The Long and Winding Road – New Year, New Tech, New Decks

Friday, January 28 – Matt Elias has his finger on the pulse of Eternal and gives you updates on all the latest tech and builds for both Legacy and Vintage! Take it to SCG Open: Indianapolis!


Personal reflection and introspection bore some people. If that’s you, press Ctrl+F and search for “Legacy Tech.” It’s okay; it
won’t hurt my feelings. I just need a minute to deliver my mission statement for 2011.

Change is one of life’s constants. We are adrift in a constantly changing world and anchor ourselves by cementing memories of the past, moments
of clarity that stand out among the rest of the noise.

People come, people go, jobs change, relationships begin and end; so it is in Magic, where formats rotate, cards are banned, cards and collections are
bought and sold (and, sadly, stolen); stores open and close, teams form, teams disband, articles are written and, hopefully, read.

Think about all the Magic tournaments in which you competed last year. Which ones stand out the most? Which ones can you recall most easily in your
mind’s eye? Certainly, the ones that ended with you winning some type of prize or accolade are likely to be the first you recall; equally likely,
you probably remember the tournaments where you did the worst, where your performance was far below your expectations, whether it was due to play
mistakes, poor deck choice, or savage variance. What about all the tournaments in between? What makes them stand apart? A great venue, or a memorable
road trip? Maybe a fantastic meal, or a particularly lively after party?

For me, my anchor to these events is split between decks and people. The first thing that comes to me when thinking about a tournament is what deck I
played. I find that when I test with a deck and invest mental energy into developing a deck, it’s almost as if that deck becomes a friend; I form
an emotional bond to it. I know that not everyone feels this way or experiences this reaction; for a lot of people, a deck is simply a pile of cards, a
list someone shipped, or literally a deck handed over before a tournament.

After I recall the deck, the details of a tournament will fill in, usually centered around the people who were present. Which of my friends were there?
What did they play? How did they do? Who were my opponents? Being a writer, I’ve had to train myself to attempt to retain this information more
than I might have in the past because those details are needed to form a tournament report and to back up statements with some degree of actual
tournament-tested evidence, beyond the theory that I have constructed in the twisted labyrinth of my brain.

Last week, I had a realization: far too much of my mental focus, in terms of Magic, was on tournament play. A key reason is my recent lack of time for
playtesting, but it goes beyond that. To some degree, I have unintentionally deemphasized the enjoyment of playing the game and the benefits of the
friendship it provides and have replaced them with a focus on driving results. This, in turn, has made Magic a lot less fun for me. For the events that
I play, I’ve become too concerned with predicting a metagame instead of just playing a good deck and a deck I enjoy. When I don’t enjoy the
game, my results almost always suffer.

Conversation with some of my friends hammered this home for me last week, as I realized how much fun I was having testing random formats and conversing
about things that weren’t centered on the idea of, “How do we win tournament X?” I’m fortunate to count, among my friends, guys
like Chas Hinkle, Nick Coss, Nick Detwiler, and Brad Granberry, and many others, people who have helped me (and continue to help me) become a better
Magic player, a better writer and theorist, and a better teammate, while being great friends independent of anything Magical in nature. These are guys,
among many others, who I hope, and expect, I’ll remain friends with, independent of which of us are actively playing tournament Magic.

I’ve got a pretty big, life-changing event coming up in July, and while I couldn’t possibly be more excited and more blessed, knowing that
my Magic time is going to be significantly impacted later this year does make me think a lot about change.

What do I want to get out of the tournaments I play this year? And what can I get out of the friendships that playing Magic has created? How can I
sustain them this year and beyond? What do I need to do to be a good friend to the people who have been such good friends to me? How much do I care
about playing the best deck, compared to playing the deck I can best play?

I spent a lot of time last week bouncing ideas off people, testing a wide variety of decks and formats, talking about life, carving out time each night
to listen to music, and enjoying the game when I’m able to play it. That’s one of my goals for this year: enjoy the game, and enjoy the
company of the people that play it.

