AZ Masters Series Report by Anthony Rivera

Anthony Rivera here, winner of the 2020/21 AZ Legacy Masters Series. Before saying anything else, I would love to thank the stores and the tournament organizers for the series, as putting on any event while having to navigate the last two years is a massive undertaking. The series was very impressive, considering it was organized by a small group of guys in their free time.  

The List: 

MTG Goldfish link

RG Lands

4 Exploration 
3 Punishing Fire 
4 Life from the Loam 
4 Mox Diamond 
4 Crop Rotation 
3 Expedition Map 
1 Pyrite Spellbomb 
1 Pithing Needle 
1 Shadowspear 
4 Thespian’s Stage 
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale 
4 Wasteland 
3 Grove of the Burnwillows 
3 Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth 
4 Urza’s Saga 
1 Maze of Ith 

2 Taiga 
3 Rishadan Port 
3 Dark Depths 
1 Ghost Quarter 
1 Blast Zone 
1 Forest 
1 Wooded Foothills 
1 Ancient Tomb 
1 Bojuka Bog 
1 Karakas 

Sideboard: 
2 Choke 
3 Endurance 
3 Pyroblast 
3 Force of Vigor 
4 Sphere of Resistance 

Card Choices: 

3 Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth: I want as many free wins as possible. I also want a shooter’s chance against any combo deck in the format. Playing three copies of Yavimaya first and foremost gives you way more natural turn three 20/20s. Also, the extra green mana opens up turns where you can cast multiple Crop Rotations to combo off out of nowhere. With so many colorless and non-mana producing lands in the deck, I pretty much always want one copy of Yavimaya on the field, especially with Endurance out of the sideboard.  

3 Rishadan Port, 1 Ghost Quarter: I want to be able to disrupt any deck in the format. Rishadan Port is not something that Cloudpost or Bant players are expecting to play against these days. Additionally, firing off a fast Urza’s Saga and then using Rishadan Port or Wasteland to make sure that the opponent can’t answer the constructs is a very solid game plan in fair matchups.  

3 Expedition Map: The Ragavan/Daze decks are very susceptible to specific lands. At any given point, you are going to want Tabernacle, Karakas, Bojuka Bog, Maze of Ith, or Wasteland. These cards allow you to make it into the midgame, when our chance of winning sharply increases. When we sideboard, playing multiple copies of Expedition Map allows us to take out the Crop Rotations against the Force of Will/Daze decks while still allowing us access to direct tutoring. Finally, playing multiple copies of Expedition Map allows us to chain Urza’s Sagas without relying on Life from the Loam (and thus the graveyard).  

1 Ancient Tomb: Casting a turn one Sphere of Resistance is our best plan against most combo decks, and I want to mulligan less and increase my chance of having a second turn.  

1 Shadowspear: This card is insane, and 21/21 creatures with lifelink and trample are also insane. 

1 Pithing Needle: This is the ultimate answer to Aether Vial, equipment, Griselbrand, fetchlands, planeswalkers, and Wastelands—the list goes on. The card is extremely powerful in game one, when the effect is not usually expected. Its most common use is to name opposing Wastelands so we can run amok with our lands without fear of harassment.  

The goal of this list is to be aggressive and play to the board quickly. I am not running any card draw or card advantage engines outside of Life from the Loam. I’m relying on Loam to be enough when I need to grind and Urza’s Saga to be enough when Loam is answered.  

All this flows into the sideboard, with Endurance as a turn zero answer to graveyard and Thassa’s Oracle decks, Force of Vigor as a turn zero answer to Blood Moon and broken starts from 8-Cast, and Pyroblast as the best answer to the format. 

Sphere of Resistance is the catch-all answer to anything that we don’t have a plan for: Aluren, Cephalid Breakfast, and Hullbreacher combo decks, among others. It’s just the best plan against random decks, especially with our land disruption plan.  

The two Chokes come in and out as meta calls, but with the best control decks being blue-based, I like having the option to shut them out of blue mana for the easy win. Bringing in Choke and Sphere of Resistance is NOT my sideboarding plan against Delver. Choke comes in against the Jeskai decks, which aren’t as aggressive.  

Please let me know if I missed any unusual cards, as I would be happy to discuss my choices further.  

The Event: 

As this was a 16-player invitational, the first part of the event was a race to three wins before three losses, and the second part of the event was the Top 8 single elimination event that we all know. I came into the event as the points leader of the series, with three Top 8s and multiple 9th–10th place finishes.  

