I’ve always had a little too much of a fondness for split titles. I think it goes back to when I studied theater in college and read Edward Albee’s
“The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” The title told me almost nothing about the play while also giving me almost no real information about the characters:
there is going to be a goat; there is going to be Sylvia; maybe they are one and the same; and maybe Sylvia is having an existential crisis. Or maybe
Sylvia is The Other Woman, and the person asking the question is the protagonist’s cuckolded wife. Really, I don’t know and neither do you, so reading
or seeing the play is really the only option at this point, since you’re way too deep now to just stop thinking about this title. My point is that that
style of title has always felt decadently masturbatory.
Anyway, GÃ¶tterdÃ¤mmerung is German for Armageddon. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Armageddon is a pretty nice card with Ancient Tomb. Given that your modus operandi is to jump out to a huge lead in the first three turns, it’s
entirely reasonable to get your monster into play by turn 2 and try to slam the door shut on turn 3. Against control, it’s an excellent way to make
your Trinispheres and various other “tax” effects live again. Against aggressive decks, it’s an age-old way to cement an on-board advantage. Either
way, the card should win you the game if cast in the correct position.
I’ve actually wanted to write an article about Plains and Ancient Tombs for a while now. Back in 2006, when I was trying to get into Legacy, I did a
lot of research on the least-expensive deck that I could put together and still remain competitive. Believe me, guys; I’ve been there and done that,
and it’s not fun, but you pay your dues, and you meet friends and borrow their Tropical Islands until you win your own. Or you’re a trust-fund baby and
have everything handed to you on a silver platter. Either way, really.
Since I’m not a trust-fund baby, I played Angel Stompy for a while. The general idea of the deck was to cast a morphed Exalted Angel on turn 1 and
unmorph it on turn 2 and attack for four. Yes, that was a powerful play in 2006. It was basically the White Weenie + Equipment deck of the mid-2000s,
although it had some pretty sweet anti-aggro nut draws that could involve Mother of Runes, Silver Knight, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Exalted Angel. As
a result, it could actually place decently, so long as you were paired against Mountains every single round. Unfortunately, it had the crippling
deficiency of never being able to beat Solidarity (the High Tide/Reset combo deck) and then eventually just became too slow for the format.
Although my list is lost to the sands of time, one memorable part of it is that it played a bunch of cards that are absolutely laughable by today’s
standards. One of the arguments involving the deck was the correct split on the non-Mother of Runes one-drops. The deck really wanted six, so some
people swore by four Isamaru, Hound of Konda and two Savannah Lions, while others probably just drew their Isamaru above expectation in testing and
wanted to only play two Isamaru and four Savannah Lions. Good thing they printed Wild Nacatl and put that debate out of its misery.
When Steve told me that I had the go-ahead to do this series, I started thinking about how I could rework Angel Stompy to be an interesting deck for
modern Legacy. Luckily, I didn’t have very far to go for inspiration. Tell me if you think you’ve seen this somewhere:
This deck is designed to prey on the Counterbalance and Aether Vial decks that are busy tearing up the format. The way that it tries to do that is by
resolving a major piece of disruption on turn 1. As I explained in Friday’s article, three mana on turn 1 is really the major goal of Ancient Tomb/City
of Traitors decks, and this deck plays to that scenario very well — except for Baneslayer Angel, every spell in the deck is castable off of an Ancient
Tomb and a Chrome Mox.
The deck’s disruption suite is incredibly diverse and particularly well-suited to the typical openers from major Legacy decks. To break the card
Chalice of the Void
— This card exemplifies everything that’s good and bad about Tomb/City decks: they have enormous potential power, and they can make plays that take
their opponent out of the game completely, but they can also play cards that arrive too late to meaningfully impact the game or don’t do enough against
certain opponents. Casting this on turn 1 can and will knock some decks right out of the game, but drawing it on turn 6 against a Junk opponent with
Pernicious Deed on the table would be fairly sickening. Of course, denying opponents the ability to cast Swords to Plowshares is a big enough
game-changer that it’s worth playing when your plan is to cast an Angel and go to town with it. Just be aware that, like everything else in the deck,
this card is very high-risk, high-reward.
