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This Week in Legacy: December Legacy Challenge and Aether Revolt

Hello everyone, and welcome to another This Week in Legacy! There's a few events to run through, the most notable of these being the December Magic Online Legacy Challenge, which, per usual, featured a few interesting lists. We'll also have a look at other interesting lists that have been going through smaller tournaments recently. I'll also look at some of the interesting additions Aether Revolt looks to be bringing, and although nothing too crazy has made an appearance, there's a few cards with interesting utility. There's quite a few things to dive into, so let's get down to it.

December Legacy Challenge

Let's have a look at the breakdown of all the decks that made their way to a record of 5-2 or better:

And then a breakdown of how the Top 8 ended up:

The Top 8 was stacked with three Miracles, two Grixis Delver (one of which took down the tournament), and singletons of Death & Taxes, Elves, and BUG Delver. The Miracles lists all remained relatively stagnant, though one now adopted the Ensnaring Bridge technology used in Chiba, while ecobaronen touted a four-Mentor, no-Jace build of the deck. The BUG Delver list was quite interesting due to how old-school its main deck looked, though its sideboard was certainly well adapted to the current Legacy metagame.

A nice pile of four-ofs that the tap-out tempo deck is well-known for. The singleton Dismember is a lovely concession to Gurmag Angler. Tombstalker similarly wins against Angler thanks to flying while the ground gets stalled. Liliana of the Veil, although miserable against the Grixis Delver variant (due to Pyromancer), is certainly a welcome addition to the deck to fight against the Reanimator and Sneak & Show decks that are running so rampant, as she can cleanly tick up and take care of those huge creatures, despite being a little slow. The sideboard is also similarly informed, with triple Tormod's Crypt being a solid speedy answer to the fast BR Reanimator decks. The other non-standard addition to the sideboard is Dead Weight in place of a card such as Disfigure. Although sorcery-speed, it does answer a deck such as Infect very efficiently (they cannot pump through it), and furthermore, it adds an enchantment to the graveyard to make Tarmogoyf larger, especially pertinent in the Grixis matchup where Tarmogoyf needs to be able to outclass Gurmag Angler. If anything, this is similar to the Seal of Fire technology that has been adapted in some RUG Delver lists.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor makes his way into the sideboard to start the grind post-board, but I'm surprised to see no Liliana, the Last Hope. Melbourne Legacy regular Rob Gascard has been placing excellently with his BUG Delver list, which aims to Stone Rain the opponent into oblivion game one, but then leisurely play a more grindy game post-board with the plethora of diverse planeswalker bombs post-board. Liliana, the Last Hope has been integral to this, particularly as a card to beat Death & Taxes and small creature decks.

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Julian Knab, Elves maestro, also unsurprisingly made the Top 8, after his sterling finishes in the last few Challenges. Per usual, it featured some pretty interesting technology that has been seeping into the deck.

It's been a surprisingly exciting time to be an Elves player, thanks to the wide variety of adaptations. Julian spearheaded the Chaos Elves build initially proposed to him by Basti (read a lot about the design of the deck here) earlier this year, which had the main adaptation of cutting Natural Order for a larger toolbox and a bit more mana dorks. That being said, although not all lists have been willing to trim Order, many influences from Chaos builds have been seen in more standard lists (which Julian touted in the recent Challenge as seen above).

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Cavern of Souls is really the new signature card that has found its way into the mana base. It certainly puts a strain on it, as the deck needs to be flush with Forests due to Quirion Ranger and needs to have a critical amount of fetchlands to fuel Deathrite Shaman, but its power against Counterbalance from Miracles and Chalice of the Void from Eldrazi cannot be underestimated. Decay also is helpful against these lock pieces, and can relieve pressure from an Insectile Aberration beating the Elves player down.

