When I got into competitive magic, I gravitated towards Legacy because the first deck I played as a kid was a budget Keeper deck with Force of Will, Wasteland, Brainstorm, Swords to Plowshares, Counterspell, and Tundra. As you can see below, my casual deck from fifteen years ago contains many of the same cards as the list I Top 8’d the Cincinnati Legacy open with.
Why play Esper over straight UW Stoneblade?
1. Dark Confidant is really, really good. He is a must answer or the game will slip away from your opponent with each upkeep trigger. UW has four must answer two drops in Stoneforge Mystic. Esper has six with the addition of Bob. If Bob is so good, you might be wondering why I am only playing two instead of the full four. Unfortunately, the list is tight, and I don’t know if the deck wants them.
2. Discard. Two Thoughtseizes and one Inquisition of Kozilek main, and another Thoughtseize in the sideboard. Duress effects are great in the control mirror, and I was anticipating a lot of control. Discard is also good against combo, and preemptively protects Stoneforge and Bob.
3. Better sideboard cards. With black, I can play effects that are unique to the color. Diabolic Edict has the drawback of having a converted casting cost of two, but has the upside of being able to deal with Progenitus, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Nimble Mongoose, and Geist of Saint Traft. Leyline of the Void is the best graveyard hate card, but shouldn’t be played in a deck that can’t cast it. Darkblast is recurring removal. Perish is a one-sided wrath, and also doubles as a Progenitus killer.
The other card choices are standard for any UWX Stoneblade deck, but I do want to highlight a few:
I was a non-believer until I thought about how my deck was dead to a resolved Geist. The morning of the tournament, I cut a Vendilion Clique for one and I did not regret it for a moment. Geist was great for me all day. I even won a game vs. Sneak and Tell when my opponent resolved a turn three Show and Tell. He put in Progenitus, and I put in Geist to match my end of turn Stoneforge activation, putting in Batterskull.
Yep, I was on the seven Leyline sideboard plan. Leyline of Sanctity was a must include after Burn took down the last two Legacy Opens. They also come in against decks with a lot of discard and Tendrils-based combo decks.
As the popularity of burn dies down (which it will because of increased sideboard hate leading to decreased success leading to decreased popularity,) these three slots can be opened up for other cards that almost made the cut (e.g. the third Jace, the second spell pierce, and the fourth Force of Will.)
Disenchant was a staple in old school Keeper decks, and I am glad that it is good again. Both of my UW Stoneblade opponents said that they wanted Disenchant in their sideboards, but the dealer booth was out of Disenchants.
Many people consider Force of Will a sacred cow and will always play the full four. The reality is that there are many matchups where Force of Will isn’t ideal. For example, the card is bad in the Stoneblade mirror. It’s an attrition based matchup, where the only cards that matter are Jace and Elpseth, but this dynamic may be shifting with the introduction of Geist. Force is also terrible against most Hymn to Tourach Decks, with the exception of Pox. Pox has a must counter in Liliana of the Veil, and can accelerate her out with the help of Dark Ritual.
Swiss and Top 8 Matchups with Sideboard Plan
Round 1 vs. Lands (really?)
Why would anyone want to play Lands in a large event? The deck has a high unintentional draw percentage, even if the pilot plays fast. It gets worse at the Opens, where two draws is the same as a loss (for example, X-2 is usually dead for T8, as is X-1-2.)
We unintentionally drew, which threw me into the draw bracket. I was fine with that, as I would have a higher percentage of playing against control mirrors, where I felt favored.
Quick Aside: It is important to recognize when the game is unwinnable vs. Lands and scoop. Lands players will often durdle around after the game is locked up and try and get the 1-0-1 match win.
Round 2 – Local Superstar Rocky Harris with Deadguy Ale
Rocky was fresh off a shoulder surgery, which led to an interesting predicament. He couldn’t shuffle his own deck, so a judge had to be nearby to help out!
-1 Spell Pierce
In game one I saw Hymn to Tourach, so I sided out my Forces. The only way I would leave in Force against a Hymn to Tourach deck is if I knew they were running Liliana of the Veil, as that card is hard to beat, and even then I would still shave one. I cut Geist because I saw two edict effects in Diabolic Edict and Gatekeeper of Malakir. Jitte and Disenchant are auto-includes vs. any Stoneforge deck. Path was for Bobs, primarily. I’m not sure if I was right in bringing in Thoughtseize. I contemplated Leyline of Sanctity, but I didn’t see any Duress effects game one.
