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Breaking Through – Twice Bitten

For those of you fortunate enough to be “not in the know,” that title comes from the fact that I spent much of last Sunday running around the confines of the Los Angeles convention center as my newly acquired alter ego, the Brown Recluse. If you are still not in the know, follow along as we talk some Legacy today.

Legacy is a pretty interesting format for me personally, in that I like it a lot, but Pro Play doesn’t support the format a ton, which translates into not being keen on the metagame or anything of that sort in a year-round fashion the way that I am with something like Standard. In fact, despite the format containing a bajillion cards, which is a preference of mine, I still don’t think I am as good as brewing for the format in a viable manner compared to something like Extended. This mostly stems from the fact that I have never played the format for a long enough stretch of time to really learn every intricacy, so I basically am only familiar with the big decks of the format, and anything else that media coverage supplies. That said, I can usually whip up a brew when backed into a corner.

A few days before the event I posted a status update taking suggestions for brew ideas for Legacy. I had been focusing on Standard as there are pro points at stake in about a week for that format, so Legacy had to take a back seat and be the “freebie” of the trip. There were certainly some interesting ideas, but nothing was fleshed out enough to be more than an idea, and converting anything into a list seemed like a ton of work to do in only a short period of time. I put off brewing until the Friday before the event when I landed in L.A.

Patrick Chapin braved some 2 hours of public transportation to meet up with me and we began to battle with some brews. Again, the ideas we presented were interesting, but nothing was close enough to finished that it was a real contender. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, my first few pairings for Standard were quite unfavorable and I found myself in the 0-2 bracket very quickly. After a win, but scoop anyway and drop, in the 3rd round, I set my sails toward Legacy and began the hunt.

Lou Christopher, a good friend of mine and member of team Meandeck (a Vintage team), had an inside scoop into a list that had been tossed around but not polished yet and said it would probably be OK if I borrowed the work they had put into it. The concept was simple, although pitching it to anyone but me was probably the exact opposite: Mono Brown Poison. In Legacy. Book It.

The basic shell, at least initially, had all 12, two-drop poison artifacts, along with the 4 Inkmoth Nexus to get in via the air. To accelerate that admittedly slow clock, Cranial Plating and other equipment were to be used and then the deck was rounded out by some traditional Stax type lock pieces. In this case, Chalice was the big seller, as it stopped Swords and Paths while generally just being good when set to 1 blind against anybody, especially considering we had no one drops.

Obviously the mana was important to this concept, as you needed 8 lands that produced 2 mana in City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb, along with some Moxes to make hands without one of those lands keepable. Because all of your poison threats cost 2, it was really difficult to justify a hand that didn’t possess a way to get a 2 drop into play immediately. The only exception I found was multiple Wasteland hands that also had a Crucible of Worlds, as mana screw was a legitimate way to win.

The Maindeck list had a few cards that just seemed wrong to me, and a few non-inclusions that seemed pretty obvious as well. Normally I wouldn’t be so quick to make changes to a deck I have never played before, but there were 2 reasons why I ended up doing so this time. The first was that the tournament was a mere 20 hours away, so playtesting was mostly out of the question. The second was that the list they presented was a work in progress anyway, so it wasn’t like they stood behind every card choice or anything like that. After some tinkering around with the deck, I ended up with the following:

Affinfect

Naturally, when you end up with a Mono Brown poison deck, naming it the Brown Recluse just seems like a good idea. Not the greatest name for coverage purposes, but I did get to run around and make little spider noises all day so that in and of itself was rewarding enough. As an additional gimmick (because who doesn’t like a good gimmick right?) I decided to carry around a bunch of poison tokens and sign them for people that I beat. Everyone was a good sport about it so it didn’t come off as insult to injury, so thank you to the cool opponents I played throughout the day.

One of the biggest issues I had in constructing the deck was card availability, so a few slots would immediately change just because of that, which I will explain shortly. Unfortunately, the nature of Legacy and its sheer size means that last minute brews that contain any strange cards are likely to come up short in that department just because most people do not bring that sort of stuff with them to tournaments, so keep that in mind if this situation comes up for you.

The first thing I had to add to the deck that Meandeck had somehow left out was Arcbound Ravager. It made little to no sense to me to avoid using what essentially becomes 4 more Cranial Platings in a list that likes to turn up the heat very quickly. Occasionally, the Ravagers and Blinkmoth Nexus could even team up to kill someone via good ole normal damage, which I think happened only once on the day, but is still a realistic possibility.

As for the 12 poison guys themselves, each one serves a unique role in the deck. When facing creature decks, Ichorclaw Myr’s triggered ability becomes quite relevant, allowing it to live through Bobs and most early Goyfs. Necropede is a nice combo with Arcbound Ravager to kill small opposing critters and Plague Myr is by far the best 2 drop in a vacuum since it also accelerates you. These bonuses were nice, but did not really make up for the fact that each guy was fairly weak in combat unaided.

The equipment package was actually an interesting decision. While 4 Cranial Plating is clearly the right number, the subsequent weapons can shift around a bit. Originally I tried 2 Sword of Fire and Ice with nothing else, but it turns out that the 3 to cast can actually be a bit of a hurdle at times. Any draw with multiple two-mana lands can get you an active and equipped Jitte on turn 2, likewise for a hand involving a Mox, a two-mana land, and a normal land, but for an active Sword on turn 2, you actually just need a nut draw of multiple two-mana lands and a Mox, which is possible, but asking for a lot from your deck. Still, Sword is strong enough against things like Merfolk or Progenitus that you definitely want access to it, just not in very high numbers.

