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This Week in Legacy: Technology Post-Aether Revolt and GP Louisville


Another week, another This Week in Legacy! Today we have a pretty relaxed edition where I'll be covering metagame predictions after GP Louisville and Aether Revolt's debut. Expect not only some run downs of recent deck lists, but also some brews from me highlighting the newly printed cards.

January Legacy Challenge Corrections

Firstly, however, I'd like to remedy an oversight from last week's article, particularly my run-down of the Legacy Challenge in January. Although Manaless Dredge indeed 7-0'ed the Swiss of the Challenge (which is quite an achievement!), MTGGoldfish's data failed to account for the final Top 8 and how that broke down. And so, I have it below:

The Death & Taxes list that won the whole tournament was that of EronRelentless, which had a few interesting additions we'll talk about, along with the general Death & Taxes changes we may need to go through with the changing metagame.

Most notable are the Ghost Quarters on this list, likely a nod to budget constraints, as an additional flex land to the usual Wasteland and Port. Death & Taxes is highly likely to make the opponent fetch basics due to the presence of Wasteland, and this can make Ghost Quarter often a Strip Mine. Not to mention its power against Delver or greedy midrange matchups. The metagame seems to be somewhat heading in this direction, so indeed, adding a Ghost Quarter doesn't seem like such a crazy idea if the metagame is ripe for it. I wouldn't cut into any basic Plains for it though; it would likely fit in the Cavern of Souls, Horizon Canopy, or other utility land slots.

EronRelentless also fit a Sword of War and Peace into his list as additional equipment. This card randomly is impressive in many matchups: Burn, Miracles, the mirror. Like Fire and Ice and Jitte, it can also lead to a combo-kill with the favorite Mirran Crusader, despite EronRelentless sadly not running any. Certainly Phil Gallagher, creator of the excellent Thraben University, has influenced many with the majority of his lists touting one in the sideboard.

Phil also had an excellent article about his experience in Louisville and recommended one of the more oddball Swords as an excellent choice in the current metagame.

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As we'll see later in this article, two three drops seem to be currently dominating Legacy: Leovold, Emissary of Trest and True-Name Nemesis. These two cards are both a pain in the neck for Death & Taxes to deal with, and Sword of Fire and Ice is particularly ineffective against Leo (I don't draw card and you do what when I Shock something?!). And so we come to the Sword that has one ability that is largely irrelevant and another that can be... Okay (I mean, making Wolves is pretty cool). But the colors of protection have never been more relevant.

I also feel Death & Taxers may want to think hard about their threat base currently. Mirran Crusader is excellent at dominating BUG midrange matchups, except when a True-Name gets in his way. Serra Avenger is also very valuable in these matchups due to flying over problematic threats and racing them effectively. Sanctum Prelate gets a little less stock due to the diversity BUG lists have in removal. Getting your Prelate Abrupt Decayed or Fatal Pushed makes what number to choose a particularly hard choice.

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And so we come to my updated list:

A few small changes:

  • Palace Jailer in the main, to dominate fair matchups that are becoming a larger issue (more BUG midrange stuff). Then again, it's pretty poor against True-Name Nemesis, since the opponent can easily grab the Monarchy. This replaced the second Prelate, which was largely for the hard-lock against Miracles. Jailer provides such absurd utility in that matchup that a one-for-one swap seems reasonable.
  • A second Faerie Macabre in the side, respecting the fearsome Black-Red Reanimator which is one of our poorer matchups among the top decks. I've also found Lands to be getting more challenging with their Molten Vortexes, Barbarian Rings, and etc. to break Prelate's hard lock. Having extra hate there is also very welcome.

And so we've ended up at a list very close to Thomas Enevoldsen/Craig Wescoe!

The Cards Redifining the Format

Last week, I spoke about how BUG decks were getting incredible boosts in popularity in the weeks ahead. This week I'll take a bit more of a deep dive into the cards which are redefining what our threats and answers are.

