Unlocking Legacy – European Developments II

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What’s going on over the pond? Doug takes a look at several large-attendance Legacy events in Europe and beyond, highlighting new decks like Doran Aggro and interesting twists on old ones like Faerie Stompy. Join him as he scours results for tech and discusses its adaptability in the American metagame. Then, pull it all together with metagame analysis that spans continents!

It’s been almost a year since we looked at European Legacy last, and they’ve been busy. Not only in outcompeting our dollar savagely with the Euro, but also making audacious tweaks to decks seen Stateside as well. While I don’t have any big breakouts like AfFOWnity to report this time around, there’s still an amazing amount of tech out there for people who go hunting. If you’re a serious Legacy player, you’d do well to check out germagic.de and morphling.de for tournament results. As a Yankee, it pains me to say it, but the Europeans play just as much Legacy but with far higher numbers of people. The result is a steady stream of high-caliber tournaments to feed us pure, distilled tech.

Something Old

In the category of “hey, they thought of that too!” lies the following list from Ancient Memory Convention #30 (okay, it’s from Japan, so not every list is European…)

Okay, it looks like a normal R/W Goblins list. We’ve got Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, Orim’s Chant for those combo matches and… hey, what’s Mirror Entity doing there?!? Remember that Changelings are all creature types! I searched Gatherer several weeks ago for Changeling cards to pack into Goblins, but glazed over Mirror Entity. I’m glad that Ogawa did not! He placed 5th out of 52 competitors, and I’d like to hope that the Entity came up at least once. I can see it as dangerous in the mirror match (and I will be avoiding mirror puns along the way, kthx) as it makes your team a whole hell of a lot bigger. I’d be concerned about making it stick against Goblins, though. They certainly have a lot of burn to toss at it.

Where this innovation really shines is against decks packing the Jolly Green Giant. Mirror Entity forces Tarmogoyf into a tight spot; sure, it’ll probably still eat whatever it blocks, but everything else getting through is an absolute pounding. Many decks are packing Tarmogoyf successfully against Goblins because players know that they can very likely grind down the Goblin team with Tarmistake while managing things like Ringleader with counters. The increments of damage that sneak through aren’t a big problem, as they’ll stabilize soon enough. Mirror Entity changes the calculations very strongly. If one factors in a reasonable Goblins start, the Entity can make Goblins dangerously lethal very quickly. Those two or three red guys getting through might all the sudden be 4/4s or better, which can put away most opponents.

The presence of Mirror Entity in a Goblins deck also reduces the effective power of Pyroclasm, Infest and their friends. It increases the potential of Goblin Matron and late-drawn Lackeys and Mogg Fanatics, turning them into powerhouses as well. It’s a scary card coming out of the deck, and if it’s widely adopted, we may see Wrath of God and Damnation rising, as more ways to control the critical mass become necessary. Mirror Entity is also quite easy to splash in a Goblins deck. We already have Aether Vial and Goblin Lackey to cheat it into play, and the dual land/fetchland combination means that just one or two Plateaus are needed to support the color requirements. That leaves spaces for other fun colors like Green for Krosan Grip or Black for Thoughtseize.

Another twist on a classic is Rasmus Sogaard’s take on Threshold. His deck took 5th place in an incredible 96-person tournament in Denmark. Events that grand are rare in the States, so poring over results like these is even more essential. Without further ado:

Rasmus played U/G Threshold, made popular by the GenCon Legacy event this past summer. I am tickled by the inclusion of Strategic Planning. It’s an amazing card and far better than Predict in Threshold decks that don’t also run Counterspell (as instants become more valuable). It’s a selective Mental Note for only a mana more. Availability of Strategic Planning might limit widespread adoption, but it’s worth testing and acquiring if you’re interested in U/G Threshold. I was also enamored with Mind Harness. Go ahead, check out what it does! It’s quasi-removal for a deck usually light on it, and it blows open Tarmogoyf staredowns. Lighter on the mana than Threads of Disloyalty, at least upfront, it’s a smooth fit for a Threshold deck. Also, note that Rasmus eschews the common Counterbalance-laden sideboard in favor of a more general utility board, with enough Enchantment removal to handle Counterbalance in the mirror and near-mirror.