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The adaptation from Chiba we saw two weeks ago also found its way into Julian's list, though only in the sideboard. Although previously Julian has utilized cards such as Garruk Relentless in this slot (especially influenced by Jan Lenger's European Eternal Weekend list), Nissa seems like the more superior choice due to the synergistic benefits she adds to the deck, be it generating more mana via untapping Cradles, bashing Miracles with a Forest, letting the Elvish grind continue with her minus three, and having some pretty cool synergies with Quirion Ranger if her ultimate occurs. That being said, Garruk's cheaper cost and more straightforward applications could potentially get the nod. It shall be interesting to see which green walker of choice is best.

Nonetheless, congratulations to fan favorite Julian for another excellent finish, feel free to read to read Julian's interview by Chris Cochanski for more about the man behind the Elves.

LewisCBR took Grixis Delver to fourth place, and although not featuring any Vial Smasher the Fierce as the wild list did last week, it did feature an old favorite:

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I'm actually somewhat in love with this style of Grixis list, because it swings the pendulum of the deck much more towards the tempo end of the spectrum, compared to the midrangey aspects that cards such as Cabal Therapy add to the deck. True-Name Nemesis has also been seeing a lot of love in Deathrite Shaman-based Delver decks recently (such as the Ben Friedman 4c Delver lists), thanks to the ability to mana dork it out on turn two and wreck havoc on fair opponents, and is seen as a one-of in this list over the typical Vendilion Clique. As a D&T player I've been particularly scared of this line of play, as it's very hard to race or interact with. The amount of Gitaxian Probe has also been trimmed down due to the lack of Therapy, though it is quite synergistic with other cards in the deck. For example, Stifle becomes more powerful when you know your opponent cannot play around it and has a hand full of fetches. The sideboard is also quite lovely. There's no grindy cards like Painful Truths in sight, instead more aggressive, tempo-positive cards like Winter Orb and Sulfuric Vortex. And Fire Covenant I'm never sad to see! Although RUG Delver itself has been seeing less and less play, it's nice to see that the current most-popular Delver variant is at least remaining, in this form, somewhat of a spiritual successor. LewisCBR also has an excellent tournament report going through his Challenge here!

The other Grixis Delver lists piloted were also of incredible pedigree. 2015 Legacy Champion Bob Huang piloted a generic (tried-and-tested to be awesome) Grixis Delver deck, though he did not make Top 8, while Louis Bauchad of European Eternal Weekend fame took down the whole challenge with his rather weird looking Grixis list featuring two Stifle, two Abrupt Decay and three Lightning Bolt.

The last deck we'll have a look at from the Top 8 is Death & Taxes. For as little play as the deck gets on Magic Online, it always seems to place incredibly well within these Challenges, certainly a credit to the strength of the deck, especially now that the Conspiracy: Take the Crown additions have finally made their way to Magic Online.

Scabs has some funky numbers that require some analysis:

  • One Serra Avenger. She can't be tutored for, so naturally drawing it has to be done, and there's a pretty low probability of that occurring if it's just a one-of. Bumping this up to a two-of would be nice.
  • One Spirit of the Labyrinth. I feel she could become the second Avenger. Spirit attacks poorly, often is too slow to tax effectively and is a tutorable bullet that you never really want to tutor for. I haven't been impressed with her, despite how beautiful my foil set looks. 
  • Zero Thalia, Heretic Cathar. As we'll talk about later, this is something I can agree with, Heretic Cathar is a card I'm currently pretty out on.
  • One Sanctum Prelate. Unlike Spirit, this is a card I love curving into naturally and tutoring for to lock out the opponent's critical cards. I'd love to see this number bumped up to two.
  • Banisher Priest is an excellent card that I'd love to make room for within my list, as she pulls a lot of work in fair and some unfair matches, and again is a card I like to curve into or tutor for. Mangara of Corondor and Palace Jailer also are similar options with pros and cons compared to the middle-of-the-road Banisher Priest.
  • Two Recruiter is looking like the most standard number.
  • Faerie Macabre is a piece of technology I'm a huge fan of against the BR Reanimator builds, but also has added flexiblity due to being a "spell" that can be found via Recruiter. Scabs has notably trimmed down on the Rest in Peace to make room for this (while still having two Containment Priest), which can be a liability against some fair decks. I guess losing a trump against Shardless isn't that bad when Recruiter adds a new amount of grind power.

