At the recent SCG Open Series in Dallas, Glenn Jones asked a few players if they thought any of the Gatecrash cards were going to Eternal formats. You can find their answers here.
In case you are actively trying to avoid clicking links, these were their answers: no, no, "innocent-looking cards can turn out to be mistakes," no. Well, as it turns out, John Dale Beety had a pretty good answer.
Clearly, when these cards were being designed and developed by the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast, they were not designing them for Legacy. However, here we are, exploiting loopholes with nearly every Magic: The Gathering card ever created at our disposal.
What good is a mill card in Legacy? Is this some sort of sick anti-Goblin Charbelcher tech? Nope. Think outside the box. What happens if we target ourselves instead? And what happens if we don't have any lands in our deck?
Oops, all spells!
That's right: we get to mill our entire deck! In Legacy, milling your entire deck is a kill on the spot if you so desire. It's why Hermit Druid is banned and Cephalid Illusionist is better than Cephalid Shrine. After milling your entire library, the cleanest kill is returning three Narcomoeba, sacrificing them to Dread Return and returning an Angel of Glory's Rise. The Angel will return an Azami, Lady of Scrolls and a Laboratory Maniac, both of which are Human Wizards. This gives you the ability to draw a card and win the game on the spot. There are other Dread Return combinations (involving The Mimeoplasm mostly), but none fewer than three creatures.
Wait, did you say we don't get to play any lands? That's quite a big deal! Aren't they your favorite card type, Adam? How are we going to cast our spells? Well, I have a friend that isn't a big fan of lands. His name is Michael Augustine.
While Goblin Charbelcher decks have long used a single land in their deck in order to play four Land Grant, Mike Augustine has played a Goblin Charbelcher deck with zero lands for a long time. Mike is an expert in Recross the Pathsmanship, and he recently played a zero-land deck to a Top 32 finish at the SCG Legacy Open in Columbus.
Yes, you read that correctly. Zero. Lands.
Recross the Paths is another obscure card and is the reason this deck plays no lands. With no lands in it, Recross the Paths allows you to stack your deck. You can kill with only the top two cards (or three mana and the top card) in this deck. (The basic stack is LED, Probe, Mediate, LED, LED, LED, Probe, Charbelcher in case you were wondering; this might come up later...)
And if you don't want to watch this in action, you must not like fun!
One evening during my stream, we were talking about Recross the Path and Gatecrash spoilers, among other things. In the chat was Legacy Superstar Jason Abong (of Super Mario fame), and boy did he have a doozy for us. He posted a Legacy decklist with Undercity Informer as I was skimming past it while reviewing cards. Balustrade Spy had not been spoiled yet, but Jason already had a deck built. Stealing from his blog, Jason's list looked like this the day Undercity Informer was spoiled.
Obviously, Balustrade Spy made its way into this deck the second it was spoiled, but I'd like to give credit to Jason for creating the first version of this deck (and for being pretty awesome in general!).
Why Undercity Informer and Balustrade Spy? The primary reason is to avoid situations where you have to pass the turn once or twice in order to draw the top cards of your library. For a same turn kill, Recross the Paths requires an additional two cyclers (or three mana and a cycler). This effectively adds to the number of cards you need to for a kill. Undercity Informer and Balustrade Spy kill instantly. Four mana + either one of these cards + no lands in deck = one game win.
Let's build the deck, shall we?
0 Lands (!)
This is important, as our deck does not function with even a single land. If we did something along the lines of four Land Grant and a Bayou, we would not win any games where we did not draw one of these.
If you are allowed to play eight copies of a one-card combo, I would recommend it.
The kill. While technically you only have to play three Narcomoebas, I feel it's wise to avoid situations where it is awkward to draw one. If you happen to draw one of your kill cards, you can Cabal Therapy yourself to get it into the graveyard. If you draw two of them, you will likely need to cast Balustrade Spy in order to provide a fifth creature to Dread Return + Therapy yourself twice. There are definitely some corner cases that could be discussed here, but I don't consider them terribly important. If you are deathly afraid of drawing your combo pieces, I recommend Phantasmagorian instead of Cabal Therapy, but Cabal Therapy actually has some use as protection for your combo. Whatever you do, you cannot imprint any of the singletons on...
