Unlocking Legacy – Through A Blender

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Monday, June 23rd – Legacy has the unique position of supporting decks that combine multiple strategies in the same build. Doug looks at three such decks, from subtle blendings to outright absurd combinations. See what happens when you combine Life from the Loam with Dark Confidant, Imperial Recruiter with Grindstone, and… every single combo in the format in one deck. Do these decks ultimately succeed with hybrid vigor or fall apart from an incoherent strategy? Find out inside!

I love blends. I’m eating a coconut and chocolate cookie right now and thinking of clever references to blends in everyday life. Blended decks have become increasingly popular in Legacy recently and we’ll take a look at them. I think of a blended deck as combining a few strategies together to give varied angles of attack, while hopefully not sacrificing too much consistency on either plan. The first two decks we’ll look at handle this problem well, and the last one is a real treat for anyone fixated on being clever (myself included).

Legacy is ripe for combining strategies. This is because of the deep cardpool, relatively easy pace of the format, and the idiot-proof manabases created with dual lands and fetchlands. While I’d dismiss combined strategies in just about any other format, Legacy decks can benefit from them. In Vintage, for example, one needs tremendous consistency in draws. The format is also a lot narrower in terms of played decks, lessening the need for really varied strategies. In Legacy, you’ll still play eight different decks in eight rounds, so having a way to beat all of them is crucial. Some decks can hide behind Solitary Confinement, others will mob you up with Goblins or make ten spells and storm you out. Most critical, to me is that a lot of the lower-tier decks have really powerful but narrow cards that can lock out some decks completely. Why pack answers to Moat when you can just win in the face of it? That is, I think, the strongest reason to play a deck with several routes to victory.

The first deck we’ll look at is a Life from the Loam deck, unlike a lot of the Loam decks out there:

This deck took 5th place in a Speyer tournament with 31 players recently. I couldn’t quite get my head around what it actually did. It looks like it starts off as a regular Loam deck and then jumps into 43 Lands midway down the decklist! I’ve been hot on Lands for a long time, as the strategy beats so much that can’t handle the recursive draw engine. I like the inclusion of Dark Confidant and Eternal Witness to give the deck a lot of drawing power against decks packing Blue. The deck can potentially just attack in for the win; the Profane Command combined with Eternal Witnesses will win a long game. I’m also really big on Maze of Ith, because of the dearth of solutions to it in the format. Dropping two on the table presents a significant problem for a lot of decks bouncing around.

The deck wins with manland and small creature beatings. I’d like to see Nantuko Monastery or Barbarian Ring to speed things up, but they might not be needed. Something to keep in mind is that this takes things to the long end game to win. An example is the slow but inexorable weardown of Tabernacle with Wastelands and Ghost Quarters eating land. If you can stay ahead on life against someone with creatures, this will eventually form a hard lock. Glacial Chasm also keeps the heat off relatively painlessly; simply refuse to pay the upkeep, then bring it back with Life from the Loam.

If you’re unfamiliar with Loam decks, they essentially exploit Life from the Loam and cycling lands to create a fast draw engine. In this case, pulling back a Tranquil Thicket lets you dredge again and again, and getting two back off of a casting of Loam means you’re seeing serious cards. The deck can also mill the entire library into the graveyard and still keep kicking, thanks to Volrath’s Stronghold and Academy Ruins. I’m sure some Grindstone players are going to walk right into that one, essentially giving the Loam player free reign on whatever they want to draw for the next few turns. If you’re interested in playing this deck, try to dredge with impunity to get more control over your draws.

The strategy hits a few walls; the two biggest problems in my mind are storm combo and Counterbalance. For the former, you cannot really interact with the opponent in ways that actually concern them, meaning that you’ll get goldfished out on turn 5 or earlier with nothing to say about it. Counterbalance on two will simply ruin your day, shutting down the deck’s drawing engine. Aside from the Engineered Explosives, there’s no way to handle it. Graveyard hate will also slow down the deck, but for some reason there isn’t a lot of that maindecked (or even sideboarded) in Legacy.

