Welcome to “You Choose The Brew!”, where you can follow the development of an archetype from its infancy to a – hopefully – respectable addition to the Legacy metagame. I’m your host Carsten Kotter, and today we’re going to look at three card triplets that could form the foundation to a new and exciting as-of-now unbuilt Legacy deck. By the end of the show, you the public will then be asked to decide which idea I should follow through on… and I’ll be doing just that, obviously presenting you with new developments and approaches in future episodes. Now that the rules have been laid out, let’s jump right in.
Ever since the latest Legendary rules change enabled the combo, I’ve been fascinated by these three cards working together:
I’m aware that the Thespian’s Stage + Dark Depths combo in and of itself is hardly unknown or innovative at this point. What really tickles my fancy about those three cards, however, is that Tolaria West should be the ideal tutor for a deck like that. Like the combo itself, its Transmute ability can only be countered by Stifle (yeah, yeah, Trickbind, blah blah blah. Stop nitpicking already), doesn’t count as casting a spell and with it we have an easy and convenient eight ways to access each half of our combo, not to mention the ability to integrate a neat little toolbox if we so choose. So where would I be going with this interaction?
Step one in the brewing process is always to figure out the limitations of what our focal point is. In this case, we need to accept that our combo is slow. Transmuting costs three mana and the combo itself demands at least two land drops to be made for it all on its own, so clearly we’re not building a super-fast combo deck here. We also don’t want to get too close to 35-or-however-many-the-deck-plays-now Lands with its heavy commitment to Life from the Loam and Exploration as a) that deck already exists and b) seems to be much more interested in Gamble and Crop Rotation than the color-intensive Tolaria West shenanigans of old.
Given these limitations, my mind mainly gravitates towards a controlling deck – possibly similar to Dreadtill – that uses Dark Depths as an immediately lethal finishing move later in the game that just happens to also give the deck the ability to make a 20/20 on turn four at times (Turns one and two: land, whatever; turn three Thespian’s Stage + Transmute Tolaria West, turn four unleash Gerry T).
Here are a couple of compatriots I’m already considering:
Chalice of the Void/Counterbalance: The biggest enemies of the Dark Depths combo are Swords to Plowshares and Wasteland, so relying on a skeleton that is naturally going to assemble a permanent defense against half of our nemeses seems quite reasonable to say the least. City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb – which obviously go hand in hand with Chalice of the Void – would also allow us to accomplish the combo a turn earlier than one would expect.
Standstill: As much as I usually hate the card due to its conditional nature, having a combo-kill and a tutor that don’t actually break Standstill seems like a solid justification to drop the poor man’s Ancestral Recall on even something as threatening as a Delver of Secrets on turn two, possibly alleviating Standstill’s usual weaknesses. Marit Lage hits quite a bit harder than Mishra’s Factory does, that’s for sure.
Pithing Needle/Stifle: As mentioned above, Wasteland is one of the best defenses in the game against the Dark Depths combo, and both of these cards fight this angle well while also having a lot of utility against the format as a whole.
Maze of Ith, Wasteland, Engineered Explosives, Academy Ruins: If we’re already running four Tolaria West, it should be able to do more than just find our combo pieces. Wasteland is another solid way to help fight opposing Wastelands, and Maze has some pretty solid synergy with Thespian’s Stage if we aren’t ready to combo yet.
Draw 2 4 U
One inspired by my unhealthy love for drawing extra-cards:
Clearly anything that straight-up draws two cards for a single blue mana would be broken – and a very good reason to put Snapcaster Mages in your deck, too. In a deck with enough artifacts, that’s exactly what Thoughcast is, so it is surprising to me that nobody has gotten around to actually building a deck that uses this interaction as its card advantage engine. Once we’re jumping through the hoop of playing enough artifacts to make Thoughcast good, having Mox Opal in the deck seems like a no-brainer – and the additional mana acceleration helps to compensate for spending so much of our time just drawing cards.
As for our limitations, we likely need to run at least eight artifact lands to make this work, probably more given the necessity for us to also run enough spells to Flashback with Snapcaster Mage. As a result, Wasteland will likely prove to be a pain, and supporting spells with more than a single colored symbol in the upper right-hand corner will be tough. On the other hand, Mox Opal and maybe Glimmervoid would make running single-colored spells from all kinds of colors relatively easy. There’s also a reasonable chance that we won’t have the necessary amount of fetchlands to support Brainstorm despite playing blue and Snapcaster Mage (no promises, though – I still love drawing cards).
