As I write this, I have only a minimal idea of what I'm playing at Grand Prix Indianapolis. I expect some people to be skeptical of this claim, and I can see why. I plan to fall back on Dark Rituals if nothing else pops up, but I'm just not feeling it for this Grand Prix for reasons I'll touch on later.
Instead of playing then suggesting decks, I'm going to start with listing my options. I'll be walking through my choices myself as I go and presenting why I'm accepting or dismissing them in the way I actually think of it in real time.
Let's start with the most popular deck and go from there:
Tempo Thresh aka RUG Delver
This deck is probably the single truest tempo deck I've ever seen. You have one specific goal: play an undercosted big threat then prevent them from doing anything relevant before it kills them. Delver and Tarmogoyf both kill them very fast, Wasteland and Stifle prevent them from being able to cast anything relevant, and whatever counter suite you choose lets you stop the one or two real spells they might have time to put on the stack.
This deck punishes mediocre deck design and play very hard because of the strain on your opponent's mana base. If they fetch at the wrong time or for the wrong land, they aren't playing any spells. If their deck can't function off basics or doesn't have the ability to operate around a Daze, they die. You also have nut draws that are almost impossible for decks to beat. You can have two Delvers flipped by turn three with some sort of backup or just Wasteland or Stifle their first three lands.
The reason I'm not going to play this deck in Indianapolis is the high variance nature of it. I'm not even referring to blind Delver of Secrets, as your eight cantrips make those almost locks even without the natural spell bias of the deck. The issue I have is that you have eight real ways to win the game (Tarmogoyf and Delver) and need to stick one early to win. You mulligan extremely often for a non-linear deck, which is not something I want over a twelve plus round event. Power is important in the broad field of a Legacy Grand Prix, but so is consistency.
You also have issues with cheap removal gunning down your one or two threats, notably the combination of Swords to Plowshares and Snapcaster Mage. Good, cheap spells in general are a huge concern, especially if they are casting them off a Noble Hierarch. If you notice, this covers what are probably two of the most popular decks in Maverick and Stoneblade. While losing to one big deck isn't a huge problem in Legacy, losing to two plus a bunch of other random decks that decided they didn't want to pay four mana for spells is an issue. You can beat things like Zoo off the back of Snapcaster Mage-Lightning Bolt, but what about someone who decided to show up with Aether Vial and some two-drops or the even worse scenario of Goblins?
Verdict: I can't fault people for playing this deck just on the basis of power level, but I wouldn't want to be shuffling it up. If the threat base were just a little more reliable, I could get behind it. It isn't actively bad, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with it.
I actually really like this deck. Most Legacy blue decks give you a choice between tempo and control, but Stoneblade gives you a nice blend of the two. Importantly, this mix is due to your spells being able to cross roles as opposed to just being the old Rock deck hoping to match your Duress with their spells and Smother with their creatures.
The main issue I have with this deck is a combination of answer specificity and a lack of swingy effects. You have cards like Spell Snare that sometimes just aren't what you need, but you are short on big effects to polarize a game state in your favor. As a result, you can get into scenarios where the marginal advantages you have generated are erased by them drawing a Tarmogoyf then you just drawing a bunch of Spell Snares. I tried to remedy this with Ancestral Vision and more planeswalkers, but the results weren't that great. Visions often just became one of the dead cards you could draw while digging for answers, and I never found a walker that clicked the same way as Jace the Mind Sculptor.
I started on Elspeth, Knight Errant, which most of the time only let you tread water when behind as opposed to get ahead. I then worked with a red splash and Ajani Vengeant, who actually did some cool things to help you push ahead but was lacking in the ability to quickly put the nail in the coffin the way Jace does. The card that interests me the most is Garruk Relentless, which I've seen people splashing to great effect. The upgrade from 1/1 to 2/2 means you can actually start trading for their guys, and that's assuming he didn't just kill something and flip to make deathtouch Wolves. Both sides are also very lethal, with the front representing a very fast clock and the back letting you chain Snapcaster Mage or other threats.
Your answers are also just narrow enough to be an issue for certain matchups. Spell Snare and Swords to Plowshares seem like they should cover everything, but there's a lot of weird stuff in Legacy. In Standard Caw-Blade you just relied on Jace and Mystic to kill anyone who wanted to mess around with these kind of shenanigans, but in Legacy there are a lot of random things people can do that are less powerful than Dark Ritual but still overpower your threats while dodging your answers. One generic example: I had big issues with Goblins decks that showed up ready to kill a Stoneforge Mystic. Aether Vial bricked a third of my spells, Rishadan Port and Wasteland hit another third, and Goblin Ringleader covered the rest. While Goblins has traditionally been a nightmare for pure U/W control decks and you can expect to lose to them without an Umezawa's Jitte or Batterskull in play, it's just one of many angles you can be attacked from that dodges the current blue-white setup.
Verdict: Good, but it's a bit lacking in ways to lock things up. If only there was something that could defensively stabilize you while simultaneously presenting a game ending threat, like a Titan that doesn't cost six.
