Playing Control or Combo in Legacy

One of the recurring comments about Legacy is the non-viability of Combo or Control in this format, supposedly because of the dominance of Threshold or Goblins. Combo is indeed quite absent from the metagame, and Control is limited to weak board control decks which cannot do anything else other than crushing creatures (R/W Rift or Mono-White Control, for example) and are thus usually relegated as pure metagame decks. Oddly enough, the four decks I have been playing after Grand Prix: Lille with a good success are all either Combo or Control decks…

Ever since Wizards announced Grand Prix: Philadelphia and Grand Prix: Lille, I’ve been actively playing and testing Legacy. TheManaDrain.com has been my original source for inspiration, and a lot of threads here have lead to fairly good discussions. Threshold had originally been developed by one of the TheManaDrain’s Legacy Moderator, Dan Spero (a.k.a. Bardo), and another highly underrated deck, “Iggy Pop” (an Ill-Gotten Gains based Tendrils of Agony deck) was born here too, through the job of my fellow Meandecker, Michael Bomholt (a.k.a. Bomholmm). Playtesting for Grand Prix: Lille started in October 2005, and lead to Pierre Canali and Wilfried Ranque playing Aluren to a Top 32 finish.

Since then, I have kept reading online Legacy boards. One of the recurring comments about Legacy is the non-viability of Combo or Control in this format, supposedly because of the dominance of Threshold or Goblins. Combo is indeed quite absent from the metagame, and Control is limited to weak board control decks which cannot do anything else other than crushing creatures (R/W Rift or Mono-White Control, for example) and are thus usually relegated as pure metagame decks. Oddly enough, the four decks I have been playing after Grand Prix: Lille with a good success are all either Combo or Control decks. This article will look into them, and should be read along with TheManaDrain’s Legacy boards where these decks have already been discussed for a while.


Aluren is a very old deck that has its roots in the Mirage-included old Extended format. It is based around the synergy between its namesake, Aluren, and various creatures with good comes-into-play effects such as Raven Familiar and Cavern Harpy. Players who played Extended after Mirage rotated out probably know Aluren in its Tempest based Extended version, with Cloud of Faeries and Maggot Carrier as win conditions and Living Wish as engine. The build I suggest playing in Legacy is based around the skeletons of the Mirage based Extended builds, with Spike Feeder and Man-O’-War.

The Decklist

Pierre Canali and Wilfried Ranque played slightly different maindecks, with Wilfriend going for maindeck Eladamri’s Vineyard as a way to foil Goblin’s and B/W Suicide’s Wastelands, Rishadan Ports, and Sinkholes. Both builds did fairly well at Grand Prix: Lille, and since then I kept working on the deck, with some good input from Spencer Hayes (a.k.a. Gimbles). If I had to play Aluren in a Tournament tomorrow, I would probably end up running the following list:

How do I play the deck?

When playing Aluren, it is very important to know your role. As presented above, the build is a slow Combo deck that can usually go off by turn 5 or 6 depending on the opposition and the pressure put on your life totals. Since that is too slow for a pure Combo deck, the build is sheltered into a Control skeleton, with protection or disruption against Combo and Control (Cabal Therapy and Force of Will) but also versatile creature control elements (Wall of Blossoms and Wall of Roots), along with an incredibly powerful bounce spell (Chain of Vapor). These Control elements should allow you to get into mid-game against a very aggressive deck such as Goblins, and into late-game against slower decks like R/W Rift or Landstill variants.

Early game should be used to develop the manabase and either sculpt your hand if you are playing against Control, or build up defenses against creatures if playing against Aggro. Your goal should be to find an Aluren and a Raven Familiar for now, since these are the core elements of the Combo engine. Brainstorms and fetchlands, Intuitions and Wall of Blossoms should help there. Against Aggro, you will usually have to be aggressive with your Brainstorming to dig fast into protection or Combo elements, while Brainstorms are usually held in hand against Control for hand optimization by turn 3 or 4. Intuition has the same use, finding three copies of your missing Combo part when you are on a clock or Cabal Therapies for disruption against Control.

