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This Month in Legacy (August 2015)

Hello once again! We’ve had quite a month of Legacy recently, with two major events occurring – the SCG Open in Washington, DC and the Legacy Championship – so we’ve got a lot of data to scour through and a lot of new innovations to look at from those two large tournaments. The SCG Invitational in New Jersey also featured a Legacy component, with some interesting lists from there as well. Not to mention there’s been some interesting pieces of technology on both Magic Online and paper tournaments, per usual.

First we’ll have a look at the Washington Open and the composition of decks down to the Top 32. Josh Pelrine on OmniTell was able to take down this one.

It’s notable that the Top 8 had a great variety of both blue and non-blue decks, combo and fair decks and, most interestingly, no Miracles! I’m sure most players would expect Miracles to typically Top 8 these large tournaments just based on the amount of play the deck typically gets. But alas, it is nowhere to be seen, although Brian Bran-Duin was able to make another ninth place finish with typical Ponder Miracles. The Top 8 was composed of a few oddities, featuring relatively underplayed decks such as Esper Stoneblade, Reanimator and most interestingly of all, Bryant Cook on his signature deck The Epic Storm. Stormers can find his thorough report here.

Nonetheless this tournament did make something incredibly obvious – Grixis Delver is the most popular Delver deck by far, and the most popular placing deck in this tournament, with a huge seven copies featured within the Top 32. All of these featured Dig Through Time, of course, although some made room for a package of Stifles as well, and this seems to be one of the clear distinctions between lists. Otherwise they’ve remained relatively similar to what Noah Walker sported a few months ago, winning IQs and an Open with.

Grixis Delver’s saturation in this tournament would forebode the Legacy Championships, where Bob Huang took down the Top 8 with Grixis Delver himself, beating Akash Naidu piloting OmniTell. Again, the composition of the tournament down to 32nd place is as follows:

Grixis Delver once again was the most represented deck in the Top 32, with six represented – rivalled almost by Miracles – but compared to Miracles, who found no pilots in the Top 8, three of the Grixis Delver players were able to make it! Again there’s slight variation within these Grixis lists, with two of these the typical builds of Grixis, while one utilised a four pack of Stifles to supplement the mana denial plan. Nonetheless, they all utilised the powerful blue Delve spell of Dig Through Time. Aside from the Grixis Delver decks the rest of the Top 8 was again full of variety, with 4c Delver rounding out the Delver decks and Merfolk, Lands, OmniTell and, craziest of all, Splinter Twin, completing the Top 8.

Now let’s look towards our major chart featuring all the results from both Magic Online and paper tournaments combined, to give us a better picture of the how the Legacy metagame has developed this month.

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Compared to the two large tournaments, the global metagame still seems to be entrenched in a Miracles world, with it still dominating in terms of sheer numbers. Two decks which saw very little play in the two major tournaments this month – ANT and Jeskai Stoneblade – follow Miracles in terms of metagame percentage, interestingly, and OmniTell’s presence has had a little bit of a resurgence this month – which has also been evident in its great placing in both the Washington Open and Legacy Champs. Grixis Delver, however, is still putting up great numbers in the global metagame, and its close cousin 4c Delver has also been going quite well. These two Dig Through Time Delver variants have superseded most of the other Delver decks, though RUG has still had a reasonable placing in the metagame, but BUG Delver has largely fallen by the wayside. Other interesting metagame changes are the rise in the BUG Control deck I talked about last month, dominating Shardless BUG’s numbers, the uptick in Esper Stoneblade’s showings after Shaheen Sorani went well in Washington and the reasonable placings of non-blue decks such as Elves, Burn, Death & Taxes (who has no online presence, but has had great showings in paper tournaments) and Lands.

Anyhow, on to some interesting lists that popped up this month!

Straight Outta Modern and Vintage

Legacy Championships had a surprise rogue contender within its Top 8. Modern players should be very familiar with the combo of Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite to make as many hasty tokens as desired, finishing the game swiftly.

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One of the greatest benefits of the Splinter Twin combo deck in Modern is that the deck can actually win the fair way via its creatures. The cards Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite aren’t completely useless, and their Twiddle ability can be very strong at letting the deck play a tempo/control game. In Legacy, this makes it very different to a deck such as OmniTell, for example, whose cards Show and Tell and Omniscience do nothing without each other. Max Ansbro’s Splinter Twin deck was built with this thought in mind: build a strong UR control deck, leaning on the engine of cantrips and Dig Through Time, with a combo finish that can be utilised once the opponent is run out of resources. Max also packed the alternative win condition of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Splashing white for his sideboard Canonists and Wear // Tear also seems like a great option with OmniTell so prevalent and the deck being a bit slow against combo decks generally.

