Inexorable Tech – It’s About Time (Spiral)

Friday, January 7th – There are tons of cards viable in Legacy now with Survival gone – Lewis is brewing up a storm and wants to play with some sweet new ones: Lotus Cobra, Time Spiral, Explore…Time to win SCG Open: Kansas City is now!

This article and the next will be about utilizing broken and under-appreciated cards throughout the Legacy and Extended formats, so I’ve decided to start by regaling you with the moment I realized that mythic rares would change all Constructed formats forever…

Every once in a while, a card is released that you can look at and say, “That card needs to be broken.” While some cards are “broken” in Standard or Extended formats, like Bloodbraid Elf, some cards are universally broken. My first experience with Lotus Cobra was in an 8-man draft. Ben Stark’s four-color monstrosity with no mana fixing didn’t look like it could pull off a win, and I was confident after crushing him in game one.

“This is gonna be the first time I beat Papa Stark in Limited after fourteen straight losses!!” I thought to myself, keeping a hand that I had no idea wasn’t good enough. Ben tapped two mana and summoned a Lotus Cobra through the rift before curving out with turn 4 3GG five-drop, turn 5 4RR six-drop, turn 6 4BBB seven-drop. Magic will never be the same, and it’s about time for people to start casting mythics in Legacy.


My Mixed Feelings on Survival:

In hindsight, I’m glad Survival was banned. Leading up to the B&R list announcements, I truly hoped that they wouldn’t ban Survival, which most people probably think is insane. In my experience, Legacy is a cyclical format that revolves around variations of the same decks from season to season
with a couple of breakout decks seen in the course of a year. For instance,
Ben Wienburg recently Top 4ed a Legacy Open playing Thresh,
a deck people have been playing since 2002, one of the oldest Legacy archetypes.

Merfolk? Zoo? Tendrils? Does anything ever change? Even Enchantress and D&T still put up results on occasion. I loved Survival because it was very powerful, and I’ve never even cast one. The cyclical nature of Legacy can create stale formats, and the fact that all of the best decks were losing to Survival meant that people would have to either play Survival or find something that beats it. Rather than playing decks with 2-3 maindeck Pithing Needles and a boatload of Spell Snares, players gravitated towards playing Survival themselves, eventually packing maindeck hate for other Survival decks. Survival is certainly slightly above reasonable power level for a format, but it wasn’t unbeatable, and without a ban, I think Legacy would’ve eventually stabilized in a new place.

However, Survival

banned. While intuition will no longer be forced upon the deckbuilding community, creativity will be doubly rewarded in this open metagame. Don’t let tribal Grizzly Bears and 1/1s dominate a format where turn 1 kills aren’t just a possibility, but an actuality. By the way, did you hear Time Spiral was unbanned?

Watching the Pat and Matt show one night, I expected some solid giggles as usual, but found myself instead nearly in tears when a Goblin Nabob peered through the background to let everyone know that the way to make Time Spiral on par with Timetwister is to
“make it free!”

Now that it’s legal, we should probably try to abuse it. To make Time Spiral advantageous for us to cast, we need to complete these tasks on some level:

  • Use our seven cards better than the opponent

  • Take advantage of untapping six lands

  • Justify casting a six-mana sorcery (when Tendrils costs four)

If you’re playing Time Spiral, you’re a big-mana deck. Examples from the past would be Staxx, High Tide, and the Lands deck. Drew Levin covered the
abuse of
Time Spiral in the High Tide deck,
so I’ll see if I can portray the ramifications of this unbanning in a different way…

This deck is awesome and a blast to play. First of all, Lotus Cobra. Second off, Lotus Cobra. This card is the nut. If you didn’t notice the Standard, Extended, and Vintage metagames all revolving around this mythic Snake, it’s about time to recognize that it has a place in Legacy. I just spent a week with Nick Spagnolo figuring out how to play Lotus Cobra and Explore in every single format across Magic because they really are that awesome.

Exploration and Explore effects are very key to this deck, and resolving a turn 1 Exploration will probably be the only thing your opponent will recall when you concuss him on turn 3. Having six lands in play when you resolve Time Spiral is a very real thing and happens on turns 3 through 5 depending on how many Cobras/Explores you drew (or even on turn 2 with a nut draw). Cobra also leads to explosive draws with Exploration, and Horn of Greed is a consistent source of card advantage that you reap much more benefit from than your opponent can.

The deck’s synergy with Explore effects means that you have to max out on both, and Horn of Greed and Cobra are also instant four-ofs. Intuition is a great tool for this deck because it allows you to get any combo piece you need, requiring us to have at least three of all the important cards. Loam is a great one-of to be tutored with Intuition, and the fact that you can hit Scapeshift with it or Time Spiral makes Scapeshift a three-of as opposed to four. Spiral is insane and super abusable in this deck, and while it could be a three-of, it removes itself from the game upon resolution, so being able to Intuition for one after the first is A+. You also don’t mind casting them back-to-back to dig for a lethal Scapeshift while Exploring. Force of Will is an auto-include as a four-of in most blue decks in Legacy, but we don’t have a lot of blue cards to remove to it; fortunately, we can hard-cast it as early as turn 2, and with three copies, Intuition is a copy of Force of Will when you really need it.

While this deck has an awesome clock/goldfish and is super fun to play, it also inherently hoses creature strategies. Every creature in Legacy has three or less toughness, whether it’s a Wild Nacatl, a Merfolk Reejerey, or a Knight of the Reliquary/Tarmogoyf post-Time Spiral, and Valakut hoses all of them. Just by making your Explored land drops, you’ll find yourself Bolting away your opponent’s threats at record speed.

