I’ve been unable to focus on legacy lately, what with the Midwest Master’s Championship and the TCGPlayer Invitational eating up a lot of my testing. Taking the time away from one of my favorite formats was worth it, however, as I ended up top eighting both events. With the difference in profitability between Standard and Legacy, I almost feel like Standard is my day job while Legacy is my hobby.
But now I’m back to grinding the SCG Opens. I’ve averaged almost eight points a weekend, for sixty some odd points, but with a mere eight more Opens to double that amount and lock up level eight for next year. Cutting it close, to say the least. I think I have standard solved, at least until Innistrad comes out, so that leaves my testing time to maximizing the value that Legacy has to offer.
Looking at the metagame, Merfolk has been on the decline, and even its foremost proponent Alex Bertoncini has set it aside for Natural Order RUG. This type of information is relatively useless unless you understand why. When [card]Mental Misstep[/card] was first printed, everyone speculated that Merfolk would see an increase in play. Unfortunately, [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] into [card]Batterskull[/card] was taking off as a way to combat the blue menace, and Zoo became more and more popular, further dwindling the Merfolk numbers.
Is there a way to handle this apparently hostile metagame? Since Saito waded through a field of Zoo decks at Columbus, starting with his black splash for [card]Perish[/card] makes sense. This has the added benefit of being insane against all the Natural Order decks floating around. After that, I think it’s necessary to find a good answer to [card]Batterskull[/card]. Since I’ve been having a lot of luck with [card]Tower of the Magistrate[/card], it seems like a natural fit, though too narrow of a card for the maindeck.
This is the list I jammed in the most recent Boston 5k.[deck]4 Mutavault
4 Underground Sea
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Coralhelm Commander
2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
1 Phantasmal Image
4 Aether Vial
3 Mental Misstep
4 Force of Will
1 Go for the Throat
2 Tower of the Magistrate
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Pithing Needle[/deck]
I would’ve liked to try out a pair of [card]Chains of Mephistopheles[/card] in the sideboard, but couldn’t find any before the tournament. Given that it was last minute and that I was piecing a lot of the deck together on site, I was happy I had a deck at all, much less complete with some obscure cards like [card]Flusterstorm[/card].
Chains seems ideal at the moment, since it handles a lot of the best cards in the format, although perhaps it isn’t the best in Merfolk, which is more of a tempo deck than a disruptive deck. Also, [card]Silvergill Adept[/card] is one of the more important cards, and it doesn’t combine well with the black enchantment. Perhaps Chains could find a home in BW, a deck that uses [card]Dark Confidant[/card] instead of [card]Brainstorm[/card], [card]Ancestral Vision[/card], or Jace.
The counterspell suite was based on the idea that a resolved [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] is almost as bad as a resolved [card]Goblin Charbelcher[/card], so [card]Force of Will[/card] took precedence over [card]Mental Misstep[/card] as the four-of. I chose [card]Daze[/card] over [card]Spell Pierce[/card] for the same reason.[card]Phantasmal Image[/card] is a recent innovation by Folk pilots, and I like the card a lot. It costs two, which is the sweet spot on [card aether vial]vial[/card], and it adds blow out potential by churning out extra copies of your best merfolk. Increasing the deck’s power level, as well as being a versatile answer to [card]Progenitus[/card] and [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] in the maindeck, makes me think the card is a must-have in the current metagame. I even found an interesting line against Dredge where I [card aether vial]Vialed[/card] it in and then chose not to copy anything with his [card]Bridge from Below[/card] triggers on the stack, effectively neutering his game plan. However, I wouldn’t go higher than two, since you’ll want to shoot yourself if it’s the only creature in hand and you need to resolve a [card]Silvergill Adept[/card], or if you need to play it with only one other creature on board and they kill it in response. Since you never want to have multiple of a dead card, running a miser is a good solution, and you can see this approach in some other slots like the one-of [card]Dismember[/card] and [card]Stifle[/card], which served me well all day. There were a few games were I managed to [card]Stifle[/card] a key fetch or pitch it to [card]Force of Will[/card] in game one, and then board it out. Both times, the opponent played around the now nonexistent card, improving the value of my [card]Wasteland[/card]s.