We'll have a look at my current iteration of Death & Taxes below in a moment. For now let's have a look at some of the 5-2 lists from the Challenge:

The two Eldrazi decks featured in the Challenge varied quite a bit, with pokerswizard piloting a pretty stock build as championed by noloam. But pAmp0 piloted a lovely UW Eldrazi list. Like the colored Eldrazi list that found its way in the American Eternal Weekend Top 8, this sacrifices some speed for more versatile Eldrazi - Eldrazi Displacer and Eldrazi Skyspawner foremost of these, along with top-end bomb Drowner of Hope. However, the mana is comparatively a bit more stable by adding only two colors, as Adarkar Wastes and Tundra aren't as restrictive as Aether Hub and Corrupted Crossroads. Furthermore, sideboard options can be a bit more varied, though pAmp0 decided to only utilize colorless options, as with only eight white or blue sources it can still be hard to cast some cards. Good options are cards like Containment Priest, however, which can be cast via the Blue-White lands as well as Cavern of Souls, and synergize incredibly with Eldrazi Displacer. I might try build UW Eldrazi like this:

The deck now ends up with a lot of strength against its traditionally bad Sneak & Show matchup, as well as having a lot of interaction with BR Reanimator thanks to both Leyline and Priest. Trimming City of Traitors and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth does cause a bit of slowdown, though, and the deck is still cold to Blood Moon and land destruction effects (though Scions do help out).

This version of Aluren has been seeing a lot of play recently, primarily due to its Magic Online popularity. Unlike typical Recruiter-based Aluren lists, this list notches up the Shardless BUG-esque gameplan instead of needing an immediate combo. It aims to grind the opponent into the dirt with quite a few tricks (such as using Cavern Harpy to loop ETB effects) and then combo out when needed. If anything, it's more of a Cavern Harpy-based value deck than an Aluren deck. It also has a bit more power against combo game one due to its ability to run Force of Will thanks to having an increased blue count, along with a bevy of discard in the sideboard. Cascading into Cabal Therapy off a Shardless Agent and then immediately flashing it back with the just-cast Agent sounds glorious.

Like many other BUG shells it has also adopted everyone's favorite new Elf:

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I suspect that this list wins with mediocre beats quite often, and Leovold as a hatebear-style creature fits very neatly with this, grinding out the opponent while also disrupting.

Another niche deck, Imperial Painter, also found its way to a 5-2:

This list is incredibly similar to the list I looked at a week ago and had some success with, and importantly shows the transition to Mono-Red many Painter players have been making after its success at Chiba. Chandra, Torch of Defiance can certainly be credited with this, as she gives the deck a robust back-up plan that makes comboing out less necessary. ORDAL, however, made room for Koth main deck to emphasize the beatdown plan, along with some main deck Sudden Shocks to complement the lowered amount of Chandras and the removal she provides. Three Goblin Welder makes a big statement about his utility, though only having two Sensei's Divining Top to complement the increased amount of Welders seems a little suspect, as Top is very powerful with the little Goblin.

Some Other Innovations

Across the week a few tournaments always spring up, and with some of them doing interesting takes on current archetypes.

This list can do some pretty wild things thanks to the synergy between Lion's Eye Diamond and Unburial Rites, with Diamond acting as both discard outlet and mana production. Diamond also of course synergizes effectively with Burning Wish to lead to some interesting avenues of winning, whether it be via using a sideboard Reanimate or by creating a bunch of Goblins via Empty the Warrens Belcher-style thanks to the huge amounts of acceleration this list has. Gamble also is excellent as a card to use when cracking Lion's Eye Diamond, as it can essentially act as a fifth Entomb in some cases or a third Unburial Rites.

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This deck certainly gets into the danger of cool things, however, and is likely a bit clunkier than traditional BR Reanimator due to its variety of moving parts. The mana bases is also clunky due to needing white for Unburial Rites and the sideboard Revoke Existence (which is quite a sweet card against Leyline and other problems), though I'm not sure how warranted the Underground Sea is for the sideboard one-of Energy Field as tech against Rest in Peace. Wouldn't Helm of Obedience be better as a simple way to beat RiP without skewing the mana? Sideboard Liliana, the Last Hope is also a bit too spicy for my liking, despite her potentially milling over a fatty fresh for reanimation.

