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This Week in Legacy: Escape From the Underworld, Part 1


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another This Week in Legacy! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to start looking at our set review of Theros: Beyond Death, as well as continuing our journey into the Legacy format. We'll be talking about the Legacy Format Championship this past weekend on Magic Online as well.

We have a lot to process, so let's get right to it!

Going Beyond Death

Theros: Beyond Death spoiler season has begun, and already we are feeling the effects of the design philosophy that Wizards of the Coast has started to cultivate in 2019 era Magic known as F.I.R.E. (Fun, Inviting, Replayable, Exciting), a philosophy that has seen the intentional powering up of Standard set design, inevitably meaning that the trickle down effect to older formats is very pronounced. As Wizards is not testing these cards with older formats, the chances that something inevitably breaks into the format is going to be much higher than ever before.

Quite frankly, it has me feeling a little exhausted with it. 2019 proved to have so many massively format-warping cards in it that keeping up with it all is pretty rough. I'd like to point out a recent article by my good friend Max on this very subject over at MinMaxBlog. It echoes my feelings on this spoiler season greatly.

Regardless, we have a lot to talk about already, so let's delve into some cards.

Underworld Breach

Underworld Breach [THB]

It should be pretty obvious that this is the first card I was going to talk about. This card has been talked all over, due to just how insane the Escape mechanic really is. The very nature of how Escape works is that it does not exile the card from the graveyard when you cast something with Escape, so of course the big talking point of this card has been with the two following cards:

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When combined with Lion's Eye Diamond and Brain Freeze, Underworld Breach becomes a deterministic kill. If you aren't seeing it, I'll lay out an example of a possible Turn 1.

  • Lotus Petal + Land, Underworld Breach (Storm Count: 2)
  • Lion's Eye Diamond (Storm Count: 3)
  • Crack LED for triple blue, discarding hand. Cast Brain Freeze with Escape targeting yourself. Mill 12 cards. (Storm Count: 4, 1 blue floating)
  • Cast LED with Escape, crack for triple blue. Cast Brain Freeze with Escape targeting yourself. Mill 18 cards (Storm Count: 6, 2 blue floating)
  • Repeat until it is possible to cast Brain Freeze targeting your opponent for lethal, or to cast Grapeshot for lethal in case of a card like Veil of Summer.

Essentially this card is basically a miniature Yawgmoth's Will effect, but the problem is that it is cheaper to cast and the Escape mechanic itself does not exile cards, making it even better than YawgWill. My good friend Max over at MinMaxBlog even came up with a starting place for a list for this deck, which I will put below here. Manabase is purely speculative and doesn't include the possibility of sideboard cards like Veil of Summer:

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This card also interacts very favorably with Entomb, since you can use Entomb to grab both LED and Brain Freeze to set up a kill turn. The real question of this card is whether these combo builds are any better or more powerful and consistent as things like Dark Ritual + Entomb + Exhume with Griselbrand, or how well this strategy can do against hate, of which Leyline of the Void and Mindbreak Trap may be the most effective answers that aren't totally narrow.

Regardless, this is a card to watch out of this set, as the power level is clearly very strong.

Ox of Agonas

Ox of Agonas [THB]

It may seem like a cool kids meme to espouse about how "Dredge got a new toy" with every new card spoiled that rummages, but in the instance of this Ox... Dredge absolutely did get a new toy. Essentially Delve 8 + RR that comes with a 5/3 body (thanks to the +1/+1 counter) and also dredges three times (guaranteeing at bare minimum at least 15-18 cards). Essentially this card functions as another additional set of copies of both Faithless Looting and Breakthrough in one card.

In addition, this card can also be used as a card like Bedlam Reveler, which late game can refill your hand in a fair/hybrid combo deck, while giving a 5/3 body at the same time. The major difference between this and Bedlam Reveler however is the fact that you can escape it more than once if you have the graveyard to support it.

This is another example of some higher powered design out of the F.I.R.E. philosophy.

