Temur’s next Move

So William Jensen crushed Worlds in what looked like a most deserved tournament win in terms of preparation and level of play. Of course he got lucky along the way but I don’t think anyone has won a tournament without luck. His and his PGO brothers’ weapon of choice was a very finely tuned version of Temur Energy (you don’t randomly put one Supreme Will and one Glimmer of Genius in your deck for Worlds), and it begs the question: “why play anything else?” An identical copy even won the MTGO PTQ on Saturday.


Temur Energy

Creatures (23)
Bristling Hydra
Glorybringer
Longtusk Cub
Rogue Refiner
Servant of the Conduit
Whirler Virtuoso

Spells (15)
Abrade
Attune with Aether
Commit // Memory
Confiscation Coup
Essence Scatter
Harnessed Lightning
Magma Spray
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Forest
Island
Mountain
Rootbound Crag
Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
Negate
Abrade
Confiscation Coup
Supreme Will
Glimmer of Genius
Torrential Gearhulk
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Aethersphere Harvester
Chandra's Defeat
Appetite for the Unnatural

To answer the question, let’s start before the rotation where I thought UB Control was a good choice against Temur and the metagame as a whole. Two important changes mean that this is no longer the case. First, the departure of Grasp of Darkness really hurts, especially against Monored where you also lose Flaying Tendrils and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Vraska’s Contempt is considerably worse as the two life just isn’t enough to remedy two extra mana spent to kill Hazoret the Fervent (or heaven forbid, one of the cheaper creatures).

Against Temur it is also a blow because you now have to lean heavily on Fatal Push in the early game. With Grasp you could board out some number of Pushes and still be able to deal with early Longtusk Cubs and Servant of the Conduits. Having to keep in all four Pushes means you end up in spots like Kelvin Chew did in game 4 of the semifinals where he drew all four and had to spend two on Thopter tokens while not being able to kill the Whirler Virtuoso that made them. If just one Push had been a Grasp I think he would have won that game.

Second, you can now expect Temur to have Essence Scatter in the main deck. Having such a tempo positive way to deal with The Scarab God for good or Torrential Gearhulk while stopping the trigger is huge. Of course they don’t always have it and the God is still game over if you untap with it but it does change the matchup and the way you have to play. Search for Azcanta is getting rave reviews but I just don’t think it does enough to make UB the place to be (although I have only played 4 leagues with it).

Generally I would say the way to punish Temur is to play a focused strategy that goes over the top of them. There are two decks that I think do this in Standard, Anointed Procession decks and God-Pharaoh’s Gift decks. The problem is that these decks have either/both consistency issues and/or trouble against the other big decks (UB and Monored).
So even if you beat Temur (which you might not if they prepared their sideboard for you) you aren’t necessarily favored against the metagame. There was an Anointed Procession deck that crushed the PTQ Swiss and it looks to have addressed at least the inconsistency issues with Champion of Wits, so I will be exploring that avenue soon. For now, though, I want to play the best deck and beat the mirror, a tried and true strategy:


Temur Energy

Creatures (23)
Bristling Hydra
Glorybringer
Longtusk Cub
Rogue Refiner
Servant of the Conduit
Whirler Virtuoso

Spells (15)
Abrade
Attune with Aether
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Confiscation Coup
Essence Scatter
Harnessed Lightning
Magma Spray
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Forest
Island
Mountain
Rootbound Crag
Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
Negate
Struggle // Survive
Confiscation Coup
Carnage Tyrant
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Aethersphere Harvester
Chandra’s Defeat
Appetite for the Unnatural
Nissa, Vital Force

This list isn’t revolutionary but the core of the deck is so large now that there is limited room to maneuver, in the main deck at least. I like Chandra a lot and I was actually surprised to see PGO omit her from the main. I hope it was because they wanted to strand opposing Negates and that there isn’t a bigger picture that I’m not seeing (interestingly the control decks largely omitted Negate from their main decks).

As the Worlds list indicate, the sideboard is fair game and where you really make your edge with a deck like this. I haven’t liked the Torrential Gearhulk plan that much so I want to make room for some real mirror-breakers. I think Nicol Bolas is the best for the job but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to play more than one seven-drop.

As I mentioned earlier, The Scarab God has lost a little luster with Essence Scatters being more populous, but it is still the next best in my view. However, you need to play a Swamp which I would like to avoid. The mirror isn’t everything and your mana is pretty stretched as it is. You could put a Swamp in the board but I think Swamp and a God is worse than, for example Nissa and Confiscation Coup.

By the way, I had a great chat with my friend Mattia De Colle and he brought up a good point about Confiscation Coup: what are you actually hoping to steal in the mirror? Longtusk Cub is a great target but you usually board it out. Taking The Scarab God is obviously amazing but many aren’t even playing it. Then you’re basically left with a tapped Glorybringer which means you get a two for two (I’m assuming it killed a creature so the creature and your coup for their Glorybringer and a Harnessed Lightning which they often have since you save it for Glorybringer mostly).

I guess it helps you get Glorybringer superiority but we think the game more often comes down to Bristling Hydra superiority. I will still bring in coup for the mirror but it’s mostly for mono red.

I will board in Carnage Tyrant in the mirror but it’s really there to crush UB. Bristling Hydra is your best threat against them and the tyrant is even better. It’s basically Bontu’s Last Reckoning or game over. Nissa is also quite the boss against control, I only lost one game where it stuck and that was because I punted.

Initially I wanted to cut Appetite for the Unnatural because it just seemed unimportant but with Anointed Procession and God-Pharaoh’s Gift on the rise, it gets to stay. This is also where I hope Struggle // Survive will come in handy. These decks can seem like tough matchups and you can easily lose to their good draws. They are inherently inconsistent though as they need Anointed Procession or God-Pharaoh’s Gift respectively to do broken things.

