It must have been a shock to see me playing without Brainstorm in Legacy. One thing to consider is that some of my best finishes in Constructed have been with aggro-control decks including Legacy. In the last few months I've been trying to replicate some of that success as well as expand my skillset.
As far as Legacy is concerned most of those finishes were with BUG. These days BUG isn't exactly where you want to be. Black just doesn't provide much in Legacy. Hymn to Tourach is a good card but it's tempo negative in an otherwise tempo-fueled format. You also can't stop the top of the deck. Legacy is full of powerful cards and it only takes one topdecked Stoneforge Mystic or Jace the Mind Sculptor to kill you.
You might get frustrated by them “topdecking” against you and that's fair. You have to understand that nearly every card in there is awesome. Hymn is good for disrupting while you beat down with Tarmogoyf or gain a sizeable advantage with Dark Confidant but it's not for a control deck that wants to grind their opponent down to zero.
BUG was out of the question. RUG Tempo was out of the question. I don't like the idea of trying to win the die roll or play against careless opponents who won't play around my Stifles or Dazes. The discard spells in BUG have a lot of diminishing returns because once they have no hand it's basically the last thing you want to be drawing. Similarly the Dazes and Stifles in the RUG Tempo deck also have diminishing returns.
Ideally all of my spells would be live in any given situation. That just isn't the case with these aggro-control decks. Either you set up a winning board state in the first four turns or you're probably going to lose. That isn't the type of deck I want to play.
Bant was an option and one that has been doing very well in the recent Opens. I even 4-0ed a Tuesday night Legacy event at Star City Games and that helped cement my decision to play G/W. Whether or not I would actually play Brainstorm was still up in the air.
The main problems with the Bant deck were that despite playing blue it was actually pretty bad against combo decks. Force of Will wasn't doable as the blue card count was so low. Sure you could probably play two Forces but each time you cast it you'd be pitching another Force of Will a Spell Pierce or a Brainstorm. I'd rather just use those slots to interact with people by themselves.
I was definitely playing without Force of Will. The ultimate question was Mother of Runes or Brainstorm? The Bant deck struck me as a bit threat light but G/W maybe with Punishing Fire would force the issue every single turn. In addition there was Mother of Runes to back up your threats. It seemed like the better option.
- 2 Aven Mindcensor
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Mother of Runes
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Scryb Ranger
- 3 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Tarmogoyf
- 1 Gaddock Teeg
- 1 Dryad Arbor
As Drew Levin put it in his article HERE:
“This deck has a ton of play to it. It plays 21 lands and four mana accelerators to get out of the gates faster than an opponent. It plays three different tutors: threeStoneforge Mystic four Green Sun's Zenith and fourKnight of the Reliquary. It plays a suite of powerful one-ofs that can be tutored for to swing any given matchup. It hasMother of Runes a one-drop that singlehandedly negates a one-for-one removal strategy out of a blue control deck just by resolving and living until your second turn. It even plays twoElspeth Knight-Errantto go bigger than aggressive decks and generate a never-ending stream of threats against control decks.”
Drew did a good job on his article but the times have changed a little bit. We're now in a Delver-infested world and Punishing Fire has been adopted as the perfect splash. Blue adds stuff like Edric Spymaster of Trest Rhox War Monk Brainstorm Spell Pierce Daze and Jace. With nearly every non-Tarmogoyf creature in the entire format dying to Punishing Fire I'd rather play red.
Scryb Ranger: I considered playing a version with a lower land count a full boat of Quirion Rangers and fewer lands but that has its own set of problems. While most decks don't mind operating off one land this deck wants to be activating Knight of the Reliquary a lot. Because of that you want your lands in play not in your hand.
A single Scryb Ranger is very good but the mono-Quirion Ranger manabase (similar to the one in my G/W/B Survival deck from a while back) is something for a different deck. The one Scryb Ranger is a good Zenith target when you're stuck on lands need more than one activation of Mother of Runes or Knight of the Reliquary or are facing down a Delver or horde of Merfolk.
Some lists play more than one and that's understandable because it's a fine draw on its own. I don't think that's entirely necessary.
