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Legacy Weapon – Interpreting the GP Weekend

The Hype

Going in, a lot of people were disappointed that [card]Griselbrand[/card] wasn’t banned. I still have friends that think the card is too powerful, as it’s a [card]Yawgmoth’s Bargain[/card] for two more mana that’s easier to cheat into play. However, with creatures getting better every year, having the combo decks in the format get a boost in power is a good thing. So long as “[card]Llanowar Elves[/card], go” is a viable turn one play, I’m going to call the format healthy and applaud Wizards for leaving it be.

As such, the comparison to Bargain doesn’t make me want to ban [card]Griselbrand[/card], but rather consider unbanning Bargain, or [card]Goblin Recruiter[/card], or [card]Flash[/card]. Yes, I realize how crazy that sounds.

When GP Hulk Flash happened, the format didn’t have [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], or [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card]. Creatures were worse, and [card aether vial]Vialing[/card] in [card]Serra Avenger[/card] on turn three was one of the more powerful things a fair deck could do. Can you imagine one of the old Flash decks consistently fighting through modern day Team America, or RUG, or turn two [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card] into turn three [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] on the draw? We don’t have [card]Mystical Tutor[/card] anymore, and people actually play [card]Spell Snare[/card] these days. I’m not saying the format needs [card]Flash[/card], but unbanning some hot brokenness with the idea to ban again if things get out of control, similar to how they handled [card]Gush[/card] in Vintage, sounds both reasonable and exciting.

Not [card]Earthcraft[/card], though. That thing’s insane. And, while it isn’t a combo card, losing to a turn two [card]Mind Twist[/card] for five out of a [card]Metalworker[/card] deck sounds like the least fun ever.

As for [card]Land Tax[/card], it went mostly unplayed, only breaking the Top 32 in the hands of Ian Duke’s UW Miracle list. I’m sure either of the Duke boys are capable of Top 32’ing with a ham sandwich, but I’m also sure they had good reason to run the cards they did. Perhaps the card advantage generated from [card]Land Tax[/card] breaks the UW mirror, and the lifegain from [card]Zuran Orb[/card] crushes the aggressive red decks.

Thumbs up for niche playability!

The Elves

At Grand Prix Atlanta, I practiced what I preached and played Elves!. I left the tournament with the same thoughts on the deck that I had coming in: It’s a consistent, powerful deck with a turn three kill that has good matchups against most of the field. In short, a perfect deck for a Grand Prix. Some rounds I ran hot to win bad matchups, and other rounds my opponents ran well to beat me, and I ended barely in the cash.

Most of my matches were routine, but I had a sweet game three against Reanimator where my opponent cast [card]Show and Tell[/card], putting in [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card], while I put in [card]Humility[/card]. Several judges were watching, and one of them had to tell me to contain myself. What can I say? Something about a creature deck boarding in [card]Humility[/card] and using it to trump one of the most broken plays in the game hits my funny bone. At least now I have confirmation that the card is worth the slots.

One Elf deck Top 32’d in the hands of Ryan Leverone, with a fairly stock list. Ryan dropped the third [card]Priest of Titania[/card] from the main deck for an 18th land, and switched the main deck [card]Viridian Shaman[/card] with the sideboard [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]. I like both of these changes, since RUG is popular and Ryan’s configuration is better against burn. After deciding to up the land count, I’d have a hard time not including a [card]Horizon Canopy[/card], though.

The ‘Folk

While I was X-4ing the GP with Elves, my buddy Ian was busy Merfolk’ing people with my list in Seattle. Now, there’s a few things you should know about Ian. I’ve known him for years, mostly through IRC. He’s a good kid, and he has faith in me. While I’ve had a lot of friends play my decks, he has played more of them than anyone, and it isn’t close.

You can imagine how happy I was to log in on Sunday night, after a long day of grinding, to see him in the Top 8.

I was even happier to watch him crush his opponents and take down the trophy. Ever see someone cheer and fist pump while watching a sports game? That guy was me.

This would be a good time to write about Merfolk, if I hadn’t already done a primer on the deck a few weeks ago. However, at the time of that article the new [card]Lord of Atlantis[/card] remake, [card]Master of the Pearl Trident[/card], hadn’t been spoiled yet.