The lock pieces are there to serve less as an actual lock and more as a speed bump for the opposition to buy me just enough time to kill them with. Chalice for example, is not intended to completely turn off the opponent’s deck (unless they are storm, then it is very well possible) but rather is intended to almost always be set to 1 or 0 as a removal deterrent, or an additional free artifact for a metalcraft count, or as Ravager bait. Chalice and Crucible were the main reason I did not run more Relic of Progenitus in my sideboard and instead opted for Tormod’s Crypt, although that could be wrong as I think Chalice probably comes out against something like Dredge anyway. Chalice in combination with something like Thorn of Amethyst from the board is a very nice way to slow down combo decks long enough to win as well.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of playing Vintage before, Tangle Wire may seem like a card that impacts you as much as the opponent, but that is far from the case. Due to the way that the triggers can be stacked, you are actually always tapping 1 less permanent than the opponent is. Add to this the fact that Tangle Wire can tap itself and you are actually up 2 untapped permanents every turn. All of this still gets even better when you realize that all of your equipment and other lock pieces are additional free taps per turn. In fact, your best main deck out to something like Emrakul or Progenitus is Tangle Wire, so keep that in mind when playing against those type of decks.

The Lost Tech

This brings me to the lost sideboard tech that could not be found. I don’t think I would play this deck again without at least 3 Arena of the Ancients in the sideboard. We looked for them at the dealers and just about anyone we saw with a binder, but none were to be found. I will give you a minute to read that one fully. Basically, the card is just your best out to something like Emrakul or Progenitus as it is useful off of their Show and Tell, making it uncounterable (where as Tangle Wire has to be played on your turn to have 4 counters on it during their turn) and is a more forgiving way to beat the fatties, as Tangle Wire can be played around. I lost 3 matches to various Show and Tell decks and I have to think that some Arena of the Ancients would have helped me out a bit.

Throne of Geth was another addition to the deck that Meandeck didn’t really have. The card may look janky, and it is, but in this deck you can sort of look at it as a Sulfuric Vortex of sorts. You get to deal 2 damage to the opponent (effectively), add more Ravager counters, keep Tangle Wire fueled up, add Jitte counters, or even occasionally ramp a Chalice of the Void up. Obviously the best draw with this includes Crucible and a man land for “infinite” activations, but it was good every time I drew it. I once locked out an opponent with 2 Tangle Wires and a Throne, which was fun, albeit unrealistic most of the time.

Crucible, as Jacob Van Lunen calls it, is your Jace, the Mind Sculptor in this deck. You get to rebuy manlands which is huge value in the long game. Your City of Traitors get to constantly loop, which is nice, and you obviously get the biggest boon of all which is a steady stream of Wastelands to completely lock the opponent out. This versatility combined with the ever present artifact in play make Crucible one of the better cards you have in attrition wars.

The Moxes are obviously just there for fast starts and Cranial Plating fuel, but I was actually a little bummed out about my choice in numbers for the 2 different ones. While I ran 3 Mox Opal and 2 Mox Diamond, I think I would flip those numbers in the future. Mox Diamond allows you to hit 2 mana on turn 1 despite not having an Ancient Tomb or City, whereas Mox Opal is really only good on turn 2 or later. This, combined with the fact that Opal is legendary are both very important. Granted, Mox Opal can be played without discarding a land, making it better Ravager or Plating bait, but in 8 rounds that may of only come up like once.

The lands are pretty straightforward at this point, I would assume. The only interaction to make note of is that Blinkmoth Nexus can in fact, pump up an Inkmoth Nexus. Beyond that, just remember to play your City of Traitors after your Tombs and occasionally miss some land drops to keep them around longer.

While I started off 3-1 in the tournament, some bouts with Show and Tell and a bad match up against Affinity left me far away from a Top 8 berth. There were certainly a few pitfalls with the deck though, which is to be expected seeing as how I picked it up during its construction and it is far from a finished product.

The deck operates very smoothly once you get to the 4 or 5 mana threshold as you are able to deploy multiple spells in a turn or equip something etc. The early turns though, when you only have 2 or 3 mana can certainly make you feel like you are playing Scars block draft. 1/1s for 2 mana, even if they are secretly 2/1s are just very underpowered on their own in this format. I am not sure of a remedy for this, but enhancing explosiveness during the early turns is a must. [card]Grim Monolith[/card] is the type of effect we want, but we need to have something that is reusable, as we cannot waste mana to untap that card specifically.

Another issue with the deck is its lack of direct interaction with the opponent and/or reach. A deck like Affinity can just get you out of nowhere via Disciple of the Vault or Tezzeret, where as, outside of Throne of Geth, this deck does everything through the combat step. Granted, some decks are weak to red-zone decks, but for the most part, when your primary, secondary, and tertiary plan all involve attacking, the opponent likely has a way to interact with you and stop you. I am not sure exactly what the best way to remedy this is either, but it is something to consider.

Contagion Clasps out of the sideboard were a nice way to interact with smaller creatures, but they were often just too slow at taking down something like a Tarmogoyf. Granted, they did make attack steps more favorable, but for that to be your only option really just stinks.

While I wouldn’t write this deck off entirely, as some of the games felt awesome with it, I think it needs a small push in the right direction to really be competitive. Whether that catalyst is in some card technology I did not have time to discover, or if it lies in the new set, now revealed to be New Phyrexia, it needs to be somewhere. I suppose there is one other solution as well…Unban Mishra’s Workshop

Thanks for reading.

Conley Woods

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