Narninian and I have been discussing and testing a Restore-based Awoken strategy for the past week or so. He put together a great video on it here. The TLDR is that you can actually win a run very easily and consistently with Explosive Sentient by taking a single scaling unit, skipping most card rewards, aggressively removing cards, and upgrading/duplicating restores early and often. The strategy is so powerful that it works even if you begin with Bristling and convert to Explosive after Daedalus. In my *initial* testing of this idea, I rolled off a 6 streak before losing with a very rough run where Explosive was never offered. That is, before I truly understood the intricacies of the strategy, it was still strong enough to carry Covenant 25 runs; oh, and by the way, most of those runs took half of the time it took me to play a normal run! Let’s get into the details of making this work!
Generally speaking, you should not take these. A card has to be absolutely amazing for you to take and solve a problem that 5 or so Restores in a turn can’t. To give you a feel, I usually end up picking up 5-8 cards over the course of an entire run; almost all of those are Awoken cards. Notably, picking up 1-2 backline removal cards is probably a good idea. Units like Absolvers and Purifiers are a bit of a pain if you don’t answer them until the top floor (and you’ll often set up top floor); you’re also likely to miss a few Collectors without some backline removal. Glimmer is your premium backline removal since it both can trigger your champion and kills backliners. Every card non-healing card you add to your deck decreases the number of draws that trigger your champion. Keep that in mind.
Optimal- Engraft, Restore, Focused Growth, Awake
Good- Glimmer, Wildwood Sap
Situational- Spreading Spores
Questionable: Unleash the Wildwood, Restoration Detonation, Restoring Retreat
Generally speaking, with this strategy, you want to draw lots of cards and play lots of free cards with the word restore on them. Then you win. This means that you usually take card draw for both boss rewards, and cards like Engraft, Focused Growth, and Preserved Thorns are quite a bit better than they normally are. Of the remaining healing cards, Awake tends to be the best; it’s an excellent target for the Doublestack Merchant of Magic upgrade and it’s also one of the cards that lets you build up regen stacks quickly vs Cleanse Seraph in the last few turns.
Wildwood Sap and Spreading Spores have the same problem: they do not *immediately* trigger your champion. This means that if you fill your deck with cards like these, you actually increase your survivability but greatly lower your damage output. I will very likely take a circle 1 or 2 Wildwood Sap; it helps you brute force your way through the first couple of boss fights and gives you a good target for a Doublestack upgrade at the Merchant of Magic. As the run goes on, Wildwood Sap becomes less appealing; if you hit the abandoned train event later on in the run, you might find yourself wanting to skip Wildwood Sap at that point.
Spreading Spores is a card that is harder to evaluate. My heuristic is that if I think I already beat Seraph or am on track to beat Seraph, I skip this. If I think I still need more survivability, I’ll take it. I most commonly want this against Cleanse Seraph, where stacking regen in the last three turns of the fight is very important. The difference between Wildwood Sap and Spreading Spores is that one removes itself while the other copies itself; if you’ve spent your entire run decreasing your deck size to execute your gameplan as efficiently as possible, Spreading Spores does very weird things to your deck.
Notably, while Unleash the Wildwood and Restoration Detonation are normally pretty respectable cards, they just aren’t good here. You will stack so much regen that you full heal your champion just about every turn. Accordingly, Restoration Detonation just triggers your champion for one ember; it is just worse than Restore. Unleash the Wildwood…also just triggers your champion; it is just worse than Restore. You get to be really picky when running this strategy.
Optimal: Self-scaling units (e.g. incant and harvest units) with Multistrike
Great: Self-Scaling units, Multistriking units
Good: Largestone units
Bad: Scaling Units that require kills (e.g. Shattered Shell), units that require attention
You only need one unit and your Champion to win most runs. Ideally, you’ll get something like a harvest or incant unit that will naturally grow itself over time without you having to pay any attention to it or dedicate any resources to it. Siren of the Sea and Wickless Baron are probably the best uncommon units for this, but you can make a surprising number of things work. Essentially, the secondary creature has two purpose: pick off any units that don’t die to restores and do damage to bosses. The dream is to have a self-scaling multistriking unit, but just about anything reasonable will still do the trick. Of note, Largestones are a little weird with this strategy. You almost always want to set up on the top floor, so if you Largestone a unit and the top floor is small, your fight gets considerably harder. Largestones still have their roles (more on that in a second), but be careful not to make your run considerably harder by taking them.
Generally speaking, Awoken banners tend to be very bad when you are playing this strategy, and you should avoid them when possible. Most of the Awoken units want you to do things that are actively bad for you, like spending healing cards on something other than your champion or drafting other cards to support them. Animus of Will is the best example of this. Animus of Will really wants you to have cards like Sharpen or Razorsharp Edge in your deck to support it; those cards don’t go with your primary strategy. Animus of Will is one of the best Awoken units in a vacuum, but if you’re all in on this strategy, it’s only of medium power level. Notably, if you throw something like a largestone on the Animus as well as a +10 damage upgrade, it does become pretty good again; again, keep in mind your capacity though and the ramifications of having a largestone unit (or multiple units)
Example Successful Builds
This first run was against Seraph the Chaste (cleanse). I took basically no cards over the course of the run and won handily; notably, Bloated Fungus made it so that I didn’t really need many regen stacks to win, and the combination of Rules of Containment and Cuttlebeard meant that I didn’t need to ever draft something to deal with backline creatures.
This second deck is much more bloated than the first, primarily due to the presence of Dante’s blights. Notably, I solo’d Daedalus with the champion here; Dante plus absurd artifacts made the rest of the run a joke. Winged Indulgence AND Bloated Fungus helped against Seraph the Chaste greatly. Edge Prior made it so that I could use some Emberstone upgrades on other cards later on in the run.
This next run doesn’t really have an impressive backline creature. My multistriking creature only hits for 40 total damage…but since I killed almost every creature on one floor, I acquired an absurd amount of gold. I think I purchased five artifacts in that run in addition to all of those card removes and upgrades.
This run is a hybrid run: I startled with Bristling and then converted to Explosive after Daedalus. This run had a little bit less “oomph” than the other three runs, hence I took two Crushing Demises to make sure difficult waves didn’t body me. In retrospect, I maybe could have gotten away without them.
Finally, I’d like to show off just how silly this strategy gets when things go well. I believe that this deck could have killed Seraph by circle 3 or 4 (assuming my Champion was fully upgraded). Hitting the duplication Cavern event on circle 3 when you are doing this strategy is absolutely disgusting. 9 free restores plus three relics that gave additional card draw was just disgusting.
Since I started testing this strategy, my win rate with Awoken has been about 75% (11/15 wins at Covenant 25), whereas my normal Covenant 25 random/random winrate is much closer to 60%. This strategy is *really* powerful, and I encourage you to try it out and incorporate it into your game.
To cap things off, I recorded a run specifically for the purposes of showing off the strategy and talking about the things in this article. Enjoy!
I (Phil Gallagher / Reddit user deathandtaxesftw) have been repeatedly seeing the same questions pop up from struggling players, and I figured it was about time to put together a dedicated guide that I could link people to when they are struggling with putting up wins in Monster Train, especially at Covenant 25. This guide assumes you have a decent amount of hours under your belt and understand the core mechanics of the game; if you don’t, you can check out the very basic Monster Train strategy guide I drafted up here first. With that said, let’s get into the real tips.
I see a surprising number of people talking about resetting their runs repeatedly until they have what they view as good start cards or “the right champion.” I think this hinders growth quite a bit and actually serves as a detriment to your long-term success as a player. If you’re resetting until you get a strategy you are comfortable with and know is good, you’re spending less time exploring and learning how other cards and combinations work. Knowing interactions and being comfortable with the entire card pool opens so many doors to success. Yes, those runs with cards like Inferno in your starting deck are going to be easier on average than many other runs, but if you’re going to seek to get wins with every clan combination and do some win streaking, you’ll need to widen your understanding of the game. Most runs are short. Take them as learning experiences. Try out that champion you think is bad. Try to make “the imp deck” work. Take those cards you think are trash to see what they do to your run; you might just stumble upon something broken for your efforts!
Of note here, if you are speedrunning, reset all you like! That’s an entirely different beast from how I approach the game. I’m trying to win every run, not go fast.
People often talk about their builds getting “hard countered” by a specific enemy type or boss. While this is sometimes true, it’s often lack of planning that leads to these situations. Your deck can’t necessarily just do the same thing every fight and expect to win. You need answers to various problems the game presents you with. You need to prepare specifically for most of these problems, or you might find your run crumbling. Here are some of the basic problems you should have in mind for a run, but this is not an exhaustive list by any means.
Problematic back units
190 hp enemies
Multiple 190 hp enemies and units with a shield in front
Specific Daedalus, Fel, and Seraph variants
Scaling enough to do 4000 damage to Seraph
When people talk about their builds being hard countered, it’s often because they didn’t prepare for a certain problem. In reality, many of the disaster level scenarios can be avoided. So, for example, let’s say you have started with a Chillwind Tethys, which has only 3 health. Chillwind Tethys often dies very easily on the circle 2 fights since one boss has spikes and another has sweep. You can plan for this though by finding a way to increase Tethys’ health by just a touch; a single hit (or one more hit) from Tethys means so much in the circle two fights, especially if you starting deck is weak. Accordingly, cards like Fortify might be much more valuable in this situation than they would normally.
Each boss variant asks for slightly different approaches, and failing to plan for the bosses from early on might lead to your downfall. Against Double Barrel Daedalus, for example, it’s very important to have extra targeted damage spells so your tanks don’t die; you might not *want* to take that early Vine Grasp, but it may make this fight much easier. If you were up against Plating Seal (Spellshield) Daedalus though, Vine Grasp looks much worse. Against Scouring Crest (Scourge) Fel, you probably want to take Ember after Daedalus to prevent taking a ton of Pyre damage if you don’t have another good answer to the fight. This are the sorts of things that help inform your draft picks. You can often “brute force” your way through Daedlaus and Fel if your deck is very strong without accounting too much for specific variants, but the Seraph fight can be devastating if you don’t prepare.
As you get better at planning, you can add more things to your mental list and start planning for potential scenarios instead of just guaranteed scenarios. For example, if I see an Unnamed Tome (silence enemy units) early on, I might take it since it neuters the Living Armor boss fight in circle 7. If I see a Resin Removal (remove buff/debuffs), I might pick it to neuter Stealth or Lifesteal from a problematic boss.
Knowledge is power. Cliche saying? Sure. Does it apply here? You bet. Waves are not nearly as random as you might think. You can actually know what enemies spawn and in what order from the preview screen. Jorbs and DolphinChemist both put together great reference sheets that will help you understand fights at a deep level. One spreadsheet isn’t necessarily better than the other, and I regularly reference both for different reasons.
Similarly, the Cavern events are not entirely random either. There are maximum rings where events stop appearing, and some events are more common than others. So, for example, you can’t go to a late Cavern to try and find the unit duplication event, though you’re much more likely to see that event in the early game. I think this post does a great job of laying that all out well.
I commonly see posts from players complaining about “getting stuck” or “bashing their heads against the wall” when they reach a certain point of the game. If this happens to you, it’s probably time to watch someone else play a run at a high level to see what you aren’t thinking about. This game is quite complex, and many of the things you need to be thinking about are not immediately obvious. Spending an hour watching someone else play a run will probably result in your quickest jump in understanding in terms of bang for your buck. My Monster Train videos are specifically educationally focused (I’m a teacher, I can’t turn that off!), so they are probably your best bet if you are stuck. Newer videos are obviously going to have better commentary than older videos, as I’ve learned a significant amount about the game since I started recording. The other person I recommend is Jorbs; while he doesn’t necessarily post Monster Train videos daily, the ones he posts are extremely good since he has ton of experience with a similar game, Slay the Spire. If you prefer live interaction on Twitch, you can find me here and Jorbs here.
I hope this proves helpful to some of you who are struggling. If you find it helpful, please pass this on to others when you see them struggling! This game is wonderful, deep, and intellectually engaging. I hope to see the community grow and to see updates on this game for a very long time. To do that, we need to keep people playing and interested in the game. Help others “level up” when you can, and the community will get better and better over time!
Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed checking out all of the decklists. I ended up with about 70 decklists, most of which were really cool. It was honestly more difficult than I anticipated to select the winners. For three of the cards, the winner was pretty decisive and clear cut. The Anje’s Ravager and Ominous Seas decks were much trickier to evaluate though. I’d like to thank Eli Goings (GoblinLackey1) for helping me narrow down the results and choose the winners! The contest was very open-ended, so it’s not like there was any one set of parameters I was looking for. Accordingly, let’s just dive right into the results and talk about them, in WUBRG order, of course!
UW Combo by David Bellanger, Winner for Myth Realized
2 Orim’s Chant
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Dark Ritual
4 Chrome Mox
4 Myth Realized
3 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Lotus Petal
2 Tendrils of Agony
4 Echo of Eons
2 Monastery Mentor
2 Underground Sea
3 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
2 Chain of Vapor
3 Swords to Plowshares
2 Defense Grid
1 Silent Gravestone
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Echoing Truth
Most of the Myth Realized decks that I received were Standstill or Miracles variants of some kind. I felt like those were sort of the low hanging fruit in terms of making Myth Realized work, so I really liked the angle of attack here. The deck has four primary plans: 1. Beat down with a big Myth Realized. 2. Go wide with Mentor. 3. Storm off via Tendrils. 4. Use Echo plus Narset to strip all your opponent’s resources. The plans have at least some amount of synergy with each other, and provide a varied enough range that one piece of hate probably doesn’t shut you down in post sideboard games. I feel like this deck gets to steal a bunch of easy wins while still being able to grind some tougher ones out; that’s a great spot for a brew, and I look forward to playing this one!
UGx Combo by Miranda Keith, Winner for Ominous Seas
The ideas that people had for building around Ominous Seas were just…crazy. I loved it. Standstill, Sylvan Library, and Greater Good were the three things that most commonly tried to push the Kraken producing Enchantment to its limit. Of the lists I received, I think Miranda Keith’s version is probably the best (you might recognize her name for Maverick-related reasons!). In case you don’t “see it,” Once you produce your first Kraken, you can use Greater Good to draw your whole deck (make a Kraken, sac a Kraken, draw 8, make a new Kraken…). You can then win via Labratory Maniac and even have Veil of Summer to make it safe! Given the powerful shell, it will not have any trouble staying alive long enough to make the first Kraken.
BUG Standstill by Theodore M, Honorable Mention for Ominous Seas
While I only can have one winner for each category, I do have an honorable mention for each other card from here on out. This deck is conceptually similar to the last one, but attacks on a slightly different axis. While the previous deck is really sort of a control/combo deck, this deck is closer to a hard control deck with an incidental combo finish in some games. I can imagine the Shark Typhoon blowouts now…
Skelementomb, SaborDeSoledad, Winner for Unearth
1 Arid Mesa
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Marsh Flats
2 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Verdant Catacombs
2 Wooded Foothills
4 Dreadhorde Arcanist
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
4 Lightning Skelemental
1 Magus of the Moon
1 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Plague Engineer
1 Seasoned Pyromancer
4 Faithless Looting
1 Fatal Push
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Blazing Volley
1 Coffin Purge
2 Dark Confidant
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Scab-Clan Berserker
Okay, this deck is just cool. I actually received a fair number of “Ball Lightning” decks, but this one was the most polished by far. I really like the game one Entomb package. It can find food for Arcanist, Lightning Skelemental for value, or any number of silver bullets from Revoker to Plague Engineer. Many of the decks I received were just “value etb creature” decks with things like Baleful Strix and Snapcaster Mage, but this deck has some real character. I bet this deck is reaaaaaallll annoying to play against, and it should make for a great stream!
Rielle Combo by Nate Golia, Honorable Mention for Unearth
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
2 Burning Inquiry
2 Dark Deal
4 Dark Ritual
4 Faithless Looting
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Flameblade Adept
1 Ox of Agonas
3 Rielle, the Everwise
2 Aria of Flame
2 Brazen Borrower
1 Fatal Push
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Toxic Deluge
Nate Golia of the Eternal Durdles podcast submitted this doozie of a decklist. It felt like more of a “Rielle” deck than an “Unearth” deck to me, so it can’t take home of the metaphorical trophy here, but this was one of the craziest decklists submitted for this contest. This is like the powered up cousin of “the fling deck” that the one guy in your play group always tried when you first started playing Magic. Killing someone with Thud in Legacy in 2020 gets you a hidden MTGO achievement, or so I’m told. Tag me in screenshots when you do it!
Ravager Stompy by Theodore M, Winner for Anje's Ravager
4 Anje’s Ravager
2 Ox of Agonas
4 Seasoned Pyromancer
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Stromkirk Occultist
3 Surly Badgersaur
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Chrome Mox
2 Lotus Petal
4 Blood Sun
4 Punishing Fire
4 City of Traitors
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Ancient Tomb
2 Chandra, Awakened Inferno
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
Theodore may have received an honorable mention above for Ominous Seas, but he gets the full on win here for a really spicy decklist. There are many ways to make Anje’s Ravager work, and this one works with multiple of them. It gives you value for discarding, allows you to cast cards from the graveyard later, allows you to ditch dead cards, enables madness, mitigates costs of playing fast mana acceleration… This is a well-crafted decklist with great synergy. I hope this list has some legs, because it looks so fun.
Anje Echo by Anonymous, Honorable Mention for Anje's Ravager
Anje’s Ravager inspired the greatest range of brews. Sometimes Anje’s Ravager could be clearly inserted into an existing deck like this one with minimal changes to the shell. This take on the deck seems pretty powerful, but the person who submitted this deck openly admitted that the majority of the deck’s shell already existed. This one was more of a “hey, here’s another direction you could try” sort of submission. Other interesting ideas were slotting it into 4c Loam, playing Red Prison featuring Sin Prodder and Yidaro, Wandering Monster, or a mono red aggro deck featuring cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel and Scab-Clan Beserker.
Netherfit by Reddit User Paganfears, Winner for Shifting Certops
1 Phyrexian Tower
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
4 Windswept Heath
1 Sylvan Library
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Diabolic Intent
4 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Nether Void
1 Overwhelming Splendor
2 Pernicious Deed
1 Carnage Tyrant
3 Prowling Serpopard
4 Shifting Ceratops
4 Veteran Explorer
1 Vexing Shusher
4 Academy Rector
2 Carpet of Flowers
1 Collector Ouphe
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Reclamation Sage
2 Veil of Summer
To quote the deck description, “Not your daddy’s Nic Fit deck, this variant aims to land an early Nether Void — sometimes with the help of Academy Rector — and slow the opponent to a crawl. From there, Abrupt Decay teams up with Shifting Ceratops to break the symmetry of the pricey Legends enchantment, along with the hearts of anyone playing countermagic.”
This is, unquestionably, my favorite submission from the entire contest. It was love at first sight. I really would love to snag a 5-0 with this one and have it permanently attached to my name. Scorpion Pepper or Ghost Pepper levels of spice, unquestionably.
Dino Painter by Darkhawk, Honorary Mention for Shifting Ceratops
Shifting Ceratops is sweet, but what if it was a baby Progenitus? This is a really cool alternate take on Painter. It has powerful acceleration, a surprising amount of selection for a RG deck, and Veil of Summer looks pretty gross in the post sideboard games.
I hope you all enjoyed these zany decklists as much as I did. I’ll be playing my next three streams with my normal donation queue, and then I’ll be playing the winners of the deckbuilding contest in WUBRG order. That means that I’ll be aiming to start with the Myth Realized deck on the 22nd, plus or minus a day or two. If you don’t catch them live, don’t worry, they always end up on Youtube by the next day!
As a side note, if you enjoyed this contest or enjoy the streams/videos in the coming weeks and want to support more content of this nature in the future, you may do so here.
Finally, I like to take a moment to plug some of my non-mtg content. I’ve been playing the hell out of Monster Train recently, and it’s become one of my new obsessions. In short, it is a roguelite deckbuilder with tower defense or worker placement elements. You’re on a train heading straight for the heart of hell, and you’re looking to reignite the fires of hell while stopping the forces of heaven. I think I’ve had the game for two or three weeks and have logged about 100 hours into the game. I made a short intro video about the game and wrote one article about it already. I have been streaming the game quite a bit as well as recording daily videos for Youtube similar to my Daily D&T series. If you’re a little burnt out on Magic (something something elk, something something) and are looking for something else to scratch that strategic itch, I highly recommend this. In particular, if you enjoyed Slay the Spire, you will love this game. Okay, shameless plug over!
In my mind, one of the greatest things about Legacy is that you can basically play whatever you want as long as it is powerful. There are plenty of powerful cards out there that often get overshadowed by slightly more degenerate cards, but these cards are certainly powerful in their own right. I’m hoping to highlight some of these cards during the first ThrabenU Brewing Contest. I have selected five cards, one for each color:
I’d like to do a stream featuring each one of these cards, and I invite you all to submit a decklist featuring one of those cards. If you’re really into brewing, you could even submit a decklist for each one! I’ll be taking submissions until midnight on June 12th. At that point I’ll sift through the decklists and select one for each card (heads up to subscribers, I may ask for some help via Discord!). In the second half of June, I’ll be showcasing decklists from the brewing challenge on stream. My hope is that this both provides some interesting and entertaining content for people while also encouraging people to have some fun exploring the brewing side of Legacy, which is often ignored and underappreciated.
If you are interstering in submitting a decklist for the brewing contest, here’s the link to the Google Form to do so! Good luck and happy brewing!
I love Monster Train. This isn’t sponsored content. I wasn’t paid to promote the game. I’m just hooked. I’m about 29 hours deep after having the game for a week, and I expect to sink hundreds of hours into this game. Accordingly, I figured it was time to do more than just Magic: the Gathering content on this site and do a little bit of Monster Train strategy from time to time. Today I’m going to cover some fundamental strategy for deckbuilding and roguelite games before launching into more nuanced strategy and tips.
So this sounds silly to write, but your goal is to get strong enough to defeat the final boss. Your resources need to be used in a way that works towards that goal. Your Pyre health, for example, is a resource. It’s absolutely fine to take some pyre damage during a fight, especially if that is going to let you clear a trial. By clearing a trial, you’ll get additional resources that will make the rest of the run easier. It’s often a mental trap to think, “I shouldn’t let the pyre get hit, because I lose if it dies.” Remember, you can win a run with a single health remaining on your Pyre! The Pyre Remains event is also common enough that you’ll usually incidentally restore at least some pyre health on any given run.
Playing too safely is sometimes a recipe for disaster. If you avoid too many trials, you may find you’re not quite going to have the oomph you need to make it through the end game. Similarly, sometimes it will be correct to do something that hurts your deck now, but has important long term prospects. Consider this bad boy:
Would you take this as a pick in circle one? What if you were to obtain an artifact like Volatile Gauge (which randomizes costs of cards) or Forever Flame (decrease unit cost by 2). What if you get some cards that give you additional ember? Sometimes you can take a risky pick with high upside if things go your way. Sometimes you’ll want to think a bit outside of the box and keep an open mind.
You only get to draw so many cards each turn. Some of your cards are going to be significantly better than others due to upgrades at the merchants and the natural differences in power level between cards. You want to draw your best cards early and often. This usually means that you should aggressively remove your starting cards. While Train Steward might get the job done on the early floors, it looks a little sad compared to the creatures you can draft. Similarly, while a base card like Torch might be great a picking off early enemies, it’s unimpressive when you’re trying to chip away at Seraph come the end game. By a similar logic, if you’re already comfortable with where your deck is at, you don’t need to keep adding cards to your deck- take that gold and don’t dilute your deck!