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I was cautiously optimistic of Leovold, Emissary of Trest when he came out (you can see me talking about him here with SaffronOlive, along with other Conspiracy 2 cards and how wrong was I about Palace Jailer!). I spoke of him being certainly an excellent card, but may fall victim to being crowded out by other excellent three drops in the format, such as Shardless Agent. Turns out, I was thinking too narrowly. Leovold, Emissary of Trest has not only slotted excellently to many BUG decks, be it in three different Delver variants (BUG, 4c, Grixis), Shardless, or reinvigorated Food Chain lists, but has also created new archetypes, such as BUG Aluren and Reid's Louisville-winning list. He is everywhere, and we need to be prepared.

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Partnering up with him has been everyone's favorite obnoxious fish friend, True-Name Nemesis. This has largely been due to Leovold complementing decks featuring Deathrite Shaman (naturally) and needing another powerful three-drop haymaker to bring out on turn two. Although True-Name was once seen as being "too slow" and unimpressive without equipment, he's now found himself, especially with new and more powerful removal options on the horizon. Tarmogoyf has fallen terribly in terms of his effectiveness in recent times due to Gurmag Angler and Reality Smasher largely stealing his thunder, but True-Name scoffs at these and cuts through them quite easily.

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I glossed a bit on Fatal Push last week, but I think this card needs more hype around it then I initially thought. The Brainstorm Show's recent episode covered the card extensively (and nicely shouted out this column!) and certainly explored how it is not just a upgrade to Disfigure, making me think a lot deeper about where it will be found. Although Black Swords to Plowshares is a bit of an exaggeration, it does provide BUG shells with broad turn one removal in a similar way to Lightning Bolt. It does of course not have the utility of turning into a Lava Spike in combo matches, however, and hence might not find itself into four-of territory. Also note, Tarmogoyf again looks more and more horrendous, and untargetable threats like Nimble Mongoose, True-Name Nemesis, Reality Smasher, and Gurmag Angler or value-filled two-drops like Baleful Strix and Snapcaster Mage increase in stock.

Now let's jump into some lists. The first one I'm the biggest fan of capitalizes on Fatal Push giving BUG decks access to main deckable one-mana removal, making them much lower to the ground and less reliant on Deathrite Shaman to keep up the pace as they lean on clunky removal like Abrupt Decay. This list also aims to strand a lot of removal spells in the opponent's hands, either by Stone Raining them to death, or by bringing threats that are untargetable. It's RUG-style-BUG, it's Miracles Slayer Delver 2017, but it won't just be slaying Miracles, it'll be slaying many others. I hope.

The only thing I'm saddened by is the lack of effective sweepers once you run Goose and True-Name, as Golgari Charm is a fantastic card, and maybe just for this reason changing to a mix of Goyfs and Anglers may be good despite it ruining the slim, streamlined feel of this list. Note I've also kept a Dismember as well to ensure that Eldrazi and Anglers are still cleanly dealt with. Getting around Chalice is important, and the life loss is less relevant when we're base Black.

Looking away from Delver, lordofthepit2 took a very cool list derivative of the Czech 4c Control lists (Noah Walker played said list in Louisville), except he replaced the Tarmogoyfs for... You guessed it, more True-Name Nemesis. The only red cards in this list are two Lightning Bolt, a Kolaghan's Command, and three sideboard cards. Although losing Command is a little sad, cleaning up the mana base makes this deck a little more robust and able to run more Wasteland.

I'm going to keep harping on how sweet Liliana, the Last Hope is, especially in this shell. The value with Snapcaster Mage, Baleful Strix, and co. is just too much for me to handle.

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As a bit of tangent I'd also like to highlight kaluma's recent 5-0 Magic Online list. BUG Fish is what this should be called, I suppose, since it features not only Leo, but also Edric, Spymaster of Trest to get the cards flowing.

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Vialing in Baleful Strix (or Harbinger!) for some blowouts sounds kind of amazing, while still getting the usual fancy stuff BUG shells provide, like Deathrite and Decay.

Next let's look at a way to counteract the possible BUG domination that is going to be coming up. Pyroblast / Red Elemental Blast feel like the keys to breaking apart these decks aiming to jam blue haymakers like Leo and True-Name, and in an incredibly tempo-positive way. Furthermore, there is no deck better at capitalizing on the metagame increasing its curve overall than RUG Delver, with its plethora of Stifles, Wastelands, Winter Orbs and soft counters.

The excellent Kai Sawatari took the 6-0 of a Hareruya tournament in Japan with RUG Delver, using his friend Jonathan Alexander's excellent list. The main change is the addition of Sulfur Elemental.