Since you have answers to both of them, it is possible to keep them from functioning properly in which case you just need to make sure to close out the game before they can find another one. This is a prime example of why Temur is the best deck: it might only be an 8 on the power level scale but it is an 8 almost every game, whereas something like tokens regularly varies from 2 to 10.

The final point I want to discuss is flooding. My list has 22 lands, the Scarab God version goes up to 23. Then you have 4 Attune with Aether which thins your library a bit but still almost counts as a land, and 4 Servant of the Conduit. That’s almost half your deck just making mana (yes you get a bit of extra energy but still).

Variance and observation bias probably plays a role here but I’ve flooded a lot since I picked the deck up a couple of weeks ago and I can’t help but wonder if there are too many mana sources in the deck. I don’t have any conclusion so feel free to chime in but I will try shaving a servant since it pretty much always gets killed turn 2 and is a pretty bad draw late.

I hope I can find something that beats Temur consistently before the Pro Tour but I am content with it as my fallback plan. Let me know what ideas you have for both. Thanks for reading.

Vintage is Coming! Season 2.

Last time, I shared my thoughts about the restrictions of Monastery Mentor and Thorn of Amethyst and listed a few decks that I expect to break out as a result. Today I’ll address the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and list a few more decks you can expect to play, or consider playing your self, in the new environment!

Having played Vintage for 14 years, I have definitely resolved and faced my share of Yawgmoth’s Bargain. At a healthy life total, you can expect to win the game on the spot, especially since we now have Mox Opal to start your black mana chain should you already have made your land drop in addition to Mox Jet, Black Lotus and Lotus Petal, so this card obviously has potential. It does come with a few downsides.

You need Dark Ritual to power out Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Dark Ritual gets hit by Mental Misstep – a card that will increase its impact on the format after MUD and Eldrazi got weakened and killed respectively by the restriction of Thorn of Amethyst. Furthermore, it could be very difficult to support Dark Ritual and Mox Opal in the same deck.

The second problem is the lifetotal aspect of it. In different formats, a strength of Storm decks has always been its ability to win the game the turn before you lose the game in the hands of opposing creatures. In Legacy and Modern you win with Past in Flames in these situations. I imagine this Storm deck will also feature tutors and Yawgmoth’s Will for a similar effect, but my gut feeling tells me that a diverse threat base of Mind’s Desire, Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Necropotence, singleton Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Dark Petition in addition to the restricted tutors is a better way to go than maxing out on Bargains.

The third issue is the straight up comparison to Paradoxical Outcome. It costs less mana, it doesn’t care about your life total, and it makes it easier for your deck to support Force of Will. It should be fairly obvious that Paradoxical Outcome-based decks are the new sheriff in town, and this could cause an uptick in Null Rod and Stony Silence. Should this happen, then relying on Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual could be the way to go in Storm decks, and multiple Yawgmoth’s Bargains could become interesting. For now, I’m sticking to Paradoxical Outcome as my engine. If I was a betting man, this card would be at the top of my list of cards that should be on Wizards’ radar.


More New/Old Decks

Oath of Druids is in a strange spot. The biggest perk of playing this strategy before was preying on MUD decks, which will go down in the metagame percentages without a doubt after Thorn of Amethyst was restricted. It was also quite ambitious to justify playing Oath as long as quadruple Monastery Mentor was allowed, but that has changed now. The power of getting to summon a turn two Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn can’t be ignored, so people will look into different controlling builds of Oath in the weeks to come. The deck can splash black for tutors and Abrupt Decay or red for Pyroblast and Ancient Grudge if the metagame calls for it – or both because of Forbidden Orchard. While the land will sometimes give your opponent a relevant clock when you don’t draw an Oath, Forbidden Orchard is also a rainbow land that enables playing four colors.
For those of you who would be interesting in combining the speed of Oath of Druids with the power of Paradoxical Outcome, check out this deck that piloted to a top 4 finish a few weeks ago in the Vintage Challenge.

This card has definately seen play these past few months, but only as a win condition in Paradoxical Outcome-fueled decks. I think we will see classic Grixis Control decks pop up with this little combo as a finisher next to TinkerBlightsteel Colossus. Getting to run all the good cards in Magic and splash Pyroblast and Dack Fayden should be every Magic player’s dream. Time Vault + Voltaic Key is a powerful win condition because it can trump any boardstate from your opponent. You can go different routes within the Grixis shard with Goblin Welder/Thirst for Knowledge package, a Thoughtcast/Tezzeret well-oiled machine or the more streamlined way of life with “just good, restricted cards“. Being able to either control a long game or steal a quick one is a very good attribute in Vintage, and I believe we will see the power of Time Vault soon enough. If Oath and Time Vault both become major players in the metagame, Abrupt Decay looks deliciously well positioned.

Another archetype that has been horribly underpowered compared to Mentor is Blue/Red Delver. You have all the restricted blue cards at your disposal, you have the ability to pressure your opponent starting from turn one, and your support color is the best sideboard color in the format. Because of your low curve, you can use Wasteland and Strip Mine in combination with Null Rod to level the playing field vs. the heavy hitters of the format that need more mana to function.

A threat base of Delver of Secrets, Harsh Mentor or Young Pyromancer depending on your style and Snapcaster Mages combined with Lightning Bolt can put the game out of reach quickly with little to no time for the opponent to recover. You also have a solid amount of stack control with 4 Force of Will, 4 Mental Misstep and a few more cheap counterspells like Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm or Pyroblast, so you’re well setup vs. the unfair strategies in the format.

