Successful Rogue Decks In Legacy

If you need some ideas for SCG Legacy Open: Milwaukee this weekend, check out Grand Prix Memphis Top 8 competitor Adrian Sullivan’s latest article.

In the middle of last week, I was working furiously on several different projects, both at work and in life. The goal ultimately was to make it to Charlotte for the Season One Invitational. This was pretty late in the game to try to make the leap, but I basically got the last push from my boss.

Here he is talking to some of my coworkers about it:

Bob At Office

What he basically told me was that if I wanted to take off from work in order to head down to Charlotte, I had his blessing. He’d noticed I’d had a lot of success in Standard these last four or five months and encouraged me to keep at it while I’m still sharp. The work could be taken care of while I was gone.

I appreciated his vote of confidence. It made me think of Jamie Parke, who after his recent Grand Prix success received a word of encouragement from Bob. Jamie and I talked about it at Grand Prix Cincinnati, and I know that Bob’s encouragement means a lot to those of us who were around back in Bob’s heyday.

On the Monday before the event, I sent out this last minute tweet, hunting for people with open hotel rooms that I might be able to share:

I got a few responses that were promising, but ultimately I couldn’t make the trip down after all; there were just a few too many things at work that required my immediate attention. If you weren’t already aware, one of the many things I do is edit a print magazine on tabletop gaming. I had to make sure that this bad boy got to the printers in time:

Magazine Cover

And so I ended up a spectator this past weekend.

All told, though, it was a welcome break. I’d spent the previous seven weekends at Magic events, and as much as I love it, the travel can really begin to wear you down. There was a PTQ in reasonable driving distance, but I decided to use the weekend to rest.

While I didn’t spend every waking minute watching SCGLive, I did continue to check in throughout the weekend. In the race for Season One Points Leader to qualify for the SCG Players’ Championship, I have to say I was rooting for William Jensen, with no disrespect at all to Brian Braun-Duin. I just have a bias for the old guys I guess, and I was pretty disappointed when Jensen dropped. Still, congratulations to BBD are certainly in order; he’s had an incredible run lately, and I’ll be excited to see him play for the big money at #SCGPC!

If I had made it to the event, in Standard I would have played the U/W Control deck that I’ve written about quite a bit. Here is what I would have played in Legacy:

Death and Taxes is no longer a deck that Legacy players are unlikely to have experience against. Largely because of Thomas Enevoldsen, most Legacy players have acquired a great deal of experience playing against opponents who have been inspired by Enevoldsen’s success, which in turn also shifted the deck from a somewhat rogue list to one that pros have picked up as a reliable way to get a good tournament finish. My version of the list has only changed a little recently. About two months ago I had a similar build of the deck, but I’d only dipped my toes into the water on Brimaz, King of Oreskos. After trying him out, I have to say he is pretty incredible. I’m still not 100 percent on the second copy of the card, but I am at about 90 percent.

In my maindeck I’m playing out with a few cards then. Here is that wiggle room:

1-2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
0-2 Mirran Crusader
3-4 Flickerwisp

With only six cards for these potentially eight slots, something has to give. Lately it has been Mirran Crusader, but if I start seeing more Tarmogoyf, I might just switch back to the following:

1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
2 Mirran Crusader
3 Flickerwisp

It was heartening to see David Bauman come to similar conclusions with his list a few weeks ago:

He and I share a lot in common in the maindeck. Our spells only have the following difference.


4 Flickerwisp
2 Mangara of Corondor


3 Flickerwisp
3 Serra Avenger

Personally I still don’t see the value in Serra Avenger, and I don’t think it furthers the goals of what Death and Taxes does. Brimaz, King of Oreskos can accomplish a lot in the deck, and I think it is an important part of any list. I personally have chosen to “go back in time” and run Mangara, basically because I think that games do get to the point of a grind these days. Perhaps these are moot points, though, because Death and Taxes didn’t have any representation among the elite decklists that filled out the 7-1 or better portion of the field.

Thirteen players made that list with the following archetypes (and corresponding number of wins):

Esper Deathblade: 8, 7
Infect: 8
U/W/x Miracles: 8
BUG Delver: 7, 7, 7, 7
BUG Walkers (Nic Fit like): 7
Painted Stone: 7
Metalworker: 7
Elves: 7
Turbo Depths: 7

One of the things that is worth noting about the Invitational is that it is a mixed format event. Mixed format events always muck up the ability to truly tell what the best decks are in a format, unless the format begins the event and isn’t broken up. The results of the other format inevitably screw up the ability to actually measure the strength of your opposition in any single format.

Just take the records of the various Top 8 competitors in Legacy as opposed to Standard. Here is the number of wins in each format for each of the Top 8:

8L/4S; 8L/4S; 7L/5S; 8L/4S; 6L/6S; 7L/5S; 5L/7S; 7L/5S

Only one competitor in the Top 8 of the Invitational got there on the back of a sterling Standard deck performance. Jessy Hefner’s Legacy finish was only 5-3, but he still ended up in the finals with his RUG Delver deck versus Derrick Sheets with Esper Deathblade. This doesn’t mean that that the top finishers in the format are in any way meaningless; for example, Derrick was the 8-0 finisher in Legacy with Esper Deathblade.

