Back To Basics: The Possibility of An Error

Welcome to a special edition column specifically for the countdown to a special event: banhammer night! We’ll have a column with the post up following this but I wanted to get this out as a primer. Hope you enjoy!

When I first starting writing for Mana Deprived, KYT and I were talking about what my articles would be about. Initially I had proposed Legacy as it is a format that uses cards that I’ve always had but also because I enjoy it not having a regular stream of complaints about how Caw-Whatever is ruining their lives. Life is good! KYT reasoned that I should not limit myself strictly to Legacy and I could write about anything I wanted.

At the time of our discussion, I was the only one who had discussed writing about Legacy but now KYT was able to recruit “Legacy Superstar” Mark Sun to the website which means I do not need to focus solely on Legacy. So I’ve decided to branch out today to the format that features Caw: Standard. Instead of proposing a deck choice and examining the Standard environment and stating its state or looking into the future to see what will be trying to beat Caw, I was hoping to approach things from a different angle. Also as someone who either plays Caw, because I win with it, or goes completely Rogue, like Pre-Mirrodin Besieged Mono White Knights rogue, I don’t believe I could provide you with insight that is original or even interesting for your metagame at the moment so I would prefer trying something else.

I’ll begin with a question, which of [Card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/Card]’s abilities is the most powerful, and follow up while being the same question, which ability would you remove if the card was reprinted? Know I’ve heard many discussions and people saying that Brainstorm should be a -1, it should not have an unsummon ability and the list goes on. My answer is no Planeswalker should be a win condition in and of itself and especially not a blue Planeswalker.

If you remove Jace’s ultimate ability you force a deck to actually dig for answers to beat someone rather than allow it to be passive aggressive and sit back and wait for the inevitable. As well each other Planeswalker that have a win condition attached relies on something else.

– [Card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/Card] & [Card]Garruk Wildspeaker[/Card] require artifact and creatures, respectively.
– [Card]Liliana Vess[/Card] requires creatures in the graveyard.
– [Card]Koth of the Hammer[/Card] requires [Card]Mountain[/Card]s and not to have those same mountains killed when they become creatures.
– [Card]Ajani Vengeant[/Card] is as close as you get to a win condition but again you at least need something else to kill your opponent.

Jace is the exception, as Jace only needs Jace to win. So the next question becomes should Jace be banned and the answer is no. Jace gets owned by a wide variety of creatures and spells however since it is such a great card people seem to lose by being in its presence. Instead of keeping a level head and focusing on your strategy, people instead focus all of their energy on Jace. I once saw someone attack three different Jaces in the same game for 7 to 8 damage each time instead of attacking their opponent and then complain they lost the game.

Learning from your mistakes is only part of the solution, it is also practical to watch other people play. One of the first Jace videos I saw was a Grand Prix match between I want to say LSV but its possible it was another pro altogether, for discussion sake I’ll just say LSV and some other guy in Standard and the guy plays a Jace to LSV’s sea of dudes. Instead of getting down, LSV drew for the turn, went to his combat phase and attacked. So his opponent immediately removed the dice on Jace and was moving it to the graveyard till LSV stop him and told him to put it back. The guy was confused, was someone actually allowing Jace to live? On LSV’s next turn he again went to combat phase but to make sure there was no confusion pointed at his opponent as to say I’m attacking you. Needless to say LSV won the match but I was befuddled; I found it hard to believe that someone would pay so little attention to Jace but as I later learned Jace is similar to the train in the first Matrix movie when Agent Smith tells Neo, “That is the sound of inevitability.”

When playing an aggro deck, your opponent landing a Jace should not detract you from your plan, sure given enough turns there is an inevitability that Jace will get them there but just like Neo, you can avoid the train. And if all else fails you can play [Card]Vengevine[/Card]s as they were created to combat Jace and from what my buddy the Professor tells me, turns out the card is awesome.

Next on the hit list is [Card]Stoneforge Mystic[/Card]/[Card]Batterskull[/Card]. Now it is a quite potent combination which if left untouched and allowed to do its thing will crush you but let’s pretend for a moment that we’re not fans of letting this combo do its thing. Here is a brief list of things available at your disposal: [Card]Natures Claim[/Card], [Card]Divine Offering[/Card], [Card]Shatter[/Card], [Card]Dismember[/Card], [Card]Unsummon[/Card], [Card]Go For The Throat[/Card], [Card]Crush[/Card], [Card]Naturalize[/Card], [Card]Revoke Existence[/Card] & [Card]Steel Sabotage[/Card]. So that’s two cards per color to deal with the problem. I suppose another solution is to quit Standard until Worldwake rotates and play Legacy in the mean time, which while I don’t support giving up on a situation playing Legacy is awesome and I understand the frustration. That gives me an idea, let’s call for the banning of the Worldwake set in entirety! Kidding.

In comparison to this next card, Stoneforge/Batterskull, seems like no problem at all. I’m talking about [Card]Squadron Hawk[/Card]. Wizards didn’t realize this when printing the card at common but they printed the greatest card every made in magic. Seriously, turn two Hawk is the most broken play ever, in fact most people just scoop when this happens. So should the card be banned? Of course not, it’s a stupid 1/1 creature that has two primary functions; recur Vengevine and slow the pace of Caw mirrors down to a Standstill.

Patrick Chapin mentioned that banning [Card]Preordain[/Card] would put an end to all of this nonsense, the Eh Team even suggested banning [Card]Island[/Card]s, interesting story, blue is not the problem. Outside of Jace, can you name me a win condition that blue decks have? I can come up with four, your list might include more; [Card]Grand Architect[/Card] to facilitate artifact beats, Sphinx beats, Titan beats and [Card]Calcite Snapper[/Card] beats. To be clear [Card]Deceiver Exarch[/Card] beats requires a red card, Architect isn’t excluded because you need to incorporate enough bad blue creatures in the deck that slow blue creature beats is a possibility.

Now I don’t support banning Preordain because it does something that is blue’s main function, digging for answer and more specifically answers in other colors. And the other win conditions require six mana, which if your deck cannot do something by turn 6, you need a new deck. As for islands, there is no reason for banning them, plains on the other hand are completely reasonable as a target as they’ve been allowed to float under the radar for far too long. Seriously why is no one ever hating on plains, they are responsible for slowing down the format and a prime example is mono-white anything is the slowest deck currently in standard, except my mono-white Knights deck, that was just pure brilliance!

Last week, Mark Rosewater wrote an article about color bleed and then Patrick Chapin tweeted something I had been thinking for quite some time:

“@mtgaaron Dismember is my vote for least fav card in the set (like BSC), for all the bleed reasons (going too far, etc)”

The next problem after everything Worldwake will be [Card]Dismember[/Card]. See dismember gives every single color instant speed creature removal. What makes this worse is that it’s not damage the card deals but instead -5/-5. The difference is this: if a titan attacks into your opponent’s [Card]Calcite Snapper[/Card] on the board, with five damage both creatures die, with -5/-5 only the titan dies, which is an effect colors outside of black should not have access to. Moreover it costs four life and one colorless to any color except for black which means that the subtraction of five power prevents more damage than you have to pay for the card.

So how would this problem be solved? Some may argue the five is the problem but turns out it is just the right amount. Instead it is the casting cost. See black’s portion on the color pie involves sacrificing life for short term gain similar to [Card]Sign In Blood[/Card] or [Card]Infernal Contract[/Card]. This allows for black to disregard its life total for an advantage that will help win them the game. Dismember however presents that opportunity to everyone, which is why Chapin has a problem with it. This card will be everywhere in Standard until it rotates because the card is a powerhouse.

Let’s move away from problem cards for a moment and focus on cards that should be causing problems but aren’t because they are underplayed, [Card]Vengevine[/Card]. Now disclaimer, I have never played or play tested with a deck containing Vengevine so my insight is to be taken with a grain of salt. The card is awesome. To further elaborate, without the presence of [Card]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/Card] and [Card]Gideon Jura[/Card] the card is doubly awesome. Coupled with [Card]Fauna Shaman[/Card] there is a world of toolbox possibilities and if you want to beat Caw, you want Vengevine in your deck. Plus it has the Jake “The Professor” Mezsaros seal of approval so what more could you ask for. Oh turns out I played with Vengevine in extended elves, the card’s good.

Not sure if you enjoyed the article as it is a bit eclectic but let me know what you think and whether you agree or disagree with my assessment in the comments, I’ll read every one and until next time:

Have Fun Playing Magic!

Ancestral Memories: Time Keeps On Ticking…

Have you ever opened a pack of cards hoping you hit that chase rare, the best card around only to look down at the card and be completely devastated? The answer to this question is of course yes, it’s something that happens to everyone who has ever opened packs. The positive side is that Wizards has gotten increasingly better over the years to make sure that this happens less and less and tries to ensure that all cards are playable. You’ll still open the occasional [Card]Venser’s Journal[/Card] every now and then but generally the rare quality is such that they can be played in constructed decks.

This was not always the case though. In the past many sets had a heap load of bad rares that were generally god awful. Even Tempest and Urza block had their share of them, though to a lesser extent than say Masques block, which I prefer to think of as a set full of uncommons that the printers mistakenly printed rare and Wizards just rolled with it.

So what do you do with the bad rares you open? It depends, some people put them in their binder with everything else, some people throw them away or give them to whoever is around and some make hats with them! But what about the magic player just starting out, the person with very few cards, who only has whatever was opened in their first ten booster packs to build a deck around. To them they’re not great, but they fill the role of the extra slots required in a player’s mono color deck who wants to avoid having to dip into another color. Sometimes, they even try and build a deck around it. Hello [Card]Naked Singularity[/Card]!!

Those were some of the best times playing magic, before I became jaded and thought myself above keeping every card I open in a pack. I even kept every Fallen Empires card I opened and if you want a set with bad rares, that’s the set to check, I mean [Card]River Merfolk[/Card] was a rare in Fallen Empires but reprinted at common in Masters Edition on MTGO. I still kept it and build decks that contained it. Every card could be played no matter what, making me from the very beginning, a Johnny.

That being said there were still cards I abhor opening as I inherently do not like being at a disadvantage thanks to one of my cards. When I build a deck, every card has a purpose, every card is there because I need and want it and I do not like throwing cards away, which is one of the reasons I’ve always had a problem with [Card]Force of Will[/Card], yes its good but I need this card I’m removing. This brings us to problem child number one, the major reason I bought Visions packs one time and never again, to avoid opening this card as my rare.

So what was this card?

[Card]Chronatog[/Card]. I may be incorrect on the number but I believe when Visions was available we bought up 10 packs in one shot. Now we got [Card]Desertion[/Card], [Card]Archangel[/Card] and [Card]Vampiric Tutor[/Card] but we also got three copies of Chronatog and to kids building decks that generally either bash face or do cool stuff ala [Card]Pandemonium[/Card] and [Card]Phyrexian Dreadnought[/Card], +3/+3 for skipping a turn is a terrible effect. Even now it seems terrible but as a Johnny player I should never turn my back on a card, which is why I want to build a deck that features the [Card]Atog[/Card]’s time travelling brother.

The first part every deck builder needs when working on a new deck is a shell or package that will win us the game, everything outside that shell will be lands and support cards but the inside is what will get us there. So with the Chronatog’s ability there are two courses of action we can take; either we can go the route of a package that punishes your opponent for each one of his turns (a black vise effect) or something along the lines of a stasis package. Going through my head I can’t help but want [Card]Underworld Dreams[/Card] for the [Card]Black Vise[/Card] effect however triple black is not something I want in a blue deck so let’s head down the [Card]Stasis[/Card] path.

Now the problem with Stasis is that unless your opponent’s cards are tapped, Stasis will not prove to be as effective so we need something to tap down cards. As much as it would be nice tapping down a Jace as it comes into play with [Card]Orb of Dreams[/Card], the safer route is to go the [Card]Frozen Aether[/Card] route. Added bonus is we can implement an [Card]Enlightened Tutor[/Card] package to make fetching even easier. The problem is that the deck needs a win condition and decking your opponent is not viable when cards like [Card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/Card] is being played, even having a hard lock of Chronatog, Stasis, Frozen Aether in play with [Card]Force of Will[/Card] support. Painter’s Stone is better.

