Going for the Gold: Leaving a Legacy with Grixis Delver in Vegas (6th)
Before we even get into today's article, just in case you missed the title....
I finally secured my second Grand Prix Top 8 in my Magic career at GP Vegas, in Legacy!
Not only that, but this finish allowed me to lock up Gold for the second consecutive year in a row, and made it so that I no longer need any more tournament results. Man, does that feel nice!
This Top 8 feels like it has been such a long time coming, since my first one in GP Miami back in the summer of 2013. Ironically, after my first Top 8 I thought that it would be so much easier to make it back to the elimination rounds of a Grand Prix. Boy was I wrong! At least four years later I was able to run it back, and in a format that I have little to no experience in to boot.
So how did I do that? That sounds like a great topic for today's article.
Flashback to GP Montreal:
So there I was having dropped GP Montreal at a paltry record of 6-2-1. This left me at 3 points below the required threshold to hit Gold, assuming that I had a non-pro point finish at the last Pro Tour.
I chose to spend the rest of the weekend with Michael Hennick, playing at Playground Poker, which if you haven't heard is probably the best poker room in all of Canada. We also spent a few days shopping, which was great because I got to pick up a sweet pair of Stan Smith sneakers. On the way home, the following conversation happened:
Hennick: "You know if you stopped trying to outsmart people with your deck choice you would probably do much better. Everyone says you are a great player, but they are confused by your deck choices, this weekend excluded."
Me: "So what do you think I should play in Legacy?"
Hennick: "Storm, or probably Grixis Delver."
Me: "Okay, I'll try your approach."
So a few days before GP Vegas, I was gathering cards for the Grixis Delver deck, having already written off Storm. I don't own any Legacy cards, so I was really lucky that my good friend Mark Dizon was able to source most of the cards for me through one of his good friends Chris, who had some really sweet altered Volcanic Islands.
I have an issue playing non-matching cards, so whenever possible I made the swaps for the same type of card. I didn't want to be that guy who showed a Foil Gitaxian Probe in hand, but then played a regular one. Hint: one of my opponents did this with one of his cards in our Round 10 feature match.
I was playing the Legacy GP really as a way to waste time before the Limited GP started. But it seems that history had other plans.
My good friend, Matthew Dilks, who I'll be teaming with this weekend at GP Cleveland, was nice enough to write me a match-up analysis and sideboard guide for each of the major match-ups for Grixis Delver. He had given me his list and since I changed it a bit, albeit probably incorrectly in some situations, I just adapted his information and relied on this and my intuition to carry me.
So here's my deck from Vegas:
The Creature Suite:
Deathrite Shaman - This is the best creature in the deck, and the card that I want to see in the dark in every match-up. Not only does it accelerate you in the early game, but it can be quite disruptive to your opponent as it can remove cards from the graveyard and also functions as a win condition.
Delver of Secrets - A great aggressive card and the name-sake of the deck. Without this card, the deck would be slanted to a much slower mid-range deck. Cards such as Ponder and Brainstorm help set the top of the deck so that you don't have to rely on a blind flip, even though there are 28 cards that will flip it.
Young Pyromancer - Affectionately nicknamed "Young Peezy", this card is great against fair decks, such as the Delver mirror, where you can build a board by playing your spells.
Gurmag Angler - This is one of the big payoffs for playing so many cantrips and can sometimes be used to reset an opponent's Tarmogoyf. Most players choose to run two copies, but I can see situations where this card is clunky so I'm only playing one.
Grim Lavamancer - With an extra creature spot available, I looked at Magic Online lists to determine what card I could fill that spot with. Something that jumped out to me was that there were so many creature decks, and it seemed that Grim Lavamancer would be sweet since it's great in the Delver mirror, along with it being great against Death & Taxes and Elves. This card definitely did not disappoint.
Brainstorm - One of the most iconic blue spells of all time, it should be a crime to play blue without playing this card in Legacy. Its combination with fetchlands to shuffle away irrelevant cards is a key interaction in Legacy that allows players to keep the quality of the cards in their hand very high. As mentioned before, it also helps set up your Delver of Secrets.
