If you dont call this deck Sicko fit, Im done.
— Nicolas Johnson, Awoken Horror (@mtgtypicaljonny) October 12, 2018
My path to this deck list began like this:
- How can I make it so I don’t care about the basic land that Assassin’s Trophy gives my opponent?
- Once they run out of basic lands, Assassin’s Trophy is instant-speed Vindicate for B/G.
- Holy crap, Veteran Explorer runs both players out of basics in short order. This could be something.
- Liliana, The Last Hope is not only a good 3-drop generally in a format where 1-toughness creatures like Thalia, Phyrexian Revoker, Young Pyromancer, Snapcaster, and an unflipped Delver are very common, but it can be used to get Veteran Explorer off the battlefield at little to no loss of tempo or card economy.
- (This is where I actually started to get excited.) Leovold is the perfect card to cast right when the Explorer dies to limit what your opponent can do with a lot of mana. Deathrite Shaman used to be Leo’s best friend—why not make new friends?
Okay, so let’s talk about the entire deck list:
The Fundamental Theory of the Deck
The deck’s main lines of play involve two engines that overlap and fuel each other. The first is Veteran Explorer and eight ways to get rid of it. That engine gives both players, at some point in the game but as early as turn 2, the right to search their libraries for up to two basic land that enter the battlefield untapped. This can be deceptively efficient, and deceptively lopsided.
For an example of a burst of efficiency, turn-1 Veteran Explorer and turn-2 Phyrexian Tower lets you cast Thragtusk, Titania, or Jace (or Thoughtseize + Jace). That’s a pretty good turn 2. The lopsidedness is twofold: sometimes your opponent will be playing zero or one basic lands (or two but they fetched one on their first turn to play around Wasteland). Other times, your Cabal Therapies and Thoughtseizes leave the opponent without a way to spend the extra mana. Meanwhile, you have four copies of a green X-spell that works all along the curve, in addition to your planewalkers and whatever creatures you drew naturally.
The other engine is that X-spell: Green Sun’s Zenith. It can find Veteran Explorer, it can use the mana to find a broken or situationally powerful creature, and if the game ends up playing out “normally,” then Tarmogoyf and Leovold are often better than what your opponent is throwing out there. Your sideboard also becomes a toolbox. Oh, and it shuffles your library (twice, for you rules junkies or psychopaths who don’t use shortcuts). That’s nice in a deck that leans into Brainstorm and Jace to go from tier 2 to tier 1(ish).
Space is tight with two engines competing for space, but three Thoughtseize still feel great to me because they enhance the effectiveness of your four Therapy and the total of seven makes Dark Confidant more likely to steal wins, not just get immediately killed, and you can’t forget that even though you have Brainstorm and Jace, there are not enough blue cards to support Force of Will. You don’t want to just roll over if someone shows up with Dark Ritual in their deck, for example, and the seven discard spells are a big part of why you won’t. You’ll look to pick apart their hand a bit early and then get a Leovold out to blank their cantrips in a way that doesn’t let them rebuild their hand or game plan.
Assassin’s Trophy is just a ridiculously powerful card. I heard some people guessing that it wouldn’t come close to Abrupt Decay in Legacy because that basic land really matters and what do you need to kill that costs more than 3 anyway? The answer turns out to be a lot. Gurmag Anglers, Leyline of Sanctity blanking multiple discards, and opposing Jaces. These are big. But how about Dark Depths and Batterskull? Ever wanted to Abrupt Decay one of those? If you answered “no,” you haven’t played much B/G in Legacy. I’ve found the ability to hit lands to be insanely good. In a build without blue, I’d be excited to play it alongside Choke and hit the non-Islands with it. When people bring in random stuff (I played against Leyline of Sanctity in one event), you just blow it up. When Chalice 1 gets annoying, you just blow it up. Didn’t plan to face Eldrazi? Who cares, just blow them up for B/G.
Alternative Builds and Choices
There is a lot to play with, and this is just one configuration among many. For example, Dark Confidant could just as easily become Baleful Strix. The second Island and the two Jace, the Mind Sculptors (Paul Rietzl’s first feedback on the list was that if you cut the Jaces you get to cut the second Island, which seemed wise to him) could be a third Swamp and a pair of Nissa, Vital Force, for example.
A lot of ideas are actually parked in the sideboard, but could be expanded upon. Fatal Push and Collective Brutality are both maindeckable cards that get Veteran Explorer off the table. Collective Brutality especially becomes an extremely flexible resource once you play a 1/1 that you want to get off the board. Ramunap Excavator alongside Ghost Quarter didn’t make the main deck because Ghost Quarter makes it difficult to cast your Leovolds on curve, and I knew I wanted three Leovold. But it’s reasonable to go up by one total land and cut the third Leovold for the first Excavator and say, “screw it, I’m going to try to do it all main deck.”
Additional colors or colors-other-than-blue can be enticing for sure. White lets you play the new toy Knight of Autumn alongside Knight of the Reliquary, yet another engine. Red unlocks Huntmaster of the Fells and Ruric Thar, two cards that I have definitely wished at times I had in my library.
Ground Seal is a nice tool out of the sideboard to try and get additional game versus Reanimator and Life from the Loam while also being a useful tool against Grixis’s Snapcasters and Kolaghan’s Commands.
So How Good is the Deck, Really?
The deck is powerful and resilient. It has some pretty good matchups against Death & Taxes and other popular decks. The problem is that two of the most popular decks, Grixis Control and Miracles, tend to be bad matchups. They can find and use basic lands, and they have Brainstorm to foil your discard plan. Still, tweaks can be made to add advantage, and certainly the matchups aren’t hopeless. But it does hurt the deck’s overall credibility right now. There are so many ways to tweak it that I’m optimistic about where I’ll end up.
The Greg Hatch Gatherer Grab Bag of Green Sun Goodies
I asked Greg Hatch to figure out how I could GSZ and block or kill a Delver, and what other goodies might be out there. He gave me the following list. Enjoy.
- Daybreak Ranger
- Huntmaster of the Fells
- Master of the Hunt
- Penumbra Spider
- Predator Ooze
- Mystic Enforcer
- Dungrove Elder
- Chameleon Colossus
- Courser of Kruphix
- Obstinate Baloth
- Runic Armasaur
- Steel Leaf Champion
- Thrashing Brontodon
- Gnarlwood Dryad
- Great Sable Stag
- Kitchen Finks
- Nimble Mongoose
- Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- Scute Mob
- Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
- Sylvan Safekeeper
- Turntimber Sower
- Warden of the First Tree
- Selkie Hedge-Mage
- Bassara Tower Archer
- Kraul Harpooner