I generally like to try to have a central message or idea for my article to be built around. It’s nice to read a thing that makes an argument about a specific idea or explores some certain area so you can then reflect on that idea. The result is that I have a lot of scattered thoughts and deck ideas that are left without a place to share them. Some of these get picked up by my video series, but not all are appropriate for that. Today I’m going to indulge myself by sharing some of the random ideas I’ve been thinking about.
Patrick Chapin compiled a list of cards that have won Constructed Pro Tours for the purpose of building a “Winner’s Cube.” He mentioned that Counterspell has won more Pro Tours than any other card.
The smaller the card pool, the better Counterspell is. This is because as card pools get bigger people have a wider variety of good cheap spells to play; good cheap spells trump good expensive spells, so the curve gets lower and lower as the card pool expands. A lower curve means you get less value out of the exchange of countering a spell. As a result, Counterspell isn’t a great card in Legacy and sees very little play.
Despite understanding that issue, I still think there’s a chance Counterspell should be played more than it is. It’s just a great card. People usually play Force of Will, Daze, Spell Pierce, and Flusterstorm. Force of Will almost always costs a card, and the others often turn off later in the game. All of these cards are about early game tempo rather than about actual control or attrition. That’s fine since that’s what most successful Legacy decks are about, but I still wonder if there’s a niche available to go the other way.
Drew Levin just wrote an article about how you should play Thoughtseize in Legacy more, specifically in U/B tempo decks. Thoughtseize makes games small—it removes a card from both players so fewer cards are in play in that game, which is what I mean by making a game small.
Daze is great if games are kept small by Wasteland, where both players have the same number of spells but one less land, but it’s much worse if games are kept small by Thoughtseize, where both players have the same number of lands but one less spell. The fewer spells players have, the easier it is for them to play around Daze without their hand getting too bottlenecked, and the sooner they’ll naturally “play around Daze” by running out of cards. Also, the smaller the game is, the higher the impact of trading two cards to answer one with Force of Will.
I agree with Drew that Thoughtseize is great, but it’s relatively bad to pair with most of the counterspells people play in the kinds of decks he’s recommending.
Before his article, I’d been working on my own take on U/B Delver. This was based on the thought that Counterspell plays very well with Thoughtseize. While the other counters play badly for the reasons listed, Counterspell helps deal with the biggest problem with Thoughtseize, which is that you can still lose to the top card of their library.
When you build your deck around Thoughtseize and Counterspell, you can’t really be focused on tempo in the same way. Thoughtseize costs mana and doesn’t trade with any mana your opponent has to spend, and Counterspell will cost about the same amount of mana as the spell it’s countering on average in Legacy. Thoughtseize can sometimes generate some kind of strange virtual mana advantage by disrupting your opponent’s curve, but in Legacy where curves are so low, that’s relatively unlikely. Instead, your plan has to be about fully disrupting your opponent’s game plan.
I still like Delver of Secrets in this kind of deck because you can’t try to take long-term control of a game with a bunch of discard because you’ll reach a point where both of you are playing off the top and your discard will go dead. You need to use discard to take control of the early game while your opponent still has their opening hand to strip and then put the game away while you have control in the midgame. Counterspell tries to bridge the gap between the time when you’ve thrown your opponent off their early game as they try to topdeck their way back in it.
Despite the understanding that I can’t fully try to take control of the game, I want some amount of direct card advantage because the impact is magnified so much when I’m keeping the number of spells in the game low with discard. At this point I should show you what the deck I’m imagining might look like:
Predict is outstanding if you reliably know the top of card of your deck. You can often know it a few times a game but not every turn. As a result, Predict has diminishing returns since each extra copy you draw is harder to set up. Thirst for Knowledge is similar. The more you draw, the harder it is to have an artifact to discard for each of them. That’s why this deck plays a split and a small total number. Besides, Snapcaster Mage and Baleful Strix offer additional card advantage.
Unlike many Delver decks, I’m not playing Wasteland. Discard and land destruction are a classic unfortunate pairing since they fight at cross-purposes. Both have the goal of stopping your opponent from casting spells, but you don’t need their spells to be both uncastable and in the graveyard—either one of those is generally sufficient. Also, since I’m not playing the pay X counterspells and I suspect my opponents often will be, I’m not usually going to be in the business of wanting to trade lands. On top of that, I have relatively strict colored requirements thanks to Counterspell and Baleful Strix.
In general, I think the Thoughtseize, Counterspell, and Predict shell is a good one to look at. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a way to try to turn it into an actual control deck, and there are other win conditions it could be paired with aside from Delver. I like Delver because the plan of having some little creatures plays best with Cabal Therapy, which is my favorite card in Legacy, but there are definitely options here.
