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This Week in Legacy: GP Louisville Preparation Part 2


Welcome to the second (and final) part of the GP Louisville preparation series! In this part I’ll be running down the last few tier decks, and I'll take a look at the new, up-and-coming decks that have gotten traction over the course of 2016.

But first, on to the tier decks!

Shardless BUG

Shardless BUG has always been a very reasonable contender, beating up on most fair decks with its incredible ability to grind through the opposition thanks to Shardless Agent and Ancestral Vision, along with its planeswalker package.

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What’s New?

Not much, really. The only real change has been the addition of BUG superstar Leovold, Emissary of Trest that has obtained almost universal adoption in any shells within his colors. Baleful Strix has found a little bit of uptick due to it being so potent against Eldrazi.

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Jonathan Orr’s SCG Baltimore-winning list is a good representation of the deck currently:

How Do I Beat It?

Shardless BUG has always been naturally prone to combo decks. Although many lists have been touting main deck Thoughtseize in addition to Hymn to Tourach, this is often too little too late when combo decks have more than enough resilience. Force of Will is also a bit prone to opposing disruption. For Shardless players, the key is to disrupt early with discard and have Force backup, then slam a Liliana on to the field to reduce the combo player’s resources. Even then, this is not amazingly effective all the time. That being said, combo players should beware of some bizarre sideboard options Shardless players have utilized in the past—including a white micro-splash for Meddling Mage.

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Shardless BUG, although having an incredibly powerful late game, has a lot of clunky, color-intensive spells in the early game and really leans on Deathrite Shaman to accelerate it through mana troubles. Killing Deathrite and then denying Shardless their late game with Wastelands is a great plan, as they can end up with a lot of spells stranded in their hand. Furthering this plan are cards like Blood Moon and Back to Basics which can lock them out completely, though a single basic and a Deathrite can lead to an Abrupt Decay stopping this plan entirely.

Lands

Lands has been a consistently strong option for 2016, with Daryl Ayers and David Long both taking the deck to Top 8 in SCG Open Baltimore. There have been a few new adaptations that have started to appear within the deck recently, however.

What’s New?

Let’s have a look a Daryl’s list to see a few new bits of tech:

The most prominent of these is the change from Rishadan Port to Ghost Quarter. Quarters are seen as superior in a variety of matchups, be it against the non-basic filled Eldrazi or Delver, against Miracles, where Ghost Quarter'ing away all their white sources is key to creating Marit Lage, and of course being generally synergistic with Life from the Loam in the same way that Wasteland is.

Molten Vortex and Seismic Assault are also within Daryl’s list, and really earmarks Punishing Fire’s downwards trend in terms of effectiveness. Sanctum Prelate has necessitated a shift away from two-mana removal, due to both Loam and removal being locked out if Prelate is set to two. Vortex and Assault hedge against this, and as we saw with Tom Ross’s Players’ Championship list, Barbarian Ring is also a solid option that can be found with Crop Rotation that gets around Mother of Runes. Is also notable that Vortex and Assault hedge very nicely against Blood Moon, giving the Lands deck a feasible clock.

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After Jarvis Yu adopted some Tireless Trackers in his Lands sideboard in GP Columbus, they’ve become almost universally adopted as the sideboard creature plan of choice, with many Lands lists adopting the full four. The Clues synergize amazingly with Life from the Loam, and Landfall is easy to trigger with Exploration in the mix. There’s a lot of angles Lands can now attack you from post-board, and removal like Swords to Plowshares is at an even higher premium with Tracker and Marit Lage being important targets.

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The other popular variant of Lands is that of David Long and his crew:

This list forsakes Punishing Fire and instead leans on Molten Vortex and also throws a black splash for Abrupt Decay in the mix. Boseiju, Who Shelters All is no longer required when Decay can cleanly answer a Counterbalance locking out the Loam engine. Thoughtseize also gives the black splash further utility by being proactive combo disruption that can clear the way for a fast Dark Depths kill.

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How Do I Beat It?

The most simple answer is cards like Blood Moon and friends, which can hose non-basic lands very effectively. Lands lists have, however, universally adopted anti-hate for Moon, with Krosan Grip always packed in the sideboard. Flexible answers to utility lands like Pithing Needle are good if your deck cannot support Blood Moon. Wasteland is also very effective against Lands too, but must be well-timed to ensure the correct land is dealt with, and sometimes, it’s futile if they just Loam it back.

Lands is also a Dredge deck, and graveyard hate is key to shutting off the Loam engine. Rest in Peace is one of the best, despite being prone to Grip, but cards like Surgical Extraction can do wonders, especially if hitting a Loam. However, sometimes the decision isn’t so clear-cut, so Surgical very carefully based on what your game plan is. Also be aware of a Tranquil Thicket cycle making Surgical fizzle if targeting a Loam.

