I have an odd combination of short attention span and strong draw to nostalgia that results in me picking up a deck, playing it for a week, and then remembering it fondly years later as though I’d played it for months. This kind of thing annoys me to no end, because I fall in love with the idea of a deck, despite the fact that the deck itself has never been, nor will it ever be, good.
Turboland was never a good deck. It required all the work in the world to reach an endgame that lost to any disruption. The deck contained too many cards that did nothing—or tried to do something worse than whatever the opponent was doing. Of course, in those tumultuous days of Legacy’s youth, no one was really doing anything spectacular anyway, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that we won a few matches here and there.
There were successes within the chaos, though. A few of the random terrible decks I built to stave off boredom in the doldrums of the week were actually halfway decent or better. Some were even reasonable to take to a tournament that had real money on the line. Unfortunately, these decks were much less fun to play than the bad decks, and so I don’t recall them with the same sense of longing and wistfulness. Fortunately, those real decks taught enough lessons to help the next round of bad decks do better.
Did you know that Legacy was a real format for almost a year before the Miracle Grow archetype became popular? (You would, if you’ve been reading my articles long enough.) Since that time, the Bant shard has had quite a successful run in Legacy, from its origins as a new incarnation of Miracle Gro; to its transformation into a threshold based aggro-control deck; to its inclusion of red, or black, or both; to its eventual peak with Natural Order, Counterbalance, and [card sensei's divining top]Top[/card]; and to its fall off the map, as its more aggressive cousin RUG overshadows it. Delver, despite my own hopes, has done little to assist the resurgence of Bant—while pushing the success of RUG further and further ahead of the rest of the pack. And yet, I still can’t quit Bant.
Even in the days when Landstill was en vogue, and players were working on ways to break open the mirror, I advocated a green splash where others were pushing for black or red. There’s something about the shard that I just can’t get enough of, and despite knowing that there are better and stronger options available, I keep trying to make it work. Here’s my most recent attempt:
Part of me really hates writing out decklists like this, but it isn’t because I think I’m giving away any kind of secret. The problem is, there are only 75 slots available in the deck, and about 100 to 125 cards I want to play.
This deck is kind of an amalgamation of the RUG and Maverick gameplan. In reality, it plays more like Maverick, but has the ability to interact in a way more reminiscent of RUG than of the GW deck. Despite the fact that Maverick is one of the top tier decks in the format, they can’t really do much if you [card swords to plowshares]Swords[/card] their turn two Knight of the Reliquary. At least we can Daze. It’s that kind of reactive interaction that makes Bant a more attractive deck to me, despite losing a few of the key cards that really make Maverick tick—like Mother of Runes and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
For what it’s worth, I kind of hate Mother of Runes. While I understand her value in creature attrition battles, or in protecting your threats from removal, I can’t get over the fact that she’s a 1/1 for one that doesn’t actually advance your board in an appreciable way. She is hot and cold with no in-between, and that she doesn’t help you at all against a resolved Delver of Secrets is a real problem for me. Having played enough against Maverick to understand the dynamics of the blue-vs-GW matchup, I can say that Mom is a spectacularly unimpressive turn one play, and I’ve been happy to ignore her while going about my business—rather than bothering to try and play through her, which has been a successful strategy so far.
[card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card], on the other hand, is an enormous pain in the ass, and I basically die to that card whenever I see it in play.
While you do lose on Thalia and on some mana consistency with Bant as opposed to Maverick, you gain some pretty powerful things—like Brainstorm, [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card], and counterspells. These are basically the spells I want to play at all times in the format, so it’s a simple choice for me. In addition to these losses and gains, you get to play Knight of the Reliquary, which—despite what may be popular right now—is still a giant beating of a card for both fair and unfair decks alike. You get access to Noble Hierarch, as well, which is the premiere mana accelerant of the format, and gives you a huge leg up in the Wasteland Wars.
And really, those two cards are the bonuses you get over your Delver friends. While a Nimble Mongoose is nothing to sneeze at, he’s not much of a threat when compared side-by-side with a Knight. You get to run Swords to Plowshares, which I’ve written thousands of words on at this point, so I won’t regale you with more. You have access to a plethora of interesting options with this deck, and so cutting it down to merely 75 is a real endeavor.
There are just a few (actual) choices I’d like to mention before moving on—because running Hierarch, Knight, Jace, and counterspells is not an actual choice.
