Time Spiral Storm!

Friday, December 31st – One of the brightest minds in Legacy sets his mind to breaking Time Spiral – and decides on a U/G Storm-based build! Let him explain how to play, and play against, it!

[author name=

So. How about that Legacy format, huh?

I was on the “nah, Survival isn’t

bad” wagon for awhile. Two days before Survival of the Fittest was banned, I went 10-0 on the way to the finals of a small Legacy tournament for a Black Lotus with a U/B/G deck that I liked against Survival. I tested against the Hatfields and the rest of my team a ton, beat Alix (playing G/B/W Survival, of course) in the Swiss, and turned down the split in the finals with his brother, Jesse. I mean,
with four Force of Wills, four Stifles, two Hymn to Tourachs, four Dazes, three Pernicious Deed, eight


a sideboard that included a trio of Extirpates, double Nature’s Claim, and the fourth Pernicious Deed, was I supposed to chop against the same seventy-five I 2-0ed in the Swiss?


have taken that split?

You can see where this is going. “Hymn to Tourach you, lose to two Noble Hierarchs, a Basking Rootwalla, and two Forests.” At least he didn’t have Survival of the Fittest or Vengevine in his deck when I lost!

Moral victory, guys. Moral victory.

As all of you probably are, I’m fairly excited for “not Survival” as a format. For the record, I’m not taking any action on that bet anymore, since I’m both a fan of hyperbole and forgot that Time Spiral can never really take over Legacy. (Wouldn’t be the first bet you didn’t take and lost anyway! ~LL and everyone else for the last four months) [Really funny, you guys. Very original.] But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

Here’s where I am with Time Spiral:

To explain the concept and then the choices: Time Spiral is a U/G Storm combo deck that focuses on resolving High Tide. Once it has accomplished this goal, it chains cantrips, draw spells, tutors, and untap effects into a lethal Brain Freeze or Stroke of Genius. It trades the speed of the Dark Ritual and Lion’s Eye Diamond combo decks for a huge amount of resiliency — it has twenty lands, four Force of Wills, seven tutors, and fourteen cantrips. Those cards all support fifteen cards that actually win you the game, which I’ll break down below.

They are:

4 High Tide

It is nearly impossible to win a game without this card. If you don’t play this deck, at least learn this simple fact:
High Tide is the card you fight over

. You have Daze? Daze it. Force? Force it. This deck will make better use of having tons of blue mana than you can, so if you’re playing against it try

hard to not let this card resolve. If you do, I hope that you brought some music to listen to, because you’re going to be there for a while.

You want four of this card in your maindeck, because your sideboard is actually tighter than your maindeck. If I could, I would play fifty-eight maindeck cards and seventeen sideboard cards. Since I can’t, I want to be able to cantrip into as many High Tides as possible. Getting your Cunning Wish countered is a lot more likely than getting your Preordains and Ponders countered, so relying on it to get your best card

diluting your maindeck to set up such a vulnerable gameplan is poor deck construction.

To answer the inevitable question, you are getting High Tide with Merchant Scroll almost every single time you don’t have one in your hand (or in effect) already.

As a final note, this is your best card against Counterbalance and every single aggressive deck. You need to resolve one against Counterbalance, so being able to play multiples in response to Top activations is key.

4 Time Spiral

The namesake card. It’s your Ad Nauseam and Lion’s Eye Diamond, your Survival and Vengevine, your peanut butter and chocolate — all in one card. In a deck that seeks to build two resources — mana and cards — this card does both better than any other card in Legacy. The reason this card was worth banning (and the reason we want to play it so badly) is that the very presence of this card in your deck means that you will have a very strong end game against attrition-based decks.

Think about a line of plays where you get Duressed and Hymned, but they don’t have a Dark Confidant. Maybe they have a 3/3 Knight of the Reliquary
not a whole lot going on. If you can get to four lands with High Tide and Time Spiral in your hand,
it doesn’t matter that they cast all of those cards

. You have eight mana available and seven new cards with which to work.