Once the format gets under way and I have access to more data from the Magic Online Leagues, I will go in depth with different decks and let you know about it. Until then, follow me on Twitter or on my Twitch channel and watch me take on the format later this week!

Vintage is Coming!

This Monday the Vintage format was hit by two more restrictions following the dominance of Monastery Mentor-powered blue decks and Mishra’s Workshop-based aggressive prison decks for quite some time. While it simply can’t be argued that these two archetypes needed to be cooled down, I want to talk about my solution for it and what I think about Vintage moving forward with the introductions of Leagues on Magic Online and these restrictions in mind. Let’s go!

First things first. If you google search for “ecobaronen mtgo”, you will see that I have a lot of good finishes with various versions of Mentor decks in Vintage. I’m not mentioning this to show off, but simply to underline that I’m not biased in this statement:

Monastery Mentor was the best victory condition for blue decks – NOT close – and it made all other blue decks simply a worse choice and therefor killed diversity little by little. Wizards made the mistake of chopping off its arms (Gitaxian Probe and Gush) once, but now finally went for the head. For these reasons it had to go.

Later in the article I will touch on which decks and cards are suddently playable again as a reaction to this restriction.

Wizards’ own statistics showed that four Thorn of Amethyst were played in 40% of all top 8 decks in the Vintage Challenges over the last year, and of course action should be taken towards this deck.

The only problem I have with this is, while you managed to make MUD worse, you also managed to kill White Eldrazi for no reason at all.

Here’s my White Eldrazi deck I played this spring in a proxy tournament and went 7-2 on the day (4-2 in the main event finishing 9th, then 3-0’ing a side event):

White Eldrazi by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (25)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Containment Priest
Phyrexian Revoker
Eldrazi Displacer
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Lodestone Golem

Spells (12)
Thorn of Amethyst
Chalice of the Void
Black Lotus
Mana Crypt
Mox Emerald
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Lands (23)
Wasteland
Strip Mine
Cavern of Souls
Eldrazi Temple
Ancient Tomb
Plains
Karakas

In a creature-based deck like Eldrazi, Thorn of Amethyst and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are your eight cards that disrupt your opponent and not your self. While MUD is also very creature heavy, as Wizards stated in their article, you have the difference in 4 Mishra’s Workshop and Foundry Inspector to get mana advantage. With a playset of this old land, Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst are so close to the same power level in MUD, while they are completely different in the Eldrazi list and the difference between a top 5 deck and an unplayable one unfortunately. Because I love diversity not only in the blue decks, but also in the disrupting and taxing archetypes, I feel like restricting Thorn instead of Sphere was a mistake.

A Look Ahead

With new restrictions and Competitive Leagues coming to Magic Online, the future looks bright for Vintage. While I can’t provide thoroughly thought out deck lists before we have an established metagame, I can give my best predictions about what to expect and what you should look into in the format now.

BUG is back! I expect Black/Blue/Green decks with Deathrite Shaman and Leovold to become a serious player now. These colors give access to the restricted blue and black cards, a one mana planeswalker, Abrupt Decay for Time Vault and Oath of Druids and a very powerful hatebear in Leovold. Leovold stops Paradoxical Outcome and prevents your opponent from chaining draw spells and cantrips.

I like the fact that this deck can afford to play Null Rod because of Deathrite Shaman for acceleration and will expect it to run a singleton Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator, maybe with a small Green Sun’s Zenith package, to replay Wasteland or Strip Mine. BUG is a potent combination of card quality and disruption.

With a defined metagame, you can build your Blue/White Standstill deck and prey on a lot of decks at the same time. You want a lot of cheap answers in the form of Swords to Plowshares, Mental Misstep and one mana counterspells to make sure you can play your unrestricted Ancestral Recall on turn 2.

From there you are looking to snowball your advantage with Mana Drain and more of the same cheap interaction. If you’re lucky enough to be chaining Standstills, you’re doing it right! The deck will most likely play some Snapcaster Mages and Jace, the Mind Sculptor for flexibility and card advantage and finish the game off with Emrakul, the Promised End. Like the BUG deck, only the on-color Moxen will be included, so Stony Silence to combat Paradoxical Outcome and Time Vault is a main deck option. I will be testing Spell Queller out of the sideboard for when my opponent sideboards out their removal spells, so watch out!

It’s finally little brother’s time to shine! Like Neymar Jr. leaving to Paris to get some time in the spotlight instead of being in Messi’s shadows, Young Pyromancer is ready to take over after Mentor was sacked.

Being awarded free 1/1’s for playing Magic is still very powerful, and I expect Grixis and Jeskai versions (the latter can even play singleton Mentor) to pop up.
Black lets you play tutors and card draw like Night’s Whisper or Painful Truths, and white adds Swords to Plowshares, Monastery Mentor and better sideboard options. Young Pyromancer is a turn one play a higher percentage of the time than Mentor was, so be prepared to fight the war on the stack earlier.
With a Mox, a normal play pattern in blue mirrors will be turn two Young Pyromancer with Flusterstorm backup. I’m super excited that this style of deck is still viable in Vintage and not too good anymore.

Next time I’ll be writing about three more new (old) decks, the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and the state of combo in general. In the meantime follow me on Twitter and tune in to my Twitch Channel and look out for Vintage action in the future. As soon as the Leagues are in place, I will be spending a lot of time playing in them.

Thanks for reading!

How to beat Ramunap Red (… and zombies)

This weekend, the Pro Tour finally happened and Standard is alive again. The top 8 contained 6 Ramunap red decks, and red was the talk of the weekend.

