The Dragon’s Maze Of Legacy

Three-time SCG Invitational Top 8 competitor Adam Prosak discusses a few Legacy decks spawned by new cards in Dragon’s Maze. Get some ideas for your next event!

Today I’d like to discuss a few Legacy decks spawned by new cards in Dragon’s Maze. While I don’t think that any of these decks is poised to shake up the format in a big way, I do feel that these decks have important traits. First, they offer something that was not previously available in Legacy or a significant upgrade. Second, they can be improved upon!

Without further delay….

The first deck is something to take advantage of Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Varolz is one of those cards that uniquely takes advantage of creatures whose power is far higher than their converted mana cost. The text doesn’t really matter as much as the raw numbers when it comes to Varolz. Legacy has a few creatures that have significant drawbacks when you play them but offer a huge amount of power for a single mana. Phyrexian Dreadnought and Death’s Shadow are both fantastic cards to scavenge via Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Either card can be cast for one mana in any situation to send it to the graveyard. Once in the graveyard, Varolz allows you to spend one mana to put twelve or thirteen +1/+1 counters on one of your creatures!

Varolz has changed his hometown to Value Town.

Death’s Shadow and Phyrexian Dreadnought are not just cards to dump in your graveyard, however. They have been featured in some fringe Legacy strategies from time to time and can be powerful given dedicated support. With Phyrexian Dreadnought, the support is basically Stifle. Simply Stifle the sacrifice trigger and you have yourself a 12/12 trampler for two mana and two cards. Stifle can also be used aggressively on your opponent’s fetchlands, so that leads us to play Wasteland and Daze to further a mana denial strategy.

Death’s Shadow wants cards that allow you to pay life. Honestly, I haven’t really pushed it in this deck, and there are plenty of Legacy playable options if you want to push actually playing Death’s Shadow. This deck has Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, Gitaxian Probe, and a Watery Grave to help you lower your life total to ensure Death’s Shadow lives. Other options include more Return to Ravnica duals, Dismember, and more Gitaxian Probes. Remember, every fetchland helps lower your life total. Just keep in mind that some of your opponents will want to reduce your life total as well.

The remainder of the deck is filled with extremely high-powered Legacy staples, all of which further the goals of the deck. Deathrite Shaman helps us get a mana advantage while keeping our life total where we want it to be. Hymn to Tourach and Liliana of the Veil provide some much-needed disruption to go with Daze and Thoughtseize. The +1 on Liliana can be powerful for this deck even with cards in hand, as we may not have the appropriate enablers for our large creatures so we can simply discard them for future scavenging.

Force of Will could make its way into the deck, but I would put it in the sideboard to start with. It’s tough to assemble a bunch of cards to enable a giant monster AND have enough cards to cast Force of Will, especially through disruption. Force of Will would only be used to disrupt combo decks. Using it for protection will likely leave you without enough cards.

Truth be told, I’m not even pushing Varolz very much in this list; I’m simply using its most appealing ability. There are no evasive creatures to scavenge onto, and a paltry nineteen lands doesn’t really help his case. It might simply be better to scavenge things such as Tarmogoyf instead of either Phyrexian Dreadnought or Death’s Shadow. This would open up some of the deckbuilding constraints. For example, Life from the Loam with Creeping Tar Pit might be something to consider.

Furthermore, the sacrifice outlet ability on this card is almost blank. You are going to be sacrificing another real creature if you want to regenerate this. However, plenty of cards are Legacy playable without using all of their text. A Hive Mind deck doesn’t really care that Pact of the Titan makes a 4/4, but it’s capable of winning a Legacy Open!

Shall we try something a little more…fun?

That’s right, the most fun Magic: The Gathering card ever printed returns! Don’t you just LOVE Stasis?

The key to this deck is the interaction between our new friend Ral Zarek’s +1 ability and Stasis itself. Untapping a permanent per turn allows Stasis to be paid for indefinitely, while the tap ability is somewhat kismet. Once your opponent is locked, there are a few ways to win.

1) Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Probably the easiest path.

2) Get a bunch of lands in play, and then use Chain of Vapor to bounce your own Stasis, giving you an untap step so that you can pay for your Stasis for a while without the help of Ral Zarek. Then do one of the following:

a) Use Ral Zarek’s -2 a bunch of times. It’s not unreasonable to get Ral well into double digits just keeping your Stasis alive.

b) Attack with a creature stolen from Vedalken Shackles, using Ral to untap the creature.

Given all that, this is a control deck absolutely capable of locking up a game even without the full Stasis + Ral Zarek lock, which I think that is the appeal to playing something like this. For the most part, you are simply trying to control the game and hit your land drops. This isn’t the fastest combo, but it’s pretty close to a two-card lock. Compare this deck to something like the Helm of Awakening + 2x Sensei’s Divining Top + Grapeshot combo/control deck that has been making the rounds. That deck wants a worse draw engine (Jace, the Mind Sculptor + Ancestral Visions > Intuition + Accumulated Knowledge since Deathrite Shaman is a card.) and has to spend an extra set of cards on its actual kill with Grapeshot + Helm of Awakening as opposed to just Stasis.

