Unlocking Legacy – A Cure For Boredom: Looking At Shards

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Friday, September 19th – Is it too soon to talk about Shards of Alara? With a set this exciting, it’s hard to hold back until the release date. Join Doug for an exploration of some of the spoiled cards, sure to shake up the Legacy metagame and get Johnny minds thinking hard. Do we have an answer to the Tarmogoyf-dominant format? Also, Doug presents a tournament-tested Landstill deck with special surprise guests sharing their thoughts on the deck. Take a look at the future of Legacy…

If you’re jaded about Legacy because every deck has to start with four Tarmogoyf or four Golgari Grave-troll, you’re not alone. Luckily, we’ve got a lot of amazing cards already spoiled from Shards of Alara that promise to shake up the format. We haven’t got the whole set spoiled yet, so I am going to save a lot of the discussion for later articles, but there are some cards that Legacy players can’t resist fooling around with already. We’ll take a look at a few of them and then I’ll treat you to a pretty stellar (and proven!) Legacy control list.

First, we’ve got this champ:

Relic of Progenitus
Artifact, Common
T: Target player removes a card in his or her graveyard from the game.
1, Remove Relic of Progenitus from the game: Remove all graveyards from the game. Draw a card.

It’s the Ur-Phyrexian Furnace. If you’re a regular reader, you know my unhealthy love of that card. I like it so much because it’s cheap, versatile and maindeckable graveyard hate. One of my recent article tropes has been an almost universal reliance on graveyards in Legacy. Ergo, we want maindecked grave hate but we can’t spare slots on cards that might be blanks against, say, Goblins. That this card essentially has Cycling:2, it’s worth taking a long look at it.

Most obviously, it Humbles a Tarmogoyf pretty well. Like I said at the beginning of my article, that guy and Dredge are basically the format. Having four of these in your maindeck means you don’t have to worry about the green giant as much. The tradeoff is that you can’t rely on your own Tarmogoyfs to win, so you’d need something like Phyrexian Dreadnoughts or other beasties to get in for lethal. This card should let us re-evaluate strategies that suffer against Tarmogoyfs but otherwise could be decent. Goblins comes to mind as a home for this, but I’m not sure whether you have the spots in the deck to support it.

Another option is a home in Fish decks. Specifically, I was thinking of Wizards!, a deck from Extended that didn’t see much play. Richard Feldman has a great decklist here, with an explanation of why we should consider the deck. One of the compelling reasons is that Patron Wizard punishes decks that are greedy on mana. In Legacy, that’s all of them. Find a way to slot in Force of Will and Daze and you’ve likely got something strong. With the Relic, you can use Trinket Mage to blow away Tarmogoyfs. Having a Relic on the board means you can attack into Tarmogoyfs with impunity, your Meddling Mages threatening to kill the mighty Llurgoyf. I see favorable trades in the future for Relics. Be aware of an opponent with an unused fetchland on the board if it seems they’re obviously running their monster into your Relic, since that land and an instant will make Tarmogoyf a respectable size again.

To sum up, Relic is best in a deck that needs to stop control deck recursion, stop Tarmogoyfs, and isn’t reliant on its own graveyard. It’s not obvious what deck this would go into, but I’m sure it’ll see some play. The ultimate calculus will be whether this card without Tarmogoyf is better than being without Relic and running Tarmogoyf. For fear of waxing prolix about the card, let’s move on to the next one:

Master of Etherium
Artifact Creature – Vedalken Wizard
Master of Etherium’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of artifacts you control.
Other artifact creatures you control get +1/+1.

Last year, I wrote about AfFOWnity, a blue Affinity deck that supported Force of Will. It’s worth revisiting the deck with this in mind, as it is both blue and an artifact. It could easily go in the Myr Enforcer slot since it will cost essentially the same amount and be at least a 4/4 when it hits. Alternately, it can fit in where Cloud of Faeries weakly held a spot earlier. It pitches to Force of Will, bringing the blue card count to acceptable levels. If you want to run Thirst for Knowledge, it pitches to that as well. The Glorious Anthem effect is kind of ancillary, but the Maro effect is nice because it doubles your Ravager effects in the deck, meaning that it can capitalize on short-term disruption like Wasteland. If you’re trying this deck out, the blue card-draw artifact is also worth looking at in the Thoughtcast spot. A sample game might happen like:

Turn 1: Ancient Tomb, Chalice of the Void for 1, Ornithopter
Turn 2: Seat of the Synod, Master of Etherium, Frogmite
Turn 3: Cranial Plating, equip on Ornithopter, swing for 6 with Master, 3 with Frogmite and 7 with Ornithopter
Turn 4: Profit.

As long as we’re looking at aggro strategies, it’s worth looking at Zoo again, especially in light of this previewed card:

Wild Nacatl
Creature – Cat Warrior
Wild Nacatl gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Plains.
Wild Nacatl gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Mountain.

