Drinking From The Deadguy Ale – A New Era Of Removal

Removal in Legacy is not just about running four Swords to Plowshares anymore. Gene Richtsmeier looks at different removal packages in Legacy for dealing with Stoneforge Mystic and Mental Misstep.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 
—Art of War

Legacy has changed; the game has changed. Mental Misstep and Stoneforge Mystic have changed it. These cards change our tactic, and they change our
strategy. A few months ago, if you came up to me and asked: “What removal spell should I put in my Legacy deck?” I would automatically, almost always,
say four Swords to Plowshares. If you didn’t have white mana for it, I would likely tell you to splash white for it. I mean, hell, when I play my wife
with the Tezzeret deck in the Tezzeret vs. Elspeth duel deck, she crushes me with Swords to Plowshares and Elspeth all the time!

A lot of the time, Swords to Plowshares and other one-mana removal spells, like Path to Exile or Ghastly Demise, are still going to be correct choice
in removal. However, there are ways to make them better in our decks, or do dare I say it—in this new age of Legacy, we might want to consider other
options? Stoneforge Mystic and Mental Misstep caused me to take a good long hard look at how I want to approach my removal packages in the decks I am
brewing. Now more than ever players are going turn one Mental Misstep followed up by turn two Stoneforge Mystic. Depending on the type of clock our
deck has, casting Swords on our opponent’s 1/2 Stoneforge Mystic isn’t going to bother them, and casting Swords on a Batterskull token is not what you
want to be doing.

It’s important to note that one of the most popular decks in Legacy is Merfolk and having a one-mana removal as your only way to interact with their
Lords isn’t that comforting, especially since they have a one mana free counter waiting to dream crush your Swords to Plowshares. You will notice I
will be talking about Merfolk a lot in my writing. This is because Merfolk is the deck you are most likely to see in a big tournament. It’s fast,
disruptive, reasonably priced, and can win tournaments. Merfolk is a deck always in the back of my mind when picking my decks.

Okay enough theory; let’s look at some decklists I have been working with and their removal choices:

This deck is an example of powering through Mental Misstep with redundancy. What that means is the deck has too many must-answer one-drops for decks
like Merfolk to handle. Which forces Mental Misstep to be used incorrectly most of the time. This keeps your removal available to keep them off their
game plan. Eventually you should be able to power through their counters.

Let’s look at the one-drops:

4 Aether Vial
3 Mother of Runes
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Path to Exile
4 Thoughtseize

You’ve probably noticed I put a Path to Exile for a fifth Sword effect for good measure just to make sure I can deal with my opponent’s threats.
Against certain matchups like Merfolk, B/W tempo has inevitability because cards like Sword of Fire and Ice and Dark Confidant can put you so far ahead
in your games. Your Merfolk opponent is able to curve out on you, so the extra removal for their lords is key in preventing them from completely
overwhelming you with their team.

Here is an example of how my removal package stays live throughout the match:

Turn 1 Thoughtseize — Opponents Missteps it.

Turn 2 Aether Vial — My opponent Forces or Missteps it.

Turn 3 Dark Confidant or Stoneforge Mystic — These two cards are so important in most of your matchups. I would normally play them on turn three anyway
because playing around Daze with win conditions such as these is way too important.  

I understand a lot of people are not a big fan of Aether Vial strategies nowadays, but it still carries its weight. Aether Vial must be targeted with
Misstep or Force of Will. Although Aether Vial itself doesn’t win you the game, it just guarantees your win conditions resolve. At the same time, it
makes your Swords to Plowshares a guaranteed removal spell in a lot of games.

Of course, this isn’t how turns play out all the time, but that sequence of events happens with a number of combinations of cards—whether it’s turn one
Aether Vial and turn two Mother of Runes or just running out Tidehollow Sculler on turn two to see where we are positioned. The deck is also packing
Vindicates to interact with Stoneforge Mystic and, depending on the deck you’re playing against, it’s great to have a removal option that doesn’t get
Spell Snared or Mental Misstepped. Vindicate serves as the catchall removal spell. If your early turns were productive, it can give you the opportunity
to put the nail in the coffin and close out the game.

This leads to my next deck, which goes completely in the other direction in its removal choices, packing mostly three-mana removal. 

I am not going to go too much into the deck itself. Ben did write about it in his
tournament report found here

I did want to take a minute and look his choice in removal spells:

2 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Putrefy
1 Innocent Blood
1 Diabolic Edict
4 Pernicious Deed

Minus the one Innocent Blood, this deck doesn’t have to worry about its removal getting stopped by Mental Misstep. Instead, it can use its own Missteps
more effectively, such as for protecting (or hitting) Brainstorms rather than removal spells. 

Putrefy is an old favorite but is exactly the type of removal spell people need to consider running. It’s no secret Stoneforge Mystic as a 1/2 isn’t
very powerful in and of itself, but what Stoneforge brings to the party is what’s scary. Putrefy can take care of the Equipment on your opponent’s turn
and currently is a card that people are not playing around.

Maelstrom Pulse does the same thing at sorcery speed and hits those pesky Aether Vials or Bitterblossoms. I would put stock in cards like Maelstrom
Pulse and Vindicate just for the fact they can hit Planeswalkers.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor has moved from a possible two-of option for blue decks to a four-of win condition! The many different Landstill/Bugstill decks
are perfect examples of this.

Pernicious Deed in this deck serves as the catchall removal spell without hitting win conditions like Jace or Mishras Factory. What’s funny when
looking at the removal package in this deck is that it’s pretty much the exact same as a Rock deck I used to play back in the day when Spiritmonger was
my win condition! Who knows? Maybe I need to bring it back! (Probably not; I just can’t let go…)

I wanted to touch on a few other cards that I personally think are really good removal cards for people to consider when brewing:

Go for the Throat
– For the most part, a straight-up kill spell. I don’t suggest running more than two in a deck though. Affinity is a popular choice because of its
accessibility and viability. You also can’t hit ringers like Painter’s Servant, and the last thing you want to do is clog your hand with worthless

– This is a card I have been considering for some of my brews. It’s Misstep proof, and Tarmogoyf is hard pressed to hit that 5/6 range. You can pay
life to play around Daze to boot.

Not a removal spell per se, but man is this card good right now. Stifling Stoneforge Mystic is so good! Did you know you can stifle the Germ triggers
on living weapons as well?

– This is obviously something not played around, and it’s a great way to close out a game. My friend beat a Lands opponent with this card, and his
expression on his face was priceless.

Sower of Temptation
– This card is a hard card to swallow when you’re a Merfolk player and your opponent just took over your Coralhelm Commander.

There are hundreds more cards I could name; that’s the joy of Legacy! The purpose of this article was hopefully to get people thinking outside the box
when choosing removal packages. If we think about it, cards like Mental Misstep and Stoneforge Mystic are fair cards. They don’t go double Dark Ritual,
“Thanks for playing!” but they do affect how we approach deckbuilding. The format has slowed down significantly, and we can take different approaches
because of it.

I will be heading out to Cincinnati for the SCG Open on July 17. If you have time, come by say “hi.” I’ll be there slinging red spells!

Thanks for reading,
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