Flexibility and Problem Solving
You’ll want to remove cards so that you can more consistently execute your gameplan and create a more focused deck…but, that doesn’t mean that your deck should only be doing one thing. If you deck becomes overly specialized, you may find that although you’re absurdly powerful in a vacuum, you lose to specific threats. If you’re too heavily focused around damage spells, Spellshield can really give you problems. If your units all have low starting health, spikes are scary. You should have plans for dealing with different types of units and waves. Can you answer a heavily armored unit? What about problematic back row support creature? Are you prepared to fight the version of Seraph you’re going to encounter? These are things that should be on your mind, and your should build your deck in a way that lets you prepare for the fights and creatures that will give you the most trouble.
Bosses and Plotting Paths
While the game very clearly telegraphs what version of Seraph you are going to encounter, it’s much more subtle with Daedalus and Fel. You can actually tell which variant you’ll face based on the map symbols. Check out this image for the details.
On that note, you can use the map (or scroll down) to plot out a few different circles of hell at the same time. You can often pick more efficient paths if you know what is coming later. For example, you might not want to visit a Merchant of Magic two floors in a row, so you can pick paths that avoid that situation. Similarly, if you know a Hellvent is coming in the next circle, you can upgrade a card in your current circle to make the duplication event next circle even better. As a side note, the Merchant of Magic always has a cost reduction option, even after you reroll. Accordingly, at any Merchant of Magic, you *know* that you can reduce the cost of a card by 2 if you can afford it. Taking advantage of this can create some pretty busted cards and even more ridiculous situations after a Hellvent.
Your normal capacity is indicated by the yellow dots above a floor of your train. You can’t place units on that floor if they exceed your capacity. However, certain effects like Ascend and Restoring Retreat allow you to “overfill floors.” This will show up as red dots for that floor. Using these effects can allow you to create one “super floor” where you do most of your damage and make your final stand against the boss. Notably, you can only have seven units on a floor, even if you are dancing around the normal unit capacity limit somehow.
Decisions and Learning
Everything matters in this game. Your decisions over time really compound to give you advantages and disadvantages based on your decisions. The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone at this point is simply, “learn.” If you’re not sure why a unit is dying, watch that floor on regular speed to see if you misunderstood a triggered ability or something (as a side note, in addition to the speed settings in the upper right corner of the screen, you can also right click to increase animation speed further). Think about your order of events on the map. Should you do the Caverns event before or after your other options? How does your evaluation of certain cards change based on what bosses you have to face this run? There’s so much to think about, and that makes this game have real staying power to me.
I hope some of this was useful to you all. Beginning on Monday (6/1) I’ll be posting a Monster Train run to my Youtube channel each day at 8:00 am Eastern Time. If those end up doing well, I’ll plan on making it a long-running series, write more articles on things like clan specific strategy, and make an effort to stream Monster Train more regularly.
I recently pushed out an explanation of the Search Stompy archetype on my Youtube channel. Here are the decklists from the video!
Search Stompy v3
Search Stompy Wingmare Build
Search Stompy Eldrazi Build
The following is part two of a two part series by Discord user Darkview. It is presented here with minimal editing. Part one is available via the articles tab.
Getting started on a Legacy deck is hard, and Death and Taxes is no exception. Picking a starting list, learning to play it well, evaluating progress, and finding resources can be challenging. This article is written to help these players succeed. In it you’ll find a solid starting list, links to the best content, and tips to improve your play and practice.
A Starting Decklist
There are tons of great Death and Taxes lists, but it’s important to start out with a strong “stock” build. A stock build will include the stable elements (the core lands, creatures, and spells), and pick its flex-slots and sideboard for maximum overall power and versatility against a wide range of possible matchups. I recommend the following stock deck list.
Darkview Pre-Ikoria Starter Taxes 4/14/20
1 Mishra’s Factory
4 Rishadan Port
4 Mother of Runes
3 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Mirran Crusader
2 Recruiter of the Guard
1 Sanctum Prelate
1 Palace Jailer
Non-creature Spells (11)
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Aether Vial
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Walking Ballista
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Sanctum Prelate
1 Path to Exile
1 Surgical Extraction
3 Council’s Judgment
1 Pithing Needle
2 Deafening Silence
2 Rest in Peace
This list has not changed much over time, and has proven itself able to handle a wide variety of matchups. It should provide a good starting experience, and a chance for you to explore the various play patterns and options of the deck. While I wouldn’t alter this list much when you’re starting out, shifting quantities by 1 probably won’t ruin the experience for you.
Naturally, this is just a starting point. There is plenty of room for customization. Land counts can vary in either direction, potentially including more utility lands. Creature selections can include a wider variety of niche cards for specific fields, or more aggression. Sideboards also vary quite widely. Over the years, the deck has seen it’s fair of odd gimmicks as well. It’s not surprising to see lists vary by up to 20 cards within a few weeks (in comparison to other Legacy decks, which may change by less than 10 cards over years). Over time, you will expand from the “stock kit” as you acquire cards to handle the peculiarities of different fields you play in. Having these cards and knowing how to integrate them is a sign of your development as a player, willing to reach into an ever larger toolkit for the answer that you know you need.
One of the best things about Death and Taxes is that its following has generated a huge volume of worthwhile content and resources. Almost no other deck has anything close to this. This allows you to study the deck in a very traditional sense: by reading and watching the experts. This can allow you to progress much more quickly than you might on your own. The following resources are the ones I recommend first, but you can find much more if you go searching.
The first of these is Thraben University. Phil Gallagher has created an incredible resource here for aspiring Death and Taxes players. Articles cover all sorts of topics at great depth. There’s hundreds of hours of recorded gameplay with excellent commentary. While I wish the website were updated more frequently, much of this information is timeless. Personally, I credit ThrabenU for much of my quick success with the deck. His stream and Youtube content is all linked on the website as well.
The second is xjCloud, who streams on Twitch and posts the videos on Youtube. He is currently the preeminent streamer of the deck, often posting multiple leagues with the deck in a week (when he doesn’t randomly decide to go on a Bomberman kick for a while). His play is excellent and absolutely worth watching.
There is also an excellent article series by Thomas Enevoldsen, who was at one point the indisputable top-performer in Legacy and devoted Death and Taxes pilot. The first article can be found here.
Additionally, the Discord server is an excellent place to discuss the deck and ask questions. Be warned that you are entering open dialogue with random people on the internet, and not all of them have flawless etiquette. Nonetheless, some esteemed pilots frequent that forum. Also me. It may be an asset. Use at your own risk.
While I recommend you start with study, you’re not going to get good without actually playing Magic. It will take dozens of matches to be decent, and many hundreds to master. I’ve been playing the deck for about two years, and I like to joke that I am almost halfway-competent. It is only partially in jest. Death and Taxes is a hard deck. Correct play involves correctly identifying the opposing deck correctly, deducing their likely options and tactics, and proactively thwarting them, all while managing the incredibly complex workings of your own deck.
Practice is required, and perfect practice makes perfect. Study and practice, and your performance will improve by leaps and bounds. Here are a few tips to improve your practice:
- Don’t get discouraged by your losses. There will be many. Focus on trying to understand what led to your loss: what was the key misjudgment, sequencing error, or strategic decision that sent the game down the wrong path?
- Even when you win, you probably made errors. Find them, and tighten your play.
- Take notes or recordings, if you can. Games go long, and key points are often obscured by seeming unimportant at the time, and by being long past when the game ends. If you have the time, no detail is too small to matter.
- Discuss interesting matchups with your opponent or any observers if they are willing. Getting an understanding of how your opponent looks at the match is very useful for control deck pilots. If you have notes or recordings, you can also ask other players.
- Balance matchup repetition and variety. Delver, Miracles, and the mirror are common and complex, and replay has a lot of value. It still pays to be a bit familiar with less common matchups.
- Try to play other decks too, especially against Death and Taxes. You will develop a whole new appreciation for what Death and Taxes does, and a lot of insight into how to use it better against the deck you’re playing.
- Start out by learning conventional play patterns and sideboard plans. Once you’re familiar with them, try something different just to see how it works. There are a lot of default play patterns, and good players know when to eschew them for the unconventional.
- Once you feel comfortable with the stock list, begin to test out other cards in flex-slots. Death and Taxes is a control deck, and you need to be able to adapt the deck to your field.
- And remember to have fun practicing! You got the deck so you could play it, after all!
Beginner’s Piloting Tips
Legacy is a hard format, and Death and Taxes is a particularly complex deck. There are very few “free” wins and “easy” lines. To help you get started, I will give you this woefully incomplete list of tips. They may not take you very far, but I hope they help you find your footing.
- Death and Taxes is an aggro-control deck. Generally extending the game usually favors you, but you do need to close it before your soft controls wear thin. Role evaluation will be key to figuring out which half of the deck you need to emphasize, and when to pivot.
- Against an unknown opponent, an ideal hand can play most of its cards through a single piece of disruption, and has a reasonable plan against both fair and unfair decks that starts no later than turn 2. Realistically, you sometimes need to accept a slightly more vulnerable hand, or one that is weak to either fair or unfair decks.
- Plan out every turn before taking your first action. Death and Taxes offers many options, and correct sequencing has a lot of value.
- Develop mental cues to help remember your triggers. Dice on the library is easy for Vial triggers, but remembering Monarch or Chalice triggers can be harder.
- Death and Taxes is a very mana-intensive deck, but Wasteland and Port are also major elements of its disruptive package. Unless you have a Vial, you will have to make a choice as to whether to develop or disrupt, and who can best use their mana.
- Stoneforge and Recruiter are some of the most powerful cards, but also open you up to tempo blowouts if used improperly. Consider the opponent’s counterplays and the fail case of each possible pick before searching.
- Look for ways to cut your opponent’s possible lines of play simply by good sequencing. Vial, Thalia, Wasteland, and Port can all be very effective at this.
Wei wu wei (action through inaction). If you’re not under pressure to do something, it’s often best to do nothing. This is especially true in the face of removal. Sometimes you can force the opponent to act in a bad spot, or find a way to cut their lines.
- Play to your outs. Especially in longer sideboarded games, Death and Taxes has draws that can suddenly flip an entire game state. If you’re on the back foot, figure out what a recovery would look like and set up for it. It may look like a great D&T player “got lucky and top decked the perfect spell,” but in reality, they might have been playing towards that exact line for quite some time. You can “make your own luck” in some cases.
- When sideboarding, be careful not to accidentally sideboard out too many creatures, or neglect how your opponent’s deck will likely change the marginal value of your cards.
Death and Taxes is an exceedingly complex deck requiring a vast amount of format knowledge, which can make it feel overwhelming for a starting player. Thankfully, it is also a deck with a vast amount of content to help a new player, and a deck so enjoyable it spurs pilots to effectively teach themselves what they need to succeed. As long as you start with a sound deck list, take advantage of the content out there, and practice effectively, you can become proficient in one of the all-time best decks in the format.
Author’s note, 22-April-2020: These articles were written prior to Ikoria’s release. Since then, developments have undermined the premises of these articles. Ikoria’s Companion mechanic is one of the most powerful mechanics in the game’s history. It is very likely that Death and Taxes will not be able to compete with the “better” Companion-based decks. Unless these are removed from the format and/or Death and Taxes receives a Companion of similar power, the deck may cease to be viable. Beyond this, it may be the case that new sets will continue to destabilize Legacy with every release. If that is the case, the idea of a perennially good deck ceases to be valid. Time will tell, but the reader should account for this uncertainty in their decision-making.
The following is part one of a two part series by Discord user Darkview. It is presented here with minimal editing. Part two will go live next Friday (4/24).
So you’re wondering if you should pick up Legacy Death and Taxes. Maybe someone recommended the deck to you. Maybe you watched it in action and were impressed. Maybe you’re just enamored by mono-white creature decks. Or maybe you are just starting into the format and it looked approachable and (relatively) cheap. Either way, you’re not sure about it just yet, and want to be sure you’re making the right call. This article will discuss the nature of Death and Taxes, its gameplay, advantages, and disadvantages. The goal is to guide you, providing factors to consider and weigh so you can come to an informed decision about your deck choice.
What is Death and Taxes?
Death and Taxes is an aggro-control deck. It focuses on playing fast creatures with disruptive abilities to keep the opponent off-balance until those creatures can close the game. This is supplemented by mana denial, an equipment package to dominate the battlefield, and a reasonable removal suite. The sideboard showcases many of the most powerful and targeted disruptive effects in the game’s history.
The result is a deck that looks like white-weenie, but actually plays a bit more like a prison deck. Games tend to be long, though not absurdly so (10 turns is not uncommon). In those games, there are many opportunities for making subtle decisions with far-reaching implications for the game. Familiarity with your own deck is highly rewarded, as there are many interesting interactions, and some cards have countless applications (most notably Flickerwisp). Format knowledge is also rewarded: many decisions depend on making accurate predictions of your opponent’s deck and the possible lines they can take. Death and Taxes is also a deck with a rich history, pedigree, and community. It has been through countless iterations and is among the top decks in the format’s history in terms of results. The community is vibrant and active, generating new content almost daily.
Death and Taxes as a deck has a lot going for it. It’s one of several perennially good decks in Legacy: it’s rarely worse than tier 2, and frequently tier 1. Death and Taxes is also very adaptable to different playstyles and metagames. Builds can be made more aggressive or controlling. There are lots of flex slots and interesting options for quirky gimmicks a pilot might fancy. Most importantly, there are a plethora of options to target specific decks types in the field. It’s also cheap as far as Legacy decks go, since nearly all of its cards have been reprinted relatively recently and it is monochromatic. The cost is a fraction of that for most other dominant decks.
Death and Taxes is also a deck with a high potential for gains in future printings, as its core cards (white creatures with disruptive abilities) are a regular feature of standard and supplemental sets. While new staples are infrequent, options for the bench are delivered frequently. Death and Taxes is also a deck which rewards player growth. The skill ceiling of the deck is quite high. The difference between a weak player and a strong player with the deck is quite pronounced. The upshot of this is that a pilot can expect to improve in both skill and results for many months or years. Finally, Death and Taxes has arguably the most robust content library of any deck type in Legacy: there are numerous guides and articles on the deck, it has devoted streamers with permanently-hosted videos, and a high-quality site dedicated specifically to the deck. This last advantage can really help a novice come up to speed on the deck, and the author credits this fact with his almost immediate success with the deck.
On the other hand, Death and Taxes has its liabilities. The first is that lacking Force of Will or other zero-mana countermagic puts it at increased risk for some immediate losses against fast combo decks. The second is that lacking Brainstorm and Ponder puts it at the mercy of its topdecks, and, despite its tutors, there is still a high chance of failing to find the right cards in a timely manner. These first two liabilities are shared by most nonblue decks. Though Death and Taxes can be built to compensate for these to some degree, they are a reality and should be noted.
Additionally, most Death and Taxes cards lack the raw power of the most impressive cards from other decks. While they are still strong in their own right, Death and Taxes is frequently a deck where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. If it is deprived of essential synergies, its strategy can collapse.
Partially as a result of this as well as some other factors, Death and Taxes does not have any “free” matchups. While there are some that are heavily in the deck’s favor (or against it), the vast majority hover close enough to 50-50 that the pilot is going to have to fight for most wins. Finally, Death and Taxes is a deck that requires a great deal of both practice and format knowledge to be piloted well. Small and almost imperceptible mistakes can be extremely costly, making it a hard deck to learn.
Some words on the metagame…
At the time of this writing, Death and Taxes is generally thought to be poorly positioned and considered to be tier 2 (which is about as low as the deck gets- even when it is bad, it is still pretty good). The past 12 months delivered a slew of powerful staples to many decks (Dreadhorde Arcanist, Oko, Uro, to name a few), but nothing nearly as potent to Death and Taxes. The result is that Death and Taxes is often a disadvantage in previously “fair” fights where it would have had an edge.
That said, don’t put too much stock in the current metagame. Whether any deck is performing well can change by the following week, let alone the following set. Unless you have the ability to switch decks easily and enough format knowledge to have immediate mastery, any deck you pick up is going to be a long term investment both in card equity and personal time. Picking up any of the perennially good decks with play patterns to your liking will be much more rewarding than trying to follow whatever is in vogue, and mastering it will pay more dividends than chasing the flavor of the moment. Don’t worry too much about where the deck you pick is right now. Worry about if you see yourself enjoying playing it in months or years to come.
This is an article about Death and Taxes, but I would be remiss not to point out that there are plenty of other choices out there. Legacy is full of perennially good decks, and choosing any of them will likely position you to have a competitive deck for many years to come. More importantly, choose a deck that seems fun to you; how much you enjoy a deck will impact how much you play it, and therefore how proficient you become with it. In a format as deep and varied as Legacy, that proficiency often matters far more than any other factor.
The following are perennially good decks I might contemplate: UR(x) Delver, UW(r) Miracles, 4-color Loam, Br Reanimator, Sneak and Show, and The Epic Storm. These are all decks that rarely fall below tier 2 and have consistently over the years managed to force their way back into contention. I have a high degree of confidence that choosing any of these decks is not a mistake in the long-run. That said, there are literally dozens of other decks with rich histories in Legacy, and you might stumble across one I have not listed that perfectly matches your style and needs. In any case, you should do your own research on any deck’s playstyle and pedigree before making your choice. After all, you’re going to be investing a lot both in value and time, and you want to make sure it’s well-spent.
Building towards other decks
One relevant consideration when building a deck is whether it lets you branch out into others. Many Legacy decks share certain “suites” of cards, and thus by owning one deck you can more easily add others to your arsenal without the burden of having to acquire literally everything from scratch. For instance, many blue decks share a suite of fetchlands, certain dual lands, Force of Will, Brainstorm, Ponder, and other cards. These are useful in almost any blue deck.
Death and Taxes has a few components that are widely used, and a few decks it specifically shares much with as a result. These are: Wastelands (shared with almost any aggro or tempo deck), Rishadan Ports (shared with Goblins and Lands), Aether Vial (many tribal decks), Stoneforge Mystic and equipment (shared with GW(x) Maverick, UW(x) Stoneblade variants, BW Deadguy Ale, and others), and a suite of disruptive white creatures (shared mostly with Maverick). Also, several of the sideboard cards are commonly shared with any white deck.
The upshot is that you have many possible pivots from Death and Taxes, but you still have a lot of ground to cover. By far, the closest two decks are Goblins (able to utilize many of the lands, Vials, and sometimes Thalia), and Maverick (able to use the Wastelands, many of the creatures, and the equipment). As your Legacy collection grows, more and more decks start to fall within reach. I, for example, acquired Miracles in addition to D&T, and then it was easy for me to start working towards various Stoneblade decks.
Legacy is a complex format, and choosing a deck can be daunting. Death and Taxes is an appealing choice due to its low acquisition cost, approachable play style, adaptability, has high promise for receiving future cards, has a high ceiling to reward the player for gaining experience, and has a lot of content and an active community to support a novice player. On the other hand, Death and Taxes has a steep learning curve; it is a very complex deck which will demand a lot of mental energy and time from a player to truly perform. It also lacks some of the advantages of blue decks, and is not presently well-positioned. Potential pilots should particularly consider whether the playstyle appeals to them, and whether they have the time to commit to a single deck to achieve results.
If the reader decides to play Death and Taxes, a world of opportunity and fun should await them. For those that do not, Legacy is a diverse format with many options. If a player has the resources and time to devote to it, they can find another deck that will suit them.
Author’s note, 22-April-2020: These articles were written prior to Ikoria’s release. Since then, developments have undermined the premises of these articles. Ikoria’s Companion mechanic is one of the most powerful mechanics in the game’s history. It is very likely that Death and Taxes will not be able to compete with the “better” Companion-based decks. Unless these are removed from the format and/or Death and Taxes receives a Companion of similar power, the deck may cease to be viable. Beyond this, it may be the case that new sets will continue to destabilize Legacy with every release. If that is the case, the idea of a perennially good deck ceases to be valid. Time will tell, but the reader should account for this uncertainty in their decision-making.
The year is 2011. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is printed, and lovers of white creatures lose their damn minds. This begins the glory years of D&T. D&T slowly transitions from being a fringe Legacy option to one of the most feared and respected decks of the format. Year after year, D&T puts up results on the highest levels. Thomas Enevoldsen, Michael Bonde, Andrew Calderon, Allen Wu, Michael Skipper, Collin Roundtree…you might have seen some of them on coverage. *old man voice* Back in that day, we had coverage for GPs… *coughs* Anyway… meanwhile, people like Eetai Ben-Sasson, Michael Derczo, and me are putting up lots of results at the local level and on the SCG circuit. Year after year, ridiculously powerful white cards get added to the deck, often only to be replaced by more ridiculous white cards less than a year later. What powerful white cards, you might ask?
Rest in Peace, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Containment Priest, Council’s Judgment, Vryn Wingmare, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Sanctum Prelate, Recruiter of the Guard, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Brightling, Palace Jailer… you get the point by now.
Relative to the other decks of the format, D&T was increasing its power level at a higher rate for a staggering period of time. It seemed like every set, D&T got a new toy. I don’t know how many jokes I heard about there being a D&T player on the R&D team who was clearly making cards for the deck. Most sets really only had a card or two that were truly Legacy viable (insert Nic Fit joke here), and a huge percentage of those went to D&T. D&T felt like a safe choice for just about any tournament, and we saw many players pivot to D&T, recognizing how powerful it could be in the right environment (e.g. Brad Nelson in the 2015 SCG Players’ Championship). There were things that were tricky to beat. True-Name Nemesis, Deathrite Shaman, and Kolaghan’s Command immediately come to mind. D&T pretty much always kept up though. There were weeks, or even months where D&T wasn’t one of the top archetypes, but it always swung back.
Then WotC violently kicks down the door, blasts the air horns, and rudely decides to start giving other Legacy decks new toys. And not just any toys, toys that happen to specifically be good against D&T.
Karn, the Great Creator, Collector Ouphe, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Wrenn and Six, Plague Engineer, Underworld Breach, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Brazen Borrower, Arcum’s Astrolabe, Bonecrusher Giant, Teferi, Time Raveller, Ice-Fang Coatl… you get the point by now. Most of the Legacy playable cards in the last year or so outside of Veil of Summer and Force of Negation have been directly or indirectly good against D&T. I want to examine some historical reasons to play D&T, and show how the last year of so has drastically changed D&T’s position in the metagame.
D&T has a GREAT Delver matchup.
The Delver matchup used to be a joke. It used to be *the* reason to play the deck. Cast your spells in a random order, get a piece of equipment in play, win target game. It was that easy. Delver could not take equipment out in game 1, and a puny four copies of Bolt just didn’t cut it vs the hoard of white creatures. Now it’s very easy to lose the Delver matchup to a single card. Which card? Actually, they have a few! Dreadhorde Arcanist is a removal machine and a card draw machine (that also happens to wall many of the smaller creatures in D&T). Brazen Borrower makes the equipment package so much worse and makes going all-in on a Jitte or Batterskull so much riskier; Abrade filled this role previously, but Brazen Borrow is maindeckable AND comes with a body. Plague Engineer out of the sb is a beating, answering key cards like Mom and Thalia while also being a clock AND sticking around to deathtouch just about anything else that’s still alive. This matchup has drifted far closer to even than in the past. D&T used to always have the inevitability. D&T used to be more and more favored as the turn counter ticked up. Now one horrifying card from the Delver player swings the game hard. The days of D&T having a 70-30 matchup vs Delver are long gone.
D&T has a GREAT prison/stompy matchup
Decks like Red Prison used to be byes. If you had Chalice of the Void in your deck, I expected to beat you most of the time. D&T was so good at ignoring just about everything these decks were doing. Blood Moon, don’t care. Trinisphere, don’t care. Then Karn, the Great Creator happened. Historically, Ensnaring Bridge was the card that could most easily lock a D&T player out of a game and steal a win. Karn essentially makes it so that these decks are running 7 copies of Bridge in the maindeck while also shutting off Vial/equipment AND threatening to end the game in a single turn as well via Mycosynth Lattice. Let’s not talk about that tutorable Walking Ballista either. Additionally, cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Urza, Lord High Artificer gave these decks new options or angles of attack. The portion of these decks that D&T flat out ignores has gotten smaller, and more of these games are dicey than in the past.
D&T is GREAT vs blue decks
Not so long ago, Rishadan Port and Wasteland were a great pair vs control decks. If your opponent fetched basics to play around Wasteland, you could Port them off a color. If they fetch a dual to play around Port, you got to Wasteland them. Arcum’s Astrolabe has changed that for many matchups. Your opponent can now just fetch basics (ignoring Wasteland) and play Astrolabe, stripping Port of much of its power.
Then there is Oko, Thief of Crowns. I’m not going to beat the dead horse here. You’ve heard it before. Oko is good against everything D&T does. Except you, Mirran Crusader, you still get a gold star. There is a good reason why you see many D&T sideboards with 3 Council’s Judgment, 3 Cataclysm, and maybe even a Pithing Needle to boot.
In addition, D&T is also a bit more afraid than it was in the past to just attack vs control. Baleful Strix was always a bit of an annoyance, but at least you could plan around that thing. Ice-Fang Coatl, on the other hand, has flash. You’ve successfully Revoked Oko! Huzzah! Can you actually attack with Revoker? Can you risk one flashy boy unlocking that Oko and letting the game spiral out of control? If you aren’t attacking with the Revoker, how much damage are you giving up over the course of a game? How many bonus draws/turns do you give your opponent if you play safely? On a similar, but different axis, the Palace Jailer subgame has gotten much harder vs control. It used to be that if you became the Monarch, it was extremely difficult for your opponent to grab that crown. It usually took a few turns of careful setup for them to remove enough creatures that a Snapcaster could get through…now two mana and, whoops, you’ve probably lost the game once they take the crown. Do you want to leave in your Swords to Plowshares vs control decks? If so, how many copies do you want to keep in? How do those Plows feel when you face down Oko, Teferi, or Jace instead? See the problem?
D&T has good tools like Thalia vs Combo
D&T has never had great combo matchups across the board, but it didn’t have atrocious combo matchups either. You had game vs most of the combo decks. This is becoming less true as the combo decks become both faster and more consistent. The newer builds of TES often go under our hate, becoming more consistent with Echo of Eons for non-deterministic lines and Wishclaw Talismen for deterministic lines. The BR Reanimator matchup got considerably triciker post-London Mulligan. Breach is very good at beating the one or two pieces of hate that D&T can throw out. Breach can very either beat Thalia or Revoker without even removing them! D&T usually isn’t applying enough pressure to quickly close the game, so our soft disruption just isn’t good enough in that matchup.
To combat this, many D&T players have tried playing
horrible, abominations alternative decklists. I’ve seen blue splashes for some combination of Meddling Mage, Spell Queller, and Force of Will. I’ve seen builds with either 4 maindeck or sideboard Deafening Silence. I’ve seen builds with both Orim’s Chant and Mindbreak Trap in the sideboard. The primary problem with all these builds is that they are…bad. They have the “winner’s metagame” problem. The decks might be good against the one or two things you specifically design them to beat, but more generally struggle with the wide range of things you have to play against in Legacy.
Putting It Together
So where does this leave D&T? Many of the matchups that were great for D&T in the past are now just good. Many of the matchups that were good in the past are now just fine or even. Many of the matchups that were bad in the past have gotten worse. D&T’s relative positioning in the metagame has dropped due to so many other decks getting a big boost. D&T is not dead, but it’s probably time for most pilots to admit that (at this exact moment) it is a clear tier 2 strategy. D&T will swing back, but it might have to wait until either a banning or the printing of another really great hate bear to do so. D&T just isn’t great vs the big pillars of the format at the moment: Oko, Breach, and Arcanist. D&T pilots have to work really hard and play really well to keep up with the other decks; this is something that has always been true, as the difference between a good and mediocre D&T pilot is massive, but now frequently “perfect” or close to optimal play isn’t good enough.
Another big problem D&T has right now is that its sideboard is stretched too thin. Oko is a huge problem. Breach is a big problem. These two decks require very different sorts of sideboard cards. If you start your sideboard with 6-7 answers to Oko and then play 6-7 cards that help the Breach matchup, how many generic cards do you have left? Do you have enough cards for your other common matchups like Delver? Do you have enough cards to have decent boarding options when you get paired against the random decks of the format? If you don’t gear your deck heavily to beat Oko and Breach, can you really expect to do well in a big event? I personally have felt really at a loss with selecting a decklist. I’ve tried many things, and pretty much all of them have felt underwhelming. Recording my D&T league for my Daily D&T Youtube series has often recently felt like a chore rather than one of the high points of my week. Even some of the other D&T champions like Xjcloud (who has had more faith in the deck than I have in the past year) have started posting about feeling lost in the format as a D&T player and wondering what they should be doing instead.
There are still ideas to be tested. People have been kicking around Abeyance, Orim’s Chant, Dryad Militant, Remorseful Cleric, Leonin Arbiter… My question for all the D&T pilots out there is, “Is testing these cards the best use of your time?” Should you be investing your time learning to play Breach instead? Should you pivot to another D&T-esque deck like Maverick, Loam, Eldrazi, or Red Prison that will use your skillset but perhaps give you a better winrate across the board? This article isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom. You can still have success with D&T. You will still see a D&T decklist in the 5-0 decklist dump each week. That being said, you should really be thinking about *why* you are playing D&T if you’re still jamming Thalias and Vials. You shouldn’t let your emotional attachment to a deck influence your tournament results. This is a mistake that I’ve made (many times) in the past.
There are, in my mind, four reasons to play D&T currently. 1. You have more games with D&T than any other deck by an order of magnitude. 2. You only own D&T and do not have the option to switch decks easily. 3. You are looking to get involved with Legacy, but are on a budget. 4. You are playing local level events where your metagame is largely devoid of either Oko or Breach, giving you fewer deckbuilding constraints.
I hope I’ve given you some useful things to think about today. I wrote this entire article prior to the announcement that there would be a banning announcement next Monday (3/9). I don’t know know if anything will change for Legacy, but given the historical treatment of Legacy, I’d expect Breach to be here for at least a little bit longer. If nothing changes Monday, then everything above still applies. If something does change, then it’s time to reevaluate D&T again.
When the London Mulligan was first announced, the voices of 1000 Legacy players immediately cried out in fear. The pitchforks were raised, articles were written, and the usual Twitter-drama ensued with great vigor. Now we’ve played with it. Now have experience with it. We don’t have to purely speculate any longer. Do we still hate or fear the London Mulligan? How did it really play out? Was it truly as warping as people feared? Did we come to love the thing we expected to loathe? I’ve taken a statement on the London Mulligan from twenty different high-level players, grinders, and content producers on how this change impacts Legacy specifically. Let’s see what they have to say…
I’m pro London-Mulligan. I think it leads to less punishing games when one player unfortunately has to ship down to six cards. I’d like to see it go into effect immediately.
I think the London Mulligan is excellent for Magic as a whole and totally reasonable in Legacy. While people were initially scarred that the London Mulligan would further enable combo decks, it also has the drawback of combo being less resilient due to this mulligan; opposing decks have similar opportunities to sculpt their hands with interactive elements. Outside of the “combo scare,” the London Mulligan is a strict improvement in keeping games of Magic competitive and makes mulligans less punishing. I’m all for it.
After having talked to a bunch of people, I personally believe the issues with the London Mulligan are two-fold. A) It leads to homogenization of games (it’s far easier to do the same thing repeatedly when you get to look at groups of seven cards repeatedly and ‘Brainstorm’ a few to the bottom). B) It doesn’t actually solve the problems in Standard or Limited (which it was intended for), because too often raw card quantity matters too much. Even if you stack a 5 card hand versus an average 7 card hand in Standard or Limited, you’re still a heavy dog to win the game. People refer to the ‘unfair’ deck benefiting a lot, but that’s covered by A), but also fair decks benefit in a similar way under A) as well.
The London Mulligan is great. It doesn’t swing matchups or decks as much as it reduces overall variance. Now, if you’re favored in a matchup, you are more likely to win the matchup since your deck is more likely to function. Chalice decks are still weak to the same strategies and combo decks still lose to hate, so overall I like the change a lot.
I didn’t have much of an opinion on the London mulligan until they removed it from me in the middle of a stream. I immediately got disappointed when I clicked on mulligan and only saw 6 cards, and then clicked again and only saw 5. Later in the same league I had a complete non game after I mulled to 4 cards; I would have most likely stopped at 5 or 6 with the London mull. Overall though, I don’t think the decks I am playing are in any way abusing it, so for me it only ever served its intended purpose. And I think I still had a good enough win rate against decks that tried to abuse it.
I’m not a fan of the London Mulligan, and this is why. 125 games before and after the MTGO trial.
The London Mulligan is very good for “events that matter.” It is a net positive for paper Magic and larger online events like Legacy Challenges. However, it has negatively impacted MTGO leagues. MTGO has always had an over-representation of combo online due to the desire to grind value quickly, and the London Mulligan really exacerbated that aspect of the online experience. Admittedly, some amount of the increase in combo is just due to people trying out the decks that stand to gain the most from the London Mulligan, so hopefully this would normalize a bit over time if fully implemented.
As a fan of Delver type decks, mulling to 6 under the Vancouver mulligan rules always made me hold my breath and pray for a playable hand. The London mulligan rule greatly increased the consistency of mulligans where winning on 6, or even 5, was quite common, I loved it.
I thought it would be bad for the format, but playing with it quickly reversed my decision. While I love not feeling incredibly punished for choosing to mulligan a weak 7, my favorite part has to be that it helps elevate skill over luck. Choosing which card(s) to tuck away is often a difficult, skill-testing decision that gives players a lot more agency.
Editor’s note: Lawrence’s response was long and has been condensed.
I think the London Mulligan is great for Magic overall and probably fine for Legacy. The first few days of the London mulligan made Legacy leagues feel somewhat unplayable, because a lot of people were stress testing with turn 1 combo decks and various Chalice shells; however I think the Challenge results showed a much more normalized metagame. I think whatever metagame shifts happen will likely normalize over time. I did find it a bit preferable to play with; someone mulling to 5 doesn’t need to be a death sentence, and fewer non games is better for everyone in the long run.
I DID lose to Chalice decks mulling to 5 more, because they could keep hands that were still functional on the first couple of turns, as opposed to how they operate under the Vancouver mull (where they tend to just flounder if they mull to 5ish cards). With that said, under the London mull they often had medium draws as the average topdeck of those shells are often mana intensive and wildly vary in terms of power.
I should love the London Mulligan, because my win percentage has gone through the roof with it, but that’s what worries me the most. I don’t see a world with the London Mulligan where we don’t see serious bans from the A+B combo decks, with Grislebrand being first on the chopping block. That is a shame, because the Legacy meta is in a really great place right now.
The London Mulligan gives everyone more powerful hands on average when mulliganing, but well-built Legacy decks don’t spend too much time mulliganing. I think overall I prefer mulliganing with the London Mulligan, but only slightly more than Vancouver mulligan. That being said, people are going insane and changing the meta drastically for what is a minor mulligan change for most decks; this is because of the drastic difference it makes in glass cannon or single-card-matters decks. I also dislike how the London mulligan works out mechanically.
The London Mulligan is on my shortlist for the best structural change in the history of competitive Magic. It feels incredibly good and liberating as it allows you to actually mulligan and not just spin a wheel where you have to keep any 5 or 6 with 2 lands. Having somewhat of a curve is super important in most Legacy decks, and the London Mulligan helps a ton with that.
Editor’s note: Ales’s response has been edited quite a bit for clarity.
The London Mulligan only made a large difference for decks that could afford to ship back a medium hand to find something better. For example, a Grixis Control player can ship back an opening hand with 4+ lands and still open on something like turn 1 Thoughtseize into turn 2 Hymn to Tourach. Similarly, in a Stoneblade shell, you can almost always find a playable 6 card hand with something like a cantrip and a counterspell. The London Mulligan gave an extremely big boost to combo decks in game 1, but it did give them a huge disadvantage in games 2 and 3. The MTGO metagame moved to a spot where everybody had 5+ pieces of graveyard hate in the sideboard; that meant that BR Reanimator and Dredge were almost not real decks anyway.
Like many others, I thought at first that the London Mulligan would break Legacy by providing absurd consistency to the turn zero graveyard combo and artifact prison decks. To my surprise I found in testing that the rule enabled increased levels of interaction, specifically in postboard games where players could bring in more relevant answers to fast power plays. Mulliganing felt a lot less punishing – the additional pregame card selection certainly decreased the number of deficit-based non-games. It was a short three weeks, but I already miss the London mulligan and genuinely hope it comes back to the Legacy format!
While there are obvious upsides to the London Mulligan, such as less punishing mulligans and another skill testing mechanism, the rule overall is not a good idea for Legacy in my opinion. Reducing the fail rate of already strong strategies and creating match-ups that more frequently revolve around certain game breaking cards and backbreaking sideboard answers creates different kinds of non-games at the expense of more unique games. The short test period was unfortunately timed given GP Niagara (which used the old mulligan rules) and the new set release; both altered the MTGO meta, reducing the value of the data collected. Given that many players thought that Legacy was in one of the best spots it’s ever been in prior to the trial period, is it worth it to risk a permanent change based on flawed data that could potentially lead to bans and/or a reshaping of the format?
My experience with the London Mulligan was extremely positive. Previously I would have to keep sketchy hands on 5/6, hoping to draw a missing piece, and if I did not, I would just lose the game. With the London Mulligan these games almost never came up, and I avoided so many of the nongames I generally play. I would be extremely saddened if they did not implement the London Mulligan. When I first heard about it, I thought it was silly and convoluted, but as soon as I started playing with it, I did not want to go back.
However, I could see some downsides. Superpowering combo decks might come at a big cost in older formats. I think we either have to implement the London Mulligan and potentially not apply it to formats like Vintage/Legacy/Modern if the combo decks are too problematic, or explore bannings/printing stronger answers. Bannings are a messy solution though, so I am hopeful we will have a clean solution.
I was horrified when I first heard about the London Mulligan. Surely this breaks BR Reanimator in half, right? And the Chalice decks will have a lock piece turn one every time. Sounds miserable! Well, not quite. I think this was most people’s reaction and rightly so. But once the London Mulligan rolled onto MTGO and people had got their fill of forcing Griselbrands, it all started to even out. For each time a combo deck had a strong opener, the fair deck would have its answers. The last week of the mulligan being online it felt like the meta had pretty much gone back to how it was before; you’d see a nice spread of fair decks, combo, and everything else.
Reanimator and graveyard decks did get stronger, and the power of cantrips were slightly mitigated due to the non-cantrip decks gaining more consistency, but these are then simply metagames shifts you can build your deck to beat. My experience of the London mulligan has been hugely positive and I’ll be greatly disappointed if it doesn’t end up being implemented.
I believe WOTC should implement the London Mulligan. I believe even in Legacy it creates more games of Magic played, and it’s even better for the other competitive formats at the highest level. I’m not sure what the others are thinking, but as a sidenote, they may have to ban cards because of this mulligan change; however, overall I think it’s better.
I would love to see open decklists at competitive Legacy events to complement the London mulligan. After watching Mythic Championship London (Modern), it was clear that the open decklists mitigated any advantage that the London mulligan gave combo decks. Overall the London mull + open decklists provided more interesting and interactive game 1s, which made for a better gaming experience.
I hope this article has given you a fuller perspective on some of the positives and negatives associated with the London Mulligan specific to the context of Legacy. While normally I like to end my articles with some definitive statements and conclusions, I didn’t do so this time. This wasn’t a propaganda piece that was explicitly for or against the London Mulligan. My intention was to give you some thoughtful nuggets to chew on. I really enjoyed compiling the responses for this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading them as well! I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the article, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on the London Mulligan as well!
One Game At A Time: Death & Taxes at GP Niagara Falls 2019
by Michael Paul Skipper
I own an actual, factual Jitte. In the fall of 2017, I moved into my current residence, and I was spending money like I had money to spend. This was to be the first place I could truly call my own, so I want it to feel like home every time I come home. My move was prompted by a very tumultuous living situation previously, so I decided to focus on myself and my interests more than ever. I put artwork of music, video games, film, and Magic on my walls. One night at FNM with friends, between rounds, I pulled the trigger on purchasing an “ornament” from Japan. It is 150 years old, and I thought that I deserved to treat myself to it. Plus, who knew when someone would try to barge in…
I do not assume that I’ll ever get another chance to write an article like this, so here is the full story of my journey with Legacy Death & Taxes.
In August 2013, Innistrad was approaching rotation, and I had recently become interested in Magic finance. I began playing two years earlier, and now I was learning about Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf. Modern Masters had recently released, and I saw that these cards were around $20-$25 when they were in Standard, and they were much more expensive in 2013. I thought it would be prudent to buy 4x Snapcaster Mage for $80, even though I didn’t have a deck to put them in at the time. I had played against a lot of Humans in Standard, and had seen another card show up in Legacy lists, so I spent $6 to get my remaining three Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. While I bought the Snapcaster to eventually sell, I bought Thalia because I really liked the card and imagined that I would want them someday.
In the spring of 2014, after finishing a family-based furlough, I returned to my adult home of the Bay Area. While away, I stayed in touch with the players I had met through an online group; much love to Oakland’s EndGame community. One of my friends that I met while Gathering told me to reach out when I would be returning to California, and he offered to help me get settled after the move. I am a very lucky boy, so a couch turned into a room, and I now had a roommate with an eye for Eternal formats. Soon, my collection of Standard cards slowly became a collection of Modern, and so on. My roommate had a few Legacy decks for me to try during this process, and it only took a couple of games of Death & Taxes before I knew I had found something that clicked.
In 2016, Eternal Masters was announced, and I set out to acquire Karakas, Aether Vial, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, and Stoneforge Mystic, one by one. Thanks to PucaTrade, where I work, I was able to methodically acquire each one of these. On the day EMA released, my Tempest Wastelands arrived in the mail, and I was ready for battle.
It was at this point that I spent two years losing a lot of games, and learning.
January 2018 held host to Grand Prix Santa Clara, a team trios constructed event. My team somehow picked me to play Legacy, and in the months leading up, I studied the format as deeply as possible; I did not want to let my teammates down. I made handwritten notes of every card in the format, broken down by card type and CMC. This list eventually became a decklist in Decked Builder, and a portable study tool. I read or reread every matchup article on Thraben University. Our results in Santa Clara were not good, but I did feel prepared for battle.
GP Seattle 2018 was Legacy format, so I used the event as motivation to visit a close friend. My only goal for Seattle was to finish day one. I finished 4-3-1. Leading into the event, I decided that it was finally time to build D&T on MTGO. Magic Online is really a great way to practice, but I find it harder to play than paper, because you cannot see your opponent sweat. The only hand reveal spells in D&T are the pilot’s wits and eyes, so losing that edge has a cost. Still, if you’re reading this article, I do recommend that you find a way to put together the deck on MTGO. Legacy is about knowing your matchups, and there’s no substitute for reps. You must know your gameplan and you must identify your opponent’s deck quickly.
At this point, my sights were set on Shizuoka in November 2018. I spent months of paying off debt and getting back to school in the fall. I took a conversational Japanese class, so as to not embarrass myself too much upon my visit. The experience was a great one. I want to specifically credit my Japanese opponents for their respect and decency. We focused on the game, and the language barrier seemed to help in that regard.
For the Shizuoka main event, I decided at the last minute to register Mangara of Corondor. My understanding is that this card was the birthing point of Death and Taxes as an archetype, and I knew from experience that it was a catch-all. This decision proved costly, as the card is quite slow. I believe that Legacy has moved on and Mangara will never be relevant again. I picked up a draw against Goblins that would have been a win with another 5 minutes on the clock. My record was 5-1-1 heading into the final round. In round 8, Red Prison had turn one Legion Warboss in both games. I was eliminated and emotionally crushed. Having spent a whole year focusing my entire life on a singular event led me to heavy disappointment when things didn’t go my way.
Alas, there was still competitive Legacy to play the following day. I went undefeated in the Swiss rounds and lost in the semifinals to my opponent’s turn one Ratchet Bomb. Along the way to a 3rd place finish, I played a featured mirror match which you can check out here. I went home with two boxes and spent the night quietly opening packs. By the time I left Shizuoka, I finally felt like I had a configuration of the deck that made me comfortable.
At GP Oakland 2019, I mostly focused on Legacy side events. Attending a hometown Magic Fest means seeing everyone you’ve ever met playing the game. I’m lucky to live in an area where this is possible. During the event, some of my longtime friends gave me compliments about my skill with D&T. Having known these people for years, it really meant a lot to hear their kindness. It made me feel like my journey yielded something positive.
At my brick and mortar job, I was working near a color printer and label maker for a few weeks. I spent about $100 on deck boxes and sleeves, and turned the chaff in my apartment into a tier one eternal format. My experience playing Legacy has traditionally involved a lot of fear. There were many times in the first few years when I asked my opponent, “Am I dead?” Decks can do scary and powerful plays very early in the game, and as a human, I fear what I do not understand. So, playing games with the “Legacy Cube,” as my friends dubbed it, removed much of my fear, and replaced it with knowledge. Knowing what decks are capable of from the inside out is valuable. Additionally, Legacy is incredibly fun and sharing the format with friends is a great way to spend time together.
I think it’s time to talk about card selection, because my decklist is a bit unorthodox.
Remorseful Cleric. To be honest, this card does not feel good enough. I was planning on cutting this for Sanctum Prelate or Palace Jailer, but decided to keep Cleric. The obvious usefulness of the card would seem to be against Reanimator, but that’s not why I really like it.
1. Snapcaster deterrent
2. Trades with Insectile Aberration
3. Wears Equipment
4. Stops Reanimation
Here’s a great example of the utility of this card. I happened to draw Recruiter of the Guard on a turn when my opponent was tapped out. They had previously looked at their graveyard, so when I resolved Recruiter, I tutored and Vialed Remorseful Cleric, and passed the turn. This card turns the screws on Snapcaster Mage. It’s not great, and it’s not good enough on its own, but it will protect your board advantage in a way that no other card can. Additionally, I really like to have six flyers to sufficiently answer Delver of Secrets. Cleric gets sided out often, but it does a lot of things that I’m looking for; I will continue to play it until something better is printed.
Walking Ballista. This card is of comparable power level to Umezawa’s Jitte and can kill multiple threats, most notably Mother of Runes. Legacy is a format where I almost never have too much removal, and this card is a headache for control players and a monster in the mirror match. I don’t fault anyone for putting this in the sideboard, and I thank them during game one if we get paired.
Serra Avenger. This card is always on the chopping block, but I feel that cutting Avenger is a mistake. To encourage myself to play Serra, I’ve had this desktop background for the past few years; I even bought a deck divider. 3/3 flying, vigilance is simply a must kill threat. One of the problems that I have with many D&T decklists is their lack of ability to smack opponents in the face. This card does that, and more. Additionally, the art and the flavor of this card move me. What can I say? My name is Michael and I love Angels.