It’s a very powerful deck with some very fast draws and at the same time a lot of staying power between Hazoret, the Fervent and Ramunap Ruins. If you think you can just play a truckload of cheap/mass removal and be safe, you have another thing coming. So is this the new caw blade? First of all, we need to look deeper than just the decks in the top 8.

This has always been overvalued, because remember the Swiss includes 6 rounds of draft. We also have to keep in mind that basically all the top pros/teams brought Bomat Courier and friends to the table and it was almost 25% of the starting metagame so you should expect to see some copies doing well.

I prefer to look at the decklists published on the coverage page sorted by standard record. That reveals the following: 1 Ramunap Red went 10-0. 2 Zombies and 1 Ramunap Red went 9-1. 1 Ramunap Red and 1 BG Constrictor went 8-1-1. At 8-2 were 6 Ramunap Red, 2 BG Constrictor, 2 Zombies, 1 Four Color Vehicles and 1 Temur Energy. Going down 7-3 there were 12 Ramunap Red, 13 Zombies and 7 BG Constrictor with a few copies of assorted other decks.

Any of these could have been in the top 8 depending on their limited records. Considering that there were more than twice as many red decks as zombies and almost three times as many red decks as constrictor, you could argue that Ramunap Red actually did worse than the other two. Additionally, there was a Standard PTQ on MTGO on Saturday with a top 8 of 3 Zombies, 2 Constrictor, 2 RG Ramp and zero(!) Ramunap Red decks. What I take from all of this is that Ramunap Red is very beatable.

It will continue to show up in the coming tournaments because a lot of people will just copy a list from the pt top 8, especially the winning one, but the decks you should really Metagame against right now are zombies and BG Constrictor. Luckily, all three decks have a comparable game plan: cheap aggressive creatures backed up by resilient, hard-hitting top end threats. First of all we need cheap removal; these decks hit the board early and hard and if you take too much damage from their cheap creatures, you will be hard pressed to keep up answers to their late game.

Second, you need a way to take over the game, once you’ve dealt with their early onslaught. You need to close the game out fast or it could slip away to their top decked Hazoret, Dark Salvation or Verdurous Gearhulk. Lastly, you need to be prepared for their sideboard plans. All of them pack extra punch and Resillience in the board, mostly in the form of Planeswalkers like Ob Nixilis Reignited, Liliana, the Last Hope and extra copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Don’t just board in a bunch of extra Fatal Pushes and Sweltering Suns, lest you risk losing to one of these.

My current way to deal with these 3 decks is BR Midrange. It started just after Hour of Devastation came out, when I saw this list 5-0 a league:

BR Midrange

Creatures (9)
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (25)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Doomfall
Fatal Push
Hour of Glory
Liliana, Death’s Majesty
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Magma Spray
Never // Return
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Canyon Slough
Endless Sands
Evolving Wilds
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

I took it for a spin and liked a lot of it, but there were a few problems; there was too much of a gap between the early removal and the late game.

You often needed to be able to play 5-6 removal spells in the first 4 turns to have enough room for your 5 drops to take over. And then other games you needed to draw much less removal and more big threats because they had a slower start and answers to your first 2 threats. It was basically the classic non-blue control deck problem where you needed to draw the right half of your deck without any card selection.

I knew I wanted 4 Liliana for sure because it was both removal and threat at a cheap cost but other than that I wasn’t too sure. Then last week, Paul Rietzl 5-0’d a league with a similar deck that also top 8’ed the MTGO PTQ the weekend prior:

BR Midrange - 5:o Standard League by Paul Rietzl

Creatures (12)
Demon of Dark Schemes
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (22)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Collective Brutality
Doomfall
Harnessed Lightning
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Ruinous Path
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Blighted Fen
Canyon Slough
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

The key for me is the 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.

It might look out of place in a control deck but it helps keep the cards flowing and at two mana, it will rarely be stuck in your hand, and you can play it and a removal spell on the same turn in the midgame. It also puts the opponent in an awkward spot for sideboarding because if they board out their removal, they could just flat out lose to it but if they keep removal in for it, they lessen their chances of enacting their own game plan because of a card you might not draw.

It even presents them with a dilemma in-game when you play it turn two because they have to spend mana to kill it in which case it did the same for you as a removal spell; keeping one of their threats off the board.

Along with the 4 Lilianas you have strong proactive early plays that are good against both aggro and control meaning the losses to ‘drawing the wrong half of your deck’ become much less frequent. I was not satisfied with the removal suite though; nothing at 1 mana and 6 at 2 is just not going to cut it against Ramunap red.

I also think you need ways to deal with Hazoret in a deck like this and Doomfall won’t hit it when you don’t have enough cheap removal to keep their small stuff off the board. I want some Grasp of Darkness instead of Harnessed Lightning and some combination of Fatal Push and Magma Spray. Spray is very good in the metagame but Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a big part of our plan and push is much better against gb so I think 3 Fatal Push, 1 Magma Spray will be good for now.

You want more against Ramunap red and zombies but that’s what sideboards are for. I’ll give my current list before discussing further:

BR Midrange by Anders Gotfredsen

Creatures (11)
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (23)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Doomfall
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Magma Spray
Ruinous Path
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Canyon Slough
Evolving Wilds
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Chandra’s Defeat
Magma Spray
Never // Return
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Lost Legacy
Dispossess
Transgress the Mind
Dreamstealer
Sweltering Suns
Chandra, Flamecaller

Against the current “big 3”, the plan is pretty straightforward; keep the board clear for the first few turns, stick a planeswalker or Kalitas and snowball the advantage from them.