Cling to Dust

Cling to Dust [THB]

This card is actually somewhat interesting and has a subtle amount of power behind it. The floor of this card is B - Draw a card, but it has further applications than this. While this is not Surgical Extraction per se, it is part of a Surgical effect that can be cast later in the game for 4 mana and five cards. It can exile creatures from decks like Reanimator and gain 3 life, or it can exile cards that Snapcaster Mage or Dreadhorde Arcanist are attempting to flash back, all while drawing a card in those instances.

What makes this interesting and powerful is of course the Escape ability. If you have the graveyard to support this, it makes a great mana sink in late game grindy matchups that can be used to either stay alive or draw ahead of an opponent.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Heliod, Sun-Crowned [THB]

While this is being talked about largely in formats like Modern and Pioneer (where it combos heavily with cards like Spike Feeder and Walking Ballista) discussion has popped for this card in Legacy in monowhite shells such as Death and Taxes and also in Bomberman, both of which are decks that are known to run Walking Ballista in some capacity. This card represents an infinite damage combo with Ballista, as giving a 2 counter Ballista lifelink and then removing a counter to damage an opponent will trigger Heliod, putting another counter on the Ballista. One of the big things about this is that Heliod is occasionally a blank Magic card if it doesn't have anything to combo with or enough devotion to be a creature. However, being an enchantment without devotion is already relatively difficult to deal with for a lot of decks that are playing anything like Abrupt Decay / Assassin's Trophy (because indestructible) and anything playing Oko, Thief of Crowns or Swords to Plowshares. I can definitely see someone playing around with this card, especially in decks centered around Ancient Tomb and Chalice of the Void (such as Bomberman) and with cards like Karn, the Great Creator, which can snag a Ballista from the sideboard in order to cement an infinite combo.

Klothys, God of Destiny

Klothys, God of Destiny [THB]

I'm no God of Destiny, but even I can foresee that while this card has some interesting design space, I'm thankful to at least feel confident in saying this probably won't see any play in Legacy. Comparisons to Deathrite Shaman abound, for 3 mana this card doesn't really do a ton, especially since it does absolutely nothing the turn you cast it. While it is likely to survive the turn since it will likely still be an enchantment and not a creature it's still not providing enough pressure to be good in the face of a format where cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns are popular, and the possibility of this card eventually eating your own graveyard puts it on the backburner for sure.

Polukranos, Unchained

Polukranos, Unchained [THB]

Obviously, as most of you know me in regards to the world of Nic Fit cards, I would be remiss to talk about this unchained threat. Polukranos is back. A four mana 6/6 is already pretty good, but staple on a fight ability along with a damage replacement effect and suddenly you have something pretty interesting. And if that wasn't enough, it can Escape and come back as a 12/12. Furthermore, being a creature that has +1/+1 counters on it makes it a great creature against things like Oko, where Elk'ing it is a bad proposition (imagine giving your opponent a 9/9 Elk), but also somewhat synergizes with Oko in that late game to close a game out quicker.

I can especially see this outside of Nic Fit decks in the BUG Zenith Oko builds as an additional game-ending Green Sun's Zenith target alongside Questing Beast. The downside of this card is that Questing Beast is really good against the card, and so is Swords to Plowshares and Karakas, but the upside of this card is really strong. I would not be surprised at all to see it around.

Nylea's Intervention

Nylea's Intervention [THB]

This card is certainly interesting, honestly. A land tutor that gets multiple lands to hand (i.e. Dark Depths + Thespian's Stage) is a touch more decent than it looks, but it also is a board wipe versus fliers. What sets the Hurricane mode up well on this card is the fact that it deals twice X damage, so for three mana you can get rid of flipped Delver of Secrets, and four mana can get rid of 4/4 Angel tokens. This flexibility is what makes this card interesting overall.

