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This Week in Legacy: MKM Paris and SCG Syracuse Classic


Welcome to another This Week in Legacy! This week, after our big update last week, we will be looking at a few more large tournaments in the form of MKM Paris and the SCG Classic in Syracuse and the new technology each of these events debuted. In particular, last week I hinted at a new breed of Miracles list coming to the fore and this week I’ll delve into that a little deeper, along with presenting other new takes on existing archetypes – including an interview!

So first let’s dive into MKM Paris!

MKM Paris

Let’s first have a look at the metagame breakdown as shown on the MKM event page:

Most interesting is the prevalence of Death & Taxes, which although I imagine has a strong matchup against Death's Shadow, the Grixis Control matchup is perhaps a little difficult with Kolaghan's Command still a force in the metagame. As always, Death & Taxes has the “budget” Legacy deck appeal, which gives a bit of a boost to its numbers. Grixis Control and Miracles seem to be very close now as the Blue control decks of choice, with Grixis slightly edging out Miracles who was the eventually winner of the tournament. In terms of tempo strategies, as expected, Shadow had plentiful numbers, but surprisingly Blue-Red Delver equaled it, a deck not really on people’s radar in previous tournaments. I think Blue-Red Delver is looking like more and more of an exciting choice in the metagame, and I will outline why in a moment. Following these decks is a mix of the usual hyper-proactive combo decks (Sneak & Show, Reanimator) and prison decks (Eldrazi, Dragon Stompy).

Now, on to some lists. Let’s look at the Top 8:

Deck Player Placing
Miracles Yohan Blanchard 1
Death & Taxes Yann Brecy 2
Blue-Red Delver Simon Drochon 3-4
Blue-Black OmniTell Jean-Mary Accart 3-4
Maverick Tristan Polzl 5-8
Grixis Delver Martin Gelee 5-8
Grixis Control Yann Baudequin 5-8
Grixis Control Nicolas Wallian 5-8

And firstly, the winner:

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This is a Miracles list that looks surprisingly dated, utilizing old technology like a boatload of Counterspells and Unexpectedly Absent as flexible removal of choice. This list also really highlights Predict as a centrepiece of its strategy, unlike newer Miracles lists which are gravitating to different card advantage engines. It does however utilize Counterbalance as a permanent-based card advantage engine like recent lists. I also like Search for Azcanta in the main, which has often found itself in the sideboard recently, as an enchantment that really puts a wrench in the Grixis decks’ plans.

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In the sideboard, we also find quite a suite of Red cards, including Blood Moon, Blasts, a card quite uncommon in Miracles sideboards (but certainly could be a little more popular!) – Izzet Staticaster!

Looking next to the Blue-Red Delver list:

I’m a huge fan of a list like this moving forward. The metagame has distilled itself to a place where 1) People are playing a lot of non-basic hate, like Back to Basics and 2) People are playing huge creatures, like Angler and Death's Shadow. A deck like this is therefore a perfect metagame choice, with its basic lands and a card that’s looking more and more relevant currently, despite losing his best friend Gitaxian Probe:

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Young Pyromancer is very castable under a Blood Moon if you have a basic Island in your deck, and can create chump blockers for days that can stop a Shadow or Angler from smashing apart a player's life total. True-Name Nemesis is another headache for the Shadow decks that this deck gets to take advantage of. I also like Dead// Gone as further outs to Anglers (and giant Marit Lages).

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I am less a fan of these two cards, however. Stifle feels like it is a frustrating card to take advantage of in this deck when you are utilizing mana-intensive threats like Pyromancer (often a three drop) and True-Name Nemesis. Pyromancer in particular I don’t like with Stifle. Playing Pyromancer and then holding up Stifle on turn three can lead to some wasted value, especially if Pyromancer is killed and you wished you’d cantripped instead. I am sure this can work, especially when Stifle is used and obtains value in turns one and two, and then a Pyromancer goes haywire against a mana-screwed opponent, but it leads to enough awkward draws that I’d sooner utilize more versatile cards like Spell Pierce or even just some more cantrips.

