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This Week in Legacy: August Statistics and Stoneblade Decks!

Hello everyone! Welcome to another This Week in Legacy! This article, being the first of September, will go through the metagame breakdown of August and we’ll highlight a few interesting decks that have been seeing play. Furthermore, we’ll have a look at the slight resurgence that blue midrange decks, in particular Stoneblade variants, have been having over the past month and investigate what makes these decks tick. There’s also some very interesting Kaladesh spoilers, which are likely to make an impact in Legacy!

For now, here’s some statistics!

The Online metagame shows the typical overbearing presence of Miracles, Grixis Delver and Eldrazi Stompy. ANT and Sneak & Show seem to be the primary combo decks of the format currently, with ANT variants typically of the “Grinding Station” variety and Sneak & Show variants now primarily opting for the so-called “Omni-Attack” build (featuring some number of Omniscience in addition to Sneak Attack).

Probably more interesting is to see Esper DeathBlade having a strong appearance. It’s close brethren Esper Stoneblade and Bant Stoneblade have also made appearances. Other interesting decks from August’s Online results are the new White Stompy decks making appearances, as well as Tezzerator and Bant Opposition!

Looking towards the Paper metagame…

Death & Taxes and Shardless BUG significantly make a larger presence in Paper. Lands also makes a significance appearance in Paper compared to Online in a similar way to Death & Taxes. Interesting decks to find are Sylvan Plug (one version touting Thalia, Heretic Cathar!) and the Punishing Thing list I looked at last week!

Interestingly, after Grixis Delver, RUG Delver was the most prominent Delver variant, edging out UR, BUG, and 4c variants. Also notable in the sphere of Delver is the proliferation of the turbo-Angler Delver variants that Ben Friedman and many others have been touting Online and in Paper.

These versions eschew the package of Gitaxian Probe/Cabal Therapy and Young Pyromancer for a bunch of big fish instead, turboed out via Thought Scour, which also gets value with Snapcaster Mage! The only problem with these lists is the fact that Scour is a bit mana-intensive and does little against combo decks when you need to simply cycle it away for a piece of countermagic. It does synergize nicely with instant-speed interaction like Spell Pierce and Snapcaster though, and maybe, if anyone wanted to try it, some Stifle action too!

Speaking of Ben Friedman, Delver players should have a look at his recent article outlining the success he’s had with 4c Delver (his almost seventy-five brought Jarvis Yu a recent Top 8 finish in the Legacy Classic in Richmond!) as well as the ideas and philosophy behind the turbo-Angler version. Find that here.

Now… Let’s have a look at Stoneforge Mystic!

Stonebladin’ Returns

With our last analysis of metagame staples involved non-blue midrange decks such as Jund, this week we’ll look at blue midrange decks. Shardless BUG we covered in our first article introducing the metagame, so this week we’ll have a look at the Stoneblade decks that have had a slight resurgence. Stoneblade decks have had a long history in Legacy ever since Stoneforge Mystic broke into Standard with her buddy Jace, the Mind Sculptor in CawBlade. She was pretty busted there… What about with Brainstorm and friends too? Shoving her into a traditional Blue White shell with your typical suite of control cards (Force of Will, Counterspell, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, etc.) was where she began, and such Blue White Stoneblade lists are still around to this very day.

Pure Blue White lists have strong mana bases that are difficult for the Delver decks to disrupt, and also have access to the bomb of Back to Basics that can really cripple decks relying on non-basics, such as Eldrazi. Also note the four True-Name Nemesis in the list. True-Name, when printed, was immediately realized as being the perfect partner for Stoneforge, as he holds equipment perfectly. A True-Name with a Jitte is probably one of the most threatening things in Legacy for most fair creature decks.

Lovely things in the sideboard are the two Elspeths. Knight-Errant and Sun’s Champion!

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Other variants that have taken similar approaches to this Blue White shell are the Jeskai Stoneblade lists, splashing red for the same reason as Miracles (access to Pyroblasts for blue matchups, as well as Blood Moons and Wear // Tear).

Another combination many Stoneblade variants run is Academy Ruins and Engineered Explosives.

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Of course, Legacy’s mana bases carve the way for many other splashes to this Stoneblade core. What about Esper?

The black cards that get added to this mix are the more proactive Thoughtseize and the incredibly powerful trump, Lingering Souls. Lingering Souls is also incredibly synergistic with Stoneforge as they hold equipment incredibly well. Another excellent card that has been seeing significant play in Stoneblade variants once more is Baleful Strix, a card that is incredibly well-positioned. The current Eldrazi shells have great difficult beating the deathtouch Bird without jumping through hoops… And even after that, Strix has cantripped!

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Zealous Persecution is another powerful addition that the Black White combination offers. We also looked at Kaya, Ghost Assasin last week and she’d certainly be powerful in the slot of Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, despite Sorin being pretty spicy and synergistic with all the token generators.

Also notice the light green splash this list plays. Abrupt Decay is certainly a powerful card worth splashing for, but there’s another Black Green card that this deck has interestingly eschewed in this list.

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Deathrite Shaman, when printed, soon found himself in so many decks, and Esper Stoneblade was no exception. This addition gave birth to what was soon dubbed Esper DeathBlade. This list took on a much more proactive, aggressive direction to Stoneblade, and played more like a true midrange deck, compared to many of the other Stoneblade variants which leaned more towards the control spectrum. With Shaman, the deck got access to turn two True-Name Nemesis, a devastating play against many fair opponents. Many lists incorporated Liliana of the Veil for another similarly painful turn two play. Esper DeathBlade’s greatest problem though is its incredibly fragile mana base. Many lists play little to no basics and, like many Deathrite decks, it really relies on having the Shaman live to maintain ramp and fixing.

