Since the unbanning of [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd], we’ve had a few major Modern events between PT Valencia and GP Richmond. While both cards have proven playable, neither has come close to dominating, and the format looks healthier than ever. Props to Wizards for improving the Modern banned list.
Now, Legacy needs a similar treatment. While many egregious offenders have come off over the years, Legacy’s banned list still contains a few vestiges of Magic’s past, mere shadows of brokenness.
The combo starts with [ccProd]Animate Dead[/ccProd] on [ccProd]Worldgorger Dragon[/ccProd]. Dragon’s ability triggers, exiling your permanents and triggering Animate Dead’s leaves-play ability, binning Dragon and triggering its leave-play ability, which brings back Animate Dead and lets you target Dragon and start over. Your permanents blink back into play untapped, and with every loop you can float more mana, generating infinite. Without another target for the Animate Dead or an instant speed win condition, this loop draws the game.
By keeping Worldgorger Dragon on the banned list, you’re claiming that this strategy is not only viable in Legacy but also a threat to the health of the format. Let’s take a look at what the deck looked like in Vintage:
Dragon, by Nick Coss
The main reason that this deck worked, and worked well, was because it had [ccProd]Bazaar of Baghdad[/ccProd] as a draw engine. Not only did it filter for the combo, but once you enchanted Dragon and started blinking all of your permanents the Bazaar kept tapping until it found another creature to enchant (like [ccProd]Oona, Queen of the Fae[/ccProd]).
This is a rough list of what Legacy Dragon might look like. Basically, it’s normal Reanimator with a few clunkier reanimation spells and a couple slots devoted to the win condition.
Typically, Reanimator plays a few extra non-[ccProd]Griselbrand[/ccProd] dudes like [ccProd]Iona[/ccProd], [ccProd]Elesh Norn[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Tidespout Tyrant[/ccProd] to make [ccProd]Careful Study[/ccProd] more consistent and lock up games that Griselbrand wouldn’t win on its own. In this version, Worldgorger Dragon takes over those roles by giving the deck a “draw the game” option in losing situations and some random wins with Oona.
[ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd] does a few different things in this shell. It gives depth to the deck’s cantrips, but it also increases the amount of targets for your own Animate Deads and lets you Intuition for Dragon, Dragon, Snapcaster. After generating infinite mana, simply target Snapcaster instead of the Worldgorger and flashback the Intuition for Oona and two reanimate spells. If they give you Snapcaster with the Intuition, you can still flashback the Intuition for Griselbrand, Griselbrand, Oona and end the loop that way.
Is this deck viable? Sure, but it’s not better than regular Reanimator. Remember that if they stifle your Worldgorger Dragon, your combo stops, and now you have no permanents. If they stifle your Griselbrand trigger, you can attack next turn and gain the life back. If they send your Dragon farming, you’re done. If they swords your Griselbrand, you can draw cards in response.
Having Dragon on the banned list while Griselbrand runs about willy-nilly is downright embarrassing.
You could argue that the ability to draw the game might lead to longer rounds, but that’s laughable in a format with [ccProd]Life from the Loam[/ccProd], [ccProd]Sensei’s Divining Top[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Time Spiral[/ccProd]. When Dragon wins, it wins fast. Heck, it draws fast too, and I bet the average Legacy player could jam six games with Dragon before they could finish a normal match of Lands or High Tide.
Black Vise is too wonky and situational to have a major impact on Legacy (similar to [ccProd]Land Tax[/ccProd]). Sure, some slow control decks might have to adapt if they don’t have enough generic answers between cards like [ccProd]Force of Will[/ccProd], [ccProd]Engineered Explosives[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd], but aside from direct answers the format has plenty of ways to dump your hand. For example, a control deck could [ccProd]Enlightened Tutor[/ccProd] for a [ccProd]Chrome Mox[/ccProd] and suddenly be out from under the damage threshold.
One of the trickier parts about Vise is finding a home for it. Perhaps it could make Burn more viable, acting as a better [ccProd]Vexing Devil[/ccProd]? Even there I’m skeptical, as it’s worse on the draw and an abysmal topdeck. A hyper-aggro [ccProd]Shrapnel Blast[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Disciple of the Vault[/ccProd] Affinity list could take advantage of it being a cheap artifact:
This deck tries really hard to make Black Vise useful, and can drop multiples on turn one. After it dumps its hand, it has [ccProd]Reforge the Soul[/ccProd] to draw more burn and re-trigger Vise.