As it turns out, the shell is starting to resemble the Turbo Stasis deck from long ago and that was only viable because [Card]Necropotence[/Card] was legal. My inner Johnny feels redeemed; maybe I was right to forget about Chronatog all those years ago. If only there was a card that could do the whole stasis thing but make it a one sided effect, it’s time to use The Gatherer, it’s like a deck builders thesaurus. While [Card]Rising Waters[/Card] and [Card]Hokori, Dust Drinker[/Card] bear a nice similarity to Stasis, we need something more tangible… more stagnant?

Back when Judgment was legal I had two competitive standard decks; one was [Card]Solitary Confinement[/Card]/[Card]Genesis[/Card] and the other was [Card]Mist of Stagnation[/Card], which provides lock possibilities. I realize it seems weird to start with one card and absolutely want it and then toss it aside for something else but Legacy brewing requires a large amount of flexibility and a decent recognition for when a card or concept has potential and when it should be left behind. Trust me, I know, I still can’t leave [Card]Dream Halls[/Card] behind. I keep trying some crazy combination only to be disappointed in the end.

I realize we are a couple of paragraphs in but I think we have found an idea, it is time to brew with [Card]Mist of Stagnation[/Card] as our central card. So we want to keep the [Card]Enlightened Tutor[/Card] package and I’m going to keep both [Card]Orb of Dreams[/Card] and [Card]Frozen Aether[/Card] around. It’s best to keep your options open and since each card can be searched up with Enlightened Tutor, I’ll keep them all around for now.

Of course there is the caveat of having to deal with [Card]Mist of Stagnation[/Card]’s untap rule as it is equal for both sides, also you have to untap permanents equal to the cards in your graveyard so if you don’t have enough permanents you have to untap your opponent’s stuff. Essentially if there is a way for your opponent to have an empty graveyard then the hard lock is on. So the natural options are things like [Card]Tormod’s Crypt[/Card] or [Card]Leyline of the Void[/Card] type effects but one isn’t constant and one is black and we’ve ruled out dipping into a third color.

If only there is a card that is constantly making sure you’re opponent’s graveyard is empty that is either white or blue. It turns out there is and if you don’t know what it is, take a moment to look it up on the gatherer, knowing how to search on the gatherer can make a world of difference in deck building and remember this is Legacy, even I don’t know every card.

So what card keeps your opponent’s graveyard empty? [Card]Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Card]. By targeting your opponent every card he discards, loses, etc… will never end up in his graveyard and since the untap step is not an actual step with a phase, it is impossible to have some shenanigans going on. It would also be wise to include a copy or two of some graveyard hate for those cards that get through in the early game.

So now we have what essentially amounts to a hard lock. We just need to build around it. Let’s start with a win condition that complements the Enlightened Tutor package; [Card]Thopter Foundry[/Card] and [Card]Sword of the Meek[/Card]. It might not be flashy but it fits our color combination. I also like the [Card]Stuffy Doll[/Card]/[Card]Guilty Conscience[/Card] Felix tried to build a deck around, as once the lock is in place you have more than enough turns to find an answer.

Here’s the breakdown of what has been assembled so far, I’ve included four of everything as the numbers can be cut down later to be more accommodating.

[Deck Title=Misty Wheel (or Something) By William Blondon]
[Lands]15 Island 15 Plains[/Lands]
[Spells]4 Enlightened Tutor 4 Frozen Aether 4 Guilty Conscience 4 Intuition 4 Mist of Stagnation 4 Orb of Dreams 4 Stuffy Doll 4 Sword of the Meek 4 Thopter Foundry 4 Tormods Crypt 4 Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Spells]
[Sideboard]15 Chronatog[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Time to discuss mana bases, the deck is a two color deck that relies strictly on White and Blue mana to run so the first addition is [Card]Tundra[/Card] and [Card]Flooded Strand[/Card] which are the fetch and dual land which serve both blue and white. Wasteland isn’t right for this deck as we want an opponent’s graveyard to be empty but instead [Card]Rishadan Port[/Card] can be a possibility for locking out your opponent. I think 24 lands is where you want to be with this deck but at the same time have an extra fetch land or two for additional thinning of the deck. The remaining land slots in the deck will be filled by basic lands.

Last the deck needs to be rounded out by the support staples to complement the deck. Within the colors of White we have [Card]Swords To Plowshares[/Card] and with Blue we have [Card]Force of Will[/Card], [Card]Brainstorm[/Card], [Card]Ponder[/Card], [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card] and [Card]Memory Lapse[/Card]. The Memory Lapse is some experimental tech I want to try as instead of countering the spell and sending it to the graveyard the card is placed on top of the library, satisfying the wish to have as little cards in your opponent’s graveyard as possible before the lock as well as [Card]Time Walk[/Card]ing your opponent.

Now that I have a shell and general appearance of a deck, it is time to run through the deck list and begin sending cards to the chopping block to whittle down the deck to 60 cards. Some of the cards are easy cuts that any one can spot and others are more obscure that require some playing with and testing to see which cards work best in combination. Now I’ve already done a bit of both so we should be able to get it down in one pass through but first here is where the deck currently stands.

[Deck Title=Misty Wheel By William Blondon]
[Lands]4 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 15 Island 4 Misty Rainforest 15 Plains 4 Rishadan Port 4 Tundra[/Lands]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 4 Enlightened Tutor 4 Force of Will 4 Frozen Aether 4 Guilty Conscience 4 Intuition 4 Memory Lapse 4 Mental Misstep 4 Mist of Stagnation 4 Orb of Dreams 4 Ponder 4Relic of Progenitus 4 Stuffy Doll 4 Sword of the Meek 4 Swords To Plowshares 4 Thopter Foundry 4 Tormods Crypt 4 Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Spells]
[Sideboard]15 Chronatog[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Right now the card count stands at 122 cards so now begins the process of chopping based on initial impressions of how I want the deck to run. Additionally I have been testing the deck or inferior version of the deck on MTGO and have been posting more wins then losses. This is to be taken with a grain of salt as it is the casual rooms but normally my decks crash and burn, only picking up their first win against a 500 card deck that seems to be playing 400 lands, thank you [Card]Dream Halls[/Card].

The first place to start is the mana base which I want to come in around 24 lands. Based on MODO testing I’m playing 22 lands and there are certainly games where I would like more plus I’m only running four fetches and the deck is in definite need of more shuffle effects. I think 8 fetch lands is correct and the deck is certainly more blue centric than white centric so I would go with a divide of 1 [Card]Arid Mesa[/Card], 4 [Card]Flooded Strand[/Card] and 3 [Card] Misty Rainforest[/Card]. Additional I think running 14 non-basics and 10 basics is the correct break down so I’ll cut two [Card]Rishadan Port[/Card] but keep the 4 [Card]Tundra[/Card]. Last for the 10 basics I’m thinking the split of 5 and 5 is right as there are more ways to fetch blue than white and the [Card]Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Card]’s double white is something that is necessary to take into account.

[Deck Title=Misty Wheel By William Blondon]
[Lands]1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand5 Island 3Misty Rainforest 5 Plains 2 Rishadan Port 4 Tundra[/Lands]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 4 Enlightened Tutor 4 Force of Will 4Frozen Aether 4Guilty Conscience 4 Intuition 4 Memory Lapse 4 Mental Misstep 4 Mist of Stagnation 4 Orb of Dreams 4 Ponder 4Relic of Progenitus 4 Stuffy Doll 4 Sword of the Meek 4 Swords To Plowshares 4 Thopter Foundry 4 Tormods Crypt 4 Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Spells]
[Sideboard]15 Chronatog[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Based on my MTGO testing [Card]Frozen Aether[/Card] generally works better than [Card]Orb of Dreams[/Card], so the orb is cut. [Card]Tormod’s Crypt[/Card] should definitely be cut and the [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card] should be halved as one copy is good to deal with anything that may get by the Wheel, while ensuring you don’t get overloaded. When an opponent’s graveyard is empty, having 3 in play does nothing special.

Same goes for the Thopter/Sword combo, you want to have more than one since there is no way to return it from your graveyard but more than two just becomes redundant so again slash both of those card’s quantities in half. This combo is also far superior to the [Card]Stuffy Doll[/Card]/[Card]Guilty Conscience[/Card] combo so those two cards are gone.

You may have noticed up to this point that there is one huge omission in my deck that should be fixed now. The deck is missing [Card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/Card] and two copies of Jace at that. With the deck playing the full play set of [Card]Enlightened Tutor[/Card], having a full play set of [Card]Intuition[/Card] seems redundant so I think they should be cut down to two copies.

As for the central pieces, with two different tutor packages available, playing a full play set of each is not a necessity and in fact drawing multiple copies of each will cause no end to your grief. I think the right call is 3 Mist, 2 Orb and 3 Wheel. Usually I would go for the 2 Wheel plan but in MTGO testing, there was a large portion of people who would concede when I landed a turn 2 Wheel so if you can get free game wins in game one of a match, I’ll take them.

Last is what can be referred to as the blue spell package. One note is that since [Card]Force of Will[/Card] is 140 tickets on MTGO and even KYT isn’t that baller, I needed to find a replacement card for Force. This is where the copies of [Card]Memory Lapse[/Card] came from. They worked better than [Card]Counterspell[/Card] and since you’re usually employing it as a stall to be able to land your lock piece the next turn it works quite well. Since, in real life I do have access to Forces, I would cut the Lapses down to two although if you wanted to replace these with [Card]Remand[/Card], I think it can be equally viable.

As already mentioned in previous articles I am a fan of 3 [Card]Force of Will[/Card] so three is where its going to be at. I like the 4 [Card]Brainstorm[/Card] but the [Card]Ponder[/Card] in testing have been less than stellar however instead of removing them completely I’ll cut it down to one copy. Last is [Card]Swords to Plowshares[/Card] which has been stellar in testing against what seems like a constant stream of [Card]Stoneforge Mystic[/Card] decks so I like the four copies as they stand. Here is where the deck currently stands:

[Deck Title=Misty Wheel By William Blondon]
[Lands]1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 5 Island 3 Misty Rainforest 5 Plains 2 Rishadan Port 4 Tundra[/Lands]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 4 Enlightened Tutor 3 Force of Will 2 Frozen Aether 2 Intuition 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Memory Lapse 4 Mental Misstep 3 Mist of Stagnation 1 Ponder 2 Relic of Progenitus 2 Sword of the Meek 4 Swords To Plowshares 2 Thopter Foundry 3 Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Spells]
[Sideboard]15 Chronatog[/Sideboard][/Deck]

So the deck currently stands at 64 cards which means its time to proxy the deck up and see what does and does not work. To save time let’s fast forward a bit to the point where all of this has been taken care of and here are my notes on how the deck runs.

Not having access to [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card] on MTGO, definitely did not reveal the whole picture and when you’re trying to set your opponent back, the Misstep works much better in the deck than the [Card]Memory Lapse[/Card]. The reasons is that unless you’re mana is being tapped for a combo piece or something to access a combo piece, it just feels like you’re wasting time and although it seemed good on MTGO, the games where I drew Lapse, in testing, I would just wish it wasn’t there so those are gone.

This is always the toughest part of my deck building process as it involves the most difficult decisions; which are the last two cuts to be made to the deck. Looking over the cards in front of me, I can’t help but keep turning to the support cards in the deck and thinking they should be the cards to be cut down.

I think it would be safe to remove one copy of [Card]Rishadan Port[/Card] as it is only a minor help in the overall strategy and the difference from 24 to 23 lands does not feel like it would make a significant impact. I think the same can be said for [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card], in the end it is between cutting one copy of this and one copy of the Wheel but the Wheel has been so good in testing I cannot bring myself to cut it.