This is an effortless 3/3 for one mana in Legacy, thanks to our enviable fetch/dual manabases. Can we slide it alongside Dark Confidant, Kird Ape, Tarmogoyf and friends and see if something can come together? Domain Zoo was a powerful contender in pre-rotation Extended. Tribal Flames gives it a lot of reach and cards like Vindicate and Lightning Helix can give unlikely but helpful solutions to combo decks. It’s worth looking at Zoo again, especially with goodies like Rancor to play with. The deck isn’t mana-greedy in the way that Goblins is (though Magus of the Moon is a big punisher) so you aren’t as likely to lose to mana screw or getting Aether Vial countered. It can create a very fast clock with little effort, as each creature in the deck is good enough to require an answer from the opponent quickly. Can it kill faster than an opponent can set up Academy Ruins and Engineered Explosives? Intrepid deck designers should look at this design archetype again, since Wild Nacatl allows us to replace cards like Savannah Lions and Isamaru, Hound of Konda with more reliable and resilient options.

Shards gives us plenty of material to discuss, but I don’t want to scoop other writers or make (any more) foolish predictions about what will be playable, so let’s switch gears a little…

A Brief Message From The Future

Four months from now, you’ll be seeing Raven’s Crime a lot more than you want to. It’s an absolute blowout in control matchups and highlights the need for easy, accessible graveyard control. We know what the card does, but what does it really do? In a match where attrition matters, especially with hand sizes, it makes every land you draw take out their worst card in hand. It forces an opponent to hold lands in their hand instead of playing them, it limits their ability to answer your spells and the perverse bizarro-landcycling costs just one mana. Raven’s Crime easily goes into any deck that cares about attrition or the lategame and is best with Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds making the trades harsher. All this leads us to…

Landstill, still

We’ve seen control become a dominant strategy in Legacy awhile ago; while you’re probably as sick of the X-Still lists as I am, it has been putting up results and I’m excited to show you the following list. It was created by my Meandeck teammate Steve O'Connell (aka Zherbus) and has been honed over several successful tournament results. Here’s one recent iteration:

2 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
4 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
3 Tundra
2 Island
1 Swamp
4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Mutavault
2 Wasteland
1 Academy Ruins

4 Force of Will
3 Stifle
4 Counterspell

4 Tarmogoyf

3 Pernicious Deed
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Swords to Plowshares

4 Standstill
4 Brainstorm
1 Life from the Loam
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Intuition

I like this over most other landstill lists because it actually seals the deal with six manlands and Tarmogoyfs. The objective isn’t some crippling lockout, it’s just playing better cards than the opponent and using efficient answers to get a quick win. I’m interested in Ancestral Visions in the Standstill spot, since this deck wants to be tapping out every turn for stellar spells. I wasn’t convinced about Mutavaults and all the other colorless sources of mana, but cutting back on Wastelands helps out there a little.

I’m especially hot on the diversification in lategame card engines. We’ve got Crucible, Loam and Academy Ruins to set up recursion if the game comes to that, along with Intuition to track them down. Remember Raven’s Crime? Intuition becomes a gamewinning spell in a control match when you pull up the Crime off the board. Dave Williams (yes, THAT Dave Williams) took our list to a strong finish recently in an Italian Legacy event and had this to say about running the discard spell on the board: “The Raven’s Crime was insane versus the Blue decks. I played 2 or 3 I think and Intuitioned for it and it was game. It allowed me to win fast with the Goyfs so I didn’t draw due to time.” Dave makes a great point about in-game procedure and winning within time limits, with draws being the longstanding gripe about control matches.

The deck is open to adjustments; Steve has had success in more aggro-oriented metagames with cutting the Intuition engine and replacing them with Innocent Blood. The critical mass of Lackey-killers helps the pilot live until they can set up a stabilizing Pernicious Deed. As always, the list is malleable. As far as sideboarding goes, it starts with some quantities of Tormod’s Crypt and Krosan Grip and goes from there.

Steve reports that it has problems with Eva Green (the Suicide Black deck with Tarmogoyf), though Disrupt or Divert are strong options if this deck is represented in your field. Luckily, you can devote a lot of space on your board to specific problems because you’ve got great general-purpose answers already in the maindeck. Dave Williams said that he’d like at least three Tormod’s Crypts because Dredge can be a problem as well.

I’m not sure what else will be played in Shards, but we’ll see solidly fun decks with cards like Tezzeret and his Planeswalker friends. It’s a set that’s guaranteed to shake Legacy out of its doldrums, and I’m really looking forward to it. If you can make something out of Wild Nacatl or AfFOWnity, post it in the forums, email me or better yet, win an event with it!

Until next time…

Doug Linn