Mother of Runes: Some lists are shaving on these but I think Mother of Runes is one of the reasons to play the deck. There are so many decks out there with only four Swords to Plowshares for removal. How does that type of deck ever beat a Mother of Runes deck? There are so many must-kill threats and they just don't have enough Force of Wills to get the job done.
In the creature matchups “Mom” is equally valuable as the games quickly become ground stalls. She gets your Knight or Jitte-ed creature though and that's typically all it takes to win the game.
Knight of the Reliquary: The best card in the deck and one of the best in the format hands down. Any deck in the format is going to have a hard time beating an active Knight. Knight is why you play G/W; it's why you play Zenith; and it's why you play Mother of Runes.
Qasali Pridemage/Scavenging Ooze: These guys shouldn't be strictly Zenith targets. Naturally drawing them is fine and they seem to be undervalued by the community as a whole. I could see playing as many as four of each of these if the metagame called for it. Right now I want two Pridemages. Sometimes having one to tutor for just isn't enough. One Ooze is likely wrong but it was hard to gauge how good he would be without playing with him. After the Invitational I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that guy is pretty good.
Clever G/W decks used to play a Terravore to Zenith for against opposing Knights. With the release of Scavenging Ooze and Bojuka Bog starting to pop up in maindecks that doesn't seem warranted anymore.
Stoneforge Mystic: When I was playing Bant I was considering not playing this one. Stoneforge Mystic might be the most overrated card in Legacy. Mystic is way more vulnerable than Tarmogoyf is and it takes up more deck slots. Sure white might be a better color than green but so what?
I can't fathom playing a U/W Stoneforge deck in Legacy. In order for that deck to be good I feel like the equipment has to be good on its own. Right now the Stoneforge decks don't have enough creatures to make drawing their Swords good. If Stoneforge was going to live then you were going to win regardless of what your two-drop was.
Tarmogoyf: Surprisingly Goyf isn't good enough. Sure I played one but that was only to Zenith for a wall against aggro if I didn't have enough to Zenith for a Knight. For the most part Ooze is better because eventually it will be bigger and there are a number of decks that use their graveyard. Mystic is also better because Swords and Jittes are pretty good when you've got thirty creatures.
This deck isn't looking for a big beater. You want all of your guys to have utility of some sort and Goyf doesn't.
Aven Mindcensor: Most lists play two or three but I could see playing zero if there were no mirrors Natural Orders or decks with tutors like Intuition or Infernal Tutor. If you're playing Mindcensor trying to get their fetchlands or Stoneforge Mystics you're doing it wrong.
Gaddock Teeg: Sadly this guy isn't good against every single combo deck in the format. Show and Tell throws a big wrench into our plans. Teeg is still a good man though. If you can get Mother of Runes plus him in play against a Storm deck you probably win. Post-board against U/W Stoneblade that combination is pretty good against them as well.
Thrun the Last Troll: You will almost always just Zenith for a Knight if you need a big guy. However some games against Counterbalance or other removal heavy decks you'll probably find Thrun. It's a corner-case scenario so you'll probably play it in the sideboard if at all.
Swords to Plowshares: Let's be real—this is the best removal ever. You might be able to get by on Punishing Fire but you need something to take care of the heavy hitters. Dismember Submerge or graveyard hate with Punishing Fire might be able to get you there but if you're white Swords is where you want to be.
Equipment: Normally I'd say Umezawa's Jitte is worse than Batterskull. You usually want one piece for aggro matchups and the other for control or combo. If those slots overlap somehow great. Stoneforge into Batterskull is likely better than Jitte but if they kill your Mystic your Jitte is a lot better.
As far as the Swords are concerned I think Feast and Famine is the standby. Again this is a metagame choice much like the Pridemage and Ooze count. I could see Light and Shadow in a metagame populated by Dark Confidants and Swords to Plowshares. Fire and Ice might have a shot if U/R Delver continues to post good results. Hell it's even possible that Body and Mind is better than Feast and Famine.
I wouldn't fault you for playing either of the Swords as long as you had a good reason.
