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This Week in Legacy: Deck Evolutions

Welcome to another This Week in Legacy! I was really happy to see the reception from last week’s rather off-kilter article, focussing on Shadow and Painter. As new decks develop in the metagame I’ll keep articles like this in mind as a point of interest. This week we'll look at how a few archetypes have been evolving as the metagame has shifted and new cards have been incorporated.

The New Shape of Maverick

Maverick has been undergoing a significant change over the past year or so. Importantly, its natural predator Miracles got pushed down a peg, letting its plan of mana dorks + big idiots (ie. Knight of the Reliquary) reign free without getting swept off the board. This brought the deck back into validity. Renegade Rallier found his way into some lists as a value three drop upon printing. Then Ramunap Excavator found its way into decks as, in some ways, an extra Knight of the Reliquary, able to recycle Wasteland, Horizon Canopy, and perform lots of synergistic tricks with the deck. But probably the most significant Green creature printed in recent times isn’t even something we typically associate with Green Sun's Zenith

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Yeah, the frustrating Elf Advisor is actually now a central, stock Zenith target for almost every recent Maverick list that has put up results. It certainly speaks to the power of Leovold, in that most lists are finding room for a Tropical Island and moving into four colours for him. Let’s look a little closer into these Leovold-touting lists:

Maverick has always been the culprit of too many tutorable random one-ofs, that can make certain draws of the deck very, very wonky, and that’s certainly how I feel about most modern lists. The approach of this list is what I like the most – maximizing the plan of disruptive Thalia + Zenith toolbox, but now with a bit more of a focus on Leovold. And focussing on Leovold means finding some slots elsewhere. Probably the best thing to cut is non-Green creatures that aren’t tutorable. I’m looking at you Stoneforge Mystic.

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Stoneforge has been in a pretty horrendous place due to the popularity of Kolaghan's Command, though Death & Taxes has the tempo power of Aether Vial to somewhat remedy this while Stoneblade decks can use Stoneforge + Brainstorm as just a card to accrue value. Maverick, less-so, and the deck has never enjoyed even Batterskull as a tutorable target. Maverick is more about gearing up whatever idiot with a piece of equipment, and much of the time Stoneforge has simply acted as simply additional copies of Umezawa' s Jitte. So what if we just cut the Kor Artificer, to make room for our lovable Elf Advisor?

With this mindset, we end up with a framework below as follows:

4 Deathrite Shaman
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Mother of Runes
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest

4 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Scavenging Ooze

4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Abrupt Decay

We have a few flex slots now to choose! I personally like a second Pridemage in my Maverick shells, along with a Sylvan Library for some form of filtration. Scryb Ranger is also a solid curve-filler. Adding the mana base, which looks like this:

4 Wasteland
4 Windswept Heath
3 Verdant Catacombs
2 Bayou
2 Savannah
1 Scrubland
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Tundra
1 Tropical Island
1 Karakas
1 Horizon Canopy

Gives us the end result!

Of course, a sideboard needs to be worked on a little, but the typical tutor bullet lands (even a Crop Rotation package is neat), sweepers like Zealous Persecution and discard in the form of Thoughtseize are all relevant.

What Is Punishing Thieves?

This deck has been on everyone’s radar for quite some time. Many like to think of it as “a bigger pile than Czech Pile”. But Clashed’s results with the deck cannot be disputed, with the above list finding a 7-0 in a Challenge two weeks ago. The centrepiece of this that differentiates it from typical Czech Pile lists is, of course, Punishing Fire.

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Inserting Fire into the deck is very powerful, because most importantly it gives the deck a large edge in the mirror. Everything except Leovold can be gunned down by the recurring Shock and even decks that could otherwise be challenging, such as Miracles, may find the persistent clock of Fire quite difficult (though the reincorporation of Counterbalance somewhat helps this). Fire has always been a strong contender in recent times, and I can certainly see the appeal. Especially since your mana sucks anyway, some unfetchable Taigas aren’t going to change that.

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The other big appeal to this list is of Dack Fayden, the man who gives this deck the name “Punishing Thieves”. The greatest thief in the multiverse can do some pretty heinous things in this list. His loot ability, first of all, is incredible synergistic with Punishing Fire, giving the deck raw card advantage rather than filtration if things are going well. Dack also synergises incredibly with Leovold, Emissary of Trest and, in previous versions of the deck, Notion Thief, by targeting the opponent with his ability. Of course, the opponent will draw one card, but then discard two. Repeat this and the opponent’s hand should be shredded to pieces in no time.

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Rise // Fall is also a bizarre one to include in this list, especially with Hymn to Tourach available. But I can see the benefits. Firstly, Rise // Fall’s Hymn to Tourach-ish mode is much less strict on the mana and can do a relatively reasonable impression. Unlike BUG Delver, 4c Control is aiming very little to get the old mana screw Hymn to Tourach. Secondly, Rise // Fall is not a particularly bad late game top deck. If anything, it can pull the control player back ahead in a similar way to Kolaghan’s Command. Return my Snapcaster, bounce a Strix back to my hand? That’s value! I actually like Rise // Fall a lot as a powerful little package, and should definitely get a little more attention. In the end, it also pitches to Force of Will.

