Creature Feature: Dave’s Legions Prerelease Report

I’m not ready to say Legions is the new Homelands, as others have – there’s more than three playable cards in this set – but the list of cards I’d call tournament-playable is short. But middle sets are often lacking in that department, as it’s the final set in block formats that tend to have the bulk of the bombs. While lacking in cards for Constructed environments, though, this set is going to be a blast to draft.

Keeping the road trip anecdotes to a minimum here, three of us from Gambit Games had planned to go, myself, Rick and Paul, all senior citizens in the game-collectively, we’re about 110 or so. Rick bails on us for snowboarding, though. I warned him that the weather was going to be crappy on the mountains, but nooooooo, he chooses snowboarding.

For the record, as I drove over the passes at the 5,000 foot level, it was raining and about fifty degrees. Suffice it to say, Rick did indeed lament that, yes, he should have come with us.

I had also planned on bringing along my spiffy new laptop so I could type up my tournament report on site (keen!), but given the prevalence of sticky fingers at these events, I decided on the trusty pad and paper instead.

We show up at 9:15, fairly early (we think), and there’s two hundred people already registering decks. Uh…are we late? Did I miss something?

Not exactly. The organizers decided to have an”early bird” flight -cthey thought they’d get about sixty people, and everyone else would play in the”main” flight. Then they had two hundred people waiting for them at seven in the morning… So for the early bird flight, they had two hundred and twenty-five people, and for the main flight, they had about a hundred and twenty-five. Pretty good numbers for a tournament.

The deck I first opened was decent (had a foil Tribal Golem), but fortunately, I didn’t get to keep that. Here’s what I got, and lordy, it was bombtastic:


Crypt Sliver

Vile Deacon

2x Dripping Dead

Haunted Cadaver

Profane Prayers

Accursed Centaur

Syphon Mind

Grinning Demon

Nantuko Husk

Dirge of Dread

Prowling Pangolin

Bane of the Living

Goblin Turncoat

2x Corpse Harvester

Embalmed Brawler

Withered Wretch


Goblin Lookout

Goblin Goon


Lavamancer’s Skill

Skirk Marauder

Frenetic Raptor

Commando Raid

Skirk Prospector

Break Open

Goblin Firebug

Bloodstroke Howler

Lightning Rift

Goblin Sledder

Battering Craghorn


Daru Cavalier

Unified Strike


Daru Healer



Aven Soulgazer

Whipgrass Entangler

Wingbeat Warrior

Swooping Talon

Starlight Invoker

2x Deftblade Elite

Aven Redeemer

Lowland Tracker

Daru Mender

Cloudreach Cavalry

Beacon of Destiny

Aven Warhawk

Foothill Guide


Stonewood Invoker


Snarling Undorak

Venomprout Brackus

Berserk Murlodont

Nantuko Vigilante

Symbiotic Elf



Timberwatch Elf


Symbiotic Beast

Patron of the Wild

Elvish Warrior

Defiant Elf

Invigorating Boon

Quick Sliver



Voidmage Apprentice

Keeneye Aven

Mistform Seaswift

Covert Operative

Glintwing Invoker

Cephalid Pathmage

Mistform Sliver

Aphetto Grifter


Mistform Mask

Ixidor’s Will

Spy Network

Choking Tethers

Mistform Wall

Riptide Biologist


Voidmage Prodigy


Lonely Sandbar

Forgotten Cave

Decisions, decisions, no? Obviously, we’re going with black as a base color. A solid creature bane and the truly insane Bane of the Living. I decided to splash red – a very strong splash, mind you – with the power of the Goblin Goon, Lavamancer’s Skill and Sparksmith. A deck that ended being 20 creatures and three spells, yeah, I never had a problem with the Goon’s drawback.

That left either blue or green for my other base color. My first thought was to go with blue. With a Discombobulate, Voidmage Prodigy, Voidmage Apprentice and Imagecrafter, I had the potential to counter almost everything an opponent played, and it would allow me to maximize Lavamancer’s Skill. But the creature base wasn’t impressing me with any large numbers in the lower right hand corner. Clone is powerful, true, but nothing else in blue offered much in the way of a red zone threat. Then I noticed that the Corpse Harvester happened to be a Zombie Wizard, and that made my decision to abandon blue easier. Never used its ability, but that being a Wizard part did come in handy.

