For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about decks that have a long pedigree in Legacy and discussing how newer printings have enhanced the archetypes (or not in the case of High Tide). Today, we’re going to go a different direction and explore a deck that is ported over from Modern and primarily based around cards printed more recently: Legacy Temur Rhinos. Magic Online user Xpz98 recently placed 22nd in a weekend Challenge event with this deck, and honestly, I played against this deck recently and was pretty impressed. This week, we’re going to take a look at this (mostly) Modern legal deck and see what makes it function in Legacy.
ChannelFireball’s own Andrea Mengucci recorded content with this deck a few weeks back, so you can check that out if you want additional material.
Legacy Temur Rhinos by Xpz98
This deck is an evolution of the Hypergenesis style of decks but trades the explosiveness of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for a more resilient, consistent approach. The goal is to use cascade spells, such as Shardless Agent, to always cascade into the same spell by building your deck with cards with mana value three or more. Instead of being able to kill opponents on the spot with Hypergenesis, this deck seeks to flood the board with Crashing Footfalls, which can create an overwhelming board state early in the game. Since Crashing Footfalls provides an advantage by itself with no need for supporting cards (unlike Hypergenesis, which requires additional cards in hand), you can build the deck to have more interaction, like Brazen Borrower, and even cards that function as alternate plans, such as Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, that round out the deck quite a bit.
Let’s take a look at the individual choices that make this deck consistent and powerful.
This is the primary engine of the deck. By making sure none of the other cards in the deck have mana value less than three, your cascade spells will always hit Crashing Footfalls. Combined with fast mana (more on that later), you can be presenting a board full of Rhinos as early as turn one. While there are some decks that this won’t be good enough to beat, having this much pressure in play is really effective at overwhelming opponents. One of the nice things about this engine is that even if your opponent interacts with the Crashing Footfalls, which usually involves a card like Force of Will, it generally only cost you a single card to cast (barring the use of fast mana), so you can start to grind through your opponents’ cards in this manner.
This deck can’t play much interaction since most of it costs less than three mana in Legacy. However, Adventure creatures are a nice way to sidestep this restriction, since both of these actually cost three mana while in your deck or hand. The Adventure creatures have proven themselves to be meaningful in Legacy, with Brazen Borrower being a staple of the format for a while (it’s been a bit displaced because of Modern Horizons 2, but it’s still a potent effect) and Bonecrusher Giant starting to get its footing just before the release of MH2. In this deck, the fact that the double as threats is especially relevant, since they contribute to your primary game plan quite effectively as well as work to grind opponents down over time.
This is another piece of disruption that works favorably with cascade (since it costs four mana in your deck). Fire // Ice is generally a bit slow in Legacy these days but it’s the perfect fit for this deck. It can be pitched to Force of Will, answer early creatures, slow down your opponent by tapping their mana and even tap a key attacker or blocker to swing a race.
One of the key differences between the Modern and Legacy versions of the deck (which is really funny, since this card is still fairly new to Magic), Uro provides this deck with an incredible alternate game plan. Uro is a single-card threat and engine and in any game where your primary plan has failed to come together, Uro can create a dominant board state. There was a time where people were clamoring for an Uro ban and, while it has fallen off in popularity because of MH2, it’s still an extremely potent card and it slots in perfectly here.
Having some planeswalkers helps diversify your game plan quite a bit. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is one of the best and there are plenty of situations where resolving it will end the game (especially early with mana acceleration). Jace has the additional utility of putting otherwise dead Crashing Footfalls on top of your library, which can be pretty important. Dack Fayden, on the other hand, is a bit of an odd inclusion at a glance, but it actually works quite well in this deck. It digs for and fuels Uro, which is generally good enough to take over any stable board. In addition, this deck doesn’t really have a use for lands past three or four, so discarding excess lands helps fix your hand. Occasionally, you’ll be able to take an artifact as well, since Urza’s Saga is pretty popular these days. All in all, I think Dack Fayden does some real work here, but I also wouldn’t be too surprised if it was better suited as another Jace or Uro, so that is some space that you can work with.
