Pondering—Expanding Horizons

“You’re playing Legacy?” Dana remarked with a certain amount of surprise in her voice as she walked by. It was Sunday, and I was in the middle of battling Tony’s UB Tezzerator with the Esper Stone-Blade deck I borrowed from John Fung. I originally wasn’t planning on playing Legacy, but an excuse to durdle at the store and hang out with friends was a better prospect than going out and drinking with strangers, despite it being St. Patty’s Day.

I haven’t enjoyed Legacy in the few outings I’ve had. I think I’ve played four Legacy events in total, ever, and all of them were Sunday Legacy at the store with borrowed decks. I’ve played with Dredge, a couple of Delver decks, and the aforementioned Stone-Blade. My results have been mediocre at best, and each time I’ve walked away from the experience not being sold on the format. I wanted to commit to buying the staples on multiple occasions, but each time I thought back to how much fun I wasn’t having, and thought better of floating thousands of dollars on an impulse.

My main reason for disliking Legacy is that, more often than not, I don’t get to play Magic. Like Modern, Legacy is a format where I have to possess intimate knowledge of both my own deck and those of my opponents. Fine, I get that. I currently do not have that knowledge, so it’s my fault. It’s also my fault that, with the exception of Dredge, I was playing a comparatively fair deck in a format filled with powerful, degenerate cards. So I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining, but I just cannot stomach not getting to interact with my opponent and losing (or effectively losing) before I even make it to my first draw step. On multiple occasions, I died to Chalice of the Void playing RUG Delver, and I died to Goblin Charbelcher playing Stone-Blade. All those experiences were completely miserable, and made me want to throw my cards away in disgust, were they actually my cards.

“But you have Force of Will.”

It’s true that Force helps keep a lot of things in check, but it doesn’t entirely fix the problem. Yes, I can aggressively mulligan until I get both Force and a blue card, and sometimes the hands will still be good. But the other cases, the ones where I ravage my hand just so I don’t die immediately, leave me feeling pretty shitty.

That said, I suppose it’s not fair for me to shit on a format just because I’ve had an all-around awful experience each and every time. The last thing I want to do is come across as a whiny jackass that gets butt-hurt and proceeds to dismiss something that many people legitimately enjoy. There’s a reason I keep coming back despite wanting to walk off a building after each outing: I want to improve as a player, and that means stepping up my game in all formats, and stepping out of my comfort zone.

Like most people coming back to the game after a long hiatus, I started out playing a ton of Limited when I hopped back on the cardboard train in May of last year. It was a way to build up my card pool while I scoped out what I wanted to play in Constructed. Delver eventually caught my attention, and I moved in on Standard. Getting my bearings again after not having played Standard (that’s Type 2 to you, buddy) since Wild Mongrel was legal was intimidating at first, especially when a large chunk of the players in the room were playing the same deck as me but doing much better. It took some time, but I eventually grew accustomed to it, learned my deck and the format, and came to be known as “that Delver player” around the store.

When Delver died a quiet death with the rotation, I moved on. I tried out multiple different decks in Return to Ravnica Standard, and while I didn’t do so well as a whole (at least, my success did not gauge up to the Delver days), I had a lot of fun experimenting with the cards and builds. I was in a comfortable and familiar environment, and thus was more willing to take risks and tinker with the unknowns. Case in point: I played multiple decks with four copies each of Seance for a few weeks, and I did well.

Around the same time, I discovered Modern after watching coverage of the Players’ Championship. The UW deck played by Jon Finkel and Brian Kibler naturally caught my attention, and being that I had a lot of the deck already left over from Delver, I took the plunge and never looked back.

That’s not to say that learning the Modern format was a cake walk. I got comboed out by Kiki-Jiki and ate Grapeshots to the face way too many times to even count, but I never gave up without a fight. Despite continually losing to the unfair decks, the games were close each time even as I was getting acclimated with my deck and its capabilities. The more I played, the more confident I was in every matchup, until I was comfortable enough to travel and take part in PTQs. I gained a ton of experience playing at big metas, and eventually posted my personal best result with a 6-1-1 record at the Twenty Sided PTQ, missing top 8 on tiebreakers.

