You’re going to want to open up the SCG Atlanta Legacy Open Decklist page in a bit, so to save you some time,
here’s the link
For all the talk of blue delve cards taking over Legacy, we sure didn’t see many of them show up in Atlanta’s top 16. The winning U/R Delver deck had a set
of Treasure Cruise, but after that it’s just a Dig Through Time in a combo deck and two more in a blue control deck. Not a single one of the three Miracles
decks in the top 16 played even a single copy of the card, all opting to streamline their earlygame with Philipp Schonegger’s quad-Ponder setup.
What happened to all the cries of “ban Treasure Cruise”?
What happened to “Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are just too good not to use”?
Blue decks are still clearly dominant – there were as many maindecked Red Blasts in the top 8 as there were Dig Through Times, with more maindeck Red
Blasts than blue delve cards in the top 16. If you go purely by the numbers across the top finishers, Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time (combined!) were
less popular than a one-mana red card.
What in the world happened?
Well, for starters, people figured out what changed about all of those decklists that added Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. It turns out that Daze is
one of the more beatable cards in Legacy if you set your mind to it, and combo decks have been plowing through Force of Will since the format’s creation.
If you cut Spell Pierce, you are going to lose to combo decks a lot more. If you don’t play Stifle and Wasteland, you are going to lose to combo decks a
lot more. If you play conditional counterspells that don’t stop Reanimate or Infernal Tutor, you are going to lose to combo decks a lot more.
Oh, and people figured out that Punishing Fire and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale are really good against Young Pyromancer and Delver of Secrets. That
didn’t take long.
If you want to win a tournament, Delver of Secrets isn’t a bad choice. It was a far, far better choice a month ago, but it’s hard to look at a Legacy Open
finals with eight Delvers and write the deck off.
If you want to post a high finish, Delver is actually unlikely to be your best choice. I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that there were a lot of U/R
Delver players in the room at Atlanta. The deck is inexpensive to build and has posted multiple high finishes and won several large events, so it’s
reasonable to think that a lot of people would pick it up. Despite all of that, only one copy of U/R Delver finished in the top 16. Meanwhile, Lands is one
of Legacy’s harder decks to build, yet as many Explorations finished in the top 16 as did Delver of Secrets. Don’t tell me that people are finding
Tabernacles easier to come by – a far higher percentage of Lands players converted than did Delver players.
All of this is to say that Volcanic Island plus Delver of Secrets is not the runaway top deck of Legacy. It is a good deck, but there are plenty of other
good choices. For instance, Lands is a great choice if you think that people are going to show up with zero Wastelands, a bunch of Monastery Swiftspears,
and flimsy Young Pyromancers. You have Punishing Fire and Maze of Ith to slow them down and an indestructible uncounterable 20/20 as a way to close out
On the other end of the spectrum – and to the point of this article’s title – you could say “forget it” and play Dark Ritual. Dark Ritual combo decks are a
huge favorite against Lands and are comfortably favored against U/R Delver. Whereas Treasure Cruise improves the blue-on-blue matchup, it noticeably
worsens the blue-on-combo matchup, mostly through the removal of Spell Pierce. A single Cabal Therapy with two mana available is going to blow up your
average U/R Delver hand, sniping a Force of Will and beating a Daze or two. From there, Dark Ritual and Lotus Petal can go to town.
If you’re of a mind to play combo, what are your options? Well, for starters, you have to decide whether or not you want to play Griselbrand.
The pros are obvious: you get to play a flying, lifelinking Yawgmoth’s Bargain that draws you into Force of Will or another go-round on the combo machine.
There are fewer copies of Karakas floating around now that Philipp Schonegger’s Miracles list without any legendary creatures is the stock version, so you
don’t randomly get blown out by a land drop as much. Treasure Cruise has made Hymn to Tourach more or less unplayable, which means that there are also way
fewer Deathrite Shamans in the format.
The cons are pretty straightforward: you open yourself up to pretty linear hate cards. If you’re leaning on Show and Tell, people can jam a ton of
Pyroblasts into their deck and have a decent matchup against you. If you’re relying on the graveyard, people can play Surgical Extraction as a zero-mana
blowout. Every white deck is also going to be playing some number of Containment Priest, which is both a tough card to beat and can trick you into slowing
down and playing a bunch of Pyroclasms, at which point the fair part of their deck will beat you in a long game. If you try to fight Priest with
countermagic, their Pyroblasts get better, so it’s a pretty effective double bind.
If you decide to play Griselbrand, you can pair it with either Sneak Attack, Reanimate, or Shallow Grave. Those choices are in ascending order of speed,
with the Shallow Grave deck capable of killing an opponent on turn 1 with any of a number of Dark Ritual-fueled starts. Don’t believe me? Check out Josh
Bingaman’s deck, which went 12-3 at Grand Prix: Harold’s Deli.