Mirran Crusader. Speaking of smashing, no card does it like crusader. No card pairs better with equipment. No card is better against Liliana. I like having two copies because I don’t have the patience to play around Diabolic Edict (and now Liliana’s Triumph as well). The game needs to end in a timely manner, especially game one, and Crusader will cross the finish line more often than a lot of other options.
Brightling. “A Swiss army knife covered in bees.” I found a new mode on Brightling in Niagara: Target opponent reveals that they don’t have removal. Part of the playing D&T is accepting that you don’t often have the luxury of waiting for a perfect play sequence. Aether Vial doesn’t always show up. Sometimes all you can do with three mana is cast a Brightling. If your opponent doesn’t kill it, it lets you know to get aggressive, and that information is valuable. Of course it’s better to protect the card, and it’s better to have a Vial, but don’t be afraid to be fearless. The lifelink on this card is frequently more reliable than Jitte and Batterskull, and can push a game out of reach for your opponent.
Cavern of Souls. It’s true that there are times when this card is a liability, but my opinion is that they are offset by resolving Thalia when you need her. I actually had an opponent attempt to Force of Will a creature played off of Cavern during the tournament too, so that was a nice bonus. Flickerwisp can reset the card, and there’s too much countermagic in Legacy for me to not want a couple of these.
Sideboard Sanctum Prelate. Prelate attacks and blocks poorly. I’ve tried this in the main deck in the past, but there are matchups where it does not do anything. I feel like I can play well enough against Miracles game one without this, and I don’t like this card against Delver, as I need to cast Plow. It’s a good tool in certain matchups, which is why I like it in the sideboard.
Sideboard Palace Jailer. Palace Jailer is very powerful and very risky. The games where the Monarchy is lost are almost always game losses in my experience. My answer to this has been starting the card to the sideboard, however I respect the decision to main deck Jailer.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I want to give a shout out to this card. I haven’t always played him, but he won me a few games, and I feel like he’s underrated.
Michael Skipper, GP Niagara Falls Top 8, 4/21/19
I didn’t take notes on my matches at the tournament. I didn’t have the bandwidth for that, so here are some notes from my memory. On the GP Friday, I participated in a last chance trial event which had an odd number of players. After winning three rounds, I received a bye in round four, which granted me two wins for the main event. This was incredibly lucky.
R1 Win – Bye
R2 Win – Bye
R3 Loss – Ad Nauseam Tendrils
The first match of the day was against another Bay Area player. It was nice to play against a familiar face. I cast Chalice of the Void for the first time in my life here. I promptly missed the trigger and we had a ten minute judge call. In game 3, I played Stoneforge instead of Thalia on turn two, which was obviously a major punt on my part. I died immediately.
R4 Win – Miracles
Game one lasted quite a while. I think game one is very important in this matchup, so I thought hard about my decisions. My opponent accused me of purposefully slow playing, and did not believe me when I said I was thinking carefully. He somehow kept a hand weak to Wasteland in game two.
R5 Loss – Grixis Control
I had an Aether Vial on three when my opponent cast Kolaghan’s Command[c] targeting Vial and making me discard. I was planning on Vialing [c]Mirran Crusader[c] prior to this and I did not adjust properly. I also had a [c]Flickerwisp, which should have been used instead to save the Vial. I never caught back up on tempo. Two major punts, two round losses.
At this point, I was despondent. I knew that if I had made ‘correct’ plays, I would have been in a much better position. I did my best to ignore all thoughts except, “It’s just one game at a time.”
R7 Win – U/R Delver
I don’t know why Delver players Wasteland me. Sometimes it works, to be sure, but if I already have an Aether Vial, I just don’t get it. I drew enough removal, and Flickerwisp sealed the deal.
R8 Win – Sneak & Show
Game one I got annihilated. Game two they had turn one Show & Tell, and I had Palace Jailer for their Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. They followed up with a Pyroclasm, thinking the Emrakul would return. It did not. Game three was close in this roller coaster matchup, but I won and secured my first ever day two.
R9 Win – B/R Reanimator
After winning the die roll, I asked if I could begin. My opponent said yes, and told me after the match that they forgot to reveal Chancellor of the Annex. Outside of the best draws from Reanimator, this feels like D&T’s best matchup in the field. A Recruiter of the Guard chump block on Grave Titan followed by Exhume allowed me to get the Flickerwisp to win the match.
R10 Win – U/R Delver
Brightling was cast with no protection, didn’t die, and promptly told me how weak my opponent’s hand was.
R11 Win – Eldrazi
People think I won’t block, and I don’t know why. My opponent got out to a fast start with double Thought-Knot Seer. Recruiter of the Guard and Serra Avenger were happy to team up to trade, especially since my opponent had already cast a Dismember earlier in the game. Once the pressure was off, the board stabilized and victory with Batterskull and Flickerwisp was easy. Phyrexian Revoker on Endbringer was important in getting there.
R12 Win – Grixis Delver
Good matchup is good.
R13 Win – Miracles
Game one was close, but Unexpectedly Absent doesn’t do much against a deck with no fetch lands. My opponent told me how much they hate Sword of Fire and Ice after the first game. I immediately tutored for it in game two thanks to that recommendation. Disenchant killed the sword, but I got them down to one life while double Rishadan Port and a Thalia protected by Karakas turned the screws. I asked them if they had any outs before they cast Monastery Mentor as a chump blocker to buy one turn against Thalia. That felt good!
R14 Win – U/R Delver
My opponents don’t think that I’m going to block. My Flickerwisp flipped a Delver, and they attacked with the 1/1. I guess my opponents think I’m going to want to keep a three power attacker, but part of what makes Death & Taxes viable in the format is that Flickerwisp kills Delver. I’m more than happy to trade every time. Rishadan Port and Thalia took away their options, and they died with a lot of cards in hand.
R15 Win – U/B Shadow
My opponent was intimidating and very skillful. I made the classic mistake of attacking into a Death’s Shadow, not realizing that it wouldn’t die if they took damage. I also made the mistake of naming Street Wraith with Phyrexian Revoker instead of Liliana, the Last Hope. That decision cost me the second game, which was close and long. Game three I put Umezawa’s Jitte on Mirran Crusader and went for it. I asked them if they had any outs, and made my way into the top 8.
Quarterfinals Loss – Death & Taxes
I was very excited to finally face D&T, as I hadn’t faced it yet on the weekend. I love the mirror, and all of its intricate decision points. We looked at each other’s deck lists before the match, and I knew that Walking Ballista was going to be key. Game one probably lasted 35 minutes, and my opponent was ahead by about thirty life before I got Ballista plus Jitte online. I very slowly picked apart my opponent’s board while double Mother of Runes worked overtime. Game two I lost to tempo. Game three I made my third major mistake of the tournament, and received my third and final loss as a result. I had an active Stoneforge Mystic with Jitte in hand, an Aether Vial on two, and another Stoneforge in hand with three untapped lands. My opponent tapped out for Palace Jailer targeting Stoneforge, and I let it resolve. Tournament over. I should have activated Vial, put in Stoneforge, grabbed Batterskull, and put the Batterskull in play in response. I could have equipped the Jitte to Batterskull on the following turn and destroyed my opponent’s two creatures. Instead, I did not activate Stoneforge in response, which wasted my mana for the turn. I Vialed in the Stoneforge anyway, equipped Jitte to it, and lost my Stoneforge on the attack to get the charge counters. My brain was mush at this point. I said out loud, “I just puuuuunted!” My opponent laughed and agreed. There were more plays after that with Jailer and Flickerwisp, but I essentially lost a full turn of tempo and never recovered due to that misplay. My opponent, of course, is an excellent player and made it to the finals, so congratulations and respect to them.
And there you have it. My only losses were when I made serious play mistakes. That is a good feeling, and bodes well for the archetype. I got favorable matchups in a favorable metagame. Death & Taxes doesn’t typically get a lot of respect, but it put two copies into the top 8, and that brings me pride.
Thanks to Mary. Thanks to George & Rob. Thanks to the entire PucaTrade crew and community. Thank you Phil. Thraben University is an incredible resource, and Mr. Gallagher creates amazing content. Thanks to everyone who read this article. My two cents is to practice hard, know your matchups, and be willing to lose over and over until you develop intuition. And remember, it doesn’t matter what happened outside of the game that you’re in. Just make your best decisions, and take it one game at a time.
I was a guest on Casual Ponderings this week, a relatively new/small Legacy/Modern podcast. If you want to listen to some D&T content (or more generally if you want another podcast to throw in your queue), check it out!
It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been streaming for a year now. It seemed fitting to say a few things about both the process of growing as a streamer and some of the logistics behind making it all work. It’s been a pretty wild ride, and I didn’t necessarily expect this degree of success by the end of year one. This is part reflection, part advice for other streamers, and part looking forward to the future. This is more of a train-of-thought article than usual, so I’m just going to roll with it and say what I have to say. Let’s do it!
Scheduling and Time Commitment
When I started streaming, I just did so when I felt like playing Magic. There’s nothing wrong with that, but your viewers don’t know when to tune in. While the push notifications from Twitch are great and all, it takes a little more than that to grow an audience and get/maintain subscribers. Consistency is a key to success, and that’s pretty obvious. Something that wasn’t initially obvious to me was that I’d have overseas fans. Now I try to mix up my stream times a bit so that some of my other fans have a chance to catch me live. If you wondered why I do those morning streams on the weekends, it’s so I have a more Euro-friendly stream once a week.
My average stream probably runs between 2 and 3 hours. I stream three times a week. Math says that I’m going to spend 6-9 hours a week streaming. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg though. I underestimated the amount of off-stream time that goes into streaming. I usually sit down in front of my computer 30 minutes ahead of time to get the decklist, import it to MTGO, borrow the cards I’m missing from Cardhoarder, upload the decklist to Cardboard Live, change my stream title, post on 3 or 4 different social media sites, update my upcoming streams infographic if I haven’t recently, prep audio and video settings if I have a guest that day, figure out what to discuss during my deck tech… you get the idea. Then after the streams, I need to upload video, return cards, and add new donation decklists to the queue. At other random times, I’m usually scheduling my guest events, responding to Youtube comments, and trying to keep up with the website. If you’ve noticed a drop off in the number of articles on Thraben University in the past year, this is why. More of my time is being pushed towards the stream these days, as growing and improving the stream is my current Magic-related focus.
Perhaps more so than anything else in the past year, I’m really proud of how the collaborative content I’ve been involved with has turned out. The Legacy Premier League was a smash hit, the English coverage of GP Shizuoka was well-received and appreciated, I appeared as a guest on a few podcasts and on Ark4n11’s stream, and I had a good number of streams with guests of my own. It’s been a little hectic trying to coordinate all of that, but it’s been 100% worth it. Expect to see regular guest content on my channel from here on out.
I’m still learning about the logistics of streaming with guests. I’ve encountered some interesting problems along the way, but I’ve largely solved them now (hopefully). I’m always happy to hear suggestions for future guests, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested or if you’d like to see someone on stream. As a teaser, I do have a few collaborative projects for this month; I wrote a piece for theepicstorm.com, I’ll be appearing as a guest on a podcast (we’re recording Sunday), and I’ll be playing some exhibition matches vs Anuraag Das later this month (tentatively scheduled for the 23rd).
Balancing the Stream with Real Life
This is hard. I’m not going to lie, I still struggle with this a bit. There’s pressure to put out great content consistently. I have viewers who support my channel via subscriptions or donations, and Cardboard Live has sponsored my channel. I want to make sure that everyone supporting my channel is happy with my content. I don’t want anyone who has supported me financially to feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. I try not to cancel or change stream times, but that often means that I’m planning my week around streaming. I sometimes turn down social events due to conflicts with the stream, and I definitely schedule my date nights around the stream. My girlfriend is used to getting kicked out of my room on Saturday morning while I stream at this point. Hmmm, I probably should take a Saturday off from time to time so I can actually have a lazy weekend…
My Magic playing has changed a bit over the past six months or so. I used to play about 5 or 6 leagues a week on average. I frequently spent a Saturday or Sunday playing D&T the entire day and “building my own GP” worth of matches. Now it’s rare that I play off stream. Streaming is a blast, but there is a decent amount of “work” associated with it too. I often find myself wanting to play board games or play something on my Switch instead of jamming more Magic. This is probably partially a result of putting in more time on the stream and partially due to my own social circumstances changing a bit after my move at the end of the summer. I also don’t want to overload myself with Magic and burn out. A non-energized streamer isn’t something fun for anyone!
The Best and Worst Parts of Streaming
The best part of streaming is unquestionably the positive interactions with my viewers. I’ve said this many times, so I’m not going to beat the dead horse here, but you all really make my day brighter. I’ve gotten so many messages from people telling me how they were able to 4-0 their first weekly event after learning so much from watching me play or how they top 8’d a big event and got to use some of my tech or tricks. Those are really validating and always make the hours I put in seem worth it.
The worst part of streaming is when you get stream sniped, the term for when your opponent is watching your stream while playing against you. Luckily this does not happen often. I probably played about 1000 matches on stream this year. I’d estimate that this happened only 5 or 10 times. It happens only a tiny fraction of the time, but each time it does, all of the energy is just sucked out of the stream. I have to cover my hand, stop talking about my plays in detail, and decrease the quality of the content for my viewers; the alternative is just letting the opponent cheat. Don’t be this person. The couple of tix you might gain by doing it isn’t worth it. You’re ruining a streamers day, decreasing the viewing experience for tons of people (which in turn often causes players to leave the stream), and in some cases I’ve even just seen streamers end a stream after this happens. Don’t be this person. Also, you know what’s waaaayyyyy more valuable than a few tix? Being able to watch the match after. Having a high level opponent break down their side of the matchup, walk through their plays, and identify moments where they think you are misplaying is invaluable.
Stats and Numbers
Data is great! Let’s take a look at some of my numbers.
Current number of Twitch followers: 1682
Current number of Youtube subscribers: 1165
Number of 2018 videos: 198
Most viewed videos: Arena Rector Nic Fit (1.8k), Post-DRS/Probe Banning Metagame Discussion (1.3k), Brightling D&T (1k)
Future Plans for the Stream
Streaming is profitable for me now, which is crazy. I always sort of dreamed of getting paid to play video games when I was growing up, and that’s a reality for me now. My parents still get a kick of that. I really do want to thank my two sponsors for making that a reality. Being a part of the Cardhoarder Network allowed me to borrow cards, which lead to the donation decklists; my viewers then effectively funded my streams from there on out. This was a big moment for me, and I appreciate the support so much. Cardboard Live has shown me an incredible amount of support as well, and I can’t imagine streaming without it now.
Looking forward, the donation decklist model will continue. I’m not playing quite as much D&T as I might like on the channel these days (and that is common feedback as well), but people seem to be getting kick out of the assorted Legacy decks. If you want to see more D&T on the channel, please support that content financially and make it a reality. I’m hoping that before major events like “GP: Why is this on Easter?” people will donate to see D&T in action. When that happens, I’ll push D&T to the front of the queue. In the event that I am preparing for a major Legacy event, I reserve the right to put donation decklists on hold for a little while to make sure I’m practicing enough. I want to rework my donation queue a bit as well. Right now I’m juggling all the info between my website, a handful of Paypal emails, and a donation queue file on my computer. I probably just need to make a good spreadsheet and consolidate all that. My current system is inefficient, so this is close to the top of my priority list.
Legacy content will continue to be the focus of the channel, though I’m open to other options for the occasional variety stream. I’m a Legacy player. That’s not changing. I won’t be jumping ship and streaming Arena. People have asked me if I’ll take donation decklists for other formats, and I’m willing to give that a go. If I enjoy them (and if viewership is fine), it’s something I’ll continue. So, to whomever wanted me to stream some Vintage Dredge and be a bully, you know what to do! Standard streams aren’t happening though, let’s be real. I currently have no plans to stream anything other than MTGO.
I’m still unsure what to do for donation goals. I’d love ideas and feedback for that. My current plan is to continue to make guest content my primary donation goal, but I’d be open to making some more non-gameplay streams donation goals as well. People have really enjoyed my metagame breakdowns and brewing/sideboarding videos, so having some of those as goals might be good as well.
I also want to do a little something special to mark the one year anniversary of the stream. I’ve got something special planned for my last January stream (Wednesday the 30th). I’m currently trying to track down the oldest D&T decklist with a good tournament finish for a D&T throwback stream. We’re going to take an old version of D&T through a league and see how it fares in the 2019 metagame. It should be fun. If you happen to have an archaic decklist, let me know. I’ve got an old D&T list, but I don’t currently have one that put up a large finish. I’d love to track down the D&T list with the first GP or SCG Open finish (or equivalent).
This final section is for streamers or aspiring streamers. If you don’t plan on streaming, there probably isn’t much content here for you. Look at some cute cat pictures or something instead. Anyway, here’s some tips for streaming based on my experiences.
Don’t do it all on your own. You might be great at Magic, but do you understand broadcasting software, how to make emotes, how to entertain and captivate an audience, how to make a stream layout, how to market yourself, Twitch extensions… Get feedback or help from others when you need it. It’s not weakness to admit that something is out of your skill set. Ask more experienced people for help with settings or features you don’t understand. Pay someone to do quality work if you need to get a commission. Please do something to compensate those that help you though. Don’t ask someone to spend hours making you an emote and then pay them with “exposure.”
Put at least a minimal amount of effort into your setup and layout. Magic doesn’t really require anything fancy, but having a couple of scenes or some useful on-screen info is important. I recommend using an extension like Cardboard Live that will put your decklist on screen; this minimizes the number of simple questions you’ll have to repeatedly answer. You should probably have some sort of bot for your channel that pushes out notifications every now and then about channel info. Your stream info and schedule should be below your stream and easily accessible. I also recommend having a few scenes available. I have a “Normal Stream,” “Be Right Back,” and “Stream Starting Soon” scene that I regularly use, as well as a few more specialized ones that I use for guests.
When you stream, you’ll have to make a choice about what software to use. OBS and Streamlabs OBS are probably the most popular options. Streamlabs is probably easier to get set up and more user friendly as a whole. It is a bit limiting sometimes in terms of advanced options (layering, audio, etc.). OBS lets you muck around with the settings a bit more, but setting up some things is a touch trickier than on Streamlabs. I still use both. I use Streamlabs for my regular streams. I use OBS for my guest streams since the audio options are better there. If you noticed that some of my functionality disappears when I have a guest stream (e.g. no bit cup or on screen sub notifications), this is why. Both programs have their strengths, and I’m glad I know how to use both now.
Before your first stream, do a practice run. I know this sounds silly, but like anything, streaming is a skill. You have to learn to balance your gameplay with entertaining with breaking down plays with interacting with the chat. It can be a jarring experience until you get used to it. Many new streamers time out because they are still trying to learn that balance. If you practice talking as if you were streaming for a league or two, you can start building that skill up. Then your first couple of streams will be less awkward and feel more natural. Streaming can also be exhausting if you aren’t used to it, and you can get a feel for that.
Finally, don’t get into this for the money. You have to want to do this, and you probably can’t expect to make money for quite some time. Many new streams have less than 10 people in their channel at any given time, and many times they only have one or two viewers. I’ve had great success and growth this year, but a huge part of that is because I am already a known player and I’ve already regularly been producing content that people follow. You probably can’t expect to get the same degree of growth I got if you’re looking to stream Legacy. If you want to grow, you need to talk like the room is full, even when it isn’t. You need to show people that there’s something here worth watching. If I tune in to a channel and the person isn’t talking at all, I don’t stay. If I can see your enthusiasm and I’m enjoying your commentary, I’m likely to stick around and watch for a little while. If you’re interacting with chat and having a good conversation, I might interact. Engagement is key.
Okay, I hope some of that was helpful to you new or potential streamers! That’s all I’ve got for today. Good luck!
I wrote a piece for Bryant Cook’s website talking about the D&T vs TES matchup. You can find it here. Check back on Thraben University in a day or two for my one year in streaming article.
Hello everyone, my name is David Lance, and I recently played in the Legacy Eternal Weekend Championship, where I took 15th with Death and Taxes. I have been playing Death and Taxes for the last 2 years, picking it up after Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown. I’ve really enjoyed playing the deck, but recently the deck has not been in the greatest position with the Miracles matchup getting worse and Grixis Control being so prevalent. I was considering playing 5c Humans, as I’d been working with Eddie Zamora, but ultimately I decided to stick with my tried and true Death and Taxes. Here’s the list I had been working on:
David Lance, 15th at Eternal Weekend
Let’s talk about some of the deck building considerations I made going into this event.
Hallowed Spiritkeeper: This creature is 100% in the deck with Grixis Control in mind. Based on my testing, winning game 1 was very important for winning this matchup. That’s why I put this tutorable haymaker in the maindeck instead of in the sideboard. It is, of course, still good sideboard card, but in games two and three, they have sweepers that give them outs to the army of spirits.
Remorseful Cleric: This was a consideration to the rise in Dredge that was showcased in the recent MTGO challenges. Even in more fair matchups, a 2/1 flier at two mana is still more aggressive than many of our other options. This is a really good rate for a somewhat disruptive creature that has a huge impact on certain matchups.
Cataclysm: The D&T community has been debating whether Gideon or Cataclysm is better in the four drop slots of this deck. I personally have been on the Cataclysm side of the argument over Gideon for a while. It provides a way to come back from games where we are really far behind against decks like 4c Loam and Miracles. Sometimes you have to be aggressive in casting Cataclysm, trusting to draw out of it better than your opponent. This does mean you get blown out by things like 4c Loam drawing one of their Life from the Loams after a resolved Cataclysm.
Rest in Peace: This card has been a staple 2 of in sideboards for a while, but I have been finding it to be pretty weak in the current metagame. In testing against Grixis Control, I found that Rest in Peace was not pulling its weight. Turning off Snapcaster and weakening Kolaghan’s Command were nice, but not quite as impactful as you might actually expect. Accordingly, I decided to play one Containment Priest as tutorable graveyard hate instead.
Mirran Crusader: The sideboard Mirran Crusader was one of the debated slots amoungst my friends, and I am still not sure that it is correct. I wanted a generic card that would help with the Shadow matchup. I’m not sure that is necessary with how things panned out but, it is something to consider.
I came to this event with 4 other Death and Taxes players and 1 Miracles player (a friend from college who actually went on to win the whole thing). The morning of the event I was feeling pretty good about myself, as I finished 8-2 in Vintage the previous day.
Round 1: Joseph “Brian” Anderson – Food Chain
I sit down and talk to Brian and recognize him from the Paragon City Games stream as the owner. I knew he would be playing Food Chain; I wasn’t feeling great about this, as it can be a difficult matchup AND I didn’t have Ethersworn Canonist in my 75.
G1: I keep a mana denial heavy hand with a Thalia and Stoneforge Mystic. I quickly get Thalia in play and start Porting him. I get some equipment and beat him down before he can really get off the ground.
G2: I keep another mana denial hand. I get a Thalia in play and start the beat down. My opponent casts Living Wish for Massacre Wurm, which he affectionately refers to as “Mr. Smiles.” Thankfully my draw allowed me to keep him from ever having BB in his main phase, let alone BBB.
2-0 Win (1-0 overall)
Round 2: Nick Leyder – TES
G1: My opponent has a turn one Lotus Petal into Ponder hand. He hits his land drop, but doesn’t do anything on turn 2. I cast Thalia and win the game.
G2: I mull to 5 and keep a weak hand that can win if I hit some lands. I don’t. He wins on turn 3.
G3: I keep a hand of Mom, Thalia, Revoker, Plains, Land, and 2 other cards that don’t matter. I play my Mom and pray to Thalia that my opponent won’t cast a Thoughtsieze. The prayer was answered! I cast Thalia followed by a pair of Revokers on Lion’s Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal. Unsurprisingly I got there.
