Last year, I wrote a little article about some underused cards in Legacy and how we might find homes for them in our decks. That article focused on three mana producers that could be used in Legacy. I am constantly finding more cards that get onto lists on my desk, written in Sharpie on the back of a receipt, cards that could get used at some point in existing decks or sideboards. Periodically, I buy stacks of these cards on the off chance that I might just use them. For example, the stack sitting next to me right now has Slay, Hallow, Arena of the Ancients, Simic Growth Chamber, Ruination, Nature’s Claim, Temple Acolyte, Dream Tides and more. At one point or another, I thought these cards were neat enough to wager a quarter on, since some can be quite powerful in shutting down whole decks (like Dream Tides), while others are very cheap effects (like Nature’s Claim). This week, I’d like to talk to you about one underused combo, three unplayed cards, and one that we should be getting more use out of! Let’s start with that combo…
Maze of Ith + Board Sweepers
First off, Maze of Ith is definitely already played in Lands decks, but it has applications far beyond them. In many ways, it’s helpful to think of it as an Icy Manipulator when you’re playing a control deck. It has incredible interactions with board sweepers like Pernicious Deed, Damnation, Wrath of God, and Engineered Explosives, and here’s why: it forces more creatures onto the board. We often talk about “value” when evaluating Magic cards to explain why they’re good. A card has value if it answers another card for less mana, in essence. That’s why Swords to Plowshares is so efficient — it’ll kill something that cost much more mana, leaving you more resources to play with. One of the big groaners about board sweepers is that they often aren’t worth the value. They’ll hit one or two creatures that might have cost only a mana each. If you spend 2WW to kill a Wild Nacatl that cost G, you’re losing three mana to answer one card!
However, one of the oldest strategies in Magic, combining Icy Manipulator and Wrath of God, was designed to combat that. By tapping down that creature before combat started, a control player wouldn’t lose life due to that attack. The aggro player would then put two or three creatures on the board to actually get some damage through, but that cunning Control player would use Wrath of God to reset the board and give the opponent a gambit: commit lots of creatures and lose them all to Wrath of God, or see me play even more lands, draw more spells and gain better control of the game? George Baxter used this technique well in his 1996 Nationals deck:
3 Adarkar Wastes
1 City of Brass
3 Mishra’s Factory
4 Strip Mine
1 Deadly Insect
1 Black Vise
3 Divine Offering
4 Fellwar Stone
4 Icy Manipulator
1 Land Tax
4 Serrated Arrows
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Sylvan Library
2 Titania’s Song
3 Winter Orb
2 Wrath of God
Here, the combination of Balance and Wrath of God made each Icy Manipulator that much better. With two Icys in play, the aggro player has to commit three creatures to the board to get an attack to connect, risking losing them all!
Here’s how we apply this in Legacy: any deck that runs a sweeper like Damnation should probably pack a Maze or two. They obviously don’t tap for mana, so they’re better put into spell slots in the deck, since they act like removal. With one or two Mazes, you now have the chance to force an opponent to play out two creatures, exposing them to those 2-for-1 kills. It’s even better when you can get all the benefit of Maze by tutoring for it, without worrying that you’ll draw them dead when you need other cards. One of the rising stars in the tutoring segment of Legacy is Tolaria West. Check out this Landstill deck with both Tolaria West and Wrath of God, made by Julian Urban, who took 6th out of 68 players in a German event recently:
By changing the slots around a little bit, this deck could run a Maze of Ith and get it with its Tolaria West or draw it naturally. Maze fits in well with the rest of the deck’s themes; it lets you attack with your own Mishra’s Factories into blockers, for example, saving them by untapping them (and letting them pump the other attacking Factory). It also combines nicely with Engineered Explosives, letting you set up more sweeps that get the most out of the artifact.
I would need very good reasons to run four Mazes in a deck, but one or two is easy to slip into most decks; they cost zero mana, just a land drop, and can really mess up combat math for an opponent. Like Icy Manipulator of old, Maze elevates board sweepers from spot removal up to genuine card advantage spells, even when an opponent tries to play around them.
Fog is a harmless little spell that shouldn’t show up in Eternal formats at all. But what if we tack on a mana and give it a free Buyback cost? Hmm, now we’re getting somewhere very interesting. Constant Mists lets us Fog an opponent every turn for a very reasonable cost and Buyback requirement. It’s Green, the color of Exploration and Life from the Loam, both of which counteract the problem that you will eventually run out of lands and you might also never get access to more mana. Combined with Crucible of Worlds, Constant Mists creates a combination that some decks cannot ever beat. While it takes those two cards to do what Moat and Humility can pull off by themselves, Constant Mists has its advantages too. It’s far cheaper to cast and isn’t vulnerable to the removal like Krosan Grip and Qasali Pridemage that are very common. Constant Mists also does not target, so it’s a pretty good answer to Reanimator decks. It can be found with Gifts Ungiven and tossed into a pile including Life from the Loam, Regrowth, and Eternal Witness, making a cheap, repeatable Fog effect for decks that need time to find more cards.
Constant Mists sits at a very attractive mana cost, too. It makes me think of another Transmute card that has a lot of internal utility — Shred Memory. Consider this B/G Dark Depths deck by Chris Fennell that placed 18th in GP: Oakland:
It’s a Dark Depths/Vampire Hexmage combination deck that uses Green acceleration and tutoring with Black disruption. The big engine is Shred Memory, which gets Vampire Hexmage or Into The North (for Dark Depths, of course). It can also get toolbox cards like Grim Discovery or Naturalize. I draw your attention not to the Marit Lage combo, but that Shred Memory tutoring potential.
