Arnold Palmer

Posted in Top Decks on August 5, 2010

By Mike Flores

It's half iced tea.

It's half lemonade.

Half Standard; half Legacy Grand Prix.

This, dear readers, is the Arnold Palmer!

1 Part Legacy:

This Top 8 is clearly as insane as Caleb Durward's Madness deck.

How great is seeing Tom Martell ("Hi, Mrs. Martell!") deep in the elimination rounds of a Sunday stage? Is there any more fitting champion of almost any tournament than Tomoharu Saito? Saito's continued enthusiasm for Magic is simply humbling. Has there ever been a player so consistently near the top for so long as Saito who—more often than not—was also the best deck designer in the world? (Okay, okay, Gabriel Nassif.) Saito is a layup on the Hall of Fame ballots this year—both of them, actually.

What is this, The Week That Was?

Top Decks investigates ... deck lists.

Tomoharu Saito's Fish

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It's pretty cool to see a Legacy Fish deck that plays, you know, actual Fish. The vocab of the Eternal formats is such that "Fish" can just as soon refer to a disruptive creature deck, featuring Jötun Grunts as it can a deck like the great Saito's, full of twenty different Merfolk.

So what about those Merfolk?

Saito played twenty creatures, but the cool thing is that fully twelve of them were some kind of Merfolk-boosting Merfolk Lords (Coralhelm Commander in addition to the more common Lord of Atlantis and one-time Standard standout Merrow Reejerey). These creatures obviously all built upon one another, combining tribal synergy with baseline card efficiency.

Æther Vial: The thing that really makes Saito's Merfolk deck exciting is this one-mana artifact. Of course Æther Vial is a busted Sol Ring-like artifact that turns all your creatures into uncounterable instants. The curve in the Merfolk deck is particularly attractive, with so many one- and two-mana creatures, and only one sort-of three, so Æther Vial will hang out at two most games.

Standstill: Standstill is a powerful card, but doubly so in combination with Æther Vial. Basically, you can play all your creatures via Æther Vial without triggering the Standstill. The pressure is on the opponent to break the Standstill, probably filling Saito's hand with some of the deck's cheap or free counterspells.

Speaking of Standstill, here is a different look:

Jason Ford's Standstill

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Now we see some of the vaunted variety of the Legacy format. Ford's deck—also a Standstill deck—is quite different in implementation than Saito's.

Instead of aggro-control we have almost a true control deck, all counterspells and card drawing, heavy on the defense with tons of one-mana creature elimination and Pernicious Deeds.

One of the unique elements of Ford's deck is how he used Life from the Loam. Typically we see Loam decks with cards like Tranquil Thicket. Instead, he focused on blue card-drawing and used Life from the Loam to recycle dead Mishra's Factories and overload the opponent with Wastelands.

Ford's deck has something we haven't looked at in some months (or years?) ... a Cunning Wish engine. His sideboard is heavy on the instants, designed with specific singletons that can be gobbled up by Cunning Wish, depending on what is coming after him across the table. To wit:

Tom Martell's Counterbalance

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Those physical copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor have done nothing but crush tournaments for Tom Martell. I broke them in for him, qualifying at National Qualifiers in New York, but then Tom won a San Juan Last Chance Qualifier, and now they put him into the finals of a Grand Prix. If the trajectory holds true (National Qualifiers Top 8 to Pro Tour Qualifer win to Grand Prix finals ... ) we can probably expect Martell in the Top 8 of U.S. Nationals in a couple of weeks, followed by a Pro Tour win the week after. There's simply no arguing with it. This is math, people.

What about the rest of his deck?

Martell's core combination is Sensei's Divining Top + Counterbalance. Basically you can counterspell anything if you have a card of the correct mana cost in your top three cards; sometimes you just get mad lucky and cast Counterbalance on turn two without mana open to use the Top (or sometimes even no Top at all) and it fires away and counters just lucky-ducky style.

His creatures included combo-breaker Vendilion Clique and optimal threat Tarmogoyf (no big surprises there, especially on the second one).

Tom's deck is unique in its many colors. He went four-color with red for Firespout and white for Swords to Plowshares. Tons of flexibility and—chuckle, chuckle—basic Mountain and Plains both! "Wasteland is too good."

Brad Nelson's Black-Green-White Rock

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Brad Nelson's deck, care of Brian Kowal, reminds me a lot of Chris Pikula's triumphant Deadguy Ale comeback at Grand Prix–Philadelphia (another Legacy tournament) a few years back. He has the Gerrard's Verdicts next to the Hymn to Tourachs, and Dark Confidant as the black two drop.

This time the availability of Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary make green too attractive not to include. With Knight of the Reliquary comes some singleton tailoring:

Christopher Gosselin's Show and Tell

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The Grand Prix coverage had a great video interview with Christopher Gosselin, which you can see below.

This deck is one of the most unique, inventive, and apparently effective home-brews I have seen in some years. Basically you only need to resolve one spell to win the game. That can be Show and Tell (for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, of course), or Doomsday.

The deck is deadly fast (for example you can cast Dark Ritual + Doomsday), but is not in a hurry to win, necessarily.

Okay, how does Show and Tell work?