The deck naturally bins a lot of cards so extra help on that front isn’t needed and anything you want to get you can get with the Tutor so [Card]Intuition[/Card]s are just overkill. Which brings us to 58 cards and all the shuffle effects in the deck need to be put to good use so the addition of two copies of [Card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/Card] are in order, I believe. Ah, 60 cards. This is what it looks like:

[Deck Title=Misty Wheel Chronology By William Blondon]
[Lands]1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 5 Island 3 Misty Rainforest 5 Plains 1 Rishadan Port 4 Tundra[/Lands]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 4 Enlightened Tutor 3 Force of Will 2 Frozen Aether 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Mental Misstep 3 Mist of Stagnation 1 Ponder 1 Relic of Progenitus 2 Senseis Divining Top 2 Sword of the Meek 4 Swords To Plowshares 2 Thopter Foundry 3 Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Spells]
[Sideboard]15 Chronatog[/Sideboard][/Deck]

The first thing you will notice is, the sideboard needs to be completely changed. Now I thought of keeping one copy of [Card]Chronatog[/Card] in the deck as the card is the original building block for the deck but instead I changed the name to include a mention indirectly to the blue guy.

The first card to include in the sideboard is [Card]Peacekeeper[/Card]. The reason is simple; since the deck contains zero creatures everyone will board out any creature hate against the deck in favor of more relevant cards, which makes it the perfect time to board in a creature and a creature that will halt any of your opponent’s creature shenanigans if not answered.

The main hate I see coming in for the deck are cards like [Card]Reverent Silence[/Card], [Card]Krosan Grip[/Card] and [Card]Qasali Pridemage[/Card]. To combat this, the best answer would be [Card]Karmic Justice[/Card] as the permanents you’ll be able to destroy can potentially set your opponent back further then yourself, giving you time to recover.

The sideboard should also contain the fourth copy of [Card]Force of Will[/Card] and the second and third copy of [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card]. As well as three if not four copies of [Card]Mindbreak Trap[/Card] as the deck will need time to set up it’s lock leaving it vulnerable to combo decks like ANT/TES and Belcher which can go off turn 1.

I think the sideboard should probably look something like this though having never actually played the deck against an opponent who is not me, I could not tell you what match ups are particularly bad or what cards you want to watch out for. That being said here is my best guess as to the appropriate sideboard:

– 3 [Card]Peacekeeper[/Card]
– 2 [Card]Karmic Justice[/Card]
– 1 [Card]Force of Will[/Card]
– 2 [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card]
– 3 [Card]Mindbreak Trap[/Card]
– 3 [Card]Pithing Needle[/Card]
– 1 [Card]Open The Vaults[/Card]

So here is the first attempt at a decklist:

[Deck Title=Misty Wheel Chronology By William Blondon]
[Lands]1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 5 Island 3 Misty Rainforest 5 Plains 1 Rishadan Port 4 Tundra[/Lands]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 4 Enlightened Tutor 3 Force of Will 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Mental Misstep 3 Mist of Stagnation 2 Orb of Dreams 1 Ponder 1 Relic of Progenitus 2 Senseis Divining Top 2 Sword of the Meek 4 Swords To Plowshares 2 Thopter Foundry 3 Wheel of Sun and Moon[/Spells]
[Sideboard]1 Force of Will 2 Karmic Justice 3 Mindbreak Trap 1 Open The Vaults 3 Peacekeeper 3 Pithing Needle 2 Relic of Progenitus[/Sideboard][/Deck]

The question I have for you now is this; what do you think of this deck? Having played when Judgment was in the standard and extended metagame, [Card]Mist of Stagnation[/Card] was a powerful card when placed in the right deck and could easily shut your opponent out. The issue was the deck was slow and it played spells whose goal was to stem the bleeding until you could get your lock pieces in place, though it was inconsistent at doing both. Fast forward to today and if someone gave me this list without any back story I would think that someone built a deck around some bargain bin rare they found.

The thing many people do not realize is every rare is a bargain bin rare without having a deck to exist as a part of. Today however, where every card is overanalyzed to the point where prices are in part based on potential as much as they are on performance. [Card]Gideon Jura[/Card] is less expensive than [Card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/Card] even though Gideon has far better results than Tezzeret. Also, not to provide financial analysis but, Gideon is being reprinted in the core set and with Tempered Steel showing up the most at the Pro Tour this past weekend, it’s a good bet post rotation “Gideon Steel” will find a spot to exist and thrive post rotation, so a play set while they’re on the cheap might not be a bad idea.

Back to Legacy and what needs to be determined about the deck is whether the cards that exist in Legacy are capable of stemming the bleeding long enough and consistently enough to get your lock pieces in place. I would like to be able to give you a definite answer in the affirmative however that is not a possibility at this stage, so instead I’ll make a comparison with a deck that currently exists: Countertop.

The obvious similarities are the colors of the deck and as such they play similar support cards. Their lock pieces are different however. Countertop plays [Card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/Card] and [Card]Counterbalance[/Card] to form a soft lock on your opponent where as MWC (I “acronymed” the deck name) plays [Card]Mist of Stagnation[/Card] as a soft lock and then using support cards creates a hard lock. The other main problem is the cost of the cards as Countertop can have its lock down by turn 2 with no mana acceleration; MWC needs a longer clock to accomplish this.

Unlike decks like [Card]Dream Halls[/Card] and [Card]Hive Mind[/Card], it also doesn’t allow for winning the game the turn it hits play almost every time. The one advantage, if you call it that, the deck has displayed in testing is the first few turns your opponent is relatively unaware of what is happening and is spending most turns playing around some lock pieces you have as he figures that it is best to ignore your presence, so come turn five with that fifth land, there is often a time you can drop the Mist into play with your opponent tapped out after having attack. And remember, even if your opponent beats you down to one life, dropping the Mist and creating a hard lock wins you the game.

Now I don’t expect anyone to run out and build this deck and try and maximize it to its fullest potential. In fact, most may glance at it briefly and walk away to something else but the entire point of the article was to look at deck brewing in Legacy. Most will net deck something, change a couple cards from only well known staples and not give it a second thought but in Legacy you have access to almost every single card ever printed for the game of Magic. So every single binder of old cards or shoe box is a collection of cards that can be built into a Legacy deck. Next time you have a chance, look through those old collections as you might find a card with some unique ability or cool attribute and think to yourself, this would be a cool idea to build a deck around and you would be right. If you don’t believe me, check out your Commander Release events this weekend as every single person in those room will have built decks or be playing decks based on cool ideas which is something that makes Commander just like Legacy a great format to play. So if you have a day free this weekend check out your local store for the Commander event because even if you don’t have a deck and don’t want to buy one of the new Commander decks, there will be people who have no qualms over lending you a deck to enjoy the format they love.

Let me know what you think about the deck and the article in the comments, I’ll read every one and until next time: Have Fun Playing Magic!

Ancestral Memories: Forward The Light Brigade!

Death Valley!  I’ve never played a snap of professional football in my life but like all boys I believed that I was awesome at any sport that I would ever try and that I could be better than Jerry Rice and John Elway in their respective sport.  Of course not wanting to overshadow two of sports greatest icons I instead decided to play intercity basketball and Magic the Gathering as a kid, not exactly the big leagues.  So what does Death Valley have to do with any of this?  Well growing up playing Basketball I wanted to “Be Like Mike”, and as such I wanted to go to play college basketball at North Carolina, that’s right, even in my imagination I paid my dues to move up the ranks.

So when I thought of playing football, I had to choose a college football program to attend before ever making it to the NFL.  And thus we arrive at Death Valley.  For those of you who don’t know, Death Valley is the name of the home stadium for the LSU Tigers and it is situated deep in the heart of Louisiana in The Bayou.  Even to this day, my professional football dreams long gone, Death Valley will always be the greatest name ever given to a place to play.  So what does this have to do with Legacy or even Magic in general?  You may have missed it a couple lines back but Death Valley is situated in the Bayou and as such, from the onset, that made it my preferred dual land, even if I don’t generally play Black/Green, so without further ado, I present to you…

Dual Lands

Now I’m not referencing the standard dual lands with the drawback written in one nice line of text, I’m talking about your grand daddy’s dual lands that make all lands feel inferior simply by being in their presence.  They are:

– [Card]Badlands[/Card]
– [Card]Bayou[/Card]
– [Card]Plateau[/Card]
– [Card]Savannah[/Card]
– [Card]Scrubland[/Card]
– [Card]Taiga[/Card]
– [Card]Tropical Island[/Card]
– [Card]Tundra[/Card]
– [Card]Underground Sea[/Card]
– [Card]Volcanic Island[/Card]

This is as good as lands get and they can be played as a four of in any deck in Legacy! Another thing that makes playing Legacy a great thing! So what are these mythical dual lands and why are they good?  Allow me to explain.  In Magic, you need mana and originally someone created basic lands that each produce one mana of a single color found on the color pie.  It was a good start but someone else came along (turns out this person was the same someone who created basic lands, a fellow known as Dr. Richard Garfield, who should be thanked for creating such a great game) and postulated that if you had a land producing one colored mana then it would be even better to have a land producing mana of two different colors.

This guy was a genius!  Thus dual lands were born, lands that were essentially the result of having taken two different basic lands and printing them on the same card, imagine [Card]Fire/Ice[/Card] but with basic lands so they took [Card]Swamp[/Card] and [Card]Forest[/Card] and arrived at [Card]Bayou[/Card].  SEXY!  So why are they so good?  Simply, if mana of one color is good than mana of another color must be better and as an added bonus, dual lands count as having basic land types, so any effect that can search for a basic land type can also find dual lands, such as fetch lands! And what better deck to present with dual lands that one that reeks heavily of being associated with Death Valley, Team America or if you prefer…

America, F*ck Yeah!

If you’ve never seen the movie or heard the song, go search YouTube, go on I’ll wait.  You’re back good, on to the deck list.

[Deck Title=Team America By Samuel Swisher]
[Lands]1 Bayou 4 Misty Rainforest 4 Polluted Delta 2 Tropical Island 4 Underground Sea 3 Verdant Catacombs 4 Wasteland[/Lands]
[Creatures]4 Tarmogoyf 4 Tombstalker[/Creatures]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 3 Daze 4 Force of Will 2 Go For The Throat 4 Hymn To Tourach 4 Mental Misstep 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 3 Ponder 2 Snuff Out 2 Spell Pierce[/Spells]
[Sideboard]1 Ghastly Demise 2 Krosan Grip 3 Pernicious Deed 3 Phyrexian Revoker 2 Relic of Progenitus 2 Smother 2 Submerge[/Sideboard][/Deck]

[Deck Title=BUG Control By Gerry Thompson]
[Lands]2 Bayou 4 Misty Rainforest 4 Polluted Delta 2 Tropical Island 4 Underground Sea 2 Verdant Catacombs 4 Wasteland[/Lands]
[Creatures]4 Dark Confidant 4 Tarmogoyf 2 Terravore[/Creatures]
[Spells]4 Brainstorm 3 Daze 4 Force of Will 4 Go For The Throat 4 Hymn To Tourach 1 Inquisition of Kozilek 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Ponder 2 Spell Snare 2 Thoughtseize[/Spells]
[Sideboard]3 Ghastly Demise 2 Krosan Grip 1 Life From The Loam 2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress 2 Maelstrom Pulse 2 Spell Pierce 3 Submerge[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Brief history of the deck, originally it was built as a land destruction deck playing cards like [Card]Sinkhole[/Card].  During this time the movie Team America: World Police came out and in the movie everything is blown up, so the two were linked together. Obviously when you think America you think Red, White & Blue deck, but then again Gerard Fabiano’s Team Italia deck plays black so when it comes to deck naming, if it sounds cool, that’s more important than accuracy, see Durdling Around for further reference.

Note that, Team America is different from the BUG control as seen above, they play similar cards but they interact differently. At its core Team America is a tempo deck, it plays cards like Tombstalker, Daze and Stifle to get ahead and crush their opponents.  The BUG decks however are about card advantage.  They play cards like Dark Confidant and Jace to generate card advantage by seeing more cards, allowing them to riffle through their deck quicker to get where they need to be.  Lately the trend has been that these two decks are approaching each other in the cards that are played and there is a lot of crossover

So what makes Team America such a good deck? Answers; the deck’s goal is to answer your opponent’s spells and threats, strip their hand of cards and then lay the beats with their own creatures.  The Team America list is post-New Phyrexia where as Gerry T’s list pre-New Phyrexia so with the release of New Phyrexia, you want to be playing 4 copies of [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card] and probably [Card]Dismember[/Card] although it’s more of a board slot.  My suggestion is removing the Inquisition, 2 Thoughtseize and 1 Force of Will as Mental Misstep makes the discard spells worse and playing less Force of Wills seems to be the way the format is shifting.  A last note, some would suggest removing [Card]Spell Snare[/Card] but with the increased play of Stoneforge Mystic, the format is seeing a slight shift to the two drop spot so I would recommend keeping them in.

