Soul Searching In Legacy

Todd Anderson played G/W Maverick in Legacy last weekend at GP Indianapolis. Find out which version of the deck he played and why he’s probably going to switch to Esper Stoneblade for the SCG Invitational in Baltimore.

Legacy can be profound at times. At any given moment, cards you might never expect to be playable could alter the way we view the entire format. This past weekend, Marijn Lybaert suggested playing a card that most people would’ve laughed at. That card singlehandedly defined Grand Prix Indianapolis and suggests that we should dig a little deeper when trying to figure out the format. While a staple in other formats, no one would’ve expected it to break through into Legacy so quickly, since its power level seems relatively low compared to other potential threats in the format. What card is it?

While Drew Levin also played the deck alongside eventual winner Tom Martell, Drew didn’t quite reach the spotlight. Drew did make day 2, but Martell just smashed through the entire tournament with the twist on U/W Stoneblade. With a sweet disruption package backed by Stoneforge Mystic and friends, Martell was able to defeat a Top 8 full of ringers as well as 1200 other participants. He was also the last person to stand undefeated in the Swiss.

For reference, here’s the list:

I’m sure that Drew has already written an article covering the deck and potential changes (and could very well be up before my article), but there are a few things about this deck that you should know about. For one, it plays out a little like traditional U/W Stoneblade, but the early discard helps you proactively attack the combo and control decks. My biggest problem with the older versions of U/W Stoneblade is that you had so many situational cards and you would often be stuck with a hand full of Spell Snares while your opponent slammed down a Knight of the Reliquary or Show and Tell. Since you don’t have a lot of ways other than Force of Will to interact with opponents on the first turn, you can get overwhelmed pretty quickly if your opponent’s draw dodges Spell Snare.

My other major problem with the U/W archetype was that you had very few creatures to put your equipment on. If your opponent just killed your Stoneforge Mystic, it was very easy for them to beat you down with any threat while your worse-than-Baneslayer Angel was stuck in hand.

Martell’s version of the deck fixed both of my problems with the archetype. Lingering Souls gives you enough warm bodies to attach Umezawa’s Jitte to, and the discard package gives you plenty of disruption to interact with opponents in the early game where you’d otherwise be floundering. Overall, I feel like this is probably the best deck in the format. The changes made to the archetype advance it to a point where I would be very happy picking up the deck again.

For GP Indy, I chose a different monster. I have often said in the past that I’ve never beaten a Mother of Runes in my life. While untrue, I think my percentage against Mother of Runes decks is somewhere in the range of 20-30%. I’ve almost always tried to play “fair” decks in Legacy because those are the ones I have the most fun with. Brainstorm and Force of Will are my bread and butter, but I just couldn’t get my U/W Stoneblade deck to work. Additionally, after reading Drew Levin primer on G/W Maverick last week, I thought it might be high time I actually battled with Mother of Runes for once instead of always being on the receiving end. She didn’t disappoint.

Here’s my list from GP Indy:

I started off 7-0 with the deck, punting in round 8 against David Sharfman in a feature match. My inexperience in the format and unfamiliarity with certain interactions put me into a spot where I thought I was just dead, while it was actually my opponent who misplayed and got paid off for it.

In game 3, David countered my Thalia on turn 3. With no other creature in play besides Mother of Runes, I attacked for a point with just a Wasteland left untapped. David calmly untapped, cast Show and Tell, and put his Hive Mind into play. My play off Show and Tell was a Qasali Pridemage, but I was just sure that I was dead since I couldn’t kill his Hive Mind before the Pact and copy went on the stack. I was so distraught by that fact that I just said, “Show me.” He cast Slaughter Pact on my tapped Mother of Runes, and I immediately cursed at myself for attacking. If I had just left her back, I wouldn’t have lost so easily. I asked him if he had a Pact of the Titan as well, but he just stared blankly at me. “Are you conceding?” I nodded and began to pick up my cards.

Do you see what I missed?

