This Month in Legacy: February Legacy Challenge and Reassessing Threats
by Sean Brown // Feb 15, 2017
Hello! Welcome to another This Week in Legacy. In this week's edition we'll have a look at the recent February Legacy Challenge and the decks that took out strong placings. I'll also be looking into how we may need to reconfigure our threats with Fatal Push's appearance in Legacy, along with the prevalence of True-Name, and the oddballs which may help with that. There's quite a bit to look into this week.
February Legacy Challenge
The breakdown of the February Legacy Challenge looked as follows:
Probably the most notable appearance was from Elves, who I’ve mentioned are quite well positioned against the midrange decks popping up in the format and took down a huge number of slots in the Top 8 — dodging a reasonable amount of Miracles it seems. Of the Elves lists, the most innovative was that of, unexpectedly, the eminent Julian Knab, who finally reached a middle ground between the Chaos and Natural Order variants he's been bouncing between, and took out the whole tournament.
This list has trimmed down a few of the Elves that are conducive to fast Glimpse kills (Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel, notably) making room for a few silver-bullets, Leovold, Emissary of Trest being the most notable as a card to Zenith for or cast off Cavern of Souls. Llanowar Elves adds an extra reliable turn one accelerator, and Scooze provides solid graveyard hate as always. These one-ofs have not cut into the Natural Order package of the deck, however, leaving this a list with the grinding, toolbox ability of Chaos with the ability to still combo incredibly quickly and get those free wins.
Julian also included some relatively modern technology in his sideboard too. Nissa, Vital Force, as has been mentioned in previous articles, has become the choice du jour in terms of planeswalker bombs for the Elves deck. Surgical Extraction added to his graveyard package along with Deathrite Shaman and Scooze. Decay takes care of problematic permanents, and the rest of the sideboard hedged incredibly against combo. The typical slots of discard in Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy made their way into the sideboard, but the newer addition was Mindbreak Trap. Although not unseen in Elves before, as Reid Duke made evident in Louisville, Trap is incredibly synergistic when a Leovold is in play, as a lethal Tendrils gives ten draw steps to draw the card and break the combo immediately.
Another excellent tournament from Julian, and again I'd like to give him the greatest congratulations on his win, as well as his continued innovation in the Elves archetype. He also has videos of every step of his Legacy Challenge on itsjulian.com. I highly recommend giving the videos a watch to gain some insight into one of the greatest minds of Legacy.
Next, AnziD's Miracles list, although looking somewhat plain, had a four-of that really stuck out:
This list is the typical full-control list, not even boarding into Monastery Mentor post-sideboard, leaning on Entreat the Angels and Jace, the Mind Sculptor as primary win conditions. Four Predicts made their way into this list to really keep the cards flowing and allowed this list to completely out-resource the opponent. That being said, I'm sure there are certain matchups where toying around with the top of one's library with Predict is a liability - matchups like Eldrazi, for example - but these matchups are uncommon in the current midrangey metagame that perhaps the full set of Predicts are worthwhile to grind through the BUG opposition.
Dragon Stompy also made a solid appearance in the Challenge too!
The incredible Dragon Stompy lists from GP Chiba continued to make a mark on the current metagame and are certainly looking more and more like"stock" lists moving forward. Call1Me1Dragon interestingly slotted in the full set of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but also rounded out his deck with Pia and Kiran Nalaar, who had been largely crowded out of previous Dragon Stompy lists for Thunderbreak Regent, a card notably absent from this list. Collective Defiance is another interesting inclusion. The current Dragon Stompy iterations have perhaps some of the greatest versatility ever seen in the archetype thanks to Fiery Confluence and Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Collective Defiance certainly gives more of this, allowing dead Moxen and lands to wheel into some real threats or just be a solid removal or burn spell to torch the opponent.
The rest of the decks 5-1 or better also were interesting. Eldrazi made an appearance despite its current downtick, Kaluma piloted his bizarre BUG Vial list to an excellent finish, and Jonathan Alexander unveiled a brand-new version of Canadian Threshold (not RUG Delver, definitely) that we'll have a look at later!
Reassessing Our Threats
Legacy has been a format defined by a few all-stars.
Credit: Kenny from 5colorcontrol.com
Two drops such as Tarmogoyf, Stoneforge Mystic, and Dark Confidant have been potent threats for most of Legacy's lifetime, but currently many of them are poorly positioned, thanks to the new plethora of one-mana removal. Not only do many of them have to contend with Lightning Bolt, but they have to now contest Fatal Push.