Well, our combo involves playing a black card, and we can't have lands in our deck. These are the cards that can make a black mana on turn 1.
Eight cards aren't enough to make some starting mana, so we'll have to play the other ways to generate our first mana as well. Summoner's Pact functions almost exclusively as an Elvish Spirit Guide, but you have to get to four mana without lands somehow. Unfortunately for us, our combo cards cost black mana, and we need a way to change these into black mana.
In addition to making your deck smaller, Manamorphose is pretty good at correcting your colors of mana. In this case, turning Spirit Guide mana into black mana. Wild Cantor is more speculative, but with Summoner's Pact in the deck, I don't see a good reason not to try one out. By virtue of costing one and only needing to convert one mana, Wild Cantor is much better than Burning-Tree Emissary. I could see cutting Wild Cantor if it underperforms, but I can't say the same for Manamorphose. Manamorphose is likely one of the better cards in the deck.
While we have 20 cards that produce starting mana, we still have to get to four mana on turn 1. That's where these cards help out. Basically, if you're only going to play one turn, you can't wait until turn 4 to draw your fourth mana source. You need it in your hand right away. Dark Ritual is by far the best accelerant in the deck, as it provides two extra mana. Cabal Ritual will almost never reach threshold because simply aren't enough cards that go to the graveyard.
There might be some merit here. Considering that your kills cost 3B, this turns two into three and is likely an acceptable accelerator. It's at one for now, but it's entirely possible that more could be correct. There aren't many places where Grim Monolith is all that different from Cabal Ritual, truth be told.
Basically, both cards are worthless without the other. You will often draw one of your kill cards to make Infernal Tutor not hellbent, and without Infernal Tutor, Lion's Eye Diamond doesn't really make mana for anything other than the one-mana activation cost on Undercity Informer.
This is basically a bad version of one of your primary kill cards. With twelve cyclers, finding one of your eight cards that kill people is not an issue (you end up with two or more far more than you end up with zero). This could be used as a Wild Cantor (by fetching Bayou), but in general, it's not that exciting. Two mana is so much when you don't get untap steps.
These make the deck smaller and really help out with our sideboard plan. Gitaxian Probe also helps Cabal Therapy should you have the luxury to cast one on your opponent. Street Wraith being black for Chrome Mox actually helps out quite a bit, although additional copies of Spy/Informer are generally the first cards under the Mox. There is a real cost to these cards in that they make your mulligan decisions more ambiguous. It can be tough needing to find something specific with a cycler, but I think it's the best way to find things to play.
I expect it. Also, consider yourself unfollowed on Twitter.
This is potentially a huge addition. Sometimes I get the feeling that if this deck can support a full four copies of Pact of Negation (perhaps by cutting the Street Wraiths), it can become a true monster. Right now I don't feel the deck is robust enough to get turn 1 wins reliably to cut even a free cycler such as Street Wraith.
This leaves our maindeck at the following:
This is likely the deck featuring the highest percentage of turn 1 kills in the format. This is a good thing considering that that's what we've built our deck to do! I don't have any hard statistics, but based on some goldfishing by Jason, Michael, and myself, I would estimate somewhere between 35 and 40% of the time you can kill your opponent on turn 1, provided that the opponents are incapable of spoiling our fun. This may not seem like it is good enough, but every extra turn you can wait is another card, which increases your chances drastically. Some decks don't provide relevant interaction on turn 1 (or turn 2, or ever if you are Cedric Phillips).
To the sideboard!
Truth be told, you should probably not sideboard all that much. You are incredibly weak to graveyard hate, so that's important to address. That being said, I'm not sure how I want to build the sideboard to be honest. Instead, I will present a few different directions you can take it.
Those are three perfectly legit options. Not sideboarding puts pressure on your opponent to have a card from a fairly narrow range of cards but leaves you powerless against them. There is some decent math in support of Charbelcher decks not sideboarding.
Basically, there is little you want to do to tweak your deck. There simply aren't cards that you want to bring in to power through things. Your core engine is too important to water down with reactive cards in my opinion. If you are interested in a purely anti-hate sideboard, which I cannot recommend, I might suggest something like this:
You'd probably be siding out your Gitaxian Probes and Street Wraiths for these cards. The Chain of Vapors in particular seem difficult to cast, but there are problem permanents you need to remove, including but not limited to an active Deathrite Shaman and Leyline of the Void. Pact and Unmask are for Force of Will and other counterspells as well as Surgical Extraction. Leyline of Sanctity is for discard spells. In reality, I would never register this sideboard.