Max Ansbro's Splinter Twin

Creatures: (10)
Deceiver Exarch
Pestermite
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Non-Creature Spells: (30)
Ponder
Dig Through Time
Brainstorm
Lightning Bolt
Force of Will
Counterspell
Spell Snare
Pyroblast
Engineered Explosives
Splinter Twin
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Lands: (20)
Volcanic Island
Tundra
Plateau
Island
Mountain
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa

Sideboard: (12)
Pyroblast
Ethersworn Canonist
Wear // Tear
Misdirection
Sulfur Elemental
Relic of Progenitus

I actually love the construction of this list, since you very rarely see flexibility like this in the a Legacy combo deck, with its ability to play both as a fair and unfair deck, and I think this would be the main benefit of playing a strategy such as this. I’d imagine Max also got a lot of free wins from people just not knowing what he was up to, with most of his cards playing like generic blue cards that both combo and control decks utilise. Other than of course the Deceiver Exarch flashing in at end of turn to tap down their Spell Pierce mana so that Max could safely combo off. I wouldn’t fault anyone for bringing this to a tournament moving ahead – the deck is very sweet – but I wouldn’t make a habit of it, as the deck loses a lot of power once the surprise value is gone. For those interested, you can read Max’s tournament report on The Source here.

If you took a peer over at the Vintage Championships you’d see that Brian Kelly won with what he called “Dragonlord Salvagers Oath”. One integral part of his deck was the interaction with Auriok Salvagers and Black Lotus to generate infinite mana, known in Vintage as the Bomberman combo.

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Just sacrifice your Lotus for three white, get it back with Salvagers for two and you net one additional mana per cycle! You can then generate infinite mana with this, of any colour, and then kill the opponent with either Pyrite Spellbomb looping or Tasigur, the Golden Fang drawing your whole deck. Of course, in Legacy we don’t have access to the broken acceleration that Black Lotus provides, but we do have something close!

Lion’s Eye Diamond can combo with Salvagers to create the same loop but it has a major cost of forcing you to discard your hand. This means you can’t perform the combo with countermagic backup – you become a little bit all-in. Unless of course, you remedy this by making your counterspell a permanent – Counterbalance!

Dennis Holstein's Bomberman

Creaturess: (11)
Trinket Mage
Auriok Salvagers
Meddling Mage
Monastery Mentor

Non-Creature Spells: (30)
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Swords to Plowshares
Brainstorm
Ponder
Counterbalance
Aether Spellbomb
Pyrite Spellbomb
Engineered Explosives
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Sensei’s Divining Top
Lands: (20)
Plains
Volcanic Island
Island
Tundra
Cavern of Souls
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta

Sideboard: (15)
Terminus
War Priest of Thune
Pithing Needle
Magus of the Moon
Izzet Staticaster
Flusterstorm
Vendilion Clique
Force of Will
Pyroblast
Ethersworn Canonist

The deck has a lot of cool interactions besides the Bomberman combo too. The four Cavern of Souls allows the deck to ensure that Salvagers resolves, as well as assist in letting Trinket Mage, Monastery Mentor and Meddling Mage resolve when needed. It also means that uncounterable Magus of the Moons, Staticasters, Canonists and War Priests can come out of the sideboard to hose certain matchups. The deck can also just grind out the opponent just by answering threats with either Plow or Counterbalance, refuelling with Dig Through Time and comboing only when completely safe, ensuring that the deck isn’t as all-in as the LED and Salvagers combo would imply. Mentor provides another great angle too – his interaction with Sensei’s Divining Top seen in Mentor Miracles is here, but he also acts as a wincon when comboing, as infinite recasting of Lion’s Eye Diamond means infinite Monks.

The list looks overall like a blast to play, albeit probably a bit clunky at times. It’s nonetheless an interesting place to find Monastery Mentor and it’s nice to see that in addition to Twin other ports from different formats have found some success.

The Prodigy in Legacy

The Prodigy that has been dominating in Standard, and making appearances in Modern, has proven himself to be quite playable in Legacy as well.

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He definitely went under my radar when I was looking towards potential additions from Magic Origins, but it’s not too surprising in retrospect. Historically Merfolk Looter has had a powerful ability, especially in conjunction with cards such as Daze to loot away unneeded lands, and it seems if pushed far enough, which Jace is, the card is playable within the context of the modern Legacy format.

The first place Jace found a home in this month was in a Reanimator list found on Magic Online.

