This Week in Legacy: GP Louisville Round-Up and Aether Revolt
by Sean Brown // Jan 11, 2017
Hello and welcome to another big addition to This Week in Legacy. This week we'll breakdown what transpired at GP Louisville, highlighting the new and interesting rogue choices people brought to success, as well as look through the complete Aether Revolt spoiler for what cards could influence the format.
Before we move on to the metagame breakdown I'd like to have a bit of talk about the elephant in the room when it came to Louisville—the lack of video coverage. As much as I can understand the desire to debut the new cards and new Standard technology with the Super Sunday Series (which instead got the nod) as well as the issues that StarCityGames encountered, I cannot help but be frustrated by what occurred. Legacy GPs are a scarce commodity as-is, and having as much coverage as possible not only ensures that there continues to be interest in the format, but also ensures that the format's trends are highlighted to Wizards even if just to see whether the format has any problems. And although I'm sure Legacy sells much less packs than the Super Sunday Series would, the format certainly highlighted new cards from Conspiracy: Take the Crown, cards reprinted in Eternal Masters, and some cards from recent Standard sets. Not to mention incredible players - Reid Duke and BBD, to name a few - battled it out in one of the most impressive decision-intensive constructed formats. And yet not a scene was captured, other than the sparse text coverage and the excellent work by Suzy Q on Twitter. The only way to remedy this in future is to be vocal. Show that there is a desire for Legacy coverage and that there is people who will watch. Legacy will always be here, because I know that the community is passionate and loves this format, but I'd love to buck this trend of zero coverage.
Anyway, let's move on to the actual decks. Firstly, we'll have a look at the breakdown of the Top 32 decks:
There's a few important trends to see within the Top 32. First, was the ever-present Miracles, who took the highest proportion of slots, but put only one into the Top 8 with Brian Braun-Duin's rather stock list - interesting was his choice of Disenchant over Wear//Tear, however. Next most prominent was Sneak & Show, which certainly has found itself surging after Kentaro Yamamoto's Chiba win. Many have also adopted his straightforward approach, with only two adopting the OmniAttack builds. It seems that the backlash against Death & Taxes (with only one in the Top 32) has left OmniAttack less necessary. After this came the Delver decks. Ben Friedman's 4c Delver has become incredibly popular with four slots in the Top 32, but none breaking into even the Top 16. Noah Walker also brought the Tomas Mar special of 4c Control, a relative of 4c Delver, rather than his typical Grixis Delver and piloted it to some solid success. BUG Delver interestingly had a huge resurgence in this tournament, with classic Hymn-Lili-Tombstalker builds being well represented by Top 8er Michael Majors and Top 16er Brad Nelson. Paulo Cesari brought a build reminescent of Jim Davis, but opted out of Stifles for a higher land count. Grixis Delver was less represented than expected, 4c usurping its mantle as most popular Delver variant in this tournament, but both players in the Top 32 made Top 8, running classic Noah style builds with Cabal Therapy main. Other notables were BR Reanimator continuing to show it is the real deal, with another Top 8 to add to its belt despite its youth.
Next, the Top 100 decks were also broken down in the most popular ten, courtesy of the Wizard coverage page. Find the full breakdown here.
There's a few amazingly interesting trends in this data. The first giant gaping hole is Eldrazi. In the Top 100 decks, it did not even break into one of the Top 10 most popular decks, with only two making it into Day 2! The metagame has truly adapted against what was once the colorless menace and pushed it out, with decks now equipping themselves with the answers needed. The next interesting data point is BUG Delver being heavily represented as the Delver deck of choice and 4c Delver being the only one to follow behind (though I wonder if Grixis Delver was lumped somewhere within this data...). I guess BUG Delver ain't called Team America for nothing, because the American trend of it being thought as a strong, reliable flexible deck is still here no matter how many Gurmag Anglers or Young Pyromancers have been printed. Death & Taxes and Elves also were highly represented but didn't convert very well. Death & Taxes only finding Creg Wescoe in the Top 8 and Elves absent from the Top 32 entirely. Shardless BUG was also quite subdued with many of its players seemingly opting for BUG Delver instead, perhaps due to Delver's stronger game against the rising Reanimator and Sneak & Show.
