Legacy’s Allure – M11’s Eternal Hits

Grand Prix GP Columbus July 30-August 1, 2010
Monday, July 12th – Endlessly recurring skeletons, powerful Green enchantments on legs, and the best combo hoser we’ve seen yet? It’s all in M11, along with several other cool cards that could find a home in Legacy! This week, Doug looks over the full spoiler for the most likely Eternal candidates, pulling them out for in-depth analysis. Find out why Fauna Shaman resembles a certain Shards of Alara card more than Survival of the Fittest and much more, in this week’s Legacy’s Allure!

Today, let’s look at what M11 means for Legacy. While the set was designed for Standard and not Legacy, there are several interesting cards in the set that could show up in future Legacy decks. No, there’s no Ad Nauseam here to spawn a new archetype, but we do have what I expect from a core set: solid roleplayers that can slot into existing decks and sideboards. We’ll start with a favorite of mine:

Fauna Shaman

One of the most exciting cards for me in M11 is Fauna Shaman, since I have always loved Survival of the Fittest. While the Exodus enchantment encourages me to be too clever by half, the Fauna Shaman is just similar enough to flex a lot of utility, while its limitations make it an entirely different card. To really understand Fauna Shaman, we should look at two distinctive cards: Survival of the Fittest (obviously), and Knight of the Reliquary. It combines the selectivity of the former with the “this or that” ability of the Knight.

First, let’s consider how Fauna Shaman resembles our excellent Green enchantment. It has the same ability, but it is limited to activating once per turn, and it requires a turn to overcome summoning sickness. In return for such limitations, the Shaman has some advantages that Survival of the Fittest lacks. As a creature, it can certainly attack over and over. Also, because it is a creature, you can discard surplus Shamans to your first, active Fauna Shaman to get a better creature. One of my problems with Survival decks was that multiple Survivals were worthless if one was already on the battlefield. You might not always want to discard a second one, since playing with two looks strong, but it is a great option to have.

Further, as a creature, Fauna Shaman interacts with those classical Survival of the Fittest cards that have seen a lot of previous play. What about Quirion Ranger? You can tap the Shaman, get a Quirion Ranger, play it and then untap the Shaman and replay that Forest for a second activation! Once more, you can untap the Shaman again during the opponent’s turn if you must get another activation. It also turns on that old, probably-obsolete Blue blocker, Tradewind Rider. I fancy playing Fauna Shaman into Quirion Ranger and Tradewind Rider, since getting the Blue lockdown at that point is very easy. I’m not sure that it’s good enough for current Legacy, but the effect is very powerful in the abstract. Finally, Fauna Shaman plays very well with Recurring Nightmare. There are several fringe Legacy decks that run Survival of the Fittest plus its classic Black partner to set up locks with Yosei, the Morning Star or the like; Fauna Shaman gives another creature for a critical mass of Recurring Nightmare swaps.

The previous Fauna Shaman applications relate to its capability as a walking Survival of the Fittest and would probably include the Green Enchantment alongside the Shaman. However, I think it’s also a very reasonable creature for Zoo decks. If we want to use it to just crank out Tarmogoyfs and Qasali Pridemages, then you only need a slight support with Squee, Goblin Nabob. Playing a Tarmogoyf every turn with Zoo is strong, and facing down a deck like Enchantress when you can make four Pridemages in a row can change the way the whole match plays out. You can run it as a substitute for Sylvan Library to gain some card advantage and selectivity for the long game.

I like to look at Fauna Shaman like Knight of the Reliquary, especially in its Legacy role. The Knight can either attack or go get Wasteland or Horizon Canopy; even when you “only” have an 8/8 for three mana or a Crop Rotation every turn, Knight is pretty good. Smart players will always use the best mode every turn. Thus, the criticism that because Fauna Shaman cannot both search and attack, it is bad, doesn’t hold much water for me. A 2/2 for 1G is obviously below the Legacy curve, but it’s still good to attack with now and then. We don’t complain that Knight can only get a land or smash, because we’re happy that it can do both! Imagine a game where you’re playing against a Lands deck and they’ve almost got you locked out with Engineered Explosives. At the end of their turn, you go get a single Gaddock Teeg and shut down their whole board control, then start grinding at them with your Shaman. Even a little utility with the Fauna Shaman can compliment Zoo well, and especially with Zoo slowing down a bit these days, it could naturally fold in the Shaman. An alternative would be to combine Fauna Shaman with fast blitz cards like Steppe Lynx; if you cannot kill them early, you still have an engine with the elf, enabling you to discard “dead” Lynxes that you draw later.

Temple Bell

While Howling Mines have never been good in Legacy, Temple Bell deserves some consideration for an infinite combo. When used with Mind over Matter, you can draw your entire deck. Discarding an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn means that you can keep doing it forever, but that poor opponent of yours will eventually run out of cards. Tragic for them, awesome for you. The upside is that the combination is only one color; the downside is that part of it costs the crippling 2UUUU. We have seen how Show and Tell can slim down the mana costs on Dream Halls and I have to wonder whether it will be enough to get Mind over Matter into play as well. You can play less dead cards like Conflux, and Temple Bell is a fine card-drawer when you are trying to set up the combo.

