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This Week in Legacy: The New Metagame Watchlist


Hello, and here's another This Week in Legacy. This week we're going to be continuing our exploration of the post-Top ban metagame, checking off our list of primary metagame contenders and checking out the evolution of a variety of archetypes that have appeared in recent weeks. In order to do so, I'll be breaking down this week's article into "Aggro,""Combo," and "Control," the three pillars of any Magic metagame. But as we know, in this format, these distinctions tend to bleed into one another, and the "Aggro" section will distinguish itself with decks which are actually more midrange or creature-based control than anything. But this labeling simplifies things more neatly.

Anyway, on we go!

Combo

Combo has had a pretty amazing presence in the current metagame, though this may likely still be growing pains of the format needing to adapt and find effective shells that can combat them (other than Delver, which as we saw last week, has also been having a strong presence). Storm in particular has had a very impressive showing, and indeed many lists have trimmed their Green completely and streamlined their sideboard. For example:

The sideboard is flush with a lot of neat, clean answers to a variety of problem permanents, from the sweepers of Dread of Night and Pyroclasm, to the flexible answer of Echoing Truth and a new addition, By Force.

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I've also seen this in Burning Wish sideboards as well, though I question how better it is compared to Meltdown, though cards like Trinisphere are definitely a little easier with a By Force. Pulverize is also an option that can potentially be free - especially with the higher amount of Mountains in the deck thanks to the additional Badlands.

I expect Storm to be something everyone is very wary of in the weeks ahead, and even middling matchups like Eldrazi and Dragon Stompy have significantly improved due to Storm's new sideboard space for things like the Red cards above, or just a simple Hurkyl's Recall. And it's definitely going to be a prominent force moving ahead amongst the Tier 1 decks. However, there will still be issues such as Delver and even the Leovold-touting midrange decks that can put a wrench in Storm's plans.

Sneak & Show has also continued to show off its strength after its win at MKM Frankfurt too. Whether it is similar to the straightforward version Johannes brought, a version featuring Cunning Wish and Release the Ants or even a version simply featuring Cunning Wish for a bunch of bullets like this, Sneak & Show is going to remain one of the most powerful decks in terms of brute force. I still think, compared to Storm, its matchup against Delver is a little weak, but Sneak & Show can happily ignore many of the permanent-based pieces of hate that typical get in Storm's way, such as Chalice or Trinisphere.

In terms of non-Blue combo decks, the true big ones to watch out for are Black-Red Reanimator, Elves and the rising Turbo Depths, which I've been seeing a lot of in Leagues recently. I like Turbo Depths in particular as a combo deck to prey on Delver, as a simple Pithing Needle on Wasteland undoes the majority of disruption the Delver deck can offer.

Combo Deck Watchlist:

  • Storm
  • Sneak & Show
  • Black-Red Reanimator
  • Elves
  • Turbo Depths

"Control"

As I looked at last week, control decks have been really trying to find their way and figure out how they want to attack the metagame. One recent Esper Stoneblade list took inspiration from the Night's Whispers of Czech Control:

There's a lot to like with the numbers here, and I'm sure many Blade fans will be salivating at the thought of this list, grinding out the opposition and slamming Stoneforge and True-Name until the opponent is done. It's very, very "fair" Magic.

In other ways, I'm sure this will bring many players dismay. Legacy was one of the true homes to almost-creatureless "classic" Blue-White control with Miracles, and now that's seemingly fading away into obscurity with Blade decks more prevalent. Or is it? Maybe some tinkering needs to be done. The first we'll look at is a Blue-Red Standstill list from the recent Fire & Dice event. Find the results of that here.

Can a pile of countermagic really do the job in the current metagame? Three Counterspell, and three each of Pierce and Snare is quite a brick wall for combo players to fight through, and also helps the deck have enough early interaction to reach the late game against Delver and other smaller decks. The uncounterable kill spell in Sudden Shock is also quite neat... Though Engineered Explosives as the only way to mop up True-Names or Goyfs is a bit of an issue... As is the deck's inability to beat resolved Delve creatures - though maybe the answer to that question is to just be a better player and save counterspells for when they're actually needed!

I think a sweeper to catch up with is also necessary in these decks and Sweltering Suns is quite a good one, thanks to its ability to be cycled when unneeded. It is a bit clunky, but so are most other comparable sweepers anyway. I'd also love to see someone trying Fiery Confluence in a deck such as this. Its power is enormous in a deck that can support double Red and can swing board states entirely. Not to mention its ability to let slow grindy decks like this turn the corner quickly. Confluence, Snap, Confluence is something I'd love to make a reality.

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Speaking of Fiery Confluence, in the same Top 8 Cody Johnston brought a newer version of Dragon Stompy that has been getting a lot of traction. Although Dragon Stompy is certainly more "prison" than control, let's just slot it in this section.