Next, let's move on to actual interesting decklists and developments from the weekend!
There was the deck, of course, of the winner. Reid Duke is a mastermind when it comes to Magic, but he's always had a knack (and love) of Legacy. One may remember his runs with Bant decks in the past, such as this one aiming to abuse True-Name Nemesis and mana dorks.
His winning True-Name BUG list certainly gives flashbacks of such a deck, and I'm sure he was certainly comfortable with the style, but it is actually more of an evolution of the Bant DeathBlade decks that have been running around recently, that eschew Green Sun's Zenith in favor of a full set of True-Names and Deathrite Shaman. You can also see Reid trying Leovold in a more typical BUG shell (with Zenith) and then actually piloting Bant DeathBlade with a much heavier usage of its black splash. In the end, Reid cut the white and took this new masterpiece:
Although essentially a "dork out True-Name" deck, what many saw as the centerpiece was Leovold, Emissary of Trest, who finally took his first GP.
Leovold has been hyped up a bunch (by myself included) because the card is truly impressive in the Legacy format, disruptive against fair and unfair decks alike, and an absolute powerhouse if not immediately answered. And even if he is, he's still a two-for-one!
I'm also a huge fan of what Reid has done to clean up the list by cutting white entirely. Stoneforge Mystic, although going hand in hand with True-Name, has proven herself overall unnecessary. 4c Delver has been touting naked True-Names similarly and I'm sure Reid may of found inspiration from these. Furthermore, the suite of removal Reid uses, primarily hinging on Decay, works very nicely with the mana dorks in the deck, as the sometimes clunky Decay ain't as clunky when you have acceleration. Murderous Cut is also a wonderful addition to this deck as being a black deck without Bob or a huge reliance on the graveyard makes this perhaps the most perfect removal spells for the Eldrazi and Gurmag Anglers that Decay misses.
There are a few eyebrow-raising choices within Reid's list though. The singleton Goyf is a bit of a strange one, though I'm sure the deck may be a little threat-light without it and also gives a strong tempo-ish play after you've Dazed with a mana dork out on turn one. The Mindbreak Traps also look a bit strange, but make a lot of sense once you consider the power of Leo against Storm. They can Tendrils you but make you draw ten cards. There's a high likelihood one of these will be a Trap to stop their combo entirely. As seen in the finals, Trap is also just a great counterspell in this deck because of the huge amounts of acceleration in the deck, making four mana somewhat less daunting.
I'd expect to be seeing this a lot at your local Legacy events, as it looks like an incredibly powerful and different take on the BUG color combination. Congratulations to the ever-loved Reid Duke, especially after he brought this excellent rogue choice to an amazing finish!
The next deck to look at is Wescoe's Death & Taxes list:
It's no surprise to see Wescoe on the pile of white weenies, but this wasn't always the case. As outlined in his GP DC Top 8, Death & Taxes was introduced to him by the Danish Death & Taxes master, Thomas Enevoldsen, who I'm sure corresponded with Wescoe for Louisville as well, evident in the hallmark of all Enevoldsen lists: Relic of Progenitus somewhere in the sideboard!
As we saw a few weeks ago with Enevoldsen's Legacy Challenge-winning list, Wescoe has largely the same main deck creature configuration (including the one-of Serra Avenger, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Crusader, and Prelate) but one big change is the removal-creature of choice. Enevoldsen didn't have access to Jailer on Magic Online and hence chose Banisher Priest, but Wescoe was able to bring Jailer thanks to its printing in Paper Magic and take the Monarchy. Although I'm not as gutsy to include Jailer in my main deck, I'm glad to see a card I'm also in love with gain further credibility after its appearance in two GP Top 8s!
The other part of his lists to take note of is the sideboard. Although relatively stock, he's certainly loaded up on a lot of graveyard hate: 2 Priests, 2 Faeries, along with Relic and Rest in Peace. It's interesting that Wescoe cut the almost-sacred Rest in Peace down to a single copy, as it's often been considered one of our most powerful sideboard cards. Of course, it is often too slow for BR Reanimator, and with decks like Shardless lowered in popularity, I can understand the logic. Increasing the number of Priests over RiP also gives us further game against the surging Sneak & Show and Elves.