Unfortunately, more explosiveness wasn’t what Affinity was lacking, and this build exacerbates some weaknesses (erratic draws, weak to Force of Will) without addressing the deck’s problems. When I started considering [ccProd]Howling Mine[/ccProd], I knew I was too deep.
If our goal is to strand cards in the opponent’s hand, creating some sicko Black Vise damage and tempoing out a win, UR is the best shell to work with. After all, [ccProd]Goblin Guide[/ccProd] feeds them lands anyway, and [ccProd]Vapor Snag[/ccProd] has synergy with Snapcaster. When you combine that with a soft land-denial strategy and the ability to filter away random Vises in the late game, you can almost imagine the deck being good.
And then you see Vise with [ccProd]Delver of Secrets[/ccProd].
There are a number of problems with Black Vise. It’s not good when your opponent can dump their hand. It’s best on turn one, so you need to run four in order to see it early. That means you’re eating up four slots (main or sideboard) for a card that’s only good against a small number of decks and doesn’t do anything after a certain point in the game.
While losing to Vise with a grip of uncastables is frustrating, so is simply having a grip of uncastables, and in the end there’s no real reason for this card to stay banned. If people want to try burn in Legacy, all power to them.
When [ccProd]Windfall[/ccProd] was banned, it was a key part of Tolarian Academy combo decks, and I think it stayed on the banned list due to the possibility of a redundant draw-7 for Storm. My problem with it staying on the banned list is that it’s super situational, and Wizards has shown that situational draw-7s (Reforge the Soul) are just fine. The risk to reward is rarely worth it, and when it is worth it you still run into countermagic. On the play with a lot of fast mana, Windfall is [ccProd]Wheel of Fortune[/ccProd]. On the draw without much fast mana, it’s a worse [ccProd]Tolarian Winds[/ccProd].
It has potential as a Burning Wish target, but requires a lot of resources and it’s still weak to Force of Will.
One downside to Windfall is that it doesn’t play well with Discard. That is, if you Duress first to force it through, you’re drawing one less card when it resolves. Leylines also mess with its power level, and the card is almost too situational/underpowered to leave in on the draw.
We have similar, more consistent options already, but if it was legalized some new all-in combo variants might spring up (similar to the Belcher lists than run Reforge the Soul).
The concern is that Enchantress gets a tutorable two card “I win” that lets them win around turn four, but they already have that by cantripping into [ccProd]Rest in Peace[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Helm of Obedience[/ccProd], which I’ve seen cropping up in some lists.
The benefit is that [ccProd]Earthcraft[/ccProd] can let you untap a Wild Growth-enchanted land, but that’s only a little more explosive (not enough to make it race faster combo) and it’s not like the deck needed more consistency/inevitability.
As far as two-card combos go, Earthcraft + Squirrel Nest is on par with or slower than most of the format, and could easily be unbanned.
Organized Play requested Shahrazad get the axe back in 2007 for logistical purposes. That is, they thought the act of shuffling up a new game consumed too much time for a tournament to handle.
If the time-consuming act of shuffling up for a new game of Magic was reason to keep a card banned, Time Spiral should still be on the list.
The other concern was people could use Shahrazad to stall out a match, but there’s a simple defense to that tactic that goes something like this:
“I scoop the subgame and lose some life.”
If the opposing deck is playing enough burn and threats to make the loss of life relevant, time probably isn’t a factor and you have free reign to play out the ridiculous subgame for the chance to make their wonky burn spell worthless. If they don’t have enough pressure to make the card relevant, just scoop to their (dead) card and watch them look sad.
Intentionally playing for a draw is a legal part of the game, so banning a card because it might let you make a legal play but only if your opponent lets you is a little strange.
Flash did well in one tournament back in 2007 when everyone was tuning for the Flash mirror and UW Tempo (letting two Suicide Black decks sneak into the Top 8). People remember the hype, but Flash wouldn’t dominate modern Legacy. Sure, it’s a two-card combo for two mana, as opposed to Show and Tell + Griselbrand costing three, but like Cephalid Breakfast it’s vulnerable to graveyard hate and requires a high number of dead cards that clunk up your draws.
Hulk Flash, by Gadiel Szleifer
There were two other versions that Top 8’d that GP, though they had the same shell and it’s really just here for reference. 2007 Legacy differed from the format that we know and love today. For starters, Mystical Tutor was legal.
