The graveyard is a very powerful resource in Legacy. Many different decks make use of it, for very different purposes. Threshold uses it to fuel Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf. Eva Green cheats Tombstalker into play by delving its graveyard. The Epic Storm (TES) and Fetchland Tendrils use it to cast Ill-Gotten Gains to build storm for a lethal Tendrils of Agony. Vial Goblins brings back goblins with Wort, Boggart Auntie. Aggro Loam fuels large creatures like Countryside Crusher and Terravore by putting lands into its graveyard. There are many other examples, but there is one deck in Legacy that relies almost entirely on its graveyard to win the match…
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 4 Ichorid
- 1 Cephalid Sage
- 1 Flame-Kin Zealot
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 2 Golgari Thug
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Narcomoeba
Ichorid’s plan is straightforward. Find a way to discard a dredge card. Then dredge as much as possible, and in the process put Narcomeobas and Ichorids in to play. Sacrifice these same creatures to play Cabal Therapy or Dredge Return to generate Bridge from Below tokens, and animate Cephalid Sage to continue dredging or Flame-Kin Zealot to win the game with a lethal attack. Any combination of these creatures can usually kill an opponent within the first few turns of a game.
Ichorid is a unique deck in Legacy because it plays like no other. For the most part, it cares about how many cards are in its graveyard and not how many are in its hand. In some sense, its graveyard is its hand, as most of what it does happens from there. It plays Lion’s Eye Diamond primarily because LED is a zero-mana card that allows the pilot to discard their hand and begin dredging their library. The additional benefit – being able to activate Cephalid Coliseum or flashback Deep Analysis – just makes the card even more powerful in this deck.
This quality of playing cards almost exclusively from its graveyard makes Ichorid difficult to control. Once Ichorid is able to discard a dredge card, it will need to cast few, if any, spells to actually win the game. There are very few cards that can disrupt its plan, outside of specific graveyard hate. There are some decks that can race it, and this can be a strong strategy, as Ichorid has very few ways to disrupt an opponent outside of Cabal Therapy.
Its ability to ignore most decks and to win almost as fast as other combo decks makes it a force that is just starting to be felt in Legacy. It is also more resilient than it may seem, as it has the ability to plow through hate cards, or sometimes even race them by winning before they matter. Its recent success in Legacy tournaments is undeniable, and it may well be on its way to becoming one of the top decks of Legacy.
Top 8 Review
A review of recent tournaments will provide a background for understanding Ichorid’s place in the current tournament environment. The following is a listing of Legacy tournaments that took place from January-May 2008*:
January 5: Winter Wonderland, Syracuse, NY (1 Ichorid, 2 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
January 5: MC, Paris, France (1 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
January 13: Dragonstorm, Udine, Italy (3 Goblins)
January 19: Off The Wall Games, Hadley, MA (1 Ichorid, 2 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
January 20: Hassloch Gastronomy, Germany (1 Threshold, 2 Landstill)
January 20: January Iserlohn, Iserlohn, Germany (1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
January 20: The Shivan Identiy, Cremona, Italy (2 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
January 26: 3rd Annual Running GAGG, Geneseo, NY (2 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
January 27: Ancient Memory 32, Akihabara, Japan (1 Ichorid, 1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
Ichorid — 3
Threshold — 10
Goblins — 9
Landstill — 5
February 9: Barcelona, Barcelona Spain (2 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
February 10: Dragon’s League, Measer, Italy (1 Threshold, 2 Goblins)
February 17: Hassloch Gastronomy, Germany (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 2 Goblins)
February 17: February Iserlohn, Iserlohn, Germany (2 Ichorid, 2 Landstill)
February 24: Torneo de los Jamones, Spain (1 Goblins)
February 24: Ancient Memory 33, Akihabara, Japan (1 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
Ichorid — 3
Threshold — 5
Goblins — 6
Landstill – 3
March 2: March Iserlohn, Iserlohn, Germany (1 Ichorid, 2 Goblins)
March 8: Off The Wall Games, Hadley, MA (1 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
March 9: Bondeno, Italy (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
March 15: Lliga Catalana de Legacy, Italy (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
March 16: Hassloch, Germany (1 Goblins)
March 19: Lliga Catalana de Legacy 2nd, Breda, Spain (2 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
March 19: Tarmodual, Rivas (Madrid), Spain (1 Landstill)
March 22: Black Lotus Shop, Barcelona, Spain (2 Ichorid)
March 29: Magic Corporation Legacy, France (2 Ichorid)
March 29: NoVA Draft Take 2, Herndon, VA (1 Ichorid, 2 Threshold)
March 30: Dragon’s League, Padova, Italy (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