Something New

Also from the Ancient Memory event is a fascinating Phyrexian Dreadnought deck. You’re probably aware by now that the errata changed on the card to allow things like Stifle to keep the baddie in play. The first place deck, a U/B/w StifleNaught deck from Fujii Hidekazu, makes excellent use of another rules change to be truly techy.

This list is packed with ways to cheat the Dreadnought’s drawback. Playing one copy and then activating Aether Vial to put another into play and sacrificing one to the other is a way to do it. There’s also that standby, Stifle, to get it out. I did a double take on Vision Charm, though. You might remember that Phasing was recently changed so that it did not engage comes-into-play abilities. Fujii makes liberal use of this, as he can use the Charms to phase out his Dreadnoughts and evade the comes-into-play sacrifice. When I explained the interaction to fellow writer Kevin Binswanger, he could only reply with “Waitwaitwait. OMG THAT’S SO SEXY”, which I think is appropriate. My greatest enjoyment in Legacy is seeing old cards have new uses.

One can also use the Charm to protect Dreadnoughts by phasing them out in response to Swords To Plowshares or other removal. There are also somewhat rarer instances when it can be used to turn all of High Tide’s lands into Plains for a turn (the most humiliating basic land type) or similarly, act as Orim’s Chant against monoblue control decks. It also spoils Lim-Dul’s Vault and Mystical Tutor, two more, mostly ornamental, uses of the card.

An archetype without a proper name, Not-Quite-Grow (a.k.a. NQG), Baseruption and general Good-Stuff decks make use of the critical mass of cantrips and efficient creatures like Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf. One of the newest flavors is brought to us by Christian Wilczek, from an Iserlohn Legacy event that drew an amazing 75 participants.

In my article last year, I discussed how Spell Snare was undervalued and will pick up steam. You didn’t have to be a genius (God knows I’m not) to recognize it as a rising star. Legacy’s narrow mana requirements make Spell Snare a hard counter more often than not. Christian’s deck adopts Snare, as well as several other card that warrant further consideration. The two maindecked Hoofprints of the Stag are tempting. Combine one with a draw step and a Brainstorm and enjoy your Elemental. They’re best as an early game card, but only mature later. Their value increases because Enchantments are difficult to remove in the format, and this one recharges the board after spells like Damnation hit. That the token has flying can help against ground stalls.

I’m not sold on the card, but it’s an interesting addition. Christian’s deck certainly has enough draw with Ponder and Sensei’s Divining Top to cheat more counters onto the Hoofprints if it needed to. I think you need two activations of the card in a game to make it worthwhile. That said, Legacy seems to be slowing down, so this could be just the thing to seal the deal in the deck.

The NQG list also packs a nice amount of creature thievery on the sideboard. Shackles, Threads, and Sower of Temptation all dodge Counterbalance and can swing the game around in those matchups. However, Christian’s sideboard looks packed with anti-mirror and Threshold cards, while lacking in suitable cards to remove from the maindeck. Dazes can come out on the draw, and Extirpates can probably come out as well, but how much space can realistically be made? Times like this lead to unfortunate events where you have too many good cards to bring in and not enough to remove.

I like Sower of Temptation a lot against decks that are going to be taking out their removal spells. I don’t see playing it against Goblins, and I wonder whether it sits around on the board very long against decks like Threshold that certainly will not be removing their Swords to Plowshares and Ghastly Demises against another deck running creatures. Time and testing shall tell.