The other Legacy deck I’ve been thinking about is Mono-White Enchantment Prison Devotion.
This list is pretty rough. I don’t have any experience with this archetype and haven’t researched the way others build it. I’m not playing Crucible + Wasteland and instead am relying on Armageddon. This makes me better at using Rest in Peace and lets me use my other nonbasics on the big mana lands, Serra’s Sanctum and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which theoretically allow me to cast Emrakul despite being an Armageddon deck.
Staff of Domination is included along with Heliod, God of the Sun to offer mana sinks that I can Enlightened Tutor for. Because I’m using lands for mana rather than a creature, I can’t go infinite with Staff of Domination, but using it twice a turn is still quite powerful.
The Moxes are included to support Armageddon and Land Tax, but I’m not sure about the exact mix or number. I really have very little idea how this deck matches up against various decks or what its weaknesses are. I know it has the right hate for some matchups and like some of what it’s doing, but I’m still very much at the brainstorming stage here.
With the Pro Tour coming up, I can’t talk a lot about Modern, but I just have to mention my love for Astral Cornucopia. The card isn’t good and won’t find its way into any tournament-winning decks because the artifact hate is just too good for what I’d want to do with it (build a deck that can never beat Shatterstorm, Stony Silence, or Ancient Grudge), but it’s the exact card I wished existed when I was working on my Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas; Everflowing Chalice; and Surge Node Proliferate deck:
I think this is my most fun take. You should try it out of if you’re looking for a fun deck. It’s glorious. Also, consider Sun Droplet. Clearwater Goblet and Infused Arrows even might be good—you’re terrible at sunbursting them, but that might not matter once you start proliferating onto them.
This is another deck that might want Staff of Domination even though it can’t go infinite with it—I’m not sure exactly how reliably you have huge amounts of mana now that you essentially have another Everflowing Chalice to work with, but it’s probably a lot. Also, if you want the deck to be a little more competitive but dramatically less fun, feel free to cut some or all of the Golem Foundrys for Karn Liberated.
First we have a followup to my article last week. After playing with Meletis Astronomer in Draft, I was really impressed, and I think the best direction to go with heroic is probably something like this:
- 2 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Hopeful Eidolon
- 4 Nyxborn Shieldmate
- 4 Hero of Iroas
- 3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth
- 4 Meletis Astronomer
- 4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
This deck has 18 ways to target its heroes and 24 enchantments to find with Meletis Astronomer, with more of both in the sideboard. I’m not overloading the number of creatures that need to be targeted, and I’m keeping my heroes at two mana, which is the weak point in white’s curve anyway, so that I can still take advantage of Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I gave up on Soldier of the Pantheon in order to have one-drops that support the cause, but I think that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
The other deck I keep coming back to is U/W Master of Waves. I just need to find the best way to get Master of Waves and Spear of Heliod into the same deck. The trick is figuring out how to make the mana work such that I can cast the spells I need to get devotion while reliably casting Spear of Heliod on turn 3.
I think the answer might be to play more lands, which means moving up the curve in general. I wonder about using Archangel of Thune at that point. If I could make Path of Bravery work, that would be ideal, as it would give me another easier to cast Spear of Heliod effect for Master of Waves and the great interaction with Archangel of Thune. Maybe something like:
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 3 Cloudfin Raptor
- 2 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 2 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 1 Eidolon of Countless Battles
This deck really needs a better U/W two-drop. But none of the options fit well, and Precinct Captain is just too perfect not to include.
This deck is another candidate for Gods Willing since protecting Brimaz, King of Oreskos or Master of Waves is so great, but there are pretty significant incentives to stick entirely to permanents with a deck like this.
Another option is to add a black splash to support Nightveil Specter by replacing Plains with W/B dual lands. I’m not sure if you’d actually want any black cards at that point, but the option would be there. This makes Master of Waves a lot better but does very little to help with the problem of having too many great three-drops, and I’m fairly certain that Brimaz, King of Oreskos is better than Nightveil Specter because I expect Bile Blight to be the most common black removal spell. If it were Ultimate Price or Doom Blade instead so that Nightveil Specter was harder to kill than Brimaz, I’d be more likely to go the other way since I really just want my powerful three-drop to live more than I care exactly what the text is.
So those are the ideas I’m mulling over for the moment. I really like the way a lot of the white decks in Standard look. It’ll be interesting to see how much they can disrupt the status quo. I’m hoping for a new world full of Eidolons of all shapes and sizes personally.