Casual Play: A Deck Of Legendary Proportions

The Legendary Deck Of Infinite Dragons. Can it be done? You bet.

Actually, this article will cover two legendary decks. The first is what I actually played; the second is the one I could have sideboarded into if the first deck didn’t prove good enough. As it happened, the first one worked just fine, so I never had to play the second – I’ll save that one and play it some other time. Before the decks, though, two quick notes on my last article.

1) I should have put a break between the Elder / Maze of Ith mana engine and the paragraph on what to do with the mana – obviously, sorceries like Fireball don’t work with mana generated during the combat phase. I said that a couple paragraphs later, but the positioning was unfortunate. I blame that on the editor – I screwed it up, he should have fixed it.* (Darn skippy – The Ferrett)

2) I knew I was forgetting options in that article, but I forgot a big one: Rocket Launcher. Rocket Launcher is the other kill that works with the Elder / Maze engine, since you can activate Rocket Launcher any number of times at instant speed. It works like Rakalite. I guess I should also mention that Rakalite and Fault Line would also work with the engine, and you would get style points for actually playing Rakalite. (You should get hollow points for playing with RakaliteThe Ferrett, Rakalite Despiser) Anyway, enough about my last article.

I have been tempted to play with legends for a long time. Last week, when it came time to build a deck for our weekend game, I looked over recent designs. I like to make sure I haven’t used the same colors in the last few sessions, and I found that I had used everything except red recently. Since I didn’t have a great new idea for a mono-red deck.** That left multicolor decks, so a 5-color legends deck seemed appropriate. I had four copies of Captain Sisay in my collection, so Legends it was.

Captain Sisay
Multicolor Creature – Legend 2/2

T: Search your library for a Legend or legendary card and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

The biggest problem with 5-color decks is getting the mana right. This is even worse when you are playing legends, since many of them have double or triple-colored mana in their casting cost. You can play dragon lairs, Cities of Brass, and other many colored lands. You can play duals and the Mirage fetch lands. You can play basics and cards like Harrow and Yavimaya Grangers and Elders, or you can play Forest duals and Wood Elves. Since I needed a lot of mana, I chose the last route. Here are the basic cards:

4x Land Grant
4x Wood Elves

4x Savannah
4x Tropical Island
4x Taiga
4x Bayou

I also included four Walls of Roots for early blocking and mana acceleration, plus three Fellwar Stones to provide mana acceleration and – with luck – additional mana colors. I bolstered that by relying on Captain Sisay’s ability to find legendary lands. I included one of each legendary land that can produce colored mana: Karakas, Teferi’s Isle, Urborg, Pendelhaven, Gaea’s Cradle, and Hammerheim.*** With these lands, Captain Sisay could search for a land that produced the appropriate color of mana each turn. I also used four Star Compasses to meet the double and triple-colored mana requirements in the casting costs of many legends.

Of course, the core of the deck was Captain Sisay. I needed a way to find her and to protect her. Four copies of the Captain, plus four Worldly Tutors, made finding her easy enough. To protect her, I added two Alexi’s Cloak with two more in the sideboard. While this is not a great card in many cases, I only needed to protect one creature from direct removal – and since the Cloak can be played as an instant, it worked pretty well. Moreover, Captain Sisay can find the one great method of defending her (or any other legend): Karakas.

Karakas is always the first card you search for with Captain Sisay. Karakas – land – tap for W or tap to return target legend to hand. How good is that? Game one, I had drawn and dropped a turn 4 Sliver Queen****. Turn 5, John chumped with everything, and I let the Queen die so I could cast Captain Sisay. On his turn, John cast Animate Dead to steal my Queen. Cathy, my partner, Disenchanted the Animate Dead. John, undeterred, cast Ritual-Ashen Powder and stole my Sliver Queen again. On my turn, I tapped Sisay to fetch Karakas, played it, tapped Karakas to return Sliver Queen to my hand and cast her again.

If someone tries to Bolt Sisay, I use Karakas to return her to my hand in response. Karakas also makes Treachery, Confiscate, and Bribery much less useful against my deck, since no one can steal my legends for long. It would be perfect if it could bounce itself – but it only works on legends, not legendary lands. If you want to play this type of deck, invest in one or two Karakases (Karaki?). They are not very expensive, and they are worth every penny. (It’s one of David Phifer’s favorite tricks – The Ferrett)

I had a few tricks. I ran two Swords of the Chosen to pump my legends. I ran Chandler and Karn, Silver Golem as a way of controlling artifacts. I had Empress Galina in the deck as a way of stealing other legends or stealing mine back. (She was useless – Karakas was far more effective.) Yavimaya Hollow let me regenerate creatures and Predator, Flagship provided creature control.

For the rest of the deck, I had a wide assortment of Legends, some in the deck and some in the sideboard. For variety, whenever one legend made a strong showing, I would side it out and bring in something else. I don’t mind playing with good creatures over and over – I have spent round after round beating with Morphling – but that’s for tournament play. For casual play, I much prefer a constantly changing deck. Of course, if you prefer winning repeatedly to winning most of the time but flopping occasionally, stick with what works. That probably means Sol’kanar the Swamp King, Sliver Queen and Spirit of the Night.

With Sisay around to fetch the legends, the Prophecy legends also work pretty well. First, fetch Squee. Then fetch someone like Latulla, Keldon Overseer and cast her. Then fetch another Squee and start burning. Greel can provide complete hand destruction, if your group plays discard casually. Jolrael and Alexi are also okay, but I don’t find them amazing in multiplayer. Mageta is amazing, but since we play partners he didn’t get used much.

Other legends I played around with, or at least had in the deck at various times, included:
Tsabo Tsavoc, Reya – Dawnbringer, Atalya – Samite Master, Phelddagrif, Ihsan’s Shade, Mirri – Cat Warrior, Johan, Eron the Relentless, Verdeloth the Ancient, Xira Arien, Spirit of the Night, Tahngarth – Talruum Hero, Radiant, Archangel, Gallowbraid and Morinfen. Other legendary lands included Rath’s Edge, Shivan Gorge and two Volrath’s Strongholds. The Strongholds proved very good ways of getting the legends back into play.

Like I said, the deck worked fine using the legends listed above. However, I did have a really powerful alternative version sitting in the sideboard. The core of the deck remains the same, with the same mana producers, tutors and Captain Sisay – but Captain Sisay would have searched for Zirilan of the Claw right after getting Karakas (and Hammerheim for red mana, if necessary.) The next turn, Zirilan would have searched for a Dragon legend – probably Nicol Bolas or Palladia-Mors, who tramples. Zirilan’s power is to search a dragon out of the library, put it into play with haste, and let it attack. The dragon is removed from the game at end of turn, which means the first dragon to attack would be gone. However, the turn Zirilan is busy fetching the first a dragon, Captain Sisay would have searched for Rashida Scalebane (tap, kill target dragon and gain life equal to its toughness) and she would have entered play. Next turn, once Rashida had recovered from summoning sickness, Zirilan could have searched out a dragon, the dragon could have attacked and then Rashida would have eaten it, netting me six or seven life after combat is over. Since the dragon would then be in the graveyard at the end of the turn, the”remove from game” effect wouldn’t have occurred.

Volrath’s Stronghold could have put the dragons back into the library to be searched for again. At the same time, Captain Sisay could have been searching for lands and Reya Dawnbringer. Once Reya is in play, dragons could have been coming back from the library and the graveyard: dragons all over the place! My particular sideboard had one of each of the Elder Dragon Legends plus a fair number of the Invasion dragons, so I could conceivably have had a dozen dragons in play.

I ran 70-80 cards, but that never caused mana problems and I had no problem finding Captain Sisay. The only problem was that I was frequently searching for a single specific card in a big deck. That took time, and at times I would hand half the deck to a neighbor just to speed things up. If your fellow players are extremely patient when they are losing, this deck is fine. However, if they tend to get frustrated verging on violent, especially when you’re searching for something that will mean you are just winning more, play two-color Survival instead. The searches go faster.

A side note: Last weekend, a new player showed up for the T2 tourney at the local store. Afterwards, he asked to play some casual games. He pulled out a T1 Sneak Attack deck with the complete power Nine, Diamond Valley, Serra Avatar, various duals, etc. I had only a couple of T2 decks along, plus the Stupider Green deck I discussed a few weeks back. Stupider Green is not only T2 legal, it contains no rares at all. He had the ability to make a turn 1 kill. I had the ability to make a turn 1 elf.

I won ten straight games. Five with a R/B T2 deck. Five with SG.

I could attribute my wins to superior play skill. I’d like to – it would do my ego good. And he did make a few mistakes that I capitalized on, but that was only partially it.

I could attribute my wins to superior deck design. He had tweaked his deck a bit a few days before and had pulled the Swords to Plowshares that would have been really good. He also had cards like Arcane Denial, which are great to stop a bomb but less effective against decks composed of twenty-four lands and thirty-six threats. In that case, Arcane Denial just trades a threat this turn for two threats next turn. However, his deck was pretty tight and his cards were all way better than mine: Urborg Volcano, next turn Mountain, Charcoal Diamond does not compare with Volcanic Island, Mox, Sol Ring, next turn: land, Sneak Attack. That said, I designed my decks to ensure that I didn’t get mana screwed, had threats to drop, and could maintain pressure the whole game. That was important.

I could attribute my wins to better psychology, but when he told me what he had before the first game, my response was”You WILL blow me out, but that’s okay.” No doubt about who had intimidated whom going into the first game. It wasn’t me.

I suppose I could contribute the wins to better matchups, since the Ports and Terminates in the R/B deck worked pretty well and the Squallmonger was huge in Stupider Green, but that wasn’t it, either.

In the end, I have to attribute the wins as follows:

My superior play skills: 25%
My superior deck design: 20%
The intimidation factor: 0%
The matchup: 5%
My opponent being mana screwed or flooded: 50%

My opponent had real trouble drawing the cards he needed. He had a ton of lands and mana some games. He had no red mana other games. His mana appeared one turn too late in at least three games.

For those of you licking your wounds after Regionals, think about that. Bad mana happens. No matter how good you are, or how good your deck, sometimes luck is just not with you. Even if my playing skill is half as good as I like to think it is, there is no way I should have won more than half the games. But I was lucky, and he wasn’t. That’s part of the game.


* – Generally, the Ferrett is pretty good at fixing my blunders. A couple weeks back, I wrote about my Pale Moon / Flailing Soldier / Security Detail deck and his edits turned it into an amazing mono-black monster.

** – I have done Blood Moon / LD variants, a really fun deck with Repercussion / Aetherflash / Varchild’s War Riders and the now infamous”non-survivor” tokens and a host of burn decks already. How many cool and different versions of”here, take some direct damage” are there?

*** – I skipped Serra’s Sanctum and Tolarian Academy because I didn’t expect to have enough artifacts and enchantments to make them worthwhile, and Tolaria because I didn’t have one.

**** – That’s thanks to the Wood Elves. Putting an extra dual land into play turn 3 is very good.