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Recurring Nightmares – Turboland

Throughout the course of my relationship with the harsh but supple mistress that is the Legacy format, there have been a few decks that have stuck with me. These are the decks I’ve played that no matter how different the format becomes, no matter what changes develop within the metagame, I’m always looking to bring back into the fold, because nothing has been more pleasurable for me than playing with these piles.

My first Legacy love was Scepter-Chant. While everyone I knew (and at the time, there weren’t very many people I knew) was playing Landstill, my own build incorporated a playset of [card]Enlightened Tutor[/card] to find and establish “Chant Lock,” something that was much more valued by me than by my opponents – all of whom had ways to break out of the lock, regardless of how tight I thought it was. Eventually I realized that the Chant plan wasn’t particularly good, and dropped it in favor of better cards, but the concept of playing [card]Enlightened Tutor[/card] in a control shell to capture a silver-bullet strategy of answers is one that has persisted through my development as a deck builder – something that should be apparent if you’ve followed my column over the past year.

The deck that really drove home for me the power level of Enlightened Tutor in blue decks was a construct by Bob Kochis, an old school Legacy guy from upstate NY who developed a deck he called “Bob the Belcher.” It was a mess of a list, much like many of the decks of the day, and while it seemed nearly unbeatable in Bob’s hands, it rapidly fell apart when piloted by other players. Bob’s list was, in essence, a Scepter deck – which is why it attracted me at the time. Here’s a list from 2005:

[deck]4 Brainstorm
4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Orim’s Chant
4 Enlightened Tutor
2 Mana Severance
2 Isochron Scepter
3 Standstill
4 Counterspell
2 Crucible of Worlds
1 Vedalken Shackles
3 Wrath of God
1 Goblin Charbelcher
4 Force of Will
3 Island
1 Plains
4 Flooded Strand
4 Mishra’s Factory
3 Faerie Conclave
4 Tundra
4 Wasteland[/deck]

Even in Bob’s primer on the deck, he listed the majority of his matchups as 50/50 or worse. Somehow, I still jumped on this bandwagon for a few months, until I eventually found a new love in Turboland.

There is no deck in Magic that I’ve found more enjoyment in playing than Turboland. When I recently saw Ali Aintrazi’s list from SCG Baltimore, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was. Every few months, I get a hankering to put together another copy of the Turboland build I was slinging near the end of ’05:

[deck]4 Exploration
3 Horn of Greed
3 Crucible of Worlds
4 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Brainstorm
2 Impulse
4 Force of Will
4 Counterspell
2 Constant Mists
2 Hail Storm
1 Upheaval
1 Temporal Manipulation
1 Capture of Jingzhou
2 Gaea’s Blessing
4 Tropical Island
5 Island
3 Forest
3 Flooded Strand
2 Windswept Heath
4 Wasteland
3 Mishra’s Factory
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Sideboard:
3 Zuran Orb
3 Troll Ascetic
1 Capsize
1 Hail Storm
1 Gaea’s Blessing
2 Damping Matrix
2 Naturalize
2 Stifle[/deck]

This list was built in the earliest iteration of my collaboration with Colin Chilbert – who I may have mentioned before as being one of the most underrated deckbuilders in Legacy’s sordid history. Colin and I have been building decks together for quite a while, but this was one of our first real hits.

A crucial factor to keep in mind when considering this deck is that the build was constructed for another period of time, and prior to the release of many cards I would consider “must plays” in a similar deck today. Goblins was running rampant on the format, as was Threshold in its earliest forms, so playing against those two matchups, along with Landstill, was of paramount importance. As such, certain cards were required where others would probably take their place today. [card]Hail Storm[/card], for example, was nearly the only way you could legitimately beat Goblins in game one – and more than any deck I’ve played since, winning game one was an advantage you couldn’t afford to give up.

Colin played Turboland splashing Red for [card]Burning Wish[/card] in Grand Prix Philadelphia, and misplayed himself out of day two when he failed to recognize that he could [card]Stifle[/card] the trigger of a [card]Chalice of the Void[/card] on two. Seeing this would have allowed him to Wish for Upheaval, and float enough mana and land drops to go off with his opponent’s board in his hand. It’s a misplay he still hasn’t quite lived down.

The death knell for this deck was the printing of Time Spiral block. Planar Chaos brought with it [card]Extirpate[/card], and despite all of the articles and forum posts on the subject that David Gearhart and I could muster, Legacy players (especially those at your local events – a point which I’ll get to in just a moment) refused to see the card as anything but the second coming. This was an era that was completely rampant with people making my life miserable by [card]Wasteland[/card] on [card]Tropical Island[/card] followed by [card]Extirpate[/card] on the Trop. Of course, nine times out of ten, I would simply fetch for a Forest and be done with it, but they all seemed to remember the one time out of ten it kept me off green for the rest of the game far better than they recalled the other nine games. In a world where everyone was trying to “get you” with [card]Extirpate[/card], playing a deck based on recurring [card]Time Warp[/card] with [card]Gaea’s Blessing[/card] was not where you wanted to be.

