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Legacy Weapon – Standard Findings

A new set is out, and once again I feel compelled to devote some time to Standard. Fortunately, Wizards gave us some sweet cards to work with, and I’ve been having a blast tinkering around. I started the way I always do, by putting my ear to the ground. Initially, Pureblade received a lot of buzz. After all, on appearances the deck doesn’t lose that much.

The problem is, the two best matchups in Caw Blade and Splinter Twin both left the format. The expected field looks like a compilation of Pod, Ux Snapcaster.dec, red decks, and Tempered Steel. Of those, Pureblade is soft to Pod’s card advantage engine and Snapcaster’s pile of instant speed disruption, leaving only mono red as a good matchup. Pureblade also lost [card]Basilisk Collar[/card], which was a key card against Tempered Steel.

[card]Trinket Mage[/card] isn’t worth it without [card]Basilisk Collar[/card], and should be cut entirely. Another card, preferably a two drop or less, needs to up the power level and fill the void in the deck’s synergy. People thought that [card]Mentor of the Meek[/card] was this card, but testing showed that Mentor dies more often than not, and drawing a few cards off of it isn’t necessarily going to win you the game. Just look at what you’re drawing. More [card]Flayer Husk[/card]s? Sweet.

An astute reader might note that these qualms can, and have been, leveled against the deck’s namesake as well. However, when [card]Puresteel Paladin[/card] enters play, he generates a pile of mana by letting you equip for free. If the opponent spends their turn killing the Paladin, they can’t stop you from hitting them with a sword. This is how games are won. [card]Mentor of the Meek[/card], rather than generating mana, acts as a clunky mana sink for questionable gain, and doesn’t offer nearly as much play as the Paladin.

For the longest time, I couldn’t get over the loss of [card]Basilisk Collar[/card]. A fan emailed me, suggesting the use of [card]Painsmith[/card] or [card]Onyx Mage[/card] as a replacement source of deathtouch. While [card]Onyx Mage[/card] is exactly the type of clunkiness that we want to avoid, [card]Painsmith[/card]’s ability is free, aggressive, and highly enticing. The downside is that the only real evasive creature in the deck is [card]Etched Champion[/card], which [card]Painsmith[/card] can’t target. This can be remedied by the addition of [card]Vault Skirge[/card], which some players have been touting as a sword carrier, a source of lifegain, and a metalcraft enabler.

Impure Blade

[deck]4 Puresteel Paladin
4 Painsmith
2 Etched Champion
2 Hero of Bladehold
4 Vault Skirge
4 Flayer Husk
4 Mortarpod
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Sword of War and Peace
1 Sword of Body and Mind
4 Dispatch
1 Dismember
2 Mox Opal
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Inkmoth Nexus
11 Plains
5 Swamp[/deck]

In the absence of all the ally duals and [card]Preordain[/card]s the manabase gets a lot worse, but it’s still manageable. The addition of a land makes me comfortable fitting in a pair of [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]s. Like [card]Mentor of the Meek[/card], you have to untap with Hero to gain any real benefit, but one of these creatures attacks for approximately one bajillion damage while the other might draw a couple cards.

I like how the addition of [card]Painsmith[/card] makes the deck more aggressive, but note that correctly playing [card]Puresteel Paladin[/card], either into removal or around it while correctly managing its abilities, was always one of the more difficult parts of playing the deck, and adding another set of situational triggers isn’t going to make things any easier. It might, however, lead to a greater blowout potential.

There are other ways of building the deck, including [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] or the odd [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] to rebuy [card]Dispatch[/card]es. The problem is that these cards don’t have synergy with the core of the deck. Sure, [card]Flayer Husk[/card] provides a lackluster 1/1, similar to the Stalker, but the Husk also enables metalcraft. In the end, the stalker doesn’t do nearly as much as [card]Etched Champion[/card], and isn’t worth the splash. [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], on the other hand, simply can’t be supported without [card]Preordain[/card] in the deck, as there’s no way of achieving both a critical mass of spells and artifacts.

Would I play this deck? Not at the moment. [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] is now in the format, and getting blown out by a [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] on a sword was bad enough. The shell is still competitive, but it’s a far cry from ideally positioned, suffering from much of the splash hate directed at Tempered Steel.

