Constructed Criticism – Brewing Blue In Legacy

What’s the best way to abuse blue in Legacy with New Phyrexia in the format? Todd Anderson’s love affair with Natural Order continues! Check out the latest RUG tech for this weekend’s StarCityGames.com Open: Orlando.

With SCG Orlando this weekend, as well as Grand Prix Providence right around the corner, everyone is talking about Legacy, and I’m no different. I’ve
had multiple brews on the brain, trying to come up with something that just breaks for the format, but it’s much easier said than done. I do know that
I want to play Mental Misstep. And I also know that I want to play Force of Will. Everything else is up in the air, but today we’re going to go over
some of the best options for Legacy using these two cards.

The combination of the two provides the control player with two angles of damage control: early disruption and guaranteed protection. While one card
provides you with a way to easily combat strategies that revolve around resolving a one-drop, the other guarantees you won’t be losing to a one-shot
robot anytime soon. In combination, every control deck using the duo will be well protected. At any point one becomes superfluous, you have the ability
to shuffle the chaff away with Brainstorm.

Combo decks playing the duo now have access to eight free counters that protect their combo, giving them a level of protection unheard of in quite some
time. While some decks might not be able to fit both of them into their deck, something like Natural Order could easily fit both, since their combo
takes up so little of the deck.

Blue is often hailed as the most powerful color in Magic, and I’m inclined to agree. There have been times when it was foolish to play a deck that
didn’t contain blue, and I think this is almost overwhelmingly true in Standard and Legacy at the moment. All of the best spells are blue, or work much
better when combined with blue spells. For example, Natural Order is a great green card, focusing around green creatures. However, without Brainstorm
or Vendilion Clique, there’s a decent chance you can get stuck with those large monsters in your hand, unable to search them up with your game-ending
spell. The same is true with Squadron Hawk and Stoneforge Mystic in Standard. They just pair better with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and counterspells!

A few weeks ago, I talked about Mental Misstep being the newest addition for Natural Order Bant (or NO Bant), replacing Spell Pierce or Daze, whichever
was your flavor of choice. I think this change can greatly increase your percentages against some matchups, almost overwhelmingly so, since Daze and
Spell Pierce were almost dead cards a lot of the time, and Mental Misstep can singlehandedly nullify a lot of strategies that are great against you.

Ever since Reid Duke made the Top 8 of the Legacy Open in Boston, NO Bant has morphed into NO RUG. The idea is that red gives you access to better
sideboard options, and Lightning Bolt is often better than Swords to Plowshares against most aggressive strategies (although they’re both great in
different situations). Swords to Plowshares would often make two swings from Progenitus less than lethal, making your combo a bit less consistent,
while Lightning Bolt doesn’t always deal with Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary. My RUG list, while similar, has a few easy changes:

While this version of Natural Order doesn’t have the Green Sun’s Zenith Toolbox that the Bant version contains, the consistency is much higher,
focusing on making sure you don’t have a Progenitus in hand when you cast Natural Order, thanks to Vendilion Clique. The Lightning Bolts also double as
a way to burn out your opponent when you’re just racing with Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique, giving you an alternate means of victory.

Vendilion Clique was a card that I’ve always wanted to play with in the deck, but I felt like I “needed” all my creatures to be green in order
to make Natural Order more consistent. I also felt like I needed more cool creatures to be able to tutor up in a pinch with Green Sun’s
Zenith, giving me more options. As it turns out, most creatures are overrated, and you should just jam out with more Tarmogoyfs.

Without white mana, there isn’t much of a reason to play other creatures, so Vendilion Clique gets the nod. He gives you access to more disruption,
allows you to pitch Progenitus for a more useful card, and is a blue spell to help Force of Will when you need it most. He’s also Legendary, helping to
kill opposing Cliques that are beating you down. While other lists played the full four, I’m not completely sold that you need all of them. They’re
solid, but they do cost three mana and can clutter your hand if your opponent isn’t able to kill them. I could easily see playing four, since you can
always pitch one with another you just cast and can shuffle them away with Brainstorm, but I often have a hard time playing four copies of any Legend
that doesn’t have some incredible benefit from dying from the Legend rule (like Kokusho, the Evening Star).

The sideboard looks like a jumble of cards, but I can assure you that it’s very well thought out and will give you access to the best options available
to you. The split on Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast is largely irrelevant, as they do virtually the same thing, but having access to a one-mana
Vindicate against Fish (aka Merfolk) is just bonkers. When combined with Lightning Bolt and some countermagic, you should have a decent matchup against
the format’s premier aggro-control deck. The Pyroblast effects also give you a vital tool in combating High Tide decks or various other blue-based
combo or control decks, which is something white did not give you access to. While you lose Qasali Pridemage and Rhox War Monk, you gain so much more
for matchups that give you a lot more difficulty. Rather than taking a gun to a knife fight, you now have a pinpoint, laser-guided missile.

While Lightning Bolt is a bit less consistent in killing creatures, you’ll usually be able to kill an early Tarmogoyf. The big boy who will be
problematic is Knight of the Reliquary, since Lightning Bolt will only kill him in the most awkward of situations for your opponent. However, you’ll
have enough dorks to block him as long as you resolve a Natural Order on time, giving them a threat that they’ll likely be unable to deal with. Perish
doesn’t seem like a card any Knight of the Reliquary deck would play, so I wouldn’t worry about them having anything other than Diabolic Edict for the
most part. While you lose the ability to kill very large monsters, those aren’t the decks you’re really worried about.

The one-of Kitchen Finks should probably be in the maindeck, since it’s a great weapon for defending against most aggro decks, but having it in the
board works almost as well. Gaining 2-4 life while blocking twice is just absurd against a lot of creature-based strategies, but the cost of 3G to
search it out with Green Sun’s Zenith is quite hefty. The Terastodon I had in the maindeck a few weeks ago has been moved to the sideboard in favor of
redundancy in your Progenitus combo for game one, as well as consistency in not drawing a ton of fat, expensive monsters. He’s great in a lot of
matchups but mediocre in enough of them to keep him on the sidelines.

Reid Duke and David Nolan both played the same sideboard, but I felt they were both a little cold to Dredge or Reanimator, which is a frightening
prospect considering they’re both getting a lot of new firepower with the addition of Praetors in New Phyrexia. I’ve chosen Surgical Extraction as my
means of removing their important graveyard cards, since it works so well as a surprise against Narcomoeba (with the trigger on the stack), Dread
Return, Cabal Therapy, Bloodghast, Ichorid, and even Bridge from Below. Since you can tap out and feel reasonably safe, I recommend playing coy when
they’re trying to combo off, acting as if you have nothing. If you’re on edge, watching every little thing they do like a hawk, they’ll usually know
something is up and probably use Cabal Therapy before trying to do anything important. Mental Misstep also goes a long way in fighting against both of
these decks, giving you a means of countering Breakthrough for X=0, Careful Study, Cabal Therapy, Putrid Imp, Tireless Tribe, Entomb, and Reanimate.

While Combo-Control decks are my forte, I’ll admit that I love playing regular control when it’s the best option. With Counterbalance getting a shiny
new toy to play with in Mental Misstep, I’ll not be surprised to see its stock rise exponentially in the coming months. Counterbalance has always been
one of my favorite cards to play with, since it provides players with an ability to create a soft-lock at the cost of building your deck correctly and
knowing which spells to “float” on top of your deck with Sensei’s Divining Top. Counterbalance is one of the most rewarding decks for a skilled pilot
but can be incredibly unforgiving if you make a mistake.

While I don’t have a perfect list for Counterbalance, seeing as I haven’t played with the deck in quite some time, I’d expect it to have some alternate
means of victory other than Tarmogoyf. I’ve seen a lot of lists splashing black for Dark Confidant, Hymn to Tourach, as well as various removal spells,
but I just don’t think that gives you the tools you need to break through a deck with as much redundancy as Natural Order. With every green deck in the
format containing the full four Green Sun’s Zeniths, I think it difficult to win the Goyf war. We can finally answer the question of:

Would every green deck play Tarmogoyf if it were 2G instead of 1G?