It does mean however that some caution should be given to lists that perform well in these mixed formats.

For me, the most exciting cards to see in the event had to be these two:

These were both in Tom Ross’ Infect deck. Tom is certainly a creative deckbuilder, but this weekend it feels like he knocked it out of the park in a one-two punch, with his R/G Aggro deck in Standard getting a great deal of notice and his Infect deck also being worthy of a bit of excitement.

This archetype probably first got notice in 2012 and 2013 in the hands of the one and only Olle Rade. Neither of Olle’s versions of the deck had any Force of Will (preferring to run Daze instead), something that Tom definitely made sure to find a little bit of room for. It’s worth noting that Tom’s version seems to slowly be heading in that direction; when you compare Tom’s Atlanta Legacy Open Top 4 with his Invitational list, this shift is one he made.

Here are those maindeck changes in the three weeks between events:

Berserk: 1 => 2
Daze: 2 => 4
Force of Will: 3 => 2
Might of Old Krosa: 1 => 0
Nature’s Claim: 1 => 0
Spell Pierce: 1 => 0
Stifle: 1 => 2
Ponder: 2 => 1
Sylvan Library: 0 => 1
Dryad Arbor: 0 => 1
Lands: 21 => 19

Tom’s deck might remind many of you of the Shoal Infect deck piloted by Sam Black (designed by John Stolzmann) to great success, but it is much more similar to the U/G Infect decks that we saw around the time of Caw-Blade dominance a few years ago. Instead of running Mutagenic Growth, though, you get access to Invigorate, and instead of cards like Mana Leak, you can run Daze and (if you choose) Force of Will. Berserk is also a pretty incredible upgrade.

Tom’s changes to the deck seem like they are largely in agreement with some of the conclusions that were made by Olle. Though a great spell, Force of Will can sometimes be hard for the deck to cast. While Tom didn’t decide to go full Olle (running zero Force of Will between main and board), he definitely stepped onto the path of minimizing them. At the same time, upping Berserk to two gave him many more possible "instant kill" draws.

Sylvan Library in the deck as a new one-of really intrigues me. In a deck that can piece together a full kill in a single turn, not spending mana to get the library manipulation is huge, but just grabbing an extra card on the turn you’re planning to go for the kill also seems important. It’s worth noting that Tom cut a Ponder for this card choice. We’ve seen it before (early in Zoo and more recently as a weapon in various Delver battles), but it seems even more powerful in Infect than in other decks.

The other exciting deck from the Invitational has to be David McDarby’s Nic Fit like BUG Walkers:

Where Nic Fit typically has a ton of utility cards, David’s list replaces the vast majority of them with a ton of planeswalkers.

David went 7-1 with this list in one of the first times in a long time that I’ve seen four copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a deck. So many decks have eschewed extra copies of this card as of late simply because between aggressive decks like BUG Delver and RUG Delver and very powerful combo decks, the idea of tapping out for a Jace, the Mind Sculptor can open the door for a lost game. Even Joe Lossett’s U/W/R Miracles list, exactly the kind of deck you might expect to see a playset of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, only has three.

Part of the reason David can get away with this is the inclusion of Veteran Explorer in his deck. Even though he is only running six basic lands (many more than some decks), this is more than enough to make playing four copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor seem reasonable. On top of this, though, the inclusion of Karn Liberated almost makes us think we’re playing Modern.

Karn Liberated is an incredible monster. In any grinding game, Karn just feels like it is practically impossible to stop. A well-curated Karn will only occasionally incidentally die, and Phyrexian Revoker is the only commonly played card that sees maindeck play that can stop Mr. Liberated. Even a card like Detention Sphere, which occasionally sees play in Miracles, is usually only played as a one-of, so getting a Karn down seems like it will often end the game.

On top of all of this is a powerful disruption package. Cabal Therapy has long been one of the most powerful discard spells in Magic. The power of it combined with Veteran Explorer can’t be denied, but in addition David has the "PeekUla" effect of Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy, which can make it border on gross. Adding Liliana of the Veil and Hymn to Tourach on top of that, an opponent of BUG Walkers can’t count on anything in their hand being able to save them.

I haven’t played David’s list yet and don’t know if I’ll have time to do so before the weekend, but I really like the look of it. It even manages to feel like it’s doing a ton of unfair things on top of having the disruption that it does. If you’re looking to go rogue, choosing BUG Walkers could be a recipe for both fun and success, and I can certainly imagine David laughing his way to all of his wins in his 7-1 Legacy run.

On one last non-Legacy note, I want to share Andrew Vorel’s Standard Bant Control deck from this past weekend.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out one card in his sideboard:

I racked my brain for a while, and then I looked at the name of the player.

Oh. Got it. Clever one, sir!

In many ways it made me think of another sideboard choice in a different deck. This one beat Bob Maher playing one of the most busted decks of all time, Academy, in the finals of the Wisconsin State Championship in 1998 in the hands of Milwaukee legend Jake "The Snake" Welch.

Yeah, that is a Grizzly Bears. "Ponza is so good that you only need four cards in your board!" said Welch.

So here’s to you, Andrew Vorel. Here’s to you.

I’ll see everyone in Milwaukee this weekend. I expect to have a full fifteen-card sideboard in both my Standard and Legacy decks though.