This Week in Legacy: MKM Madrid and Cheating Fatties into Play
by Sean Brown // Jul 27, 2016
Hello, and welcome again to This Week in Legacy! This week I'll continue with an overview of the Legacy metagame and the decks within it, briefly recount some of the events that happened in July, and look towards some of the combo decks in the format. In particular, we'll look at combo decks that aim to assemble an A + B combo (unlike Storm, which we previously looked at), typically involving a friendly demon known as Griselbrand or a spaghetti monster known as Emrakul.
Looking Over 4c Loam Again
To start with, I'd like to remedy an oversight from last week's article pointed out to me by redditor u/Apocolyps6 about 4c Loam. Although I mentioned the more modernized versions spawning from the deck's success last year in Europe (at GP Lille by Christopher Alshiemer and Niklas Kronberger at Bazaar of Moxen 9), the deck's iterations actually have a lot more history. In particular, the 4c Loam versions were an offshoot of the Aggro Loam variants that abused previous all-stars Countryside Crusher and Terravore in a typically Jund shell. Knight of the Reliquary, once printed, was also a perfect fit in these lists, and although Naya lists were utilised, the card advantage that Dark Confidant provided proved a bit much to sacrifice.
Hoogland and others, including Jody Keith (who set the basis of the four-colour variant) appeared in 2013 with something very close to the 4c Loam lists of current. The primary difference was the deck's reliance on Burning Wish for a variety of interactions, such as getting a Loam or casting a brutal Devastating Dreams to get some Wildfire action going. You can find Hoogland's deck tech here and Jody's list below!
Kroenberger reinvigorated the deck into its current form by cutting the Wish package and Dreams and adding Liliana of the Veil. That's where the decks have found themselves now!
A Look at MKM Madrid
Even though I outlined last week's events in SCG Worcester, in Europe another reasonably large event occurred by MagicCardMarket (MKM) in Madrid. This event's winner was on a very interesting list. Alejandro Henche brought a Bant (or Dark Bant, I guess) Stoneblade list to the tournament, beating out Eldrazi (but not your typical Eldrazi list!) in the Finals.
Similar lists have also been featured 5-0'ing a lot of Leagues on Magic Online. Running a package of seven mana dorks in Noble Hierarch and Deathrite Shaman allows the deck to pull ahead on mana, while also allowing the deck to abuse Daze and Wasteland without falling behind on the mana curve. Turn two True-Names can also be churned out, and the mana dorks also ramp the deck into its planeswalker package of Jace, Elspeth, and Gideon out of the sideboard. The deck also has some very powerful sideboard options, with white providing the typical hate pieces such as Canonist and Priest, the light amount of black giving access to Decay and Zealous Persecution, and blue of course providing additional interaction against combo.
It's certainly nice to see the Bant decks, that were initially revitalised in 2013 with True-Name's printing, back in the fold. In particular, it seems like the plan of planeswalker bombs such as Gideon and Elspeth along with the equipment plan of True-Name and Stoneforge match up incredibly well against Eldrazi, who Alejandro faced in the finals.
Of course, as mentioned, this wasn't the typical Eldrazi list. Marc Forment Cano brought the Eldrazi version I am personally hugely in love with. I can't help but get giddy when I see some Dr. Owner action!
Instead of Matter Reshaper or other filler creatures (such as Phyrexian Revoker), this list is able to find room for Eldrazi Displacer and Eldrazi Skyspawner. Displacer is no surprise; we've seen it pop up in white-green lists already—but Skyspawner and the two-of Drowner of Hope are certainly interesting additions. Skyspawner actually does a lot of work in these lists, creating multiple bodies, but it can also allow the deck to operate under a Blood Moon, as the Scion very easily ramps into castable Smashers and Seers. Drowner has replaced the slots that Endbringer typically occupied, and this move I like quite a bit too. Endbringer has often felt slow and clunky, despite the variety of abilities he has, while Drowner supplies the ability to immediately stabilize the board or swing in for the win. Not to mention Drowner's synergy with the aforementioned Displacer and Skyspawner!
There were also a few other interesting lists featured in the Top 8 too. A Nimble Mongoose-less RUG Delver appeared in a Top 8 yet again, mirroring the one seen in GP Prague. But probably more interesting is the Junk midrange list, featuring Gatekeeper of Malakir, known as 'The Gate'! Find all the rest of the MKM Madrid Top 8 breakdown here.
How Do You Like Your Griselbrand?
