Part 1: The List
I haven’t really played any serious legacy since July. So when it was time for a paper 1k, I had to do some catching up. The currently-popular build for RG lands is the 4-saga, endurance-main build. Popularized largely by the wild success and fantastic content put out by alli, Saga Lands has an aggressive constructs gameplan backed up by the chapter 3 toolbox and Endurances main to fight the format’s top combo decks.
For this event I played the non-saga version of the RG lands. Obviously, it paid off, due to a combination of a dead-on metagame read and massive quantities of luck. Of course, nobody wins a magic tournament on skill alone, so let’s see how I got there.
My expected metagame for this event was Delver, Elves, Moon Stompy, Goblins, and Reanimator in roughly that order, followed by a smattering of control and Knight decks.
Based on that, I was pretty dedicated to registering 4 Dark Depths. Once I had four Dark Depths in my deck, it became difficult to fit 4 Urza’s Saga and two or more tutor targets into the list. I was also wedded to the idea of registering at least one Minsc and Boo since the card was new and I thought it seemed fun. It’s also probably one of the best things to be doing against Taxes and GW depths, two matchups where cutting Sagas in favor of Depths is hurting you the most.
I based my list on Japanese player dull04. You can see their version and read how they approach the UR delver matchup here. The page also links their older article discussing why they prefer just one Urza’s Saga for late game stage tricks to the more aggressive 4 Saga + Bullets strategy. They explain themselves better than I ever will on the subject, but I want to add one additional point.
The best way to beat combo decks as lands is to play 4 Dark Depths, load up on 0-mana interaction, and pray.
The absolute best case scenario for saga v combo is
T1: Mox, saga, sphere of resistance
T2: make a construct
T3: make a construct, resolve ch3, attack for 5
T4: attack for 10
T5: attack for 10 (Opponent loses)
Now obviously, the artifact you search off chapter three could be impactful (Cage, Needle, Thran Foundry). But the important thing is that this is never faster than a zero-acceleration Depths/Stage combo, but has two notable downsides.
First, all of your mana is spoken for on turns 2 and 3, if they force you to interact on those turns, you can’t make constructs which slows your clock.
Second, your interaction (Sphere, Saga targets) is answered by the same sideboard hammers that clear your threats (constructs). Your opponent can safely tap out for Recall, Meltdown, or Serenity knowing that you are a few turns away from deploying another threat.
Compare this to Dark Depths, which has a lot of potential lines for a turn 3 kill (Exploration + 4 lands, double Mox + combo, Mox + double Crop) and significantly more ways that Crop Rotation facilitates those fast lines. This is especially important in matchups where Crop Rotation IS interaction like Reanimator, since holding up Crop can then convert immediately into killing your opponent if they take the turn off. And since our threat is creating Marit Lage (a 20/20 black avatar creature token with flying and indestructible) at instant speed, the avenues for the combo player to fight back are a lot narrower.
So, the plan against combo decks:
a. Create Marit Lage as fast as possible and kill our opponent
b. Present enough 0-mana interaction to get to turn 3, execute (a).
In my opinion, Spheres are too slow and often ineffective against the best combo decks of the format (Reanimator, Oops, Doomsday’s Fastest Draws). They also slow our ability to assemble a win via Crop Rotation or hold up Blasts and Endurance. Sphere’s best matchups, slow combo like ANT and Sneak/Show have been mostly replaced by TES and MonoR storm, both of which can overpower or go under a Sphere easily. I don’t want my combo answers to be reliant on drawing a second card (Mox) and also being on the play. In the meantime, I’ve put one Mindbreak Trap in the deck and will just hope, if i’m playing against Storm, that they wheel me into it. If you’re worried about the matchup for some reason, add more Mindbreaks. The Torpor Orb is a Sphere-like card against Doomsday and Oops that doubles as hate for Death and Taxes, where I think Saga is actually missed.
Also I just hate topdecking Shadowspear, and Saga COMES OUT against UR Delver.
