Ruthless single-minded devotion toward a particular end can produce extraordinary results. Case in point: I proudly present Team Meandeck's (with particular credit to Mike Bomholt, the driving force behind this deck)...
This deck is an excellent choice in Legacy for fighting through Grand Prix Trials, and is probably the one of the better decks in the format generally. In this article, I am going to present the ultimate primer on Iggy Pop, a deck I have come to adore these last few months as I've been testing and preparing myself for the Legacy Grand Prix. My hope is that this primer can serve both as a preparatory document as you gear up for the Grand Prix, as well as a piece that can be referenced well after the Grand Prix and for some time to come.
In the last few weeks, Legacy has seen a surge of interest as we inch closer to the Grand Prix. A consequence of this has been a tremendous churn in the metagame and a lot of energy funneled into deck design. Iggy Pop is a deck that will be very good at the Grand Prix, but also very playable for a long time thereafter. I hope you enjoy this article. Next, I'm going to give a description of the functionality and role of each card in the deck. In Part III, I illustrate how to assemble the combo and provide other general pointers on how to operate the deck. Finally, in Part IV, I'll take a look at the most important matchups and describe how to address them.
II. Card By Card Analysis
A. The Combo
This deck is built around Ill-Gotten Gains, a recursion engine. The idea is quite simple: recur a Tutor and some mana to play Ill-Gotten Gains a few times for the express purpose of generating storm. Once you have looped a couple of times through several Ill-Gotten Gains, you Tutor up the Tendrils and win.
Find Ill-Gotten Gains. Play it (storm 5).
Put two Lion's Eye Diamonds and Infernal Tutor in hand. BB floating.
Replay the Lion's Eye Diamonds (storm 7).
Play Infernal Tutor and respond by breaking LEDs for BBB BBB (storm 8).
Find Ill-Gotten Gains. Play it (storm 9).
Put two Lion's Eye Diamonds and Infernal Tutor in hand. BB floating.
Replay the LEDs (storm 11).
Play Infernal Tutor and respond by breaking LEDs for BBB BBB (storm 12).
Tutor up Tendrils of Agony and play it for the win (storm 13).
The fact that this is the “standard” kill does not mean it has to be strictly obeyed, or that this is the sole function and role of these cards. Each card in this deck serves at least one purpose and can be fitted to produce several tactical results. Each of these will be explored in the course of this article.
Leyline of the Void
When I first began to explore the options with Ill-Gotten Gains, I assumed and played as if Leyline were the weak link in a strong chain. I couldn't have been more wrong.
In Legacy, Leyline of the Void may not be a strong card in its own right (although that is more and more a matter of debate). In other formats with a strong emphasis on the graveyard, such a Vintage, Leyline is recognized as a powerful hoser. In Legacy, no single function is necessarily strong enough by its own to justify running it. The reason for its ultimate inclusion is that it produces a cluster of synergies. The sum total of these synergies justifies its presence.
First and foremost, it combos with Ill-Gotten Gains:
Turn 0: Leyline of the Void
Turn 1: Land
Turn 2: Land, Dark Ritual, Ill-Gotten Gains
That effect produces Mind Twist on your opponent. Actually, it's better than that. You have just removed their entire hand from game.
Turn 0: Leyline of the Void
Turn 1: Land, Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor for Ill-Gotten Gains (returning Dark Ritual, LED, and Infernal Tutor to your hand)
Turn 1: Land, Lotus Petal, Cabal Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor for Ill-Gotten Gains.
You can see that there are a number of permutations that result in a turn 1 Mind Twist.
Your opponent, perhaps some Goblin-toting cowboy, has just lost their entire hand, the contents of which are now beyond reach for the remainder of the game.
This is to say nothing of the critically important fact that Leyline ensures that you are the only one recurring cards when you combo off.
That is just the first and most powerful use of Leyline.
