By Roland Chang

A couple weeks ago, I flew out on a Friday morning to Niagara Falls to attend the first Legacy Grand Prix of 2019. After fifteen rounds of battle against a field of 964 players, I finished in 20th place with a 12-3 record.

Since I still had some work to finish up before the weekend, I didn’t sign up for any events until much later in the afternoon. As soon as I could, I jumped right into the next Legacy Last Chance Trial for a single-elimination tournament in which you had to win four straight matches to receive a two-round bye for Saturday’s main event. Unlike a few of my friends who had already earned byes, I still had zero byes for this grand prix.

I barely got my decklist written out in time and even missed the announcement for the event’s pairings. They called out for “Ronald Chang” at some tables far from where I was told to stand and wait, and I definitely didn’t hear the judge until friends nearby alerted me. After scrambling across the hall to that correct table, I confirmed my seat and went into match mode. It turned out, the judge simply read my misspelled name on the Round 1 match slip—go figure!

In a tight three games, I lost to my opponent on UW Stoneblade, a deck that I knew would be everywhere. I left that event strangely okay with the hard-fought loss. It was a blessing in disguise because it saved me from three more hours of grinding Magic that evening. Instead, I enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner with friends before the chaotic tournament.

Before heading to bed, I made a few last-minute tweaks to my list and resleeved my deck. The changes included removing one Dismember for Forked Bolt in the maindeck, and removing two Cabal Therapy and one Dread of Night for Diabolic Edict, Kolaghan’s Command, and Marsh Casualties in the sideboard. Something felt right about this new configuration against the metagame I saw earlier in the day.

Grixis Delver

Creatures (9)
Delver of Secrets
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage
True-Name Nemesis

Spells (32)
Spell Pierce
Force of Will
Forked Bolt
Lightning Bolt
Young Pyromancer
Lands (19)
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15)
Diabolic Edict
Engineered Explosives
Grafdigger's Cage
Kolaghan's Command
Marsh Casualties
Surgical Extraction
Umezawa's Jitte

Day One

ROUND 1 vs Gary Hummel (Grixis Control): W (2-0), Record 1-0

I can’t remember many details about this match besides winning the die roll. It went smoothly.

ROUND 2 vs Brian McCue (Grixis Control): W (2-0), Record 2-0

I faced a very similar Grixis Control deck in this round and dismantled it on the draw.

ROUND 3 vs Cameron Perry (Oops, All Spells!): W (2-0), Record 3-0

After a couple of pretty grindy matches, I sat down across from a nervous but friendly foe. It was Cameron’s first grand prix experience, so I welcomed him and shared a few laughs before getting down to business.

Game one was tricky. I had absolutely no idea what he was trying to do as he cast a free Summoner’s Pact to grab Elvish Spirit Guide, which helped cast Manamorphose. Fortunately, I was on the play and led with a fetchland and Spell Pierce backup with more cantrips to follow. I noticed quickly that he did not have an easy way to pay for the Pact’s game-losing upkeep trigger the following turn, so I countered that Manamorphose with nothing left floating in his pool. With only a couple of cards left in his hand, he promptly scooped, leaving me completely puzzled about what just happened.

Game two ended within a few turns as well after he led with a Lotus Petal and passed. His deck screamed combo to me, so I made post-board adjustments and kept a hand backed by Force of Will. On my turn, I cast Thoughtseize on him, to which he revealed Dark Ritual, two Rite of Flame, Manamorphose, Seething Song, and Elvish Spirit Guide. I took the Manamorphose and then closed out the match shortly thereafter with Delvers. Our match ended after only fifteen minutes, so he graciously shared how his deck could have worked against me.

For those not familiar with “Oops, All Spells!” it combos off by casting everything in the deck without ever dropping a single land. And upon doing so, it plays a Laboratory Maniac, who lets you win the game instead of losing if you would draw a card while your library has no cards in it. Sounds scary to pilot, but if you catch your opponent without any countermagic, you can beat them while their defenses are down.

