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This Week in Legacy: SCG Players' Championship

This week Legacy was under the lights thanks to the SCG Player's Championship. The three rounds of Legacy, although brief, brought some of the best players on the SCG tour, along with some pretty wild and interesting deck lists. We'll have a look at those, along with other notable decks from a few other sporadic tournaments. Aether Revolt also brought us a new Tezzeret, which we'll also try and give a bit of analysis.

SCG Players' Championship

Although a multi-format event, featuring Standard, Modern and Legacy, I will only, of course, be concentrating on the Legacy portion. It must be noted that due to the small player pool in this event (16), there was a lot of room for bizarre metagaming decisions within decklists, though some players did simply settle on a list that they felt was tried-and-tested, rather than innovate too much, due to the time commitment required for the other formats. Let's have a look at the breakdown of the sixteen Legacy lists:

The metagame ended up quite varied, though interestingly lacking in pillars such as Eldrazi or Death & Taxes, with many players either opting for decks they were more comfortable with (Caleb Scherer on Storm, Joe Lossett on Miracles, for example), decks that had a reasonable amount of flexibility (4c Delver), or decks that could brute force through the competition, such as Sneak & Show, Infect, and Lands. That's not to say there weren't some eyebrow-raising lists: Aluren was certainly an interesting choice from Jeff Hoogland, though I'm sure his Modern preference for toolboxy green creature decks had a say in this. Gerry Thompson brought Grixis Control to the tournament, similar to the Dig-era Pyromancer decks, and Tom Ross, Infect master, brought Lands!? Let's have a dive a bit deeper.

Jeff Hoogland's Aluren list took the white splash the furthest we've seen so far, compared to lists we've seen in the past such as this, and had a great finish of 2-1 in the Legacy portion. There's notably no more shenanigans with Veteran Explorer either, though there is shenanigans with Academy Rector in this list. This gives the deck multiple ways to find Aluren, as a Rector sacrificed to a Cabal Therapy could potentially lead to a win on the spot. Rector can also be tutored with Recruiter of the Guard, giving excessive Recruiters some kind of utility. Also interesting is the Quickling in this list, which although in some cases is sub-par compared to Arctic Merfolk (as it must have a card bounced and hence cannot be played alone in certain situations), it gets the same job done when comboing out, and its 2/2 flying body can be potent against the Delvers of the world.

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The sideboard bullets are typical white hate-creatures, such as Containment Priest and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Orzhov Pontiff I already raved about last week, and is certainly an upgrade compared to Minister of Pain found in most lists. Interestingly Hoogland also found room for two Force of Will, despite the list's middling blue count of seventeen against combo post-board. I'm not sure whether some more hatebears like Meddling Mage or even Sanctum Prelate would be more suitable.

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While on the topic of Aluren, I'd like to continue to speak about the continued innovation in the pure BUG versions as popularized by Magic Online player Cartesian and others. As I've mentioned in previous weeks, these lists eschew the white or red splashes for respective Recruiters (hence having a more stable mana base), causing them to be unable to combo out with only Aluren and a Recruiter in hand, and must assemble the Harpy / Parasitic Strix combo manually... Sort of. Cavern Harpy and Aluren along with any value creature such as Baleful Strix creates a pseudo-Yawgmoth's Will that should allow the missing piece to be found. Furthermore the BUG lists play a bit more synergistically and have a much more defensible grindy value plan with redundant Cavern Harpys bouncing Baleful Strix and Shardless Agents until the opponent has no more resources to either stop the combo or stop the idiot brigade. The upped blue count also makes Force of Will more viable in the main deck.

New additions to the archetype include Glint-Nest Crane and Traverse the Ulvenwald.

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Crane is impressive as a creature that, like Strix or Agent, can dig very deep for the final Parasitic Strix to assemble the combo. Furthermore, it blocks like a champion with its 1/3 flying body, and also can accrue value by hitting a Baleful Strix or Shardless Agent when played naturally. Who needs to Brainstorm Ancestral Vision to the top when you can Brainstorm a Strix to the top and get it with Crane, and then bottom the rest of the cards! Glint-Nest Crane also can dig for sideboard cards like Tormod's Crypt and Powder Keg / Ratchet Bomb.

Green Sun's Zenith is quite the non-bo with Shardless Agent, but Traverse the Ulvenwald isn't, and with Delirium being quite achievable with all the artifact creatures in the deck, especially when post-board Cabal Therapy is thrown in the mix, the card is a reasonable replacement. Also important is that it can find a non-green creature such as Cavern Harpy or Parasitic Strix required to combo, or even just a Baleful Strix for value. Sideboard land bullets like Karakas also get more valuable with Traverse.