Stoneblade decks have been on a downswing for the past year or so, ever since Dig Through Time was banned and made them unable to cope against Miracles, who easily goes over the top of them. There are only a few Stoneblade decks left: "mono-white Stoneblade" and Death & Taxes. Bant Stoneblade also has a pile of mana dorks to give a Jitte to, along with a set of True-Names, but even this variant has been largely supplanted by True-Name BUG. But in decks with few threats, like traditional Jeskai or Esper Stoneblade, Stoneforge is either too slow, or too prone to removal that is tempo-positive for the opponent. Not to mention discard spells like Cabal Therapy making her a mediocre-looking Squire.
The same can be said for Dark Confidant. Although he can run away with some games, he is often prone to one-mana removal that leaves the Confidant player somewhat behind. The Delve threat Gurmag Angler is also much too risky to run in a deck with Confidant (taking seven I'm sure is... unpleasant), and hence most cantrip-based shells have gravitated away from Bob. That being said, he has appeared in a few BUG Delver lists recently, and being able to defend him with countermagic may be key to letting him run amok.
I've mentioned this before, but Tarmogoyf looks incredibly weak in the face of the new Fatal Push, and the two-drop that could bash through any number of many opposing creatures and endure Lightning Bolt, only having to truly fear Decay and Plow, is no longer the monster he once was. Gurmag Angler also has stolen his thunder, overpowering an average-size Goyf while also laughing at the newly printed Push. Some list may still opt for the Lhurgoyf, aiming to grind out any number of removal spells, such as the BUG Delver lists of malimujo and Ark4n. But for many, their primary Green threat will have to be reconsidered.
Snapcaster and Pyromancer, however, have largely remained as reasonable threats. Snapcaster in particular still gets some amount of value even if killed, and is actually incredibly synergistic with the new Fatal Push or any one-mana removal, really. Pyromancer also can get assured value before dying to removal and can outnumber a board stalled by an opposing True-Name Nemesis and swing through. That being said, True-Name's hate of Deluge, Golgari Charm, and Marsh Casualties does give the opponent a clean answer to Pyromancer and his Elemental crew as well.
Nonetheless, this week I'll be highlighting a few threats to consider with the format as-is.
1. One-Mana Creatures
These creatures are effective not because they are immune to common removal, but because they trade at a positive rate. Legacy is all about maintaining tempo and mana advantage over the opponent, due to how powerful the cheap spells of the format are, and these creatures are conducive to such, Delver of Secrets the most obvious of these, of course. Although they suffer against cards such as Counterbalance and Chalice of the Void, Counterbalance can be fought with countermagic and Eldrazi is at quite a low.
And so we come to creatures such as these:
If Revolt is triggered, Renegade is quite strong as a 2/3 threat, and Deathtouch is no slouch of an ability either, forcing attacks through almost all problematic blockers and trading with most non-first strikers, such as Death & Taxes' Thalia, Heretic Cathar or Mirran Crusader. It's also reasonable on defense if a Gurmag Angler is stressing you out. I'm sad that I missed this guy with Aether Revolt's spoilers, as he's quite impressive.
The original one-mana beat-stick also fits a similar role. Although lacking Deathtouch, there's less hoops to go through than Renegade, who can be a lackluster top-deck when fetchlands have been exhausted.
And so, an old friend who used to live in Melbourne, Frenchman Cyril Terroy brought this aggressive concoction to a fourty-five player event in France and took a spot in Top 8:
Aggressive one drops in Delver, Ape, and Renegade make for an impressive curve out that is sure be reminiscent of the fearsome triple Delver draws Delver decks sometimes end up with, and although prone to sweepers such as Terminus, it can also lead to a fast death for any deck slow out the gates. I'm sure my Death & Taxes list would struggle to contend with such a draw, even with an active Vial. Cyril interestingly cut a few cards down too. Wasteland as a two-of emphasizes this deck's more aggressive nature, the preference for just killing the opponent rather than denying mana. Ponder as a one-of and Mirri's Guile as extra filtration also look like strange choices, but make sense once threats such as Nimble Mongoose, Gurmag Angler, or Young Pyromancer aren't in use and don't need to be fueled. Instead, the deck is filled with redundant burn (three Fire // Ice makes me grin) and a light countermagic suite. I also like how this list can reasonably support Grim Lavamancer, another one-mana threat severely underplayed in the current metagame.