ROUND 4 vs Stephen Lessmann (Aggro Loam): L (1-2), Record 3-1

This deck wrecked me in a rather lopsided set of three games. In both games one and three, he beat me down with a massive Knight of the Reliquary with Chalice of the Void plus Wastelands.

ROUND 5 vs Ron Mackenzie (UW Stoneblade): W (2-0), Record 4-1

Ron taught me something about surviving a grand prix. Even before we sat down for our match, he asked for a judge to receive a time extension so that he could run out to take a quick restroom break. I took the same liberty and we had a good match. It went well, providing a nice bounce back after my first loss the previous round.

ROUND 6 vs Timothy Harding (ANT Storm): W (2-0), Record 5-1

I won’t ever claim to be a psychic, but I do remember thinking prior to the start of our match that Timothy was on combo. Trusting that instinct, I managed to keep a hand on the play with enough countermagic to disrupt and keep him off balance. He eventually reluctantly chained off a mini-Tendrils with a storm count of five, saving him for a couple more turns before my army of creatures killed him. Game two, he was mid-combo when he said, “Ahh . . . I messed up.” By that point, I assumed that I was dead, but he scooped up his cards and we shook hands instead.

ROUND 7 vs Liam Bollard (Aggro Loam): L (1-2), Record 5-2

I led this game by tapping out for Ponder, only to be punished when Liam landed Chalice of the Void on one while I stupidly stared down at the Spell Pierce in my hand. He played this match masterfully and locked me out just enough that I could not function in games one or three.

ROUND 8 vs Nicholas Leberth (UR Delver w/ G Splash): W (2-1), Record 6-2

All of my work on Day One came down to this match. It was do or die and Nicholas Leberth remained the only person stopping me from making it to the second day for my first time at a grand prix.

He won the die roll and started off with an Island. I also started off with an Island, but resolved a Delver before passing the turn. On his next turn, he played Wasteland and without hesitation, slammed down Young Pyromancer. It wasn’t until it got back to my upkeep with my Delver flipping via Daze on top that I realized that my opponent cast his red spell using blue mana.

We called for a judge and he received a Game Rules Violation, while I still received a warning for not maintaining game-state. I’m never a fan of receiving warnings of any kind, but mine was nowhere as severe as a GRV. Nicholas was clearly tilted by what had just unfolded, so I lightened things up by addressing sarcastically how strong his conviction was to get that Pyromancer into play. He fooled me!

He refocused and eventually won that game with just enough burn while I had him at one life. I won the next game on the play with relative ease. It came down to a super close third game to determine who would move on. We played this game under the scrutiny of a few observers and a judge sitting nearby. I managed to find a path to victory, which included a series of careful plays, avoiding any unnecessary damage. Life totals were six to two before I managed to win. Talk about neck and neck—this one had me truly sweating!

ROUND 9 vs Royce Walter (ANT Storm): L (1-2), Record 6-3

After a brief celebration amongst friends, I realized that there was still plenty of work ahead. I was guaranteed more rounds of competitive Magic on Sunday, but I still wanted to finish Day One strong. Unfortunately, I found myself paired against Royce Walter, a respected Pro Tour competitor and Legacy Storm player. I figured that I was up against Storm once again, but this time, I knew my opponent would leave no room for error.

Royce destroyed me in game one—I simply didn’t stand a chance. Next game I fully disrupted his mana base by Stifling his fetch, destroyed another land via Wasteland and at one point sacrificing Engineered Explosives to destroy a Lotus Petal.

Game three I ended up losing to Xantid Swarm. At a crucial point of this game, I decided to chip away at his life total instead of sitting back with my flipped Delver and potentially block while he drew more cards. While I slowly dealt him three damage a turn, Xantid Swarm attacked me unscathed, helping Royce resolve a timely Ponder, which then set up the following turn’s massive Tendrils kill.

Day Two

Round 10 vs Juan Llodra Pablo (UB Control): W (2-0), Record 7-3

Juan’s a great friend and fellow New Yorker who is always a top-notch competitor. Before Day Two started, he sat with me while I slowly resleeved my deck. If he’d paid more attention to the cards I resleeved, he would have seen my entire decklist before we played. We thought it was hilarious to get paired up after sitting there talking about our decks and matchups from Day One.