If you have Liliana for turn 3, let one or two of their one toughness creatures live. If you have Kalitas, try to conserve your removal until he hits the board. It’s not easy knowing when you should play him turn 4 and when you should wait until you can leave up a removal spell the same turn.

Some of the red decks play Collective Defiance but people almost always copy the winning list (especially when it’s someone as well known as PV) so I would default to running it out turn 4 for now. Zombies have both Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation so here I would lean towards having removal the same turn as I play Kalitas.

Of course some games you see their hand with turn 3 Doomfall and the choice will be easy.

Doomfall is an interesting card for standard. I didn’t even consider it for constructed when I first saw it but it has the same kind of flexibility that makes Supreme Will good; it has an “answer” mode and a mode for when you don’t need to deal with something they have played.

The big difference of course is that Doomfall is a sorcery, and sorcery hurts a modal card much more than a one dimensional card. Specifically, exiling Hazoret after it has attacked you once is unpleasant. Unfortunately, discard spells tend to be sorcery so we’ll have to make do. It is bad against Ramunap Red and servicable against Zombies and good against Constrictor but I think you need it main to not auto lose game 1 to decks like ramp and control.

Just having a few makes a big difference when you’re playing Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and as long as it’s not completely dead in any matchup, I think you can get away with it.

The thing I’m most uncertain of is the mix of 5-drops. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is both a good card and a personal favourite of mine, which I fear makes me a bit biased.

The problem is that a lot of the time your first opportunity to play is on an empty board and it happens that you don’t have Live Fast in the yard and either no Doomfall or the opponent has no cards in hand. Glorybringer is often fine to jam on an empty board, though it is true that removal can answer it cleanly compared to the goblins.

There are also situations where the opponent has 2 or more creatures and you can’t really afford to exert it to kill one of them leaving you tapped out and defenseless, where goblins can both kill a creature and stay back to block.

What Glorybringer excels at, which I initially underrated, is end games, and while the goblins are also hard to block, 4 flying haste power is a big deal. Hopefully further testing will give me a clearer indication of which way to lean (if any).

I think we should have the aggressive decks covered by now so let me finish with the two other decks I would expect to face: UR(x) control and RG Ramp. Both are going to be very tough game 1 (maybe you should even move the Doomfalls out of the main and just concede game 1 to be even more sure to crush aggro.

But you still have a shot against control since they have a lot of useless removal, so maybe they are fine). Against control, hope to draw as little removal as possible outside of the stuff that kills Torrential Gearhulk; it is possible to just run them out of wincons. You have value creatures, discard and planeswalkers so you can come out on top if you pace your spells properly. Try to hold on to your discard until you can play it and a threat the same turn to overwhelm their mana.

Post board we get even more discard and a new favorite of mine; Dreamstealer. This is a nightmare for them. They have to spend a removal spell on it the first time around and when it comes back they can’t even block it with gearhulk so it’s a guaranteed two for one and if they don’t kill either half, they pretty much just lose on the spot. I haven’t played against ramp yet but it looks rough.

You only have 3 Doomfall that really do anything game 1 and unless you can snipe their only Hour of Promise, it don’t know how you win game 1. You get to bring in more discard along with a Lost Legacy, but it’s probably not enough to make it a good matchup overall. Ramp might pick up in popularity now and I will consider adding another Lost Legacy to the board in that case.

I really like this deck as it has a lot of play to it and a lot of room for innovation to the list. I just saw someone has 5-0’d a league with 4 Gifted Aetherborn instead of the siphoners. If I keep facing all aggro decks, that is a change very much worth considering. Give it a try if you like grinding, and let me know any ideas you have for the deck.

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Spicing up BUG in Legacy

There was a time where I played Legacy every week and enjoyed it every time as if it was my first (or maybe last). Battling six rounds vs. an assorted bunch of old combinations of cards for the low price of spending one hour each way with public transportation and getting to bed way too late was a bargain I gladly accepted week after week. While times have certainly changed, I still enjoy firing up a Legacy Challenge on Magic Online or participating in Danish Legacy Masters. Today I want to share a sweet deck with you guys that I enjoy playing quite a bit.

NO BUG

A friend of mine posted a BUG Midrange deck in our forums which had Green Sun’s Zenith and a few bullets in it apart from the usual BUG stuff like Deathrite Shaman, Force of Will etc. The Green Sun’s Zeniths quickly made me remember the time where “NO RUG” was a deck in Legacy and google’d my way to Reid Duke’s decklist from 2013. Check out this deck tech he did with StarCityGames.

Long story short, I suggested that he added Natural Order + Progenitus to the deck and made a better version of “NO RUG” anno 2017. You maintain the high card quality of the Sultai shard while also adding a proactive “I-win-button” for the low, low price of 2GG and a green creature. It wasn’t long before I purchased the cards I was missing from the deck my self and got into some leagues with this sweet pile of cards. Let me walk you through some card choices that aren’t too self explanatory.

NO BUG by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (13)
Deathrite Shaman
Dryad Arbor
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Progenitus
Scavenging Ooze
Tarmogoyf
Vendilion Clique

Spells (29)
Brainstorm
Daze
Fatal Push
Force of Will
Green Sun’s Zenith
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Natural Order
Ponder
Thoughtseize
Lands (18)
Forest
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Duress
Flusterstorm
Engineered Plague
Marsh Casualties
Sylvan Library
Reclamation Sage
Ruric Thar, The Unbowed
Null Rod
Thoughtseize

Dryad Arbor: The first copy is mandatory, but the second copy is good when your first one gets killed and you want to search up another one with a Zenith X = 0 or fetch one on your opponents endstep. It can be a really bad draw sometimes, but I think the pros outweigh the cons easily.


