Based on the reader feedback from last week's article this week I wanted to do another matchup analysis. Luckily I also had a
Time Vault Vintage tournament to travel to this weekend with a long car ride ahead so I could get in a good deal of testing along the way (I made 5th out of 33 in the vintage event as a sidenote). The theme in recent weeks in my column has been preparing for GenCon and I hope that this article helps people who are interested in getting into Legacy for a low price. This week's match is between BG Suicide and Merfolk. It's a particularly interesting match because both decks have a pile of disruption and several solid creatures to throw at each other. They're relatively inexpensive to put together especially for players dipping into the format with a collection carrying over from other formats. Here are the lists I chose to work with:
As usual I wrote down my thoughts about the match beforehand to see how it actually played out versus my predictions. Here's what I had:
- 4 Cursecatcher
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 1 Merfolk Sovereign
- 3 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 2 Tidal Warrior
- 2 Wake Thrasher
"Because both decks have several basics and lots of small creatures I foresee long games with ground battles. Alternately I see standoffs especially if BG can get Nantuko Shade or Tarmogoyf down. Merfolk will want to see Merrow Reejerey or Tidal Warrior to get through blockers especially with the Warrior's Island-making abilities. BG will need to play around cards like Daze and Standstill but has a great early game thanks to all of its discard. Interesting matches for sure."
Like last week I chose three games of many to illustrate how the matches usually play out. The first game shows the power of repeated discard effects against Merfolk while the second game shows the value of thinking several turns ahead with BG. The last game is a nail-biter that shows what happens when Merfolk gets the cards that it needs and can activate Standstill to out-draw BG.
Game #1: When Risks Pay Off
BG wins the die roll and sees this hand:
On the draw I'd definitely throw this back. On the play though there are several great options; I can see the opponent's hand twice and potentially Dark Ritual on the first turn. I kept this one to show how Dark Ritual affects how the game plays out.
This is a great hand to see; Aether Vial from the gates a Standstill on the second turn too! There is no countermagic which is a little disconcerting but I kept this one based upon how well it enforces the usual Merfolk synergy of Vial + Standstill. Let's see how it plays out.
BG predictably plays a Dark Ritual on the first turn. There's a consideration of whether BG would want to Thoughtseize first seeing if the opponent had Force of Will. However with only one land BG is better going this way and avoiding being exposed to Daze in the next turn. Thoughtseize eliminates Aether Vial. BG then plays Nantuko Shade. A solid first turn for sure!
Merfolk draws Merrow Reejerey then plays an Island and a Tidal Warrior. The Warrior will have the side benefit of being able to colorscrew BG if it cannot get another land soon. BG draws another Dark Ritual then attacks with Nantuko Shade. It doesn't pump the unblocked Shade since the Thoughtseize is critical in eliminating the Standstill in Merfolk's hand.
Merfolk plays the Mutavault and then passes the turn making Swamp into an Island during BG's upkeep. Fortunately BG draws the Bloodstained Mire and successfully gets a Bayou. Nantuko Shade swings in. Merfolk has the opportunity to block and kill the Shade but that'll take it off a land drop and prevent Merrow Reejerey from coming down next turn to complicate combat. It takes the two damage and BG plays a postcombat Tarmogoyf. Merfolk plays and Island and the Reejerey having a Merfolk Sovereign waiting around for more pumping.
BG draws a Hymn to Tourach! It plays it knocking out the Island and the Merfolk Sovereign. Things are looking very bad for Merfolk which hasn't been able to access either Standstill or effective disruption. BG attacks in with Nantuko Shade and Tarmogoyf holding a Dark Ritual in hand with an untapped Bloodstained Mire. Merfolk holds back both creatures since its only real out at this point facing down two monsters involves Umezawa's Jitte. BG draws another Mire the next turn and the creatures are just too big for Merfolk to handle. Merfolk loses.
I chose this game to show both the power of Dark Ritual on the first turn from BG and the necessity for Merfolk to find early disruption of one form or another. The die roll really mattered in this game since BG would have had to mulligan otherwise and would be facing a very strong hand from Merfolk.
Game #2: Long-Term Plans
Here's another game with Merfolk on the play presideboarded. It kept a hand of:
BG has to mulligan its 6-land 1 Diabolic Edict hand and draws this instead:
No plays until the second turn but it's a decent six and it has three very threatening monsters in hand with a Jitte to follow.