Dryad of Ilysia's Grove

Dryad of Ilysia's Grove [THB]

This card is relatively interesting. Part Exploration, part Prismatic Omen, this has some interesting potential as it provides two unique effects on a 2/4 body. It might be a stretch to see this in Legacy, but between Enchantress and Lands based decks where cards like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle could be played as fringe strategies you never know. Being an Exploration effect that you can Green Sun's Zenith for has some potential for this Jolly Green Nymph to have some legs.

Gallia of the Endless Dance

Gallia of the Endless Dance [PTHB]

She just looks so happy! The cosplay review of this card is on point. I definitely expect to see plenty of people doing this.

Update on Community Events

The Legacy community has continued to show that it loves its local communities, and I just wanted to provide a small update on things. After last week's article I was contacted by some folks from the AZ Legacy Magic series who wanted me to pass along that their events do in fact not have player caps on them, so go wild folks in AZ!

Furthermore for you folks up in New York area, Gamestoria in Astoria is holding a "Win a Dual Land" tournament with a Revised Badlands as first prize on February 8th. Check out the details of this event here.

In addition, Nick Orichella out of Denver, CO wanted me to mention their Legacy event at Wizard's Chest right in Denver on February 1st. Entry is $25. There is a 64 player cap on this event, so for folks in that area, see this link to pre-register for it.

As always, if you have a large event you would like me to talk about, please feel free to reach out to me! While I try my best to keep up with everything going on, I'm certainly only human (I think I was the last time I checked) and can miss things.

Deck Focus - Hogaak

One thing that I'm going to start doing with this column is discussing various deck archetypes in the Legacy format and how they function. While this might be repeat information for some, helping players understand typical sequencing and deck interactions within an archetype is fun and interesting for those who might be looking to get into Legacy. Therefore, the first archetype we're going to discuss is one that I've been playing myself for a little while. That archetype is Legacy Hogaak.

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Hogaak is a deck born out of the same concepts that drove how the original deck functioned in Modern, utilizing the power of Hogaak itself with spells like Stitcher's Supplier and the combination of Altar of Dementia and Bridge from Below to not only be able to present a fast clock if need be, but also to present a combo kill as well. While there are two distinct versions of this deck (the BUG version utilizing Hedron Crab and a Jund version which utilizes cards like Carrion Feeder) for simplicity sake we'll be primarily discussing the BUG version as it currently appears to be the most popular version of the deck.

One important thing about this deck is all about sequencing properly. This includes even sequencing cards like fetchlands appropriately as the presence of Dryad Arbor influences heavily how to sequence specific fetches as Arbor can occasionally be good for being able to help convoke out a Hogaak. Sequencing with Hedron Crab and Stitcher's Supplier is another example, as they both perform similar but slightly different roles in that Stitcher is immediately milling which can be either good or bad depending on the contents of the hand, whereas running Crab out first can sometimes make it so that you can mill and be able to also cast Stitcher the same turn in order to potentially trigger Vengevine.

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Another card that has influenced this deck is the presence of the two Once Upon a Time in the main deck. Two seems to be a sweet spot for this card, as when it does show up in your opening hand it can typically either find an additional land to make Hedron Crab better, or it might find something like another Crab or a Hogaak to help round out the hand. It seems that this printing has helped the deck a ton since Crab openers were wholly dependent on being able to have additional lands, which Once Upon a Time helps with.

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Setting up for an Altar of Dementia kill is fairly easy, and if you ever played Modern Hogaak it should be relatively easy to understand. Outside of interaction once Hogaak and Altar are both on the battlefield, it becomes incredibly easy to self mill to either find multiple Bridge from Below or to start combo'ing with existing Bridges. This combo affords the deck ways to fight through cards like Ensnaring Bridge, however those matchups are still fairly difficult due to the general presence of Karn, the Great Creator.

