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This Week in Legacy: 05/21/17 Legacy Challenge, SCG Louisville and an Unexpected Appearance


Hello and welcome to another This Week in Legacy! This week there's quite a few events to run through: the recent SCG Louisville team event (that also featured a Legacy Classic!), the weekly Legacy Challenge, as well as the resurgence in something that was thought to be dead. Some exciting stuff ahead. Let's jump in.

SCG Louisville Open

The first event we'll look at is the team event in Louisville. These always skew very interestingly, and although results aren't that indicative of a deck's power or performance, the selection of decks definitely reveal what many top caliber players feel are the best choices in the post-Top world. Let's pie chart this and have a look:

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Grixis Delver took up a huge proportion of the Top 30. It's been well-regarded as the "safe" choice for the post-Miracles world, able to deal with most problems if you add a little bit of tight play. The majority of lists at Louisville utilized Cabal Therapy a la classic Noah Walker lists, instead of Stifle, whose usage has been consistent Online, and one list opted to eschew Pyromancer and play Thought Scour, Gurmag Angler, and Snapcaster Mage.

Storm had quite a showing, with many lists moving away from the Abrupt Decay splash once necessary to a leaner suite of suite of sideboard cards, some incorporating By Force and others simply keeping things lean and simple in the Blue-Black color combination. Caleb Scherer, one of the poster boys of Storm, utilized a sideboard of Black removal, Blue bounce spells along with some additional acceleration and Tendrils against countermagic-heavy decks.

This list can notably omit a card like Badlands that has been cropping up in many lists thanks to Red really only being a splash for two business spells. I really like the look of this smooth mana base. 

The "UBx Control" segment I have lumped together, but really this encompasses both True-Name BUG and Ben Friedman's pure Blue-Black bizarre concoction. This definitely is the stand-out new list from the team event:

Taking the idea of "I don't need Abrupt Decay" to the extreme, this list leans on Fatal Push and a pretty typical suite of counters to get the job done. Deathrite, Snapcaster, and True-Name are present, but the top-end of Gurmag Angler is pretty exciting, really keeping this deck low-to-the-ground and avoiding polarizing cards like Baleful Strix that are only great in fair fights. Jace and Liliana round out the deck's top-end.

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Probably the most exciting part of this deck is, however, Collective Brutality. A huge three copies made it into Friedman's deck, and although it has been seen in spicy brews involving Life from the Loam, it has been typically absent from fair decks in Legacy. However, Friedman highlights the incredible flexibility of the card. Although sub-par in terms of mana efficiency, it can nab important spells from combo if needed, kill creatures, and provide reach. Legacy is also often known as a tempo format. When you can discard a card to essentially get value for no cost, there's certainly something to love about that. For example, Delver decks squeeze a deck's ability to cast spells effectively and hence essentially "stapling" on an extra discard spell to your removal provides a fair bit of a tempo advantage. The main issue is that Brutality can get blown out by some pieces of countermagic; Spell Pierce and Spell Snare in particular. Nonetheless, I think Brutality deserves a lot more investigation as a flexible tool for fair decks as well as its place in a deck such as Black-Red Reanimator.

SCG Louisville Classic

The Louisville Classic, on the other hand, broke down with some incredibly interesting decks:

Deck Player Placing
Jund Pox Kennen Haas 1
Infect Zachary Koch 2
Food Chain Piper Powell 3
Grixis Delver Nate Barton 4
UB Landstill Aaron Kasprzak 5
Belcher Emma Handy 6
BUG Delver Chase Harrell 7
Grixis Delver Donivan Abraham 8
Maverick Matt Borthwick 9
Sneak & Show Evan Smith 10
Elves Paul O'Neal 11
Shardless BUG Joe Holland 12
4c Loam Tyler Lutes 13
Sneak & Show Robert Storch 14
Eldrazi Stompy Rick Edmister 15
BR Reanimator Braden Crocco 16

Kennen Haas has been jamming Jund Depths/Pox/Lands for quite some time, writing an amazing primer on the deck in 2014. Of course, the deck has evolved incredibly from those days, but still retains its ability as a deck that can grind the opponent with Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil, while also being a toolbox deck, thanks to the power of Entomb, Crop Rotation, and Life from the Loam. It's certainly one of the more niche and specialist decks in the format, but Kennen has certainly been rewarded for his practice with the deck, and it looks to be a strong choice with Rest in Peace decks quite low. I'd also imagine it can deal with the rampant Delver decks very effectively, even cleaning up True-Name Nemesis easily thanks to its plethora of Edict effects. Like Lands, however, its combo matchups are a little suspect, but at least it has Raven's Crime and Liliana of the Veil game one to pressure their hands, along with Smallpox to blast their resources.

