I'd like to write about a sweet, new Standard deck. For one thing, that would mean I had a sweet Standard deck. The truth of the matter is that I haven't been playing a lot of Standard because at 20-2 in matches on MTGO, I can't justify playing anything other than U/W Caw-Blade, but I haven't been having that much fun playing it.
Unsurprisingly, drafts haven't gone quite as well after publishing my last draft article, since other people take the cards I want higher.
While it wasn't exactly designed this way, the deck can easily be viewed as a 1-1 translation of Standard Caw-Blade. Brainstorm replaces Preordain; Jitte replaces the second equipment; Thopter Foundry replaces planeswalkers as the deck's finisher; Counterspell and Force of Will replace Mana Leak and Spell Pierce; Swords to Plowshares replaces Day of Judgment; and Aether Vial and Crucible essentially take land slots.
I'm not sure that Aether Vial is better than a land. It's something like a Sol Ring with suspend, except it can only cast eight of your spells. It makes them uncounterable instants, but it might not be worth it. I'm only playing one because the second one doesn't help at all, and it takes a land slot. Given that I want Mishra's Factory, I'm already pushing it on colored sources. This build only has 15 blue sources and 15 white sources, counting Aether Vial as white, compared to the 18 blue and 17 white in my Standard deck. Crucible helps, but it's still a little greedy. This is also why I'm not playing Academy Ruins.
The mana issue isn't that bad, since the requirements are a lot lighter.
Card By Card Breakdown
Squadron Hawk : Stoneforge Mystic is already seeing play in other decks in Legacy, so this is probably the card to justify. For the most part, it's here for the same reasons it's played in Standard. It gives you a lot of evasive bodies to carry the equipment Stoneforge Mystic finds, and it can protect planeswalkers. It has some additional benefits in Legacy.
Everyone knows how well Squadron Hawk works with Jace, but you probably also know it's less impressive than it looks because really, you're just winning with an active Jace. Squadron Hawk with Brainstorm is much more impressive because it doesn't hinge on resolving and untapping with Jace. Just resolve Squadron Hawk, cast Brainstorm, put back two Hawks, and cast the third, and your Brainstorm was a fully functional Ancestral Recall. The only problem is that you have to be able to find three Hawks at the same time without discarding, which makes the play much easier to set up with Aether Vial, which is one of the reasons I like playing Vial (early versions of the deck had more copies).
Also, Day of Judgment or Pyroclasm effects are less popular in Legacy than they are in Standard (take this deck, for example), and cards like Moat or Humility don't do a lot against Squadron Hawk. Squadron Hawk is amazing against things like Swords to Plowshares or even Hymn to Tourach.
Stoneforge Mystic : Stoneforge Mystic needs little introduction at this point. In Legacy, it's even better than in Standard or Extended, as the larger card pool gives several important additional options. Umezawa's Jitte is a huge upgrade over Sylvok Lifestaff to say the least, and incidental access to the Thopter combo is convenient.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor : This deck's playing a lot of relatively low-powered cards, and it relies more heavily on one-for-one trades than its Standard counterpart because of Swords to Plowshares. As a result, it really needs this to put a game away. It's also a blue card for Force of Will. Playing a fourth isn't entirely out of the question.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant : Something like a fourth Jace that dodges the legend rule and plays better with equipment, pretty clearly the next best planeswalker.
Thopter Foundry: This card is essentially covering for Gideon, and as a defensive card that can end a game quickly, it's pretty good at doing that. The deck has enough card selection that you can usually either find the combo or get rid of Thopter Foundry, and it's nice to have such a powerful plan B, especially in a deck that doesn't otherwise use the graveyard. It's also important that it's a blue card for Force of Will, unlike several other possible finishers, such as more planeswalkers or splashing green for Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary.
Sword of the Meek : Only one copy is necessary because Stoneforge Mystic can find it. It also happens to have a nice interaction with Squadron Hawk, particularly when you just happen to get the sword in your opening hand: Find enough extra Hawks that you have to discard the sword and then play your second Hawk as a 2/3.
Umezawa's Jitte : Just as good as it always was against creatures.
Sword of Feast and Famine : You usually want Jitte against creatures, and I think this is the best sword against control and combo on an unknown board, so it gets the slot over Sword of Fire and Ice. Untapping is particularly awesome with Thopter Foundry, not that you usually need both going to win. Green and black are some nice colors to have protection from.
Crucible of Worlds : It's hard for me to resist playing one Crucible of Worlds in Legacy. The first just gives you so much value with and against Wasteland, and it's also awesome with Mishra's Factory and fetchlands, particularly if you have Jace going. The fact that this deck can actually take advantage of all that extra mana is really just bonus.
Brainstorm: It's hard to say anything new about Brainstorm in Legacy. The interaction with Squadron Hawk is a big part of what's holding this deck together and what it's doing that other decks aren't doing as well.
Swords to Plowshares : Removal is necessary, and this card is just better suited to the format than mass removal, to say nothing of the power level upgrade.
Counterspell : There are a lot of counterspells available. This could be Mana Leak because of all the colorless lands, Spell Pierce, Daze, Spell Snare, or even Stifle, but I think all of them are too narrow. I think Counterspell should see more play than it does in Legacy.
