One Step Ahead of Legacy Brewing

Thursday, February 24 – Gerry dumps the motherload of Legacy brews just in time for SCG Open: DC this weekend – if you’re totally tired of Counterbalance, check out these alternatives!

When I played 4-Color Counterbalance at the SCG Open in San Jose, I walked away with a heartbreaking finals loss. However, even though I was a huge
favorite to win (up a game, stabilized vs. Goblins with Top in play, along with three fetchlands to his nothing), I still felt as though my deck was

Throughout the Swiss, I countered maybe three spells with Counterbalance and never cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor. How was I winning? Casting Tarmogoyf
and Force of Will-ing a couple key spells and then Firespout-ing away their squad. Overall, not a great deck, but that type of strategy works well in
Legacy if you get the right matchups.

Anyway, I knew I wasn’t happy with the deck, but like Adam Prosak, I decided to play it until I stopped making Top 8s. Well, in Indianapolis,
that happened convincingly, although that’s a story in and of itself.

Back to the drawing board I went.

Staying with the same general strategy seemed fine, but it needed an overhaul. Counterbalance (and to some extent, Force of Will) seemed weak and/or
ineffective in the format.

There were a few things I wanted to try:

Punishing Fire

Firespout was a keeper, but Swords to Plowshares was lackluster. Sure, killing big dudes like Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary is necessary, but
there must be a better way than splashing a mediocre color that brings nothing else to the table.

I couldn’t rely on just Firespouts. Spot removal was definitely necessary, so I decided to revisit Punishing Fire. With Zoo effectively out of
the picture, it seems like the perfect time for Punishing Fire to mow down an army of Goblins or Merfolk.

Maze of Ith

Unfortunately for us, there are still some big dudes out there, most notably Tarmogoyf. We need some way to not die to big animals while we set up our
endgame, and I think Maze fits that bill perfectly. I tried a U/G/R Punishing Fire deck a while ago, but I was missing the key Maze component.


If there’s anything I like doing, it’s playing extra lands. I’m not quite sure what my attraction to that stems from. Maybe
it’s immunity to Wasteland, just being able to cast all my spells, or always having options during my turns, but maybe it’s just the fun

Sure, you probably can’t look at the board and tell that I’m winning, but no matter what, it always feels like I am. You might want to
concede when your opponent casts Dark Ritual into Ad Nauseam, but what about when I have eight lands to your three? You’re behind, but
you’re forced to let me have my fun, as you aren’t quite dead yet and always feel like you’re drawing live.

Much like the CAB Jace deck, the Intuition deck I had in mind
wanted to Punishing Fire their little guys, use Maze to confuse the big ones, and then win with Jace or Punishing Fire. However, that whole process
seemed tiresome. Exploration was the jump-start I wanted.

Similarly, Oracle of Mul Daya is a card that I can’t wait to cast in Legacy. Have you seen that card with Sensei’s Divining Top?
While definitely slow to cast, you’ll more than make up for that in the next couple turns. In a field full of blue decks, it seems insane.


What exactly should we do with all of our newfound lands? Well, we could grind them out with Punishing Fire and Maze of Ith, but that only works
against so many opponents. Against those who are trying to fight us in a different way, Scapeshift might be necessary to close the game.

Legacy has plenty of two-card combos like Painter’s Servant + Grindstone or Leyline of the Void + Helm of Obedience; Scapeshift, much like Ad
Nauseam, is one of the few one-card combos out there. Yes, it does require 7-8 lands in play to be lethal, but I want lands in play anyway.

Right now, I feel like I could control the game with removal, so Scapeshift isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s nice to have in the back of
my mind.


When looking to abuse Exploration/Life from the Loam and Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows, Intuition fits so well and ties the whole deck
together. Whether it’s setting up either combo or just tutoring for Explorations so you can start pulling ahead, Intuition does it all.

While Accumulated Knowledge is an old favorite of mine, drawing three just doesn’t yield the same rewards as it used to. Now we have to look for
more immediate ways to gain an advantage. Forbid would be another nice one to play with Life from the Loam and Punishing Fire, but it’s just too

This is where I’m at right now:

Sideboard options include:

Ancient Grudge: There could be one of these maindeck to Intuition for against Aether Vial or things like Kuldotha Forgemaster.

Red Elemental Blast: For Merfolk, as additional removal or as a way to force through Intuition. Also one of the best ways to prevent Counterbalance
from resolving.

Ensnaring Bridge: With Academy Ruins, you could do a whole lot of cool stuff, like including the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo as well. If I
were going to include a non-Engineered Explosives artifact, this would be the next choice. Emrakul and Progenitus are very scary beasts, and I
don’t have many good answers to those right now.

