'Tis the season to brew!
With no tournaments in the next couple of weeks, there's not a lot to do with Magic, but I never stop brewing.
I've been rethinking how to approach Standard thanks to Yuuya Watanabe's success with his planeswalker-based Temur Energy deck, but after some recent playtesting, I think I'm sticking with Sultai. Ramunap Red is also a fine place to be, but I wouldn't consider much of anything else at the moment.
I've haven't done much Legacy content recently, so let's start there.
Judging from online data, Legacy is a mess of midrange blue decks and combo decks.
I've flirted with Death's Shadow in Legacy before, and thanks to the success of the Modern archetype, more interested was definitely stirred up for Legacy, but it quickly dried up. Unfortunately, that happened before every version was tried.
Blue-based Death's Shadow decks were the obvious starting point, but without card drawing, Force of Will isn't an efficient card to pair with Death's Shadow. When Jund Death's Shadow was great in Modern, it could often win despite mulliganing to five and/or drawing dead or redundant cards, but that's not the case anymore, and it's certainly not the case in Legacy. Each of your resources has to translate into something, which makes Force of Will potentially devastating. All it does is basically delay the inevitable.
Why not try something similar to the original Jund Death's Shadow decks? Decks like Jund have been successful in Legacy before, as there's a plethora of great options. Discard tends to play better with Death's Shadow anyway.
Deathrite Shaman is interesting. At first glance, it might seem like B/G Death's Shadow hasn't much use for a mana accelerator, but that's the logic that lead me to not playing Deathrite Shaman in Modern Jund, which was clearly a mistake.
At this point, it's pretty clear that Deathrite Shaman is not simply a Birds of Paradise. Birds of Paradise isn't a threat and is a poor topdeck in the late-game, but Deathrite Shaman is far from it. It's one of the cheapest, most impactful creatures in Legacy. My favorite thing about Deathrite Shaman in Legacy is how effortlessly it allows you to play, utilize, and shrug off Wasteland.
Hymn to Tourach is great for B/G Death's Shadow and is one of the best reasons to try the archetype in Legacy. Obviously Deathrite Shaman and Wasteland are big draws also, but nothing fits the archetype like Hymn does. The early game often involves disrupting your opponent before casting some threats, and Hymn to Tourach is the best possible card for that job.
Maybe I should be going harder on Berserks, but one seems sufficient. Drawing multiples is potentially a disaster, but it's possible you want more in certain matchups.
I'm sure the sideboard could be cleaned up, but that would come with more playtesting. There are probably fancier Traverse the Ulvenwald bullets, like maybe a Faerie Macabre, but Meren of Clan Nel Toth was the best I could think of. Maybe Pithing Needle is a necessity for Lands also.
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 2 Endbringer
- 3 Endless One
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 3 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
Maybe this isn't the best time for Eldrazi. Lands is a tough matchup and all the blue decks have Diabolic Edict or Terminus. Cards like Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance unfortunately aren't played anymore, and Counterbalance specifically was mostly a blank against this deck.
Smuggler's Copter and Walking Ballista are nice additions from Kaladesh block that give the deck both staying power and reach. It's possible that Endbringer is entirely obsolete, even though I never really liked the card in the first place. In their place, perhaps there should be some maindeck Thorn of Amethysts, as those seem particularly good right now.
The next deck is hardly a brew, but even though Sensei's Divining Top was banned, U/W Miracles is still a powerhouse. Overall, it's kind of a boring archetype, and while I don't buy into any of the Counterbalance nonsense people are doing, there is one thing that gets me excited about sleeving up Terminus.
Aside from that, Search for Azcanta is the only crazy thing, and even that is fairly common for the archetype. Any deck with Search for Azcanta is going to at least get my attention, especially in Legacy.
How many and which win conditions to play is a constant struggle. I like the idea of playing very few in a holistic sense, but that doesn't really fly in Legacy. Sometimes your best bet is to jam a Monastery Mentor and hope it's good enough. Cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can be nice following a Terminus, plus I'm always in the market for a win condition that doesn't lose hard to Pyroblast.
Aside from the Dark Depths combo deck, the other deck I could be convinced to play in Legacy is Four-Color Control. While I won't be sharing a deck, if I wanted to play the Four-Color Control decks in Legacy, I'd still be looking into Chart a Course.