The easiest way to try and make this work would be a regular Affinity shell – it does work with Thoughtcast and Mox Opal already, after all – but I’m not too excited about that prospect as that deck is light on spells worth flashing back and much too aggressive to really care about casting Thoughtcast again and again. For the moment, the directions I expect to explore first are:
- A different kind of Blade-deck – we should have enough artifacts to make Cranial Plating a force to be reckoned with, and Etched Champion could well serve as copies five through eight of True-Name Nemesis (or its replacement should the colored mana prove to be too much of a hassle). With all the artifacts, Dispatch and Galvanic Blast also become quite tempting.
- A combo-controlish Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas deck that just aims to trade spells with the opponent while pulling ahead with repeated Thoughtcasts leading into a rapid endgame of play a Tezzeret, tick it up and win the game the turn after with the artifact-based Tendrils of Agony ultimate.
- A deck that spends the early game drawing cards, Vintage style, only to deploy a game-dominating two-card combo on turn three or four.
- Some combination of the above.
- Maybe there’s some way to make it work with Future Sight (Hey, a man can dream!)
- A Glimpse of Nature/Thoughcast-based Affinity list that just aims to dump a couple of mediocre but cheap threats every turn while also refueling to do it again the turn after. Even with a low land count, a couple of turns of doing this (and/or Gaea’s Cradle) should mean that Snapcastering Glimpse of Nature becomes quite reasonable quite fast.
Stealing The Ashtray
Well, this is one I’ve already looked at for Vintage in my Conspiracy review but, I haven’t tackled it in Legacy yet:
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t you just highlight Jared Boettcher’s deck last week that had all of these cards? True, true, I did. But his sweet and super-flexible list isn’t what I’d be looking for here, even though I might to crib at least his Baleful Strixes – they are so good with Welder. I mean, he had just a single Dack Fayden and a single Transmute Artifact. If this is the triplet you choose, I’d be aiming for something much more focused on abusing the Welder plus discard synergy.
The limitations of the strategy are easy to see. We need to run enough cheap artifacts to start Welding and at least some fat to Transmute into or discard. We also likely need to run other creatures than just Goblin Welder because that little guy usually has a big target painted on his back and we’ll need something needs to draw fire away from him.
Concerning the actual deck, the first thing I’d be working towards is something along the lines of Vintage Control Slaver, a deck that can control the game and grind card-advantage/quality with Thirst for Knowledge and Dack that has the potential to really go nuts if Goblin Welder happens to survive; it has enough mana acceleration (Grim Monolith?) to actually cast its fat should that prove necessary. Mindslaver, Wurmcoil Engine and Sundering Titan are pretty ridiculous if they can be Welded in and out at a whim.
Given that Mana Drain isn’t an option, this approach might not be feasible, but there are a couple of other directions to explore. Maybe we should just use the tutoring and recursion to set up some artifact-based combo – say Painter’s Servant + Grindstone or Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek – and use Dack mainly to both filter and make things happen on the cheap thanks to Welder. In the case of Thopter Foundry, I could even see Stoneforge Mystic making an appearance – the Kor Artificer sure fills the role of lightning rod we mentioned above, and you could do worse than welding Batterskull into play as a backup plan.
On the other hand, maybe Transmute Artifact is best looked at as Entombs five to eight while Welders are complemented with reanimation spells to create a Reanimator deck that is slightly slower but much better at grinding out middling to long games than the traditional UB build.
Choose The Brew
Time for you to decide:
It should be obvious that I can’t guarantee that any option will actually lead to a new top tier Legacy deck, but to my mind, every single one has the potential to result in something sweet and powerful – and yet so far I haven’t really taken the time to explore any of them. By giving you the choice of what I look at next, I not only force myself to finally do so but also get the opportunity to illustrate in detail how I go about building and refining a new deck. The poll should remain open until Sunday, June 29th, and you can expect me to present you with the results of the next step in the brewing process a week later.
What will I be spending my time on? The choice is yours, so get clicking!