Legacy’s Allure – The StarCityGames.com Philadelphia $5000 Legacy Open Examined

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Tuesday, October 13th – Doug pores over all sixteen top decks from this past weekend’s Legacy event in Philadelphia to highlight why strategies worked and the latest tech from recent sets. See how Bloodghast has changed how Dredge plays out and the new adoption in CounterTop decks that puts them back on the map. Doug considers decks packing lots of cards from Zendikar and M10, like an innovative Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combo deck. Check out how your favorite deck performed in this week’s Legacy’s Allure!

The StarCityGames.com $5000 Legacy Open in Philadelphia was a smashing success this past weekend, and the fine folks here have already got the Top 16 decklists posted! This week, we’ll take a look at them and their strengths and frailties. I am especially excited because there are a lot of new Zendikar cards showing up, and I’m not just talking fetchlands. I’ve grouped similar decks together to compare their individual compositions. Let’s take a look!

Naya Zoo

Mitchell’s deck is very similar to the Naya Zoo decks that made a strong showing in Charlotte. He has the characteristic Sylvan Library, Horizon Canopy, and Knight of the Reliquary. His sideboard packs a full four Red Elemental Blasts, a nod to Counterbalance decks and their proclivity for locking up the long game if they can survive. Mitchell does not pack the fourth copy of Price of Progress in the sideboard, nor does he run Vexing Shushers or Choke in the sideboard. I’m not sure whether the Pyroblast plan or Shushers are better against Counterbalance; the former is considerably cheaper and can remove problematic permanents like Rhox War Monk, but the Zoo player really needs the counterspell in their hand with a Red mana open to actually realistically stop the Blue enchantment. Shusher is much slower, but it shuts down the same cards that Red Elemental Blast does and attacks too.

Robert’s deck is a really interesting take on Zoo and uses two relatively new creatures, Figure of Destiny and Goblin Guide, to make sure he has a critical mass of one-drops. I’m glad to see the Guide seeing play; it’s the kind of creature that Zoo absolutely wants on the first turn, though I’m unsure of how effective it would be later on. Robert only runs White for Wild Nacatl, which is absolutely okay. I like that the deck has a lot of basics to rely on, but the most troubling thing for me is the large number of 3-ofs. This implies that they used to be four-ofs, but were shaved back to make room for different cards. I’m inclined to cut some cards, like Keldon Marauders, for quads of Grim Lavamancer and Goblin Guide (or maybe just Kird Ape). Fascinatingly, Robert runs Volcanic Fallout on his sideboard. Since most of his creatures can survive the sweeper, the spell can really swing Zoo matchups when the opponent is utilizing Qasali Pridemage and similar smaller creatures.

Joe’s deck is similar to the Alix Hatfield-style Zoo deck from Charlotte, but it has some fascinating twists. For example, he has three Vines of Vastwood, perhaps one the best (meaning actually playable) pump spells around. The card answers blocking Tombstalkers and Tarmogoyfs and can foil spot-removal. An interesting choice; I’m curious how they were for Joe this past Sunday.

Zoo made another strong showing, with three decks in the Top 16. The archetype is definitely worth taking notice of; since it’s putting up consistent high showings, decks that were previously ponderously slow, like Landstill, could profit if they were tuned to beat it. There’s also an undercurrent of discussion among Threshold players regarding Firespout; more Zoo means that the sweeper gets a lot better when maindecked (and makes manabases that much trickier).


The two Dredge decks really benefit from being compared side-by-side; take a look and then scroll down for some analysis.

The first thing to notice is that neither deck runs Lion’s Eye Diamond or Deep Analysis. This move is generally regarded as a way to make the deck more consistent, but less busted in the early turns. Jason’s deck runs two Tolarian Winds in addition to his Breakthroughs, giving him some really explosive starts off the back of an early dredger discard. Further, he techs out his Dread Return targets with Woodfall Primus, who can destroy problems like Moat. He’s adopted the new Sphinx of Lost Truths as a replacement for Cephalid Sage, since it’s a meatier target and can reasonably attack in the air.

