I am now a four-time SCG Open champion!
Last time you saw me write on this site it was about a fairly boring stock list of the Ad Nauseam Storm deck, but this time we get to talk about one of my sweet brews! For starters:
As some of you may recall, I won a Legacy Open awhile back in Cincinnati with a similar-looking Grixis Delver/Young Pyromancer deck. That deck played a creature base of Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, Dark Confidant, and a Grim Lavamancer. While the deck was powerful, I disliked the fact that every creature in the deck died to an Electrickery effect and could not realistically beat an Engineered Plague on Humans.
For this go-around I swapped out the Confidants for the Legacy all-star Deathrite Shaman, and things could not have gone better. Deathrite does a lot of powerful things and they all shine in this deck. While it might seem like a mana accelerant isn't that useful in a deck of all spells that cost one or two mana, the Delver strategy is so good at leveraging any advantage that it just fits in perfectly. A turn-one Shaman on the draw makes it feel like you're on the play again, and a turn-one Shaman on the play just puts you miles ahead.
This version of the deck is made up of ten for-ofs, with two extra spell slots in the main. The deck can basically be broken down into the following chunks:
These are how you win the game. Delver and Young Pyromancer are very efficient threats that can close out games very quickly, and Deathrite Shaman can help you to play more spells early game to get an early advantage and then close games out with the damage effect later. One of the big questions I hear about this deck is whether Young Pyromancer is better than Tarmogoyf in the Delver strategy. I think so, and it's not particularly close.
In any sort of fair matchup, Tarmogoyf may get a few hits in but will likely eventually be answered one-for-one. Young Pyromancer, on the other hand, can be played so that it will always get some amount of value even if it is killed on sight, and the longer it stays in play the larger of an advantage it will generate. Even against combo, Tarmogoyf will likely only be a 3/4 from the dearth of dead creatures, and that Kalonian Tusker-clone goldfishes nowhere near as fast as good ol' Young Peezy.
The only downside to my fiery friend in this comparison is his inherent weakness to sweeper effects like Golgari Charm or Pyroclasm. While these cards are generally confined to Legacy sideboards, they allow your opponent to sweep up the mess your Youngster has made. Even should this case occur, their two-of sideboard card is really only trading one-for-one with your threat and all the little buddies he just happened to bring along, and unlike Abrupt Decay (which cleanly answers Goyf) these sweeper spells can all be countered.
4 Daze, 4 Stifle, 4 Force of Will
These are the classic spells that help make the Delver tempo strategy so powerful in Legacy. Stifle has recently been on somewhat of a downswing in popularity, being eschewed in all of the Delver shells except for RUG, and honestly I have no idea why. Have you people never cast Stifle on a fetchland before? It's a feeling like no other and leads to so many free wins! These spells are used in combination with the four copies of Wasteland to make sure your opponent doesn't get to do what they were trying to do while your cheap, efficient threats close the game out.
Force of Will and Daze also give you plenty of game pre-board against combo decks, as your fast clock often forces them to attempt to go off with little protection. Traditionally, people advocate boarding out Force of Will in fair matchups in Legacy, but honestly I don't think I ever boarded out more than one copy on Sunday. The ability to trade with some amount of mana investment from your opponent for free is very powerful in a tempo shell, and the maximum amount of free spells are needed to make Young Pyromancer a very threatening card.
4 Brainstorm, 4 Ponder, 4 Gitaxian Probe
Certainly one of the cards in this group is the best card in Legacy. Traditional wisdom might point to Brainstorm, but I dunno. I'm a sucker for Gitaxian Probe. Seriously, knowing what's in your opponent's hand at all times is such an advantage in this format that I cannot possibly overstate it. Against combo, it's very important to know how close they are to comboing off and how much protection they have for it.
Against other tempo decks cards like Daze, Spell Pierce, Stifle and Wasteland are all things that must be played around, but it's so much better to just know if they actually have it. Even against reactive controllish decks, knowing what kind of answers they have and what the best plan is to beat them will improve your win percentage immensely. The fact that Probe is another free spell to make free creatures off of Young Pyromancer just pushes it over the top.