Mana Base

Similar to Zoo last week, Team America is a three color deck which relies on dual and fetch lands to achieve its mana base down.  A difference from Zoo is that generally the deck does not play basic lands as it is more mana dependent on specific colors so having basic lands in play can prove a liability by cutting you off from two of your three colors, creating a greater possibility of having dead cards in your hand.  If you’re piloting a Team America deck that only plays duals, it will be dependant on having access to different colored mana, so fetch lands play an even more important role as they should only be cracked when absolutely necessary to protect them from Wasteland.  Further remember to fetch according to the spells in your hand and not the spells in your deck as you’ll put yourself at a disadvantage when you fetch for a [Card]Tropical Island[/Card] turn one only to not be able to play a [Card]Hymn To Tourach[/Card] turn two or fetch for two [Card]Underground Sea[/Card]s to be able to play the Hymn you are hoping to top deck and then not have the green mana to cast [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card].  In some decks you can get away with it but playing Team America requires you to be constantly vigilant of the lands you have in play to not cut yourself off or get cut off from a particular color.

As important as it is to ensure you are not susceptible to Wasteland, be on the lookout for opponents who do not proceed with your level of caution as 4 [Card]Wasteland[/Card] are played to keep with its land destruction roots. The deck is searching for tempo in any form it can and Wasteland provides one of those avenues by cutting your opponents off from the mana they will need to beat you.  This being Legacy there are more options for mana fixing than in standard where three color decks do not generally play [Card]Tectonic Edge[/Card], however be weary of Wasteland none the less as in many cases you will be employing it as a spell which essentially reads as destroy target non basic land for free.  So when it comes to starting hands and choosing when to mulligan or not my best advice is this: Place any Wasteland in your hand face down and look at the other cards in your hand, if you would keep a hand with those five or six cards then do not mulligan however if that is not the case then mulligan as you don’t want to try and get there in Legacy when your opponent can also be playing Wasteland. As a note in general, with the printing of Mental Misstep hands that are one land [Card]Brainstorm[/Card] or one land [Card]Ponder[/Card] is not a wise keep as people are keeping these hands only to get land screwed for the next few turns while their opponent is basically playing solitaire.

Budget Options: Similar to Merfolk, [Card]Ghost Quarter[/Card] can replace [Card]Wasteland[/Card], Ravnica shock lands can replace dual lands and Zendikar fetch lands can replace Onslaught fetch lands. Now I have a challenge which applies to everyone but is also a budget option.  Try building the deck using only
basic lands instead of dual lands, the rest of the lands can stay the same.  It may not prove easy but not only can you gain a familiarity by playing the regular deck but also modified versions to learn the ins and outs and develop a familiarity with the correct plays you should make with the deck and the correct plays your opponents will make playing the deck, as knowing what you’ll face when playing against it, is just as valuable as knowing how to play it. By using basic lands you are essentially twisting your arm and forcing yourself to fetch the correct land based on the ideal plays from your hand.  Now it will not make you an immediate Pro Tour player but it is a good mental exercise for learning how to play lands correctly.

Creatures

Unlike Merfolk and Zoo previously, Team America is not an aggro deck that relies on waves of creatures to get the job done. Generally the creatures aim to hit the table and give your opponent the choice of dealing with the situation or losing.

The smallest of these creatures is [Card]Dark Confidant[/Card] or known by his nickname of Bob.  The reason for this is that back in the day there was a tournament known as the Magic Invitational where the top 16 players of the year were invited and they played in a variety of crazy and fun formats.  The point of this tournament was to win, like all Magic tournaments, but if you won instead of cash you got to design a card that would be printed in a Magic set with your likeness and thus card immortality.  In 2004 Bob Maher, Jr. won and he designed Dark Confidant or something similar that R&D tweaked and thus the character in the card bears his likeness hence why it’s known as Bob.  5-Point Question Time: What is the only invitational card to be an uncommon?

Sorry for the diversion.

Now why is Dark Confidant so highly regarded, well look no further than its flavor text, as it perfectly captures the deck’s goal.  Greatness, at any cost.  Each turn “Bob” provides you with an extra card at the cost of life equal to that card’s converted mana cost.  If you’re not careful the life total you lose can be quite heavy but between [Card]Brainstorm[/Card], [Card]Ponder[/Card] & Jace, you can stagger your draws so as to minimize your life loss if not reduce it thanks to lands.  Even with the life loss you get an extra card per turn which for a deck trying to crush your opponent with counters, discard and [Card]Terror[/Card] type cards to gain card advantage an extra card each turn can be even more devastating.

How do you follow up a card as powerful as [Card]Dark Confidant[/Card], you may ask, the answer is simply, with a [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card].  Tarmogoyf relies on card types in the graveyard and surround by optimal support cards can be a monster.  Unlike Zoo which may experience problems in getting a wide variety of card types into its graveyard, Team America does not and should you need it you have [Card]Hymn To Tourach[/Card] which hits random cards, increasing the chances of making Tarmogoyf bigger.  You can target yourself with Hymn to get an extra card type or two.

And speaking of big, Gerry’s list rounds out on creatures with [Card]Terravore[/Card], which between fetch lands, Wastelands and whatever you’re opponent is doing he can get big, like 16/16 big.  All my opponent had to say was nice life!!

The last and an original member of Team America is [Card]Tombstalker[/Card] or the card that gets around the FTK or [Card]Flametongue Kavu[/Card] menace.  Tombstalker is a vanilla 5/5 flyer for eight mana but has this ability called Delve which is Future Sighted mechanic.  100-Point Question: What set features the Delve mechanic? Answer must include a PDF version of the God Book as proof, to get points!

Delve allows you to remove a card from your graveyard instead of paying one colorless mana for the spell as many times as you like, which means you can remove six cards from your graveyard and pay two black mana instead of paying Tombstalker’s eight mana casting cost and vanilla 5/5 flyers for two black mana are actually quite good.  This coupled with the amount of cards your binning makes Tombstalker viable in Team America.  Delve does hinder cards like Terravore and Tarmogoyf but flyers are not present in many Legacy decks so he acts as a finisher, making Tombstalker awesome, just don’t cast it with a Jace on the board.

The last creature seeing moderate play in Team America is Vendilion Clique, which provides you with valuable information as to your opponent’s hand and can get rid of a card that may pose problems or a dead card in your hand.  The danger with playing the Clique is that generally people misplay with it, either by casting it at the wrong time or choosing the wrong card, as well you cannot choose a land card either which happens constantly.

So how should you play Clique?  Generally there are two options on how to successfully use it.  End of your opponent’s draw step to see what their hand contains and to get rid of a problematic card although word of caution, it is often times better to let them keep their hand, as the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.  A second mode is the end of your opponent’s turn which can be split into two choices: either you target your opponent in order to get the all’s clear for your own turn or to target yourself to rid of a dead card providing you with more gas on your next turn.  There are other ways of using it but try focusing on those before attempting anything crazy and remember it is legendary so only play one at a time, turns out having two in play actually kills your opponent slower.

Budget Options: Both Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf will be beyond the range of budget player’s, well, budget.  There is nothing that can replace Dark Confidant’s ability while being a creature but both [Card]Sylvan Library[/Card] and [Card]Phyrexian Arena[/Card] can be suitable options that won’t break anyone’s budget though avoid decreasing the creature count for spells.

As for Tarmogoyf, Terravore can be an acceptable replacement however I am leery to be playing double green in a deck that plays no other green cards. Threshold can be easily achieved so [Card]Werebear[/Card] is an option but there is something better than exists surely, give me a sec while I rummage through my cards… and my suggestion is [Card]Zuo Ci, the Mocking Sage[/Card].

Kidding actually I will recommend trying [Card]Quirion Dryad[/Card] and here is why.  If you look through the deck list the only main deck green spells being played are Tarmogoyf and Terravore, which means most of your spells will be blue and black and each time you play one, the dryad gets bigger.  In the early stages Tarmogoyf will get to be a 3/4, which means all you need to do is play some counterspells or discard or card draw and bam the Dryad is bigger than the Goyf, moreover they are both susceptible to the exact same removal, though late game top decking Goyf is better.  Also if you read my Zoo article last week, [Card]Quirion Dryad[/Card] would be a good fit in that as well.

Spell

I’ve decided I’m going to create sub groups for the spell section, otherwise it’ll be long, slight draw back is there is no budget options section per se, though there is a mention or two, so to those expecting one, my apologies.

Brainstorm: So important it gets its own section, to share with Ponder and Preordain.  All three cards perform similar functions though you shouldn’t be playing Preordain.  Ponder allows you to look three cards in the future and put your future in any order you like or shuffle your deck away if you don’t like what you see.  The better option though is [Card]Brainstorm[/Card], a card so good Jace even uses it!

Like Ponder it allows you to look three cards in the future but the bonus is those cards actually go into your hand and you can then chose the cards you either want the least or want to protect from an opponent’s discard ability for the perfect top deck the next turn.  Coupled with a fetch land you can shuffle away the cards you don’t want.  And that is only an excerpt to the encyclopedia explaining why Brainstorm is good.  Please note that unless you are protecting your hand from your opponent, casting Brainstorm at the end of your turn is something you should not do and for further reference check out AJ Sacher’s article dedicated solely to Brainstorm, it’s quite good.

Counter Magic: [Card]Force of Will[/Card] and [Card]Daze[/Card] are back from the Merfolk deck so to avoid repetition I won’t go into an in depth analysis though there is a trend to play less than four Force of Wills in the main deck and maybe move some to the sideboard or cut them altogether.

I’m on the side of the debate that is in favor of reducing the Forces as I frequently find myself sideboarding them out in most matchups and while I agree with Adam Barnello, when he said on Crazy Talk, that you would prefer having them to not game 1, there are often times when I find myself handcuffed by not being able to play the blue card in my hand in order to ensure Force of Will is not a dead card and I then find myself behind as my opponent is playing spells that are not worth two cards for his one.

Ultimately it comes down to what you’re comfortable playing but I would limit your deck to three Force of Wills in Team America as there are multiple occasions when you’re drawing Goyfs and Bobs and Force is just a dead card.

On the other hand, a card that is never dead is [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card] as you should always have two life, unless you’re dead which it doesn’t really matter what’s in your hand at that point.  Gerry’s deck is pre-NPH but I guarantee you that you want four of this card in your hand as Team America is a tempo deck and generally can compete as of turn 1 but in the past it had only Force of Will to rely on to compete on turn 0, not anymore.  If you can stop the turn 1 play regardless of what it is, you set yourself up in good shape. It may not seem obvious but you should be looking to counter a Brainstorm effect on your opponent’s first turn.

The Missteps older brother is [Card]Spell Snare[/Card] which may not have the free casting cost upside but with a shift away from two drops in Legacy, Spell Snare is rising in value. Further it counters that pesky [Card]Standstill[/Card] which many people have a problem with and don’t know how to play correctly so instead of agonizing over the correct line of play with a Standstill in play, stop it altogether.

A card from Team America’s past is [Card]Stifle[/Card], which has begun to see decreasing amounts of play across the board but without having a distinct reason to pinpoint.  I’ve always been a fan of Stifle as casting one is often quite deflating to your opponent and with the emergence of Stoneforge Mystic, as well as fetch lands still being around, running one or two copies in a deck is never a bad idea.

As mentioned, the popular opinion is with the printing of Mental Misstep keeping a one land brainstorm hand is a bad idea, well Stifle is the card that makes keeping a one fetch land hand a really bad idea, as stifling your opponent’s fetch land when it’s their only source of mana has the same effect as “Wastelanding” their only land; it’s devastating.