On the topic of the local event – I’m not positive if my own local events are all that similar to those around the world, because two things are true:

1) They happen with a high degree of regularity, and with a relatively high caliber of player for a Legacy crowd, and
2) The players – even those who are competitive – play bad, bad decks.

I consider our Legacy events to be more like FNM than like a SCG open, despite the fact that many of our locals have been playing the format for a Looooooong time and should know better. While I may play against Stoneforge control in an event, it’s far more likely that it will be in the hands of a newer player net-decking a list for lack of familiarity with Legacy than it would be one of the more tested locals piloting the deck. Really, most people just play whatever seventy-five cards they feel like sleeving up that week, which creates a bit of chaos in terms of metagaming, because you can’t really predict that this week Nat will decide to play Ichorid when last week he played RUG. The fact that nearly everyone has the ability to build a wide array of decks is both excellent for our metagame and detrimental for predicting the metagame – which is actually self-perpetuating, as the constant shifting of everyone else’s decks makes sticking with a single strategy yourself a bad idea. You become easily targeted, and the events are not so large that you won’t run into someone who knows what you played last week. Combine that with writing articles about what decks you like for additional complexity points.

Getting back on track, I suppose I should tell you what this deck actually does, since it may not be readily apparent.

Basically, you use the combination of a million cantrips/card draw spells, along with [card]Horn of Greed[/card] (utilizing the fact that you can out-land your opponents by 2-to-1 or better) to draw your deck as fast as you can. You’re effectively trying to race your opponent to the point where you have about 10 or less cards left in your deck. At that point, you start casting [card temporal manipulation]Time Warp[/card]s (those Portal cards you had to look up – We used them because they don’t target, unlike [card]Time Warp[/card] itself) and looping them for more Time Warps via the pair of [card]Gaea’s Blessing[/card]s in the deck. You were easily able to assure you drew at least one [card]Time Warp[/card] per turn with this method. At some point, you were able to do one of a few things to win:

1) [card]Wasteland[/card] every land your opponent had in play, and counter every card they play for the rest of the game.
2) [card]Upheaval[/card], replaying all of your lands and continuing to chain turns until you eventually kill them.
3) Just attack them with [card]Mishra’s Factory[/card], replaying it via Crucible as necessary, until they run out of blockers and die.

Most of the time, all three of these plays were made, in order, until your opponent conceded. Then, you would take all of the time left in the round in game two, making certain not to slow play of course, and then take all five turns in extra time. I won’t lie, this deck is BORING to play against, because you aren’t getting much time to do things, and it isn’t killing you fast. On the other hand, when it dies, it dies hard.

The key component to realizing that this deck had potential was when Colin and I added [card]Constant Mists[/card] to the deck. In the spirit of every person who tries to play TurboFog ever, [card]Constant Mists[/card] gets to do the job of all 12 [card]Fog[/card]s you could add, in a tight package of two cards. When combined with [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card], it has a tendency to put the brakes on aggro in a hurry. Add in an [card]Exploration[/card], and you have the ability to continue to develop your board despite the sacrifice of a land each turn.

Ultimately, as I said, the time for this deck in the configuration above has come and gone. It can’t compete with a world in which players are casting [card]Show and Tell[/card] on turn 1 or 2, or blowing you out with [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. However, I believe Ali has made significant steps in the right direction in getting to a place where Turboland can be competitive again – if not necessarily a tier one strategy. Here is Ali’s list for reference:

[deck]3 Crucible Of Worlds
1 Elixir of Immortality
4 Horn of Greed
4 Exploration
4 Brainstorm
2 Constant Mists
2 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
3 Mental Misstep
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Time Warp
1 Walk the Aeons
1 Forest
6 Island
1 Ghost Quarter
3 Mishra’s Factory
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Tropical Island
4 Wasteland
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Sideboard:
2 Null Rod
3 Zuran Orb
1 Constant Mists
2 Nix
2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
3 Bojuka Bog[/deck]

Ali has taken many of the principles that were laid out in the initial Legacy Turboland list and developed them into quite a powerful build. Some of the stand-out changes:

-[card]Hail Storm[/card] is no longer needed. Goblins is nowhere near as present as it once was, so it’s not required that you maindeck solutions for the threat of turn 1 Lackey.
-[card]Mental Misstep[/card] provides a way to keep up with the more broken decks, which means that you’re more likely to get to the later game, which is where this deck shines.
-[card]Elixir of Immortality[/card] serves the function of a pair of [card]Gaea’s Blessing[/card]s in the deck, provided you get to the point where you can draw through your deck each turn. With a full playset of [card]Horn of Greed[/card], this is more regularly an occurrence.
-[card azusa, lost but seeking]Azusa[/card] provides the equivalent of two [card]Exploration[/card]s, and turns on [card]Walk the Aeons[/card] by herself. This, of course, justifies the inclusion of Walk as both a more expensive [card]Time Warp[/card] as well as an infinite turn resource in itself.
-Planeswalkers – especially those which have an ultimate ability that wins the game – play extremely well into the theme of Turboland. They provide a useful source of marginal advantage that gets much, much better as you begin to take additional turns.
-The mana base is easily reconfigured due to the presence of better fetchlands, however with Walk in the deck and lacking the requirements for [card]Hail Storm[/card], the basic Forest requirements are minimized.
-The sideboard, for all intents and purposes, looks fairly similar in the holes it intends to fill. Thrun is essentially a strict upgrade to [card]Troll Ascetic[/card]. [card]Zuran Orb[/card] and [card]Null Rod[/card] are a non-bo, but are appropriate for different matchups. [card llawan, cephalid empress]Llawan[/card] is a concession to the miserable Merfolk matchup, where Upheaval is too expensive. [card]Nix[/card] is a pet card (that Ali and I share) to be used in the [card]Hive Mind[/card] matchups, among others.

I think, should I be so daring as to attempt a run with Turboland, the changes I’d make to Ali’s build would be so:

-1 [card]Horn of Greed[/card] -2 [card]Counterspell[/card] -1 [card]Meloku the Clouded Mirror[/card]

The fourth Horn is really unnecessary. You’ll find that you don’t often want to play Turn 1 [card]Exploration[/card], land; Turn 2 land Horn land. Your opponent gets a fair amount of value out of the Horn at that point as well, and you’re going to have much more benefit from it by waiting until turn 3 or 4 for the Horn, often when you’ve already landed a [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card].

The [card]Counterspell[/card]s are probably fine, but we need to make room, and they are weaker than other options.

[card meloku the clouded mirror]Meloku[/card] is great, in theory, but in practice I’ve found that she is unreliable as a win condition, and while bouncing lands is a fine way to gain advantage in the deck, you don’t want to cost yourself land drops – the deck is incredibly mana hungry, and setting yourself back creates a mana choke point where you can’t [card]Time Warp[/card] and play other spells in the same turn.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that Ali runs twice as many [card]Time Warp[/card] effects as Colin and I did, I believe that the addition of Planeswalkers to the mix makes the “value” [card]Time Warp[/card] more important, and so running the 4 Warps seems fine. Of course, if you can find the Portal Warps, I suggest running one of each, rather than three of the same.

With these four slots, I would add a second Azusa to the list, as well as the third Jace. The final two slots we’ve freed up would consist of a 26th land, and an [card]Upheaval[/card]. Having access to the powerful reset button is something that you can’t overlook – it’s a strong play that can allow you to return from the brink of death in nearly any situation. Alternatively, you could consider trimming the number of Force of Will in the deck to accommodate other counterspells like [card]Spell Pierce[/card] or replacing the Counter-target-Spells back into the list. While Force has many uses in this deck – most specifically in protecting your Warps – the card disadvantage can be tricky. I’d play around with the configuration a bit to refine it.

With those changes, here’s the list I’d play were I to pick the deck back up again:

[deck]3 Crucible Of Worlds
1 Elixir of Immortality
3 Horn of Greed
4 Exploration
4 Brainstorm
2 Constant Mists
4 Force of Will
3 Mental Misstep
2 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Upheaval
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Time Warp
1 Temporal Manipulation
1 Capture of Jingzhou
1 Walk the Aeons
1 Forest
6 Island
1 Tolaria West
1 Horizon Canopy
3 Mishra’s Factory
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Tropical Island
4 Wasteland
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Sideboard:
2 Damping Matrix
2 Zuran Orb
1 Constant Mists
2 Nix
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Maze of Ith
2 Bribery
2 Pithing Needle[/deck]

I can’t wait for [card]Bribery[/card] to become a Legacy playable card, and I’m honestly amazed that it hasn’t taken off before now. In an environment where people are hellbent on getting [card]Progenitus[/card] and [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] into play reliably, having access to a turn 3 [card]Bribery[/card] seems like a legitimate plan against decks like NoRUG and Hive Mind – provided you can protect yourself from Hive Mind killing you the next turn. It could be a poor plan, but I imagine it will be somewhere between [card]Nix[/card] and [card]Pithing Needle[/card] on the narrow-flexible scale.

If any of you have been as sparked in interest by Ali’s return to the well, then feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Personally, I can’t wait to take this deck for a spin! It’s been far, far too long since I’ve cast [card]Time Warp[/card], targeting me!

Adam
@AdamNightmare

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