Find a list touting Traverse here and Cartesian's recent list touring Crane and Traverse below:

It's incredibly interesting how cutting away the Recruiters and hence the bevvy of tutorable options has led to more interesting cards being included. I'm keeping my eye on these lists, as I wouldn't be surprised if they're the new hotness coming up.

Next we'll look at Gerry Thompson's Grixis Control list:

Gerry brought essentially Delver-less Grixis Delver, replacing Delvers with Strix and trimming some Daze for grind cards like Painful Truths, though I'm surprised to see no Kolaghan's Command. Pyromancer, Probe, and Cabal Therapy are all still here, though, indicative of the deck following the more grindy, value-orientated spectrum that Grixis Delver can often find itself in. Replacing Delvers with more grind cards isn't something that hasn't been seen before, but Gerry's deck certainly looks like an interesting direction to take the Grixis lists.

4c Delver was one of the breakout decks of the tournament, and Kevin Jones showed its spiffy stuff in the first round on camera:

Everyone should be quite well acquainted with this deck now, as its been continually putting up impressive finishes. Kevin trimmed a Daze and added more flexible disruption spells such as Counterspell and Thoughtseize, indicative of the deck's more midrange direction. Leovold, Emissary of Trest is also a card that is continually popping up in these lists and also found his way into the Grixis Delver list of Andrew Tenjum despite its only light splash of green. Leovold is continually proving that he's not just exceptional in the BUG midrange shells like Shardless, but really any deck which can accommodate his strict color requirements.

Speaking of BUG shells, PCK adapted the 4c stock list into only three colors:

This deck does not forsake the core of Snapcaster Mage and True-Name Nemesis that has made 4c Delver so successful, but does replace red cards with cards such as Hymn to Tourach and Thoughtseize. Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage are truly best friends though, and although Disfigure has been included in here (similar to how Jim Davis is a big fan of it in his BUG lists) to provide similar interaction, there is nothing quite like closing out a game with the good ol' "Bolt, Snapcaster, Bolt." There is less of a lean tempo style of gameplay available due to the lack of Lightning Bolt, and that ability to turn the corner quickly and flex between aggro and midrange is the biggest boon to 4c Delver that this list lacks. That being said, I'm sure the deck can still be quite effective. Getting to Snapcaster a Hymn, although ambitious, sounds delicious if it resolves.

Going more wild with BUG... What if Delvers were replaced with the ultimately underplayed Spellstutter Sprite?

Mutavault, Vendilion Clique, and Bitterblossom add further Faeries for Sprite to power-up, though even just as a flash creature countering a one-drop spell like Brainstorm, Sprite does more than enough work. Umezawa's Jitte also helps make the 1/1 fliers effective threats, though it and Bitterblossom leave the deck prone to Abrupt Decay. Spirite has been seeing a fair bit of an uptick recently in play, surprisingly, but also is a value-filled two drop similar to Baleful Strix that can scale well into the late game. It's certainly great against combo due to its ability to not be beaten by Duress. Against the Eldrazi and other non-blue decks though... It may be a little ineffective.

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Caleb Scherer has been well-known as a Storm aficionado and did not deviate from his typical path. However, he did add a few small innovations to his deck list that some ANT lists have been gravitating towards.

Chrome Mox is the big difference here and has been something that Caleb has been well-known for running in his sideboard in recent lists. The reason for this is to combat decks that can deploy fast, permanent-based hate, such as Eldrazi's Chalice of the Void or Death & Taxes's Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Chrome Mox allows the deck to more reliably cast Ad Nauseam and hence allows the deck to assemble a fast kill with only a scant amount of resources. This is a strategy well-known in the The Epic Storm variant that has always desired to go faster than its ANT brethren.

Lastly let's look at the Lands list that took Ross away from his expected Infect...

There's three cards that are a bit different from mainstream Lands lists:

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Molten Vortex is something that has become more and more common in Lands lists to diversify removal options now that Sanctum Prelate is part of the format. Furthermore, it's just a great card that's a fair bit more efficient in terms of mana compared to Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows. Barbarian Ring is also a similar card to diversify removal against Death & Taxes, especially as a colorless source to get through Mother of Runes. Crop Rotation into Ring to kill a Mom-protected Prelate sounds like an excellent plan to beat the card that would otherwise ruin the whole deck. Ancient Tomb is lastly a concession to combo decks. Crop Rotation on the first turn for Tomb allows for a fast Sphere of Resistance or Chalice of the Void which can get under discard spells. Ross also ran Ghost Quarters over Rishadan Ports, which we've seen is a pretty common trend. I'm sure it certainly was a boon against the midrange decks that populated the Players' Championship.

