I won't be attending SCG Worcester this weekend, but today I'd like to discuss which decks I'd want on my team if I were playing. However, I'm going to include a bit of a twist; for each format, I'll talk about what I'd be playing if I just wanted to win as often as possible, but also what I'd be playing if I wanted to have fun. Understand that for me, winning is definitely a lot more fun than losing, so I wouldn't play a deck I thought didn't have a chance, but sometimes you can give up a little bit of win percentage to play much sweeter games, and with the right team at an event like a stop on the SCG Tour®, I could certainly see myself choosing to make that kind of trade.
There's a vocal contingent of pros who think if you're not playing Brainstorm, you're not really trying to win in Legacy. I'm not among them. If I were playing to win, I'd want Lands on my team.
Deathrite Shaman was good against Lands because it let its controller both attack the Lands player's graveyard and offered additional mana to counteract Wastelands. Deathrite Shaman is banned, so Lands is better, this is simple - but wait! Maybe Deathrite Shaman was propping up decks that were bad against Lands and without it there will be less of them, and maybe people will play more other decks that are good against Lands.
Whenever a change happens, or even just when time passes, it feels natural to fear that things have gotten worse for you; as a player who already thought Lands was good, it's easy for me to fear any disruption to that status quo, but I remember Legacy before Deathrite Shaman, and people played Brainstorm/Delver decks all the time and they're still going to play those decks now, but they'll tend to be weaker against Lands than they were with Deathrite Shaman.
As to fears of a massive rise of combo decks that prey on Lands? Show me. I don't believe Legacy can change that fast, and Gitaxian Probe getting banned hurts most combo decks anyway. Yeah, there will be more Reanimator strategies, but I'm not sure those matchups are really all that bad.
I'd certainly make some changes as a result of the bans though. This is what I'd play:
- 1 Forest
- 1 Barbarian Ring
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Ghost Quarter
- 1 Glacial Chasm
- 4 Grove of the Burnwillows
- 2 Maze of Ith
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Riftstone Portal
- 3 Rishadan Port
- 1 Sheltered Thicket
- 2 Taiga
- 4 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Verdant Catacombs
- 4 Wasteland
- 1 Wooded Foothills
- 1 Karakas
- 1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
- 4 Dark Depths
Compared to my deck at Grand Prix Seattle , I've replaced three Ghost Quarters with Rishadan Ports and Ancient Tomb with Riftstone Portal. In the sideboard I've replaced a Tireless Tracker and a Chalice of the Void with two Surgical Extractions.
I believe that Deathrite Shaman increased the number of decks that had no basic lands by a considerable amount because it let players stretch the number of colors they could play and gave them a different kind of play against Wasteland that minimized the extent to which they needed to rely on access to basic lands to fight against mana denial strategies. Now I expect a lot more matchups where Ghost Quarter isn't very good, and correspondingly more places where Rishadan Port will be a much better way to deny your opponent mana.
The reason I haven't switched to all Rishadan Ports is that I think this is a predictable and expected change and people can exploit it by playing more Turbo Depths, and I don't want my opponent to be able to use a single Pithing Needle on Wasteland to make it impossible for me to destroy their lands, so I want a Ghost Quarter to have access to a differently named version of that effect.
Riftstone Portal replaces Ancient Tomb because both cards allow you to activate Thespian's Stage on Dark Depths faster, but Riftstone Portal is more powerful when your opponent is less likely to effortlessly remove it from your graveyard. Losing Ancient Tomb does prevent some of the most explosive Crop Rotation plays, but I think this is better for the deck overall.
In the sideboard I wanted to make room for Surgical Extraction to further hedge against a surge in popularity of graveyard strategies. That's really all that's going on there.
I expect more opposing creature + Rishadan Port strategies, like Death and Taxes and Goblins, and I expect more Miracles style control decks. I think the change to playing Rishadan Ports helps a lot against the Miracles decks, and I think the core engine is good against the Rishadan Port decks.
It's hard to be confident about where Legacy is going, but I'd feel good about bringing Lands to this event.
If I were playing for fun, I hope you know that Stitcher's Supplier would be in my deck.
ScavengingBooze took a deck very similar to what I wrote about in my last article but with Gurmag Angler, Bitterblossom, and an extra land instead of Scourge of Nel Toth and Burning Inquiry to a top 16 finish in last weekend's Legacy Challenge on Magic Online. Full Disclosure, I have no idea what that finish means in that event. For all I know, that could mean they went 7-2 or it could have been a tiny event where they went 2-3, but I'll choose to read it as an indication that that deck still has some chops.
My precise list at this point would probably be:
I still haven't played with Scourge of Nel Toth, but it still looks good to me on paper. I think Collective Brutality is a much better plan than Burning Inquiry, and I don't know how I convinced myself to only play one Surgical Extraction in my article last week . Four would probably be better than two or fewer.
