This is the 2nd article in my series for how to level up in legacy. In the 1st article I go over my process and explain what I have done to level up my play. In this article I will explain how I prepared for the MOCS Qualifier and give you a detailed tournament report.
I qualified by getting a Top 8 in the first Showcase Challenge of the season. This took place in early June 2021. This was just 1 week after the release of MH2 and I expected Delver and Affinity to be popular. I didn’t worry too much about Affinity as they seemed weak to Tabernacle, Punishing Fire, Force of Vigor and Marit Lage. Delver, however, was already the best deck prior to MH2 and I only expected it to get better. Prior to MH2 UR Delver was actually quite tricky as they had slowed down and added more cards that could give them card advantage such as the Spellbelly and Expressive Iterations. But more importantly they respected Marit Lage. I saw multiple copies of Petty Theft main and they had both Karakas and Submerges in their sideboard. In order to combat this version of UR Delver, me and the Italian Lands master fmessina started adding Shifting Ceratops to our sideboard. Ceratops was uncounterable and it could be cast on curve with no fear for Daze. It roadblocked all their creatures and didn’t die to Bolt nor Submerge. It also killed quickly if we decided to turn it sideways. MH2 introduced Endurance and the card seemed sweet as a way to improve Doomsday and turn 0 graveyard decks, and it could also be brought in vs Delver. I had a feeling that the Delver decks would adopt Ragavan and possibly also Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Ceratop’s pro blue felt less relevant. I added 2 Endurance to my sideboard but kept 1 Ceratops.
The event played out like I had expected but it didn’t start well. I won over Affinity in round 1 but then I lost in round 2 to something that I cannot remember right now. In round 3 I am paired against Doomsday and I feel “ok this tournament is over”. But I actually managed to win this match as my opponent messed up a Doomsday pile in game 2. I then go ahead and beat 3 UR Delver decks in a row and I also smash Death & Taxes. In my final “win and in” I am paired against UR Delver again and I win that one 2-0 and advance to the Top 8. I instantly lost in the Top 8 to Sam Rolph (Phil_Hellmuth) on UR Delver, but I didn’t care too much about this at the time. It was late, I was tired, and I didn’t really play my most focused games. This is something that happens to me quite often though. I tend to lose focus once I have reached my goal. I had played super tight in the “win and in” but then in the quarters I kept a risky hand and lost to a Wasteland. I think this is something I can improve going forward.
I got promoted at work right after the Showcase Challenge and I didn’t really play any magic in June. I did follow the online meta though, and I saw that Bant Control was putting up good results in Challenges. Bant Control looked good against Delver, but it also looked good against Lands. Prismatic Ending could answer Exploration, Sylvan Library, and Valakut Exploration, and their main deck Endurance seemed like a pain to play against. They also had 2 copies of Force of Vigor in their sideboards and this card is devastating to play against for Lands. I was worried that Bant Control would take over the meta and I decided to dive deep into this archetype in order to figure out how to combat it. I therefore wrote this article on Lands vs Control. Some people in the Lands discord argued that Prismatic Ending made Sylvan Library bad and that we should swap these for Urza’s Saga. I didn’t agree with this logic. I have played several hundred matches against Snowko, and they played 3-4 Abrupt Decay, and I never felt that Sylvan Library was bad against Snowko just because they had answers to it. In fact Library was one of the best cards against Snowko, and I was confident that it would be one of the best cards against Bant Control as well. I played a few matches against Bant in the first week of July and the matchup was not as bad as I had feared. Their mana was shaky and this made the deck feel easier compared to UWx decks of past metas. It also turned out that Bant wouldn’t take over the Legacy metagame. Instead a portion of the Delver decks morphed into Jeskai decks (some with Urza’s Saga and some with Monastery Mentor) and these decks were able to put up a fight against Bant Control. The Jeskai decks seemed like fine matchups for Lands but I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t played against them. I hadn’t played much against Delver in Leagues either (as it seems like that deck is too expensive for players to play in Leagues). I decided to do some dedicated testing against these decks before the event.