As an aside, another aspect of one-ofs that a lot of players don’t understand is overlap. A layman might look at a list full of one-ofs and wonder what the plan is. “What, are you expecting to just draw the miser when you need it, in a deck without any manipulation?” they might ask. However, cards often serve multiple purposes, and having the right number of a specifically purposed set of cards is more important than having a neat list with a lot of four-ofs. In the above list, the [card]Stifle[/card], [card]Pithing Needle[/card], and [card]Force of Will[/card]s add up to create six answers to [card]Pernicious Deed[/card], for example. Similarly, the [card]Stifle[/card] combines with the [card]Wasteland[/card]s to provide five ways of keeping a [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] manageable. [card]Go for the Throat[/card] costs a lot, but can answer a [card llawan, cephalid empress]Llawan[/card] like [card]Dismember[/card], or a [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] like [card]Submerge[/card], so I can run a miser and have a consistent answer to both cards while ensuring I never have multiple high costing cards bottlenecked in hand. End aside.[card kira, great glass-spinner]Kira[/card] is a standard fixture of most of Alex B’s lists, and for good reason. Most decks in the format are trying to beat Folk by overloading on removal, so the innocuous 2/2 flyer can steal games out of nowhere and give Folk a level of resiliency one might not realize at first glance.
I went a disappointing 7-2 in the event I played it, but the losses were both close matches, despite some flooding. The deck had a good amount of play to it, and an enviable consistency. Most importantly, it has enough threats to punish an opponent’s stumble. I had a lot of time to go eat in between rounds, and I would highly recommend the deck for grinding out a long season or tournament.
Over the course of the day the [card]Tower of the Magistrate[/card]s were exceptional, and I think two or three should be standard for Folk sideboards. [card]Batterskull[/card], and to a lesser extent [card umezawa’s jitte]Jitte[/card], are too deadly to ignore, and while you can win through them, having a plan B doesn’t hurt.[card]Flusterstorm[/card] surprised me. I played against a competent burn player in my second to last round and he floated two, with two mountains untapped, to attempt a lethal [card]Fireblast[/card]. I had double [card]Flusterstorm[/card] to save me, and if I’d had [card]Spell Pierce[/card] instead then we would’ve gone to game three. I think Folk is the best shell for [card]Flusterstorm[/card] since, unlike other decks, the blue hoard doesn’t care about Jace, which is the main advantage that [card]Spell Pierce[/card] has going for it.
Notably absent is [card]Standstill[/card], which I’m normally a big fan of. Gerry Thompson was touting it to the Folk players before the tournament, and I don’t spurn his advice lightly. I understand why he likes the card, since most players don’t know how to play against it, and it might as well read 1U: Draw three cards. However, situational draw is a swingy effect and a bad topdeck, and I was looking for general consistency despite the one-ofs. Also, the card is at its best when combating a [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] metagame, which holds true for GP Providence, but not for the current field.
A few notes on sideboarding: There are a few classic maneuvers any legacy player should be aware of, like being more willing to board out [card]Daze[/card]s on the draw, or [card]Force of Will[/card]s against a [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] deck. The biggest threat to the deck is flood, so I’m more willing than most to sideboard out lands, especially on the draw. This could include a single color producer, or two to three [card]Wasteland[/card]s if they’ll be dead in the matchup. Even [card]Aether Vial[/card] isn’t uncuttable, as against a deck like Combo Elves you’ll want to up the disruption while keeping a high threat count.
For the legacy championships, I wanted to play something fun, and I wanted it to be spicy. I spent most of the day sketching out a list with other eternal players and brewers. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to be doing, since there was a thread on the Source dedicated to the [card]Veteran Explorer[/card] deck, and I’d played against it on Magic Workstation before.