Four Depths, One Urza’s Saga, No Sphere of Resistance. The remaining points of interest are 16 colored sources including snow-covered forest (I wanted to maximize my consistency, especially with casting Endurance under Blood Moon; you can probably cut Forest or a fetch and be fine), and Valakut Exploration.
Valakut Exploration is a powerful card that has probably seen its best days already. I think if you’re playing a more Field of the Dead-focused game against slower decks you need more ways to generate card advantage, which Valakut is decent at. In retrospect I think just playing at least one more copy of Minsc would have been better, since the card has the same potential effect of getting ahead of cards while also killing your opponent a lot faster, and providing crucial board impact that Valakut lacks. Both can be Hydroblasted but Minsc is harder to Prismatic and is immune to enchantment removal.
The Bolts are alli’s tech from the recent showcase list and performed great all day.
The rough sideboard mapping I threw together for this list is below. Note that I didn’t bring this with me to the event and just used it as a deckbuilding exercise, so while you’re busy not taking everything as gospel, especially don’t take this as a sideboard guide.
What this reveals is that I probably have one too many cards against Delver and a really messy mapping against GW Depths.
Part of the solution I worked on was cutting Reclaimer and working some number of Endurances into the main but I was worried about finding my Field of the Dead against control and couldn’t figure out what the next sideboard slots would be (I wanted something for control but not Delver or GW depths).
As usual for the last few events I’ve played, Field was completely useless, but the matchup lottery paid off extremely well for Dark Depths.
Either way I didn’t want to agonize over it because I knew I was going to be winning with raw skill.
Part 2: The Event
As usual we’re driving two hours to get to the event in the morning. It’s actually the same store as my win from last year (report here, unfortunately the writing was better last year but hopefully ya’ll still enjoy this one).
I’m getting over a pretty serious concussion so the drive up is not the most pleasant experience but I’m really wanting to get out of the house. On the drive up I listen to Black Country New Road’s stellar Ant’s From Up Here. Everyone needs to hear it. This report is secretly a BCNR shill piece, and with the release of 40k commander decks, it’s officially a Magic the Gathering album.
“Show me the land you acquired” asks Isaac. Hopefully my opponents feel the same way.
Around 32 players came to game today, good for 5 rounds. Around half as many as last year’s event. Presumably the RCQ season gives people an alternate thing to do with their wizard time. I’ve also learned and manage to my online decklist submission the night before, which unfortunately stops me from making the last-minute swap to 2 Minsc, 2 Valakut.
Round 1: Elves LWW (1-0)
Game 1: I roll up to round one against an opponent I think I recognize but can’t name. They are wearing a sports jersey so I assume I’m getting comboed (cannot elaborate further on the read). Based on this I win the die roll and keep a middling 7 with exploration, two green sources, field, Crop and two more lands that aren’t combo pieces. I deploy my spells and hold up crop for whatever spooky shit is going on, which turns out to be Forest, Nettle Sentinel from the opponent. I take my draw step, rotate for Tabernacle, and deploy one of many disappointing Field of the Deads. Two turns of drawing Mox Diamond later, my Tabernacle is Boseiju’d and I die to Shepherd activations.
I sideboard as planned but add Mindbreak Trap since I saw Nettle and Birchlore, which indicates the combo-heavy variant instead of the new Fiend Artisan hotness. This is potentially bad for me because people who netdeck Newton aren’t going to have run afoul based on the last list I saw, but my opponent could easily be playing cards that are good against me.
My opponent comments that this round’s going to be over a lot quicker than our last, revealing them to be the GW depths player I went to time against last year. Thank you for switching decks.
Game 2: They T1 Green Sun’s for Dryad which I Lightning Bolt end of turn. Being used to paying two for removal spells, this is very exciting for me. I experience what people call “Tempo” (which as far as can tell is when you are winning). I have the natural Tabernacle which they sac a Birchlore to in order to Boseiju it, then drop a bunch of dorks onto the table. I rotate for blast zone killing four creatures, trigger Field of the Dead and my opponent concedes. Field of the dead will not be mentioned again in this document.