Discard: I’m going to state it, you may not agree but I’m okay with that.  [Card]Hymn To Tourach[/Card] is one of the most powerful cards in Legacy. For two black mana, target player discard two cards at random in their hand, that’s right two, making this the exact definition of a two for one spell. Where as cards like Duress or Despise hit specific card types, Hymn has no such qualms, instead it forces the player to play a game of chance, setting aside skill and deck construction, in search of the answer to “How good is your hand if you take away two random cards?” The Hymn can hit two lands, two gas cards or something in between if left unanswered or even if your opponent uses a [Card]Force of Will[/Card] on it to protect the cards in their hand, that’s still two for one value and playing a counter war over this card is one of the most advantageous things in Magic as if you win it, your opponent’s hand will usually be devastated.

To go along with Hymn To Tourach is the one mana discard spells such as [Card]Thoughtseize[/Card], [Card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/Card], [Card]Despise[/Card], [Card]Duress[/Card].  With the printing of [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card], these cards get slightly worse however can still be quite useful.  The two I would recommend are Thoughtseize as it can pick off any card but also Inquisition, as usually the early game is when Team America is most vulnerable, as it can generally manage threats in the late game better.

Creature Killing Devices: Some people might say removal but with the introduction of the keyword “Die” in Magic 2012, killing device seems more appropriate as a term.  The common removal spells are [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] and [Card]Go For The Throat[/Card], which for two mana are direct kill conditions, the difference being one targets artifacts and one targets black creatures so choose wisely, though the best bet is Go For The Throat, unless you’re surrounded by Affinity.

In the direct category is also [Card]Ghastly Demise[/Card] which requires cards in the graveyard to be effective but given fetch lands and counter magic, the requirement should be meet rapidly enough.

New to the scene though generally used as a sideboard strategy, though main deck consider is certainly justified, is [Card]Dismember[/Card].  The main question to ask if you’re running this card is “How high a cost are you willing to pay for Greatness?”  The life cost can certainly take its toll but in the few games I’ve played with it, the card is awesome, even the people I was playing against were talking with their friends saying “Guys that card is the nuts we need to play them”

Enchantments: [Card]Sylvan Library[/Card] is the original Jace, allowing you to look at the top three cards of your library and then draw one of those cards while giving you the option to put the other two back in any order or paying four life for an extra card, which allows deck manipulation but also against decks that do not win by dealing damage allows for “free” draws. Many versions have been playing this as a one of for the potential upside it represents.

[Card]Phyrexian Arena[/Card] is a risker card to consider as along with the double black mana, it does not allow to “stem the bleeding” unlike library manipulation and Bob.  While generating card advantage it also puts you on a quicker clock to kill your opponent, so try the Sylvan Library instead.

The last enchantment to discuss is [Card]Pernicious Deed[/Card].  If you do not know of the story behind this card you should check out Mark Rosewater’s column on explaining the card on the mother ship, as the card just oozes awesome.  So what does it do, well for X you get to obliterate every creature, artifact and enchantment that costs X or less allowing you to essentially wipe the board and start fresh.  Generally it’s a sideboard card as it isn’t great against every deck and it does not deal with Jace and or most big creatures but no one would fault you for playing it in the main board.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor: This isn’t standard and I don’t want to get into a standard debate so I’ll keep this short: you want this in your deck.  Millions of people have written about this card and its effect in standard and why its good, well as it turns out, all of those reasons is why it is good in Legacy, and as I’ve mentioned you can use the Brainstorm effect in conjunction with Dark Confidant to layer your draws so as to minimize the lose of life, if you’re really greedy and have two spare lands you can have two Bobs in play because even though Bob is Legend… wait for it… Dary (Shout out to Davies) he is not Legendary meaning you can pseudo Ancestral Recall each turn making it Greatness, at no cost which is Legendaryness even NPH can get behind. (NPH = Neil Patrick Harris)

Sideboard

– [Card]Crucible of Worlds[/Card]: Recurring Wasteland and Fetch Lands seems good.  Crucible is effective at dealing with slower decks by forcing them to play basics or have an immediate use for any non-basic put into play.  (U/W and BUG Lanstill, Team America, RUG & Bant, depending on the build)

– [Card]Diabolic Edict[/Card]: Effective at hitting the big creatures with some form of evasion such as Emrakul, Ulamog, [Card]Progenitus[/Card] and [Card]Inkwell Leviathan[/Card] and it’s at instant speed which makes it especially good against Sneak Attack. (Ex. Sneak Show, Hive Mind, Doomsday & Reanimator)

– [Card]Engineered Plague[/Card]: You’ll want this in three matchups: Elves, Goblins & Merfolk.  Some people sideboard it in for weird reasons against decks to get rid of stuff like [Card]Disciple of the Vault[/Card] but, as Eugene Ho would say, that’s a misplay. While this is not a hard lock against those decks, if you have the ability to deal with those early threats this can wreak havoc on your opponents game plan. (Elves, Goblins & Merfolk)

– [Card]Ghastly Demise[/Card]: Filling up your graveyard with cards is easy, making this a removal spell for
one which is effective against creature decks, especially those with a fast clock, just play around Tormod’s Crypt effects. (Zoo, Merfolk, Affinity, Bant)

– [Card]Krosan Grip[/Card]: Artifact and Enchantment hate for the particular bother some matchups and with increase Stoneforge play it’s a nice tool to answer the threat. (Ex. Countertop, Stoneforge.dec & Affinity)

– [Card]Life From The Loam[/Card]: Confession, I’ve never been a fan of this card out of the board for Team America.  Now it does help pump Tarmogoyf and Terravore by proxy but its main purpose is to return lands to your hand to ensure you hit your land drops or to allow constant Wasteland recursion but I’ve always felt Crucible of Worlds was the better choice in this situation, as no one side boards in Krosan Grip against Team America. (Team America, Standstill and Junk)

– [Card]Llawan, Cephalid Empress[/Card]: Merfolk.  It’s possible there are other decks that play blue creatures but you always want this against Merfolk as the only option available to deal with this is out of the board Submerge so be on the lookout, otherwise “Vialing” in a Merfolk per turn is something we can handle.  Pro Tip: Using Llawan on [Card]Blighted Agent[/Card] is always funny.

– [Card]Maelstrom Pulse[/Card]: If you read KYT’s article last week, and if you didn’t go read it after finishing this, he mentions a conversation where the topic came up that Team America has no answer to [Card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/Card], well boys this is that answer.  The obvious drawback is the non land part of the card but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.  Sometimes you’ll hit more than one permanent but otherwise Vindicate has always been good and this is as close as you’ll get. (U/W Landstill, Team America, Metalworker)

– [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card]: Graveyard Hate.  The problem with this card is it removes both graveyards which can be back breaking for your [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card]s and [Card]Terravore[/Card]s.  If you need variety to get around [Card]Pithing Needle[/Card] but otherwise I recommend running the Crypt or Spellbomb.  (Dredge, Reanimator and Team America)

– [Card]Submerge[/Card]: The best trick with this is to play it in response to your opponent cracking a fetch land as it shuffles their creature away. It may not seem ideal but a free spell is a free spell. (Team America, Junk and Elves)

– [Card]Thrun, The Last Troll[/Card]: Standstill.  I’m sure it’s good against other decks but you want this guy to combat Standstill.  Now the BUG version can have answers in the form of Innocent Blood and Diabolic Edict but the U/W version scoops to this guy as [Card]Wrath of God[/Card] is the only answer available and its note that common to see. (U/W and BUG Standstill, not Merfolk Standstill though)

– [Card]Tormods Crypt[/Card]: Single target graveyard hate, if you want the cantrip effect, no one will fault you for using [Card]Nihil Spellbomb[/Card] but both these cards remove your opponent’s graveyard while protecting yours to make your Goyfs, Terravores effective. (Dredge, Reanimate and Team America)

– [Card]Treetop Village[/Card]: I tried this out from the board for Tuesday night Legacy the week after U/W Standstill became popular again and it’s not amazing but it was effective in one game after Standstill landed. Its okay to net deck but try random things out every now and then, you may be surprised, which reminds me: #MoreFrank!

Last Words

I’ve read your comments and received feedback on what I’ve been writing and next week I’ll be transitioning to writing articles as opposed to primers.  I will come back to this format to go over certain deck types every now and then, if you have suggestions please let me know, but if I continue it will become repetitive and people will become disinterested which is something I want to avoid and I think my primer formula needs a decent amount of work.

So why play Team America.  Many people discuss deck choices in regards to how powerful a deck is or how consistent a deck is and my argument is Team America is parts of both.  In the world of unfair decks and cheating cards into play, Team America eschews all of that to instead be a deck that fairly casts spells that do unfair things.  It packs what are arguably five of the best cards available in Legacy: Brainstorm, Force, Hymn, Jace & Tarmogoyf. And it is the model of consistency and the top of the pile in terms of tempo decks, significantly outclassing most decks in the late game.  The major problem with the deck for people looking to get into the format is the cost associated with it and the unfortunate part is unlike other decks there is no real way to successfully navigate around this.  The deck itself is quite complicated to play correctly as its one of the most thought inducing decks currently around in Legacy. And though you may die to Bob if you misplay, generally your cards out class your opponent’s cards so even if you misplay and make a big mistake, there should always be an answer to be found within your remaining library. A final note, to answer the question [Card]Avalanche Riders[/Card] is the only uncommon invitational card.

Before letting you go, I do want to give major props to Justin Richardson.  This past weekend, Justin took down the Ottawa PTQ and is headed to Philadelphia in September to represent Mana Deprived & the Montreal magic playing community so join me in wishing him the best of luck.

Let me know what you think about the deck and the article in the comments, I’ll read every one and until next time: Have Fun Playing Magic!

Ancestral Memories: The Dance Of Angry Feet

Author’s Note: This article should have been up last week but there was some editing issues and I was on vacation.  Sorry about that and I hope my references aren’t too dated.  Enjoy!

You hear that?  It’s the sound of complacency setting into Legacy.  In Orlando, the top 16 included 6 Merfolk, 3 Team America and Gerry T & Drew Levin, now not to knock Landstill, but those two could win with a bucket of feathers.  Don’t get me wrong those are all fine decks but they are also slower decks made to prey on control decks.  So what can you do about this?  It’s time to get mad!  That sound you are hearing is the sound of angry feet; it’s the sound of people getting mad, its time to shake things up.  Legacy doesn’t begin or end with blue cards, in fact blue cards aren’t even needed, as there is an entire faction of decks that believe, for the most part, that blue cards only provide a speed bump on their way to overrun their opponents and those decks are aggro decks.  Most people won’t play aggro decks because they’ve gotten a bad rap over the years.  Affinity is a one trick pony that can be dealt with by just stemming the first wave, Goblins is consistent but people don’t seem to like consistency and it will always be Hugo to Merfolk’s Bart.  But there exists another option, a collection of cards that provide consistency and reliability and can out tempo any deck around and all of this starts with one card…

Tarmogoyf

So what makes [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] so good that he, it?,  is the most expensive non portal creature in not only Legacy but all of Magic?  After all it is a vanilla creature for two mana which can be strictly worse than [Card]Werebear[/Card], and he does not even have controversial flavor text.  So what makes Tarmogoyf so good?  The best possible scenario when casting Tarmogoyf is that you get a 8/9 creature.  If you were thinking, “Wait a minute that’s not worse than Werebear”, turns out you are right.  So what makes Tarmogoyf so good is the huge potential upside or if you’re into mathematics, Tarmogoyf gives you lots of positive EV.  So let’s break it down for you, Tarmogoyf grows in power and toughness based on the number of card types among cards in ALL graveyards.

