In general, I don’t play a whole lot of Legacy. Not because I dislike the format—I rather like it, actually—but because there are simply not many Legacy tournaments. This means that every time there is an actual Legacy tournament, I have to reacquaint myself with the format—which is difficult, because there are not many tournaments. As a result, I’ve been playing a lot of Legacy for the upcoming GP Denver (which has already happened by the time you read this), and I drew a few conclusions I’d like to share.
One interesting aspect of Legacy is that it’s not nearly as developed as it could be. There are, realistically, very few important Legacy tournaments—two GPs a year and the StarCity events are pretty much all there is. For the SCG events, most of the people who play and do well are the same, and what they do determines the format.
As such, I tend to trust the wisdom of the “hive mind” a lot less than in other formats, because the Legacy hive mind is not actually a hive mind but specific individuals that completely shape the format. As far as specific individuals go, I see no reason why any is particularly more likely to be correct than I am.
I’ve talked to other people who play the format, and there are many points we do not agree on, but I feel like I have played enough at this point to draw my own conclusions, and I’ve decided that, this time around, I will not follow anyone. I will do what I think is right based on my observations. It’s very possible I’ll crash and burn horribly, but that is a risk I’m willing to take. Anyway, here are my conclusions:
You Should Play Blue
This might come as no surprise to anyone, but blue is still the king of Legacy. There is no card in the format that comes close to the power level of Brainstorm, and I don’t see why you would not play it—it’s just the perfect card for any situation. I’ve had Jund suggested to me many times, and I think it’s just an inferior choice to anything with blue. There is a 0% chance I will not play blue at the GP.
Planeswalkers Are Very Important
Jace, the Mind Sculptor and [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card] are everywhere, and they are here to stay. In many blue matchups, Jace is the actual most important card. If you resolve it, you’re way ahead, and if you untap with it you can almost never lose. This leads to my thinking that, if you’re playing a Jace deck, you want four Jaces. For a while, people played only three Jaces in Standard too, up to a point where everyone realized they had been stupid all along and started playing four, and I think that’s where we’ll be soon in Legacy.
Individual Cards Are More Important than Number of Cards
This is the main point of divergence between myself and others who play the format. People see this as an attrition format, which leads to cards like Force of Will being bad and Hymn to Tourach being good, but I disagree. I think individual cards are worth so much that it’s worth having Force of Will to deal with them or to fight them.
For example, Jace is easily worth more than two cards. As such, I’d rather spend a card to Force of Will their Jace, and I’d rather spend an extra card to protect my Jace, because if Jace lives then that card is not going to matter. I’d rather be able to take the Jace from their hand with a Thoughtseize than take two other random cards with Hymn to Tourach. I’d rather Spell Pierce the Jace that they might draw than Thoughtseize/[card hymn to tourach]Hymn[/card] their entire hand and then have them topdeck it. I’d rather make sure I can get their Batterskull away after they Stoneforge Mystic for it. I’d rather make sure I can get the Infernal Tutor, and not two rituals that aren’t going to matter as much.
In practical terms, this means I am a fan of counterspelling things over discarding them, and I do not think Force of Will is a bad card. I can see going down to three, but you definitely want some of the effect. It’s SO good versus the combo decks, and, when it’s bad, it’s not that bad, because some cards are worth fighting for. Many of my UBx decks will have Thoughtseize, because that also selects a specific card, but they will also have Force of Will and they will have Dazes and Spell Pierces before they have Hymn to Tourachs.
The Metagame Changes A Lot. What Happened at the Last SCG Event Won’t Necessarily Happen at the GP.
From what I’ve gathered, people are split into two camps: the ones that think the format is all attrition and no combo, and the ones that think that because people think that, they should play combo.
I don’t think either group is particularly right. The field at the last tournament is not necessarily reflective of what it’s going to be at the GP. I would expect a lot more combo at the GP than at the SCG, but I would also expect most blue decks to pack Force of Will—not necessarily as a reaction to the “combo boom” (that spawned from no Force of Will), but because people at the GP aren’t necessarily trying to metagame the way people at those tournaments are.
Historically, blue decks have played Force of Will—they will continue to do so, though they will do it in smaller numbers. If you think Belcher is the deck to play because no one will be playing countermagic, then I think you’re in for a surprise. If you think your blue deck can afford to not play any permission because there won’t be many combo decks, you’re also in for a surprise.
Discard is More Prevalent than Counterspells
Even though I think the metagame won’t stay the same, I still think you’re more likely to face [card hymn to tourach]Hymn[/card]/[card thoughtseize]Seize[/card] than you are to face Force of Will/Spell Pierce. You might face both in the same deck, but discard will usually be there in higher numbers (i.e. instead of playing Spell Pierce, Daze, and Force of Will, they’ll play Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, and Daze/Force of Will).
This means that one of my favorite cards in the format is now Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s often better to have Top in play than to resolve Ancestral Visions. I’ve seen UW decks playing three Tops, and that’s just awful. If you play what is essentially a Top deck, play four. I also rather like Top in random builds with enough shuffle effects, like Esper—though in those decks you can play just two.
Another consequence is that, for many decks, Spell Pierce is now much better than Daze. Originally I was playing four Dazes in my Show and Tell decks, but Pierce is much better when you’re fighting through discard, whereas Daze is better if you’re fighting a counterspell war early on. Playing something like Overmaster is unthinkable to me now, because it does nothing against discard.
So, where do those conclusions lead me? There are a couple decks I’m considering:
First, 4-Color Cascade. I actually recorded a DE playing this, which you will probably see shortly after, but things did not go so well. This is the version I played:
Tarmogoyf is just not that great when Rest in Peace is a maindeckable card and Deathrite Shaman is everywhere. Plus, people now play Abrupt Decay rather than [card lightning bolt]Bolt[/card], so he is not as beefy as he used to be. It’s still a fine two-drop and the largest power you can cascade into—so I have three.
