Hogaak Isn’t Just For Modern Anymore

With the next Banned and Restricted announcement just around the corner, GerryT believes the Hogaak menace could find a new format to terrorize: Legacy!

This may not be the hottest take, but Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis great in Legacy.

Let’s be honest, Hogaak is too good for Modern, both before Bridge from Below and after. Its power level is way more in line with what the average game of Legacy looks like. Still, porting Hogaak to Legacy is far from a smooth transition. Obviously, the formats are much different, and Legacy has a plethora of scary cards and archetypes, so you might think Hogaak isn’t powerful enough.

Unlike in Modern, there’s very little graveyard hate in Legacy and it’s the wrong kind. Cards like Surgical Extraction barely make a dent and those cards aren’t even seeing maindeck play. The format is so much less hostile to Hogaak than Modern is. To top it off, Legacy decks are typically much worse at dealing with creatures than a Modern deck will be, so a horde of 1/1s and 2/1s can often get the job done.

I’m not going to try to tell you it’s a clean transition though. For starters, Marit Lage is a huge issue that doesn’t have many good solutions. You can try to break it up with Alpine Moon or Assassin’s Trophy, but often the 20/20 will happen a turn before you can win the game and block your 8/8 to prevent you from dealing lethal.

Secondly, Karakas is very, very annoying. Hogaak’s Legendary status has never felt like a drawback, but it’s potentially game losing if your opponent has access to Karakas. A few decks can also Crop Rotation (or Elvish Reclaimer) for Bojuka Bog at instant speed. Those decks tend to have access to Karakas as well, which makes things even more difficult.

Force of Will on a Turn 1 Stitcher’s Supplier is a potentially game winning play for the various blue decks in the format, but it’s possible they haven’t quite figured that out yet. You also have to wonder if playing Hogaak is better than playing something like Reanimator or Dredge.

You could make the case for Dredge because it’s an archetype that is frequently disrespected (and mostly plows through a single Surgical Extraction like Hogaak does), but Reanimator is exactly the deck that people are tailoring their graveyard hate to be able to beat. That, plus the fact that putting Griselbrand onto the battlefield doesn’t necessarily win you the game are enough reasons to stay away from Reanimator at the moment.

If you’re still skeptical, consider that people were originally skeptical that Eldrazi would become a thing in Legacy, so I did my best to try and make that happen

Hogaak first made its way into Legacy through Magic Online with two very distinct decklists. The first was almost a direct port from the Modern version, looking to abuse Bridge from Below and Altar of Dementia. The second somehow managed to splice Dark Depths into the mix.

This looks similar to the Modern versions before Bridge from Below was banned. Given that the Bridge from Below version was the best version of the deck at the time, it makes sense to start there. Whether or not that’s the best we can do remains to be seen.

Legacy offers Entomb, Cabal Therapy, and a less painful manabase, but that’s about it. Considering how busted this deck is in Modern, that’s not exactly a downside. Plus, Cabal Therapy can solve many problems on its own.

You can’t understate how impactful Cabal Therapy is in a deck like this. Modern’s version is light on disruption and Cabal Therapy, especially in a deck with sacrificial fodder, can win games on its own. The art of casting Cabal Therapy isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a rush unlike any other, and almost nothing in Magic is as rewarding as being a sniper with Cabal Therapy.

Meanwhile, Entomb adds consistency by allowing you to find your payoff cards more reliably. Given that most of Hogaak’s best draws involve a Turn 2 8/8, it’s possible that Entomb is too slow. By using Entomb, you’re building for resiliency, not speed, but the latter is what’s needed the most in Legacy.

Here’s the other, arguably more successful version that adds Dark Depths into the mix.

Elvish Reclaimer is so good. This was the first deck I saw that incorporated it successfully, but since then, numerous versions have popped up, with and without Hogaak. The strongest looking versions of the deck have dropped the Hogaak stuff, but that’s not really what we’re here to talk about.

This deck is cute but doesn’t do either thing particularly well. Some of the enablers for both combos overlap to some degree (Satyr Wayfinder for Dark Depths!), but you end up with a bad version of both decks.

You have nine ways to cast Elvish Reclaimer on Turn 1 and an additional four ways to cast Stitcher’s Supplier on Turn 1. That’s going to lead to an awful lot of hands that are “Khalni Garden, go,” which isn’t acceptable in Legacy.

Overall, this deck is doing powerful things, but there’s little point in mashing them together.