Elspeth Knight-Errant: Obviously Kibler would play this card. I played it in Bant and it was awesome. Decks like BUG RUG and U/W have a tough time killing this. In the mirrors it's almost unbeatable as well. However I didn't want to play it because I had other ways of breaking through and Punishing Fire to ensure they never got anything going.
Sylvan Library: I'm not a huge fan of Sylvan. In order for this to be better than Sensei's Divining Top you need to pay eight life. Sylvan could be close to Necro if you have a life-gaining equipment active but if that's the case you're winning anyway.
You don't need Sylvan to win.
Horizon Canopy: Sometimes you need your Knight to draw a card. Play one because that's all you need.
Dryad Arbor: Drawing this in your opener when you have Zenith is pretty awkward but I don't think it's worth playing two.
Maze of Ith: MJ argued against this one at first. He reasoned that Scryb Ranger plus Dryad Arbor creates your own Maze but that doesn't always work. For the most part when you untap with Knight it becomes very difficult for them to alpha strike past you. You'd be surprised how hard it is for some decks to beat a single Maze of Ith.
You can also attack with Knight of the Reliquary and untap it with Maze after it's dealt combat damage allowing you to attack and use it in the same turn.
Wasteland: This is a good one but I think we only need three. With an active Knight three should do it and you don't need to draw a bunch of them naturally.
Forest: Forest is good; Plains is not. Karakas and Wasteland are enough crappy lands to have in your deck. If you get rid of the Grove package then you have more room for basics. They'd be nice but not necessary.
Enlightened Tutor: For the most part I don't like the Tutor sideboard. This is a rare case though much like my Survival deck. Seeing as how the hate cards for combo don't overlap you really want a broad spectrum of cards. The fact that Gaddock Teeg and Ethersworn Canonist are tutorable and you have Mother of Runes kind of factors into my decision as well.
Even if Canonist or Teeg kolded all the combo decks out there playing three or four of them in your sideboard probably wouldn't do enough if Mom wasn't there. Having her for protection means that your bullet answers are much better.
Against Dredge you don't need that much help. You have Scavenging Ooze and Knight of the Reliquary (for Bojuka Bog) that only need a few turns to get active. Tutor for Crypt should give you those turns. Additionally there are lots of cool answers out there like Stony Silence (for Painter and Affinity) and Phyrexian Metamorph (for Emrakul and Progenitus).
Seeing as how this deck is about tutoring up specific answers and then protecting them if you can the Enlightened Tutor package in the sideboard gets my seal of approval. Do note that while I have Chokes in my sideboard I don't actually bring in the Tutors vs. the control decks. Choke-ing out Hive Mind or High Tide is pretty awesome though and it's probably worth Tutoring in those matchups.
Ideally I'd have something for matchups with Pernicious Deed or Perish like Karmic Justice but that doesn't seem worth bringing in Tutors for. Hive Mind could use some help as well but other than playing a very narrow Sundial of the Infinite I don't think you have a whole lot of options.
Nevermore looks kind of attractive but I think most decks have multiple win conditions. I guess in theory you could Gaddock Teeg out their Hive Minds or Sneak Attacks and then Nevermore Show and Tell. Maybe that's worth it.
I'd like a card that gains life or gets you out of burn range and maybe the best card for that is Circle of Protection: Red. We decided to just Tutor for Jitte in those situations but I could see playing a COP. Just note that while all these answers may seem great in theory you don't want to bog down your sideboard with situational one-ofs.
Bojuka Bog: This could very easily be maindeck in certain metagames. Either way I would want it in my 75 no matter what.
Tower of the Magistrate: It's always funny how the bigger a format gets very strange seemingly unplayable cards can become $10 staples. This is used to gain an edge on the equipment mirrors and could also be played maindeck. It would probably take the Maze's slot but I think I'd rather have Maze against the majority of decks.
Krosan Grip: Seeing as how Qasali Pridemage is good against a lot of decks I want some additional hate for crazy permanents. These are mainly used for Counterbalance or Painter's Servant. I could see siding them in against Stoneforge Mystic decks since their equipment is one of the few ways you could lose.