B/G strategies like this one have often sat at the edge of playability in Legacy, utilizing spells like Pernicious Deed and creatures like Sakura-Tribe Elder to get advantage. Shred Memory can clear out a graveyard against grinding decks like Aggro Loam, or it can go get a singleton Constant Mists to fog up the board until the Rock player gets hold of a Damnation or sufficient spot removal. Such decks often run a lot of lands and ways to produce mana, so a Constant Mists can eat up a lot of lands along the way. In the meantime, it’s a Time Walk with buyback.
I’m looking at what I can do to fit Constant Mists into many of my decks. It can be countered by a deck like Merfolk, but if I get two turns without attacks before I lose the card, I’d say that was worth it. If you’re playing an opponent with counterspells, cast the Mists in their upkeep, before they draw; if they topdeck that Spell Snare, they’ll have to wait until the next turn to use it anyway. I’m also expanding my use of Constant Mists beyond ponderous controlling decks; imagine what a repeatable Fog effect would do to Zoo mirrors! If you tap out to attack, I can hit you with the Mists, then counterattack on my next turn by tapping out. At that point, do you swing back, trying to race, or do you hold back your side, letting me draw more and hold a repeatable Fog in hand? It creates some very interesting scenarios and uses up lands you’ll draw later in the game.
This section contains spoilers of Rise of Eldrazi; if you don’t want to see them, move on to the next section!
Jhoira is a small, fragile creature with an effect that takes a long time to kick in. Thus, she’s already against the wall when we’re considering whether she’s worth playing. However, she has a unique ability that cards like Quicksilver Amulet cannot match: Jhoira’s effect results in casting the spell. This has suddenly become relevant with several Rise of Eldrazi creatures. For example, her effect will trigger Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and draw four cards for you. Even better with Jhoira is Emrakul, The Aeons Torn. First, the suspended Emrakul won’t be countered when it goes on the stack. The guy pays you back for waiting with a Time Walk, essentially giving himself Super Haste (since he’ll have Haste already). Simply put, Emrakul coming out of Suspend will win the game every time.
The payoff is incredible; spending 3RU and four turns of waiting will get you a super-strong creature. The vehicle for it, Jhoira, can be killed in all manner of ways. You can wait until the fifth turn and drop her to immediately activate the Suspend ability, but then you’re getting your monster on the ninth turn, where it’s far less impressive. What about combining her, instead, in a deck with Blue permission and sweepers like Jokulhaups, which can be cast by paying retail or with Jhoira and don’t touch the Suspended cards on the stack. Blue and Red are a characteristically weak combination in Legacy, but you have good utility cards like Fire/Ice to at least buy time.
I don’t know if Jhiora is better than Sneak Attack, Show and Tell or Eureka for getting the Eldrazi into play, but she’s suddenly very hard to find online as people have picked up on her interactions. If you’re interested in suspending Emrakul, I suggest you get your Ghitu girl soon!
The format has a lot of options for stealing creatures, and even has several reusable effects like Vedalken Shackles and Seasinger. However, the multi-use effects are all conditional. Dominating Licid is the least restrictive multi-use creature stealer around. It certainly has downsides — it’s a 1/1 and its ability can be fizzled by killing it when the stealing is on the stack. However, it gives instant-speed, permanent monster theft in return. When your opponent blocks and kills their own Silvergill Adept, you can make the brainstealer into a creature again, ready to grab another monster. It’s a huge rattlesnake, a card that makes an opponent stop playing creatures until they can get the Licid off the board. If there is already a creature on the board, they have to work hard to get rid of the Licid, since you can just grab another guy in response to their kill spell. All in all, Dominating Licid could be appropriately renamed Annoying Licid. I can see it having great effect in Merfolk mirrors, echoing what Sower of Temptation can do in that match. It’s also a powerful effect in Bant style decks; when the opponent’s Iona, Shield of Emeria names White to cut off Swords to Plowshares, your Licid comes out and punishes them with their own angel! The greatest downside of Dominating Licid is actually remembering all the rules quirks of Licids themselves.
Knight sees play all over, but I get the sense that players are just not aiming to optimize her like they should. Extended Zoo players have been fitting a Bojuka Bog onto their sideboard to grab with their Knights, and Legacy players should make this adaptation too. Further, there are all sorts of tricky lands to get with the Knight. For example, you can get a Maze of Ith or a Treetop Village with it, or a Horizon Canopy to make those drawn Savannahs into another card. Zoo players are already into Horizon Canopy, but Bant Threshold can easily accommodate one as well. Knight is often going to be so huge that it’s better to attack with it than get lands, but there are also scenarios when a Knight is staring down unprofitable attacks and can be better used for getting effective lands.
As this has shown you, there are still a million different ways to make cool Legacy decks with interesting cards. Some of these are more expensive than the ten-cent stars I wrote about last time, but they’re worth getting anyway due to being tremendously useful. Little changes, like making your Wrath of Gods hit harder, can result in dramatic changes in your matchups; decks that you might put aside can get just the edge they need from small tweaks in tactics. If you’ve gotten use out of these cards or have some that I missed, write me an email or post in the forums!
Until next week…
legacysallure at gmail dot com
legacysallure on twitter (which, if you followed, you would have seen my tip about picking up Sneak Attacks last week!)