I also came to the realization that I don’t care if I’m not that good at playing control decks and that this year, when I play Magic,
I’m going to make sure I’m bringing it to my opponent, each turn, every turn.

You know what? I like playing Zoo. I like knowing that I’m better at beating face for the first three turns of the game than most people
in the room. To win with Zoo, you often just need to play a perfect first three turns.

I like playing Belcher. I like playing Affinity, and yes, even Elves.

Even if something like Zoo is “easier” to play than a Counterbalance deck according to those in the know, this certainly doesn’t mean
that everyone plays them equally well. If I’m a good beatdown player, then you know what? This year, I’m going to beat down.

And I’m going to enjoy it.

I’m also dead-set on playing more PTQs this year than last year, which will be easy, since last year, I only played… one.

Let’s look at some emerging tech and decks I like, for Legacy and Vintage

Legacy Tech – Elves

Any guess what won the last Legacy Premier Event on MTGO? Yes, you guessed it: Elves!

Oh, you probably didn’t guess that, did you? While not a particularly large event, the deck has definitely put its stamp on the Daily Events and
also had two players in the top sixteen of the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open on 1/16.

Here’s the list from the Premier event:

This list is really solid, but it does one thing I don’t like: it’s all-in on Glimpse of Nature, using only the Elvish Visionary with
Wirewood Symbiote re-buy plan as a backup. Unlike Extended, Force of Will exists in this format. The last deck I posted used the backup draw engine of
Wirewood Symbiote, Elvish Visionary, and Cloudstone Curio, which is functional if unexciting. There has to be something better.

Turns out, there are at least two potential alternatives.

The first is one I found on MTGO: Genesis Wave!

When I first saw a list packing Genesis Wave, I wasn’t convinced. The deck didn’t play Gaea’s Cradle. How much mana could a deck like
this actually generate?

Answer: Tons.

Here’s an example goldfish:

Opening Hand: Llanowar Elves, Elvish Visionary, Wirewood Symbiote, Elvish Archdruid, Genesis Wave, Bayou, Verdant Catacombs

Turn 1: Verdant Catacombs, fetch Forest, play Llanowar Elves

Turn 2: Draw Summoner’s Pact, play Bayou, play Elvish Archdruid

Turn 3: Draw Verdant Catacombs, fetch Forest, play Elvish Visionary, draw Llanowar Elves, play Llanowar Elves, play Wirewood Symbiote, tap Archdruid
adding GGGG, play Summoner’s Pact for Quirion Ranger, play Quirion Ranger (GGG), untap Elvish Archdruid, tap for GGGGG, return Quirion Ranger to
hand using Wirewood Symbiote, play Quirion Ranger (GGGGGGG), return forest to hand, tap Elvish Archdruid (GGGGGGGGGGGG), play Genesis Wave for nine.

Assuming that Wave misses Emrakul (which would let you win on the spot), you’ll probably win if you hit Regal Force or Eternal Witness as well,
and if you whiff on those also, you can hopefully draw and rebuy on Elvish Visionary to draw into Emrakul, Summoner’s Pact, or another Wave;
worst-case scenario, your opponent will get another turn before probably dying to an angry Elf horde.

Of course, the alternate option in that decision tree is to Summoner’s Pact for Regal Force, but the point remains the same: this deck is
versatile. It accomplished all of that without Glimpse of Nature. Some builds also play Priest of Titania as a backup “ramp” creature for
Genesis Wave or just as a general massive mana producer.

Imagine the “easy” hands that have Glimpse in them!

Regarding Wave, when you’re going off with Wave, you pretty much instant-win if you hit Emrakul, Eternal Witness, or have another Wave in hand.
Remember that once you get going, you’re able to untap Archdruid using Quirion Rangers and Wirewood Symbiotes put into play from the Wave, and
you can then bounce the Ranger and replay from Symbiote to generate obscene amount of mana.

