Long Shot

Written by Justin Duewel-Zahniser on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Long Shot

Justin Duewel-Zahniser

Justin is a writer and editor for Legit MTG. Rather than pump his ego in this little bio-box, I'll let his writing do the talking.

I’ll be honest with you. You deserve it. I’ve been in a Legacy funk lately. I’ve played in a few different events recently and had a pretty sour run. Since my last SCG feature match, I’ve pretty much hit the round 1 and 2 worst matches at events both local and Open Series-level. I am pretty good about taking responsibility for my deck decisions and caliber of play. But it started to feel like the world was against me. I wasn’t really having fun. Rather than looking forward to Legacy, I just kind of sat around contemplating the empty hole in my chest left by the canning of the Draft Opens.

I decided to have one last go at a local cash tournament to prepare for the SCG Open. Weapon of choice: Enchantress, with my brand new Moat–the final card I needed. Round One, I die to multiple main deck Engineered Explosives both games. Round Two, I die to Storm combo in three games. I start to claw my way out of 0-2 and back to prize position, but then I hit the Rock. Yep, main deck discard and Pernicious Deed. I actually play my opponent to time in game three by running really tight and playing my Replenishes very accurately. But on turn five, I concede to my opponent (and friendly acquaintance) on the assumption that he could possibly kill me with another five minutes, but there’s no way I could do the same. Enchantress just isn’t that fast. I ended up right on the edge of just side drafting the entire SCG DC away.

But then something serendipitous happened. My teammate Jamie sends me a message and says, “You should play ProsBloom.” Was he joking? I don’t know. But I read this and immediately thought that it sounded like pure, unadulterated fun without any of the emotional baggage associated with trying to actually win. In short: he suggested a Legacy vacation. I was immediately sold. I used some of my credit at a few retail sites to pick up key cards within an hour and started brewing a list. Before I get to that, let me back up to 1997. Yes, 1997. I had been playing Magic for a few years at this point and one of the biggest personalities in the game was (future hall of famer–I have your back MaRo) Mike Long. Look him up. Regardless of what anyone says about his cheating habits, ethics or any of that, he was a lightning rod around which the game could gel. He was the best kind of bad guy you could have. And he was also damn good. Especially with Prosperous Bloom.

One of the key cards defining a lost archetype–black/green creatureless combo.

Here’s the deck list from 1997:

Nothing screams “value” like sacrificing all your lands.

You may not have seen a lot of these cards before. Or possibly in the last 15 years at any rate. Normally, at this point in a tournament report you would get a full rundown of the strategies in the deck, how it works, how it’s positioned in the metagame and how to sideboard against other decks. I have good news for you. I’m not going to put you through any of that. Instead, I’m simply going to talk briefly through the process of “updating” the deck to current times and then dive right in to my experience at SCG DC.

Asymmetric warfare against the average Legacy mana base.

So, the first thing your keen eye picked up was that the deck contains a card that is no longer legal in Legacy. I’m talking about you, Vampiric Tutor. Obviously, this card had to go. Additionally, I did not think that Prosperity would be safe to play in a world of Force of Will, Daze and Surgical Extraction being all in the same deck sometimes. You’re basically handing your opponent the tools to defeat you. Now, Abeyance helps with that, but given the speed of Legacy these days, we can’t rely on that card at such a high cost and with a mana base that is susceptible to Wasteland. There’s an argument to make here that’s perfectly valid: there’s basically no chance I’m going to win with this, so why go deep? Well, I felt like I owed it to Jamie and everyone else who got pumped up about this experiment to at least try. It’s basically a Storm deck with little to no protection of any sort and an average turn six kill. In other words, it belongs in 1997. But that’s logic talking. Ignore her. Instead, look at this shiny new ProsBloom list:

And…I promised no endless strategy patter. So, on to the games!

The SCG DC Legacy Challenge

I walk up to registration about 50 minutes before the event and stand in a very short line. I punch in my six digit DCI number, have the obligatory conversation with the event staff about my insanely unwieldy last name, kiss my $10 goodbye and prepare to have a blast.

Round 1 – Chris Ricketts

I sit down across from my opponent and congratulate him on the bye. He looks confused, so I point out that I’m playing a joke deck and expect approximately 0-1 game wins. At this point, people beside me get curious. I tell them to be patient. We shuffle up and battle.