Unfortunately, I woke with barely enough time to get to the event. After looking to my slumbering roommates, then to my swollen foot (fractured in a fit of drunken debauchery Wednesday night,) and considering the ramifications of getting us all to the event site without food or shower, I said “screw it” and went back to bed. Thus, what could’ve been one of my more relaxed, enjoyable tournaments of the year ended before it began. This is bit of hotness I would’ve ran:[deck]2 Plains
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Windswept Heath
1 Dryad Arbor
2 Phyrexian Tower
1 Tropical Island
4 Veteran Explorer
3 Kitchen Finks
2 Eternal Witness
2 Sun Titan
1 Fleshbag Marauder
1 Yosei, the Morning Star
2 Academy Rector
2 Recurring Nightmare
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Innocent Blood
3 Gifts Ungiven
3 Pernicious Deed
1 Path to Exile
1 Raven’s Crime
3 Hymn to Tourach
1 Pithing Needle
1 Life from the Loam
1 Tower of the Magistrate
3 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Mindbreak Trap
The theory behind the deck is that few decks in the format are basic-flush, and even fewer are equipped to take advantage of the extra mana like this deck full of Titans, [card]Pernicious Deed[/card]s, and [card]Eternal Witnesse[/card]s. [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] is the most underplayed card in legacy for its power level, and this deck tries to remedy that. The above list is well positioned in an agro metagame, and could gain in value as the aggressive decks continue to adapt to the presence of [card]Batterskull[/card].
The maindeck has a lot of neat hidden interactions. Sacrificing a [card]Veteran Explorer[/card] to a [card]Phyrexian Tower[/card] will produce exactly enough mana for [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], for example, so you can cast the backbreaking blue instant as early as turn two. The two mana from Tower is also useful when sacrificing [card]Academy Rector[/card] to tutor up a [card]Pernicious Deed[/card], allowing you to nuke the board immediately.
The [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] might seem out of place at first, but being able to turn a fetchland into a [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] activation, or a [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] flashback, is invaluable.
I wanted to fit a [card]Jace Beleren[/card] into the sideboard, as then the [card]Sun Titan[/card]s could just go crazy on the control decks in the format, but it would require a second basic Island somewhere, and I think the titans are probably good enough as is. Also, a [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] loop should generate enough card advantage to make a [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] pale in comparison.
The sideboard is entirely theory. I can’t pretend that the maindeck has a good combo matchup, so most of the sideboard is dedicated to that, with a minor [card]Life from the Loam[/card] package to be tutored for with [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], replace some of the dead removal against the control decks.
Here is what a sideboard plan might look like:
Generic Combo Deck:
-1 [card]Fleshbag Marauder[/card], -3 [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], -1 [card]Path to Exile[/card], -1 [card]Innocent Blood[/card], -1 [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], -2 [card]Academy Rector[/card], -3 [card]Pernicious Deed[/card]
+3 [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], +2 [card]Duress[/card], +3 [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], +1 [card]Raven’s Crime[/card], +1 [card]Pithing Needle[/card], +1 [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card], +1 [card]Extirpate[/card]
Generic Control Deck:
-1 [card]Fleshbag Marauder[/card], -1 [card]Innocent Blood[/card], -2 [card]Pernicious Deed[/card], -2 [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], -1 [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]
+1 [card]Life from the Loam[/card], +1 [card]Wasteland[/card], +1 [card]Raven’s Crime[/card], +1 [card]Extirpate[/card], +1 [card]Pithing Needle[/card], +2 [card]Duress[/card]
With [card]Tower of the Magistrate[/card] replacing [card]Wasteland[/card] against [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] control decks, of course. [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] is an option, but I would rather fight [card]Standstill[/card] and [card]Ancestral Vision[/card] decks with spot discard and then my own ways of generating card advantage, like [card]Sun Titan[/card] recurring [card]Eternal Witness[/card].
Sometimes you might bring in the odd Tower against [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] Aggro decks, but in general the maindeck is geared towards beating aggressive strategies.
While I would consider both of the above decks competitive, Folk has been tried and tested the world over, and most of the work remaining in the archetype involves testing new cards and tuning it to solve new problems. Meanwhile, the Veteran Explorer deck has been developed by a small, dedicated group of brewers, and no one can claim to have an ideal 75. Still, taking risks tends to pay off for me, and I could see taking a version of the Explorer deck to a serious event, given more time to test, tune, and innovate.
Thanks for reading,