Something Borrowed

Doran, The Siege Tower has been tearing up Standard events lately. A 5/5 for three mana is a great deal, and with the generous manabases of Legacy, it’s sure to have a home here as well. Take a look at Narita Chisato’s 3rd place deck from the Ancient Memory Convention, titled “Tarmofolk”:

There have been a few attempts at porting Gnarls Barkley to Legacy, many using Shield Sphere or Ornithopter for free and huge beats. This deck doesn’t commit to that theme as much, instead opting for on-theme Treefolk Harbinger to smooth mana and bring Daddy Doran out to play. A 0/3 is boring, but knowing that it’ll quickly turn into a much more significant beast is compelling. With Doran out, drawn Harbingers can chain into each other, providing another 3/3 every turn. They can also pull Nameless Inversion out for removal; notice that Changelings are being adopted bit by bit in Legacy! We’ll have to watch Lorwyn Block for more potential additions to existing tribal themes. I’m pleased that this deck runs a very light, but seemingly very effective Doran package, without falling into the trap of a weak theme deck. Nicely designed, Narita!

Something Blue

Another twist on a classic is Michael Steffen’s Faerie Stompy list from the Iserlohn event. Michael placed 3rd with the following deck:

It’s a mostly standard Faerie Stompy list, but if you aren’t current on the archetype, you might find Mulldrifters out of place. They’re becoming common in the list, as they’ll frequently draw the same number of cards as their ancestor, Thirst For Knowledge. Thanks to the preponderance of artifact mana as well as Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, it’s also very possible to hardcast it. I’m keen on this innovation, not only because it’s a quick adoption of Lorwyn cards. Mulldrifter fits into the card drawing scheme that the deck needs, especially because its Chalice of the Void plan cuts off Brainstorms for smoothing draws. It’s best to look at it as a Council of the Soratami with a kicker that puts a guy into play. Also, make note of the maindecked Threads of Disloyalty; we’ll be seeing that trend coming up over and over.

General International Trends

Tarmogoyf has, unshockingly, been widely adopted all across the Magic world. That said, there are other pocket metagames and trends that serve to differentiate International Legacy from American Legacy. I found it interesting that the Italians often have Burn decks in their top 8s. In America, we often see this as a symptom of a bad metagame, since things like Burn certainly shouldn’t be beating combo, right? However, it does end up being a fourth-turn kill deck and at least everything in the deck is synergistic to the gameplan. It’s a deck worth setting aside prejudices against and re-evaluating.

Landstill is either heavily played or not present at all in T8op s. It’s popular in Germany and Spain, with a few showings in France. It is conspicuously absent in the Russian Championships and the Swiss don’t seem to play it much either. Aluren comes up here and there, these days only with Imperial Recruiter amping the combination. Goblins is also mostly unseen, now that Threshold-style decks are able to handle it. I also get the feeling that it’s a boring deck to play these days, which also likely limits the number of players on it at an event. There are some interesting takes on classics, like this White Weenie deck that only operates in the loosest sense of the deck name. It operates much like the U/W Angel Stompy/Trinket Mage deck I profiled a while back, making use of Cataclysm. Also, the Mangara of Corondor/Karakas interaction is not to be missed.

This and That

There are simply too many results to profile all the decks that I fancied, so go check them out for yourself. I’m interested to see how far the adoption of Lorwyn cards goes. I’m also keeping my eyes on the newest Threshold lists coming from big events.

The DCI passed on banning or unbanning anything in Legacy; I take the former to be a sign of a healthy and entertaining format. While we could have seen things like Land Tax come out to play, I’m not complaining. Overall, I think their custodianship of the format is sufficient. They also left things how they were in Vintage, much to the chagrin of players who wanted to see Merchant Scroll and Gush go away. If schlubs like me can take those cards and win SCG P9 events with them, they must be good.

Worlds in New York promises to shake things up in Legacy; by the time you read this, events will be over and information will trickle into the online community. What an auspicious way to start the new year!

Doug Linn
Hi-Val on the interwebs
Thanks to themanadrain.com, germagic.de and morphling.de for all the good things they do