Matthew’s deck is a bit different in that he’s adopted Bloodghast as a replacement for Ichorids. He and I have corresponded a little bit and he mentioned that Bloodghast was superior for him because it didn’t require removing precious dredgers from the graveyard and could essentially come back from the grave every turn, a nod over Ichorids. I asked Matthew why he ran Cephalid Sage over the Sphinx, and he replied that he’s often needed the extra card in hand because he usually dredges back a Dakmoor Salvage to trigger Landfall. He also runs Sadistic Hypnotist (all glory to the Hypnotoad!), a juicy Dread Return target early in the game that can constructively win the game in situations where it’s too early to win with Flame-Kin Zealot.

Take a look at the sideboards of these decks; neither really has a way to stop Ravenous Trap. I think the Trap might see some play, and I don’t see relying on Cabal Therapy to get rid of it as a reasonable reaction. However, since the Traps weren’t anywhere to be seen in Philly, it likely worked out fine. Both players run full sets of Pithing Needles to stop Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus and Ancestor’s Chosen, a good card for the Zoo matchup because the opponent can easily foil Bridge from Below and race Dredge. Matthew’s Force of Wills are also an interesting addition, drawn from some Vintage lists that have experimented with the Best Counterspell Ever. Look for an interview with Matthew next week in this column!

The Combo Decks

Mark packed Ad Nauseam for an admirable finish in Philly. The deck is probably underplayed, since it’s challenging to play correctly when you build the deck to be more consistent and less explosive, like this list. Mark shaved down to only one copy of Ad Nauseam and upped Chant counts with a copy of Silence. This deck is built with the understanding that finding the Ad Nauseam is relatively easy, especially with four Mystical Tutors, but protecting it is more difficult. I also dig the sideboard; Ad Nauseam doesn’t have much to board in or out, so Mark can devote space to corner cards like Ray of Revelation.

Oh, that Cedric, what will he play next! Belcher has a reputation for being inconsistent, explosive, fragile after mulligans and dead to Blue cards. However, it has a great surprise value, which Cedric obviously exploited on his way to a 6th place finish. Part of its power is that Belcher is a little too fast for most sideboard anti-combo cards to contain, so decks have to bank on what they have in their maindeck, by and large, to fight the Tinder Walled menace. Ced also packs Black in the deck, which gives it some punch with Dark Ritual but also means you have to run another land (how unfair!). Manamorphose is a great workaround and can get the elusive double-Black for a Burning Wish-recovered Tendrils of Agony. Ced’s board has a full seven cards to pack against heavily Blue decks, enabling him to slow-roll the combo or make six or eight highly protected Goblin tokens on the second turn.

The Counterbalance Decks

Both Vincent and Jonathan ran very similar Natural OrderCounterbalance decks. They’ve got Rhox War Monk, a concession to aggressive metagames, and both also pack full sets of Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top. The deck essentially plans to set up the Counterbalance lock or play a standard Threshold game, while being able to pull out the unexpected Natural Order for the biggest Hydra you’ve ever contemplated. If you see Noble Hierarch cast with Tropical Island on the first turn, it’s safe to assume that the opponent has Natural Order somewhere; I can’t think of another deck in the format that leads in such a way. It’s interesting that this deck made two high placements, where there was only one non-Natural Order Counterbalance deck showing up. This is possibly the next development in CounterTop decks and people interested in the highly-annoying archetype should consider cramming green sorceries into their deck.

Timothy packed a very similar deck to what he piloted to a Top 8 finish at GenCon this year. He’s adopted Black removal spells so that he can have pinpoint kill cards and support Dark Confidant while avoiding manascrew problems that come with running Swords to Plowshares. I like his deck a lot; it’s straightforward, reliable in its draws and rewards a good pilot. I’m glad to see Timothy placing highly in several events; seeing the same name in Legacy Top 8 results supports the idea of a contiguous format with repeatable successes by certain players.