Glacial Chasm: A mainstay in the 43 Land deck but not necessarily relevant here. I want to actively crumble their board position turn after turn, not
allow them to assemble an army while I hope they don’t draw a Wasteland.

Firespout: Probably not necessary maindeck with all the Punishing Fires and Mazes but could be a nice sideboard card.

Counterbalance: While I’m typically not scared of Dredge or ANT, I’ll still pack something in my sideboard if I have the room or if my
matchup is horrendous. In the case of ANT, I respect the deck enough to try and fight it. Counterbalance, while far from good against everyone, is very
solid against them. First, I would consider sideboarding the fourth Force of Will though.

I’ve had a few other Intuition brews as well. Clearly, the card plays well with Vengevine and Demigod of Revenge as well, but those are decks for
another day. Plus, I feel like I should leave the brewing of new decks to Patrick Chapin. I seriously want that dude to start playing Legacy weekly.
Now that would be interesting.

For the SCG Open in Indianapolis, I gave my buddy Steve McKenna a Scapeshift list that I was working on but clearly needed some fine-tuning. He did
alright with the deck but noticed a few glaring holes. Recently, I found this list, as played by Japanese Legacy master Yu Saito:

He has a lot more basics than Steve did, which was one of the problems we found. Getting to seven or eight lands through a Wasteland (or god forbid a
Wasteland lock via Life from the Loam) was difficult.

My list focused on Sensei’s Divining Top and using it to set up Coiling Oracle and Oracle of Mul Daya out of the sideboard, but Yu’s list
might be better. Boseiju out of the sideboard seems particularly spicy.

The main problem with these lists is that there is a whole lot of nothing going on. In the Punishing Fire list, only Punishing Fire and Force of Will.
The rest is basically setup, but maybe that’s all you need. Maybe all the setup could be used to fuel a Scapeshift kill, though. This Thursday,
when I get to Drew Levin’s house in DC, you can bet we’ll be figuring it out.

Much like Scapeshift, Reanimator is one of those things that I just want to be good. Maybe because I’ve had good experiences in the past with it,
and the high of hoisting a trophy (or rather, feeling as though you’re about to have it swiped at the last possible second) doesn’t go away

This is what I’ve been playing lately:

No more messing around with random splash colors that I definitely don’t need. I added lands to be Wasteland proof, especially since Matt
Elias’s Cephalid Coliseums seem totally awesome.

I had a Painter’s Servant for a while, although that one requires some explaining. You see, Reanimator just isn’t what it used to be. You
can’t just tutor up the perfect fatty in any given matchup and have them be kold. The jerks in Legacy decided that it was a good idea to no
longer be kold to Iona, Inkwell, or what have you. Because of that, you almost always have to Reanimate two fatties per game.

That’s a pretty tall order, especially in the face of sideboard hate. Painter’s Servant combined with Iona removes nearly all of their
outs, and then it’s a matter of time before you’re able to Reanimate Platinum Emperion, hold off their ground guys (which Iona was previously
doing) and then attack them in the air.

Yes, I like Repeal; I like Null Rod; and I like sideboarding lands. You’ll probably see a lot of that in my deckbuilding, especially in Legacy. Repeal
is actually pretty sweet right now, as it’s a cheap answer to Aether Vial (although, Reanimator should be able to ignore that for the most part),
and it’s a good catchall for graveyard hate. It can also give you the time you need for Iona to win that race against a Tarmogoyf.

Null Rod’s value is slowly increasing. First there was Affinity, which I’ll address later, and now there’s Michael Bomholt’s
Kuldotha Forgemaster deck (which you should add two lands to if you decide to play it). There will always be Vial decks trying to hate you out with
Tormod’s Crypts and Counterbalance decks trying to do the same thing, so Null Rod will always have a place. However, when you take Affinity and
Forgemaster into account, Null Rod becomes a premium sideboard card for Reanimator.

I’m also done messing around with the Merfolk matchup. Since I have Null Rod (and to some extent, Repeal) for Aether Vial, Llawan is back in the
picture. Reanimating her is just fine, but after you side up to twenty land, hard-casting her isn’t out of the question.

Submerge is for those annoying Goyf/Knight decks. Sure, they can Spell Pierce your first couple spells, and that’s all well and good, but if they
don’t have any pressure, eventually you’ll resolve something. Perhaps there should be a fourth one. Remember, if you really need to, you
can wait for them to crack a fetch and shuffle away their guy for good.