- 2 Aven Mindcensor
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Mother of Runes
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Scryb Ranger
- 3 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Tarmogoyf
- 1 Gaddock Teeg
- 1 Dryad Arbor
Piles of threats to run Stoneblade out of answers? Check. Mana dorks and cheap spells to blank Delver's mana denial? Also check. I'm sure most people know this by now, but Maverick is the cure for the common blue deck in Legacy.
That said I would take a good, hard look at it before I play it at this Grand Prix.
At its core, Maverick is just a G/W dudes deck. You happen to have amazing toolbox depth and relatively powerful threats, but you are still soft to people just casting dumb spells. This doesn't just mean things like Show and Tell or Lion's Eye Diamond but overpowering fair spells like Pernicious Deed or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. You lack any swingy spell that can pull you back from the brink of defeat, so you often just fold when faced with one.
You are also still a little soft to combo, but it isn't terrible as you have a reasonable amount of play. You are significantly better against the abstractly less powerful combo decks like Sneak and Show, while against Storm and Reanimator you are behind but can still win.
Verdict: Does a lot of good things but needs some kind of big trump. I almost want to splash Jace, but I don't think I want any other blue spells. I'm also not a huge fan of Punishing Fire, but that's mostly because in my mind it just skews you more towards your already good matchups.
(Note: The Geist of Saint Traft list from the Top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open in Memphis is exactly where I want to be. Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph also seem sweet with the boost in Thruns and as a way to tie up Knight/Mother of Runes fights or kill a Show and Tell monster.)
- 1 Deranged Hermit
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 2 Grave Titan
- 1 Kitchen Finks
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Veteran Explorer
- 1 Wall of Blossoms
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
- 2 Thrun, the Last Troll
- 1 Dryad Arbor
This deck is a monster if your opponent is playing fair. You go way over the top, with cards like Pernicious Deed and Grave Titan putting you on an entirely different level from the normal two-drop power of Legacy. Tarmogoyf is great and tempo efficient, but in the world of near infinite mana that Veteran Explorer creature costing a third of a Grave Titan doesn't matter. The one thing I think some of the stock lists are missing is significant numbers of Liliana of the Veil or another planeswalker (Garruk of some kind?). Just another powerful effect that, similar to the role in Stoneblade, just takes over the game without costing actual six mana to cast.
Solving the fair deck issues of Maverick comes at a cost: you are much worse against people doing degenerate things. You can shred their hand with Hymn to Tourach and Cabal Therapy, but I want some way to seal the deal. I like what Liliana does in this regard as most of these decks can't win from the position of being locked at hellbent when you have an Edict back, but I want another card that does something along these lines.
Verdict: This deck is only minor tweaks away from being snap playing it. I wish I had a bit more time to test with it and get comfortable with the decisions. At the very least, my Cabal Therapy Jedi powers could use some work.
- 1 Flame-Kin Zealot
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 2 Golgari Thug
- 2 Ichorid
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
I really can't be impartial here. I have a history with Dredge, and it never ends well for me. It isn't even running into hate cards, as that is reasonable to deal with if you play and build your deck right. It's actually just normal games where you dredge around twenty cards and brick on one of the components, leaving you slow dredging to find the last piece against something that can punish you for stumbling. It isn't just me either, I have lost count of the number of complaints I've heard along the lines of, "All my Bridge from Below were in the bottom half of my deck." This might be non-representative of the full metagame where you can afford to just chill and grind out all the more fair decks, but the unreliability when you just need to go for it makes me very wary. I've tested Lion's Eye Diamond versions and don't feel like there is an appreciable difference in functionality, so I'm out.
Verdict: Still no. Probably no for a lot longer as well, but that's personal.
- 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
- 1 Angel of Despair
- 1 Empyrial Archangel
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 3 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
I really liked this deck for a long time, but I'm not sold anymore. It was by far the best Mental Misstep deck, but since the loss of that card and the rise of Snapcaster Mage things have gotten a lot worse. It feels like it did back at Grand Prix Columbus, where you won when you had Entomb or Careful Study on turn one and a monster on two but otherwise were drawing dead. With Misstep you could reliably protect your Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur and force through a draw seven trigger even when they had mana up, but with the Phyrexian instant swapping out for Snapcaster Mage suddenly the other blue decks are on the winning side of that battle.
Verdict: If I could have Entomb in every opening hand, I would play this deck. Unfortunately, that isn't the real world. Stay away.
I want to beat up on Stoneblade and Delver but not this bad. I don't really see any edge on playing this deck over Nic Fit. Both decks are built to beat the standard fair decks and lose to the degenerate decks, but Nic Fit has more play in unfavorable spots than Burn due to the discard suite. Burn is technically trying to be one of the non-interactive degenerate decks, but it's just lower on the raw power scale than any of the others. I know I've said before that interaction is not always favorable to just trying to kill them, but in this case I feel like one deck just has strictly better matchups across the board. I'd much rather be facing down the obligatory random combo deck with Hymn to Tourach over Lightning Bolt.
Verdict: Far outside the realm of considerable in my book.
