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This Week in Legacy: Reinvigorated Archetypes and CanCon 2017 Legacy

Hello! Welcome to another edition of This Week in Legacy. We'll continue to analyse the metagame as Aether Revolt continues to weave its way in, particularly after a few older archetypes have gotten a bit of a reinvigoration thanks to the current midrange metagame. I also have a bit of a story to tell with my experiences this weekend thanks to the Canberra Games Convention, featuring one of the few large Australian Legacy events within the year!

Some Old Fair Decks Return

When the metagame begins to gravitate in a more midrange direction, many archetypes once deemed too ineffective against combo can once again flourish, as they have ways to out-resource the current BUG decks that are in vogue, as seen in the breakdown of the Time Vault Games Invitational in Portland, Oregon, with three variants found in the Top 8.

Landstill was a classic archetype of Legacy, aiming to outresource the opponent by using Standstill and creature lands, along with instant-speed spells to be cast once Standstill was cracked, to overcome opposition. Typically Blue-White (which essentially evolved into Miracles), Blue-Red, or BUG (recently highlighted by The Brainstorm Show), Blue-Black has also been a consideration, though its removal suite has typically been very restrictive with Innocent Blood as the prime one-mana removal option. Now, of course, Fatal Push has come into relevance, making a pure Blue-Black shell worthwhile.

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Lam Phan, Standstill maestro and Legacy deck designer since the dawn of the format, brought a new Blue-Black Landstill to a Top 8 finish at Face to Face Games Legacy Showdown in Toronto, modeled somewhat after his New Jersey Blue-Red list, but subbing Bolts for Push and padding out the rest of his removal with Diabolic Edict.

Lam featured some heavy-hitting spells that are becoming more and more important as the metagame develops. He featured two True-Name Nemesis in his seventy-five who, along with Jace and creature lands, were his threats of choice. Diabolic Edict was a further nod to the presence of True-Name (and Eldrazi), and Deluge and Engineered Explosives out of the sideboard are also certain to help.

There were some oddball choices though. Damnation and Engineered Plague were some interesting sideboard choices to utilize. Damnation is particularly risky as a sweeper that has to push through Daze or be taxed by Thalia. Plague, although great when set to Monks, Elves, or Humans, is somewhat narrow.

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I'm also surprised by the choice of Gitaxian Probe over a card such as Ponder. There's no real interaction notable with discard like Cabal Therapy in this list (though making Snapcaster Mage a Silvergill Adept is nice), so it's only really being used for information purposes and adds "air" to the deck, in some ways.

From the same tournament also came three (yes, three) Deadguy Ale lists. This archetype has a long history after debuting second at the first Legacy GP ever, piloted by Chris Pikula, but in essence is a Black-White deck at core, aiming to utilize disruptive or value creatures along with hand and land destruction to beat the opponent. They often involve some amount of light acceleration, especially with Dark Confidant being an absurdly powerful turn one play.

Wilken Chau's list was the highest placing in the tournament, coming in at third:

An incredible pile of midrange goodies, this list abuses one of the most powerful triumvirate of fair creatures in Legacy - Deathrite Shaman, Dark Confidant and Stoneforge Mystic - all of which also look great with Chrome Mox for a brutal turn one. Shriekmaw and Hero of Bladehold round out the creature suite and both have interesting roles. Shriekmaw is excellent in matchups like Eldrazi, as a perfect removal spell that also can double as a body later in the game. Hero of Bladehold supplements the tokens theme of the deck. Lingering Souls is featured here too, and Cabal Therapy can make use of the fresh bodies. A pretty typical package of discard, Liliana, and Plows round out the deck, and one of the big appeals to splashing White, Vindicate, is also found.

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The sideboard is rounded out by a micro-splashed Abrupt Decay and Gaddock Teeg, but then features a pretty varied assortment of cards. Deluge, Persecution and Explosives are an excellent suite of sweeper options, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is an excellent bomb in tandem with Lingering Souls. Humility, and Ensnaring Bridge, likely due to their strength against Show and Tell. Further combo decks are addressed by Sanctum PrelateRest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, and Faerie Macabre add graveyard hate options.

This Deadguy Ale core can also be extended into a Junk list with Tarmogoyfs, that took an excellent finish in my home of Australia, but I'll save that list for later in the article!

4c Loam has been a continuous contender and needs no introduction, but in a similar vein to Deadguy Ale's resurgence, 4c Loam is likely to find some wider success, grinding out the fair decks of the format with the help of turn one Dark Confidant. The deck also has some strong outs to problematic BUG cards like True-Name via it's abundance of removal curving into Liliana of the Veil

The threat suite of the deck has seen some variation in Japan, cutting the classic Knight of the Reliquary with a card similarly synergistic with lands:

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Lands has shown us how powerful Tracker is, and with Loam, Tracker becomes not only huge, but an alternative card advantage engine to complement Bob and Sylvan Library.