With Tolarian Academy in the format, this would be easy to get out. As it is, you will probably struggle to live until you can generate 2UUUU. With preliminary testing, I could not make Mind over Matter and Temple Bell work, but smarter folks than me got Dream Halls to work and I expect some clever builders to give Temple Bell and Mind over Matter a swing. One alternative on my mind has been to try slotting the combination into the sorcery-speed High Tide decks that occasionally show up in Legacy. They already run Mind over Matter to overclock Candelabra of Tawnos, and High Tide is a fine way to accelerate Mind over Matter by two turns. It doubles the utility of MoM in the mono Blue storm deck, which can help you attack from interesting angles.

Phylactery Lich

First and foremost, this card wins the “most likely to have its name mangled” award for M11. It costs Dark Ritual mana and requires an artifact, which combo decks have both of in abundance. What about a sideboard game in which your opponent lands that Ethersworn Canonist, only to see you play a Lotus Petal and put a Lich’s soul in it? A 5/5 Indestructible guy is a serious threat against many decks postboard. If combo lives past Mystical Tutor, I would reach for the Liches over any other sideboarded beater like the Phyrexian Negators of old. It reminds me in ways of Tomb of Urami, but far less painful to run.

Brittle Effigy

Any deck packing Trinket Mage is going to take a glance at Brittle Effigy, which gets a nod over Executioner’s Capsule because it doesn’t care what color the creature is. Sure, you can’t recur the Effigy with Academy Ruins, but in return, the Effigy exiles the creature. Mangara himself couldn’t take it further out of the game! Brittle Effigy punches through huge monsters and removes pesky blockers, letting decks that pack the Trinket Mages get in more attacks.

Brittle Effigy has no color requirements, so the standard for exiling a creature has now become 1+4 mana. Could this see play in mono Blue as a way to finally ditch those Tropical Islands that power up Engineered Explosives? It comes down early, can be activated at an end of turn, and sits there and grins at Emrakul. I love Brittle Effigy and I won’t hesitate to pack it in a lot of my new lists to try it out.

Primeval Titan

Six mana is far over the curve for Legacy, but look what it gets you! Here, you immediately get two Maze of Ith or Wasteland, and then on the next turn, you get two more in play. With this Titan out early, you can mash an opponent apart with your Wastelands in a deck that can consistently make the 4GG to deploy it. What about cramming Black into Lands so we can use Volrath’s Stronghold on this guy? Spending 4GG to get two Rishadan Ports, with the option to buy two more next turn, is just about the best thing I could want in a creature for Lands. I only see Primeval Titan getting fringe use, but I would not be surprised to see it come up at some point within the year. The effect is incredible.

Leyline of Sanctity

The White Leyline is a watershed card for anti-combo sideboard options. Troll-shroud is miles above the power of Ivory Mask, and you don’t even have to play White to get a True Believer effect. In addition to shutting down Goblin Charbelcher and Tendrils of Agony, this Leyline stops Intuition and Mindslaver. It turns all of Zoo’s burn spells into weak creature-killers. I mention these things not because I think you’ll sideboard in Leyline of Sanctity against a Zoo player, but that this card might be maindeckable in a certain quantity.

Combo runs plenty of answers to hate cards, such as Krosan Grip, Reverent Silence and the like. Without Mystical Tutor, they will have to spend more time looking for their answer card, and in the meantime, you are protected. Did I mention that the Leyline is free? You can play it on turn 0 and then immediately execute your game plan. No waiting until the second turn for Gaddock Teeg, no holding mana up for Stifle. You get to go full speed ahead, while they have to solve the problem you made for them and then try to go off afterward. Simply because it is free to play, Leyline of Sanctity gets a nod over the traditional anti-combo cards we’ve seen.

Quick Hits and Almost-Playables

• Reassembling Skeleton supports anything that requires a creature sacrifice. Think about it with Contamination, for example.
• Preordain is no Ponder, but it is still powerful and is your go-to cantrip #9-12 if that’s what you’re looking for.
• Stormtide Leviathan is a really good Blue Moat, but it doesn’t stop Merfolk if they have Lord of Atlantis. Beating Merfolk was a big reason Reanimator packs Blazing Archon, so I’m not sure if the Leviathan can dethrone it.
• Squadron Hawk: People tried Credit Voucher + Howling Wolf during the misery of Masques, and though it’s a cool ability, I don’t see it doing much unless White needs a reason to “draw” three blank cards for 1W.
• Reverberate looks a lot like Fork, which is solidly on the Reserve List. Wizards appears unafraid to print cards that nearly duplicate forbidden cards. This would help our format if WOTC pursues this path.

Looking at the whole set, M11 looks great for Magic. I like the few additions that it adds to Legacy, and, like M10, it’s full of flavor. We’ve got a Crystal Ball and Sword of Vengeance, a really neat and thematic piece of equipment. What I expect most from core set is a great fantasy feel that will get people interested and invigorated with Magic. The more people that play, the better it is for Legacy and every other format. What did you like most about M11? What are you expecting to play in Legacy and other formats? What’s your favorite EDH card from the set? Sound off in the feedback forums, email or on my Twitter account!

Until next week…

Doug Linn

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