In total there are 8 card types in magic today:

– Land
– Creature
– Instant
– Sorcery
– Artifact
– Enchantment
– Planeswalker
– Tribal

So now we need to get all of those cards into the graveyard.  Most will be pretty straight forward, some will be more difficult and one is impossible unless you are facing Goblins or Eldrazi-Post, same deal 5 points if you guess right and -5 if the gatherer guesses right.  The more difficult ones will be artifact, enchantment and Planeswalker as unless you’re facing the right deck, they won’t be played.  In most games however there will pretty much always going to be land and instant.  Creature and Sorcery is rather hit and miss but even if you get three of those four, Tarmogoyf is a 3/4.  That may seem complicated but that is why Tarmogoyf is so good, because without much effort you will usually get a 3/4 for two mana with no drawback, and that my friends is the kind of EV, Magic players like.  Oh as for the impossible card type, that would be tribal and the only two cards I’ve ever seen in a tier legacy deck is … [Card]Warren Weirding[/Card] and [Card]All Is Dust[/Card]. (Author’s Note: You can add [Card]Bitterblossom[/Card] to that list as it was around quite a bit in Providence)

Zoo

[Deck Title=Zoo By Mary Jacobson]
[Lands]
4 Arid Mesa
1 Forest
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Mountain
1 Plains
2 Plateau
2 Savannah
3 Taiga
3 Windswept Heath
3 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
2 Gaddock Teeg
3 Grim Lavamancer
2 Kird Ape
3 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Loam Lion
3 Qasali Pridemage
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path To Exile
2 Price of Progress
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Krosan Grip
3 Leyline of Sanctity
3 Magus of the Moon
1 Qasali Pridemage
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 Relic of Progenitus
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

The list presented above is the one Mary Jacobsen piloted to a top 8 finish at SCG Washington in early 2011, there are many variations on the list however, a slightly modified version of this is the one that I’ve liked most through all of my testing.  So what is a Zoo deck you ask, well simply put in Standard terms it is a Naya themed deck or Red, Green and White and as the name implies it is a creature based deck that plays small cheaply costed creatures that grow in size whether due to lands in play, lands in the graveyard or by being a Tarmogoyf!  It’s complimented by a burn spell package and Grim Lavamancer to burn their opponent for those last points of damage or burn their opponent’s creatures to smash for those last points of damage.

Mana Base

Being a three color deck, Zoo must rely on two different Legacy staples in order provide its mana base.  The first of these are dual lands, in this case being a three color deck Zoo relies on three different dual lands, those being [Card]Plateau[/Card] (Red/White), [Card]Savannah[/Card] (Green/White) and [Card]Taiga[/Card] (Red/Green).  Each of these lands allow Zoo to access two of its three colors needed to power its deck, though it is not always ideal to rely on drawing the correct dual land according to your hands needs, which is why Zoo employs another Legacy staple, Fetch Lands in order to properly fix its mana needs.  The three fetch lands employed in this deck are [Card]Windswept Heath[/Card] (Plains or Forest), [Card]Wooded Foothills[/Card] (Mountain or Forest) and [Card]Arid Mesa[/Card] (Mountain or Plains) and each of these fetch lands is capable of searching up for any of the three dual lands that the Zoo deck plays.  Commonly as well, since some of Zoo’s creatures receive power and toughness bonuses from having a specific land in play, Zoo will play basic lands, normally one of each ([Card]Plains[/Card], [Card]Mountain[/Card] & [Card]Forest[/Card]) in order to prevent it from being prone to Wasteland.

You may notice in Mary’s list that there is a land present that I have not mentioned yet and that is because similar to Alex Bertoncini playing a singleton copy of [Card]Mishra’s Factory[/Card], most Zoo decks have one extra land slot that is filled based on the player employing that particular deck.  Now there is no set choice for that slot and it greatly varies on the player but there are three common choices that I regularly see.  The first is [Card]Horizon Canopy[/Card], the land which Mary chose, as it provides two of three colors but it also allows to cantrip in the late game where you may need one last spell to get you the victory.  The second choice is [Card]Sejiri Steppe[/Card], which when used in combination with Knight of the Reliquary allows it to be searched up in response to an opponents spell targeting your creature to negate that spell or to give one of your creatures protection from your opponents board to be able to swing thru for lethal unblocked.  The last choice and this one is fairly dependant on what the local metagame is, is [Card]Bojuka Bog[/Card].  It’s not as ideal as it’s off color, however with the combination of Knight of the Reliquary, it can be employed to remove your opponent’s graveyard in response to any shenanigans he may have going on.  It won’t win you the game but normally if employed correctly it will prevent you from losing the game.  The only reason to play this maindeck is because the metagame has a high concentration of Dredge, Cephalid Breakfast/Life or other graveyard recursion decks, my recommendation is don’t even consider it unless more than 25% of the field is playing a graveyard deck and even then by the time you’re able to get your Knight online, chances are your opponent is well on his way to winning so consider other options.  As for the constituency of lands, that choice I will leave up to you but 20 to 21 lands seems to be the ideal amount, with 9 to 10 of those being fetch lands.

Budget Options: The most expensive cards in the card will be the dual lands.  The positive side is that this is the only tier deck around that plays Plateaus and the Savannahs and Taigas are among the four lowest price duals, not playing blue has its upsides!  The only alternative to these are the Ravnica shock lands, as along with the duals, they are the only lands that have basic land types in their subtype and can in turn be fetched for them.  Speaking of fetch lands, the Onslaught fetch lands may be slightly too expensive for some, however the Zendikar fetch lands are still around in Standard and at a lower price so you could substitute for them.  The downside is that you will be missing access to two of your three basics, which can cause problems against [Card]Wasteland[/Card], but you can still fetch for duals to get the correct colors

Creatures

Zoo has a contingency of creatures that pack a surprising punch and the first of these is the original ape, [Card]Kird Ape[/Card].  At first glance he seems like a vanilla 1/1 for one red mana but if you have a forest in play he becomes a 2/3 and if you have a Taiga on the first turn, then play Kird Ape, you get a 2/3 for one red mana.  And you though Tarmogoyf gave you value!  Next is the ape’s white twin, [Card]Loam Lion[/Card] who again for the price of one white mana you get a 1/1 but have a forest in play and, you guessed it, you get a 2/3 for one white mana, turn one Savannah means a 2/3 for one white mana on turn 1.  [Card]Wild Nacatl[/Card] rounds out the trio of creatures that take into account lands in play, while complementing the mana colors, this time being a one drop in green but now having two conditions which can be met individually or together, as he gets a 1 and 1 boost for having a mountain in play and another 1 and 1 boost for having a plains in play, meaning with a dual and a basic you can be attacking with a 3/3 on turn two.

On the other side of the ball is [Card]Knight of the Reliquary[/Card] which cares about lands in the graveyard in order to grow in size.  As previously mentioned though he also has this fine ability which lets him sacrifice a forest or a plains to search for any land in your deck, this allows you for some interactions with cards like Sejiri Steppe, to protect your creatures, Bojuka bog to nuke your opponents graveyard or even the correct dual to pump up your Wild Nacatls and Kird Apes for those extra points of damage on your opponent or so they’ll survive entering the red zone against your opponent.  The deck packs in a trio if not more of [Card]Qasali Pridemage[/Card] for a 2/2 body and an exalted trigger but more importantly than all of that, it provides main deck artifact and enchantment hate which is brutal against pretty much every deck as most decks play artifacts or enchantments of importance causing people to play around it, unless your Patrick Sullivan as Sligh is not concerned with such a card.  Being a beat down deck that plays green, [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] is an auto include, as already discussed, for two mana most of the time you’ll consistently get a 3/4.

Rounding out the creature package is the bane of all creature decks around, [Card]Grim Lavamancer[/Card].  For one red mana and two cards from your graveyard you can deal two damage to any creature or player, which helps clear the board of your opponent’s creatures.  An important point to note is that unless you are within range of killing your opponent with a Grim Lavamancer within three turns or less, you always burn his creatures and deal him combat damage with your creatures.  Also be mindful of the cards you are removing from your graveyard as both Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf are dependant on certain cards in your graveyard and removing these by not paying attention can cause you problems down the road where you get your opponent down to two or three life when he should have been dead.  The last creature found in this particular version of the deck are two copies of [Card]Gaddock Teeg[/Card] which is definitely an unconventional choice when choosing main deck creatures but that can be a beast against most decks as he creates the following cards to be dead in your opponent’s hand: [Card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/Card], [Card]Engineered Explosives[/Card], [Card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/Card], [Card]Moat[/Card], [Card]Humility[/Card], [Card]Dread Return[/Card], [Card]Fireblast[/Card], [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card] & [Card]Tendrils of Agony[/Card] to name a few.  If he is relevant against your opponent than you have an edge as you have a sideboard card game one and at worse he is a 2/2 for two mana, which compared to the other creatures in this deck seems bad but it’s an acceptable sacrifice.

Another creature which has been increasingly played more in this deck is [Card]Stoneforge Mystic[/Card] as every format is now going Stoneforge crazy and while he seems good in this deck, to make the card worth your while you need to be playing at least two with at least two equipment, which means removing four aggro business cards for four slower cards, which is counterintuitive to what the deck is trying to accomplish.  If you like you can try him out in this deck though I would try and avoid it as it’s a trap unless played in a deck that can fully utilize the card.  Same thing goes for [Card]Noble Hierarch[/Card], which has appeared in a few decks.  Simply put Noble Hierarch is a Bant card and doesn’t provide you with red mana and the deck’s curve is so low it does not need mana accelerants, so avoid playing this and the same thing goes for [Card] Birds of Paradise[/Card]   A last creature I would like to discuss that is not played but that I would like to make a push for is [Card]Terravore[/Card], as his synergy with Knight of the Reliquary is undeniable and while good early he is usually a late game finisher that brings the pain!  If someone can test Terravore in this deck at let me know I would appreciate it, just remember to ensure there are lands in a graveyard before casting him!

Budget Options: While Grim Lavamancer and Knight of the Reliquary will most likely be hovering around the ten dollar mark in price, the real problem for budget players will be acquiring either by trade or buying of Tarmogoyf.  Most people just have their play sets of the card and it’s quite rare to find someone to trade with, especially if that person is trading down.  So what can be used to replace Tarmogoyf?  Stoneforge Mystic?  It’s definitely not budget but for those that have their copies because they play them in standard, there are the four slots you would need and Batterskull is a beating.  As for actual budget players looking to replace Tarmogoyf, I have two options for you, either the [Card]Steppe Lynx[/Card]/[Card]Plated Geopede[/Card] landfall route similar to standard as the deck plays about as many fetch lands, or the [Card]Jotun Grunt[/Card]/[Card]Keldon Marauders[/Card] route which are cards in play for a limited time, but as a Zoo player you want a fast clock so getting in for damage as quickly as possible is important and if all else fails you can load up on the creatures already in your deck so that you’re playing four of each creature.  Another suggestion going around is to play cards like [Card]Woolly Thoctar[/Card] or other creatures with greater mana restrictions but I would avoid this strategy as Tarmogoyf is a two drop so you want something to fill in that slot, not something that will push your clock longer.

Spells

I’ll make this short and sweet; every Zoo deck plays 4 copies of [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card] as it is one of the strongest pieces of creature removal in those colors, outside of [Card]Swords To Plowshares[/Card].  So why not play swords? Swords awards your opponent with extra life, making your objective of reducing them to 0 life that much more difficult, where as bolt is straight removal and can even hit your opponent, also Zoo plays Path to Exile instead of Swords, but we’ll get to that.  So what is better than four copies of lightning bolt?  If you guessed eight copies of Lightning Bolt, then you are correct! Have 5 points!  That’s the reason the deck plays four copies of [Card]Chain Lightning[/Card].  Now if you pointed out Chain Lightning is a sorcery where as Lightning Bolt is an instant, my response to you is 8 Lightning Bolts, the only difference is you kill your opponent during your turn instead of the end of his turn.  Added Alex Hayne Pro Tip: Chain Lightning is a sorcery which makes [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] happy, if it can be happy.  Last there is [Card]Path to Exile[/Card] because sometimes your opponent’s creatures have more than 3 toughness.  The reason for playing this over Swords to Plowshares is the life gain as already mentioned and the added bonus, is while your opponent may search for a basic land, some decks do not play basic lands!