This man was a revelation about 5 years ago, when he hit the scene with a bang. At the time, the top tier of Legacy was pretty much exactly what it is now—all Canadian Threshold, all the time. War Monk came out and gave the UWG mages a tool to use in the pseudo-mirror that trumped the majority of opposing threats, raced even a Fledgling Dragon, and could be pitched to Force of Will. He still does all those things, except the Dragon is now an Insect, and while he can’t beat up a [card tarmogoyf]Goyf[/card] on defense, he sure can do it on offense when combined with the six maindeck exalted creatures you’re running. He still pitches to Force of Will, and can be found with Green Sun’s Zenith.
I know this isn’t a real surprise, many Maverick decks have been running Ranger for quite a while, but I think it’s great that the card is seeing competitive Legacy play. My recent foray with Elves has lead to a renewed appreciation for Quirion Ranger, and getting to play the card in a deck that isn’t full of 1/1’s is pretty sweet. Giving things like War Monk vigilance, or just getting a free flier with Hierarch + Forest, is a great deal. The fact that you get an evasive creature to capitalize on your exalted triggers, and a guy that blocks Delver forever to boot, is a fantastic deal.
The cards I’m not using, though I’d like to be (or maybe even should be).
I had it in an earlier version, but I was unimpressed with it—even considering the use against Griselbrand, or the “combo” with Knight. It takes up a spell slot, and as I’ve said, those are precious and extremely tight. It just didn’t do enough for me to warrant the slot for it.
I don’t currently own an Ooze on Magic Online, and only have a single one in paper Magic. They’re also absurdly expensive. While I admit that it’s basically a strict upgrade to Tarmogoyf at this point, I wanted to see if there was any merit to running the deck without them, to determine exactly how important it is to go out of my way to get them. What I’ve found is that the Ooze is much more impressive as a scalable beater than as a graveyard hate tool (of which there are many to chooze from), and Tarmogoyf is still pretty awesome at that. In other words, it isn’t critical that I get my hands on a bunch of these, but when I get around to it, they’ll probably replace the Goyfs.
This discussion brings something up that I’ve been meaning to discuss for a while, but has become more and more important as time goes on: Reprints.
It was beaten to death during the heyday of SCG Opens (back when they were a realistic form of employment, I mean), and although prices on some staples have come down a bit from their peak, nothing has really changed.
Without dramatic changes to the policies of WotC, I don’t believe Legacy is a sustainable format in the long term.
It’s true that cards like Moat are not required as a prerequisite to playing Legacy. It’s even true that a card like Karakas, which has skyrocketed in price since the realization of its usefulness, is not even really a need as much as a nice-to-have. However, in order to play Legacy at a high level—something that is encouraged by Wizards through its shows of support on the GP circuit, these cards are necessary, and often in multiples.
Before GP Atlanta, there was a public scramble by the Pro community for copies of Karakas. While previously, only decks that were occasionally tapping it for a white mana were using the land, now even the decks that were targets for the secondary ability were looking for it (as a colorless land!), because it was a better Wasteland for opposing copies than Wasteland itself would be. Having applications against the mirror was just a side benefit.
I experienced a scramble for hot technology first hand last year at Grand Prix Providence, when players paid $20 to find copies of Manriki-Gusari prior to round 1. That was a ten cent card. Imagine the price you’d be willing to pay for a copy of a card that normally carries a price tag of $70 or more!
Having cards that cost $300 is not so insane that we should reprint everything. As I said, very few people are suffering from their inability to procure a Moat. When a card is a niche player that might require one copy for a certain deck (and really just one deck), there’s no harm in a large price tag. When a card is scraping the $100 ceiling, and is played in a variety of decks in multiples, you’re seeing a place where players may balk at trying out the format.
When it’s a card that was printed less than two years ago, there’s an issue.
Scavenging Ooze, even at $40, represents a failure in either design or in sales—and honestly, I’m not sure which one is at work here. Either the card was printed in a form that’s too powerful to be in a set with such an extremely small run, or the availability of the Commander decks (rather, the lack thereof) is such that a card of that power level should have been left out. Either way, the scarcity of this card is likely the problem, rather than the card itself. Much like the fluke that occurred when Jace, the Mind Sculptor was in Standard—a small set with limited availability, which included a sought-after card with high playability, caused an artificial increase in the price of the single, beyond anything that the card should be worth. I mean, the card isn’t even legal in Standard, and we all know it isn’t the casual market that’s driving the price on this guy.
There’s going to be a point of singularity, where the cost of the cards that are small in number and large in demand is so great that even those who have the opportunity to buy into Legacy won’t want to, due to the absurd cost. When that happens, the interest in the format will wane, the prices may drop (but likely not by enough to change the dynamics of the market), and Legacy will stop growing. As a player who is interested in the perpetual expansion of Legacy—to the point where it’s playable for all, not just the elite few—I can’t abide that.
