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This Week in Legacy: Rediscovered Potential and an Interview with LewisCBR


Welcome to another This Week in Legacy! This week we'll be running through a few things. First, we'll be looking at a few cards that are getting revisited and their potentials newly realised thanks to new context - be it the metagame shifting in the post-Top world, or some new printings from Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation looking to be promising tools in combination. We'll then, as always, have a look at the recent Legacy Challenge results, as well as interview the man on top of the Legacy League trophy board - Michael "LewisCBR" Lewis!

Rediscovered Potential

I've been meaning to look into this for quite sometime - a big analysis of cards that have existed in the format for quite some time already, who are a part of fringe strategies and archetypes that have been seeing a bit of a Renaissance in the post-Miracles world. Think of this as a confluence of all the Spice Corner material until now. Nonetheless, there has been tonnes of brewing going on currently, and many of these brews have started to get recognition - either via promising finishes on Magic Online or a tonne of chat on forums or social media. Let's dive in a bit deeper.

Monastery Mentor

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The Monk, the myth, the legend. Monastery Mentor has become a staple powerhouse ever since Claudio Bonnani took the Monk to 1st place at GP Lille. Mentor has also found himself once again a premier threat in the newer Miracles shells, whose velocity thanks to Predict can really fuel some explosive Mentor plays in the late-game. However, Miracles has largely been using Mentor as an end-game win condition, and Mentor simply slots into the hard-control shell, rather than the deck being centred around the Human Monk. More aggressive usage of Mentor has been little seen since Patrick Chapin busted out Esper Mentor some time ago. But if anything, now is the prime time for Monastery Mentor to flood the board with less Terminus present.

Nicklas Lallo a.k.a. "ItIsUnfair" on Magic Online has been known to pilot multitudes of crazy brews (check out some of his Thing in the Ice stuff!), but he's been quietly tinkering away at a very impressive new Monastery Mentor shell. He took it to a 5-2 finish in the recent Challenge, and it looks... Quite good!

There's a few amazing synergies in this list. Firstly, Monastery Mentor and cantrips is obviously good, but Urza's Bauble is an additional piece of the puzzle with Probe and the usual suite to trigger Mentor and make some Monks. Furthermore, Urza's Bauble makes Cabal Therapy also on-point for more hand-shredding action. It's a big boon unique to Mentor, compared to the smaller Pyromancer, who is a lynchpin of the very similar Grixis Control lists. Nicklas' list also similarly tops-out with Angler to get some value from the extreme cantripping.

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Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is also a card that Nicklas has been giving a lot more exposure. With the bevvy of zero-mana cantrips, Erayo is able to flip incredibly fast, not to mention after a stack war on the opponent's turn.

That being said, Mentor can get even more aggressive. Mentor has the golden Stompy mana cost of 2W, and hence he can combine very nicely with Ancient Tomb, as I've been doing in my recent Bomberman lists, to appear on turn two. From here, the Baubles can fuel some busted starts. Caleb Durwald has been trialling something similar to ItIsUnfair but with a Stompy bent:

Certainly less consistent, but definitely more explosive. Another pile of cards that I think definitely need highlighting is the Baubles.

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These certainly have untapped potential next to Monastery Mentor thanks to being additional zero-mana cantrips. There's also all the neat benefits they provide of essentially shrinking ones deck, though being a "slow cantrip" does have it downsides, making them speculative for hitting land drops, for example. Counterbalance no longer around means that they'll always be live late draws, at least, rather than simply being fodder to feed into the lock piece.

I think another card that can be investigated in these shells is Thoughtcast, which Caleb previously trialled.

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Vintage has been abusing Monastery Mentor and Thoughtcast over the course of last year, with North American Vintage Champs finding the deck in 6th place. Without as many Moxen, Legacy ends up falling a little bit short in turning on Thoughtcast in a traditional Blue cantrip shell, but perhaps in Caleb's Chalice of the Void deck, it has promise.

