While testing for the SCG Invitational one thing became abundantly clear: Griselbrand is the card to beat in Legacy.
Hashtag GriselBanned? It's looking more and more likely. Cards like Yawgmoth's Bargain and Necropotence are banned in Legacy and for good reason. The thing about Griselbrand is that it's arguably easier or just as easy to get into play as those other cards.
Unlike other giant legendary creatures like Iona Shield of Emeria or Emrakul the Aeons Torn Griselbrand isn't affected by some of the cards that deal with those like Jace the Mind Sculptor and Karakas. Sure it can get bounced or Plowed or whatever but with your seven or fourteen new cards you should be able to find something else to do such as Reanimating Angel of Despair or casting Sneak Attack.
Aside from all of his success in Legacy the thing that led me down the dark path was this Modern deck:
I wouldn't have minded saving this deck for Grand Prix Columbus but oh well. This is by far the most powerful thing you can be doing in Modern. With a discard outlet a Goryo's Vengeance a fatty and some Spirit Guides you can be attacking for fifteen on turn 1!
After a few Magic Online two-man queues I've been able to do that exactly once but chose not too since I wanted to get value with Emrakul's annihilator. However I've had several turn 2 "kills" where I get to attack with Emrakul or Griselbrand. In Emrakul's case their board is gone and you have plenty of time to rebuild. With Griselbrand it can be trickier but you should be fine since you're up seven or fourteen cards. At that point you should be able to do it all again next turn.
Assuming your deck doesn't implode on you you're pretty consistent around turn 3 or 4. If that doesn't work you can turn to the Through the Breach backup plan. Postboard you can expect all kinds of graveyard hate so I usually lean on Through the Breach a lot heavier there hence the sideboard Pentad Prism.
This deck is incredibly fun and very powerful and I might play it at the Grand Prix regardless just because of how awesome it is and how awesome Griselbrand is. I'll continue to work on this one so let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about it in the future!
Also I saw the spoiler for M13's Wild Guess and that card is probably awesome in this deck.
[Editor's note: Wild Guess is a rumored sorcery that costs RR. The text on it is "As an additional cost to cast Wild Guess discard a card. Draw two cards."]
I like his list a lot better than several of the other Sneak and Show decks I've seen. The only thing I would change would be to play Grafdigger's Cage instead of Leyline of the Void. Other than that it's a finely tuned machine and I believe the credit for the list goes to David McDarby.
This deck rose to prominence because the Sol lands and Lotus Petal allow you to ignore Daze and Spell Pierce more often than other combo decks and it has plenty of cheap countermagic of its own. Whereas RUG Delver can normally defeat combo decks it actually has a tough matchup with this one.
Daze isn't great in this deck because you're trying to get enough mana to cast Sneak Attack. Most of the other decks with Daze don't have a (virtual) five casting-cost card that they want to play every other game. The removal of Daze was the first step and figuring out the mirror was the second.
Through the Breach much like in the Modern deck is a great card to turn to when your opponents are packing hate for Show and Tell. However its main purpose is for the mirror matches where you have to side out your Show and Tells. This gave Jonathan six business spells in his deck after sideboarding whereas most of his opponents only had the four Sneak Attacks.
- 4 Shardless Agent
- 4 Elvish Spirit Guide
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Griselbrand
- 2 Maelstrom Wanderer
- 4 Progenitus
Eight Spirit Guide Hypergenesis is a great deck for Griselbrand because you can put him into play early and once you do it's easy to protect him with eight pitch counterspells. Once he's in play you can Hypergenesis again in the same turn once you draw into more fatties some Spirit Guides and something that gives your guys haste.
Basically this deck doesn't lose with a Griselbrand in play. I mean that's the case with probably all Griselbrand decks but with this one it's especially true. The fact that it's difficult to lose to anyone once Griselbrand is in play is a testament to how good the card is. As Nick Spagnolo put it it's Magic's BEST permanent.
That's why I think people are crazy when they build decks like this:
Sure you can combo off on the same turn you put Griselbrand into play but is that necessary? What does playing a crappy Storm shell have to do with putting Griselbrand into play and protecting him? He was going to win you the game anyway. Yes there are things like Karakas but there are numerous ways you can build your deck to make that insignificant.
Since Nashville it looks like many players have adopted some of the lessons learned from Sneak and Show and are now playing even faster better Griselbrand decks. One of those people was Reid Duke at last weekend's SCG Open Series in Worcester.
Reanimator stopped seeing play for two reasons. The first is that Mystical Tutor got banned and the deck wasn't nearly as consistent. Without Mystical you had to naturally draw Entomb and hope that they couldn't counter it or wouldn't fight over it (even though it's typically correct to fight over the enabler not the actual threat).
If there were no Entombs in sight you would often end up casting Careful Study binning your only fatty and Reanimating a Sphinx of the Steel Wind versus something like Counterbalance. After all that work you'd end up with a Baneslayer Angel a turn sooner than you could have cast it. Embarrassing.
Second right around the same time Legacy was evolving to the point where Reanimating even the right fatty wouldn't win you the game.