Green fetches are prefered to Polluted Delta because they find Dryad Arbor. This will definitely not come up every game, but it can be relevant for this deck.

These two basic lands are included for a few reasons. It gives you the option to beat a Blood Moon. Forest + Deathrite Shaman can cast Natural Order, and Island helps you dig for these cards. They can also help vs. Wasteland + Life from the Loam and be the difference between life and death when facing Price of Progress.

We obviously want a lot of blue mana sources in our Daze, Vendilion Clique and cantrip heavy deck, but the nod towards Underground Sea is because of the double black mana card in our sideboard.

Free countermagic is great when you’re trying to resolve key four-mana spells. With different kinds of mana acceleration, you can often make good use of Daze even on the draw. As an added bonus, Daze helps maintain an acceptable blue count for Force of Will. Thoughtseize rounds out the disruption suite as the most flexible one available. Information about your opponent’s hand can be just as valuable as taking their best card, and Thoughtseize does that for one black mana and 2 life.

These powerful three-drops do a lot of nice things for the deck. Vendilion Clique can clear the way for Natural Order, get rid of Progenitus from your hand, disrupt combo decks and beat down in the air if the ground is stalled out. Leovold is a swiss army knife that is always good value when cast. Leaving dead cantrips in your opponents hand and forcing them to give you extra cards if they want to interact with your battlefield or hand is just filthy.

This little one card combo can win the game early and in brutal fashion. Giving your solid Midrange deck another path to victory is super powerful and should catch a few people off guard in any given tournament. Casting this on turn three with Force of Will backup is the best thing this deck can do. I don’t want to play the full playset because two of them can be very punishing to draw, and this deck is perfectly capable of winning without it.

Tarmogoyf is mostly a beatdown creature vs. combo and Grixis/Blue Red Delver with only Lighting Bolts as removal, while Scavenging Ooze can save the day vs. graveyard decks or do serious work in a Deathrite Shaman mirror match. Shutting down opposing Snapcaster Mages and disrupting Life from the Loam can also be useful.

Sideboard

 

My anti-combo package include a few counterspells, discard spells and a Natural Order target to swap with Progenitus vs. Storm. I wanted these slots to be relevant against as many combo and control decks as possible and really like this setup where they each shine in different matchups.


Sylvan Library is the absolute most impactful thing you can be doing on turn two versus the various control decks in the format, whether it’s Neo Miracles, Grixis Control or a pseudo BUG mirror. With the package of 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 2 Leovold, Emmisary of Trest and 2 Sylvan Library, I feel comfortable against every controlling deck out there.


This card does a lot of things and has become a staple in many BUG sideboards. From combatting Aether Vial/equipment decks to shutting down all of Storm’s artifact accelerants, this card is really flexible and will be brought in in a lot of matchups. It also disrupts Grindstone, Goblin Charbelcher and the occational Affinity opponent.


BUG has already built-in graveyard hate in Deathrite Shaman, but the two copies of Surgical Extraction will come in handy vs. Reanimator strategies and combo decks where you will try and hit a key card with either a discard spell or countermagic. It can potentially buy you enough time vs. Dredge for Progenitus to finish the job.


Adding even more flexibility to your Green Sun’s Zenith can be very valuable in a big format like Legacy. I expect Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void and Umezawa’s Jitte to be the cards I target the most with Reclamation Sage‘s ability.

Dealing with various X/1’s has never been more important in Legacy, with the most popular ones being True-Name Nemesis, Elves, Young Pyromancer with tokens and various creatures out of Death and Taxes. I also sideboard in some number vs. Storm to deal with Empty the Warrens. Dread of Night is too narrow, and Golgari Charm kills my own Dryad Arbor and Vendilion Clique.

If you like the BUG colors like I do and want to add a little spice to it, I suggest you try out this deck at your next Legacy tournament.

And if you want more legacy action, tune in to my twitch channel and follow me on twitter! 😉

What did You Bring to Class?

Today I will be playing a variation of the archetype in Legacy known as Show and Tell from the name sake card.

The premise is simple: resolve Show and Tell, each player gets to put a creature, land, enchantment or artifact from their hand into play. In your hand is either Griselbrand, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Omniscience. In your opponent’s hand, hopefully nothing more exciting than a Tarmogoyf or a Scalding Tarn.

As an auxiliary plan you can attempt to resolve the enchantment Sneak Attack which, when paired with either Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn will very often win the game.

In short, this is an “A + B” type combo deck (with the exception of Omniscience requiring a “C”). We are looking to pair up card A (Show and Tell or Sneak Attack) with card B (Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn).

The deck plays a lot of mana accelaration in the form of “Sol Lands” (lands that tap for two generic mana – named after Sol Ring), Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors as well as Lotus Petals.

The rest of the deck is cantrips and counterspells alongside some tutor like cards in Intuition and Cunning Wish.

OmniSneak by Martin Nielsen

 Creatures (6)
Griselbrand
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Spells (32)
Misdirection
Force of Will
Flusterstorm
Spell Pierce
Sneak Attack
Show and Tell
Omniscience
Cunning Wish
Brainstorm
Ponder
Preordain
Intuition
Impulse
Lands (22)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Island
Mountain
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Volcanic Island
Lotus Petal

Sideboard (15)
Flusterstorm
Intuition
Rushing River
Boseiju Who Shelters All
Firemind’s Foresight
Surgical Extraction
Through the Breach
Kozilek’s Return
Pyroclasm
Blood Moon
Sudden Shock
Pyroblast
Release the Ants

The reasons to play this version of the deck over the pure Sneak and Show version is to be more flexible through the card Cunning Wish as well as to have a much, much better matchup against what is arguably the Sneak and Show deck’s worst matchup from among the established decks in Legacy, Death and Taxes. The reason D&T is so strong vs the Sneak and Show deck is that it is basically playing a post-board game of magic from game one.

