“Wait, what does this card do again?”
This was a question I heard multiple times this past weekend at StarCityGames.com Legacy Open: Baltimore. The card in question was Illusionary Mask, and the judges had a field day with it. A card older than I, Illusionary Mask is not an easy card to understand, but thankfully most judges had a decent grasp of the card. For those who did not watch the coverage, you may be wondering exactly what I was playing Illusionary Mask in, and the answer is this:
Since I don't expect everybody to understand the card, I'll give a quick overview on exactly how it works. You start by paying X and putting a creature card from your hand facedown as a 2/2 creature (similar to morph). When the creature flips up (which I'll get to as well), it has to have been cast-able by the mana spent on X. For example, to play Hunted Horror facedown, you have to spend at least BB and then any number of colorless. When the facedown creature taps, would deal damage, or would be dealt damage, it flips first, then taps, deals damage, or is dealt damage.
Some important facts to remember are that you can both Stifle the Illusionary Mask activation as well as counter the creature coming down. While on the stack and in play, the creature's converted mana cost is always zero though. That means that even if I spend one mana to play a Phyrexian Dreadnought facedown, you cannot Mental Misstep it. One last fact to remember is that the flipping of the creature is a replacement effect, so it does not use the stack to flip. Once it has to flip, there is nothing you can do about it.
Now that you understand the wall of text that is Illusionary Mask, let's move on to the deck.
As you can see, the deck has some unusual cards in it. After Sunday, Torpor Orb quickly became my favorite card for its ability to not only make 12/12 creatures for one mana, but to also shut down Stoneforge Mystic and Vendilion Clique, which are two heavily played cards in Legacy right now. As you can see, the main purpose of the deck is to lay out an Illusionary Mask or a Torpor Orb, then follow it up with a Hunted Horror or a Phyrexian Dreadnought.
Once that happens, you attempt to completely shut your opponent down from two angles. The first is to take out their hand with cards like Hymn to Tourach and Thoughtseize. Just in case the occasional card slips through the discard, we have a mana denial package of Wasteland and Rishadan Port to make sure they can't cast it. Soon they'll find themselves dead to 7/7s and 12/12s alike.
Torpor Orb – This card is in here to make sure our Hunter Horror and Phyrexian Dreadnought don't have any drawback. This card is the whole reason my friend and I built the deck in the first place. It is also multi-purpose in the fact that it stops your opponents' enter the battlefield triggers as well. Most decks don't play Hunter Horror, but instead play Stoneforge Mystic, so that ends up as a positive for us.
Illusionary Mask – Pretty much another Torpor Orb for the deck's purpose, but with the special element of surprise. Usually, this card is just Torpor Orb number five through eight. Unfortunately it doesn't stop opponent's creatures like Torpor Orb does, but that might be a positive if this deck catches on.
Phyrexian Dreadnought – Another fatty but even more buffed up. A 12/12 trample for one mana is nothing to laugh it. It takes only two hard swings before you are sideboarding for game two.
Dark Ritual – This card gives the explosive starts that a deck like this wants. It sucks that it is a dead draw most of the time late game, but the fact that it can toss out a Phyrexian Dreadnought turn 1, or a one-two punch of Thoughtseize into Hymn to Tourach makes it an almost auto-include (you usually want to lead with Thoughtseize so that you have a better chance of Hymn to Tourach acting as both a discard spell and a mana denial spell when you hit their lands). I find myself siding this card out against decks that play heavy control and also have Mental Misstep, but against certain matchups, it is a blowout. This card originally started out as Chrome Mox, but the card disadvantage that came with imprinting a card was just too much.
Hymn to Tourach – As one of the best discard spells in Legacy, it easily two-for-ones your opponent as early as turn 2 generally. This is one of the best cards in the deck, if not the best.
Thoughtseize – Another discard spell, it serves two purposes. The first and most important is to make sure our key cards are safe to resolve. The other lesser-known purpose, which I stated earlier, is to make sure our Hymn to Tourach has a better chance of hitting lands.
Go for the Throat – As a miser's one of, it is mainly here because we felt that it filled the slot that we had open. It wasn't amazing, but it pulled its weight over the weekend.
Dark Confidant – A card advantage machine, this is in my opinion one of, if not the, best creature in Legacy. This deck's most expensive card costs two mana, and with lands, the average converted mana cost of the deck is just over one mana. I am perfectly fine with paying about one life per turn to get an extra card. This card can also attack, which is not to be underestimated. This deck can win games on the back of a Dark Confidant plus heavy disruption.
Tarmogoyf – Another creature in the deck, that like Dark Confidant, can win games almost on his own. Certain decks like Merfolk just cannot beat him when he gets to a certain size, and he also blocks your opponent's Tarmogoyf quite well.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth – This card ensures that we can make double black mana, especially with the fact that we play eight colorless lands. It is only a one-of, and it makes itself a Swamp. This means that at worst, it is a non-basic Swamp.
Rishadan Port – Part or our mana denial package, it cuts people off certain colors and stops manlands in their place.
Wasteland – The final addition to our mana denial package, it beats up on decks that load their mana bases with non-basic lands, like this one :)
I ended up 2-2-2 in the tournament, which is not bad for a rogue deck in its first tournament. I didn't actually expect to win any games. The fact that the deck worked was a big surprise to me, and I'll continue to play it while saving up for a new deck. I have not abandoned Epic Storm. I just haven't really felt like playing the deck lately. For now, this is my “break deck.”
My losses in the tournament were to Natural Order Bant and just plain Stoneforge Mystic Bant. In general, Bant seems like a bad color combination for this deck. It packs in loads of spot removal (the deck's biggest problem), counterspells, and aggro pressure into one deck. The draws were to BUG Control and U/W Stoneforge Mystic. Both those deck stare at me, as I stare back. The matches play out something like this:
Me: Play a threat.
Opponent: Deal with my threat; play a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Me: Make you discard your hand and cut you off lands.
Opponent: Fateseal with Jace.
Me: Play a threat and kill Jace.
Opponent: Kill my threat.
This goes back and forth until time is called; then it continues for another five turns. Game 1, I usually have an advantage since I can trump Stoneforge Mystic strategies, but game two, these are the only decks that had things to sideboard in against me. From BUG, I trump their low removal and Tarmogoyfs, but they also sideboard in much more removal.
I have many changes to make to the deck before its next tournament, and I want to keep some of my awesome tech a secret, but I do want to reveal some changes.
First of all, I decided to cut the Go for the Throat and a Swamp for two-of Sylvan Library. I realized that the deck has trouble getting out of topdeck mode. This card ensures that we hit our key cards when we need them. I also cut another Swamp for a Life from the Loam. Wasteland locking someone is one of the better things you can be doing in Legacy, and this card does that very effectively.
Krosan Grip – Stops artifact/enchantment-based strategies very effectively.
Pithing Needle – This was the card I was least happy with in the tournament, but it stops Planeswalkers, many combo decks, Equipment, and Aether Vial. I might not be getting the full value when I played with it, but it did pull its weight.
Extirpate – Stops graveyard-based strategies and also stops combo decks if I can get them to discard one of their key cards.
Perish – Stops Natural Order decks, while also wiping out complete creature bases against certain decks.
In Baltimore, Glenn Jones did a Deck Tech on the deck here.
Special thanks to my friend Rob Cuellari for helping me build the deck and lending pretty much all the cards.
All in all, I hope you enjoyed the article. Suggestions on the deck are welcome in the forums. I don't know if the deck has the ability to win a tournament in its current form, but with fine tunings, it could turn out to be very strong. The element of surprise may be lost, but that doesn't mean that the deck's potential went with it.