Ryan McKinney: Journeys of the Water Head Dragon

By Ryan McKinney

As another long weekend of Legacy at Jupiter Games approached, I prepared the same way I always do; by simply discussing things with the wise bear known as Ken Adams.  We tend to agree on most of the theories we discuss. Lately I usually don’t have a deck I’m dead set on playing since no deck has wowed me or learned to dance the dance.  So as usual I went with the great theory of Leon Phelps (AKA “The Ladies’ Man”) “it will randomly work out!”

Having only 43 Lands and BUG control built, I decided to play BUG because it seemed like a deck that fit my play style.  I hadn’t played a single game with the deck yet, so why not test it out in a real event since it’s the best testing you can get anyway.  So after a great night’s sleep (4 hours) I woke up nice and early to make sure I was at the store by 9am to help work before the tournament started.  I made sure my deck was ready to go and sleeved up the night before but still had an open board slot, because I was unsure what card to use.  Looking at the list Gerry Thompson used to top 8 with recently, I decided to cut one spell pierce from his sideboard and put in a one of Creeping Corrosion to fill my free board slot because Ron Shoemaker had one easily accessible and Affinity had just won a 5k the weekend prior to this tournament.

Here is my list for reference:


Land (22)

  • 4x Misty Rainforest
  • 3x Verdant Catacombs
  • 3x Polluted Delta
  • 4x Wasteland
  • 4x Underground Sea
  • 2x Tropical Island
  • 2x Bayou

Creature (10)

  • 4x Dark Confidant
  • 4x Tarmogoyf
  • 2x Terravore

Instant (17)

  • 4x Force of Will
  • 4x Go for the Throat
  • 4x Brainstorm
  • 3x Daze
  • 2x Spell Snare

Sorcery (9)

  • 4x Hymn to Tourach
  • 2x Ponder
  • 2x Thoughtseize
  • 1x Inquisition of Kozilek

Planeswalker (2)

  • 2x Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Sideboard (8)

  • 3x Ghastly Demise
  • 3x Submerge
  • 2x Krosan Grip
  • 1x Creeping Corrosion
  • 2x Llawan, Cephalid Empress
  • 1x Spell Pierce
  • 1x Life from the Loam
  • 2x Maelstrom Pulse


Round 1: I get paired against Sneak Attack/ Show & Tell. I remember casting an early Thoughtseize and taking a Force of Will in order to make sure he couldn’t assemble his combo. This was especially valuable because his opener didn’t have a Show & Tell or a Sneak Attack in it. I got a bob online and began the card advantage game until he resolved a Sneak Attack, taking some damage from his Ancient Tomb. I held my breath and hoped I wasn’t going to be facing down a hasty Emrakul when I shipped the turn back after playing a Terravore. When his next two draws didn’t yield a Progenitus or Emrakul he scooped and it was on to game two.  I remember boarding in the Spell Pierce, 2x Krosan Grip, and I may have boarded in a Pulse but I don’t believe I did. For Game 2 I kept a pretty solid hand that had disruption, counters, and a bob.  He again started fairly slow and I resolved an Inquisition, a bob, and a goyf early on.  This let me start attacking his life total while holding a Force, a Spell Pierce, and a Daze. He tried to resolve a Show & Tell, but thanks to an earlier Hymn to Tourach he only had 3 cards left in hand.  So I cast Spell Pierce with him only having 1 mana up, he Force of Wills the Spell Pierce leaving him with one card, and I Force back. This leave’s him a one turn window in which to rip a Show & Tell, he doesn’t so I win the match the following turn on the back of goyf and bob beats.  Record: 1-0-0

Round 2: I play a mirror match against Milton who would also make Top 8 that day.  Game 1 I keep a 2 lander with business, however he had some early Wastelands that left me light on lands even though I was digging for more. For a few turns I was stuck on one or two mana trying to stay in the game. We traded creatures and removal spells back and forth until he got a goyf to stick and I was unable to find an answer in time, losing game 1.  For game 2 I board in a Ghastly Demise or two, the Spell Pierce and the Life from the Loam.  I drew a good hand that had a Wasteland and 2 other lands along with a bob and other action. I wasted him early and he had kept a land light hand which ended up punishing him.  He got stuck on one land for a few turns. I drew into my Loam the turn after landing a goyf and from there I return 2 wastelands and the game is over with him having no lands and a goyf beating in for 4 each turn. Game 3 we both have lands and it starts off with us both resolving bobs and killing them, then stripping each other’s hands. Once we got into a top deck war I drew a Confidant right away and rode him to victory as Milton was unable to find an answer for the Confidant and the card advantage proved to be too much when I resolved a Terravore that chewed his life total away in two swings. Record: 2-0-0

Round 3: I’m paired against Dan Jordan playing Junk. Going into this round I had talked to a few decent players who had said Junk was a fairly good match up for me, which made me feel better about the pairing but then again its Dan Jordan so I knew the games would be close regardless. Dan ended up winning in three games but the matchup usually pans out that you just trade removal spells and creatures back and forth. Whoever lands a bob usually ends up winning because the card advantage is just so key. When we got into top deck wars I felt like I was ahead because of my blue card draw and the only creatures I care about from his deck are bob and Knight of the Reliquary (which is def one of the 2 best creatures in legacy). After board I gain access to more removal spells as well which you’d think would help favor me, however what put Junk over the top was in fact Sensei’s Divining Top. The card proved to be too much and helped Dan dig for the answers he needed in the 2 games he won.  So I actually have to disagree with most people that this is an easy match because if they resolve a top odds are they have a better shot at winning than BUG does.  Record: 2-1-0