Game 1 – On the Play

I keep a decent hand that might be able to draw well and go off turn five. This is pretty good. Relatively speaking. I lead with a Swamp. Chris, unfortunately, plays Forest into Llanowar Elves. Crap. I’m dead. There’s basically no way I beat a turn 2-3 combo deck that doesn’t care about Autumn’s Veil. I untap, play a now-pointless Squandered Resources off a Forest and wait for my demise. He sets up some more on his next turn and sends it back to allow me an Island. I don’t have Natural Balance and Cadaverous Bloom both in hand, so I can’t go for it yet. He plays Glimpse of Nature, does the Elves thing and I just kind of watch.  I see a ray of hope, however, when he uses two Summoner’s Pact. My new, if awful, game plan is to Meditate at his end step and hope in the confusion surrounding him taking two turns in a row, he gets distracted and dies to his Pacts. I know. But, hey. I’m playing with a handicap here.

Eventually, Chris plays Regal Force for 25 with only 23 cards left in his library. ProsBloom wins! I actually felt bad about this because he killed himself and could have easily just killed me instead by passing and swinging in next turn. But at this point I found out that Chris is a new player, has basically no real practice with Elves and probably had no idea what I might have been about to do to him.

Game 2 – On the Draw

I’m pretty sure I’m screwed, being on the draw against Elves with a player who will never, ever kill himself again with his own Regal Force. There goes that out. I sideboard in two Massacre and an Engineered Explosives.

We shuffle up and cut and I stare at an opening hand that looks like this:

Engineered Explosives
Massacre
3 Land
2 Who Cares?

I lead with a land and pass without playing Explosives. I want him to walk into it. He plays out an Elf. I gamble, drop a land and ship back. He plays two more Elf creatures and sends it back to me. I drop Explosives for one, activate and eat his board. He rebuilds a bit, but I follow up with Massacre and leave him with three Forest, an Elvish Archdruid and zero cards in hand. On turn five, the following happens:

  • Play Squandered Resources
  • Tap and sacrifice all my land for mana.
  • Natural Balance for three Island, a Forest and a Swamp, floating some blue mana.
  • Play Cadaverous Bloom.
  • Use floating blue mana and exile a card in hand to Bloom for BB to cast Meditate.
  • Rinse and repeat the last action with Meditate and Infernal Contract.
  • Pitch a card to cast Explore, drawing another card and plopping out a Gemstone Mine.
  • Find a Mind Spring and tap, then sac the Mine for UU, exiling my hand, sacrificing the rest of my lands and drawing 12 cards.
  • Pitch another card to Explore out another Mine, tap it for red mana, exile my hand minus one card: a Banefire for 22.

Some good. During this process, a local player that I’ve met before comes over to take a picture of my board state with his phone. I’ve also acquired some rail birds in nearby chairs and standing behind me. You’d think people had never seen someone sacrifice almost all of their permanents, exile their hand and kill someone with a red X spell in Legacy.

Now, I instantly feel like a bad human being. I told Chris he had a bye and then 2-0′d him. Granted, I only killed him once, but it was by opening a hand with 2/3 of my relevant sideboard cards. However, that was the match. Chris was actually awesome. He was playing Soul of the Harvest, which was sick. We talked some shop and I got his Twitter name so I could follow him. You should follow him, too: @chriscricketts. I hope he sticks with Elves. Aside from the self-decking snafu, he played the deck extremely tight, counted his mana and clearly separated his used and unused once-per-turn effects. He was meticulous and thorough. It was one of the more pleasant experiences I’ve had sitting back and watching someone fondle their cards for 15 minutes or so while I thought about sideboarding. I think this was also why he was somewhat tolerant of the long process of me going off.

Round 2 – Another Chris

Oh crap. I’m in the 1-0 bracket. This can’t be good.

Game 1 – On the Draw

I mulligan a hand with neither Squandered or Bloom. I keep a decent hand with a Squandered that will need a few draw steps to get there. My opponent reveals that he is playing UW CounterTop. Dear, sweet lord. According to my match notes, he countered every Squandered, I never drew a Bloom and he killed me.

Game 2 – On the Play

I board in Explosives, another Veil and a Wipe Away. At this point, I’ve realized that Nature’s Claim is terrible for ProsBloom and don’t even bother. He resolves Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top. And I learn that this is significantly less scary than a Batterskull. Which seems odd for a combo deck. At any rate, I craft a situation where I pull out an Autumn’s Veil through his lock, by responding to him drawing with Top with a second Veil. I then proceed to go off and lethal him with Banefire.

Game 3 – On the Draw

I mess up and use up the third counter on my Gemstone Mine. He figures it out, hits it with Surgical Extraction, I don’t have Pact of Negation in hand and that’s all she wrote. I can’t make red mana for Banefire without at least one Gemstone. What did I learn? Cut Infernal Tutor and play a single Manamorphose. The Tutor just doesn’t work and generating red mana from the hand is a nice plan B to Exploring out a Mine. Yes, I have actually optimized this deck, though it’s all within the constraints of the original strategy. Always go deep.