This list looks incredibly potent, and though I question it's strengths comparative to UR Delver, there is something to be said about having twelve efficient one-mana threats. For French-speakers, Cyril has also graciously linked me the Tempo Zoo primer (now a little outdated though) on Legacy-France!
2. Untargetable Creatures
As we know, True-Name Nemesis has been getting another shot in the limelight after his initial printing in Commander 2013, thanks to his ability to dodge the newest removal and break through stalls created by bulky Delve creatures and Eldrazi. That being said, there are a few more untargetable creatures which are at easier points on the curve, as True-Name's three mana can be a bit prohibitive.
I'm not going to harp on this little guy much longer as a lot of last week was focused on him, but I certainly feel that, if he's supportable, he can be stronger than Goyf currently. Although bulky bodies like Angler, Thought-Knot, and others may get in his way, a Thresholded Mongoose can otherwise dominate the board. He also is incredibly effective with countermagic such as Spell Snare, Spell Pierce, and other spells such as Stifle, primarily due to his lean and easy one-mana cost that frees up mana. I have been incredibly impressed with him, and as long as you can keep the big idiots off the table, the Goose is incredibly potent against fair opponents, while being a relevant and easy to deploy threat against combo that doesn't tap you out.
Next we have another Shrouded creature that may be a bit ambitious:
Although I'm sure this list is a product of budget choices and small sample sizes (the tournament was merely a seventeen-man local event), this is not the first time we've seen a Death's Shadow Delver list have some amount of success, though Death's Shadow itself may be a little lackluster currently with Push as an easy answer. Scythe Tiger is something that's quite different, and although sacrificing a land is usually a hefty cost, in Delver decks where excess lands are often useless, the Tiger may be an interesting choice to complement a threat suite along with Nimble Mongoose. Sadly, Tiger's two toughness makes him prone to many of the threats of the format that Mongoose would typically shrug at, but maybe there's some potential somewhere.
Like Nimble Mongoose, Blurred Mongoose is untargetable, but also uncounterable, making it foremost a potent threat against Miracles and CounterTop, though he's certainly lost his luster now that Mentor can clog the board. Patrick Sullivan's old Goose RUG is a solid reminder of the strength of this card, or more so the philosophy of blanking opposing removal against a tempo deck's limited threats. As we'll soon see, player's have started to take this same philosophy in stride with Fatal Push's printing, five years later.
3. Delve Threats
Gurmag Angler and its primary home, Grixis Delver, have been defining the format and the removal required since Fate Reforged, but many of the other Delve creatures have remained somewhat unexplored. Tasigur, the Golden Fang made notable appearances, especially early into Fate Reforged's inception, but was soon noted as a liability against the Karakas-touting Death & Taxes that rose to Tier 1, and has only been a one-of in midrange lists such as Esper Stoneblade that aren't in the market for the pure beatstick of Angler.
There is another Black Delve creature though...
Another result from another small tournament, of course, but Scavenger may be a very interesting choice currently. In metagames filled with Fatal Pushes and Abrupt Decays, Sultai Scavenger can rule the skies as long as flipped Delvers and other idiots are killed. It also ignores the sub-games of True-Name vs. the world that is currently going on, while having a Delve cost that is easily achievable, and has colored mana requirements much less than the other Delve flier, Tombstalker. If anything, Scavenger is like a mini-Tombstalker! There is one card which is a huge sticking point against Scavenger though, and that is Lightning Bolt. Although lower in popularity than it once was due to BUG colors being quite popular, it is always going to be ever-present in Legacy. Having a payoff card that dies to Bolt is a huge risk to take... But in some matchups, it may actually be worth it, with a disgusting uninteractive air force of Delvers and Scavengers as a sight to behold for these Thought Scour-powered lists.
Hooting Mandrills is also a Delve creature that has had a little bit of exploration. At GP Prague, expecting Eldrazi to be popular, a matchup where Mongoose is poor, Gianluca Gazzola brought his innovative RUG Delver list featuring the monkies, and set the tone for some modern variants of RUG Delver. HJ_Kaiser even took an almost identical list to a 5-1 in January's Challenge. Mandrills has a bit of upside, trampling over True-Name is certainly a big boon the monkies get, along with its imperviousness to Decay, Push, and Bolt, something Tarmogoyf can't even boast.
