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This Week in Legacy: GP Shizuoka Preparation


Welcome to This Week(?) in Legacy!

Well… it’s certainly been more than a week since our last piece and I’d like to give apologies to all of you looking forward to the articles every week. However, with my journey in Japan still on-going, and the business of living here crowding out my ability to create content, I’ll be looking to writing a piece monthly until February, when I will return to Australia. From February, look forward to regularly weekly scheduled articles as in the past!

Anyway, in this article I’ll be rounding up everything that has happened in the past month and where the metagame seems to be going leading into the major Legacy GP coming very soon (and I mean, this weekend) – GP Shizuoka. This article will be aimed at those of you looking for a holistic look at the metagame, what to expect, and from there tweaking your sideboard slots or main deck choices with that information in mind.

First, let’s bring up a table of the recent large paper events that have occurred in the month of November.

Of course, the most important of these was American Eternal Weekend, with 628 players. Not only can you find the Top 8 deck lists circulating around the internet, but you can find a ton of information on the event at Eternal Central. There is a sortable table of all the standings, as well as every single deck list from the event uploaded. If you’re keen to trawl through piles of decklists for some hidden spice, this is where to go.

Let’s also bring up all the Top 8'ing lists from the Legacy Challenges of November too, to give us a look at how the Online metagame is going:

The Legacy metagame is looking reasonably diverse as always, but there are definitely a few popular decks you need to be ready for moving forward, as well as how these decks have adopted recent technology. Let’s dive in, archetype by archetype, and get a detailed look at some lists.

Blue Control

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The first few decks we’ll look at are quintessentially Legacy: cantrips and a pile of answers to defeat both fair and unfair decks of the format. These decks are looking to be some of the most popular fair choices moving forward, especially for Legacy “veterans” who can leverage format knowledge and tight play for the win.

The first of these decks we’ll look is, of course, Miracles.

The king has fallen, risen, fallen and risen again as the metagame has ebbed and flowed and new technology has been incorporated into the deck.

Let’s look at Patrick Green’s first-placing Miracles list from Eternal Weekend America. You can also find his tournament report here.

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Most lists have transitioned to Accumulated Knowledge as its card advantage engine of choice over Predict (which requires a bit of setup) along with an altered suite of cantrips favoring Preordain over Portent. Note that Miracles new utilization of Accumulated Knowledge makes incremental graveyard bombs like Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb very appealing to bring in against the Blue-White Control deck. I’d still be suspect of bringing in a card like Rest in Peace which may still end up lackluster, however. Also note Spell Pierce has also seen some adoption to defend early game plays, especially when pushing through a punishing card like Counterbalance.

With all that said, although the core of Snapcaster, cantrips, Jace and the White creature removal tools will be there to stay, there is a lot of customization that can be incorporated into Miracles lists. These include adding additional card advantage engines such as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Search for Azcanta, adding main deck Back to Basics and tweaking the counterspell suite. The sideboard, although most versions will include Pyroblasts and Monastery Mentors, is also quite flexible. For example, the recent utilization of Celestial Purge as an answer to the rampant adoption of Liliana, the Last Hope shows the flexibility that the Jeskai color combination provides in Legacy.

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There are wilder ways to take the Blue-White Control shell, including Joe Lossett’s Legendary Control, but nonetheless, be ready to get Snap-Plowed. Some excellent ways to cripple Miracles are to shut down its engine of cantrips and take advantage of how much “air” is in the deck (eg. via Chalice of the Void, other prison pieces), play difficult to answer threats (eg. planeswalkers, especially non-Blue ones, or shroud threats) or be able to generate incremental card advantage that can eventually overwhelm Miracles. Miracles’ flexibility provides it answers to all of these though, so nothing is truly the end-all and be-all.

The next Blue control shell is the legacy of Czech Pile’s reign when Deathrite Shaman was Legacy. Rather than Snap-Plowing you do death, it’s Snap-Kolaghan's Command:

The Grixis Control lists have really boiled down to a very clean core, with only removal choices (Do you want Edicts main? Bolts main?) and the mix of discard (between Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek and Hymn to Tourach) the main variation within lists. Sideboard Blood Moons have also become a pretty standard adoption along with a very rock-solid mana base featuring a fair few basics. I’m liking the recent incorporation of Bitterblossom as a supplemental threat in these lists (perhaps taking a nod from recent Grixis Delver lists) to give headaches to the mirror, Miracles and many creature-based decks like Death & Taxes where clogging up the board is great.