If you play the deck properly, your creatures are quite immune to removal, and since removal is about the only way Aggro has to stop you, you can usually go off “blind” against Goblins or White Weenie, with no Cabal Therapy or Force of Will backup. Against Control, Cabal Therapy will be used to clear the path for your Aluren by knocking Force of Will and Counterspell out of the opponent’s hand. With Wall of Roots and Wall of Blossoms holding Nimble Mongoose and Werebear for ages, making yourself Daze-proof is usually not very hard. As a general note, always hit Brainstorm with your first Cabal Therapy against Blue-based decks, otherwise they can dig for another Force of Will if needed. Once Aluren hits the board, going off is done through four different steps.

Raven Familiar now becomes your most important card, since it will dig deeper into your deck for free and will be re-used thanks to Man-O’-War and Cavern Harpy. Dig into these creatures, or at worse into Wall of Blossoms, until you find the lone Spike Feeder. Man-O’-War will save you a lot of life when compared to the Extended lists, which usually needed to burn five or six life on Cavern Harpy, and you can often go off with no life at all, and an average of three life paid. If you play the deck poorly, going through this step can be problematic, since the opponent can burn your Raven Familiar in response of the Cavern Harpy you cast to bounce it back. Here is the trick. Always cast Cavern Harpy first, and with the come into play on the stack (trigger doesn’t target), cast Raven Familiar. If opponent does nothing, return the Raven Familiar using the stacked Harpy trigger, pay one life, and start again. If opponent tries to kill the Raven, pay one life in response to return the Harpy in your hand and save the Raven this way. This way, your opponent won’t be able to kill your precious bird unless he has one more removal than you have Harpies. Not common. Now let’s assume you found your Spike Feeder. Play it, remove one counter to gain two life, bounce it back with Man-O’-War, bounce it back with Cavern Harpy and pay one life to return the Harpy afterwards. Same game state, except you gained one life in the loop. The deck can now gain an arbitrarily large amount of life, which should be enough to win most of your games in Legacy. Once this has been done, you can do the same loop with Wall of Roots to generate an arbitrary large amount of Green mana, and after that Spike Feeder is used again through its second ability to turn your creatures into huge fighting machines. Your next Combat Phase is going to win you this game. Summary :

Step 1 : Dig into Spike Feeder using Raven Familiar with Cavern Harpy and Man-O’-War.
Step 2 : Generate an arbitrary large amount of life with Spike Feeder recursion.
Step 3 : Generate an arbitrary large amount of Green mana with Wall of Roots recursion.
Step 4 : Turn your creatures into fatties with Spike Feeder recursion.

The Man-O’-War trick

This trick is mostly used against creature heavy decks such as Goblins or White Weenie, but also against Threshold as a way to deal permanently with Meddling Mage, Mystic Enforcer, or Fledgling Dragon.

Cabal Therapy is usually a poor draw against creature decks, because they have no clear target in their deck, aside from maybe Goblin Warchief and Goblin Ringleader against Goblins. Man-O’-War will turn them into a creature removal and a Peek effect, offering a sacrifice outlet for the flashback at the same time. The trick is a bit slow against Goblins but can buy a turn when facing Goblin Warchief, and is very strong against Threshold.

The Chain of Vapor trick

Chain of Vapor is usually be used as a standard bounce used to get rid of problematic permanents such as Humility or Engineered Plague. In this deck, it also doubles as an insane recursion tool for Raven Familiars with Aluren on the board if you are very low on life or cannot find a Cavern Harpy or a Man-O’-War. All you need to have on the board is the Raven Familiar and another creature (Wall of Blossoms or another Raven Familiar being the best picks). Play Chain of Vapor targeting your Raven, and upon resolution return it to your hand and sacrifice a land to bounce another of your creatures. In response to the copy, play Raven Familiar and do the mini Impulse. Resolve the copy and chain it back to the Raven Familiar. Repeat until you find what you need, and finish the chain by getting rid of a problematic permanent if needed. If they chain it back to your own Aluren, you can always go off in response.

The Eternal Witness trick

A lot of players feel unsafe playing the deck because you have to pass the turn before winning. Eternal Witness makes that very safe, since with Man-O’-War and Cavern Harpy, you can just keep recurring Force of Wills and blue cards until the opponent runs out of threats.