Bedlam Reveler also is quite dissynergistic with situationally useful cards like Stifle and Spell Pierce. Not only can these cards rot in your hand and lead to Reveler being uncastable, but a Reveler cast can lead to a pile of useless Stifles and Pierces drawn in the late-game. This is quite different to Reveler’s role in traditional Burn Blue-Red Delver, where he can be a huge threat and a pile of freshly drawn burn spells to close out the game. He also clashes with the two main deck Grim Lavamancer!

The last incredibly exciting list comes from the ever-crazy Mr. Jean-Mary Accart with… Blue-Black OmniTell?!

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The big appeal to the Black splash has always been, of course, Thoughtseize (which synergizes excellently with Show and Tell, carving away any nasty things the opponent could put into play), along with the two-mana pseudo-tutor Lim-Dul's Vault, which can find any missing combo piece, typically, but put it on top of the library. It’s notable that it also allows setting up a chain of spells that can easily lead to an Omniscience kill.

Most notable in this list though is the inclusion of more creatures than just Emrakul! [[Baleful Strix] finds its place in these lists as a bit of value against fair decks (particularly Delver) while being a cantrip when Omniscience is in play and a pitch card to Force of Will. It seems like a very reasonable addition as the metagame gets more and more fair.

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The sideboard is also pretty crazy, including some Wishboard standards but also fun cards like Flash of Insight for raw card advantage against fair decks, I imagine, and the most flexible Blue cards in Magic that’s typically a bit too expensive for Legacy – Cryptic Command.

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There’s also a pile of creatures too – from Snapcaster Mage and an extra Strix to turn further into a Blue-Black combo-control deck to Nightscape Familiar to… Ramp out Show and Tell, Intuitions and Cunning Wishes, I guess? I’m a bit lost on this one.

SCG Syracuse Legacy Classic

Next, let’s move to the SCG Syracuse Classic of the 16th of September! First let’s have a look at the Top 8:

Deck Player Placing
Blue-White Helm Jeffrey White 1
Death& Taxes Dale Smith 2
Blue-White Stoneblade Michael Van Vaals 3
RUG Delver Jacob Saracino 4
Big Eldrazi Greg Gentile 5
OmniTell Nick Cummings 6
Elves Charles Azuelos 7
Miracles Zach Allen 8

This is quite an exciting Top 8, with RUG Delver featured (hooray!),OmniTell making another appearance along with Stoneblade feat. Gideon of the Trials! But what I would really like to feature prominently in this week’s article are the two main deck Terminus-touting decks. Firstly, Zach Allen’s Miracles:

Yessir, that is four Accumulated Knowledge finding their way to Legacy.

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The Miracles hivemind have been at it again trialing a new card advantage engine which found prominence on Magic Online initially as can be seen here. Although a little clunky looking, Accumulated Knowledge is excellent to fill out turns in a similar way to Predict. Unlike Predict, however, Accumulated Knowledge requires very little setup other than the deckbuilding costs of having it as a four-of, as can be seen with Zac’s slimmer cantrip suite. It also is a little more advantageous than cards like Search for Azcanta and Counterbalance because it cannot be interacted with other than on the stack or via graveyard hate. It also has some great synergy with Snapcaster Mage and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria who appreciate AK’s instant speed.

What also made AK a player in the current metagame is the death of Deathrite Shaman. AK looks pretty embarrassing when a Deathrite can shut down the benefits of additional copies in the graveyard, but that is not the world we live in anymore. Perhaps there are more cards along the lines of Accumulated Knowledge that can now be reconsidered as useful…

I’d lastly like to talk on the deck of Jeffrey White – Blue-White Helm! This deck has been on everyone’s radar for some amount of time, with it consistently appearing on Magic Online and Top 8'ing and Top 16'ing Paper events. Jeffrey approached me because he felt the deck needed a bit more exposure – and I totally agree. Here’s my interview with Jeffrey White about his experience with Blue-White Helm and his Syracuse event. Enjoy!

Sean: Hey Jeff! Please tell us a bit about how you began playing Magic, and what led you to play Legacy?

Jeff: Hi Sean. First off, thanks for the interview! I began playing Magic during the summer before my senior year of college, right when M15 was coming out. A friend of mine was in my town to Draft and invited me down to the LGS. He taught me the basics of the game and the color identities. I had known of Magic but having a friend to play with really helped me take the first steps into the game and stay hooked.