Round 3 – Kiyan

Picking up a loss made me significantly more confident in my ability to at least win two rounds and claim a small prize. Not as confident as being 2-0 would have made me (note: 100% confident), but it’s something.

Game 1 – On the Play

After playing a land and passing, Kiyan hits me with Inquisition of Kozilek off a fetch for Underground Sea. This ought to be fun. Not playing against discard, but just watching him read my cards. I spread out my hand and he mouths the following letters, silently: W. T. F.

Mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, Kiyan takes a Squandered Resources. That was the correct choice. I don’t find a replacement copy on my turn, so I ship it back into a Stoneforge Mystic for a Batterskull. I take another discard spell and am pretty much unable to rebuild. After the second hit from the massive germ token, I scoop. I can beat a single four point life swing, but not two of them.

Game 2 – On the Play

He goes for a turn two Stoneforge into the ‘skull. I had Squandered out, but no Natural Balance and therefore could not go off as fast as I needed. Note to self: ProsBloom has issues with fast life gain cards. Especially when backed by discard.

Round 4 – Jorge Chang

I check the pairings and find out that I will be battling the final round at 1-2 against friend and teammate Jorge (@Jorke55o). Not only did I help Jorge build his Athens Blue deck, but I even helped him improve his sideboard earlier in the day. However, knowing that Energy Field can’t stop Banefire and that I can win through a CounterTop lock, I thought it could be a lot worse. Also, I love finishing the day out against Jorge because we both usually spend as much time laughing as playing.

Game 1 – On the Play

Okay, so first Jorge punts the game. I don’t realize it. Then I punt the game and he kills me slowly with a single Trinket Mage. I’m one of those poor people who gets worn down by long-run exposure to large crowds of people. At this point, I could claim that the record attendance plus all the rail birds were starting to get to me. But, no, it was just me being dumb. After Jorge was dumb. At least I was dumb last.

What happened was that Jorge fetched a Pithing Needle with his Trinket Mage, resolved it against Squandered Resources and I couldn’t get a Cadaverous Bloom to stick around Spell Pierce and died.

Now, those of you who are smarter than me are screaming at your LCD: “Needle can’t stop mana sources, you idiot!”

Live and learn.

Game 2 – On the Play

Staring at my sideboard, I realize that Jorge’s low pressure makes him quite reliant on the CounterTop lock. Against most decks where pressure is an issue, Energy Field gives MUC nearly infinite time to make the opponent irrelevant and win leisurely. But since he can’t rely on Energy Field, I can actually play draw, land, go for a while, bait out counters with card draw and try to set up inevitability. So that’s the plan.

I board accordingly: removing Natural Balance 1-3 for Veil, Explosives and Wipe Away.

The game played out exactly as I had expected. Jorge assembles CounterTop while I play out lands. Eventually, when I notice that he’s topping for land and unlikely to have a three drop on top, I end step Wipe Away on his Counterbalance. I then untap, resolve Cadaverous Bloom and go off without Squandered Resources.

I felt like a boss for figuring the match out.

Game 3 – On the Draw

I think by this point I was exhausted. My match notes consist of entirely life totals. Here’s what I remember:

  • Jorge tries to needle Squandered. Since we previously lived and learned, this doesn’t work.
  • I play a similar plan of hitting land drops and focusing the entire game on keeping a full hand via Meditate and looking for the opportunity to resolve Bloom via a Veil or just pushing through counters.
In the end, I get to watch the light in Jorge’s eyes die out as I offer a lethal Banefire.

Getting There

I end up the Legacy Challenge with a 2-2 record. This qualifies me for a prize: a single booster pack of M13. Never in my Magic career have I been more proud of a win. I walked around for a bit with the booster pack showing it to my local friends who were super excited to see me playing ProsBloom for their entertainment. There was some amount of incredulous disbelief, but an exponentially larger amount of high fives (not even counting David Gearhart, who uses high fives the way most people use commas in a sentence).

And I realized something else. My Legacy funk was over. Jamie had the medicine: relax, have fun and get excited again. That was precisely what I needed. I met up with BBD (@braunduinit) to check on his Standard progress. BBD is an expert on The Fire. He was gracious enough to feed me a BUG list that looks right up my alley. So while I’m shelving ProsBloom, I’m sticking like a BUG to my favorite wedge colors for a while.

BLOOM. Head shot.


I’ll leave you with one last bit of value. If you ever decide that you don’t like money and you want to get rid of some, here’s the updated, optimized, unstoppable deck list:

Good luck. May you never play against Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Qasali Pridemage, Gaddock Teeg, Surgical Extraction, Extirpate, Batterskull, Leyline of Sanctity… you get the idea.

Justin D-Z
@justin_dz

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