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Recurring Nightmares – Oh Snap

If I weren’t a Blue Mage, I’d be pretty upset with Wizards of the Coast right now.

Just when we thought it was safe to return to the water, [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] has given the sharks reason to circle once again.

During his first outing at Star City Indianapolis, Tiago Chan’s trophy didn’t make much in terms of waves in the metagame – putting up only a single placement in the hands of AJ Sacher, who was eliminated in the quarterfinals, and securing just one more placing in the top 16. Of course, based on his string of consistent finishes in that series, it stands to reason that AJ could have replaced the Snapcasters with [card]Sorrow’s Path[/card], and still had decent odds to top 8 the event. The statistic is not particularly telling.

Just one week later, Star City Nashville gave the Invitational card a real “Hello, and welcome to Legacy” with four players piloting the man to Top 8 results, including both the finalists – playing the card in different shells. It would appear that the man has arrived, and we’re starting to work out the optimal ways in which to utilize him.

I find both the lists from the finals of Nashville to be quite interesting. Chris Van Meter’s Stoneforge list is reminiscent of UW Faeries in some aspects, with nearly the entire deck capable of being played on the opponent’s turn – only the [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]s at Sorcery speed, along with the singleton [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card] and [card]Wrath of God[/card] from the sideboard. It’s odd that we have a successful control deck in the vein of Solidarity, which, while unable to win on the opponent’s turn in the manner that Solidarity was capable, can manipulate the stack to a much greater extent than its contemporaries.

[deck]1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Brainstorm
2 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
1 Repeal
4 Spell Snare
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Vendilion Clique
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
5 Island
1 Plains
4 Flooded Strand
2 Misty Rainforest
3 Mutavault
2 Riptide Laboratory
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Tundra
1 Karakas
Sideboard:
1 Batterskull
4 Flusterstorm
4 Path to Exile
3 Purify the Grave
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Wrath of God[/deck]

I have been, and remain skeptical of the value of [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card] in Legacy, as I feel that it sends you down a path that you’d otherwise not choose – such as the decision to play [card]Mutavault[/card] over [card]Mishra’s Factory[/card], or to load up on [card]Riptide Laboratory[/card] where it isn’t particularly necessary. However, the potential for a Spellstutter lock is intriguing, and my opinion of Riptide Lab is improving as we move into a mono-Wizards paradigm.

(Brief list of the Legacy playable Wizards with CMC =2)
[card]Cephalid Illusionist[/card]
[card]Dark Confidant[/card]
[card]Lord of the Unreal[/card]
[card]Meddling Mage[/card]
[card]Qasali Pridemage[/card]
[card]Silvergill Adept[/card]
[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]
[card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card]
[card]Stern Proctor[/card]
[card]Sygg, River Guide[/card]
[card]Yixlid Jailer[/card]

I was looking through a list of all the Wizards with CMC less than 4, but some of them were a stretch, and this list gets the point across well enough. There’s a surprising amount of value in this creature type, and returning these guys to your hand – even simply to dodge removal – is a nice bonus. The only question for me becomes what kind of affect the additional colorless mana sources have on your mana base, and what the cost of its inclusion into your manabase is. In Chris’s list, for example, he was forced to remove [card]Wasteland[/card] from his deck, along with the fourth [card]Mutavault[/card]. To me, that tradeoff seems rather steep.

What I really like about Chris’s list is the 4x [card]Spell Snare[/card] he’s chosen to include. Considered one of the best situational counterspells available, it’s been the go-to way to stop [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Counterbalance[/card], [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and [card]Infernal Tutor[/card] for a long time. At its height, it often found two copies in the main or sideboard of various UGx decks and Merfolk decks prior to the printing of [card]Mental Misstep[/card]. Now that Misstep is gone, and the rise of [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] has begun, it’s natural that there would be an increase in hate for the two-drop slot. When the bulk of the format’s threats are centered around that mana cost, it’s reasonable that there would be sufficient targets for the counterspell to see a full set in maindeck play. That piece of “next level” technology is the kind that will pull you ahead of the pack in events like the SCG opens.

In second place, Todd Anderson piloted a BUG brew in the vein of Team America to a co-top co-finish. Eschewing the [card]Tombstalker[/card]s, he’s added [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card] into the mix to double up on his removal spells, cantrips, and disruption. He’s chosen to include the [card]Unearth[/card] package that was spearheaded by AJ and GerryT last week in Indy, and also included [card]Riptide Laboratory[/card] in his own mana base (probably over the fourth [card]Wasteland[/card]). Note that he too chose to add [card]Spell Snare[/card] to the maindeck in anticipation of the rising number of [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s in the metagame.

[deck]4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Vendilion Clique
4 Brainstorm
1 Diabolic Edict
2 Dismember
4 Force of Will
1 Go for the Throat
2 Spell Snare
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Hymn to Tourach
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Ponder
2 Thoughtseize
2 Unearth
2 Bayou
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Polluted Delta
1 Riptide Laboratory
2 Tropical Island
4 Underground Sea
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Wasteland
Sideboard:
1 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Pernicious Deed
1 Darkblast
3 Ghastly Demise
2 Spell Pierce
1 Thoughtseize[/deck]

Lesser known fact – In the early iterations of Team America, along with Eva Green, it’s BG counterpart, it was common for players to include one or two [card]Reanimate[/card] in the sideboard (or even in the maindeck), to win the [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] war. I see the inclusion of [card]Unearth[/card] filling a similar role – you get the ability to reuse your own creatures for value after they’ve gained small advantages or forced trades. The choice to include [card]Unearth[/card] in place of [card]Reanimate[/card] seems to be a tradeoff between the life loss of [card]Reanimate[/card] and cycling of [card]Unearth[/card] versus the flexibility of [card]Reanimate[/card]. Personally, I think [card]Reanimate[/card] is the better spell, if for no better reason that being able to randomly house a Reanimator player on occasion, or steal an opponent’s [card Tarmogoyf]Goyf[/card] when your own is nowhere to be seen. It warrants consideration for those of you who are planning to [card]Unearth[/card], for sure.

