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This Month in Legacy (April 2015)

I am back for some discussion about Legacy. This week we have a slightly (very) delayed This Month in Legacy article, talking about the trends in the Legacy metagame for April 2015. In April we saw a Legacy GP in April (won by Miracles) which is always a big event, as well as lots of innovation within tournaments across the globe and online. Let’s dig in!

The Month of the Mentor

Khans of Tarkir has been a block that introduced a variety of incredibly powerful cards, from the now banned Treasure Cruise to Dig Through Time, which is currently rampant across all the blue midrange and control decks. Powerful creatures have also made a mark, with Tasigur, the Golden Fang being a staple in both tempo and midrange strategies. However there are a few cards which have needed a little bit of time to find their home within the Legacy metagame.

One of these is Monastery Mentor. Initially touted as a white equivalent to Young Pyromancer, his converted mana cost of three has shied many people from utilising him, and Grixis Control strategies featuring the red Elemental-pooping 2/1 have remained a staple of the metagame both online and off, overshadowing any possible Mentor strategies.

GP Kyoto however, featured the Human Monk in the runner-up deck list:

Kazuya Murakami's Mentor Miracles

Creatures: (6)
Stoneforge Mystic
Monastery Mentor

Non-Creature Spells: (34)
Counterspell
Dig Through Time
Daze
Brainstorm
Force of Will
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
Ponder
Counterbalance
Batterskull
Sensei’s Divining Top

Land: (20)
Arid Mesa
Plains
Volcanic Island
Tundra
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Island
Sideboard: (15)
Meddling Mage
Pyroblast
Divert
Engineered Explosives
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Containment Priest
Pyroclasm
Redirect
Rest in Peace
Wear // Tear

Blending both tempo (via Daze), Stoneforge Mystic and Miracles (Sensei’s Divining Top, Counterbalance, Terminus), Kazuya Murakami’s list was a strange Frankenstein that seemed to work well for him on the big weekend. Importantly, Sensei’s Divining Top and Monastery Mentor revealed themselves to be a powerful combination, with two tops quickly transforming into an army of Monks. I think this list is a great starting point as the foundation of a Miracles list that can use Mentor and Stoneforge, rather than Entreat the Angels, as their finishers, or shows the potential of Monastery Mentor as a sideboard threat for Miracles that they can abuse once the opponent has sideboarded out the majority of their removal. Indeed, a lot of Miracles lists have now begun to integrate Mentor in their sideboard over Stoneforge Mystic, since Mentor takes up less sideboard space than a Stoneforge + Batterskull package.

Monastery Mentor has also been making his appearance known in Stoneblade lists. Esper Stoneblade, as mentioned in March’s article, has been an excellent contender and some lists have been integrating Mentor over cards such as True-Name Nemesis. Mentor and Lingering Souls is indeed a potent combination, giving the deck an almost token subtheme. And when you have tokens, you might as well add an anthem…

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad has made occasional appearances in these lists, next to the typical planeswalker powerhouse of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Being able to pump all your Lingering Souls and trigger Monastery Mentor is very valuable when the deck needs to turn the corner and become more aggressive, and at least can create a Vampire when the Esper Stoneblade player is somewhat behind. Even Khans of Tarkir Sorin might have a place if we want to go deep…

Jeskai Stoneblade has also been very popular on Magic Online, perhaps more so than Esper Stoneblade. A lot of these lists have eschewed the aggression that Brian Bran-Duin utilized in his GP New Jersey winning list, cutting things such as Young Pyromancer, and have aimed to power into the late game via Dig Through Time and land powerful finishers such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Batterskull. Some have even packed the Countertop combination to more closely resemble a Miracles list. Here’s one list that has been continually crushing on Magic Online throughout April:

JACETMSST's Jeskai Stoneblade

Creatures: (9)
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
True-Name Nemesis
Vendilion Clique

Non-Creature Spells: (31)
Council’s Judgment
Ponder
Supreme Verdict
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Lightning Bolt
Spell Pierce
Spell Snare
Swords to Plowshares
Batterskull
Umezawa’s Jitte
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Land: (20)
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Island
Karakas
Plains
Polluted Delta
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Sideboard: (15)
Blood Moon
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Meddling Mage
Pithing Needle
Pyroblast
Pyroclasm
Red Elemental Blast
Rest in Peace
Sword of Feast and Famine
Wear // Tear

Black Is Back

Next to Miracles, which is always one of the most-played decks, BUG Delver has seen a large resurgence as the Delver deck of choice. And within a lot of these list a forgotten card has risen back to prominence. Bob (Dark Confidant), everyone’s old friend, is back, allowing both tempo-orientated and midrange BUG Delver lists to grind.

Not only has BUG Delver been making a resurgence, but so has other black-based midrange decks. Shardless BUG has been on the rise, as I mentioned last month, and an interesting innovation that people have been utilizing in Shardless is a certain Standard powerhouse Courser of Kruphix.