In order to figure out what other decks that would be popular in the MOCS Qualifier I created a spreadsheet where I wrote down all players that had qualified and their expected deck.
UR Delver (35%)
I had 9 out of 26 opponents on UR Delver but I was unsure how many of these would swap to something like Jeskai Saga.
|2021-06-06||Phil_Hellmuth||UR Delver||Jeskai, Lands|
|2021-07-18||Tristanjwl||UR Delver||Delverless, Jeskai|
|2021-09-10||Nonbo||UR Delver||Sneak & Show, Bant Control|
Non-Blue Midrange (30%)
I had 8 out of 26 opponents on non-blue midrange decks but interesting enough only two of these were on actual Death & Taxes. It seemed like GW Depths (or even Lands) could be more popular than Taxes.
|2021-06-06||matyo804||Death & Taxes||Jeskai, Lands|
|2021-06-06||RNGspecialist||Affinity||RUG Delver, Snowko|
|2021-08-08||yawgmothpt||Death & Taxes|
I had 3 out of 26 opponents on control decks.
|2021-07-18||McWinSauce||Bant Control||Jeskai Balance|
I had 6 out of 26 opponents on combo but only 4 were on spell based combo and the remaining 2 were on Hogaak (this is a good matchup for Lands).
|2021-08-08||klashback||Sneak & Show|
I started playing MODO again during my summer holiday in July. I tested various Lands lists in Leagues. I played a white splash for Prismatic Ending, and a blue splash for Engineered Explosives and Flusterstorm, but they all felt worse compared to normal RG. There is a real cost of adding the 3rd color as this means that we have to cut some utility lands such as Urza’s Saga and Ancient Tomb. I also tested various lists with 3-4 Urza’s Saga but I didn’t like them. As we got closer to the event I started focusing on an RG list with 1 Urza’s Saga (it’s primarily for the Bant matchup, but it also makes our deck less linear). Thomas Mechin went 5-2 in a challenge, with an RG list with 3 Maze of Ith and 0 Elvish Reclaimers, the week before the event. He told me that Maze had been very good for him and I agreed that they looked well positioned in a meta filled with Murktides and Kaldra Compleat. I figured that I would play something similar to his list, and this is also what I tested in the final week up to the event.
Jeskai and UR Delver vs Gul Dukat
I contacted Daniel (Gul_Dukat) on Twitter and asked if he could coach me for this event. I said that I wanted to discuss how I should approach the Jeskai and UR decks and I also wanted to get some practice games in. We talked about the pros and cons for Jeskai vs UR and he told me that he liked the idea of Jeskai as Swords to Plowshares is good against Murktide. But he also said that the UR shell is very tuned and the Jeskai lists were still experimental and he didn’t think that there was a consensus among Delver players on what version that is best. We also discussed the pros and cons of playing Maze vs Elf vs Bolt (more about this further down).
We then played some games where I was on the 3 Maze list. I explained that I was nervous to play against these decks on the draw as I felt that Ragavan would invalidate a big portion of my deck (all Wastelands and Ports). I felt especially nervous to play against Jeskai as their Sword to Plowshares also invalidates Dark Depths and it felt like I could have a hard time executing a consistent gameplan vs these decks. We therefore decided that I should be on the draw in all games to get a better feel for how this played out. In the first match he was on Jeskai and he started with Ragavan on turn 1. Ragavan hits me 3-5 times before I am able to find a Maze to stop him. At this point Daniel also has Young Pyromancer but I have Tabernacle and I never feel pressured. I end up destroying all his lands and eventually win. In game 2 I also manage to destroy all Daniel’s lands. This matchup actually didn’t feel bad for lands. I felt like I had a lot more time then I would have had against Delver and their mana felt super shaky.
