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This Week in Legacy: January 2017 Statistics and Dark Tempo Thresh

Another week, another This Week in Legacy. This week we'll be looking at the metagame breakdown, both Paper and Online, from January 2017 as we head into a fresh month of Legacy with Aether Revolt. I'll also be highlighting a deck that is one of the greatest winners from Fatal Push's printing, reinvigorated and now a solid choice.

January Statistics

First, some graphs, as always. The breakdown from Paper looked as follows:

Eldrazi continues to plummet in popularity, finding itself with some poor matchups across the highest tiers. Miracles is well geared against it now, Shardless grinds it into the ground, D&T largely ignores most of the deck's disruption, and Show and Tell easily kills with a Chalice on the table. Interesting in Paper is the popularity of Grixis Delver compared to its other Delver cousins, which we'll see is not reflected closely Online at all, with Grixis falling from its pedestal. Sneak & Show and Reanimator variants have largely superseded other combo decks, especially Storm, though with Eldrazi falling in popularity February may be a great time to sleeve up those Dark Rituals, especially if you have experience with the deck. Elves has continued some relatively strong placings and I feel it is particularly well geared if Miracles and fatty combo matchups can be dodged. It's well situated against most of the BUG midrange decks that are running rampant, though Fatal Push appearing in main deck may change that somewhat.

Online showed a somewhat different trend:

Eldrazi's drop is even more prominent Online, with only three making a 5-0 within January, certainly showing a huge gravitation away from the deck and hostile matchups against BUG decks. BUG Delver, as I'll explain later, has seen a huge resurgence recently after its stellar appearance at GP Louisville and eclipsed Grixis Delver by quite a margin, and this is only likely to increase as Fatal Push finds a nice home in BUG lists. Elves also showed its strength against midrange decks Online as in Paper, coming in the Top 5 most popular 5-0'ing lists for once.

The biggest shock is how impressive 4c Loam has performed Online over the last month, largely due to MatsOle (Mats Ellingson) crushing with the deck.

An incredibly stock list for sure, not utilizing weird spice like Tireless Tracker or Renegade Rallier, but don't fix what ain't broken, right? A change in the planeswalker suite is shown here though, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is another perfect four-mana bomb to grind out the opposition. The singleton Golgari Charm is a likely concession to all the True-Name Nemesis around currently, while still being relatively flexible, though killing Bobs and Arbors is a little awkward. Perhaps the more flexible Toxic Deluge is a better main deck consideration, as at least larger creatures can be swept away? Cabal Pit, like Barbarian Ring in Lands, is a flexible removal spell that can be either Loamed or found via Knight of the Reliquary.

The Revival of Dark Tempo Thresh

With the printing of Fatal Push, BUG Delver has got even more of a shot in the arm, and I feel we are likely to see it eclipse Grixis Delver (Online it already has) as the Delver variant of choice. Lightning Bolt is certainly a good card, but Push is somewhat comparable, with pros of killing larger creatures, but not being able to go to the face. However, Abrupt Decay is always relevant in Legacy for so many problem permanents that come up for Delver decks, such as Chalice or Counterbalance, and a BUG shell receives this as a boon too.

So yes, BUG Delver is likely to be very strong in the weeks ahead. But what form of BUG Delver are we likely to see? A spectrum of BUG Delver decks are cropping up in discussion, not to mentioned the more midrangey Delverless cousins such as Reid's True-Name BUG, Shardless BUG, BUG Control (with Leovold, Snapcaster, Strix and Push), and other brews. At this pace I'll try to run down as many of the Delver variants as I can, Perhaps we'll save the Delverless ones for another time.

This first type of list everyone should be somewhat familiar with, the 4c Friedman special, featuring a threat suite of Delver, Deathrite, Snapcaster, Angler, and True-Name. However, with Push's addition the primary reason for red in the deck – Lightning Bolt – can be eschewed for a more solid mana base and potentially swapping Angler for Tombstalker, with an increased amount of black sources. Although this seems minor, the original Delve threat is a monster now, flying over True-Name board stalls and opposing Anglers. It also bricks an aggressive Delver draw. Geez.

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Taking friend Steven's list I featured last week and removing the Red gives us something along these lines:

Losing Bolt-Snap-Bolt certainly removes one of the primary appeals to the deck though, and perhaps 4c Delver is still a very reasonable option due to its better ability to turn the corner and finish the opponent off in a flurry of burn. It also means the deck has a huge amount of dead cards against combo game one, whereas Bolt can at least become a virtual Time Walk by shortening the opponent's clock.

This next version is the one most people think of when it comes to BUG Delver, the tap-out tempo shell featuring a heavier reliance on Black. This version of BUG Delver many know as the spiritual successor to Team America, given below, the original BUG-colored tempo-crushing machine, and in this section I will refer to it as such.

Of course, it has evolved far past these roots to incorporate Hymn to Tourach, Liliana of the Veil, Deathrite, and Decay, but the tap-out tempo philosophy has remained the same. There is nothing too revolutionary this deck receives with Fatal Push – its removal suite just becomes more potent, and middling matchups against decks such as Death & Taxes and Elves become a little bit easier with solid main deck one-mana removal. It's curve is still quite high in comparison to Grixis Delver or Canadian Threshold, but it plays the long game a little better, with Liliana and Tombstalker as excellent bombs in the current metagame.

This list is largely derivative of malimujo, who has been crushing with Hymn BUG Delver for the last few months. Great guy, great player.