Artifact or enchantment based decks aren't a big part of any Legacy field but Legacy is crazy. There are always going to be people playing stuff like Enchantress or some sort of Ensnaring Bridge deck so playing answers to a wide-open field is pretty nice.
Path to Exile: Against some matchups you want more removal and this is the next best one. Simple as that.
Pyroblast: I like these. While playing with the G/W deck I often felt a little helpless and Pyro alleviated some of that stress. They complement the Chokes quite well as you get something to actually force them through or protect them. I suggest Pyro instead of Red Elemental Blast in case someone Phantasmal Images your Knight or something. Those types of interactions are corner case but it's worth noting.
Life from the Loam: I like to side this in against decks with Wasteland or Hymn to Tourach or those where Wasteland locking them is a viable option. Drawing one is always fine but I wouldn't ever want to draw multiples. A miser's copy seems sufficient and will validate the use of a sideboard slot in any game you draw it.
Faerie Macabre: If you're playing without the Tutor sideboard this is the graveyard hate you probably want. It's hard to stop and it's hard to see coming. Again all you typically need is time against graveyard decks and this gives it to you.
Sylvan Safekeeper: This seems good in theory but likely isn't. If you're Zenith-ing for it you'd probably rather Zenith for a Knight. Maybe it would be fine to Zenith for on turn two in order to protect your turn-three Knight but what happens when they start targeting your Safekeeper with removal? I'd rather save the Zenith for another Knight.
Dueling Ground: I could see playing this against a swarm deck like Goblins or Merfolk but those decks don't really exist. On top of that it should be pretty easy for Merfolk to just attack you with a Coralhelm Commander every turn. You still have Scryb Ranger though. I wouldn't play this just because I wouldn't want to side in Tutors against aggro and also because it's not that good.
Onto the matchups!
BUG: Your goal should be to untap with Knight of the Reliquary in play or connect with an equipment. You want to bait out their removal but be careful not to get Hymned out of the game. This is usually an easy matchup but their sideboard cards are going to be much better than yours. You should expect Perish or Pernicious Deed.
After that it becomes a little rougher but they rarely develop their manabase to the point where they can play Deed and use it. Your best bet is to keep a Pridemage around for just such an occasion.
One thing you'll notice is that I'm going to refer most of these matchups as “close.” That's true but it's more of a close feeling during the games even though Maverick will end up winning.
RUG Delver: This one is kind of like BUG except way easier. They can't kill your Knights don't have Hymn and don't have sweepers. As long as you don't get blown out by Wasteland and Stifle you should be good.
U/R Delver: This one is a little scarier if only because they have Price of Progress and Sulfuric Vortex. Play around POP if you can and if that involves Waste-ing your own lands so be it. The same rules apply to the RUG matchup. They will probably lose.
U/W Stoneforge: Game one should be easy going especially if you draw Punishing Fire. They have no card in their deck that beats it and they certainly don't have enough Wastelands. Post-board things get kind of interesting when they have access to Wrath of God. Mother of Runes plus Gaddock Teeg basically locks them out though.
Show and Tell: This one is the easiest of the combo decks. Emrakul isn't very good because of Knight into Karakas and Tutor for Metamorph. If you can hold your Knight so they don't know if you have one when they cast Show and Tell.
Progenitus is a tougher threat to deal with but there are options. You can swarm past it race it with Jitte or kill it with Metamorph.
Ad Nauseam: They have the ability to kill you on turn one but if they wait too long past that you should be able to lock up the game. Again these combo matchups seem close but if you mulligan aggressively you should win your fair share. Thankfully Legacy isn't populated with these complicated unfun decks.
Zoo: This one should be easy enough. Your guys are bigger than theirs and the big Zoo deck usually dominates the little Zoo. That said preserve your life total once you stabilize. You shouldn't have to enter into any race situations.
If you expect Islands and creatures with little combo may I recommend sleeving some Savannahs? I even beat the combo decks I played against at the Invitational! What more do you want? Maverick while being a “mopey” creature deck that might not appeal to some people is probably one of the most underrated decks at least in the United States.
If there were a Legacy tournament tomorrow (and I wanted to win more than have fun) there is no other deck I'd be playing with.
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