March 30: San Giorgio (FE), Italy (2 Threshold, 3 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
Ichorid — 11
Threshold — 9
Goblins — 7
Landstill – 6
April 5: Black Lotus Shop, Barcelona, Spain (1 Threshold, 2 Landstill)
April 6: 4x Tarmogoyf Challenge, Leini (Turin), Italy (2 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Goblins, 2 Landstill)
April 20: Hassloch, Germany
April 27: Ancient Memory 35, Akihabara, Japan (2 Threshold)
April 27: Earthquake, Finale Emilia, Italy (1 Ichorid, 1 Goblins, 2 Landstill)
Ichorid — 3
Threshold — 4
Goblins — 2
Landstill – 6
May 1: 12 Torneo La Cabala, Spain (1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
May 3: Black Lotus Shop, Barcelona, Spain (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
May 4: NadiaSKless, Garbagnate (Milan), Italy (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
May 10: Magic Corporation, Paris, France (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
May 11: May Iserlohn, Iserlohn, Germany (2 Threshold, 1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
May 17: Draco et Martellus, Spain (1 Threshold)
May 17: Pawtucket, RI (1 Goblins)
May 18: Bondeno, Italy (1 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
May 18: Batalla por las Dual (Duel for Duals) Valencia, Spain (1 Threshold, 1 Landstill)
May 24: Off The Wall Games, Hadley MA (1 Ichorid, 1 Threshold, 1 Goblins)
May 25: Ancient Memory 36, Akihabara, Japan (1 Goblins)
May 25: Lliga Catalana de Legacy 3rd, Badalona, Spain (1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
May 31: Monster Den Minneapolis, MN (1 Goblins, 1 Landstill)
Ichorid — 4
Threshold — 9
Goblins — 9
Landstill – 8
January — May
Ichorid — 24 or 6.66%
Threshold — 37 or 10.27%
Goblins — 33 or 9.16%
Landstill — 28 or 7.77%
*Complete information about these tournaments can be found here.
There are 45 tournaments in this data set, with a total of 360 slots (45*8 = 360). Dividing the placements of each deck by 360 yields the percentage that deck represents of the Top 8s.
While Ichorid’s presence in Top 8 isn’t nearly as numerous as Threshold, Goblins, or Landstill, it is surprisingly strong. It is very close to that of Landstill, and not too far behind Threshold and Goblins. An in-depth examination of both its matchups against top Legacy decks and its strategy against hate cards will illuminate understanding of this very special deck.
Threshold has very few tools to prevent Ichorid from dredging its library. It has to try and Force of Will Ichorid’s discard outlet (Daze can also work on the play). If the Ichorid has more than one outlet, this is almost impossible to accomplish. Some versions of Threshold play Thoughtseize, and if the Threshold player is on the play it can sometimes Thoughtseize the Ichorid player’s only discard outlet. But these situations require the Threshold player to always have these cards in the opening hand, as the Ichorid player will usually not keep a hand without a way to discard a dredge card.
The other danger is that an Ichorid player seeing a Blue-producing land on the draw may decide to draw and discard a dredge card, thus avoiding the possibility of having its discard outlet answered by Force of Will. Without any specific graveyard hate in the maindeck, Threshold’s final option is to race Ichorid. This rarely works, as even a turn 2 Tarmogoyf at 6/7 can rarely race a turn 3 or 4 win by the Ichorid player. This matchup is extremely difficult for the Threshold player, and it has to rely on it having enough sideboard cards to really turn the matchup around.
Landstill also has to largely rely on Force of Will to prevent Ichorid from dredging its library. The difference between this and the Threshold matchup is that Landstill usually has a large amount of creature removal that can stall an Ichorid player. The use of Swords to Plowshares, Pernicious Deed, Engineered Explosives, Wrath of God, and other removal spells can be important in slowing down the Ichorid player’s assault.
Despite Landstill’s access to Force of Will and creature removal, this matchup is exceedingly difficult for the Landstill player. Ichorids can come back each turn to deal lethal damage, even if the tokens have been answered by creature removal. The Ichorid player also has access to Cabal Therapy, which can force the discard of creature removal spells like Deed before the Landstill player even has a chance to play them.
As a last resort, Landstill can try to race Ichorid, but it is even worse than Threshold at this. It has fewer creatures to put pressure on an opponent early in the game. While some builds have Tarmogoyf, this is rarely enough to race Ichorid. Landstill, like Threshold, usually needs its sideboard to give it a real chance of winning a match against Ichorid.
Vial Goblins is generally more problematic for Ichorid than either Threshold or Landstill. The main reason for this is that Mogg Fanatic is very good disruption. Not only does it remove any Bridge from Belows that are in the graveyard, but it can also take down an Ichorid, Narcomeoba, or even Putrid Imp before an Ichorid player has a chance to fully utilize them. Mogg Fanatic by itself is not enough to beat Ichorid, as without pressure the Ichorid player could continue to put Ichorids and Narcomeobas in play and overwhelm the Goblin player, even if most of its Bridge from Belows have been removed.