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Perhaps a little more exciting is the resurrection of true Czech Pile, however. Not only did a four-color control deck find its way to Top 8 of Eternal Weekend America, but it also found a Top 8 at MKM Zaragoza in the hands of Mr. Czech Pile himself, Tomas Mar:

This is the power of true greed. I think you need to have a lot of guts and experience with a deck like this (as I’m sure Mar does) to be able to play this effectively. The training wheels are off now that Deathrite is gone, and fetching properly is a big issue, despite the first few turns relying on Blue-Black mana primarily. There are a few great things that Green adds to the Grixis Control shell, however. The first, of course, is Leovold, Emissary of Trest, who is incredibly backbreaking when following up the pile of early turn discard these decks assail the opponent with. It also gives the deck an actually relevant threat against combo which Grixis Control lacks game one.

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The other big addition is some premier removal. Decay is excellent because Grixis Control’s huge weaknesses are enchantments and opposing non-Blue planeswalkers like Liliana, the Last Hope. Many players have opted for narrow answers like Liliana's Defeat in the sideboard to remedy this, but Decay is a much more flexible answer. Furthermore, with the rising tide of Miracles and its dangerous Counterbalances, Decay has never looked better. Another card that could also be adopted is Assassin's Trophy. Although Trophy has not given birth to a true BUG Control deck as many expected, it is a great piece of supplemental removal in any deck that can produce Green and Black mana.

Other variants of control to look out for are the aforementioned BUG Control that many are still toying with, along with crazier concoctions like Clashed’s Punishing Dack deck.

Delver

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Delver has always been a popular choice in Legacy, but recently its popularity has waned significantly. Grixis Delver continues to put up results but lists continue to vary considerable in card choices and consensus. Death’s Shadow has lost its appeal for many due to Miracles’ prominence making the deck a dubious choice, despite the raw power many witnessed during its heyday of the Pro Tour. UR Delver has changed little since Probe’s banning and has continued on its one-track burn-out plan. Other variants like RUG and Owen Turtenwald’s DelverBlade lists have also experienced waning success. Nonetheless, you can never go too wrong with a deck that can lead on Delver, into Daze into Wasteland and expect the Insectile Aberration to be buzzing around.

Ross McGee’s Leaving a Legacy Open-winning list is a bit of an oddball, featuring zero Young Pyromancer and zero discard spells and a rather midrangey creature suite with three Anglers, three True-Names and two Bitterblossoms. Mission Briefing is probably the most exciting card in this list, but really furthers the midrange look of this list and its inclusion over Snapcaster Mage is somewhat questionable.

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Tannon Grace’s list is a little more stock (if a stock list is even something), featuring some number of Pyromancers, some number of discard spells (Inquisition of Kozilek being the foremost inclusion due to Bitterblossom’s life loss making Thoughtseize somewhat risky) and some interesting flex inclusions such as the one-of Stifle.

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I’ll speak little on Death's Shadow because the lists have barely changed since their inception at the anniversary Pro Tour. Hymn to Tourach has found some main deck adoption over Stubborn Denial and Reanimate and the idea of splashing has largely fallen by the wayside due to Blue-Black’s proven stability. You might see some Shadow around the room, but expect it to be less popular than it was during the time of Eternal Weekend Asia.

UR Delver has also continued to utilize the same core of Bolts, cantrips and efficient creatures, although recent lists have incorporated Risk Factor as a card advantage/burn spell of choice.

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Risk Factor looks a little lackluster on the surface due to being a Browbeat effect, which have never been too popular, but the ability to be cast at instant speed and be jump-started really pushes it over the line in my eyes. For UR Delver, four life is close enough to additional cards anyway and a big eight life swing over the course of two turns thanks to jump-start makes the card quite threatening.

Lastly, my love, RUG Delver has continued trucking along, again quite an underdog in terms of popularity relative to its Grixis brethren. Pablo Abejer nonetheless brought a list to MKM Zaragoza that took down first place (yes!) that looks very close to something I would bring to a tournament:

I am very suspect about playing less than six removal but otherwise I’m a big fan of what’s happening here. I think Winter Orb and True-Name Nemesis are really the key cards for the deck moving forward to punishing the big Blue control decks that are currently at the top of the format. I can therefore understand moving away from Hooting Mandrills, who looks very lackluster especially if Miracles is everywhere. I also really like the sideboard Island as a hedge against Blood Moon and as an early fetchable non-Wastelandable source of mana, helpful against decks like Death & Taxes and Lands.

A bit more radical is this list:

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This list oozes with coolness, and essentially attempts to emulate old Grixis Delver with Noble Hierarch instead of Deathrite Shaman. This leads this deck to definitely be a bit more “jammy” than traditional RUG and really lean on the busted “turn two True-Name with Daze backup draws”, but it also fills the deck with a fair bit of air and makes it more prone to Miracles’ Terminus. I would start by cutting Stifle from this list which have a bit of dissonance with the more proactive game plan. I’m loving the sideboard Winter Orb in this list though, I must say. Having Hierarch and Orb in play simultaneously must be quite the experience.