KenxKen's Reanimator

Creatures: (10)
Ashen Rider
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Grave Titan
Griselbrand
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Non-Creature Spells: (33)
Careful Study
Exhume
Reanimate
Brainstorm
Daze
Dig Through Time
Entomb
Force of Will
Goryo’s Vengeance
Spell Pierce
Thought Scour
Lands: (17)
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard: (15)
Abrupt Decay
Bayou
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Duress
Flusterstorm
Pernicious Deed
Pithing Needle
Show and Tell
Tidespout Tyrant

This list is very interesting in that it’s utilising Thought Scour to act sort-of like additional Entombs, while also fuelling Dig Through Time, which is also powerful in a strategy like this. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy provides a looter which is great at binning fatties, but is also great with Thought Scour as he can quickly flip and start flashing back cantrips or even allow the deck to try a reanimation spell again – or be an alternative wincon. Exposing a deck typically impervious to Lightning Bolt and other removal is something to be aware of though.

However, his power in tempo and midrange was quickly realised by Gerry Thompson and Charlie Holland, who added the card to Grixis Control at the Charlotte Premier IQ and 4c Delver at Legacy Champs, respectively.

Gerry Thompson's Grixis Control

Creatures: (8)
Baleful Strix
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Young Pyromancer

Non-Creature Spells: (33)
Counterspell
Kolaghan’s Command
Pyroblast
Brainstorm
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Lightning Bolt
Innocent Blood
Toxic Deluge
Cabal Therapy
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Lands: (19)
Misty Rainforest
Wasteland
Island
Underground Sea
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Volcanic Island

Sideboard: (15)
Null Rod
Izzet Staticaster
Sulfur Elemental
Blood Moon
Leyline of the Void
Hydroblast
Pyroblast
Dack Fayden
Cabal Therapy
Perish

Charlie Holland's 4c Delver

Creatures: (14)
Snapcaster Mage
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Tarmogoyf
Deathrite Shaman
Delver of Secrets

Non-Creature Spells: (28)
Dig Through Time
Spell Pierce
Abrupt Decay
Brainstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Lightning Bolt
Ponder
Sylvan Library
Lands: (18)
Polluted Delta
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
Wasteland
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn

Sideboard: (15)
Vendilion Clique
Pyroblast
Red Elemental Blast
Golgari Charm
Dismember
Divert
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Ancient Grudge
Kolaghan’s Command
Dread of Night
Scavenging Ooze
Forked Bolt

Gerry’s list is full of value, as Jace not only is great at fuelling Dig Through Time, but can flashback cheap cantrips and also the cheap removal in the deck. Kolaghan’s Command is also a great addition, as it can bring back Jace after it has been dealt with, or even just get back Strixes or Pyromancers. Here Jace fits very nicely compared to Reanimator, as all the creatures in the deck aren’t Bolt-proof anyway.

Charlie’s list also leverages Jace very well. Delver decks have a lot of situational cards, such as Decay and Bolt, which can be very unimpressive against combo, and Jace allows the deck to loot these away. Jace’s synergy with Daze is also great, which is why Merfolk Looter found its place in original Miracle Gro lists (look toward the first part of my RUG Delver primer if you’re interested in these old lists!), as unneeded lands can be bounced back and then looted away, creating card advantage. And of course flashing back cantrips, Dig Through Time and removal is always handy with a Delver deck’s density of spells.

Overall I think Jace has a lot of interesting potential as a card in Legacy. Although he may just die to removal, his ability to accrue incremental card quality and card advantage once flipped if unchecked is very powerful. Although comparable to Snapcaster Mage, Jace allows value to be accumulated over time and his flashback need not be paid when Jace is cast, while Snapcaster creates immediate value at the cost of needing upfront payment of the flashbacked spell. As such, Jace may find a greater home in decks that run on fewer lands, such as Delver decks or low-to-the-ground midrange/control, like the BUG Control lists I mentioned last month. In fact, he’s already popped up there too!

BillyNooo's BUG Control

Creatures: (12)
Baleful Strix
Deathrite Shaman
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Tarmogoyf

Non-Creature Spells: (28)
Hymn to Tourach
Ponder
Toxic Deluge
Abrupt Decay
Brainstorm
Daze
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Lands: (20)
Bayou
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland

Sideboard: (15)
Arcane Laboratory
Chill
Disfigure
Flusterstorm
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Life from the Loam
Nihil Spellbomb
Null Rod
Pithing Needle

Ascending in Legacy

During the era of Treasure Cruise, there were three cards that were ultra-suspect in the Modern format.

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Although many people cried out for the banning of Jeskai Ascendancy, it turned out that Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time were the true culprits that made the Ascendancy decks of Modern so powerful. A few people toyed with the deck in Legacy too, with Rich Shay showing off the first draft of it quite some time ago in this Reddit thread.

