Unlocking Legacy — Yet Another Junk Deck

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In this article, Doug looks at understanding in a post-Tarmogoyf metagame and suggests a deck featuring old favorites as a solution to the Jolly Green Giant. Can Pernicious Deed hang in Legacy or is it too slow? Are there times when selective discard is superior to random discard? As a bonus, see what uncommons are essential for a die-hard Legacy player’s collection!

We are coming up on a very exciting time in Legacy. The summer doldrums of August are departing, and as you read this, the Legacy World Championships are happening at GenCon in Indianapolis. While I think it’s a little dubious to crown someone the world champion based on one tournament that takes place in Indiana, I’ll take what I can get. I deign to make predictions for the event because at this point, you can just click over to The Mothership and read the tournament progress there.

GenCon will shape Legacy’s played decks for the rest of the year. It’s the highest profile event, Grand Prix tournaments excepted. Previous breakout decks from the tournament include Ill-Gotten Gains Combo, U/G Madness, and Four-Color Landstill. We’ll see the newest takes on Threshold and Goblins too.

Speaking of Threshold, let’s talk about Tarmogoyf until we get sick in the throat.

“It turns out that reanimating huge guys is straight up worse than just playing Tarmogoyf.”
Jacob Orlove

“I made Aggro-Loam in Extended and I put Tarmogoyf in it. Then I made Madness with Tarmogoyf, and then I fit it in Tog. Then I made Tarmogoyf Affinity, and then I put it in TEPS.”
Tom Lapille

My team is internally debating whether Tarmogoyf is the best creature printed, or only second-best compared to Psychatog. Time will tell who is correct. In any case, it’s best to prepare to play with and against this guy all the time, especially in Legacy. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. We might see it in an Oath-style deck or as a finisher in traditionally-creatureless Landstill.

Luckily, there are plenty of solutions to the Lhurgoyf. It doesn’t have any special protections and it doesn’t kill in one or two turns, so there are several options available. The only thing better than killing the creature is stealing it for nefarious purposes. It’s a good idea to pick up Threads of Disloyalty while they’re still cheap. Once Extended season picks up again, Threads are going to be far more expensive. They’re useful in Legacy to combat the now-ubiquitous Dark Confidant and Meddling Mage decks running the Jolly Green Giant. They’re currently trading for a buck or two, so get in on them on the ground floor.

The other solution, one that my teammate Matthieu Durand cooked up, is Spectral Lynx. Protection from Green might as well read Protection from Threshold. Often called the White River Boa, Lynx will be going toe-to-toe with basically every creature in the format and coming out on top. Granted, it dies to Swords to Plowshares, but that’s about the only thing around right now that kills it. When Matt mentioned it to me, I started cooking up a Junk deck in my mind. If you weren’t playing at the time, PT Junk was a deck in the 2001-2002 Extended Season. It was a G/B/W aggro/disruption deck with Pernicious Deed, Duress, Swords to Plowshares and other goodies. It had a lot of game versus the field, being able to beat combo decks like Trix and aggro like RDW. Towards the end of the season, it emerged as one of the best decks. This was the rough list that I came up with for Legacy:

4 Spectral Lynx
4 River Boa
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Dark Confidant

4 Duress
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Gerrard’s Verdict
4 Vindicate
4 Pernicious Deed

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3 Savannah
3 Bayou
4 Wasteland
3 Windswept Heath
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Plains
1 Forest
1 Swamp

I have to stress that this is a very unrefined list. For example, I’m not too sure about the manabase. It could use Chrome Mox, Tithe, Treetop Village, or Lotus Petal, but I’m not sure exactly which at this point. I’m quite sure that the creature base is solid. The deck tested swimmingly against Threshold (doesn’t everything though?) and reasonably well against Three-Color Landstill. Unfortunately, this is a relatively recent idea so I haven’t had a lot of time to put it through the ringer.

That said, I was very happy with how it played out. Against many decks, it makes the best sense to run out one or two creatures and make them deal with that and Pernicious Deed. Eight of your creatures regenerate through the Deed, so it can be patently unfair at times. The Verdicts, Vindicates and Wastelands can put the screw on people as well. I had other lists of the deck that ran less Vindicate and more Umezawa’s Jitte, an especially fine card on River Boa.

It takes the strengths of the U/W/B Fish decks and gives it a backbone through Tarmogoyf, as well as more board control. It ditches Blue cards, but the only one I really miss is Force of Will, and then I only miss it against the topdecked Wrath of God. The deck probably loses to Goblins and Wastelands, but aside from that, it looks like it has game against a lot of random stuff, thanks to eight amazing gold removal spells and the most efficient creatures ever printed.

The sideboard would end up with sets of four cards to swap on for the sometimes-dead cards in the maindeck like Duress and Swords to Plowshares. I could easily see either Hymns or Verdicts on the board, depending on which you are running maindeck. Choke is another very strong play, and I suppose you’d need Engineered Plague as well. If you have space, Jittes look amazing. GodzillA brought my attention to Unearth, which is a ridiculous card if you can fit it in.

While throwing this deck together, I had to look at Gerrard’s Verdict versus Hymn to Tourach, which, yes, I know is in the format. Putting aside that Verdict is a little easier on the manabase, it brought me to an interesting bit of theory: is there a time when selected discard is better than random discard? Many decks in Legacy are binary; they’ll be aggro-control and have a hand with both kinds of cards. A random discard will possibly take out all control or all aggro cards, but it’ll likely hit a mix of both. A selective discard will probably make a player look at their hand, figure out the cards that support the weaker role and discard those, leaving them with a stronger batch for the stronger role.

