One Step Ahead – Legacy BUG And Modern

As I posted on Twitter, the previous weekend was my last Caw-rah. I found little reason to play anything else. However, Legacy posed a real question—what deck do I play?

As I posted on Twitter, the previous weekend was my last Caw-rah. I found little reason to play anything else. However, Legacy posed a real question—what deck do I play? The last few events, I reached out to my Facebook friends for help and got some real responses. Those, combined with my Legacy bucket list, gave me too many options.

The bucket list, as of today:

There are probably some others, but that’s the list for right now. I had some strong feelings as to how BUG (or Team America) should be built right now, and things in Legacy can change quickly, so I wanted to capitalize. The list would have to wait for now.

Chris VanMeter, Hive Mind master, is typically the man I get my BUG cards from, but he has a history with the deck as well. CVM wanted to put down the Hive Minds and pick up the Goyfs again, and I couldn’t blame him. I tried to find a BUG deck, but mostly to no avail. A lot of it wasn’t set in stone, like “Well if I play X, then you can have A, B, or C.”

The night before, Patrick Chapin sent me a PM on Facebook, laying out a rough sketch of Legacy Splinter Twin. Although CVM was firmly in the BUG camp, he was willing to take the Splinter Twin dive if I was. The rationale for this was that despite being smart, capable Magic players, we’re also buffoons.

After a rocky start in the Standard Open, the Legacy Challenge was looking like a real possibility. Since CVM was still crushing the Standard, I had him build me a copy of Twin when he had some spare time. Despite ratting off three wins in a row after my 0-1-1 start, I decided to drop and play Legacy.

I liked the look of it but hated how it played. Blood Moon and Counterbalance give you some interesting angles to attack the format with, but for the most part, they are good independent of your combo. Why even play the combo in the first place? Why not play something that they can’t interact with, like Hive Mind?

These are all good questions.

After going 0-2 drop, I was back in the BUG camp. Thankfully, Anthony Avitollo came to my rescue.

Here’s what I played:

I finished in the top sixteen, which was a slight disappointment. I’m about 50/50 to make top eight when I play BUG in Legacy, and I thought I had one of the better lists I’ve had in a while. However, after getting crushed by AJ round one, a top sixteen finish was probably pretty good.

My other loss came at the hands of the tournament winner, piloting Dredge. I won game one and perhaps didn’t mulligan appropriately, in addition to making a mistake in game two. Nihil Spellbomb off the top would have been game at any point, but I never saw one.

So why is BUG number one?

Playing against combo is easy; you just kill them. Playing against control is similarly easy. Against aggro, you want to kill all their stuff or race them.

What about playing against midrange? Who’s the beatdown? It’s trickier than you think.

Maybe you figure that BUG is the beatdown since I’ve got the clocks and disruption. You side in your Wrath of Gods, thinking that if you just kill my dudes, I won’t be able to win. You’ll have plenty of time to do your little control deck thing.

Well, now I’m cutting Tombstalkers and adding a fourth Ancestral Vision. I have Hymns and removal. Outside of Jace and Ancestrals of your own, there’s not much I’m scared of from a U/W deck.

I think that because of how Magic has changed in the last five years or so, midrange has gone from unplayable poop to perhaps the greatest strategy you can utilize. In Legacy, you have all the tools to design a deck that can play the control and aggro role well. Players tend to play and sideboard poorly against this type of strategy, so why not capitalize on it?

Tarmogoyf > Stoneforge Mystic

This isn’t true in a vacuum, at least if you take Batterskull into consideration. However, Legacy has come a point where Goyf is back to being number one. NO RUG is a real deck, and they will side in Ancient Grudge against you. Nearly everyone has Vendilion Clique. Tower of the Magistrate? C’mon, we are getting inbred here. It’s time to back to playing our 2cc 5/6; we don’t need to get some fancy equipment.

Just kill them.

I Have All The Answers

Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach for disruption

Pernicious Deeds to clean up vs. aggro decks utilizing things like Bitterblossom or equipment

-Edicts for Progenitus and Emrakul

-Card drawing

-Ways to interact and kill things

-Good graveyard hate

Some might question the use of Ancestral Vision over Dark Confidant, but there’s an ebb and flow to the format. Right now, you need to start interacting on turn two vs. most decks. That means putting that Goyf out there to block or Hymn-ing them to stop their game plan. Being able to play your card drawer on turn one is much better than turn two. You will fall behind if you use Dark Confidant in this type of deck.

