Kevin An who runs the Magic events at the Geekery HQ in Queens hands me his Canadian Threshold deck on a Monday evening, the Legacy 4-round local tournament just about to fire. I’ve practiced online a bunch, but i’m still nervous — I usually get nervous round one of any tournament; the fear of the unknown perhaps — and while I wait i’m thumbing through his particular build, looking for the flex slots and deconstructing the sideboard. Rotating into the sideboard a few cards from my own collection, Kevin calls round one and the pairings sheet goes up.
I play four rounds and end up 2-2 for the night. I can’t seem to break even lately at tournaments. I’m feeling as I leave the store like i’ve reached some fork in the road of my magic skill, having a ‘just about even record’ when compiling all my recent tournament performances. I contribute this wobbly sense of halving my results to a few things.
- I have been flip-flopping a lot in my constructed deck choices, experimenting and not committing.
- I am an intuitive player who plays from his heart more than his mind. In fact, I rely too heavily on my intuition when I play, and ‘feeling’ my way along a game, while effective, needs the minds sense of guidance to embolden ones intuitive nature.
Focusing on being more logical is of the utmost importance to my game at this moment, so my going 2-2, 3-3, etc. at any given tournament is fine with me for the immediate and local future so long as my mind, and my heart, is in the proper place.
Back to Canadian Threshold. Li Xu, fellow teammate and vintage champs top-8 deck designer extraordinaire, is my resource when it comes to learning the deck. For anyone who has been following my wild forage into Legacy since returning to the game, you know that the crutch I have forever leaned on, Abrupt Decay, ruled my deck selection. Now, I am utterly infatuated with Canadian after joyfully Stifle/Wastelanding my opponents into day 2 at Grand Prix New Jersey last year. I had tried the deck once or twice before, and it was beyond challenging. I got smashed, as they say. Scraped. My opponents smeared me across the floor.
Which, as you might guess, only increased my desire to learn the deck. It’s a beautiful machine, and I found myself thinking quite a lot about the deck when I wasn’t playing, which had to mean it was a strange kind of love. The kind of abusive love that keeps you coming back because you know you can make it better this time.
For those of you who don’t know what Canadian is — I can’t entirely assume everyone does — here is a sample decklist.
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Force of Will
4 Spell Pierce
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Forked Bolt
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Volcanic Island
3 Tropical Island
2 Sulfur Elemental
1 Life from the Loam
1 Pithing Needle
2 Grafidgger’s Cage
1 Winter Orb
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Destructive Revelry
Some call it RUG Delver, some call it Temur Delver, some call it Complete Bullshit. Canadian is an ‘Aggro-Control’ deck that aims to maximize tempo. Stick a cheap threat, protect it, and disrupt the opponent just long enough to land 20 damage. The deck operates optimally on two lands, has a bevy of cheap library manipulation and soft countermagic, uses Wasteland / Stifle as mana denial which, in turn, keeps your soft counters live so long as you can ride the tempo advantage. The green creature suite of Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose both benefit from quickly filling the graveyard, and Canadian essentially tops off at 2 mana with a myriad of one mana plays, so getting the all-too-familiar Creature / Land / Instant / Sorcery for Tarmogoyf or achieving Threshold for your Mongoose reguarly happens within the first few turns.
This deck is very fast and its disruptive elements can keep almost any deck in the format off balance. Played well enough, Canadian has a punchers chance against any other deck in the metagame simply based off the power of mana denial and tempo spells.
Previously, I had played BUG Delver, which had a similar gameplan, but there were significant deviations that kept me locked out of trying Canadian.
- BUG Delver plays Abrupt Decay.
- I played during the hilarity of Treasure Cruise.
Now that the
absurd format warping delve draw spells have been banished to restricted in Vintage — and kudos to you, WoTC, for printing such powerful cards — BUG Delver can go back to a more black-centric build and use Hymn to Tourach (one of my all-time favorite magic cards) and Liliana of the Veil to disrupt the opponent while fueling Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf. This is all very appealing to me, an Abrupt Decay mage. However, I want to lean on Abrupt Decay no longer. And to do that, I think the best way is to play a similar style of deck, but with a slightly different threat / answer gameplan, pushed too the edges of tempo advantage.
The elegance and fragility of Canadian appeals to my goal of self-improvement. There is a very real impact on sequencing and knowing your opponents game plan in Legacy, and Canadian relies on your ability to process these concepts at every turn. This play-style forces me to adapt my midrange-attuned mind to not sit back so much and answer, answer, answer my opponents threats. It forces me to get ahead and stay ahead while predicting what my opponent will try next. It’s more proactive and lithe, as opposed to heavy and attrition-based.
So am I going to Grand Prix Seattle? I still haven’t made plans, but a bunch of the guys are headed west to battle Legacy. There’s also the SCG Open at the end of November in New Jersey. A few great venues to retest my Legacy skill are on the way, and I can’t image skipping both opportunities. How often do we get to play Legacy with such a big player pool in a given year, now that StarCity has ceased their weekly-ish support of the format? Maybe half a dozen?
That’s not enough. I love this format, and that’s mostly because the opportunity to play it has decreased significantly. I have to be interested in Standard in order to qualify. But Legacy is where I get to play powerful magic.
Until next week.
Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.