I've gone over what this deck does and I basically just love playing it enough that I'd register it and hope for the best. I think Lands is kind of broken beyond belief; it attacks from so many different angles and uses its resources so well that I kind of feel like playing something else has to be a mistake, but this deck is still more fun for me to play, and I feel like there's more tuning to be done, so I'd just really enjoy seeing games play out just to figure out how good the deck is and whether it can be improved.
If I'm playing to win, I'd play Ironworks. This is another place where I think it's possible for the metagame to adjust, but I'd rather be a week behind than a week ahead; that is to say that I think the deck is so good that it's better to play it until people concretely demonstrate that they're ready rather than to abandon ship because I think they must have figured it out by now.
It was the same way with Amulet before Summer Bloom was banned. At first it was like, "okay, this deck is great and people don't really understand it and haven't tested it, this is fantastic" and we played it and did really well with it. So then for the next event it's like, "okay, well, this deck is still probably good enough even if people know about it" and I'm less optimistic, but I play it anyway, and it still does well. Then any time someone asks what to play, I tell them to play it, and yeah, maybe it's worse than it was the previous week, but it's still the best thing and people haven't adjusted enough.
Going into GP Vegas, which Matt Nass won with Ironworks, he said he was going to play it but he didn't think it'd be well-positioned after his previous win with it. I told him there was no way a huge tournament like Vegas would meaningfully adapt that quickly, and he should expect it to feel basically like a continuation of the previous tournament with an identical metagame.
Ironworks is too good. It's not just that it's a resilient, reasonably fast, reasonably consistent combo deck with excellent semi-transformative sideboard options and healthy amount of maindeck counterplay; it's that its lands are so powerful that it fundamentally breaks the variance in Magic. So many of its lands are spells (Buried Ruin and Inventors' Fair) that it's almost impossible for the deck to flood, so a lot of the hidden strength is in its relatively unique level of consistency.
Also, the deck is just weird enough that I don't think the average player really understands how to hate it or adapt for its presence, so the fact that people have it on their long lists of decks to consider that they might have to play against at some point in a tournament barely matters.
As to my specific list, I'd play precisely Matt Nass's deck from GP Vegas:
If I were playing for fun, well, honestly at this point I'm still learning Ironworks, so I'd just play that anyway because working everything out is still pretty fun for me, but I'd probably have more fun if I played Matt Nass's other deck, Hardened Scales:
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Arcbound Worker
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 2 Sparring Construct
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 4 Walking Ballista
This deck is a real joy to play or watch. It checks all the boxes: explosive, resilient, consistent, and even reasonably interactive, all while giving up extremely little equity.
Watching a bit of Twitch the last few days, it looks like early on in this Standard format, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is where you want to be, and the default spot for him seems to be a reasonably expected Grixis Midrange deck that looks to be doing the right things: start with early removal and then prepare for an epic grind fest:
I think Nicol Bolas and this archetype line up pretty well against red, which I think will fall off in popularity, and I kind of expect a sea of this kind of strategy. I don't want to play Glint-Sleeve Siphoner; I'd rather just have plenty of removal for it and try to grind with my more powerful cards. I like Spit Flame as a way get an edge on long Nicol Bolas mirrors. I think The Eldest Reborn is likely the best tool for going even further with grinding in the mirror as a sideboard card.
I think this is all pretty basic, but I suspect that that's a high equity position for the first week of the new Standard format.
If I were playing to have fun, endless Grixis Midrange mirrors doesn't really sound optimal to me, but Nicol Bolas does look sweet, so I'd try a twist:
This deck is trying to push the big flying creatures that make your opponent discard angle with Herald of Anguish joining Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, and also push the synergy between Battle at the Bridge, Fountain of Renewal, and Arguel's Blood Fast with a lot of incidental life gain. Arguel's Blood Fast, which is normally very important in Nicol Bolas mirrors, becomes even better.
Also, this deck takes full advantage of Aether Hub, Spire of Industry, and the fact that it wants to play Renegade Map and Prophetic Prism anyway to splash Teferi, Hero of Dominaria into a Nicol Bolas shell to have all the best midrange cards, which also offers access to Profane Procession as an even better way to break the mirror than The Eldest Reborn.
I'm less confident in this strategy, because I've basically cut a bunch of removal for a bunch of artifacts that don't do much, but in theory, the payoff should be there. This is the kind of deck that would allow me to play with all the most powerful cards while also doing things a little different than what people are expecting as well as figuring out which artifacts are carrying their weight and exactly how many I think I need. The fact that I'd feel like I was learning more that would help with larger questions about tuning my deck would make the tournament a lot more interesting for me, so I'd have a lot of fun with this approach.