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Threats that Lands cannot handle are also very good. It’s a given that cheating in a huge monster like Emrakul or Griselbrand against Lands is very effective, and combo decks such as these will have an easy time due to being faster than Lands’ combo and generally being invulnerable to Lands’ hate. Just beware of a well-timed Crop Rotation for Bojuka Bog or Karakas. Storm combo decks have also had traditionally strong matchups due to being faster, though post-board, Spheres can be an issue to fight through. In terms of more “fair” threats, a card like True-Name Nemesis is a monster against Lands due to dodging Maze of Ith and red removal. Deathrite Shaman, if defended, can also be a powerhouse due to eating up all of Lands' lands and stopping the Punishing Grove and Loam engine.

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Infect

Infect still remains a top contender within Legacy thanks to its proactive fast-combo gameplan, but also its ability to settle into a Delver-esque tempo role if need be. There hasn’t been too much innovation in the deck – even the recent addition of Blossoming Defense hasn’t played much of a role – though there have been a few cards revisited thanks to the format’s changes.

What’s New?

Let’s look at Max McVety’s list from the Players’ Championship:

Probably the newest additions are in the sideboard – Viridian Corrupter and Seal of Primordium are all concessions to Eldrazi, as diversify artifact removal gets around Chalice easier. These cards are also excellent against Death & Taxes, as they can get around Thalia by being cast before she comes down or is a creature that isn’t taxed. Dismember is another common inclusion with Eldrazi becoming more and more prominent.

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How Do I Beat It?

The biggest advice I can give is not to be scared. Infect gains incredible amounts of percentage points due to players being scared of dying out of nowhere thanks to a random Glistener Elf and hence playing too conservatively. I think after Tom Ross’s run with the deck it has now got a lot more respect and people have adopted, but just ensure you sequence you removal spells so that you aren’t going to get blown out by a Vines of Vastwood kicked mid-combat, or something along those lines. Try to strand these spells within the Infect player’s hand, so they become ineffective once their primary threat is gone. With this also in mind, non-targeted removal is also great. Cards like Golgari Charm are great ones thanks to sweeping away any Noble Hierarch’s sitting around along with the other threats. Repetitive removal like Umezawa's Jitte or Grim Lavamancer can also be very effective.

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Also be ready for the late-game of Infect. After the waves of Elves have ended, Inkmoth Nexus can be very threatening, as can a late-game Blighted Agent. Nexus can be dealt with thanks to a variety of spells, such as Pithing Needle and Wasteland. Agent can be dealt with by blanking Glistener Elf with threats on board, and then conserving removal for him. Red Elemental Blast effects are great because, just like a Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile, they cannot be pumped through too, and also have strength in a stack fight.

Sneak & Show

Sneak & Show has seen a solid resurgence recently, despite D&T’s new-found additions. Touting strength against Miracles, Shardless, Eldrazi, and slower combo decks, it’s quite a force to be reckoned with and should be respected due to its sheer brute strength.

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What’s New?

Although a list such as Kentaro Yamamoto’s would be considered stock, featuring four-ofs of all the typical combo pieces, along with cantrips and acceleration, the newest change in Sneak & Show has been the popularity of the so-called “OmniAttack” builds.

These lists sacrifice a little bit of redundancy to have a fighting chance against Death & Taxes, thanks to the main deck Omniscience beating Karakas via hardcasting fatties or comboing with Release the Ants. Cunning Wish gives some form of main deck removal. These cards do cause a little bit of tension, however, as Sneak Attack becomes less effective as it does not “combo” with the three Omniscience.

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Both versions are nonetheless solid choices, with pros and cons to each. If you’re fearful of your Death & Taxes matchup, OmniAttack may be the way to go.

How Do I Beat It?

Karakas has traditionally been one of the better cards to include in your deck to add a lot of percentage against Sneak & Show. Turning off Sneak Attack is also key if leaning on Karakas, as otherwise Sneak & Show can machine-gun through. Pithing Needle and Phyrexian Revoker are great at this, while also being great to put in off Show and Tell against a Griselbrand. With Death & Taxes having both of these tools in addition to mana denial, it’s a given that its matchup against Sneak & Show is strong.

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Artifact and enchantment destruction can also be impressive at destroying either a Sneak Attack or an Omniscience, as well as Blood Moons that are brought out of the sideboard. Krosan Grip is one of my favorites against Sneak & Show as it stops the cantrip chain from continuing when Omniscience is in play and destroys Sneak Attack uncounterably.

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Traditional countermagic can also be quite strong. I’ve found Delver variants' taxing counters can be quite impressive due to the large casting costs of Show and Tell and Sneak Attack, and post-board Flusterstorm and Pyroblasts are also effective (though beware of Boseiju!). Discard can also be very effective at taking key pieces, primarily Show and Tell, leaving the other combo pieces in the hand to rot.