Rounding Out the Top 16

Alex chose a relatively standard Merfolk deck, but makes a subtle use of the new fetchlands. With two Pithing Needles maindeck, Alex can not only shut down Engineered Explosives and Sensei’s Divining Top, he can also slam an opponent’s manabase by naming their fetchlands. Misty Rainforest is probably the one to call at the moment.

Chris packed an unorthodox Legacy deck, replete with tempo counters and small removal spells, in a deck that bears a resemblance to Faeries decks of Extended. He supports three colors as well as Wasteland, and, importantly, runs Tombstalker. This is critical in a deck like this because sometimes you need a big dumb animal to throw at the opponent. This deck style is well-suited to playing the tempo game, and a Tombstalker to drop down on turn 4 or 5 can make the Daze on turn 2 retroactively much more powerful. I haven’t seen many successful applications with Bitterblossom in Legacy; the Umezawa’s Jittes go a long way to powering up tokens to the creature level we’re used to. I can’t help thinking that this deck probably wants Dark Confidant somewhere in the 75, even if hitting a Tombstalker with it is a nonbo.

Did you see that? Three copies of Grim Discovery in the maindeck, the card I’ve been harping on about for the last two weeks! In a deck like this, it’s always going to “draw” two cards and it also resets the Dark Depths combination. Ken packs a startling FOUR copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. That seems excessive to me, but at least it makes Dark Depths and Wasteland tap for relevant mana colors. I like the tack he’s taken with Smallpox, and that makes me think tangentially about whether Pox would benefit from the Dark Depths combo. Living Wish gives access to a really reasonable sideboard that isn’t overblown with corner cards. I would probably move the fourth Wasteland to the maindeck and put something like Indrik Stomphowler in its place. I really dig the Dark Confidants on the sideboard; they are a real edge in attrition matches. Surprisingly, Ken avoided Hymn to Touarch and Thoughtseize, two cards I would figure were staples in this deck. Ken also makes use of Bloodghast for reusable beats. It’s a pretty slick deck.

Chris made the finals of the StarCityGames.com $5000 Legacy Open in Charlotte, so it’s no surprise to see him here with a substantially similar deck. He’s packing Intuitions this time to act as more Gambles; they’re also supercharged if you need to grab, say, three cycling lands or three Maze of Ith and play them immediately through Life from the Loam and Manabond. He’s relegated Glacial Chasm to the sideboard but runs no Nomad Quarter maindeck; it’s a gamble against strategies like Burn or Zoo. I also like Chris’s extensive use of sideboard cards that are still valuable if they end up in the graveyard.

James Bishop opted for Canadian Threshold, packing the standard Rushing River over the alternative Vendilion Cliques. His success shows that this is a resilient list, especially when compared to other Threshold decks that have been unable to match the north-of-the-border phenomenon. It’s hard to say more on this archetype, so if you’re interested in finding its ins and outs, check out my recent interview with Ben Wienburg in the archives.

If there was ever a metagame call, this was it. Trinistax was completely set up to dominate the Top 16, thanks to a horde of pesky artifacts and lots of mana denial. Brian makes some uncommon calls; Baneslayer Angel is the biggest one I’m thinking of. She does a good job of gaining back life and lets the deck act like a superpowered Angel Stompy deck. He packs a pile of really potent cards on the sideboard, too; can CounterTop actually resolve their Krosan Grip through Suppression Field to take out that Choke? Brian’s deck is aptly suited to set up that now-banned Vintage play of Trinisphere, Smokestack and Crucible of Worlds to lock an opponent right out of the game. His Chalice of the Void really does a number on just about everything else in this Top 16, especially when set with one counter. Whitestax can be an excellent or awful choice in a metagame; it suffers from inconsistencies if it has to account for a lot of decks, but the core of the deck is built to take advantage of Legacy’s low mana cost curve.

Congratulations to everyone who played at the StarCityGames.com event both days, and especially to the Top 16! This event showed that Legacy players have really embraced M10 and Zendikar, so Wizards is doing a lot of stuff right when they can get that many new cards into an Eternal format.

Until next week…

Doug Linn

legacysallure at gmail dot com