Here is the secret: Leyline is your most potent weapon against Force of Will. I can't tell you how many times I've read about how Iggy players (or Iggy critics) have suggested or claimed that Iggy folds to Force of Will. This is false. Here's how you work it. You drop Leyline into play on turn 0, or as soon as possible thereafter. From that point on, you have one goal: resolve an Ill-Gotten Gains. Control opponents let Leyline resolve. So, if you didn't have it on turn 0, you generally have little trouble playing it on turn 2 or 3. In the meantime, your control opponent will be attempting to build up a board (or drop creatures if they are aggro-control). Your next goal is simple: just play Ill-Gotten Gains. You have a million Tutors and four Ill-Gotten Gains. Just keep throwing them up against your opponent as quickly and with as much ferocity as you can muster. At some point, one will resolve. Here's why: there are only four Force of Will's in any given aggro-control deck. Most aggro-control decks supplement Force with cards that are not true counterspells. That is, they run cards like Daze and Stifle (and maybe Duress). Few decks actually run Counterspell. And even if they do, they don't run four (see here for proof). It's fairly simple to continue to batter down your opponent's resistance and get an Iggy through. And when you do, job done! You get three cards back you can use immediately (or very shortly thereafter) to win the game.
Threshold is an important Legacy match. Threshold, you'll recall, won the last major Legacy Grand Prix at Grand Prix: Lille. A turn 0 Leyline will turn your Threshold opponent's clock from a slow roll to a standstill. Beating with a 1/1 Nimble Mongoose or a 1/1 Werebear is not a fast clock. Even with two, you have ten turns, four times as many as you need.
Leyline also negates Cabal Therapy as an effective flashback card. It also makes Jotun Grunt somewhat slower. Not to mention neutering anyone foolish enough to play Ichorid. Also, in the Solidarity matchup (Reset-High Tide), it turns off flashback on Flash of Insight.
A great number of Iggy Pop players tend to run Swarm or Chant in the maindeck (usually Swarm) over the Leyline. This way you can go turn 1 Xantid Swarm and turn 2 win. You'll notice this trend if you peer through the StarCityGames.com database. The problem with Xantid Swarm is that this format is full of creature removal. Turn 1 Xantid Swarm against a deck where it is relevant is just as likely to be hit by spot removal as your spells are to be countered. Orim's Chant is powerful, but because it doesn't have the advantage of being playable on a different turn than when you go off, it probably isn't any better than Leyline at protecting your combo. Note that I run Orim's Chant in the sideboard.
Empty the Warrens transformed this deck from a great deck to an outstanding deck. This deck has eight Tutors that can be used to find the single Empty. With that sort of consistency, it is a fairly simple matter to drop a dozen Goblins into play on turn 2, if that is your preferred route to victory. Many decks are unprepared for this tactic. And it's incredibly easy to pull off with eight fetchlands for Volcanic Island, four Lotus Petals, and four Lion's Eye Diamond. More on this later.
B. The Tutors
This deck is packed with Tutors. Each is powerful and each serves similar, yet slightly different, roles. Because the Tutors are so central to the operation of this deck, they require critical explanation and description.
Ill-Gotten Gains was a threat at the last two Grand Prix tournaments. And that was before this card was printed. In some ways, you can call this the Infernal Tutor deck. I consider this card the heart and soul of the deck. Its correct usage will often dictate your performance outcome. After every tournament, I muse in admiration when I consider how incredible this card is. This card is as close to Demonic Tutor as I can imagine seeing print. And in a format where everything is playable as a four-of, this card becomes even more powerful. The uses of this card are many, varied, and often subtle.
The first and most obvious use of this card is in combination with Lion's Eye Diamond to find anything you want. For instance:
Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, announce Infernal Tutor, response sacrifice Lion's Eye Diamond... voila, you have hellbent! You can tutor up any card you want! Empty the Warrens? Done. Ill-Gotten Gains. Why not?!
The synergy between Infernal Tutor and Lion's Eye Diamond is obvious and undeniable. Yet, that is not the only way to run it.
Consider this opening hand:
Lion's Eye Diamond
This hand is a turn 1 kill.
Surprised? It's simple:
Infernal Tutor for another Lion's Eye Diamond.
Play Lotus Petal.
Sacrifice the Petal.
Play two Lion's Eye Diamonds.
Play Infernal Tutor, response, break the two Lion's Eye Diamonds.