Round 1: BR Reanimator 1-2 

My opponent is a standard noninteractive player who typically plays BG Depths. He has a GP Top 8 with the deck, but he has not been playing it in the current meta. I put him on 8-Cast or a random deck. He went the Spike route, playing Griselbrand. This round does not last long. 

Game 1: I keep a great hand, but he has the turn one . . . 

Game 2: I have the turn one Sphere of Resistance and follow it up with an Urza’s Saga and a turn two Sphere of Resistance.  

Game 3: My first hand is almost the nuts. I have a turn two Marit Lage with Crop Rotation backup, but I feel like it isn’t good enough, so I mulligan for something better. I end up mulliganing to four cards, keeping a hand with a turn one Sphere off Urza’s Saga, but he goes off on turn one. I never saw a single Endurance.  

Round 2: Jeskai Hullbreacher 2-1 

I would attribute the less-than-perfect gameplay during this match to the fact that most of us have not played Legacy since November due to a postponement of the Masters Series from December to January. 

Game 1: My opponent plays some fetchlands, and I tap my only red source, which gives him a window to flash in Hullbreacher, untap, and play Day’s Undoing. I completely forgot Hullbreacher had flash.  

Game 2: This time, my opponent was the one who was a little rusty, and I am able to needle his fetchland off of an Urza’s Saga trigger. I was able to prolong the game with Rishadan Port and Blast Zone long enough to win with Punishing Fire (weird, right?).  

Game 3: This was a weird game. I wasteland a Volcanic Island on turn one and play a natural Pithing Needle on Scalding Tarn, as he had already cracked a Flooded Strand. (My thought was that he would have played the Prismatic Vista if he had had it.) I get a Sphere of Resistance down, and we trade back and forth for a while. On a crucial turn, he cracks another Flooded Strand without remembering that his only Volcanic Island was in the graveyard. Thus, he couldn’t meltdown my board. Resolving Meltdown would have been a big deal.  

Eventually he taps out for a planeswalker, which I blast, and I get to untap and resolve a Choke to go with my Sphere. I was sitting on Choke/Red Elemental Blast for a while, as the game was very slow, and with the Sphere down, I never had the chance to resolve the Choke with Red Elemental Blast backup.  

This was a big win, and my mana disruption played a huge role.  

Round 3: UR Delver 2-0 

This was another good matchup against an extremely good player who knew that Lands would be represented at this event. These games were not particularly close, as I had it all in both games, with Loam, Wasteland, Tabernacle, and acceleration.  

Game 1: I have early Wastelands along with Loam and Exploration. Dredging Loam quickly finds Tabernacle. 

Game 2: I have basically the same hands as above. He is able to cast Surgical Extraction, targeting Wasteland and then Loam. Thespian’s Stage and Rishadan Ports allow me to keep an active Wasteland and him low on mana until I am able to get an active Urza’s Saga.  

Round 4: Yorion Death and Taxes 2-0 

Game 1: An early Pyrite Spellbomb stops Stoneforge Mystic from ruining my day. Pithing Needle stops the Vials from helping him out, and I can keep him low on mana while I beat down with constructs from Urza’s Saga.  

Game 2: I have another turn one Pyrite Spellbomb to disrupt my opponent, and my constructs get too big too fast.  

Round 5: I have the Bye 

Top 8: 

Match 1: BR Reanimator 2-1 

Yay . . . I wish I was a better sport, but I did text my fiancé to say I would be heading home shortly. Just like my last match against Reanimator, the games in this round were all decided on turn one.  

Game 1: I have the Crop Rotation, but he has the turn one Griselbrand. I love interactive magic.  

Game 2: I have the turn one Sphere, and he can’t get out from under it.  

Game 3: I keep a seven card hand with Mox Diamond, Rishadan Port, Crop Rotation, Endurance, Exploration, and two Maps. He mulligans to five and leads with a turn one Thoughtseize. He takes the Crop Rotation, which means I have to commit more resources to keep his graveyard clear. We play draw go as I tutor for lands with Expedition Maps, and eventually, I have two copies of Endurance. I cast one to start to beat down, and he doesn’t draw anything that would allow him to beat the Endurance and Exploration (to pitch) that were still in my hand.  