With this sideboard transformation, you'll take out four Balustrade Spy, three Undercity Informer, four Narcomoeba, one Dread Return, one Angel of Glory's Rise, one Laboratory Maniac, and one Azami, Lady of Scrolls. It's unfortunate that you leave in an Undercity Informer, but you're hoping you can imprint it on Chrome Mox or it will stay out of your hand. Basically, you are trying to get to seven mana. Lion's Eye Diamond is crucial for this because it is incredibly difficult to get to seven mana without three of it coming from LED.
You also get Pact of Negation as an additional protection card, so you can sometimes afford to wait a little bit against some decks. Spoils of the Vault is a card that can kill you on the spot, but you desperately need a Tutor for one of your combo pieces. This is essentially the same deck as the maindeck, but instead of trying to find four mana and one card you play eight copies of, you are trying to find four mana and two cards you play four copies each of, except that you get four very sketchy Tutors and three free counterspells instead of eight dead cards.
Authors Warning: Nobody actually understands this next section. Feel free to skip it.
Now we're going off the deep end. This sideboard is just like the previous transformational sideboard except that you keep the Laboratory Maniac and can side out all of the Informers. I will admit to being a complete amateur with Doomsday. The true professionals cast five Burning Wishes and make some convoluted loops so that they can get Tendrils of Agony. I will do no such thing. Here are the three sequences you can do with this sideboard (that I know of):
- If you have two cyclers and Doomsday: stack Lion's Eye Diamond, Gitaxian Probe, Manamorphose, Manamorphose, Laboratory Maniac. Cycle to draw the top two cards. Play LED, then Probe, cracking LED in response. Cycle to the bottom of your deck, then cast Laboratory Maniac. If you can draw a card right away, sweet. If not, hope they don't have a removal spell! This is probably the least likely of Doomsday scenarios.
- If you have nothing but a Doomsday, stack Shelldock Isle, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and three Lotus Petal: draw a card (preferably by cycling, but maybe through your draw step). Play the Shelldock Isle, putting Emrakul under it. Next turn, play a Lotus Petal to activate the Shelldock Isle, giving you an extra turn. This kill is incredibly vulnerable to lots of things, but at least they are mostly different than the things we normally care about. Karakas, Wasteland, any mill card such as Thought Scour (we only have two attacks with Emrakul), and a flying block and six other permanents are all things we cannot beat.
- If you have a cycler, one mana and a LED (or four mana and a cycler) with your Doomsday: stack Infernal Contract, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Laboratory Maniac, and a cycler. Use your cycler, cracking LED in response to make black mana to cast Infernal Contract and draw the last four cards. Using the one mana from before, cast the Laboratory Maniac with the Petals, and then cycle for the win. If you have Just a LED + cycler, you can pass the turn with Maniac in play just by getting three Petals.
- Finally, the Recross the Paths stack. If you can cast Recross the Paths, your basic pile is LED, cycler, Infernal Contract, LED, LED, Lotus Petal, cycler, Goblin Charbelcher. You need to draw the top two cards either by having a LED in play or having an extra cycler or two in hand.
There you have it, Magic: The Gathering as Richard Garfield himself intended. I'd like to thank all the people that helped me with this, including but not limited to Jason Abong, Michael Augustine, Ari Lax, and AJ Kerrigan.
Truth be told, I'm not sure how good this deck is. It's clearly a huge glass cannon, but the number of cards that successfully interact with it is incredibly small, especially when we are on the play. I will probably stick to trying to make ten copies of Tendrils of Agony for the time being, but I find decks like this to be fascinating exercises on how you can push the limits of rather unassuming cards. Decks like this can be powerful, but I worry about things like this. If this is actually format defining, then bans are probably needed in the near future. After all, Hermit Druid is banned! I don't think this deck will define Legacy, but you can't make something broken if you don't try. Hopefully this article has been helpful, even if only as a deckbuilding exercise.
Oops, all spells!
Thanks for reading,
I am Simic. Loves: Drawing cards, playing extra lands, convoluted cards. Dislikes: Reckless aggression, removal spells, pants.