Note about the sideboard:

It’s hard to say what exactly you’ll be playing against in Legacy right now, but Zoo and Merfolk are definitely contenders. Maze of Ith and Chalice are both very strong against Zoo, and I’d expect that Lotus Cobra and some number of Time Spirals and Horns of Greed would be sideboarded out. Their large removal suite makes Cobra a little underwhelming, and a burn deck drawing extra cards is mildly terrifying. Zuran Orb is also obviously a must.

Against Merfolk, you’ll have to feel out your opponent, since lists can vary so much from mono-blue to U/W and U/B, but some number of Pithing Needles can be very good against Mutavault, Wasteland, Aether Vial, and even Coralhelm Commander. Zuran Orb also gives you a little more time to get your Valakuts online.

Chalice of the Void is insanely good and can hose any number of combo decks in record time. Sideboards should always change based on expected metagame, so these are merely suggestions and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Then again, some people have been playing Valakut in Standard

Extended and don’t want to play the same deck across all formats, so I have a couple of questions for you…

Can the Legacy deck you’re currently playing beat a Trinisphere on turn 1 or 2?

Can the Legacy deck you’re playing beat a Chalice of the Void on 0-2 in the first two turns?

What about Jace?

Mmhm, and Tezzeret on turn 2? Even if he gets Tangle Wire??

If you answered yes to all of these questions, please send me your deck. I’d love to play it.

In the meantime, I hope you didn’t intend on casting spells:

Aside from Lotus Cobra, another Zendikar-block mythic has been tearing up Standard, Extended, and Vintage: Papa Jace. The best mythic rare printed to date, also known as “Daddy,” has merely been birding the top tables in Legacy. Jace is an all-star in Countertop decks, unsummoning pesky 3/3 kittens that snuck by your soft lock, and is considered a total blowout in conjunction with a timely Pernicious Deed. He still hasn’t found a real home, but I think this deck is pretty close.

Staxx has been seen on and off as a powerhouse in Vintage and even won a StarCityGames.com Open in Philadelphia last year but is a rarely played archetype. Mono-White Staxx:

One of the main problems with Staxx traditionally is that it’s vulnerable to running out of gas, as topdecking Armageddon after the first one with no sources of card advantage isn’t ideal. With Jace, Tezzeret, and Time Spiral, we can set up an early lock (Trinisphere or Chalice), like most Staxx decks, but reinforce our advantage with Jace or Tezzeret, both of which can serve to stabilize, pull ahead, or even act as win conditions.

This is a list of cards that potentially have a high impact on Legacy in the future because of potential power level and just happen to be in this deck:

Jace, the Mind-Sculptor
Tezzeret, the Seeker
Mox Opal
Grim Monolith
Time Spiral

Tezzeret is an awesome tool in this deck for a number of reasons: untapping Grim Monolith and another mana source, tutoring for Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void for zero, mana sources, Ensnaring Bridge, Tangle Wire, Crucible of Worlds, Smokestack, or just making six 5/5s to attack for lethal. He’s great at protecting himself and takes over games in a single turn.

Mox Opal and Monolith are insane mana sources, but there haven’t been good spells worth casting in Legacy that cost six or more mana for a while. Mox Opal is good enough to make Affinity playable and be played as a four-of in Extended despite its being legendary.

Jeweled Amulet looks odd, and I’d be impressed if you’d heard of it before just now. Not only is it great at turning on a Mox Opal, but it also gives you an extra mana on turn 2 for that Chalice for two or the Trinisphere that you couldn’t otherwise cast.

When the opponent looks up at you with sad eyes and passes the turn while cursing Trinisphere under his breath, no longer will you have to cross your fingers praying for Baneslayer off the top in your Legacy deck because you’d rather draw seven cards. With tons of mana generation, this deck can drop entire hands on the table by turn 2, so Time Spiral is extremely abusable when a lock piece prevents spells like Lackey or Nacatl from hitting the table or Bolts from hitting your dome.

Quick note on the sideboard:

Having Tezz to tutor for any artifacts makes one-ofs awesome in the main, but a lot of what the sideboard can do is increase the numbers of those bullets (like Pithing Needle, Crucible of Worlds, and Ensnaring Bridge). Aggro is definitely a lot harder for us than control or combo, so Propaganda deserves a full four slots in the board. Vendilion Clique is an underutilized card in Legacy, but it’s absolutely nuts against control and combo decks and definitely deserves a sideboard slot. Finally, Jester’s Cap is sort of old-school tech, but you can’t argue its effectiveness. While it’s very possible to activate it on turn 2 against combo, it’s more likely that you’ll tutor it with Tezz and a Trinisphere on the board to bait the concession.

After casting nothing but counterspells and removal for the past couple years, I’ve become tired of doing fair things. I don’t want to cast vanilla creatures, and I don’t want to rely on the combat step. Building and testing these decks with Nick really rekindled a fiery passion for Legacy that was dwindling from playing in a suppressed format under Survival. I think these decks are great examples of not playing fair.

A brief interlude on Standard, since there’s a Standard Open this weekend along with the Legacy one that I’m anticipating: I’m not playing Lotus Cobra, Jace, and Explore in Legacy because they’re mediocre – these cards are the real deal. The synergy between Lotus Cobra, Jace, and Oracle of Mul Daya has been rocking Constructed since its debut in Block at PT San Juan and for a good reason. Cobra and Explore can lead to turn 3 Titans, ranging from not only Frosty and Fiery but even the undead one, too. Just hope that you’re on the delivering side and not the receiving side. In terms of the best fair deck, U/B clearly dominated the Top 8 of Worlds, but “Caw-Go!” is a very good and real deck (or U/W if you refute bad-a** nomenclature), but do

play this deck without Sun Titans and Gideon Juras.

Good luck in your battles, and I’ll see you all in Kansas City!

I’ll be writing about Extended before Atlanta; keep brewing and keep in touch!

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