There are decks from Legacy’s past that don’t often get much press in modern days. However, a fair amount of these decks spend time slowly gaining access to new pieces and can actually compete with decks of a contemporary power level. Cephalid Breakfast fits that bill and hybridizes 10 to 15 year-old strategies with some present-day chic. Recently, Magic Online player Makuto86 took a Yorion variant of the archetype to the Top 8 of a Legacy Challenge. It’s not every day you see this deck at the top of a Legacy event, so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight this awesome old school deck.
Legacy Cephalid Breakfast by Makuto86
Cephalid Breakfast is a creature-based combo deck that seeks to combine Cephalid Illusionist with a way to target it for free (either Nomads en-Kor or Shuko), to mill its whole deck, find three Narcomoebas, Dread Return and Thassa’s Oracle and win the game. However, the way this deck is constructed is more of a midrange deck with a combo finish, as it plays a fair amount of ways to generate two-for-one value and grind opponents down in the early and mid game. This gives the deck a fair bit of resilience and helps it keep up with decks that are trying to interact exclusively with the combo.
Yorion might seem like an odd choice for a deck that is trying to assemble a two-card combo, but I think it may be the future of the archetype. In its most recent forms, Cephalid Breakfast has straddled the line between combo and midrange, being able to play a normal game of Magic which eventually threatens an insta-kill. This makes it quite difficult to play against at times, and Yorion accentuates that game plan, making it challenging for opponents to go all-in on answering your combo because they risk getting ground out.
While the consistency of the combo is reduced, the deck still plays plenty of ways to find its pieces (namely Stoneforge Mystic and Recruiter of the Guard), which, again, further buffs the Yorion plan. In this deck specifically, playing 80 cards can be viewed as a benefit, since there are cards you exclusively want in your deck and never to draw, such as Narcomoeba.
I think it’s best to just organize the full combo package together here. As I mentioned in the description, Cephalid Illusionist pairs with Nomads en-Kor and Shuko, both of which can target the Illusionist for free. Being targeted repeatedly allows you to mill yourself in any many increments of three as you want. Then, this will hypothetically mill over some number of Narcomoebas, Dread Return, Cabal Therapy and Thassa Oracle. You can use Cabal Therapy to clear the way at any point in the combo, and then flashback Dread Return on Thassa’s Oracle, which wins the game. It’s a fairly resilient combo, further backed up by cards like Aether Vial which can help you assemble it in a way that’s difficult to interact with. It’s worth noting that with Shuko you need to have multiple creatures in order to activate the equip ability, but fortunately playing Stoneforge Mystic naturally provides you with a second body.
Aether Vial is a real house in this strategy. Not only does it give you access to an uncounterable combo-kill, having Recruiter of the Guard and Stoneforge Mystic makes the mana advantage Vial provides very meaningful. Just as it does in Death and Taxes, Vial works perfectly with Yorion as well, giving you access to a late-game strategy in every game Vial resolves. This is a good spot for Vial too because while it helps the deck function smoothly, it’s not essential to the strategy, which makes the fact that it shows up less often less impactful.
Most decks that can cast Baleful Strix generally try to do so because it’s an excellent card in Legacy. It lines up really well with the most popular threats in the format and neatly helps this deck transition through the early turns as it sets up its end-game plan. As with most cards in this deck, it works perfectly with Yorion and even has other random benefits, such as wearing a Batterskull in a late-game situation.
These are ways to both increase the consistency of the combo and provide the deck with a lot of late-game staying power. Stoneforge Mystic is starting to pick up in popularity again and remind players why it is one of the best creatures of all time. Batterskull isn’t as threatening as it used to be (and isn’t as potent as Kaldra Compleat), but in this deck, the board/life total stabilization is more meaningful than pressure. Of course, Shuko is part of the combo kill (it’s just organized in a different section here) and that makes Stoneforge one of the key pieces of the deck. Recruiter can get either of the missing pieces (Nomad or Illusionist), but also has a nice toolbox of options that can help grind down fair strategies. Blinking these with Yorion will surely put any opponent trying to keep up with you in a bad spot, as well.
This is the Recruiter toolbox. It’s almost entirely focused on answering the board, which is a great approach in this current metagame. Each of these cards works quite well with Yorion and threatens to all but lock out opposing creature decks. Glasspool Mimic is an awesome inclusion, as well, seeing as it can copy Recruiter to enhance the power of Yorion, but also copy cards like Baleful Strix or any of these tutor targets) to further put creature decks in a bind.