An interesting parallel to the Team America deck has popped up, in Robert Graves’ UB control list. Quite similar in card choices to Todd Anderson’s list, Robert chose to leave the [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s at home, replacing them with on-color beater [card]Tombstalker[/card], which freed him up to run more man-lands. He chose to leave the [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card]s in the binder next to the [card tarmogoyf]Goyfs[/card], however, and ran an [card]Ancestral Vision[/card] fueled draw engine, backed by a cantrip that’s near and dear to my heart – [card]Mental Note[/card].

A long time ago, in a far away place, much debate was given to the merit of [card]Mental Note[/card] in Threshold. As a cantrip that was meant to do little more than accelerate your Werebears and Mongeese into plus-sizes, it was strong, but not particularly helpful when it came to smoothing out your draws. Despite the fact that some players lamented the “loss of cards” that came with milling yourself for two, this was not actually a factor in the choice between [card]Mental Note[/card] and it’s stiffest competition, [card]Predict[/card]. Really, it was a question of whether you could appropriately manipulate your library to the point of always hitting with [card]Predict[/card], or if you’d rather go for the speed that came with [card]Mental Note[/card].

Personally, I was on the “whichever one I had available in foil at the time” train, which I’ve admitted on many occasions is a failing of mine. And so it goes.

Here, Robert uses the “drawback” of [card]Mental Note[/card] to act as a cheaper (albeit a bit less powerful) [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] – giving him access to three cards at instant speed to possibly turn on with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. A part of me is very excited to see if the [card]Mental Note[/card]s take off once again, or if they’re overlooked in favor of more objectively powerful options like [card]Ponder[/card] or [card]Preordain[/card].

Despite your flavor preference for Snapcaster decks (or your preference to not play him at all), one thing is for certain – much like Vintage, Legacy has become a [card]Leyline of the Void[/card] format.

Between the powerful Dredge decks which are solely reliant on the Graveyard to function; the Reanimator decks that seem to have gained more than they’ve lost since the banning of [card]Mystical Tutor[/card]; the Loam decks generating card advantage with lands; the storm combo decks that utilize [card]Past in Flames[/card]; and the Aggro Control decks beginning to capitalize on the engine of [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], there has never been a more perfect time to load up – or even overload – on graveyard hate.

Changing gears, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to best utilize my own favorite card from Innistrad, [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. The Insect Abomination reminds me a lot of [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] in many ways, as a creature that begins the game innocuously, slipping beneath the radar of many players who assume they can deal with it later, and somehow manages to close the game out before they notice. Of course, the loss of shroud means the Delver is more vulnerable a creature, but the gain of evasion, as well as being printed in a better color, makes the tradeoff reasonable in my eyes.

All of my initial testing has revolved around lists similar to Robert Graves’ UB list, although I have chosen a few different places to focus my attention. Here’s a preliminary list of a UB aggro control list utilizing the Delver to great effect.

[deck]4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Dark Confidant
2 Vendilion Clique
4 Force of Will
4 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
2 Spell Snare
2 Thoughtseize
4 Hymn to Tourach
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Dismember
1 Reanimate
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Underground Sea
3 Wasteland
2 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Polluted Delta
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Island
1 Swamp
1 Riptide Laboratory[/deck]

In all honesty, the [card creeping tar pit]Tar Pits[/card] were [card mishra’s factory]Mishra’s Factories[/card] until I saw Robert’s list, and decided the switch may be worth trying out. I’m reasonably confident that the 4 colorless lands and 2 EtB tapped lands aren’t going to conflict with your curve under normal circumstances, but if that’s not the case, [card]Wasteland[/card]s are the least important of the three.

The above list contains 22 spells that trigger the Delvers on turn 2, along with plenty of ways to manipulate the top card of your library to properly trigger the flip. Even in a format like Legacy, where most of your threats are going to cost more than the removal that kills them, there’s a lot to be said for a 3/2 flier for 1 mana. I’d really like to find a way to get a set of [card]Mental Note[/card]s into that list, because as I said, I think the card is poised for a return to glory. It’s entirely possible that the [card]Dark Confidant[/card]s are entirely unnecessary (confession: I don’t know how to spell that word, and avoid it at all costs) and that a different choice of draw engine (like [card]Mental Note[/card]) would suffice. This would also let me move toward the Chris Van Meter “all-instant” style of deck, with only discard spells, Delver, and Jace being played on my own turn.

I intend to do some more testing with the above list, and hopefully have it figured out (or something similar if the list doesn’t pan out) prior to this weekend’s Jupiter Games Northeast Legacy Championships Qualifier in Vestal NY. I won’t be playing in the tournament, as I’m on the hook for commentary (check out Jupitergamesonline.com to hear me in action) but I’m handing Jon Corpora a deck to play for the event, so whatever I come up with will see play one way or another. Plus, I get to pick feature matches, and my cards look nice on camera.

One last thing before I go – a personal message to Drew Idoux. Drew, we’ve never met, but I urge you to reconsider. Please, for the love of all that is holy, sell your [card]Imperial Recruiter[/card]s and put down the [card]Aluren[/card]s. I assure you, it’s for your own good.

Next week, I do my best Matt Nass impression, and uncover the intricacies of Legacy Elves! They’re better than you’d think!

Adam
@AdamNightmare

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