If the Goblin player does not draw Mogg Fanatic, this can leave them completely overwhelmed by Ichorid’s creatures and tokens. Goblin Lackey can be of use here, especially on the play, where it can perhaps put a turn 2 Siege-Gang Commander into play, as that gives the Goblin player a sacrifice outlet similar to the effect that Mogg Fanatic has. The Goblin player needs some type of disruption to slow down the opponent, but it also needs enough pressure to prevent an Ichorid player from recovering. This matchup is close, but Ichorid still seems to be ahead, if only slightly.
The Epic Storm and Fetchland Tendrils
The Epic Storm (TES) and Fetchland Tendrils both present challenge to the Ichorid player. A glaring weakness that Ichorid has is that it has very few ways to prevent its opponent from doing anything it wants. This means that any deck that can win before Ichorid will be very difficult for it to handle. Generally, Ichorid only has Cabal Therapy to disrupt an opposing combo deck. Depending on the hand, these storm decks can go off as early as turn 1, and often by turn 2 or turn 3. This means that Ichorid must either try to win as soon as possible, or try to play and flashback as many Therapies as possible. Outside of either these two scenarios, the Ichorid player will be behind in these matchups.
Ichorid may seem too good to be true, and to some degree it is, at least in game 1. The problem with Ichorid is that its biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. Since the deck operates primarily from its graveyard, it can virtually ignore most cards that an opponent will play, since they rarely affect it. This becomes a weakness post-board, as many Legacy decks play cards in their sideboard that attack the graveyard. While Ichorid does not fold to every card that affects the graveyard, these cards can greatly damage its ability to win. The Ichorid sideboard is largely dedicated to answering these types of cards.
Tormod’s Crypt sees play against Ichorid as it removes the entire graveyard for zero mana. Most decks that do not play Black have very few options for attacking the graveyard. Tormod’s Crypt is often the choice for such decks. It also happens to the easiest card for Ichorid to deal with. Since it can only be used once, the Ichorid player can sometimes recover. This usually happens when a Putrid Imp is in play and the Ichorid player either has a dredge card in hand or is able to draw one from its library. Pithing Needle appears in many Ichorid sideboards to proactively answer Tormod’s Crypt and continue dredging without any fear of losing their graveyard. Both options allow Ichorid to cope with Tormod’s Crypt.
Leyline of the Void is much harder to deal with for Ichorid. Leyline does completely stop Ichorid from implementing its strategy. It must be answered before Ichorid can begin dredging. A common answer is Chain of Vapor, as it allows the bouncing of the Leyline at the end of turn and to dredge during the next turn. Since Leyline of the Void costs four mana when played “properly,” Ichorid can either win before the opposing player can replay Leyline, or if possible cast Cabal Therapy to force the discard.
Yixlid Jailer is another card that can shut down Ichorid’s game plan. While this card cannot usually come down before turn 2, it also means that it can be replayed (if it is bounced via Chain of Vapor) the very next turn. The ability to dredge during the first and possibly second turn of a game can at least allow the Ichorid player to start its strategy unlike Leyline of the Void. Yixlid Jailer is also vulnerable to an early Cabal Therapy. Some versions of Ichorid play other ways to deal with creatures, such as Darkblast, Contagion, or even Volcanic Spray.
Extirpate is not a particularly strong card against Ichorid. It does not stop Ichorid from dredging its library, and it only removes one specific card. Extirpate is often cast on either Bridge from Below or Ichorid, but the Ichorid player can usually rely on the card that has not been Extirpated to win the game anyway. Two Extirpates can beat Ichorid, but the problem is that one is often not enough. Extirpate is substantially weaker than some of the other Black cards available.
Most of the better graveyard hate cards are Black, but the new card Wheel of Sun and Moon might provide a possible alternative to Tormod’s Crypt for decks that play either Green or White. While Wheel of Sun and Moon doesn’t affect cards already in the graveyard, it can stop an Ichorid player from dredging its library any further. The problem with this card, especially since it will likely come down on turn 2, is that the Ichorid player can dredge some of its library in the graveyard by then. If the Ichorid player has not been able to dredge a substantial portion of its library, then this card can be very effective. Chain of Vapor can be especially useful here, as Ichorid can dredge before it comes into play, then bounce it at the end of turn, and then dredge more of its library on the following turn. Ray of Revelation can also work here, both by hardcasting it or dredging it in the graveyard before Wheel of Sun and Moon enters play.
Whether Ichorid becomes one of the best decks in Legacy, or is just a fad that soon fades, remains an open question. Its strengths as a deck are still compelling. It plays a strategy for which virtually no deck can prepare for in game 1. It has the tools to fight hate cards in games 2 and 3, and even win before they can matter. Its main weakness is that it has very few answers, especially when it needs them against faster decks. Despite its weaknesses, Ichorid remains a strong choice, and it deserves serious consideration by every Legacy player.
Until next time…