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This Week in Legacy: The Chain of Smog

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of This Week in Legacy! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week is Week One of a brand new world of Strixhaven and we're talking about the immediate impact of Chain of Smog combo in the format. In addition to that we've got two events to talk about from last weekend as well as our Spice Corner!

Just as an FYI, our next Legacy Round Table will be next week! We will also be doing a metagame update at that point in time as well.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Smogging It Up

This past week we had the release of Strixhaven on Magic Online, and pretty immediately we began to see players trying out the various ways they could approach the Witherbloom Apprentice + Chain of Smog combo in the format.

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The way that this combo works has been relatively well explained but we'll mention it here for those unaware. You cast Chain of Smog targeting yourself, which triggers Witherbloom Apprentice. You then choose to copy Chain and re-target yourself, which then triggers the Apprentice. You repeat this process until your opponent is dead.

One of the big things about this combo that has been quite possibly overstated is the supposed fragility of the combo in general. The combo is vulnerable to both creature removal and by countermagic (by waiting until the player casting Chain has zero cards in hand and then issuing forth painful judgment) but even in my own limited testing of the combo I have found something very interesting.

This combo is nowhere near as fragile as it really sounds, and there are a few good reasons for that.

The first reason is that many of the decks now adopting the combo are playing it in either the shells of BUG Delver or BUG Control. For an example, the list below:

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Playing not only multiple pieces of interaction, but also things that let the BUG player see what is going on in their opponent's hand via Thoughtseize is a great way of seeing when the shields are down to go for the combo. Furthermore, the very presence of an Apprentice on the board is threatening enough to tell the opponent that the combo exists that the opponent may hold back interaction for specifically the combo. Does this type of gameplay interaction sound very familiar?

Ending the game in style...

If you ever played Modern at all during the era of Splinter Twin, then it just might. This combo in a fair deck carries with it a very Twin-esque style of gameplay. Your opponent doesn't want to throw away a piece of interaction because what if you combo and they need it? The problem with that line of thinking is that the combo player may never actually have the Chain in hand, but you have to think and play as if they do. What this leads to is gameplay where you are able to squeak through games on the fair gameplan side of things because your opponent is so worried about the combo that they're not dealing with the cards actually killing them, because if they do, the possibility of being shields down to the combo is worse. Furthermore, the BUG player can simply never go for it if they know the opponent has interaction that turn, that would be a silly play to do so.

What helps this really is that Witherbloom Apprentice on its own has felt like an actual reasonable card in these shells to have in play. The card presents a powerful synergy with the normal aspects of these types of decks, given that they already want to cast a large number of Instants/Sorceries. Having that incidental life gain but also having a little chip damage here or there really adds up over time that if your opponent is doing things like making Force of Will cast zero life to alt cast essentially, then they are already making good on having the card in play. Having more than one in play suddenly accelerates things even worse because it makes cards like Thoughtseize cost zero life and things like Force gain one life for casting it.

In a more dedicated combo shell, the idea behind reinforcing the combo's inherent vulnerabilities is based in the action of preventing your opponent from interacting in the first place. This lends itself to cards such as Xantid Swarm, Defense Grid, and the like that make it difficult for the opponent to present any interaction. Our good friend Jax posted a list that does all of this:

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The major idea here is to generally prevent the opponent from being able actually interact during the combo turn, either by making their spells cost more via Defense Grid or by making it impossible for them to cast spells with a card like Xantid Swarm. This allows the combo player to freely attempt to combo out early with fast mana after putting down one of these prison pieces. However, because this deck relies on these pieces if an opponent is capable of dealing with them via countermagic or removal then the combo does become vulnerable to either side of disruption. That being said, this can lead to the same position as the fair decks because the opponent may have spent their only piece of interaction to deal with the lock piece, hoping to either draw or cantrip into another piece of interaction, leaving their shields down to a fast combo kill.

