“THE PEOPLE’S CANNON” AT LEGACY CHAMPS
In some circles, the Vintage Championship is a far more important event the Pro Tour, Worlds, or the MTG Underground Invitational. Eternal Weekend attracts a very special breed; a high-powered, mutant, lover of all things too broken for mainstream magic. Too weird to live, too rare to die.
Eternal Weekend is lingering beyond the horizon. For most of us, that means traveling a distance ranging from unpleasant to absurd to spend the weekend in Philadelphia slinging cards instead of running the steps from Rocky to take a picture of a statue.
It means sleeving up our power, dusting off our MISHRA’S WORKSHOPS, and punching a time card at the Bazaar of Baghdad.
We look forward to this all year long and when it is finally shining at the edge of the sky we scramble to get ready. We look for any last minute technology (perhaps a missing card for our sideboard) and are inwardly amazed at how unprepared we are for something that we’ve anticipated for so long.
The unpreparedness extends beyond just the cards. In the two weeks before the event I will receive numerous inquiries about who I am going with and how I am getting there. Many of you will not have a place to stay the day before. There is so much involved in the adventure of Eternal Weekend that it is easy to forget small details. By the time we make it to the site, it is a feat not to collapse under the weight of exhaustion.
We come for Vintage Champs, but it is not enough to justify the endeavor. For some, the artists and offsite madness provide the incentive. Others may play in the Standard tournament that I vaguely read about.
Most of us die hard Vintage fans will complement our primary purpose with Legacy Champs. It is a simple step to the side, and a welcome addition to our schedule. It adds considerable value for minimal effort, and though a new art Tundra trophy is not the same gem as a recreated Mox trophy the title of Legacy World Champion is still a worthy decoration. It also lets us live out the fantasy of taking down both events one after another inside our head, a feat which has yet to be accomplished.
Playing Legacy on Saturday is a great opportunity but it comes at a cost. The perceived best decks of the format are both big blue decks and neither is particularly easy or mindless to pilot. After playing Miracles for a whole day, regardless of whether you win or lose the amount of strain on your wits is enough to impact your performance on Sunday. An endless string of SHOW AND TELL mirror matches are no less taxing.
Are we just going to let the big blue decks hold the format hostage?
“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” –Plato
You could always skip the event, but let us be honest with each other: you did not come this far, for this long, to not play as much Eternal Magic as possible!
Playing numerous rounds to time may not be ideal, but not bothering to sleeve up a deck when we’ve come so far is even worse. There has to be a middle ground. There is an argument that Storm could well be that path, but the truth is that post board Storm match ups can be as grindy and taxing as playing Miracles. We must dig deeper.
Where do we go? What do we do? We go to the frontlines. We fight the good fight.
Anyone who gets to know me quickly learns about my passion for the card GOBLIN CHARBELCHER.
I played it in both Legacy Grand Prix I participated in to reasonable finishes (187th out of 4000 players in New Jersey) in addition to putting up numerous Top 8 finishes with the deck at SCG Opens. The deck is more than a pet, it is a companion. Wherever there is evil lurking I am not far away with my cannon, ready to dispense a personal brand of justice fueled by a healthy amount of green mana.
It should surprise no one that I will be playing the deck at the Legacy Championship; b ut why should you do the same?
For starters, the deck is powerful.
It is wrongly perceived as being unstable or inconsistent, largely because it is typically piloted by new players with a poor grasp on the format. Newer players tend to gravitate toward the deck because it is one of the cheapest decks to build (or borrow) for players just breaking into the format.
The “unstable or inconsistent” reputation of the deck is unfairly given because it requires more understanding and methodology to play than many of its pilots have under their belts. It is the equivalent of handing a gun to a child who has only ever handled a knife. He is liable to shoot himself, but it is not because the gun is unpredictable.
What happens when it is put in the hands of a skilled pilot? It becomes dangerous with direction. It threatens the tyranny that keeps the format frozen in place with a healthy blast of liberty. If enough vigilantes braved the linear edges of the format with these weapons of mass destruction, the old guard would be knocked boisterously from their thrones and a brave new world of good guys (or, lunatics) would rise up to set the masses free. Their deeds would be sung about for generations to come.