Online, the issue is even more pronounced. Despite the overall cost of Legacy being a pittance compared to its paper counterpart, those costs are focused on a very small selection of specific barriers to Legacy play. Force of Will is now merely the second-most expensive card online, at approximately 95 tickets each. Lion’s Eye Diamond has eclipsed Force of Will, pushing beyond the 100 tix marker. It doesn’t matter how cheap your dual lands are—if you can’t play them because Forces are not only impossible to buy, but impossible to find, even if you wanted to pay $400 for a set.
This is inexcusable. Perhaps, instead of providing worthless OLS packs during Cube week, they could have provided Masters 1 packs, potentially providing a way to introduce a few more Forces to the pool. If they have a problem with supplying such a large quantity of “out of print” packs (a concept that bothers me to no end in a digital environment), then maybe a random pack is selected, which gives you the possibility of hitting the lottery, while not necessarily depressing the overall price of specific sets.
While I realize this comes across as a general complaint about the price of a luxury format inside a luxury activity, I’m much less concerned for my personal collection as I am for the health and flourish of Legacy in the long term.
League Play, Week 2:
This week, we open a single pack, and add the contents to our playable pool. We had about the same number of players as last week, with the addition of a few new guys and the subtraction of some no-shows. Those who joined a week late actually missed nothing, as they’ll get the intro pack (which is all we got last week) along with this week’s pack. They were out of the BW deck this week, so the new players didn’t have that option to choose from. Most picked up the UR deck instead. We’ll get there in a second.
My pack this week was the following:
True to the nature of the format, my base green deck had zero green cards in the pack.
I did pick up a Primal Clay (which was foil, for those tracking the four uncommons in the pack), a Bloodhunter Bat, a Divine Verdict, and a Pacifism. All in all, that’s not too shabby for a single pack. From the deck, I cut a Ring of Kalonia, a Ranger’s Path, a Spiked Baloth, and a Public Execution for these spells, adjusting the manabase accordingly. I also replaced my Vastwood Gorger with a Duskdale Wurm, since it’s tutorable with the Beast Tracker, and if I’m going big, I might as well go huge. While I’m not quite to the point where I can cut out the black entirely, it’s getting closer, and I think with just a few more packs, I’ll be down to two colors again—unless I open a Farseek or a bomb I can’t avoid splashing.
My first round, I played Joe with RG, which is not actually RG anymore. You may recall that Joe was one of the brave few who chose the RG deck, and tried to make a passable Goblins deck. He failed to do so, but allowed his cards to dictate his direction, and made a Grixis control deck with a pair of Gem of Becoming and a Gilded Lotus to ramp into a pair of Volcanic Geysers. His deck is going to be very awesome by the end of this league. Unfortunately, it’s not very awesome right now, and he got very flooded as I curved out and beat him up.
Second round, I played against a friendly fellow that ran headlong into my tirade against the frigging UR deck. In game one, he played a Wind Drake into a Talrand’s Invocation, into an Unsummon and a second Wind Drake, while my 5-mana [card sentinel spider]Spider[/card] forced me to do nothing but cast it and cross my fingers. In our second game, I conceded to him tapping four mana on turn four.
Now, I’ll give credit where it’s due. My opponent didn’t make any mistakes. He didn’t have a lot of decisions to make, though, because his deck is unbeatable for me. The UR deck is full of efficient spells, fliers, and removal—and mine is full of infinite-drops and irrelevant cards. I went through my pool with a few people after this round (while crying into my beer at the bar next door), and realized that there are basically no cards in my collection that favorably interact with Talrand’s Invocation. The card is literally better than every single card I have available, so my plan is to hope they screw up or get mana screwed. It’s going to be weeks before I can even hope to be on the level that the UR deck is out of the box. Sweet deck selection skills, bro.
Round three I played Alan, who was also on UR. Lamenting my wonderful luck, I managed to squeak out a win by being hyper aggressive and killing him with [card arbor elf]Arbor Elves[/card]. I made a “mistake” when I attacked into his single blocker with two Elves and him at 4 life. When he assigned blockers, I showed him Essence Drain. He said, “that’s awkward,” and showed me an Incinerate for the guy he didn’t block. I’m not sure he would have played the removal spell if I hadn’t shown him the Drain, but it’s my fault for playing loose, so I had to grind on while he drew business and I drew six lands. Of course, my mistake was rewarded when I drew a Rancor to push through lethal about ten turns later. In our third game, Alan couldn’t find a second Island before I [card acidic slime]Slimeballed[/card] his first, and I won. Skill game.
In the fourth round, I played against BW, and punched him in the face with a turn 3 Sublime Archangel. Then I did it again, only the Angel was on turn 5. Sometimes Mythics.
Still hoping for a Farseek, folks.