Round 4: I play Trevor who is piloting N.O. Bant. Game 1 was fairly easy as he was mana light and I had early pressure with removal to ensure he couldn’t cast a Natural Order and pay for the Daze I had. Game 2 he won by casting Natural Order and killing me with a Progenitus. In Game 3 we both had early action and I had a bob in play. We traded blows back and forth until he landed a Thrun that started dealing real damage.  In an effort to find answers I play out a second bob and a goyf in order to race it. With time running low and math becoming a headache I joke to Trevor that a second Thrun would be really good for him; at this point I had played out a 3rd Dark Confidant in order to guarantee lethal damage next turn by chumping his Thrun or pushing through it. I was also holding a Go For the Throat to kill one of my own bobs at end of turn if he decided not to attack because he was at 4 and I had 3 bobs and a goyf. Unfortunately for Trevor he got flustered and cast a second Thrun, to which I simply replied “resolves”.  That was when he realized his mistake and scooped up his cards.  I pointed out he didn’t need to scoop there because I still had to survive my Confidant triggers, since I was only at 5 life. I did have the removal to kill one but I flipped the 2 triggers for fun and would have lived through my turn to kill him either way.  I felt bad for Trevor (since he has an insatiable appetite for foreign cards just like me) but it did give me the win.  Record: 3-1-0

Round 5: I’m paired against James Higginbottom who is playing a BUG Stifle naught deck. I knew that the match up was very similar to playing the mirror but Higginbottom has the trump of playing dreadnaught and stifle which can hurt my mana base and simply produce a threat I have only 2 answers for in my deck: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Game 1 was a very long game that led to us having no cards and me drawing better by simply top decking a Dark Confidant and riding it to victory along with a Terravore. Game 2 I kept a decent opener with James on the play.  He led with a dual and passed. I played a fetch and attempted to crack it which he stifled. So I passed back, on his turn he played dreadnaught and stifled the ability….uh oh. I look at my top card and scoop.  Game 3 I get ahead early thanks to Dark Confidant and ride that advantage to victory by killing him with Tarmogoyfs. Higginbottom is actually one of the players who pilots this deck very well, so talking during and after the match about his tweaks was very helpful. Record: 4-1-0. This means if I win next round I can draw in since it’s a seven round tournament.

Round 6: Affinity. I was not surprised to be facing this deck since it had just gained a ton of popularity by winning a Star City 5k with a new list that ran Tezzeret the Seeker instead of the Ravager and Disciple of the Vault combo. Game 1 I got destroyed by his creatures and died with three Go for the Throats in my hand (not so good when all their creatures are artifacts, lol). Game 2 I won a close race by getting early pressure and cutting off his mana with 2 wastelands.  He eventually found lands and started playing creatures but Tarmogoyf got me there. In game 3 I got a Dark Confidant down on turn 2 and again tried to slow his mana production for a few turns. He drew out of it and played a few creatures, one of them being a metal crafted Etched Champion. This is something that I have almost no way to deal with since it would require him to have less than 3 artifacts in play.  The Etched Champion beat me down to a mere 3 life while leaving a stranded Jace in my hand due to a Pithing Needle in play naming Jace. I drew a brainstorm for my turn and said “well I have a one outer here”.  The third card I draw is my one of Creeping Corrosion (mental fist pump!!!), so I crack the fetch I have in play and cast the Corrosion clearing his entire board. The only problem is I still had a bob in play that could kill me on my upkeep. So he passed after not drawing a land and I revealed with bob a ponder leaving me at 1 life.  This was enough because I simply played my Jace and the brainstorming began to ensure I didn’t die to my own dark confidant.  From there I was able to control the game and win on 1 life.  Record 5-1-0, Top 8 here I come.

Round 7: ID with BFS Final Swiss Record: 5-1-1

Top 8: I get paired against my good friend Seneca Hobler who is playing Junk.  After we discussed things we agreed to a prize split and played it out for the NELC points.  He was able to beat me 2-0 simply through top advantage, which was my fear since it’s what basically won the match for Dan Jordan as well. My draws were slightly worse against Seneca but in one game I was unable to deal with a Knight of the Reliquary that Wastelanded me into oblivion, followed by a severe face beating. And in game 2 he was able to stick a Dark Confidant and a Sensei’s Divining Top, which was obviously a deadly combination. So he advanced to the Semi-finals where he was able to defeat dredge. He ended up losing in the finals to Josh playing a U/B control deck.

Overall I felt that this deck was a good choice and definitely plays some of the most powerful cards in legacy. I also like playing a control deck that is popular in the format because I often feel like I have an advantage in mirrors due to play skill or experience (obviously deck experience was not a determining factor in this case). The only changes I’ve made to the deck since the tournament are adding a Darkblast to the sideboard, which allows you to win goyf wars and kills dark confidants with ease, and changing up the main deck removal to 2 Go for the Throats and 2 Smothers. The one of Creeping Corrosion was removed from my sideboard as well since it was basically a joke card anyway and was replaced by energy flux. I would recommend this deck if you are looking for a strong controlling deck in legacy, however with GP Providence coming up soon and the release of New Phyrexia it is unclear how the format will change and I know I will be testing a lot before the GP. Hopefully I will see everyone at our next legacy event and at GP Providence, be sure to stop by our dealer booth at the GP and pick up any cards you are in need of. Feel free to leave comments in the forum and I will respond to them as fast as I can.

…And don’t forget to always bring your bucket because you never know when you might start taking on water.

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