Further ways to grind out the opponent include Renegade Rallier, a solid, value-filled three drop and Centaur Vinecrasher, who I'm glad is finally seeing more play!

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With Knight absent, Vinecrasher takes on a similar role while also Trampling through road blocks like True-Name. It also comes back again and again very easily, via Cycling lands, Loaming lands, fetching lands... You get the point. He's somewhat slow, however.

Niche Archetypes Get Some New Tools

Grixis Tezzerator also got some time in the limelight at the Face to Face tournament. Typical inclusions like Chalice of the Void and Thopter-Sword make appearances, though these feel poorly positioned in my mind due to the prevalence of Abrupt Decay. The deck did find some interesting ways to recoup cards other than the usual Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Thopter Spy Network is certainly interesting, creating a machine of Thopters to take down the opponent. Padeem, Consul of Innovation from Aether Revolt also makes an appearance and was certainly not on my radar. Giving artifacts hexproof to defend from cards such as Decay while also being a card advantage engine gives Padeem a lot of strength. Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast is also revealing himself as continually excellent in these shells.

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Moving to Japan, Imperial Painter also found itself with some new technology courtesy of Aikawa Yuuki, who has been championing Mono-Red Painter for quite some time. As I mentioned last week, Blood Moon strategies are in a strong position, and I would not fault anyone for taking Painter to any tournament coming up.

Hope of Ghirapur always looked like it had some potential in Legacy, but little did people think that Painter would be the place. But it makes incredible amounts of sense as a piece of protection for the Painter combo. Hope can poke the opponent in the face, sacrifice itself, and then the Painter-Stone combo can be assembled without worry of countermagic or removal. It also has some incredible synergy with Goblin Welder, making any artifacts lying around potential Time Walks against decks leaning hard on non-creature spells. I'm surprised both Spellskite and Hope made the cut though, and I'd look to trimming these redundant pieces of Decay protection.

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CanCon 2017 Legacy

Canberra Games Convention is a convention primarily concerned with wargaming and board games, but also host one of the few big Eternal Magic events we have here in Australia, including Vintage, Highlander, Block Wars (!) and, of course, Legacy! So I'll give quite a self-indulgent run-down of the standout decks of the Legacy tournament held in the capital of Australia.

Nicely enough, I was able to make Top 8 of this fifty-four person tournament with the pretty wild breakdown:

Eight different decks represented within the Top 8, including a few oddballs we'll have a look at. Of course, the Death & Taxes player - that's me! I had a pretty stellar run we'll talk about later.

The 2nd, 4th, 7th and 8th placing lists are the ones I'd like to highlight most.

At second, Elijah took a pile of White-Black-Green cards. Junk.

When a list like this can be successful, it's a strong indication the metagame is getting quite fair, as these decks have always been prone to getting destroyed by combo decks. Similar in vein to the Deadguy lists I just posted, but leaning harder on Green mana for a fast clock in Goyf and increased amounts of Decays and a singleton Maelstrom Pulse. If anything, this is like Jund without Punishing Fire, replacing it with the power of Stoneforge and Umezawa's Jitte, which is looking more and more potent as the metagame proceeds. Certainly nothing revolutionary, but perhaps better positioned than it once was. I'd love to find room in this list for some Lingering Souls, as fliers suited up with a Jitte have always been hell for a variety of fair decks.

Tim Evers certainly drew a lot of inspiration from Matthew Brown, who I interviewed, the mastermind behind the framework of this so-called "UR Delver Control" deck. It has a huge number of basics, zero Dazes, and a stronger endgame than most Delver decks with Snapcaster and True-Name in the mix. Tim made some changes. Notably, he found room for some Jace, the Mind Sculptors in the main and also added some Blood Moons to the sideboard to further punish the mana base of decks full of non-basics. I'm glad that Matt's deck has been picked up and proven itself as a true contender; Tim Evers was also an exceptional player who really understood Matt's philosophy behind the deck and piloted it excellently.

Fellow cast member of The Salt Mine, Goblin King Steven, found his way into the Top 8 with the deck he's been working hard at: 4c Delver. He's eschewed many of the changes Ben Friedman has adopted, such as Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and has instead kept it as lean and aggressive as possible. His countermagic suite is purposely varied, expecting a metagame biased somewhat fair, with Spell Snare and Counterspell shining against decks such as those while still being strong against combo, unlike Spell Pierce which can look very awkward in certain fair matchups. Hard counters are damn powerful, especially with Snapcaster.