Maybe something like this...

As much as I'd love Paradoxical Outcome to be good, it is a bit pricey for Legacy.

Death's Shadow

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The Modern all-star has been quietly weaving his way into Legacy, on the back of Delver-esque decks such as Josh Utter-Leyton's Blue-Black Delver profiled at GP Vegas a few weeks ago. It makes a lot of sense, with Swords to Plowshares at an all-time low thanks to Miracles being less present.

However, a few lists have appeared that focus exclusively on the Shadow and his synergies, such as this Blue-Black list and a BUG list by Clone9.

More recently, Noll3n ported a very Modern take on Shadow to Legacy. There's quite a few interesting choices, including a lack of Brainstorm...

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Stubborn Denial has also been seeing a little uptick in play. With Abrupt Decay at an all-time low, Denial is a pure-tempo way to protect threats such as Shadow, Angler, Goyf or Hooting Mandrills from any removal flying around, as well as being an excellent card to have when clocking combo in the mid-game. It does, of course, have a pretty lackluster failsafe when a threat is not on-board, however, and only two copies seems pretty justifiable. Liliana, the Last Hope has continually been on my radar as a great choice for any fair Black-based deck, and I highly consider people to trial her, despite poor combo applications. Here she can revive any Shadows that have been Pushed, gun down small creatures and threaten to make a horde of Zombies.

Also note this deck takes the Turbo Xerox deck-shrinking to an extreme once more, featuring full sets of Probe, Street Wraith and, interestingly, Mishra's Bauble.

Lake of the Dead

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A long time ago, Lake of the Dead was used to power out Necropotence, and has long been seen as the most potent card in its cycle. I've seen no conversation about Balduvian Trading Post, sadly. Like the depletion lands (eg. Sandstone Needle) it can power out some reallyreally scary monsters. And that's exactly what Bob "Griselpuff" Huang has been up to.

We profiled this list a few weeks ago from Japan, but Bob has tuned this into a pretty menacing masterwork along with ewlandon, with Lake of the Dead + Urborg a pretty stylish bit of synergy. Note that this list also gets to keep a high reanimation spell count despite being Animate Dead-less, which is included in its Red-Black peers.

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Here, Unburial Rites turns late Entombs into reanimation spells. Collective Brutality once again ties this deck together as a powerful disruption or removal tool. I'm really excited to see this deck join the stables of viable Reanimator variants, and its two-pronged game plan is a big boon. Find Bob's new thread on The Source here.

Helm of Awakening

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Helm of Awakening (and other cost reducers, like Ruby Medallion) have long been potent tools from the past of Magic, but Helm's symmetrical nature can can shoot its caster in the foot. Powering these out via Ancient Tomb is pretty neat, but what are the payoffs? With the advent of Hazoret's Undying Fury, there may be enough to build a Mono-Red Storm deck:

mistercakes has been putting in tonnes of effort on The Source, and the build is looking quite promising. This is reminiscent of the Dragonstorm deck that was in The Spice Corner some weeks ago, and perhaps adding main deck Blood Moon can make this deck a new Stompy-combo hybrid ala Mono-Red Sneak Attack. Medallions and Helms basically gives the deck equivalents of Wheel of Fortune, Mind's Desire and Yawgmoth's Will. Not to mention Act on Impulse is once again seeing play after its presence in Doomsday! There's probably some evolution to go before this deck gets anywhere near honed. But another Belcher-esque deck is never bad for the format... Right?

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03/07/17 Legacy Challenge

Next, let's look at the recent Challenge that went by!

Deck Player Placing
Blue-White Stoneblade pedroj 1
Jeskai Stoneblade MzFroste 2
Jund qbturtle15 3
Grixis Delver Andrea94 4
Grixis Delver Patxi 5
Grixis Delver ballestin93 6
Death & Taxes Olivetti 7
Death & Taxes Egget 8

That's a lot of Grixis Delver, and a surprising amount of Death & Taxes too. I guess Calderon's win is bolstering players Online. Suprising was also the presence of two very traditional Stoneblade decks, proving that these decks can exist alongside the neo-Miracles builds - which is a pretty nice metagame development.