For me, Magic is a competitive outlet, so Legacy was always a goal for me to play because of the intricate sequencing decisions and the variance reduction of the cantrips. I eventually bought into the format around the time Top was banned.

Sean: How do you feel about the format in the wake of the Deathrite and Probe banning?

Jeff: Well, I know I’m hopelessly biased here as I was a Grixis Delver main before the ban announcements, but I’ll still throw in my two cents. I think the new format is better for spectators, but worse from a grinder’s perspective. While Grixis Delver had bad matchups, you were still around 30-35% in them. Currently I don’t feel there is a deck you can play that doesn’t have a sub 20% win-rate vs. some part of the meta, which leads to more games decided by matchup variance and less by in game decisions. Maybe that’s more in line with what Magic should be though, and I was just coddled by having such a strong, consistent deck.

Sean: Let's move on to the decks you've been playing in Legacy since. How did you come to play Blue-White Helm in the Syracuse Classic?

Jeff: I basically started working on Helm when the bans were announced. Early on Red-Black Reanimator and RUG Delver were both decks on everyone’s minds. I had some experience playing Miracles but was never that impressed with its Red-Black matchup; Nimble Mongoose being a one-mana True-Name Nemesis against you isn’t great either. However, I remembered that Joe Lossett had been playing a Helm deck even before the ban announcement, and it was kind of an “aha!” moment for me, because Rest in Peace is great against both of those strategies! Joe’s deck was more all in, omitting powerful cards like Swords to Plowshares, Terminus, and Counterbalance to combo quicker and more consistently. I felt that was incorrect, and basically built the deck to be a control deck with a combo finish, as opposed to a dedicated combo deck.

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Sean: Tell us about a few of the card choices. Firstly, the suite of cantrips, and Predict:

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Jeff: Sure thing! One of the biggest differences between Helm and Miracles is that you can’t play Snapcaster Mage, meaning that you’re going to Brainstorm less over the course of a game. Because of this I wanted nineteen lands and eleven cantrips to reduce the chances of both flooding and drawing redundant combo pieces. Brainstorm and Ponder are auto-includes, and I went with Preordain over Portent because this deck plays a lot fewer instants than regular Miracles, so the delayed draw is a much bigger downside. Preordain is a lot better when you’re behind, which is where you want your cards to be good. Predict does a great job of getting rid of extra RIP’s or lands, and has nice synergy with Counterbalance. As a side note, you can’t really play Accumulated Knowledge and Rest in Peace in the same deck, so Predict is the best two-mana option by far.

Sean: Next the removal:

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I feel that three Swords to Plowshares and two Terminus is the right amount of creature removal. Because Rest in Peace + Energy Field is sort of the ultimate removal spell against most creature decks (Death & Taxes being a notable exception) you don’t need to load up on as much. Again, not playing Snapcaster means fewer Brainstorms, so I didn’t want to overdo it with the amount of Terminus I ran.

Sean: And counterspells:

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Jeff: Aside from the ubiquitous Force of Will, I play a counter suit of a couple one mana soft counters (Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm, and most recently a Spell Snare) along with three Counterbalance. Legacy can be a very fast format so cheap interaction is a must. Counterbalance works very well with the deck, as it allows you to tap out later in the game for your enchantments or Jace while still having interaction for your opponent. This deck also doesn’t play that much in the way of raw card advantage, so having a card that slowly accrues value over the course of a game is very welcome.

Sean: And finally, the centrepieces, the enchantments:

Jeff: I see we saved the best for last! For anyone who is less familiar with the archetype, this deck looks to assemble one of these two card combos:

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Rest in Peace + Energy Field: Energy Field prevents you from taking damage from your opponent until a card hits your graveyard, which Rest in Peace prevents from happening. In game one, this is lights out for a lot of strategies, such as Delver decks, Goblins, Lands, and Eldrazi Aggro.

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Rest in Peace + Helm of Obedience: Helm is one of those old cards that’s worded weirdly, and its activated ability won’t end until the opponent puts X cards into their graveyard (X being what you paid for Helm’s activation cost). Because Rest in Peace stops cards from ever being placed in a graveyard, activating Helm with RIP out will cause your opponent to mill their whole library.