Before we move on, we can look at some other ways to Loam. One comes from a Legacy League 5-0'ed by DNEELEY.

Loam Pox is what this is, built on the interaction between Smallpox and Life from the Loam to generate resource advantages. Typically Black-Green, DNEELEY has incorporated a red splash for Punishing Grove, making this list look more Land-like than typical Pox lists, especially with the pile of utility lands such as Maze of Ith, The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale, and the Dark Depths kill. Entomb makes an appearance in this list too as a replacement for Gamble with a little bit more utility thanks to the Retrace spells like Raven's Crime, along with the dinky classic finisher of Nether Spirit.

Meanwhile, this list is a 4c Loam list splashing a color. Rather than red for Punishing Grove, blue has been splashed for everyone's favorite new Elf, Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Furthermore, Chalice of the Void is not included in the main of this list, giving room for more acceleration with Deathrite and more flexible removal with Swords to Plowshares now that Punishing Fire is gone. Meddling Mage makes an appearance in the sideboard furthering the blue splash, and interesting main deck inclusions are Maverick favorites Sylvan Safekeeper, Scryb Ranger, and the new Liliana, the Last Hope.

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Looking back to the Players' Championship, the rest of the lists were relatively stock. Brad Nelson took very stock Sneak & Show, which he's well-acquainted with, to a 3-0 finish, as did team mate Todd Anderson (2-1). Other solid 2-1 finishes were Joe Lossett on his typical Miracles, Jim Davis on his Stifle / Dark Confidant BUG Delver list, Andrew Jessup on typical "Ordered" Elves, and Jacob Baugh on a Lands list similar to Ross.

Aether Revolt's Tezzeret

The new Tezzeret is revealed and sadly... reasonable. Perhaps not Legacy playable without some maneuvering.

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The first ability is very interesting - a ramp effect in Blue-Black, which is of course useful for Metalcraft purposes or Goblin Welder shenanigans. The second ability is also quite effective as a repetitive kill spell in the correct shell. The last ability also occurs incredibly fast (only needing two upticks), but also isn't game-winning compared to other planeswalker ultimates. Per usual, Tezzeret in Legacy has to compete with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which it compares quite unfavorably to, but it also compares incredibly unfavorably to Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, who is a staple in Tezzerator shells. Adding some dinky artifact tokens is nothing compared to the raw card advantage these cards provide. The only time I feel this card would be useful is its minus ability and its relatively high loyalty upon entry. A fifth planeswalker in Tezzerator that can control the board may be useful compared to the grind engines it currently uses. But I'm unwilling to think of it as a shoe-in. However, Liliana, the Last Hope has proven how powerful repetitive removal is, and perhaps Tezzeret may be played in Tezzerator in a similar way, though ticking down instead of up compared to new Lili is certainly a detriment.


Here ends the recent This Week in Legacy. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas coming up, and I'll see everyone just before the New Year for the next edition! As always, feel free to contact me at the details below for any Legacy advice, information on interesting lists, or just some banter. I'm always happy to hear about Legacy.

'Til next time!

Sean Brown
Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

And catch me on The Salt Mine for more Australian banter about Legacy!

What I'm Playing This Week

I’d like to give a big shout-out to Scabs after I mentioned him last week. Mainly because he is this guy:

The master Death & Taxes player Thomas Enevoldsen, one of my greatest Legacy idols! Unfortunately I was not able to associate the username with the man himself, and for that I apologize. Nonetheless, I was glad I got to highlight his list and his card choices, and certainly I’d love to congratulate him on the excellent finish with his deck.

Speaking of Death & Taxes, I’ve been touting this list:

The most impressive card I found in my recent weekly was this guy:

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Palace Jailer drew me mountains of cards against Miracles and was an excellent tutor target, especially with him being uncounterable. He allowed me to conquer Sulfur Elementals, outdraw Jace, the Mind Sculptorand be reused again after being Terminused thanks to another Recruiter. That being said, he was not without risk and really creates an interesting subgame with the opponent. In week’s ahead, finding the best timing to utilize him will be key to obtain his huge upside.

The Spice Corner

Essentially a green-splashing version of the White Stompy lists, replacing Eldrazi with a Zenith package and... Loxodon Smiter? Sweet.

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