2-1 Win (2-0 overall)
Round 3: Kwan Han – Lands
G1: My opponent has an explosive opener with Exploration, but lacks a Life from the Loam to really take over the game. I have both a Wasteland and a Swords to Plowshares as protection, so the game goes long. I take him off of colored mana with a Wasteland, leaving my opponent with a bunch of Thespian’s Stages. He draws a Glacial Chasm, which is problematic, as my opponent can keep coping it with Thespian’s Stage to stay alive. I keep a Wasteland in hand, hoping to find a spot where my opponent taps low on mana so that I can Waste the Chasm at a time when he doesn’t have the mana to copy it. He draws a Life from the Loam, and my patience is rewarded with a win.
G2: I have an early Rest in Peace into Thalia. I quickly beat down as my opponent misses land drops and can’t cast his Kozilek’s Return.
2-0 Win (3-0 overall)
Round 4: Mike Perrien – UB Shadow
G1: My opponent has an early Delver into Death’s Shadow at 10 life. How convenient… I draw a Swords to Plowshares and remove the Delver, causing my opponent’s life total to rise, which kills the Death’s Shadow too! I run away with the game from there.
G2: I keep a hand of Path, Path, Council’s Judgment, and 3 lands. I remove two of threats and then tutor up a Palace Jailer. I easily run away with the game.
2-0 Win (4-0 overall)
Round 5: Brent Clawson – RB Reanimator
G1: He makes a turn 2 Griselbrand, draws 14 cards, and does not kill me! It was pretty nice to untap and still have outs. Eventually I remove the big demon and kill my OP with a Walking Ballista on 2, because he could not find any non-Reanimate reanimation spells after getting the big bag Griseldad in play.
G2: He puts Griselbrand into play early and I quickly die to my opponent reanimating more creatures.
G3: I am able to remove his Chancellors with Surgical Extraction on turn one, leaving him with some Exhumes and Dark Rituals. I put in a Containment Priest the following turn and felt pretty good about things. The next turn my opponent uses the Dark Rituals to cast Sire of Insanity. This is usually not a problem since there are 8+ answers to it and every creature can block for another turn. I proceed to draw lands and then a Palace Jailer (with 3 lands) in play and die.
1-2 Loss (4-1)
Round 6: Greg Kotcsharjan – UW Delverblade
G1: I keep a 3 land hand on a mull to 5, draw a bunch of lands, and die to a turn 3 True-Name Nemesis.
G2: Early on we both get Jitte online. I remove his with Leonin Relic-Warder for a little while and then Council’s Judgement it. In the meantime, my opponent hits me several times with a Batterskull before I find my own and start blocking. I have more lands, so I am able to redeploy while also Porting my opponent off of recasting or equipping Batterskull. Eventually my Germ also finds a Sword of Fire and Ice to close out the game.
G3: My OP keeps an Island and Ponder hand, but never finds another colored source. I kill him quickly.
2-1 Win (5-1 overall)
Round 7: Trey Moats – Infect
G1: I lead with a Vial off a Karakas and my opponent plays a green fetchland. I’m praying that my opponent doesn’t cast an elf. He casts an elf, but it is an elf that I am scared of, but not dead to: Glistener Elf. On my turn I Wasteland and then Swords the Glistener Elf to play around Daze. My opponent Wastelands me back on his turn. On my turn I put in a Thalia off my Vial and my opponent never finds another land.
G2: My opponent gets in some initial infect damage, but I am able to put a Walking Ballista on 1 into play against an Inkmoth Nexus and a Blighted Agent. We do an awkward dance back and forth for a few turns. Eventually I end step kill the Blighted Agent, losing my Ballista in the process. I have a Port to hold back my opponent’s Inkmoth, and I soon get my Jitte online to lock up the game.
2-0 Win (6-1 overall)
Round 8: John Poggemeyer – Belcher
This is the round that I got called for a feature math. I walk over to the feature match, excited and ready to showcase Death and Taxes on camera, as it is my first camera match ever. We are about to get started with the match when the production team moved the matches around, taking me off the camera so that Rich Shay could be on camera. Clearly I should have known that someone had seen our matchup and told production that nobody on stream wants to watch a poor Death and Taxes player get beaten up by Belcher. Thankfully my death was swift by a kind opponent off screen.
G1: He made 12 goblins on turn 1 and I died.
G2: My opponent did not do anything on his first turn, so I cast turn two Thalia. He died.
G3: My opponent once again made 12 goblins and I died. Not even Stoneforge Mystic can save you on the draw against that many Goblins.
1-2 Win (6-2 overall)
Round 9: James Beach – Death and Taxes
G1: I get a Jitte online before my opponent. I win the game.
G2: We both lose our Jittes in the early game. He gets mine with Council’s Judgment, and I get his with Leonin Relic-Warder and Path my cat in response to the trigger. This means the Jitte will never come back. My opponent floods, and my Stoneforge and follow up pieces of equipment take over the game. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of games where you are not able to leverage your skill in the mirror, and instead the equipment war determines the winner.
2-0 Win (7-2 overall)
Round 10: Joseph Bogaard – Grixis Control
G1: I have a nice hand that potentially curves into Hallowed Spiritkeeper. I tutor up a Jailer, and I’m feeling great about the game. I lose the Jailer to Hymn to Tourach and then my Spiritkeeper gets countered. My opponent then resolves Jace and takes over the game.
G2: I get out ahead pretty quickly with the help of Thalia and some Porting. I eventually get a board of Stoneforge and Hallowed Spiritkeeper, at which point I cast Cataclysm. I have a land and Batterskull in hand to be far ahead after Cataclysm. Unfortunately, my opponent kills Spiritkeeper, so I don’t get to keep my token army post-Cataclysm. My Batterskull stares down his Gurmag Angler for a few turns until I cast a Council’s Judgment to remove it and lock up the game.
G3: My opponent removes my first few creatures, and my double Stoneforge hand puts me in great shape. My opponent plays out a True-Name Nemesis, but I am able to equip my germ with both Sword of Fire and Ice and Jitte. My opponent doesn’t find a Kolaghan’s Command or other removal spell that can answer the germ, and I cruise to victory.
2-1 Win (8-2 overall)
Round 11: R Desrosiers – Eldrazi Post
G1: I have one Wasteland and a Port, which I utilize to keep my opponent behind while my Moms and Thalia get across the finish line.
G2: I mull to 5 and keep a mopey hand in hopes that my opponent stumbles. My opponent quickly deploys a Revoker on my Vial and casts a Thought-Knot Seer; I concede in response to in order to hide the Cataclysm in my hand. I was going to die anyway and figured concealing some information was worth it.
G3: I have 2 Wastelands early, which buys me a bunch of time until I find a Port. I draw a Vial, which dumps in creatures to put a ton of pressure on my opponent. There was also a fun moment in the game where I deployed Hallowed Spiritkeeper to insulate myself against a potential All is Dust, one of my opponent’s few outs.
2-1 Win (9-2 overall, 15th place)
1. Death and Taxes Discord. I went down with some of these folks, which was a great decision, and I would run it back if given the chance.
2. Patrick Green. He is a good friend from college and the guy I drove down with, so it was pretty great to see him take down the event.
3. Cataclysm. This card is great and is so much better than Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the current metagame in my opinion. Cataclysm wins games that you had no business winning, where as Gideon might stabilize the board in game where you are slightly behind or push you further ahead when you are already winning.
4. My choice to stick with Death and Taxes. I have way more reps with D&T, and I’m glad I didn’t switch to Humans for the event. I love Flickerwisp and Rishadan Port too much!
5. Vintage. I really enjoyed this event. I was able to borrow a full set of power and play Survival of the Fittest, which I learned will never ever ever be unbanned in Legacy, if you were curious
6. Moctzal, Piroko, and XJCloud. They worked with me to get the list to were it is now.
1. Belcher. Seriously, how did I face Belcher in round 8 at 6-1…
2. Apple Maps. It tricked us multiple times. Also the city of Pittsburgh does not make sense; all of their streets are nonsense and that bike race made it really awkward to get to the venue.
3. CardTitan. They did not have tablecloths at the premier Eternal event of the year.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out to me on the Death and Taxes Discord, where I am StaticGripped.
I frequently get asked about how I prepare for tournaments or what recommendations I have for players looking to get better at Legacy. I realized that I’ve answered these sorts of questions on stream all the time, but I’ve never gone and put it into article form. While there’s nothing groundbreaking here, I hope this will be useful to both the newer tournament goers and those who are look to break through to the next level of performance.
Form a testing and travel group
For some people, taking the first step towards getting more serious about Magic is the hard one. Many people are nervous about asking to travel with others for the first time, or are hesitant to try and break into a new playgroup (or to start a new one if that isn’t an option). You can only get so far on your own. You’ll need people to bounce ideas off of, discuss sideboarding with, and split gas/hotel costs. If you are willing to learn and put in the effort to improve, people will notice that and welcome you; if they aren’t, they probably weren’t a great group in the first place and you dodged a bullet! The grind can be demoralizing and exhausting at times, and having a group to fall back on (and get food/drinks with) when things don’t go well is invaluable. Honestly, half of the reason I travel for Magic to hang out with awesome people.
Improve your testing amount and/or quality
Next I’d recommend refining your testing process. Be honest with yourself. How many games are you playing? Do you think this is more or less than the testing your average opponent is doing? Are you playing enough post-sideboard games? Are you playing these matches like you would competitively? Should your playtesting for that GP really include that many beers? Based on what level of success you are aiming for, set a realistic goal for how much testing you can do. I used to think that the 3 rounds I played a week at the storefront plus a bunch of random games a week were enough to keep me in shape and really to do well in big events. When I was doing that, my results were mediocre. Now when I’m prepping for tournaments seriously, I’ll play a GP worth of matches every Saturday and Sunday leading up to the event and jam as many leagues as I can on the weeknights without burning myself out. Once of the best ways to get better at Magic is just “play more.” It’s honestly that simple.
Let’s assume your time is limited though. If you can’t significantly increase the amount of time you spend playing, you can still drastically increase the quality of your testing. If your testing for a week is “let’s jam games with whoever shows up,” is that really “testing” or is that “playing?” When I sit down for a playtesting session, I try to have a few questions in mind that I seek to answer that day. I find that this keeps me focused in testing and lets me actually learn something. Is X card good in this matchup? Is sideboard configuration A or configuration B better against this deck? Am I favored preboard vs X deck? Am I going to be the control deck in this matchup or the aggro deck? Sometimes, I even cheat during these sessions! I let my testing partner know that I’m going to start every game with a certain card in my hand to see how it performs, or always draw a certain card on the fourth turn of the game to see how it would perform. This can help you gather data on some new cards or spicy 1-ofs without necessarily needing to wait to naturally draw it every few games.
If your playgroup consists of your deck, Eldrazi Post, Aluren, and Goblins, are you going to be prepared for the matchups you’ll see at big events? Probably not. Make sure that you are spending time testing some of the more relevant and common matchups. Legacy in particularly has so many decks that you can’t reasonably test against everything, but at the very least, you should be comfortable with the most popular Delver deck, control deck, and combo deck of the moment. If you can do better than that, I’d recommend testing against the top 10 decks of the format as measured by whatever metric you like. Looking at the Decks to Beat (and previous Decks to Beat) on The Source is a good starting point, as is MtGTop8’s metagame breakdown.
If you’re looking for a current short list of things to test, I’d recommend Miracles, Grixis Control, D&T, Eldrazi, BR Reanimator, Dredge, Storm, Death Shadow Delver, Grixis Delver, and Show and Tell. While that’s a ton of matchups, the difference between having zero experience against a deck and having a few matches under your belt is astounding.
Play other decks
So what if you don’t have access to all of those sweet Legacy decks or pilots who can play them? Proxy them up and learn how to do it yourself! There are lots of sites like MtG Press that make it easy to print off proxies or “playtest cards” as they’re technically called now. I actually believe that the best thing you can do to improve as a player is learn the intricacies of many decks. Though I’m “the D&T guy,” if you look at what all I’ve been playing on stream in the past year, you’ll see my range is actually huge. Playing other decks gives you a better feel for the strengths and weaknesses of those decks. It lets you get better reads on your opponents, and helps you to find those tiny edges that lead to wins. This is especially true if you play a highly interactive deck like Miracles or D&T.
Learn the rules…like actually though
If you’ve made it this far, I assume that you know how to play Magic. What I mean by this is learn the details of how the game actually works. Do you know the steps for casting a spell? Do you understand how priority works? Do you know what the IPG and MTR are? Do you know what should happen if your opponent draws an extra card? Knowing some amount of technical info will certainly help your game and ensure that you know when to appeal a judge ruling that is potentially incorrect. Some famous dude once said, “Knowledge is power!” If you’re looking for some reading material, I recommend the Judge Classes. These are intended to get people to the point where they can pass the level one exam to become a certified judge for things like FNM.
Observe and Collaborate
You probably aren’t going to be the only one trying to improve at your deck. Find similar minded folks (preferably people who are better than you!) and collaborate! Share ideas and resources. Critique each other’s decklists or sideboard strategies. I’ve said this plenty of times, but working with others was key to my development as a player. Spend some time chatting with people on Facebook or Discord, seek other pilots on Twitter, read primers or articles on your deck, listen to podcasts… there is so much great content out there if you look for it. I highly recommend bookmarking MtGStreams so that you can see who is streaming Legacy at any given time. Follow a couple of high caliber streamers and try to catch them live so that you can interact with them and learn from them. I highly recommend myself, Anuraag Das, Julian Knab, and Ark4n11. You’ll easily find more if you poke around.
Write a sideboard guide
Did you know you are allowed to refer to notes between games of Magic? You can write yourself a sideboarding guide and use it! Tournaments can be long and grueling (more on that in a second!); doing some of that mental work ahead of time can really pay off at the tail end of a long day. It’s also a great way to see if you have too many cards for certain matchups or if a card isn’t actually brought in enough to deserve the spot. Again, Legacy is huge, so you can’t necessarily have a board plan for everything; sketching out a plan for the 10 most popular decks (you know, those same decks you’ve been practicing against…) should be good enough. Even the process of sitting down and writing one of these for the first time is very helpful. I went years without physically writing out one of these, and I regret it. One thing many people don’t realize immediately is that sometimes changing one or two cards in your list can radically change how you play or sideboard for a matchup.
When I recently started playing Chalice of the Void in the sb of D&T, it radically changed how I approached many of my matchups to the point where I didn’t know how to quickly sideboard without giving it real thought. It was the first time that I sat down and physically typed out a sideboard guide. Now that I’ve done this, I don’t think I’ll ever play in a major event without one. When you are tired and it is round 9, you’ll be really glad when you don’t have to think, “Oh god, what was the last card that needed to come out?” The mental energy you save can then be spent elsewhere.
Physically prepare for a day of Magic
This is the part of tournament experience that new players tend to ignore. It is in my mind the most important part of a successful tournament. You need to be ready to spend hours on end at a tournament hall. You need to make the experience as easy on yourself as you can. Here are some tips:
-Print your decklist so you don’t have to rush in the morning. It also reduces the chance of an error.
-Preregister so you don’t need to wait in line.
-Get to town early enough the night before so that you can actually get a reasonable amount of sleep.
-Find a good food spot or two before the event begins so you don’t have to scramble to find something later.
-Drink water constantly. Getting dehydrated is game over for your brain.
-Pee. Every round. Don’t risk it. That one round that goes to time feels reaaalllly bad if you gotta go.
-Have snacks. I usually carry a sugary snack, nuts or jerky, and a granola bar.
-Don’t stay focused on the negatives. Repeating/listening to “bad beats” stories all day isn’t the best for you.
-Do something between rounds that keeps you mentally active, but relaxed. I tend to play Ascension on my phone or walking around while playing Pokemon Go.
-Eat meals, preferably ones that are somewhat healthy. That pretzel covered in molten cheese don’t count.
-Bring drugs. I always carry Ibuprofen, Tums, and cough drops with me.
-Don’t carry around 10 pounds of trade stuff. You probably aren’t trading much between rounds anyway.
-Use online pairings to reduce stress/hassle. I get mine from the TopDecked App, which pushes notifications to my phone when pairings go up.
Set Realistic Goals
I like to set both short term and long term goals for myself as a Magic player. As I got better and better, these goals generally grew more ambitious. Each time I checked off one of those goals, I set a new one that was just a bit loftier than the previous goal. The tricky thing here is to keep your goals realistic. Some of your goals can be based on event placement (e.g. top 8’ing an event) whereas others might be based on your more general improvement as a player (e.g. handling tilt better, making fewer mistakes, putting in more hours of playtesting). Also (in my opinion), your goals shouldn’t be tied to one specific event. If your goal is “cash this SCG Open,” you can have a bad day and feel like you failed; “if your goal instead is “cash an SCG Open,” that’s a goal that you can keep working towards.
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself as a player
I’m a teacher. I don’t make a ton of money. I’ve got big ol’ student loans that sometimes feel crushing. That’s the reality of my situation. For a long time, I was extremely hesitant to spend any money on Magic outside of event fees and travel costs. I only used store credit to buy cards, and I preferred to trade for cards rather than spend that credit whenever possible. While this attitude saved me quite a bit of money, it didn’t help me improve as a player.
Investing a little money every month into the hosting and upkeep fees for Thraben University motivated me to produce content, which in turn made me think more about my own choices and approaches to matchups more carefully. When I bought D&T on MTGO, it was about $700. That was a big purchase for me, but it resulted in me more than doubling the amount of playtesting I could do. I was really hesitant to buy a new computer (and later nice monitors for said computer), but doing so allowed me to stream Magic; getting the commentary from my followers has really helped me improved and allowed me to see what lines others would have taken much more clearly. I don’t regret a dime that I spent on Magic Online, this website, or things for my stream. They were investments in my future as a Magic player and content producer, while also being pretty darn good for my personal happiness.
So… invest in yourself! If you want to take it to the next level, don’t fall short because you tried to save a few bucks. Take that day off of work so you can attend the big event you’ve been eyeing. Buy that deck you so adore on Magic Online so that you can practice more. If you feel like you’ve plateau’d and you can’t do any better on your own, look into tutoring options. I offer tutoring for D&T, Bryant Cook offers tutoring for TES, and many other pros or high level players would likely be open to the idea as well. Remember, if this is truly an investment, you likely will reap rewards over time for your initial expense. I’ve more than made back my initial investments in MTGO by selling tickets to Cardhoarder (the current rate is $.96/tix, so you get almost all of the value out of your tix with no hassle). My average event placement has also certainly improved since buying in to MTGO as well.
So those are some of my tips and tricks for tournament success. I hope at least some of these things have been useful to you all today. I’ve got some tournament prep to start doing for SCG Con now, so expect to see a writeup of that event and my build in the not-too-distant future.
Josh Willey recently top 4’d the Team Open in Columbus playing D&T. He contacted me asking to do an article for Thraben University, and that resulted in today’s interview! The content that follows is his, though I’ve done some editing for clarity and such.
Why did you choose D&T for the Columbus Team Open? Was this a deck you’ve played for a long time or a deck you picked up specifically for this event?
I have been playing Death and Taxes for three years, and it is by far the deck I am most comfortable with in Legacy. In Legacy, the player with the strongest format knowledge and deck familiarity usually wins. Even though I was capable of playing “more powerful” strategies like Grixis, Miracles, or UB Shadow, I still chose D&T. My experience with the deck makes me less likely to make gameplay mistakes during a long, exhausting tournament like an Open.
What did your preparation for the event look like?
My playtesting primarily consisted of printing out proxy decks of the ten most popular decks in Legacy and playing against them with Death and Taxes every Thursday night with my playtest group. From the testing, I discovered that I needed sideboard Gideons to counteract Dread of Night from UB Shadow and multiple Mirran Crusaders in the maindeck to fight both Grixis and Assassin’s Trophy shells.
What sort of decks were you expecting to see at the Open, and how did you tune your list for those decks?
My playtest group predicted that Grixis, Miracles, UB Shadow, 4C Loam, Lands, BR Reanimator, and Delver variants would be widely played in Columbus. Most of these decks are attrition-based strategies which operate off synergistic engines, so I tuned my deck to dismantle whatever strategy my opponent was likely to implement. For example, Grixis relies heavily on Black-based removal and Baleful Strix to leverage its Planeswalkers, so tools such as Mother of Runes (hinders spot removal), Mirran Crusader (attacks through Strix), and Cataclysm (eats Planeswalkers) actively counteract Grixis’s gameplan.
I also expected many sideboard cards from my opponents that are the death knell for D&T, so I added sideboard tools like Gideon and Council’s Judgment to diversify my threats and not auto-lose to effects like Dread of Night or Liliana, the Last Hope.
Josh Wiley, SCG Columbus Top 4
As a follow up, many people are shying away from D&T right now due to the difficult Grixis Control matchup. Do you have any thoughts on the matchup? Is there a good way to approach it?
The Grixis matchup is 40:60, so Death and Taxes is unfavored, but can certainly win. A sequence of Mom, Thalia, and Crusader on the play will win most games against Grixis game 1, for example. Beating Grixis involves attacking on a card quality axis; your opponent has too many 2-for-1s for you to trade cards effectively, so you need to apply Delver-esque disruption and pressure to end the game quickly before the Grixis pilot can stabilize.
Thalia, Port, Wasteland, Mom, Prelate, and Cataclysm act as fantastic disruption, while Mirran Crusader, Gideon, and Sword of Fire and Ice are the best tools for pressuring your opponent. Mirran Crusader is by far your best card in the matchup, and it may be correct to play 4 of the swole boi in the 75.
Were you considering playing any other cards? If so, why didn’t they make the cut?
Manriki-Gusari would have been cool in the sideboard to hedge for the mirror, but Sword of War and Peace fills a similar role while helping in other matchups (Miracles, Grixis, Burn, most attrition-based matchups). I wanted an Ethersworn Canonist in the sideboard for combo matchups, but added a second Sanctum Prelate to the 75 instead to fight against Loam decks (where putting it on two disrupts a huge portion of their deck) as well as decks that rely on one mana cantrips and removal. The cards I actively wanted to draw in most matchups over the weekend were Council’s Judgment and Mirran Crusader, so I may add additional copies of those cards to my sideboard as well.
Death and Taxes has too many awesome tools to fit in a 15 card sideboard, Phil!
I’m currently playing only two pieces of graveyard hate in my D&T deck, opting to slot in Chalice of the Void instead of the normal additional graveyard hate. Did you find all of the graveyard hate cards useful? Am I crazy for going down so far on graveyard hate?
Yes, you are crazy, but that is a discussion for a different time.
In all seriousness, Surgical Extraction is fantastic and Rest in Peace has lost a lot of utility post-ban. Death and Taxes used to be able to bring in Rest in Peace against Deathrite Shaman decks as a powerful mana-denial effect, but with that silly Elf gone, the white enchantment is a tool that is not potent in enough matchups to warrant its sideboard slots.
Rest in Peace is too slow against BR Reanimator. It does not play toward the disruption-pressure gameplan against Grixis; Kolaghan’s Command will still get a 2 for 1 even without a graveyard, so Rest in Peace only hurts Snapcaster Mage and Gurmag Angler, which is not good enough. Its primary place is against Loam decks, ANT, and Dredge, though in many of those matchups, other tools can do a similar job.
