April 19, 2015

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Shardless BUG and Magic Tournaments

This article is going to cover two separate subjects. One is Shardless BUG in Legacy (with a recap of my tournament at SCG Syracuse) and the other is on recent Magic tournaments from my perspective. If you’re not in to legacy, I recommend control F-ing to “This next section” , and if you’re not interested in Magic tournament behaviour, here’s a link to a cat video!

Two weeks ago, I made the trek to Syracuse for the SCG Open being held there – it was my first chance to play in an SCG Open event (not including their Legacy GP last year). I was traveling with Genghis Ron, Big Benny, Young Guunzzz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, Ryan Prager and Canadian Icon Phil Samms, so terrible good times were sure to be had!

I started off well in Standard playing a Jeskai aggro deck featuring Ojutai’s Command and Ojutai Exemplars. I won’t bore you with the details, but I ended up losing 4 of the last 5 rounds to various circumstances. Misplays, mulligans, a judge giving me the wrong ruling and Brad Young being a total jerk and eliminating me in the final round is about the sum of it all.

After a somewhat tilting end to my day, I wasn’t in any mood to battle – but a few games of Legacy with Ron (Elliot) Mackenzie back at the hotel reminded me how sweet Shardless BUG is and how Legacy is infinitely better than any other format.

We’ll start with the decklist

Shardless BUG – Ted McCluskie

Jabronis: (13)
Shardless Agent
Deathrite Shaman
Tarmogoyf
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Planeswalkers: (4)
Liliana of the Veil
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells: (21)
Abrupt Decay
Brainstorm
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Ancestral Vision
Hymn to Tourach
Thoughtseize
Toxic Deluge

Lands: (22)
Swamp
Bayou
Creeping Tar Pit
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland

Sideboard: (15)
Nihil Spellbomb
Baleful Strix
Chill
Disfigure
Flusterstorm
Golgari Charm
Umezawa’s Jitte
Hymn to Tourach
Massacre
Thoughtseize

There are very few changes from the list I used to Top 8 Grand Prix DC a couple years back (I wouldn’t brag…)

200_s

I’ve bumped Toxic Deluge up to the main deck in place of Maelstrom Pulse. The reasoning is oddly enough due to versatility. Normally you would think of Maelstrom Pulse as the catch-all, but I’ve found Toxic Deluge to be the card that digs me out of bad situations more often. There are very few permanents in Legacy that can’t already be killed by Abrupt Decay. Toxic Deluge allows you to get out from a fast start from any aggressive deck, completely annihilate an Elves player and even take out the odd Emrakul or swarm of Entreated Angels. The sideboard mostly explains itself with hate for particular strategies. The Chill may be unnecessary, as the Burn matchup is so bad, you may as well just hope to get lucky.

I’m overjoyed that Shardless BUG is playable in Legacy again. During the reign of Treasure Cruise, everyone could cast Ancestral Recall, and it made the card advantage engine that is Shardless Agent null. Added on top of that the fact that your only real plan against combo decks is discard – which they’re totally fine with you doing “Sure, power up my Treasure Cruise for me” and Shardless BUG couldn’t really compete.

I only dropped two games in the swiss (unfortunately both in the same match). They were both to Ad Nauseam combo. In a fair, creature-on-creature Legacy match, Shardless BUG is the king, but it does suffer some weakness to the many different Legacy combo decks that exist. In particular, the ones that can kill you with just one card. Versus Ad Nauseam, you can strip their hand all you want – but your clock is slow and your only interaction (with my list, anyways) to a top-decked spell is Force of Will, and post-board some Flusterstorms. In the case of my match, my opponent had played out his mana rocks early (to protect them from discard) and was soon hellbent. I stuck a Tarmogoyf and started beating him down, but he top decked Ad Nauseam and was able to kill me from there.

Improving the matchup isn’t impossible by any means. Game 1 you just have to pray (you have a ton of “dead” cards), but Game 2 there are an endless number of hate cards you could bring in. I’ve always opted to go with the ‘board out Shardless Agent for Flusterstorm‘ plan, but playing cards like Arcane Laboratory is entirely reasonable.

As for the rest of the swiss matchups, I played against a variety of “fair” decks, including UWR Delver, Miracles, UW Stoneblade, MUD (if you can call that a fair deck), and Jund. These are basically all the kind of decks you want to play against. There isn’t any one particular card you can’t beat in any of these decks.

The Miracles soft-lock of Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance isn’t nearly as relevant as it is versus many other Legacy decks, as your cards have many varied mana costs, and you have an automatic out in Abrupt Decay. As another slight advantage, my opponent wasn’t aware that flipping a land to Counterbalance CAN counter Ancestral Vision, so that was sweet.

