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This Week in Legacy: Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe Are Banned - Part 2


Welcome to another This Week in Legacy! This week I’ll be continuing my metagame prediction post-Probe and Deathrite Shaman banning, this time looking at unfair decks – whether this be typical combo decks like Storm, Reanimator, Turbo Depths, or decks attacking the format in unconventional ways, such as Lands. Let’s dive in.

What Happens to Graveyard-based combo?

With Deathrite Shaman gone, main deck graveyard hate is now non-existent and a lot of graveyard decks seemingly see a bit of a boon. I say seemingly because although Deathrite Shaman certainly pushed some archetypes down a peg, it also made people unwilling to dedicate a huge amount of sideboard cards to graveyard-based combo. Graveyard hate can be separated into two categories, in my mind:

  • Soft hate: cards like Surgical Extraction, Nihil Spellbomb and Deathrite Shaman itself. These cards are not ‘lights out’ for any graveyard interaction, with decks being able rebuild after these effects or fight them via alternative methods.
  • Hard hate: cards like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. These are cards that truly nuke a graveyard and are often completely unbeatable for certain decks, unless they find their anti-hate cards.

During the era of Deathrite Shaman, soft hate was at an all-time high. Surgical Extraction in particular was very popular because it is a flexible card against combo decks of all varieties, while also, in conjunction with Deathrite, able to hamper graveyard-based decks enough to convert into a win. Many graveyard-based combo decks adapted incredibly effectively to this strategy chosen by fair decks, but now will have to recalibrate again. Because this ‘hard’ hate will be coming back in a big way, with only some Surgical Extractions in the board an unreliable route to victory. We are back to an era where the question of ‘how much graveyard hate should I put in my sideboard?’ is something we must all consider.

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Graveyard-based combo too can be separated into two categories. The first of which are decks that utilize the graveyard as an ‘engine’, with Dredge the prime example. The graveyard is a resource to resurrect more threats, rip apart the opponent’s hand, make tokens and eventually combo out if needed. I feel these style of decks are going be more severely effected by the changes moving forward. Since the graveyard was an ‘engine’, cards like Surgical Extraction and Deathrite Shaman were not the end of the world, as there were just too many components of the Dredge deck to try and interact with. The deck also had some excellent adaptations, such as Street Wraith and Putrid Imp that made these cards less of an issue. Now, however, the sideboard games will require maneuvering around Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void and Relic of Progenitus which are much harder to overcome. Winning post-board games will now often require some luck in drawing anti-hate, outspeeding the opponent before the hate comes down or just hoping the opponent doesn’t have it.

With that in mind, I’d look to a Dredge list like this:

I’m interested to see where this style of sideboarding leads. I think four Breakthrough is key to have access to now “go under” certain decks, and Force of Will laughs at cards like Rest in Peace and Containment Priest that I expect be popular and the additional Breakthough keep the Blue count high. They are rather clunky (they appear on turn two...) and people mulligan for them heavily. Surprise them by countering these card and then moving on with life. This strategy has been investigated in the past but never really caught on, but maybe now is the time for it to be trialed once more.

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Although Dredge may be in a difficult place, a deck I expect to find a very interesting place in the metagame is something like Zombardment.

This list from ScavengingBooze took 5-2 in the recent Legacy Challenge and similarly utilizes the graveyard as an engine now unhindered by Deathrite Shaman plucking away at it. Unlike Dredge, however, it is not “all-in” on graveyard synergies, and can still cast cards like a normal deck would and operate when cards like Rest in Peace are not on the table. When these cards aren’t however, this kind of deck is a powerful inevitability engine against fair decks, recurring creatures again and again while using Goblin Bombardment to gun down the opponent or their creatures. Stitcher's Supplier looks like a great addition to oil the gears of this deck, while also making Gurmag Angler beatdown on turn two a pretty threatening proposition.

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The second style of graveyard-based combo is of course the reanimators of the world. Decks that don’t use it as an engine, but rather a holding bay to cheat out a huge creature ahead of schedule. The most popular variant of Reanimator prior to Deathrite’s banning was the speedy Black-Red Reanimator, along with its Mono-Black or Reanimator Depths brethren, that utilized speed via Dark Ritual to just create a monster before Deathrite Shaman could even untap. Collective Brutality was also a big boon for these shells upon printing due to its ability to kill Deathrite and stay within the Black colors. These style of decks of course ended up somewhat soft to cards like Faerie Macabre and Surgical Extraction because these “free” cards were able to circumvent the advantage of being faster.