Here’s what I am playing:

UB Snapcaster.dec

[deck]4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Mana Leak
3 Dismember
2 Victim of Night
1 Doom Blade
2 Skinrender
2 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Grave titan
2 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Think Twice
2 Twisted Image
2 Black Sun’s Zenith
4 Liliana of the Veil
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Karn Liberated
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
9 Swamp
8 Island
Sideboard
3 Torpor Orb
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
3 Flashfreeze
3 Spellskite
2 Negate
3 Sorin’s Thirst[/deck]

To understand why I love this deck so much, you would have to have sat in my seat through my test games, also ripping a seemingly endless supply of gas. Theoretically, I can’t explain it better than Adam Yurchick, master of the sixty cards:

While [card]Jace Beleren[/card] gives players more resources to play with, [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card] rapidly drains them. Bringing both players towards hellbent puts them at the mercy of the current board, the graveyard, and the top of the deck. A deck built to operate in this state will crush decks not well prepared for this style of game.

Approaching Liliana with the same mentality, I developed a deck in which almost every spell has a meaningful impact on the board. If both players are entering topdeck mode quicker, I want to win the hellbent game. I want to draw more planeswalkers, more titans, all while denying the opponent a board presence. [card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card] has been particularly effective in the Liliana mirror. Any card that doesn’t directly contribute to protecting the planeswalkers has been questioned time and time again. [card]Mana Leak[/card] is the most egregious of these, but the card has proven a necessary evil.

This build breaks one of the conventional rules of deckbuilding. That is, that it’s not ideal to play a control deck in an open metagame, as it’s hard to decipher what problem needs solving. This list gets away with it for a few reasons. Its answers are general for the most part, and the finishers are powerful enough to tear a swath of destruction through ill-conceived opposition. It’s difficult to lose after resolving a [card]Karn Liberated[/card] or [card]Grave Titan[/card], regardless of what you’re playing against.

[card]Skinrender[/card] has been generally excellent. For a while I was testing a splash for the new [card garruk relentless]Garruk[/card], but [card]Skinrender[/card] does much of what that planeswalker was accomplishing without straining the manabase. One problem I ran into while testing against Pod was that often it gives the opponent another Clone target, allowing him to develop his board while clearing the way of blockers.

[card]Victim of Night[/card] is a card that a lot of players are overlooking, which surprises me because the card could be one of the staples of the set. Remember [card]Rend Flesh[/card]? While there were a lot of spirits running around, it still saw a decent amount of play. With only one set of the block legal, now is the time in which [card]Victim of Night[/card] is at its peak, as more and more wolves, vampires, and zombies will be printed in the block’s remaining sets. In a deck designed to take advantage of [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], the double black in the casting cost can’t be too restrictive, too. Combining it with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] is much easier than a [card]Cancel[/card] effect, since BBU is easier to build for than UUU in a two colored deck.

[card]Twisted Image[/card] seems strange, and its main purpose is as an instant speed cantrip for [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. That said, it’s difficult to lose a game after Twisted Imaging an opponent’s turn one [card]Signal Pest[/card] or [card]Birds of Paradise[/card], and so far the “gotcha” value has been enough to keep running the card. Cacking the odd [card]Spellskite[/card] is not irrelevant, too.

I spent a lot of time on the sideboard, and in the end I’m reasonably happy with it. A mixture of [card]Spellskite[/card]s, [card]Flashfreeze[/card]s, and the very Snapcastable [card]Sorin’s Vengeance[/card] get the nod against RDW over more traditional options like [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] and [card]Batterskull[/card]. I wanted all of my sideboard slots, even the lifegain, to be relevant in the early game, as you can win the late game with a [card]Grave Titan[/card] just as well as a [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]. Meanwhile, [card]Spellskite[/card]s were necessary to keep from getting [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card]d out.

Notable exclude: [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card]. While I realize the card is very good, I’m not particularly experienced at building draw-go control decks. I am, however, fond of my engines, and the above list maximizes the potential value of [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], making it a sort of [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] with options. While [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] works well with Dr. Snaps, the card itself doesn’t benefit much from the blue wizard’s ability, and would take up a slot of a card that does so or fills a needed role. The protect a planesalker plan is tried and tested, and I want as much of the deck devoted to that as possible.

