I don’t like Legacy.
Well really, I just don’t like degenerate combo decks. And Legacy is the only real format rife with them. I might be in the minority here, but Legacy was actually great when Mental Misstep was legal. All of the combo decks were kept down by its presence, so you could actually do pretty well for yourself by playing fair. I mean, I won a big Legacy tournament with Zoo.
So if I don’t like Legacy, why write about it? Well another thing I dislike is that there is so little information about the format. Tournaments don’t fire on MODO, so you can’t test or even look at results. And Pros rarely write anything about the format. With a Legacy GP coming up, I figured it might be helpful to share what I know. Unfortunately, I don’t have the breadth of knowledge to give you a complete metagame overview, but I can give you a solid primer on the deck that I’ve been playing lately: Maverick.
People always ask me why I have been playing Maverick over Zoo. As much as it pains me to say it, Zoo is just worse in the current metagame. Both are strong against the other fair decks, but Maverick has more game against combo thanks to Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and the land/creature toolboxes via Knight of the Reliquary/Green Sun’s Zenith. You could play Thalia in Zoo, but she is pretty awkward with the high number of burn spells and low number of lands.
OMG Land Tax is Legal!
I think this Twitter interaction pretty much sums up the Land Tax issue:
Okay fine, it could be good. The lists I have seen trying to abuse it seem horrible in the metagame. But Legacy is an enormous format, so I’m sure there are interactions with Land Tax that have yet to be explored. If there is a good deck with the card, it won’t be a huge part of the Atlanta metagame because not many people will have found it. Land Tax might shape the meta later, but for now I think we can safely ignore it in our assessment of what people are playing.
Legacy, from Maverick’s Perspective
Legacy is a bit of a weird format in that there is less of a defined metagame. People kind of play whatever the hell they want. The ability to play your pet deck is a lot of the format’s appeal, so even the “best” deck is never too high a percentage of the metagame.
What decks should you be prepared for though? RUG Delver, Show and Tell, Reanimator, Maverick, and Stoneblade are all pretty safe bets. There are of course other decks, but I’m mostly going to limit the discussion to these.
From a Maverick perspective: RUG Delver is good, Stoneblade is slightly favorable, Reanimator is slightly unfavorable, Show and Tell is bad, and the mirror is 50 minutes of staring at each other.
RUG Delver is heavily played, and generally the choice of anyone who wants to be prepared for combo and still play a fair deck. This deck’s popularity almost makes me want to play Zoo. Maverick beats RUG Delver, but Zoo smashes it. I was going to link to the Running the Gauntlet video of me beating Luis in RUG Delver vs. Zoo, but sadly it’s temporarily unavailable.
Anyway, the prevalence of RUG Delver is the main incentive to play Maverick. Wasteland is great against them, since they typically run no basics. You can often just steal games by drawing multiple Wastelands, or getting a quick active [card knight of the reliquary]Knight[/card] to find them. Your guys are all bigger, so they can really only win by protecting an early flipped Delver of Secrets. Tarmogoyf might seem like he trumps your creatures, but Scavenging Ooze takes care of that by continually shrinking him.
Stoneblade decks are falling out of favor, since RUG Delver provides comparable disruption with a faster clock. However people do still play the deck, and it sometimes does well, so having a decent matchup is certainly a plus. Wasteland is still good here, but less so because they selfishly run basics. They present no real clock though, especially if you Swords to Plowshares their Stoneforge Mystic. And you still have Qasali Pridemage to stop Batterskull, even if you can’t kill the Mystic. Mother of Runes also generally gives them fits.
You don’t really want to play against any combo deck with Maverick, but Show and Tell is definitely the scariest. It is just too hard to interact with them. You do have some game against Reanimator, and Thalia is absurd against any Storm-type deck.
I Always Talk Too Much Before Giving the Decklist
This is the list that Orrin Beasley, Kitt Holland, and I played in the SCG Invitational. Orrin went 6-1-1 and Kitt went 5-2-1, with their draw coming against each other. I, on the other hand, did horribly. So it goes. Thankfully my friends put up results, so I am still confident the deck is good.
Rather than waste your time with a list that was slightly off, I went ahead and incorporated the changes we made when Orrin played in the Legacy Open on Sunday.
My flight left too early to play in that tournament, while Megan Holland—being the great friend that she is—had offered to go to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library with me. Vonnegut is my favorite author and his hometown is Indianapolis, yet I hadn’t bothered to look into any Vonnegut-related stuff any of the four other times I’d been. Thankfully Megan was insistent, because the Library and nearby mural were way better than playing more Magic.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the details of the deck:
If you are unfamiliar with Maverick, you are basically trying to beat up on the other fair decks. A surprisingly large number of games come down to you just taking your opponent completely out of the game via Wasteland every turn thanks to Knight of the Reliquary. Once your Knight is sufficiently large and they are sufficiently screwed, you can attack a couple of times and kill them. Hooray!