Josh wrote a tournament report for The Source that can be found here. The
strategy of the deck is pretty straightforward:
1. Get a Griselbrand into the graveyard.
2. Get it out of the graveyard.
3. Draw some cards.
4. “Sacrifice Children,” which is still the best fragment of rules text in the history of the game.
5. See 3.
6. Either get Emrakul into play or Tendrils them for enough.
Fun things to do include:
– Tendrils for not-enough, gaining back enough life to spin the Wheel of Griselbrand another time, Therapying or Thoughtseizing your own Emrakul,
reshuffling, and Tendrilsing again for lethal.
– Overpaying on Lim-Dul’s Vault to max value your Children.
– Randomly sniping your Reanimator opponent’s Griselbrand with your one-of Reanimate. That’s anyone’s graveyard, folks.
– Dark Ritual, Entomb, Shallow Grave, draw fourteen, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Entomb, Shallow Grave, sacrifice Children, draw fourteen, Reanimate,
sacrifice Children, draw the rest of your deck, attack for 22 with Griselbrand and Emrakul. Tag Team, back again. Check it to wreck it, let’s begin.
You get the idea. Once your opponent sees what’s up, they go to their sideboard and jam their Containment Priests and Surgical Extractions, only to be met
I want to take some time to write about Doomsday, because it is one of my favorite cards in all of Magic.
Without a shred of reservation, I believe that Doomsday is the “hardest” card in Magic history. I believe that the only reason that Doomsday is still legal
is because human beings are not smart enough to realize the card’s full potential. In a world where computers with huge amounts of combinatoric capacity
played Magic against one another, I think that Doomsday would be the best combo deck in the format. The reason why Doomsday sees basically no play is
because gamestates are so variable and the card is so powerful that it takes a phenomenal amount of pattern recognition and raw skill to (non-suicidally)
resolve the card without receiving a warning for slow play.
On raw power, the card is five Vampiric Tutors stapled together for BBB. Do you think that that’s in any way reasonable? You get to tutor five times and
stack your deck, after which you get to continue your turn with cards in your hand and mana in your mana pool. It’s just super busted, but we will never
know just to what extent it is because the card is literally too hard for us to figure out.
Even in a world where someone knows all of the Doomsday stacks for various gamestates, there’s no guarantee that their deck is optimal. Chew on this: if
you change a single card – add a Meditate or an Ideas Unbound – everything can change. New options appear, old options disappear. Beyond the staggering
in-game difficulty of Doomsday lies the impossibility of proper deckbuilding in preparation for the casting and resolution of the card. That the card
exists, is clearly powerful, and has been so underplayed is one of my favorite parts of Legacy. You want to tell me that people have found everything there
is to do in Legacy? Play with Doomsday for a while, then get back to me.
Back to the point though: Josh’s deck plays four Doomsdays in the sideboard. It’s a great way to dodge graveyard hate and Griselbrand hate, so I’m all for
it. I’m not entirely sure how you go about setting up a Doomsday stack that wins with Tendrils of Agony, but presumably it involves casting a few spells,
resolving Doomsday, Topping into Ideas Unbound, cycling a Gitaxian Probe and cracking a few Lion’s Eye Diamonds, and flipping over Tendrils as the fourth
card of your deck. The solo Shelldock Isle is for use with Emrakul against decks without Wasteland or Blood Moon, since you can just cast Emrakul for the
full Time Walk effect off of Isle after resolving Doomsday.
Regardless, the deck looks unbelievably sweet, brutally powerful, and blisteringly fast. If you want to cast Dark Ritual and activate Griselbrand, this is
where you want to be.
If you want to run the Griselbrand reanimation strategy but still have the ability to interact with other people, you’re probably in the market for
- 2 Hapless Researcher
- 1 Tidespout Tyrant
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 4 Griselbrand
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Force of Will
- 4 Reanimate
- 1 Animate Dead
- 4 Exhume
- 4 Daze
- 4 Entomb
- 4 Careful Study
- 4 Lotus Petal
- 1 Pithing Needle
- 2 Ponder
I don’t know how I feel about a lot of those one- and two-ofs (Grave Titan and Hapless Researcher, I’m looking at you), but the scoreboard can tell you
that Jesse knows more than I do about the fine art of breathing life into the buried. I’ll tell you that I do like zero basic lands, I do like Abrupt
Decay, and I think that Lotus Petal is probably the right direction for the deck. Unfortunately for this deck, I think that being slow enough to get
Counterbalance locked by Miracles isn’t where you want to be. At the point where you’re playing Lotus Petal and Griselbrand with the intention of jamming
your combo as early as possible, it seems like Josh’s deck is where you want to be – it’s a better proactive Griselbrand deck and is better set up to
execute on its core gameplan.
I’m not sure how the deck deals with Containment Priest besides Abrupt Decay and countermagic, but it looks like Abrupt Decay is necessary against nearly
everybody. At some point, don’t you want all four? It seems like every single card that Miracles plays requires an Abrupt Decay to answer, and Miracles
isn’t exactly trending downward right now.