JAVERSONLAI's Shardless BUG

Creatures: (16)
Baleful Strix
Courser of Kruphix
Deathrite Shaman
Shardless Agent
Tarmogoyf
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Non-Creature Spells: (22)
Ancestral Vision
Hymn to Tourach
Maelstrom Pulse
Abrupt Decay
Brainstorm
Force of Will
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Liliana of the Veil

Land: (22)
Bayou
Creeping Tar Pit
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland
Sideboard: (15)
Force of Will
Hymn to Tourach
Liliana of the Veil
Disfigure
Duress
Feed the Clan
Golgari Charm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Nihil Spellbomb
Phyrexian Revoker
Umezawa’s Jitte

Although many would expect the aforementioned Dark Confidant to be playing a role within Shardless BUG, many have opted for Courser of Kruphix, due to its powerful ability to control the top of the library, and hence make Shardless Agent’s Cascades much more precise. Adding Sylvan Library to the mix gives further top control and card advantage, especially when combined with the Centaur.

Jund has also been making somewhat of a comeback, and is an excellent choice if your metagame is dominated by blue midrange. A more aggressively bent list top 8ed a GP Trial in Kyoto, featuring some more Standard cards apparently powerful enough for Legacy.

Gaku Ohashi's Jund

Creatures: (12)
Dark Confidant
Deathrite Shaman
Goblin Rabblemaster

Non-Creature Spells: (25)
Kolaghan’s Command
Abrupt Decay
Lightning Bolt
Punishing Fire
Hymn to Tourach
Thoughtseize
Liliana of the Veil

Land: (23)
Graven Cairns
Mountain
Badlands
Bayou
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills
Wasteland
Bloodstained Mire
Grove of the Burnwillows
Sideboard: (15)
Pyroblast
Duress
Extirpate
Grafdigger’s Cage
Grim Lavamancer
Ancient Grudge
Golgari Charm
Krosan Grip
Slaughter Games
Chains of Mephistopheles
Engineered Plague

Kolaghan’s Command is a card I think most black-red decks should be utilising at least as a one-of. It’s incredibly powerful in dealing with Stoneforge Mystic strategies, killing the equipment she brings as well any creatures lying around, and otherwise is at least a guaranteed two-for-one. It’s discard mode even gives it some application against combo, especially when combined with Jund’s traditional hand disruption of Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach.

Goblin Rabblemaster also makes an appearance here as a threat, like Bob, that will run away with the game if not dealt with. All the removal in this list, combined with hand disruption, ensures that Rabblemaster can push through opposing removal and creatures, and should lead to a quick win.

Innovating in Elves

Elves have been making a resurgence in Modern thanks to Collected Company, but in Legacy the deck has always been a powerful mainstay. The ability to combo out with both Glimpse and its ‘oops! I win’ card, Natural Order, as well as grind and swarm the opponent with Elvish Visionary + Wirewood Symbiote gives Elves the ability to attack in a variety of angles.

To increase this grindy nature, a few Elves players have attempted to add a fifth Elvish VisionaryCoiling Oracle.

Definitely an interesting addition, and is probably one of the more bizarre Elves to make the cut. By splashing blue, the Elves deck can also get access to counter magic such as Swan Song, excellent in protecting a lethal Natural Order, since the Bird will be of little consequence, and increases the deck’s grinding ability by adding an interesting Green Sun’s Zenith silver bullet – Edric, Spymaster of Trest.

Thinking of other splashes, Elves players have looked towards white to access cards such as Qasali Pridemage and Gaddock Teeg, while Elves players splashing red have primarily done so to summon Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. Ruric shuts down combo completely, but is beatable by some fair decks, especially those that can swarm around him. Elves unfortunately can’t play very many sweepers due to most of them sweeping away Elves too… So why not summon the biggest, baddest, newest dragon that is an excellent Green Sun’s Zenith and Natural Order target?

Dragonlord Atarka is (surprisingly) Legacy playable folks. I can’t imagine decks relying on Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay having a fun time against Atarka, who sweeps away all their Delvers, Young Pyromancers and his Elemental friends. Here’s a list that came second in a local Japanese event, utilising both Dragonlord Atarka and splashing blue for Swan Song:

Takano Shigeki's Elves

Creatures: (31)
Birchlore Rangers
Craterhoof Behemoth
Fyndhorn Elves
Reclamation Sage
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Dryad Arbor
Deathrite Shaman
Elvish Visionary
Heritage Druid
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
Wirewood Symbiote

Non-Creature Spells: (12)
Glimpse of Nature
Green Sun’s Zenith
Natural Order

Land: (17)
Forest
Taiga
Tropical Island
Bayou
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Gaea’s Cradle
Sideboard: (15)
Meekstone
Tormod’s Crypt
Scavenging Ooze
Swan Song
Abrupt Decay
Dragonlord Atarka
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Cabal Therapy
Thoughtseize

Evolving Death & Taxes

Splashing red in Death & Taxes has also become a popular phenomenon, with Mark Konig, also known as streamer Bahra, popularising it on Magic Online and The Source. Red gives the deck some powerful tools, such as lock-out creature Magus of the Moon, who is unbeatable for some decks when supported by Mother of Runes, despite its lack of synergy with Rishadan Port and Wasteland, and gives the deck Imperial Recruiter, a creature-based tutor that the deck has been yearning for. Other important cards to access include Sudden Demise for the Elves matchup. The list has benefits over generic Death & Taxes by crushing greedy blue midrange decks such as Shardless BUG thanks to Magus, and has a very reasonable Elves matchup, which has been a concern for many Death & Taxers. One such list placed well at an SCG Premier IQ:

David Bauman's Imperial Taxes

Creatures: (26)
Phyrexian Revoker
Fiend Hunter
Flickerwisp
Imperial Recruiter
Magus of the Moon
Mirran Crusader
Mother of Runes
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Land: (23)
Plains
Arid Mesa
Cavern of Souls
Plateau
Rishadan Port
Wasteland
Windswept Heath
Karakas

Non-Creature Spells: (11)
Aether Vial
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Swords to Plowshares
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sideboard: (15)
Pithing Needle
Ratchet Bomb
Ethersworn Canonist
Containment Priest
Leonin Relic-Warder
Rest in Peace
Cataclysm
Council’s Judgment
Sudden Demise

Others have been impressed with a green splash to hurt Miracles-saturated metagames, since Gaddock Teeg is a powerful creature in that matchup, that is also nicely protected via Karakas. Choke also helps hurt the blue midrange decks in a similar way that Magus of the Moon does, except it comes out of the sideboard. Qasali Pridemage is also a neat addition, as main deck enchantment hate is desirable due to OmniTell’s current place in the metagame (the top of the combo decks).

Ways to Kill on Turn Two

Another deck rising in popularity a surprising amount is Infect, which is one of the top combo decks next to OmniTell and traditional Ad Nauseum Tendrils. Lists have become leaner and leaner, cutting the random one-ofs that have been seen in many of Tom Ross’ lists. Many lists have emphasised Become Immense a little more, increasing the deck’s nut draw potential. Here’s a list that’s adopting these changes, piloted by King of the Hill Andrea Mengucci:

Andrea Mengucci's Infect

Creatures: (12)
Blighted Agent
Glistener Elf
Noble Hierarch

Non-Creature Spells: (30)
Berserk
Become Immense
Vines of Vastwood
Brainstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Invigorate
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder

Land: (18)
Forest
Pendelhaven
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Inkmoth Nexus
Tropical Island
Sideboard: (15)
Flusterstorm
Spell Pierce
Krosan Grip
Divert
Submerge
Hydroblast
Nature’s Claim
Dig Through Time
Pithing Needle
Grafdigger’s Cage
Sylvan Library

This one’s all pump and protection; no funny stuff! I love lists that are super-clean like this.

Looking towards other combo decks, an interesting take on Reanimator has appeared, with the main deck attacking on Reanimator’s traditional access. But the sideboard utilizes everyone’s favorite rodent…

YENKO88's Reanimator

Creatures: (8)
Ashen Rider
Elesh Norn, Grand Cénobite
Grave Titan
Griselbrand
Hapless Researcher
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Non-Creature Spells: (37)
Careful Study
Duress
Exhume
Ponder
Reanimate
Thoughtseize
Brainstorm
Entomb
Force of Will
Lotus Petal
Animate Dead

Land: (15)
Bayou
Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
Island
Polluted Delta
Scrubland
Swamp
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Sideboard: (15)
Duress
Abrupt Decay
Dig Through Time
Pack Rat
Peacekeeper
Pithing Needle

A nice discard outlet and a powerful creature to have in your deck once your opponent has boarded out their removal!

Concluding Thoughts

So this April, in terms of fair decks, Miracles has remained at the top of the metagame, winning GP Kyoto and cementing its place as one of the best fair decks. Stoneblade decks have become a little slower, leaning on Dig Through Time a fair bit, and some have introduced Monastery Mentor into their creature base. Black midrange is back in business, with Jund, Shardless BUG and BUG Delver seeing a lot of play and innovation, and Death & Taxes has transformed itself a variety of ways in order to attack the new metagame.

In terms of unfair decks, ANT and OmniTell have been the primary choices, with Infect and Elves following behind only slightly. Typical Sneak & Show has seen a huge dip in popularity, with many trading their Griselbrands for Omnisciences.

Hopefully you’ve found some interesting innovations and gotten a good grasp of the current Legacy landscape.

Next week, let’s burn the world down.

‘Til next time,

Sean

Bonus Content

The most beautiful hot mess of a Stompy deck I’ve ever seen.

NO_Pride's Rebel Stax

Creatures: (15)
Aven Mindcensor
Ramosian Sergeant
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Amrou Scout
Aven Riftwatcher
Big Game Hunter
Children of Korlis
Defiant Falcon
Mirror Entity
Pack Rat

Non-Creature Spells: (21)
Chalice of the Void
Bitterblossom
Blood Moon
Mox Diamond
Chains of Mephistopheles
Contamination
Scroll Rack

Land: (24)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Plains
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Badlands
Cavern of Souls
Mountain
Phyrexian Tower
Plateau
Scrubland
Sideboard: (15)
Wear // Tear
Suppression Field
Thorn of Amethyst
Zealous Persecution
Apostle’s Blessing
Engineered Plague
Ensnaring Bridge
Perish
Ramosian Lieutenant
Rest in Peace
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