— Like with Chalice of the Void, I would probably want to chug arsenic if I drew this on turn 6. Actually, it’s even worse than that: Chalice stops
Swords to Plowshares if you cast it on turn 6. Trinisphere doesn’t stop a whole lot when you cast it on turn 6. However, as with mostly everything else
in a Tomb/City deck, it’s completely bonkers on turn 1. Not only is this is a fairly nice countermeasure to the decadent blue decks of Legacy that try
to cast free countermagic or cheap cantrips, it’s also a useful tool for racing decks such as Merfolk and Goblins. When their two-drops become
three-drops, their plan to play multiple spells in a turn and try to race looks pretty weak. Of course, the look on your opponent’s face when they
realize their Force of Will costs three mana, one life, and one blue card is pretty satisfying, too…
— Think of it as one of many pieces in a resource-disruption package that aims to keep an opponent off of stable mana long enough to kill them with an
Angel. Dreams of “getting them” in response to a fetchland activation aside, the card actually carries an Umezawa’s Jitte admirably, acts as a
reasonable combat trick, and has been the better Leonin Arbiter for years now.
— The final piece of the resource-disruption package. All of the deck’s little “tax” effects add up against various spell-heavy control and combo
decks. Your Mindcensor cuts off their fetchland; your Glowrider makes their cantrip cost one more; and suddenly they have two lands and can do exactly
nothing. By the time they find a third land, you’ve found Trinisphere. By the time they’ve found a fourth, you’ve equipped your Sword of Body and Mind
and are grinding their deck away. This deck’s disruption suite is much more than the sum of its parts. If Glowrider buys a turn or two against control
decks, that’s ideal. Getting in for two a turn and forcing them to play a less-than-ideal game of Magic could very well buy you the time to slip a
Baneslayer Angel into play and swing for the fences.
The rest of the deck is a predictable mix of heavy hitters, mana, and utility cards. The sideboard is likely to consist of some number of Ghostly
Prison effects (Windborn Muse and Ghostly Prison), additional removal (Journey to Nowhere, Dispense Justice), and our good friend, the control killa,
the thrilla of BrÃ¼nnhilde, the one and only… GÃ¶tterdÃ¤mmerung.
Which, of course, brings us to the other side of playing Plains and Ancient Tombs. If you’ll remember, I mentioned that certain colors limit how
playable an aggressive strategy versus a prison strategy would be in an Ancient Tomb deck. White, as it turns out, has no trouble playing on either
side of the coin. While Angel Stompy thrived primarily in 2006, Armageddon Stax has enjoyed success as recently as late 2009:
Here, we can already see huge overlaps from both the more controlling MUD build I suggested on Friday and from the Angel Stompy deck above. Whereas
both of those decks tried to play a multifaceted game of board presence and disruption, this deck has no qualms about what it is or what it does.
It. Blows. Things. Up.
A lot, actually. This is easily the best Crucible of Worlds deck that has ever existed. It makes use of the card as a resource advantage engine in
conjunction with nearly half of the deck’s cards. Crucible of Worlds + Flagstones of Trokair enables maintenance of Smokestack at two, a devastating
proposition for almost any opponent. For those creature decks trying to fight through a Ghostly Prison? Good luck fighting through a Ghostly Prison
with no lands in play. I can’t even imagine how sickening it would be to try to get my Goblin Lackey through Crucible of Worlds, Magus of the
Tabernacle, and Armageddon.
As an attrition deck, Armageddon Stax plays the long game better than anyone else does. Unlike mono-brown decks, this deck does have a lot of decisions
— Crucible of Worlds gives its pilot a huge spread of options, especially once Nomad Stadium and Horizon Canopy are in the graveyard. For all that I’ve
said about Ancient Tomb decks being light on play, Armageddon Stax doesn’t play itself. What with Smokestack triggers to Mishra’s Factory attacks to
Crucible of Worlds decisions, this is not Belcher-level stuff.
In all honesty, if you’re looking to beat the top decks in Legacy at the StarCityGames.com Washington, D.C. Legacy Open, you could do a lot worse than
sleeving up Wastelands and Armageddons. Although the deck has to fight through just as much variance as any other Tomb/City deck, it also gets to mise
a ton of free wins with the best white sorcery in the format.
Tomorrow, we’ll shift from Doing Right And Killing Everything to just playing Drake. As always, I welcome your questions and
feedback in the forums.