Therapy synergies, it also ends up a little lackluster… Spell Pierce and other supplemental countermagic is also effective, but in versions touting many Pyromancers, triggering your Pyromancer becomes somewhat of an issue, especially if you add Stifle which can compound this issue of being too reactive. Many versions have just split the difference recently and played some mix of these but I feel this is a little unfocused. I, personally, am unsure what the best mix is, but I’d try and streamline and focus your Grixis Delver list and then switch gears to more midrangey, narrow cards post-sideboard. Otherwise your list ends up looking like the midrangey hodge-podge of Kohei Fujihara, feat. Kolaghan's Command and Goblin Cratermaker in the main which… Is actually a pretty neat combo, to be honest!

Lastly, Lands Top8ed. With Pyroblast main. And a Black sideboard splash. A relatively stock list in the main otherwise, but with a hedge to punk out some guy trying to Counterbalance or Show and Tell them in Game 1. It seems… really loose, especially in a deck as synergistic as Lands. I do think the Black sideboard splash has a lot of merit though, with Thoughtseize not only disrupting combo, but also giving the Lands player critical information on whether their own combo is good to go.

My Shizuoka Experience

GP Shizuoka was amazing. My preparation for the event ended up being quite scarce, with my life being quite full living here in Japan. Although I was willing to try and test a wide variety of random things (including more midrangey, full shroud-esque creations reacted to Assassin's Trophy), the time ended up a bit too scarce for that and I took something relatively straightforward:

Well, straightforward by my standards. The move back to Tarmogoyf is in respect to Eldrazi and the existence of Assassin's Trophy, which make Mandrills a little lacklustre, but my fear of Plow decks made me actually main deck all my True-Name and shift one Goyf to the sideboard…

I also erred on Winter Orbs but inevitably played what I was most comfortable in for grinding out control decks in Loam + Ring. No Orbs let me try a new sideboard card in Snapcaster Mage, which fits an excellent criteria of being a grind card that doesn’t get busted to pieces by Assassin's Trophy. Snapcaster created a kernel of a great idea, which I’ll get to when I talk about my next tournament…

Nonetheless, my tournament myself was very unimpressive, with me having no Byes and bombing out relatively quickly, my rust showing itself in being unable to navigate complex game decisions against two tough matchups – Lands and Maverick – that I felt with a different mindset I had the tools to win. Alas, I did not, but I did get to see many friends push on into Day 2, including many Australians who came from down under to reunite, as well as friends from other parts of the world that I’ve met through playing Magic internationally.

And really, what more could I ask for?

Shizuoka showed that I needed a lot more practice, but also showed me that damn, Legacy is great. It made the fire come alive again and made me thirst to get out there and Mongoose some people. And made me remember that RUG Delver is a cruel mistress, who rewards those dedicated to it but will not give its wins easily.

It also made me realize what a great community Legacy has internationally and has made me even more passionate about writing moving into the New Year. Thank you everyone, as always, who said “thank you” for my writing and who I’ve met while playing this great game internationally. I’ll soon be departing Japan, but it has been an amazing place to play Magic: the Gathering.

In terms of additional Shizuoka content, make sure to check out AnziD’s English rebroadcast of the GP Shizuoka coverage on his Twitch channel. Definitely worth a watch!

Beijing Orlov

The next event that I’d like to highlight is the Beijing Orlov tournament that I was also able to attend in Beijing, China, invited by the eminent Mr. James Hsu of Humans of Magic fame. More on the personal anecdotes in a moment, but first, let’s have a look at the breakdown of this 150+ player event, one of the larger events to be held within the China.