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Another cool piece of technology is the singleton Umezawa's Jitte in this Delver deck, taking a nod from the Reid Duke True-Name BUG lists, further pushing this Delver deck to be full of fair deck trumps and full of aggression. Tombstalker is similarly geared to beat up BUG decks, flying over True-Name ground stalls and dodging Abrupt Decay. He's incredibly positioned currently. He's certainly hard on the mana though, and may require a Badlands in place of a Volcanic Island as Friedman has adopted.

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The main is incredibly full of fair cards, but the sideboard makes life hell for combo, boasting triple Thoughtseize, triple Surgical Extraction, and a Flusterstorm. The huge amount of angles this deck gets to interact with combo via discard and countermagic is certain to remedy problems of drawing the wrong half of the deck game one. Steven certainly had a field day against combo, beating Storm twice throughout the day.

Lastly, the eighth place Aluren list was a Recruiter of the Guard list, but took a lot of nods from recent Aluren developments:

Leovold, Emissary of Trest found some slots here too, unseen in many previous White lists, as did some additional consistency enablers in Ponder and Intuition, pushing the Blue count incredibly high and making Force of Will supportable, which is not often seen in the four-color Aluren builds. Shane did have to push the Decays to the sideboard, however, angling his main deck configuration to be purely about comboing and making certain hatebears potentially difficult, though Cabal Therapy is likely to do some work.

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Post-board, Shane also has access to some pretty wild silver bullets. Orzhov Pontiff is relatively standard for the White version these days, as is Reclaimation Sage and Faeries. Vendilion Clique being tutorable is also a nice value play. Loaming Shaman is a bit off-beat, however, but is likely a further concession to Reanimator and Land strategies, being a bit slower, but doing a little more work than Faerie Macabre.

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There are a few further breakdowns I've also manufactured from the deck list data I've received for this tournament. You can see graphics of the Top 16 breakdown and the full breakdown.


That wraps us up for this week's edition. Expect some more personalized information about my CanCon weekend coming soon somewhere, including a pretty thorough tournament report! For now, enjoy some sweet, sweet further reading/listening:

Furthermore, I'd like to a give a big thank you to anyone who came up to me, or sat down across from me, and spoke fondly about these weekly articles at CanCon, along with anyone who has been in contact. This positive feedback makes my day, and makes writing these always a pleasure.

As always, contact me if you'd like to speak about some Legacy or just have a chat. I'm all ears.

'Til next time,

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I'm Playing This Week

I made another Top 8 with my lovely Death & Taxes! Per usual, a bit of smart choices the night before, along with some tight play and a bit of luck brought me to a strong finish. The list I brought was this:

The thing I definitely did not regret was the second Crusader and the cutting of Palace Jailer and the second Prelate. Crusader was incredible as I faced down midrangey Black-based decks throughout the day, doing some amazing stuff impossible for any other creature, like cutting through a sea of seven or so Bitterblossom tokens. Jailer I still love, but I'll wait for the metagame to become less hostile to him before I find him a slot once more. I'd like to thank everyone, in particular reader Newton Hang, for convincing me of changing around my list and giving me their opinions on Death & Taxes. It's very easy to get attached and tunnel visioned into certain choices, and I'll be aiming to be less rigid in the weeks ahead.

In terms of matchups, I started the day out horribly, losing to Aluren due to being an idiot and getting blown out by Orzhov Pontiff and not having enough experience in the matchup. Just hold your Recruiter for when they go to combo, and you should be able to find a winning line! From there on I won out the Swiss, with my matches in summary:

Round 1: Aluren (1-2)
Round 2: BR Reanimator (2-0)
Round 3: Aluren (2-1)
Round 4: Dragon Stompy (2-0)
Round 5: Esper Faeries (2-1)
Round 6: Eldrazi & Taxes (2-0)

And then I quickly got crushed by a Bob with a Jitte on it - even Gideon couldn't save me! - courtesy of Elijah's Junk deck. Overall, I couldn't be happier as I went away with a Plateau and friend Stephen Tang took down the whole event with Miracles.

As a side note, I also got to play some Block Wars, where Block Constructed decks get to battle it out. And I brought one of my faves:

UG Madness is incredibly fun, despite getting crushed by Alara block Jund and Khans Esper Dragons (turns out hands with only Rootwallas and Wurms aren't that great...). How the heck does Odyssey block beat Ugin, the Spirit Dragon?

The Spice Corner

Dragon Fit? This list is very interesting in that it combines a Veteran Walkers package with Intuition, creating some interesting piles, particularly ones involving Haven of the Spirit Dragon, Life from the Loam and Dragonlord Ojutai!

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