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Grand Prix Seattle is fast approaching, and it features two formats: Legacy and Standard. Because of this, a lot of people that don’t normally play Legacy will get a chance to play the format. Last time there was a Legacy GP, I wrote some tips on how to play it if you hadn’t played it much before, and this week I’m going to talk about some of the common interactions you might not be familiar with.
1) Deathrite Shaman targets.
This is probably the most simple interaction on this list, but it’s also the one that’s most likely to come up, because a ton of people play Deathrite Shaman. All three of Deathrite Shaman’s abilities target, which means that if both players have Deathrite Shamans out, then the second player can fizzle the first activation. So, if you target a land to add mana, I can tap my own Deathrite Shaman and exile the land, and then your ability will not resolve (this also works with Surgical Extraction or Snapcaster Mage).
In practice, this means that using Deathrite Shaman on your own turn if the opponent has an untapped Deathrite Shaman of their own is often a bad idea, and the correct play is usually to use it at the end of the turn (which guarantees one activation, as you can untap and then use it again) or to not use it at all.
Deathrite Shaman targeting also has some other fringe applications. First of all, the fact that it targets means that it’s not a mana ability, which means that it can be Pithing Needled. You also cannot use it in the middle of an effect. For example, if your opponent has Thalia, Guardian of Thraben out and you play Shardless Agent and cascade into Brainstorm, you cannot cast it if your only mana source left is Deathrite Shaman (whereas you would be able to if it was, say, Noble Hierarch). Finally, it means that Ground Seal completely hoses Deathrite Shaman, which is part of the reason you see it in some sideboards.
2) Activate Stoneforge Mystic before you return Batterskull.
Imagine I have 5 mana, an empty Batterskull, and a Stoneforge Mystic in play. I want to return my Batterskull and replay it with the Mystic to get a new Germ. If I tap 3 mana and return Batterskull to my hand, my opponent can respond with a removal spell on the Stoneforge Mystic, and then I can’t replay it. Sure, I can use the Mystic, but the Batterskull is not going to be in my hand by then, so it’s useless.
Luckily, there is a way to play around this. Tap 2 mana and use Stoneforge Mystic. Then, with the activation on the stack, pay 3 mana and bounce Batterskull. If you do that, your opponent will be unable to stop you even if they can remove Stoneforge Mystic, as the ability will resolve regardless.
3) Multiple Thespian’s Stage interactions.
Thespian’s Stage is a complicated card. Here are some of the useful things to know about it:
• When Thespian’s Stage copies something, it changes its name to the card that it’s copying. Therefore, if your opponent plays Pithing Needle, you can just copy something in response, and they’ll have to name that. It does stop that particular Thespian Stage from becoming anything else, but it won’t stop future Thespian Stages that you play.
• If your opponent Wastelands your Thespian Stage, you can copy a basic. This will make Wasteland fizzle, and then you can copy something else later on.
• If you have a Wasteland, the proper time to use it is after the opponent has copied Dark Depths. You should let this ability resolve, which causes the original Dark Depths to be legend ruled. Then, you wait for the new Dark Depths (previously Thespian Stage) to trigger, and Wasteland it. It won’t be sacrificed due to its own ability, and they’ll get no tokens. This way, you get both their Thespian Stage and their Dark Depths.
4) Multiple Dark Depths interactions.
Dark Depths is also a complicated card!
• Stifling Dark Depths does nothing—the ability will be countered but will simply trigger again.
• If they have Dark Depths and multiple Vampire Hexmages, you can still stop the whole thing with one Wasteland. Let the Vampire Hexmage ability resolve, and then let Dark Depths trigger. That’s when you kill it. If you respond to the Vampire Hexmage activation, then they can respond by sacrificing their second copy. But if you wait for it to resolve, the second copy doesn’t help.
5) Vendilion Clique can stop miracles.
Miracle happens when a card is drawn, which means that it’s already in the person’s hand—even if, in the actual game, it probably isn’t (it’s hovering somewhere between hand and library). This means that you can let them put the miracle trigger on the stack and then cast Vendilion Clique (or any other instant-speed discard, such as Surgical Extraction) to take the card away from them, and then they can’t cast it. Similarly, Stifle can counter a miracle trigger (it won’t remove the card from their hand, but it’ll stop it from being cast for the miracle cost, which is never actually paid in this exchange).
6) Sylvan Library lets you dredge 3 times.
Sylvan Library is yet another complicated card. The key to understanding it is that, if you replace the cards drawn with anything else, then you can’t return them, because they weren’t cards you drew this turn. If you have Sylvan Library out and you can dredge three times, then you’ll have no cards that you drew this turn to put back, and won’t have to pay any life. If you dredge once and draw two cards, however, then you do have to put those two back. This also works with other effects that replace draws, such as Abundance.