Find Ill-Gotten Gains recurring Infernal Tutor and the two Diamonds. Replay the Diamonds and the Infernal Tutor, now finding Tendrils and winning the game.
Since you often are holding one major accelerant - whether it be Cabal Ritual or Lion's Eye Diamond - Infernal Tutor can be counted upon to find another.
Perhaps the most subtle and powerful use of Infernal Tutor is one of the hardest to see. There will be some games where you simply cannot play an Ill-Gotten Gains or you need to find a way to beat lots of Force of Wills. Infernal Tutor will help out immensely. It's actually quite simple: you are in a mid-game tight spot where your opponent has accumulated a handful of countermagic. You play your mana (you have quite a few lands in play and you play a couple of Rituals, probably with threshold) and you play Infernal Tutor (you have lots of cards in hand, so you can't find Empty the Warrens). Let's assume you are holding one of your three Tendrils. You Tutor up a second Tendrils, play one for 4 or 5 storm and then play the other for 5 or 6 storm. You have just executed a very unusual kill. In Vintage, multiple Tendrils generally don't see play, so players won't be expecting it. It's as powerful as it is unexpected. Bam, you win.
Infernal Tutor is the best tutor for looping through the Ill-Gotten Gains combo. When you are comboing out with Ill-Gotten Gains, you probably want to be using an Infernal Tutor. The reason is simple: Infernal Tutor only costs two mana and has no real limitations. Intuition requires that you have three copies of the card you want to find in your deck (and costs three mana). Mystical Tutor requires an additional card to get the card sought into your hand. Infernal Tutor with a Cabal Ritual (with threshold) and a Lion's Eye Diamond is probably the most common three cards you recur with Ill-Gotten Gains.
Intuition is a funny card. You can look at it and simply not know what to do. That's okay, it's here for a reason. First of all, Intuition is simply incredible at helping you generate threshold. For that reason, if you are tutoring up mana, you are almost always going to be getting Cabal Ritual. I'll speak more about this later, but Cabal Ritual is the best accelerant in the deck, which is astounding and revealing at the same time. It's astounding because Dark Ritual and Lion's Eye Diamond (unrestricted and unbanned!) also inhabit this deck. It's revealing because it shows just how different Legacy is from the other formats. People who think that they can hurt Iggy Pop by playing Chalice for zero have no idea what they are up against. Cabal Ritual is the most important accelerant.
Here's how it might play out (or a variant of this scenario):
So you play turn 0 Leyline.
Play Polluted Delta and Lotus Petal.
In your opponent's endstep you play Intuition for three Cabal Rituals (breaking Delta for Swamp and Petal for mana).
You now have threshold. Intuition, 2 Cabal Rituals, two fetchlands, Brainstorm, and Lotus Petal give you easy threshold.
There are often situations where you won't have threshold so quickly. But Lotus Petal for turn 2 Intuition almost always gives you immediate (or very nearly immediate) threshold. At the least, it gives you threshold by the time you want to play the relevant spell. For example, let's say that that hand only had one fetchland. You wouldn't have had threshold immediately, but when you precede the Cabal Ritual with Dark Ritual, that is enough.
We have discussed going down to three Intuitions. I think Intuition is such an important Tutor, that I hesitate to make that cut.
The awkward Tutor. You can stare at an opening hand with two Mystical Tutors and wonder what the heck to do. Despite its oddness, Mystical Tutor is incredibly powerful. Improper use of Mystical Tutor can result in key losses.
First of all, turn 1 Mystical Tutor is probably the best way to get turn 2 Empty the Warrens. It is only too amusing to watch some aggro-control fool let my Mystical resolve when he could have perfectly well Dazed it, only to watch their jaw drop as I unload a dozen goblins onto the board on turn 2.
Second, Mystical Tutor finds every good card in the deck, including Cabal Ritual. It helps you find the missing link in your chain fairly quickly.
Third, having double Mystical Tutor, while strange at first sight, is actually something I have come to appreciate for many reasons. Mystical helps me get threshold at critical points for one Blue, and it also contributes to storm. There have been a handful of games where I actually Mystical on my upkeep, burning that mana, just to generate storm. Also note that Brainstorm on turn 1 with turn 2 upkeep Mystical is a great way to maximize Brainstorm and get a solid shuffle effect.