A lot of the sideboards I see are loaded with one-ofs, and that’s certainly an option. I’ve seen Caller of the Claw and Fecundity, among
other interesting options. I’m pretty happy with a black splash for Engineered Plague, as it gives you a leg-up in matchups like Goblins, where
sideboard cards like Pyrokinesis can be devastating, and I would definitely suggest the use of Natural Order as a backup plan against control decks.
The question then is how to fill out the remaining slots. If you play black, Thoughtseize is an option, and for all builds, consider Krosan Grip,
Mindbreak Trap, Tormod’s Crypt, Null Rod, and Xantid Swarm; it all depends on your metagame.

One card I’ve considered is Coat of Arms, to beat Firespout. Combined with Archdruid, that would really beef up the beatdown plan post-board. For
now though, I’ve been using Thoughtseize and Natural Order for that matchup.

I also always really liked Eternal Witness in the Vintage versions I played, and that card is insane in the Genesis Wave build. Since it also supports
the Glimpse plan, I’m not sure that one is the right number, as it’s been very good since I’ve added it into the deck.

The versions from 1/16 at the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open in San Jose were built differently, with less of a focus on the Heritage Druid combo and a
blue splash. Here’s what Matt Nass had sleeved up:

This is an interesting take on Elves; not only has Matt added blue to increase consistency, but he’s also added a powerful backup plan.
Let’s look at what’s going on here.

First, Matt has Brainstorm, which might seem a bit unexciting when comboing out, but it does allow you to find Glimpse in the first place, which is
important; it also supports the backup Natural Order plan, since you can now shuffle Progenitus back into your deck and find Natural Order more
reliably. To support the blue plan, Matt played Arbor Elves, as they can untap TropicalIsland to re-buy blue mana.

Second, this deck has a backup aggro plan with Vengevine, including Intuition for Vengevine and Fauna Shaman. Elves is inherently good at re-buying
Vengevines. This deck gets extra value out Intuition post-board as you can tutor for trips Natural Order.

Matt’s gone super greedy here with Gaea’s Cradle as well, and why not? He has Brainstorms to shuffle them away.

The sideboard is pretty basic, with some Krosan Grips for Counterbalance, Mindbreak Trap for the combo matchup, some graveyard coverage via
Tormod’s Crypt, and the Natural Order plan.

So that’s what’s going on in the world of Elves. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you lose to it in a Legacy tournament.
It’s a real deck.

Legacy Tech – Green and Taxes

Cool deck, miserable name.

For those that missed it, here’s the deck Lewis Laskin unleashed at the Kansas City StarCityGames.com Legacy Open on January 9:

This is a G/W Aggro deck with a ton of interesting synergies going on.

It has a unique disruption package, which has more depth than you might catch on first glance. It plays Wasteland and can use Knight of the Reliquary
to find more Wastelands, punishing people who fetch incorrectly or have greedy mana bases. Gaddock Teeg attacks opponent’s top-end spells, while
Mother of Runes prevents removal spells from operating normally. Mangara of Corondor and Qasali Pridemage give the deck considerably more removal than
a G/W deck should really have, and those are supported by Swords to Plowshares.

In addition, there’s an equipment package to support the beatdown plan, with Stoneforge Mystic, but the real backup plan to sending the beats is
Mangara and Karakas. If you’re not familiar with it, the way this combo works is you play Mangara and then activate Mangara’s ability. You
then respond to it with Karakas to put Mangara back into your hand. This saves your Mangara but exiles your opponent’s permanent. You can continue to
rebuy this, over and over again. With Aether Vial, it becomes counter-proof.

I’ve had some opportunity to play with and against this deck now, and I like it more than the other Mother of Runes decks I’ve seen before.
The Karakas / Mangara plan supported by Knight (which helps find Karakas), Teeg, and Tarmogoyf gives the end-result of a deck that hits hard and
disrupts more than I expected.

Still, there’s some problems with this deck. For one thing, there are games where you’re not drawing the right creatures, and you have no
Brainstorm or Top to find the right ones. Additionally, in games where the deck doesn’t find Mangara, you’re pretty reliant on just beating
down to get there. The equipment package is also rather awkward in a number of matchups. And, of course, G/W is not well known for beating combo decks,
although having Teeg main certainly helps.