Landstill, although certainly not the domineering force it once was in Legacy, I've been able to consistently profile week after week. With Miracle's hold of the format gone, there has certainly been some more room for other control decks to fight for dominance. This pure Blue-Black list eschews the power of Deathrite Shaman and other cards like Abrupt Decay that have typically seen play in main stream control decks (such as Czech Pile), relying instead on Fatal Push, Edicts, and Engineered Explosives to clean up most creatures and Counterspell, Spell Pierce and Spell Snare as countermagic. Like last week's Landstill list in the Legacy Challenge, Thoughtseize is becoming a hallmark of these decks too, despite it not truly synergizing well with the instant-speed answers that work best with Standstill. But there are just too many powerful one-mana plays in Legacy, like Aether Vial or Deathrite that invalidate a Standstill. Having the ability to rip these away on the play is invaluable.

Lastly from Louisville, again, some Maverick!

This list interestingly looks like it was designed prior to Miracles banning - featuring Abrupt Decay and Krosan Grip - but also has a few spicy additions. Tireless Tracker adds another great three mana threat in addition to Knight, while the addition of Life from the Loam allows the deck to establish Waste-lock or simply regain lost resources when the deck's mana is being pillaged. I'm glad that Maverick is recently making a strong resurgence, and with Death & Taxes nowhere to be found in Louisville, there is a big question hanging above the format on what currently is the best Thalia, Guardian of Thraben shell.

05/21/17 Legacy Challenge

Let's look at the breakdown of the recent Legacy Challenge! Getting to do the analysis of these weekly is actually really neat. Find the standings and decklists from the event on the Wizards website here. First place was... Julian! Again!

With Miracles no longer top dog, the Elves lists are now looking meaner and greener than ever before. Julian's list is a nice consistent pile of four-ofs, the only thing sticking out is the Taiga, utilized for casting Ruric Thar, the Unbowed if needed, who is a house against both combo and Delver. The Cavern of Souls once in the list are also now gone. Other Delver-fighting tools Julian has incorporated is the Meekstone, used for stopping Aberrations and True-Names, as well as an Umezawa's Jitte to dominate creature combat with. Find his entire run through the Legacy Challenge at itsjulian.com.

Next, let's look at some of the more innovative lists from this Challenge:

After Andrea Mengucci debuted his UR Delver list, many others have followed suit and added Cryptic Serpent as a top-end threat. I find this interesting, as the deck was already not lacking a Gurmag Angler-esque threat thanks to Bedlam Reveler, not to mention Reveler had the added bonus of refilling ones hand. I will say that it is certainly much easier on the mana base, however. There's a few other odd choices here as well. Two Force of Will indicate this deck truly being more of a pseudo-Burn deck, and the sideboard features some impressive fun-ofs in Seal of Removal, Swan Song, and Cave-In over more typical Vapor Snag, Flusterstorm and Pyrokinesis respectively.

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Another two-color Delver deck, this time Blue-Black. This list goes heavy on discard and micro-splashes Green for Deathrite's ability, but like the Blue-Black Landstill list profiled, opts away from Abrupt Decay entirely and instead is backed by discard and Fatal Pushes. Also interesting is its leaning on Probe / Therapy, but only having Baleful Strix as a true value card for flashback. The deck also doesn't utilize Wastelands!

Other interesting list were another Blue-Black Landstill list and a Chancellor of the Annex-touting pure Blue-Black Reanimator list. No Abrupt Decay to fight hate here; just bounce spells, removal, discard, and some flexible artifacts like Pithing Needle and Engineered Explosives. Even the toolbox of the deck is limited to only Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Tidespout Tyrant.

A Miracle Rebirth - An Interview with Callum "WhiteFaces" Smith

Hopefully everyone has started to see this:

This new Miracles list has been 5-0'ing more and more, and it currently sits as the eight hmost represented archetype on MtGGoldfish's metagame breakdown. It's an amazing piece of work, eschewing the now non-functional Counterbalance and but still appreciating the strength of a one-mana Wrath of God. It's results certainly speak a lot, and I truly feel there is chops in this revised Top-less list.