We then played 5 games of Lands vs UR Delver, and Daniel had Ragavan on turn 1 in 4 of these. I went 1-4 in these games but Daniel assured me that his hands had been above average and that it would feel much easier on Sunday. There was one game in particular that stuck with me though. Daniel opened with Volcanic Island into Ragavan and my hand had Karakas, Forest, Maze, Exploration and some other cards. I decided to play around Daze and I therefore started with Karakas. Daniel finds a Wasteland for my Karakas, I bounce his Ragavan in response, and he replays it. On my next turn I decide to play conservatively again and I play out Maze instead of Exploration. I end up falling even further behind and when Daniel finds another Wasteland the game is over. The key to winning over Delver with Lands was always to get ahead on mana early and this game showed me that this is perhaps even more true now then ever. Current versions of UR Delver are low to the ground and Ragavan accelerates them into hyperspeed. In my opinion the best card in the Lands deck against Delver is Mox Diamond, and a starting hand with Mox feels much more likely to win then one without it. Similarly the best card on the Delver side is Wasteland. Given that it’s so important to get ahead on mana then I think playing Maze instead of Exploration is wrong in this example. If I had played Forest into Exploration and have had it Dazed then Daniel would have 2 mana and I would have 1 on his following then. He is +1 on mana vs me. However, if I just play Maze then Daniel can play another land and he is now +2 on mana vs me. So if we purely look at mana advantage then it’s actually better to take a hit with Ragavan then to lead with Maze of Ith.
Death & Taxes vs Eron Relentless
As you have seen above I expected non-blue midrange to be the 2nd most popular archetype in the tournament. I asked EronRelentless if we could play the matchup and he said yes. We played 3 preboard and 3 postboard games of Lands vs Death & Taxes and it went well for me. I was happy for the 3rd Maze as it’s so strong vs Kaldra. I think I won all preboard games and most postboard games. I did lose a game to Prelate on 2 and we talked about if I should play some one mana removal such as Lightning Bolt. I felt that it wasn’t really needed because as long as I could control Vial then Prelate would come down too late for it to matter.
GW Depths vs DougesOnTwitch
I was a bit nervous about playing against GW Depths so I reached out to DougesOnTwitch and asked him to get some practice games in. He recorded the games and they can be found here. I have played a lot against Maverick and I am comfortable playing against them because in this matchup I am often able to pressure their mana early and when KoTR finally hits the table I will already be too far ahead. I think this is harder to do against GW Depths because Mox Diamond is a much more reliable mana acceleration compared to something like Birds of Paradise. They also play Crop Rotation and this makes our Wastelands worse. We played 6 games and I lost all of them. To be fair the games were closer than the result shows, and I definitely messed up in a few games where I was ahead. But nonetheless I felt like I needed a better plan against this deck.
My List for the Event
I played a League with an RGw list with a removal suite of 2 Prismatic Ending, 1 Lightning Bolt and 2 Punishing Fire the day before the event. This is about as much removal as you can fit into a Lands deck, and I had to cut Elvish Reclaimers to make room. I wanted Endings as a way to answer Mox Diamond, KoTR and Sylvan Library from GW Depths, and they could also hit Aether Vial and Ragavan from other decks. I went 5-0 in the League and I won over both Death & Taxes and Esper Vial on the way. I did however have some issues casting Ending (it was awkward at times that it was a Sorcery and I also missed white mana on 1-2 occasions). I decided that I didn’t want to run a 3 color deck and I therefore built another version of this reactive Lands deck that had a removal suite of 2 Lightning Bolts and 2 Punishing Fire. This is the difference between the two decks that I considered for the event.
|Reactive Lands||Proactive Lands|
|Removal: 2 Bolt, 2 Punishing Fire||Removal: 3 Punishing Fire, 2 Elvish Reclaimer|
|Engines: 4 Valakut Exploration||Engines: 3 Valakut Exploration|
|Mana Acceleration: Ancient Tomb||Mana Acceleration: Yavimaya|
|Sideboard: 2 Endurance, 1 Revoker||Sideboard: 3 Endurance|
I figured that the reactive approach would be better against Death & Taxes, Storm and Show & Tell but worse against everything else. In my testing against GW Depths I had found that Punishing Fire was good as long as I could control their graveyard. They have 2 copies of Steppe so non-recursive removal is not good against that deck. Reclaimer and Endurance are very strong at controlling their yard and I figured that my Punishing Fires would be excellent combined with these cards. I have also found that GW Depths players will be very aggressive with their Sylvan Libraries and I wanted to play creatures that could punish this. Douges also told me that he sided out 2 Swords to Plowshares against Lands and I figured that this made the Reclaimer and Endurance plan even better.