Quick matchups analysis


Goblins is a very fast deck and can often overwhelm you with threats. In this matchup you have to be a true Combo deck, buying some turns early game with Wall of Roots and Wall of Blossoms and being very aggressive with your Brainstorms and Intuitions. You can afford to go off without protection game 1 because nothing bad can really happen to you. Post board, you strengthen your Control elements by cutting the useless Force of Will and Cabal Therapies for the more powerful set of Hydroblasts and Blue Elemental Blasts, along with the Wall of Blossoms and a Pernicious Deed. It is overall a slightly favorable matchup.


Contrary to Goblins, Threshold cannot overwhelm you with threats, since you run more creatures than them, especially more Walls. Walls are turned into many Time Walks in these matchups, so you can afford to go into mid game in order to make you completely Daze-proof. Then a single Cabal Therapy should win you the game by knocking off their Force of Will. The White build is more problematic because of Meddling Mage, but the Man-O’-War trick is usually good at dealing with this. Post board I usually cut a Man-O’-War, a Cavern Harpy and a Forest for the last Wall of Blossoms and the two Pernicious Deeds, and switch my game plan to a heavy Control deck. Overall a slightly favorable matchup for the White builds, and a good matchup for the Red ones.

B/W Suicide

The Swamp players are not your friends. Hymn to Tourach knocking your good spells off your hand along with Sinkholes and Vindicate destroying your manabase are not good news, and game 1 is very hard to win. Post board cut the Cabal Therapies, a Wall of Blossoms and a Cavern Harpy for the Eladamri’s Vineyards and the Diverts. Even then, you really don’t want to face Swamps in a tournament.

Mono-White Control, Landstill, Loam Confinement and R/W Rift

Different decks but same game plan. First turn “Mishra’s Factory, go” or “Plains, end of turn cycle Secluded Steppe” are plays you want to see every round in tournaments. These four decks are complete byes. They have no real clock so you can sculpt your hand at will, until you wreck their hand through Cabal Therapy before going off. Post board you’ll just bring in the Pernicious Deeds to get read of potential problems (Solitary Confinement, Humility, Rule of Law, Pithing Needle) over a Cavern Harpy and an Intuition. The fourth Cabal Therapy can come in against Landstill too, depending on the number of different counters they run. But honestly, these decks are byes. Do not forget, you are the Control deck in this matchup, so take your time.

High Tide

This is a matchup where you really have to know what you are doing, since they can Brain Freeze you after you went off. The easiest thing to do in order to prevent this is to go off with a creature which can attack this turn. They will need a card draw to make you lose the game, and that is easy to counter. Post board the single Loaming Shaman is another foil to that plan. Both decks have close goldfish speeds, but since you run more Control elements than them you have the edge here. Cut a Wall of Blossoms and a Forest post board for the Loaming Shaman and the last Cabal Therapy, and play smart around Brain Freeze.

Confinement Slide

I have been discussing this deck for a while with Kevin Binswanger (a.k.a. Anusien), because we both consider it as a very serious contender in Legacy. Much like Mono-White Control and W/R Rift, Confinement Slide is a true board Control deck, and will have serious problems when facing Combo decks and most of the Blue-based Control decks. When Fifth Dawn came out, Onslaught was still Standard legal and most of the R/W Slide players switched to the more powerful G/W Slide builds in order to abuse the insane synergy between Eternal Witness and Astral Slide. In Legacy, dual lands allow different splashes quite easily thanks to the Onslaught fetchlands, and Life from the Loam turns Solitary Confinement into a stronger and cheaper Wrath of God. I have been playing multiple variants of the deck around the G/W skeleton, featuring a Red splash, a Black splash, Burning Wish, Living Wish, Sakura-Tribe Elders, and about a dozen of other cards. The build presented below is probably far from being fully tweaked and some choices can likely be questioned.

The Decklist

The Spark Spray could also be a Condemn.

How do I play the deck?

The great thing with Solitary Confinement is that it gives you strategic superiority against a lot of decks in Legacy, or at least most of the Aggro and Combo decks. Goblins, Threshold, Ill-Gotten Gains and others all scoop their cards to a resolved Solitary Confinement game 1 as long as you have your Life from the Loam engine active. Keeping an active Solitary Confinement on the board should be your main plan in almost all your matchups.

In order to achieve that game plan, Confinement Slide has to build up a strong manabase first, and then to find a Solitary Confinement and a Life from the Loam. To do so, the deck uses a lot of board Control elements, such as Swords to Plowshares and Spark Spray as good turn 1 solutions to Goblin Lackey, a turn 2 Burning Wish for Pyroclasm or Wrath of God depending on the matchup, a turn 2 Wall of Blossoms to hold Aggro for a while (while digging into good cards), or a deadly Lightning Rift. All these cards are true Time Walks against Aggro, and should give you enough time to find and resolve Solitary Confinement. If these cards are not enough, Renewed Faith will either give you a nice life buffer, or draw you a card while gaining you two life (more Time Walks!) and maybe killing one of their dudes. Then Loxodon Hierarch comes into play, a nice life gain attached to a huge 4/4 body. It is fairly easy to see why the deck easily beats straight Aggro, be it through global removal (Burning Wish) or through resource attrition (Lightning Rift and spot removal). Once Solitary Confinement hits, digging for a Lightning Rift or beating them down with Loxodon Hierarchs is only a formality.

Against Control, your game is obviously different. You have a lot of dead cards (Swords to Plowshares) and they run little to no creatures. Blue-based Control is very hard to beat. They can keep their Counterspells for your Eternal Witnesses and Lightning Rifts, Cunning Wish for Disenchant or just Nevinyrral’s Disk your board away. Try to slip a Lightning Rift under their Counterspells and go for a fast kill if you can, because that’s about the only shot you have at winning. Against Landstill and its very slow clock, you can afford to hold their Mishra’s Factories for a while, trying to ramp up to eight mana before you Obliterate their board. That is still a fairly poor plan, but will win you some games against an unprepared opponent. Control players tend to always overextend their manabase, and that is good for you. Mono-White Control and regular R/W Slide are played very differently. You have an edge over R/W Slide because you can stop their Lightning Rifts with Solitary Confinements, while they cannot stop yours. Your game plan here is similar to the MWC, R/W matchups or the G/W mirror in Onslaught – Mirrodin based Standard: find Burning Wish, grab a Plow Under, and go crazy with Eternal Witness and Astral Slide.

Cycling Eternal Dragons is bad, mmmkay?

This Slide build doesn’t run Eternal Dragon. No, It’s not a decklist error. Eternal Dragon is bad in the deck. Most of the time, you will want to cycle Eternal Dragon on turn 2 in order to get your Plains. Two mana, one Plains. Compare this with the good old Tithe. One mana, up to two Plains. Without a doubt, Tithe is far better in the early game for mana fixing, especially when you are on the draw since you can just Tithe during the opponent’s turn 2 end of turn for a Savannah and a Plateau. In the late game, Eternal Dragon is obviously better than Tithe in a vacuum because you can recur it, but that plan has two fundamental flaws. The first one is that it assumes you are going to reach the late game. I hate running cards that are only good when I am winning, and this deck usually wins when it reaches the late game… except against Combo, but in this matchup a 5/5 beater for 5WW is highly irrelevant. The second one is that it costs 5WW to fetch a single Plains per turn when cycling it and returning it during the upkeep. Life from the Loam is 1G and three colored mana to get three good cards. Of course, Eternal Dragon can also kill the opponent, but if I am going to ramp up to seven mana to hardcast it, I could probably just Rift my opponent to death in two or three turns instead.

Quick matchups analysis


Swords to Plowshares. Lightning Rift. Wall of Blossoms. Eternal Witness. Astral Slide. Wrath of God. Pyroclasm. Renewed Faith. Loxodon Hierarch. Solitary Confinement. Enough said. A bye. Sideboarding is not really needed, but Loxodon Hierarchs and the fourth Solitary Confinement are still better than Decree of Justice and Slice and Dice.


Your basic game plan in this matchup is to find a Lightning Rift. Your Wall of Blossoms will deal with Nimble Mongoose, and a double cycling will kill a Werebear. At worse, you still have Swords to Plowshares to buy some more time, until Solitary Confinement wins you the game. This sounds simple, but Force of Will makes everything harder. Bait for Force of Will with your Astral Slides and Solitary Confinements early game, until you resolve a Lightning Rift. Eternal Witness will increase your threat density. At all costs play around Daze. Playing a Lightning Rift on turn 2 is a severe mistake. A difficult matchup overall, but far from being impossible to win. Cut the Renewed Faith for Loxodon Hierarchs post board.

B/W Suicide

This matchup will depend on your ability to find Life from the Loam. If you keep this engine active, you should win the match on the long run, so save your Swords to Plowshares for their real threats. Lightning Rift can burn most of their creatures, but they will usually aim their Vindicate on them. Builds running Withered Wretch over Sinkhole are fairly hard to beat. If B/W Suicide is heavily played in your metagame (and thus Combo is not common), cut the Trinispheres in the sideboard for stuff like Compost. A man plan with Brushhopper Anurid could work too. Bring in the Hierarchs over the Decree of Justice and the Slice and Dice.

Mono-White Control and R/W Rift

They will play some lands and you will play Burning Wish. They will play some more land and you will play Plow Under. They will drop some more lands, and Eternal Witness comes into play to recur Plow Under, until Astral Slide seals the deal. These matchup are fairly easy since they have no real clock and you can own them with Plow Under at will. Do not overextend unless you can keep an Eternal Witness on the board because of Akroma’s Vengeance, and you should be fine. Swords to Plowshares is about their only real annoyance, so keep your Witnesses in hand and always try to have a cycling backup to save them from removal. They will probably get light on removal post sideboarding, so you can bring in the Loxodon Hierarchs over Spark Spray and a Swords to Plowshares. Even if they keep their creature control, Swords to Plowshares is fairly bad in the matchup anyway.

High Tide

Shake their hand, write 0-2 on the paper slip, call a judge and go take a break for the round.

Loam Confinement

Loam Confinement is about the best name I could find for the deck. It runs Solitary Confinement and Life from the Loam, but contrary to Confinement Slide, it’s Blue based instead of Green based. Color wise, it can be assimilated to a U/W Control deck, much like Landstill… though that deck is good, contrary to Landstill. Landstill’s fundamental weakness was its problem to beat both Aggro and Combo decks using the same skeleton. Wrath of God and Swords to Plowshares are hot, but won’t do much against a Brain Freeze or a Tendrils of Agony. Solitary Confinement solves this weakness, because it acts as a creature Control card (damage prevention) and as an anti Combo tool (targeting prevention). Backed up with counter magic to stop bounces and Disenchants, it is a very solid tool overall.

The deck has its roots in the current Extended format, in the “CAL” deck (Confinement Assault Loam). It has already been played in Legacy, be it by Gabriel Nassif or Antoine Ruel (Blue-based builds too) or by Rudy Van Soest (a.k.a. Rvs). Rudy went for a straight Legacy port of the Extended deck, with a better manabase but keeping the Seismic Assault as its main win condition along with the Dark Confidant. Nassif and Ruel went for a heavy U/W Control deck with Counterspells and Black for Grave-Shell Scarab and some sideboard options. I opted for a Red-based build in order to include Burning Wish, but that call can be questioned. I have had good results with the Burning Wish, but Cunning Wish might be good too.

The Decklist

The Vinelasher Kudzu can be replaced for Mystic Enforcer.

How do I play the deck?

The deck is a true Blue-based Control deck, and should win as such. Against Aggro, you want to hold your opponent’s early on with Swords to Plowshares or a Burning Wish for Pyroclasm or Wrath of God, while countering their key spells. By turn 4 or 5 you should usually be able to drop a Solitary Confinement and protect it for a while. The Life from the Loam engine backed up by Intuition should put Squee, Goblin Nabob in your graveyard pretty fast, and from then you can pay the upkeep for the Confinement forever. Use straight counters to deal with Disenchant effects until you can finally dig into or Regrowth Forbid. Decking the opponent is easy now, and you still have the Nantuko Monasteries if needed. Nantuko Monastery is fairly strong in the deck, it’s pretty much like a Mishra’s Factory, except the 4/4 First Striking body will make a huge difference in the Threshold matchup.

Against Control, you want to turn it into a typical Control mirror, won through card advantage. White-based Control decks are easy matchups, since you have far more countermagic than they have removal for your Confinement, especially with Forbid. Blue-based Control decks such as Landstill are harder, but your draw engine is far more powerful than theirs. Unless they can resolve a Crucible of Worlds, a single Intuition for Life from the Loam, Dust Bowl, and a Lonely Sandbar will win you the game. When it comes down to recurring lands, Life from the Loam is far stronger than Crucible of Worlds so you should win here. Standstill is pretty bad since they will always play with a full hand of cards, and you will almost always be able to turn them into a conditional Ideas Unbound. Solitary Confinement is not very hot in this matchup because it is resource consuming. Life from the Loam and Burning Wish are your most important spells.

The Combo matchups are close to the Aggro matchups, since they come down to your ability to find and protect Solitary Confinement.

Quick matchups analysis


The bad news is that a fast Goblins draw such as Goblin Lackey into a nasty Siege-Gang Commander is very hard to win. The good news is that you still have the tools to win against these draws. Your goal in this matchup is to setup yourself for a turn 3 or turn 4 Solitary Confinement with Life from the Loam or Squee, Goblin Nabob backup. With 3 Intuitions, 3 Solitary Confinements, 3 Life from the Loam and 3 Burning Wish, doing so is not very hard. Once Confinement is down, losing is hard. A very good matchup overall.


Game 1 is in their favor if they know what they are doing, but a resolved Solitary Confinement should be enough to win you the game, as Threshold usually cannot beat an active Confinement. If you have Solitary Confinement in hand, your goal is to bait their Force of Wills and Counterspells with your anti Aggro cards. A typical play is to go for Swords to Plowshares on their turn 3 end of turn with Counterspell backup to hit more of their counters, untap and go for Solitary Confinement. Post board I tend to use the Aggro Control transformational sideboard with the Vinelasher Kudzus and the Meddling Mages, especially against the White build. Burning Wish goes out because you have nothing very good to grab in this matchup.

B/W Suicide

Game 1 depends on your ability to stop Sinkhole and to find Life from the Loam or Burning Wish. Life from the Loam on its own is a serious foil to their main plan. Post board I usually go for the transformational plan game 2, with the Meddling Mages to stop the Vindicate at first. You should win easily if they sideboarded out their creature control. Game 3 is a bluff between both strategies, either you stay with the man plan, or you go back to your main Confinement plan. Slightly to your advantage overall.

Mono-White Control, R/W Rift and Landstill

Let’s put it straight. These are good matchups. Nevertheless, you really don’t want to face these decks in a tournament. Some Control matchups are interesting; these ones are very boring. If you win game 1 as you should, stay in Confinement mode and try to go for the 1-0 win, just sideboard out the Swords to Plowshares for Meddling Mages and name Lightning Rift against R/W, Nevinyrral’s Disk against Landstill. What you name against Mono-White Control hardly matters, but you can always name Bandage to make fun of your opponent. If you lose game 2, you have to bring in the man plan and try to race the clock to get the draw.

High Tide

A lot of counters, Solitary Confinement and Meddling Mages post board are fairly good in this matchup. Game 1 usually takes ages because you do not want to move; game 2 and 3 are faster because you bring in the man plan (Vinelasher Kudzu and Meddling Mage) over your creature control (Burning Wish, Swords to Plowshares, Fire/Ice) to put them on a more serious clock. If you know what you are doing you should win this one most of the time, but don’t let the High Tide player trick you into nasty plays.


Psychatog has been a Tier 1 deck in every single format it has been legal, from Odyssey Block Constructed to Vintage. Nevertheless, for some reason, it has always been considered as unplayable in Legacy for reasons I am not aware of. About a month ago, I was preparing decklists for a Legacy tournament – considering either Ill-Gotten Storm or U/G/w/r Threshold – when my Meandeck friend Rian Litchard (a.k.a. Kirdape3) pops online on AIM and we start talking about Psychatog in Legacy. Half an hour later, a list is on paper.

The Decklist

How do I play the deck?

Psychatog is a well-known deck and about everyone should already have some ideas about how to play it. Legacy Psychatog game plans are not different from the Extended Psychatog or the Vintage Psychatog game plans.

Against other Control decks, especially White-based Control ones like R/W Rift, or most of the Combo decks, Psychatog is a true Control deck. Your game plan is fairly simple: you just want to draw more cards than your opponent. There are only a few cards in opposing Control decks you really want to counter because of the Pernicious Deeds. Cards like Humility or Solitary Confinement are no threats to you, so you can afford to let them resolve while focusing on drawing cards. Just try to deal with their card advantage engine, which should be easy since most of these decks run very little card draw as they tend to pack billions of removal spells. R/W Rift’s only real threat is Lightning Rift because it puts you on a solid clock. Typical Landstill’s lists only run two draw spells – 2 Fact or Fiction – so winning attrition wars is easy here.

Against Aggro decks, Psychatog wants to turn into a Control-Combo deck thanks to Berserk. The perfect game against an Aggro deck would be turn 1 Brainstorm, turn 2 Fire / Ice a threat, turn 3 Psychatog, turn 4 Fact or Fiction picking the 3 cards pile and turn 5 Duress or Brainstorm followed by Cunning Wish for Berserk. That’s more than twenty points of damage on turn 5. Since you won’t always be able to do this play, you also pack Pernicious Deed as versatile board Control, more Cunning Wishes for solutions (Blue Elemental Blast, Red Elemental Blast or Ghastly Demise) and a whole set of Counterspells. Remember that Psychatog is fairly poor at being a true Control deck against Aggro, so you should always focus on winning the game fast.

Accumulated Knowledge versus Life from the Loam

As you could have seen previously, I really like Life from the Loam, and the Lonely Sandbar engine is very powerful. Nevertheless, I do not like the card in Psychatog decks, as I like playing the deck in a very aggressive way. On turn 3, you have two options with Intuition. Either you get 4 Accumulated Knowledge, or 1 Life from the Loam and 2 Lonely Sandbar or Barren Moor. On turn 4, you can get Accumulated Knowledge and Counterspell online, while you have to spend 1G first with Life from the Loam before actually being allowed to draw cards. This means you will either use Counterspell or draw 2 cards on turn 4 with the Life from the Loam engine. Life from the Loam and Accumulated Knowledge will have drawn you the same amount of cards by turn 5, with Life from the Loam being better afterwards.

I find this being too slow for Legacy, especially since you also run Fact or Fiction as late game card draw. I would rather go straight for Accumulated Knowledge, draw three cards now and see what’s next, such as dropping a strong Psychatog, going for Fact or Fiction or even Cunning Wish for Mystical Tutor for the last Accumulated Knowledge, assuming you haven’t drawn it yet.

Dealing with Tormod’s Crypt

Whenever someone mentions Psychatog in Legacy, Tormod’s Crypt is the first card that is being discussed, because of the existence of Threshold (and Ill Gotten Storm to a lesser extend) in the format. Quite frankly, the way my sideboard is designed, I have never cared about Tormod’s Crypt and actually never bothered to actually counter one unless I wanted to win on the following turn.

A Tormod’s Crypt played by a Control deck is only a very minor annoyance. You do not need to win fast in that matchup, so losing your graveyard is harmless. With Cunning Wish for Berserk and the ability to draw cards at will without tiny Green or Red men putting pressure on your life totals, a single resolved Fact or Fiction with a good number of cards in hand sends Psychatog into lethal range. If your opponent tries to drop Tormod’s Crypt, just let him do so unless you plan on resolving Accumulated Knowledge for three soon after. Most of the time, you are going to win through Haunting Echoes anyways.

A Tormod’s Crypt played by an Aggro deck is more annoying, since you cannot go Aggro-Psychatog or into “The Abyss” mode as efficiently with a turn 3 Psychatog, but my sideboard choices minimize the impact of the Crypt on the game. Flametongue Kavu is a very solid beater, Morphling is unstoppable once it hits the board, and Tormod’s Crypt has no impact on these. Very often against Goblins you will just drop an early Psychatog and see them waste all their resources to deal with it just to buy time and drop the Morphling for the kill.

Tormod’s Crypt is obviously better against the Life from the Loam decks, but even then it is fairly easy to play around it by holding an instant speed draw spell in hand if Tormod’s Crypt is on the board in order to Dredge your card back.

Quick matchups analysis


If they do not open with a Goblin Lackey or an Aether Vial, Goblins cannot win this matchup. Non-Lackey, non-Vial openings are way too slow for them, especially if you can find a Psychatog fast and drop it as The Abyss. Aether Vial is the lesser threats of the two. A turn 1 Aether Vial means that Goblins is only active on turn 2 and will likely wait for turn 3 to Vial out their Goblin Piledriver in order to avoid walking into Counterspell, and that will buy you enough time to Pernicious Deed their board away. Once Pernicious Deed has resolved, their only real threats become the Goblin Ringleaders, so save your Counterspells for them. Goblin Warchief can be dealt with Fire / Ice if needed. Post board bring in the Flametongue Kavus, the Morphling and the few Blue Elemental Blast. Watch out for Armageddon if they are running White, it is one of their best chance at winning the game.


As usual, your main focus in this matchup is to make your mana base completely Daze proof. If you try to drop Pernicious Deed on turn 3, then you are doing something wrong. Said Pernicious Deed is your best weapon in this matchup, since it will completely wreck them. Fire / Ice is fairly suboptimal here, but can always kill a Meddling Mage or a Werebear that got cast before Threshold. Both decks have about equal chances to win game 1, with solid play skills and a good knowledge of the matchup being important. Game 2 you will bring in Duress and Flametongue Kavus, while they will try to Armageddon your board whenever possible. Use your Duress carefully to help resolving your Pernicious Deeds. And watch out for Pithing Needle.

B/W Suicide

It will be hard to beat the turn 1 Duress, Hymn to Tourach, turn 2 Sinkhole, turn 3 Hypnotic Specter draw. Your only goal in this matchup is to get lands on the board, so you should always fetch Islands and Swamps while being patient with the Brainstorms. A resolved Pernicious Deed will put you in a very solid position, and a resolved Psychatog is almost game since they only have the slow sorcery speed Vindicate to remove it. They might bring in Swords to Plowshares from their sideboard, so get the Flametongue Kavus and the Morphling in.

Mono-White Control, Landstill, Loam Confinement and R/W Rift

Game 1 is very boring against Mono-White Control and R/W Rift, since they have nothing you really care about (except Lightning Rift) until you want to win the game. At that point, you will likely have to face multiple Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God, and Wing Shards. Take your time, and save your Duress for the turn you want to drop Psychatog. Duress away their Wing Shards and save a Counterspell for their Wrath of God. It is hard to do but you still have a good shot at winning that game 1. The good news is that they turn into byes game 2 and 3, as having twenty removal spells in hand is helpless against Haunting Echoes. You usually want to wait for them to cycle an Eternal Dragon, Duress a Decree of Justice and just win with Haunting Echoes by removing all their win conditions. Game 1 is easier against Landstill since they run a very bad draw engine despite being a Blue-based Control deck. Just overwhelm them with card advantage and Duress, and you should win this one easily. Red Elemental Blast from the board will give you an even better matchup game 2 and 3.

High Tide

High Tide is said to have a very good matchup against Blue-based Control in Legacy, but it is fairly different here. You are only a few turns slower than them, so they cannot afford to wait until turn 10 to win the game. Duress also puts pressure on their hand, especially post board when you can up the Duress count. The real threats in High Tide decks are Resets and the Meditates, and you should never counter a High Tide considering the effect is symmetric. With a resolved High Tide, their Remands become fairly poor at dealing with your Counterspells if you do a smart management of your mana. Post board the Pernicious Deeds go out to make room for the Red Elemental Blasts, and it becomes even harder for High Tide to beat 4 Force of Will, 4 Counterspell, 3 Red Elemental Blast and 3 Duress.


These four decks all have a good potential to become strong contenders in Legacy if people actually starts playing them. Out of the four, I have only played two in real Tournament conditions, Aluren (thrice) and Psychatog (once), finishing in the Top 8 all the time while facing all the standard Legacy archetypes.

Threads about these decks are already running on TheManaDrain.com Legacy boards, so feel free to register here and come post!

Matthieu Durand
A.k.a. Toad on TheManaDrain.com

Thanks to:

Michael Bomholt (Bomholmm), Legacy Adept on TheManaDrain and Meandeck teammate.
Spencer Hayes (SpencerForHire), Legacy Moderator on TheManaDrain.
Kevin Binswanger (Anusien), Legacy Adept on TheManaDrain.
Dan Spero (Bardo), Legacy Moderator on TheManaDrain and Team Reflection member.
Matt Hargis (Matt), Global Moderator on TheManaDrain.