This past weekend, Indianapolis was host to the biggest Legacy tournament in the StarCityGames.com series so far this year! There are some fascinating new decks and twists on old favorites all through the Top 16; this may be the most exciting event yet to pore over. We’ve got classics like Goblins and Merfolk, along with some seriously cool new control decks. Let’s take a look…
Control decks had a resurgence in Indy, maintaining dominance of either the stack or the board and bringing in new cards and combinations. Let’s start with Michael Bernat’s 6th-place Landstill list from the event:
So this looks like a Standstill-based deck, but it actually is an artifact-based card advantage machine. You have Isochron Scepter for the repeated spell insanity, either being “merely great” with the blue side of Fire/Ice or locking things out with Orim’s Chant. This reminds me of a Landstill deck I built years ago (before Legacy was a format!), one that ran both Scepters and Standstills. Scepters cannot play through a Standstill, but the gig was that the cards sort of overlapped into this combination of card advantage. You’d have one or the other out there at all times; you’d only play a Standstill into a Scepter on the field if you were already so far ahead with Mishra’s Factory that you didn’t mind shutting it off. With the pesky enchantment on the field and a powered-up artifact in play, you gave the opponents a Scylla-and-Charybdis choice of whether to wait out the Standstill or bust it and turn on the Isochron Scepter.
Michael’s deck has that same core built into it, making a monster of a creature control deck with enough permission to stop some of the deadlier threats in Legacy. The two Elspeths seriously speed up Landstill and they’re great because they don’t require any mana to do it every turn! The downside of Landstill is that you can be sitting on this great hand with two Counterspells and have enough Mishra’s Factories to just slam in and end things quickly, but you have to tap out to do it. The Elspeths give the same effect without making you drop your defenses.
I like this deck a lot, since opponents will not know quite how to fight it. If I were to change anything with it, I’d probably cut a Mishra’s Factory or Faerie Conclave for a Bojuka Bog. It’s a concession to how strong graveyard-based strategies are these days, and you can tutor for it with that Tolaria West. If you need to repeat it, then you can Wasteland your own Bog and bring it back with Crucible. Michael’s sideboard is also really sick; Meddling Mage against combo, how unexpected! Descendent of Kiyamaro is an old-school Kamigawa anti-aggro trick. Sticking a 3/5 Lifelinker for 1WW is pretty good against fast decks like Zoo. The sheer pile of creatures on the sideboard means that Michael can board them in for cards like Swords to Plowshares if he’s fighting against a creature-light opponent and remove lots of dead cards in his maindeck.
Next, Peter Smutko would like to remind you that Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek are crazy in Legacy, too:
Peter has a mostly-stock UW control/draw engine, but look at the Gifts Ungiven piles he can stack up! Sword of the Meek with Thopter Foundry, Academy Ruins and Tezzeret, The Seeker means that on a given timeline, he’ll get Sword cranking out a pile of thopters. Alongside that, he can use Trinket Mage to pick up several utility cards and get an Engineered Explosives/Academy Ruins engine going (an engine that cropped up in several decks in the Top 16). He’s got the Adam Yurchick Extended Tech of Oona on the sideboard, a dragon that comes unexpectedly out of the board and says “here, deal with me instead.” His extra Trinket Mages on the sideboard can come in to do extra duty of grabbing Tormod’s Crypt in matches where the deck has to blank a graveyard, or it can get Meekstone where he needs to shut down Progenitus or Empyrial Archangel.
I’m curious how this deck does against Merfolk, because I found that on the back of Lord of Atlantis, the fish can just overwhelm you. Usually, the Thopters are enough to stop any attackers, but the aforementioned Lord gives all his friends Islandwalk and they go right past your fliers. It turns out that Thopter decks are usually one or two turns too slow to stop Merfolk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter brought in more Wrath of God and some Oonas to shore up that match.
