It is not often that a new set has an impact on Eternal formats. Khans of Tarkir is the exception to this trend, containing several significant cards: Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Monastery Swiftspear, Stubborn Denial, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Flooded Strand/Polluted Delta etc. (for Modern). Treasure Cruise is likely the most impactful card to enter Legacy since Mental Misstep and may eventually suffer the same fate. I suspect that by Grand Prix New Jersey Treasure Cruise will be played in a variety of successful aggro, control, and combo decks. It is exciting to brew new decks in a previously stale Legacy—showing up with a year old deck list will not cut it anymore.
I’m a fan of this style of deck even though it may invalidate my longtime weapon of choice, RUG Delver. What surprises me most about Bob’s impressive finish is that his deck can support four Treasure Cruises without any self mill cards (e.g. Thought Scour). Simply playing cheap spells and fetchlands can fuel a powerful Treasure Cruise strategy. Monastery Swiftspear is a fantastic replacement for Goblin Guide in nearly every game not based on pure aggression. Swiftspear does not share the card disadvantage drawback of Goblin Guide and it also provides a frightening creature to engage in combat with that may grow. When this deck is on the offensive it seems extraordinarily powerful and difficult to keep up with. Unlike many aggressive decks of the past this deck remains a contender in the late game when faced with early removal and disruption thanks to Treasure Cruise. After resolving Treasure Cruise the deck is capable of mounting a comeback with burn spells, and staving off future potential problems with Daze or Force of Will. This deck is only the beginning of what will inevitably be a transformation of the Legacy metagame centered around Treasure Cruise.
It is possible to play Treasure Cruise in combo decks, however there is a difficult balance to strike in combo decks that utilize their own graveyard like Dredge, Reanimator, and Storm. Combo is not my forte so I will leave the combo brewing to those more predisposed to solitaire Magic.
Casting spells in Magic is supposed to cost mana; occasionally cards are printed that can use other resources such as life and cards in hand to circumvent the normal mana cost. Free spells are inherently broken and always deserve more attention than they receive. I did a quick Gatherer search to find underplayed cards to build with Treasure Cruise in mind, perhaps now is the time for some of these cards to finally get their time to shine:
In Standard Dig Through Time has seen more play than Treasure Cruise so far. Cruise is best suited for Legacy primarily because when you are able to Brainstorm away useless cards for new ones card, quantity becomes superior to card quality. Additionally the colored mana cost of Dig Through Time is double that of Treasure Cruise, which is regularly the entire mana cost paid. The best way to fuel Treasure Cruise and maximize the card advantage gained is to fill your deck with cheap interactive spells. It is essential when playing card draw spells that you have something impactful to do immediately after to compensate for the tempo loss of playing a spell that does not impact the board.
I built a preliminary deck focusing on interaction and attrition that I am interested in trying for Grand Prix New Jersey.
Even though this is a blue deck, it is comparable to Jund decks of the past, comprised of the most efficient, card-advantageous, and versatile spells available. As long as you are able to survive the early turns of the game with removal, discard, and counterspells, the card advantage should overcome most opponents. With over half the deck being cards capable of entering the graveyard immediately from turn one (counting fetchlands), Treasure Cruise should regularly cost one mana.. Thought Scour has been a fringe playable in Legacy since its printing, contending with Preordain and Gitaxian Probe in decks desiring excessive cantrips. The synergies with Treasure Cruise, Lingering Souls, Cabal Therapy, and Deathrite Shaman may be enough to put Thought Scour above Ponder here.
One attractive feature of this deck is its sideboard, chock full of silver bullets for specific matchups. Against several decks there will be poorly-positioned cards to remove after game one to be replaced with powerful answers to shift the matchup in Esper’s favor. Rest in Peace is the sacred sideboard card choice for white decks, but in the new world of Treasure Cruising Leyline of the Void‘s asymmetry is well positioned. The rest of the sideboard contains particular cards for creature and combo decks that do not require much explanation. The one card I would like to address is Circle of Protection: Red. Mono-red will be popular because of its cheap price in an otherwise expensive format and the fact that it is legitimately a well positioned deck. I have nothing but respect for mono-red.
My next brew is a creature combo deck that features a new Khans of Tarkir card: Stubborn Denial. Stubborn Denial is serviceable as disruption on an empty board and becomes impressive when backed up by a large creature. It is entirely possible that Spell Pierce is superior to Stubborn Denial but I remain hopeful about its potential.
Blue/Black Death’s Shadow
This deck aims to produce one huge threat and protect it at all costs. Death’s Shadow and Phyrexian Dreadnought are one-mana 13/13s and 12/12s respectively, of course with serious drawbacks. In order to successfully cast Death’s Shadow you must be at 12 life to make it even a modest 1/1. Phyrexian Dreadnought needs Stifle or Trickbind. If you are able to overcome these creatures’ costs there are serious rewards to be reaped. Watery Grave is not a card you would ever consider playing in Legacy provided you had access to Underground Sea, but it is quite important to facilite Death’s Shadow in conjunction with fetchlands. This deck has some opening hands that are so dominant, you will win no matter what your opponent is doing. Here are two examples:
A new exciting interaction is Toxic Deluge and Death’s Shadow. Ideally you are able to get yourself to 12 life on turn two to cast a Death’s Shadow and then Toxic Deluge on turn three to plague wind the opponent and power up Death’s Shadow. I like this deck because I would not be embarrassed to play most of the cards in it in a normal deck, which is not something you can say about all combo decks. This deck can play as a control deck that has a combo finish. The Esper deck played Thought Scour where this deck plays Ponder even though both decks contain Treasure Cruise. The reason to include Ponder in this deck is that it requires specific cards in combination to win, whereas the Esper deck can win in a variety of ways. Once again in the sideboard I have traditional inclusions, except Chill. I discovered Chill thanks to Gerry Thompson always playing it in his Legacy sideboards. I can not overstate how important Chill is in this specific sideboard for the Burn matchup—we are playing a life-loss deck for heaven’s sake. Even if you believe the chances of playing against Burn are low it is crucial to prioritize sideboard cards for your bad matchups.
I am looking forward to seeing what wild brews are in store in the upcoming month before Grand Prix New Jersey. Enjoy Cruising before the opportunity to do so is possibly banned.
Thank you for reading,