There are many reasons Seattle is a great place to live — great food; the opportunity to hear WotC employees cry like overachieving schoolchildren when you beat them at unsanctioned events; a gender ratio that’s slightly better than a Yukon mining town; beautiful bodies (of water, views of which you can enjoy from your car while stuck in traffic) — but Mirkwood is my favorite time of year. For three months, I hole up at Card Kingdom like some library-bound bore and practice Legacy. I used to do this at another LGS, existing on Doritos, sleeping on sell-through Chronicles commons, defecating out the window, and sweating into the dehumidifier, but when Card Kingdom opened, I became classy. Now I eat grilled cheese at Café Mox, which offers every kind of pleasure except hard alcohol, televised sports, a discotheque, and another gender. Now I sleep on beds of digitized love-letters from OKCupid. Now I defecate on myself when I play Legacy. Now I sweat my friends when they’re in the top 8. Just kidding! After I lost round two, I drove back home. I hope the rest of my car found rides.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We have an active Eternal scene here. The Legacy players look down upon the Modern players, and the Modern players look down upon themselves. Every Monday a group of grizzled regulars gathers in the windowless dungeon of Card Kingdom to play the format where winning a GP won’t buy you a deck. It’s a cesspit of mediocrity, but I mean this as a high compliment. Legacy is hard, and if you’re mediocre at it, you’ll have a huge edge on the field. “Winning the battle of mistakes” is a phrase that comes to mind.
That Monday I sleeved up a little something different than usual. Merfolk is often a good choice at Card Kingdom, since the field is full of people who think they’re smarter than everyone else and therefore can’t “spot the fish.” The UWR Delver list was giving me fits, though, so rather than be negative about it I decided to praise the gods for making tempo players too stupid to not include fringe playables like Swords to Plowshares, Stoneforge Mystic, and Grim Lavamancer, while relying on Green graveyard-based creatures that do nothing against cards nobody plays like Rest in Peace, instead. My sunny disposition wasn’t going to turn my fish into a playable deck, though, so I ordered something a little different. “Batman” is a new addition to our Legacy group who just graduated high school and somehow has all the Legacy staples ever. He’s sassy, he’s 18, and he’s rich. In other words, he’s perfect — except it’s a he. “Fish With Shroud” sounded like a good way to stop getting Plowed, so I sleeved up this:
3 Tropical Island
8 Blue fetches / Windswept Heaths
4 Muscle Sliver
4 Sinew Sliver
4 Predatory Sliver
4 Crystalline Sliver
4 Galerider Sliver
2 Force of Will
2 Swords to Plowshares
4 AEther Vial
1 Force of Will
1 Cursed Totem
2 Spell Pierce
2 Harmonic Sliver
1 Life from the Loam
2 Rest in Peace
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Meddling Mage
2 Gaddock Teeg
The tournament started auspiciously, with a win against a balding loudmouth who uses Magic like Joyce used literature — as an escape from his failed medical studies. Between that and his choice of the stone-unplayable Miracles, this round was basically a bye. Meanwhile, a pudgy Asian man with a pretentious wrist brace was rubbing his nose like a Rick James whose dealer had run out of Claritin, and a suburbanite with a goatee was trying to convince himself Progenitus was good against a field of Terminus and Liliana. I lost a round to whatever, beat a Tezzerator deck, then lost another round to whatever. On Tuesday we tested at my house with Batman and a sleazy cable salesman, and though I won one game against Punishing Jund with a lone Galerider Sliver on the board, the deck sucked. It turns out basic Islands and abusing Standstill are a nice upside to certain Vial aggro strategies. Who knew? I tried UWR myself, but cantripping turned out to be too hard, because I am an imbecile.
We Pondered our options and Brainstormed easy deck ideas, but it wasn’t until Batman said “mono-Red” that the choice seemed Preordained:
MONO-RED COMBO ('Shooting the Moon')
I brought the deck to Card Kingdom FNM, the best place to not play FNM and feel superior for playing Legacy and drinking seven-dollar craft pear ciders. My friend Aaron was there. I squashed his Shardless like a BUG, with Sneak Attack playing the part of Impromptu RAID. The next two days I pilloried Punishing Jund and tied with Miracles (again, unplayable, but if people didn’t play unplayable decks there would be no Legacy).
The morning of Mirkwood I woke up early — 10:40 — and drove my van-load of three up to Arlington. Arlington is a small town halfway to Canada; at least when I usually drive in that direction, there is the promise of frat parties or, past that, a new, barbarian country that feels like America in the nineties. The tournament site (“Mirkwood,” presumably after the title tournament — not sure where they came up with that one) was nice: with its ramshackle podium, heirloom instruments, delicious food, in-cel nerds, etc. it felt like the Seattle of my adolescence. I must give unironic props to Joe Bono and some other people for running a great event.
In round 1 I was paired against a random playing Death and Taxes. I’d seen him somewhere before, but I didn’t remember where — my best guess is Round 8 of April’s Legacy Open. His eyes were bloodshot from fatigue, and they turned even redder as I ruined Karakas with more annihilator triggers than Chavez. Death and Taxes: a socialist paradise indeed! Then some other stuff happened. Maybe I’ll splash Black for Dread of Night next time.
In round 2 I played Tim “OMGClayAkhen” Aten. After I showed in Sneak Attack and squished his Demon with a couple of Worldspine Wurms, he morosely remarked it was “the second game in a row [he]’d had turn-two Show and Tell and lost.” In game two I kept an opener of some spells and some lands that were Ancient Tombs. I spun the dreidel over and over again, but no Ararat would spring forth from my library. Meanwhile, Tim was discarding. There is nothing quite like going to four life off your dreidels and not finding the promised land, just another Tomb. It was in that moment that I understood the ordeal of Anne Frank. In game three I had the death wish, so I just lost to countermagic and Jace. Who the hell boards in Jace against mono-red? He can’t even survive after bouncing a Goblin Guide.
On the drive home, there was traffic near Everett, which pissed me off because nobody should live there. I then went to the soccer game, watched the Sounders win, and got called unmentionables by a joyless cow — it was nearly a perfect tournament; the only thing missing was a Portland Timbers career-starting injury. (Ha! Just a little Portland-unemployment joke for you.) It must have been weird to be a Portland fan at the Clink, it’s not like poetry slams attract crowds of 65,000. After that, I got kinda drunk with Aaron and his girlfriend and lamented my perpetual misfortune. Someone texted me that three of the Card-Kingdom suburbanites had made Top 4 (including the insufferable former med student), so I drank some more and forgot about it, until I was assured they hadn’t won, so I remembered it and typed it here. I would play Shooting the Moon again in a heartbeat, but Batman has already promised to build me Waterfalls. Cascade is a nice mountain range, and cataracts are clouding my Ancestral Vision. I predict it’ll be a good choice after Theros, too, since the last big set had only a marginal impact on Legacy. You might even be able to splash White for a pointless Enlightened Tutor package. If you do, play four Plateaus — they’re not gonna get any cheaper, though they might just rise for a bit, then level off.
Keep it dusty,