I liked the idea of being proactive vs Depths but the matchup where Reclaimer really shines is against UR Delver. Delver decks play up to twelve 1 mana creatures and this makes non-recursive spot removal worse against them. Sure, we can kill their first Ragavan with Lightning Bolt but they can just play another one. If we instead have a 3/4 Elf in play then all their Ragavans (the one in play and the ones in hand) are dead. Reclaimer also helps find Dark Depths that are at an all time high against Delver decks right now (especially in game 1).
There were only 1 Storm player and 2 Show & Tell players qualified and I was hoping that they would be paired against a Delver deck in round 1. This way I wouldn’t have to worry about them if I won my first round. The other combo decks that had qualified were 1 Doomsday and 2 Hogaak decks and I figured that Elvish Reclaimer and Endurance would be strong there.
You can find my actual decklist here, and I had prepared the following sideboard map for the event.
The MOCS Qualifier
I woke up pretty early and went for a run. It was the Ironman in Copenhagen that day and I kind of ended up in the middle of this. I had a lot of energy when I came home so I cleaned my apartment and then took my family out for lunch. I wanted to enjoy time with them instead of going around all day being nervous for the event that would happen in the evening. We went out shopping for toys after lunch and we came home just about 30 minutes before the event started. I sat down in front of the computer, and I closed my eyes when round 1 started and thought to myself “please be UR Delver and please let me win the dieroll”.
Sidenote. I have recorded some of my replays and added audio commentary. These games are added to my YouTube channel. I want to give you a warning that the audio quality is not good. Also, my computer lagged when I tried to watch some replays and I decided not to record all games as it was too cumbersome.
Round 1: UR Delver (Nonbo) 2-1
My Jedi powers seem to have worked as I got paired against Nonbo, on UR Delver, and I won the dieroll. Game 1 gets very interesting because they have Brazen Borrower for my early Marit Lage. I instantly find Life from the Loam and make the 20/20 again but I also make a misplay and attack with Marit Lage into their Murktide Regent (forgetting that they can flash in Borrower to block). Nonbo kills me on the following turn as they cast another Murktide to grow their first one into lethal damage.
In game 2 I mulligan to a hand with Mox Diamond (best card in this matchup), Life from the Loam, Punishing Fire and Endurance. My opponent has a slow hand with turn 1 Ponder. A bit later they cast Dragon’s Rage Channeler (DRC) and I tried to kill it with Punishing Fire but they cast Brainstorm in response and that turns the DRC into a 3/3. They are stuck on 2 lands though and I start to dredge Loam and find Wasteland and Maze of Ith. After this the game is virtually over and they concede after a few turns of me having all the fun.
In game 3 I keep a slow hand that can make Marit Lage on turn 4. I keep it because I also have Crop Rotation and Pyroblast. They start with DRC on turn 1 but they are stuck on 1 land. I manage to exhaust all cards in their hand as they use Force on my Crop Rotation and Reclaimer. They also use a Surgical Extraction on my Punishing Fire. At this point they only have a few cards left in hand and I manage to create Marit Lage with Pyroblast backup for their Brazen Borrower.