For similar reasons, Thoughtseize is awesome again. However, loading your deck with Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, and Hymn to Tourach is a recipe for disaster. All of those cards have diminishing returns. Sometimes you look at your hand on turn five, which contains more discard, and their empty hand but board with two threats, and realize that something went wrong here.

You want most of your cards to be fine top decks, as Legacy does come down to attrition a fair amount of time. The more discard and Confidants you play, the less robust your deck becomes in the midgame.

No, I don’t have any basic lands in my deck, and no, I don’t feel like I need them.

Consider this: you’re playing against Merfolk and have a two-land hand. You have the option of fetching your one basic, or even two basics, but what does that do for you?

Are you going to fetch Island/Swamp? Forest/Island? Maybe even Swamp/Forest? You are mana screwed in all of those scenarios.

What if you just want to fetch your basic Island? You get that and Bayou, and they Wasteland your Bayou. Mana screwed again.

If you have more than two land, you don’t really need to fetch basics. Their Wasting you isn’t typically a large problem, assuming you’ve kept a hand that can interact with their early pressure.

Going forward, I would consider adding a land, either a Creeping Tar Pit or Sunken Ruins. As long as you aren’t missing land drops, you should be able to hold your own against most decks. Sure, you can use Brainstorm to dig for land, but I’d rather use it on turn three to sculpt a better hand.

I rarely lose to Merfolk with BUG. Sure, it’s supposed to be a bad matchup, but as long as I have Deed and Ghastly Demise after sideboarding, life doesn’t seem so bad.

One of the main reasons I feel like I perform so well with BUG is that I’m able to identify what matters. Against Merfolk, it’s typically not Aether Vial. Sure, you could board Llawan against them, but if you don’t stop their Vials, they will still crush you. I’d rather my sideboard cards like Ghastly Demise have other uses, like against Maverick or Zoo.

Fighting Vial is tough. If they are on the play and have Daze, there’s almost nothing you can do. If you’re on the play and have Thoughtseize, it’s almost always correct to take their Silvergill Adept instead. If you’re killing their creatures, their Vial will function like a mulligan. Mid-game, Deed will clean up the Vials anyway.

I would gladly play BUG again and likely will. Perhaps the bucket list decks would be better off being played in the two-mans on Magic Online.


I assume that, based on the initial banned list, that Wizards wants to make Modern a real format. By real, I mean both a PTQ format, and one that will get played at local stores around the world.

I assume this because of the fact that they banned cards like Valakut, Stoneforge Mystic, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Bitterblossom. These have been the most obnoxious offenders in recent years. Sure, Valakut is likely “safe,” in that it won’t be able to compete with decks like Poison or Swath Storm, but they shouldn’t unban it.

In order for Modern to thrive, they should do what they intended to do in the first place and that’s remove all the oppressive cards and strategies. This might be a fool’s errand based on the wide card pool, but I think it can be done.

After thinking about it some more, I would ban:

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

This seems like a better move than banning Amulet of Vigor, Through the Breach, Cloudpost, and/or Goryo’s Vengeance. Is Cloudpost still a deck without Emrakul? Sure, but it’s far less oppressive.

Splinter Twin

Twin hasn’t quite reached Valakut levels of obnoxiousness yet, but it will get there. Twin, Valakut, and Jitte are likely “safe,” but I’d keep them banned just because people don’t like them.

Rite of Flame

This is the biggest offender in the storm decks and will likely slow them down by a turn or two. Sure, we could just ban everything with storm on it, but making it a turn-four deck rather than turn two/three seems healthy for the format.

Blazing Shoal

I can’t imagine people would show up to PTQs only to get killed on turn three all day. That isn’t fun, and it isn’t good for the format.

I would also unban:

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

He gives you a way to win, but probably not until you have the game locked up anyway. Tapping out on turn four is very risky, even after you ban a bunch of cards.

Others say you should unban Ancestral Vision as well, and while I would love nothing more than to play Ancestral, I cannot condone that. Ancestral is quite good vs. all of the decks in the format and would likely lead to blue dominating (assuming this banned list).

I’m sure WotC has some sort of changes planned. Although the format is diverse, I can’t imagine it’s one that players will enjoy playing.

Next week: New Standard already? Ding!