This card really doesn't require any descriptive analysis. It is what it is. It is a mana fixer, a spell fixer, and a generally potent card. Nonetheless, it is incredibly difficult to use properly. There will be games where waiting to Brainstorm is the correct play, and other games where immediate use of Brainstorm is called for. Just as important, putting cards back with Brainstorm is no easy task.
Legacy is not Vintage. I think it was Rich Shay who helped me realize that turn 1 Brainstorm is not the automatic play that it is in Vintage. In Vintage, you are often just digging for restricted bombs while fixing your mana. In Legacy, turn 1 Brainstorm may not be as good as turn 2 Brainstorm. Let me show you the difference:
Your hand is:
4 other cards
Now, your options:
1) Turn 1 Brainstorm
2) Turn 2 Brainstorm
Turn 1 Brainstorm could be the right call, especially if you have junk in hand you want to get rid of. On the other hand, on turn 2 after you have played the Delta, if you use the Sea to play Brainstorm, you can get rid of all of your junk. Turn 1 Brainstorm means you only get to shuffle away one card (since you'll have to draw the top card again). Turn 2 Brainstorm means that you get to shuffle away the two worst cards. Thus, I think the question of whether to turn 1 Brainstorm or turn 2 Brainstorm is much closer in Legacy. Even if you are desperate for mana, that just suggests that turn 2 Brainstorm is better since it will dig you a card deeper. The only reason to not play turn 2 Brainstorm is if your hand is very aggressive and you can see yourself winning either on turn 1 or turn 2 or setting yourself up on turn 2.
This difficulty is compounded with an even greater difficulty: figuring out what to put back. Simply put, there aren't very many bad cards to throw back. Every time I throw back a Tendrils, I question whether it is the right play. You have to realize that it really is possible to double Tendrils. The turn 2 or 3 double Tendrils is a critically powerful play in your arsenal. And with three Tendrils maindeck, it's not that hard to pull off.
Needless to say, using Brainstorm is far from simple. I hope I've articulated the primary considerations that should inform your decision making process.
C. The Mana
The cards that make this deck so great are cards that are considered broken in Vintage, yet are playable as four-of in Legacy. Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal are both restricted in Vintage, yet you can play four in this deck. This deck attempts to use Lion's Eye Diamond as a Vintage deck might try to use Black Lotus. Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual are obvious inclusions.
The configuration of lands is designed to maximize resilience in the face of disruption. This is why there are eight fetchlands. It is arguable that the mix of fetchlands should include two Bloodstained Mire. Note that Fetchlands enable you to play a four-color deck with only two dual lands that produce White and one that produces Red. Some Iggy Pop players run one Cabal Pit as uncounterable removal. You may include this at your discretion.
III. So, How Do I Play This Pile?
Every opening hand with this deck can seem like a puzzle. There are some recurring patterns. The key to playing this deck is knowing when to go off and how to do it.
As a general rule, you should be trying to assemble the combo to win on turn 2. The difference between playing this deck and other combo decks is that this deck is non-linear. You are using a recursion engine to generate storm. General assumptions about progression don't hold. After playing an Ill-Gotten Gains you may find that you go from a situation of having threshold to not having threshold. You may find that you have excess mana to not having enough.
Infernal Tutor + Ill-Gotten Gains / Tendrils costs six mana. Recurring either Infernal Tutor and two LEDs, or Infernal Tutor and two Cabal Rituals, or Infernal Tutor and one LED and one Cabal Ritual will not net you mana, but keep you going with six. For that reason, LED and Cabal Rituals simplify the math. If you need to go off with a Dark Ritual, you'll need outside mana because each loop through the recursion engine you'll lose mana. For this reason, you'll have to calculate your mana needs each step of the way through the combo.
I can simplify it some for you here:
If you have Dark Ritual and LED / Cabal Ritual with threshold, you'll need these mana requirements:
Dark Ritual + LED + Infernal Tutor means that you'll have enough mana to play Infernal Tutor and Ill-Gotten Gains, but you'll need a mana to replay the Dark Ritual. Thus, as a starting matter, you need one additional mana floating or available after you play the first Ill-Gotten Gains. Then, you'll need one more mana for the next loop and that's it. Thus, if you have Dark Ritual, you'll need two more mana total.