If you’re going to play this deck, I strongly suggest you consider adding a card: Eladamri’s Call. Why? Because you really, really, really want to find Mangara of Corondor. Adding Eladamri’s Call will help you have more Goyfs than your opponent, ensure you have Teeg in the
matchups where you need it, and dig for Mangara. My test list cuts one Stoneforge for a Call (since you can always Call for Stoneforge if you’re
really in the mood to root through your library), but I’d love to play a second.

It is worth noting that Karakas is really annoying when looking at something like the next deck on the agenda:

Legacy Deck I Like – Reanimator

I invested a decent amount of time into testing Reanimator after Mystical Tutor was banned, but it quickly became obvious that there were two problems.
One, Survival of the Fittest was better. Two, Survival of the Fittest made sure most people had some amount of graveyard hate. That made suggesting
Reanimator, as a strategy, untenable.

Now, with Survival banned, a lot of people are back to playing Tribal decks and anti-Tribal control decks. Lands hasn’t really surged back into
the format yet, so there isn’t much incentive to play more than a few token hate cards for the yard; you’ll see most decks wielding a token
two or three Tormod’s Crypts, for example. We’ve seen some Reanimator decks that push the deck in new directions, including Goblin Welder;
is the old model really that toothless without Mystical Tutor?

I tried testing with Ponder in place of Mystical Tutor six months ago, but I didn’t really like it. I tried the deck again a few weeks ago with
Preordain, and I’m not sure whether the meta is just different or Preordain is that functionally different, but the deck felt pretty good.
Preordain lets you hide a creature but still keep the card you really want to draw; I found with Ponder I was often shuffling and taking a blind draw,
whereas with Preordain, I’m usually happy to hide one card and keep another, and it continues to allow you to cheat on lands.

Here’s what I was testing recently:

I haven’t had as much time testing the sideboard as I’d like, but I tested Dispel previously, and it’s very good against a deck like Zoo,
which needs to use Path to Exile against Sphinx or will otherwise lose the game. Null Rod is exceptional against hate cards as well as Storm decks and,
well, Affinity; Needle is also great against Top, Vial, and random hate cards. Sower and Gilded Drake, as well as Wipe Away, are to make sure you
don’t lose to random cards like Peacekeeper.

You’re probably wondering what’s up with the Platinum Emperion and Grave Titan. Good question. It’s a test slot I’m trying out,
as is Platinum Emperion. Emperion wins you games against some matchups on the spot, such as most Affinity, Merfolk, and ANT decks; against TES, all you
need to do is counter Burning Wish, and the game is usually over.

Grave Titan gives you a guy that you can Reanimate after you’ve already done so once, if you need to in a pinch. He’s fantastic at holding
off a deck like Goblins or Zoo on the ground. He might not stick — a second Sphinx might be better — but in the few games I played since
adding him, I’ve been pleased.

One nice thing about this type of deck: as long as Wizards keeps making great monsters, this strategy will continue to get better over time.

Let’s move on to the other Eternal format…

Vintage Tech — Bob Tendrils / Trygon Control Mash-up

I played Bob Tendrils in four straight tournaments in late 2010, making the elimination rounds teach time; it’s a solid and consistent deck, without
many matchups that are unwinnable. As the field at Vintage tournaments has broadened, Bob Tendrils is the type of deck I want to play. Unlike something
like Trygon Tezz or most of the Jace Control decks, you aren’t putting too much into the Workshop matchup at the expense of other matchups. In
fact, the rise of Trygon Tezz was a huge reason why I started playing Bob Tendrils in the first place.

Still, MUD looms large over the format, as we saw last week in the Q4 Metagame Report. It’s sad to say, but my matchups against MUD with this
deck have come down to the die roll. I wanted to see if I could build a deck that could do better than simply rolling the dice. In addition, Oath of
Druids seems to be coming back into the format, after taking a beating from the influx of Nature’s Claims and Trygons after Vintage Champs.