Another aspect of this deck is also trigger management, as is often the case with decks that involve the card Bridge from Below, but isn't nearly as pronounced as it is with decks like Dredge. Most of the important triggers come from cards like Vengevine and Bridge from Below. One important tip to remember here is that no matter what, as the Hogaak player you are the controller of your own Bridge from Below triggers, so in combat if you find yourself having to exile Bridges, if there are triggers that involve getting a Zombie token you can stack the triggers so that you get your tokens before the Bridges are exiled from the graveyard.

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Thankfully, as Legacy is fairly dominated by mostly blue soup piles and Delver right now, this means Hogaak is in a good position in the overall Metagame. In fact, at MagicFest Bologna (where ChannelFireball released every decklist), Hogaak decks boasted a 55.5% win rate, which is exceptionally powerful. This deck can be exceptionally resilient versus graveyard hate, to the point where Leyline of the Void becomes mainly the best hate to beat this type of deck, and even then Force of Vigor out of the sideboard makes that a hard proposition. As of right now, a lot of the top end of the format is fairly soft to this kind of strategy, and Hogaak being able to attack on numerous angles helps. The worst matchups for this deck happen to be decks that generally play cards like Chalice of the Void/Blood Moon or are simply just faster combo decks. Sneak / Show, Reanimator, Storm can all handle Hogaak pretty easily by simply ignoring it for the most part and just playing their game. In addition, since this deck relies heavily on discard. Veil of Summer is incredibly strong at protecting itself (this also protects the opponent if you find yourself in the position of needing to mill your opponent with Hedron Crab as well). That isn't to say that these matchups are impossible, but they certainly are difficult.

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Sideboarding with this deck can be tricky, as the deck is an engine deck and a lot of the cards are necessary to make that engine work, so it can be easy to fall into the trap of overboarding. I know I myself have fallen into a slight trap of boarding in cards like Leyline of the Void or Force of Vigor when I haven't really needed to. There are a few matchups however, such as decks that play Chalice of the Void and fast combo decks such as Reanimator where you are going to have to board out as much as 7-8 cards.

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In closing on this deck focus, I think this is one of the most undervalued decks in the format at the moment. It has strong matchups against a lot of the upper echelons of the format and quite frankly I think it is occasionally difficult for players to understand how to interact with in a reasonable fashion. Obviously this means as the deck sees more play more players will begin to understand the matchup, but the deck has some highly explosive turns and strong ways to fight against hate, so I would still feel very comfortable piloting the deck into a large event.

If there's a deck or concept you'd like to me review or talk about here, please feel free to reach out and let me know!

Legacy Format Championship 1/5

This past weekend was the big event, the one that all of 2019's Magic Online Premier Play Program had been building for. Over 2019, five separate Format Playoff events determined the list of players who would be partaking in the Format Championship at the end of the year. Those players are:

Player Name Social Media
Stryfo (Chase Hansen) @Stryfo
JPA93 (Jonathan Anghelescu) @JPAnghelescu
naosukesamurai  
lampalot (Michael Bonde) @Lampalot
Bahra (Marc Beck König) @Bahra01
Negator77 (Thomas Hepp) @Negator77
powerhawk  
Kofurea (Wessel Groot) @Kofurea
MentalMisstep (Stefan Schütz)  
Condescend (Adam Yurchick) @AdamYurchick
Ark4n https://ww.twitch.tv/ark4n11
Griselpuff (Bob Huang) @Griselpuff
learntolove6 (Rich Cali) https://www.twitch.tv/learntolove6
xJCloud (John Ryan Hamilton) @xJCloud
ManamanVanTurk  
lain5893  
Samwise_Geegee (Jarvis Yu) @jkyu06
Bozo_0388  
Ozymandias17 (Matthew Vook) @Ozymandias172
fishduggery  
A22en (Zach Allen) @A22en
AndySCWilson  
Theo_Jung @wheredmyjuulgo
LewisCBR https://www.twitch.tv/lewiscbr
SorboOne  
Eruxus  
jjkbb2005 (Jack Kendall) @jjkbb2005
AronGomu @AronGomu
gottelicious (Anders Gotfredsen) @gottelicious
Koke_MTG @KokeMTG
Lejay  
ScottOfficial  
Daryl_Ayers (Daryl Ayers) @daryl_ayers
Kazuga  
laywer (Thiago Duarte) @laywer_mtgo
achillies27  
cmanrock  
Stackz  
WingedHussar  
Smiteon  

All of these players are super awesome, and absolutely deserved their spots in this Championship event! Congrats to all of you for making it.