Of course, that isn’t how every game plays out. Green Sun’s Zenith is the other big reason to play the deck. Usually Zenith is just a Dryad Arbor or Knight of the Reliquary, depending on the turn. But it can certainly do a lot more than that. Playing against combo? Good thing you have this Gaddock Teeg. Need to kill an artifact? Get a Qasali Pridemage. Have to interact with their graveyard or gain some life? Well, find a Scavenging Ooze. Want to really stick it to them and tutor up two Wastelands in the same turn? Grab that Scryb Ranger.
Since Scryb Ranger is a card that is often questioned: in addition to untapping Knight, she can hold a Delver at bay; and will break stalemates by picking up a Jitte.
Maverick makes better use of Umezawa’s Jitte than most decks. You have more creatures to suit up than basically anyone else; and with eight mana accelerants, you can get Jitte online earlier than opponents. You used to see Maverick lists with a little toolbox of equipment via Stoneforge Mystic, but all other equipment is just worse than Jitte here. It is of course slow and bad against combo, but great against everything else.
Many people have cut Stoneforge entirely, since it is just a more expensive Jitte. But you don’t want to flood your hand with legendary permanents by drawing multiple Jittes, and Stoneforge gives you a man (er woman) to suit up when you are in topdeck mode.
By the way, I saw some Jittes in Japan last year. This is what they look like. The scariest equipment in the history of Magic is a dull rod with tassels.
Fauna Shaman was a last minute suggestion from Ross Merriam, who I met because he was nice enough to lend me a Sylvan Safekeeper. (SCG didn’t even bring them!) She was surprisingly good, and I could see playing a second. I never really wanted to Zenith for her, but she turned topdecked [card noble hierarch]Heirarchs[/card] or extraneous [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalias[/card] into relevant cards.
Speaking of Thalia, she is ridiculous in Legacy. There are very few decks that are not significantly slowed down by her. Even against a deck like RUG Delver, where their spells are so cheap, she is great. They don’t run a lot of lands, and you are destroying as many of them as you can, so Thalia has a pretty huge impact on the game. Brainstorm is a lot worse when it costs two. She also gives you a fighting chance pre-sideboard against the various combo decks, since you can at least slow them down.
I see a lot of people skimping on lands in Maverick, but I’m not sure why. Four of your lands are spells more often than not (Wasteland), and you really don’t want to miss any of your first 3-4 land drops with this deck. You need to get a Knight into play ASAP to really operate.
Thankfully, you have access to Horizon Canopy to combat flooding. I would always play at least two Canopies in the deck, and I could even see playing a third. The ability to comfortably play extra lands is well worth the pain (which is rarely relevant).
Cavern of Souls has been showing up as a one- or two-of in many Maverick decks, so we decided to give it a try. I didn’t have the uncounterable ability come up, but it was relevant for both Orrin and Kitt. It is also a passable dual land in your deck, since most of your creatures are Humans. I liked the one, and you could play a second at the cost of a Horizon Canopy, but that would be a hard sell for me.
I’ve seen people move Maze of Ith to the sideboard, but I think it belongs main. It is dead against most combo, but incredibly powerful against everything else. As mentioned previously, RUG’s only real way to beat you is a flipped Delver. Maze will quickly put a stop to that.
For those of you that don’t know: Maze also lets you have your cake and eat it too with Knight of the Reliquary. You can attack with her, deal damage, untap her while still in combat, and then use her ability.
Aside from Canopy, the other way to combat flooding is Sylvan Library. I’d tried this card in Zoo a few times, and it was okay, but a little slow for what the deck is trying to do. Maverick doesn’t have a particularly fast clock, but is good at building an insurmountable board position, and Library helps with this. You also have quite a few shuffle effects to allow you to see new cards every turn: Green Sun’s Zenith, Knight of the Reliquary, Fauna Shaman, Fetchlands, and Stoneforge Mystic. I would not go below one of this card.
Sylvan Safekeeper is the card I’m least sure of here. We played him to combat things like Submerge and Mind Harness out of RUG Delver, but I didn’t have him in play when my opponents cast Submerge and still won. Kitt said he actually had him in play against RUG, but the ability didn’t come up. If you do play Safekeeper, I think he belongs in the sideboard over the maindeck. I’ve seen several lists start him, but that doesn’t make much sense, since he is mostly answering sideboard cards.
Purify the Grave, Bojuka Bog, and Tormod’s Crypt are all for Reanimator, of course; though you may find other uses against things like Dredge or Life from the Loam decks. We had quite a bit of hate because Reid had won with Reanimator the previous week. You could perhaps cut a little if you aren’t expecting a lot of that deck, but I wouldn’t go below 3-4. Reanimator is a combo deck you can reasonably beat if you have enough hate, since the match-up isn’t abysmal in the first place, so might as well play hate that does something.