This week I was able to pick the brains of Callum Smith, also known as Magic Online player WhiteFaces, who has been crushing multiple Leagues with the new deck.

Sean: Hi there Callum! For those who don’t know about you, feel free to give a bit of a origin story and how you came to the Legacy format.

Callum: Hey Sean, thanks for having me! I got into Magic pretty young; a friend showed me some Portal cards and I was immediately drawn to the artwork. Eventually I learnt the rules and got involved in the more competitive side of things around the original Ravnica block before taking a hiatus from Shadowmoor until Innistrad. Funnily enough I remember in my first Draft back to the game I took a Delver of Secrets first pick, a sign of things to come! It didn’t take long to get into Legacy as I’d always loved Extended. I couldn’t afford Blue duals at the beginning so learnt a lot about the format by playing Jund and Nic Fit variants for a few years. Since then I’ve tried to explore and play as many decks as possible, usually favoring fair decks with Brainstorm
  
Sean: You’ve been playing quite a few decks from what I understand, but what was your opinion on Miracles prior to the Top ban?

Callum: I was on the fence about Miracles pre-banning. I acknowledged that it was quite far ahead of the field, but I didn’t feel like it was dominant enough to take drastic action. In my mind, when or if something was banned, I’d be okay with it. If nothing was, I wouldn’t mind either. As you alluded to, I like to play quite a few different decks, so trying to figure out how to attack Miracles from different strategies was fun for me. I won’t go into it too much, but I thought Counterbalance would have been a better card to take out if anything. I didn’t like that Terminus would punish you if you played to the board, but Counterbalance would mop up if you played too slowly. Add Jace, Entreat, and Mentor into the equation and you had too many axis to fight on, which all required different answers. This was the problem with the deck in my opinion. 

Sean: Walk me through the creation of this Top-less Miracles deck. I hear a lot of dedicated ex-Miracles players have been tinkering with a list.

Callum: I don’t think any of us believed the deck would survive the banning of Top. After the announcement we went through a plethora of UWx lists, Stoneblade, dedicated Jace control, you name it. All came up short. This week Nicklas Lallo (a.k.a. ItIsUnfair) and myself started trying out the skeleton of the shell we have now after osmanozguney got the first 5-0 with Terminus in the deck post-ban. He immediately went 5-0. I ran it through a League myself and got the same result. Since then we’ve started tinkering with numbers. So, credit to both osmanozguney and Nicklas for their work on it. 

Sean: There’s some new cards being incorporated into this list, along with an emphasise on some old tech. Tell me about the role of each of these.

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Callum: The first hurdle obviously was to address the lack of Sensei's Divining Top. It had to be a cantrip, and ideally an additional way to enable Terminus. I started with a couple of Preordain too, but Portent was very impressive. Not only does it do a nice Ponder impression, it’s able to draw Miracles in the opponent's upkeep to trigger them. Then later in the game it functions as a lock, reminiscent of Counterbalance, by targeting your poor opponent and setting up their draws. Combine this with Unexpectedly Absent, Predict, Jace and Snapcaster and you have an engine that can control what both players draw extremely well. In my opinion Portent is now a staple of the archetype.

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Callum: The idea for Unexpectedly Absent was taken straight from ozmanozguney's list; it's been very impressive. The double White cost can be ugly at times, but the synergy between it and the library manipulation element of the deck have proven to be invaluable. You may have noticed the lists are straight Blue-White at the moment too, meaning Engineered Explosives is less good than it was in the previous Jeskai builds, so some maindeck answers for things like Chalice of the Void are needed. The combo with UA and Predict is also adorable, but I wouldn’t get too fixated on the two needing each other. Being able to clear the board of any permanent for double White in response to a fetchland activation is a powerful effect, for example. There’s a lot of tricks to find out with the deck, it’s very rewarding.

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Callum: I would class this build as a Jace deck first and foremost, but Predict is the backbone that holds it together. The card really flexed its muscles towards the end of Top's reign, and with the central core of twelve cantrips, Jace and Snapcasters, it’s as potent as ever. As before, it lets you to keep up with the rest of the format's card advantage engines, power through your deck to find what you need and enable Miracles on your opponent's turn after a Brainstorm.