Rich Shay’s Ascendancy Combo

Creatures: (8)
Young Pyromancer
Fatestitcher

Non-Creature Spells: (33)
Jeskai Ascendancy
Treasure Cruise
Ponder
Brainstorm
Gitaxian Probe
Spell Pierce
Force of Will
Pyroblast
Swords to Plowshares
Lightning Bolt
Lands: (19)
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa
Scalding Tarn
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Island
Plains
Faerie Conclave

Sideboard: (15)
Grafdigger’s Cage
Blue Elemental Blast
Pyroblast
Kor Firewalker
Wear/Tear
Flusterstorm
Electrickery
Council’s Judgment
Meddling Mage

Although Rich Shay modelled his list off Josh Utter-Layton’s Ascendancy list from Modern, which was much more controlling, it turns out that in Legacy you can go much faster. Sam Black exhibited this with his Invitational Top 8ing list, that featured Lotus Petals, Wind Zendikon and an engine that relied on the eight-pack of Thought Scour and Mental Note to super-power his Delve spells. It was quite a thing of beauty.

Sam Black’s Ascendancy Combo

Creatures: (4)
Fatestitcher
Lands: (14)
Island
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Tundra
Volcanic Island

Non-Creature Spells: (42)
Chrome Mox
Lotus Petal
Jeskai Ascendancy
Wind Zendikon
Brainstorm
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Gut Shot
Mental Note
Pact of Negation
Thought Scour
Gitaxian Probe
Treasure Cruise

Sideboard: (15)
Pithing Needle
Sulfur Elemental
Echoing Truth
Flusterstorm
Hydroblast
Lightning Bolt
Pyroblast
Swords to Plowshares
Forked Bolt

With Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time banned in Modern the Ascendancy deck lost a core part of its engine and fell to the wayside. With its spot in the limelight finished there, most people looked away from the Legacy edition as well, as with only the less-powerful Dig Through Time left, surely it couldn’t stand up to the competition?

Well this month, Fengshai of Magic Online has proven that Dig is powerful enough to keep this deck running.

Fengshai’s Ascendancy Combo

Creatures: (3)
Fatestitcher

Non-Creature Spells: (42)
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder
Preordain
Brainstorm
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Mental Note
Spell Pierce
Swords to Plowshares
Thought Scour
Lotus Petal
Jeskai Ascendancy
Wind Zendikon
Dack Fayden
Lands: (15)
Flooded Strand
Island
Polluted Delta
Tundra
Volcanic Island

Sideboard: (15)
Swords to Plowshares
Flusterstorm
Lightning Bolt
Monastery Mentor
Pithing Needle
Pyroblast
Pyroclasm
Surgical Extraction
Wear // Tear

This list is heavily modelled off Black’s previous list and looks like a great start for anyone wanting to abuse the poorly designed Enchantment in Legacy. Fengshai has interestingly opted away from the eight pack of Thought Scour and Mental Note, only using six of these, likely due to him only needing to provide for four Delve spells compared to Black’s six. As such more substantial cantrips, like Preordain, have been opted towards, and space for more interaction in the form of Swords to Plowshares and Spell Pierce has been found.

Another interesting addition that Fengshai has is the greatest thief in the multiverse.

I’d imagine Dack Fayden’s role is similar to what he does in the recent Grixis Control lists, acting as a loot machine that can fuel Dig Through Time, as well as just generally improve card quality. Having an outlet to pitch Fatestichers is also quite important, and I’d imagine that’s Dack’s primary role in this shell.

Fengshai’s sideboard also has some neat little new additions. No longer do we want to use Pyromancer as our man-plan like what Rich Shay did – once we’re in white, Mentor is where we want to be! This list also gets access to other great sideboard options that the Jeskai colour combination affords it, such as Wear // Tear, Pyroblast and Flusterstorm.

This list looks incredibly sweet and even I’m itching to try it out. I’d imagine it would need a little bit of tuning, since some of the numbers look a little funky, but overall I’m glad to see this strategy still has some life left in it.

Speaking of ascending, another combo-enabling Enchantment that’s a centerpiece of another Modern combo deck has also been making some appearances in the Grixis Control lists we’ve been so used to seeing.

