Hello SCG readers! I am a Legacy player from Plan 9 Comics a small card shop in the mountains of North Carolina. I recently Top 8ed GP Providence with this beast of a deck:
Rather than give a tournament report laced with certain errors I am going to explain my list card by card. This article should be a beneficial read for anyone who wishes to learn more about playing the Painter-Welder strategy in Legacy or for anyone who simply wishes to expand their horizons on the Legacy format. Let's begin.
How This Deck Wins
The goal of the deck is to resolve Painter's Servant and Grindstone and target the opponent with Grindstone's ability. This will result in milling the opponent's entire deck. Some cards in the opponent's deck that may interfere with this strategy are Progenitus Darksteel Colossus Blightsteel Colossus or any of the Eldrazi that shuffle the graveyard into the library when they hit the yard from anywhere. Progenitus and the Colossi will give the opponent one additional turn to live if there is only one in the opponent's deck. Multiples of these cards will result in an automatic game draw due to an infinite loop. Emrakul and his crew will make game ones extremely difficult and almost unwinnable. The only solution to the Eldrazi is cracking a sideboarded Tormod's Crypt while the Emrakul trigger is on the stack.
This little dude is what makes all the action happen. Some of the most common cards to play around in this format include: Daze Force of Will Spell Snare Lightning Bolt Swords to Plowshares and Thoughtseize. Sending Painter onto the battlefield conservatively is most effective against most of these hate cards with the obvious exception being targeted discard. The abysmal 36.51% win percentage of Junk in the SCG Louisville Open is strong supporting evidence of non-blue discard-reliant decks sitting at the lower tables or hopefully being left at home. Although the deck should still be played aggressively keeping mana up for Red Elemental Blast is correct almost all of the time in this metagame and playing around Daze is still very relevant.
Painter significantly impacts the game state in ways other than the namesake combo; a player should never underestimate the importance of naming the correct color. Naming blue with Painter's Servant turns your Red Elemental Blasts into one-mana instant-speed Vindicate / Counterspell split cards which is absolutely insane. It allows Force of Will and Misdirection to remove any card in your hand from the game to fulfill their alternative casting cost and it makes Llawan Cephalid Empress a frightening sight for any midrange deck that is reliant on big slow creatures to win. Although naming blue synergizes with the deck in many ways blue can also turn on the opposing player's Forces or sideboard Red Blasts. Naming black can often protect your Painters and Welders against Ghastly Demise or Snuff Out the first of which is somewhat common removal in Team America–style decks. Opposing creatures with color protection can also be relevant at times. The lesson here is that snap-naming a color is never correct and there will always be one color that is better or worse than the others in any given situation.
It may seem funny to mention but attacking with Painter is important if an attack would be obviously appropriate. The occasional game will be won through the big beats of Painter and Welder. With that being said a player should never attack when Painter has the potential of blocking or preventing damage for value. A player should never attack when there is an Aether Vial that could send in a deadly blocker or even a little attacker for the opponent's following turn. A player should never attack when the opponent has mana open for Vendilion Clique. Attacking is important to remember but keeping Painter alive in uncertain situations is more important.
Instant mill! Besides the fact that this deck is highly consistent and well-positioned in the current metagame the satisfaction of instantly milling your opponent's entire deck with this one-drop artifact is priceless.
Although this trinket is the win con of the deck it also plays two major roles for utility. Grindstone + Top creates a nice synergy when a player really needs to dig for those Painters. Remembering the shared color clause of the card is important in allowing Grindstone to go even deeper at times. Grindstone + Welder is similar to the Top synergy but it costs less mana and is a very frightening play for the opponent to see at the end of their turn.
This guy is the primary reason for playing this deck over other versions of Painter Grindstone. Some decks simply cannot handle him an example being the popular Merfolk lists. A resolved Welder against Merfolk is pretty much game over and that matchup should be played in accordance with that principle.
Welder plays multiple roles in the deck:
- He helps bring back your combo pieces after they are countered destroyed or discarded.
- He wins the game with an end-of-turn Intuition for Grindstone Painter's Servant LED and two (or sometimes one) artifacts in play. Different Intuition piles may be appropriate depending on whether a piece of the combo has already hit the board. An example situation of where a Welder + Intuition would immediately end the game would be if there is a Painter and a Welder in play with one mana open after the Intuition during your main phase. A pile of Grindstone Grindstone LED will cause the opponent to pick the Grindstone at which time the player can cast the Grindstone weld the LED into play and win.
- He turns Top into a ridiculous draw engine helping push the consistency of the combo into the late game. To abuse Top with Welder a player must activate the Top tap ability retain priority and weld the Top while the draw ability is on the stack. This will create free card draw and the Top will remain in the graveyard.
- He swaps artifact lands in and out for mana-fixing or Wasteland protection.
- He protects Painter from Swords to Plowshares. It's important for the Painter pilot to always be aware of this and to play defensively in a situation when the opponent probably has Swords in hand.
- He interacts insanely with Tormod's Crypts against graveyard decks if there are enough artifacts in play to support him.
- He can win the game with a Grindstone as the only artifact in play and a Painter in the graveyard. To do this the player activates the Grindstone retains priority and welds the Grindstone out for the Painter with the ability on the stack.
- He interacts with opponents' artifacts which is important to apply to the Affinity matchup when facing a lethal Cranial Plating or all-in Arcbound Ravager. This can also be useful against difficult cards such as Chalice of the Void and Engineered Explosives. Swapping and resetting Aether Vials comes in handy at times.