There's a few decks I'd like to highlight that made appearances. Firstly, the Jund list:

qbturtle15 actually entered at the top of the Swiss with this super streamlined Jund list, featuring zero Punishing Fire, zero Bob, and three Grim Flayer. This is quite a proactive, aggressive, take on the archetype. Chandra, Torch of Defiance also is an excellent bomb the deck can now utilise.

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At 15th - Soldier Stompy!

Four Palace Jailer makes a big statement on the strength of it in this archetype, but it makes a lot of sense. The deck has so many creatures to gum up the ground that Jailer can live up to his full potential as Bob crossed with a removal spell. The most interesting deviation from traditional versions of this archetype is the addition of Aether Vial. I guess Vial is pretty nice to cheat creatures in when the opponent is locked under Trinisphere! That being said, I feel Chalice is certainly a bit more backbreaking in general.

Selfless Squire I also imagine is quite neat against other aggressive Stompy decks like Eldrazi - or even Turbo Depths! Take 20 on the crackback?

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Interview with LewisCBR

This week, as the current season of Legacy Leagues wraps up, I got to shoot some questions off to the man with the most trophies at the end of it all - Michael "LewisCBR" Lewis. Well-known for the huge amount of tuning he's done on "stock" Stifle Grixis Delver versions (here in Melbourne, we actually call these "LewisCBR Delver") and his countless amount of 5-0s, I got to ask him about his history with the game and how he keeps on smashing out all those victories. Enjoy!

Sean: Tell me a little about yourself, your history with Magic, and, in particular, Legacy?

LewisCBR: Hi Sean, thanks for the interview! So, the classic A/S/L to start things out, eh? Props to anyone who remembers old school AIM and ICQ chats. My name is Michael Lewis, I’m thirty-six, and I currently live in Colorado, in a town that is twenty minutes outside of, and in-between, Denver and Boulder. I moved here about five years ago from Washington D.C., where I’d previously lived my entire life.

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I started playing Magic in 1994, during Revised. I remember being introduced to the game by a good friend of mine who lived a few houses down. We had great fun slamming Serra Angels into Sengir Vampires, but eventually my competitive nature took over and I started going to local Type 2 tournaments. I remember the creation of Type 1.5 (the precursor to today’s Legacy format) in 1997, but at that point I was still happily attacking with White Weenies. I slowly stored all my old non-Type 2 legal cards away as the sets rotated.

It wasn’t until much later that I started to gain interest in Legacy. Legacy was officially created in 2004 and I had graduated college by then, started making money in a real career, been addicted to many other games in the meantime, and then rediscovered Magic. When I went into my basement and started sorting through boxes and boxes of old cards, I found my Wastelands, dual lands, and Force of Wills that are the building blocks of almost every deck I play today. I was never one to get engrossed in grinding GP’s or PTQ’s, because of all the other things in life, so I mostly played locally and Online. When Online Leagues became a thing, I knew this was where I could show my ability.

My biggest regret was when I started to play in Paper tournaments again and I resigned up for a DCI number, because I couldn’t remember my original. Eventually, it was discovered that I already had an old DCI number that was a sweet 5 or 6 digits long, since I had started playing sanctioned tournaments in the mid 1990’s. In an e-mail to the DCI, I asked for the two accounts to be combined, but didn’t specify which account I wanted to keep.  They ended up deleting the old account after the combination, so I have to use the typical 10-digit number for tournaments nowadays, which always brings a tear to my eye. The mad street cred was lost.

Sean: So the deck you’ve been piloting is Grixis Delver. What led you to your particular build of the deck, that has now become a staple of the archetype?