In the video, Gosselin explained that depending on the match-up, you might get different things. A typical scenario would be a five-card library of:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Shelldock Isle
  3. Cloud of Faeries
  4. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
  5. Solitary Confinement

You cast the Brainstorm to get the Shelldock Isle and put the Emrakul under it. Then cast the Cloud of Faeries to untap the Shelldock Isle ... as you only have one card in your library at this point, you are well within the parameters of Shelldock Isle, so go ahead and cast that free Emrakul!

With your free turn—yes, you get one—you can pick up and cast Solitary Confinement. Neither you nor your principal permanent can be targeted, so you are probably in good shape given that Emrakul doesn't need to attack very many times to win the game.

Really, a fine brew.

Korey Age's Sneaky Tell

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Age's deck also has several ways to get a free Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield:

Sneaking Emrakul onto the battlefield is simply filthy ... and not at all slow. You can easily Lotus Petal an active Seething Song onto the battlefield on turn two, probably with Daze / Force of Will backup.

As good as a quick 15/15 annihilator is, Age's secondary threat may be more interesting to talk about. Woodfall Primus is a "mere" 6/6, but has a wonderful Desert Twister-like 187 attached. When you play a creature with Sneak Attack, you are supposed to sacrifice it at the end of turn.

What happens when you sacrifice a Woodfall Primus? Persist. 187 ... again.

It's kind of like a Plow Under that hits for 11.

Bryant Cook's Ad Nauseam Tendrils

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The disappearance of Mystical Tutor did not deter Cook from playing one of Legacy's most popular combo decks (they became an Infernal Tutor and Silence in his list).

How does this deck work?

Ad Nauseam is the main card-drawing engine. With the exception of the two storm kill-cards, everything in this deck is super cheap—zeroes and ones for the most part—allowing Cook to draw, you know, lots.

Then it's all about Brainstorming and dropping Moxes and Petals, looking at the top card of his deck, and so on ten times.

Finale: Either Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens. Either one, given sufficient storm, can set up a kill within one turn.

Just as we saw a Cunning Wish sideboard in Ford's Standstill list, Cook played a Burning Wish engine. His sideboard was almost all sorceries that could either serve as the kill on the spot (Empty the Warrens, Tendrils of Agony, or even Grapeshot) or get him out of jail. For example, Shattering Spree could blow out Affinity or just take out a key artifact threat under pressure. Again, this kind of sideboard offers lots of options, but at the cost of consistent customization in Games 2 and 3.

Caleb Durward's Survival Threshold

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Durward clearly had the most exciting deck in the Top 8. Stone Kold Blue-Green Madness that was so popular in Block and Standard, (and even competitive in Extended) grafted onto a Survival of the Fittest engine and the Standard world's hottest new threat? What could be more exciting?

Just imagine re-buying multiple Vengevines with free Basking Rootwallas!

Hell's Bells, this deck is hot.

Another super-exciting aspect of Durward's deck is Noble Hierarch-into-Trygon Predator on turn two. Sorry Counterbalance decks!

One of the cards that you will see in a variety of decks, but is probably best here, is Faerie Macabre. Faerie Macabre is a "free" out against graveyard effects from Golgari Grave-Troll to Vengevine itself. But in this deck, Survival of the Fittest can actually go and get the powerful card when the deck is under pressure.

Despite being the most exiting of the eight, fo sho, I would still point out some possible areas of improvement:

Looking into Legacy is pretty fun, huh?

1 Part Standard

It's almost a let-down to check in on "mere" Standard; but because of the ongoing importance of National Championships, let's get a bead on the format of record.

Guido Roccoli's Jund

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The most exciting aspect of this deck is main-deck Anathemancer.

Can you imagine flipping that mere 2/2 over with Bloodbraid Elf on the assault, turn four? Ka-pow!

This is in the framework of an aggressive Jund listing ... Plated Geopedes over deep curve options like Siege-Gang Commander.

Stefano Biasio's Valakut Titan

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There were three distinct Red-Green Primeval Titan decks in the Italy Top 8, but only one of them played Gaea's Revenge!

Gigantic monsters. Gigantic monsters with haste. That's how Standard rolls these days, I guess, thanks to Cultivate, Harrow, Khalni Heart Expedition, and Rampant Growth.

With all the focus on Destructive Force in some Primeval Titan decks, it might be easy to forget the one-time Valakut-Ramp staple—Lavaball Trap. This seems like quite a good way to combat another Titan Ramp deck without compromising one's own mana base. Lavaball Trap is effective against Cultivate, Harrow, what have you; and is also quite the answer against a beatdown deck playing a mere Arid Mesa.

Federico Ronchi's Next Level Shaman Conscription

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Italy's champion took a different look at unifiying the disparate Bant camps of Vengevine and Mythic Conscription, this time with the hook-and-eye of Fauna Shaman.

Fauna Shaman can set up Vengevine, as we have seen in all kinds of Naya; separately it can get one of twoSovereigns of Lost Alara (redundancy accomplished with the Fauna Shamans) to set up the Eldrazi Conscription kill.

So there we have it. Lemonade, iced tea; Standard and Legacy. Hopefully you found the Legacy section especially refreshing (I can only assume the continued strength of Jund is keeping you up at night, like too much tea). Take care, good luck to anyone battling in the Red Zone this weekend, and see you right here next week!

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