If your tutor is Intuition or Mystical Tutor, then this basic scenario becomes even more complicated and expensive. If you have Intuition, then what you are able to do is constrained by your total available mana. If you have plenty of mana, your best bet is to Intuition for three Infernal Tutors and then combo the traditional, more linear way. If you don't, then you may have to Intuition for IGG and then Intuition for Tendrils. It's very similar to the scenario that opened this article except that there are two more requirements. First, you need two more total mana. Second, you won't be able to Ill-Gotten Gains twice, so you'll need additional storm. It looks like this (one generic variant on this line of play):
Intuition for Ill-Gotten Gains (storm 1).
Cabal Ritual (storm 2).
Cabal Ritual (storm 3).
Play Ill-Gotten Gains (storm 4) putting Cabal Ritual, Cabal Ritual, and Intuition in hand. BB floating.
Replay Cabal Rituals (storm 6). BBBBB BBB floating.
Intuition for three Tendrils of Agony (storm 7).
Play Tendrils (storm 8).
So long as you have the mana to start it all off, play Intuition the second time, and can generate two additional storm, Intuition can work just like Infernal Tutor.
Another way you can win is by using Mystical Tutor and Brainstorm in conjunction. This is a little bit more complicated than the Intuition kill, but it works as well. The only difference is that you need even more mana floating! The first time you can put together Mystical and Brainstorm, however, you'll probably want to just find the Infernal Tutor, and this will very much resemble the first line of play.
IV. Matchup Analysis
Goblins is the premiere deck in Legacy. It is also devastatingly one-sided. Beating Goblins is what this deck does best. Perhaps the best way to view the Goblins matchup is to view Goblins as a three-turn combo deck that uses Wasteland and Rishadan Port to attack your mana. So long as you keep your fetchlands uncracked or drop basics into play, you'll have little trouble keeping their land destruction offline.
Your goal is to combo out before they do. Undisrupted, you will most often be in a position to combo out on turn 2 or turn 3. This kind of hand is not suitable for the Goblins match:
That kind of hand is too slow. You need to be looking for hands that have the potential to win on turn 2 but probably will win on turn 3. I have lost to Goblins once on the draw when Goblins won on turn 3, so just be cognizant of that risk. If you are on the draw, you should be looking for a turn 2 kill.
Note that just because you are looking for a turn 2 kill doesn't mean you should exclude the possibility of winning on turn 1 or Mind Twisting them on turn 1. If you can do it, you should.
Post-board things become more complicated. The most likely scenario is that the Goblins player has dedicated sideboard space to matchups they are likely to face: threshold, the mirror, etc. Thus, the most they will have for you will probably be Red Elemental Blasts. However, it is possible that they will have Pyrostatic Pillar, Chalice of the Void, or Tormod's Crypts. My advice is to sideboard out two Tendrils and bring in two Empty the Warrens. You will probably want to sideboard out one Intuition for one Chain of Vapor as well, just in case.
Here was a hand I had against Goblins post board:
Empty the Warrens
Goblins was on the play and went:
In his hand, he had two Pyrostatic Pillar.
I drew Cabal Ritual. What do you do?
I went like this:
2) Lotus Petal
3) sacrifice Lotus Petal for black
4) Play Dark Ritual
5) Play Cabal Ritual
6) Play Cabal Ritual
7) Tap Tundra for U
8) Play Intuition for 3 Lotus Petals
9) Play Lotus Petal
10) Sacrifice it for R
11) Play Empty the Warrens with 7 storm for 14 men
The Goblins player scooped.
Empty the Warrens helps beat a lot of hate aimed at this deck because you no longer have to get nine storm before you can play a win condition. Thus, it helps fight Tormod's Crypt and even Pyrostatic Pillar.
Note that if they bring in Chalice of the Void, be prepared to have to win without using LED or Lotus Petal. Ironically, playing the Petals and LEDs into the Chalice will help you rely more on thresholded Cabal Ritual to fuel your combo. If they play Pyrostatic Pillar, be careful not to waste spells. The Tendrils and Ill-Gotten Gains won't cost you life, so you have some margin for error and to maneuver.