As the PTQ season ended, the store switched to Modern on Tuesdays, and I got into brewing. I was at the same spot in Modern as I was in Standard when RTR came out: comfortable to the point that I started playing whacky, out of place cards that shouldn’t see the light of day in the format. I built Troll Tron and have been doing well with it, because I am familiar enough with the format and its intricacies to know that the cards I put into the deck can and will perform.

I’m not at that level of intimacy yet with Legacy, not even close. One day I hope to be, but for the time being, like I mentioned before, I find it really hard to commit to a format where I’m having trouble having fun, especially considering the price tag of most of the decks. Yeah, Burn and Dredge and Elves and Goblins and all those other cheapish (by comparison) decks exist, but none of them really interest me.

I really like Tezzerator. Like, really like it. But Underground Seas and Polluted Deltas don’t grow on trees. Also, I don’t know if the deck is truly fun or merely looks really fun. I had never played with Jace, the Mind Sculptor before Sunday, and always thought it’d be awesome getting to cast the best planeswalker of all time. But when I did get to resolve JTMS, I just Brainstormed a bunch and didn’t really know what else to do. I’m sure I would have had more fun if I knew what the right plays were, or even what the hell was going on, but for the most part I just Brainstormed for the sake of Brainstorming.

Compare that against me Seancing up a Craterhoof Behemoth in Standard (before Martin Juza “broke” the fatty, I might add) or ‘Slaver-locking my opponents with Academy Ruins in Modern, and it’s like night and day.

I have a long way to go.

At the end of the day, I agree with John when he says that Legacy is fun if you find a deck you can have fun with. I’ve yet to find that deck, but I eagerly await the day that I do. Until then, I’ll keep borrowing and experimenting.

10 Responses to “Pondering—Expanding Horizons”
  1. Tim Akpinar says:

    The context in which you referred to one of the most powerful spells ever printed is very telling. “I just brainstormed a bunch”.. could you ever imagine yourself saying, “I just Time Walked a bunch,” with an unimpressed McKayla face? There are some lengthy articles that talk about nothing but proper brainstorm technique. I found them very useful when I was first breaking into the format. I don’t know exactly how many I read, but it was definitely more than one, and after each one, I would find a chance to try and practice what I had just learned.

    You’ve already mentioned it, but knowledge of other decklists is also super important. I ran into a monowhite stax list this past weekend in one of the latter rounds while still playing for top 32, and died 0-2. I had no idea how to navigate the matchup because I never played it before (seriously, who the hell plays stax?), but I’ll be better prepared next time (spoiler: apparently you cast Jace and they just die because it’s game over if they fall behind on cards).

    • Tim says:

      Also, dafuq art is that for brainstorm? I NEED a playset!

    • Li Xu says:

      I should’ve provided some more context: by the time I resolved Jace, Tony already had Engineered Plague on Spirits, which pretty much took out any chance I had of winning the game, so I just Brainstormed for the sake of Brainstorming because I was never going to get within ultimate range. The whole thing was more of a statement about me dying to one card than about my incompetence, even though there was plenty of that.

  2. tony says:

    Li, the Tezzerator deck is actually fun to play but it is high variance, but which I mean you have no brainstorm to smooth bad draws (the deck delivers bad draws by the boat load, Yah 3 Baleful Strix and nothing but sol lands woohoo!) and you are pretty much blown out every time you can’t get a planeswalker to stick on the board really quick.

    That being said if you don’t mind endless fustration when your turn 3 and 4 Planewalkers run smack into Red Elemental blasts/spell Pierces and you are out of gas staring down opposing planewalkers trying to get back into the game with Baleful strix beatdown then it is a fun deck.

    • Li Xu says:

      It actually sounds a lot like Troll Tron in that respect. It’s super fun when you ramp out a Wurmcoil/Karn/Eldrazi, but its bad draws are absolutely horrendous. Casting Thirst and hitting more lands and mana rocks is pretty terrible too.

      • tony says:

        Yeah that is another problem is that you have 29 mana sources which is about 6 more than any other deck. IF you can’t stick a Tezz and turning those rocks into monsters or Jace Brainstorming them away you pretty much die to flooding out.

      • Tim says:

        Some dude that beat me in DC with this deck (and top 32’d) in August took Caleb’s version and added Ancestral Visions. I was playing either UW or Esper Blade, I forget which, but Visions was backbreaking for me every time it resolved, and I usually had to make a choice between countering a planeswalker or being able to counter a visions the next turn.

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