What would I play in Legacy?
I would play with this little guy, right here:
Believe it or not, I didn't set out to play Jace though. It was sort of a happy accident.
See, Legacy is this interesting format that just randomly lets you play four Brainstorms, despite how completely busted in half the card is. It's literally restricted in Vintage and probably in the top half of most busted cards on that list.
Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise? Trying to accurately describe the power level of these cards in older formats is exactly why hyperbole is such a dangerous thing. What could I say that would not sound like exaggeration or overreacting?
How about this: I want to play the best delve deck in Legacy, one way or another. Whether I'm Treasure Cruising or Digging Through Time, it's hard to imagine wanting to do anything else. Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course I'm playing Brainstorm no matter what. I already said I'm playing a Legacy deck, so by definition…
I have played Jace, the Mind Sculptor in every Legacy tournament I've played in since the Survival of the Fittest era, and it's been absolutely awesome for me every time. This time around, however, I was unsure it was the right moment for Jace. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are mostly stronger draw engines in this format.
However, I have seen the light. One of the greatest Legacy theorists in the game today brought me back to the one true path. Carsten Kotter has been at the cutting edge of Legacy tech for a while now, and his latest brew is two steps ahead of the format.
See, Legacy is really weird right now. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are broken. Everybody knows it. Legacy players have a really big appetite for broken though, so most are trying on the worldview where Cruising and Digging is just an acceptable thing to be doing. Which is fine. If that's the world we live in, let's embrace it.
The format is now one-third Delver of Secrets decks at the top. I can't say I'm surprised. Talk about a strategy that was born to exploit Treasure Cruise. Even though U/R Delver is the most popular of the Delver strategies and the most popular deck in the format, I was going to play a version of it myself. Up until I heard the good word from Ktter, that is.
This was my list:
I'm still very much a fan of this deck and believe it is one of the strongest choices. You can't really go wrong with U/R Delver. It's just too strong. This is a great choice for this weekend, despite how much everyone is targeting it.
While researching other U/R Delver decks to get ideas for the sideboard, I noticed that Glenn Jones top 4'ed the Legacy Open in Oakland with a functionally identical 59/60. He had the fourth Young Pyromancer instead of the Dig Through Time, but I just want to delve harder. Honestly, I wouldn't hate the second Dig Through Time. Hell, discard an extra one to Force of Will, if you have to!
Either way, the maindeck Pyroblasts reveal that he definitely gets it. See, Legacy is always about the blue decks, however, there's usually enough obstinate players to make maindeck Pyroblasts less appealing. The thing is, with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time now legal, there are two types of opponents:
Forked Bolt is an important card right now, and I definitely like it over Chain Lightning. Elves is popular and good, as far as non-blue decks go. Forked Bolt kills basically everything and sometimes, two things. Tempo is critical, as cards are a dime a dozen with blue delve cards this strong. In this vein, I like Electrickery, as I really want to have some sweepers, but don't want my creatures to get caught up in the damage.
I considered playing one Red Elemental Blast as a fifth Pyroblast (they really are extremely close together in power level), but thought the first Flusterstorm adds a nice new dimension. You do start to get diminishing returns on this stuff eventually. Remember, Pyroblast is better than Red Elemental Blast because you can cast it on something that isn't blue, just to get it out of your hand so that you can untap and delve. That said, that's primarily a maindeck consideration, so I could see changing a sideboard Pyroblast to a REB to keep people guessing (and potentially fight Cabal Therapy and Meddling Mage).
The biggest thing I seem to be missing that everyone else plays is Sulfuric Vortex in the sideboard. Is there really so much lifegain that we need to be able to stop it? Yeah, it's a nice tool against slow decks, but so are lots of things. I could definitely be wrong here, but I kind of suspect that most of the people playing Sulfuric Vortex looked at previous lists, saw them, and put one or two copies in theirs, creating an information cascade.