Jonathan Alexander had an impressive run in this February's Legacy Challenge with a new take on Canadian Threshold - and I must stress the Threshold in that name, with more Threshold cards than the typical four Mongooses, and more stress on the graveyard thanks to his inclusion of Mandrills as well.
This takes the ideas of removal immunity to the extreme in a similar way to the Goose RUG article I just linked. Jonathan has opted out of even Delver of Secrets to have a threat base of Nimble Mongoose, True-Name Nemesis, and Hooting Mandrills, while still keeping the same core of disruption and removal of his typical RUG lists. One of the spiciest additions in this list is the combo of Barbarian Ring and Life from the Loam. Barbarian Ring is fine as essentially a seventh piece of colorless removal that takes up a land drop, but its upside with Loam is incredible, creating almost the same synergy as Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows. Life from the Loam in this also fills up a few interesting roles. It becomes a supreme mana denial tool with Wasteland, of course, but also a card advantage engine in combination with Brainstorm shuffling away excess lands. Not to mention its Dredge feeding the graveyard for Mongoose and Mandrills,which otherwise have quite a bit of tension.
The thing I'm most wary with this list is graveyard hatred though - a permanent piece of graveyard hate such as Rest in Peace can ruin this deck, as unlike RUG Delver, whose True-Names and Delvers do not care, this list has almost all of its threats nullified. Of course, with RB Reanimator still scaring the metagame into Surgical Extractions, I can understand the lack of fear in bringing a list like this, along with typical RiP-touting deck D&T being underrepresented Online. Nonetheless, Jonathan has continued to break the mold on universally accepted truths of Legacy and for this I am thankful. No matter how controversial his ideas may be, his continuous pushing of the envelop and innovation is something I will always welcome and look forward to.
That being said, for now I'm not ballsy enough to bring Jonathan's list, sadly, but I do like PCK's recent 5-0ing RUG Delver list:
The Sacred Cow has been slain; again Tarmogoyf is no longer found. I'd probably find room for a Counterspell in this list somewhere, maybe over the Loam (or maybe I'll just try the Barbarian Ring tech!), but I do like that this list still has the Delver "free-wins" the Blue one-drop provides (especially against combo), while still being able to sidestep removal post-board by boarding out Delvers and having a threat suite of True-Names and Mongoose. I'll likely be trying something like this in the weeks ahead, despite Dark Thresh being pretty sweet too. But there is nothing like making your opponent grimace with Decays and other removal spells in hand while you beat them down with a pile of untargetable idiots.
Thanks once again for taking the time to read This Week in Legacy, and hopefully you were able to glean some interesting information on the current state of the metagame. As always, here's some interesting links to some quality Legacy content that was produced elsewhere!
- Canberra friends have more Legacy footage! You're on a hot streak, friends!
- LewisCBR outlines his run in the recent Legacy Challenge, and salts a bunch about Elves!
- Julian Knab has some excellent content out - his thought process and match results over the past year, and outlines of his Rounds in the recent Legacy Challenge!
- Jonathan Alexander has an outline of his takes on Dark Thresh here.
- Mengucci continues his series of Legacy videos - this time with Food Chain!
- Hipsters of the Coast have some interesting and hilarious Legacy articles out - Legacy Hero and Look Out for That Wall.
'Til next time,
What I'm Playing This Week
This week I've realized I need to take stock of all the deck's I'd like to be playing in the week's ahead. Although D&T will be my number one bae, a variety of Delver decks will always have my interest along with my favorite unfair choice of Manaless Dredge. Furthermore, there's a few Ancient Tomb decks (such as Eldrazi & Taxes, Painter and Dragon Stompy) that are certainly a lot of fun and I always try and keep updated on. Nonetheless, I've created a deckstats.net account, with a pile of public deck lists everyone is free to look at. Enjoy it here, and as always I'd love to hear comments and what people are interested in changing.
The Spice Corner
Lastly, The Spice Corner this week comes from Switzerland and features Vintage favorite Auriok Salvagers. There's no Lotus in Legacy, but Lion's Eye Diamond does a good enough job for infinite mana - which can be used on Walking Ballista to ping the opponent to death. Hope of Ghirapur also makes an appearance as a tutorable piece of protection! Lots of cool synergies here, along with Trinket Mage and Imperial Recruiter to tie everything together.