Round 2: UR Delver (nathansteuer) 2-1
So far everything goes according to plan as most of the combo pilots lose their 1st round and I get paired against nathansteuer, also on UR Delver, in round 2. I lose the dieroll and Nathan starts on Steam Vents into Ragavan. I have mulliganed a slow hand, and my new hand contains Exploration, Elvish Reclaimer, Sylvan Library, Grove, Rishadan Port, and Yavimaya. I draw Dark Depths and try to get a quick start but my Exploration gets countered by Force of Will. Ragavan connects and flips a Sylvan Library that Nathan casts. On my second turn I play out Depths and cast Sylvan Library which resolves. My idea is to find a Stage and create Marit Lage on the following turn but Nathan finds a Wasteland and destroys my Yavimaya. I fall way too far behind on mana and lose this game. In hindsight it was a bit risky to play Depths on my second turn (instead of a land that can produce mana on its own) but it also shows that Wasteland really is the best card from the current versions of UR Delver vs Lands.
In game 2 I have a very explosive hand with 2 Mox Diamonds, Reclaimer, Pyroblast and 3 lands (one of them is a fetch). I get to resolve a 3/4 Reclaimer on turn 1 as my Pyroblast counters Nathan’s Force of Will. Nathan leads on Volcanic Island and DRC. I draw Dark Depths and manage to create Marit Lage that the DRC is forced to attack into.
In game 3 I mulligan a slow hand and my new hand is Yavimaya, Maze of Ith, Exploration, Reclaimer and 2xCrop Rotation. Nathan leads on Volcanic Island and DRC again. I draw a fetch and find a Forest and try to cast Exploration but it gets Dazed. I am not too sad about this exchange because in practice we have now swapped the Play / Draw in this game. Nathan casts Ragavan on their 2nd turn, and on my 2nd turn I cast Reclaimer before playing a land, hoping that Nathan will Daze it so that I can Crop Rotate for Tabernacle, but it resolves. I then play out my Maze of Ith. Nathan is still stuck on 1 land and passes the turn back to me. I draw Mox Diamond for the turn. I now do a series of plays that I end up getting omega punished for but I don’t think they were necessarily wrong. I play out Yavimaya and then use Reclaimer to swap my Forest for a Tabernacle. Nathan lets both his creatures die in his upkeep and then casts Ponder to find Wasteland for my Yavimaya. I cast Crop Rotation in response but Nathan has another Daze. I went from having 3 mana to 0, as I am left with Maze of Ith and Tabernacle in play, and my Reclaimer dies in my upkeep.
I have thought about this play afterwards because it really felt heartbreaking but I don’t think my usage of Reclaimer was bad. If I get to untap then I have basically won this game. Nathan had failed to find a land the last couple of turns so I knew that he didn’t have another land (certainly not a Wasteland). I also had Crop Rotation for a potential top decked Wasteland from Nathan’s side and I only get omega punished because he has Wasteland and Daze. I think playing out Yavimaya instead of Mox Diamond may have been wrong though. If I could go back and replay this game then I may have cast Mox Diamond and used Crop Rotation to turn my Maze into a Tabernacle. This way I would have been less susceptible to Wasteland and I would have had Pyroblast for a potential counterspell on Crop Rotation. It also surprised me that Nathan would let both his creatures die so he could Ponder for a Wasteland. I had not seen this line coming and it was very clever of him.
Anyways, after this pretty brutal turn the game ends up in a top deck mode, and we are eventually in this situation.
Nathan has 1 card left in hand so I know that he cannot have Force of Will, but he can have Daze. I decide that I am not favoured to win this game if it drags out, as my life total is getting low, and if Nathan finds a Wasteland then I am in a really bad spot. I therefore Crop away my Maze in Nathan’s end step (for a land that can produce mana). I hope to draw another land so that I can cast Choke and pay for a potential Daze. Unfortunately I don’t draw a land but I slam Choke anyways and it resolves.