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Aside from this core, I added Counterbalance for the reasons mentioned above, Back to Basics as another lock piece/must counter threat, and Humility to combat Sneak & Show and Death & Taxes.

Sean: What cards particularly overperformed? Which cards underperformed? Any changes you'd make moving forward? Please tell me about that one-of Daze...

Back to Basics and Humility were definite overperformers, sometimes winning games single handedly. On the other side of the coin, Search for Azcanta was a failed experiment. It just has too much anti-synergy with the deck and doesn’t belong in this archetype. The list I ran at SCG Syracuse is what I would run going forward. The changes there mainly reflect the fact that Sneak & Show, RUG Delver, and Death & Taxes are less represented in the meta, and have been replaced with more Death’s Shadow, Grixis Control, and Miracles.

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The Daze… man I could write paragraphs about the Daze, but I’ll try to keep in concise. You bring in Daze vs Delver variants, and it’s one of your best cards in the matchup. The way Delver decks are currently constructed, I think it’s often incorrect to play around their Dazes. Delver has a wide range of disruption and from a pure numbers perspective you’re more likely to get your key card Spell Pierced or Force of Willed or Thoughtseized or Pyroblasted than Dazed, so it isn’t worth time-walking yourself. Because of this you jam/tap out more often, and in these situations you really want to have zero mana interaction to push through your spell.

Sean: Why should you play this over more typical Miracles or other Blue-White control decks?

Jeff: The Helm deck usually plays shorter games (great for large events/mental stamina) and can steal wins from positions that Miracles never could. You also generally have to answer fewer cards that the opponent plays. Miracles has to answer nearly all of the threat’s from the opponent and establish complete control of the game. With Helm, you always have a straightforward path to victory (combo) which means that you have some leeway with what cards you let resolve, and being able to end the game with one five mana play (Helm + activate) gives combo players less time to draw the cards they need to win. Main deck Rest in Peace is also an insane boon in some matchups even disregarding Helm and Energy Field (this is the case vs Temur Delver, Miracles, Lands, Grixis Control, Storm, and of course Red-Black Reanimator).

Also if I’m being honest, this deck is a lot easier to play than Miracles, and I’ve always had the philosophy that you shouldn’t make things harder on yourself if you can avoid it.

Sean: Feel free to leave any shout-outs and comments!

Jeff: I definitely have to give a big shout-out to my brother, Michael White. Michael has spent a lot of time playtesting with me and helping me figure out certain matchups/sideboard plans, even though practicing vs. a fringe deck isn’t the most relevant experience for him. If that’s not love then I don’t know what is.

Conclusion

That wraps up our recent This Week in Legacy. Join me next week as we talk about cards like this…

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And how Guilds of Ravnica will be shaping the metagame moving forward.

Before we wrap up, some useful links:

Til next time!

Sean Brown

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

What I’m Playing This Week

I’m a huge fan of the Blue-Red Delver list that appeared in MKM Paris, and so I thought I’d do a little tinkering. I think this list is very well-suited to a world  of Assassin's Trophy we may soon enter, especially the card Young Pyromancer!

If I was to build this list I’d probably look to something like this:

I think the sideboard Snapcaster and Search are exciting experiments I’d like to try in these style of Delver decks, that don’t have access to planeswalkers like Liliana, the Last Hope or enchantments like Sylvan Library. I also really like Price of Progress as a supremely powerful burn out plan for matchups like Shadow, Grixis Control, Eldrazi and of course Lands.

The Spice Corner

I’m a big fan of this archetype moving forward and I think there’s a lot of unexplored space that’s seen success in Modern that can be transported to Legacy. Interestingly, this list took a purely Blue-White route, giving it a cleaner mana base but avoiding cards like Kitesail Freebooter, of course. One card I’m surprised to see (but speculative of) is the Thalia before Thalia existed – good ol’ Glowrider. A little underpowered for recent Legacy, but perhaps due to the Human synergies in this list he’s worth it as supplementary disruption.

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You can find MTGGoldfish’s outline of the deck in the recent Instant Deck Tech here!


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