Surgical Extraction, on the other hand, is a powerful tool against Reanimator, Loam, Dredge, Cloudpost (when paired with Wasteland), and ANT. For the foreseeable future, Death and Taxes should utilize at least 3 Surgical Extraction and maybe a Faerie Macabre as well since it works through a Chancellor of the Annext trigger and can be tutored for with Recruiter. I think the rest of the sideboard should be used for generic hatebears, removal, and other specific tools that swing matchups in your favor like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sword of War and Peace, and Walking Ballista.
As for the event itself, what did you play against and what was your personal record for the weekend?
Round 1 – Grixis Control, 2-0 W
Round 2 – Dan Miller w/ Esper Miracles, 2-1 W
Round 3 – ANT, 2-0 W
Round 4 – Kent Ketter w/ Grixis Control, 1-2 L
Round 5 – Eldrazi Stompy, 2-0 W
Round 6 – Miracles, 0-2 L
Round 7 – Clay Spicklemeyer w/ Grixis Delver, 0-2 L
Round 8 – Joe Lossett w/ UW Legends, 2-1 W
Round 9 – Death and Taxes, 0-2 L
Round 10 – Jody Keith w/ Mono Green Cloudpost, 1-2 L
Round 11 – Lawrence Harmon w/ Miracles, 2-0 W
Round 12 – 4C Loam, Unfinished Match
Round 13 – Sultai Control, 0-2 L
Round 14 – Grixis Control, 2-1 W
Round 15 – ID w/ Victor Logan
Quarterfinals – Justin Gebing w/ Mono Red Prison, 2-0 W
Semifinals – Victor Logan w/ Grixis Control, 0-2 L
Final Record – 8 Wins, 7 Losses, 1 ID, 1 Unfinished
What were some of the most memorable or interesting moments from the event?
Every time I cast Cataclysm, my opponents asked me to explain what it did multiple times or asked for its Oracle text. I think most players were prepared for Gideon out of Death and Taxes sideboards, but were taken aback by Cataclysm. For example, most of my Grixis and Miracles opponents were uncomfortable with sandbagging lands to play around Cataclysm and often had to play into the card, otherwise I would tax them too harshly with Thalia and Rishadan Ports. If Dread of Night was not so popular right now, I would play more copies of Cataclysm to fight Grixis, Miracles, Lands, and Cloudpost.
What sort of advice do you have for aspiring D&T pilots or other serious players?
Firstly, I am a teacher and Death and Taxes is my favorite deck of all time. If anyone in the Legacy community wishes to speak with me about the deck, I offer an open invitation to message me on Facebook or e-mail me at email@example.com and we can have an engaging conversation about what it takes to do well with Death and Taxes.
Aspiring D&T players, do not be discouraged from playing the deck if you keep losing. I constantly lost with the deck for the first year of playing it, but eventually reached a breakthrough moment and began recognizing key play patterns, such as which land to Port and when, as well as sequencing my creatures and not overextending into sweepers. Death and Taxes rewards tight and correct play better than any deck I know; if you want your decisions to matter in a game of Magic, keep practicing Death and Taxes.
Veteran D&T pilots, always look for innovation and keep experimenting with this beautiful Legacy deck. There will never be a set 75 for Death and Taxes because Legacy is always evolving and D&T has to adapt accordingly. Communicating with the Death and Taxes community about sideboarding, mulligan decisions and card choices is a great way to tune one’s 75 for a given metagame. If anyone needs help finding D&T players to speak with, I am a moderator for the MTG: Legacy Death and Taxes Facebook group, so feel free to contact me on Facebook or my e-mail and I will gladly add you!
I figured readers would want my post-Columbus 75 as a way to recap what I talked about, so here is my list as of now:
Closing Thoughts from Phil
To close this article, I wanted to compare one of my most recent decklists to Josh’s just to show the differences in approach.
Phil Gallagher, Experimental Taxes
My take on Legacy right now is that it is really fair. It’s much easier to play whatever you want compared to the Deathrite Shaman era, and I think many more decks are viable. That being said, life seems to be hard for combo players right now, and we still certainly have a few “best” decks. Miracles and Grixis Control are probably the two decks to beat of the moment, with D&T and Delver being slightly worse, but still quite strong. Death’s Shadow Delver seems to be bullying all the combo decks right out of the format, or at least that’s the impression I have from all my leagues. I’ve seen some really strange innovations from combo decks to try and combat the current metagame, such as Baleful Strix in Sneak and Show or Hope of Ghirapur in TES. As my decklist above shows, I’m taking some calculated risks as well.
Outside of BR Reanimator, I don’t particularly think graveyard hate is amazing at the moment. As BR Reanimator is only about 4% of the metagame right now, I think I’m fine with skimping on the graveyard hate a bit to board more cards for fair matchups. I’ve opted for Chalice of the Void over more traditional cards, as it can come in for the control matchups as well as the combo matchups. Doing so has noticeably improved my Grixis Control and Miracles matchup, both of which are are touch trickier than I’d like with traditional builds. Hallowed Spiritkeeper is a card that I’ve played a bit in the past, and I think it might be the time to take it out of the “box o’ bad white creatures.” It’s a beating against Grixis Control, where it might end up making 5 or 6 tokens in the end game.
I’ve embedded my most recent D&T league below so you can take a look and see this in action.
Alrighty folks, that’s everything for today! I hope you enjoyed today’s guest content and my thoughts on the metagame. In the next week or so, I’ll have some 5C Humans content for you, courtesy of Humans expert Eddie Zamora. Things are going great for the stream, and the donation decklists have been pretty awesome. I’ve really enjoyed expanded my range as a player over the past couple of months, and if you’re interested in
bribing me supporting my content, I’d love to add some more sweet decklists or D&T variants to the queue.
It’s an obvious statement, but not all opening hands are created equal. For most decks there’s a very wide range of acceptable hands, though what exactly that means varies from deck to deck. Some decks need an evenish mix of lands and spells, other decks can get by on hands with one land and a variety of cantrips, whereas some need to mulligan aggressively for a specific plan. Years ago when I started playing D&T, I noticed that my opening hands with Aether Vial were noticeably better than the hands without it. At the time, I didn’t really put too much further thought into the implications of that observation, but now that I’m playing significantly more games (and with a wider variety of decks), I think my initial observation was part of something bigger.
Today I’d like to introduce what I call my Critical Card Theory. I believe that many decks have a card that is objectively more powerful and less replaceable than any other card in the deck. Opening hands (or early turns) that have access to this “critical card” will have a noticeably higher win percentage than those without it. In many cases, hands with and without this card may promotes entirely different play patterns. These critical cards are the cards that you should be most cognizant of. These are the cards that help to determine the strength of your hand. These are the cards that if you are given the opportunity to counter or otherwise answer one of these cards, you probably should.
It’s probably easier for me to illustrate my theory via examples rather than to stay theoretical the whole time. Let’s say that you are playing a Reanimator deck. You usually need three cards to go off: a creature, a way to discard that creature, and a reanimation spell. Accordingly, you are a three card combo deck. This is not true if you have your critical card: Entomb. Entomb allows you to be a two card combo deck; now you only need Entomb and a reanimation spell to go off. Thus hands with your critical card are going to be better than those without since they require require fewer cards to execute your primary gameplan. This, in turn, can allow you to use your resources differently and more optimally. Instead of targeting yourself with a discard spell to put your creature in the graveyard, you can use that spell on your opponent to pave the way for victory. Accordingly, stopping an Entomb (if possible) should be a primary objective if you are playing against this deck. The critical card is often going to be worth using two cards on, so trading a Force of Will for a critical card is probably fine in most cases.
So returning now to Aether Vial, what makes this card so good? Why is it a critical card? Aether Vial lets you cheat on mana more than most other cards in the format. If you think Dark Ritual is a good Magic card, consider how much mana Vial produces over the course of a game…yeah, that’s pretty busted. When you have a Vial, you can dedicate more of your resources to things like Rishadan Port and Wasteland, counting on your Vial to eventually let you put in enough creatures to win the game, even if you never cast one! There’s no other card like Aether Vial in this deck. Nothing else even produces close to the same degree of advantage that it does. No other card contributes so greatly to your win percentage. Your games with and without Vial play out like games with an entirely different deck.
In recent years, critical cards have been the subject of multiple bannings. Sensei’s Divining top gave Miracles an absurd degree of flexibility and enabled abuse of the Miracle mechanic. Deathrite Shaman was a swiss army knife attached to a a one mana creature. Opening hands with those cards just put you at an incredible advantage. Honestly, Gitaxian Probe probably fits my Critical Card Theory as well. The ability to start the game knowing your opponent’s hand is not to be underestimated. I didn’t play enough Probe personally to say that with authority, but I imagine that it probably felt like one of the better cards in a deck like ANT or Grixis Delver.
Now that being said, not every deck necessarily has a critical card. Many decks have a much more even distribution of power level between cards. This is especially true for the value-oriented decks. Consider Grixis Control for example. The card quality in that deck is pretty even; most of them are designed to give you a 2-for-1 of some nature. Accordingly, there’s not necessarily a card that *if it is in your opening hand* will greatly increase your win percentage across the field. Now Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Kolaghan’s Command are great and powerful cards, but those cards being in your opener don’t necessary directly contribute to your win percentage as much a critical card would. These cards hit play considerably later than the critical cards traditionally do, so they don’t qualify as critical cards by my definition, despite their objective power. These two cards are also less universally good than my idea of a critical card, as their power level is much more matchup dependent.
I don’t want to linger on identifying and discussing critical cards for too long before I make my next point, but here are few more examples of critical cards:
So where do we take this theory from here? Once you’ve identified the critical card, it’s often useful to consider what the games with/without it look like. How do those games differ? How does resource management or sequencing change based on those cards? How does your gameplan (as the opponent) need to change when they do/don’t have it? How does your gameplan (as the player) need to change when you do have it?
Let’s your playing against Chalice of the Void in Eldrazi as our first example here. If your opponent leads on Chalice on the play, a good portion of your hand may just be dead. So what’s the scariest follow up play your opponent could have? Probably Thought-Knot Seer, as it could rip one of your few remaining follow up cards from your hand. To be frank, the games where your opponent leads on that sequence probably aren’t real games…that’s gonna be hard to beat for just about any deck? Let’s assume they don’t have the follow up Through-Knot though…how does the game progress with just a Chalice in play and a more normal hand? If your opponent doesn’t lead on something like an Eldrazi Mimic or an Endless One, then the game will be slightly slower than the games where they do in many cases. So the games where your opponent has Chalice have the potential to be shutout games with no interaction, but the games where your opponents lead on creatures instead will have a faster potential goldfish.
Understanding the difference between hands with and without critical cards can do wonders for your mulligan decisions. Let’s stick with the Eldrazi example from above for a moment. In mulliganing against Eldrazi, I would recommend asking yourself two questions: “What does my hand do against a hand with Chalice?” and “What does my hand do against a hand without Chalice?” I think this is a much better approach than the generic question of “Do I have good tools for the matchup in my opening hand?” In some cases, you may end up with a mix of cards that hedges against both sorts of draws, but does not actually have the tools to win.
So what is the take home message? Why does this matter? Being aware of critical cards in each matchup helps to inform your mulligan decisions and play patterns for the first few turns of the game. Rather than considering every possible combinations of opening hands your opponent could have and how you should interact with them, you can often split decisions trees in two, simplifying your decisions immensely. How do I play if they do have their critical card vs how do I play if they don’t have it? How do I approach this matchup when I have my critical card vs how do I approach it if I don’t? Thinking like this has really helped me to have a better grasp of the first few turns of the game and improved my sequencing.
I hope that I’ve articulated myself well in this article, and I hope that it is useful. If you have feedback for me, I’d love to hear it! This is one of the first times that I decided to write a pure theory article rather than one focused on a specific deck, so let me know what you thought!
I was the backup feature match in one of the rounds at SCG Baltimore recently. Though it’s only a few minutes of coverage, you can check it out here.
Bill Li won a 1K Event in Seattle with D&T and offered to write up his experience. The content that follows is his, though I’ve done a bit of editing here and there. -Phil
Cowards Can’t Block Warriors
Hello everyone! My name is Bill Li, and I am a dedicated Death and Taxes player from Seattle, Washington. I have only been playing Magic for 5 years, starting with Theros, and I have played Legacy for about 3 years (since GP Seattle in 2015). I have played Death and Taxes for the entirety of my Legacy career. I am very lucky to be living in Seattle, being surrounded by a great Legacy scene and some of the best Legacy players in the US. Over the weekend I won the monthly Legacy 1K, coming out on top against 68 of best players in the area. The list that I chose to play last weekend is a heavy reflection of our local meta game in Seattle. There is always a lot of Miracles and Grixis Control present in Seattle, so I wanted to adjust my flex slots to beat those decks.
Bill Li, Seattle 1K
Main Deck Choices
1x Brightling – With the large presence of Miracles, I felt that Brightling was the best card you can have in that match up, especially when paired with Vial.
3x Mirran Crusader – On the other hand, there are also a lot of Grixis decks running around, so Mirran Crusader is your best bet against them. It is also good versus Death’s Shadow, which has been picking up steam in our meta.
1x Sanctum Prelate – I wanted a bit more disruption and I found that Sanctum Prelate is randomly good in a lot of situations. It stops problematic sources of card advantage like Terminus, Life from the Loam, and Punishing Fire while also instantly winning the game against some decks like Storm.
23 lands – While some people have been testing 24 lands recently, I wanted fewer lands because of all the grindy match ups I expected. If I was running 24, I would board out a land in the grindy games anyway; this decision should help me a bit in those match ups in game 1.
2x Surgical Extraction – I wanted a tool that can help me combat both Lands and Aggro Loam. My friends talked to Bob Huang, and he said that Aggro Loam is the best chalice deck right now; accordingly, I wanted some graveyard hate that can deal with annoying cards permanently.
2x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – I used to be a big Cataclysm fan, but the more matches I play and test with Gideon, the better I like it in grindy match ups. It is a proactive card that can press your advantage; Cataclysm is more reactive card that sometimes takes some setup or careful planning to be effective.
Matches and Sideboarding
Round 1 Vs Goblins (0-2)
Funny story, I played this match so badly that I almost left after the first round. In game 1, he played Mountain and passed for the first two turns, so I assumed he was playing Red Prison. Turn 3 he played a Goblin Matron and I knew I was in trouble. My Jitte was destroyed by Goblin Trashmaster, and it was all downhill from there. I chose not to Swords his Goblin Sharpshooter, opting to remove another creature to try and go for a quick kill. It did not work out.
Sideboard: +2 Paths, +1 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Recruiter of the Guard, -3 Thalia, -1 Prelate
I played game 2 better… because I didn’t play much at all. I mulliganed a mediocre 7, looking for a 1 mana removal spell, but kept a 6 without one. He had a double Goblin Lackey start and put in Goblin Ringleader. GG.
I was just making so many mistakes that I wanted to just take the day off and go home. I stepped outside to get some fresh air to “untilt” myself. My mentality about Magic is that “I just need to win the next one.” I think having a good mental state is crucial to playing Magic well, so after taking some deep breaths, I was ready for round 2.
Round 2 Vs. Grixis Control (2-1)
This was a friend of mine who was trying some sweet tech: a 1 of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Game 1 I had a pretty sick read on him where I had a Vial on 2 and he passed the turn with 3 mana open. I smelled a Kolaghan’s Command and expected that he was going to 2 for 1 me at the end of his turn. I did not put in a creature at the end of the turn and went to my turn. With the Vial trigger on the stack, he decided to pull the trigger because with a Vial on 3, I can Flickerwisp the vial to save it. I activated in response to put in a Revoker on Liliana, the Last Hope and discarded an otherwise dead Swords to Plowshares. My vial exploded, but the trade wasn’t a blowout for me. Unfortuantely, I did not see a Recruiter, and he out grinded me for a game 1 win.
Sideboard: +1 Recruiter, +2 Council’s Judgment, +2 Gideon, +2 Rest in Peace, -4 Swords, -2 Revoker, -1 Prelate
Games 2 and 3 played out the same way. I utilized Port to its maximum potential, choking his mana for a long time while I was deploying threats off a Vial.
Round 3 Vs. BUG Nic Fit (2-0)
Game 1 he played Tropical Island into a Mirri’s Guile. I wasn’t 100% sure what this meant, but I immediately thought he was on some deck that needed lands. He played a Underground Sea and Ponder. I untaped and slammed a Thalia. It resolved. He missed his next land drops, and then I Wastelanded him. He concedes.
Sideboard: +2 Rest in Peace, + 2 Council’s Judgment, -4 Swords
He started game 2 by casting a Cabal Therapy; that’s when I knew he was playing a Veteran Explorer deck. He names Thalia and gets 1 copy of it from my hand. I play my Vial and pass. He then made a play that seemed very strange to me. He fetches for a Dryad Arbor and sacrifices it to flashback Therapy, taking my Stoneforge. I top deck a Port and lock him out of the game.
Round 4 vs Maverick (2-0)
Playing against another friend of mine this round and I knew he was on Maverick. My knowledge of the match up has historically swung this match up in my favor, but his sideboard cards are very potent. Game 1 started off with a Mom war. I found a Flickerwisp to break the stalemate and equipped Jitte to it. When I attacked he flashed in Scryb Ranger. He goes to blocks and activates his Mom. In response I activate my Mom, but then he Swords my Mom. I had to recruit for a Revoker to shut off his Mom so I could finally connect with Jitte. The game was over after that.
Sideboard- +2 Paths +2 Council’s Judgment, +1 Relic Warder, -4 Thalia, -1 Prelate
Game 2 he plays out a Shali, Voice of Plenty. While this card can be really annoying, I flickered it out for a turn. This allowed me to connect with Jitte and shoot down his summoning sick Mom before the Shali and Mom combo kept me from ever interacting with his creatures again.
Round 5 Vs. Burn (2-0)
Game 1 was a nail biter. I dealt with his creatures early and he was stuck on 1 land for a couple turns. I started to Port him; for the first two turns he Bolted me in response, but after that he did not do much. I played out a Wasteland, intending to destroy my own Port at some point to play around Price of Progress. He played a Barbarian Ring as his second land. I decide to Waste it and kept Porting. I got a hit in with Batterskull and it was gg at that point.
Sideboard- +2 Canonist, +2 Council’s Judgment, +1 Sword of War and Peace, -3 Mirran crusader, -2 Revoker
Game 2 he got my Mom on turn 2 with Searing Blaze and I was in trouble. I exile two of his creatures and finally get a Stoneforge, which puts in a Batterskull. He makes the mistake of waiting to Smash to Smithereens my Batterskull until after I had untapped; I bounced my Batterskull in response. He then floods out and it was over.
Round 6 Vs. Miracles (2-0)
This was one of my camera matches and it was probably one of the best Miracles matches I’ve ever played. The game starts out with me playing a Stoneforge on turn 2 and getting Sword of Fire and Ice; he immediately removes my Stoneforge with a Swords, as expected. He then plays an Island and passes. I know that he is on the Accumulated Knowledge build, so I suspected that he’s going to cycle one at the end of my turn. I play a Mom and pass the turn. He indeed casts Accumulated Knowledge. On his upkeep, I chose to port his Island. If he has a Swords, I don’t want my Port activation to feel wasted. He Brainstorms in response, and then plays a Volcanic Island and Ponder.
At this point, I had another hard read on my opponent: he is looking for lands. Volcanic Island is not the land that Miracles wants to play out in the early game (or even at all!,) and he chose to shuffle with Ponder. This suggests to me that he is not in a great position. I untap and made the best attack of my life. I attack with Mother of Runes and then play out a Flickerwisp with the intention of flickering my Port to tax his mana. He Forces the Flickerwisp, which suggests to me that he does not have any removal what so ever. He untaps and plays Snapcaster Mage, targeting Ponder, looking for another land. He does find a Flooded Strand, but I still don’t believe that he has removal. I cast the Sword of Fire and Ice I got with the Stoneforge, suspecting that he doesn’t have another counterspell. I equip it to Mom and that took over the game. He played Jace next turn, and I just ignored it and kept pressuring my opponent’s life total. I then play a Revoker and he Forces again. Knowing that he has no removal, I commit my Thalia as well.
Playing against Miracles, Mom can be a huge trap. By leaving up Mom and feeling safe to commit more creatures, you are very soft to Terminus or Supreme Verdict. To make it worse, after they wrath you and your Mom is gone, their Swords are live again. Attacking with Mom could be the right play sometimes when you get a read on your opponent. Mom has 1 power for a reason!
Sideboard: +2 Canonist, +1 Recuiter, +2 COuncil’s Judgment, +1 Sword of War and Peace, + 2 Gideon, -3 Mirran Crusader -4 Swords, -1 Jitte
Game 2 was very anticlimactic after what happened in game 1. He mulled to 5, which was rough for him. He Ponders off an Island turn 1 and plays out a Volcanic Island turn 2. I sense that he is weak on lands again. I Port him and then follow up with Thalia and Karakas on the following turn. I then Wasted his Volcanic Island and it was over at that point.
5-1, I was locked for the top 8!
Round 7 (ID)
I drew with my Eldrazi opponent, who I would later face in the finals.
Top 8 match Vs Storm (2-0)
This match was against James Johnson or as he is known on MTGO “jjthegiantslayer.” Many consider him the best Storm player in the state and he is also a close friend of mine. I mulligan to 5 cards with 2 Vials, a Mom, and 2 lands. I kept and scryed a land to the bottom. He used a Duress to grab one of my Vials. I then play out Mom instead of the Vial. I committed to this line not because I want to protect my creatures, but because I wanted to get him dead. By attacking with Mom, he might draw fewer cards with Ad Nauseum. It so happened that decision was rewarded in the next few turns. On the next turn his Thoughtseize took my other Vial. I draw a Flickerwisp and hit him for 1 with Mom. He then goes for the main phase Ad Nauseum with 1 black floating (he also already made his land drop). He flips a Dark Petition that took him down to 3 life. If I did not attack with Mom, he would have been at 4 and potentially would have gambled on taking another card or two. He stopped here, and I top decked a Thalia. Check it out.
Sideboard- +2 Canonist, +2 Rest in Peace, +2 Surgical, -4 Swords, -1 Stoneforge, -1 Jitte
Game 2 was more about how I sequenced my hate pieces. I first played my Canonist since I want to play around Dread of Night. He answers my Canonist with Abrupt Decay. I play out my Thalia, leaving up Karakas. I had a Wasteland I could have played, but chose not to; if he kills my Thalia too, I would be in bad shape. He already played out 2 Lotus Petal, so my follow up Phyrexian Revoker feels great. I then had the choice to play Rest in Peace, Sanctum Prelate, or play Mom and Port my opponent. I chose to cast Mom and Port. Since he only had two lands, it would be very hard to go off even if he top decked a land; I wanted Mom to protect me against Chain of Vapor and Fatal Push. I then chose to play Prelate on two because of my previous knowledge that he has 2 Cabal Ritual in hand. I debated playing out the Rest in Peace instead, but it seemed like Prelate turned off more outs. I attack with Mom again, because even with 1 piece of removal, he cannot combo off and I wanted a two turn clock. I got very lucky game 2 and drew very well.
Top 4 Match Vs Miracles (2-1)
Game 1 was very straight forward. I was on the play and kept a Vial hand. He Forced the Vial and I was pretty sad… until I drew another Vial! This one landed and it quickly took over the game.
Sideboard: +2 Canonist, +1 Recuiter, +2 COuncil’s Judgment, +1 Sword of War and Peace, + 2 Gideon, -3 Mirran Crusader -4 Swords, -1 Jitte
Game 2 was very tough. I kept a double Vial hand this time, but he played a Pithing Needle to stop my Vials on turn 2. Trying to tax my opponent’s resources while also deploying enough threats on the draw is very difficult, and I quickly lost.