Another card that’s been suggested for the Ux Snapcaster archetype is [card]Divination[/card], which I like a lot. [card]Mulldrifter[/card] saw infinite play while it was in Standard, and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] plus Divination does something similar. That said, the card is on the sweet spot in the curve, and I’d typically rather be casting planeswalkers. Once Liliana resolves, dumping a hand full of land, threats, and disruption appeals to me more than casting draw spells into my own [card]Necrogen Mists[/card].

There’s a large buzz out about [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] reviving the Solar Flare archetype. While I didn’t play much Solar Flare, I think the deck is being overly hyped at the moment. Five mana is a lot to pay for a reanimation spell, especially considering your most likely target will cost six. Being able to flashback [card unburial rites]Unburial[/card] is much more enticing, but I think having both it and a good target in the yard on turn four is fairly ambitious, and later on in the game I’d almost rather just cast the Titan. Also, we lack the ramp capabilities of the old archetype, making a direct port awkward. I’m not saying the deck won’t be competitive, but I don’t share in my peer’s excitement.

Pod

Birthing Pod took off at the end of last season, the more popular variants being BUG and RUG. Now, we lose [card]Preordain[/card] and the fetchlands for Ponder, leaving only [card]Birthing Pod[/card] itself as a shuffle effect, which strikes me as lackluster. Blue has little left to offer. My mind went to GB Pod, as that was the archetype I’ve had the most experience with, but with both [card]Voltaic Key[/card] and [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] rotating the deck loses both its incentive and ability to casually splash [card]Trinket Mage[/card], which was a crucial three drop. Likewise, blue versions lose [card]Sea Gate Oracle[/card]. After testing [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card] in the three drop slot for a while, and becoming increasingly disillusioned at the prospect of [card]Massacre Wurm[/card] and [card sheoldred, whispering one]Sheoldred[/card] when I couldn’t [card]Voltaic Key[/card]+Pod into them on the same turn, I conceded that white, with [card]Blade Splicer[/card] at the three drop and [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] at the top of the curve, was simply better.

All of these findings led me to listen to Bryant Cook when he told me he was working on a blue-free Pod list. I convinced him to test [card]Tormentor Exarch[/card], which he liked, and after tuning he ended up at the following:

Naya Pod
By Bryant Cook

[deck]4 Birthing Pod
3 Arc Trail
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
3 Viridian Emissary
1 Perilous Myr
1 Spellskite
2 Phantasmal Image
3 Blade Splicer
1 Manic Vandal
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
1 Tormentor Exarch
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
2 Acidic Slime
1 Archon of Justice
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger
1 Sun Titan
1 Inferno Titan
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Sunpetal Grove
5 Forest
2 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Island
Sideboard
4 Ancient Grudge
3 Dismember
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Spellskite
2 Garruk Relentless
1 Gideon Jura[/deck]

This deck slaughters Tempered Steel, partly because it has a clear, disruptive pod chain for the deck, while less prepared Pod lists will hit their first relevant anti-Tempered Steel card at [card]Acidic Slime[/card]. Also, the slew of [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]s and other removal post board leads to blowouts.

With some of the major voices in the game touting Solar Flare, playing a deck that can take advantage of the opponent’s titans by running out multiple clones seems like a strong choice. When you consider that the core of the deck is naturally resilient to control strategies, and the filler slots devoted to anti-aggro cards like [card]Arc Trail[/card], the deck seems even stronger. If you can’t get your hands on [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s, or even if you can but love the Pod, then you could do far worse than sleeving up this deck.

I like how the deck has a plan against all the different aspects of the metagame, even down to multiple [card]Spellskite[/card]s against the red decks. We haven’t tested [card]Tree of Redemption[/card] yet, but the card has potential to be backbreaking that matchup.

The planeswalkers in the sideboard are a second engine, designed to take control of a game in the face of the artifact hate that’ll be pointed at the Birthing Pods post board. I would even take it a step further by cutting a [card]Blade Splicer[/card] and the [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card], moving the [card garruk relentless]Garruks[/card] into the maindeck.

That’s it for my current findings. The lists presented are reasonably tested, and if they change before Indy this weekend I doubt it’ll be by more than a few cards.

Thanks for reading,

Caleb Durward

[email protected]
CalebDMTG on twitter

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