Deck Player Placing
Grixis Delver Xinrong Chen 1
Eldrazi Stompy Sun Chuan 2
Grixis Control Lu Chao 3
Eldrazi Stompy Ruizhang Pan 4
Ice Station Zebra Yigit Nephan 5
Maverick Qitong Hu 6
Burn Qiankai Jiang 7
Burn Jiulong Shi 8
Maverick Xu Ling 9
Czech Pile Reinhardt Gao 10
UB Shadow Pengkai Shi 11
Sneak & Show Bing Liu 12
UR Delver Haoran Hao 13
RUG Delver Sean Brown 14
Mono-Black Reanimator Ze Zhu 15
Elves Julian Knab 16

I can say that, overall, hyper-proactive and proven tier strategies ruled the roost in China. China’s metagame is still experiencing many of the signals of a budding metagame, with hyper-proactive strategies like Sneak & Show and Eldrazi incredibly popular (and successful), but nonetheless popular tier Blue decks were picked up by many players, including Grixis Control, Miracles and Delver. It is interesting that Death & Taxes and Shadow have such a low metagame percentage, as these are typically decks that attract newer players to large tournaments. Seems like, in that case, Burn ended up the choice for many, and Burn ended up being relatively successful in this tournament too with two making the Top 16.

The winning Grixis Delver list I can get behind pretty happily. The main deck is geared similarly to the highest-placing Grixis Delver deck of Shizuoka, having a similar threat and disruption suite. The part where it gets a bit spicy is with the main deck Abrade and Diabolic Edict, which I expect are a hedge against Chalice of the Void and Dark Depths respectively.

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Note the sideboard hints at exactly what I mentioned earlier – shifting cards like Bitterblossom and Liliana to the sideboard to switch gears to a midrange deck when required, but keeping the Game 1 list slim and focused. The Liliana's Defeat and Engineered Explosives are also nice additions that typically don’t see huge amounts of play in Grixis Delver but are nonetheless excellent options against Grixis Control and a general all-purpose answer respectively.

Let’s also have a look at Yigit Nephan’s Ice Station Zebra. Tin Fins, the Griselbrand + Children of Korlis combo deck has bred a bunch of offspring recently, including a Burning Wish version and this Living Wish version that also has the Dark Depths combo within it. Hence the name Ice Station Zebra, yet another obscure Sealab 2021 reference. You can find the primer for Ice Station Zebra on The Source.

This list has the benefit of attacking from both angles and particularly the deck is well insulated against graveyard hate like Surgical Extraction because not only is there a Griselbrand in the sideboard you can get in a pinch, but you can also just make a Marit Lage which ignores graveyard hate completely.

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Furthermore, the sideboard has a lot of spicy one-ofs, including Loyal Retainers as a reanimation spell that can be Living Wished for, an alternative win-con in Laboratory Maniac, Sylvan Safekeeper to protect whatever monster you created and a bunch of other engine pieces or win conditions.

You can see the strength of the deck here under the camera lights… Yigit has got his Griselbrand Surgicaled and his opponent has a fistful of countermagic… But here comes natural Dark Depths.

 

Oof.

I think this version has a lot of legs moving forward as a variant to both Reanimator and Turbo Depths. There’s a lot of power and consistency jam-packed in something that might look to some like a relatively messy shell.

Next, let’s look at some Maverick.

In the first list we see:

  • Thalia, Heretic Cathar, which was tried to some success in the Maverick shell upon her printing. Powering out THC on turn two thanks to mana dorks is incredibly powerful against most decks in Legacy, especially when Heretic Cathar will be attacking as a first strike exalted creature afterwards.
  • Tireless Tracker and Ramunap Excavator have become very common as three drops to supplement the usual Knight of the Reliquary, and all have synergy with Maverick’s signature card and all can be found with Green Sun's Zenith. Overall, very valid options to include.
  • Knight of Autumn is a good piece of utility that, although it has a lot of overlap with Qasali Pridemage, has also enough other relevant text to be usable alongside the Cat Wizard. It also is a nice beatstick to curve into when needed too.
  • Renegade Rallier is also another strong option in the deck with a lot of cute tricks up his sleeve. Of course, once we add this guy in addition to the others mentioned, we start to seriously crowd the three drop slot, and in Qitong’s list we see Knight being cut down to three in this list. I’m not a fan of this many supplemental three drops, because although it gives Zenith a lot of flexibility, it also increases the variance of your draws.
  • Palace Jailer is also a very spicy inclusion and although not tutorable in any way, acts similar to additional removal and a big grind engine rolled into one. I am not sure I feel about adding even more clunky top-end heavy cards to this list, but Jailer is nonetheless a valid choice in Maverick, especially with all the dorks that can clunk up the ground.
  • Also note in the sideboard a seriously slant to cards that can trump fair matchups in Bitterblossom plus the planeswalkers, along with a huge wariness of Reanimator in four graveyard hate spells! Damping Sphere is also an interesting inclusion, but strange considering White’s access to so many hatepieces – though a hate piece unkillable by removal is handy in a pinch.