Next, Craig Wostratzky brought a lethal Mono Black deck, undefeated until the playoffs. Check out this list:
- 3 Nevinyrral's Disk
- 4 Hymn to Tourach
- 1 Chainer's Edict
- 4 Duress
- 4 Diabolic Edict
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 3 Phyrexian Arena
The first thing I thought of when I saw this was “wow, this is probably the cheapest deck, by far, in Legacy.” I don’t know if Craig’s performance was a fluke or a sign of things to come, but this is a very slick deck. He’s got all manner of ways to kill your guys and then Nantuko Shades and Shriekmaws to quickly close the gap. The murderous Iona even gets answered by the old tech of Nevinyrral’s Disk. Craig said in the coverage interview that he planned to just fight the Tarmogoyf decks with his maindeck and then pound on combo and control postboard. His Bojuka Bogs are critical to the deck, since they can shrink Tarmogoyfs and get rid of those recursive threats like Life from the Loam or Squee, Goblin Nabob. In the feature match, Chris showed the power of combining Hymn to Tourach and the Bog, exiling permanently some very threatening cards.
The sideboard has a cool “of the Void” theme to it, but beyond that, packs more coffin nails for aggro and graveyard strategies. Engineered Plague does a number on Zoo if you set it to “Cat” and obviously bothers Thopter decks and Tribal decks. Extirpate does help against control if you can use it to tear away counterspells or stop Academy Ruins recursion. If Craig really does need to beat control with sideboard help, though, I’d pack the fourth Phyrexian Arena and maybe a Scepter of Fugue to turn the tide. In sum though, I am super psyched about this monoblack deck, especially with its lack of Dark Confidant, Sinkhole, dual lands or Grim Tutors making it pricier.
Rounding out the close-up inspection is Chris Woltereck event-winning Lands deck:
Oh my! Chris has been slamming Manabonds on the table for years now and his performance demonstrates that not only is he a good player, but he’s also a strong enough builder to know when he should cut the sacred cows of his deck. In this case, Chris skipped out on Red for Intuition powering up his deck instead. The extra blue enables more Tolaria West, which grabs his Engineered Explosives, Tormod’s Crypt or Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.
Chris goes big, using Mindslaver to end things by setting up an infinite turn lock with his Academy Ruins. In a deck full of cool tricks, his sideboard is probably the neatest; he’s running a lot of utility artifacts like Smokestack and Ensnaring Bridge to tutor up with that Intuition. He runs three Extirpate for Reanimator and opposing Loam decks, and he’s got that Karakas for added utility. Remember that I said you’d be happy to have purchased your Karakas for $20 by the time GP: Columbus rolls around!
I was pleased to see Goblins take second place, proving that the red men can still fight the good fight (until they have to visit the Tabernacle) and I’m glad that Reanimator showed up, but didn’t sweep the whole event. Merfolk, this time running Tarmogoyf, and Zoo both made admirable appearances too. The field is both wide-open and predictable, which means that a smart metagamer can choose a deck that will punish the expected field. My tip for upcoming tournaments is aggro-loam. Check out the tools that Pat McGregor, winner of the St. Louis Open, packs for this field:
- 3 Seismic Assault
- 1 Terminate
- 4 Mox Diamond
- 4 Chalice of the Void
- 2 Engineered Explosives
- 4 Life from the Loam
- 2 Maelstrom Pulse
I started to think that a deck that will reliably get a Chalice of the Void at 1 stands a good chance of success. On the play, you blow away so many decks, taking out their Entombs and Manabonds and Brainstorms, but even on the draw, it’s got some real power in it for the long game. At two counters, a Chalice will shut down Life from the Loam and stop the bigger threats from Zoo. If I were building for this metagame, I would probably replace Countryside Crusher with Terravores up to the full number and I might play a third Maelstrom Pulse. The Burning Wish versions of Aggro Loam have more options, but I feel like they’re a little slow for what we’re doing at this point. However, the ability to grab, say, a Ruination against Lands is really slick.
The field is weak in many ways to Chalice of the Void at one counter, but that’s only a stopgap solution — every deck that is vulnerable can also sweep that Chalice from the board. A combination, then, of Chalice and a good clock or pervasive control elements is necessary if you’re trying to crack open the metagame.
Join me next week for a conversation with one of the true innovators of Zoo!
Until next week…
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P.S. I’ve been on holiday so I’m trying to catch up with reader emails; apologies for late replies!