Seriously though. I could definitely be overlooking or underappreciating a component of the format. Legacy is an incredibly deep and rich tapestry, with so many threads woven together to form a design that is hard to fully grasp at once. If there is some reason Sulfuric Vortex is crucial, please let me know.
I guess I generally just have a less Sulfuric-based sideboard than most because I also don't play Sulfur Elemental. I definitely get this one though, and it's on my shortlist. If you think there's going to be enough Thalias, enough Mother of Runes, enough Spirit of the Labyrinths, it's exactly what you want.
I've noticed a lot of people don't play Submerge, but it's got two big things going for it that I really like. First, it answers fatties like Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary, which can be pretty problematic for Lightning Bolt decks. Second, it's unbelievably mana efficient. I mean, it literally costs zero. That is exactly what you want when playing a Treasure Cruise/Delver of Secrets strategy.
The last big difference between my sideboard and most others is how many Grafdigger's Cages I play. I think graveyard combo decks are quite powerful and can be problematic for Delver decks. Grafdigger's Cage is high impact and works great with all the library manipulation since it can come down "late." Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus are just not hateful enough, as a lot of graveyard decks can just win through them. Grafdigger's Cage even lets us fight Green Sun's Zenith and Natural Order for free!
Last weekend's Legacy Open was actually won by Dredge, with two more copies in the top 16. Elves has continued to be one of the top decks, so having extra strength against them is a good idea. Basically, regardless of which Treasure Cruise/Dig Through Time deck you play, I would keep Grafdigger's Cage in mind, as the card is great right now.
So, what was this magical collection of cards that could possibly get me off of U/R Delver?
This list is just a couple cards off of what was originally suggested by Kotter, and it does a great job of not just using the blue delve cards, but being built with the knowledge that everyone else is too.
First, I love the more minimalist approach to Stoneforge Mystic-ing right now. You really, really don't want to draw a bunch of creatures. While playing zero would be totally defensible, playing two adds a potent anti-aggro plan that also gives us a very mana efficient way to put a fast clock on combo decks while keeping our shields up. It sounds funny, but Academy Ruins on the Batterskull to make the second Stoneforge draw a card is a very real thing in drawn out attrition battles.
The next thing I love about this list is the mix of countermagic.
Having a dozen counterspells and this much card draw is going to give us a lot of strength against combo decks, and this particular mix of counterspells is great for fighting the impressive tempo powers of Delver decks. Force of Will and Pyroblast are obvious, and Spell Pierce isn't too much of a surprise, but Counterspell itself is an oft-forgotten roleplayer that really should be played more. Everyone gets so fancy, but when you already have enough permission to generally be able to counter something on turn 1, Counterspell is the best second counter to have in your hand.
The one I am least sure of is Misdirection. I appreciate the ability to win important counterspell battles without investing additional mana, but I think if I were to change a card, I think this is the one I'd change. Kotter actually ran two, but I don't want to get too far ahead of the format where I'm teched out to beat stuff people aren't even on yet. Honestly, I think a fourth Counterspell is totally on the table, as is Spell Snare or another Spell Pierce. If I had to change one right now though, I might just use another Preordain.
Oh, I'm sorry--did I break your concentration?
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the ideal victory condition for control decks, as it is a powerful card draw engine that takes over the game on its own, then wins it for you. Even if you're losing, it has a lot of tactical implications; it's just a little expensive for a format as tempo-based as Legacy. Still, it's perfect here, and having three Jaces and six delve cards is going to give us such an advantage in the battles of attrition.
As much as I love Jace, it was actually the six delve cards that drew me to this list. I want to play as many of these as I can get away with, so the prospect of playing six (to other people's four) is extremely attractive. Like most things in life, there are diminishing returns, but having to use Jaces as blue draw spells seven through nine doesn't exactly break my heart.