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In the second list we see the three drops somewhat more focused but…

Oh baby, Titania, Protector of Argoth.

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She’s a big scary creature but her susceptibility to both Bolt and Karakas certainly makes me very wary of choosing her as a top-end threat. When she get’s going, especially with Knight, she certainly gets going but…

Next, let’s look at some Burn lists:

Jiulong Shi brought a relatively stock piece of work (though main deck Exquisite Firecraft is a nice touch) but Qiankai Jiang brought a hella lot more spice to the table. I didn’t know Burn could get any hotter than it already is…

This list takes a much more controlling composure to Burn, minimizing rather conditional dead draws like extra Fireblast and Rift Bolts and main decking the classic Cursed Scroll to either control the board or burn out control decks like Miracles in post-board games. I think this is a reasonable card if Blue-White Control is on your radar, but it becomes a prime target for a Shattering Kolaghan's Command against Grixis Control. Also note the emphasise on cards like Searing Blaze and Barbarian Ring, furthering the slower, grindier Burn plan. I’m not sure how I feel about the gambler’s fun-of Thunderous Wrath, though!

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The sideboard furthers this plan with the quite excellent sweeper in Volcanic Fallout (which can also supplement the Firecrafts as additional uncounterable burn) and the rather bizarre Meekstone, likely a nod to Eldrazi. A turn one Meekstone is a scary proposition for many decks and with many unlikely to bring in artifact destruction against Burn, it can certainly steal some games.

Lastly:

I thought some of the other Pile lists were greedy! This list includes:

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  • Usual Green suspects of Leovold, Emissary of Trest and Abrupt Decay, along with Assassin's Trophy! This list actually ends up being more Green than Red-heavy in the main deck. Also note that the main deck Forest makes the Decays and Trophies all usable in Blood Moon matchups. If you know what you’re up against, fetch those early and many of the Dragon Stompy player’s cards will simply be negated.
  • The usual Kolaghan's Command as the only main deck Red cards. In the sideboard, however triple Red Blast to really capitalise on one of the greatest reason to splash Red.
  • Two Tarmogoyfs in the sideboard to bring the beats!
  • And probably the most amazing, three basic lands!?

I respect Reihardt a lot, not only because he is a great player to manoeuvre such a whacked-up mana base to the Top 16, but also because he’s just a great guy. Congratulations on all that greed, buddy. Pile continues to live on with a still rather shaky mana base, but Reihardt has shown that you can push the four colours all the way to the brink and with tight play, still take it to an excellent finish.

My Beijing Orlov Experience

Hey, there’s some other guy in the Top 16 we might know…

I brought a RUG Delver deck very close to my typical list to this tournament, with a lot of renewed confidence in myself and my typical build after Shizuoka. I played Hooting Mandrills over Tarmogoyf here which I’m not sure was correct given the amount of Eldrazi that ended up in the room, and also leaned on a bunch of Spell Snares to fend off both Chalice and Baleful Strix.

Shizuoka, although I didn’t fare too well, showed me the strength of Snapcaster Mage. Of course, Snapcaster’s body is nice in an aggressive deck like RUG, but with the deck so often mana tight, I thought I’d switch it up with the new Mission Briefing for Orlov.

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Although Briefing looks worse than Snapcaster, in RUG, having access to flashback both Daze and Force of Will, critical cards to the deck’s plan, ended up being incredibly relevant, and Daze actually ended up being the most commonly flashed back card throughout the day. I really do like how even on turn two the card is still quite functional, unlike Snapcaster who loses a lot of value when just a flash 2/1.

The Surveil is also incredibly useful at adding enough fuel to both Threshold and Delve. And of course, once the deck hits three mana in the late-game, Briefing gives all the options of Lightning Bolt, Pierce and co. that Snapcaster normally would. I’m really convinced of this card having a place and will be testing it more moving forward. I like it as the grindy flashback spell of choice in Delver lists in particular.