Post board, the card to watch out for is Red Elemental Blast. Don't play Intuition into it. Their chances for winning the match are quite slim.
This is the deck's hardest matchup. I am going to talk about this matchup with some detail, probably providing more matchup insight than has been previously written.
As a starting matter, you have the tools to win, both strategically and tactically. The problem is assembling them before they can stop you. You may find this ironic, but winning the die roll is critically important.
Most Threshold decks have this configuration of countermagic:
It is the two copies of Counterspell that puts the deck over the top. Here is the central problem: Ill-Gotten Gains permits your opponent to recur their countermagic. In order to win, you either have to:
1) Win before they find a Counterspell / Force of Will and play it.
2) Have a Leyline in play (or find and play a Leyline) so that they can't recur their countermagic, or...
3) Win using Empty the Warrens.
There is a fourth, but much less likely, game 1 possibility: building up two double Tendrils. This is much less likely because if you are playing early Brainstorm and tutoring, you probably aren't going to be setting up this kill. You are more likely to exchange your Tendrils for other more immediately useful cards.
Now that I've given an overview of game 1, let me talk with more specificity. In essence, you have very few ways to actually beat a counterspell aside from trickery or early Leyline. If they don't know you have Empty the Warrens in your deck, then you can stun them game 1 and steal the match.
Threshold is probably not going to counter your turn 1 Mystical Tutor with Daze. But if they think that you are going to go get Empty the Warrens, you better believe that's what they'll do. You don't have a choice. If you don't have Leyline, delaying every turn you play Empty the Warrens gives them more time to defend against it. If you do have Leyline, then Empty the Warrens isn't as important and you'll probably just want to get Ill-Gotten Gains to wipe their hand.
Which brings me to an important and key card: Leyline of the Void. Leyline of the Void is a key tactical play. It turns their clock into molasses, stops their counterspell recursion, and makes your Ill-Gotten Gains game-breaking. Imagine: almost all of their creatures - Mystic Enforcer, Nimble Mongoose, and Werebear - become puny wimps when Leyline has taken their power and doubled the length of the game.
Let me talk about all the different speeds of Leyline:
Leyline on turn 0.
This game is going to play out one of two ways. If your hand is fast, you're entire game plan becomes singular: find and play Ill-Gotten Gains. Every time they counter a Gains, you want to redouble your efforts and find another to play. If you can, try to play around Daze. I generally don't recommend playing around Daze, but this is one instance where you should. At the same time that they lose their hand, you'll be giving yourself the tools to win (Infernal Tutor + Two Cabal Rituals, for instance). The later in the game you manage to be successful at pulling off the Ill-Gotten Gains, the more resources you'll have on the table to just combo out immediately.
The second way the Leyline on turn 0 game plan can play out is this: they assemble answers faster than you can throw out threats. For instance, your hand might be medium speed, they Force the first Ill-Gotten Gains. You then Brainstorm and Mystical and your turn 4 Ill-Gotten Gains has been answered in the meantime by a counterspell. They spent those two intervening turns digging for more countermagic. If you are struggling to find and play Ill-Gotten Gains while they counterspell you, you are actually falling into their game plan, just as if you are ahead, they are falling into yours. The time spent countering you with men on the board is just free tempo they use to attack while they answer you.
Leyline after turn 0.
This generally happens because you recognize that Leyline is one of your best plans against them. It's a three step plan: 1) play and resolve Leyline 2) play and resolve Ill-Gotten Gains 3) win the game. The problem is that once they achieve Threshold, your Leyline loses most of its luster. They will almost certainly have at least one real counterspell (i.e. Not Daze) in their graveyard to recur. Then the counterspell they do recur will be used to buy just enough time for them to kill you with now egregiously large monsters. Leyline not cast on turn 0 essentially has to be in the first three turns to be of any use. The second Leyline scenario described when you have turn 0 Leyline is the most likely scenario here.