In conclusion Welder plays the roles of:
I am not an expert on singles prices but I wouldn't be surprised to see Welder shoot up in the near future.
Intuition is insane in this deck. As mentioned before an Intuition + Welder allows the player to search for both combo pieces and a Lion's Eye Diamond with this three-mana instant. Piles of three Painters or three Grindstones are common and a pile of three Welders is occasionally the correct play. The versatility of this tutor is amazing.
The instant speed of this card should be used to the player's advantage but it should not always be played at the end of an opponent's turn. Also Daze can be an issue for Intuition but stompy lands and Mox Opal attempt to fix this issue.
Transmute Artifact fills a flex spot in the deck. Some people play Trinket Mage but Transmute Artifact is both more flexible and more explosive than the blue bear. Although the 2/2 body on Trinket Mage is nice at times this deck should not be played in a metagame where that is relevant and subpar card choices should not be made off of a sketchy alternative win condition.
There is a high chance that the opponent will call a judge for the oracle text of this card. One aspect of this card that makes it so good is that sacrificing is not part of the cost and a target does not have to be declared upon casting. The mana is also paid upon resolution and the card can even act as an Entomb if there is not enough mana available for the artifact needed.
Transmute Artifact is a good card to side out for games two and three. Game one is all about consistency of the combo whereas games two and three need to make room for more protection from Blasts.
Top is amazing by itself and it gets even better with Welder. Metalcraft Mental Misstep in the format and Welder interactions make this card an automatic four-of in the deck. It can be a good strategy to bait a Misstep with Top if a Welder needs to resolve. There is not much to say about this card; good card is good.
Blue combo deck with fetchlands? Brainstorm belongs in this deck.
Free countermagic to protect the combo against any spell is very good. It is even better when any card can be pitched to Force with Painter naming blue.
Mental Misstep completely breaks this deck wide open. Ironically this card probably keeps people away from this deck with Welder Grindstone and Sensei's Divining Top being important one-cost spells. Misstep helps this deck against almost every bothersome spell in the format—Swords to Plowshares Lightning Bolt Spell Snare Thoughtseize other Mental Missteps etc. Learning how to master this card requires a lot of playtesting against a variety of matchups. I was too trigger-happy with Misstep at the beginning of my testing endeavors and I found that I had already used my Misstep when I needed it most. Allowing a Green Sun's Zenith for zero to resolve is often the correct play as those decks will often have Swords to Plowshares or even Mental Missteps of their own in their hand.
2 Red Blasts
With Painter naming blue these blasts can protect against any hate. It may be relevant to destroy a maindeck Phyrexian Revoker or even a lethal Tarmogoyf. Blasting Force of Wills or Mental Missteps is equally common and effective. Blue players will twitch when their Force of Will is countered with a maindeck Pyroblast.
This zero-cost artifact can create very explosive turn 2 wins but that's not why it's in the deck. Lion's Eye Diamond helps the winning consistency of Intuition piles when there is a Welder in play. The early iterations of this deck ran at least three of these but Mental Misstep creates a stronger protection suite and one copy is currently more appropriate. A player can easily board out the LED in slower matchups.
3 Mox Opal
Turn 1 Seat of Synod Sensei's Divining Top Mox Opal is very powerful. Mox Opal is consistently online by turn 2 and it can create some seriously broken lines of play. It's sometimes correct to board out one of these if many slots are needed.
The mana base is both stable and explosive. Fetchlands interact well with Brainstorm and Top and the stompy lands help create quick wins and turn 2 Intuitions. The artifact lands are necessary for metalcraft and Welder interactions.
3 Red Blasts
Red Blasts answer anything with Painter naming blue and some matchups will require a large amount of hate for the hate that they will bring in against Grindstone. Phyrexian Revoker Pithing Needle and Null Rod are examples of hate cards that are easily answered by Red Blasts. Apart from dealing with the hard hate these Red Blasts are also great at killing the decks that are already blue Merfolk being the prime example. Five Red Blasts is the last thing a Merfolk player wants to be playing against especially in addition to the following sideboard card:
Three is the magic number for Intuition. Llawan crushes Merfolk after Misstepping their Aather Vial and it is equally effective against the midrange Bant strategies. During Day 2 of the GP I played a timely Llawan which bounced a Phyrexian Revoker and sword-equipped Goyf allowing me to easily take the game. Llawan may not be the correct call in every metagame but Bant and Merfolk are both very popular right now which certainly merits a slot for a large tournament.
This was a very metagame-dependent call. Blood Moon is used to beat Team America and BUGstill decks. It is essentially a one-card kill that wins the game if they do not have a threat in play. Those matchups are generally difficult to deal with and the Blood Moons are used to make them winnable.
Misdirection has the potential of completely winning the game against Junk or any deck running Hymn to Tourach. My round 8 opponent began game two with Mox land Hymn. I Misdirected his Hymn and he was left with one card in hand at the end of turn 1. Misdirection has great flexibility for a variety of matchups and it proved to be my MVP sideboard card at the GP. How are these only $10?
Graveyard hate gives a lot of bang for the buck in the matchups when it's brought in. Whether the opponent is playing Lands or Dredge Tormod's Crypt will end up being the most important card in the 75 for that match. Playing three of these lets Intuition find it in a crunch and it increases the possibility of beating Emrakul post-sideboard.
Well that concludes my long-winded explanation of the Painter-Welder strategy in Legacy. Hopefully I provided some insight for anyone wanting to give this deck a spin or simply become more knowledgeable of the Legacy format. Feel free to hit me up if you see me at an event! I hope to attend some of the SCG Opens this year.
Until next time