In simpler, more quantified terms, the advantages to playing the deck are twofold:
First, the ability to kill your opponent before they take a turn is awesome. The best way to play around something on turn two is to kill your opponent on turn one. You get to take games before they happen and many decks, especially those that lack FORCE OF WILL, are helpless against your method. Being proactive is a surefire way to force wins and there is nothing more proactive than the People’s Cannon.
Unlike Storm decks, you don’t have to worry about problematic cards like THALIA, GUARDIAN OF THRABAN because they hit the table after you have already committed to action. Unlike Elves, you cannot be reliably punished by PUNISHING FIRE because your hordes come down too quickly and kill too swiftly. On top of having built in immunities to problematic combo hate cards the deck is faster than both of these other leading combo decks which is to our advantage when playing against other combo decks.
The second advantage is time. When you are stealing games and winning matches very quickly you have plenty of free time each round. This extra time can be utilized to help you keep your wits sharp. It is much easier to feel rested after playing fifteen minutes of each hour rather than all of them. Until you have had this luxury, you cannot fully appreciate what it means.
There is nothing more satisfying than being able to socialize, eat, buy cards, hydrate, read from the Selected Works of Hemingway, or whatever you choose to do with your free time, all while the horde of Miracles players grumble around in hungry despair trying desperately to urinate before the next set of pairings are posted while their brains slowly become unwired from the frustration of having had to deal with the slowest Lands player in the room the round before…
You will be relaxed. Refreshed. The most stressful part of your round was mocking your friend for taking so long or trying to refill your flask over a bathroom sink. Y ou might even have time to get some last minute Vintage testing in.
There is no limit to the improvement your life will experience when you become the Belcher Guy in Legacy.
Trust me, I am a professional.
But where do you start?
You have seen the deck enough. Your friend has it sleeved in some old, grimy Dragon Shield sleeves that you might catch something from touching. It is likely a suboptimal build because he never got around to buying a set of BURNING WISH. For the ultimate rub-ins, he may even have a variety of ATOG or fifteen foil Saga Islands as a sideboard.
That is not the Belcher deck you want to play.
Never fear, (coincidently, this is the first rule of playing The People’s Cannon), I have a list for you.
The list below is the exact seventy five I will play at Legacy Champs. I have no secrets. People already know.
In the last Star City event I played in one of my opponent’s cast a turn one PITHING NEEDLE against me on the play on the first turn and named, you guess it, GOBLIN CHARBELCHER. He looked me in the eye as I expressed my surprise and told me he know who I was and that he knew my deck. Fortunately, on my first turn I cast EMPTY THE WARRENS for a ton of Goblins and two turns later won the game.
On turn one of round one, having lost the die roll, my opponent played a pithing needle out of his main deck. His choice? Goblin Charbelcher. He looked me in the eye as I expressed my surprise, and told me that he knew who I was. Life is hard. Fortunately I had Empty the Warrens in my hand and two turns later he died an appropriate death.
4x Lotus Petal
4x Chrome Mox
4x Land Grant
4x Tinder Wall
4x Burning Wish
4x Xantid Swarm
1x Hull Breach
The Mana is pretty simple as we require a critical mass of the best mana spells for casting your business spells. I have read assessments that suggest that I am wrong by people who claim to have crunched the numbers and found a “better answer” with math. They will tell you how clever they are (without ever having played the deck in a tournament) and how they figured out the “perfect configuration,” mock my rebuttals, and return to their regular lives playing miracles. There is an engineer in every crowd. Never trust a blue print.
This is not a desk for people who theorize from an Ivory Tower far above the Plateau of Leng. It is a weapon of the people, a means of rising up. If the Sensei’s Divining hand doles out judgment on your method, it is out of a deep-seated fear of rebellion and not out of a desire of help. Do not throw your lot in with wolves dressed as wise men. They are not your friends.
Eleven Business spells are the maximum number you can play in this deck without changing to be a different (worse) deck. Once again, there are people who will tell you that eleven is wrong, but this time they come from two very separate and opposing camps. They both have their own megalomaniacal ideas, bent on being right through a means other than practice, but I assure you they are both not only wrong, but also toxic to progress. Instead of arguing with the theories of madmen, I have put up results and stepped back to state my case with my harvest. Lab testing has no game on field work.