Ponder - Another great blue cantrip, its built in shuffle feature allows you to find high power sideboard cards. Also, helps set up Delver of Secrets.
Gitaxian Probe - Ever wanted to know what your opponent has in their hand so you can play around it? Wish no longer, as this is a cheap way to accomplish that while digging through your own deck and filling your graveyard.
Lightning Bolt - If Brainstorm is the iconic blue card, then the iconic red card has got to be Lightning Bolt. This card can either double as creature removal or player removal, and it's quite convenient that a flipped Delver of Secrets reduces player's life totals by three.
Dismember - A flexible removal spell that can take down bigger creatures such as Tarmogoyf and Gurmag Angler.
Fire // Ice - This card was the biggest regret of my tournament. Matt Dilks had warned me to not to play this card, and to play Forked Bolt instead. Every time that I drew this card on the draw and my opponent had a Deathrite Shaman in play, I wanted to vomit. One time, I even had to cast Cabal Therapy to discard my opponent's Pyroblast so that I could play this card. The few times that it can be pitched to Force of Will don't make up for the extra mana, and the instant speed rarely comes up.
Force of Will - This card is the best way in the format to punish unfair decks by providing a mechanism in which you can prevent players from going off on turn one. Of course, its card disadvantage doesn't make it a great candidate when playing against fair cards.
Daze - In an aggressive tempo deck such as this one, Daze shines. Add to the fact that the deck also runs four copies of Wasteland and you may be able to lock an opponent out.
Spell Pierce - Typical versions run two copies of Cabal Therapy maindeck, but Dilks had mentioned that Spell Pierce is probably better for the Grand Prix and it came in handy a lot. I would stick with this card going forward.
Instead of covering the lands, I'm going to do a summary here.
There are eight blue fetchlands, so that I can cast Daze with every fetchland. There are only six lands that produce mana, and while all of them produce blue, there are only three sources of red, two sources of black and one source of green. This was something that was constantly a problem during the event, and I might want to go up to four sources of red lands in the future.
The tournament went very well with me starting off with a flawless 9-0 on Day One (my first time doing such a thing), and I went 4-2 on Day Two. This was good enough to get me into Top 8 in 6th place.
Round 1-3: 2-0 versus my bed
Round 4: 2-0 versus Storm
Round 5: 2-0 versus RB Burn
Round 6: 2-1 versus GB Elves
Round 7: 2-1 versus Food Chain
Round 8: 2-0 versus Sultai Delver
Round 9: 2-0 versus Grixis Delver
Round 10: 1-2 versus RUG Delver (Opponent Patrick Kierney made top 8)
Round 11: 2-0 versus Sneak Show (Opponent Nathaniel Smith was able to lock up another year of Gold that weekend as well, so I was super happy for him)
Round 12: 2-0 versus Sultai Delver
Round 13: 2-1 versus Grixis Delver
Round 14: 0-2 versus Death & Taxes (Opponent Andrew Calderon made Top 8)
Round 15: 2-0 versus Infect (Opponent Zachary Koch was the last remaining 12-0 in the tournament)
There were only a few games where I totally felt outclassed and this was playing against Nimble Mongoose in Round 10 where my draws never seemed to be able to compete with the card and against the eventual winner on Death & Taxes. Sanctum Prelate off a Cavern of Souls was really devastating. Despite this, I was able to make top 8 by never letting my shields down against my Infect opponent, who I think was used to players allowing him to have free reign all tournament.
Unfortunately, after I made it to the Top 8, I was promptly paired against my worst match-up, Lands. Of course, I would end up losing in three games. My next article will cover the Top 8 match against Jody Keith that was featured on camera, and I'll walk you through every decision that I made. It should be very interesting, so make sure you tune in.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Please post in the comments below or tweet at me (@SammyTMTG). And, if you want to keep up with my articles and happenings, please make sure you hit the follow button for Twitter @ SammyTMTG. I’ll see you next week and until then, have a great weekend!