In August last year I wrote "Ten To Play," suggesting ten cards I felt should see more play in Legacy than they did at the time. The article was well-liked and caught a couple of nice rising stars, I feel, and might have proven even more useful if True-Name Nemesis hadn't appeared to mess with the format's creature base. Looking at the current meta, another ten cards just begging to see more play have accumulated in my mind so I thought I'd share those with you. Now that you know what today will be all about, let's get going already!
The Man in the High Castle
Let's start with a card that can be a little harder to come by:
Moat has some pretty steep requirements. It wants to be in a heavy white deck that both tries to control the board and isn't planning to attack itself with groundpounders such as Stoneforge Mystic. However, there's one deck that fits that description naturally: Miracles. And boy is Moat good when your deck can support it. Most Delver decks are suddenly reduced to mainly Delvers as threats, which is very rarely enough against a deck with Swords to Plowshares and Terminus. Against Blade decks, it allows you to shut of half their angle of attack, turning the match into a full-on Jace war, a fight you're well equipped for when they have ~10 dead cards in their deck. Death and Taxes loses most of its offense, Jund suddenly really is down to Liliana of the Veil and Punishing Fire recursion, and Elves needs enchantment removal before it can continue to deploy its beatdown plan or Natural Order combo finish. At casting cost four, the enchantment is even out of Abrupt Decay range.
To boil things down, Moat can almost single-handedly shut down a majority of fair strategies in the format for the rest of the game, which is a big enough pay off that I-and everybody I've gotten to try the card-have been very happy with it. Of note, while it is largely dead in the combo matchups, I've seen Dredge decks that can't actually win through Moat, at least Game 1, and have Counterbalanced Sneak Attack with the Legends Enchantment before.
The next one I'd like to talk about is for sideboard usage only. Legacy has been blue enough lately for Miracles to successfully play maindeck Red Elemental Blast, a clear indication there are a lot of Islands floating around. You know what's a real beating when your opponent has a majority of Islands in play?
Turns out turning all your opponent's lands-or at least most of them-into Lotus Petals is some good. A number of decks can play some semblance of a game with their non-Islands, admittedly, but the decks that have those usually are quite mana hungry-and that's assuming you can't Wasteland their working lands. And yes, BUG lists can Abrupt Decay it. However, if you have the manabase to support Choke-Forests and no Islands-you likely have more than enough Abrupt Decay targets already, and correctly timing your hoser enchantment should ensure they need to make two land drops before they can actually set that plan in motion, meaning two turns for you in which your opponent doesn't actually do anything else. So even if it doesn't just win the game outright, it should allow you to draw ahead significantly.
At the Drop of a Needle
I expect this duo will elicit a reaction similar to Leyline last time-they're already seeing play, after all. As with that one, however, I feel these little stingers don't actually see enough play in my opinion:
A number of decks already use these both maindeck and in the sideboard, with Death and Taxes being the primary representative. The disruption value of shutting down particular activated abilities is extremely high right now, however. Equipment, Sensei's Divining Top, Sneak Attack, Aether Vial, Deathrite Shaman, and a multitude of other important cards fall prey to either of them. Each also gets a particularly high-value specialty target (Lion's Eye Diamond in Revoker's case, Wasteland and Karakas for Needle) to take care of.
I can see these being used in almost any deck right now. Personally I've been quite happy with Needle in my Miracles sideboard and I've watched one of our local players, Johannes Heibach, totally ruin his opponents with maindeck Needles in Reanimator. Basically his observation was that the two main things he lost to in Game 1 were Deathrite Shaman and Karakas and the deck plowed through most other forms of interaction opponents were trying to bring to bear. Those two happen to be perfect targets to shut down with Needle. I know he has turned his innovation into at least one tournament win against Death and Taxes so far, and I suspect emulating his innovation could help many others succeed.
Let's continue with another trinket that doesn't see enough play:
With Miracles and Delver decks at the top of the format-depending on which side of the pond you're living on-Engineered Explosives is a brutally efficient card right now. Against Delver, it either sweeps one-drops or kills any amount of flipped Delvers for just two mana. Against Miracles, Explosives gives you another way to break out of the Counterbalance lock (because you can overpay on X while spending only two colors) or preemptively answer a flock of Angels. In other news, Explosives can also deal with Liliana of the Veil, Stoneforge Mystic, Nimble Mongoose, True-Name Nemesis, Aether Vial, the majority of the Death and Taxes deck-and every time there's a chance to get more than a one-for-one out of the best Powder Keg ever.
With the format the way it is right now, Explosives seems interesting for a wide variety of decks as long as they play at least three colors. For many, it's a way to have additional creature removal while also hedging against non-creature permanents. For some decks like Storm, it covers hatebears admirably-Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in particular due to the interaction between sunburst and cost increase-while also offering another way to interact with Counterbalance and Chalice of the Void. I believe that, if your deck can support them, finding a slot or two for Engineered Explosives in the sideboard is likely to increase your win percentage almost across the board right now.
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Speaking of sideboard sweepers that are just super-efficient right now, why is it that only Storm seems to be playing this doozy?