Merfolk leads with the Cursecatcher to make BG play fair from the outset. BG draws a Thoughtseize and fires it off. Merfolk now has the option to trade a Cursecatcher for the best card in its hand which seems like a fair trade. However it will have two Cursecatchers the next turn and either an Aether Vial or a Wake Thrasher to follow.
Merfolk traded the Cursecatcher out to preserve its hand. On its turn Merfolk plays Aether Vial and another Cursecatcher and passes the turn. BG draws a Hypnotic Specter and now has the option of playing either Dark Confidant or Tarmogoyf. The Tarmogoyf can apply immediate pressure but Confidant will create unanswered card advantage and BG plays it over the Green beastie. Fortunately Merfolk draws and plays a Lord of Atlantis next turn. Alongside the Tidal Warrior it can mount a small clock.
BG reveals a Diabolic Edict and draws a Dark Ritual. It has several options right now; BG can play the Hypnotic Specter from the Dark Ritual play the Jitte and a Tarmogoyf or just play the equipment and put it on Dark Confidant. The best play here is probably to cast Dark Ritual and then Diabolic Edict alongside Tarmogoyf. BG first plays the Dark Ritual with a Bayou untapped.
Merfolk has the option of Cursecatching the Dark Ritual right now or trying to nail anything that comes later. In any event it will deprive them of one mana and hitting now can take them off Green mana from Bayou. BG must be casting the Dark Ritual for two spells this turn or a Hypnotic Specter; seeing that Diabolic Edict is a good sign that they'll attempt that. Merfolk does activate Cursecatcher forcing BG to tap its Bayou.
The first play is aggressive while the latter two seek to generate more card advantage to slow Merfolk down and take advantage of the Dark Confidant's draws to win in the lategame. BG opted for the Hypnotic Specter since the combination with Jitte could win the game by itself. Merfolk Vials in a Tidal Warrior at the endstep. Merfolk plays Island and Wake Thrasher and ends its turn with nothing in its hand.
BG flips a Tarmogoyf to Confidant and then draws a Bloodstained Mire for the turn. It could play a Tarmogoyf but it cannot block with the creature since Merfolk will be Islandwalking. The better play is to deploy an Umezawa's Jitte and plan to attack the next turn in the air. Merfolk taps its Vial and Island at the end of turn to maximize Wake Thrasher. On its own turn Merfolk draws and plays an Island then attacks for six damage from Wake Thrasher. BG flips a Swamp to its Confidant and draws a Hymn to Touarch. It equips the Jitte and attacks with Hypnotic Specter using the counters from the legendary stick to kill the Wake Thrasher and Tidal Warrior. Postcombat BG plays Tarmogoyf. BG has a board advantage now and kills Merfolk relatively quickly.
This game illustrates how thinking a few turns ahead benefited BG. In the choice of whether to cast Diabolic Edict or the Hypnotic Specter the long-term plan of sticking the Jitte probably made the game. The Diabolic Edict might have made contact but Merfolk could have Vialed in its Tidal Warrior to jump in front of the cannon for Lord of Atlantis. It also showcases that Merfolk has a tough time against BG's creatures unless it can get permission working.
Game #3: Curious Combat Complexities!
Next we'll look at a postboard game. For these games BG sided thusly:
The Edicts will have a tough time catching a valuable creature and the Sinkholes don't punish Merfolk's mana in the way that they do other decks. Postboard BG has a more controlling plan that just aims to get two Engineered Plagues in play and coast from there.
Merfolk boards like this:
Here's a game where Merfolk went first opening:
Solid! Merfolk has the turn-2 Standstill with a Daze to back it up with and a Mutavault to apply pressure through the enchantment. BG opens:
Four lands and three spells though it has a curve to die for. BG keeps and Merfolk opens with Island go. BG draws Hymn to Tourach and then Thoughtseizes seeing a hand full of duplicates. Merfolk could have Dazed but it really wants to get the Standstill down leaving BG to take the other Standstill and pass the turn. Merfolk draws Jitte plays its Standstill from a Mutavault and passes the turn. Knowing that Merfolk can Daze its Hymn or Confidant BG just plays a Swamp and passes the turn.
Merfolk draws another Standstill plays a Wasteland and draws blood with Mutavault putting BG at 16 life. It plays and utilizes a fetchland for a Swamp then casts Hymn to Tourach on Merfolk. The Blue deck draws Silvergill Adept Island Daze and then randomly discards Island and Silvergill Adept. Losing the Island hurts since Merfolk cannot double-Daze but it still has a Standstill to recharge. Merfolk draws and plays an Aether Vial and then another Standstill effectively undoing the discard from the previous turn. BG draws an Engineered Plague here. It can either play it now or attempt to pull out a counter with a Dark Confidant. It'll be better to play the Confidant since it helps BG catch up with the cards that Merfolk has been seeing from Standstill. Breaking the enchantment drew Merfolk into Aether Vial Wasteland and Island. BG then passed the turn.