Round 3: Death & Taxes (Phil_Hellmuth) 2-0
In round 3 I am paired against Sam Rolph (Phil_Hellmuth) and I believe that he is on UR Delver. I win the dieroll and I get a bit surprised when Sam reveals Yurion as his companion. He is clearly not on Delver but on Death & Taxes. In game 1 Sam mulligans to 6 and I keep a very explosive hand with Exploration, Crop Rotation, Punishing Fire, Yavimaya, Saga, and 2xWasteland. My idea with this hand is to Crop Rotate for Grove and control his board with Punishing Fire and develop my own board with Urza’s Saga. He manages to get Kaldra Compleat down via Stoneforge Mystic but that doesn’t matter as I find Valakut Exploration and Life from the Loam to run him over in card advantage.
Sam mulligans to 5 in game 2 and I have another very strong hand with 2xMox Diamond and Life from the Loam as well as Crop Rotation. He gets stuck on one land but manages to find an Aether Vial. I destroy the Vial with Blast Zone (that I find with my Crop Rotation). After this turn I have the game under control as he has no real board and I am tapping his land on every upkeep. At some point Sam plays out an Urza’s Saga and I copy it with Stage and then he concedes.
Round 4: Goblins (Caedyrn) 2-0
I am paired against Eli Goings (Caedyrn) on Goblins. This match is not super interesting as I have very good hands in both games and Eli has bad / medium hands. In game 1 I can make a turn 2 Marit Lage but I cast Sylvan Library instead as I try to play around Karakas for some reason. This was a bit lose but it didn’t really matter as I was so far ahead already.
Eli mulligans aggressively in G2, and he has a hand with Goblin Lackey but it lines up poorly against my hand of Mox Diamond and Elvish Reclaimer and Maze of Ith. I also have Tabernacle and Life from the Loam and this is too much for the Goblins deck to handle.
This wraps up a dream start of 4-0, and I am locked for Top 8 going into the final round.
Round 5: Jeskai Saga (burrarun) 1-2
In the final round of the swiss I am paired against burrarun and I lose the dieroll. I had them on Bant Control but it turns out they were on Jeskai Saga. My starting hand is good vs a control deck as I have both Sylvan Library and Valakut Exploration. They use Prismatic Ending to destroy my Exploration and then Force my Sylvan Library. On their 3rd turn they play out Urza’s Saga and pass the turn back to me. I jam my Valakut Exploration right into a Daze and feel a bit stupid. I try to copy Saga with Stage on the following turn but they have a Stifle. I am worried that they will find Pithing Needle (and name Stage) with Saga’s 3:rd chapter but they go for Soul-Guide Lantern instead. I draw Dark Depths and can kill them without even using the Crop Rotation that I have had in my hand since the beginning of the game.
My hand in game 2 is also really good as I have both Exploration and Valakut Exploration as well as Wasteland and Crop Rotation. They destroy my Exploration with Ending again and I draw Sylvan Library that resolves on T2. I then Wasteland them in their upkeep but they have a Stifle. They also find an Alpine Moon (naming Stage) with Brainstorm. On my next turn I play out Valakut instead of Wastelanding them and they follow up with a 6/6 Murktide Regent. I find another Valakut and I destroy their Tundra with Wasteland. They play out Urza’s Saga and attack me down to 14. I feel like I have the game under control with Sylvan Library and 2 Valakut Explorations in play (and Crop Rotation in hand). My top 3 cards are bad and I play out Rishadan Port and tap their Saga in their upkeep. They play out a Wasteland and attack me down to 8. I find Loam and get back some Wastelands and try to destroy their Saga but they have another Stifle. They attack me on their turn and I cast Crop Rotation looking for a Maze but their final 2 cards are Force of Will and a blue card. They also Wasteland my only red source and I cannot kill their Murktide with the Pyroblast that I find off the Library in my last turn alive.
In game 3 I keep a hand that can make a turn 2 Marit Lage. They force me to activate Stage with a Wasteland and then play out Karakas to bounce my token. I top deck Life from the Loam but they have Force of Negation. This game ends up in a top deck war that I lose, because they draw more lands than me, and can resolve Narset and Brainstorm to find more action.