As a side note on playing against discard: keep your lands early, every time. When you cast Brainstorm on the draw in response to a Hymn and have two lands in hand, put both back. You might have High Tide and Time Spiral and it sure would suck to lose those to Hymn — but losing lands is far worse. With this deck, I would always rather be in a position where I need to peel spells than where I need to peel lands. This is but one part of playing your cantrips correctly, but it’s a crucial understanding to have.

Anyway. Back to Time Spiral.

The deck will eventually have to cast this card, but by the time it does, it will also have access to at least one Force of Will and possibly Remand as well. The deck is built to virtually guarantee that it will win off of any seven that it can draw off of Spiral.

3 Turnabout

This card does absolutely everything. It is Cryptic Command before Cryptic Command was printed. This card has four very good modes, and I’ve used all of them. Yes, it’ll generally net you at least three mana in your combo turn, and yes, it can Mana Short your opponent in their end step. It even Fogs them!

But it’s so much better than that. While this may be a corner case, there will come an instance where you can walk a Counterbalance player into tapping low and Turnabout their Sensei’s Divining Top(s). Remember that when you announce this card, you only announce your target: “Turnabout, targeting you.” You choose modes upon resolution.

4 Merchant Scroll targets (1 Meditate, 1 Wipe Away, 1 Remand, 1 Brain Freeze)

This deck makes very good use of its Merchant Scrolls. Since it is essentially a two-mana Cunning Wish, it’s important to build the maindeck with that in mind. Sadly, Scroll does not get blue sorceries, otherwise this deck would be pretty much unbeatable.

Since we unfortunately can’t get Time Spiral with Scroll, we will occasionally need to Scroll for action. That action is Meditate. The reason there’s only one is because we are Scrolling for this card in a very specific situation: we have a High Tide, you have lands, we don’t have a Time Spiral, and we have cast all of your cantrips. Hopefully, we have a lot of lands or a Turnabout or have Wished for a Turnabout. We will be Meditating to hit cantrips so that, when we untap, we can go about finding Time Spiral. Meditating into Meditate is great and all, but this isn’t Solidarity: we don’t have four Resets. We have four six-mana untap effects, so that’s what we’re digging to.

Keep in mind that we’re shuffling Meditate back in, so Scrolling for it again is a possible line of play, albeit probably a little dirty since we’re almost certainly slow-rolling the opponent at this point and could probably kill them with Brain Freeze if we were decent human beings. But we’re not. So we’re probably going to get Meditate.

Since there are people who don’t like people like you (read: slow-rollers, ‘still-had-all-these’-ers, etc), you will see cards that are bad for us on the other side of the board: Counterbalance, Gaddock Teeg, Ethersworn Canonist, Meddling Mage, and their ilk. Since you have all these Merchant Scrolls, it’s a fairly good idea to have outs to those cards that don’t involve eight mana. Five mana is already pushing it; eight is pretty much undoable. Since winning through hate is vastly preferable to losing to hate, play a Wipe Away maindeck.

The Remand and the Brain Freeze would be the two I would cut from my maindeck if I could. They’re kind of like the training wheels of the deck: you don’t

them, and you can win without them in your deck if you play tight, but we don’t all play tight and we still want to win games because drawing seven for free is a nice feeling. The way we actually kill people is with Brain Freeze, sometimes with the help of Remand. This could be accomplished solely with Cunning Wishes, but sometimes it feels good to just waltz into “Oh, I have seven storm, I will kill you with Brain Freeze, Remand, Brain Freeze.” Yes, you get the storm copies.

To answer the inevitable questions:

“Green? But then you get Wastelanded! That is very bad! Besides, couldn’t you just play a bunch of blue cards in your sideboard instead?”

Wasteland is a good card, but there are many ways to play around it. To start, you can always fetch Tropical Islands against Counterbalance, since only Dreadtill (a Counterbalance deck with Phyrexian Dreadnought + Stifle and Standstill) plays both. You will have to play around Wasteland against almost every single aggressive deck, however, so value your fetchlands highly. With this deck more generally, that remains true because you’re playing Brainstorm — but it’s even more important, because you cannot afford to be Wastelanded off of green mana for your Fog effect. So long as you don’t indiscriminately crack fetchlands early, Wasteland’s effect can be minimized with almost no hindrance to yourself.