Although Esper DeathBlade considers Deathrite Shaman primarily as a Black card, Bant Stoneblade instead looks towards his Green side, alongside Noble Hierarch, to ramp into fast True-Names and Jaces.

We highlighted these types of lists after it won MKM Madrid, though I think looking over the deck once more is warranted. Essentially, the deck aims to utilize seven mana dorks to power out True-Name Nemesis as early as turn two or Jace as early as turn three. The mana advantage of the deck is also further capitalized via cards like Daze, along with the full set of Wastelands (somewhat uncommon in Stoneblade lists due to the mana-intensive nature of the deck). Interestingly, almost all lists favor Noble Hierarch over Deathrite due to Hierarch making True-Name a significantly faster, uninteractive clock.

This list also features some new spiciness from Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Leovold, Emissary of Trest makes his first appearance in Legacy, being another incredibly crippling turn two play, and also helps somewhat with these decks middling combo matchups. Sanctum Prelate is also a welcome addition, fighting against combo nobly, but also strong against Miracles and Terminus.

So why have Stoneblade variants, particularly Esper and Bant DeathBlade, had such a resurgence? Typically, Stoneblade variants have been pushed out for two reasons:

  1. Their combo matchups are quite mediocre, as the deck cannot push out a fast clock and cannot lock up the combo opponent like a CounterTop lock does. Discard in Esper variants certainly help, however.
  2. Stoneblade variants typically have trouble against Miracles because, again, they cannot push out a fast clock and Miracles goes much “bigger” than them. CounterTop lock is usually quite good too.

Eldrazi has put a peg to both combo and Miracles (well, Miracles only somewhat), quashing the Stoneblade deck’s difficult matchups. Stoneblade variants themselves also have all the tools to beat Eldrazi easily. Their namesake Stoneforge Mystic bringing Batterskull into play on turn three is difficult for Eldrazi to cut through. True-Name Nemesis can very easily gum up the ground (though Smasher is pretty strong against it), and Baleful Strix out of the Esper variants trades with all their threats for value. These variants also have access to Abrupt Decay out of the sideboard, making Chalice of the Void less of a problem. Stoneblade variants have also been traditionally considered strong against Delver decks too, though Grixis Delver may put a wrench in that with Cabal Therapy being so strong against Stoneforge.

Before we move on… Another spicy way to get some value out of your Squires is to partner them with… Opposition?!

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BUG Opposition has been witnessed in one of the BoM events (seen here), but a Bant variant has 5-0'ed a League!

Tamiyo, Field Researcher also makes an appearance?! I guess with so many derpy Coiling Oracles sitting around she seems pretty reasonable!

Looking into Kaladesh!

Kaladesh looks to be incredibly exciting. Some incredibly powerful artifacts look to be getting printed, but I’m getting hot for the new Chandra that has been revealed!

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Chandra, Torch of Defiance is probably the most powerful red planeswalker since Koth of the Hammer, and although somewhat comparable to the old Chandra, Pyromaster, having four abilities (like a certain other four ability planeswalker), plusing for her grind ability, and being able to shoot down most creatures in the format upon entering is perhaps a bit more powerful. I wholeheartedly expect her to get the nod as the four-mana planeswalker within decks such as Imperial Painter, as well as being a great planeswalker bomb for decks without access to blue, such as Punishing Jund.

In fact, here’s an Imperial Painter list I’d love to find her in!

Chandra provides not only a great way to grind out the opponent (especially when behind an Ensnaring Bridge), but digs towards the combo of the deck and gives the deck a very reasonable plan B of just burning them out with her.

If you remember my 12 Rabble list, she also slots very nicely in there too!

We also have another 2R token generator with Pia Nalaar!

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The planeswalker, Saheeli Rai, could also be a very interesting addition to some shell. Like Daretti, Igenious Iconoclast, she may slot in something like Grixis Tezzerator, or even some kind of UR Painter deck that can appreciate her artifact-copying synergies.

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Alright! That’s all we have for this week. Hopefully you've enjoyed the foray into August’s metagame breakdown and the Stoneblade variants!

Per usual, feedback is always appreciated, especially if there’s any interesting decks you’d like to highlight.

‘Til next time!

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

And catch me on The Salt Mine: An Australian Legacy Podcast, for more banter about Legacy!

What I’m Playing This Week

Last week I highlighted how Bedlam Reveler found his way into a lot of different shells in Japan. This week I’d like to try out Reveler in where he’s expected—UR Delver. But with a twist.

In this list, Reveler is not there to gas the deck up with three more Lightning Bolts to the dome, but instead lets this tempo-oriented UR Delver variant gas back up in the late game against midrange opponent’s and attrition them out. Dack Fayden also assists with this, being an excellent grinding card (looting is much appreciated in Delver, as excess lands are always useless), and he of course fuels the Reveler.

The Spice Corner

Sylvan Plug is an exciting deck, consisting of a Stompy shell (Sol Lands, Chalice of the Void, etc.) but blending them with the consistency engine of Green Sun's Zenith so that no matter how terribly you’re flooding, you’re sure to find some incredible fatty to wreck the opponent with. These lists generally find room for Knight of the Reliquary, Abrupt Decay, and Rolling Spoil (!) and hence typically find themselves in the Junk / Abzan colour combination.

In a more recent list, Thalia, Heretic Cathar has found a new home. There’s so many avenues to turn two her in this shell. Turn one Zenith into Arbor, turn two Thalia is pretty gross, and turn one Tomb, turn two Savannah Thalia also is a possibility. Very neat!

Also… The Giant Solifuge in the sideboard is awesome.

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