The copy of Slaughter Pact was mine, and I could choose new targets for it. I could’ve directed it at Qasali Pridemage, and then sacrificed it to kill his Hive Mind. This would’ve let his Slaughter Pact resolve on my Mother of Runes, and he couldn’t have paid the cost for it on his upkeep while my copy would’ve been countered. A subtle mistake but one that I should’ve easily seen in hindsight. It turns out that he didn’t have another Pact, and he would’ve just been dead. My mistake cost me the match, and ultimately led me down a path full of degenerate combo decks that were very hard for me to interact with.

After a few losses and a draw, I ended up finishing in 67th, but the fault was mostly my own. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt after losing this match, because I know the interaction but just blanked when the situation presented itself, and I think I know why. Playing against combo decks will often put you in a mindset where you just “give up” when you have no way to interact with it in a traditional sense. In general, I think G/W Maverick is atrocious against Show and Tell decks because none of your hate-bears besides Thalia really interact with them. Sure, they can’t actively cast Hive Mind with a Gaddock Teeg on the table, but Show and Tell gets around almost everything you present them.

At the very least, Thalia forces them to wait until they have five mana to combo, since they have to pay a mana for their Pact on top of the additional mana to cast the initial Show and Tell. When he countered my Thalia in game 3, I was almost positive that I was dead. Once he casts Show and Tell, there’s almost no way out if he has Pact of the Titan. Since he had another Pact, I should’ve refocused, but I’d already given up. I’d already seen my other mistake with Mother of Runes and didn’t bother to think about the potential to get around Slaughter Pact with my Qasali Pridemage. In the future, I’ll try to be more vigilant when playing against combo decks, but there are times where you don’t have the trump card for them and you just feel helpless. The correct way to view the situation is that every deck is vulnerable in ways that you wouldn’t normally think about, and figuring out how to exploit those vulnerabilities will ultimately increase your win percentage.

As far as G/W Maverick is concerned, two people ended up making Top 8 with the deck. It’s very well positioned against traditional U/W Stoneblade and RUG, while also having a lot of game against most combo and other control decks. Thalia helps stone combo decks that you normally couldn’t interact with and strangles people on mana while you’re using Wasteland to disrupt them. Alongside Mother of Runes, it’s very hard for combo decks to beat your hate-bears.

The absence of Tarmogoyf should be standard by now, but I wanted to discuss why he isn’t good in this deck.

1. Your removal spell exiles creatures.

2. Your sorcery shuffles into your deck.

3. Scavenging Ooze is bonkers.

If I decide to play the deck again, I’ll probably try to find a way to add the third Scavenging Ooze into the maindeck. In a lot of matchups, your opponent is relying on the graveyard in some way to gain an advantage. Naturally drawing Scavenging Ooze is nice because that allows for your Green Sun’s Zenith to be for Knight of the Reliquary more often. While you aren’t exiling creatures from the graveyard that often with Ooze’s ability, the fact that you dominate their Knight of the Reliquary is sweet, not to mention the splash damage you get from decks playing cards like Academy Ruins and Life from the Loam. While it’s nice that Scavenging Ooze helps in so many matchups, the biggest reason to play more Scavenging Oozes is the existence of Dredge and Reanimator. While Reanimator didn’t make much of a splash at the Grand Prix, Dredge made it all the way into the Top 8. Since Dredge doesn’t like to play “real Magic,” having ways to interact with them in the first game is very important.

The small changes I made to the deck were sweet, and I wanted to go over why I made those changes and how they affect certain matchups. The removal of Maze of Ith from the maindeck was the beginning, but it will probably end up making its way back in as a 23rd land. Since it doesn’t tap for mana, it can be difficult to justify playing it maindeck. If you ever draw it against a combo deck, you’ll understand why I didn’t want to start with it in the maindeck. Since Stoneblade decks will likely pick back up a bit over the next few weeks, I think adding it back into the maindeck will be the correct decision. While they usually have Wasteland, the Esper version of the deck lacked a way to interact with lands (which might be a mistake).