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With harder hate now prominent instead and speed no longer as relevant, the old classic Blue-Black Reanimator might be in for a resurgence. The consistency of Brainstorm and Ponder cannot be doubted, and the deck’s ability to dodge hate like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void via Show and Tell makes the color combination worthwhile. These variants were always a little slower than Black-Red which was frustrating when a turn one Deathrite Shaman appeared – you either needed to counter it or look for a Collective Brutality before comboing. With people now leading on “turn one Nimble Mongoose, go”, Blue-Black Reanimator players can breathe a sigh of relief.

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That being said, I think Black-Red and faster variants have proven their place in the metagame over the course of the last years and will certainly not be displaced, but rather be just another viable option. Newer versions of Reanimator such as Bizarro Stormy too will also, I expect, continue to see innovation, especially since these decks have alternative, non-graveyard dependant ways to victory that can dodge around sideboards filled with harder and more graveyard hate.

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Although not graveyard dependant, the other big Griselbrand deck, Sneak & Show, is completely untouched by the banning and I expect to be an excellent choice as the format shakes out. In fact, it already took the top two places in the recent Legacy Challenge. When people are testing oddball ideas, being a powerful, proactive combo deck that can capitalize on people’s ineffective deck building is a great place to be and is certain to pull in some trophies during the infancy of the format. I do expect the deck to struggle a bit more as the metagame develops, due to tough matchups like RUG Delver (resolving three and four mana spells against the Stifle/Daze/Spell Pierce deck is a gutsy proposition) and Death & Taxes coming to the fore. Plans like Defense Grid and Omniscience are great ways for Sneak & Show players to adapt.

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What Happens to Storm?

Storm decks are somewhat happier about the removal of Deathrite Shaman, as this makes Past in Flames a much more reliable engine. What Storm decks have to worry about a bit more, however, is the removal of Gitaxian Probe from the format. With Probe gone, the disruption suite of Probe-Therapy is no more, and Probe’s ability to build Storm and be an excellent card to flashback with Past in Flames will be missed.

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A list I think pretty “stock” moving forward would be something like that of Cyrus Corman-Gill, friend, and a man who plays quite a bit of Magic Online, loving Storm and a bit of RUG every now and then.

Thoughtseize is the new addition to the deck, along with maxing out on Preordain and adding some additional flex like another business spell in Dark Petition (though this does make Ad Nauseam a bit more gutsy…) and extra mana in Rain of Filth. The sideboard composition should also be interesting moving forward. I expect Abrupt Decay to still be supremely relevant, especially with Miracles now going deep on Counterbalance and cards like Massacre at a premium with Death & Taxes at its height now too.

Of course, Bryant Cook’s variant of Storm, The Epic Storm, is another excellent way to take the deck, with him racking up a lot of wins already in the post-ban format.

Maximizing the Chrome Mox make this a very, very speedy variant of Storm and although Cabal Therapy sadly loses its interaction with Empty the Warrens, there is definitely a lot to love concerning Thoughtseize, especially with the diversity of hate and counterspells people are now playing. TES gets a little bit more cantripping as well, and now has the same amount of selection as old ANT lists, along with the hallmark Burning Wish, giving TES a surprising amount of flexibility. I’m really looking forward to this new age of Storm and I’m sure there’ll be a lot more shifts in these lists as the format moves forward – maybe Cabal Therapy will come back at some stage, because its ability to nab multiple cards from the opponent’s hand is still an incredibly unique effect.

What Happens to Dark Depths?

