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Legacy Weapon – Scry Games

Scry is one of the best mechanics of all time. It rewards proper sequencing and deck construction, and it reduces flood and helps hit land drops.

Over time, repeated scrys will leave a pile of undesirables on the bottom of your deck, increasing the density of gas in your draws. With a single shuffle, all of that hard work comes undone.

Scry value goes up along with the variance in card quality. Combo decks love scry because they typically need one type of card to complete the combo while the rest of the deck becomes closer to useless. In Puresteel, I ran a critical mass of artifacts to ensure early metalcraft. After that point, my deck was still filled with those weak enablers like Flayer Husk and Accorder’s Shield. Preordain felt like a draw three because it bottomed all the air and dug me closer to the few cards that mattered.

The Value of Scry

In general, adding scry 2 to a card is worth about a mana. Consider these comparisons:

U: Draw a card (not worth it)

U: Draw a card, scry 2 (worth it)

R: Shock (kinda worth it)

1R: Shock, scry 2 (very worth it)

Based on this reasoning, Omenspeaker strikes me as not worth it. A format would have to be very aggressive for a one-mana 1/3 to be a worthwhile investment, but that is possible with the amount of playable 2/1s. In LSV’s set review he compares the card to Augur of Bolas and finds it wanting. Scry 2 is worse than a card, and the loss of Restoration Angel makes a big difference when evaluating enters-the-battlefield abilities.

At some point, a deck will want Omenspeaker, but the card won’t be a tournament staple like Augur was.

Sign in Blood saw a decent amount of play, and Read the Bones should be a solid role-player. Add a mana and scry 2 gives us the same power level but at a different spot on the curve. I expect to study many a skeletal fragment over the next season.

The Difference in Number

Scry One: In the average hand, going one card deeper isn’t a big impact, as most hands can deal with drawing a mix of lands and spells. It’ll take a while for lands to start becoming dead draws, which is when a small scry starts to really matter. The scry ability on Dissolve, a late game counterspell, is better than on some two-drop.

If we simplify it completely, we can start estimating the precise value of a single scry. For example, if one-third of the remaining deck is dead (lands), and we’re for sure getting another draw, we can value it at a third of a card.

If we’re drawing to a single out, most of the deck is dead, and it’s almost a full card.

Scry Two: A strong chance to find either gas or land.

Scry Three: Three deep is great for hitting gas in the middle of a deck with a heavy land count. Consider the Jace, Architect of Thought -2 ability. While scry doesn’t put cards in your hand, it also lets you keep three on top if you hit a pocket of gas.

Repeated filtering is some serious digging power, which makes me excited to tap Prognostic Sphinx sideways. Once you’ve hit five mana, you probably don’t need to keep hitting land drops, and this ensures you don’t have to. The Sphinx’s discard ability also acts as a graveyard enabler, so it starts to look like the core of a dedicated engine deck.

Ordering Cantrips

Sequencing matters! At the Theros prerelease, I built a BG deck that could only win after sticking an Abhorrent Overlord. I didn’t need to worry about when I cast Read the Bones, as all I was digging for was the Overlord and the lands to cast it. In a more streamlined deck with a higher average card quality, it becomes more correct to hold that Read the Bones as long as possible, maximizing the value of the filtering.

In Caw-Blade Standard, some thought it best to hold Preordain rather than cast it early. As the game progressed, cards like Spell Pierce and extra land drops became dead, increasing the volatility of the card draws and the value of scry with it. I still fired off early Preordains, as I found the extra information impacted my early game decisions, but I took the lesson to heart. We need to consider how our timing impacts the potency of our cantrips.

I have a couple examples from Legacy. If you’re craving some steamy Standard tech, skip on to the next section.

You’re playing mono-blue Omniscience, a three-card combo deck. Your hand has Omniscience and Enter the Infinite, but you’re missing a Show and Tell or Dream Halls.

The rest of your hand is Island, Preordain, Misty Rainforest, and Brainstorm.

It’s your turn two. What do you lead with?

I like Brainstorm, fetching, and Preordaining. You have the chance to see the same cards with Preordain that you put back with Brainstorm, but that’s worth it to keep the top of your deck live. This line also potentially sees the most cards.

Now imagine it’s turn three with another land in play.

The difference matters, as now we can lead with Preordain, scry two away, and then Brainstorm with a fetchland up to freshen the top of the library.

The one point for leading with Brainstorm here is that you could hit Show and Tell + Ancient Tomb, allowing for the instant win. This chance matters more depending on the level of pressure your opponent presents.

Scry in the New Standard

Preordain dominated Standard, filling Top 8s with Caw Blade and Lotus Cobra RUG. This irked some, but I never minded piloting consistent decks. After that, it ate a ban in Modern, and it still sees some Legacy play.

Foresee was one of the best cards in M11 Limited, much like Opportunity in M14. Both cards dig deep for gas. In Standard, despite competing with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Foresee saw play in Pyromancer’s Ascension decks because the filtering was so good at setting up the combo, winning many games from behind.