Elves

The other tier deck to expect is the little forest people, Elves. Ever since Deathrite Shaman, the deck has continued to surge in popularity, and despite a poor Miracles and combo matchup, the deck can punish midrange and tempo decks with its powerful grind plan and can also combo out effectively if need be. It also beats up on Death & Taxes easily, so if you expect the white creatures to be a popular choice, Elves can capitalize on that.

What’s New?

Elves have come in two distinct flavors: typical “Ordered” Elves, and the less mainstream “Chaos” Elves versions, lacking Natural Order. Here is each list, respectively:

Julian Knab’s lists are some of the best if you want to find the latest Elves technology, and his site itsjulian.com is flooded with excellent Elves content to help prepare for Louisville.

Recent adoptions in both lists have been a few flex cards: Umezawa's Jitte is excellent in a deck flush with little guys to pick it up. Cavern of Souls has become more significant in order to combat Miracles and Chalice of the Void, despite basic Forests being needed for Quirion Ranger.

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In Chaos lists, Natural Order’s exclusion leaves the deck with a stronger matchup against blue decks, where Natural Order’s downside is an extreme liability if counter spelled. Such flex creatures include Shaman of the Pack, a relatively recent inclusion from Magic Origins that can be an out for a lot of random situations, Wren’s Run Packmaster, a bomb for midrange matchups that can singlehandedly take over a game, and in some lists a blue micro-splash gives access to Leovold, Emissary of Trest.

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Nissa, Vital Force has also become the planeswalker of choice not just because she herself is an Elf (but hooray for flavor wins!), but primarily because her abilities are quite synergistic compared to other options such as Garruk Relentless. Untapping Cradles (and making them attack!) and Regowth'ing dead combo pieces such as Wirewood Symbiote or Heritage Druid are all quite strong abilities.

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How Do I Beat It?

Something not to rely on is simple point removal. Although Lightning Bolt certainly helps, these cards are pretty ineffective if not backed up by a fast, evasive clock, as the Elves deck can rebuild quite quickly even if some casualties occur. Sweeper effects are probably most effective, and ones that are instant speed are at a premium to play around the variety of tricks Elves can do, like bouncing creatures back with Wirewood Symbiote or Quirion Ranger. My favorite is something like Fire Covenant. Umezawa's Jitte is also great, but is difficult to connect with if not on a flier, as Elves can easily stall the ground with Symbiote shenanigans or just blow the Jitte up with a tutored Reclamation Sage.

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Certain hatebears can also do a lot of work. Ethersworn Canonist, Leovold, and Containment Priest all shut down certain critical components of the Elves deck and then makes their ability to accrue cards or combo out much less significant.

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Just being faster than Elves is also a great plan. Combo decks such as Sneak & Show and ANT have a fundamental turn earlier than Elves and without Force of Will Elves can do little to stop this. Post-sideboard discard is something to be wary about, and Gaddock Teeg can also be a strong lock. Graveyard decks also get a little bit easier thanks to Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, and Surgical Extraction in the sideboard.

 

And there’s my list of all the current tier decks to look out for! Phew! I’ve likely missed some more fringe decks, but alas I think it’s its impossible to be completely comprehensive due to Legacy’s diversity. But I hope this was helpful!

The New Hotness

Next we’ll move onto a few decks that have risen from fringe contenders to taking down huge tournaments over the course of 2016. In previous years these wouldn’t have been too popular, and until now haven’t felt like “staples” of the format, but thanks to recent metagame shifts they’ve been able to shine.

Black-Red Reanimator

Reanimator as an archetype has always remained popular, but Black-Red Reanimator is perhaps the deck that gained the most traction in 2016. It’s cheap cost, incredible amount of finishes on Magic Online, and excellent win thanks to Michel Cavellier in European Eternal Weekend have cemented the deck as a prime contender. It sacrifices the consistency engines of typical Blue-Black Reanimator lists by being blisteringly fast with Dark Ritual and Simian Spirit Guide, and also utilizing proactive disruption like Chancellor of the Annex and discard such as Unmask, Thoughtseize, and the new Collective Brutality.

It also has a host of sideboard options, be it Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, or fighting hate with Abrupt Decay, Wear // Tear, or Reverent Silence,.

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To beat Black-Red Reanimator, utilizing fast and efficient graveyard hate is key. Faerie Macabre’s stock has never been higher, especially since it gets around Chancellor. Leyline of the Void is similarly strong. Surgical Extraction can also be helpful, though it does little against Exhume in certain situations, and it can be prone to being disrupted by an early Chancellor. Weathering the early explosiveness and then locking it up with “slower” hate cards, be it Containment Priest, Rest in Peace or Deathrite Shaman is most effective. The deck, although incredibly redundant, has no filtration other than Faithless Looting and can be left stranded if the game drags on. Beware of hardcast Griseldads and Sire of Insanity though!