Let's take a look at how the published lists from the event broke down.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
4C Loam 1st Ozymandias17 (Matthew Vook)
U/R Delver 2nd LearnToLove6 (Rich Cali)
U/R Delver 3rd Griselpuff (Bob Huang)
Grixis Delver 4th Condescend (Adam Yurchick)
4C Loam 5th Koke_MTG
LED Dredge 6th Ark4n
RUG Natural Order 7th Bahra (Marc Beck König)
Depths 8th Smiteon
Jeskai Twin 9th Lain5893
Bant Miracles 10th AndySCWilson
LED Dredge 11th Eruxus
Grixis Delver 12th Bozo_0388
Grixis Delver 13th Theo_Jung
Death and Taxes 14th Gottelicious (Anders Gotfredsen)
U/R Delver 15th Samwise_Gamgee (Jarvis Yu)
Bant Miracles 16th MentalMisstep (Stefan Schütz)
Manaless Dredge 17th ScottOfficial
Sneak and Show 18th JPA93 (Jonathan Anghelescu)
U/R Delver 19th Kazuga
Bant Miracles 20th Laywer (Thiago Duarte)
Bant Miracles 21st Kofurea (Wessel Groot)
Depths 22nd Negator77 (Thomas Hepp)
Grixis Delver 23rd ManamanVanTurk
Grixis Delver 24th Fishduggery
Maverick 25th Achillies27
Stryfo Pile 26th Stryfo (Chase Hansen)
Maverick 27th Lampalot (Michael Bonde)
BUG Zenith Oko 28th Lejay
Death and Taxes 29th Stackz
Elves 30th JJKBB2005 (Jack Kendall)
Abzan Maverick 31st NaosukeSamurai
BUG Zenith Oko 32nd AronGomu

You can find the full details of the event here.

At the end of such an insanely stacked event, it was the powerful wizard Matthew Vook who took it all down on 4C Loam. Let's take a look at his list.

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Matthew's list is close to almost five colors with the inclusion of Oko, Thief of Crowns, but it's easy to see how good the card is in this shell. Vook's list looks really strong given the metagame considerations of playing against Delver and Chalice of the Void being powerful in that kind of metagame. Congrats to Matthew on his finish!

The other finalist in this event was LearnToLove6 (Rich Cali) on U/R Delver. Let's take a look at their list.

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This list is pretty strong, as cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist have worked their way into the deck well alongside other cards such as Magmatic Sinkhole and Brazen Borrower. Congrats to LearnToLove6 (Rich Cali) on their finish as well!

Also in the Top 4 of this event was our good friend Bob Huang also on U/R Delver who was the only 6-0 in the Swiss portion of the event.

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This list goes a little deeper with creatures like Grim Lavamancer and main deck Brazen Borrower supporting the usual suspects. It definitely looks like a sweet list, so congrats to Bob on his finish as well!

Also in the Top 8 of this event was a showing of LED Dredge by Ark4n.

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This list is reminiscient of the same list that made Top 8 of MF Bologna with Fiery Islet in the main and Insolent Neonate. One interesting piece of spice is Kiora's Dismissal in the sideboard. Very cool list all around.

Rounding out the Top 8 in 7th was Bahra on RUG Natural Order!

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This list is super sweet, with all sorts of cool ways to enable Natural Order, from Gilded Goose to even Huntmaster of the Fells. In addition this deck can just massively play a fair value game with its creatures if the Natural Order plan falls apart.

Further down the Top 32, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the 17th place list on Manaless Dredge by ScottOfficial.