Game 3 was incredible. He has the Pithing Needle for my Vial again, but this time I have the Council’s Judgment to answer it. This was crucial because I ended up with three Vials in play over the course of this game. I draw a Mom and a Revoker in the coming turns and put them in with Vial. I named Jace with Revoker and he plays out a Jace next turn… something was not right. I draw a card and it was a Sanctum Prelate He had a Snapcaster Mage in play so I couldn’t attack and kill the Jace. He draws and announces theTerminus trigger. I stop him and activate Vial on 3 in response, putting in the Sanctum Prelate on 6. Everyone went crazy.
I then top deck a Recruiter, which gets me a Stoneforge Mystic and a Sword of Fire and Ice. The attack with Recruiter wielding the sword drops him down to 13. The card I drew off the sword was another Recruiter. He miracles an Entreat the Angels to make 4 angels. I vial in my second Recuiter to get another Stoneforge and Vialed that in to get Sword of War and Peace. After doing some quick math, I realize that I have lethal. I equip to the same Recruiter and give my Revoker pro white to attack for lethal. My opponent was tapped out, so I won the match and moved on to the finals. This is a pretty big moment for me, as I have never made it to the finals of a Legacy tournament and have never won a tournament in my 5 years of playing Magic.
Finals Vs Eldrazi (2-1)
Eldrazi Stompy I found historically to be a very coin flippy match up. The player that is on the play usually takes the game. The main way to combat this deck is with mana disruption and Stoneforge Mystic.
Game 1 I opened up with a Wasteland and 6 other playable cards, which I kept. He plays an Ancient Tomb and a Jitte on turn 1. On my turn, I chose to Wasteland him; if he can’t deploy his threats, the Jitte will be less relevant. I’m sort of hoping he has an awkward draw that I can take advantage of. He plays an Eldrazi Temple and passes. I top deck another Wasteland and I fire it off again for the same reason. We then both pass, making our land drops. He plays a City of Traitors into Thought-Knot Seer, which I remove in response to the trigger. He takes my Stoneforge, but I still have the tools I need to win.
At this point, I’m pretty close to stabilizing and taking over the game. Over the next few turns, I assemble Thalia, Vial on 2, and Karakas alongside Rishadan Port. I’m able to invalidate his creatures and Jitte while also forcing him to sacrifice his City of Traitors. I continue Port my opponent off of anything relevant and take over the game.
Sideboard- +2 Paths to Exile, +2 Council’s Judgment, +1 Leonin Relic Warder, -4 Thalia, -1 Mom
I board out Thalia against Eldrazi because this game is all about my non-creature spells. I don’t want to tax my strongest cards with Thalia and lose too much tempo.
Game 2 was a close one. He starts off with an Eldrazi Mimic into a Thought-Knot Seer, a very aggressive start. I started on an Aether Vial, but the Thought-Knot ate my only piece of removal. Luckily, I top deck a Path to Exile… but he slams an Endless One for 6. I Path the Thought-Knot because I have a Flickerwisp in hand to blink and kill the Endless One. Unfortunately, my opponent played a Walking Ballista for two, which heavily warps the game. I used a Recruiter to get a Leonin Relic-Warder to try and answer it. It’s possible that I should have gotten a Stoneforge instead to try to build up a board that could push me ahead, but my opponent’s follow up Thought-Knot ends the game.
Game 3 was very anticlimactic again, as my opponent mulled to four. My Council’s Judgment answered his Jitte, one of his few ways to come back from a mull to 4. My card advantage took over the game after that.
I won. I won a tournament for the first time in my 5 years of playing Magic. I played very tight this weekend and got a lot of good reads on my opponents, but you cannot win a tournament without some luck as well. My deck choice felt pretty solid for the Seattle meta. I have recently seen that Palace Jailer is picking up popularity, but I have never been a big fan of that card. It costs a lot and could be very clunky in a lot of match ups. All of my sideboard cards were relevant and I don’t regret any of my choices.
Going forward into the world with Assassin’s Trophy, I do anticipate the deck to stay relatively the same. Mirran Crusader looks great against any Assassin’s Trophy deck, and D&T has historically been good vs BUG and other BG decks.
I have one final piece of advice for all D&T players: mulligan aggressively. You do not normally win games with hands that just have random spells and some lands. If you know what your opponent is playing, you can mulligan aggressively for a hand that is good for the match up. Use your match up knowledge to help you win! Don’t just focus on the board, but anticipate what your opponent is going to do next and adjust your play to that.
Finally, I would like to thank Jordan Aisaka for being a great friend, a troll, and a mentor. We have a friend group called the “Boldwyr Intimidators,” and as they say, “Cowards can’t block warriors.” I have learned a lot about Legacy from all of my friends in Seattle and I would like to thank each and every one of them as well.
Thanks for reading my article and thank you Phil for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts with this wonderful community that you built up.
Thank you again,
Legacy is great right now. The format is pretty wide open. Most games are more interactive and much more enjoyable as a whole than in our previous metagame. Accordingly, I played a ton of Magic in preparation for this GP. It looks like I played about 150 matches on MTGO with D&T specifically, and I probably played another 50 or so matches with other decks. These numbers exclude any special events I played in (e.g. Legacy Premier League) or dedicated testing sessions (e.g. playtesting sessions with a specific player). Here’s how things shook out prior to the GP in terms of my data in Legacy Leagues.
Click here for a bigger version of the same thing. So that ends up being a record of 107-42 (~72%). If you take a look at the graph there, overwhelmingly my matchups were positive against the field. D&T unquestionably felt like the best deck going into the GP. Unfortunately, this did mean that people were well-prepared for the matches…but Shadow was “well-prepared” for the matchup with its three copies of Dread of Night and that didn’t seem to matter very much, now did it?
In the week going up to the event, I played seven different decklists, all only a few cards different from each other. Here’s what I settled on, though I know I’m going to have to explain a few things.
Phil Gallagher, 59th at GP: Richmond
I expected to see a considerable amount of the mirror as well a large amount of fair black decks (Shadow, Grixis Delver, Grixis Control). There were my two biggest considerations going into the event and most heavily impacted my decisions. Let’s break down a few things:
1. No Brightling
I love this card. I wanted to play one so badly for the Miracles matchup, but it performs relatively poorly against the black decks. I didn’t think this was the right weekend for the card, but if Miracles sees an uptick in popularity (spoiler: it will), expect to see this in my deck again.
I have been testing 23 vs 24 lands quite a bit, and I decided that in the Wasteland-filled world we currently live, having extra stable mana is a necessity. Hence I also hedged by playing another Plains over the third Karakas. I almost always had something to do with my mana, and in the matches that go exceptionally long (e.g. Miracles and Grixis Control), you can just trim a land and go back to 23.
3. Maindeck Flex Slots
I knew I wanted a borderline unhealthy number of Mirran Crusaders to punish decks like Death’s Shadow, but I actually was unsure about what to do with the remaining slots. I wasn’t too keen on Revoker in the meta as a whole, so I dropped down to two. Palace Jailer had been wrecking Shadow and had other good game one results, so I kept it in the deck despite very frequently boarding it out. Sanctum Prelate was very underwealming as a whole, but since most of my flex slots in the main had been dedicated towards fighting fair, I opted for one card that would help my game 1 percentages vs combo decks like Sneak and Show.
Brightling, Remorseful Cleric, and Spirit of the Labyrinth were the other cards that I had tested and had very positive results with in the post-banning world. I think all three will continue to see play in the deck at the right moments, but I oped out of playing the Cleric and Spirit to keep my X/1 creature count a bit lower.
4. Sideboard Combo Hate
So…combo hate cards kind of suck right now. All of them. The metagame is exceptionally fair right now, hence I’ve dropped some common hate cards like Ethersworn Canonist and Containment Priest that otherwise are often deck staples. I opted to play Chalice of the Void over Canonist to diversify my hate package a little bit. I wanted a card that I could play against ANT, Sneak and Show, and Miracles, and the best two things that I came up with were Chalice and Spirit of the Labyrinth. I played Spirit quite a bit (and liked it), but again hedged against the -1/-1 effects by playing Chalice. The split of Surgical Extraction vs Faerie Macabre is to hedge against my own Chalices in the Reanimator matchup specifically, one of the few places where your chalices and 1 drops other than Vial truly are in conflict.
5. Sideboard Fair Cards
Grixis Control was one of the only decks that I was actively afraid of coming into the event, and so I really wanted to have Cataclysm for that matchup (and to a lesser extent for Miracles). However, for the metagame as a whole, I thought that was incorrect. Gideon was incredible in the Death’s Shadow matchup, so I was unwilling to make the swap. Otherwise most of what you’ll see here is pretty stock. The Walking Ballista performed quite well in the testing of the mirror I did, while also being able to pick off smaller threats like Snapcaster or Baleful Strix in the Grixis Control matchup. Walking Ballista and Sword of War and Peace both fall in the camp of cards that are great in the mirror that have good amounts of overlap elsewhere; accordingly, I’d play one or the other, but both would be overkill.
2-0 Grixis Delver
2-0 Grixis Delver
2-0 Red Prison
0-2 Grixis Control
2-1 Death’s Shadow
0-2 Grixis Control
2-0 Grixis Control
2-0 Grixis Delver
Round 3 vs Grixis Delver
In game one my opponent stuck a two Bitterblossom. This card is on the top of my “oh shit” list as far as game one scenarios go in this matchup. It makes it so that most of my creatures have trouble connecting, and it clocks pretty hard as the game goes on if you can’t force them into chump blocking mode. While things looks bad for a little while, Batterskull eventually gets there after being reset a couple of times.
In game 2 my opponent stuck an early Dread of Night, which many people assume is the end for D&T. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t always just win. I flopped down a Palace Jailer on my opponent’s only threat and rode the extra cards to victory, largely ignoring the powerful hate card.
Round 4 vs D&T
I initially wrote up a four paragraph explanation of the final turns of this round, but decided that it would be in bad taste to post it publicly. We have enough negative stuff floating around already. Essentially, I believe that I got a draw this round largely as the result of incorrect confirmation of the board state by a judge, followed by a poor decision by a judge, followed by a poor ruling by a judge. I’m still extremely frustrated by it, as it forced me into the draw bracket with considerably tougher matchups. The loss still falls on me, as I made an error, but it was an error I never would have made if not for the preceding actions.
Round 10 vs Death’s Shadow
I honestly don’t think Death’s Shadow should be running so many hate cards for D&T. The matchup is so terrible that even if you draw multiple of them, you still usually lose. My opponent lost game 2 despite having both Dread of Night and Liliana, the Last Hope in play. Mirran Crusader is really good. My opponent then lost game 3. Their Toxic Deluge for 4 was excellent, grabbing them a 4 for 1 or something of that ilk, leaving them with a Gurmag Angler and one life. Recruiter for Walking Ballista ended that one easily.
Generic Grixis Control on Day 2
I played against Grixis Control three times on day 2 and I only won the match where I got two free wins. This was one of the matchups I expected to lose given how I chose to build my deck (i.e. not playing Cataclysm). The builds I faced were radically different, but the core engine is incredibly powerful against what I was doing.
Round 14 vs Grixis Delver
My opponent this round was a pretty friendly guy, and it was clear that he didn’t get to play as much Magic as he wanted to. He was having a blast at this event though and was doing well, so I quite happy for him. Making a deep run at a GP is a really big deal for many people, and even if he didn’t end up cashing, I knew he’d be happy with his weekend. He was also a bit confused about why so many people had been chatting with me and asked if I was “Magic famous.” I got a good laugh out of that and explained my website to him. This is why I didn’t lose my mind when he played a Plague Mare in game 1. Under normal circumstances, I 100% would have called a judge to verify the decklist, as that’s a narrow enough card that I would have suspected that my opponent was playing a sideboard card in game 1. My opponent died to Crusader and Jitte the following turn. When I asked him about the Plague Mare, he said he didn’t really get how to beat D&T and he was having trouble with opposing True-Name Nemesis; he figured this was his best shot.
Round 15 vs Miracles
Miracles is a bit of a tough matchup. I was 6-4 against it in leagues going into the event. I got to steal game one easily. My opponent didn’t have a removal spell when I equipped Mirran Crusader with Sword of Fire and Ice. He died. Game 2 was more interesting. For the first time in the event, I boarded in the Chalice of the Void! Yes, in fact, I did go 15 rounds without playing against a dedicated combo deck! My curve was disgusting. It was approximately Chalice of the Void on 1 into Sanctum Prelate on 6 into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. There were a couple of cards between those, but that’s the gist of it. My opponent put up a hell of a fight, all things considered, by sticking a Jace and getting to Brainstorm for a few turns. Ultimately, I powered through Jace and a follow up Monastery Mentor and secured my top 64 finish.
Closing Thoughts and Stream Plans
My 10-4-1 finish was good enough for 59th place and $250. While that’s a fine finish, I can’t help but be disappointed with that result. My entire event was soured by my interactions with judges at the tail end of my D&T match on day 1. I can’t help but wonder what my pairings would have been like had I avoided that draw. D&T felt like the best deck in the format going into the event, so I was expecting a better finish. This is the life of a serious Magic player. You can have a good weekend and still walk away feeling terrible. c’est la vie For what it’s worth, I did think the decklist was pretty much perfect for the event, and I’d run it back in a heartbeat.
I’d like to take a moment to thank a few people who contributed to my success in the event. Huge props to the members of the Legacy Premier League as a whole. I used many of them as a sounding board for sideboarding and decklist options. In particular, Mike “Overvoltage” Danielson spent a few hours bashing my head in with Grixis Control so I could try out different sideboard options for that matchup. Similarly, MTGO user Piroko139 helped me test Walking Ballista in the mirror. Finally, mad props to my travel buddies: Zach Koch, Nick Miller, and Stefan Hench. Secretly one of the best things about these tournaments is exploring a new city, finding tasty food and drinks with friends.
Now that the GP is over, I’m going to spend a bit of time working on the 5c Humans archetype. I thought the deck was conceptually pretty good, but I just couldn’t justify putting in time testing it with before now. Expect to see me streaming with that from time to time. On that note, I recently changed my donation goals as well. Now for every three donation decklists I receive, I’ll do something special. At three donation decklists, I’ll be playing an Ensnaring Bridge and Mangara of Corondor deck that’s been at the back of my mind since the bannings. At six donation decklists, I’ll be doing an Infect stream with special guest Nick Miller. At nine donation decklists, I’ll be updating my Mono Black Control decklist and showing the world how great Vampire Nighthawk really is in Legacy.
The donation decklists have been a blast, and I’ve greatly expanded my range as a player by trying some of the odd things my followers wanted me to play. I’m excited to play some Death’s Shadow Burn on Thursday. Yeah, you read that right. It’s gonna be a good time.
Death's Shadow Burn
2 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Stomping Ground
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Diabolic Edict
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Snuff Out
4 Chain Lightning
4 Flame Rift
4 Death’s Shadow
4 Goblin Guide
2 Gurmag Angler
4 Street Wraith
1 Defense Grid
3 Destructive Revelry
1 Diabolic Edict
2 Dread of Night
2 Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Searing Blaze
It’s GP time! There’s been a ton of great D&T content put out in the last week, so I just wanted to quickly highlight a few things.
First up is Marcio Carvalho’s tournament report from PT25A. He breaks down some of his deckbuilding choices and even admits that he made some mistakes in building his deck! He then provides a sideboarding guide for “the decklist he should have played.” Be warned that I disagree with many of the sideboarding decisions presented here, but either way, it’s interesting to see how he is approaching each matchup.
Next up is a podcast featuring PT25A winner Allen Wu! Top Down Legacy is a relatively new podcast hosted by Cyrus Corman-Gill (aka CyrusCG) and Eric Vergo. I haven’t had a chance to listen to this yet, but you can bet I’ll be playing it on the way to GP:Richmond. Here’s the link to all of their episodes, as the first three have been pretty great.
Next up we have a match of the Legacy Premier League! Vincent Chandler (aka PleasantKenobi) takes on Caleb Durward. It’s a D&T vs Steel Stompy slugfest with commentary by Rudy Bricksza and me. There are some interesting choices here that are worth examining. Check it out here.
Finally AJ Sacher did an amazing breakdown of one of the PT25A matches: Marcio Carvalho vs Josh Utter-Leyton. His analysis of the match is stellar, and even I learned some things by watching it! The production value of this content is also very high, and he did a great job of diagramming things on screen and visually showing off various options. I’m really looking forward to watching another video like this one! Check it out here.
Good luck to all of those playing in GP:Richmond!
Recently I’ve been making a push towards having a few more voices on Thraben University, and this week I’m very pleased to bring you some content featuring Pro Tour 25 Anniversary winner Allen Wu! Allen Wu is no stranger to the top tables of Magic events. He also won a limited GP in Albuquerque in 2016 and top 4’d a Modern GP in 2017 in Vegas. In addition, he also worked for WotC’s Play Design team. The answers that follow are his, edited slightly for clarity and formatting.
Why did you choose D&T for the Pro Tour? Was this a deck you’ve played for a long time or a deck you picked up specifically for this event?
I’ve played D&T for 3 years or so. I was looking to buy into Legacy and found someone selling the full deck on Ebay for around $1000, which seemed like a reasonable deal at the time. I actually wasn’t going to play this Pro Tour until Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe got banned since I had a flexible invite. I found a team primarily to play D&T in Legacy. If I decided the D&T wasn’t competitive enough after testing it, I would have played Modern and given Legacy to Greg Orange.
What did your preparation for the event look like?
I played maybe 30 leagues on Magic Online (~150 matches). I was actually the trophy leader for a couple days (my Magic Online handle is Avignon) before deciding that I needed to take a break before the Pro Tour. The main things I tested were the land count and configuration, the new cards, and the sideboard.
Did you test with any of the newer cards like Brightling or Remorseful Cleric? If so, what were your thoughts?
I tested extensively with Brightling and am fairly confident it’s bad. My main issue with the card is that it doesn’t have any kind of evasion, so it stares off against or trades for ground creatures that cost much less mana for it. The first time I had a Brightling and my opponent cast a Gurmag Angler, I was pretty off the card already. I had a Sword of Fire and Ice and still couldn’t profitably attack. Then I played a game where my opponent had 3 Bitterblossom tokens and my Brightling never meaningfully attacked or blocked the whole game. It doesn’t even win combat against Nimble Mongoose without help, let alone Death’s Shadow. The only matchup I’d prefer Brightling to Mirran Crusader and Serra Avenger is Miracles, which isn’t that prevalent. Crusader and Avenger are just more efficient and have more valuable abilities.
I didn’t test Remorseful Cleric at all, but the card also didn’t make much sense to me. I don’t think it’s a big mistake to play a Cleric or two, but don’t see the point either. I couldn’t imagine many situations where I’d tutor for Cleric instead of Palace Jailer or Sanctum Prelate with Recruiter of the Guard. It’s role also overlaps with Faerie Macabre after sideboarding, but Remorseful Cleric is just another 1-toughness white creature that dies to all the usual sideboard cards like Marsh Causalities, Sulfur Elemental, Dread of Night, and Liliana, The Last Hope. It’s a reasonable card to naturally draw but significantly worse in combat than Serra Avenger.
What sort of decks were you expecting to see at the Pro Tour and how did you tune your list for those decks?
I actually pinned the Pro Tour metagame down pretty well. I expected a lot of “fair” decks, like Delver, Grixis Control, Miracles, Eldrazi, 4c Loam, and the mirror. I was afraid BR Reanimator would have a strong showing, but didn’t think many players would actually show up with it. I expected Sneak and Show to be the most popular combo deck, and that relatively few people would play dedicated combo like Storm, Dredge, or Elves. I was actually a little concerned about Death’s Shadow before the tournament since so many people were playing it online, which I guess paid off.
Allen Wu, Winner PT25A, 8/5/18
You can mostly see those expectations built into my sideboard: 2 Path to Exile, 2 Gideon, 1 Containment Priest and Canonist, 0 Surgical Extraction, etc. My general approach with D&T is that you should bias your maindeck towards the matchups you expect to face least and your sideboard towards the matchups you expect to face most, since the white sideboard cards in Legacy are so potent.
In retrospect, I wish I’d played an even greedier list with 3 Revokers and a Serra Avenger, but I wasn’t comfortable going below 9 2-mana interactive creatures in the 75 against Storm for math reasons.
How did the Walking Ballista in the sideboard perform? Was that there primarily for the mirror?
It’s primarily for the mirror and decks with Baleful Strix, but there are also a number of decks where you’re happy to have a 2-mana removal spell for 1-toughness creatures. I board it in against Delver if they have Young Pyromancer, Bomat Courier, or especially Grim Lavamancer; it’s also strong against Infect, 4c Loam, and Elves. I also board it in against Miracles; games go long and they usually play around Wasteland, so having a card you can dump 8 mana into later on is pretty potent. It also punishes Miracles players who’ll go to a low life total against D&T, assuming you won’t have any way to win after they stabilize.
Ballista is just a really powerful, flexible card, and I think having access to 1 in the 75 is pretty mandatory with Recruiters. It does a lot more than you’d expect it to. For example, I had originally planned to board it in against Josh Utter-Leyton in the finals, boarding out all my Thalias, but convinced myself that I still wanted some Thalias on the play at the last minute. But if I’d had Ballista in my deck, I would have had an almost deterministic win with Recruiter of the Guard instead of needing to sweat my Palace Jailer draws.
Other than winning through triple Dread of Night, what were some of the most memorable or interesting moments from the event?
The triple Dread of Night game was by far the most engaging and complicated game I played the whole tournament. I went 10-4-2 overall, and my wins and losses were pretty much all straightforward. The only other particularly interesting game I played was in round 2 against Tom Martell, where his Dread of Night actually worked against him since it meant he couldn’t Reanimate my Mother of Runes. I eventually put Batterskull into play and attacked him to death with it.
What sort of advice do you have for aspiring D&T pilots or other serious players?
The biggest piece of general advice I have is to play 24 (or maybe even more) lands. With how prevalent Wasteland and Daze are in the format, how powerful the utility lands in Legacy are, and how badly D&T wants to hit its third and fourth land drops, I think playing 23 or fewer lands is lunacy. A part of me thinks that the optimal build of the deck has 26-27 lands, 4 Horizon Canopy, and 2-3 Mishra’s Factory, but I don’t have that much conviction yet.
Regarding piloting the deck, I guess I’d advise new players be cognizant of what your opponents are capable of and what interaction points you have. You almost never “bluff” with Aether Vial, but thinking of when you should and how you can is a useful exercise. For example, you don’t always want to Vial Thalia into play as soon as you can. Waiting for your opponent to pass with 2 mana for Abrupt Decay or Disenchant for your Sword of Fire and Ice and then putting Thalia into play to deny them that option is a lot more powerful than making their Ponder cost one more. And once that’s a part of your range, your opponents will have to respect your Vial activations a great deal more.
One interesting play that I’m still not sure about from game 3 of the finals is whether I should have put Mirran Crusader into play off Vial and equipped it with Batterskull on my main phase. It’s pretty clear at that point that his hand is blank (Dazes, Snuff Outs, maybe Street Wraiths, etc.). I don’t remember the exact details of the game off the top of my head, but the relevant cards he has left in his deck are 3 Wasteland, 5-6 cantrips, 1 Dread of Night, 1 Diabolic Edict, 4 Delver of Secrets, and maybe (but probably not) 1 Engineered Explosives.
- If he draws Wasteland so I can’t equip Crusader, then he just loses to reset Batterskull + Crusader, so Wasteland isn’t really relevant.
- If he draws Diabolic Edict and I pass, then I reset Batterskull, put Crusader in, sacrifice the Germ, and then equip Crusader.