I’d characterize this matchup as a war of attrition. In both games, I kept Juan firmly on the defense, constantly resolving threats adding pressure. I won the first rather decisively, but it was filled with moments in which he could have come back if I stumbled. Game two was much closer, and our final life totals were one apiece. Juan did as much as he could do to fight off my threats, but I found that last point of damage to kill him. The two intense games we played took over 40 minutes, but that was some of the finest and grindiest Legacy Magic I played all weekend!

Round 11 vs Kyle Teagan (UR Delver): W (2-0), Record 8-3

Getting that first win of Day Two out of the way helped ease my nerves and sharpen my focus. Heading into my match against Kyle, I recognized his name from previous Legacy Delver Top 8 decklists, so I expected either a mirror match or something with Delvers. Kyle had trouble getting flooded by lands in both games, having poor draws and at one point getting Brainstorm-locked, drawing into three lands without any way to fix his library.

Round 12 vs Joel Heath (Sneak & Show): W (2-0), Record 9-3

This matchup felt a little too good! With my current configuration of Grixis Delver, I had a solid record against Sneak & Show. Fortunately, this time was no different and Joel never resolved a real threat in either game.

Round 13 vs Cody Kuxmann (Eldrazi Post): W (2-1), Record 10-3

I took down game one by setting up a line of play over the course of 3 turns by rearranging the top of my library as Preordain, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Bolt. My two Insectile Aberrations in the air swung in a couple of times, while knocking his life total down just enough for end of turn Bolts to be relevant. He then resolved All is Dust, tapping him out completely. With his life total at six, I cast a Bolt at the end of his turn. On my turn, I revealed a Bolt on top of my library to win. He won the second game with Chalice of the Void, but I won game three comfortably thanks to Wasteland effects.

Round 14 vs Kenneth Ryan II (Eldrazi Post): W (2-0), Record 11-3

This Eldrazi Post matchup really came down to Wasteland effects and I kept him off of any relevant spells while destroying his mana base. The two games went quickly and we parted ways amicably after a quick set.

Round 15 vs Gino Bautista (Mono Red Moon Stompy): W (2-1), Record 12-3

At this point, I could sense the finish line! For a player to get this deep into a tournament, they would have to be a rather formidable opponent. Gino did not disappoint and he was ready to fight, running my favorite Magic card in his deck, Trinisphere.

Gino resolved a turn one Trinisphere, but I responded by knocking out his Ancient Tomb with Wasteland. Now we were both equally stuck under his Trinisphere. Fortunately for me, I climbed out of that hole faster than he did and won with Delvers. I should have won game two, but I forgot I could chump block his Hazoret, the Fervent by casting Abrade on it to create an Elemental token off my Young Pyromancer. Only realizing that after the game ended, I drew as much will as I could to refocus and finish out the last and final game of my tournament.

The final game was a blur, but I do recall casting Lightning Bolt for the final points of damage, thus securing my spot in the Top 32. While not as exciting as having your name called out during the Top 8 announcement, I already knew that I had no chance to make the cut. I had no additional pressure to perform well, so I rattled off six straight match wins to go undefeated in my first Day Two appearance!


Grand Prix Niagara Falls will forever go down as one of my most memorable Magic tournaments and experiences! All of those hours spent testing, competing, traveling, and theorizing into the wee hours of the night finally felt like they paid off. My travel buddies for the weekend, folks from NYC, and GP circuit friends kept me busy, entertained, and happy.

Each of my opponents were skilled in their own right and played Legacy Magic at a very high level. Most players shared a mutual respect for not only the game, but for each other’s playskill as well. It could have been the aging factor of the game, or the increasing level of maturity from the player base. Almost a thousand wizards fought on Easter Weekend, away from family and loved ones, and it was a blast!

Roland Chang has won both the Vintage and Legacy Championships at Eternal Weekend.

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