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The two Dark Depths decks of the format, Lands and Turbo Depths, are also certain to see where they stand in the metagame shift. Lands in particularly has a lot of interesting changes to consider. The demise of Deathrite Shaman means no pesky creature plucking away at the graveyard, but the Lands deck was already well-equipped at dealing with the Shaman thanks to Punishing Fire. The deck was also well-equipped to deal with Surgical Extraction thanks to Tranquil Thicket and the natural Plan B of Marit Lage without relying on the graveyard. The movement to cards like Rest in Peace puts Krosan Grip at now an even greater premium than before and can prove difficult for Lands to recover from if accompanied by a fast clock. The power of Lands’ mana denial should also be interesting – with more basic lands floating around and less three-and-a-half color mana bases, the strength of Wasteland may be diminished. The choice of how to punish these basic lands is another consideration – do Lands players allocate more slots to Ghost Quarter or Rishadan Port now?

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At first glance, I expect a lot more Rishadan Port in Lands, and perhaps a trimming of Punishing Fire moving forward. I also expect sideboards to be flush with artifact/enchantment destruction a la Krosan Grip if they weren’t already. I could see merit in the versions main decking Abrupt Decay, actually…

Turbo Depths I think will both gain and lose in areas. The rise of a deck like RUG Delver, with very few answers to an on-board Marit Lage (unless you get tricksy with Dead // Gone or Vapor Snag) gets severely punished by a single Pithing Needle on Wasteland into a fast 20/20 – the Depths deck is very well-tuned to deal with a single Wasteland already. However, midrange decks are looking more towards Swords to Plowshares over Fatal Push now that Deathrite Shaman is no longer a core creature and Black therefore no longer a core color. Stoneblade and Miracles and their Plow-Snap-Snap gameplans are certain to be a bit of a headache. Death & Taxes’ return also is a huge issue for Turbo Depths, as between Flickerwisp, Plow, Karakas and Wasteland the deck can stop the combo on multiple axis. I would be well-prepared for these decks via cards like Rite of Consumption and Not of This World, along with cards that can abuse the life gain afforded by Plow, such as Sylvan Library and Dark Confidant. But these will be the primary challenge for the Depths deck moving forward.

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Now that Kolaghan's Command is out of the format there is also room to make a 20/20 another way too…

I’m sure this is certainly a sketch of an idea, but investigating Mirror, now that there is less main deck artifact destruction, instead of Hexmage, is a very, very neat idea. This list, rather than have the Jund components of the “Slow Depths” lists, instead replaces them with Stompy elements like Chalice and Thought-Knot. Zenith is also an excellent player with Depths, getting Knight or Excavator or Safekeeper for whatever situation required. This reminds me somewhat of Sylvan Plug, actually, and maybe a few Chokes in the sideboard would therefore do some good…

And Others?

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One combo deck I think is ready to see a big resurgence is Infect. Infect had a lot of issues with the Deathrite Shaman metagame. Firstly, a turn one Deathrite meant a difficult to push through blocker for Glistener Elf, cutting off many of the deck’s deadly turn two kills. Secondly, Deathrite being conducive to shells stacked with removal, Baleful Strix and Kolaghan's Command, all very good against Infect’s threats, further knocked the deck down. Now, however, with these strategies gone and slow Swords to Plowshares-based decks such as Miracles the premier control strategies of the format, Infect is ready to capitalize. Of course, Infect lost Gitaxian Probe, a card that provided some valuable information and Delve fuel for Become Immense. But it was never a critical part of the deck, and if anything, with Probe gone, slots can be further allocated to Ponder to give the deck even more midgame consistency. I would look to something like this:

I like having a “Delver-style” main deck, maxing out on Daze and Force of Will, and then only post-board trying to do some fun tricky things. I think the White splash of Infect is also very viable, with Rest in Peace an excellent sideboard option to hose difficult matchups like Lands and Swords to Plowshares now at a premium vs. decks such as Death & Taxes and Turbo Depths. I’m also very willing to try a crazy build of Infect, going full Delver style and adding three Stifle] to make Infect’s Daze’s even more powerful… But maybe that is a little too off the rails.

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Infect is also an incredible Noble Hierarch deck, which is going to see a lot more play now that Deathrite is gone. Noble’s dual purpose as pump spell and mana dork has always made it the nod over any other mana dork in Infect, and finding shells that capitalize on her early ramp and ability to break open board stalls thanks to buffing up attackers is going to be an interesting task moving forward. Infect and the Green Sun’s Zenith BUG shells I mentioned last week are certainly some interesting steps forward to begin with.

