Legacy has been warped around Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance for a very long time. With Sensei's Divining Top finally banned, the format is in upheaval, and it's anybody's guess as to what things will look like when the fallout finally settles.
So many basic assumptions in the format, so many intuitions have been built on a world with Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance. For instance, will we see a dramatic increase in Storm decks, like the one Caleb Scherer piloted to a tenth-place finish in the Team Constructed Open a couple of weeks ago?
These kinds of decks have been traditionally suppressed by Counterbalance / Top. Will Chalice of the Void increase in popularity to help fill the void in disruption of one-cost spells?
What about cards that were particularly effective against Miracles? Will Abrupt Decay still be such a ubiquitous staple, for instance?
One of my favorite Abrupt Decay decks in recent times was Reid Duke's Grand Prix Louisville-winning Sultai control deck back in January:
Leovold is an extremely ruthless threat, basically completely shutting down opposing cantrips like Brainstorm and Ponder while also nerfing Jace, the Mind Sculptor and any other card draw they might have. Then, when they try to remove it, at least you draw a card. Of course, you get to draw the card even if you Counterspell whatever was going to kill Leovold, so he can run away with things very quickly. As an added bonus, he makes it harder to Wasteland you effectively, and you can even pitch him to Force of Will!
Umezawa's Jitte is a somewhat underrated angle of attack for Deathrite Shaman decks to begin with, but True-Name Nemesis is just absolutely fantastic with a Jitte. It can lock out some decks, but it's at least pretty good against the majority.
With Sensei's Divining Top gone, will we see a rise in Sylvan Libraries? Outside of just providing a lot of selection with shuffle effects, Sylvan Library is a nice way to leverage extra life gained from Umezawa's Jitte or Deathrite Shaman for card advantage.
When you've got a Food Chain on the battlefield, you can exile a Misthollow Griffin for five mana or an Eternal Scourge for four. That mana can only be used to cast creature spells, but since those creatures can be cast from exile, you can just keep re-casting and exiling them for as much mana as you want. What creatures you spend this mana on is up to you, but Walking Ballista is a good start.
- 4 Baleful Strix
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 1 Eternal Scourge
- 3 Misthollow Griffin
- 1 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
- 1 Vendilion Clique
Why just four of those, anyway? Why not eight?
Well, you do get diminishing returns for any copies you draw beyond the first. Besides, Manipulate Fate does an excellent job of getting those cards into your exile and available for use.
If you exile an Eternal Scourge and two Misthollow Griffins, that's three right there, plus you drew a card for casting Manipulate Fate. The curve of turn 2 Manipulate Fate, turn 3 Eternal Scourge, turn 4 Misthollow Griffin helps illuminate the reason for the one copy of Eternal Scourge. Besides, sometimes you just want to beat Meddling Mage on Misthollow Griffin!
- 4 Baleful Strix
- 2 Parasitic Strix
- 4 Shardless Agent
- 3 Cavern Harpy
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 2 Glint-Nest Crane
- 3 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
This list sort of reminds me of some of the Abzan Company decks in Modern, in terms of spending a lot of time functioning like a mediocre beatdown deck that might randomly combo off a little or a lot at any moment.
Glint-Nest Crane is an interesting choice that might only be 53.4% to hit, but hitting Baleful Strix or Shardless Agent can keep you digging or help build a snowballing card advantage when you're just grinding on the backup plan.
In addition to those eight, a couple of copies of Parasitic Strix can be found with the Crane to actually end the game. Cavern Harpy blinking to reset Baleful Strix draws a card per life, and blinking to reset Shardless Agent can still take a lot of life to find the Parasitic Strix you need to win. Glint-Nest Crane, on the other hand, can be reset by the Harpy enough times to reliably go all the way through your deck.
Recruiter of the Guard giving us the option of Imperial Recruiters five through eight is really interesting to me. They aren't the exact same, obviously, looking for things with low toughness rather than power; however, for the purposes of enabling an Aluren combo deck, they definitely work. They even open up new lines of play, such as searching up a True-Name Nemesis or Vendilion Clique.
Once we've got eight Recruiters in our deck, we aren't going to have to do nearly as much digging. We've still got to find Aluren, but we're going to be pretty big favorites to already have a Recruiter in our hand.
If only there was a way to play Alurens five through eight…
...which brings me back to Food Chain.
Sliding back to the blue decks in the Topless world, Ben Friedman's U/B Control list from Louisville looked interesting. It gives up Abrupt Decay and Leovold for Collective Brutality and Gurmag Angler in order to improve the mana.
The addition of Snapcaster Mage also changes some of the individual card choices, such as Spell Snare and Counterspell instead of Daze and Thought Scour to make sure Snapcaster draws a card even if flashed in during an end step.
Enjoy your Gitaxian Probes while you can…
As much as I love Grixis, sometimes I wonder if we're supposed to be just straight U/B in order to get out of the Wasteland fights. We can still have a green dual for Deathrite Shaman, sure, but I'm just saying, if we put down the red cards, we can play Hymn to Tourach!
I'm not sure it's the absolute perfect fit, but Death's Shadow has been crushing it so effectively in Modern, I can't help but wonder if we're supposed to be playing it more in Legacy, especially with Gitaxian Probe still legal!
Having the option to shock yourself a bunch is a great way to get your life total to drop in a hurry, but it's still nice to have ways to fix your mana without taking damage when they're playing a beatdown deck or you just don't draw Death's Shadow.
This new style of Miracles deck replaces Sensei's Divining Top with Predict to control the top of the deck and generate a big advantage. When combined with Brainstorm or Ponder, it's better than a two-mana draw-two, since it clears the top of your deck. However, that's just barely scratching the surface.
Snapcaster Mage flashing back draw-twos can really add up, and Jace loves a good deck reset; however, Unexpectedly Absent is where we really get paid. Now we can use Unexpectedly Absent for just two mana and know exactly what to Predict…
Unexpectedly Absent is kind of just a messed-up Magic card. Why would they make a bounce spell for two mana that also makes your opponent skip their draw step? That's kind of weird. Besides, if you cast it in response to a fetchland activation, whatever you bounced isn't coming back anytime soon. As if that wasn't enough, you can even make X more than zero, if you want!
Okay, okay, how can we get Counterbalance into the mix?
It's worth a shot...
Maybe we can't be as reliant on the Counterbalance lock as we used to, but still get enough value out of the random Brainstorms in response to spells to help make up for the games we don't draw Scroll Rack. Scroll Rack is no Sensei's Divining Top, but it can be a pretty respectable card draw engine, when we just want to keep digging. Besides, talk about a reliable way to Miracle a Terminus!
Enlightened Tutor makes it a bit easier to set up the Counterbalance / Scroll Rack combo without having to play a million copies. Then it kind of functions like a Counterspell when played in response to an opposing spell, finding something with the right cost. It also gives you a fresh top of the deck for resetting your Scroll Rack.
Every so often, I try to make Land Tax work, and Scroll Rack has always been a stunning combo with it. I haven't figured out how to make a list for that makes sense for the present day, but I'd definitely appreciate any suggestions.
For now, I think I'm between Delver and U/B/x Control, though it's clear the format could shift wildly and call for a complete rethinking of deck choice. Make sure to tune into the Legacy GP in Las Vegas Thursday and Friday, where I'll be commentating on all the hot Legacy-on-Legacy action!
See you then!