I may drop a Spell Snare for a Spell Pierce, despite how high I've been on the card, as with three drops being so prominent it's looking a little lackluster. 

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Sneak & Show and Storm are excellent contenders once the flood of fair decks begins. Storm in particular, although it has to deal with Leovold acting as a hate piece, has traditionally had a strong matchup against the countermagic-light BUG midrange decks. A deck such as Reid's has a scant few way to interact and perhaps capitalized on the lack of Storm during Louisville. Although Eldrazi may still rear its ugly head against Storm players every now and then, with BUG decks pushing Eldrazi out its certain to be less and less of the case in the week's ahead.

Other combo decks may need further adaptations to combat this BUG craze though. Black-Red Reanimator, although able to speed through certain draws, has some trouble with BUG, as Deathrite Shaman can be very strong, and Abrupt Decay isn't even dead in the matchup; it can break Animate Dead! Collective Brutality is, however, one of the most potent cards against Deathrite and as a utility spell within lists. With more Deathrites, I think main deck Brutalities may be more warranted than ever.

Manaless Dredge has also excitingly put up some more 5-0 finishes in Magic Online courtesy of bgg88 and EtDilts, and I think this is largely because of its incredible strength and consistency in which it beats up Deathrite compared to other graveyard decks. With four Chancellor of the Annex, four Street Wraith, and four Phantasmagorian, the deck has many ways to get its engine kick started through the Elf Shaman, and its cascade of cards going to the graveyard will eventually lead to too many targets being feasible. The Shaman gets overworked against the deck, in my experience, certainly.

Moving away from combo decks, for fair decks, tailoring our removal options is also something to consider. Although in an ideal world we could be efficiently Pyroblasting all these threats on the stack, it's important to have answers once they're in play too. Toxic Deluge and Council's Judgment have never looked better.

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The two threatening three-drop creatures fall quite easily to these two cards, and furthermore Leovold does not create any value if taken down by these. Although these have generally been staples of Black-based midrange decks and any of the White decks respectively, it may be time to increase the number of copies in sideboards, or even let some creep into the main.

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Engineered Explosives is a similarly excellent choice if Sunburst three can be accommodated, while also being flexible for popular matchups like Death & Taxes, Eldrazi, and many others. I can understand why many Miracles lists have adopted the card as a two-of. Miracles may be pushed down a peg though. The four Mentor package may become a little more necessary to close out the game before the BUG decks can grind the Miracles opponent out.

Greedy BUG decks also have another great nemesis:

Blood Moon.

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We saw these at GP Chiba, and these may be better positioned than ever before due to punishing the fragile mana bases the midrange BUG deck's typically have. Sawase Koichi's 5th-placing list from the 70th KMC looks very clean and streamlined, though Shaman of the Great Hunt is a card that is a bit eyebrow raising. Just like in old Standard, Rabblemaster and Shaman team up to create an incredibly fast and threatening board.

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A card I maybe only fleetingly thought about for Legacy but immediately dismissed was Quicksmith Rebel. It's essentially repeatable removal on a stick with all the moxen, Chalices, and Trinispheres lying around. He also a has a very reasonable body to bash in with while the artifacts do their pinging.

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I'm sure that there's some other changes that may be adapted in the post-Aether Revolt and Conspiracy 2 world that I've missed, and perhaps the metagame is already progressing to a place where these threats are finding their answers. The subtle shifts of Legacy are quite an interesting thing to track due to even small ripples creating flow-on effects to the variety of diverse archetypes within the format. I look forward to seeing how things develop!

Maverick - At Instant Speed!

Maverick has got a bit of shake-up with kaluma, lordofthepit23 and Adelorenzi achieving 5-0s with the old guard. But with a twist. Taking influence from Death & Taxes and hearkening back to some old-style Maverick lists, these lists have incorporated Aether Vial and cut Green Sun's Zenith. Instead of a toolbox, these lists have gone for the mana and tempo advantage that Vial provides, increasing the number of slots of what were previously utility creatures.

Some of the creatures also harken to Death & Taxes: Phyrexian Revoker and Sanctum Prelate sit side-by-side with Knight of the Reliquary and Scryb Ranger. Most interesting is the lack of Recruiter of the Guard in this list to provide utility. It's like having Green Sun's Zenith that also synergises with Vial!