Yes, if you're playing a BUG deck, be it Delver-based, Deathblade or Shardless, Massacre will usually kill a lot of your creatures, too. It will, however, also devastate every creature in Stoneforge decks-including True-Name Nemesis-and Death and Taxes, making it essentially a zero-mana Wrath of God in those matchups. Somehow I'm under the impression that a zero-mana sweeper you know is coming is too good to ignore, even if it means slow-rolling your creatures sometimes. You do control the timing after all.
Rain on Their Parade
Speaking of wrath effects that aren't seeing enough play:
Initially overlooked because of the impact of True-Name Nemesis from the same Commander set, Toxic Deluge still isn't seeing much play, but shaving a mana of Damnation in exchange for some life points is an incredibly good deal in Legacy, especially for a deck like Shardless BUG or possibly Jund. It deals with True-Name Nemesis and multi-creature draws from the Tempo decks admirably well and is incredible against both Death and Taxes and Elves, not to mention any hold-out Goblins or Merfolk players. In a pinch, it can even be used to kill an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Progenitus, admittedly at a rather steep price. As such I suggest more of us should take a page from Jean-Mary Accart's book and drop a copy or two of these into our decks.
Talking to the Fishes
The next one is on my mind as I've been playing a little of my Past in Flames High Tide list lately, where it proved to be an amazing sideboard card. If you don't follow Vintage, I expect you haven't even seen this one before:
While the card is at its best in something like High Tide-you need to be making land drops, run countermagic, and be OK with locking yourself into a certain mana count for a while to make Remora good-the power level is high enough to make this tempting in other decks. Storm can basically never beat the card without either Silence (unlikely to work) or Xantid Swarm, as their going off will almost definitely draw you into more disruption than they can handle. Against Delver decks, they either have to refrain from casting their soft counters and cantrips or will allow you to get far ahead on resources, at which point you can react to the upkeep trigger by casting your most important instants-be they removal or High Tide-before finally letting the Remora go after it has kept them from executing their game plan for a couple of turns. The impact Mystic Remora has had in games where I've resolved it has me convinced that it is another card from the depths of the Legacy card pool that bears significantly more investigation than it has received so far.
Only the Cool Kids...
… go to the library:
Sylvan Library is a very powerful card that has seen a limited amount of play for a while already. However, it's even better right now than it has ever been. With True-Name Nemesis legal, there aren't very many decks remaining-other than Delver strategies with some draws-that put significant early pressure on your life total. Death and Taxes and Elves may have a lot of creatures, sure. They aren't exactly geared towards playing a fast beatdown game, though, and decks like Stoneblade, Miracles and the different combo decks will often leave your life total largely untouched late into the game.
Because of this, Sylvan Library doesn't just play out as powerful library manipulation; you will often be able to make the life payments necessary to take extra spells home with you. The result is a frighteningly powerful card advantage engine-in a way, actually an Ancestral Recall with benefits-when things go well, but that still works as a perfectly reasonable library manipulation tool when you can't afford to rely on its paid services. If you have Forests in your deck, you should be thinking about getting a library membership for sure, and having access to more than one could well be correct.
When Entreating Isn't Enough Angels
Speaking of cards that are good when your opponent doesn't pressure your life-total:
If there ever was a sideboard card to make life hell for Miracles, this one has to be pretty high on the list. Cheap enough to come down before defenses are established, rather tough to remove (especially if your deck doesn't look like it will present Disenchant targets), and extremely easy to get going against a deck with very few threats, Luminarch Ascension is one of the most powerful, proactive ways I can think of to help out your matchup against Miracles. It also seems very potent as a mirror breaker for Miracles itself, for exactly the same reasons.
Used in this capacity, it would also be reasonably easy to get active against Legacy's combo decks and is cheap enough to resolve while keeping countermagic open. Clearly, those aren't the matchups you really want it for, but your typical Miracles deck has a lot of cards that really want to come out against combo and the Ascension sounds like a fine thing that at least does something.
End of Times
Another piece of tech that I feel should spread out of its niche sideboard use is this sicko:
Yes, this is a one- or two-of in most Death and Taxes sideboards already. What I don't understand is why nobody else is playing it. Sure, Miracles and Stoneblade likely won't want to blow up their own lands and Planeswalkers, but there are other decks that have access to enough white mana to make this an utter blowout. I imagine my matchup with Miracles against UWR Delver, for example, would be significantly worse if they had access to two of these bad boys post-board.
Cataclysm is incredible against any deck that wants to have lands in play and uses Planeswalkers-last I heard, that covers at least Miracles and all of the Blade variants-while being a perfectly serviceable tool to control large creature swarms (say, against Elves) or any kind of deck that relies on one particular type of permanent (think MUD or Enchantress).
Junk, Aggro Loam, and other Knight of the Reliquary decks are obvious homes for the fixed Balance, and yet the card is so devastating against so many decks right now that even decks that don't have Knight to abuse the sacrificed lands should seriously consider adding it to the board. As little play as Cataclysm sees, I've already watched a significant number of games that just ended when the sorcery resolved, enough of them, in fact, to think that Death and Taxes should not monopolize its use.
And That Makes Ten
Here you go, ten cards that should boost your win percentage in the right decks. Some of them are classics that have faded into the background for a little too long, some are ready to break out of their niche usage into widespread adoption, and one's a hidden treasure that I assume most of you have never seen hit play before. Do you agree with my list? Is anything on here far too optimistic? Or is there something utterly sweet I've missed?