PaleMongoose’s Grixis Control

Creatures: (5)
Snapcaster Mage
Young Pyromancer

Non-Creature Spells: (38)
Cabal Therapy
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Lightning Bolt
Mental Note
Thought Scour
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Pyromancer Ascension
Lands: (17)
Bloodstained Mire
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island

Sideboard: (15)
Grim Lavamancer
Hydroblast
Kolaghan’s Command
Pyroblast
Sulfur Elemental
Surgical Extraction
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Thoughtseize

These lists have been popping up here and there after a list went well at GP Lille (coming 19th, you can find that here). Pyromancer Ascension makes an appearance, powered up by the familiar Thought Scour and Mental Note engine, which not only allows Ascension to get counters, but also feeds the Dig Through Time which you’re going to deliciously Fork. Once you do that, the game should be well out of reach for your opponent. Even just casting a cantrip with an active Ascension should be pretty backbreaking. Ascension being a card somewhat slow card to get going in the fast Legacy format is a bit concerning though, and I don’t expect this to be a standard in Grixis Control lists to come – more just there for the lovers of value.

Plugging Up Blue

As established in last month’s article, Chalice of the Void is a powerful card in the current metagame, shutting down many of the blue cantrip-laden strategies that dominate Legacy. 4c Loam and MUD’s recent success is testament to this, though there is a few other ways of abusing the Chalice.

Legacy has a long history of so-called Stompy decks, decks that aim to cheat the mana curve by utilising Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors to accelerate out lock pieces such as Chalice and Trinisphere, and then slam haymaker creates, no matter how embarrassing they appear. Rakdos Pit Dragon, Sea Drake, Serendib Efreet, Moggcatcher, Preeminent Captain and even Mardu Strike Leader, who I mentioned some time ago, are the lineage of horrible but effective beaters that call the variety of Stompy decks home. A problem that has always plague most Stompy lists, however, is their incredible amounts of variance. Sometimes the deck draws hands of just lock pieces and no threats, or vice-versa, and hence the deck often has to mulligan quite aggressively to ensure it enacts its game plan.

Lists that have been running around for the last year or so have aimed to remedy Stompy’s consistency problems, however, by utilising a flexible tutor.

Green Sun’s Zenith fixes consistency issues by ensuring the deck can find whatever creature is required, even mana dorks via Dryad Arbor or Deathrite Shaman. Although green appears to not have a third lock piece after Chalice or Trinisphere, like red has Blood Moon, in a format as blue-dominated as Legacy, main decking Choke isn’t too problematic.

The deck also gets access to a few other tools that help improve Stompy’s poor consistency. Knight of the Reliquary again helps with consistency issues by turning excess lands, especially Sol Lands, which can be detrimental as the game wears on, into relevant spell-like lands such as Wasteland, and the insane haymaker of Titania, Protector of Argoth can do something similar by changing fetchlands into creatures. God forbid you have both of them in play. Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Library generate both card selection and card advantage, which is much appreciated as well.

Jay85's Sylvan Plug

Creature: (10)
Dryad Arbor
Courser of Kruphix
Deathrite Shaman
Knight of the Reliquary
Obstinate Baloth
Reclamation Sage
Titania, Protector of Argoth

Non-Creature Spells: (27)
Green Sun’s Zenith
Rolling Spoil
Abrupt Decay
Chalice of the Void
Mox Diamond
Trinisphere
Choke
Sylvan Library
Lands: (23)
Ancient Tomb
Bayou
Forest
Karakas
Savannah
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland
Windswept Heath

Sideboard: (15)
Choke
Engineered Plague
Gaddock Teeg
Giant Solifuge
Kalonian Hydra
Leyline of the Void
Massacre
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Spike Weaver
Stingerfling Spider
Tower of the Magistrate

Another variant of deck within the Stompy family is MonoRed Sneak Attack, which was propagated by Brad Nelson and Tood Anderson a few year ago, which aims to follow a similar game plan to most Stompy decks (slam lock pieces then slam haymakers) except these are real haymakers that win the game on the spot. I’m talking Emrakul and Griselbrand level here. You can find his Brad’s deck tech here. This style of deck can be ported into a green shell, however, as Webb has proven on Magic Online. Rather than use Sneak Attack, the deck uses the uncommonly played Eureka!

Creatures: (9)
Dryad Arbor
Elvish Spirit Guide
Progénitus
Térastodon

Non-Creature Spells: (30)
Eureka
Green Sun’s Zenith
Living Wish
Natural Order
Chalice of the Void
Trinisphère
Choke
Sylvan Library
Garruk Wildspeaker
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Land: (21)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Forest
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard: (15)
Dryad Arbor
Progenitus
Choke
Garruk Wildspeaker
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Crystal Vein
Hornet Queen
Leyline of Sanctity
Reclamation Sage
Thragtusk
Wurmcoil Engine

Although the list looks like it could have problems against a few other decks, such as OmniTell, who can easily take advantage of Eureka’s symmetry, remember that Trinisphere can really shut down the OmniTell players chances at going off, even when they have an Omniscience in play. Chalice should also be excellent in cutting off their cantrip suite. So as long as their lock pieces are in play, they’ll be seeing death via Ugin or Progenitus too, just like what most fair blue decks would experience against a list as hateful as this.