Grave Titan is the new best answer to Goblins. Sphinx is solid, but you need to stop their Warren Weirdings, which isn’t always easy. Titan
should get the job done easily. Myr Battlesphere is cute but much worse, especially if you aren’t playing Goblin Welder.

I’ve toyed with the idea of including Frost and Inferno Titan as well, but those have little merit. Frost is solid against the aforementioned
Goyf/Knight decks. You can lock up a land and keep them off the three mana necessary to Swords it or start tapping their guys in order to race more
effectively. In most cases, Inkwell Leviathan is superior though.

Inferno would awesome if Elves ever took off, but that probably won’t happen anytime soon. If you want to include any of those sweet fatties, an
Iona or Sphinx could be cut. I’m rather attached to the other boom-booms though.

Realm Razer is a fine sideboard option against Lands or any control deck.

Daze just isn’t where it’s at in this deck. Everyone knows what you’re doing as soon as you cast Entomb, so Daze’s effectiveness is
typically lost. Now, you gain a lot more value by actually not having it in your deck at all, since they’ll play around it most of the time. It
might be necessary to include one or two copies to keep them honest though.

Spell Pierce is a fine card but not one that I really have room for. I think I’d rather have Inquisitions.

These aren’t the only things on my mind though. The Magic Online Daily Events have been spawning some awesome looking decks lately.

This is something I can get behind. Counterbalance has been lackluster, but Chalice has the potential to be truly backbreaking, especially in
combination with Repeal. The Kenny Oberg-style Tezzeret decks had few one-drops and zero two-drops so that they wouldn’t get screwed by their own
Chalices, and this list kind of does the same thing. Scabs felt the need to include Swords to Plowshares though.

Another thing to note in his list is the Force of Wills in the sideboard! It’s good to see someone other than I is allergic to spending
two cards to counter a Tarmogoyf. You can deal with the non-combo decks with one-for-ones. Trading two of your cards for one of theirs isn’t the

This Elf deck is cool because it’s more Matt Nass/Wrapter-style than the other, scatterbrained MTGO lists. I like Thoughtseize but not sure if
cutting Intuition and leaving in Vengevines is correct. Mirror Entity seems much better than Emrakul unless you’re specifically trying to hate out
Painter. Naturally drawing that guy or even tutoring for it with Fauna Shaman seems pretty insane when you have Gaea’s Cradle in your deck.

I would clean up the list and play something like this:

Sideboard options:

Mindbreak Trap

Krosan Grip/Reverent Silence


Intuition (with a mana base change naturally)

Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender (maybe one maindeck)

Natural Order/Progenitus

Venser, Shaper Savant

Crop Rotation seems better than the third Cradle by a large margin. The Llanowar Elves and clones work particularly well with Quirion Ranger, so I
don’t know why you’d skimp on those effects.

A singleton Birchlore Rangers might be necessary to cast Mirror Entity mid-combo if you can’t access the Savannah for whatever reason.

Yusuke’s deck is very similar to the deck I took to the finals of the SCG Open in San Jose. Several things are interesting about this list. First
of all, he has Spell Pierces where I had Spell Snare and Counterspell. While more of a risky, bold choice, I could get on board with it. Having more
answers to Aether Vial is a good thing, even if it’s only going to work game one on the play.

Secondly, there’s an interesting Enlightened Tutor package in the sideboard. While it probably isn’t optimal, Tutor does provide outs to something like
Progenitus—which I lost to in the last SCG Open—that you wouldn’t normally have.

I presume that my buddy Shimpei is only running three Forces of Will because of budget concerns. I like this deck a lot right now. Against non-green
decks, it seems much better than Merfolk.

Ancestral Vision is something that I want to try. Most people will poo-poo all over that idea simply because this is a “tempo” deck, and
spending turn 1 doing nothing is a “tempo-negative” play, but I’d disagree with the original argument.

I’d say that this is more of a velocity deck than anything, or rather, I’d rather it become a velocity deck. Think of it as a Standstill
that’s cheaper and easier to use. Typically, an opponent will bleed your soft counters and then stick a threat when you run out or because you
couldn’t find a threat fast enough. Ancestral should set that counter wall back up, and you should be good to go.

With so many awesome options in Legacy, I have no idea what to play in Legacy this weekend at StarCityGames.com Open: DC. No matter what though,
I’m sure I’ll be having a blast.


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For those of you heading out to PTQ this weekend, might I recommend Michael Hetrick latest U/W concoction. The Holla brothers once again dominated a
large online tournament, taking first and fourth place overall with their Extended version of Caw-Blade.

I cannot recommend this deck highly enough.