Phyrexian Revoker and Karakas are mighty powerful answers to both Sneak Attack and an Omniscience-less Show and Tell. The primary reason why this version is better vs Death and Taxes is exactly because of the card Omniscience. They have a Karakas in play? You Show and Tell Omniscience into play and hard cast an Emrakul you can ignore the Karakas because of Emrakul’s time walk ability when cast.

Where storm feels more like performing surgery, playing with Show and Tell often feels like using a battering ram. It’s a blunt instrument that is incredibly powerful but perhaps a bit less sophisticated. You will have fine-to-great matchups against most non-blue fair decks like Jund, Eldrazi and the aforementioned Death and Taxes and be decently positioned versus slower blue decks like Stoneblade / True-Name Nemesis decks and the likes.

Storm is probably a slight favorite against you but it isn’t by much. The Delver decks is honestly what I feel I have the most problems against. I’ve found it preferable to board out the Omniscience/Cunning Wish package in favor of removal. Most Delver decks will fold to any of your creatures entering the battlefield either via Show and Tell or Sneak Attack and a lot of the time if you can remove their first threat they will take a long time to kill you during which you can setup to execute your combo.

So strap in and enjoy the ride. I find it to be a fun deck and one that can always spike a tournament.

 

If you like what you saw be sure to check out my youtube channel.

 

“The Grass is Greener” – 5:0 Legacy League

Today I’m playing a Legacy League with my favorite Legacy deck ANT (Ad Nauseam / Tendrils of Agony). My focus this time around has been to lapse back to the days of old and add green to the deck once again. ANT is, at it’s heart a Grixis deck, but even that is a bit of a stretch as the deck runs only between 1 and 3 red cards making it heavily focused on UB with a very small red splash.

5:0 Legacy League with ANT by Martin Nielsen

Spells (45)
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Chrome Mox
Dark Ritual
Cabal Ritual
Duress
Cabal Therapy
Infernal Tutor
Grim Tutor
Past in Flames
Ad Nauseam
Tendrils of Agony
Empty the Warrens
Brainstorm
Ponder
Gitaxian Probe
Preordain
Lands (15)
Scalding Tarn
Polluted Delta
Island
Swamp
Tropical Island
Badlands
Volcanic Island
Underground Sea

Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Massacre.
Tormod’s Crypt
Surgical Extraction
Xantid Swarm
Hurkyl’s Recall
Chain of Vapor
Tendrils of Agony

Back when Sensei’s Divining Top was still unbanned we were basically forced to splash green as a fourth color in order to have a clean answer to Counterbalance in Abrupt Decay. With Sensei’s Top – and by effect Counterbalance – out of the format many storm pilots rejoiced at finally being free from the “shackles” of having to splash green and have foregone the fourth color entirely. I tried this too, replacing my main deck Tropical Island with a second Island and freeing up sideboard slots being able to manage my removal needs through blue bounce spells like Chain of Vapor and Hurkyl’s Recall which we were running anyways.

This should be great, right? We become more robust versus Wastelands and we get more sideboard space. Well sure but something happened that I wasn’t counting on: Miracles somehow survived. Like in a horror movie where the monster has been burnt, drowned and blown up but somehow still comes back for one final scare. Whether or not the New Miracles deck will turn out to have staying power is a discussion for another time but for the time being it is seeing a fair amount of play. The deck doesn’t run Counterbalance but I still believe we need Abrupt Decay.

This is because they run Ethersworn Canonist. Ethersworn Canonist is a very different card in a deck like Death and Taxes, where you might be used to seeing it, than it is in any blue deck. A blue deck with Canonist is able to sit on a counter spell like Force of Will, Counterspell or Flusterstorm and if they have a resolved Canonist it is VERY difficult to resolve a Chain of Vapor, Massacre or basically any answer that isn’t uncounterable. It is especially bad in a deck like miracles because they run so much counter magic. Other blue decks that have previously run Canonist but where it is not AS scary is something like Esper/Deathblade decks. These decks often run less counter magic and instead rely more on discard so it is more feasible to resolve a removal spell against them.

So this leaves us with a few options. We can stay in Grixis and run stuff like Rending Volley or Sudden Shock. I considered this but I eventually opted for a relapse into green and Abrupt Decay. Basically my thinking went like this:

Firstly I don’t think having the second Island be a Tropical Island is a very big cost. This is something that is pretty hard to quantify but having access to ONE Island and ONE Swamp feels like 90 % in terms of being resilient vs Wasteland. Having the second Island is nice but honestly I never felt like it made me significantly better off. Having said that I didn’t stick with the 2x Island setup for a prolonged period so I could change my mind, I suppose.

Secondly I really prefer Abrupt Decay to the the red answer spells I discussed before. Those spells can only answer hatebears whereas Decay is also an answer to Chalice of the Void (and it’s lesser played Artifact brethren Thorn of Amethyst and Sphere of Resistance). We already run some number of Hurkyl’s Recall, but this is a way to consolidate removal and, in time, we might want to completely eschew the recalls if Eldrazi stays suppressed.

Lastly having green allows us to play other interesting cards like Xantid Swarm, Carpet of Flowers and others. In this league I decided to run a few Xantid Swarms, mainly to bring in versus Show and Tell and Infect and the likes but also to bring in vs New Miracles. I would usually not bring in Swarm in the old days vs Miracles because they would always keep in answers like plowshares and terminus in some numbers. I also was planning to grind vs them where Swarm is a card that doesn’t want to grind but instead wants to completely avoid any back-and-forth on the combo turn. Without access to our own Sensei’s Divining Top and with New Miracles playing 4 Predicts I don’t have confidence in the Grind plan and I also don’t think Swarm is on anyone’s radar with the whole “Storm gets to NOT run green at last” narrative.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoy these videos and I will return later this month with some more Legacy videos.