Game 3: We play the same Tabernacle-into-Boseiju game which slows them down while I Waste their mana. Eventually I drop Minsc and Boo onto a board against three dorks, throw the 4/4 hamster into their Symbiote which draws me into the combo and I create the first of many Marits Lages for the day. My opponent tries to combo off with two Glimpse into the Run Afouls they now feel comfortable telling me they’re playing but miscounts their mana and fizzles. I fly to victory.
Round 2: 8-Cast WW (2-0)
My opponent was sitting next to me so I know him to be on 8-cast, which I think is a really volatile matchup that I don’t super want to be seeing. There’s a lot of ways they can get out of control with a fast start but knowing what I’m up against gives me a huge edge in mulligans. Basically if they activate Urza’s saga and I don’t immediately Force of Vigor or show them the witch the game is over.
Game 1: I have Exploration into a Wasteland for their first Saga but they have an unanswered Emry. They take a bunch of damage off Ancient Tomb getting a Cannoneer out and I untap and resolve Minsc and Boo. They can’t swing into Minsc without dying on the crack back so Kappa Cannoneer has to chump the 8/8 hamster and they die a turn later.
Hamster 1: Turtle 0
Board according to plan.
Game 2: They have a turn 1 Chalice for 1 which turns off the two blasts in my hand, and they Force my turn 1 library, but don’t have a backup threat so I make two more land drops then show my opponent the Witch. They’d played their Otawara turn one and can’t get Spellbomb through their own Chalice so I fade Borrower and win.
After the game I have time to sit down and finish Don DeLillio’s White Noise. The most I’ve laughed at a book this year. A bit antiseptic but truly thrilling. Adam Driver / Greta Gerwing adaptation later this year is, um, surely something that you could choose to watch on your television.
Round 3: UR Delver WW (3-0)
Game 1: My opponent wins the die roll then leads on a naked Volcanic and Baubles me. I draw the Port they saw and play it out before passing. This apparently signals extreme weakness as they waste my Port and Ponder. I know that that play just lost them the game. I resolve Exploration through Daze, double Maze forces them to overextend into a Blast Zone for three creatures and they scoop to a Loam lock a few turns later.
I can’t decide which two of Exploration, Loam, and 4th Depths should come out in this matchup. All future delver games should be assumed to have been chosen at random between those. Sound off in the chat about how I should have better constructed my deck to not have to deal with this.
Game 2: My favorite Lands games are the ones where you just play out your lands and don’t cast any spells. My opponent leads on turn 1 Delver, so I answer it by putting a Maze into play. Then a Wasteland. On turn three I play Boseiju into my only spell of the game, an Exploration which gets Forced. Once again my opponent smells blood and wastes my “exposed” green source. Three turns later I have zero forests in play and create Marit Lage, a 20/20 avatar creature token with flying and indestructible that also can’t be submerged.
Round 4: Intentional Draw (3-0-1)
Draws should be worth zero points. I will die on this hill. Anything else incentivizes slower play which is chronically difficult to enforce and allows situations like this where I get lucky my first three matches and handshake into top 8. Zero point draws incentivizes players to take risks to finish the match or they both lose.
Anyway I went and got a falafel sandwich during my first off round. It was decent. The other three undefeated players in my draw bracket are 2x Moon Stompy 1x UR Delver.
Round 5: Intentional Draw (3-0-2)
I’m supposed to be spending a lot of time resting in dark, quite places for the concussion so I take a nap in my car for the first half of this round. The car turns out to be neither quite nor dark but where else would I go?
When I get back to the event space I find out that seeds 5 and 6 also drew in (Reanimator Mirror), leaving only two matches in play to decide Top 8. UR Delver v Taxes and UR Delver v Goblins.
I watch enough of the Goblins match to figure out what’s going on. Really exciting new build with the Seething Song stickers goblin, Chrome Mox, and Skirk Prospector + the new lord that lets you play cards off impulse when goblins die. Dan is storming off a bunch but gets a few crucial spells Forced and dies to Staticaster because his Delver opponent decided to change two sideboard cards and flip the matchup today.