Blood Moon Rising

Lands has been getting more and more momentum behind it and there is no card the deck hates more than Blood Moon.

The Grixis Delver and 4c Delver deck are also very soft to the card, with their incredibly greedy mana bases, though Miracles and OmniTell will punish you for having such a do-nothing card. Who cares though, when you can main deck eight Red Elemental Blast effects against them! Michael “Hollywood” Keller broke Imperial Painter on to the scene quite some time ago, supplementing the combo of Painter’s Servant and Grindstone, to mill the opponent out, with non-basic land and blue-hating cards such as Blood Moon and Blasts.

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He’s back once again with a slightly tweaked list that performed exceptionally well for him in the Legacy Championships, earning him 14th place, impressive for a typically fringe deck.

Michael Keller's Imperial Painter

Creatures: (16)
Goblin Welder
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Imperial Recruiter
Magus of the Moon
Simian Spirit Guide
Painter’s Servant

Non-Creature Spells: (26)
Lightning Bolt
Pyroblast
Red Elemental Blast
Blood Moon
Ensnaring Bridge
Lotus Petal
Sensei’s Divining Top
Grindstone
Lands: (18)
Great Furnace
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Wooded Foothills
Mountain

Sideboard: (15)
Ensnaring Bridge
Faerie Macabre
Trinisphere
Phyrexian Revoker
Tormod’s Crypt
Pyrokinesis

Atypical of most lists is a few cards he’s opted for.

  • The set of Lightning Bolts aren’t too common in Painter lists, but I like why they’re here – they assist in killing Deathrite Shaman from the Grixis decks as soon as possible, which can sometimes mess with the deck’s Blood Moon plan. They also assist in the crappy beatdown plan the deck often has to employ game one against decks with Emrakul (ie. OmniTell), since the spaghetti monster’s graveyard trigger defeats the Painter’s Servant and Grindstone combo.
  • Seven Blood Moon effects. This is much more than typical Painter lists, who generally have a maximum of six thanks to Recruiter easily getting Magus of the Moon when suitable. Hollywood obviously had a great read that Legacy Championships metagame would be filled with Grixis Delver variants, Lands and other greedy blue midrange decks, which the seven Moons quickly can lock out on turn one.
  • Eight Blast effects! Most Painter lists max out on seven (and even then, most lean towards six) because although the card is amazing with a Painter naming blue (since the card is a straight up Vindicate) without a Painter the card can be a little dead. Again, Hollywood expected an incredibly blue dominated metagame, more so than usual, and was rewarded.

For comparison, let’s look at a more typical Imperial Painter list to see why Hollywood’s list is so distinctive.

Vincent Coulier's Imperial Painter

Creatures: (14)
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Magus of the Moon
Phyrexian Revoker
Goblin Welder
Imperial Recruiter
Painter’s Servant

Non-Creature Spells: (26)
Enlightened Tutor
Red Elemental Blast
Pyroblast
Blood Moon
Ensnaring Bridge
Sensei’s Divining Top
Grindstone
Lotus Petal
Lands: (20)
Badlands
Bloodstained Mire
Plains
Plateau
City of Traitors
Ancient Tomb
Arid Mesa
Mountain

Sideboard: (15)
Tormod’s Crypt
Ensnaring Bridge
Thorn of Amethyst
Engineered Explosives
Trinisphere
Ethersworn Canonist
Duergar Hedge-Mage
Containment Priest
Engineered Plague
Rest in Peace
Red Elemental Blast
Enlightened Tutor
Koth of the Hammer
Slaughter Games

This list utilises the very common Enlightened Tutor, which makes the mana base a little bit shaky, but allows the combo piece of Grindstone to be easily searchable, as well as making lock cards such as Blood Moon and Ensnaring Bridge easier to find. Another interesting piece of technology is the Badlands that is used to splash Slaughter Games from the sideboard, which greatly assists in the OmniTell matchup, as well as the Engineered Plague that can be used to kill off Monks, Elementals and Elves. I’ve also seen some lists add Kolaghan’s Command, which is very interesting as a way to revive dead Painters.

However, I’m a big fan of keeping the mana base of Painter as clean as possible – the deck is relatively mana hungry in order to deploy its combo, and Wasteland-proofing the mana base is recommended. If I was building Painter, my list might look something like this, heavily derivative of what Hollywood utilised.