I just haven’t been very impressed with Deathrite Shaman. It’s not very reliable, it’s not good in multiples. I might be wrong in this—the mana would certainly be better if I played more of them, and the mana is a big issue.
You can only play so many four-casting-cost cards, and I like Jace, the Mind Sculptor more. Between Jace, Brainstorm, and Top, you have pretty good control over what you’re going to cascade into, so a Boom/Bust might not be out of the question. The cascade cards also work like shuffle effects, depending on what you want to get rid of—you can usually Brainstorm/Top/Jace two lands on top and play a cascade dude for example, so this deck sees a lot of its cards over the course of a game.
Punishing Fire is the most awkward card in the deck. I’m not sure it’s actually any good, though I expect more aggro decks at the GP than online. The real problem with this card is not Punishing Fire itself—honestly, sometimes 2 damage is just what you need—but the fact that you have to play Grove of the Burnwillows and that card is horrible.
Why I might not play this deck: the mana base is not good. You have four colors and many gold cards, so if you ever get Wastelanded it’s feasible that you won’t be able to cast half your deck. A possible update that mitigates this issue:
Additionally, 1 Fire/Ice or Lightning Bolt (I think you want ways to deal with Dark Confidant, even though this deck draws enough cards that you can usually match a Bob—might be better as just a fourth Shaman)
I have two main lists I’m considering for this: one with Top/Counterbalance, and one without. You might think Top/Counterbalance is bad now because of Abrupt Decay, but you play your own Thoughtseizes, and both Dark Confidant and [card stoneforge mystic]Stoneforge[/card] will be pulling their Decays already. Playing Counterbalance means you can play less Force of Wills, since you aren’t as vulnerable to combo (Ad Nauseum for example cannot beat a Counterbalance game 1). There is a shortage of 3s for it, though.
The biggest draw is that Stoneforge Mystic is insanely good against random creature decks—though I think you need to play two Batterskulls because of discard (you could also play Academy Ruins, but I think if you want colorless lands it’s Wasteland). You might be worried about Bob killing you, and this can certainly happen with a playset of 4s and 5s, but the average casting cost in the deck is a bit under 1.4, and you do have Brainstorm, [card sensei's divining top]Top[/card], and [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card].
I think Rest in Peace is pretty decent, since it kills all Tarmogoyfs, pretty much kills Deathrite Shaman, and makes Snapcaster Mage, Lingering Souls, and Nimble Mongoose all worse, not to mention random applications against Past in Flames and Ill-Gotten Gains. It’s rarely a dead card and when you have Tops and this many shuffle effects, it’s not unreasonable to find it.
The version without Top/Counterbalance:
So, why would I not play this deck? I think it’s lacking a bit in power. I can’t pinpoint an issue with it, but the whole package is not as great as I would like it to be. This deck also doesn’t have a lot of ways to beat a resolved Counterbalance or even Jace.
It’s still a solid deck, though, and I might end up playing it.
Sneak Attack/Show and Tell
And now we get to my last option—a combo deck. This is the list I’ve been playing:
I love this deck because it’s super fast. Sometimes you just play a turn two Show and Tell for Griselbrand and it doesn’t matter much what they do. You have enough permission to fight permission, and enough card drawing to fight most discard draws. You can be hated out quite easily, but Sneak Attack circumvents a surprising amount of it. I think the hardest commonly played card is Karakas, but even then Sneak Attack and [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] will do the trick.
When you play Sneak Attack, they can make you discard all they want, you’ll usually draw a creature before they can kill you and then they’re dead. With Burning Wish, this is not the case—you topdeck Burning Wish and you still need to wait to draw a fatty to be able to cast it, and by then it might already be gone. Omniscience lets you go through planeswalkers better, but so does Sneak Attack, and Omniscience is more vulnerable to Detention Sphere, Oblivion Ring, and [card venser, shaper savant]Venser[/card].
I also like that the Sneak Attack deck is completely immune to Spell Snare—a 4-of in some RUG Builds—whereas the Omniscience deck gets one of its key cards (Burning Wish) hit by it. There has also been a surge of Ad Nauseum decks and, though much of the hate overlaps, people might go the Thorn of Amethyst/Trinisphere/Mindbreak Trap/Thalia, Guardian of Thraben/Ethersworn Canonist route—those cards range from doing nothing to being nuisances, but you can definitely beat all of them.
Why would I not play Sneak Attack/Show and Tell? Well, the sideboard is pretty bad. Right now I have Jaces/Tops for discard, Pyroblasts for countermagic, Firespout/[card pyroclasm]Clasm[/card] for dudes, and graveyard hate.
None of those cards is necessarily bad, but what people will board in against you is generally better—Karakas, Force of Will, Surgical Extraction, Gilded Drake, etc. It also doesn’t have much play to it—it doesn’t matter that I’m good if I keep drawing [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakuls[/card] and can’t cast a spell, and some blind Show and Tells really put you in trouble—if you both play the same guy it doesn’t matter, but if they you play Griselbrand and they play [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] they win, and if you play Emrakul and they play Griselbrand then they also win if they have a way to deal with Emrakul in their deck (such as their own).
Still, if the tournament were tomorrow (which it almost is), I’d play this Show and Tell deck—perhaps with a couple changes, but the idea would be the same. It is a bit unconventional for me, but I honestly think it’s a pretty good deck, though I still have some time to talk to other people and perhaps be convinced of something different.
See you next time,