Speaking of Reanimator decks, there were two that found their way into the Top 16. One was second-placer Andrew Sullano on a pretty stock DNSolver-style BR list:
This is an incredibly tight list, eschewing the Simian Spirit Guides of the past for two Chrome Mox, which help shore up the sometimes awkward bottleneck on black mana that Spirit Guide can create. There's also only Thoughtseize and Unmask in the main, opting to go as fast as possible game one, but then bringing in four (!) Collective Brutality post-board for the Deathrite Shamans and other problematic creatures of the world. Sullano also opted for the green splash for the reactive Abrupt Decay and Reverent Silence sideboard plan.
More interesting is the evolution Blue-Black Reanimator took in this tournament, with Alexander Magone bringing a pretty innovative new take on it:
You can see Jacob Wilson also trying out this style of list here.
Chancellor of the Annex has weaved its way into Blue-Black as well, creating an incredibly disruptive Reanimator list with Daze, Force, and Chancellor to make getting a fatty into play with protection very, very easy, while still keeping the consistency engines of Brainstorm and Ponder, which also make the variety of sideboard options very powerful (compared to Black-Red which, without filtration, often can have reactive sideboard cards rot in hand). This list also need not splash for the Show and Tells out of the sideboard, and in combination with Needle, Decay, and Brutality, there is a lot of angles to deal with post-sideboard hate.
If you remember last week I looked deeply at the BUG Aluren lists that have been touting Leovold to push the midrange-combo hybrid to new success. Another BUG midrange-combo deck also found success thanks to Eric English, and features the same core of cards and the same style of beatdown with idiotic fliers.
Food Chain has always been a very popular niche archetype, but it seems all the non-Shardless BUG decks have got a shot in the arm with Leovold's addition. Eric featured him very prominently with a full three copies to assist his grind plan of Strix, Decays, Deathrites, and the usual Manipulate Fate for a pile of Griffins. Interesting is how he remedied his combo matchups, which are expected to be quite middling. A full set of Hymn to Tourach along with Collective Brutality and Flusterstorm are sure to do wonders. Brutality also looks very impressive if a Griffin or Scourge can be discarded. Using Deathrite or Angler they can reach the exile zone and be cast!
The most unloved of Delver archetypes (other than Jeskai, but who loves that?) found its way into the Top 32 as well. Definitely following the trend set by Jonathan Alexander by adopting additions of True-Name Nemesis and Winter Orb, Patrick Tierney added his own technology of Grim Lavamancer. Although lacking synergy with Mongoose, Lavamancer can dominate many matchups game one (particularly matchups where Mongoose is mediocre and boarded out) and is a perfect card to proactively deal with Deathrite Shaman, which can otherwise be very problematic. Lavamancer also allows the deck to not have to lean on Dismember so much as an out to Angler or Eldrazi. Instead, Lavamancer and a Bolt can take both of these out without sacrificing cards.
Lastly, the "four-color goodstuff" decks were out in force. Ben Friedman brought exactly the list he spoke of last week, and many others fully adopted his approach to 4c Delver. Noah Walker, known for his many, many successes with Grixis Delver also opted for a greedy Deathrite Shaman powered four-color deck - but did not utilize Delvers. Instead he tweaked the list of Czechs such as Tomas Mar (and duly credited them) and came to this lovely... pile of cards, essentially BUG Control splashing for some Bolts, Kolaghan's Command, and Blasts out of the sideboard.
This is another great home for Leovold and also, more than anything, a great home for Snapcaster Mage with a ton of proactive one-mana spells to flashback and the ability to loop him with Kolaghan's Command.
Other than these, there sadly wasn't much spicy technology to grasp on unlike the manic decks that Chiba brought us, but Reid's win with essentially a brew should warm the hearts of deck builders everywhere. Legacy certain has a lot of exploration available to it, and it seems that the more recent sets have added to the card pool.
Aether Revolt Is Out!
Well, the full Aether Revolt spoiler is out, and there's a few interesting cards that could potentially see play in Legacy.