Quarters: Goblins (Caedyrn) 2-0
I am playing against Eli again and I unfortunately lose the dieroll this time. Both of us mulligan to 6 and my hand is a bit slow but I have Elvish Reclaimer and the Dark Depths combo as well as Life from the Loam. Eli does not have a T1 play and that surprised me a bit. I cast Elvish Reclaimer and he plays out Rishadan Port and casts Goblin Piledriver, and on his 3:rd turn he plays Wasteland and casts Goblin Cratermaker. I play Tabernacle trying to slow him down and he attacks me down to 14. I then use Reclaimer to get Tabernacle to my graveyard. I get another Stage with Reclaimer. My idea was to copy his Wasteland but this is a mistake, I should just have gotten Wasteland myself. Eli kills my Reclaimer with Cratermaker. On the next few turns Eli casts Goblin Lackey and Matron to find Muxus. He Wasteland my Maze and connects with Lackey. Muxus reveals 4 goblins. I feel pretty dead facing down all these goblins. But luckily Eli does not have one of the Goblins that can give him reach and I use Loam to get back Tabernacle. I actually manage to summon a Marit Lage and kill Eli when I am at 4 life.
I felt pretty dead at this point of the game.
Game 2 is one of these classic Lands vs Goblins games. I have Exploration, Grove and Punishing Fire, and I destroy his early board and then resolve Valakut Exploration and Sylvan Library to start pulling ahead. Eli finds a Relic of Progenitus but it doesn’t really matter as the damage of multiple Punishing Fires is already done.
Semi: UR Delver (nathansteuer) 2-0
Another rematch against nathansteuer on UR Delver and I lose the dieroll again. In game 1 my first hand has no green mana. I mulligan to a good hand that has Karakas for Ragavan and a potential T3 Marit Lage thanks to Mox Diamond. My hand also has Sylvan Library. Nathan starts with Volcanic Island into Ragavan and I play Karakas and pass. Nathan has Wasteland and I bounce his Ragavan in response. Nathan then recast the Ragavan. On my 2nd turn I cast Mox Diamond and Sylvan Library that hits a Daze. Ragavan connects and Nathan also casts Delver of Secrets. But luckily for me Nathan cannot find another Wasteland and I make a Marit Lage that carries this game home.
In game 2 Nathan mulligans to 6 and starts with Volcanic Island into Ragavan again. My turn 1 Exploration resolves and I play out a Maze of Ith. Nathan casts Ponder but does not find a Wasteland. He also casts Delver of Secrets. My hand lines up really well against his board as I have Punishing Fire, Red Elemental Blasts and Bast Zone. Nathan gets all my Punishing Fires with Surgical Extraction but this doesn’t really matter. He concedes when it’s obvious that he will not have any more lands in play.
Finals: Death & Taxes (Phil_Hellmuth) 0-2
I win the dieroll and my opponent mulligans down to 5 cards. I feel pretty confident as I have kept the hand shown below. This hand has a lot of removal plus Valakut Exploration to pull ahead, but it is missing a way to control their mana (Rishadan Port or Crop Rotation for Tabernacle would have made this hand an all star).
I play out Mox Diamond with the intention to Punishing Fire whatever Sam plays (in this case it was Mother of Runes) and then slam Valakut Exploration on turn 2. On my next two turns I draw a few blanks (Taiga and Stage) and on my third turn we are in this spot. I chose to fetch here hoping to flip Exploration or Crop Rotation to really start pulling ahead but I brick.
On Sam’s turn I bounce Thalia with Karakas, and he casts Skyclave to destroy my Valakut Exploration. I draw a Wasteland, and he draws an Aether Vial, and we are now in the following situation.
