Is Isolate Good Enough for the Sideboards of Legacy?

Core 2019 is a peculiar set, with a lot of cheap, narrow hosers like Infernal Reckoning, Mistcaller, Alpine Moon, Suncleanser, Amulet of Safekeeping, and the card I’d like to highlight today: Isolate.

1-mana removal spells have historically been great in Legacy. Dismember and Fatal Push were pervasive as soon as they were released—but they are much more versatile than Isolate.

Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets are two juicy targets for this removal spell, but this card is drawing attention because it not only exiles creatures that cost 1, but any permanent.

While this card will be legal in any format, the format it’s most likely to be playable is Legacy.

It could be good in Modern versus Humans and a few other decks, but it won’t be much better than Abrade there, and the latter is definitely more versatile.

In Legacy, on the other hand, you can find artifacts and enchantments to target, and many more relevant 1-mana creatures, one above all: Deathrite Shaman.

Here’s a short list of the most popular 1-mana permanents in Legacy:

Most of these cards are creatures, and Swords to Plowshares is clearly more versatile and better than Isolate, so you aren’t going to cut Plow for this.

You could, however, consider this card in the sideboard of Death & Taxes. Let’s take a look at the decks against which you would bring this in:

In Death & Taxes’s sideboard you used to see two copies of Path to Exile and Council’s Judgment, and I think you can find a slot there for this card.

There are also a bunch of graveyard hate cards that cost 1 mana: Grafdigger’s Cage, Nihil Spellbomb, and Deathrite Shaman above all. Silent Gravestone is a new toy, but it doesn’t see a lot of play, and when it does it’s usually in decks that abuse the graveyard and want to protect themselves from Surgical Extraction and Deathrite Shaman. You could Isolate those, but Abrupt Decay is still more versatile since it hits Chalice of the Void, Containment Priest, Counterbalance and more. So I wouldn’t consider this card there.

It’s a nice way to get around Veteran Explorer, but the card isn’t so popular that it justifies having a 5th Swords to Plowshares effect for it.

All in all, I would say that Isolate is a narrow sideboard card that could show up in the sideboards of Swords to Plowshares decks, but it’s nothing exciting, and definitely isn’t the answer to Deathrite Shaman.

As a quick aside, I would like to take some time to talk about Brightling in Legacy’s Death & Taxes, since we talked about this deck and many of you asked for my opinion on the card in my last Legacy video.

This is a new card from Battlebond and looks to be pretty powerful. I used to play Mirran Crusader, but now I’m very down on it, as Lightning Bolt looks to be the most popular removal spell. Even 4C Leovold now plays three copies, and I’m looking for other options.

Brightling definitely stands out, as you can protect it from a removal spell, especially with Aether Vial on 3 (which is usually the number of counters on it, since you play four copies of Flickerwisp). The lifelink bonus is huge and I would love to try this card as soon as I have the option to on Magic Online!

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