The reasoning for so many Tormod’s Crypt is that you are good in the mid-late game with hate, you have Knight for Bojuka Bog and Scavenging Ooze, but you want to ensure that you get to that point. Purify is a little worse and would be my first cut, since leaving a mana up will slow your development. Another option in the Crypt slot is Faerie Macabre. Macabre does avoid counterspells, but Crypt dodges discard. Kind of a pick your poison type situation.
Linvala seems to be the mirror trump of choice at this point, and I can’t really disagree. Turning off Knight or Pridemage (to protect Jitte) is a big game, but honestly the most important thing is stopping Mother of Runes. Mom is just incredibly annoying in the mirror, and is a big contributor to the stalemates that develop (Orrin and Kitt had a 40+ minute game one when they played). Linvala flying is also very relevant, since she can provide a clock on a stalled board.
Linvala is also theoretically good against Elves, though I had her turn 3 on the draw and that was too slow to not already be dead on board. If you can slow them down at all, she will totally shut down their deck though.
A card I often see people playing in the mirror is Gideon Jura. Don’t do this. He is way too expensive. While half the mirror games end up in stalls, the other half are determined by who manascrews who. Gideon might win the first type of game, but drawing a five drop after being Wastelanded a few times will just exacerbate your problems in the second.
If you really expect a lot of the mirror, a great card to consider is Gut Shot. It supports Wasteland in manascrewing them by killing Dryad Arbor and Noble Hierarch, and also stops [card mother of runes]Mom[/card] before she gets online. The best part is: you don’t have to slow your development to do this, or blow a [card swords to plowshares]Swords[/card] that you may need later.
The extra Path comes in against the mirror, but also against RUG. Assuming you can stop an early flipped Delver, you should win the game, so you want the maximum number of ways to do this.
One less obvious time to side Path in is against Reanimator. You don’t necessarily need six removal spells against them, but Path is much better than [card swords to plowshares]Swords[/card] against Griselbrand, since it actually punishes them for activating his ability. Reid even suggested that I play Path over Swords in the maindeck for this reason, which you can’t quite do because it doesn’t mesh with the Wasteland plan, but it was a valid consideration.
Life from the Loam is just a sweet card to have against other Wasteland decks, or grindy decks in general. You certainly don’t have to play it, but having extra Wastelands or copies of regular lands that have been Wastelanded has won me several games.
The extra Karakas is to bounce [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] from Sneak and Show. Crop Rotation gets the Karakas or Bojuka Bog. It also lets you Bog at instant speed, which you usually need to do.
Sneak and Show is actually your worst match-up of the popular decks, and I’d gladly play more hate if I thought it would do enough. Orrin and I brainstormed quite a bit trying to come up with answers to the multiple angles of attack that deck has. Ensnaring Bridge seemed like the most promising option, but not really what we want to be siding in against anything else. Another option would be Phyrexian Metamorph, but you can’t Show and Tell it into play, so they are able to counter it. Basically nothing seemed good enough to swing the match-up, so we didn’t want to waste a bunch of sideboard slots on it.
Having a lot of Karakas…es will protect you from half the deck, at least. Thalia also slows them down a good bit if they have to dig.
We played Spike Feeder because I expected a higher than average amount of Burn at the Invitational. Most people qualify for the tournament playing Standard, and don’t necessarily have a Legacy deck. Burn is cheap and seemingly simple, so a reasonable choice if you’re only playing Legacy this one time. I had played against Burn in the last three Invitationals, so I had some basis for this assumption. Anyway if you don’t expect Burn, you don’t need to play this card. You already have Jitte to give you some shot against them.
While this slot is now a Pridemage, we actually got talked into playing Harmonic Sliver to combat the Cursed Totems that no one was playing in RUG. Unfortunately, the Sliver is just much worse than Pridemage in every other situation. I’d rather run the (incredibly slight) risk of losing to Totem and have an all around powerful card instead. You do want to side Pridemage in against RUG to kill Mind Harness. You also want it in the mirror for Jittes, and, well honestly, you can probably figure out when you want to kill artifacts or enchantments. Side Pridemage in those times.
You Should Play Maverick
Okay, so now you know everything I know about Maverick. Time to go out and win a tournament! No seriously, the deck isn’t terribly hard to play once you know all the little interactions, which I hopefully just covered most of. Hell, I Top 8ed an SCG Open with it after only playing five previous matches. If you are relatively inexperienced with Legacy, prefer to play fair, or just want to beat up on RUG Delver: I’d recommend playing Maverick.
If you have any suggestions for the deck, particularly the Sneak and Show matchup, please let me know in the comments. Or if you have any questions, I’ll of course do my best to answer them.
By the way, I am going to try to start making videos more frequently. What format(s) would you guys like to see? (Within reason, I’m not playing Pauper or Cube.) I already submitted a Modern Daily that should hopefully be up soon, and certainly wouldn’t mind doing more Modern with Columbus coming up. But if there is something else people want to see, I’m open to that.
Thanks for reading!
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