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kaluma's list also utilized Smuggler's Copter. Looting away excess Vials and lands (great to fuel Knight!) is quite impressive, and with an active Vial, the "do-nothing" of turn two Copter becomes less of an issue, as Vialing in a creature to get in the chopper is an option. One has to be wary of adding anymore non-creature spells to such a list though, and I'd sooner opt for Sylvan Library as a consistency tool over than the potentially unreliable Copter.

Nonetheless, Maverick has continued to creep further into relevance with its strong tournament placings, despite looking on paper to have some pretty poor matchups, especially against Miracles. I'm sure Vial and Recruiter and Prelate should remedy that though, so perhaps there is something to be gained.

Anyway, my Maverick list might look something like this:

Really leaning on Recruiter for a bit of a toolbox (albeit slow), while also using Thalia, Heretic Cathar as powerful turn three play thanks to Deathrite Shaman - that being said, there may be less merit for her since there's only four Deathrites as accelerators, and cutting into valuable Stoneforge or Knight slots may make her less appealing. Note we also have the ability to set up a small Flicker chain thanks to the one-of Wisp in this list.

Another interesting card to put into this shell is Renegade Rallier. He found his way as a two-of in this Maverick list from Japan:

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In this shell he's essentially a buffed-up version of Eternal Witness, which is certainly a pretty strong play. I could see him being a one-of in a Recruiter-based Vial version too. Chump block with Vial, get Rallier, then do it again next turn for more value? Sweet. The card may certainly be a little too "fair" and durdly, however.

Conclusion

And so we wrap up another This Week in Legacy. Hopefully the lists and cards outlined brought about some interest in where the metagame is heading. If you have an interesting brew ready to take advantage of in this metagame, hit me up. I'm always happy to hear from readers about their Legacy experiences.

Finishing off, a few links to some excellent content:

  • Podcasts! The aforementioned The Brainstorm Show Episode 28 on Fatal Push is a great listen, as is Leaving a Legacy's Part 2 of their GP Louisville recap.
  • Andrea Mengucci plays the 4c Ninja Midrange deck I outlined a few weeks ago on CFB!
  • Jonathan Alexander gives some play-by-plays of his experience with RUG Delver in the recent Legacy Challenge. Find that here.
  • Phil Gallagher has some stuff about awesome and weird sideboard cards that all D&T players should be ready for. Find that here.
  • Brian Bran-Duin outlines his card choices and experiences at Louisville here.
  • My friends in Canberra have some coverage done of some sweet matches. It's on YouTube here.

And of course, the podcast I'm on, The Salt Mine, have Episode 11 out. We feature the Elves expert Julian Knab and talk about some pretty wild topics - GP Louisville, coverage issues, Look Who's Back, Julian's European tournaments, the future of Magic Online and more. Enjoy it at The Salt Mine website (or subscribe, etc.).

'Til next time!

Sean Brown

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

What I'm Playing This Week

I'd like to shout out Michael Lewis (LewisCBR on MODO) for giving me some advice on Grixis Delver. If we remember two weeks ago I'd enjoyed piloting his Stifle version with some small changes. He has also 5-0ed a League with a similar list, but found room for...

You guessed it. A second True-Name.

I'm not sure how much I like trimming Pyromancer, but it is certainly hard to make a cut anywhere else lest your Delvers get worse at blind-flipping. The Therapy package becomes a little bit weaker though, as do the Probes. The deck starts to question... Why not just play 4c Delver and change those Pyros to Snapcasters?

Nonetheless, when I'm not Manaless Dredging (changes to that list involve cutting the Unmasks from the sideboard and hedging more against combo and Reanimator via more Shoals and an extra Faerie Macabre) I may be trying something similar to this. Unless I'm testing out some new Fatal Push brews.

The Spice Corner

It's kind of depressing that what was once the premier combo deck in the format is now relegated to a spicy meatball. But such is High Tide's fate, with Counterbalance and other hatebears being a huge pain for the mono-Blue deck in modern Legacy. QuranJames still was able to 5-0 with a very interesting list though, with no Candels either, so it's an okay Paper budget choice too (sort of...).


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