I wanted to play Bob Tendrils because it’s so good against most of the format, but I needed to find a way to beat MUD and Oath as well. Taking a cue
from Flores, I figured it was time for a mash-up. Check this out:

The idea here is actually so simple that I’m upset I didn’t think of it sooner. Owen’s Champs deck was very good against Workshops,
but that deck and Bob Tendrils are actually pretty similar in their base. What was stopping me from mashing the two decks together? This build lets us
play Bob Tendrils in game one, where we can try to out-draw control opponents and be a relatively broken U/B combo deck against a broad field, but
post-board, we can make our deck turn into something very close to Owen’s deck post-board, leveraging the strength of basic lands, Nature’s
Claim, two board wipes (Hurkyl’s Recall and a Rebuild), three Trygon Predators, and Force of Will.

It just so happens that against Oath, this deck is exceptional as well, as the Trygon Predators and Nature’s Claims really beat up on that
strategy also. By configuring the deck this way, you’re playing something that’s able to take on just about anything in the format.
You’d certainly want to tailor this to taste depending on your metagame; I played the fourth Duress in the sideboard, but I had tested with that
being a Hurkyl’s Recall and a second Relic of Progenitus, depending on what I wanted to beat. Similarly, this list has a Virtue’s Ruin for
the Fish matchup, but you may be able to supplement or cut that card depending on your metagame.

I’m also constantly debating between Mind’s Desire and Yawgmoth’s Bargain in this deck. I don’t think either is wrong, per se,
but there are some metagames where I’d really prefer one to the other. I think I’m more looking at Mind’s Desire right now as being

Here’s a sideboard guide for this deck.

SB for Shops:

 -3 Duress, -1 Tendrils of Agony, -1 Mind’s Desire,-2 Dark Ritual

+3 Trygon, +1 Nature’s Claim, +1 Tinker, +1 Battlesphere, +1 Forest

 SB for Dredge:

-3 Duress, -1 Jace TMS, -1 Rebuild, -1 Island

+4 Yixlid Jailer, +2 Relic

SB for Oath:

-1 Mana Vault, -1 Rebuild, -1 Tendrils, -1 Timetwister,-1 Preordain

+3 Trygon, +1 Nature’s Claim,+1 Duress

SB for Gush:

-1 Rebuild, -1 Nature’s Claim

+Nihil Spellbomb, +1 Duress

SB for Tezzeret:

-1 Rebuild

+1 Duress

SB for Fish:

-1 Mana Vault, – 1 Rebuild, -1 Jace TMS

+1 Virtue’s Ruin, +1 Tinker, +1 Battlesphere

Note that I’m not playing Leyline of the Void; I didn’t find that strategy as effective as I wanted with this deck. Most Dredge players
have cheated on their Jailer hate. Dispel is a neat way to protect Jailer and beat Gush, if those are decks with which you’re particularly

I did play this deck on 1/15 at a Blue Bell; unfortunately my poor play cost me two matches, and I ended up at 4-2 (losing to ANT and a G/W/B hate
deck). I did beat MUD in a match where I lost the die roll, and beat smashed Oath and a Gush/Vault deck (both 2-0), and ended the day in a really tight
quasi-mirror match against an alternate version of this deck I posted on The Mana Drain last week…

Vintage Tech — Frantic Tendrils

This deck is less interested in disrupting the opponent using Duress and is more interested in “breaking” the other card un-restricted with
Gush: Frantic Search. Using extra cards provided by Dark Confidant and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Frantic Search lets you rip through your deck quickly,
turbo-charging your Yawgmoth’s Will and turning on your Cabal Rituals much faster.

A build with Frantic Search is also exceptional at abusing Mind’s Desire, and while the Workshop hate isn’t as traditional, Frantic Search
is pretty good against Tangle Wire as well. Again, this just shows you how much play there is within the basic strategy of Dark Confidant, Force of
Will, Jace, and Dark Rituals.