Turns out I lied about short and sweet, there’s actually two more spells I want to discuss.  The first is the inclusion in Mary’s deck of [Card]Price of Progress[/Card] in the main board.  Now this is kind of a high risk, high reward scenario, as unless you are playing against Sligh, the deck you are facing will have non-basic lands so Price of Progress will usually hit you’re opponent.  On the other hand Zoo runs non-basic lands so it will hit us.  So here is the justification for having Price of Progress in the deck.  It’s a finisher, plain and simple when you will be casting it, having it on the stack should represent lethal damage to your opponent leaving him the choice of dying or to survive using [Card]Wasteland[/Card] on his non basics and using his fetch lands to get basic lands or in some cases nothing at all, leaving your opponent with a compromised mana base and an uneasy predicament.  Further since Zoo has a faster clock than most non-combo decks, when you cast Price of Progress, you should be out of range of killing yourself with it or if you’re opponent has lethal on board next turn you could force a draw.  The second spell that has been moderately played is [Card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/Card].  Personally I prefer the build with the two main deck Gaddock Teegs as he’s a back breaking card for many decks and having one in play makes Green’s Sun Zenith a dead card in your hand.  As well Zoo has a very low mana curve as it needs to outrace your opponent where as the Green Sun’s Zenith adds an extra mana and thus an extra turn to the Zoo player’s clock so I would avoid it.

Budget Options: You want another difference between Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning; one was only printed in Legends where as the other can usually be found lying around on tables after players have cracked a bunch of core set packs.  This difference makes Chain Lightning a 15 dollar card, which can cause some players to flinch at spending 60 dollars for a play set of burn spells.  And in case you where wondering, you can’t play the Fire & Lightning ones, ORIGINALS ONLY. I’m kidding you’re allowed to play them, it is the budget options section after all, unless you’re name is, Justin Richardson, then you’re only allowed to play Legends [Card]Divine Offering[/Card]!   So what can you replace Chain Lightning with?  [Card]Burst Lightning[/Card]! It is basically Lightning Bolt for one less damage but with the kicker upside, not ideal but a play set will only run you a dollar, saving you 59 dollars to spend on the wife because you missed her birthday deciding whether you wanted to spend 60 dollars on a play set of Chain Lightning.

Sideboard

Same advice as last week, the best I can do is provide valuable card options against certain decks and then sideboard according to what your best bet of the metagame is, though my advice is no more than three copies of a card in your sideboard.  One thing to keep in mind for Zoo however is that many decks may only run two or three copies of a card but than may run an extra copy in the sideboard so that they have different options for creature and spell packages, so it is something to keep in mind. (Mary’s deck runs the extra Qasali Pridemage and Knight of the Reliquary in the sideboard) Here is a recommended list of sideboard cards for Zoo, with decks to sideboard them against in parenthesis:

– [Card]Bojuka Bog[/Card]: Though rare to see this in the mainboard it is commonly found in the sideboard to combat graveyard recursion. (Ex. Dredge, Reanimator)

– [Card]Carpet of Flowers[/Card]: You can play this on turn one and against most decks that play islands it will double your mana each turn allowing you to dump your hand and increase your clock. (Ex. Merfolk, Countertop)

– [Card]Choke[/Card]: Where as Carper of Flowers is more of an aggro option, Choke is the control option.  You want this against decks that rely primarily on dual lands for blue mana, though be wary because many decks can play around this with Daze to return lands or Aether Vial to bypass lands all together. (Ex. Team America, Merfolk, Threshold, Landstill)

– [Card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/Card]: Efficient for combating creature hate like Moat, while also giving the ability to [Card]Jump[/Card] over your opponent’s army of dudes.  Creatures with flying are not played much. (Ex. The Mirror, Decks with [Card]Moat[/Card])

– [Card]Ethersworn Canonist[/Card]: To protect yourself against combo decks.  Every combo deck has a way to deal with this so it is not a hard lock but it slows down your opponent enough to allow you to get there. (Ex. High Tide, ANT, TES)

– [Card]Gaddock Teeg[/Card]: When two Gaddock Teegs are not enough!  I’ve already written down the list of all cards this guy is good against so even if he is not in the mainboard he should definitely be a sideboard consideration. (Ex: ANT, Dredge and Team America, TES)

– [Card]Kataki, War’s Wage[/Card]: This card screams artifact hate and is in fact extremely useful to combat any artifact menaces you may face. (Ex. Affinity, Metalworker, Any Thopter Sword Combo Decks)

– [Card]Krosan Grip[/Card]: Split Second is the key, as it cannot be countered except by experienced [Card]Counterbalance[/Card] players and can really punish your opponent’s mistakes and carelessness. (Ex. Junk, Counter Top and Metalworker)

– [Card]Leyline of Sanctity[/Card]: Useful for turn 0 interaction to combat combo decks with a faster clock than yours and slow it down. (Ex. ANT, High Tide, Sligh, TES)

– [Card]Magus of the Moon[/Card]: This turns all non basic lands into mountains essentially ending games against most decks reliant on non basic lands. (Added Bonus: Fetch Lands are non basic so they cannot fetch) (Ex. Counter Top, Team America)

– [Card]Maze Of Ith[/Card]: The combo here is you can use this card at the end of your attack phase, after damage, yes there is such a phase, to untap your Knight so you can get an attack and an activation out of him.  I listed it in the sideboard as I generally play it as a sideboard card but it can be played main.  (Ex. Affinity, Reanimator, Poison Stompy)

– [Card]Mindbreak Trap[/Card]: A sneakier way to deal with combo than the canonist and if you are able to display dejected body language that indicates you are dead when they start comboing off you can catch them by surprise. (Ex. High Tide, ANT, TES)

– [Card]Price of Progress[/Card]: Out of the board this poses a lower risk than having it in the main but similar to what I already wrote about this card it is a finisher and if correctly employed can bring the pain. (Ex. Team America, Junk, Threshold, Affinity, Basically Any Deck With Non Basic Lands)

– [Card]Ranger of Eos[/Card]: Remember those 26 one drops, well it turns out 14 of those are creatures so this can be a viable strategy for battling in the late game versus creature decks when you need reinforcements. (Ex. Junk, The Mirror, Affinity)

– [Card]Red Elemental Blast[/Card]: Useful removal for any sideboard hate they may bring in as well as main deck problems like Jace and Merfolk. (Ex. Merfolk, Counter Top)

– [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card]: Similarly efficient as Bojuka Bog to combat graveyard recursion, though your opponent is aware of it and can play around it, it also cantrips, which is nice.  (Ex. Dredge, Reanimator)

– [Card]Tormod’s Crypt[/Card]: Unlike this Relic of Progenitus, this does not cantrip however if you play both you can play around [Card]Pithing Needle[/Card]. (Ex. Dredge, Reanimator)

– Sword Package: If you choose to play the Stoneforge Mystic package many players opt to reserve one or two sideboard slots for equipment targeted at a specific deck. (Ex. [Card]Sword of Light and Shadow[/Card] vs. Junk, [Card]Sword of Fire and Ice[/Card] vs. Threshold)

Last Words

With the release of New Phyrexia, everyone has been discussing the release of [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card] and its impact on Legacy.  Generally there are three strategies which can be applied to this Mental Misstep Mayhem, alliteration is fun, which is upon us for the next couple of months.  They are to avoid most one drops, similar to Team America and Affinity, to pretend Mental Misstep was never printed and then lose to it or to overload your deck with one drops so that Mental Misstep is of no real consequence.  Zoo decks fall into the latter category as taking Mary’s deck as an example; it contains 26 one drops so Mental Misstep eat your heart out!  So if you are looking for a legacy deck to play, Zoo is a good choice to consider for any tournament as many Legacy events are filled with bad players and bad decks, and sometimes the two are not mutually exclusive and to quote Alex Hayne, “Zoo beats bad players and bad decks.”  In its purest form, Zoo is an aggro deck similar to Affinity however unlike Affinity it has no quick and easy way to deal with it (ala [Card]Null Rod[/Card], [Card]Energy Flux[/Card] or Kataki) and its complement of spells allow it to interact in the later game as well.  Even in the hands of an inexperienced Legacy player, Zoo has the ability to be successful even without a familiarity with the format as long as one is mindful of the board interactions.  Beating a more experienced opponent may seem more difficult a task but simply remember that Zoo has a faster clock than most decks so to put it simply, you need to “Turn Them Sideways” as quickly as possible and success will be guaranteed.

In support of some Legacy brethren: #MoreAlex, #MoreFrank, #MoreKYT & of course #MoreMedina!

Let me know what you think about the deck and the article in the comments, I’ll read every one and until next time: Have Fun Playing Magic!

Ancestral Memories

A long time ago there was only Magic.  Now before you think I’m a crazy person who thinks Harry Potter’s wonderful world of wizardry is real, it’s not, I’m referring to the game we all love and come to this website to read about.  That’s when my friends and I started playing Magic the Gathering.  Later on a combination of Wizards and the DCI decided we need more than just Magic and invented three new formats: Type 1, 1.5 & 2.  For us these could be broken down into three categories: Every card, every card except power 9 and standard.  Those were our inaccurate descriptions of the formats which are now known as Vintage, Legacy and Standard.  Even back then no one cared for Extended!

The important category of the three is Legacy as that’s what my friends and I always played as we were allowed to build decks with every single one of our cards.  In fact it’s the only thing we played till Invasion came out, then we tried Standard.  So why did we play Legacy, asides for the fact we could use all our cards, simply put, because it made playing magic FUN! and it’s the reason I prefer playing Legacy to any other format because it’s still fun and truth be told, its why more people should play Legacy, as observing a room at a standard tournament people do not look like they are having fun.  So with people starting to talk about Providence and getting psyched for Legacy I thought now was as good a time as any to write about Legacy with KYT’s approval and given a little effort on my part, I’ll try and make it a regular thing where I discuss a Legacy staple followed up by a deck list that features that staple, so without further ado, as my intro has gotten long winded, I give you…

Force Of Will

Force of Will, the Legacy staple of Legacy staples.  As a quick aside one of these cards is worth 80 dollars, the other is not. Hint: the one from Alliance is worth 80 dollars. Explicit Hint: it’s the one on the left, the card on the right can make for a nice proxy.  Another quick asides, 5 points if you can guess who the quote on the right card is attributed to.  Time’s up, the correct answer is Winston Churchill so 5 points if you got it right and -5 points if Google got it right for you, keep track it might be important.  So why is this card so important?  After all it’s a counter spell for five mana, which seems bad, or it’s a counter spell for one life and two of your cards which also isn’t very good.  In fact most new players just shrug their shoulders when you play it against them and are thoroughly unimpressed, even my first blue control deck only ran two because I ran out of copies of [Card]Desertion[/Card].

So why is this one piece of cardboard so important?  Well in exchange for Force of Will, any blue cards and one life you either greatly inconvenience your opponents or more importantly you don’t lost the game, as it keeps degenerate decks in check.  By being one of the few cards that allow you to interact on turn 0 and the only one of those cards that is good in every situation, though Mindbreak and Ravenous Trap can be effective in the right situation.  It’s the reason why Force of Will is arguably the best card in the format and four copies are an auto-include in almost every deck that plays blue cards.  Now make no mistake it creates card disadvantage for you but given the choice of starting game two or taking your first turn in game 1, the latter option is the correct choice.  So if ever you have the chance pick this card up do because it will always be a Legacy staple and always be legal in Legacy.  So which deck plays Force of Will, actually a whole lot do but since Providence is less than a month away and people will be looking for a legacy deck I figured I would review a deck that I’d recommend to people starting to play Legacy: Merfolk and specifically Alex Bertoncini’s list, which is a consensus top version of the deck.