Sean Brown's Imperial Painter

Creatures: (17)
Imperial Recruiter
Simian Spirit Guide
Painter’s Servant
Goblin Rabblemaster
Goblin Welder
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Magus of the Moon
Phyrexian Revoker

Non-Creature Spells: (24)
Grindstone
Blood Moon
Lightning Bolt
Pyroblast
Red Elemental Blast
Ensnaring Bridge
Sensei’s Divining Top
Lotus Petal
Lands: (19)
City of Traitors
Ancient Tomb
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire
Mountain
Great Furnace

Sideboard: (15)
Trinisphere
Sulfur Elemental
Tormod’s Crypt
Faerie Macabre
Bloodfire Dwarf
Koth of the Hammer
Manic Vandal
Red Elemental Blast
Ensnaring Bridge
Phyrexian Revoker

I’ve trimmed back on the Moons, but could easily see adding an additional Magus in the main if your metagame calls for it. This list also features a more impressive beatdown plan required against OmniTell, thanks to Imperial Recruiter‘s ability to find Goblin Rabblemaster here.

Another deck that has been utilising both Imperial Recruiter and Magus of the Moon has been the recent editions of Death & Taxes. Recruiter is a great tool to find lock pieces (such as Thalia, Magus of the Moon, Revoker etc.) or cards that can close out the game, such as Stoneforge Mystic or Mirran Crusader. Flickerwisp also has great synergy with Imperial Recruiter! Recruiter adds some much-needed consistency to this powerful non-blue weapon. A list came 25th in Legacy Champs utilising Magus and Recruiter – as well as a further splash of green for Gaddock Teeg in the sideboard!

Eetai Ben's Naya Taxes

Creatures: (26)
Ethersworn Canonist
Magus of the Moon
Phyrexian Revoker
Vryn Wingmare
Imperial Recruiter
Flickerwisp
Mother of Runes
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Non-Creature Spells: (11)
Swords to Plowshares
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
Aether Vial
Lands: (23)
Savannah
Flooded Strand
Karakas
Plateau
Snow-Covered Plains
Arid Mesa
Cavern of Souls
Rishadan Port
Wasteland

Sideboard: (15)
Magus of the Moon
Ethersworn Canonist
Leonin Relic-Warder
Mirran Crusader
Rest in Peace
Phyrexian Revoker
Ratchet Bomb
Gaddock Teeg
Sudden Demise

I personally dislike making Death & Taxes’ mana base more and more unstable (as its ability to punish Delver decks via its Wasteland-proof mana base is valuable), but there’s no doubt that this is offset by the powerful creatures this list can now abuse.

Delver decks can also abuse Blood Moon out of the board to assist in the deck’s traditionally atrocious Lands matchup. This means the purity of UR Delver has a niche it can fill again. Steven Bonovitch took UR Delver to a 17th place in Legacy Champs and Gerard Fabiano and Matthew Long adapted the deck for the Legacy portion of the recent SCG Invitational in New Jersey. It’s notable that these lists have eschewed Young Pyromancer, seen typically as the premier threat for UR Delver lists, and instead have opted for True-Name Nemesis and Snapcaster Mage. The format has heavily adapted to Young Pyromancer, with many sideboards ready to kill off his swarm, and dodging this seems like a great plan.

Gerard Fabiano's UR Delver

Creatures: (12)
Delver of Secrets
Monastery Swiftspear
Snapcaster Mage
True-Name Nemesis
Lands: (18)
Island
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Volcanic Island
Wasteland

Non-Creature Spells: (30)
Brainstorm
Daze
Dig Through Time
Force of Will
Lightning Bolt
Pyroblast
Spell Pierce
Vapor Snag
Forked Bolt
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder

Sideboard: (15)
Pithing Needle
Izzet Staticaster
Blood Moon
Sulfuric Vortex
Flusterstorm
Hydroblast
Pyroblast
Smash to Smithereens
Submerge
Surgical Extraction
Umezawa’s Jitte

Conclusion

So, a few concluding thoughts for those of you attending Legacy tournaments in the month ahead:

  • Although Miracles seems to underperforming, still be prepared for the deck, as it’s making up a huge metagame percentage. Furthermore, a lot of lists have transitioned to Claudio Bonnani’s Mentor Miracles lists, or at least have a man-plan in the sideboard, so be prepared for the deck to easily shift into a more proactive role.
  • OmniTell has been pushing back after its downturn last month, and should still be feared. Note Akash Naidu’s usage of additional City of Traitors which many players are likely to adopt. Don’t rely on your Dazes being live on turn three anymore.
  • Expect to play against Grixis Delver a lot. Most players who are enamoured with tempo strategies are likely to progress towards this deck over other Delver strategies. BUG and RUG Delver should still be around, but don’t expect them to be nearly as plentiful as Grixis. 4c should also be on your radar.
  • Storm is still going strong, and don’t be surprised to see a little bit of an uptick in TES thanks to Bryant’s great performance with the criminally underplayed archetype.
  • Blue midrange/control is now exemplified by Jeskai and Esper Stoneblade variants, Grixis Control and non-Shardless BUG Control.
  • Your mana base is under siege, between some of the Grixis Delver variants now sporting Stifle/Wasteland, Death & Taxes showing strong performance and Lands becoming perceived as the best non-blue deck in the format. Be prepared and have a sound mana base.
  • No matter how unpopular you deck may seem, no matter how rogue it appears, play it well, construct it well and play it tight and you can have great success with it. This is evident in the great placings of typically underplayed and Tier 2 archetypes of Merfolk, TES, Painter and 12Post, as well as the placing of the bizarre Splinter Twin concoction.
  • Magic Origins has had an impressive impact on Legacy too. Be on the look out for Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Vryn Wingmare, Harbinger of the Tides and Dark Petition – they’ve been popping up quite a bit!

Also note, my Magic Online data will be compromised significantly in the months ahead, with Wizard’s limiting Legacy Dailies to three round tournaments and only the 3-0s being reported. This means a lot of interesting lists will be going under the radar, unfortunately. Nonetheless, I’ll try my best to find any interesting lists around.

As always, thoughts, comments, feedback and criticism are much appreciated.

Til’ next time,

Sean

Bonus Lists

4c Loam lists have been very popular after their appearance at GP Lille. Cartesian has taken this in a different direction, however, focussing primarily on white as his core colour, with a Human subtheme. I personally am just very happy to see Werebear getting some love again.

Cartesian's Human Loam

Creatures: (35)
Hero of Bladehold
Knight of the Reliquary
Meddling Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
Sylvan Safekeeper
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Werebear
Life from the Loam
Chalice of the Void
Mox Diamond
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
Lands: (25)
Cavern of Souls
Flooded Strand
Karakas
Plains
Savannah
Secluded Steppe
Tropical Island
Wasteland
Windswept Heath

Sideboard: (15)
Armageddon
Devout Chaplain
Ethersworn Canonist
Faerie Macabre
Hixus, Prison Warden
Sword of Light and Shadow
Tormod’s Crypt
Venser, Shaper Savant

What would happen if you smacked Knight of the Reliquary into a typical Jund list? You’d get this sweet 4c Jund list. The deck also gets some interesting sideboard options in Ethersworn Canonist, Swords to Plowshares and Gaddock Teeg.

DTardif's 4c Jund

Creatures: (22)
Bloodbraid Elf
Dark Confidant
Deathrite Shaman
Gaddock Teeg
Knight of the Reliquary
Scavenging Ooze
Tarmogoyf
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Non-Creature Spells: (16)
Hymn to Tourach
Maelstrom Pulse
Thoughtseize
Abrupt Decay
Lightning Bolt
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sylvan Library
Domri Rade
Lands: (22)
Badlands
Bayou
Bloodstained Mire
Forest
Plateau
Savannah
Scrubland
Swamp
Taiga
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard: (15)
Choke
Duress
Ethersworn Canonist
Golgari Charm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Outpost Siege
Relic of Progenitus
Swords to Plowshares

Bant is a pretty uncommon colour combination in Legacy, only really being utilised by Infect for their splashed Swords to Plowshares. Bant Stoneblade lists utilising Brainstorm, Stoneforge, Knight of the Reliquary and True-Name Nemesis have been seen – but I doubt one including Geist of Saint Traft, Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Eldrazi Conscription is too common!

Alex Saenz's Bant Stoneblade

Creatures: (32)
Dryad Arbor
Knight of the Reliquary
Geist of Saint Traft
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
True-Name Nemesis
Birds of Paradise
Lotus Cobra
Noble Hierarch
Sovereigns of Lost Alara
Stoneforge Mystic

Non-Creature Spells: (8)
Brainstorm
Eldrazi Conscription
Batterskull
Umezawa’s Jitte
Lands: (20)
Forest
Island
Karakas
Plains
Savannah
Tropical Island
Tundra
Wasteland
Cavern of Souls
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath

Sideboard: (15)
Wasteland
Bojuka Bog
Meddling Mage
Reclamation Sage
Krosan Grip
Ethersworn Canonist
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Containment Priest
Blood Moon
Gaddock Teeg
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