Astute readers may have noticed that I prefer to blank opposing Pyroblasts in today’s Blast-infested metagame where possible. I do, and that’s a huge
reason why I dislike Show and Tell nowadays. I don’t deny its raw power and fundamental soundness as a deck choice, but on a personal preference level, I
can’t see myself trying to fight through a zillion Pyroblasts and Flusterstorms while getting clocked by a Young Pyromancer or Monastery Swiftspear. I
think that Nick brought a very good version of the deck to Atlanta and was rewarded for it. Did you catch that copy of Fire//Ice? Not a bad way to kill
Containment Priest, also not a bad way to tap a Delver player out of red mana in their end step. Innovation is a beautiful thing.
In a world where people are playing Flusterstorm, Pyroblast, Containment Priest, and even Hydroblast to beat combo decks, I don’t want to play the combo
deck against which every single sideboard card lines up favorably. I want to play the Dark Ritual combo deck where their only good card is Flusterstorm.
How do I do that?
Play Storm, obviously.
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Tendrils of Agony
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Cabal Ritual
- 3 Duress
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 4 Lotus Petal
- 4 Lion's Eye Diamond
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 4 Ponder
- 2 Preordain
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Past in Flames
Both Ad Nauseam Tendrils (a base U/B deck with a touch of red for Past in Flames and a touch of green for sideboard cards) and The EPIC Storm (a five-color
deck that plays Chrome Mox and Burning Wish) placed well in Atlanta, showcasing the power of zero creatures and four Lion’s Eye Diamond. Neither deck is
vulnerable to Containment Priest, neither deck plays important cards that can be countered by Pyroblast, and neither deck has anything that can be
effectively Pithing Needled. If you want to play around it, Surgical Extraction is eminently beatable. The cards that people will play against you are blue
counterspells and various permanents that can be Abrupt Decayed. Beyond that, very little matters and people will have a lot of dead cards, especially in
When I played Ad Nauseam Tendrils in Richmond, I beat five of the six blue decks that I played against, losing to Dredge, a run of bad luck against Jeskai
Stoneblade, and a series of poor decisions against Goblins. I beat countless Dazes, Force of Wills, and Pyroblasts. If you want to play a combo deck that
can reliably beat up on blue decks’ tiny disruption suite, this is the deck for you. It’s not a trivial deck to pick up, but it is incredibly powerful and
affords its pilot a broad range of choices across a match.
My sideboard for Richmond was pretty far from Josh Hand’s – I had Young Pyromancers where he had Dark Confidants, Carpet of Flowers where he had Lightning
Bolts, a Grim Tutor where he had Ad Nauseam, more Abrupt Decays where he had Xantid Swarms, and an Inquisition of Kozilek where he had a second Massacre.
– I think that a two-drop creature is basically only really good against other combo decks and Miracles, and I think that Young Pyromancer lets you play a
discard-oriented game against those decks more than Dark Confidant does. It creates a faster clock, which ties their mana up on more turns, giving you more
windows to execute on your actual combo.
– My point about Abrupt Decay in Reanimator holds true for Storm – when someone plays a card that you need to Abrupt Decay, you need to have the card in
your hand. Having a second copy is manageable, but having no first copy is typically a disaster.
– His sideboard is hugely slanted to try to beat hate bears, whereas I think that they can be either raced or dealt with using a smaller suite of cards
than he is playing. Having nine cards that interact with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is absolute overkill. Not enough people are playing with Gaddock Teeg
to warrant Lightning Bolt.
– Not having an Ad Nauseam maindeck is a pretty serious concession to Lightning Bolt decks and invalidates a number of turn 1 kill lines, but I can
understand the thinking behind it. I don’t love an Empty the Warrens in a world with this many Elemental tokens though.
– Grim Tutor is awesome, but it’s about as hard to find as Tabernacle, so I don’t fault anyone who doesn’t play one. Being able to sideboard out your Ad
Nauseam against decks with Lightning Bolt is important, but you want to be able to keep the same amount of action in your deck. Grim Tutor does that while
not forcing you to play such a clunky and self-damaging card in matchups where you don’t want it.
For reference, the Storm deck that I played in Richmond (and would play again, replacing the second Island with a Badlands):
Right now, there are huge vulnerabilities in a blue-heavy metagame against dedicated combo decks. If you want to play unfair, I recommend what everyone
else has already told you to do when it comes to Legacy: know your deck.
If you still don’t know what you want to play for the Invitational in two weeks, decide now. Commit to it, practice, and spend the next two weeks learning.
Even if your deck is slightly worse against the field than expected, your experience with it will vastly outweigh those costs. No matter what you choose to
play, know why you’re playing it and when you need to be aggressive or conservative. If you want to beat up on a field of Delvers in Seattle though, I
cannot recommend Dark Ritual highly enough.