(Note: Just after I wrote this, I watched a Burn deck get smashed by Belcher in a feature match at StarCityGames.com Open: Memphis. Had Burn been replaced by Nic Fit, Cabal Therapy or other discard might have given the fair player an out.)
I've been considering this on and off since the Misstep era and have watched it beat up on blue decks time and time again in Legacy Open feature matches, but having played the blue side of the matchup lately I'm not feeling it. The number of counterspells able to stop an Enchantress effect has increased, with Spell Snare and good old Counterspell flying around with Snapcaster Mage as opposed to Daze and Misstep. Jace is also a huge issue, giving the blue decks a relevant clock that dodges most of the anti-combat enchantments and keeps you pulling ahead even with a Solitary Confinement in play stopping a kill. From the non-blue decks you can expect waves of Qasali Pridemage, which is not what you want to be facing down. When you no longer have an advantage against the fair decks, it's time to pack it in.
Verdict: Not today, but maybe someday.
Maybe it's just my Modern experience talking, but I really like where this deck is at. You have the power to race out the lower tier of broken decks that some of the other linear non-combo decks like Burn lack. I don't have any idea what spell configuration I would want, but I know it doesn't involve Thoughtcast. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Stoneforge Mystic, and Cabal Therapy are the front-runners. I don't really count Master of Etherium as a colored spell as it still is an artifact, nor would I play it over Etched Champion after watching the latter dominate in Modern. Taking another cue from Modern, if I wasn't playing a Batterskull to Mystic down I would strongly consider the cheaper option of Steelshaper's Gift just to get a Plating active faster.
Verdict: Shockingly on the short list.
I love the ability this deck has to just shred an opponent to pieces, but I can't get behind how many late game blanks it has to draw if things aren't locked up. I also despise the concept of Dark Ritual in an attrition deck unless it's pumping out a permanent threat like Liliana. Basically, I like the best face of the deck but hate the bad parts. Again, I keep seeing the theme of there being a bunch of great utility cards but not even close to enough in terms of locking the game up beyond a basic slow grind. Four Liliana and a Nether Void seem like not even close to enough when it comes to haymakers.
One thing I want to question: why no Night's Whisper? If you're grinding against all of your opponent's resources, why not give yourself the ability to do more than just rip for more ways to trade for their cards?
Verdict: I don't think given the time frame I have I can invest the time to make this deck what I want it to be, but there is something behind this that feels promising. I'm sure a Gatherer search will reveal some prime options that don't conflict with the removal-blanking goal of the deck but give you some permanent source of advantage.
I want to talk about these decks as a whole here, so I'm not going to include a list.
The card Show and Tell is beyond awesome right now, at the least for the reason of dodging Spell Snare. The issue is what you're doing with it. I feel like just making an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Progenitus every time isn't enough. You need some combo kill that immediately ends the game so that you can wait longer to set up and go off. That currently leaves Hive Mind, but I really don't like that end game. Casting Hive Mind without a Grim Monolith or Show and Tell is near impossible, making it for sure a three-card combo. This also means things are likely to be slower, which fights against the inherent time constraint Hive Mind has with respect to killing someone before they can pay for a Pact. You also put yourself into a scenario where otherwise situational counterspells like Daze that should be simple to play around are actually very live, and giving your opponent maximal ability to interact is never what you want in combo.
Verdict: If there was a real way to immediately kill them off Show and Tell that was reliably castable off just lands and dodged the soft counters, I would be very close to auto-in.
Time for the big one here. Storm embodies so much of what I want at a Grand Prix. It's a deck that crushes random things based on raw power level, can win against anything easily with the right draws, and gives you a lot of room for interaction against the field.
The issue is that right now, against the most common decks in the format, you are pushed to your limits.
The best example of this is playing against RUG Delver. This matchup often feels like a crap shoot. You can usually play around a specific set of hate they might have, but you can rarely play around all of Stifle, Daze, Force of Will, and Wasteland. Frustratingly, you are often stuck having to go for it and a mismatch occurs in their favor. The poor matchup of your Orim's Chant and their Daze often prevails, as does the issue of not having a Chant and them having a Spell Snare or two that would get trapped by it. The easy way to win is just drawing an Ad Nauseam, but you can't play more than two of that one. Empty the Warrens post board is ok, but similar to Ad Nauseam you actually have a more limited time frame to get there than prior Storm kills that required just being alive. Your losses feel stretched and like they got lucky to have all the right cards, but your wins also feel like massive reliefs that they had nothing.
While this is probably the worst matchup, this level of futility at times is not where I want to be. Maybe the rest of the format is still fine enough that you still just want to battle through, and maybe RUG is the same 51% deck that BUG was last year, but I'm not sure I want to move in on that assumption.
This covers most of the decks I have spent any amount of time thinking about. I'm still undecided, but I know what I'm looking for if I don't just go full on broken. I want minimal card disadvantage and game ending bombs; I want to play Standard in Legacy. Is that feasible? I have no idea. Maybe we'll see. Either that or I'm just going to kill you on turn two and forget about it.