There are few other interesting fringe decks that now also look to the Deathrite banning promisingly. Painter in the hands of Jack Kitchen took 7-0 in the Swiss of the recent Legacy Challenge with a very powerful-looking Smuggler's Copter build (that now can happily abuse Welding in creatures without Deathrite being a frustrating wrench in that plan). Burn (and other non-basic-hating decks, like Dragon Stompy) has some mixed effects, with mana bases including more basics now expected and payoff cards Price of Progress and Blood Moon maybe less effective. Enchantress (!) has bizarrely shown some results with a 5-0 under its belt. Elves is changing significantly without Deathrite Shaman, looking to Ezuri, Renegade Leadere ala Julian’s recent list he 5-0ed with.

It’s quite the time to be playing Legacy, is all I can say.

Conclusion

That wraps up my prediction on the post-Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe Legacy format. But who truly knows what trajectory the format is going to take. I’m excited for the weeks ahead and the interesting technology to discover. Before we wrap up, as always, some content from around the web:

  • Podcasts! The Salt Mine (hey, that’s me!) talk about the recent bannings and where the metagame is going. Find that here. Lone Star Lhurgoyfs similarly take a deep dive here. The Brainstorm Show get their brew hats on and discuss the new format and introduce some new archetypes here.
  • Mengucci plays Enchantress and Paradoxical Outcome at CFB.
  • Gerrard Fabiano plays an interesting Miracles/Blade hybrid at CFB.
  • Team Salty Spitton show the strength of Jeskai Stoneblade here.
  • Jim Davis, the old Goblins masters, talks about the boys and why they may be viable at StarCityGames. Find that here.

Sean Brown

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

What I’m Playing This Week

Goblins really are back in the house, with the deck having success on Magic Online in the hands of Marcelo Scatena, Mengucci and even close friend Steven Stamopoulos bringing the deck to our first post-ban weekly and taking the 4-0! As a teenager, Goblins was the deck of my dreams, featuring my favorite Red idiots. Once I started playing Legacy however, the tribe fell out of favor and I turned to the best Aether Vial deck at the time, Death & Taxes… And then got addicted to Blue cards, Stifles and Wasteland in RUG Delver.

But now it’s time to go full circle and finally enjoy the rebirth of an archetype.

I’ve been a proponent of mono-Red due to its clean mana base of basic Mountain ensuring mana can be established through Stifle… But I’ve realized this thinking is a bit of a fallacy – Stifle is strong against any of the deck’s triggers, and so having an abundance of them gives more opportunity to bait Stifles and then drop a Ringleader and let his trigger be what takes the game away. I also think Thalia is such a pivotal and multi-purpose part of the deck’s plan against combo, compared to cards like Chalice and graveyard hate that mono-Red only has access. Thalia and Priest give you actually a fighting chance against Sneak & Show. I think that Green is unnecessary though – removal like Mogg Fanatic (surprisingly excellent against Death & Taxes and the format now in general – kill those Hierarchs and Birds of Paradise!) and Gempalm can control the early game while Trashmaster can clean up any problematic artifacts that sit on the board.

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The Spice Corner

A deck close to my heart is Manaless Dredge, which also seemingly is a casualty of the Gitaxian Probe ban, but also a benefactor of the Deathrite Shaman ban. The main issue many have encountered with the deck is that now the Blue count is a little too low to support sideboard Force of Will, and many have now instead opted for the dubious Dryad Arbor and Naturalize effect sideboard… But Mr. Michael Keller, one of the innovators behind the deck in its infancy, has actually created a list even more reliant one Force of Will. And our little Merfolk friend is what makes it work.

Shambling Shell is less of a concern in Manaless lists, because its redundancy was only useful when Dredgers were being attacked by Deathrite and ‘chaining’ Dredgers proved difficult. The full four Whirlpool Riders give Force enough fuel even without Probe, and Traps and Shoals in the sideboard make the deck flush with Blue cards against combo. I personally would like to see how relevant Chancellor of the Annex is in the current format – perhaps its delaying the opponent and excellence as a reanimation target is still worthwhile. But Keller’s list is definitely where I’d start for Manaless Dredgers.

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