I wouldn’t mind borrowing the Sylvan Safekeepers from this list to protect against Swords to Plowshares (and Karakas, but that can get taxing very quickly), so maybe that’s something to try in the future.

Finally, there’s a third version that closely resembles the current versions being played in Modern. You could say the impetus for this article was this decklist from Mats0le, which is what really got me into thinking about the archetype.

It might look like this version doesn’t have a huge edge over the Modern version, but that’s not entirely accurate. Basking Rootwalla is huge since it makes your deck faster and means your Faithless Lootings are beyond incredible. The deck is often taxed on mana, despite each of your spells being one mana, so having a zero-mana enabler is a game changer. You can also make plays like Turn 1 Putrid Imp, discard Vengevine, discard Basking Rootwalla with Madness, which is enough of a power level amp that this deck feels at home in Legacy.

As I mentioned, Cabal Therapy can carry an entire archetype, this one included.

The thing that really drew me in was the Entomb package and just how deep you could go. Sadly, most of it ended up being nonsense, so I’m playing a far more reasonable package of bullets. When are you ever going to Entomb for a Creeping Chill anyway?

I’ve been playing this. My win rate hasn’t been astronomical, and the list is far from optimal.

I can’t take any credit since all I did is trim the superfluous Entomb targets and tune the sideboard.

I’m still not sure about the Anger, even though it’s the only bullet left. It seems great in theory as a way to pressure decks with sorcery speed sweepers or to pressure combo decks, but realistically, when do you have time to Entomb for it against those decks? Most of the time, having an additional Vengevine would accomplish much of the same thing.

Overall, the Entombs were fine, but if I needed more creatures as enablers, I’d be entirely fine making that swap. I’d also be fine adding four copies of Reanimate and some copies of Griselbrand to go with the Entombs, but that doesn’t necessarily solve anything. Change my mind.

Bloodghast is medium, but there are enough games where you’re short a creature to convoke a Hogaak onto the battlefield that some number is correct. I started with zero to try it, but grossly underestimated how easy it was for some decks to keep my battlefield clear. In many matchups, Bloodghast is a “win more” card, but in the matchups where it matters, it often feels like having a sideboard card in your maindeck.

The Taiga was so bad. You want each of your lands to produce black mana and the third Bayou isn’t much worse. Wasteland can be an issue, but Satyr Wayfinder tends to punish people trying to Wasteland you. I like Dryad Arbor in theory, but it was also poor. The situation rarely came up where I wanted to fetch it and drawing it felt horrible.

Veil of Summer seems sweet, but you don’t really care about the cantrip. If you force through a Hogaak or something, you’re in a great spot and the additional card won’t make or break you. Conversely, being able to counter a Brainstorm that’s trying to set up a Terminus or a Show and Tell that’s going to kill you is actually important, so Pyroblast gets the nod. Things like Back to Basics and Snapcaster Mage on Swords to Plowshares can also be troublesome.

Ancient Grudge makes sense with four copies of Entomb, but I often want to trim Entomb when I’m expecting graveyard hate. Plus, Entomb for Ancient Grudge doesn’t beat Grafdigger’s Cage, so I’d prefer to have a Shenanigans in that spot instead. It’s slightly less efficient, but actually does something in the face of hate.

Given the inherent weaknesses of the deck I initially mentioned, it’s likely that the Altar of Dementia version is the best choice in Legacy. Altar of Dementia solves a host of problems like Marit Lage and Karakas but isn’t without its own issues. The majority of your cards require the graveyard to be active, which is usually fine in Legacy,

From my experience, Carrion Feeder and Bloodghast are the weakest cards, so I wouldn’t mind merging the two versions and see if we can find a happy medium with Satyr Wayfinder, Altar of Dementia, Putrid Imp, and Basking Rootwalla. You want sacrifice outlets with Bridge from Below and the grindier nature of Satyr Wayfinder doesn’t exactly mesh with Altar of Dementia, so maybe it doesn’t work.


Is Hogaak the perfect Legacy deck at the moment? Maybe not, but it attacks from a unique angle, decimates the nonsense four-color blue decks, and has a fast-enough clock to have a chance against every deck in the format. If I were in the Legacy seat for #SCGRich, I’d either be ‘Gaaking or playing a bigger blue with Mox Diamond, Wrenn and Six, and Narset, Parter of Veils trying to beat up on the other blue decks.

As long as you respect Dark Depths and you respect the Four-Color Control decks, you can’t really go wrong.