A card I do really like in BR Reanimator is Magus of the Moon, however.

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Although sometimes underwhelming, a quickly accelerated out Magus of the Moon via Lotus Petals can work wonders, especially post sideboard against BUG variants or Lands. Deathrite Shaman got you down? Just cast a Magus and cut off their green mana. It's even potentially good as a Entomb target, particularly after drawing a bunch of cards with Griselbrand, as he can be then reanimated to cut off problematic lands like Karakas. I'd be interested in seeing him find a place, especially post-sideboard when City of Traitors and Sneak Attack come in, though Simian Spirit Guide versions may be the first place to look towards.

Similar to the list Gerrard Fabiano once used, this RUG Delver list eschews the little Mongoose that could for Pyromancer and True-Name. I'm not sure I'm the greatest fan of this, despite how often Mongoose is underwhelming in the current metagame. RUG, due to not having the acceleration of Deathrite Shaman, cannot leverage such large plays like Pyromancer and True-Name very well, and needs to prefer creatures that are tighter to the curve, such as Mongoose, as holding up reactive spells like Stifle, Pierce, and Snare is so critical to the deck's performance. Lavamancer in Fabiano's list at least somewhat looks towards this. With Angler now existing as a Tarmogoyf replacement in Grixis lists, this list looks like a sub-par option comparatively. The only way to make RUG great again is not to dilute its gameplan with Grixis-esque cards like Pyromancer, but instead let it do what it can do best: be the most potent Delver deck at tempoing out the opponent with mana denial and fast beatdown. Let the Mongoose live, I say.

The last list is a pretty sweet BW Death & Taxes list:

Dark Confidant is the biggest addition the deck gets from going black, and certainly lets the deck grind very well. Kambal, Consul of Allocation is also a very effective hatebear that is protectable by Karakas, though that being said, his effect is somewhat minimal, particularly if cards such as Thalia and mana denial are cutting them off from doing anything anyway. Bob also isn't that great in the shell anymore either, as Recruiter of the Guard and Flickerwisp in combination generate an absurd amount of card advantage on their own.

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The card I do like a lot is Orzhov Pontiff however, as D&T has always lacked effective sweepers in the deck and has led to terrible matchups against decks such as Elves. Furthermore, Pontiff can also help the deck anthem through difficult board states and has some pretty sweet synergy with Flickerwisp. Just like Magus of the Moon has been adopted in some D&T sideboards without any red sources, being cast via Cavern set to Human or a Vial on three, Pontiff could see the same kind of utility, especially since he too is Recruiterable.

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Aether Revolt Spoilers

Aether Revolt is coming, and although only a scant amount of cards have been spoiled so far, a few look quite Legacy playable:

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A very effective sweeper with a built-in two-for-one is exactly what a deck like Shardless BUG is looking for, and grindy cousins Jund and even 4c Loam could make some use of this. My only fear is that non-blue strategies will generally have their hand emptied by the time this card is seeing play, and more permanent-based sweeper effects like Night of Souls' Betrayal could be useful at a similar cost. I would not be surprised to see this show up in some kind of black midrange deck, as it is very powerful.

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Another Vehicle with a very easy mana cost for Legacy (thanks to our good friend Ancient Tomb), though the Crew cost is quite pricey for most of the standard Legacy creatures. A red Stompy list utilizing Heart of Kiran with Chandra, Torch of Defiance (just like Wizards drew it up!) may be the best way to optimally use this card. Do note it is just a vanilla 4/4 vigilant flier and can also be bounced by Karakas when crewed!

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This has the golden three mana for Mishra's Workshop, so I think Vintage players will be more excited about this, but this guy certainly has some wonderful synergies with the card Smokestack and Kuldotha Forgemaster. Goblin Welder could also lead to some interesting shenanigans. Whether this guy's effect is "cute" or "powerful" remains to be seen, but the fact that other artifacts trigger him makes him potentially very powerful.