My next draw is a Sylvan Library and I feel like I have the chance to pull ahead again. Sylvan Library reveals Urza’s Saga, Punishing Fire and Maze of Ith. I decide to pay 4 life and go down to 11 keeping Saga and Fire. I play out Urza’s Saga and keep Fire in my hand. Sam attacks with Skyclave, I kill it with Punishing Fire, and I also copy Saga with Stage. My idea here is to grind Sam down with multiple Constructs. After the attack Sam casts Recruiter and finds Stoneforge Mystic. My top 3 cards are now all lands (no Grove). I play out Maze of Ith and attack with my token. Sam vials in Stoneforge Mystic and finds Kaldra Compleat on my end step. On the following turn he destroys my Maze with Field of Ruin and attacks me with Kaldra. I create a chump blocker with Saga but I still take 3 damage due to trample. My next 3 cards are kind of blanks again (Reclaimer and two lands) and I play out Reclaimer and make another Construct before my Saga kills itself. This means that our board looks like this.
Things go south from here as Sam vials in Flickerwisp and flickers Recruiter and finds Palace Jailer. He also casts Sanctum Prelate and the game is over.
I feel a bit empty after this game. My hand was good and Sam had mulliganed to 5 but I still managed to lose. This game really demonstrates how important it is to control your Death & Taxes opponent’s mana. If they get going then they can easily grind through Sylvan Library and Urza’s Saga. I like how I approached the first half of this game, and I was unlucky not to find a way to attack their mana, or an Exploration to really pull ahead with my Valakut Exploration. But I also think that I might have chosen the wrong strategy on the turn where I played out Saga and copied it with Stage. I tried to take the aggressive role here and it might have been better to take a more defensive role (as I had Sylvan Library in play). I could for example have played out Maze instead of Saga and copied that with Stage. I could also have used Blast Zone to destroy Aether Vial on a few occasions but I wanted to save it for a potential Prelate.
In game 2 my hand was also good, as can be seen below, and I started the game by casting Mox Diamond (pitching Tabernacle) and Sylvan Library. Sam also has a good hand with a turn 1 Aether Vial.
I was hoping to find a land in my top 3 cards to cast Valakut Exploration on my 2nd turn but my top 3 cards are Sylvan Library, Life from the Loam and Crop Rotation. I picked up Loam and used my Crop Rotation to swap Taiga for a Rishadan Port and then cast Loam to get back Taiga and Tabernacle. I finally played out Taiga and cast Reclaimer. Sam plays Rishadan Port and casts another Vial and in my 3rd upkeep we are in the following spot.
I chose to not dredge Loam here as I am hoping to find Force of Vigor and start attacking Sam’s mana. My top 3 cards are Urza’s Saga, Wooded Foothills and another Life from the Loam. I cast Valakut Exploration followed by Urza’s Saga and then pass the turn. Sam now Wastelands my Saga and then port me in my upkeep. I use Reclaimer to fetch Blast Zone in response and my top 3 cards are blank again. If I can survive to the next turn then I should be able to destroy both Vials with my Blast Zone and be in a good position. Unfortunately Sam Vials in Sanctum’s Prelate (naming 2 of course) and then use another Wasteland to destroy my Blast Zone. This game quickly goes south from here as I am not able to destroy the Aether Vials and I cannot cast my spells. I end up losing to the following boardstate.
I am living proof that it’s possible to compete with the best online grinders even if you don’t have unlimited time to devote to magic. You have to be willing to put in the work and get the basics right though, and you also have to focus (pick a format and a deck). I hope that these two articles have given you the tools to level up in your magic skills. You are always welcome to join the Lands discord if you want more advice from me.
I also want to stress that a big part of leveling up means lowering the number of mistakes that you make in a tournament. I am often approached by good Lands players asking for advice on certain matchups, but when I write matchup guides these players often find that they already know everything that I write. If you are in this position then you have all the tools needed to be very competitive and what is missing is “just” to play better in high stake tournaments (this is of course much harder than it sounds). For me the key was getting more reps in against good players as this was a way to grow my confidence.
Let’s give this story the fairytale ending that it deserves. I received the following email from WoTC the day after the event. I guess that I have managed to qualify for the “Pro Tour” playing Legacy Lands. If someone would have told this to 11 year old Albert with his 8 Stone Rain deck then he would not have believed you. It’s still hard to believe honestly.