Last week we had a look at a few of the ways to control and imprison our opponents, and prior to that we looked at the Delver decks of the format. I think it's about time we outlined some more unfair strategies within the format. I hinted at the power of Griselbrand by showing his shell in Mono-Red Sneak Attack. Perhaps his more well-known shell is in Sneak & Show.
Sneak & Show was once seen as the most powerful deck in the format after the printing of Griselbrand, with calls for banning Show and Tell, but eventually the metagame found ways to effectively counter the deck, particularly after the surge in Death & Taxes' popularity (Karakas) and the printing of powerful hate pieces like Containment Priest. Nonetheless, it still remains one of the premier combo strategies within the format. The deck's plan is relatively simple: cast Show and Tell and put either Emrakul or Griselbrand into play. Sneak Attack is the other combo piece of the deck, allowing the deck to kill immediately. Simply cast Sneak Attack, put in Griselbrand, and draw fourteen. If an Emrakul and Lotus Petal is in those fourteen cards, death for the opponent is imminent.
Of course, the deck has quite a few more complexities than that. Assembling the combo is of course assisted via the cantrips of the format and defended via the blue counterspells such as Force of Will and Spell Pierce. More interesting is how the deck fights against hate. Blood Moons in the sideboard are excellent against greedy tri-color decks, but also are very powerful against the mono-white deck of the format, shutting off Karakas. Through the Breach is another interesting sideboard option, allowing the deck to go off in the face of opposing Sneak & Show players (where casting Show and Tell can be a liability, since your opponent can put in Emrakul too!). Breach also gives the deck more avenues for victory against decks where Sneak Attack and Show and Tell are overloaded with difficulties.
Another way to fight against hate is to reshape the deck. Omni-Tell has typically followed Sneak & Show as the less popular cousin. The deck sacrifices the secondary red color and instead focuses on casting Show and Tell for Omniscience (or, in older versions, Dream Halls to put Omniscience into play). This line can typically lead to winning via casting Emrakul herself (avoiding the Karakas problems) or via Cunning Wish for Eladamri's Call into Emrakul or Wish for Release the Ants, revealing an Emrakul Brainstorm'ed to the top of one's library again and again. Although this combo requires three cards (Show and Tell + Omniscience + Cunning Wish/Emrakul), it is generally easy to find the Cunning Wish once chaining cantrips is undertaken. Furthermore, the combo sidesteps hate because it immediately kills with Emrakul actually being cast (or Ants being released if the combat step is a problem).
Omni-Tell was actually the front runner in terms of popularity during the Dig Through Time-era, as Dig Through Time was the perfect card in the deck. An old Dig-era list can be seen below, piloted by Shouta Yasooka at GP Kyoto:
Currently the deck is a shell of its former self, but it is nonetheless powerful and has put up results on Magic Online, 5-0'ing quite a few events recently. IsThisACatInTheHat's list has looked particularly lean:
Sneak & Show's weaknesses have also been remedied by a hybrid version of the two lists that have been popping up online. These lists aim to remedy problems against Death & Taxes and the mirror, and also provide the added flexibility of Cunning Wish to the deck. It certainly looks like a lot of combo pieces flying around though, which may give the deck some clunky draws, but there's a lot of power here too.
Other than Show and Tell, the other way to get Griselbrand and other friends, such as Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Iona, Shield of Emeria, into play has been via reanimation. Reanimate, Exhume, and Animate Dead have existed for a long time in the format, but only until Entomb was unbanned in 2009 did it start to form its current shell. Reanimation was especially powerful until Mystical Tutor met the banhammer. It soon reached a pinnacle of its power once the walking Yawgmoth's Bargain could be cheated into play from the graveyard, and this is what typical Reanimator lists have been structured around—cheat Griselbrand into play, draw a bunch of cards, and then either defend him or cheat in another fatty with the resources accumulated. Most lists have been blue-black, splashing a little bit of green in the sideboard for Abrupt Decay to beat hate pieces such as Rest in Peace. Jonathan Morawski has been well-known for his success with Reanimator on the SCG circuit, and made Top 8 of the recent Open in Worcester.
Similar to Sneak & Show the deck consists of protection pieces (with Daze and Force supplemented by discard), cantrips, ways to bin fatties (via the toolboxy Entomb or Careful Study), and of course the reanimation spells. Also typical of these decks is the ability to board into Show and Tell as a further way to sidestep graveyard hate. The fatties utilized are Griselbrand (the default target), Elesh Norn (potent against creature matchups), Iona (potent against combo), and a swathe of non-legendary creatures such as Grave Titan and Tidespout Tyrant to beat Karakas.
