Legacy Weapon – Sneaky Results

The results are in, and Sneak and Show dominated last week’s Invitational right down to a mirror match finals. I was a bit off in my metagame prediction. I assumed that, because Shardless was the deck to beat for the last two Invitationals that it would be so again.

Here’s how I tuned it for the mirror.

4-Color Shardless

[deck]Main Deck
2 Underground Sea
1 Badlands
1 Volcanic Island
2 Tropical Island
2 Bayou
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Polluted Delta
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Verdant Catacombs
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Baleful Strix
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Shardless Agent
1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Ancestral Visions
4 Brainstorm
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Punishing Fire
3 Force of Will
2 Thoughtseize
Sideboard
2 Thoughtseize
1 Force of Will
2 Seal of Primordium
2 Whipflare
1 Engineered Plague
2 Flusterstorm
1 Duress
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Life from the Loam
2 Ensnaring Bridge[/deck]

From my experience with [card]Punishing Fire[/card], I knew it almost single-handedly beat fair decks like Jund, Shardless, and Esper Blade. The addition felt natural. Easy too, thanks to Peter Tragos’s work refining the red splash.

If I could go back in time, I’d register -1 [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], -1 [card]Baleful Strix[/card] for +2 [card]Thoughtseize[/card] in the main. Fortunately, the popularity of fast combo didn’t take me completely by surprise. I had my ear to the ground, and a little bird told me the East Coast players were bringing Sneak and Show. At the last minute, I added some [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card]s to cold the Sneak players. They can counter it, assuming you don’t drop it into play off [card]Show and Tell[/card]. They have 1-2 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], but don’t know whether to bring them in, and that forces them to commit resources to a sub-game instead of winning.

Unfortunately, I never got to play against the tournament’s best deck. Most were even less prepared than me, and Sneak went on to have the most dominant weekend of its life.

Sneak Attack, by BBD

[deck]Main Deck
4 Lotus Petal
4 Sneak Attack
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Intuition
1 Misdirection
3 Spell Pierce
4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Griselbrand
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
4 Show and Tell
3 Island
1 Mountain
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Volcanic Island
Sideboard
2 Defense Grid
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Blood Moon
1 Echoing Truth
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Through the Breach
2 Pyroclasm[/deck]

While I consider BBD’s the stock list, there were two other builds that finished the Legacy portion at 7-1 or better.

Gerry Thompson played -1 [card]Island[/card], -1 [card]Ancient Tomb[/card], -1 [card]Misdirection[/card]; +2 [card]City of Traitors[/card], +1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card]

In the sideboard, he had -1 [card]Through the Breach[/card], -3 [card]Blood Moon[/card], -2 [card]Defense Grid[/card] and +1 [card]Pyroclasm[/card], +2 [card]Swan Song[/card], +3 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card].

While the white Leyline isn’t as specifically good as [card]Blood Moon[/card] against Shardless, it’s still a fine tool against the deck’s discard.

Chas Hinkle played -1 [card]Polluted Delta[/card], -1 [card]Ancient Tomb[/card], -1 [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], -3 [card]Spell Pierce[/card]; +2 [card]City of Traitors[/card], +2 [card]Daze[/card], +1 [card]Intuition[/card], and +1 [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card].

Chas went with a lower curve, probably expecting more tempo than actually showed. [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card] adds an extra bit of explosiveness while randomly blowing out opposing [card]Daze[/card]s.

In the sideboard, he played -2 [card]Defense Grid[/card], -1 [card]Blood Moon[/card], and -3 [card]Through the Breach[/card] to fit in +1 [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], +1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], and +4 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card].

The same weekend, two Sneak lists Top 8’d the Open. Chris Bergeson with his own unique take, and Chris VanMeter with BBD’s stock list, adding two [card]Swan Song[/card]s over the [card]Defense Grid[/card]s in the board.

Speaking of CVM, I want to give him a shout out for returning my [card]Underground Sea[/card]. Thanks to his sharp eyes, it was discovered under the feature match table before the end of Day One. I’ve turned in other people’s decks before, but this was the first time I was the recipient of that basic humanity. I hope that the run-good faeries pay him a visit.

I know Chris Bergeson as a friend, Chicago grinder, alterist behind Oneiros Alters, and the current Legacy Champ. He won the title with Sneak and Show, and while he might not have as many Top 8s with it as Huey Jensen, he still knows his way around the deck.

Bergeson played -1 [card]Polluted Delta[/card], -4 [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], -1 [card]Intuition[/card] for +1 [card]City of Traitors[/card], +1 [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], +1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card], +1 [card]Misdirection[/card], +2 [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card].

His sideboard bears a resemblance to CVM’s with -2 [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], -1 [card]Through the Breach[/card], -1 [card]Red Elemental Blast[/card] for +1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], +1 [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card], and +2 [card]Swan Song[/card]

Since he’s not sideboarding [card]Leyline of Singularity[/card], it makes sense to increase the maindeck resilience to discard effects. Cards like [card]Misdirection[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], and [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] are all particularly good at fighting through [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card]. He loses [card gitaxian probe]Probe[/card], which helps hit land drops while revealing whether the coast is clear, but that also means less question marks in his opening hands.