You couldn't get Progenitus or Emrakul the Aeons Torn so anytime you Reanimated something and your opponent put one of those into play on the next turn you were probably just dead. Also the creature decks became more aggressive more disruptive and/or had more than one color they could answer your threat with.
Iona Inkwell Leviathan Terastodon and the like just weren't good enough. For two mana you could cast Tarmogoyf and it would accomplish a lot more. That's just a sad state of affairs but that's what power creep does. You can print things like Avacyn and Gisela alongside Unburial Rites and have them not matter in the slightest.
Now Reanimator actually has a fatty that's good in every matchup. Sure maybe you just don't draw an Entomb or Griselbrand and are forced to Reanimate a Blazing Archon against RUG and hope they don't have two Lightning Bolts but it's much better than we're used to.
Griselbrand protects itself is a constant engine and it just so happens that RUG can't beat a 7/7 flying lifelinker even with no abilities. If your opponent casts Show and Tell you can thank them for skipping their turn and putting Griselbrand in the graveyard for you. If they put in Emrakul and you put in Griselbrand you can pay fourteen life and find a Blazing Archon or Angel of Despair.
Griselbrand is too good for Legacy and Reanimator might be the tipping point. For the SCG Invitational Reanimator might be the worst kept secret but it probably won't matter. There are things like Tormod's Crypt and Leyline of the Void that supposed to keep graveyard decks in check but there's also Show and Tells in Reanimator's sideboard and plenty of anti-hate. I wouldn't be surprised if Reanimator dominates the SCG Invitational in Indy this weekend.
So where does that leave us? Obviously we need to brew.
The first thing that came to my mind was a pure hate deck. However putting together a hate deck for Legacy is incredibly difficult since the room is never comprised of only three decks. Legacy is a wide-open format and people tend to play whatever they want or whatever they have cards for. In order for a hate deck to be viable it has to also be powerful enough to beat up on the "random" decks.
I may not have succeeded but this is what I came up with:
Why yes that is Snap not a mistyped Snapcaster Mage. With Gilded Drake and Standstill Snap is actually an all-star. One of the concerns with the deck is that the Delvers are a little weaker than what we're used to but that's ok in this deck. I'm not trying to Bolt them out or win strictly on tempo. This is a board control deck that eventually kills them.
This is just one of those decks that might beat up on the "good" decks but how do you get any traction against something like U/R Delver? They'll probably just burn your face off. You can't walk away complaining about how you lost to that terrible deck because decks like that exist in Legacy. If you weren't prepared for it your deck is far more terrible than theirs.
If the format does become too inbred which is unlikely considering we're talking about Legacy here then something like this could be awesome. These were the types of decks I loved seeing in old Extended once a new best deck reared its head. I live for this stuff. Sadly I can't live in the past and this deck will likely never live in the present. A deck like this might be viable in an SCG Invitational but you probably can't play it in an SCG Legacy Open.
What else can we do? Well there are plenty of ways to put Griselbrand into play and everyone is prepared for those strategies at this point. Normally when I'm in this situation I try to hybridize two different strategies to form something they can't fight.
Building hybrid decks for Legacy is good for the same reasons that it's too difficult to build control decks in Standard—there are too many angles to fight. The great thing about hybrid decks is that most people play linear sideboard cards like Tormod's Crypt which might fight part of the problem but then you can just go the other way.
One thing I'm thinking about is splicing Reanimator into Show and Tell. If they have anti-Show and Tell cards like Gilded Drake or anti-Reanimator cards like Tormod's Crypt it probably won't matter. You just find the other combo and kill them with it. Another example of that would be playing Intuition for Unburial Rites Griselbrand and Gigapede (no matter what they give you you end up with Unburial Rites and Griselbrand in your graveyard) in a deck where Intuition is a solid value card.
First we'd have to find the best Intuition deck which could be Thopter/Sword or maybe even Lands. Both of those strategies are somewhat neutered by Tormod's Crypt though so we'd probably have to do better. Something like a Counterbalance deck where Intuition is just a Tutor for the Counterbalance/Top combo might be a better choice.
I won't have enough time to come up with something spicy for the SCG Invitational so I'll probably play one of the decklists from this article. That said I believe something like the Counterbalance deck could be awesome going forward. You do need to play white for Unburial Rites and white is pretty awful right now but that should be ok. Blue is the color you really want to play anyway.
Wish me luck this weekend!
Here's the Solar Flare decklist that I Top 4 split the Roanoke Invitational Qualifier with last weekend:
Image Terminus spot removal Mimic Vat Cavern of Souls and Torpor Orb overperformed for me. That said this deck kinda sucks. I'm over the whole 'working super hard for my wins' thing. Normally a control deck doesn't have any free wins and even when decks stumble you give them time to catch up. Both of those are even truer with this deck. Even if they've mulliganed and missed land drops you don't have enough card drawing to put you truly over the top.
In order to give the deck more velocity I'd like to add some Amass the Components and potentially even Divination. Once you go down that route Snapcaster Mage is actually appealing especially considering how good Doom Blade is right now.
I might mess with this deck a little in the future but if I do I'm going to add red!