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This Week in Legacy: MtGO Brewing and Commander 2018

Another week, another This Week in Legacy. In this week’s, we’ll be jumping into all of the interesting brewing that has been going on in the post-Deathrite and Probe world, particularly on Magic Online. Let’s also have a look at some of the cards from Commander 2018 that might be Legacy-relevant. Let’s go.

Brainstorming without Deathrite Shaman

Probably the greatest unexplored space in the new format is how to “solve” the UBx decks of the format that have now found themselves Deathrite-less. Many criticized the flexible “BUG shell” (pun not intended) featuring Deathrite and premium Black disruption and removal as homogenizing many decks. Perhaps this is true, because now decks have a big question on how to fill those empty four slots. Is using Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch acceptable? What if we just include some additional Black discard to keep the curve lean? Or what if we restructure our deck completely?

I think the best BUG shell I’ve seen so far is Bob Huang’s recent BUG Delver list. It’s the closest thing to looking “solved” and at a point of just minor tuning moving forward.

With Deathrite out of the picture, BUG Delver has to take a lot of inspiration from its RUG cousin and become leaner, eschewing clunky cards like Hymn to Tourach and Liliana of the Veil that the acceleration of Deathrite enabled. The Stifles are certainly indicative of this, pushing this list into more of a “Dark Threshold” shell rather than “Team America,” but Bob’s list also takes advantage of recent printings that also enable a leaner BUG Delver list for the modern era.

I’ve harped on the question “what is the best Gurmag Angler shell in the new world?” a little too much, but Bob Huang seems to of found exactly that in his BUG Delver list. Angler fits the streamlined tempo game plan very effectively, essentially replacing the sometimes anemic Nimble Mongoose of RUG for a slab of muscle right next to Tarmogoyf. This is quite the payoff for exchanging Black for Red, though it does give the deck some issues against Swords to Plowshares-based decks.

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Fatal Push is another critical printing that gives the deck a leaner removal suite than it had in the past, particularly pertinent against the format’s top dogs of RUG Delver and Death & Taxes. No longer does the BUG deck have to rely on the flexible, but somewhat clunky, Abrupt Decay. Of course, both of these removal options do not provide the reach that Red-based Delver decks pride themselves on, but I’m sure the huge threats the deck has makes up for that.

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The only issue I have with the list is the Thoughtseizes, which to me are not particularly synergistic with the Stifle/Daze/Wasteland mana denial plan. Why do you need to rip cards out of the opponent’s hand when they're mana is crippled anyway? Furthermore, tempo decks pride themselves on countering threats when they are on the stack, only needing to utilize mana reactively rather than proactively use discard which can often be a tempo-negative play (you spend mana to remove their threat that they did not have to spend mana on). Having access to Black discard gives this list a much more multi-pronged angle of attack against combo than RUG that I can certainly appreciate, however, and sideboard Thoughtseizes are a staple of any Black Delver deck I am tinkering with.

I would tweak the list to something like this:

That being said, I certainly trust Bob’s deck building and I’m sure that it’s an excellent starting point. I think a list like this certainly would appreciate a sideboard map and comprehensive plans on how to attack each matchup.

Moving away from Delver, what about the BUG midrange decks of the format? We’ve already seen a few lists touting Noble Hierarch over Deathrite to enable Leovold, Emissary of Trest, as well as Grixis Control lists continuing the Kolaghan's Command and Baleful Strix action. Clashed has even continued his experimentation with Four-Color Control feat. Punishing Fire and Dack Fayden, 5-0ing with this wild list:

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No Deathrite, no worries! At heart his list is a Grixis list splashing for the Punishing-Grove creature-suppressant, so it’s not too wild a proposition. But Clashed also bizarrely included Counterbalance in his list too… “If Miracles can do it, why can’t other Blue control decks!” The sideboard makes comprehensive use of the Green mana from Grove via Decay and old favorite like Firespout and Pernicious Deed, sideboarding into the truly greedy Four-Color Control deck we know and love.

A deck that surprisingly seems to have legs in the new format is Shardless BUG. Although Deathrite enabled its somewhat fragile mana base and made sure it could get to three mana to make its big plays, a restructuring of Shardless’ mana base and addition of a multitude of one-drops to keep it above water in the early turns makes it a strong choice, particularly against creature-heavy decks and against Blue-White control shells. Although cards like Entreat the Angels or a topdecked Jace can spell Shardless trouble, its game plan of ripping the opponent’s hand apart and the burying them in card advantage looks very strong otherwise. Local player Leon Raymond recently took 1st place in a local store tournament at General Games in Melbourne, Australia with a sleek-looking Shardless list:

A deck like Shardless looks like an excellent place for Leovold, Emissary of Trest in the new world, since Leovold naturally pairs incredibly well with discard. Shred apart their hand with Hymns and Thoughseizes (especially any removal for Leovold) and then slam the Elf Advisor, neutering any cantrips drawn in later turns. Leovold also gives the deck an excellent plan against Storm thanks to the sideboard Mindbreak Traps which Shardless did not previously have. A long time ago, Shardless players sideboarded a White source and Meddling Mage just to have a fighting chance against combo while also not cascading into an awkward Flusterstorm. Now that’s unnecessary, as there is a hate piece in BUG colors.