Brainstorm might be the actual best card in Legacy with the ability to be a virtual Ancestral Recall at times, and Ponder rounds out the cantrip suite by letting us have enough card selection to reliably find the parts of our deck that are good in particular matchups and net free value via Young Peezy along the way, but Gitaxian Probe gets my vote as MVP of this deck for the weekend.
These were the two flex slots for the deck. I decided I wanted a fifth burn spell to be able to reliably answer things like Stoneforge Mystic and opposing Deathrite Shamans, and Fire//Ice got the nod due to being the most versatile. It can be a thirteenth cantrip for Young Pyromancer, a blue card to pitch to Force of Will, and still does the job of burning small creatures and/or people's faces. The other considerations in that slot were Chain Lightning, Forked Bolt, and Abrupt Decay.
Edric, Spymaster of Trest is definitely the card I've gotten the most questions about. Partial namesake for the deck's moniker, Spy Kids, Edric is far from an entrenched Legacy staple. I can honestly admit at this point I really still don't know how good it is. As a one-of in a 60-card deck, I only drew Edric a small handful of times and only had the pleasure of casting him in Milwaukee twice. The first time, Edric drew me a card and then got answered (a two-for-one isn't too bad). The second time, Edric drew four cards and evoked a concession in a game I was very likely to win anyway.
With Dark Confidant being cut from the previous version of the deck, I wanted some way to generate actual card advantage and pull ahead from a midgame where maybe making four or five Elemental tokens wasn't quite enough to win. While I hardly got to live that dream, there were many other times where I had that scenario and would've loved to have drawn him. Being a one-of blue card in a deck with Force of Will and Brainstorm, you can always pitch it or shuffle it away if Edric isn't useful, so the opportunity cost is very low and the ceiling is very high. Other considerations for this slot included Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, True-Name Nemesis, or any other creature that also dies to Golgari Charm.
As far as the sideboard is concerned, I had a few interesting things that I feel are worth discussing:
This is honestly one of the big draws to playing this deck. Another reason I love playing four copies of Gitaxian Probe is that Cabal Therapy in combination with Young Pyromancer is absolutely bonkers. The dream scenario is the following:
- With Young Pyromancer in play, cast Gitaxian Probe for two life, make an Elemental, and record their hand.
- Cast Cabal Therapy naming some card you just saw, take all copies of the named card, and make another Elemental.
- Sacrifice a freshly made Elemental to flashback Therapy, shred their hand some more, and make another Elemental.
- They should be in tears by this point.
Against any combo deck, the traditional Delver tempo strategy of efficient threats backed up by countermagic combined with this pseudo-combo of Therapy shenanigans is very hard to beat. This card is one of the main reasons my combo matchup feels so very favorable in sideboarded games.
Just a good Legacy card in general, as it has plenty of applications. Obviously useful against Loam, Reanimator, Dredge, and Storm strategies, but I also bring it in against near any combo deck as there is a reasonable chance you can Cabal Therapy an important combo piece and Surgical them all. As with any free spell, this gains extra value with Young Pyromancers, and I often used them in Milwaukee as bad Gitaxian Probes just to see if the coast was clear or to see what cards to name with Therapy.
Good against BUG decks and their two best cards against you - Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm. For one mana, you can "counter" the uncounterable. For two, you can overload it and blank their sweeper effect, which is really their only way of getting back in a game where Young Peezy has run wild.
I wanted at least one out to a resolved True-Name Nemesis, and I really didn't want to kill all my precious Chris VanMeter tokens with Golgari Charm, so this one got the nod. Also good against Death and Taxes, Elves, and would probably bring in on the draw against Belcher as an out to Empty the Warrens.
If you love Delvering people to death and are tired of the same old U/W/R, RUG, and BUG lists, I wholeheartedly recommend giving in to the greed and playing four colors! It didn't seem to catch on much after my last Open Series win with him, but make no mistake about it - Young Pyromancer is for real. This win put me into the Top 8 of the Season Two Leaderboard for the SCG Players' Championship, so you can expect to see me at most other Opens in the Midwest chasing those points. I have some other brews in mind that I might bust out in Detroit in a few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled!