Practical Legacy – Time Stands Still

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Thursday, July 23rd – Many of the best spells in Legacy cost two or less, but most of these cards do not generate card advantage. Standstill is one of the few examples in Legacy where low mana cost meets card advantage. Its ability to draw three cards for only two mana makes it perhaps the most efficient card advantage spell in Legacy.

Many of the best spells in Legacy cost two or less, but most of these cards do not generate card advantage. Standstill is one of the few examples in Legacy where low mana cost meets card advantage. Its ability to draw three cards for only two mana makes it perhaps the most efficient card advantage spell in Legacy.

There are a few other cards that cost as much and generate card advantage in Legacy, but they often require more mana, additional turns, or other cards to really work. Counterbalance can generate more card advantage than Standstill, but it requires another card (Sensei’s Divining Top) to do so in a way that is not random. Dark Confidant draws an extra card every turn, but this means that it will need to survive two turns after it is played to generate the same advantage as Standstill. Survival of the Fittest can generate an extra card every turn with Squee, Goblin Nabob, but this requires an additional Green mana every single turn. Ancestral Vision costs less than Standstill and draws the same number of cards, but this takes several turns. Other cards like Hymn to Tourach can generate card advantage, but they generate less than Standstill.

Standstill, while not requiring more mana or turns, has its own drawbacks. One is that any deck playing Standstill must be able to break the symmetry of the card. This generally translates into playing lands that turn into creatures (sometimes referred to as “manlands”). These manlands allow a player who plays Standstill to win without having to break his or her own Standstill. The necessity of including cards that break the symmetry of Standstill can be best thought of as an internal design constraint. It’s internal because the constraint comes from a card inside of the deck instead of a card in an opponent’s deck. Standstill requires other cards, but it does not require them to be in play, but only to be in the same deck. The other major drawback of Standstill is that it can be virtually a dead card with an unfavorable board position. Standstill can only take advantage for favorable or neutral board positions.

Despite these drawbacks, it see significant play because of what it offers in return. The ability to get far ahead of an opponent in terms of cards for minimal investment can be game-breaking. Turn 2 Standstill can bury any opponent who is forced to break it. This is why it is such a unique card in Legacy, and why different decks have decided to use it as their primary way to draw cards.

There are three primary decks that are currently using Standstill. Landstill, Dreadtill, and Merfolk are very different decks, but they all utilize Standstill. They also happen to be enjoying a good deal success at recent tournaments. Standstill is in no small part of one of the reasons for their success. A close look at each of these decks will highlight how they are designed with Standstill in mind while still operating effectively without it.


Landstill is one of Legacy’s oldest decks, as it predates the creation of the Legacy format in 2004. Many of the card choices have changed over the years. The deck, however, still plays in a similar manner. It is a control deck that uses counterspells and removal to keep the board clear so it can use Standstill to get ahead in cards. It has Mishra’s Factory and sometimes Decree of Justice to break the symmetry of Standstill. Landstill has early answers such as Force of Will and Swords to Plowshares to enable an early Standstill. It also usually has other card advantage spells like Fact or Fiction, and board sweepers in the form of Wrath of God, Nevinyrrayl’s Disk, Engineered Explosives, and others. Some other versions opt for Tarmogoyf and Pernicious Deed. Without a Standstill, Landstill must rely on its board sweepers and other draw spells to remain ahead in cards of its opponent.

One of the interesting aspects of Landstill is that an opponent not breaking Standstill can be just advantageous for it, as someone who does break it. One of the main reasons for this is that Landstill is trying to get to the late game and any turns where it can have an opposing deck not do anything is another turn where it gets closer to where it can fully utilize the power of its more expensive and more powerful spells. If an opponent does break it, then it will have more cards to answer any threats an opponent attempts to play.


Dreadtill is a much more recent deck than Landstill. It uses the interaction between Phyrexian Dreadnought and Stifle or Trickbind to put a 12/12 trampling creature into play as early as turn 2. This deck is a combo-control deck. Most of the cards in the deck are set up to answer an opponent’s plays, and when the opportunity presents itself it can accelerate its win condition via Phyrexian Dreadnought. It has a good deal of countermagic to stop an opponent’s plays, as well as built in mana denial with Stifle and Wasteland.

Standstill has no specific interaction with Stifling a Dreadnought, but rather it provides a powerful play in absence of being able to “combo” an opponent of the game. Mishra’s Factory against breaks the symmetry of Standstill here. Dreadtill also incorporates Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top as well. Sensei’s Divining Top also works well with a Standstill in play as it allows the deck to make more land drops and find a manland to quickly apply pressure.

Dreadtill, unlike Landstill, is not trying to extend to the late game. It is simply using Standstill as another way to generate card advantage. Some versions use Tarmogoyf to apply additional pressure. Playing a Standstill with a Tarmogoyf and Mishra’s Factory already in play can place an opponent in a very precarious situation.

If a Dreadtill opponent does not have a Standstill, the deck can rely on its many other cards to generate card advantage, or to just win the game. Dreadtill incorporates some of the most powerful two-card combinations in Legacy — Counterbalance/Top, Stifle/Wasteland, Standstill/Mishra’s Factory, and Stifle/Phyrexian Dreadnought. Any of these opening plays can be devastating, but having access to all of them makes the deck very hard to combat.


Merfolk’s recent success is in part due to its ability to enable Standstill. It is unlike Landstill and Dreadtill in that it does use Mishra’s Factory, but rather Mutavault to operate under a Standstill. It also has Aether Vial which allows the deck to play all of its creatures under a Standstill. Turn 1 Aether Vial followed by turn 2 Standstill puts an opponent in a difficult situation because the Merfolk player can play his or her game fully virtually eliminating the symmetrical nature of Standstill.

Without a Standstill, Merfolk works like most aggro-control decks. It plays threats and uses countermagic to protect them or prevent any game breaking spell the opponent might try to play. Many of the Merfolk decks do play Tarmogoyf as an additional way to answer opposing Tarmogoyfs and have a powerful threat that works without other Merfolk in play. Stifle/Wasteland is also sometimes included as part of the deck’s disruption and mana denial strategy.


Standstill’s rare potential to draw so many cards for such little investment makes it too powerful to ignore. The fact that different archetypes can use the same card suggests that there might be other uses for the card that have yet to discovered. It is one of Legacy’s best methods for drawing cards at minimal investment… only time will tell whether it stays that way.