In this deck these cards do it all. They are actually more potent here than in a lot of decks since your deck’s engine is generally quite powerful, so pushing through a Crashing Footfalls is quite game-ending. In addition, most players have to use Force of Wills on your Footfalls, thus leaving them with less resources to work with, which generally makes having Force of Will that much more powerful. Force of Negation is a bit more awkward to use, but with Violent Outburst, you can cast Footfalls on your opponent’s end step, which makes Force of Negation an effective protection spell.
Since this deck can’t play Lotus Petal, Spirit Guides are the mana acceleration of choice. In a deck that has such a potent game plan (and one that doesn’t actually require that many resources), acceleration can easily swing the game in your favor. In addition, these really help play through cards like Daze, which is really popular at the moment, so taken together, the Spirit Guides are really a key piece of the deck.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to say here. This is a mana base that lets you cast your spells. Having a lot of basics is a nice feature and makes Wasteland far less effective against you, which is generally a good place to be.
There are a lot of matchups in Legacy where you’d want some extra protection, so having access to this in the board is important.
One of the advantages of playing a basic-heavy mana base, Blood Moon is a real haymaker against certain archetypes, such as Lands. While a lot of fair decks have shifted away from basics overall, those decks have also largely adopted Ragavan, so Blood Moon is probably going to be more effective against other archetypes.
As I mentioned, the removal options are a bit scant for this deck, but Dead // Gone can do some solid work. Shock isn’t the worst card, and it at least answers Ragavan, and the Gone half can help keep a Murktide Regent in check. Fury is actually a really potent effect though, and against any deck planning to go wide such as Elves or Death and Taxes, Fury can really swing the matchup.
While these cards are completely different, I’m lumping them together because free spells like this are among the best boons that an archetype like Rhinos could gain. These cards are so potent at countering specific archetypes and the fact that your opponent has to respect so many different free cards is really stressful to play against. Endurance, in particular, has really changed the range of cards that players have to respect, and comes in against a lot of different archetypes.
- The Rhinos have trample, which can really make combat difficult for opponents. Once your board is even a bit overwhelming, attacking with everything can put opponents in a bad situation.
- Jace, the Mind Sculptor can bounce Shardless Agent, which is likely going to yield more value than a Brainstorm on most boards.
- Never forget that casting Spirit Guides is a valid strategy, especially in this deck when overwhelming opponents with creatures is the primary plan.
The main plan here is pretty effective. They don’t play much soft permission these days, and playing through Force of Will and Daze is not that hard to do. It’s nice that their primary game plan ends up being a bit too slow in a lot of situations and, unlike most combo decks, you actually have some ways to deal with Murktide Regent. Watch out for Surgical Extraction post-board, which can really mess with your ability to play the game.
Out: 2 Bonecrusher Giant
In: 2 Force of Negation
Unfortunately, Bant has a lot of answers for Rhinos and Uro naturally stabilizes the board, which can make this a tricky matchup. Trying to beat them as fast as possible is likely the best route, since getting out under them can be effective. I could see a world where you’re supposed to cut some Spirit Guides and play a slower game, but I think that plays into their hands more often than not. Try to leverage your early advantage as much as you can by using countermagic to protect the Rhinos, and hopefully you can end the game before they can stabilize.
Death and Taxes
This is another potentially tough matchup. They have a decent amount of answers for Rhinos in Swords to Plowshares and Flickerwisp, as well as a proactive game plan in Stoneforge Mystic that almost completely blanks the Rhino plan. In addition, Uro isn’t a reliable alternate plan because of Karakas, which further makes things difficult. That being said, cards like Dack Fayden can manage Stoneforge reasonably well and this deck has a fair amount of removal to help manage the board, so it’s not the worst situation. Try to flood the board early so you can put them on the backfoot which will help your interaction go a bit further.
While Doomsday always has the ability to win the game quickly through disruption, I think Temur Rhinos has about as good of a matchup as a deck can. It has a fast, proactive engine and a ton of free disruption (with more post-board). It even has strange backdoor strategies, such as using Dack Fayden to mill them after a resolved Doomsday, so I think this matchup is pretty decent.