MUD is very weak to discard and you can even mise one of your two Wastelands to throw another wrench in their game plan. Stoneforge Mystic decks can often be a grind, as they have planeswalkers and various Batterskulls that can make it difficult to win. I still find the matchup favourable though.

Non-BUG Delver decks are the scariest of any of the fair decks. They have a fast clock and can Wasteland you out of mana to cast your superior spells. This is the only non-combo matchup where I keep in all 4 Force of Wills (especially on the draw). In my experience, the easiest way of losing is having the opponent stick a turn-1 Delver and ride it to victory. Always Force the Turn-1 Delver.

As for BUG Delver, I find the matchup much easier. While its true they have more powerful cards than the other Delver decks, I find that the entire strategy is a general contradiction. Playing Liliana of the Veil in your Delver deck seems wrong to me. Having your removal spell cost more than 1 mana also seems wrong. It leads to situations where you want to cast a spell, but also want to Daze your opponents spell. You also don’t have Lightning Bolts, so the burn-out plan is less viable – Deathrite Shaman is still an option, but it’s much slower and therefore allows a deck like Shardless BUG to get its engine going and ultimately draw enough cards to end the game.

Elves isn’t a matchup I played, but it really can go either way. Toxic Deluge being maindeck is obviously fantastic against them (and random Emrakul’s). Counterspelling a critical elf is always great – or various Wirewood Symbiote. Post board, Golgari Charm is the nut and you get a few more early plays in Disfigure.

I would like to talk about one of the new additions to Shardless BUG. Tasigur, the Golden Fang (no need to talk about Dig Through Time.. it’s obviously insane). Tasigur is kind’ve like a 5th Tarmogoyf. Playing tons of delve spells isn’t usually where you want to be so I find the one to be plenty. It’s an interesting card because you very rarely use its ability. Most turns you have something better to do with your mana, but it does threaten to take over the game if its left around for too long. Being Abrupt Decay-proof is also sweet. Going forward I will definitely keep playing the one, but I don’t any more than that will ever be correct.

I ended up losing in the quarterfinals against an interesting Grixis Control deck thingy with Young Pyromancer, but its cool because we split the prize and I wouldn’t have gone to the invitational anyways. My opponent was relatively entertaining to play against, and in game one, he cast 4 Brainstorms and 3 Dig Through Times while managing to mill all 4 of my Brainstorms with Thought Scour. That sucked. I also learned that Tarmogoyf is actually a jabroni. Nothing else particularly interesting happened, besides dying to 20 or so 1/1 Elementals in Game 3.

Overall the tournament was sweet. Props to SCG for running a very smooth event, having excellent prize support and actually mailing out cheques in a reasonable amount of time.

This next section is going to be a bit negative, and is likely things that have all been said before – but bears some repeating (but I’ll try to keep it brief.) If you don’t like that sort’ve thing, halt your reading!

Sportsmanship isn’t just about playing by the rules. It’s entirely true that there has been a lot of shady business in the MTG world lately. Talking more about it won’t be of much help – simply don’t intentionally cheat. Keep your eyes open, and don’t be afraid to call for a judge.

I’d like to address a less obvious issue in sportsmanship. In the last few events I’ve played in and have heard about, a lot of things have happened that leave a bad after-taste:

– An opponent had fallen behind in the game despite casting all four of his Siege Rhinos. His was visibly upset about it at first, which is fine – but when it moves from annoyance in to actually throwing cards and calling your opponent names, it becomes a bit ridiculous.

– After a lengthy judge call that involved how a card worked, an opponent began to accuse me of cheating and attempting to manipulate the game. I think that – especially considering the recent issues- you shouldn’t be calling people out on cheating without some serious evidence… which leads to…

– A friend of mine had opened two powerful commons (can’t remember which) at the Dragon’s of Tarkir prerelease and defeated a particularly salty opponent. In the release event the next weekend, my friend happened to open two of the same common and played against the same player. In the match the player only said something along the lines of “well, that sure is lucky.” But afterwards, he began talking to other players and telling everyone that his opponent was/is clearly cheating. Running your mouth can have some serious repercussions, and not necessarily just for you. Trying to ruin someones reputation amongst your peers isn’t right in any situation. If someone is cheating, they will ruin their own reputation. Just like someone who is known to be unreliable, or someone who doesn’t bathe. Intentionally creating animosity amongst the people you interact with daily isn’t going to make anything better.

Most of these issues can all be tied in to the whole “don’t be a douche” and “treat people with respect” ideals that are talked about a lot. It’s obviously not that simple. Offending someone these days is easier than ever, and that person may respond poorly. Things only get worse from there. I’m not entirely sure there’s a solution, but I implore you to consider thinking before speaking (a lesson I’m sure I could benefit from as well.)

If you’ve got any questions or comments you can ask me on Facebook (just look up my name) or you can find me on Twitter @tedmccluskie

Thanks for reading!