Merfolk drew Merrow Reejerey and played Island. It can now play the Reejerey or play the Jitte and attack with Mutavault. Getting Jitte active to kill the Dark Confidant is paramount so Merfolk plays the artifact and attacks in. BG drew another Swamp drawn from the Confidant and played a Hypnotic Specter. Merfolk equipped the Jitte on the Mutavault and attacked in. Does BG block or take the damage? If it blocks it can kill a creature that Jitte would equip to but it also loses both creatures thanks to the counters. On the other hand BG has Tombstalker in hand and can just slam out that flyin' demon the next turn anyway. With the Vial at 2 counters Fish could conceivably put Lord of Atlantis in play and just completely blow out BG. After consulting with several other people about what the right play was BG double-blocked the Mutavault with its creatures. Being able to fire off Tombstalker next turn is solid and depriving the opponent of Mutavault would take care of any immediate threats from Jitte. The equipment was getting counters anyway and it was essentially a difference of whether Jitte got one or two counters.
BG draws a Tombstalker eliminates its graveyard and casts the gigantic flier. Looking back on it BG would have flipped that guy to Dark Confidant and ate eight damage so maybe losing Bob wasn't that bad! Merfolk draws and plays an Aether Vial and then plays a Cursecatcher. It has a Vial at 3 counters and a Reejerey in hand so things are looking pretty good. It equips the Jitte on Cursecatcher and passes the turn. BG plays Engineered Plague to get rid of the Cursecatcher and then attacks with Tombstalker leaving Merfolk at 15 and BG at 12. Merfolk draws and plays a Lord of Atlantis equips the Reejerey and attacks for 2 damage. Merfolk can pile on the damage with Jitte now or hold counters on it for a potential blocker. In the interests of racing Merfolk deals a pumped-out 6 damage to BG and passes.
BG draws a Hymn to Touarch and casts it hoping to get more cards in its graveyard to get the second Tombstalker out. Merfolk discards two Dazes and BG has to keep Tombstalker home or lose next turn. Merfolk moves the Jitte to Lord of Atlantis knowing that it will lose whichever creature with the Jitte on it in the attack and the Reejerey's tap-out ability is crucial. Merfolk plays the postcombat Standstill that it drew for the turn and passes. BG draws a Dark Ritual and then attempts to accelerate out a Tombstalker. Merfolk draws a Force of Will from the Standstill though and that's game!
This was a really interesting game to play and study; The Jitte rallied the Merfolk and forced BG to make less optimal plays. Further the two Lords in play effectively negated the power of Engineered Plague. Had BG been able to land the Tombstalker it could have killed the Reejerey on the attack next turn if Merfolk didn't draw another Merfolk to tap down the Demon. Merfolk was able to activate three Standstills during the game which is an amazing amount of card draw; even then BG was able to fight until the end!
Final Thoughts on BG Suicide and Merfolk
It's very clear from all the games that I played that Merfolk needs several specific cards or it just loses to BG Suicide either pre- or post-board. It needs to surprise BG with Daze and put a Standstill out possibly getting Umezawa's Jitte out to compete with BG's monsters. Aside from that there's little that Merfolk can do. This doesn't surprise me; Merfolk is a deck built to beat up on the common high-powered Force of Will decks. Being unable to take advantage of Islandwalk hurts Merfolk and it has no removal to speak of that would threaten BG. Tactically BG should aim to play around Daze and ideally break open Standstill with Hymn to Tourach or Daze. Many test games just ended with a Thoughtseize into a Sinkhole into a Tarmogoyf or Nantuko Shade a start that Merfolk could not recover from.
If you're considering what to play at GenCon BG Suicide is a fine option. It has an inherently strong strategy and above all it's consistent. Merfolk is good for beating up on the CounterTop and Team America decks that you'll see at the top tables so between the two choose BG if you think you'll face randomness early and Merfolk if you anticipate the usual decks later in the event. Either deck is a good choice and a great entry for players in the format!
Until next week…
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P.S. I'd like to write an article soon about improving people's budget lists with cheap solutions to make the decks better at casual Legacy. If you'd like some help in tuning a list you're working on or want an edge in the weekly store Legacy events you play please drop me an email!