The mix of cantrips is nothing out of the ordinary. Brainstorms, then Ponders, then Preordains. That's basically how it goes when adding cantrips to your Legacy deck, with the one exception of Gitaxian Probes. I could totally see adding some Gitaxian Probe action here (and everywhere really), but I currently lean against it because of how aggressive the format is. The information really isn't absolutely vital, and paying two life is far from trivial against these U/R Delver decks. That said, if it's wrong to play Gitaxian Probes in this list, it's not wrong by much. The opportunity cost of the card is as low as it gets, and fueling your delve cards is a real good time.
— Kill cards
— Card draw
All that's left, besides mana, is the removal. Four Swords to Plowshares is pretty standard. Fire//Ice gets the nod over Forked Bolt here because of our desire to cycle it, of course, as well as pitch it to Force of Will. We aren't quite as tempo-based as the Delver deck above, so hopefully we can get away with it. Finally, Engineered Explosives is a catch-up that lets us solve most hard problems. The ability to recur it with Academy Ruins is great, particularly given how few people play Wasteland compared to how many used to (which is still a lot, to be fair).
— Sweeps the Elves
— Kills Chalice of the Void on one
— Blows up Delver and Pyromancer Elementals on the cheap
— Fights Counterbalance/Top
— Kills True-Name Nemesis
— Gives you something to Dig to that will solve your problems
Similarly, the Supreme Verdict out of the sideboard is magnified in power because of the amount of Dig Through Time/cantrip action we have. We're often going to see almost half of our deck by the end of the fourth turn. That means we get more mileage out of our high impact bullets.
Grafdigger's Cage would still be good as a one-of, but I love having three, a change suggested by another Legacy master, Caleb Durward. As mentioned above, it just wins certain games on its own. Besides, we really need to find it by the second turn, if possible.
There is a variable that could cause us to want to trim a Grafdigger's Cage...
I don't yet fully understand the power of Containment Priest, but the card obviously has potential. That it's also a clock can be great, but in a deck as creature-lite as this, that might actually be a liability. That said, I actually love its ability to block random elves that might flirt with the red zone. Hell, you might even 187 someone that gets a little more aggressive than they should. Additionally, Containment Priest is actually super effective against Sneak and Show, and if we ended up using one or more copies, it would be this matchup that makes us want to.
At the end of the day, however, there are two big reasons I don't currently use any. First and foremost, it costs two instead of one. That is a big deal against decks as fast as Reanimator or Dredge. Second, it doesn't stop Bridge from Below. That might not seem like a big deal, since Grafdigger's Cage doesn't technically either. However, Grafdigger's Cage does stop Dread Return and Cabal Therapy, so they don't really get to Bridge anyway. Containment Priest doesn't hard counter Dredge nearly as hard as we'd like.
I'm a fan of how many sweepers we have access to here. Between three Explosives, two Pyroclasms, and a Supreme Verdict, we're really set up well to fight Elves and various fair creature decks. Swords to Plowshares fits into this plan perfect, but I would avoid stuff like Threads of Disloyalty at the moment. It's too slow to reliably fight Delver of Secrets, and it backfires too often due to Abrupt Decay and Pyroblast.
Of course, Kotter actually had a second Supreme Verdict, which I think could totally be reasonable. If I were going to make room for it, I think I might trim the Hydroblast. At the moment, however, I think I'm leaning towards having just one.
Vendilion Clique is a frequent sideboard option that is a slot efficient way to get more disruption and an alternative road to victory that lets us pressure people a lot faster. Batterskull and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are expensive and clunky ways to try to put a clock on some combo decks, so having an instant speed threat that also supports the disruption plan is great, particularly when you respond to a Show and Tell with a Vendilion Clique. If they have only one fatty, you often don't even need to counter the Show and Tell. It'd be nice to be able to play a Karakas to support the Cliques, but basics are just too good. If we had a Clique maindeck though, I'd be on board.
I'm expecting a massive amount of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time this weekend at Grand Prix New Jersey. It's tempting to get fancy and try to hate those people out, but I think Legacy is just too diverse a format, and there are too many people that just want to play what they want to play. As a result, I just want to play the strongest strategy, and right now, I think that's either U/R Delver or Carsten Kotter's control deck.