There’s also an interesting (but largely irrelevant) interaction between Sylvan Library and Brainstorm. Sylvan Library says you have to return two cards you drew this turn, and not two cards you drew with Sylvan Library specifically, so, as long as you keep the cards you drew this turn separated from your hand, you can return them. Imagine it’s your upkeep, and you cast a Brainstorm for whatever reason (perhaps your opponent Wastelanded you on your upkeep and you want to use the mana). If you have Sylvan Library out, you can set aside the three cards you drew from Brainstorm, making sure that your opponent can see they are the same ones. Honestly, at this point I’d probably call a judge to make sure they can tell it’s the same cards. Then you return two cards from your hand, which can be any new cards you drew or cards you already have. Then, you draw three cards from Sylvan Library (you can also fetch before that!), and you put those in the same pile as the cards you drew from Brainstorm. At the end of it, you can return any two cards from that pile, whether they were drawn from Brainstorm or Sylvan Library.
7) Exhume and Shallow Grave don’t target.
When you cast Exhume and Shallow Grave, you don’t have to target anything, which means that you can respond to your own spell with something like a Lion’s Eye Diamond. If you have two lands and an LED in play, you can cast Exhume or Shallow Grave and then sac the LED, throwing Griselbrand in the graveyard.
You can also use this to play around a hate card. For example, if your opponent has Tormod’s Crypt out, or Faerie Macabre in hand, you can cast Exhume with a creature in the graveyard. They have to respond by exiling it, and then, with Exhume still on the stack, you cast Entomb and put another creature in the graveyard, and that’s the one you grab.
8) You can use Maze of Ith to untap your Knight of the Reliquary after combat.
Technically this works with any creature, but Knight of the Reliquary is the most useful. The key here is using Maze of Ith after damage has been dealt, but still inside combat. This means that Knight of the Reliquary is still considered an attacker, and you get to deal damage and untap it for an extra activation, effectively giving it vigilance.
9) Multiple Leovold interactions.
• Leovold doesn’t stop dredge unless you’ve drawn a card this turn. Leovold says you can’t draw a second card, and if you ever draw a first one, you’ll have no more draws to replace. But if you dredge the first one, then you haven’t drawn anything, which means that you can still draw one more. If you use dredge on that one too, you can draw a third, and so on. So if your opponent plays Leovold, you can still cast a Breakthrough and dredge four times, but not if you’ve drawn a card for your turn. If you want to draw a card, it has to be the last one, because once you’ve drawn, you can’t dredge anymore.
• If someone casts Tendrils of Agony with a storm of 10, that’ll be 11 spells targeting you, which means that Leovold will trigger 11 times and you’ll draw 11 cards. You can then find something like Flusterstorm or Mindbreak Trap and counter all the Tendrils copies, which makes Leovold very powerful against Storm if you have access to those cards in your sideboard (it’s always good against them, but with Flusterstorm or Mindbreak Trap it’s extra good). If you’re the Storm player, your opponent has Leovold and you’ve generated a massive storm count, then consider targeting yourself with some of the excessive Tendrils copies to give your opponent fewer chances to draw into Mindbreak Trap (there’s no reason to target them with 20 copies, for example).
• If your opponent has Leovold, you can always target yourself. Gitaxian Probe, for example, reads “target player,” and it’s usually better to look at your own hand rather than to let your opponent draw a card (though you won’t draw an extra card either, because of Leovold, but you can use it for storm or to get a Young Pyromancer token). At the last Legacy GP, my opponent had Leovold and I needed to Fatal Push it, so I used Wasteland targeting my own Wasteland to get revolt, rather than let him draw a card.
10) Thalia, Guardian of Thraben mana counts for sunburst.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben makes your spells cost 1 extra mana, and this mana will count towards sunburst. Since Engineered Explosives only cares how much sunburst is, and not how much mana you paid, a Thalia will not stop it from being played for 2 mana. You can choose X as 1, pay a white and a blue for your Explosives (W for the X and U for the Thalia) and it’ll enter play with 2 counters. For the same reason, it’s impossible to play an Engineered Explosives with sunburst 0 unless you have a colorless source.
In a similar vein, you can always overpay for Engineered Explosives to get around effects like Counterbalance or Spell Pierce. If your opponent has Counterbalance out and you have ample mana, then choose the casting cost they’re least likely to have on top, and play it for that amount. You could, for example, tap UUUUUUW and cast Engineered Explosives with X=7, but with sunburst 2. This is much better than casting it for X=2.
There are plenty of weird interactions in Legacy (when cards like Chains of Mephistopheles and Humility are legal, what can you expect), but I’ve highlighted the ones that I think are more likely to show up and actually matter. If I’ve missed some common ones, let me know in the comments!