Here’s my updated list:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Underground Sea
1 Polluted Delta
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Mutavault
4 Wasteland
3 Island
4 Aether Vial
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
1 Dismember
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Coralhelm Commander
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Merror Reejerey
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Sower of Temptation
Sideboard
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
2 Hydroblast
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Perish
3 Submerge
1 Dread of Night
2 Pithing Needle[/deck]

I won’t be playing this deck after M13 is legal, or at least not immediately. I’ll be playing the BUG deck I wish I’d thought of for the Grand Prix.

The ???

Here’s what Jessie Hatfield got 13th with:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Verdant Catacombs
4 Polluted Delta
4 Wasteland
1 Bayou
4 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Tombstalker
1 Sylvan Library
4 Temporal Mastery
4 Force of Will
4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
2 Portent
2 Ghastly Demise
3 Daze
3 Thoughtseize
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Liliana of the Veil
Sideboard
1 Thoughtseize
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Deathmark
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Darkblast
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Spell Pierce
2 Tormod’s Crypt[/deck]

Daniel Signorini won a trial with a similar list right before the Grand Prix, with the main difference being [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] instead of [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. I’m not entirely sure which is better. Hymn is weaker to [card]Misdirection[/card] and [card]Spell Snare[/card], but a more powerful card when it hits. I think the Hatfield list looks better on paper, which is why I posted it, but I would go back to the -1 fetchland and +1 [card]Bayou[/card] that Signorini ran.

I’m sure some of you are questioning if cantripping to set up [card]Temporal Mastery[/card] is really what you want to be doing in Legacy. My answer to that is: Do you not realize how much fun taking a pile of extra turns is? In this deck, you get to do that with a giant monster bashing in, turning Mastery into a cantripping spell that untaps your lands, gives you another land drop, and domes them for five. Racing a [card]Tombstalker[/card] has never been so difficult.

Don’t make the mistake of writing this deck off as a BUG deck with a pile of situational cards thrown in. The addition of [card]Temporal Mastery[/card] changes it, sure, but not in a way that makes the deck worse. It has an engine now, meaning there’s more to consider when sequencing plays. Time, Magic’s trickiest resource, has become more malleable.

If I play this deck soon, I plan on boarding at least one [card]Virtue’s Ruin[/card] for the Maverick matchup, which doesn’t look stellar on paper. After testing some games, I like most of the numbers a lot. [card]Portent[/card] was surprisingly not terrible, and I even used it on my opponent to good effect. Liliana looks strange, but it’s one of the stone best cards in the format, and taking extra turns with a planeswalker in play feels great.

This deck has a slightly favorable RUG matchup, due to [card]Tombstalker[/card] being larger than [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and it retains a lot of the good combo matchups that typical BUG lists have. Even the matchups that used to be bad for BUG, like ‘Folk, have improved an incredible amount. Of course, I’ve mostly tested preboard games, which might be clouding my perspective. Getting a Tombstalker [card]Submerge[/card]d is just about the worst feeling ever.

Coming back to Merfolk, that deck is only as good as the blue decks around it. With the GP results indicating a decrease in Sneak and Show, as well as a Goblins deck Top 8’ing, the field might become too hostile for the blue tribe — but the deck always has the chance to run hot and ‘Folk people anyway.

For its part, [card]Master of the Pearl Trident[/card] should make some waves in other formats.

Modern

Currently, Merfolk is a rogue strategy in Modern, with a mere seven players piloting the archetype at GP Yokohama. Still, we’ve seen in Legacy how much the deck improves with the addition of another lord ([card]Coralhelm Commander[/card]). Since [card]Master of the Pearl Trident[/card] sits right in the sweet spot on the Vial curve, you can bet a lot of people will be considering this deck for the upcoming Modern GP in Columbus.

This is the list I’m currently testing:

[deck]Main Deck:
8 Island
2 Sulfur Falls
2 Steam Vents
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Mutavault
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Coralhelm Commander
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Aether Vial
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
2 Mana Leak
2 Spreading Seas
1 Echoing Truth
Sideboard
3 Combust
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Torpor Orb
2 Blood Moon
1 Spell Pierce
1 Dispel
1 Mortarpod
1 Shatterstorm
2 Threads of Disloyalty[/deck]

I prefer the red splash for several reasons. By maindecking [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], Merfolk has access to actual removal and reach, which is something it doesn’t typically have. Despite how good the card is, it’s important to retain a critical mass of Merfolk and countermagic, so I only have three Bolts for now. If I decide the metagame is too aggressive, I’ll probably switch decks, but adding the fourth burn spell and a [card]Dismember[/card] or two is an option.