But Preordain and Foresee aren’t in Theros, Magma Jet is.

Magma Jet

Magma Jet saw a ton of play last time around. Flores Red, RDW, Big Red, and so on and so forth. Every red deck wanted a piece of its filtering, removal, and reach. Note that this was during full-blown Ravager-Affinity season, long considered one of the most overpowered Standard formats of all time.

The card impacted older formats, including aggro decks in Extended and, for a while, burn in Legacy. Heck, it still sees play in some Mono-R Sneak Attack and Painter lists.

As for its Standard presence, it should fit in every RDW list imaginable, especially ones taking advantage of the Young Pyromancer engine. Dealing damage, triggering Pyromancer, and setting up the next spell is big game. Oh, and Chandra’s Phoenix is still a thing.

Jet adds a lot to big red-style decks, similar to the midrangy Boros list that a Mr. Vaca shipped me a few days ago. I fixed the mana and took out the bad cards, leaving the following:

RW Midrange

2 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
10 Mountain
6 Plains
4 Boros Reckoner
3 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Ember Swallower
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Assemble the Legion
4 Magma Jet
4 Anger of the Gods
3 Mizzium Mortars
4 Chained to the Rocks
3 Warleader’s Helix

A potential sideboard could include more planeswalkers for the control and midrange decks, the fourth Helix for aggro, and maybe some number of Peak Eruptions and Glare of Heresys. If Glare catches on, consider boarding out Chained to the Rocks in the red mirror.

It’s difficult to brew for a fresh format, but beating aggro is a reasonable place to start. Without much control around, and no obvious combo decks, most people will turn to tapping creatures for these first few weeks, making it the perfect time to arm up on efficient removal and large bodies. Not that there’s a bad time to sleeve up a pile of kill spells. That’s my kind of deck, murdering everything the opponent plays before sticking some threat or other and watching it go the distance.

Ember Swallower will murder plenty of unwary opponents. It looks situational on paper, but imagine sitting across from the 4/5 body with a deck full of Loxodon Smiters and Mizzium Mortars. It doesn’t need anything special to break parity on the monstrosity ability—having a 7/8 should do. I love that eating three lands hinders opposing Sphinx’s Revelations.

Chained to the Rocks is the real deal. At first, I thought it was just a new Journey to Nowhere, as it’s still sorcery speed and needs at least two lands in play. I was wrong. Costing half as much is a big deal when curving out, and the only thing holding this card back is that it needs to enchant a Mountain. As such, we have a real incentive to go Boros.

The new [card elspeth, sun’s champion]Elspeth crushes face. It ticks up while producing three 1/1s, which was the last Elspeth’s -2 ability. That alone is worth the extra mana. I love that it has an immediate impact on the board and defends itself in multiple ways. Its powerful, synergistic abilities make Sun’s Champion the perfect six-mana ‘walker.

Magma Jet doesn’t kill everything, but with the passing of Champion of the Parish and undying the fast aggro decks got smaller and more fragile. Burning-Tree Emissary? Nomnomnom.

Scry does a lot for this deck, both in Magma Jet and the scry land. Against control, it helps filter through the removal to find the relevant threats. It lets us up the land count, going to 26, ensuring we hit land drops while reducing our chances of flooding out.

A higher land count is one foreseeable impact of the scry lands. Once we hit that stage in the game where we don’t want to draw normal lands, a scry land is still useful for setting up the next draw step, letting us pad our count while flooding less.

They also set up Domri Rade.

Big Naya

1 Mountain
5 Plains
3 Forest
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Temple Garden
4 Stomping Ground
2 Voice of Resurgence
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Aurelia, the Warleader
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Domri Rade
3 Magma Jet

Never before has Domri had this much on-color manipulation, and with eleven scry effects we’ll no longer have to miss for large chunks of the game. I’ve had some long matches where the only time my Domri hit was after an Azorius Charm.

In the early stages of the format, it might be correct to incorporate Gyre Sage. When Willy Edel wrote his Naya primer, he mentioned how Sage has a Tarmogoyf-like presence on the board, with the main disadvantage being that it plays into opposing sweepers. If the early format is dominated by aggressive creature decks, it’ll be Sage’s time to shine.

Note that I didn’t include any of the new Gods in this list, despite the favorable interaction with Domri. None of them are efficient enough, and the possibility of maybe having a 5/x doesn’t make up for that. I heard Conley say it best, that gradual recurring effects are best in control. You know, decks that want to extend the game anyway, decks that have time to take advantage of the abilities.

I wouldn’t even want to board Purphoros for the control matchups, as that’s a turn spent not deploying a threat. Sure, it makes all future threats better, but that delay in tempo gives the opponent time to stick an Obzedat or fire off a Sphinx’s Revelation.

Speaking of sideboards, one could include [card xenagos, the reveler]Xenagos, Gruul War Chant, Mizzium Mortars, and Wear // Tear. As with the RW deck, Peak Eruption and Glare of Heresy are some hot options.

Caleb Durward

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