With the Pro Tour on the horizon, my tongue is tied as far as writing about Standard this week. I'll merely state it was a little surreal to see G/W Megamorph have such a dominant performance at #SCGATL last weekend and I'm intrigued to see how the results of the last two Open Series events will ultimately effect Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar.
What I can talk about is Legacy. Both #SCGSTL and Grand Prix Seattle are in the near future and the recent banning of Dig Through Time in Legacy poses a variety of interesting questions about the format moving into these large events.
While it would be natural to assume that the format will simply revert back to last year where Delve card drawers were a distant dream, I have different plans.
I have made it abundantly clear how I feel about Jace, Vryn's Prodigy over the last few months. Perhaps at some point my title of “Best Card in Magic Origins” was a bit facetious, but Jace has proven in a remarkably short amount of time to have earned that title and then some by being a dominant force in Standard and a powerful role-player in Modern.
I believe we can extend that honor into Legacy.
When I wrote about playing Jace in Modern, I talked about the two important aspects of abusing the Telepath Unbound in more powerful formats. The first and more obvious notion is that Jace is simply great with cheap cards. With his -3 ability doing a solid Snapcaster Mage impression, it is best when the Telepath Unbound facilitates a turn where its owner can cast multiple spells in a turn.
The second is that Jace operates incredibly well from a low resource base and this fact gravitates more towards discard effects (Jace doesn't have any natural synergy with countermagic) and other play patterns where Jace's owner is incentivized to trade aggressively. As a result, without Dig Through Time around to rule the roost, the planeswalker looks far more attractive now that more games of Legacy will once again degenerate into grindy affairs where players are playing off the top of their decks.
Another major point that should be mentioned immediately is how poor Jace is against Karakas.
This deck, on the surface, would appear to abuse Jace the best in terms of replicating my Modern experiences.
Pox wants to trade at every opportunity and ultimately force their opponent to stop playing Magic by denying them every type of resource. Liliana of the Veil is an excellent planeswalker alongside Jace by allowing the Telepath Unbound to keep ticking up and getting multiple activations that should keep your opponent's options incredibly limited.
While normally Pox decks are mono-black and play a few more utility lands in order to kill their opponents, I'm still interested in casting Brainstorm and playing Baleful Strix since we're forced to put blue mana in our deck. Unearth appears to be a powerful option to keep our Jaces alive and well and are also great in conjunction with Baleful Strix. I've Unearthed a few Phyrexian Ragers in Pauper in my time, and I'm not ashamed to admit it's a card that I'm excited to try in Legacy.
I should be clear that my intention is to win the majority of my games with a Telepath Unbound emblem. Between Jace and Liliana of the Veil, the soft lock on our opponent should be quite real and getting to nine loyalty is relatively trivial once we've steered the game in the appropriate direction. That being said, I suspect the singleton Bloodghast is a necessary evil with Emrakuls floating around the metagame multiverse.
Many Pox decks play Dark Ritual and I've chosen to omit it for now. This may be wildly incorrect, but the ability for Jace to function as a “free” second copy of a Ritual effect on a key turn is not a capability that we should ignore.
Another fringe Legacy deck that could be a good fit for the Vryn's Prodigy is Tin Fins. Admittedly I have actual zero experience playing with the deck, but the premise is that Goryo's Vengeance, Dark Ritual, and Entomb allow an incredibly quick reanimation of Griselbrand that facilitates a pure combo kill, typically with Children of Korlis.
Even if you aren't terribly familiar with every deck that Legacy has to offer, perhaps this sounds vaguely familiar to you if you've followed my writing the past few months. It is awfully similar to a Modern tangent I went on before Grand Prix Oklahoma City trying to abuse Goryo's Vengeance and Jace to enable a from-the-graveyard Splinter Twin kill.
I don't actually feel comfortable presenting a conceptual decklist for something similar to this for a few reasons despite the fact that it may be the real deal. The first, as I mentioned, is that I don't have the necessary experience to change the deck in the dramatic manner it would require to accommodate four copies of Jace. The second is that Jace is a card that creates resiliency, and as a result it may not even be suitable for a deck that is far more interested in blitzing its opponents out rather than wearing them down before finally combo-killing them.
However, all of these elements and the awesome synergy between Goryo's Vengeance and Shallow Grave with Jace have me very interested in attempting to merge this type of strategy with a spiritual update to Sneak and Show.
I believe this deck may be good. Very good. Somewhere in between Reanimator and Sneak and Show, Jace facilitates this type of strategy by supplying a discard outlet that doesn't burn cards like Careful Study, a great deal of redundancy, and by giving greater utility to our temporary reanimation effects. When Goryo's Vengeance and Shallow Grave reanimate Jace, Vryn's Prodigy he can be immediately flipped into the Telepath Unbound and break their exile clause.
This can be a tool to continue pushing the game in a favorable direction by eking out more advantage or simply be the back-door manner in which we finally can discard our giant creature. Once our win condition is finally in the graveyard, the Telepath Unbound is kind enough to then offer to replay that reanimation spell for just three loyalty, and from there hopefully snowball our opponent if not outright killing them (it is, of course, vital to mention that this specific line of play doesn't work directly with Emrakul due to its shuffle clause).
Speaking of, Emrakul is actually a bit odd in this deck because I tried to design it to be as minimalistic as possible with only two copies, although that doesn't necessarily mean it is the best way to go about doing things. Smacking our opponent with Emrakul is the ideal start to things, although as we saw in Sneak and Show it isn't necessarily lights out. Further, Emrakul will actually be exiled by Shallow Grave or Goryo's Vengeance, which does make me want to play two copies rather than one in case we run into any particularly hairy long games where removing twelve of our opponent's permanents is a requirement. Since we aren't running any type of “pure” combo kill and will merely have to attack our opponent a few times, it does mean that weird things are capable of happening to break up our gameplan. The major upsides for that is we are a normal deck and are capable of playing Magic by using resources that won't fold to just a few simple pieces of opposing interaction.
A card that does concern me is Deathrite Shaman. While other Reanimator decks hope to counter it or simply be faster, we aren't particularly capable of the latter. Although it is possible to set up board states where we can work our way to “two things” to fight through a Deathrite Shaman activation, that's clearly not ideal and Innocent Blood is a major nod towards the card. There are also a plethora of other options available to solve this problem, including playing something like Daze as stock Reanimator does to fight it on the play, or to start a few Show and Tells. Deathrite Shaman as well as many other troublesome cards like Counterbalance are the catalyst for the light green splash and inclusion of Abrupt Decay, similar to what we have seen out of some other Reanimator lists.
While Sneak and Show does not have the critical Deathrite problem, their pieces are far more expensive and difficult to stick through soft countermagic like Spell Pierce and Daze. Our enablers cost one and two mana! While Sneak and Show may be quickly out of gas if they're forced to try to fight through opposing interaction, Jace Reanimator can easily present must-counter threats turn after turn and isn't required to play sixteen awkward pieces in their deck.
With the Pro Tour in the near future, I haven't had much time to think about Legacy despite the Dig Through Time ban announcement, but talking to some friends this weekend at Grand Prix Madison about the upcoming #SCGSTL certainly got the wheels turning again. While the removal of Dig from the format may have eliminated a great deal of the redundant power of Omni-Tell and other blue decks, I don't see any reason why Jace, Vryn's Prodigy can't pick up the torch and lead the way to some powerful new strategies.
I'm certainly excited to find out.