I’m curious about the Trinket Mage package in the sideboard. I don’t see casting the Wizard for a Pithing Needle to be an efficient play, but the deck probably has time to set those things up. I’m unsure of how I’d sideboard, but Burning Wish is a potential if I were fearing Extirpate or such on my Life from the Loam.

In my Shadowmoor article, I audaciously claimed that Grindstone decks with 10 Blasts wouldn’t do anything. I was wrong. They’ve been popping up all over the place and in many forms. Grindstones are climbing to scarily high prices, and if you have them already and are tired of having to spend your money on things like new Rolls Royces, panda steaks and gold toothbrushes, invest in this deck:

Yeah, it packs four Imperial Recruiters on top of everything else to find the combo and go nuts. While I’m unsure of whether this is just a flash-in-the-pan deck type or something to stay, it certainly packs a bit of heat. With a full twelve Blasts, it plays the Vindicate game well. Recruiter not only grabs Painter’s Servant, but also Jaya Ballard for some toasty board control. The deck looks a lot like Dragon Stompy due to the manabase. In fact, part of me is wondering whether you need 3 Jayas; they seem fragile to me and I’d be inclined to try something like Arc Slogger in their place. While Big Slawgs isn’t strategy-coherent, he’s still a huge beater and a nice way to win when Grinding and Vindicating isn’t going to get there. If I were doing that, I’d still keep a Jaya in to Recruit up. Come on, it’s Jaya Ballard!

The lack of interaction in the deck is the only thing that really puts me off. This is going to beat control decks for all of time, but how does it realistically handle something like Dredge? Your only game in that case is to try to Grind them out before they re-enact a John Romero movie on you. I suspect that the strategy is similar for combo decks. The other problem would be getting the Painter’s Servant to stick. Once you do, those Blasts in your hand become cheap counterspells, but until then, they’re dogs against most decks in the format. That said, I’m happy to be wrong about the deck being bad; it looks quite fun to play, especially if you can get Miss Jaya doing her thing.

The final deck excites me to no end. Take some time to really look at this deck:

(Note: it’s 58 cards, and I have no clue what the missing two cards may be.)

LOL wut. So you want to play a Salvagers deck? We can make that happen. Oh, you want Tarmogoyfs? I hear those are good. I think one of the missing cards is Academy Rector, which enables Moat. Do you think we can cram the Grindstone combo into there? Hey, why not. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

This deck came from a 38-player tournament in Barcelona, where it took 3rd. Deck, I love everything about you. I love your random Sunlance. I love the wackiness of all the combos. I obviously love your Survival of the Fittest engine. This seems like a deck that plays a different game in every match, doing some sort of Drunken Master technique of changing style halfway through. If nothing else, it’s a great example of all the stuff you can actually accomplish in Legacy, thanks to the manabases and tutoring power. For the first time in my writing career, I’m unable to accurately give a name to a deck. I’m not sure what you’d call this and maintain a good description of what it does; though I’m loathe to giving decks unrelated names, the best I can come up for this one is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Oh, and Academy Ruins? That’s a neat trick too. I doubt there’s any cohesive strategy for actually abusing it, but hey, let’s put it in anyway. My favorite bit about this is that nobody would take this seriously if it hadn’t already put up good results. I’m not sure if people will take it seriously even now. It reminds me of the Vintage deck Burning Slaver, a deck built by my teammate Brian Demars. The deck seems scattered across several strategies, like Crucible of Worlds/Strip Mine, Goblin Welder/Mindslaver, Tinker/anything you freakin’ want, and Burning Wish on top of that to pull bombs like Rolling Earthquake from the sideboard. Looking at the deck, you’d think it was a scattered mess. It actually ends up being a great deck for skilled players, as the fluidity of the deck allows you to change pace in midstream and play a deck that isn’t easily answerable by the opponent. I can see this deck doing the same; how do you actually sideboard against this? If you fight the Survival part, you still have three or four other combos to handle or you’ll still die. Pithing Needle and Krosan Grip seem like the best answers; other than that, you end up fighting one part of the deck’s strategy while having to ignore another part of it.

Now, all it needs is a Tarpan.

Happy blending!

Doug Linn
Thanks to germagic.de for decklists