Saturday, December 8, 2007

Legacy Format Analysis and Breakdown at Worlds

Much has been said about the addition of Legacy to the Worlds competition formats this year. Were the pros going to take things seriously? Would they create some new decks unseen before on the competitive circuit? Would they take the lazy road and simply spruce up an Extended deck, or scramble for whatever they could find on site? The answer, as it turned out, was a little bit of all of the above. Let's take a look at how the archetypes broke down on the day:

Threshold: 76
Goblins: 34
Cephalid Breakfast: 26
Landstill: 24
Dredge: 24
PT Junk: 16
Charbelcher: 15
Survival: 14
Stax: 14
Dragon Stompy: 11
Affinity: 11
38-43 Lands: 9
White-Blue-Black: 8
Aggro Loam: 7
Enchantress: 7
Solidarity: 6
Black-White: 6
3Deuce: 6
Counter Goyf: 5
Black-Blue-Green: 5
Slivers / Meathooks: 3
Black Splash Green: 3
Aluren: 3
Monoblack Aggro: 2
Mono-Blue Control: 2
The Perfect Storm: 2
Iggy Pop: 2
Rifter: 2
White Weenie: 1
Life: 1
StifleNaught: 1
Sea Stompy: 1
Stompy: 1
Other: 10

Threshold overwhelmingly fielded the most players for the five rounds of Friday play though there were hardly two identical versions of the deck to be found. Some players ran traditional blue-green builds, eschewing splashes to solidify their manabase and protect it from Wasteland. Others opted to splash white for things like Mystic Enforcer, Swords to Plowshares, and Meddling Mage and still others opted to use red for Lightning Bolt and Fire // Ice.

Not surprisingly, Goblins played second fiddle to the eponymous Tarmogoyf decks, fielding 34 players. The boggart precursors have been a mainstay on the Legacy circuit for some time and saw some professional success earlier this season when Owen Turtenwald used them to place second at the Legacy Grand Prix in Columbus in May. Of course there has been an important change in the format since then: Tarmogoyf has entered the arena, and with it the dominance of Goblins has tapered off somewhat. Even Turtenwald was concerned about the deck's Threshold matchup, opting to run Affinity for the weekend.

While Grand Prix–Columbus is the only other professional-level Legacy tournament we have to look at for results this year, it seems the Legacy Championships at GenCon–Indianapolis actually had the most impact on the current format, almost certainly due to the fact Columbus was played before the Mirage rare Flash was banned. The innovation from the GenCon Top 8 seen most often throughout the weekend was the combination of Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance. Because of the aggressive nature of the format, decks must interact on the first, second, and third turns or face being irrelevant. Because of that fact many decks feature a high concentration of cards with the same converted mana cost, and a Top keeping rotating one-, two-, and three-drops on a player's deck with Counterbalance in play can completely lock out an opponent.

Of course, that's not the only impact from the GenCon championships. You may recall the Cephalid Breakfast list young Jesse Hatfield marched to the Top 8 of that event; while the archetype was a known entity going into that tournament Jesse was the player who managed to have the most success with it, and apparently the professional community took note. A surprising 26 copies of the deck showed up to play for World Championships fame and glory, making it the third most popular archetype on the weekend.

That's not to say the pros weren't up for innovating a bit themselves. A contingent of French players showed up with a mono-red deck intent on making big plays via Moxes and two-mana lands like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, usually in the form of disruptive spells like Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void, or either Blood Moon effect (Magus of and the original enchantment) before powering into larger threats like Arc-Slogger. They even utilized rituals like Seething Song to make sure their overpowered cards hit the table quickly.

Olivier Ruel’s Dragon Stompy
Main Deck
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
11 Mountain
4 Arc-Slogger
4 Gathan Raiders
4 Magus of the Moon
4 Rakdos Pit Dragon
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Blood Moon
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Chrome Mox
3 Seething Song
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
2 Trinisphere
3 Umezawa's Jitte
21 other spells
4 Powder Keg
3 Pyroblast
1 Pyrokinesis
2 Rorix Bladewing
3 Tormod's Crypt
2 Trinisphere

On the other side of the Atlantic the American grouping of Gabe Walls and Mike Hron were busy at work on a deck of their own design, though they weren't using Mountains in it. Instead they set out to abuse the recently unbanned Replenish with the plethora of enchantments available in the format. City of Solitude could shut off their opponent's counterspells, Ground Seal could severely disrupt strategies based on abusing the graveyard, and Elephant Grass, Moat, and Solitary Confinement disrupted creature strategies.

Gabe Walls Enchantress
Main Deck
1 Bayou
7 Forest
3 Plains
3 Savannah
1 Scrubland
2 Serra's Sanctum
1 Taiga
4 Windswept Heath
4 Argothian Enchantress
1 Aura of Silence
3 City of Solitude
4 Elephant Grass
4 Enchantress's Presence
2 Exploration
2 Ground Seal
2 Moat
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Replenish
1 Sacred Ground
1 Sacred Mesa
2 Solitary Confinement
3 Sterling Grove
4 Utopia Sprawl
1 Words of War
3 Choke
1 City of Solitude
2 Karmic Justice
2 Krosan Grip
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Thoughtseize

While initially met with grumbles from the pros used to playing only Extended and Block Constructed formats at Worlds, Legacy turned out to be a great format for the event. Players buckled down to find edges just as they do for other formats and their innovations are sure to be felt in the Legacy community at large. Will we see a return to the format at next year's World Championships? You'll have to check back in to in twelve months to find out...

by Bill Start