I've mentioned the counterspells and talked about Leyline, but the most powerful card in their deck ends up being Meddling Mage. Meddling Mage is large and in charge. The first Meddling Mage will name either Empty the Warrens (the correct call) or Tendrils, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Ill-Gotten Gains or something along those lines. If they don't think you have Empty the Warrens, they may just go for Tendrils. On the other hand, lots of Iggy Pop lists run Cabal Pit and Wipe Away, so they may decide to go for an accelerant or Tutor. If Threshold is able to play turn 2 Meddling Mage and then turn 3 Meddling Mage, your chances for winning the game are very slim indeed. Meddling Mage is pesky not simply because of what it does tactically, but also because it turns off Hellbent. Aside from Brainstorm, there is almost no way to discard cards to use Infernal Tutor productively (the two exceptions are actually playing Ill-Gotten Gains and the discard step).
Equally troublesome, Empty the Warrens for 8-10 is actually defeated by turn 2 Meddling Mage and turn 3 Mage. Consider:
Threshold: Island, go
You: lots of spells and Empty the Warrens for 10 Goblins (they Force of Will the last one) so you only get eight Goblins.
Threshold: Meddling Mage
You: Attack for eight. Threshold blocks one going to twelve life.
Threshold: Meddling Mage
You: Attack for seven, they block two. They are at seven life.
Suddenly you have five Goblins to their two Meddling Mages.
If you had played turn 2 Empty the Warrens for ten Goblins and all of them came into play, you'd face similar results.
This brings me to the final consideration: be aggressive. You aren't going to beat Threshold if they have all their tools. If they have Force of Will, Mage, and a great mixture of dig and mana, your chances of beating them are slim. Since they don't always have a great hand, you need to win when and where you can. What this means is that you need to take your chances. If you try and go off and they have the answer... well, they have the answer. But if you try and go off and they don't, you took a risk and it paid off. This means you have to play risky. You have to play on the assumption they don't have Force of Will on turn 1. If you can play around Daze, then play around Daze. I don't think you should risk them not having both Daze and Force of Will unless you see no real other choice.
This is why being on the play is such a huge matter. It decreases the chance of them having Force of Will by at least 6% (assuming they Brainstorm), and it also means that Daze isn't an issue.
To summarize game 1 against threshold, your “a” game looks like this:
1) Empty the Warrens for as much as possible as quickly as possible
2) If you have turn 0 Leyline, then pound them with Ill-Gotten Gains
3) Try and combo out on turn 1 or 2 the traditional way (most successful if you are on the play).
If you anticipate playing lots of Threshold and Fish, you may want to cut the two maindeck Tendrils for two more Empty the Warrens. Just a thought.
Game 2 is a very, very different type of game. You will want bounce and Orim's Chants. The Chants are there to function similarly to how Ill-Gotten Gains plus Leyline works. It turns off their countermagic. Since some appreciable proportion of their countermagic is soft (Daze, Stifle, etc), Orim's Chant is generally only stoppable with Force and one of their two Counterspells. This gives you decent odds for getting one to resolve.
The downside to Chant is that you are slowing down your game plan a bit. You will need mana on the table to play Chant and to combo out at the same time. And in fact, you may need to assemble multiple Chants to eventually go off. There are several complications with this. First of all, space. Both Leyline and Chant probably need to be in the deck post board, but there just isn't enough space to safely accommodate them. Thus, you're going to have to force out other combo components. This gives you a solid quantity of bases off which to advance your game plan. The most important card then becomes Meddling Mage. You must have solutions to it. I advocate bringing in at least one Echoing Truth (since this is the most effective card at answering Mage — since it hits multiples (think how Hurkyl's Recall works against Stax)). I also think you should have a Wipe Away (for Arcane Lab).
So, here is my board plan:
This is at a minimum. Ideally, you should have more bounce and even more Empty the Warrens. I'll leave further changes for you to decide.
With careful play and attentiveness to the considerations I've articulated, you should be able to even the match against any but the most competent Threshold player.
One thing I haven't done...
This deck may be more or less common depending on the particular environment in which you are playing, but this deck is far less difficult than Threshold. This is counterintuitive. Fish has more disruption. They will often have:
The difference should be evident: the lack of Counterspell. It is Counterspell that really puts Threshold over the top. The six countermagic spells makes it much more difficult to win through just brute force and also to find Ill-Gotten Gains more quickly than they can find answers when you have Leyline on the board. Follow some of the principal's I've articulated for the Threshold match and you'll find this to be a relatively simple matchup.