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Callum: Since Counterbalance lost a lot of equity with the banning, we wanted something to stabilize against Lightning Bolt decks. In very frustrating fashion, the Miracles of old was able to use its life total as a resource until the final turns, then shut off burn spells with Counterbalance. We can no longer do that reliably. In theory the Stoneforge Mystic package would be good, but it ended up falling short. I tried quite a number of different options, even Baneslayer Angel, but ultimately our good friend Monstery Mentor showed that the best defense is a good offense. Even without Sensei's Divining Top, Mentor has proven to be a powerhouse. 

Sean: Some other staples of previous Miracles lists are missing or reduced?

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Callum: The lower number of Swords to Plowshares isn’t set in stone by any means. With Counterbalance gone, matchups like Storm have become worse, so we needed to dedicate more sideboard slots to them and keep dead cards in the maindeck down. This was the tinkering part. I’ve got a couple more 5-0 results since the first list - one had three copies, the other four, and I’m not sure what the right configuration is yet.

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Callum: The red splash was mostly for Pyroblast in the mirror and powerful land hate cards like Blood Moon or From the Ashes. With the archetype ‘dead’, or so it seemed, Pyroblast isn’t necessary now and we can enjoy a lovely basic heavy mana base. If the deck picks up though, the splash may be something to reconsider. Back to Basics has done a nice Blood Moon impression, but nothing can replace Pyroblast. It'll be exciting to see how the format responds to this new Unexpected Miracles build!

Sean: How do you feel about the deck compared to old Miracles? What are it’s good/bad matchups?

Callum: Obviously it's not as powerful as before, you have some more hoops to jump through to enable the power of the deck, but that same power level is still there. As Wizards have shown, they like to ban the enabler. And Top was that, the enabler, but we still have the absurd power level of Terminus and Entreat the Angels. I'm personally very happy that the CounterTop combo is gone though, I found it incredibly oppressive, giving the deck more of a prison feel than control. 

Miracles still has positive matchups against a large percentage of the field, especially creature-based decks. Losing Top has really hurt the Storm and Burn matchups, though. Storm is well positioned at the moment, so I'd recommend loading up heavily in the sideboard for that. Burn is atrocious. Unless your meta is infested with it, I'd chalk that one up as close to unwinnable, bar some good luck, and enjoy a pint before the next round.   

Sean: Anything else you’d like to add?

Callum: I think that’s covered the basics of the deck at least. Fundamentally it's the Miracles we knew before, but with a reined in power level to be more in line with the rest of the format. Nothing is set in stone, so it’s quite exciting to be reworking a previously solved archetype. If anybody has some questions I’m happy to answer them on Facebook (Callum Smith) or The Source (Whitefaces). Thanks for the questions!

Another sweet interview, and I'd like to thank Callum for taking the tome to write such comprehensive answers!

Conclusion

Another week, another conclusion to TWiL. Again, some Legacy links to look at:

  • Julian, with help from Bob Huang and Jesse Hatfield, has pieced together incredible amounts of data from MKM Frankfurt. Find that here! Also, keep supporting that Legacy Premier League!
  • Phil Gallagher puts up all his thoughts in the new world for Death & Taxers. It's kind of grim. Find that here. Also, love the kind words and support as always Phil! <3
  • EFro looks at the new Miracles deck at CFB.
  • Some great podcasts out. The Brainstorm Show returns with a bang, talking about the Top-less world, and Lone Star Legacy Episode 1 begins with a similar topic!

As always, until next time!

Sean Brown

Email: sean_brown156@hotmail.com
Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I'm Playing This Week

Last week I felt I found my fair deck of choice moving forward in Grixis Angler Delver; this week I look to re-tooling my unfair deck of choice:

I'm back on the Breakthrough plan, as going off fast in the face of all the Deathrites around is probably better than durdling with Probe and flashback Probe. There's a lot of interesting things I'm going to be tinkering soon with Dredge, however, including Manaless. Is Chancellor of the Annex a possible option in LED Dredge, in the sideboard perhaps?

The Spice Corner

Honestly, there's so much spice going on recently as the format is shaping up. But this recently caught my eye:

Pretty neat 4c Cascade shenanigans... But I don't know how I feel about Cascading into a Daze. Hmm.


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