On the other table, Death and Taxes loses to Murktide Regent, bringing the top 8 to:
3x UR Delver
2x Moon Stompy
2x BR Reanimator
1x GR Lands
I’m very clearly fighting for the side of good in this one, but I take the prize split so nobody gets mad at me. We’re still competing for the invitational qualification anyway so it’s ok.
I end up dropping to 5th seed but I’m ahead of both reanimator players which is really what matters.
Quarterfinals: UR Delver WLW (4-0-1)
I sit down against my opponent who I know to be a Delver player with a truly glacial pace of play. Time for some untimed magic in the truest sense of the word.
Game 1: My opponent is higher seed so they play first, opening on Island, Ponder. This is a scary start for me since they know the matchup and kept a seven without a turn 1 threat. I have Mox+Reclaimer and try to bait my opponent into Bolting it with a Crop into Waste as protection. They pick up and read Elvish reclaimer a few times then decide not to. Reclaimer Bogs them to slow down the game but I’m low on resources while they keep chaining Iterations so I’m forced into the combo which they have Borrower for. I greedily play into Daze which tags my Loam and stops me from repeating the combo.
One of the Reanimator players stops by to let us know that they’re waiting for us in top4.
Their Delver flips off Ponder, which they cast surveilling the instant/creature they need to activate two Channelers. The sudden burst of damage takes me to 6 through my Maze.
My opponent has two Volcanics in play and two cards in hand. 2x Delirious Channelers, Insectile Aberration, and a Murktide.
I have Maze, Forest, Mox, Port and a Reclaimer in play.
My hand is Loam, Crop, Exploration.
Graveyard contains the combo, Yavimaya, Bog, and some fetches.
What’s the play?
I cast loam targeting Yavimaya, Stage, Depths. My opponent asks how much mana I have in play. I tell them the Port is my only available mana source. They tank for a while, then read elvish reclaimer. They Daze Loam returning volc to their hand. I pay, then put Depths and Yavimaya into play. Yavimaya leaves me with three mana so I rotate for a Wasteland, Waste their Volc, and Reclaimer for Tabernacle.
I silently pause to reflect on the words of Exodus 25:9, which all skilled Lands players have tattooed on some hidden part of their body.
My opponent says that they’d forgotten about the Tabernacle, puts all their creatures into the graveyard and concedes.
The reanimator player drops by again to let us know that the Moon Stompy mirror is starting in the other semifinal.
Game 2: For the sake of brevity, I play around one Daze but not two, lose my Library to double Daze, and my opponent finds two Borrowers in two turns for my Marit Lages and I’m too far behind on resources to rebuild before dying to chip damage.
One of the Moon Stompy players drops by to let us know they lost the mirror. Apparently their opponent drew more Furies and it sounded miserable. Moon stompy in the Finals.
Game 3: I’m a bit spooked by two Borrowers so I keep a slow midrange 7 with Reclaimer, Endurance, Bolt, Blast, Fetch, Grove, Port. I play out my Reclaimer turn 1 into a Bolt which is probably loose and Blast their turn 3 Iteration for a land. I’m stuck on three mana sources myself for a few turns before finally drawing a Stage and resolving my Endurance through Daze. They untap and Maddening Hex me. This is not good.
I have the combo in play but they have a Wasteland and I don’t have a 6th land to activate Port. I chat with my opponent about what happens if Stage copies a basic. I finally draw a mana source for Port and make a serious mistake by not immediately comboing them in their upkeep, punished horribly when they put a second Wasteland into play. In retrospect they could have easily Wasted my depths to force the issue if they had Borrower since I was unlikely to be able to rebuild through the Hex when I’ve clearly missed the last 5 or 6 land drops.