Besides, you gain a lot of versatility from Green. The reason why this deck is better than both the Mono-Blue Combo deck and Five-Color storm is that is has access to Krosan Grip against Counterbalance and real Fog effects against aggressive strategies. Five-color Storm has to rely on racing Counterbalance to the table and racing aggressive decks to the finish line, while Mono-Blue has to rely on Wipe Away and Cryptic Command to fulfill the roles of Krosan Grip and Fog.

It’s worth noting that the decks where you will use your green sideboard cards will, for the most part, play Wasteland. Goblins and Merfolk will require Tangles and Moment’s Peace, while Merfolk and Standstill-based control decks will require Autumn’s Veil.

You need a double-Fog against aggressive decks. Tangle is better in a metagame where your opponents aren’t playing haste creatures, while Moment’s Peace is better against Goblins and Ichorid. Since we want to be able to Cunning Wish for two more draw steps against aggressive decks of all shapes and sizes, I have a 2/1 Tangle/Peace split. Tangle is generally going to be better than Moment’s Peace because it gains three mana while generating the same effect, while also eliminating any vulnerability to random Relics of Progenitus out of decks that are light on cards to bring in against you.

Krosan Grip blows up everything that you don’t like — Ethersworn Canonist, Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, Counterbalance, Rule of Law, Thorn of Amethyst…The list goes on.

The wishboard is pretty simple: you can Cunning Wish for action in Meditate, mana or a versatile end-step blowout in Turnabout, unconditional and mostly-uncounterable bounce, whichever half of Remand/Brain Freeze you lack, and an alternate win condition in Stroke.

Remember that you can, in dire situations, Stroke of Genius yourself, Time Spiral it back into your library, and Merchant Scroll for it again.

Finally, Autumn’s Veil is an Orim’s Chant that is also an instant-speed pseudo-Overmaster. Simple enough.


At this point, everyone who has written about Time Spiral has included a version with Explore in it, and for good reasons. Explore is a Time Walk against every aggressive deck that cannot disrupt four land + High Tide + Time Spiral.

I thought of Summer Bloom, but Explore is just so much better. You pretty much never have all three extra lands, and if you do, your hand sucks and you should’ve Brainstormed some of those back instead. Yes, getting Wastelanded is pretty sad and yes, bricking is the worst feeling in the world, but you are gaining a lot of value off of both turn 2 Explore into four lands on turn 3 as well as turn 5 Explore post-Spiral to cycle your lands into play — the latter is basically a mini-Frantic Search.

If you really, really don’t like Explore, feel free to cut green and play Impulse. However, the green is very important for the versatility and power of your sideboard, so if you’re already splashing you might as well play Explore.

“Why four Preordains and two Ponders?”

You are digging for very specific cards here. There were games I played with a sixteen-cantrip version where I cast Ponder, saw Time Spiral, land, land, and had to keep it and brick for two turns while hoping to peel High Tide or any other action. Preordain is better here because it gives you the Sleight of Hand mode.

The reason Preordain isn’t universally adopted as a better cantrip is because Ponder is better with Counterbalance, where you can set up three cards and blow your opponent out while Topless, which is always a good feeling.

As for why Time Spiral can’t get banned? It can never, ever beat Solidarity. Solidarity is one of those stupid deck names that doesn’t make any sense, but people use it anyway because it’s fairly identifiable. The deck is very similar to Time Spiral: you cast some cantrips, play lands, and then kill them with High Tide, untap effects like Turnabout and Reset, and then either Brain Freeze or Cunning Wish for Stroke of Genius.

Unlike Time Spiral, however, the deck is all instants. It will almost always go off with lethal damage incoming. In a matchup between Time Spiral and Solidarity, Solidarity can simply outwait Time Spiral. Spiral has to cast their namesake card at some point, at which point Solidarity will piggyback all of their High Tides and respond by casting a bunch of spells culminating in a Brain Freeze. The very existence of Solidarity, coupled with the popularity of Counterbalance as a strategy, means that Time Spiral is very unlikely to get banned again.

For all your speculators: Reset, at last check, is hovering around one ticket on MODO. Do I think it will go up? You can bet on it.

Drew Levin