Other than the actual Magic played, I can’t thank enough the Chinese Legacy community for being so warm and welcoming. It was incredibly surprising, reassuring and inspiring how many people spoke of This Week in Legacy so highly, and I’d like to give thanks to those translating my articles all the way in China. To have people on the other side of the world who speak a completely different language recognize me and my work was incredibly moving! I’ll definitely be keeping China in mind in articles moving forward and will make sure to continue giving exposure to its budding Legacy community to the rest of the world in years to come. For those in the Chinese-speaking world, be sure to check out a few sites such as the hub of Chinese Legacy MTGFlame and sites such as iyingdi.com (where you can find a few articles translated into Chinese – including your truly!).

Some other shout-outs, of course:

  • Mr. James Hsu, of course, for inviting me over. I was also able to meet Mr. Wilson Hunter, of The Brainstorm Show fame in China, and hearing of both him and James’ ambitions concerning their new company Cardboard Live was truly inspiring. Look forward what they’ve got in store!
  • Mr. Julian Knab, famous for Elves, who I was also finally able to meet in person. We’d done a podcast on The Salt Mine some time ago, but to final sit, eat some food together and share jokes is an experience I won’t forget. He’s also got a great write-up of Orlov on itsjulian.com.
  • The many other friendly faces from across the world I met in Beijing, including familiar names from The Source and reddit and the Shanghai Legacy crew.
  • My dear friend Stephen Tang, for giving me a room to live in, for guiding me in a land where I couldn’t communicate and for being there cheering me on throughout the tournament. Love you to bits, buddy.

Look forward to the role-out of a few reports from Orlov with Reinhardt Gao’s report already up on The Salt Mine site here, and you can also catch the English dubcast of Beijing Orlov at AnziD’s channel! Also, of course, Julian's big write-up of it all at itsjulian.com.

Conclusion

Well, that starts off our New Year of Legacy! Join me next time when I’m finally back in Australia and returning to a regular schedule, checking out if there’s any Legacy shake-ups from new Ravnica. Until then, here’s some content from the past month to check out:

  • Julian has been producing a swathe of content after his trip to China. Look out for interviews with the eminent Eric Landon, his details of Beijing Orlov and much more at itsjulian.com.
  • Eternal Durdles continue to churn out great podcast content that you can find here.
  • Joe Dyer continues his ongoing streak of excellent articles as The Eternalist which you can find here.
  • Rich Cali also continues his article series concerning Legacy here at FlipSideGaming.
  • Steve of The Salt Mine crew podcasts without me, bringing together his group of Goblin brethren for The Gobcast talking all about their favourite tribe in Legacy. Find that on The Salt Mine site here.
  • CBRMTG are continuing to put up great content including regular streams and their Budget to Tier series. Find that all here.
  • Leaving a Legacy are as always podcasting strong, chatting with names such as LewisCBR and Gavin Verhey recently. Find their content here.
  • The Dead Format brought Julian and James on for their cast to talk about Orlov and everything China. Find that (and more) here!
  • Mengucci, as always, has some Legacy veedios ready to go at Channel Fireball. Riley Knight has also been doing a bit of writing recently, you can find his post on Sneak and Show here.

Til’ next time!

Sean Brown

Email: sean_brown156@hotmail.com
Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I’m Playing This Week

I’m very dedicated to RUG Delver at this stage and mastering it once more but something really piqued my interest recently:

Blue-White Delver is actually a nice Swords to Plowshares shell, but Bant Delver even more, I believe, because you have enough threats where you don’t need to be concerned with Stoneforge Mystic and the clunkiness that card may entail. Instead, you end up with a leaner shell that is a lot more synergistic. Like Harrison’s list that I profiled last week, this list can abuse Mentor instead of Pyromancer in this Hierach-Delver shell. Maybe I’d try something like this:

The Spice Corner

This list is courtesy of James Hsu and you can see it on coverage here!

 

This is a really interesting way to take the Twin list, not only packing in the Twin Combo, Blood Moon, Chalice but also Thirst for Knowledge as a card draw engine. It has a lot of upsides (pitching some Moxen) but can also be pretty mediocre compared to something more consistent as Impulse. I’d like to see Ash Barrens here as fixing under Moon, but otherwise this is an excellent direction to take the Twin shell.


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