These cards immediately make me think of Tezzerator, a blue deck with Chalice of the Void, Baleful Strix, and Ensnaring Bridge—all good fodder to Improvise. Reverse Engineer may sadly be just worse than Thoughtcast, and Whir of Invention, although potentially replacing slots of Transmute Artifact, may just be too blue-mana intensive despite being able to easily assemble the Thopter-Sword combo for only potentially three mana.
This card is going to make huge waves in Modern, but in Legacy, I feel less inclined. Abrupt Decay is such a necessity in a format full of problematic artifacts and enchantments such as Counterbalance and Chalice of the Void. It's certainly an upgrade over Disfigure, however, and I expect anyone running that in their sideboard or main to immediately replace it. Whether it will be replacing a card like Dismember in a deck such as Grixis Delver will probably be the largest question, dealing with Angler and Smasher is a big necessity in Legacy, but killing a turn one Deathrite or Delver with a Dismember is usually a painful proposition. I'll be trying this out in the weeks ahead!
Innocuous-looking, this card has a sterling role for itself in Elves that has always wished for a tutorable Reach Elf to deal with Insectile Aberrations that can be problematic. Not to mention it creating a pseudo-best friends team with Wirewood Symbiote! Pretty amazing how a single word in a card's type line can give it a ton of relevance. One of the lovely things about Legacy tribal decks.
A value-filled Eternal Witness-esque card for decks such as Maverick or 4c Loam, this card can do plenty of work when tutored for with Zenith. Imagine getting back your just-Bolted Dark Confidant. That is a nice bit of value.
OHHHH MAMA. A stupid looking robot at first glance, another combo creature for Life.dec is what I see. Life.dec was once a PT Top 8ing powerhouse, using Daru Spiritualist or Task Force and a sacrifice effect to gain infinite life after they've been targeted by one of the en-Kor creatures (or a tutored-up Shuko!). Construct gets his power pumped as well, though meaning that he actually combos with one of Legacy's most-played cards - Swords to Plowshares! He's also tutorable with Enlightened Tutor too! Let's get a brewin'!
Of course, this Deadguy Ale-style deck is probably not that great (it's a three card combo), but it certainly looks like a fun one to bring to a weekly event. There's also a lot of different ways to go about this combo. Maybe even a mono-white Ancient Tomb style version is good, though if you run Chalice you do miss out on Plow and Enlightened Tutor.
Thanks as always for reading This Week in Legacy! Any cards I missed from Aether Revolt? Any interesting decks or stories I missed from GP Louisville? Feel free to contact me below about them, I'm always ears.
Nonetheless, as always,
'Til next time!
What I'm Playing This Week
While GP Louisville occurred, us in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia were also having a pretty big (for our standards) tournament run by Guf Ballarat. Dual lands were on the line, and so many of us set out for the one-and-a-half hour trek to Ballarat from the CBD, and some of our Canberra friends also came down too (see their sweet coverage of weeklies they do here).
This list keeps RUG Delver alive in spirit thanks to the inclusion of Stifle and to some extent, Spell Snare, which is another excellent play, particularly against a deck like Death & Taxes, which is flush with two-drops (and traditionally a poor matchup). I've also decided to go heavy on the sideboard Winter Orbs, rather than play grind cards like Painful Truths, taking inspiration from Jonathan Alexander RUG Delver. Winter Orb also allows us to keep in Daze in matchups where we'd traditionally cut it (like Miracles), which further complements our Pyromancers! I've also omitted cards like Baleful Strix and Abrupt Decay that have been popular in these style of lists too. Rather, I've tried to keep it as smooth and streamlined as possible.
And this nicely rewarded me in the small tournament I played on Sunday, losing to Dredge but then conquering Miracle of Science, 12Post, Miracle of Science (again), DepthStill, and Storm - and damn was I happy to have Stifle in my list for all these matchups!
The Spice Corner
This one comes from - of course - Japan, and is a new style of MUD deck. No more Metalworkers in this one. Instead we're looking at Copper Gnomes, mana rocks, and the coolest finisher of them all: Metalwork Colossus in Legacy!