Grand Prix Washington D.C. 2013 - Player to Watch

Posted in NEWS on November 17, 2013

Legacy is a different animal. Including cards from as far back as Alpha, Legacy offers possibly the most diverse, most open, format available. It also only gets played at a high level a few times a year, meaning that even the best players in the world may not necessarily be among the best Legacy players in the world.

But there are plenty of players who not only dedicate time to the format, but have shown time and time again their ability to adapt to and advance through the Legacy metagame. So while it doesn't take much analysis to tell you that you should probably keep an eye on 2nd-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton, we did comb through the players in attendance to pluck out those with particular experience and success in Legacy. These are a few of those players to watch.

No. 3 Reid Duke

Ranked 3rd in the world, picking Reid Duke as a player to watch is a little like saying "Hey, you should watch out for that Lebron James guy. I hear he's good."

Duke is a threat to win, place, or show at any tournament he comes prepared for, and based on his recent win at the SCG Legacy Open in Indianapolis, he seems plenty prepared for the format. Piloting a Bant deck that hasn't been played much--if at all--in recent months, Duke picked his spot and poked at the metagame a bit on his way to yet another Legacy Open win.

What makes Duke such a threat is his versatility. He won another Legacy Open a few months back in Philadelphia with Elves, a completely different style of deck from his Bant list. I've also seen him pilot Top/Counterbalance lists and have success with other archetypes. Given his close friendship with teammate William Jensen (see below), it's likely Duke knows the popular and powerful Sneak and Show deck inside and out as well.

Given all of this, I'd be more surprised to see Duke miss Day 2 than almost anyone else in the field.

No. 10 Sam Black

Whether we're watching 10th-ranked Sam Black for his overall skill level (hint: world class) or his penchant for building new, seemingly odd decks in Legacy (fairly high), you can rest assured we'll be keeping an eye on the innovative deckbuilder all weekend.

This was particularly on display back in 2012 at GP Atlanta, where Black took a RWB sacrifice deck to a Top 8 despite what, on paper, looked like a lackluster collection of cards. The synergy Black found, however, was enough to push the deck over the top. Since then, the strategy has virtually disappeared nearly as fast as it appeared in the first place.

Ari Lax

If Ari Lax were merely the 2013 Legacy Champion, he'd earn his spot on this list. But Lax is much more than that. A long-time leader in the Legacy format, and a champion of the Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) deck, Lax has served as a voice for the format and one of the true masters of the metagame. Even when Legacy isn't on the minds of most players, you can read about the ebbs and flows in the format on an almost weekly basis from Ari. And all of that work paid off this year when Lax set aside his pet ANT deck and won the Legacy Championship with...White Weenie?

Basically the antithesis of Lax's pet combo deck, the Legacy champ proved his flexibility by switching to Death and Taxes when he deemed it appropriate and was handsomely rewarded. It will be interesting to see if Lax sticks to playing the Basic Plains that earned him the crown, or moves back to the deck that he's championed for so long.

William Jensen

Ever since re-entering the game last year, newly crowned Hall of Famer William Jensen has staked his claim as a player to watch. One of the game's true old guard, and now firmly re-established as one of the best in the world once again, Jensen has showed he can handle Legacy as easily as he's been breezing through Standard and Limited as of late. He took second at the SCG Invitational—which was part Standard, part Legacy—and showed that wasn't a fluke with a second runner-up finish at SCG Los Angeles. He was piloting Sneak and Show at both tournaments, but that deck has had a target painted on its back in large part because of how Jensen has finished. The strength of that deck might be gauged simply by whether Jensen has opted to run it back for a third time.

Gaudenis Vidugiris

Gaudenis Vidugiris is one of the most dangerous players around and someone I keep an eye on personally every time I do coverage. Part of the reason I always pay attention is that I was there at GP Atlanta when Vidugiris won the whole thing after virtually audibling into his deck (and out of Sam Black's). He even had booked an early flight that he had to run to as soon as the Top 8 was finished, not actually expecting to do as well as he did. Vidugiris is a naturally adept magician and has shown his ability to win an entire Legacy GP. It would shock no one if he did it again.

Osyp Lebedowicz

Osyp Lebedowicz is another longtime player who seems to have a penchant for Legacy. He recently took second at the 2013 Legacy Championship with UR Delver and has excelled in older formats. The former Pro Tour winner doesn't have any Legacy GP Top 8s to his name, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him finally claim one in D.C.

Jacob Wilson

One of the cool things about Eternal formats like Legacy is that you can often play the same deck for a long time. Jacob Wilson is one player who has taken advantage of that, winning the SCG Legacy Open in Seattle with RUG Delver as well as earning a GP Top 8 last April in Strasburg with the same exact archetype. Wilson has a penchant for performing at the Grand Prix Level, so keep an eye on him as the weekend progresses.