Dragon Stompy doesn't even want to attack anymore and has ramped up its prison-control elements. True-Name Nemesis is such an annoying brick wall that instead, opting for Ensnaring Bridge may be a great option. This has been chosen over Rabblemaster who, in my experience, has had his Goblins run into Deathrite Shaman quite a bit recently. Typical Goblin problems, really. Hiding behind Bridge and pinging with Quicksmith Rebel, Chandra, or Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and then burning the opponent with Prodder or Confluence seems like a neat plan.

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But what about keeping the Miracles dream alive? Is there any viable non-Stoneblade deck, that can play a pure game plan of Blue-White control again? Last week we saw sunsong 5-0 with a bizarre pile of Blue-White cards, and while I think his list was very untuned, with a little tinkering I'm sure that the fundamental game plan is solid. And so myself and ex-Miracles player Stephen Tang have gone on a quest to craft an effective Blue-White shell. Results have been... Mixed.

This is heavily based off Anuraag Das' "Not Miracles" list from the Legacy Premier League, and indeed the main deck has a feel very reminiscent of Miracles, and honestly Terminus surprisingly doesn't feel like a huge loss when Explosives, Verdict, and Judgment can clean up most things that are an issue - though previously reasonable matchups like Elves, Death & Taxes, and a few others feel very hard now that Terminus is gone. More important is the loss of Counterbalance-Top though. This list has been struggling to close out the game, and without the elegant lock of CounterTop, there is now windows for the opponent to wrangle out of the lategame before this deck turns the corner, even when you've Brainstormed with Jace roughly ten times. Snapcaster beatdown is often not enough.

And so enters the Dragonlord.

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The wall of countermagic this list can build is pretty impressive, and hence untapping with Ojutai typically means game over. I can certainly understand the logic of Ojutai in sunsong's list after playing it. It's like a giant flying Jace that can help the deck pull ahead and kill the opponent swiftly. Then again, if prioritizing turning the corner and killing the opponent, maybe simple True-Name may be better, or Monastery Mentor, but the Monk is a little lackluster without Top (but still good!).

If anything, this deck has been able to combat a lot of the random Stoneblade and even Czech Pile lists pretty effectively. Playing a bunch of Jaces and sideboard Red Blasts is pretty good against those decks, who knew?

Vendilion Clique and Pierces are what are required to keep this deck alive against combo, however. No longer will CounterTop save you. You need your 3/1s and 2/1s to get in there while holding up a wall of counters, and pro-activity of the flash creatures are pretty neat. [Spell Pierce] also helps the deck survive the early game of Stifles and other madness that Delver decks can throw your way in addition to its obvious usage against combo. Though to me it does feel on the weaker side; it's the same problem as playing Mana Leak in your Modern control decks.

There's a lot of tinkering to be done, but I'm honestly hopeful that a more pure approach to Blue-White control in Legacy doesn't die.

"Control" Deck Watchlist:

  • 4c Stoneblade
  • Esper Stoneblade
  • 4c Control
  • BUG Control
  • Dragon Stompy

"Aggro"

In the "Aggro" section, I'll slot in the Delver decks, but these decks can certainly play more controlling or midrangey - they're some of the most flexible decks in the current metagame, and the crown prince of the format truly has been Grixis Delver for the past few weeks. However, many players have been opting for Stifle over the more traditional Cabal Therapy, in order to "go under" other bigger control decks, like Stoneblade or BUG/4c Control. I personally haven't been a fan of Stifle in Grixis, despite having some success with it locally. It always feels lackluster with Young Pyromancer's core, and I've also hated having to play Gitaxian Probe in my Delver decks instead of business spells. Excellent player JPA93 recently 5-0ed with a list I really like, and I have been crafting something along the same lines:

This is almost like RUG Delver's evolution into Grixis, with Deathrite replacing Goose and Angler replacing Goyf. Of course, the deck has to play some air with Thought Scour in the mix, but doesn't have to force itself to shift into a proactive role like Pyromancer requires, which is what I dislike most about Stifle in Grixis. The pure tempo game plan of Stifle, Wasteland, Daze has always been synergistic with slamming the biggest dumbest beaters in the format and holding up the reactive spells available, and Thought Scour can also be slotted in quite easily to efficiently spend mana. I think this may be my Delver deck of choice moving forward, unless I can craft a RUG list I'm happy with.

Blue-Red Delver has continued to get traction as well in the wake of the Miracles ban, and I think that without Counterbalance around (and instead greedy mana bases galore) this deck has a lot going for it. Olle Rade adopted Soul-Scar Mage as part of his creature suite recently, and many players I've fought in Leagues have been adopting this too. Although Stormchaser is neat, Blue-Red is built on pure efficiency, and Soul-Scar fulfills that pretty nicely.

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Looking towards other creature-based decks (again, certainly not "aggro," but under this section for simplicity), let's go to everyone's favorite lovely lady, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and the decks she is featured in.

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Death & Taxes has remained in flux quite a bit in the recent weeks, with many unsure of where to take the deck. Is a few changes to flex slots enough, or does the deck need a complete overhaul to capitalize on the current top dogs - combo and greedy tricolor decks?