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Note that the major place Shardless has had to make concessions is in the mana base. Previously lists could find room for some utility Wastelands as well as something like a Creeping Tar Pit. With Deathrite gone, Leon has opted for a rock-solid mana base to fight against the Death & Taxes and RUGs of the world. And I’m completely on board.

Speaking of Shardless Agent, the other big Shardless variant was Aluren, who also has had to contend with Deathrite being gone.

The Aluren lists have now become flush with discard (in this case Inquisition of Kozilek, but I could certainly see a split with Thoughtseize) to replace Deathrite, which keeps the curve of the deck the same as old times. I really like the addition of Coiling Oracle again and could definitely see a second copy – its occasional mana ramp ability does a close enough Deathrite impression. Note that otaba played a similar list finding room for some Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, who is another card that certainly benefits from Deathrite’s banning and it not feasting on the graveyard.

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What I like most in the list, however, is the sideboard Tarmogoyfs. Aluren has always been a pseudo-combo deck, and the Tarmogoyfs I’m sure are there for Stompy matchup or where it’s simply impossible to combo and a win condition that is a little less anaemic than the random Birds of Aluren. Plague Mare is also seeing its place as an excellent new addition over cards previously used like Minister of Pain. The Mare needs no sacrifice while still being a reusable wrath in conjunction with Cavern Harpy.

Otaba’s other list is a little crazier:

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Clashed and otaba both emphasize the renewed strength of the Punishing-Grove combo now that there is no Deathrite to fiddle with it. This list is very interesting in that due to Punishing-Grove it retains the grindiness of typical BUG lists – but also now has the instant-win of Aluren + Imperial Recruiter. Since this list is more focussed on resolving Aluren therefore, it makes sense for Birds of Paradise to make an appearance. Shardless Agent into Birds of Paradise sounds like an utterly miserable experience, however…

Food Chain similarly hinges on resolving a rather clunky enchantment and also benefits from Birds of Paradise, perhaps more so than Aluren because it doesn’t have to worry about the issues of useless Shardless cascades. But it also gets to play a neat little one drop to replace Deathrite that not only synergises with its own game plan, but also can disrupt opposing ones.

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Relic of Progenitus looked a little lackluster when Deathrite was around (since Deathrite could basically do Relic’s role but… Even better) but now it is a very serviceable one drop that can poke away at the opposing graveyard and then be cashed in for a card at a later opportune time. I think Relic gets a huge boost from cards like Nimble Mongoose too. Relic puts those mongooses back in their cage, while also having huge upside in matchups against Reanimator, Dredge and even Storm. And of course, Relic makes sure that any Eternal Scourges or Misthollow Griffins that somehow end up in the graveyard go back to their rightful place – the exiled zone. Scavenging Ooze included in the main deck I’m sure is a similar concession now that Deathrite can no longer do that job.

There’s few other way to explore: Bant Stoneblade looks like the best fair shell for Noble Hierarch, though BUG Zenith may give it a run for its money (feat. Managorger Hydra?!). Not to mention even crazier BUG shells like Lincoln Baxter III’s BUG Lands list! I think the best way to navigate how to build your fair UBx shell is honestly just to jam some games and get a feel for what works.

Brewing Non-Blue Fair Decks

There has also been recently a propagation of non-Blue fair options particularly in the Mardu color combination (Black-Red-White). These strategies have been enabled (or at least improved) by a new printing that I’m sure many Legacy players would’ve looked over – Sticher's Supplier.

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This card enables a lot of graveyard synergies, particularly with cards like Cabal Therapy, Lingering Souls and any of the Delve threats (or pseudo-Delve threats, as we’ll soon see). I think this card is particularly gross with Therapy, since it triggers on both entry and exit from the battlefield. It’s also a Zombie, which we’ll soon see is quite relevant:

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Zombardment is back baby. With no pesky Deathrite poking around, the stream of Gravecrawlers, Bloodghasts and Carrion Feeders are free to roam and become cannon fodder to Goblin Bombardment, killing an on-board creature and the opponent. Stitcher's Supplier oils the gears of this deck, making cards like Entomb less of a necessity, though perhaps there is room to experiment with that card still, especially since a one-of Bridge from Below can do monstrous damage. I also really love that the deck has a random Plan B of turboing out a Gurmag Angler (who is also a Zombie!).

The second deck is a deck that has been seeing continuous brewing since its debut in Modern. Now with Stitcher's Supplier it can recalibrate itself after its loss of both Probe and Deathrite.

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This deck is less reliant on pure synergy like the Zombardment deck, but does feature a similar core of Lingering Souls, Cabal Therapy, Stitcher's Supplier, Cabal Therapy and Faithless Looting to fill the graveyard and get value. Surrounding this core, however, is the Modern Mardu Pyromancer deck, abusing Bedlam Reveler as a way to grind the opponent into the dust. The Reveler can be cast incredibly quickly thanks to Stitcher, as well as fueling, of course, a token army of Young Pyromancer, who we all known and love as Cabal Therapy’s best friend. Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows adds further graveyard synergy elements to this deck and a recursive way to control the board.