Let's not underestimate the power of Dismember though, as Anglers and Stalkers can be real issues for decks now leaning too hard on Fatal Push.

Next, let's look at something that hasn't really got too much limelight. First, again, an old list:

This list was birthed from the original Canadian Threshold lists, but opted for Dark Confidant as one of the deck's threats, along with an altered removal suite that matched up against opposing Tarmogoyfs better compared to Lightning Bolt and Fire // Ice. The removal suite was often rounded out by Ghastly Demise in some lists for effective one-mana removal – though with the advent of Deathrite Shaman it started to look a little lackluster.

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Fatal Push largely serves the role of this one-mana removal in the modern era, and complements the low-to-the ground game plan Dark Tempo Thresh is aiming to employ. Previously, the primary removal option for a deck such as this was Abrupt Decay, which is incredibly clunky and mana-intensive, and favored the more midrangey Team America lists, which left Dark Tempo Thresh underplayed. Now a list such as this has new life available to it, filled with effective low-to-the-ground countermagic, removal, and threats.

The list I have below is inspired by a few modern lists, too. The Brainstorm Show's “Miracles Slayer” BUG Delver certainly influenced my card choices, especially the threat suite. The very old BURG Delver lists that ran Bolt, Decay, and Mongoose also had a lot of influence too. HJ_Kaiser 5-0'ed recently with a BUG list touting four Stifle, as did pow22 (and quite a few others on Magic Online), and many on the Canadian Threshold thread on The Source have also been trialing something similar. Anyway, here's my list!

There are some odd choices that I'll likely need to clarify:

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Nimble Mongoose and Deathrite Shaman look terrible with each other, and it's true that asynergy does exist with these two cards to some degree. But Mongoose, I feel, is significantly better in this shell than a card like Tarmogoyf, that is poorly positioned against the new Fatal Push and often forces the deck to tap-out to deploy, making one-mana interaction like Stifle, Push, and Pierce less effective. True-Name Nemesis is used more as reach in this deck when you have exhausted your interaction, and despite how clunky the fish looks, having untargetable threats (five post-board) makes the end game of this deck very effective, stranding removal spells in the opponent's hand.

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Counterspell I am also incredibly high on currently. Deploying a threat and untapping with Counterspell up (or just having two mana up after deploying one of our cheap threats) is an excellent feeling and punishes the big three-mana or four-mana plays people are trying to make. Spell Snare initially looked very lackluster to me in a world of True-Names, Leovolds, and Abrupt Decays, despite how tempo-positive the card is, but it being great against combo as well as value creatures like Snapcaster and Strix makes it worthwhile, despite these seemingly covered by Decay and Push. I'm not the biggest fan of Spell Pierce currently either with BUG and Decay so prevalent, but I feel it is necessary as main deck inclusion to fight against combo decks.

If Eldrazi is more relevant adding some Tarmogoyfs and Anglers over the Mongooses may be an option, as having the bulky bodies to brave the assault is more important than holding up counters. But if that's the case maybe a more classic Team America-style deck is better for a metagame such as this. I'd also like to find room somewhere for more Painful Truths, which has been incredibly powerful, though I dislike it when my sideboard plan involves Winter Orb for matchups where Truths is stellar, and in the main it can be a liability in certain matchups. Orb is naturally asynergistic with the three-mana Truths, which stresses the mana, but I guess the same can be said for True-Name Nemesis. Deathrite Shaman also does some good work at remedying this anyway.

I've piloted it to quite a bit of success recently at my local store, with my rounds as follows:

4c Loam (2-0)
Reanimator (2-0)
Miracles (2-0)
Sneak & Show (2-0)

And a 4-1 in the MtGO Legacy League:

4c Loam (2-1)
Shardless BUG (2-0)
Shardless BUG (2-0)
Elves (0-2)
Food Chain (2-1)

Man, my Submerges were overworked in that League… The Elves matchup and other small creature matchups are still hard, but nowhere near as impossible as they used to be when we relied on only Abrupt Decay, and I'll be aiming to remedy these matchups in the weeks ahead. Nonetheless, I highly recommend anyone in love with the core of Stifle/Wasteland/Daze, but who also wants access to Decay and Deathrite, along with the little Mongoose that could, to try this list!


And so ends This Week in Legacy. I look forward to month ahead with Aether Revolt now on Magic Online, as the cards disperse themselves into Paper Magic. I'd also especially like to hear thoughts on the Dark Tempo Thresh list from anyone who decides to try it; I truly think it is a great piece of work for current Legacy.

Anyway, before we wrap up, a lot links for further Legacy reading!


'Til next time,

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I'm Playing This Week

It's true that I will likely be playing BUG Delver, but I'd also like to revisit good old Canadian Threshold as well, as Lightning Bolt should certainly still have a home and Pyroblast is still one of the most powerful sideboard cards in Legacy.

The only things I'm not confident in are the Rough // Tumble, and whether these should just be hard hate like Sulfur Elemental or some tricky stuff like Seal of Fire. I'd also like to find room for a third Winter Orb somewhere, but alas.

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The Spice Corner

We have another weird combo deck for this week's Spice Corner. No one expects it... The blistering fast combo deck that relies on Cruel Bargain, Culling the Weak, and a host of idiotic creatures (Slithermuse, yum) — Pact Spanish Inquisition *PSI*. Similar to Belcher, but with more gambling - who knows what those draw fours will give you!

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