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Aluren

Aluren has seen a resurgence for two reasons. Firstly, the printing of Recruiter of the Guard has removed the restrictive cost of Imperial Recruiter from the deck, while also giving the deck access to a variety of powerful sideboard creatures, such as Thalia, Orzhov Pontiff and Containment Priest. Jeff Hoogland ran the deck in the Players’ Championship to some amount of success:

It’s really the same plan as the classic BUGr version though – a two-card combo with Aluren and Recruiter (chaining into eventual death by Parasitic Strix and Cavern Harpy until the opponent is dead), backed up by a value-driven Shardless BUG-esque plan that can grind out most fair decks.

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The second reason for the deck's resurgence is due to new innovations in the archetype. Pure BUG Recruiter-less versions of Aluren have been springing up Online to a lot of success. These lists increase the number of Cavern Harpy and max out on Baleful Strix and Shardless Agent and utilize other value-filled creatures. Hits such as Glint-Nest Crane make an appearance to essentially tutor for the combo if a Harpy is in play (along with Strix and Agent doing Yawgmoth’s Bargain impressions) and the deck has a very high blue count and can hence support Force of Will unlike the Recruiter versions. Leovold, Emissary of Trest also finds himself a home in this deck and this is certainly up there as one of the most impressive places for him.

Like Shardless BUG, I’d say that the mana base of Aluren is prone to disruption, and although certainly true, its mana base is a little more robust, being able to fit in a basic of every color. That being said, cutting off their mana via timely Wastelands and killing mana dorks is a powerful strategy to ensure Aluren cannot grind you out with Shardless Agents or get their combo going. Most combo decks should not have too much issue with Aluren either as their combo is a little too slow and their disruption a little too scarce.

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White Stompy

If you haven’t seen this deck yet, well you probably haven’t been reading my articles, since I’ve raved about this deck quite a bit. The lovechild of Death & Taxes and Eldrazi, White Stompy, Thalia Stompy, Eldrazi & Taxes, or “The Beauty and the Beast,”whatever you want to call it, removes the tricks of Aether Vial from Death & Taxes and replaces them with Sol Land-based acceleration, Chalice of the Void, and the best parts of the Eldrazi deck in Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. Essentially becoming an Eldrazi deck that is less prone to mana disruption (thanks to the power of basic Plains and Mox Diamond) along with more potent disruption in the form of not only Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but also Thalia, Heretic Cathar, where she has found an excellent home. Reanimator and Sneak & Show are also a bit easier thanks to Eldrazi Displacer’s inclusion.

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Find 5-0'ing lists from Magic Online here and my list below – do note that Palace Jailer is not available Online!

The deck tends to struggle against the same subset of decks as Eldrazi. Midrange decks such as Shardless BUG can halt the deck in its tracks, with a single Baleful Strix being incredibly potent against the beefers of the deck. Curving out into Palace Jailer certainly helps (especially with Displacer) but it can at times feel like an uphill battle, particularly when their Tarmogoyfs are so big.

Find my pretty comprehensive primer on The Source here.

Turbo Depths

Once lauded as a glass cannon, Turbo Depths swept away American Eternal Weekend and is also a deck that has now earned itself a huge amount of respect.

The deck is in a similar vein to Black-Red Reanimator: explosively fast at putting a huge monster on the table, while carving away the opponent’s hand with discard. Unlike Black-Red though, Turbo Depths has a huge amount of tutors for its combo though – and one of these, Crop Rotation, being at instant-speed, and also gets to run the “gotcha!” of Not of This World. A lot of its combo is uninteractive as well – Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths aren’t even cast.

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Like Lands though, the deck is prone to fast Blood Moons, though a turn three Blood Moon may be a bit ineffective against this deck due to its sheer speed at setting up the combo. Wasteland can also do some amount of work at stopping the combo, but the deck is well-prepared thanks to main deck Pithing Needles and a few other workarounds.

Conclusion

Whew! Hopefully that was an excellent snippet of popular decks to look out for at GP Louisville. I’m sure I’ve missed some, but feel free to look through previous weeks' articles and you should be able to get a good representation of decks that you may confront.

I wish all the Legacy battlers success at Louisville, but more than anything, I hope everyone enjoys playing one of Magic’s greatest formats.

Also, I’d love to hear any war stories people have from Louisville, I’m all ears and keen to hear about some Legacy.

‘Til next time!

I’ll have a big wrap-up of Louisville!

Sean Brown

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

And catch me on The Salt Mine, for more banter about Legacy! We have a new episode out where me, Steve and buddy Elton Wong talk more about Louisville and run through decks. Another great bit of preparation!


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