Providence Nine

Posted in Top Decks on June 2, 2011

By Mike Flores

So this week we are going to recap the Legacy Top 8 from last weekend's Grand Prix Providence, and finish up with—in the category of "good / winning decks that aren't Caw-Blade"—another great, different, and tournament-winning Standard deck that you can run, that you might not have seen before.

First up, Legacy:

So what do we have here?

Ultimately this Top 8 showcases the unpredictable norm for Legacy. Eight different decks including two different, oblique combo decks; two Standstill decks; two Green Sun's Zenith acceleration decks; one beatdown deck; and one aggro-control deck in Alex Majlaton's Merfolk (though you can make the argument that Turtenwald's Stoneforge Standstill works much the same way ("You should have played around the Daze").

Players have really embraced the diversity of the Legacy format, expressing their delight in quite disparate ways; to wit, Reid Duke's "Thirteen rounds and I didn't face any one deck three times," versus Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's "People just play what they want, even if it is bad," ... to Majlaton's snarky "Nothing, every deck is really really bad" (emphasis mine, emphasis mine).

Well, let's take a look at some of these decks... Hopefully they aren't too bad.

    The Green Sun's Zenith Decks

James Rynkiewicz's No-Force Bant

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We might as well start with our star, James Rynkiewicz's surprising Bant deck. There is a movement in Legacy of so-called NO Bant decks, indicating Bant aggro featuring the card Natural Order (the "NO" in NO Bant)... but James actually had no something else: no Force of Will!

Force of Will is the pinnacle of Legacy Tier One, almost universally considered the best card in the format (or perhaps sharing that title with Brainstorm), with the vast majority of Open Series event winners since the banning of Survival of the Fittest playing Force of Will, and generally both cards. So James eschewing it this time around was a statement... And people certainly noticed.

This is not to say that James had no permission... He ran both Daze and Mental Misstep, with some extra countermagic in the sideboard, but especially given his victory over a turn-two combo kill deck in the finals, playing no Force of Will—and winning with no Force of Will—is something people are going to talk about for years.

Enough about what it doesn't have. How does this deck actually work?

Per the section header, this deck gets most of its edge from acceleration, both traditional in the form of Birds of Paradise / Noble Hierarch at the one, and from Green Sun's Zenith. Green Sun's Zenith is "another" one-mana accelerator on the first turn, allowing James to procure Dryad Arbor and set up for three mana on turn two. Of course, in addition to getting ready for a fast Knight of the Reliquary, we have some supplementary tricks. Lead off on Tropical Island to Daze while tapped out, while still having sufficient mana for Tarmogoyf... or the Savannah in hand for Qasali Pridemage or Stoneforge Mystic on the two, etc.

The signature card of most Legacy Bant decks is Knight of the Reliquary. Again, though James only listed three physical copies, his Zeniths make for mad redundancy. Knight of the Reliquary is a Swiss Army knife... Huge attacker or blocker, Wasteland factory, procurer of the Maze of Ith... even fast Emrakul defense!

One of the principal strategies in Legacy is to just land a super-fast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (via Show and Tell, or however). Knight of the Reliquary can search up Karakas to invalidate that game plan.

As with many large-format Bant decks, James's doesn't over-specialize in any one area, but does many things passably or better. It is a fair but not the fastest beatdown deck (ONE Tarmogoyf); it is a fair but not suffocating permission deck (NO Force of Will); it has some good card drawing in Sylvan Library plus Jace, the Mind Sculptor; and it captures some of the wonderment of Stoneforge Mystic without being overly reliant on that, either. All-in-all, James can do lots of different things in lots of different games, and mold advantages almost like a hybrid deck.

Reid Duke's NO RUG (Blue-Red-Green with Natural Order)

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Magic Online standout Reid Duke followed up his impressive TCGPlayer New York performances (Top 4 on both Saturday and Sunday) with arguably his most impressive at this point in his career, a Grand Prix Top 8!

Again we see a deck that uses Green Sun's Zenith to cheat Dryad Arbor onto the battlefield as a redundant mana accelerator on the first turn. Of course Zenith can play as a redundant Tarmogoyf or Noble Hierarch as well.

Reid says that the red splash corrects the green-blue baseline strategy's core weaknesses; we see the addition of lots of burn spells (Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning), with more red removal in the sideboard. He has Ancient Grudge for Affinity (or Equipment), lots of Pyroblasts and Red Elemental Blasts, and the little guy Grim Lavamancer tasked to weenie cleanup.

Most of the rest of Reid's deck is a mix of good and typical green, plus fast blue (both card selection and countermagic). The trademark spell, though, is Natural Order. This card typically goes and gets a Progenitus—a "one-card combo" of sorts, as Progenitus puts the opponent on a very fast clock.

    The Combo Decks

Brian Eleyet's Hive Mind Combo

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Brian Eleyet played a cool combo deck that is kinda sorta two different combo decks. The first combo is "just" Show and Tell + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. We've seen lots of decks like this in the past. You run out an Island of some kind and either Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors, plop out Show and Tell with cheatyface mana, thank your lucky stars you drew your two-card combo, and cross your fingers that the opponent doesn't have something interesting.

In terms of what's "interesting," you really don't want to see Sower of Temptation, Karakas, or even Knight of the Reliquary (which can go and get Karakas). But when the opponent doesn't have something interesting, it is ho hum, kill you with Emrakul. Because really, on the second turn, who can withstand all that annihilator (not to mention 15 in the sky)?