This may be relevant because any time you introduce choice to a game, people are liable to make the wrong choice. We’ve all been on the nice side of completely wrong Fact or Fictions and Gifts Ungivens. Introducing choice through Gerrard’s Verdict could be similar. Consider this: you are playing U/G/R Threshold and you’re on the draw. You’ve played a Tropical Island and Serum Visions, scrying two lands to the bottom of your library. Your hand is Island, Brainstorm, Counterspell, Nimble Mongoose, Mental Note, Pithing Needle, Tarmogoyf. This hand contains aggro cards – the creatures and Mental Note, in this case. It also has more controlling and reactive cards like Counterspell and Pithing Needle. When hit with a Verdict, you’re likely to favor one strategy over the other. Against the Junk deck above, you might discard Counterspell and Pithing Needle, planning to outrace them. The opponent my play Pernicious Deed or Spectral Lynx down the line and punish your choice. You might get rid of Brainstorm and Mental Note and end up slowing down a lot and screw the pooch because of Wasteland. With Hymn, you’re not going though these choices so you might end up with a hand that, paradoxically, plays better against further disruption than you would having weathered a Verdict.

I’m also reminded of a quote from Gadiel Szleifer talking about block Gifts decks. He said that when you cast Gifts in block, it would reveal the entire game-state and the contents of your hand based on your choices. Verdict can also tell you what the opponent’s hand is like, and give you further information on how to play correctly. It can amount to a free Peek and if nothing else, give you a look at how they’re valuing the rest of their hand.

The truth is, I don’t know the answer to the situation here. I have a feeling that it’s highly dependent on what decks you’re hitting with the discard. Against Goblins, Verdict is going to get their two slowest cards and they’ll still slam you around with their creatures in hand. A combo deck might pitch a little chaff and still be able to combo out relatively quickly. Against other aggro-control however, Verdict might be a lot better because you force someone to pick and stick with a strategy that might be the wrong one. Essentially, the difference between selective discard and random discard is:

1. They might screw up

2. You’ll get more information

3. You can’t make a list with two items

If you’ve got the solution, post on the forums and we’ll figure it out.

Bonus: One Hundred Essential Uncommons for Legacy

The depth of the Legacy cardpool means that you can build a lot of really neat decks and pack a lot of sideboard tech. The problem comes when you audible two nights before the tournament and now you need a bunch of support cards for your deck. Rares can be borrowed from friends or bought at the event site, but you’ll still need commons and uncommons for the deck. It’s too late to order things online and you can’t depend on digging through the boxes at the event site for staples. Your friends might or might not have what you need. You’re now kicking yourself because you didn’t spend the dollar for a set of critical cards.

With that in mind, I present a list of uncommons to have on hand for Legacy. I will probably make a commons list later. It’s also important to note that this isn’t the most essential uncommons, because I’ve probably overlooked some important ones and I’m sure people will add to the list. I’ve also cheated on cards with variable rarities and counted them as uncommons, even if they were later printed as rares and such. So with that out of the way, you should try to have sets of these cards:

Goblin Lackey
Goblin Matron
Goblin Ringleader
Goblin Warchief
Gempalm Incinerator
Lightning Rift
Magma Jet
Price of Progress
Pyrostatic Pillar
Sudden Shock

Auriok Salvagers
Enlightened Tutor
Ghostly Prison
Jotun Grunt
Mother of Runes
Rule of Law
Silver Knight
Story Circle
Swords to Plowshares
Aven Mindcensor

Tendrils of Agony
Cabal Therapy
Chainer’s Edict
Diabolic Tutor
Dread Return
Engineered Plague
Golgari Thug
Hypnotic Specter
Plague Spitter
Planar Void
Rotting Giant

Street Wraith
Withered Wretch
Zombie Infestation

Arcane Laboratory
Cephalid Sage
Chain of Vapor
Circular Logic
Fact or Fiction
Flash of Insight
Merchant Scroll
Mystical Tutor
Psionic Blast
Sea Drake
Spell Snare
Stern Proctor
Thirst for Knowledge
Brain Freeze
Force of Will
Wipe Away

Arrogant Wurm
Elvish Spirit Guide
Eternal Witness
Hail Storm
Krosan Grip
Nimble Mongoose
Phantom Centaur
Wall of Blossoms

Aether Vial
Isochron Scepter
Phyrexian Furnace
Sensei’s Divining Top
Tormod’s Crypt

Flame-Kin Zealot
Gerrard’s Verdict
Lightning Helix

Ancient Tomb
Barbarian Ring
Cabal Pit
Cephalid Coliseum
Gemstone Mine
Faerie Conclave
Mishra’s Factory
Nantuko Monastery
Treetop Village

Some of the Blue ones are a little spendy, but Force of Will should be your first Legacy purchase anyway. While some of the cards are a bit specialized, they’re also cheap to pick up. If you have friends that draft, they will probably just give you a Flame-Kin Zealot or two, and that can be critical when you switch to playing a Dredge deck. You’ll have a lot more room to change decks, and especially sideboards, by putting in a little effort upfront and snagging these cards when you get the chance.

Take care until next month!

Doug Linn
Team Meandeck
Special thanks to the proofreading faeries at TMD

(I wrote this while listening to the Fratellis album, and for being a Franz Ferdinand rip-off band, they’re just fine. I also had a sublime moment when the Caribou album I was listening to rolled over into Chamillionaire on iTunes)