ANT

Martin Nielsen with ANT vs Shardless BUG

ANT is the most robust storm combo deck in Legacy. Sacrificing speed for resilience. It is still very fast and will often be able to find a kill by turns 2 or 3 while turn 1 kills are rare.

While the name draws focus onto the card Ad Nauseam, ANT is perhaps better described as a Past in Flames combo deck.

This list runs two Past in Flames as having the card in your hand on your combo turn is often great as it gives you flexibility on what to tutor for if you also have an Infernal Tutor.

Ad Nauseam Tendrils by Martin Nielsen

Spells (60)
x Infernal Tutor
x Ad Nauseam
x Past in Flames
x Empty the Warrens
x Tendrils of Agony
x Dark Ritual
x Cabal Ritual
x Preordain
x Ponder
x Brainstorm
x Gitaxian Probe
x Cabal Therapy
x Duress
x Lotus Petal
x Lion’s Eye Diamond
x Chrome Mox
x Badlands
x Volcanic Island
x Tropical Island
x Underground Sea
x Island
x Swamp
x Scalding Tarn
x Polluted Delta
Sideboard (15)
x Abrupt Decay
x Xantid Swarm
x Krosan Grip
x Carpet of Flowers
x Tendrils of Agony
x Massacre
x Flusterstorm
x Chain of Vapor
x Sensei’s Divining Top

 

This list also runs Empty the Warrens in the main deck. I have long been a proponent of this setup. Empty the Warrens is faster than Ad Nauseam (costing one mana fewer meaning hands with a Dark Ritual, a Lion’s Eye Diamond and an Infernal Tutor – and a Land) can go off and make at least 8 goblins (make that 10 or 12 if you are able to mix in a Gitaxian Probe or two) where we would not be able to get to Ad Nauseam mana.

In this list though I wanted to also have access to Ad Nauseam. This is questionable I will concede.

Looking at the sideboard you will notice that this list was built back in the miracles era. As such there was a massive dedication toward what was know as the Grinding Station approach – google that and you will find an article by Jonathan Alexander. Extra copies of Tendrils of Agony are excellent against many decks including greedy delver decks that run Gitaxian Probe and Surgical Extractions after board as well as almost any slow blue deck.

Thomas Enevoldsen in Strasbourg

The healthiest constructed format in Magic

Hello everybody and welcome to the very first article from my hand here at Snapcardster.com. My name is Andreas, and I am a 29-year old MTG junkie residing in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the future I will be posting weekly content about everything from Pauper to Vintage, tournament results from Grand Prix or Magic Online tournaments, my own preparation for upcoming events, metagame analysis, player interviews and much, much more. If you want me to address a subject, don’t hesitate to write me a message on Facebook. Don’t be shy now!

Since I know many of you love Legacy, I thought a great place to kick things off would be talking about this weekend’s Legacy Challenge. For those who don’t know, “Challenges” are weekly tournaments on Magic Online with 7-8 rounds and top 8 with great prize payout. Why I like these tournaments in particular is the fact that they attract a lot of pros and/or format specialists, and the competition is therefor always top notch.

Legacy Challenge June 4, 2017
Read more at magic.wizards.com

2 Death and Taxes
1 Four Color Control
1 Elves
1 Blue/Black Shadow
1 Esper Deathblade
1 Blue/Red Delver
1 Grixis Delver

As you can see, the event was won by a spicy version of Death and Taxes in the hands of “Scabs” – the online handle of Thomas Enevoldsen – the Godfather of the deck. He and his partner in crime, gold pro Michael Bonde, put the deck on the map back in 2013 where they finished 1st and 3rd respectively at Grand Prix Strasbourg. More on that deck and Thomas’ success with it towards the end of the article.

Death and Taxes by Thomas 'Scabs' Enevoldsen (1st Place) Legacy Challenge #10664481 on 06/04/2017

Creature (26)
Containment Priest
Eldrazi Displacer
Flickerwisp
Mother of Runes
Palace Jailer
Phyrexian Revoker
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Vryn Wingmare

Instant (4)
Swords to Plowshares

Artifact (7)
Aether Vial
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte

Land (23)
Ancient Tomb
Eiganjo Castle
Karakas
Plains
Rishadan Port
Wasteland
Sideboard (15)
Palace Jailer
Chalice of the Void
Council’s Judgment
Dismember
Ethersworn Canonist
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Pithing Needle
Relic of Progenitus
Rest in Peace

 

R.I.PI want to talk a brief moment about the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top. Just have a look at that top 8 and let it sink in. There is no way that this much diversity would’ve found its way into the top 8 of a Legacy tournament just a few months ago. If this trend continues, I think it’s safe to say that Wizards made a brilliant move by banning the Top.

Ironically, if you take a look further down the list from the eight best decks, Miracles has found a way back to being relevant thanks to a forgotten card, Portent. Portent is no Sensei’s Divining Top, but it lets you set up Terminus and Entreat the Angels to some extent. With the engine of Snapcaster + Predict for card advantage and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a bigger roll than before, Miracles 2.0 is happening. It will be very interesting to see if the deck can actually compete over time, or it’s just the stubborn Miracles players who refuse to take no for an answer right now and will eventually quit.

 

Legacy Format DiversityThe diversity is REAL this time.

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