I’m drawing Moxes and Libraries instead of mana sources I need to orce the combo through while they Iterate through their deck and refill the grave for a Murktide. I Blast, they tank, then remember their Hex trigger, and I roll a 5, going from 18 to 13. They force my Blast and Murktide resolves. Murktide enters the red zone and I Punishing Fire before blocks, rolling a 4, down to 9. Endurance trades with the punished Murktide, leaving my opponent with a non-delirious Channeler, Hex and a pile of lands. They read punishing fire. They say “so you can get it back with red mana.” I tell them yes, but I need them to gain life in order to trigger it, pointing at my tapped Grove and sole red source. They waste the Grove in main phase two. Suddenly I have outs. I untap, topdeck a mana source, and create Marit Lage, a 20/20 black avatar creature token with indestructible and flying. They show me force + land in hand and scoop it up. In fairness to my opponent, they were out of Iterations and I was going to draw Boseiju next, potentially unlocking my hand of card advantage spells and bolts. Out of the marathon and on to the semifinals.
Semifinals: BR Reanimator LWW (5-0-1)
My semis opponent is someone I know as a really skilled player of Maverick-style brews (Knight of the Reliquary is a big problem for lands. Terravore is worse). Thankfully they’ve instead decided to play a deck I have a chance of beating with my seeding-determined play option and 13-card sideboard strategy.
Game 1: I mull a 7 that casts turn 3 Minsc and Boo, then groan as I see Minsc in my next hand, but it has Crop + green source so we’re keeping. Minsc goes to the bottom, I hold up Crop and my opponent shows why they kept 7 by Griefing my Crop and reanimating Archon. I don’t need them to go through the motions at that point so I pack it up and go to sideboard.
Game 2: I keep another 6 with Exploration, double green source, Crop and the combo. They mull to 6, loot Emissary to the grave and try to go off without protection. Crop into Bog wipes the grave and they can’t rebuild before I apply the Witch to their face two turns later.
Between games two and three I ask my opponent how low they’ve mulliganed today. They laugh and say that was the first mulligan they’d taken. This is clearly how you get to the semifinals.
Game 3: I keep a very mid 6 with Endurance, Loam, and a Stage but no acceleration or second piece of interaction. They mull to 5 and go Fetch pass. They’re digging for an Entomb effect while I draw a Library and take 8 immediately, giving me Mox + Depths. Play four copies of your best cards. I put the combo onto the field and they try to go off with Unmask on themselves into Animate Dead on Grislebrand but I pitch cast Endurance and they scoop before I can get my token out.
After the game I learn that the 7 my opponent kept was a no-land turn 1 hardcast Magus, which I was probably cold to. They were worried about getting raced by Endurance but I don’t think I can reliably cast it in time under a moon. Into the finals.
Finals: Moon Stompy WLW (6-0-1)
Finals is against local twitch celebrity Tony Murata (into_play on twitch), a long-time Cloudpost player who’s recently decided to pick up Moon Prison. I’m pretty confident about my plan for the matchup but definitely don’t feel favored.
Game 1: I keep a turn 2 combo off a basic against their mull to 5. Unfortunately they have a turn 1 Blood Moon off two Chrome Mox, leaving them with no cards in hand. We play draw-go for a minute with Tony playing out low-value lock pieces like Trinisphere before drawing a threat, which thankfully is a hardcast Simian. I take two for a bit before drawing a Valakut Exploration for the first time this tournament. Valakut goes off, flipping into multiple Explorations and my opponent concedes when I have three Valakut, three Exploration in play and find Boseiju. Feeling really good about beating g1 t1 Blood Moon, we go to sideboard.
Game 2: I keep 6 with Reclaimer off a basic, natural Depths and a Punishing Fire for Magus. Tony has Moon instead of Magus which is how we lose this matchup. I’m activating Reclaimer to thin the deck while Hearse prevents my Reclaimer from being an effective blocker and I die 10 turns later to Fable beats without finding a disenchant effect.
Game 3: On the play I keep Depths, Stage, Yavimaya, Exploration, Punishing fire, which is extremely good as long as my opponent doesn’t have turn 1 Magus or Dead//Gone. Their 7 produces a turn 1 Rabblemaster, I mainphase my combo for no apparent reason other than being sleepy, and they flip the top card of their deck to reveal it’s not Dead//Gone. That’s game.
The big plus of the smaller event is we’re done in time to get a Dosa, which is what we drove up for in the first place. They completely mess up my order but it’s still good. Can’t complain at all.