I'm not sure what happened to make this change, but I'm super-high on blue-based decks with a red mana denial aspect.
This one has a nice combo finish, which I definitely like, even if it's a bit unwieldy. Trading an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for more cantrips in Opt might lessen the consistency of a Turn 5 combo, but it likely makes the deck better overall. There aren't a ton of matchups where you're pressured to combo on Turn 5 anyway, especially since the deck is already good at buying time.
Nahiri, the Harbinger would be an interesting addition to this deck and obviously having access to white sideboard cards would be nice. It's probably unnecessary overall.
Obviously I had to slip a Search for Azcanta into the deck too!
One of the best reasons to play Jund over something like Abzan was the closing speed. Raging Ravine and Lightning Bolt are excellent at ending games quickly, so you need a good reason to eschew the red entirely and play B/G. Field of Ruin is a fine compromise, although any B/G/X deck should be tuned to the metagame you expect. If there's no necessity for Field of Ruin and B/G/X looks to be in a fine spot, you can add red or white as necessary.
For now, it looks like straight B/G could be the way to go.
Jund doesn't necessarily think it can control the game at all points, and it's important to recognize that's the case with every B/G deck. Willy Edel tends to build his Abzan decks with a more aggressive slant than most, and while I like that approach, the strength of B/G/X without red tends to be the ability to lock the game up in a different kind of way. Typically that involves having a permanent or battlefield state your opponent can't deal with. With cards like Tireless Tracker and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, this deck does a good job of that.
Treetop Village is one of the best creature-lands ever printed and would be perfect in this deck. Unfortunately, due to mana concerns and the necessity of playing Field of Ruin, we can't play Treetop Village over Hissing Quagmire. More Twilight Mires or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoths would help, but the overall count of black sources would be far too low. Twilight Mire is awkward with Field of Ruin also.
Maybe I have a thing for B/G decks, but this one is a little different.
Matsugan, the Japanese innovator who brought us the original Death's Shadow Zoo deck, is back at it again. He keeps trying to break Modern, and it's only a matter of time before he succeeds again. As it turns out, if you take all the cards that cost one or less mana that fit together, you will probably find something powerful.
Anyway, I've thought Infect was poised for a comeback for a while now, but maybe G/U isn't the right way to go about things. It might seem like discard will only make your good matchups better, but they can also be used to protect your Phyrexian Crusader, which is difficult for many decks to deal with.
It's worth a shot.
I met Danker (Carlos Moral) at Pro Tour Austin when we played in Top 8 of the Sunday PTQ. We battled in an Extended blue mirror, me with Dark Depths and him with U/W Tezzeret, and I was incredibly impressed by his play. Since then, I've been following his work, which often included tuning underappreciated blue decks to be successful in Extended and later Modern.
Grixis Death's Shadow isn't exactly under-appreciated, but it has fallen out of favor as of late, and Danker's changes could go a long way toward making it a monster again.
Chart a Course is particularly interesting, as Grixis Death's Shadow wasn't particularly interested in more expensive card drawing. Cheap cantrips like Serum Visions typically won out due to efficiency. However, with Grixis Death's Shadow falling out of favor as people learn how to beat it, changing how the deck is built is probably a great idea.
Versions with Cryptic Command have been popping up (and Danker plays it himself), and giving the deck some staying power could help it compete with some of the more difficult matchups. Either Chart a Course or Cryptic Command could help, but it's possible that both are necessary.
Obviously the begs the question of whether or not the ideal shell for "card drawing plus Cryptic Command plus quick threat" is actually a Death's Shadow deck. The aggressive Jeskai decks fit that mold and have been relatively successful, which makes me question whether a bigger Death's Shadow deck would ultimately be a bad Jeskai deck.
Even with Magic in a lull, there's plenty of work to do. Even if I'm not gearing up for a specific tournament, I want to know what's going on in Magic and where everyone's head is. In short, I want to stay on top of things. Additionally, it helps scratch my curiosity itch. Without it, I wouldn't try new decks or remember that cards like Ruination exist and are seemingly the perfect answer to a format.
It's actually kind of nice when the world slows down and gives me a chance to reflect.