The answer is a resounding yes. While some other versions of Natural Order played only two Tarmogoyfs, I think just grinding with the full amount gives
you a much easier way to win through attacking. Most decks can’t deal with two Tarmogoyfs, let alone three or four. Maximize your chances to draw one.

While it may be a bit more difficult for Counterbalance decks to resolve Sensei’s Divining Top due to the existence of Mental Misstep, you have access
to your own copies to help stick it into play. I wouldn’t be surprised to see every single blue deck playing four Mental Missteps and four Force of
Wills for months to come, since they’re both just on another level of power in regards to the rest of the options in other colors. Free spells generate
amazing tempo and board advantage, giving you a reasonable shot at closing out the game after the first or second turn against a lot of decks. While
Mental Misstep and Force of Will work better together in a combo shell, helping to force through your important spells, they work almost as well in
conjunction with various control strategies in helping to keep the board clear while you set up your soft lock. Even at the cost of extra cards or
life, free spells are almost always better than spells that cost mana.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if people ran back the old Natural Order Countertop deck, much like this list from a recent MTGO Premier Event:

While this list will only get better with the addition of New Phyrexia, there are a lot of things we can learn from this deck. While you are much less
apt at combating opposing Green Sun’s Zenith decks, you are much better at fighting off combo decks. Counterbalance tagging alongside the rest of the
Natural Order package gives you an alternate form of attack, albeit slow and a bit clunky at times. Your percentage against decks like Ad Nauseam
increases exponentially, since they have a tough time just beating a blind Counterbalance, let alone one combined with a Sensei’s Divining Top.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m currently under the impression that Natural Order is the best strategy in Legacy, if only because it’s a simplistic form of
attack that is very difficult to combat. The deck feels like a control deck about 90% of the time, waiting to pounce with Natural Order when the
opponent least expects it. With access to Force of Will and now Mental Misstep, I honestly don’t see how the strategy is beatable to within a
reasonable percentage. The red splash just seems bonkers, and I’m glad Reid decided to put his money where his mouth was and show us just how good the
deck is. With David Nolan joining him in the Top 8 circle at the following event in Charlotte, I can safely say that this is my favorite deck to play
in Legacy, and I’ll be playing with it until someone gives me a reason to play something different.

Simple combos are often the best combos, because they are the hardest to mess up. Complicated sequences are not always the correct choice, because
we’re often not strong enough players to see the perfect line of play. When you play a combo deck like Ad Nauseam, you give yourself the ability to
outplay your opponent, but you also give yourself the ability to make a lot of mistakes, which most players can’t handle. Unless you’re Ari Lax, I
don’t suggest playing Ad Nauseam when there is a perfectly reasonable combo deck that packs almost as hard of a punch in Natural Order, while also
providing you with an alternate form of win in Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique. Natural Order and Progenitus only take up 4-5 slots in your deck, giving
you plenty of breathing room with how you build the rest of it. While you’re forced to play green creatures (I know, they’re so bad),
the rest of the deck’s makeup depends on entirely how you want to play. If you want access to a toolbox and a solid removal spell, play white. If you
want consistency and powerful sideboard options, play red. If you want Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top, go for it! The options are only
restricted by what you’re willing to try. I even jammed out with Avenger of Zendikar in my last event! So try something new!

Legacy is sure to shape up nicely in the next few weeks if you’re a fan of Islands, but I don’t think it’s largely important for non-blue decks to be
packing Mental Misstep. It’s a great card, but it’s much better when combined with other forms of disruption (a la Force of Will) and card selection (a
la Brainstorm). Blue can cast Mental Misstep with two life or one blue mana at its convenience, while non-blue decks don’t have that luxury. Decks like
Zoo and Goblins need redundancy in their aggressive strategies and don’t have the time or resources to devote to a defensive card like Mental Misstep.
If you feel like you need access to it to help fight off decks like High Tide, you can always play them in the sideboard, but don’t feel like you
should be obligated to play Mental Misstep.

But, for the decks that can abuse it, the card is unreal. Legacy is getting access to one bad motherf***er of a card, and life just got really
awkward for people relying on one-drops. Prepare to change your mind set about the format, or fall behind like the rest of the pack.

Thanks for reading.

strong sad on MOL