I’m guessing that, with all of his experience piloting the deck, Bergeson has a pretty good idea of when to go for it and when to hold back. If I were picking up the deck for the first time, I would stick to a version with [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card].

[card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card] might not crush a deck singlehandedly like [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], but it can be cast for free, which matters when you’re tapping out to cheat a [card]Griselbrand[/card] into play. When I was tuning Mono-Red Sneak and Breach, that was one of the reasons I favored Crypt over Cage.

Ban List Controversy

Sneak’s dominance sparked some controversy on Twitter:

caleb1

I’m sharing this conversation because it’s between two people I respect, both making reasonable points, which is all kinds of rare considering that I found it on the internet. Overall, I’m more inclined to agree with Levin. Both Sneak and Omniscience have their weaknesses, which can be exploited if they become too dominant. The problem I’ve had is when there’s a mixture of them in a given field, as cards like [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card] or [card]Arcane Laboratory[/card] can hose one deck but do nothing against the other.

I wouldn’t cry if [card]Show and Tell[/card] got the axe, though it does give us a combo deck that can reliably fight through Countertop. On the other hand, UR Sneak might still be a thing without Show, as it could jam [card]Through the Breach[/card] and perhaps some number of [card]Seething Song[/card]s. That’d slow it down, which might be the power nerf it needs to reign it in while keeping it competitive.

Is [card]Show and Tell[/card] the culprit, or is it [card]Griselbrand[/card]? Does Wizards need to take action? Would the format be more fun without [card]Show and Tell[/card]? Chime in on the forums!

The Other Stuff

Aside from Sneak Attack, no other specific archetype had multiple copies do well. To put that into perspective, no RUG decks managed to Top 8, and of the tempo decks only Ben Friedman’s UWR and Richard McCombs’s UR Delver managed to X-1 or better. Part of that is that UR can pressure a combo opponent much better than the other tempo decks. Where RUG has [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] and UWR has [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], UR Delver is already attacking for 2 with [card]Goblin Guide[/card]. Meanwhile, [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] gives redundancy to the deck’s spells, increasing its clock and disruption density at the same time. If you want to play [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] in a field of combo, UR is the way to go.

With the printing of True-Name Nemesis, UR Delver gains a real tool for beating [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and piles of removal, all of which constitute the deck’s biggest problems.

One deck I was impressed with was Bernal’s latest take on Stoneblade. Throughout testing and the tournament itself, the list never seemed to have any clear weaknesses, and it attacks the meta from a fairly fresh angle.

Bernal Blade

[deck]Main Deck
5 Island
4 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Flooded Strand
3 Marsh Flats
2 Polluted Delta
1 Scrubland
2 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Batterskull
4 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Back to Basics
4 Brainstorm
2 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
2 Misdirection
2 Negate
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Lingering Souls
4 Supreme Verdict
Sideboard
1 Pithing Needle
2 Notion Thief
2 Detention Sphere
2 Rest in Peace
2 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Celestial Purge
1 Flusterstorm
4 Thoughtseize[/deck]

Like me, Bernal had Shardless in his crosshairs, as we can see from the maindeck [card]Back to Basics[/card] and [card]Misdirection[/card]. While he doesn’t have many cards to fight combo in the main, the counters he does run are particularly well suited to the combo matchup. Bernal can get away with maindecking [card]Flusterstorm[/card] and [card]Negate[/card] because most attacking decks are stopped cold by [card]Back to Basics[/card] into [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. As a practiced RUG player, I would never want to face this deck.

He has a full twelve cards to bring in against Show and Tell variants, including [card]Notion Thief[/card], [card]Detention Sphere[/card], and [card]Blue Elemental Blast[/card]. [card]Pithing Needle[/card] can name either [card]Sneak Attack[/card] or [card]Griselbrand[/card]. Sometimes, it’s possible to wait a turn or two to deploy it. That way, if the opponent has an early [card]Show and Tell[/card] you can plop Needle into play and name whatever they dropped. This is risky if the opponent plays an early [card]Sneak Attack[/card], however, so don’t wait too long.

Decks that are particularly good at fighting over [card]Show and Tell[/card], say with cards like [card]Red Elemental Blast[/card] or a [card]Counterbalance[/card] on 3, are more likely to jam a turn one Needle on Sneak Attack. This frees up mana down the road.

Discard plus countermagic is a great way to attack any combo deck, but most Show and Tell variants run [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], which can lead to some crushing blowouts against hands depending on [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], or [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], all of which are otherwise excellent tools at fighting the sneaky menace.

Speaking of Liliana, the card is great at attacking the hand, as a hellbent opponent can’t go [card]Show and Tell[/card] plus threat. It also edicts away giant monsters. Because it comes down a full turn sooner, it’s even better than Jace against this particular form of combo.