Maybe I could have run the Frenetic Raptor, or Patron of the Wild. But the deck was really solid and a beatstick and a half. I had plenty of creature-based removal and fat, fat, fat. I built it to be a hyper-aggressive deck that should-and did-steamroll an opponent within six turns.

This is the final configuration:

Withered Wretch

Prowling Pangolin

Dirge of Dread

Bane of the Living

Goblin Turncoat

2x Corpse Harvester

Nantuko Husk

Grinning Demon

Embalmed Brawler

Goblin Lookout

Lavamancer’s Skill

Skirk Marauder


Commando Raid

Goblin Goon

Stonewood Invoker

Snarling Undorak

Nantuko Vigilante

Venomprout Brackus

Symbiotic Elf

Berserk Murlodont


7 Swamp

6 Forest

3 Mountain

1 Forgotten Cave

In retrospect, I probably should have found room for the Frenetic Raptor, but all in all I was very pleased with the deck. Goblin Lookout was the weakest choice, he never ended up being a factor.

Round 1-let me see…

I thought I had my notes around here somewhere. If so, they’re doing a good job of hiding. I do know that I won both games, my opponent was playing heavy blue, subbed in red in game two, and got mana screwed.

Afterwards, he asked me for advice, and I told him he’d be a fool not to run red with all the good stuff he had, which included a Sparksmith, Goblin Taskmaster, and other goodies. Later in the day, he came up to me and said he’d gone 4-0 after taking my advice, which certainly made me feel good.

Round 2: Gabe Wilson (B/G)

I have to mulligan down to a six-card hand, and get stuck on two lands. Gabe is not having this problem. I manage to drop a couple of two-drop goblins to keep me alive and actually take the offensive for a few turns. I get a few lands and add a Nantuko Husk and his combo-riffic running mate, Symbiotic Elf and a morphed Bane of the Living… But then Gabe has to drop that damn Silklash Spider. I hate that thing. Here I am with some great cheap creatures with six power, and this thing laughs at them.

The only way I can get rid of that is to get up to nine lands and flip the Insect O’ Doom, methinks, or force him to block with it, then flip the Bane to kill it… But he’s not falling for it and I’m never in a position to force a creature rush. I plan, tentatively, to make him overextend, take a few beats, then clear the board with the Bane of the Living and try to race him from there. Unfortunately, his overpriced Aphetto Vulture comes out, I take a few hits, and I’m forced to clear the board. After flipping the Bane (that sounds a tad obscene, and this card certainly can be), the board consists of my Nantuko Husk and his Silklash Spider. He decides to recurse the Vulture, and I’m unable to get an answer for it in time – I was one mana way from being able to unmorph the Venomprout, which might have given me a little time to regroup.

Game two, my deck coughs up four land and thirteen spells. I play out an army of morphed chump blockers, but when Gabe flips over his Bane of the Living, that pretty much spells my end. For fun, we play a third game, and I steamroll him. Too little, too late. Maybe I should have subbed in the blue.

Gabe went on to win the flight with a 6-0 record, so I don’t feel too bad about losing to him.

Sad observation of the day:

  • Number of players at the prerelease: over 350

  • Number of players at the prerelease who know how to flush a toilet: approximately 12

Round 3: KC Zimmer (R/G)

KC is a young’un, I’m guessing around ten or so, and he shows up ten minutes late. At a higher ranked event this would have been a game loss – but we’re all here for fun, right? (Well, that, and to win some packs, one hopes.)

Round one, KC wins the die roll and starts with a turn 3 Skirk Commando, unmorphed – I don’t think he’s been playing the game too long. I answer with an Undorak, which I am forced to enchant with Lavamancer’s Skill when he starts beating me with a Ridgetop Raptor. I take a couple of hits from that, not wanting to sacrifice a creature to it, and then he drops a Rockshard Elemental – and all of a sudden, my Grinning Demon ain’t grinning no more as I get crushed.

That was profoundly depressing.

The next two games, however, are incredibly brief and in my favor, and I get both Grinning Demon and Goblin Goon out by turn 5 each time. I don’t have many notes for those two matches because they didn’t last that long.