The only thing I can’t get behind in this deck is playing three Ponder. Even in 80 cards, I understand that space can be a bit tight (considering that the combo package takes 15 slots), but Ponder is so good in this strategy and in 80-card decks overall that I would find something to cut (my eye turns toward the single copy of Daze).
This deck isn’t a pure combo deck, more of a midrange deck with a combo finish, so playing cheap, potent removal is still great. These numbers could shift around depending on what you expect, but Swords is great right now so I like this split.
Can’t really play a blue deck without Force of Will these days. The single Daze is a bit random. Daze does work nicely with cards like Vial, but this deck isn’t attacking its opponents mana nor is it putting a chokehold on their interaction early on (especially since Yorion makes this a much slower combo deck). I think the Daze would be better off as a different card (again, Ponder stands out), but even Force of Negation seems a bit better here.
The Mana Base
This deck has a no-frills mana base that will pretty easily allow you to cast all of your spells with consistency.
When Ragavan was legal, I couldn’t say enough about how good Karakas was. It’s gotten quite a bit worse now, but it’s still a high-utility card with little downside. The fact that it works with Yorion so nicely is the major reason to include it here.
Otawara is just a relatively low-cost way to extract some value out of your mana base. It’s a solid catch-all ability that can’t really be interacted with and decks like this are fairly likely to include a single copy from time to time going forward.
Extra removal spells almost always show up in Legacy sideboards and Ending is among the best options.
The main deck is so populated with cards that answer the board that there is a noticeable lack in combo interaction. Having a diverse suite in the board does give you more options in a lot of situations, but it is a bit awkward with the inclusion of Yorion, since you’re less likely to see any individual piece.
These are all of the Recruiter targets out of the board and there are a ton of options for different situations. Opposition Agent is great against Doomsday and has additional utility against decks like Storm and Death and Taxes. Lavinia is a great target against Storm decks. Hullbreacher works against any blue deck, but mainly combo/control. True-Name Nemesis is against decks that you want to go long against (and when you bring Jitte in). Plague Engineer is still one of the best cards against any decks with small creatures. Finally, Faerie Macabre is fairly effective against graveyard strategies. I do think this sideboard is a bit light on graveyard hate in general, but the most popular deck of that sort is Reanimator right now, which countermagic is generally decent against.
Jitte is nowhere near as popular or impactful as it used to be, but there are more than enough situations in which it is game-ending to justify a sideboard slot.
- Nomads en-Kor is pretty tough to kill with a Lightning Bolt if you have other creatures, so keep that in mind if you need to protect your combo.
- Blinking Glasspool Mimic with Yorion allows you to copy a different card, so always keep your options in mind.
- If you draw Dread Return or Thassa’s Oracle and would otherwise be able to combo, you can always Cabal Therapy yourself to get the card in your graveyard.
Force of Will is fairly costly in this matchup and I think the best approach is just to grind down their early aggression and set up a combo after you’ve pulled ahead a bit. That being said, a fast combo can prove to be fairly effective against them and if it presents itself early and you can defend it, go for it. Other than that, cards like Baleful Strix and Stoneforge will provide a fair bit of value early and they have to respect the fact that Yorion can come down late, so working towards that plan is quite effective.
I’m a bit concerned about Hullbreacher, but most control decks have been moving away from that a bit as of late. You have to time the combo to beat cards like Swords to Plowshares, but Aether Vial makes it a lot easier. They are significantly advantaged in a long game, so while Stoneforge and Recruiter can help you get there, the longer the game goes the better Jeskai’s position is, so try to turn your focus towards a more timely kill.
Death and Taxes
The combo is fairly challenging for them to interact with, so working towards that is a good strategy. Lion Sash is a serious problem for that plan though, so make sure you hold onto a removal spell to interact with that. They are much better at the grindy approach, so trying to keep up with them can be challenging, but Recruiter/Stoneforge does give you the tools to go a bit longer against them.
A fast combo is all you want here, but this deck is far slower than Doomsday. As always, first and foremost you need to survive, so make sure you have disruption early (boarding in six counterspells will help). If you’re missing one piece of the combo, use Recruiter to get the other, but if you’re missing both, getting Opposition Agent or Hullbreacher is probably more effective.