I believe that this combo could eventually evolve into something problematic, but for now I'm not so sure. I'd like to give the format a fair shake to figure out how this combo could integrate into the format, but I am also reminded of the Underworld Breach era where Delver integrated that combo into their deck as well. I don't think this combo is on that level at all because Breach was a whole different animal, but it could definitely long term be problematic. We will just have to wait and see.

Legacy Challenge 4/17

We had two Challenge events this past weekend, the first of which was the early morning Saturday event! This event had data collected by the Legacy Data Collection Project, and had 73 players in it overall.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet for the event here.

Let's take a look at the charts!

There was a ton of Tempo decks overall and almost half of those were RUG Delver. It had an incredibly solid performance in this event for sure. As I have noted before I will be doing another metagame update pretty soon, so I have a lot of thoughts on how powerful RUG Delver has continued to be in the format. It's surprising for sure, but I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that the Control variants lost their mana fixing (Astrolabe) plus their powerful Planeswalker (Oko) and are no longer that much of a threat to the Delver strategies. Close behind was UR Delver and BUG Delver (and plenty of these BUG Delver lists playing the Chain of Smog combo).

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
RUG Delver 1st Kazuga
Mystic Forge Combo 2nd killersuv
Bant Control 3rd trunks132
RUG Delver 4th McWinSauce
RUG Delver 5th NimblestMongoose
Sneak and Show 6th Omniscience
BUG Delver 7th MM_17
Mono Red Prison 8th basuta

There's a lot of Delver in this Top 8, with 4/8 of the slots being taken up by some flavor, and 3/4 of those being RUG Delver. We had a smattering of other things, mainly combo, some prison, and some control in the event as well.

At the end of the event, it was actually a finals split between both Kazuga and killersuv, with the former on RUG Delver (well UR Delver splash Green).

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The primary emphasis of the main deck game plan is more like a UR Delver variant, but the deck is splashing green for sideboard cards like Klothys, Library, and Ouphe. This seems to be one of the better ways to take the deck right now as it presents a powerful and proactive game plan game one with solid sideboard action post board.

The other finalist was on the Mystic Forge Combo deck.

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This deck is certainly interesting because it is very unique in its game plan and can do a lot of things. I played around with it a little bit myself during the All Access token weeks. It isn't quite my own personal style (I really love Urza and Hullbreacher), but it's neat to see such a deck performing well.

Also in the Top 8 we have Bant Control.

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A pretty common constructed variant of Bant here, with the Miracles plan plus the singleton copy of Shark Typhoon if you need it.

Further down the Top 8 we have the BUG Delver variant playing the Withersmog combo.

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Another way of going infinite is in this deck with Sedgemoor Witch, which is really interesting in of itself as sort of a way to have Young Pyromancer in BUG colors. I can dig it for sure. This looks like a fun list.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by UW Stoneblade!

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Jace, Vryn's Prodigy!!! Very interesting list, and I love the sheer synergy between Clique, Venser + Karakas, etc. Things that have been playable in the format a longer time ago, but are seeing play again here is really neat.

Further down the Top 32 we have Enchantress.

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Helm of Obedience + Rest in Peace kill definitely seems to be the best way to approach building Enchantress these days. It represents a really powerful combo kill for sure. Also Destiny Spinner lets the deck have both a win condition and an Allosaurus Shepherd-like effect, which is really powerful.

Also in the Top 32... when in doubt, JUND EM OUT!

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Neat list overall. What you would expect to see from Jund for sure. BBE, Goyf, Bob, Liliana. This is just classic Jund and it rocks.

Legacy Challenge 4/18

The other Challenge event this past weekend was the Sunday event, which had 109 players in it overall.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet for this event here.