[Deck Title=Merfolk By Alex Bertoncini]
[Lands]13 Island 1 Mishras Factory 4 Mutavault 4 Wasteland[/Lands]
[Creatures] 4 Coralhelm Commander 4 Cursecatcher 2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner 4 Lord of Atlantis 2 Merfolk Sovereign 4 Merrow Reejerey 4 Silvergill Adept 1 Sower of Temptation[/Creatures]
[Spells]4 Aether Vial 4 Daze 4 Force of Will 1 Spell Pierce[/Spells]
[Sideboard]2 Back To Basics 3 Hydroblast 2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress 1 Sower of Temptation 2 Spell Pierce 3 Submerge 2 Umezawas Jitte[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Mana Base

The strength of the Merfolk deck lies within its mana base.  Since it’s a monochromatic deck it can get away with playing islands which means it does not need to fear [Card]Wasteland[/Card] and most Merfolk players chose not to play fetch lands so that they are not vulnerable to Stifle and can gain consistency.  Every version of the deck plays 4 copies of [Card]Mutavault[/Card] as it counts as a Merfolk as well as every other creature type so it receives all power and toughness increases from all lords on the battlefield.  The main distinguishing feature of Bertoncini’s list is the singleton copy of Mishra’s Factory which provides an additional body similar to Mutavault but more importantly since Mutavault is every creature type it is also an assembly worker which means the Mishra’s Factory can be tapped to pump Mutavault as a neat combat trick and Bertoncini himself admitted at least once per tournament he tricks someone into blocking his Mutavault with a creature of the same size and then pumps his Mutavault so that only his opponent’s creature dies.  Last there is another legacy staple, Wasteland.  Every version of the deck plays 4 copies as it is capable of destroying any land that isn’t a basic and can be used to keep your opponent off a specific color or off of lands all together, i.e. legacy decks don’t play many lands.

So how should you design your mana base for legacy Merfolk? There is slight variance in Merfolk but most versions of the deck pretty much start off with four Mutavaults and four Wastelands.  From there you have the choice as to whether you want to play the Mishra’s Factory or not, I’d recommend it but some people prefer not playing it.  Last you need to decide how many lands you want in your deck which will dictate the number of islands.  Bertoncini’s 22 lands is on the high end of what I’ve seen Merfolk decks play but he’s also had the most success with it, on the flip side I’ve seen Merfolk decks with 18 lands, it all depends on your comfort level but to start your Merfolk deck I’d recommend 22 and if you find yourself getting too mana flooded cut one or two lands down to 20 but below that is very risky without an immense familiarity with the deck, to give you an idea Bertoncini’s been playing the deck for over two years.

Budget Options:  As many of you may know, Wasteland is a 60 dollar card which for some may be too expensive, so an option I can recommend for budget players is [Card]Ghost Quarter[/Card].  Like Wasteland it provides one colorless mana and has a second ability where it can destroy any non-basic land however it has the drawback that the destroyed land’s controller can search for a basic land and put it into play.  Though not ideal, many Legacy decks don’t play basic lands as well the land that you’re destroying will most likely be better than a basic land.   If you can’t invest in a set of [card]Wasteland[/card]s I’d recommend trying a set of [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]s.

Creatures

As you guessed the creature base is where Merfolk derives its name from.  The deck plays two non-lord Merfolk creatures, [Card]Cursecatcher[/Card], a one drop capable of protecting your spells from being countered or delaying your opponent’s clock by a turn.  The other creature is [Card]Silvergill Adept[/Card] which for two provides cycling with a 2/1 body, provided you have another Merfolk in hand.  The one creature that is part non-lord and part lord is [Card]Coralhelm Commander[/Card] which is a 2/2 body for two which when levelled up four times provides you with a 4/4 lord.  At the same time when levelled up twice Coralhelm gains flying which is actually quite important as you can send it flying over your opponent’s troops while keeping the rest back on defense.  The last category of Merfolk creatures in the in the deck are the lords.  The first lord is one of the original lords from Alpha, [Card]Lord of Atlantis[/Card] who boosts all Merfolks by 1 and 1 but more importantly in a landscape of blue decks and islands, the Lord of Atlantis provides an army of unblockable dudes.  Next is [Card]Merrow Reejerey[/Card] which once again provides the 1 and 1 boost but this time has the ability to tap or untap a permanent whenever you cast a Merfolk spell.  This gives you the ability to tap down their only blocker to swing for lethal, untap your Aether Vial for another dude or even a Wasteland or island to destroy an opponent’s nonbasic land or have that one mana up to cast a Spell Pierce on your opponent’s crucial spell.  The last lord is [Card]Merfolk Sovereign[/Card] which again provides the 1 and 1 boost as well as the ability to make one dude unblockable.  He’s the lesser important lord as the unblockable ability is usually moot in most matches but the lord ability is always welcome.

The deck also commonly runs two different non-merfolk creatures the first being [Card]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/Card].  Simply put Merfolk is a creature deck and it is susceptible to spot removal, Kira solves all of those problems with its ability essentially requiring your opponent to use two of his spells to deal with Kira before focusing on the rest of your team.  The last creature that may be included is a singleton copy of [Card]Sower of Temptation[/Card] which curves off the end of the Merfolk curve at four mana, coming down to steal your opponents most important creature essentially ending the game and acting as Merfolks’ finisher, provided your opponent has a creature worth stealing.  Interesting anecdote, I once saw someone play Show and Tell putting an [Card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/Card] into play only for his opponent to put his [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] into play and stealing the Emrakul, Good Times!

Budget Options: Most of the Merfolk creatures are inexpensive with only Lord of Atlantis costing you upwards of 5 dollars.  Kira on the other hand may run you anywhere from 10 to 15 dollars which if you have trouble acquiring or is too expensive you can always play more Merfolk spells though I would truly recommend picking up a copy or two because Kira in play is back breaking for most decks.

Spells

Remember that staple called [Card]Force of Will[/Card], well here it is.  As already discussed you know why the card is good but since Merfolk is a mono blue deck, approximately 60 percent of the deck can be removed to Force of Will, which doesn’t seem problematic given this deck but when you consider a three color deck like Team America there are times when unless you have five mana up, Force of Will can be a dead card.  Another Legacy staple that tribal decks can best take advantage of is [Card]Aether Vial[/Card], which if dropped on turn 1 can lead to a massive headache for your opponent if not immediately dealt with.  Aether Vial can be used to flash in Merfolk lords during combat as a trick to kill your opponent’s creatures or to pump your creatures to get those extra points of damage.  The vial can also be employed similar to fetch lands where you can protect your creatures till your opponents tap out and then flash in some creatures at the end of turn to end the game on your untap and your opponent is tapped out with no answers.

[Card]Daze[/Card] is the other Counterspell staple in the Merfolk deck which allows you to return an island to your hand, meaning you can tap out, leading your opponent into a false sense of security which you can trap them with.  Inherently Daze is tempo disadvantageous card as it leaves you a land down but it provides a nice combo with Aether Vial where you can play island, Aether Vial and you can return your tapped island to play Daze to counter your opponents first spell turn or even their mental misstep targeting your Aether Vial, keep this in mind, it will be important.  The last main deck spell that Merfolk generally plays is [Card]Spell Pierce[/Card].  With more than half of your creatures being lords or able to be levelled to lord status, Merfolk is able to win the creature war, however the spell war is where it can be disadvantageous for the deck so loading up on counter magic is never a bad thing and unlike standard where mana is running rampant, Legacy decks don’t have much spare mana running around and in many games Spell Pierce is essentially a hard counter for one blue mana.

Generally your spell package in a Merfolk deck will run 4 copies of Aether Vial, Force of Will and Daze.  The differences across Merfolk decks are the number of copies of Spell Pierce that are played.  Generally the Merfolk decks plays 25 creatures, 22 lands and the remainder are spells which means playing one copy of Spell Pierce in this configuration.  However some players choose to instead remove two islands from that configuration meaning you’re playing 25 creatures, 20 lands and the remainder are again spells but this time there are three copies of Spell Pierce.

Budget Options: This may seem weird given that Force of Will is the staple I discussed in this article but for some people, 300 dollars for a play set it out of some peoples price range and there is in fact a budget option to replace Force of Will though it is inferior, let me present [Card]Foil[/Card], the card not the random insert in some packs.  Playing Foil would require you to change the mana base of your deck to include more islands but if you’re looking to build the deck slowly and can’t get all the big money cards, Foil can be used as a short term solution though when you have the chance pick up copies of Force of Will.  Otherwise to replace Force of Will you can use Counterspell though remember the strength of Force of Will is that it is one of only two counters that can interact on turn 0, Foil being the other.

Sideboard

Unlike Standard, there is never an ideal or optimal sideboard strategy for any deck in Legacy.  Essentially if you know exactly everyone’s deck you can specifically sideboard against your weakest matchups, in essence “Metagaming against each other because we saw each other’s decks”!  Otherwise the best I can do is provide valuable card options against certain decks and then sideboard according to what your best bet of the metagame is, though my advice is no more than three copies of a card in your sideboard.  Here is a recommended list of sideboard cards for Merfolk:

– [Card]Back to Basics[/Card]: Remember those decks with no basic lands, this is the card you want against those decks.(Ex: Team America, Threshold and Some Countertop Decks)
– [Card]Energy Flux[/Card]: It’s more efficient than Null Rod for the Merfolk deck you’ll want to sideboard this against decks littered with artifacts. (Ex: Affinity, Metalworker and Thopter Sword)
– [Card]Hydroblast[/Card]/[Card]Blue Elemental Blast[/Card]: Merfolk dies to red based decks so this provides a nice hard counter for one blue mana to annoying red spells!
– [Card]Llawan, Cephalid Empress[/Card]: The mirror match, also as a last resort against Progenitus though not ideal.  If this is played against you, Aether Vial will be critical.
– [Card]Mana Maze[/Card]: A bit of outside the box thinking which is very effective against mono color or two color combo decks. (Ex: High Tide and Blue/Black Storm)
– [Card]Relic of Progenitus[/Card]: You’ll want this in any deck that utilizes its grave yard in any way, also it cantrips. (Ex: Dredge, Cephalid Breakfast/Life, Team America, decks with Grim Lavamancer)
– [Card]Sower of Temptation[/Card]: Sometimes they have two big creatures (Ex. Sneak Show, Junk Decks & Team America)
-[Card] Spell Pierce[/Card]: You’ll want more copies of these in matches where their spells are the biggest threat to you winning the game. (Ex: Any Storm Deck, Dragon Stompy, Counter Top)
– [Card]Submerge[/Card]: Decks that play forests and creatures, basically all green decks except Belcher. Helpful Hint: If you play this spell in response to a fetch you get rid of their creatures as cracking the fetch shuffles the creature back in, you can target Dryad Arbor with this.
-[Card]Umezawas Jitte[/Card]: You’ll want this equipment in matches against creature decks or decks that play small potentially harmful creatures, though remember its Legendary so don’t play two. (Ex: Zoo, Goblins, Merfolk, Berserk Stompy, Poison Stompy & against Dark Confidant)

Last Words

If you are just starting out in Legacy and want to give Merfolk a try, I would recommend trying to use the budget deck list as a guide for building a deck, it will give you a decent feel for playing the Merfolk deck and then as you gain familiarity with the deck you can try upgrading to higher value cards to play a list similar to Alex Bertoncini.  If you have access to every card from the outset however I strongly recommend playing Alex Bertoncini’s list as it is the most consistently successful.  This has a lot to do with the player but the nice part of Legacy is nothing ever rotates so if you chose to play one deck you can develop a mastery of it over time.

There is also another version of Merfolk around which plays Standstill, stay away from this version of the deck.  In its truest form Merfolk is an aggro deck which has the advantage of playing blue spells, giving it access to counter magic yet the only way this deck will win is beating your opponent down with creatures as quickly as possible.  Standstill on the other hand plays the waiting game trying to wear your opponent down till you achieve a board state where your opponent becomes desperate and unless you have the optimal starting hand of Aether Vial and Standstill the deck will usually perform less than ideal which is why Merfolk decks with Standstill are not as prevalent in the top 16 deck lists as those that have forgone the card altogether.

As someone who has been playing Legacy for a long time, I have seen many decks come and go, some that achieved immediate and irreparable success (See Steve Sadin’s Flash Hulk) and others which have toiled in obscurity for years only making minor headway, yet for the past couple years, Merfolk has been as consistent as you could wish for from a deck and has weathered many a storms and cycles coming out unfazed, and made even better by a good pilot.  It’s the reason why no matter how good my Merfolk matchup is, I’ll always want to avoid a good Merfolk player, because the deck is good at consistently winning.

Let me know what you think about the deck and the article in the comments, I’ll read every one and until next time: Have Fun Playing Magic!