Gaea’s Cradle was a last-minute change thanks to some very smart people. Cradle allows you to do some silly things, and especially so when you’re acquiring a steady stream of gas thanks to Sylvan Library. While Cradle has the drawback of doing nothing on the first turn, that drawback goes away quite quickly as you begin tapping for two-to-four mana. With Thalia in the deck, Gaea’s Cradle allows you to easily cast your bigger spells like Elspeth, Knight-Errant. It also helps you play and equip your Swords in the same turn quite easily, which was sweet for me all day.

I ended up playing an Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Sword of Light and Shadow as my equipment package for Stoneforge Mystic. I wanted Fire and Ice for a few reasons (mostly as a way to generate a steady stream of cards), but it’s just a dagger against a lot of strategies. Sword of Light and Shadow might have been incorrect for a few reasons, but mostly because Swords to Plowshares is the dominant removal spell in the format. Without the ability to easily sacrifice creatures for value, it becomes difficult to get anything more than three life from Sword of Light and Shadow. The biggest draw for playing Sword of Light and Shadow was the ability to rebuy Qasali Pridemage, but I found myself having to preemptively play them into Swords to Plowshares since Stoneforge Mystic allowed their equipment to come into play at instant speed. Umezawa’s Jitte was 100% correct, and I should probably have another in the sideboard for Stoneforge mirrors.

Even though Drew argued against Enlightened Tutor in his article last week, I talked to a few people before the tournament who have all been playing Maverick for quite some time. With Drew listening in on the conversation, he ultimately agreed that Enlightened Tutor was what the deck needed to have more virtual copies of a lot of important sideboard cards. Since you had a decent number of other cards to fetch with Enlightened Tutor after you found your initial bullet, it was rarely a dead card. While it’s technically card disadvantage, Tutors can be very powerful in the right matchups. I found that having more virtual copies of a lot of sideboard cards helped me win plenty of matches that I wouldn’t normally have been able to win. Mono Red, without some sort of dagger card, would’ve been incredibly difficult to fight against. While Warmth is probably going to be the best answer going forward, I didn’t have access to it and had to settle for the more “traditional” hoser.

I will say that Kitchen Finks was awful, and I wouldn’t recommend playing it again. You need something that gains you more life if you’re going to spend a slot on it, and Kitchen Finks just doesn’t do enough in other matchups to justify its inclusion. Green Sun’s Zenith should probably be able to get a creature that gains life, but two life just isn’t enough when every card they play deals you three or more damage. While cute, and a potential hose against something like Nimble Mongoose, I just don’t see it making the cut again. Obstinate Baloth could potentially make a splash, since it doubles up against anyone playing Hymn to Tourach, but those decks have been falling a bit out of favor as of late.

Linvala, Keeper of Silence won me a few games hands down, shutting down opponents who had Knights and Oozes. I would probably want to play her again, but I’m not sure two is correct. With the Enlightened Tutor package, it’s difficult to fit more than one of something into the sideboard since you need a lot of different bullets against various matchups. The rest of the sideboard should be fairly standard with the Enlightened Tutors as you want a few cards against Dredge, Reanimator, Storm, etc. A lot of people have suggested Natural Order to help win mirrors, as well as playing a singleton Terastodon to smash prison-style decks. I’m not against this idea because I love me some Natural Order, but I think the Enlightened Tutors are a little too important with such a diverse field, and you can’t realistically fit both plans into such a limited space without butting heads.

The StarCityGames.com Invitational in Baltimore is coming up next weekend, and I’m stoked for it. I’m probably going to move all-in on Lingering Souls, since it fixes so many of the holes I’ve found in traditional U/W Stoneblade. My article next week should be devoted to Standard as I prepare for the Invitational. I’m not sure what I’m going to brew up, but I haven’t played much Standard in a while and I’m ready to dive back in. The Legacy GP was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to playing more of the format, but the Invitational being a split Standard-Legacy format means I will need to divide my testing evenly if I want to succeed.

I should be streaming various formats over the next few days. You can check out my streams by going to StarCityGames.com and clicking on my name under the Livestreams sidebar. There have been a few kinks over the last few days, but I should get those worked out soon.

Thanks for reading.


strong sad on Magic Online

strong_sad on Twitter and twitch.tv