[card]Path to Exile[/card] is the best removal spell in the format, but I’m not running it for a few reasons. It fixes the opponent’s mana, making cards like [card]Blood Moon[/card] and [card]Spreading Seas[/card] weaker, and it also ramps the opponent, making [card]Cursecatcher[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], and [card]Mana Leak[/card] worse. In short, the card is a nonbo with most of the other disruption I want to be running.

[card]Echoing Truth[/card] is a tempo card, and a very good one, with blowout potential against the token decks that saw some success at GP Yokohama. I keep it in against most decks, even Jund, where it can clear away multiple blockers. Plus, post-[card]Blood Moon[/card] it can become the best removal spell of all time.

Out of the sideboard, [card]Combust[/card] does a lot of work in the Splinter Twin matchup. When combined with some pressure, Twin can rarely win through the red instant. It has further application in the ‘Folk mirror, where it can one hit anything through opposing countermagic or Kira shield. When I consider its usefulness in random Delver and [card]Restoration Angel[/card] matchups, [card]Combust[/card] is a must.

[card]Blood Moon[/card] is an interesting one. In Legacy, ‘Folk has access to [card]Back to Basics[/card], so the card has never seen serious consideration. In Modern, however, [card]Blood Moon[/card] is one of the best tools for fighting Jund. It shuts off our own manlands, sure, but being able to still cast spells and Vial in threats breaks parity nicely. Unfortunately, I am forced to include a high number of basics in the mana base, which can make finding red difficult, and restricts sweet options like [card]Ghost Quarter[/card].

That said, [card]Spreading Seas[/card] is a better card for the main deck, especially since we now have eight islandwalk effects. The card replaces itself, shuts off manlands, and gums up opposing mana bases. While Modern has some of the same powerful interactions as Legacy, it lacks the free countermagic and nonbasic disruption (especially [card]Wasteland[/card]). As such, decks are free to depend on cards like [card]Windbrisk Heights[/card] and the Urzatron. By maindecking either [card]Spreading Seas[/card] or [card]Blood Moon[/card], Merfolk is positioned to attack the format in a new way, which might just be the [card tectonic edge]edge[/card] it needs against the field. Note that Lybaert ran three main deck (and the fourth in the board) on his way to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Amsterdam, which had similar levels of Jund.

As for the rest of the sideboard, both [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] and [card]Torpor Orb[/card] have utility against the [card]Birthing Pod[/card] decks in the format, with Cage also being good against random Reanimator strategies, and Orb being another hoser for Splinter Twin. Having a diverse set of answers to the various combo decks in the format is important.

[card]Mortarpod[/card] seems a little strange, but it’s actually pretty good removal against Affinity. It also has application against [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] and [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] decks.

Note that, in Modern, we have the tools to run any color combination we choose, without the threat of [card]Wasteland[/card]. As such, almost any card that fits the strategy can be included, and off-color splashes in the board are up for consideration.

While I like where I’m at right now, I’m not going to lock in my deck list this far away from the tournament. These are some cards I’m considering for the deck:

•[card]Cryptic Command[/card] •[card]Path to Exile[/card] •[card]Lightning Helix[/card] •[card]Sower of Temptation[/card] •[card]Deprive[/card] •[card]Dismember[/card] •[card]Dark Confidant[/card] •[card]Meddling Mage[/card] •[card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] •[card]Remand[/card] •[card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] •[card]Delay[/card] •[card]Ghost Quarter[/card] •[card]Phantasmal Image[/card] •[card]Spell Snare[/card] •[card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] •[card]Vendilion Clique[/card] •[card]Spellskite[/card] •[card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card]

Sideboard:
•[card]Ancient Grudge[/card] •[card]Steel Sabotage[/card] •[card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] •[card]Darkblast[/card] •[card]Hurkyl’s Recall[/card] •[card]Vedalken Shackles[/card] •[card]Disenchant[/card] •[card]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/card] •[card]Rule of Law[/card] •[card]Reveillark[/card] •[card]Twisted Image[/card] •[card]Negate[/card] •[card]Pithing Needle[/card] •[card]Engineered Explosives[/card]

An incredible amount of options, and I’m sure I’m missing some good ones! Even in a deck like Merfolk, where many of the slots are locked, the potential for viable variations is staggering. While this is great news for brewers, it makes preparation difficult. This should change as the format becomes more and more solved.

Good luck with your preparation!

Caleb Durward
@CalebDMTG

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