In this week's installment I am going to spend some time talking about Legacy and a deck that I really like think is really good and believe to be well positioned at the moment.
noun plural termini terminuses.
1. the end or extremity of anything.
2. either end of a railroad line.
3. British. the station or the town at the end of a railway or bus route.
4. the point toward which anything tends; goal or end.
5. a boundary or limit.
The end of anything but especially your opponent's hopes of winning if they were foolish enough to try to play with creatures!
I have recently started attending a weekly Legacy tournament in Ann Arbor that pulls between 25 and 40 players and I really enjoying hanging out and playing the format. Even the occasional Enchantress player who slow plays me for the draw isn't enough to dampen my enthusiasm for Wednesday Night Legacy.
One of the things I really like about Legacy is that the quality of play and format expertise seem to be at an all-time high. I rarely have a match where I am not tested by someone who plays a lot of Legacy and understands exactly what is going on. In that regard it kind of reminds me of Vintage back in the day when that format had a strong following of committed and specialized players.
I haven't gotten a chance to play in one of the SCG Legacy Opens yet (I am hoping to go to one this winter!) but I have gotten to play in a few SCG Invitationals and Legacy Grand Prix. While 40-person Legacy tournaments are not the same as large-scale events my local metagame does reflect the bigger one at large with most of the players choosing to play top tier decks: RUG Delver Stoneblade Show and Tell Merfolk and Maverick. Thankfully there are no Mono-Black Pump Knight decks running rampant and losing to everything…
"No longer a 'staple' of my local Legacy scene…"
It is no big secret that U/W Control is a deck and that it has been performing reasonably well at recent events winning a SCG Legacy Open and placing second in the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) in August.
The first of the U/W Control decks that I played was FoundOmega's list from the MOCS right after it got second and I was really really impressed. I believe that I played five rounds of Swiss and straight through the Top 8 only losing a game or two in total.
The deck was obviously very good and while all of the cards are pretty decent cards in general after playing a bunch with the deck there were places where I could see room for improvement.
The reason I think the deck is so good despite the fact that it has some cards that I perceive as being loose/weak is that the card Terminus is just the stone cold blade. I am going to lapse into hyperbole for a moment (as I often do when I am talking about cards I really like) but I don't really understand how creature decks are even playable in a world where people can play 4x Terminus 4x Sensei's Divining Top and 4x Brainstorm.
My old Vintage pal Mark has been coming out to play Legacy lately and since I have enough cards to basically build a blue deck and a Maverick deck I get to play blue and he gets to play Maverick. We had done this a couple of times and on the week I played the U/W Control deck for the first time before the tournament started he asked me to play a couple of games with him.
On the third turn of the game I cast Brainstorm on his end step and during my upkeep miracled Terminus. He knew what the card did (as it is a staple in The Danger Room) rolled his eyes and scooped his guys to the bottom. "How many copies of that card does your deck play?" he asked me as I was finishing my turn. I put up four fingers. "So basically I can never win a game. Okay we don't need to play anymore of this matchup."
I think that Mark was spot on in his observation that a deck that gets to play four copies of the following cards is well full of really good cards.
"Why would anybody bother to play anything else?!"
These are the cards that I liked and was solidly reserved to play four of each.
Some of the other cards I wasn't so sure about. To say that the others are not as good as Brainstorm Top and Jace really does all other cards an injustice because not many are. What it basically boils down to is that the former five cards are the ones you definitely want four copies of and then it becomes a matter of what support cards one wants to put around them.
I tried a couple of things to great success. The first was to go further down the Land Tax route.
I cut the Trinket Mage package from the maindeck in order to make room to play more land which I generally think is pretty good in this style of deck. Most of the games where I was losing before were due to not making land drops which is easily fixed by not cheating so hard on mana. Also I found that my Mox Diamonds made my Land Tax much much better—not to mention the old "SURPRISE JACE!" on turn 3 is pretty cute as well.
I needed more three-drops in here to replace the Trinket Mage (for my Counterbalance) and opted to play Vendilion Clique to help gain some percentage against combo decks. The clock is mostly irrelevant when one's primary way to win is Jace but it does matter quite a bit against decks that are trying to kill me with a combo. Besides it is in keeping with the "just play all cards that are better than my opponent's cards" mentality.
I felt like Land Tax was so good whenever I got it going in the original build (which was almost never because my opponents were not dummies) that I wanted cards that would enable me to have reliable access to that effect.
I also think that Wasteland is an absolute MUST in a deck like this if not for any other reason than without it Cavern of Souls is a big big problem. I am basically playing the redundant copies over spells which is fine with me because Mox Diamond wants some extra lands. Let's be honest here: Wasteland is a better "spell" than most spells can ever dream to be.
The other U/W Control variant I brewed up is actually—wait for it—BANT! Because why shouldn't I be able to play Bant in every format!
This list is a little bit more unconventional but it performed pretty well for me the last time I played Legacy. I am basically splashing green to have access to maindeck Shardless Agents and sideboard Krosan Grips. U/W has become really popular in the past few weeks and I wanted to have an advantage in the Jace race (Shardless Agent) more card draw (Ancestral Visions) and a way to break up Counterbalance (Krosan Grip). I succeeded at all of these things.
I actually feel like this is a pretty sweet deck and it is undeniably powerful in the abstract. The combo matchup isn't fantastic pre-sideboard but you do have Force of Will Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top to make things interesting. Against decks where Shardless Agent isn't good I simply side it out for Vendilion Cliques and Spell Pierces which are good against those types of decks.
Another pretty sweet innovation is getting to play with Academy Ruins to bring back the Agent every turn in the late game in a control mirror match or against grinding style decks. I really like to play this style of deck because the power level of the cards is so high that I simply outright crush a large percentage of the decks in the field. This deck also a lot of sideboard room to address strategies it's soft to.
Thanks for reading!