Round 3 – UR Burn
I cut the discard because it becomes dead too quickly. Here, Sword of Feast and Famine is underwhelming, while Jace and Elspeth are too slow. Darkblast hits Figure of Destiny, Snapcaster Mage, unflipped Delver, and Grim Lavamancer. Path is additional removal, and UR Burn doesn’t do much to take advantage of the extra land. In hindsight, I probably should have brought in Disenchant for Sulfuric Vortex and Pyrostatic Pillar. Ironically, my opponent died to his own Pillar in game three.
Round 4 – Mono Black Pox
I kept one Swords in case he had sideboard Bobs. As with the Deadguy matchup, I cut Geist because of Edict effects. Leyline came in to combat his discard and Liliana, as Leyline shuts down both of Liliana’s minus abilities. The Disenchant came in to hit Cursed Scroll, Nether Void, The Abyss, and Mishra’s Factory.
Round 5 – UWr Stoneblade
As I mentioned earlier, Force is not great in the Stoneblade mirror. If I played the deck again tomorrow, I would try and fit in another Disenchant in the sideboard.
Round 6 – Sneak N Tell
-1 Spell Snare
Swords to Plowshares was an easy cut because they had no targets to send farming. Sneak n Tell is UR so there is little chance of them bringing in creatures from the sideboard (common creatures to bring in from the sideboard are Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique, and sometimes Tarmogoyf.) Spell Snare doesn’t hit anything relevant, but I kept them in over other useless cards because it can be pitched to Force. Disenchant hits both Sneak Attack and Blood Moon. Meanwhile, Perish can kill a show and told Progenitus. Although Jitte is not good in this matchup, I brough it in because it’s less dead than other options.
Round 7 – UW Stoneblade. “A Controversial Win”
Game one he mulls to five, and I have no troubles putting him away.
In game two he is in full control of the game, and on turn six I have no lands in play due to Wasteland shenanigans. I draw a Polluted Delta for my turn, crack it for Underground Sea, and Thoughtseize him. He Brainstorms in response. Thoughtseize resolves, showing all gas, and I considered scooping. I thought about my outs and, if I ripped runner runner land, I could come back. I chose Vendilion Clique and finished writing down his hand. No matter how smart you think you are, always write down your opponent’s hand after a peek effect.
He goes to his turn and draws. I notice he has a ton of cards in hand, and I look at his graveyard and notice Clique isn’t there. I asked about the Clique and his face dropped. He had accidentally thought I Clique’d his Clique and put his on the bottom of the library and drew a card. The table judge sitting next to us immediately stops the game to go confer with another judge. The judge comes back and says my opponent gets a game loss for drawing extra cards, and I went from almost conceding to winning the match 2-0.
Afterwards, I thought about the situation and was unsure if I should have told the judges that he had brainstormed in response to my clique, meaning he knew both cards on top of his library and no new information was gained. Should I have made it known to the judges? Let me know what you think in the comments section.
I sideboarded the same as in Round 5.
Round 8 – UBr Reanimator, splash for Faithless Looting
-2 Spell Snare
Sideboarding for this matchup was difficult because of how many relevant cards I could bring in. Ultimately, I decided that I only wanted to bring in six cards, starting with Leyline of the Void. I swapped Inquisition for Thoughtseize because the life loss was negligible. Diabolic Edict could deal with an Inkwell Leviathan or an Iona on white. Sword of Feast and Famine is not good in the matchup. One Stoneforge was shaved because the only equipment left was Batterskull. Although Elspeth provides a fast clock, she can be clunky against a deck that can potentially reanimate a fatty on turn two. I’m not sure if it is right or not to cut Spell Snare. It hits Animate Dead and Exhume, but there was a good chance of him bringing in Show and Tell and cutting some number of two casting cost spells.
Round 9 – ID
Top 8 – RUG Delver (no stifles, yes spell pierces)
-1 Spell Pierce
I am not sure if I sided correctly for this matchup, but I know the six cards I brought in were cards I wanted. In retrospect, the Thoughtseize was loose, but I wanted a way to deal with Nimble Mongeese. The three Forces were definite cuts, but I am not sure if it was correct to cut both Jaces and the Spell Pierce.
Over nine rounds, I played against eight distinct archetypes, and that’s why I love playing Legacy! In eternal formats, a diverse metagame is healthy since it implies that there is no true best deck, such as NO RUG, Reanimator and UW Stoneblade in the Mental Misstep era. Thus, players can play the decks they want and still be drawing live. Many decks were unplayable during the stagnant Mental Misstep era, such as Goblins and Storm. Now any deck (to an extent) is viable, which is great.
Thanks for reading!
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