First comes the camp that will tell you that ten is the correct number of win conditions. They sever a burning wish. What do they play instead? Street Wraith or Manamorphose. Why? To draw a win condition. It comes from the same people who tell you my manabase is wrong. They want you to know that you only want three chrome mox, even though they don’t understand why. They make the deck more random and tell you it is inconsistent. Sound like the Hand of Power at work to you? Do not be fooled by false idols.
The other camp eschew BURNING WISH altogether and play all four EMPTY THE WARRENS in the main deck. Why? One theory is that it allows them to mock the format by having flavorful and useless sideboards. Another theory is that they come from Ohio…
In truth, it makes the deck a fragment cheaper, lazier, and easier to write down. It runs less win conditions and no solutions out of the sideboard. This takes the idea that you just do not care about your opponent or the outcome of your games. It is an excellent tactic if you decide to start drinking moonshine before you leave your hotel room, but if you plan to actually win throughout the day you may at least want to consider giving yourself fifteen extra tools with which to do it.
I play four draw spells. The best four. GITAXIAN PROBE provides information, draws a card, adds to storm, and does not suffer the liability of chewing up some of your mana and over-incentivize your opponent to counter it. If I was going to step beyond probe I would move to MANAMORPHOSE, because it at least adds to storm count and helps make proper mana in extreme corner case scenarios. I have never cycled a street wraith in Legacy. I hope I never do.
This is broken into two primary categories: Cards you board in and cards you BURNING WISH for.
First are the Wish Targets: the majority of the time you find Empty the Warrens. If you have a couple extra mana, you can add storm by finding INFERNAL TUTOR (black off LION’S EYE DIAMOND) and Empty that way. In an extreme case you can use this method to turn a wish into a Charbelcher. If you are not going for a victory condition via Empty or Tutor the next most likely scenario is to wish for Diminishing Returns.
When Goblins won’t do, you are forced to go blue.
It is the best available draw seven, so it functions as a necessary evil. The rest of the targets, PYROCLASM (funny and effective in the mirror,) SHATTERING SPREE, HULL BREACH, and REVERENT SILENCE, each serve a specific purpose and are the best card choice for their purpose.
The second group of cards are the ones you sideboard in against people: the odd one is Ancient Grudge, a card that I bring in on the draw vs decks that try to shut you out with PITHING NEEDLE and the like. It’s a good utility card, but it could easily be something else if I felt the need to fill the space otherwise. The rest is for blue matches or wherever you anticipate MINDBREAK TRAP.
I trust in XANTID SWARM. While not as strong against decks that have removal, it steals a lot of games by either baiting the FORCE OF WILL or preventing it. The mix of three RED ELEMENTAL BLAST and PYROBLAST are the additional protection, but they do not always do what you need them to. It is better to have them than not, but I have long since stopped running four.
Tips and Tricks:
The basics of the deck are pretty simple.
- If you do not have a win condition, mulligan.
- If you have five cards, keep them.
- Fear nothing. It does not matter if you opponent has FORCE OF WILL. If they do not, they die. If they do, make them use it, and keep pounding on until one of you is dead. It is surprising how often you get a second chance at firing.
When sideboarding, the easiest cards to cut are the probes. Beyond that, trimming back on SEETHING SONG and PYRETIC RITUAL is a fine balance. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Bringing in seven cards against control heavy blue decks is fine, but that is the most you can afford. They may have ways to stop you, but you have to make them do it. They only have as many Forces as you have Charbelchers.
So go forth, vigilantes, and carve a belcher shaped hole in a format. Win games and rejoice, and spare your mind the weight of this war. You will have a bigger battle to follow. Let Vintage Champs be your mission, but let Legacy Champs be a pleasant sojourn through a lighter terrain. Both victories are yours for the taking. But remember, we may be brothers in word, but on the battlefield, you are the bad guy, and I intend to Triumph.
Lemarchand’s Box: Playing the Cannon in Columbus | MTG UNDERGROUND says:
[…] I am feverishly pecking away at the keyboard in an attempt to update the Belcher Primer I wrote for Eternal Weekend 2015. This is rather ambitious given the limited time frame, the result of working too much, drinking […]
Excellent article Ben, I have seen you dispense justice with this tool of freedom at many events and I am glad to see a concise reason behind many of the card choices. I feel more illuminated by the light the cannon produces then ever before. May your hand be steady and Just when pointing the cannon.
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