Marc Konig (Bahra) seems to think so.

This takes a lot of love from Imperial Taxes with the Magus of the Moons (and the higher Cavern of Souls count), but also includes Ancient Tomb and Chalice of the Void in place of the more typical Phyrexian Revoker slots, who is certainly a little less needed now without Miracles. This gives the deck a core which is somewhat similar to Eldrazi & Taxes, instead of typical Death & Taxes, but replaces Eldrazi with Moon effects, and keeps the grinding ability that Aether Vial, Recruiter of the Guard and Flickerwisp provide. That being said, although I'm sure this deck can play out like typical Death & Taxes, I'd be happier to ramp this up into something a little more explosive.

Maybe this is a strong avenue to go down at the moment, and Death & Taxes may have be thought of as being along a spectrum now - from the more controlling and typical mono-White lists, Bahra's Ancient Tomb and Chalice featuring list, to the more explosive and high-variance Eldrazi & Taxes.

In terms of other decks, a Maverick resurgence was predicted and I truly think the deck may have some excellent tools now that Miracles is no longer an issue. There's a lot of unexplored space with the deck that can now be investigated - a solid list of cards that now warrant testing include:

Though I didn't expect Samut, Voice of Dissent?!

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This list looks like it'll struggle incredibly against any unfair deck, but can beat up fair decks pretty handily with a variety of tutorable bullets and bombs. Samut looks very suspect, but I guess if you're in Naya colors it's an obligatory inclusion. It's also awesome with Knight of the Reliquary, but that's probably a bit win-more.

For a more stock list, Jacob Kory, who made Top 4 of the same event, is probably where best to look:

No spice here, and the main is a beautiful classic Green-White core. Jacob hasn't investigated any newer cards, and maybe a Heretic Cathar or Prelate could find their way in - or maybe not? The core certainly looks very solid, and adding more untutorable white creatures may not be the greatest.

I'm looking forward to the exploration of Maverick in the weeks ahead and see if it can contend with other mana dork decks, such as True-Name BUG and 4c Stoneblade.

Heretic Cathar I think will be the star for allowing the deck to continually push ahead past any True-Name stalls.

Other aggressive decks to look out for are the continuing presence of Eldrazi, which may have its numbers boosted in the weeks ahead with Storm's presence on the rise. I do expect the more stock builds to be most popular in the weeks ahead, with going over the top via Sower and Ulamog less necessary with format a bit sped up. The Big Eldrazi may have more of a place once control and midrange shells shake out.

"Aggro" Deck Watchlist:

  • Grixis Delver
  • UR Delver
  • Death & Taxes
  • Eldrazi Stompy

Conclusion

And that wraps us up for this week. Join me next for some closer looks at some larger tournaments in Japan and a Win-a-Lotus in America! There should also be some more neat data to look over as the metagame continues to develop. It's an exciting time!

As always, here's some links from fellow content creators:

  • As always, Julian's at it with content. Watch the Elves master walk through a League, and as always keep tuning in for the sweet games of the Legacy Premier League!
  • Mengucci plays some more Death & Taxes over at CFB!
  • Eternal Durdles have a new cast on the week after Top's banning.
  • The Library at Pendrell Vale have assembled a nice library (haha!) of critical reading, which may provide brewers with direction on how to approach the new format. Find that article on inspiration here.
  • Phil Gallagher has some more post-Miracles thoughts at Thraben University here.

Thanks as always, 'til next time!

Sean Brown

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

What I'm Playing This Week

Man... This is bad. I have a big event I should be testing for in two months or so - essentially the Australian equivalent of Eternal Weekend. I should be fixing up my Death & Taxes list, or concluding which Delver list I'll be happy to take. Angler Delver and a new RUG version are looking like something I'm considering. But instead I'm screwing around with the red idiots once again. This is like a high schooler who's procrastinating way too much.

After seeing Sandro Rajalin's excellent Goblin piece and Marcelo Scatina's win, I knew I wanted to go back to one of my favorite cards from Magic's history.

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I started during Kamigawa block, and the Akki were truly my first introduction into Goblin tribe (until Lorwyn blew my face off with them). Kiki-Jiki I've always had an incredbly soft spot for, especially during my days of playing Splinter Twin in Modern. Topdecking him and just getting value was awesome. His art is also super sweet. This list is one of the few homes for the Mirror Breaker. It's primary goal is to connect with a Lackey effect through hell or high water (via the bevvy of removal or Pendelhaven pumping them past 1/2s), and then chaining into either Siege-Gang or Kiki to create absurd value (or both, but that's a little win-more). Although the Goblin Settler combo is also neat, I think it's a little too cute and I wanted to create some room for Piledriver, which is often required to breakthrough True-Name board stalls. Though his slot could certainly go to something else. In the end, although not high-tier for sure, the Goblins are incredibly fun and surprisingly decision-intensive. Here's hoping that Commander 2017 gives the boys a bit of a boost.

The Spice Corner

A bit of a preview of next week's article on the Japanese BIG Magic Legacy event.


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