Ancestral Vision is an excellent card to "burn" a Stasis on. Simply lock down things for a few turns while your Ancestral Vision ticks down. Once you reload, you can let the Stasis go and play a normal control game again. I believe that this deck is well equipped to play a game where both players have plenty of lands in play. Six planeswalkers and two Vedalken Shackles provide the bombs to resolve while a robust mana base and plenty of counterspells provide the tools to fight even the most grindy control decks.

This exact list is not something I’m sure of. I know that Ral Zarek is absolutely the best thing you can do with Stasis, but what about older cards that work well with Stasis? Obviously, Stasis decks haven’t made their presence felt in quite some time. Does that mean the old synergies are simply not worth the effort, or were old Stasis decks just missing a piece? I considered the following cards and would absolutely try them out if you would like to build a Stasis deck.

Forsaken City – This can pay for Stasis indefinitely, freeing up Ral Zarek to do other things at some point, although pitching cards doesn’t seem like a fantastic idea. However, it would make our Vedalken Shackles worse and their Wastelands better.

Thwart – A flimsy counterspell, but a free one nonetheless. You will hit plenty of land drops if you can play this post Stasis. It would be much easier to justify playing a Stasis without Ral Zarek in play if you had a Thwart in your hand.

Other ways to bounce/remove your Stasis – I’m pretty sure Chain of Vapor is the best, being one mana and all. Replaying your Stasis is also pretty important. Out of the sideboard, Red Elemental Blast seems fantastic, as it can also remove your Stasis when you want a full untap step in addition to all of its regular blue hating.

Chalice of the Void – This likely comes with either Mox Diamond or Chrome Mox and a general redesign of the deck. A deck with Moxen could also employ Seat of the Synod and Tezzeret the Seeker to pay for Stasis indefinitely. You wouldn’t have a tap effect under Stasis, but you wouldn’t need to keep Stasis alive very long before the ultimate on Tezzeret can finish someone.

Back to Basics – Might want a little redesign here as well, but mostly of the mana base, with a Mountain and one or two Volcanic Islands only, but Back to Basics can really crush some decks. This would give you free reign to not play a Stasis in certain matchups. At minimum, I would sideboard this, as it seems unreal against a deck like RUG Delver

Vendilion Clique – Sometimes it can be difficult to force an opponent to act. Vendilion Clique will often force some action to help Stasis keep things tapped, and it also represents a way to win via more traditional means.

Daze – I don’t like Daze because our land drops are very important pre Stasis and you can’t realistically play Daze in a deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Ral Zarek.

One sequence that stands out to me as very dangerous for this deck involves having Ral Zarek + Stasis in play with a tapped out opponent. While this is pretty much an ideal situation, it can be broken up by a player who smartly plays a fetchland while holding another land that casts Abrupt Decay. This way, our +1 tapping ability cannot deny our opponent mana on a crucial turn, allowing them to reach two mana to cast the Abrupt Decay, which we cannot counter. Perhaps more copies of Chain of Vapor is the answer, but Chain of Vapor is pretty poor as a pure attrition card.

This is basically an update to one of those millions of Legacy decks that exist but that nobody really takes seriously. The basic sequence of this deck is as follows:

1) Cast Glimpse of Nature (or Beck // Call).

2) Cast a bunch of zero mana creatures.

3) Use a Lotus Petal to cast Scapegoat, returning all of your zero mana creatures to your hand.

4) Draw more cards, perhaps playing a second Glimpse effect in the process.

5) Win with either Grapeshot or Beastmaster Ascension. Grapeshot is ideal, as it doesn’t use the attack step or cost a turn.

If I’m going to move all-in on a crazy combo deck, I’m pretty sure I’d rather play the Oops, All Spells! deck, but that deck doesn’t gain anything from Dragon’s Maze, does it?

As for the other application with Beck // Call, I’ll leave that to Chris Andersen, Riley Curran, Matt Nass, and everyone else with pointy ears. Elves is actually one of the few decks remaining on my Legacy bucket list, and I am pretty clueless when it comes to the tribe of pointy ears.

Dragon’s Maze has turned out to be one of the weaker sets for Legacy, but I am just fine with that! Legacy goes through periods of great balance and fun, interactive games. Right now, we are experiencing one of these "Golden Age" periods. After all, Dragon’s Maze is a much better set for Legacy than New Phyrexia. Thanks Mental Misstep!

I still look forward to playing Legacy, perhaps with one of these decks!

Adam Prosak