Force of Will : If anyone actually plays this deck, I suspect the first change they'll make is to add the fourth Force of Will, and that's fine. The truth is I don't think Force of Will's a very good card except where you absolutely need it, and it's often not the card you want to see. Yes, if you draw two, you can pitch one to the other, but it's often rough to draw one shortly after using another. And I'm not a complete maniac; the fourth is in the board.
Lands: Karakas is questionable. I think it's powerful enough that it's worth having, but if I cut it, I'd play another fetch rather than a third Plains, and it's entirely possible that not tapping for blue is too big of a drawback. Actually, when I put it that way, I think I'd probably get a lot more mileage out of tapping for blue than bouncing legends, but I'll keep it listed as an option. Particularly if you can find another way to make the mana better.
I was at four Mishra's Factories, but I just had to mulligan too many double Factory hands. It's awesome to have extra creatures in the land slot to pick up equipment, but I'm really pushing it on colorless lands. It's possible that I should try Celestial Colonnade, at least as a one of, but it seems so expensive, and coming into play tapped seems like a serious drawback in a format with Wasteland.
The rest of the lands are pretty straightforward. I want to be able to play around Wasteland, but I don't need to worry about it that much because I have a much higher land count than most Legacy decks. I might even be able to trim a basic Island in favor of another fetch or some other dual.
This deck is a combination of a few different independent packages. Ideas can be taken from it and transplanted elsewhere or other packages could be slotted in. This is probably true of most decks. The easiest piece to remove is the Thopter combo. Sword of the Meek and three Thopter Foundries could be removed and replaced with any other four cards, but Force of Will gets pretty bad if none of those cards are blue.
One option would be to play four Stifles over those four cards to focus more on a land destruction theme with the Wastelands and to potentially pull ahead on tempo with the equipment. This takes away from the deck's closing power substantially, so I'd probably want to cut a removal spell or two and possibly a Stoneforge Mystic for more finishers, like more planeswalkers, or maybe something like Baneslayer Angel, or less extreme, like Vendilion Clique or Mirran Crusader.
Another option would be to trim a Thopter Foundry or two for Enlightened Tutors, presumably to make sideboarding better; unfortunately, without making a few other changes, it wouldn't have a lot of options in game one. I'd like to be able to deal with artifacts and enchantments, so a maindeck Aura of Silence to go with Enlightened Tutor might not be unwelcome. Note that this change creates a significant hit in blue cards, so Elspeth and/or the fourth Stoneforge Mystic might have to be replaced by blue cards.
My first version of the deck had more creatures and Sky Hussar. I wasn't happy with it, but I might've been doing something else wrong, like playing too many Aether Vials. It's possible that that option can work. Sky Hussar with Squadron Hawk is an interesting draw engine that can be very hard to remove, but it's slow.
I had one Sensei's Diving Top, but I decided it was too mana hungry when I'm trying to cast Hawks, move equipment, and potentially make Thopters, but playing a single Sensei's Diving Top isn't completely unreasonable in a deck that can shuffle its library this easily.
Sword of Fire and Ice or any of the other swords are entirely reasonable, particularly if you think their protections are likely to be particularly relevant.
This sideboard is much less refined than the maindeck, and it's built more for the online metagame than the physical metagame, so modifications are encouraged.
My first concern when building any blue control deck is how I can have game against Merfolk, since I'm going to be at a presumed disadvantage based on my archetype. Thopters are very good against them if and only if I can keep them off of Lord of Atlantis, so the first thing I want is more spot removal to make sure I can block, which is where Path to Exile comes in. I felt as though just casting a few one-for-ones wouldn't really make me win the game without a trump, which is where Baneslayer Angel and Seasinger came in. Moat and Wrath of God aren't bad, but they'll be difficult to resolve. My current plan has been to board out all of my countermagic against them, but I'm not completely sure that's right.
Ethersworn Canonist is for storm decks, especially High Tide. I don't love the way the matchup sounds, but Canonist, Sword of Feast and Famine, and counters should give you some game. If I expected a lot of High Tide, I'd want more Canonists, but I think card availability suppresses the deck both online and off (part of why the deck is so good is that people can't really justify properly hating it because not very many people can play it in any given tournament).
Baneslayer Angel is an excellent finisher against any aggressive deck, particularly if they're not white (for Swords to Plowshares). I've had good experiences with it against decks like Goblins and Affinity as a way to seal a game, since overloading on removal usually gives you time to play it.
Burrenton Forge-Tender is a presumably unnecessary nod to beating red decks, an easy cut from the board, really.
Relic of Progenitus is a token effort to have some chance against Dredge. If I expected Dredge to show up more, I'd play more cards if I actually wanted to beat it, but I like having access to Relic against decks with Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf anyway.
Manriki-Gusari is actually my best piece of forgotten technology with the broadest applications for the format, I think. At least online, I've been playing against a lot of other decks with Stoneforge Mystic, and tutoring this up has been insane every time. It can even come in against decks like Merfolk that have Umezawa's Jitte and not Stoneforge Mystic.
As I said, the sideboard is pretty up in the air, so changes are welcome. It's hard to discuss all the options, since there are so many valid sideboard cards in Legacy, and really, I don't have a great idea of how a lot of matchups are with this deck or what the metagame's like.
I think this kind of deck is powerful enough to be a consideration for Legacy, but I don't know that it's necessarily great. Regardless, I think there are some pieces that have applications in other places. When a deck dominates Standard and Extended, it only makes sense to try to push it back to Legacy though.
Thanks for reading,
@samuelhblack on Twitter