[card]Riptide Pilferer[/card] is another option for attacking a combo player’s hand. In the Indy Open, David Gleicher ran three in the sideboard of BUG Pod to both pressure the opponent and up his blue count for [card]Force of Will[/card]. I didn’t hear of it doing more than attacking for 1, but the idea is sound.

Standard

BG Devotion, by Jacob Baugh

[deck]Main Deck
9 Swamp
1 Breeding Pool
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Mutavault
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Temple of Mystery
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Prophetic Prism
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat
4 Underworld Connections
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Hero’s Downfall
1 Whip of Erebos
4 Thoughtseize
Sideboard
1 Abhorrent Overlord
4 Skylasher
2 Golgari Charm
2 Putrefy
1 Ultimate Price
1 Whip of Erebos
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Duress[/deck]

Jacob Top 4’d the Standard Open with this amalgamation of various lists. He started by talking to Bernal and Vaca, who convinced him on the green splash. [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] is a fine answer to [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] and [card]Underworld Connections[/card], which the mono-black version lacks. The sideboard improves the mono-blue matchup, too. [card]Putrefy[/card] and [card]Golgari Charm[/card] kill both [card]Bident of Thassa[/card] and [card]Master of Waves[/card], which are two of the deadliest threats in the matchup. [card]Skylasher[/card] slows down the game, giving mono-black time to come back from the blue deck’s most aggressive threats.

After that, I talked him into quad-[card]Pack Rat[/card]. Not just because it’s the best threat in the mirror, the most popular matchup, but also because being proactive is the best approach to mono-blue game one. The blue deck’s threats are cheaper, and they will eventually draw a Bident or a Thassa, so you need to apply pressure to put the game away. The card is at its worst against Esper, but even there [card]Thoughtseize[/card] can strip away sweepers long enough for the Rat, in combination with [card]Mutavault[/card], to end things. Besides, Esper is the deck’s best matchup. I should know, as I 4-0’d Esper despite running the full set of Rats and sideboarding my [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]s.

[card]Prophetic Prism[/card] was some tech I found on MTGO. It lets you keep more double-[card]Mutavault[/card] hands and cast [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] on 3 lands more reliably. Post-Nightveil, it can filter for the color of your opponent’s deck, gaining tempo by letting you cast their spells sooner. On top of that, it lets the deck support five colorless lands while keeping the land count low. In this version, it even fixes for the green splash.

My favorite Nightveil story came from round five against Esper Blade. My opponent was trying to race with triple-[card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], but a [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] was keeping me in the game. Eventually, a pair of [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]s found me an Elspeth off the top of his deck, letting me 4-for-1 him in the most brutal fashion. While this story shows how good Prism is, it also exemplifies how bad Blood Baron is as a hate card against mono-black. The problem isn’t that it’s a 5-drop against a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] deck, as Esper has plenty of time to draw into multiple copies. Rather, it’s that the card is surprisingly raceable with [card]Underworld Connections[/card], [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], or a mixture of the two.

Finally, I ran a miser’s [card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card] and [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card] in the sideboard. I hadn’t had time to test them, but they were popping up on MTGO and I could see how well they’d work with Whip. Over the course of the Invitational, I played against a slew of decks that overloaded on spot removal, and [card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card] overperformed.

I didn’t get the chance to to test out [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card], and thus can’t give it a full recommendation, but it does seem sweet against the fast mana green decks trying to spit out a giant monster.

If I were playing in the TCGPlayer Championship this weekend, I’d run Jacob’s list with -2 [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], +2 [card]Ultimate Price[/card] in the main deck, moving one of the [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]s to the sideboard. This would increase the number of maindeck answers to [card]Master of Waves[/card] and [card]Desecration Demon[/card], both of which put the game away quickly.

I’d also consider cutting the [card nykthos, shrine to nyx]Nykthos[/card] for a Swamp, but keeping it isn’t inherently wrong.

The only other deck I’d consider is GU Ramp.

GU Devotion, by Bobby Graves

[deck]Main Deck
9 Forest
3 Island
4 Breeding Pool
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Arbor Colossus
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Prophet of Kruphix
2 Reverent Hunter
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
3 Cyclonic Rift
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Prime Speaker Zegana
2 Nylea, God of the Hunt
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Sideboard
2 Aetherling
2 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Witchstalker
3 Gainsay
2 Bident of Thassa
2 Bramblecrush[/deck]

It might’ve been his draws, but Bobby made the mono-black matchup look like cake. [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card], [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card], and an overloaded [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] are all individually problematic, and post-board [card]Aetherling[/card], [card]Bramblecrush[/card], and [card]Bident of Thassa[/card] add to mono-black’s problems.

On paper, the Esper matchup looks close, but Bident and Garruk are still cards, and overall I’d rather be the green deck.

The one change I’d consider is cutting the [card]Witchstalker[/card] for another [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card].

Caleb Durward

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