This event UR Delver scraped a little more representation than RUG Delver did, but RUG Delver had far better performance numbers while UR sat solely on the 50% line. However good the Delver cabal was though, there was a solid competition for first place as we will see here in the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Lands 1st mechint
RUG Delver 2nd NimblestMongoose
Jeskai Control 3rd ChainsofMephiStopPlz
BUG Delver 4th fishduggery
UR Delver 5th Diem4x
Ruby Storm 6th TonyScapone
Death and Taxes 7th CaptainFarbosa
Elves 8th koko_lopez

Three Delver lists, all variations, but a lot of other cool stuff in this Top 8 as well. And it was again a master of his craft, Thomas Mechin, who won out the day on RG Lands!

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This is a real solid list. I love Elvish Reclaimer in general and it's cool to see it show up here as well. One thing that can be noted from current Lands lists is the lack of the card Gamble, but since Valakut Exploration was printed I don't see any real need for the card overall. Between it as a one card engine and Sylvan Library you don't always need to rely on Life from the Loam to win the game, which is powerful.

The Second Place finalist was on RUG Delver.

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This leans more on the Stifle plan plus having Goyf in the main, with the typical sideboard cards we've come to expect in green like Klothys. Nothing like Uro here, but leaning hard on Ethereal Forager as well.

In the Top 4 we also had Jeskai Control!

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The red portion of this is devoted to sideboard cards mainly, but hey, we do get to see one new card here in Rip Apart which is really interesting. This is a solid list for sure.

Also in the Top 4 we had another BUG Delver list with the Withersmog combo, piloted by our good friend fishduggery.

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Main deck Flusterstorm is superb, really taking advantage of the power of the Witherbloom trigger there. One neat setup line you can take in this regards when going off with the Chain combo is to cast Snapcaster, target Flusterstorm in the graveyard, and then if the opponent attempts to interact somehow during the combo then you can cast Fluster from the graveyard to not only handle whatever they're using to try to stop you but also ends up creating a bunch of Witherbloom triggers as well. Seems solid.

Down in the other half of the Top 8 we have TonyScapone on Ruby Storm!

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This deck has continually received a lot of powerful cards over the past few years, including Birgi, God of Storytelling and Jeska's Will. We also have from C19 Ignite the Future in this list as well. Tony is well known for this list and pioneering it, so good for him to have all that work pay off.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by Delver master HJ_Kaiser with Jeskai Delver.

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White is something not typically paired with Delver decks because Swords to Plowshares can offset the clock if needed too much, but this list looks sweet. We've got two new cards here in Rip Apart and Expressive Iteration (which I'm really curious about). Also, Mystic Sanctuary which is really sweet.

Further down the Top 32 we had a showing by Simic Merfolk!

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This list is all in on the aggressive Merfolk plan. No Thassa's Oracle, no Paradigm Shift, just simple solid beats with Merfolk. Also we have green cards like Merfolk Mistbinder and Kumena's Speaker, but also stuff like Once Upon a Time to help smooth the deck out. This is really super cool to see.

Around the Web

  • It's worth noting that The Legacy Pit Open in September is now sold out! There is a wait list that can be signed up for over at! In addition to that, the crew just announced that the prize pool of the event was being bumped up to 15K!
  • Jarvis Yu on Withersmog Combo! Check it out here.
  • Our good friends over at Everyday Eternal have a new episode, this time with Maverick master DougesOnTwitch (the mastermind behind Check out the episode here!
  • Bryant Cook tests out Witherbloom Command with The EPIC Storm. Check it out here.
  • I posted two videos myself in the past week! You can find my video on Legacy Battle of Wits over here and my video on Karn Echo over here.
  • Jeweled Lotus in LEGACY?!

The Spice Corner

Court of Cunning BUG Midrange is pretty sweet.

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Birbs from the Graveyard!

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UW Delver-Blade!

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What I'm Playing This Week

I've turned to the dark side this week by playing a little BUG Delver featuring the Witherbloom Apprentice combo.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for continuing to support the column and join us next week as we continue our journey into Legacy!

As always you can reach me at Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the /r/MTGLegacy Discord Server and subreddit.

Until next time!

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