Eternal Weekend results are in and Grixis Delver sits atop the heap of the Legacy pile. This should really come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to Legacy, as the deck has been a strong contender in the format for months. Along with the strong showing for the little Insect that could – four slots of the Top 8 taken by Delver decks of some fashion – a combo focused slant is represented. Three of the four remaining slots were taken by Omni-Tell, Lands, and... Splinter Twin?
The winning deck, piloted by Bob Huang, is a somewhat stock list of the "Grixis" Delver shell – I use quotes because the deck does indeed run green, though merely to activate the Deathrite Shamans and flashback Ancient Grudge in the board. In reality, the Grixis lists aren't all that far off from the "Four-Color" lists, with the depth of the green splash being the major difference. Take Huang's list:
And compare it to Charlie Holland's Top 8 list of 4C Delver:
The decks, sitting side by side, diverge more in the threat base than they do in the spell selection or mana. The major difference in spells lies in the winner's choice to play four Gitaxian Probe over Holland's Sylvan Library and Abrupt Decays – a decision predicated I'm sure on the inclusion of Young Pyromancer in the Grixis list. In fact, where the Grixis shell that won the event is largely a UR Delver deck splashing for Deathrite and Gurmag Angler, the 4C list is a Sultai Delver list splashing for Lightning Bolt.
And yet, despite these fundamental differences in approach, the exchange of a single Volcanic Island for a single Tropical Island is the only swap made to the mana-producing lands between the decks. This really points to the inherent strength and fluidity of the fetchland/dual land/cantrip manabase, as decks like Delver can afford an abysmally small land count to deploy their undercosted threats and efficient spells. This is nothing new for the "threshold" style decks, as it's been the case since the original Super-Gro deck, but it is exceptionally demonstrated in these two builds.
Huang's competitor in the Finals was Akash Naidu, playing Omni-Tell, who unfortunately seemed completely outclassed in the post-board matchup. The amount of disruption available to Huang was just staggering, and despite having the combo in hand both games, it was clear for those of us watching that he would not be capable of pushing through Huang's counter-wall. Akash was alone in the Top 8 with his Omni-Tell deck, which would seem to demonstrate the deck having troubles in the event, but the Top 32 decks were littered with Omni-Tell pilots falling just short of the elimination rounds.
In the Semifinals, Akash – and I mean no disrespect by putting it this bluntly – ROLLED his opponent, Kevin King, piloting Lands. While Lands can assemble a fast kill via Exploration into Marit Lage, Akash managed a turn two win in game one, with a turn three win in game two. Kevin actually appeared prepared for the matchup, transforming into a quasi-prison deck in the post-board games, with Sphere of Resistance, Trinisphere and Choke, alongside a full set of Krosan Grip to hopefully shut down Omniscience. Unfortunately he was unable to muster any of that resistance in the post-board games and fell to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. This is an extremely difficult matchup for Lands, and it seems that a rough bracket pairing was the biggest issue for King, as the deck is well-positioned against the Grixis Delver horde. Unfortunately, the Delvers were on the other side of the bracket from King, and he hit the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The Merfolk list that made Top 8, piloted by George Flete, is just really interesting to me. Aside from the fairly standard set of eight Lords, four Silvergill Adept, four Cursecatcher, and four True-Name Nemesis, the three Phantasmal Image stand out to me. They're an excellent way to double up on your True-Name Nemeses, though not the best example of Lord of Atlantis nine through eleven. While on one hand, most things that target the Images do tend to kill them anyway, there are still a number of Forked Bolt-esque effects in the format that make the Images worse when not given hexproof in some way. On the other hand, the full set of maindeck(!) Chalice of the Void in Flete's list do mitigate some of that concern, as they are most often set to one to eliminate potential Plows, Bolts, and cantrips from the opponent. A first turn Aether Vial into Chalice for one is about the best you could do with this list, and I'm sure that's the opener that put George deep into the event. He ran into the buzzsaw of Lands in the Quarterfinals, which is about the worst matchup he can expect in this Top 8.
George's list has a really great sideboard, full of interesting high-impact spells that can dominate a matchup. Had he drawn a timely Back to Basics against Lands, that matchup may have gone quite differently. Gilded Drake is a creature we don't see enough of these days that really shuts down the Omni-Tell and Reanimator strategies trying to put a fat creature into play on the cheap. Arcane Laboratory is fantastic against both Storm Combo and Elves. Iona – at first glance an extremely odd choice for a deck incapable of casting it – is a nod to Omni-Tell. That combo deck must resolve a Show and Tell to win the game, and if you have the Iona in hand when they go for the win, and name Blue, the deck immediately becomes incapable of winning, outside having Emrakul in hand. It's a very unique and potentially game breaking use of a slot, which seems to be the strategy Flete employed.
The last list from the event was piloted by Max Ansbro, who appears to have been mistaken on which format the tournament he was entering an event to play was. Max decided to play an upgraded version of his Modern deck: a Jeskai Splinter Twin deck. In Legacy.
The first thing I'll say about this deck is that for the brief window where I was allowed to play with Dig Through Time in Modern, Twin was absolutely bonkers good. I can only imagine that when this is combined with free Counterspells and better cantrips that you'd be well on your way to being very, very good. The biggest hurdle holding Twin back in Legacy is Twin itself – a four-mana Sorcery speed win condition that you have to resolve through the plethora of free counters and Daze/Pierce effects has always been the drawback. It has to be compared to combos like Painter's Servant/Grindstone, or Rest in Peace/Helm of Obedience, where you either get the benefit of a cheaper combo or one with broader applications. The one thing Twin combo has in its favor is the ability to play the combo creatures at instant speed, and being able to assert pressure on the opponent without the inherent need to combo them out. I'm extremely impressed that Max managed to navigate through the event with this deck, and his list is certainly quite interesting. I do wonder a bit if white is the optimal splash color, especially given the lack of white spells in the maindeck and the particular choices for the splash in the sideboard – if you're concerned about other combo decks, it seems that Ethersworn Canonist could be a number of other choices including the aforementioned Arcane Laboratory, or could be hand disruption to both disrupt their combo and protect your own. Wear // Tear could easily be any other form of enchantment/artifact hate, though perhaps not at the same time. I do wonder if there were specific cards (or sets of cards) that Max was prepping for that led him down this path. Still, as a proof-of-concept demonstration of the viability of Twin in Legacy, we have to at least acknowledge that the deck is potentially a thing.
While the 744 players that began Day 1 of the Legacy Champs didn't break any records (for Legacy, anyway), the players at Eternal Weekend have a distinction all their own – typically those who find their way to Eternal Weekend do so because of a love for the formats, because they really enjoy Legacy and want the opportunity to play a major event in the format. There are far fewer inexperienced Legacy players at this event than a given Grand Prix, as the lack of a Pro Tour invite at the end of the road means the stakes are quite lower. Still, within the Eternal Magic communities the title of "Legacy Champion" and "Vintage Champion" carry a lot of weight well beyond the year of the success itself, and the mantle is worth vying to earn for many. These results, though in many ways quite different than the StarCity Premiere IQ which ran concurrently this weekend just down the road in Charlotte, carry more weight for me. I expect the competition at Legacy Champs to have been fierce, the players to have been experienced in the format, and many of the decks to have been extremely shiny. Such is the way of the dedicated Eternal Magic enthusiast.
Congrats again to Bob Huang, and viva la Legacy!