Fair, Non-Blue

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Next, let’s move on to the fair non-Blue decks of the format. Interestingly, Death & Taxes, the premier non-Blue fair deck of the format, has been experiencing waning success in the past few months, though I’m sure the deck is a very reasonable choice moving forward. Altering the beatstick package to fight both Grixis and Miracles is probably the main consideration moving forward, and there’s a lot of interesting technology such as Hallowed Spiritkeeper for the Grixis matchup and Walking Ballista as a tutorable burn spell running around. As always, the best place for all your Death & Taxes needs is Thraben University.

Next, let’s look at 4c Loam:

The core has remained relatively stagnant, but new technology like Assassin's Trophy and Knight of Autumn are welcome additions to the deck. I think the deck has plenty of solid matchups going around and can create some headaches for Miracles thanks to its mix of Chalice and incremental card advantage. Bitterblossom is also neat sideboard technology now being utilized similar to Grixis Control and Delver.

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Maverick too, cousin of both Loam and Death & Taxes, has also seen some results and, despite the prevalence of Miracles, is quite a viable choice. Junk versions of the deck in particular can now take advantage of Assassin's Trophy.

A deck that has gone from strength to strength in recent times is everyone’s forgotten but well-loved tribe: Goblins.

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The banning of Deathrite did a lot for the deck, making Lackey threatening once more. Then, Goblin Trashmaster was printed, giving the deck a tutorable artifact-destroying machine-gun. Then, Goblin Cratermaker was printed in Guilds of Ravnica, giving the deck all it could ever ask for (and more) to defeat pesky fair matchups. Goblins has risen from the realms of fringe playability to actually a great fair-deck-crushing machine. It has an excellent matchup against Miracles and, although Grixis’ load of discard can be troublesome, the matchup is quite winnable. Combo will always be an issue, but such is Goblin life. Here’s a list I think is a great way to take the deck forward:

This is really as quad-lazy (almost all four-ofs) as Goblins will get, though I do think main decking Chainwhirler over Sharpshooter is the way to go these days.  I honestly really like the White splash for this deck as well, as having access to Thalia and Containment Priest instead of wonky answers like Mindbreak Trap and Ashen Rider seem more reasonable to me.

Stompy

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Of all the Stompy variants Eldrazi has seen the most success recently, perhaps indicative of the control-heavy metagame where Eldrazi strives, particularly against Miracles. Although standard Eldrazi Stompy is certainly still viable, 12-Post versions of the deck in particular look promising to go “over-the-top” of Grixis Control and Miracles, while also still having sound game against combo thanks to Chalice and Trinisphere.

That’s a hella lot of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon too, likely as a hedge against Delver, Death & Taxes and other small creature decks.

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Dragon Stompy has largely been trumped by Eldrazi in terms of popularity recently, but Legion Warboss has been a welcome addition to slant the deck much more aggressively. The Top 8'ing lists from the Leaving a Legacy Open also added a boatload of Karns and Great Furnaces to the mix to pump up some grossly large tokens.

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Other interesting Stompy builds to be prepared for are Steel Stompy, Bomberman (including the wild but tried-and-true Japanese Bomberman lists) and, well, Tezzerator:

Even though this doesn’t even use Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas anymore! Instead, this list leans on new powerhouse Karn, Scion of Urza and The Antiquities War as their new artifact engines (and win cons). I think these two cards are definitely cards to be aware of coming out of Stompy shells moving forward.

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Pure Combo

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Next on to combo decks. Combo decks very slowly change since their core is so strong, so I’ll note down rather briefly what to look out for. Links to “stock” lists I’d expect are the hyperlinked deck names:

  • Sneak & Show: most versions have looked to Omniscience and sideboard Arcane Artisan as ways to dodge traditional hate cards. This has made traditionally great cards like Karakas a little more lacklustre. One also has to be wary boarding out removal lest the Artisan catch you with your pants down. A few versions are running a more dedicated Omniscience package with a Cunning Wish sideboard

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  • Storm: the go-to list for many is that of Cyrus Corman-Gill, second-place finisher at American Eternal Weekend and winner (along with his team) of the Las Vegas Team Open. Not only a great guy, his list has been finely tuned thanks to input from a variety of Storm aficionados. Four Preordain and a Green-splashing sideboard are what to look out for. For Storm players looking  for input from some of the best, I’d turn to the ANT and TES Facebook groups.
  • Dredge: Orim67’s quad-Street Wraith list ran the show on Magic Online for a few weeks and Dredge proves again and again that it is a force to be reckoned with, especially against those unprepared. There’s some interesting technology being incorporated now, such as Assassin's Trophy as a reasonable way to blow up Leylines and Necrotic Wound a solid kill spell for the deck. For those who want to go real deep and play Manaless Dredge, Creeping Chilland Lotleth Giant have found a place there.