Round 4: Greg Orr (R/G)

Speaking of short matches with few notes – Greg had horrible luck and I had awesome draws. Game one, Greg has a hand full of forests and red spells, and I have a Goblin Mercenary and turn four Goon which go the distance in a hurry. Game two, Greg has all mountains and green spells, even after mulliganing, but he’s able to play out a parade of morphs, but I have Bane of the Living… And, sadly, that’s all she wrote.

Round 5: John-Paul Galina (U/R/W)

I know John from my days in Eugene, when he was but a wee tyke. Now he’s taller than me. That seems to happen a lot to all the little kids I used to play Magic with. Mind you, I’m an even six foot, so I must have some sort of mutagenic growing effect.

I’ve also had his number as of late, a la Bad Player Caldwell.

I start the beats early with a turn 2 Stonewood Invoker and a turn 3 morph. What’s the mystery creature, John? Why, yes, it’s a Grinning Demon! Now let’s move on to the”Pacifism or No?” category. No Pacifism? Hey, thanks for playing, and leave with a lovely copy of our home game, and a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat…

Dirge of Dread finishes that game in a real hurry, right before his Whipcorder can get active.

Game two is much of the same, as John is begging for red mana. Turn two Invoker again for me, as well as his new running mate, Super Juzam. Essence Fracture sets me back a turn, though, and I’m forced to rebuild. John is playing land after land but not finding a creature-one that lives long, anyway. Choking Tethers buys him one turn, but when my Bane of the Living sweeps the board, the game again ends in a hurry.

Cool play of the day is when I try to use Sparksmith – with Goblin Turncoat in play – to kill one of his morphs. John flips Willbender to try and kill one of my morphs, which was a Grinning Demon that was going to smash his face next turn. I sac the Turncoat to himself in response, my morph only takes one and lives, and the face-smashing proceeds as planned.

So, I’m guaranteed at least four packs. I take the draw, I get eight. Win, I get twelve. I have what I think is a very good deck, but so does everyone else at the top table.

I ask myself, what would Friggin’ Rizzo say? He’d say play on, of course, as drawing is morally wrong. What would the Rev. Toby Wachter do? He’d probably come across the table, kick his opponent in the gut and STUNNER! STUNNER! MY GAWD! STUNNER! SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH!

Sorry about that. I was channeling Jim Ross for a moment there.

No, Dave here is not a big chance taker, and I pretty much will always take the bird in the hand over the two in the bush. I offer the draw, and settle for eight packs.

But we play anyway, just for the heck of it. You come to these things to play, after all.

Round 6: Brett Nemecek (R/G)

Game one sees me finally win a die roll and bust out with an Invoker and morphed Bane of the Living; he has four Goblins. Four two-toughness Goblins. Yeah, I’ll lose the Invoker for that trade. After sweeping the board, I drop an Undorak and Withered Wretch and sweep across the table from there.

Game two is equally as lopsided. Turn 3 Husk, turn 4 Goon, turn 6 win. That’s all I have for notes; sorry. Brett shows me a hand with Frenetic Raptor and Kilnmouth Dragon, some good – when you can cast them.

Well, damn, I should have played on. Brett, I’m sure, was very happy with the draw.

-> Told you so, sez Rizzo

(Yeah, but I did get two Caller of the Claws and two foil rares I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d won the bigger package, so there!)

Speaking of sticky fingers…The sucky part of the day is that while working a trade, Paul gets his deck jacked – he wasn’t overly upset, as there wasn’t anything breathtaking in it besides a Rorix Bladewing, and he has tons of those – but still, it sucks to lose your deck when you had an outside chance of winning some packs.

One of these days, Paul and I are actually going to try out this little sting operation we planned years ago, where we’d leave a deck unattended and see who tries to steal it. We snatch ’em as they leave the room. If they try to protest their ignorance, we’d merely have to remove the cards from the sleeves, where we’d have written”I AM A THIEF” in big black letters.

But that’s neither here nor there. But if we ever pull it off successfully, I’ll let you know. It will make for quite the fun story.

So what’s my take on Legions?

I’m not ready to say Legions is the new Homelands, as others have – there’s more than three playable cards in this set – but the list of cards I’d call tournament-playable is short.