LewisCBR: I’m certainly not going to take any credit for the creation of Grixis Delver, or jamming Stifle into Grixis Delver, but that is the version I’m currently in love with. When I got back into Magic and Legacy, I was a huge fan of Threshold tempo decks. Sean, your #RUGLyf primer that you wrote in 2015 is a fantastic piece of work, and the Part 1: History section brings back a lot of memories of the decks I liked to play. For a long time, I was a RUG Delver guy.

However, I distinctly remember playing in a side event at Grand Prix Los Angeles, just last year, in 2016.  I brought RUG Delver and was paired up against a Grixis Delver player. We eventually came to a board state of me with Nimble Mongoose and a Tarmogoyf, and him with a Deathrite Shaman and a Gurmag Angler. I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous, I am getting crushed here.” and I realized it was time to move on from RUG if I wanted to remain competitive.

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Due to my RUG roots, I figured Stifle would work perfectly fine in Grixis colors, and it has. The Stifle version of Grixis Delver is a little more aggressive and far more tempo’y than the typical Cabal Therapy version. Stifle helps make the deck ‘more blue’ and plays well with Force of Will, which is a card I typically leave in some number of post-board in every matchup. Without Cabals main, and aggressiveness being the focus of the deck, I shaved Young Pyromancer down to two copies and played two copies of True-Name Nemesis instead. I’m in the business of doing damage, and I wanted the deck to be as evasive as possible. True-Names, Delvers, and Deathrite Shaman all provide repeated and hard to stop damage. A couple Young Pyromancers and Gurmag Anglers finish off the threats, because it is very difficult for any opposing deck to find the right removal to take care of everything this deck throws at them, especially through the deck’s disruption. A lot of people call my threat base unfocused, but I like to think of it as well-rounded, since you have Ponders and Brainstorms to find what you need. I think a trademark of my version of Grixis Delver is the 2/2/2 split of Young Pyromancer, Angler, and TNN and then three Stifles. I do not like to be flooded on Stifles. But I love tempo and I love messing with my opponent's mana.

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Sean: How do you keep yourself continually motivated to 5-0 Leagues again, and again, and again? What is the secret to your success?

LewisCBR: I rarely get tired of playing the deck, which helps a lot. Once you find that deck, your deck, that fits your playstyle perfectly, and is super fun to pilot… Well, it is an amazing feeling. I don’t think Delver decks and tempo strategies will ever get boring for me. It feels like you are in the middle of a well-written song, when the deck is humming along, and every play is the perfect note at the precise time.

Also, though, I remember watching the stream of fellow online grinder MatsOle one day. As he was 5-0’ing Leagues I sort of jokingly asked him, “Mats, how can I get better and 5-0 Leagues like you do?!” to which he replied: “Play more than everyone else.” It was a simple answer, but actually pretty spot on. This season, I dedicated myself to play around two Leagues a day, give or take, or about ten Leagues a week, just to see what would happen. Turns out, you can 5-0 a lot of Leagues with that kind of experience and a finely tuned seventy-five. Conversely to that, though, I recommend not playing too much. Once things start to feel formulaic, you can get into a bad rut that easily leads to frustration.  If I find myself getting tilted over typical variance losses, I know I’ve played too much and should set it aside. I think that is why I usually like to play a League in the morning, when I feel fresh and alert, then maybe one more in the early evening or late at night when there is little other distraction.

Sean: Is there any other decks you play in Legacy?

LewisCBR: I’m not sure why it is, but I’ve been fascinated by the smaller Eldrazi creatures since their printing. Even though the deck is on a bit of a decline in Legacy, the creatures still feel insane to me, and I’m really just an aggro player at heart. If I want a change of pace from Delvers and Brainstorms, I’ll pick up Eldrazi Stompy. I know, it’s considered a straightforward deck, but what can you do. Smasher into Smasher will always be a good time, even if my opponents don’t think so.

Sean: How do you feel about the current state of Legacy, especially after the banning of Top?