Match 2: UR Delver 2-1 

Game 1: My opponent allows me to resolve a turn one Exploration, signaling that he does not have counter magic. On his second turn, he taps his Volcanic Island and then plays Wasteland, activating it targeting my Thespian’s Stage. I have Crop Rotation, so I make Marit Lage in response, and we move on to game two. 

Game 2: I keep a slow hand with Loam, and he has Surgical Extraction. He plays a Dragon’s Rage Channeler and attacks me to zero while finding multiple Wastelands for my Urza’s Sagas. I drew nothing of much importance. 

Game 3: I go aggressive with Mox Diamond and Urza’s Saga, and he cannot stabilize. 

With both of my games over relatively quickly, I was able to watch some of the best magic that I have ever watched. Arizona’s best Death and Taxes player was giving a master class on how to stone-face a Torpor Orb, playing three-mana Gray Ogres to beat both Jeskai Hullbreacher and Jeskai Control. Both games were on stream, and we were going wild in the casting booth. I couldn’t have watched from the tableside, as I would not have been able to keep quiet.  

Match 3: Yorion Death and Taxes 2-1 

Game 1: I keep a slow hand that doesn’t have any way to pull ahead quickly, and we play back and forth. He has two copies of Mother of Runes and a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I make a play error that goes unnoticed, and with the stream delay, the judge wasn’t able to try to rectify the error until we were multiple plays down the line. The judge explained that I still had a Crop Rotation in my hand that shouldn’t have been there. Instead of both of us getting warnings and continuing to play, I decided to concede in good faith.  

I was supposed to sacrifice a fetchland to cast a Crop Rotation through the Thalia tax to get a Karakas to bounce Thalia, but instead I fetched for the Karakas directly, paying two mana but never playing the Crop Rotation. Additionally, I drew my last fetchable source that turn, so there was no way to easily rewind the game state that would have not involved the judge having to “take my word for it.” 

Game 2: This was a super fun game, and it most likely decided the event. I get an early Punishing Fire and miss a land drop. On my opponent’s turn, he plays his fourth land and casts Armageddon. He makes a land drop the turn after, but I am stuck drawing off the top. In the best turn of events, I draw land, land, Loam to restock. After I cast one Loam, he slams Rest in Peace to shut me down again. I had two copies of Force of Vigor to stop anything egregious from happening on the other side of the table, and eventually I can start looping the Dark Depths combo. I end the game at 88 life, when he had finally run out of Swords to Plowshares effects.  

Game 3: Game three was not as interesting as game two. I have an extremely fast start with double Mox Diamond, Loam, and Urza’s Saga, and I can slow him down with Rishadan Port while I attack through his creatures.  

Final Thoughts and Changes 

I have always been super happy with my list and was very happy with the results of the tournament, obviously. In the week since I first typed this up, Ragavan has been banned and Boseiju, Who Endures has been spoiled. I figured I would finish out by discussing those topics. 

Ragavan was an obvious ban and should have never been printed. When it was spoiled I felt like most of the format knew the card was a mistake and we had to live in a fake format for months. This led to people stepping away from the format and hopefully the ban wasn’t too late to bring people back. On paper the ban will not change much with Delver being back in the UR decks (and still being tier 1) but now we get to see the power level of the DRC/Murktide/Iteration shell without the velocity and “Oops I win” factor of the monkey.  

That brings me to the new Boseiju, Who Endures. A few months ago, I made a make-believe card that should be printed that I felt would “fix” the format. I believe it was ‘WW, Instant: Destroy Target Creature or Permanent’. Wizards came and printed Prismatic Ending and completely revitalized control decks in legacy. I feel like if we were going to create a “dream” card for lands (besides a Sphere of Resistance land) this would be about as good as it can get.  

I do not feel the card will be format defining by any means, but for Lands players to no longer fear Blood Moon or Back to Basics game 1 (2/3) is huge. Slotting 2 of these into the main deck and being able to free up sideboard slots is also amazing as we can potentially have room for the 4th Endurance and the 4th Pyroblast. Expedition Map is now a more viable tutor as it puts the card in hand and those of us who are playing three Expedition Maps (me) should always have access to the card when needed. Lands players will have to formulate a plan to deal with the Bant/4c players that have started winning events, but I trust that the combo decks will keep them in check for the most part.  

Thank you for reading and I would like to thank the Lands discord for being the best community in Legacy. Please look to the team at AZEternalMagic for future events and hopefully I can run it back in 2022! 

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