Disruption sucked. [ccProd]Spell Pierce[/ccProd], [ccProd]Flusterstorm[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] didn’t exist.
Graveyard hate was much more scarce, and we didn’t have [ccProd]Rest in Peace[/ccProd], [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd].
Threats were worse. Instead of [ccProd]Delver of Secrets[/ccProd], people were tapping [ccProd]Serra Avenger[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Jötun Grunt[/ccProd] sideways. Canadian Threshold ran [ccProd]Quirion Dryad[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Werebear[/ccProd]s.
On the other hand, cantrips have improved, making up for the loss of [ccProd]Mystical Tutor[/ccProd].
My main question is whether or not Lim-Dul’s Vault still cuts the mustard. On the one hand, it’s card disadvantage, and hasn’t seen play for a while. On the other, it’s not like this deck has a pile of redundant pieces like Sneak and Show does, and finding the other half of the combo for two mana is pretty hot.
Whenever I’m unsure about a deck’s viability, I run it up against RUG Delver. Flash did surprisingly average for a combo deck (that is, pretty well), and it felt like playing against a Reanimator variant. Remember that [ccProd]Entomb[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Reanimate[/ccProd] is a similar two-mana, two-card win, and both decks share a disruption suite. The difference is that Reanimator has a few extra tools and more redundancy.
Reanimator can bring in a few Show and Tells to work around hate. Flash can bring in what, some Delvers and Tarmogofys?
That actually doesn’t seem bad, though it needs more green sources in the main. If you want to keep the combo, you can just bring in a few Abrupt Decays for whatever hate you’re expecting.
Survival of the Fittest
When Survival was banned, Zoo was still a deck, and no one was dropping Emrakuls and Griselbrands into play on turn one. Abrupt Decay didn’t exist as maindeckable enchantment removal, and Deathrite Shaman, Rest in Peace, and Scavenging Ooze weren’t around to keep graveyards in check. Delver of Secrets wasn’t a card, and if people wanted to tempo you they had to do it with [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] (a chumpable ground pounder) or Merfolk. If I recall correctly, Merfolk with access to [ccProd]Perish[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Submerge[/ccProd] actually had a pretty good time against pileofgreencreatures.dec.
I don’t expect Survival to get unbanned any time soon, but I think it’d be fine.
(Insert comparison to [ccProd]Griselbrand[/ccProd] here.)
I don’t even know. [ccProd]Ad Nauseam[/ccProd] is usually good enough. You can only run two, but it’s not like you need a lot of them with Infernal Tutor around.
[ccProd]Entomb[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Griselbrand[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Shallow Grave[/ccProd] is a way cheaper Bargain that also gains a pile of life (like that’s fair), but it’s also weak to graveyard hate.
Ari tested it and thinks Bargain is fine, but he’s also a degenerate Storm player so who knows.
If Bargain were unbanned, I’d be apprehensive but willing to give it its fair shake. It won’t, of course.
Recruiter increases Goblin’s consistency and power level, but it doesn’t solve problems like fast combo and [ccProd]Engineered Plague[/ccProd]. Still, Goblins is close enough to viable that I’m wary of giving it a buff. After all, a deck with resilience to counters ([ccProd]Cavern of Souls[/ccProd], [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd]) probably doesn’t need a combo element.
Controversial Cards that Should Probably Stay Banned
[ccProd]Mind Twist[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Balance[/ccProd] share the trait of being absolutely busted with fast artifact mana. Between [ccProd]Chrome Mox[/ccProd], [ccProd]Lotus Petal[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mox Diamond[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Grim Monolith[/ccProd], I don’t want to live in a world where Balance or Mind Twist are legal as four-ofs. Even if the decks with piles of fast mana and brutally unfair cards were kept in check by something, what’s the point of having them be legal? Both cards say something like: “Oh, were you trying to play Magic? This should put a stop to that.”
[ccProd]Mental Misstep[/ccProd] is almost on the banned list purely by being unfun, and good riddance. Although, for a brief period of time Jace Zoo was viable thanks to this card, so there is that.
I’ve heard [ccProd]Mind’s Desire[/ccProd] mentioned, but I don’t like it in the same format as [ccProd]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Burning Wish[/ccProd].
If I didn’t mention a card, it’s probably because the card is too powerful to be worth considering, but if you have questions feel free to sound off in the forums!