Now the even more busted / exciting / humiliating combo is to cast Hive Mind. Once Hive Mind is on the battlefield, Eleyet could cast one of any number of Pacts—say, Summoner's Pact. Hive Mind will make a copy of the Pact for the opponent, and if he or she can't pay the cost when the upkeep rolls around... That's it! Second-turn kill (potentially).

Wilson Hunter's Painter Combo

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Painter is a relatively straightforward combo, as far as Legacy combos go.

Get Grindstone onto the battlefield.

Get Painter's Servant onto the battlefield at the same time; name a color.

Painter's Servant turbo-charges Grindstone, so one shot will typically be game over, exhausting the opponent's entire library. Yes, there are some holes to a deck exhaustion strategy given available cards in the format, but Painter's raw speed makes up for a lot. You can easily go turn one Grindstone, turn two Painter's Servant + Lion's Eye Diamond. If opponents don't have something then and there, they never will.

    The Animals

John Kubilis's Zoo

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Zoo is... Zoo.

This version has a Karakas for Knight of the Reliquary... but no Wastelands!

What Kubilis may have missed in terms of expected disruption, he made up for with Sylvan Library for the reload and tons of aggressive burn spells (to speed things up, and keep them going. This deck just exists at the crossroads of awesome beatdown creatures and fast, effective spells (mostly burn spells).

Alex Majlaton's Merfolk

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Again we see a list with just three copies of Force of Will.

Mental Misstep has stepped in to alleviate the need to play all four copies of Force of Will. Mental Misstep is just the better countermagic when you are fighting something like a Goblin Lackey or Æther Vial.

Otherwise, Merfolk is one of many decks—your Goblins and so on—focused on cards that gain value by being played together in the same deck. For example, Silvergill Adept is pretty great in a Merfolk deck, unplayable in basically any other kind of deck.

Merfolk is a deck that thrives in a format of control and combo decks. You can get down a clock—maybe Cursecatcher on the first turn—and another clock, and your clocks all work together... and then you sit back on your countermagic while winning as quickly as possible.

    The Standstill Decks

Owen Turtenwald's White-Blue Standstill

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On that subject, we have Owen Turtenwald's Standstill deck. This deck can play a sit-there control game with the best of Legacy. It has Mishra's Factory and what passes for a high(-ish) land count. Turn-two Standstill, get in there with Mishra's Factory, and typically, the opponent will be obligated to destroy the Factory... free Ancestral Recall!

But in addition, Turtenwald can play Stoneforge Mystic to shift the perspective of the deck. He can go aggro-control (much like Merfolk), and use his countermagic to protect that position. Even better, he can mesh the two halves of the deck together.


  1. Stoneforge Mystic (fetching Batterskull)
  2. Standstill (with Stoneforge Mystic out)

Check out this position! If the opponent doesn't do something about Stoneforge Mystic in response to Standstill, Owen is able to drop the equivalent of a Baneslayer Angel onto the battlefield... right through the Standstill. Pretty cool, huh?

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's Green-Blue-Black Standstill

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Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa rounds out this Top 8 with a very different Standstill deck.

This deck is a much more control-oriented look at Standstill. It is basically always going to win with either Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Mishra's Factory (no creatures). Life from the Loam offers a powerful synergy with both the deck's Wastelands and gives it the ability to get back fallen Mishra's Factories (you know, the little guys can be a bit fragile in a world full of both point removal and Wastelands).

Pernicious Deed offers a very versatile defensive card that can deal with almost anything (though not Jace, the Mind Sculptor). But the vast majority of the deck is instants. Sometimes you have to break your own Standstill. Maybe you cast it on turn two but your opponent had more Mishra's Factories than you. Maybe you didn't draw any lands and your opponent drew a ton. Maybe you actually used Standstill to buy a ton of time and it did what you wanted... but you have to break it now.

Having a ton of instants can be productive there: You can break Standstill at the end of your opponent's turn, and severely limit his or her ability to use the free cards. For example, an opponent who already has seven cards in hand and goes up to ten will often have to discard. It's a small edge, but it can definitely come up.

    Well... There You Go!

Eight different decks, of the forty or so that could have appeared in a Legacy Top 8.

Let's switch it up and finish on Standard.

Larry Swasey won the PTQ at GP Providence with his trademark "Glass Cannon" green-blue deck. Larry had previously been successful with the deck on the Star City Games Open Series. His PTQ win will probably be telling as its main claim to fame is a very solid matchup against Caw-Blade.

Larry Swasey's Green-Blue "Glass Cannon"

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Larry beat Caw-Blade, DarkBlade, and then Caw-Blade again in the Top 8.

Some tips from our most recent PTQ winner:

The Fauna Shaman will almost always continue with a Vengevine chain. The absolute worst thing you can do (although it seems like it would be a good idea at the time) is to discard Vengevine to get an Oracle of Mul Daya. If you do that you are down the creature in your hand and you have to wait upwards of two turns to start chaining Vengevines again, since you have to draw another creature, discard that creature for Vengevine, then discard that Vengevine for Vengevine.

Another losing play is on turn three playing Lotus Cobra with an active Fauna Shaman in play, landfall [to get a green mana] to discard Vengevine, searching out a one- or two-drop, and playing it, triggering Vengevine. This may seem flashy but it puts you so far down on cards and tempo. It has the same problem as the Oracle plan. You have to restart the Vengevine chain and you are down DI cards in your hand.

Seems like a pretty cool deck, especially with the combination of Vengevine and Spellskite as a one-two punch against beloved Splinter Twin in Game 1, as well as its much-discussed Caw-Blade advantage.

So there you have it, another option for your battles this weekend, or throughout the PTQ season. I know I am going to give Larry's deck a go.

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