LewisCBR: As you and your readers might know, I was fairly vocal on Reddit about Miracles. The deck was busted for far too long and I had no problem expressing my opinion on the matter. There was a lot of pushback from that.  Downvotes galore. Miracles players would frequently reply with “git gud” or “you’re not attacking the deck correctly.” I felt like I knew enough about Magic, and the format, to vocalize that something was too good with Miracles. I’ve picked up the deck, for fun, and I knew I was doing things that I shouldn’t be doing so consistently, even in a format chock full of broken cards and combos like Legacy. People much smarter than me have tried to approach the Miracles matchup on various axes, and nothing's really worked.  Miracles kept winning and something had to be done.

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Then, Top got banned. I felt some vindication in that, but I also knew that I now needed to put my money where my mouth was. So, to add to your earlier question about what motivates me, I wanted to stick it to those salty old Miracles players who told me I needed to “git gud.”  I know it sounds a little harsh, but to me it felt like far too many players were leaning on the busted’ness that was Miracles and talking up big game about it, or talking down to other players like myself. I’d like to invite everyone to “git gud” and come chase me at the top of the trophy board!  Friendly competition is a wonderful thing and you can even bring the new Portent Miracles list with you, which I think is a very smart adaptation of the deck.

I am enjoying where Legacy is right now. The Top ban has obviously changed the meta, but it feels like it is in a great spot and all the other decks simply took up some of the meta share that Miracles had. Early in the season, there were a lot of combo decks like Storm and Sneak & Show. Delver decks preyed on that to where combo has receded a little bit. Now, we are seeing decks like Lands, Death & Taxes, and Maverick popping up and eating away at Delver. The cycle continues, we just don’t have one deck that is by far the best deck in the format anymore.

Sean: Any other thoughts or shout-outs you’d like to make?

LewisCBR: Sure, I’d like to thank all my buddies in the secret Delver Chat. In between all the goofing around, we sometimes get to discuss real strategy that has helped me a lot. I also enjoy running into and chatting with the other Online grinders. You see a lot of the same faces when you play everyday and most are very pleasant people. Legacy truly has the best community of folks. I don’t want to name names, because I know I’ll forget someone, but thanks!

It has been a very fun Online season for me, the first Online season since the Top ban, and I’m proud to be on top of the trophy board. I’m excited to see where Legacy goes from here as the format is super sweet. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll be able to travel more, participate in the big tournaments, and slap my real name at the top of those leader boards, too.

Lastly, I don’t get time to stream often, maybe once a month or so, but here is my channel where you can find me when I do. Tune in for some high-level Delver play, sick tunes, and general shenanigans!  Find that at http://www.twitch.tv/lewiscbr.

Conclusion

Thanks once again for reading This Week in Legacy. As always, here's some of the Legacy content that was also released within the week!

The first thing I'd like to mention is The Salt Mine Episode 15 was just released, featuring some pretty special guests. Friends Ethan Gaieski (GP Montreal Top 8er, interviewed in March!) and Alex Jay Chen - the duo behind twitch.tv/realmongoosehours, a fantastic stream with some of the most hilarious banter, as well as some exciting Legacy tempo brews getting play. We chat about GP Vegas and tons of other random topics. Find that here.

Phew, that wraps us up!

'Til next time!

Sean Brown

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

What I'm Playing This Week

I am a lover of Cabal Therapy, Pyromancer and turbo-ing out Angler, and I've been keen to try out the sleek Grixis Control list from Vegas for quite some time. This week, I may take that plunge:

There might be some tweaks to be made. Many have convinced me that Deathrite Shaman actually deserves his spot here, despite turning on removal. Because, y'know, Shaman is Shaman. That being said, ItIsUnfair's Mentor list is also appealling for similar reasons to this list. Hopefully I'll be able to trial both and see how they feel in the weeks ahead.

The Spice Corner

I can't get enough of the brews going on in the Philippines:

This is quite something, mainly because it features original granddaddy Pox.

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Also, Tombstalker!


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