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This list is pretty cool and it's cool to see Manaless Dredge making a splash like this.

All in all this was a killer event and I'm glad it happened. Congrats again to everyone involved!

Legacy Challenge 1/5

There was also an actual Legacy Challenge on 1/5 as well as the Champs event. So let's take a look at that as well.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Miracles 1st Kihara_Works
Painter 2nd Utley26
Infect 3rd Harukasu
Hogaak 4th ScavengingBooze
Hogaak 5th WhiteFaces (Callum Smith)
Monored Prison 6th Shadow_PT
4C Loam 7th D00mwake
TES 8th Bryant_Cook

This was an interesting event while some of the bigger names were in the Format Championship. What was mostly surprising was the finalist being a Miracles list... without Arcum's Astrolabe, Veil of Summer, or even Oko.

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This list was more traditional in nature, which is really interesting to see. I would wonder to see how their matchups went, because it's cool to see traditional Miracles doing well. Congrats to Kihara_Works for their finish!

Also in the finals was a red Painter list with Karn, the Great Creator.

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This list seems pretty powerful and it's cool to see stuff like Smuggler's Copter in this list.

Further down the Top 8 we had another showing of the new TES deck, in the hands of the deck's creator Bryant Cook.

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This deck continually is being refined and is something to look out for. It is very powerful in the right hands, and has been putting up some great results.

All in all this seemed liked a pretty decent event.

Around the Web

Let's poke around the web at what other people are up to, shall we?

  • I would be remiss if I didn't mention the guys over at The Legacy Pit. If you like watching good clean paper Legacy content, this channel is for you!
  • Everyday Eternal just had Eternal Weekend EU winner Hans Jacob Goddik on their cast, and it's well worth the listen!
  • Ian and Tom of The Dead Format just wrapped up the Decade in Legacy, so go check it out!
  • TES Creator Bryant Cook posted his 2020 TES vs ANT review on The Epic Storm.
  • Quite possibly one of the funniest Tournament Reports I've ever read popped up on the MTGLegacy subreddit. Fair warning, there is some language here, but it's overall a solid report on RG Lands.
  • Bob Huang, Anuraag Daz, and Daniel Goetschel announced they're creating a podcast called ELO Punters. Part of this announcement involved Bob stepping down from Everyday Eternal.

The Spice Corner

This week's Spice Corner brings us a sweet Oko Primeval Titan type deck. Check it out!

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Also this week, we have a bit of SNOW DRAGON!

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Submitted to me by Reddit user kronicler1029, this was a spicy Enchantress list from the North Eternal Open held at Hareruya in Japan.

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What I'm Playing This Week

I still technically have the Vial Elementals deck on rent right now, but I've also been playing a fair amount of Legacy Hogaak. The decklist is the same as the deck we talked about today already, so I'm not going to post the list again.

Some of you expressed some interest in how the Elementals deck played out, and I have to say that I actually really enjoyed the deck quite a bit. While the deck definitely can struggle against really fast combo in Game 1 (outside of some really busted openers and them drawing badly) the deck can be rather explosive and can kill out of nowhere pretty quickly. The interaction between Thunderkin Awakener and Spitebellows is hilarious (since Bellows is a 6/1) and being able to tutor up silver bullets or finishers with Flamekin Harbinger and Risen Reef is a pretty cool thing to do.

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All in all I think the deck is a lot of fun, and I certainly appreciate perseel's dedication to the deck (based on their Twitter) because it is a super cool deck idea and fun to play.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! I just want to say thanks to everyone from the community who has expressed such positive and wonderful thoughts about the return of this column. All it has done has filled me with excitement for the year to come, and I'm so thrilled to be here.

You can find me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! My episode of "The Bazaar of Moxology" is a little late this month due to the holiday season, but I'll be trying to get it out and about soon. Be sure to subscribe and follow and all that fun jazz!

Join me next week as we continue our journey into the world of Legacy!


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