Izzet Charm has been a particular favorite of a few Reanimator players. Local friend of mine Steven Capovilla has been using the Charm to a lot of success locally with the following list:
I'm sure he's found Izzet Charm potent in our metagame saturated with my favorite idiotic hatebears, such as Thalia and Phyrexian Revoker. But perhaps there's no longer a need to dip into another color for this style of effect. The newly-printed Collective Brutality from Eldritch Moon, although a sorcery, certainly resonates with the Charm, being able to kill creatures, act as disruption via its semi-Duress mode, and allows one to bin fatties via its Escalate cost. It shall be interesting to see whether this card is incorporated into future lists.
Black-Red Reanimator has also been particularly popular recently Online, perhaps due to its very low price point with the recent reprinting of Entomb in Eternal Masters. This deck has a similar game plan to the typical blue-black lists, but eschews counterspells for more discard (e.g. Unmask) and aims to go a bit faster, abusing Dark Rituals and playing the full four Animate Deads. Also interesting is the addition of Chancellor of the Annex, a card I'm particularly fond of, that delays the opponent if it's in your opener, but also becomes a flying 5/6 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben if reanimated, which is likely good enough against combo. Again, these lists feature Decay in the sideboard and pseudo-Show and Tell in the form of Stronghold Gambit.
This article wraps up our look into the typical decks that aim to cheat huge monsters into play. Goryo's Vengeance also sees play in certain lists due to Storm killing after Griselbrand draws them enough resources. Elves is well-known for its ability to use Natural Order to cheat a Craterhoof or Progenitus into play. We'll have a look at those lists in the weeks to come. There's also the next Legacy Challenge event to run through too, and the first few paper events with Eldritch Moon, such as the SCG Classic in Columbus!
Furthermore, I'd like to note that the Banned & Restricted Announcement was released relatively recently and found Legacy with no changes. With Miracles continually at the top of the metagame is the format getting stale, or do we need Goblin Recruiter or Earthcraft to come off? Next week, with July ending, I'll breakdown the monthly metagame statistics and try reach some conclusions about what the best course of action is in the future. I'll also be on The Salt Mine Podcast discussing exactly this. Comments below on the topic would also be appreciated!
Nonetheless, thanks for reading!
'Til next time
What I'm Playing This Week
Last week I brought my favorite of all blue decks to Legacy. There is no better feeling than Stifling, Wastelanding and beating down with Shrouded … 1/1s.
This RUG list destroyed a lot of Sacred Cows, at least for me. Stifles, with Eldrazi and many other decks around, felt like a poor option to have drawn in multiples, and thus I shaved one. Daze, again, with Miracles and Death & Taxes so prominent in my metagame, also got cut down from its typical four. And Goyf, the biggest, best green idiot got shaved down to three to find room for a singleton True-Name Nemesis. Also featured in this list is a couple of Spell Snares, which I expected to be excellent against Death & Taxes (as long as Vial is dealt with), Miracles (stopping CounterTop is great!), and Storm. Sylvan Library was also added to give me a "super-cantrip" that would help me hit land drops for True-Name and just be an excellent card in grindier matchups.
Although many other individuals have opted away from Mongoose and have found room for Mandrills, Cliques. and more True-Names (or in Gerard Fabiano's list, Grim Lavamancer), I personally cannot refuse a Nimble Mongoose. Especially with his recent rarity downshift… This may be a Legacy column, but I cannot refuse showing off the recent Pauper UG Delver lists that have been running around online. For those of you who enjoy that pure 2007 tempo feeling that Legacy RUG Delver provides, I'd highly recommend this! Also shout-outs to Magic Online player and Melbourne local seedy_k, who assisted with the list!
The Spice Corner
Gatekeeper of Malakir found his way into Top 8 of MKM Madrid!
This ultra-fair, ultra-grindy midrange deck found its way through the perilous waters of Eldrazi, Delver, Miracles, and combo. Some of the numbers certainly look a bit skeptical. Only two Decays? Main deck Zealous Persecution (though I guess it is synergistic with Lingering Souls)? Inquisition over Thoughtseize? Nonetheless, namesake Gatekeeper of Malakir looks particularly potent against Eldrazi, cleanly dealing with Reality Smasher and leaving a 2/2 body behind to block any Mimics lingering around. Kudos for the win Asier Picón! It's always great to see fair, non-blue midrange still having success.