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Whoever said Cabal Therapy was dead now that Probe was gone?

The last deck I’d like to feature is another Modern deck, sort-of.

Hymn to Tourach and single Bayou are the only Legacy-legal cards in this Jund Shadow deck, and perhaps this is the way to play Legacy Jund moving forward now that Deathrite is gone. The big draw to this deck to me is a card previously untouched in Legacy, but with Deathrite gone and Delirium a possibility, Traverse the Ulvenwald looks to have a lot of potential.

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In this list it is of course just redundant copies of Tarmogoyf or Death’s Shadow, enabled effectively by Street Wraith and Mishra’s Bauble. But I do think Traverse has potential elsewhere, in a multitude of decks. Perhaps a BUG shell featuring Baleful Strix (for the artifact creature types). Perhaps in Infect, maybe swapping Ponder for Baubles now that it has space with Probe’s banning, for an easy tutor for Inkmoth Nexus or Blighted Agent. I think Traverse could even enable a Four-Color midrange shell (similar to the Four-Color Shadow lists in Modern) because Traverse’s ability to fix mana isn’t something to be scoffed at. It feels like there is honestly a lot of untapped potential in the card waiting to be unleashed on Legacy.

Commander 2018

Lastly, let’s have a look at some of the Legacy-potentials from Commander 2018. I don’t think there’s too much to look at this time, but perhaps there is some diamonds in the rough.

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Aminatou, the Fateshifter is a bit low-impact for a three mana walker, when we’ve been used to cards like Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope. Its plus ability doesn’t even create raw card advantage, but it does work very nicely with cards like Terminus. Its second ability plays nicely with enters-the-battlefield triggers (so Stoneblade comes to mind), but means that the card cannot truly protect itself against other creatures. It’s ultimate also is definitely not an “I win the game”. I’m not convinced.

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Saheeli, the Gifted looks to have potential in a Tezzerator shell or even some kind of Goblin Welder shell (Blue-Red Painter, perhaps?) since the Servo tokens have a lot of synergies possible. Her second ability also looks to have some crazy possibilities (Emrakul, the Promised End casting is the ambitious way to think). However, the four-drop slot now has stiff competition, especially with Tezzeret, Dack and Karn, Scion of Urza in tow. I expect Saheeli to sadly just not be good enough.

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Tuvasa the Sunlit is a very exciting addition to Enchantress, and perhaps a compelling reason to splash Blue over the more typical Black for Doomwake Giant. Although prone to removal like Fatal Push (which the deck is normally unconcerned with), Tuvasa can get very large and outside of Lightning Bolt quite easily, allowing Enchantress to switch gears from prison to aggro if needed. It also does a reasonable Argothian Enchantress impression by cantripping once per turn when an enchantment is cast, giving it more utility than just a beatstick.

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Lord Wingrace is very expensive, and perhaps a little too low-impact for five drop, but could get the nod as one of the grindy planeswalkers available to 4c Loam. Its first ability will typically draw two cards a turn (especially in conjunction with Loam) and its second ability is… Basically a mini-Loam. It also makes a bunch of Cats. That’s pretty cool.

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Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow gets everyone’s brew juices going, since Ninja’s are definitely some people’s favorite creature type. And they have shown their validity in the past, bouncing back creatures like Baleful Strix, Spellstutter Sprite and Snapcaster Mage. Her cheaper converted mana cost and burn ability compared to Ninja of the Deep Hours also gives her the nod there. Maybe something like this is feasible…

This looks very, very fun and reminiscent of Delver from Pauper (bouncing Spellstutter Sprite with a Ninja is quite the feeling) but also has the possibility of being a real clunker.

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Endless Atlas has potential as a draw engine in a deck like Dragon Stompy, whose basic Mountain heavy mana base makes activating it relatively easy. I think there is more efficient options out there, like set-and-forget four mana options Coercive Portal, Outpost Siege or any of the Chandras.

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Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor has an incredibly interesting design and reminds me of a somewhat grindier Goblin Rabblemaster. The opponent can let Varchild sit on the table and poke them for three turn after turn, but eventually, as the Survivor army amasses, Varchild will need to die. I don’t know where this card will find a home (Dragon Stompy is the first thing that comes to mind) or even if it’s Legacy playable, but it does raise my eyebrows nonetheless.


That wraps up This Week in Legacy. As always, enjoy some content from around the net:

Til next time!

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I’m Playing This Week

Let’s try build Traverse Infect… Again.

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Is this utterly terrible? Am I a genius? This seems like warping the deck a bit too much for the sake of Traverse (Seal of Strength? Please...) but Traverse at its full power is incredible in this shell, getting Blighted Agent which is typically inaccesible along with Inkmoth and any of the utilty lands. It gets Spellskite out of the sideboard too!

The Spice Corner

Release to the Wind…?! I can’t really fathom why this card is playable, but I guess it can re-trigger Stoneforge or Snapcaster. But isn’t it otherwise just like a very expensive bounce spell? I suppose it can save a Jace or Stoneforge from a stray removal spell.

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