I played this deck's creator (Hanni) in a tournament in Columbus and beat him pretty badly. I only lost game 2 because I drew one land in my top 25 cards. If I had seen another land I would have been able to combo out with ease. Note, however, that he assumed I wasn't playing with Empty the Warrens. I got him with it game 1.
This is a race, pure and simple. The thing that will make you lose this match is forgetting that they have Price of Progress. Otherwise, it is enormously favorable. Post board, bring in some bounce, but keep in the Tendrils.
This may turn out to be the second most important match after the Goblins match. Your initial evaluation should suggest that this is a bad matchup for Iggy Pop.
Before dispelling this perception, I have a few words about matchups in Legacy in general. As a general rule, matchups in Legacy are remarkably consistent. You can get edges, but it is unusually difficult to turn a completely unfavorable matchup into a favorable matchup. The reason is that there are generally insurmountable hurdles that make a matchup difficult. This is a matchup that swings dramatically with practice — perhaps more so than any other matchup in Legacy. The reason is actually that Iggy Pop is pure math here. B/W attacks two resources: the hand and the land on the board. In attacking the hand, B/W actually winds up fueling Iggy Pop and helping it achieve Threshold. Iggy Pop runs eight fetchlands and at least three basic lands. If Iggy Pop just plays fetchlands, Lotus Petals, and Lion's Eye Diamonds, it can play tortoise in the shell and there is nothing B/W can do about it. You can let B/W strip your hand even with an active Hypnotic Specter and B/W will end up losing. It's a fairly simple equation. You will topdeck a Tutor before B/W wins the game.
B/W is highly disruptive and it even has a moderate clock — but it is no Goblins. Without Jotun Grunt, about the fastest B/W gets is turn 1 Hippie, turn 2 Confidant, turn 3 Shade. Even then, you are looking at three more turns before they kill you.
I would keep this hand against B/W:
Lion's Eye Diamond
Three more mana sources (whether they are lands, accelerants or artifacts)
You just drop your mana onto the table, and there is really nothing they can do.
Between your Mystical Tutors, Brainstorm, Intuitions, and Infernal Tutors, you will topdeck the win before they kill you.
Also: you have critical defense tools that elude B/W: Brainstorm and Mystical Tutor come to mind.
But the bottom line is that you will win off the topdeck so long as you can drop Lion's Eye Diamonds on the table. If you can, turn 1 Infernal Tutor for LED is about the strongest play you can make.
The tactics I have just described and variants thereof operate under worse case scenarios. Turn 2 wins are still very viable. Imagine:
Dark Ritual, Hypnotic Specter
You can win easily on turn 2 with either scenario. Alternatively, if the B/W player wastes their turn 2 playing Dark Confidant or some lame dude, you can just win on turn 2. If the B/W player is competent, they'll know that they have to interact with you.
On the other hand, there will be games where they don't have a chance. On the play, you should have no qualms about winning on turn 1. Alternatively, Leyline + turn 1 Ill-Gotten Gains will take them out of the game.
Post board, things can become tricky. If they have Extirpate, they can really do some serious damage and will cut off your ability to use Ill-Gotten Gains. Your ace-in-the hole is Empty the Warrens. Early Empty the Warrens is GG. Mid-game Empty the Warrens is a great stall tactic. Play carefully and you'll really be rewarded in this matchup.
I could talk about Faeries Stompy, EPIC Storm, and all sorts of other matchups, but they may or may not be relevant or even something you'll face. This article is nearly twenty pages in Microsoft Word, single spaced. I'm sure that most of the key principles have already been elaborated on so far. Just apply them in different contexts and you'll have a recipe for success.
I hope you've enjoyed this primer. Iggy Pop is a fantastic deck that shines in the hands of great players. Part of the allure is that you get to play with the absolute best acceleration in the format. If Tendrils is your thing, you should give this deck a serious look.
With special thanks and appreciation to Mike Bomholt