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These four are the “pure” combo decks I’d look out for and as a result pack your sideboard with some diverse ways to combat them. Diverse hate is always a good idea, so packing Surgical alongside a varied hate piece, be it a bomb (eg. Relic of Progenitus) or a hate piece (eg. Containment Priest) is a smart play moving forward. Sneak & Show’s diverse set of ways to give you a bad day now make something Sorcerous Spyglass a great way to proactively counter whatever plan they’re on.

Pseudo-Combo

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The three pseudo-combo decks I’d like to focus on are Lands, Elves and most important, Turbo Depths.

Lands has experienced little change in terms of lists but has suffered somewhat from the shortage of Delver decks to prey on and a sometimes troublesome Miracles matchup. Some spicy ways to attack these matchups are with cards like Experimental Frenzy that Adam Fiffles utilized in the recent Vegas Classic, but this is rather similar to planeswalker bombs that have been utilized in the past.

Elves has also experienced little change too despite the setback of losing Deathrite. The new addition of Assassin's Trophy is a big boon that gives the deck a very, very flexible sideboard grind plan and a new Natural Order target in Archon of Valor's Reach does the same job as Teeg did but also beats face really effectively.

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Lastly, Depths. The Depths deck has undergone perhaps the most radical change from what it once looked like. Gone is all the fast mana of Petals and Spirit Guides. Recent lists have taken the “Slow Depths” concept to another level by changing the acceleration pieces to Mox Diamond and adding the inevitability engine of Life from the Loam, which can revive the combo again and again and again.

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The deck can now simply grind the opponent to death with Dark Confidant (defended by Sylvan Safekeeper) and assemble the Depths combo whenever desired. The inclusion of three Wasteland (over what was once Pithing Needle that would typically name Wasteland) gives the deck a Land or 4c Loam-like angle of attack that can lock the opponent of mana while the idiot brigade beats them down too. Not to mention the sideboard gets access to planeswalkers, a Green Sun's Zenith package and Assassin's Trophy?! To me, the new Depths lists look like a real piece of art and the perfect harmonization of the midrange and combo game plans. It also looks like the perfect way to pinch Miracles typical way to fight the deck (by Plowing ice beasts into oblivion) by having a way not only to consistently recur the combo, but also ways to dig for it.

Conclusion

Phew! And there we have it! Hope everyone enjoyed this foray deep into where the format currently is and hopefully I’ll see some readers at GP Shizuoka. Thank you everyone for your patience and looking forward to getting back into the groove of writing once more.

As always, here’s some links to follow for some recent Legacy content:

Podcasts:

Articles:

Videos:

Also get ready to watch GP Shizuoka. Big Magicshould be streaming here and Anuraag Das should have some home-brewed English commentary at his Twitch channel.

Til next time!

Sean Brown

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

What I’m Playing This Week

This week is GP Shizuoka… So what I’m playing is pretty important! Sadly, despite following the format as always, I have had little time to jam actual tournaments recently. But where the format stands and what I’m most comfortable with brings me to something like this:

The two slots I’m most uncertain about are the main deck Predict along with the sideboard Sudden Demise, which could easily change into something like a Izzet Staticaster. Predict in RUG has always been my pet card but perhaps now its time to move on. I’d also like to find room for an Island in seventy-five as well.

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Pyroblast and the triple Winter Orb are making big statements on where I feel the format is at the moment, however, and I’m ready to Blast and Orb some Miracles players into oblivion. I’m also not keen on utilizing Mandrills because of the prevalence of Miracles as well and have instead opted for a very heavy-shroud creature suite.

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Snapcaster Mage and Mission Briefing are also cards I have been thinking about recently as additional “grind” options that don’t really mind removal. Briefing is also very cool due to it synergising very effectively with Threshold after Surveiling.

And then of course, the other deck, if I was a true risk-taker, would be something like this:

Taking inspiration from the recent “Tezzerator” decks, this is Bomberman with a twist. The Blue splash is for the almighty The Antiquities War which synergises very effectively with Bomberman’s game plan and is, as always, a nice alternative win condition. I think curving Mentor into War is particularly brutal, as you’ll very likely be triggering Prowess twice in the same turn (hitting a zero mana rock). This is relatively untested, but for you Bombermen out there this is an interesting avenue to go down.

The Spice Corner

The Spice Corner this week is a list that actually Top8'ed the recent Team Open with… Patron Wizard?!

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Chris Higashi a very spicy Mono-Blue Wizards deck to a strong finish. Whether the deck was good or his team mates carried him I have no idea, but this weird blend of Merfolk and Wizards looks like a surprisingly potent strategy. Patron Wizard in particular is a very powerful payoff that can essentially lock the opponent out.


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