Having done only limited testing with this deck and some goldfishing, I’m not 100% sure the list is right, but the deck is a blast to play.

Vintage Deck I Like — MUD Worker/Staff Combo

On January 8, I got to take part in the Grudge Match II in New York, at the Brothers Grimm store. This was the largest NYSE Vintage tournament yet,
with a whopping 90 players ignoring the threat of a potential snowstorm to play Vintage for a Black Lotus, as well as regional bragging rights.

Last year, New England and New York decided to have a “grudge match” to see which region could claim superiority; those of us in PA
shoehorned our way into the match, and although we didn’t win (barely), a player from PA did win the tournament (Joe Brown). This time, in the
sequel, one of the members of Team PA won the tournament (Sam Berse), and the team won handily over our northeastern opponents.

The metagame at this event included twenty Workshop decks and ten Bazaar decks. I expected a metagame like this and wanted something a little
different, something with game against these decks. I spent a while testing and ultimately went with a MUD deck playing the Metalworker / Staff of
Domination combo.

For those not familiar with the combo, it works like this: If you have Staff and Metalworker in play and three artifacts in your hand, you can
“go infinite” using the following sequence.

Step 1: Tap Metalworker, add six to your mana pool.

Step 2: Tap Staff of Domination, paying three to untap Metalworker, and then one more to untap the Staff.

Step 3: Repeat, adding an arbitrary amount of colorless mana to your mana pool.

Step 4: Profit!

During the profit phase, you can gain an arbitrary amount of life using Staff, and you can draw as many cards as you want and cast them all. At the
Grudge Match, my round three played out like this.

I won the die roll. I played Mishra’s Workshop, Metalworker, and passed. My opponent played Bazaar of Baghdad, signaling Dredge. I untapped,
played Staff, and won the game. I went to 5 trillion life, and passed the turn with three Lodestone Golems in play, a Karn, four Thorn of Amethyst,
three Sphere of Resistance, and Chalice of the Void on one, two, and three.

Game two was the same, except I used a Wasteland on Bazaar and played a Tormod’s Crypt, and won with the combo on turn three.

While I didn’t win every game using this combo, I won a lot of games with it, including a few quick wins in quasi-mirrors against other MUD

Here’s the deck as I’d play it today:

At the Grudge Match, I played three Mazes of Ith for the Trygon Tezz match and lost to it anyway. I think I’d be willing to take my chances with
three Duplicants and three Steel Hellkites. Against decks like Trygon Tezz, I suggest taking out the Staff combo for Duplicants and Crucible of Worlds.

If you’d prefer a more straightforward MUD Aggro build, give this a shot. This is based on Sam Berse’s list with a few minor tweaks.

Eternal — General Thoughts

Now that Metalworker decks are dominating the Workshop strategy, the time seems right to consider Null Rod, whether it be in Espresso Stax as a trump
for Rod decks, or maybe even for Mono-Red Shops to come back. Mono-Red Shops actually just won the Blue Bell Game Day 11 on 1/15, which itself had a
healthy 50 players. Fish also seems to be resurgent at the moment, coming in second at the Grudge Match II and winning a smaller event in NY on 1/15.

There is a considerable amount of Workshop hate floating around, as there should be; a lot of players are really kicking it up a notch, using cards
like Ancient Grudge, Ingot Chewer, Viashino Heretic, and even Artifact Mutation (which wrecked me at the Grudge Match). All this dedicated artifact
hate does absolutely nothing against Oath of Druids, so it isn’t surprising to see that deck making a comeback. Keep that in mind when building
your sideboards for the next few months.

The un-restriction of Gush has really opened up the Vintage metagame. More decks are viable now than at any point since the 2008 restrictions.

Similarly, while early returns in the Legacy format show that Aether Vial decks are doing well, the combo and control decks will pick up steam as the
format matures. Legacy is exceptionally well balanced at the moment, and in either Eternal format, this is a great time to brew and innovate.

Matt Elias

[email protected]

Voltron00x on SCG, TMD, and The Source