There’s some oddball stuff in the sideboard too, such as more planeswalkers bomb like Ob Nixilis, Reignited, the pseudo-Kolaghan's Command of Pulse of Murasa and the aforementioned Notion Thief. One card I would like to highlight is Pernicious Deed, however. A card that hasn’t seen particularly stellar performance (other than in Nic Fit) in recent times with the printing of cards like Maelstrom Pulse, Decay and Toxic Deluge, I think Deed does still have a place. There are many decks, such as Dragon Stompy and Death & Taxes, where blowing up both creatures and non-creature permanents like artifacts and enchantments is incredibly important. And of course, the planeswalkers nicely get to stick around, which works well in Clashed’s very superfriends-heavy list.

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I highly recommend swinging over to Clashed, Chase Hansen’s stream when you get the chance to see more of the Punishing Thieves shenanigans. He has also linked me this clip, showing the power of Ob Nixilis.

Aluren’s Changes

Aluren has always been putting up some kind of results at the periphery of the format, and the popularity of the BUG versions cannot be denied. When I was in Japan, and at the recent Hareruya Invitational, there was plentiful amounts of Cavern Harpy and Parasitic Strix floating around. I do believe that Aluren is the spiritual successor to Shardless BUG. I think it’s a very powerful deck, especially with recent innovation pushed ahead by Aluren vanguard Cartesian, who is taking the deck into fairer and fairer territory:

There’s a few cards to note here:

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I love the inclusion of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in this shell. One tension that often comes up in deckbuilding is how to have Snapcaster Mage and Shardless Agent in the same deck – it’s basically impossible, right? Snapcaster’s flashback is just too clunky to work off a cascade indeed. But Vryn’s Prodigy can do a reasonable impression of the mage, and can also importantly discard useless combo pieces when trying to beatdown with the fair plan, or discard useless fair deck pieces when trying to go on the combo plan. A deck with such duality really does appreciate the additional filtration Jace provides. Furthermore, like any Blue deck, it is flush with cantrips to flashback, though I would like a few more discard spells like Thoughtseize or Hymn to Tourach to really brutalize the opposition with the flashback effect.

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Tarmogoyf I understand the premise of too. When you’re on the fair plan and grinding the opponent to bits with recurring bits of card advantage, you do need a sizable clock to get the opponent’s life total to work. Furthermore, Aluren’s creatures are very flimsy. The majority of them are idiotic 2/1s or 1/2s or 1/1s, which means an opposing Gurmag Angler can mean issues. Sure, sometimes a sea of Baleful Strix can swallow these up, but the good ol’ brick wall of Tarmogoyf (especially with Strix and Agent feeding it into a 5/6 ala old school Shardless) cannot be understated, especially with Fatal Pushes not even that prevalent anymore.

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Cartesian’s sideboard is also still full of spice, as always. Beast Within is a flexible answer card that fulfils a role somewhat similar to Abrupt Decay or even Maelstrom Pulse, but also has the powerful ability to target lands, which certainly has some utility in matchups. Although the residual Beast is a little annoying, a board littered with Strix and Cavern Harpy blocking-and-bouncing can nullify this downside. You can also just blow up one of your own lands to get the beastly beatdown going.

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Bound // Determined is also an interesting choice. Determined is an interesting card, being a pseudo-Silence or Overmaster style card that nicely cycles. Bound, at five mana, I expect to get cast very little, but can accrue quite a bit of card advantage, especially in removal-heavy grindy games.  

Nonetheless, here is how I would build my Aluren:


That ends another This Week in Legacy. Enjoy as always some content from around the web:

  • Eternal Durdles have a new episode talking about Hollow One in Legacy, and other things. Find that here.
  • Phil Gallagher at Thraben University talks on Dire Fleet Daredevil here.
  • Mengucci plays some Legacy as always for CFB. Find BUG Delver here, and him playing Blue-Green 12Post here!

‘Til next time.

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I’m Playing This Week

Mr. Patrick Casey did the world proud and took RUG Delver to the top of a recent Geek Fortress event, with a very traditional RUG list. I can’t complain though – sometimes the stock list just gets it done. The only change I would make is to remove a Dismember or Forked Bolt for an additional Spell Snare. Snare is incredible currently and is required if one wants Goyf to smash through the seas of Baleful Strix.

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Another great piece of innovation is the incorporation of Ground Seal. This is huge as a way to shut off Czech Pile’s engine and also deals splash damage to Reanimator strategies. Since my lists have incorporated Life from the Loam Seal has been off the radar for me, but in lists with Goyfs that don’t need to do any Dredging to feed Mandrills and co., Seal looks like a great plan.

Find Patrick's report on reddit here.

The Spice Corner

I remember when Worldgorger Dragon got unbanned. Literally nothing happened. Why go through all these hoops when you can just reanimate Griselbrand? Anyway, per usual the Japanese have nonetheless thoroughly investigated the idea and come up with this oddball Reanimator version. When Worldgorger Dragon and Animate Dead / Dance of the Dead / Necromancy meet, the game goes into a continuous loop when essentially the Dragon player’s permanent’s all get flickered. This leads to infinite mana. This can then be spent in a variety of ways to kill the opponent. Walking Ballista is one way. Oona, Queen of the Fae has been a traditional option to mill the opponent. This list also has Sunscorched Desert as a way to clean up the opponent’s life total. And Azor's Gateway to keep looting through the deck as well?! There’s some wild stuff going on here. You can find it getting some actual play on TruKnightmare’s Twitch stream here.

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