The neutering of blue continues. Among all the top tables, there was plenty of green, red and black, and some white, but blue was hardly to be seen. White has gotten stronger, thanks in part to Cloudreach Cavalry. This little guy is a beatstick and a half with a Bird in play (and, what a surprise! White has plenty of those!).

Blue-white is a potentially decent combination now, but blue in general is still the worst color in draft. It has many interesting morphs and Willbender is a beating and a half in the right situation, but in general its creature base is underpowered and overcosted, and in an all-creature set, that just isn’t going to cut it.

White weenie is going to get a huge boost from the Cloudreach Cavalry. Turn 1 Suntail Hawk, turn 2 Cavalry, turn 3 Divine Sacrament or Glorious Anthem – that’s a turn 5 kill right there.

Clickslither – amazing in Goblin decks, both in Standard and Block. Bane of the Living is a Sealed bomb but I’m not sure how much play it will see outside of possibly Block. Caller of the Claw is probably somewhat overrated. It can be a bomb, but more often than not it will only be worth one or two extra creatures, which makes it very solid in my book, but not bombalicious.

Akroma Angel of Mercy and Phage the Untouchable – trade them away now for a lot, then trade for them later once all the Timmys have theirs.

Skirk Marauder is solid, but in a fast mono-red deck, what would you rather spend six mana on – casting and unmorphing a 2/1 with a built-in Shock or casting two or three creatures? It’s better in the late game when things may have bogged down, but that’s not where mono-red wants to be.

Goblin Goon, however, is all that and a bag of chips.

The Muses are intriguing. Seedborn Muse has a home in Squirrel-Oppo decks and perhaps a Block version of Tradewind-Awakening. Graveborn Muse has the potential to be broken, it also has the potential to run you out of life and cards. Lavaborn Muse belongs in a R/B discard deck, and it’s a solid body to boot.

I like the Gempalm cyclers, especially the white one, which will see considerable play in Block. The red one is also fairly abusive.

Drinker of Sorrow, I knew Phyrexian Negator. Phyrexian Negator was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Phyrexian Negator.

I like the synergy between Voidmage Prodigy and Voidmage Apprentice, but that’s really more cutesy than anything. Blue got the worst Invoker, the worst Gempalm (all Wizards get flying? big whoop), and nothing notably great in the flyer department. I doubt you’ll see many U/x decks in Block Constructed, and I’d avoid blue like the plague in draft.

Aven Envoy… Why? I don’t know. Ask the Defiant Elf.

Any card with the creature type of”Specter” hasn’t been broken since Dark Ritual left the environment. Good but fragile; I’d take Silent over Hollow.

Mistform Ultimus is the ultimate”neat” card. What kind of deck it goes in, I have no clue. But it’s neat for a Hill Giant.

Provoke is interesting, but probably not a mechanic that decks will be built around.

Did anyone ever get Spirit of the Night decks to work? No? Maybe someone can get the Scion of Darkness/Cleric version to function properly.

Slivers are cute, but I don’t think they’ll as big of a tournament splash as they did back in Tempest and Stronghold. The cheap ones don’t do enough and the expensive ones are, well, expensive. Five mana for a Sliver? I don’t remember them costing that much.

If you were to press me, I’d have to say the top cards out of the set were:

Goblin Goon – Drawback? What drawback?

Branchsnap Lorian – Uncommonly inexpensive (1GG) beast with morph and a nice ability, could fit nicely into Block G/B Beast decks, and makes a good target for Vitality Charm. Four power for three toughness is nothing to scoff at.

Caller of the Claw – Good but not that good, something that might see play in Elf-heavy decks, possibly Extended Elfball variants.

Gempalm Avenger and Gempalm Incinerator: If you are actually casting these cards, something is seriously wrong.

Stoic Champion: Solid in Astroglide, broken in weenie white. Cycle Gempalm Avenger, instant 5/5 first striker.

Clickslither – Baw wit’ da bomb, baby.

Cloudreach Cavalry – Welcome back, weenie white, welcome back.

Withered Wretch – A solid bear with a great ability that spans formats.

Seedborn Muse – There are so many ways this can be broken.

Not a big list, is it? But middle sets are often lacking in that department, as it’s the final set in block formats that tend to have the bulk of the bombs. While lacking in cards for Constructed environments, though, this set is going to be a blast to draft.

It’s no Homelands, but it’s no Apocalypse, either.