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This is the card I'm most excited for, as a middle ground between Trinket Mage and Treasure Mage has finally been reached. Trophy Mage can grab some of Legacy's most powerful artifacts, be it a Sword of X and Y, or a Trinisphere to lock out the opponent. I'm sure getting Swords may make her the poor man's Stoneforge Mystic in Modern. Although the deck is still likely a bit underpowered, Faerie Stompy could use Trophy Mage to suit up the dinky little faeries in the deck with Swords quite nicely:

This looks like a tonne of janky fun.


Thanks for reading This Week in Legacy. As always, feel free to comment below, in the reddit/The Source threads or email me about whatever interesting things are going on in Legacy for you. I'd also love to hear what decks people would love for me to have a deep-dive into, as I'll be looking at booting up a new section in This Week in Legacy involving deck history similar to what SaffronOlive has been doing in the Deck Evolutions series (see his excellent Miracle one here).

Nonetheless, 'til next time

Sean Brown
Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

And catch me on The Salt Mine for more Australian banter about Legacy!

What I'm Playing This Week

I took my Thalia, Heretic Cathar Death & Taxes list to another solid performance, splitting the finals of a very small tournament here in Melbourne. However, overall, I was unimpressed with Heretic Cathar, who was certainly excellent when I was ahead, but was just another dumb, non-evasive beater the majority of the time otherwise. She was handy at being a threat protectable by Karakas, however, which helped against Miracles. My main gripe is how slot-inefficient she is, as although she is tutorable, she really wants to be naturally curved into to take full advantage of her tax, and hence must be played as a two-of. And this means either pushing out cards such as Serra Avenger, who was excellent at defense/offense and as a solid card to keep the curve tight, Flickerwisp, who should always be a four-of (I wanted one all the time), or beatsticks such as Mirran Crusader, who is fine at any point of the game compared to Heretic Cathar. As such, I'll be moving on from her, and although in certain metagames she is great (lots of Elves, Lands, etc.), I wouldn't advise to consider her a staple of the deck, but just another flexible three-drop comparable to Crusader, Banisher Priest, or Mangara.

Recruiter of the Guard and Sanctum Prelate though felt absolutely perfect. One Miracles opponent had the honor of having Prelates on one and six respectively put into play thanks to Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls, and then died to an army of Flickerwisps summoned by a single Recruiter that I was free to flood the board with. All while Rishadan Porting him, of course. 

With all this in mind, here's my next updated list:

A few experimental options in the sideboard. Faerie Macabre as a bit of tech against Reanimator and Lands, and Palace Jailer is still in testing over Mangara. One thing I may also be looking at in the future is adding an additional Revoker over the Crusader (moving the Crusader to the sideboard). This makes the curve incredibly tight with a bounty of two-drops and only eight three drops, and there is still enough muscle left in the deck thanks to the Avengers and Recruiter's army of Flickerwisps. There's a lot of X/1s in the main, but understandably these can be trimmed post-board when they are a bit of a liability for bulkier bodies like Crusader, Jailer and Gideon. D&T's finally getting distilled into a list that looks pretty clean to my eyes, and refining the small choices will be what to look towards next.

The Spice Corner

This is a pretty wild one. I saw this a few weeks ago on Hareruya's archive, but /u/Rubin987 took it for a spin in one of his recent locals to some sweet success and it once again piqued my interest.

This list focuses on using Helm of Awakening to create a variety of combos, from milling the opponent out with two Tops via Altar of the Brood, to killing the opponent on the spot with Aetherflux Reservoir or just killing them with Monastery Mentor and infinite Monks. Other combos also make an appearance that can be found via Enlightened Tutor, such as Rest in Peace / Helm of Obedience, or just go grab a Future Sight to start the value train. Trinket Mage does overtime work finding whatever answer or threatening artifact required. There's a lot going on, and it looks like incredibly interesting as a way to take Miracles further down the combo avenue.


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