- If he draws Edict and I equip Crusader, I think I’m busted.
- If he draws 3rd Dread of Night and I pass, then I reset Batterskull, my Crusader is blank, he Raise Deads his Angler, and I’m in a tricky spot but the game isn’t over.
- If he draws 3rd Dread of Night and I equip, then I win. He has as many Edicts as Dreads and only one of each, so the real questions are which play is better against Delvers and cantrips.
- If he draws Delver, it’s slightly better to reset Batterskull since he’ll have no outs after I reset Batterskull and Crusader hits him to 5, whereas he’d have another draw or two to hit Edict (with Liliana) against equipping Crusader.
- If he draws a cantrip, I think it’s also better to wait since he’ll likely keep a Death’s Shadow or second Angler if he doesn’t know the Crusader is coming, whereas equipping Crusader lets him know he has to find a Delver or Edict or he’s dead.
Because the Dread of Night-pass scenario is preferable to the Edict-equip scenario and it reveals less information, I still stand by passing. But given Josh did draw the 3rd Dread of Night and it’s such a complicated spot, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something. I’m curious what other people think.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Oh, I’d like to shout Jacob Nagro out for telling me to play 24 lands, give him shade for obligating me to play mismatching Plains, and thank the rest of the Nathan Smith Memorial chat for their conversation and support.
End of interview
Closing Thoughts from Phil
To the surprise of no one, D&T is unquestionably one of the best decks in the format currently. Marcio Carvalho also top 4’d the Pro Tour with a different take on the deck, gearing his sideboard *very* heavily to beat BR Reanimator.
Marcio Carvalho, Top 4 PT25A, 8/5/18
I don’t think there’s really a stock D&T decklist right now. Looking over the variety of different D&T decklists from the Pro Tour seems to support that. The format is very open, and you need to pick your battles. In building your lists for the coming weeks, especially for GP Richmond, I think there are two big questions to consider:
- How do I beat the expected hate cards that will become more popular due to D&T’s success at the Pro Tour?
- How do I gear my flex slots to beat the expected “tier one decks?”
You’ll need to have a plan to beat cards like Sulfur Elmental and Dread of Night. Make sure that you aren’t leaving in only one toughness creatures in your matchups, and playing some additional answer to a Dread of Night in your 75 probably isn’t a bad idea. I wouldn’t recommend going overboard on changes on that front though; tweaking 1-2 cards is more than enough.
As far as flex slots go, I’ve gotten a ton of messages about Brightling in particular in the last week or two. My thoughts haven’t really changed. I still think Brightling is an important and powerful tool for the deck. That said, Brightling isn’t the best against the black decks that are currently moving to the forefront of the format. Crusader will easily outperform Brightling vs decks like Grixis Control. That’s just factual and it’s not close. If decks like Miracles, Eldrazi, and Red Prison are super-popular as GP Richmond approaches, play a bunch of Brightlings and you won’t regret it. If decks like Grixis Control and UB Shadow are still popular, then load your decks with Crusaders and go to town. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but Mengucci recently put out a Legacy Veedio with Brightling D&T, so that might be another nice datapoint for those of you on the fence about the card.
I hope we’ve given you plenty to think about in the coming weeks, and best of luck as you tweak your decks and prepare for GP Richmond and your other upcoming events!
Edit: A few days after this interview was published, Allen Wu wrote a blog post that elaborates a bit more on some of the questions. You can find that here.
Rax Dillon had a great run at the SCG Team Open last weekend and offered to write up his experience. The content that follows is theirs, though I’ve done a bit of editing here and there. -Phil
Hi, everyone, my name is Rax Dillon and I’m a periodic grinder whose best format is Modern. I’ve cashed a couple of GPs, but but this my first big top 8. I love Legacy and have been playing for a few years, but haven’t been able to make weeknight events for a while because of having a young child. These days I mostly get my Legacy games in casually and at GP side events. I fell in love with Death and Taxes around six months ago, and have been learning the deck since then. This past weekend, I (with my teammates Kenny and Kevin, center and right below) made top 8 of the SCG Worcester Team Open playing Death & Taxes in Legacy. We went 11-3-1, locking the third seed with an ID in the final round, and then lost in the top 8. My personal record was 8-4-1 with two matches that didn’t conclude before the round was decided for our team.
I’m only going to talk about the Legacy portion of the event since the Standard and Modern decks we played, Grixis and Burn, weren’t anything like Death and Taxes, and I know almost nothing about current Standard.
To summarize my experience playing 15 rounds of competitive D&T:
- Brightling is the truth. Every one of its modes is relevant in the deck: vigilance for double-triggering Jitte, lifelink for winning races, bouncing for fizzling removal spells or preventing Jitte from triggering, and +1/-1 for finessing races and creature combat. That said, it’s still just one card; the supporting context of other cards in D&T like Aether Vial and Mother of Runes is what really makes it powerful for us and dangerous for our opponents.
- If any graveyard decks — Reanimator and Dredge being what I was afraid of in particular — showed up, they weren’t at the top tables day one, and they weren’t in Day 2 at all.
- The format is open, but it didn’t feel that open at this tournament, perhaps because the metagame hasn’t adjusted yet. I did see some blue decks making interesting card choices, but nothing that felt way out of left field.
- Don’t bother with Sword of Light and Shadow. I played it because I think it’s marginally better than Sword of War and Peace both against Miracles and in the mirror, and I don’t think it’s worth it overall.
- Remorseful Cleric is… fine? I’m not sure we need two in the main if the graveyard decks aren’t showing up in paper.
My list is very close to what Phil’s been playing online. Where my testing list and his diverged, I went with his unless I had a compelling reason not to, because I watched him play more post-ban matches than I played myself. This is what I played:
Most of this is pretty standard. A couple of notes:
- I cut my maindeck Sanctum Prelate for a 24th land when I added the second Brightling. I think that’s right, but I really miss the Prelate.
- I occasionally miss having Cavern of Souls, but with Brightling, I think I would miss guaranteed white mana more.
- Phyrexian Revokers is basically a 2/1 for 2 that grows Tarmogoyf against RUG Delver.
- I haven’t been impressed with Sword of War and Peace, and that’s why I’ve been trying Light and Shadow. I’m not really that impressed with SoLaS either.
- Some of the testing I did get in was against graveyard decks, and Faerie Macabre not being hit by Duress seemed very helpful against the specific Reanimator list I played against. I probably overrated this influence.
Round 1: 2-0 vs Charbelcher Storm w/ Land Grant
The die roll may well have determined this game — I led on Plains and Aether Vial on the play, and my opponent made twelve goblins on turn 1. Stoneforge fetched a Batterskull and the lifelink swung the race in my favor. Game two he tried to go the Charbelcher route and I was able to go get Leonin Relic-Warder before he could activate.
Editor’s Note: Bryant Cook has a great table of the number of Goblins required to beat Batterskull here Indeed, Rax likely would have lost game one if he lost the die roll, as only 10 Goblins are required on the play.
Round 2: 2-1 vs Miracles
My opponent was on a heavy Monastery Mentor list with Back to Basics. This is the only match where Sword of Light and Shadow did significant work for me; I recurred Flickerwisps over and over again and eventually played through four Terminus and three Swords to Plowshares in game 3. Remorseful Cleric blew out a Snapcaster Mage once, turning what would have been a Swords to Plowshares on my best creature into having Cleric in the yard instead.
Round 3: 2-0 vs. Miracles
Game one I rode an early Batterskull to victory because my opponent couldn’t find the right cards to interact with it. Game two, my opponent got stuck on white mana and I had the mana denial with Rishadan Port and Thalia to keep him from doing much of anything.
Round 4: 1-1-1 vs. RUG Delver
One game I got Delvered out. One game I Brightlinged him out. We started shuffling up for game three and the match was over. I might have been able to sequence the first game better in order to force the Delver that got through seven times to trade with a Remorseful Cleric; it ended up getting double-bolted to play through Mother of Runes. The flying is very valuable.
Round 5: 2-1 vs. Red Prison
Game one I did Thalia things, but games two and three were really interesting.
In game two my opponent had three Ensnaring Bridges in play. I used Brightling, Mother of Runes, and Umezawa’s Jitte to push damage though and avoid the sea of Goblin Rabblemaster tokens that couldn’t attack. He was using Chandra, Torch of Defiance to deal slow damage, but it looked like I would be able to race… then I decided to use my Jitte counters to kill Pia and Kieran Nalaar and their Thopters so he wouldn’t just throw a bunch of Chalices and Chrome Moxen at my face. I do think it was necessary to stop the Thopters from chumping and then being sacrificed, because then I couldn’t get more counters or gain life, but giving up all of my Jitte counters really hampered my plan here. My opponent slammed a Karn and started making constructs, which I had no way to stop from blocking my attackers, and they were big enough to protect Chandra through to an ultimate.
Game three he came out with a turn one Goblin Rabblemaster off of Ancient Tomb and Chrome Mox and immediately applied a lot of pressure to my life total; however, I had a turn 1 Aether Vial and a good set of creatures, including Brightling, to use with it. I had the read on my opponent having a Fiery Confluence, and so I ended up vialing in a Brightling to block and gain life even though it would leave me tapped out, and leave Brightling vulnerable, because doing so was the only way to stay at 7 life. Surprisingly, my opponent did not make the choice to wipe the board after this, despite having three goblin tokens to my Brightling and Stoneforge Mystic, and instead used his mana on an Ensnaring Bridge. I dropped Leonin Relic-Warder, targeted Bridge, held priority, and Flickerwisped it. This allowed me to permanently exile the Bridge and also take out a Chrome Mox when the Relic-Warder came back. This protected me from Fiery Confluence for the turn I needed to gain more life with Brightling to stabilize.
This matchup made me really appreciate Brightling, and really want a second Leonin Relic-Warder.
Round 6: 0-1-1 versus Goblins
I haven’t tested at all against Goblins. In game one I was reading cards and generally getting overrun by a combination of Goblins card advantage and avoidable mistakes. Turns out you can Karakas bounce Krenko while it has summoning sickness…which is not obvious when Krenko is in Japanese. I should have asked for Oracle text. While I was sideboarding, I discovered that my Modern teammate (who won quickly) had won an SCG Open with Goblins in 2012, and he started both excitedly geeking out about Goblins and helping me make the best choices in the matchup. Sword of Fire and Ice was very good in game two, and I was favored to win when the match ended, but I don’t think my odds of winning a game three were great.
Sword of War and Peace would have been good here, while Sword of Light and Shadow did not even merit consideration. I think it’s important to test this matchup moving forward.
Round 7: 2-1 versus Infect
This was our camera feature match, but unfortunately they didn’t show Legacy at all, which is too bad because there were some interesting plays here. I don’t know what number is best to put Sanctum Prelate on in this matchup, or how to determine on a case by case basis, but here’s one decision I made and how it went:
In game three, I had to make the choice between preventing double Invigorate and Dismember by choosing 3 OR cutting off Berserk, cantrips, and other spells by choosing 1 — but also cutting off my own Swords to Plowshares. I chose 1, with Flickerwisp in hand and a vial on 3 in case I wanted to reset, and my opponent cast a Blighted Agent and attacked with Noble Hierarch, turning into a 1/2 with exalted, into my 2/2 Sanctum Prelate. I blocked, my opponent invigorated the Hierarch, I vialed in Flickerwisp and exiled Sanctum Prelate, my opponent Brainstormed, I responded to Brainstorm by Plowing the Blighted Agent, and then I put the Prelate back on 1. That line won me this match, but I wonder if I should have been safe and just taken the Hierarch beats.
Round 8: 1-2 vs. Sneak and Show
I lost game one to Omniscience. I won game two on the back of two Rishadan Ports. I then lost game three to a Lotus Petal, Ancient Tomb, Sneak Attack line; to be fair, I left myself open to this by playing a beater instead of leaving up Rishadan Port against an Island and Scalding Tarn up.
This is another matchup where I missed Sword of War and Peace.
Round 9: 0-2 vs. Grixis Control
Hymn to Tourach did a tremendous amount of work here, but my opponent also outplayed me, especially navigating a complex boardstate where I had two Brightlings and he had two Gurmag Anglers (along with two Baleful Strix). I was hurting for mana to bounce and recast Brightlings every turn, so I decided to simplify by trading a Brightling for a Gurmag Angler, but my opponent accurately predicted when I would choose this line and walked me into a series of spells that took out the other Brightling. This was our first team loss, and we went into day two as top seeds at 8-1.
Round 10: 0-2 vs. TES (The Epic Storm)
This matchup is very bad, and I lost both games quickly. Game two I had a six-card hand with Rest in Peace and Ethersworn Canonist, but my opponent had the turn one Thoughtseize to take the Canonist, and Rest in Peace didn’t do much. My opponent helpfully pointed out that Rest in Peace is much weaker against Rite of Flame decks; it cuts off one angle, but the deck often wins without Past in Flames. It’s possible even weaker creatures are better if they reduce the number of cards that Ad Nauseam gets to look at.
Round 11: 1-2 vs. RUG Delver
I had to automatically mulligan my first hand in game one because I had sideboard cards in my deck, which I mention as a reminder to always check that, even when you think you’ve already checked that. (I had my sideboard laid out to discuss with my round 10 opponent, but put the wrong pile back into my maindeck.) This unforced error possibly cost me the match. Game two I won with Brightling (this is a theme of many of my games against RUG Delver). Game three I had a Brightling active and stayed alive for a long time, but drew three Aether Vials in a row and was unable to support the Brightling against a go-wide strategy.
Brightling is great, but it doesn’t actually win games completely alone; it needs the supporting cards in the deck to give it the context to use its flexibility.
Round 12: 2-0 vs. Jeskai … Delver Stoneblade Control?
My opponent’s deck was very interesting, playing Delver, a Stoneforge package, True-Name Nemesis, Snapcaster Mage, and… Dack Fayden? If this is a known archetype, it’s not one I’ve run into before. I don’t know if D&T is particularly favored, but when we ended up with dueling Jittes in game two, I had more creatures than my opponent and was able to prevent his Jitte from staying equipped long enough to deal damage.
Round 13: 2-0 vs. RUG Delver
This time Brightling got the support she needed from Mother of Runes and Thalia and I was able to win easily.
Round 14: 2-0 vs. Sultai Control (Shardless-less BUG?)
My opponent’s deck, which played Noble Hierarch, Tarmogoyf, Liliana the Last Hope, True-Name Nemesis, Leovold, Jace, and lots of Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay was quite scary because of its ability to power out cards that could answer many things in my deck at once. Remorseful Cleric was quite good here, and my opponent didn’t have Hymn to Tourach; this allowed me to gain advantage with equipment and close game one with Brightling and game two with Mirran Crusader. Liliana, the Last Hope remains very scary; it ticks up while killing a sizable portion of D&T’s creatures. This win allowed our team to draw into top 8.
Round 15: Intentional Draw
Top 8: 1-2 vs. RUG Delver (opponent from Round 13)
Game one I kept a hand with two Plains, three Mother of Runes, and a Thalia; my opponent had Force of Will for the second and third Moms, but that put him way behind on resources and I was able to get there with Recruiter of the Guard and Flickerwisp.
Game two my opening hand was Port, Vial, five creatures on the draw, and I decided to mulligan because getting the Vial countered would leave me unable to do anything. Unfortunately my six was literally six plains, and my five-card hand was Vial, Swords, Mom, Vial, Thalia. I scried a third Aether Vial to the bottom, kept, and still almost got there. I eventually couldn’t answer a Delver and died. It’s possible I should have gone to four, but having slept on it, I would keep this hand again.
I would probably mulligan my game three hand, though, of Recruiter of the Guard, Flickerwisp, and five lands. I had Port and Wasteland and was on the play, but my opponent went T1 Delver, T2 Delver, T3 Mongoose Mongoose, and had the Force of Will for my Flickerwisp. RUG Delver is probably a good matchup, but their T1 Delver hands are incredibly powerful, and I was too afraid of mulliganing based on the previous game and left myself open to getting run over.
What I Would Do If I Were Playing This Same Event Tomorrow
If I didn’t get to do any testing but got to have the experience of already having played in the event, I would make three sideboard changes:
- Sword of War and Peace in, Sword of Light and Shadow out. I’m higher on SoLaS and lower on SoWaP than most people. I know that in theory getting things back from the yard is bad against exiling removal, but in practice I find I often have things I want to Raise Dead. That being said, with the matchups I faced, I would still rather have SoWaP.
- Leonin Relic-Warder in, 1st Faerie Macabre out. There are a lot of targets for the Relic-Warder, including other Stoneforge Mystic decks, Mono-red Prison decks, and Sneak and Show. It’s also a 2/2, and seeing lots of effects that give -1 toughness to my creatures in my sideboard makes me want to find ways to play incidental creatures with 2 toughness.
- Surgical Extraction in, 2nd Faerie Macabre out. I never faced Dredge or Reanimator, but they were running around day 1, and Lands is also a concern (and Extraction is better against Loam decks). Leaving one piece of hate beyond Rest in Peace in the board seems wise.
Other than that, I’m quite happy with my list for the weekend. This is what I’d bring if I were playing in Philly.
Things To Try In The Future
Since I’m not playing in another major event for a while, I’m going to try a few things that are a bit further afield in the next few weeks.
I’m particularly interested in the 24th land. I know the white sources are important for Brightling, but I did flood out a bit more than I’m used to. Two Brightling in the main is not so many that I see them every game. Cavern of Souls would be nice to have on turn 1 or 2 to protect against Daze, but there are so many creature types in the deck at this point that it might only get to tap for white once. I don’t like the life loss from Horizon Canopy, but the cycling does help with flood. I am interested in Mishra’s Factory as a land that can attack, block, and (in a pinch) wear equipment after a Terminus. I might also try Ghost Quarter, since against RUG Delver it’s a fifth Wasteland. The issue is that all of these options are also bad against Blood Moon, so I’m not sure I’ll stick with any of these.
I miss Sanctum Prelate in the main, and miss having access to two post-board, but I’m not sure where to make a slot for it. If the graveyard decks stay away, maybe one Remorseful Cleric is enough, and it’s possible to grab a slot there? Cutting X/1s is appealing. I could also cut one of the beaters, maybe by moving the Mirran Crusader to the third Brightling slot in the board? That would leave me with only Flickerwisp as a searchable beater, which feels loose. Against the decks I happened to play I could honestly cut a Phyrexian Revoker and be happy, but I’m pretty sure that’s a bad idea unless I start seeing a very high percentage of RUG Delver.
I also want to play with some sideboard slots. I cut Containment Priest a couple of months ago and mostly haven’t missed it, but it’s a 2/2 that’s good against Sneak and Show while also offering permanent exile shenanigans when combined with Flickerwisp. If I want more exile shenanigans, Mangara of Corondor is an option. I’ve seen people playing Manriki-Gusari and though I’m not personally that worried about the equipment matchups right now, I would like to try it and see how much it swings those matchups.
Writing a report like this was an opportunity to share what I have learned and also a chance to learn more about my thoughts by organizing them. I’m always happy to talk about the deck on the Death & Taxes Discord (the invite code is EqTF7y5), on Twitter as @raxvulpine, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Theodore Jung had a great run at the SCG Team Open last weekend and offered to write up his experience. The content that follows is his, though I’ve done a bit of editing here and there. -Phil
Hey guys! My name is Theodore Jung and my team finished 13th at the SCG Team Open in Worcester. I was playing Death and Taxes in the Legacy seat, and my friends James and Andy were playing Affinity in Modern and RB Aggro in Standard (respectively). I picked up D&T about 2-3 years ago; now I won’t play anything else. My notable Magic accomplishments include a top 8 at SCG Syracuse in 2014 as well as many top 16/32 finishes at various Opens/Classics.
(psst, I’m the one in the middle)
In the weeks leading up to the event, I spent a good amount of time testing various WW and RW builds. However, all that work became mostly irrelevant when WotC dropped a bomb on us: Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe were banned!
After thinking extensively about what implications this would have and consuming way too many hours of ban-related Legacy content, I made my card choices based on the following assumptions:
-RUG Delver, Miracles, and various flavors of Stoneblade will be the most popular fair decks in the format.
-Reanimator as well as Sneak and Show will make a resurgence and are going to be the most popular combo decks.
-I’m going to be playing the mirror match a lot more often.
-I’m going to play against Kolaghan’s Command and Marsh Casualties a lot less often.
-The mana denial plan involving Wasteland, Port, and Thalia becomes a valid angle of attack without every fair opponent having 4 Deathrite Shamans in their deck.
-People are going to play jank that they’ve somehow convinced is playable because Deathrite got banned.
These are similar conclusions that Phil came to in his video about how the Legacy metagame was going to shift. Thus I made my list very similar to his with minor changes to the sideboard.
2 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Mirran Crusader
4 Mother of Runes
2 Recruiter of the Guard
2 Remorseful Cleric
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Aether Vial
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Rishadan Port
1 Sword of War and Peace
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Sanctum Prelate
2 Rest in Peace
2 Path to Exile
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Council’s Judgment
Since Phil has discussed his reasoning for including Brightling/Remorseful Cleric in his 75 extensively, I want to talk about some minor differences in my sideboard.
Faerie Macabre instead of 2nd Surgical Extraction
This is a very minor change that’s mostly irrelevant. I just wanted a way to interact with the graveyard right when I play Recruiter of the Guard on turn 3 without needing to have a Vial. I expected a lot of BR Reanimator at this team event, both because of the Deathrite ban and it being a deck that an inexperienced pilot can pick up easily. Having the option to search for Faerie Macabre can be the difference between losing and winning games, however rarely it may come up.
Cataclysm over the third Recruiter and Brightling
I opted for Cataclysm since it provides a unique effect in D&T that it lacks otherwise. The card can restore the board to parity when you’re behind. I was considering this or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the flex slot, but I felt like the merits of playing Cataclysm were going to come up more this weekend. It’s great against Miracles and Stoneblade while also hosing random strategies such as Tezzerator, MUD, Elves, Enchantress, and Goblins.
Matches and Sideboarding:
(Sorry if I forgot to write down your name, it was a long weekend)
Round 1- Merfolk (1-2)
Game 1: My opponent sticks a Vial on turn one and I keep a hand with 2 Thalias, a Recruiter, a Vial, and 3 lands. I draw the third Thalia and die to 2 True-Name Nemesis and a lord.
Game 2: I play a Vial on turn 1 and play Stoneforge on turn 2 grabbing Sword of Fire and Ice. They play a True-Name on turn 3, which I have Council’s Judgment for. He didn’t play anything relevant after, which let Sword of Fire and Ice on Brightling clean up the rest.
Game 3: Sort of a repeat of game 1. I play Stoneforge on turn 2 grabbing Sword of Fire and Ice and then Flickerwisp on turn 3 to grab Jitte. However, my opponent played 2 consecutive True-Name Nemesis and then Vialed in a Phantasmal Image to make a third. I scooped up my cards soon after.
-4 Thalia, -1 Revoker, +2 Council’s Judgment, +2 Path, +1 Relic-Warder
Round 2- Sneak and Show (2-1)
Game 1: I don’t remember much about this game. I think I played Thalia and Wasteland + Ported them so they couldn’t do anything.
Game 2: My opponent played a turn 2 Show and Tell into Omniscience + Emrakul. I didn’t have Flickerwisp to delay it for a turn or a Leonin Relic-Warder. Welp.
Game 3: I have turn 1 Vial, turn 2 Thalia, into turn 3 Port + Wasteland. My opponent plays Sorcerous Spyglass on his turn 4 naming Port (which I have 2 of in play). I Vial in a Flickerwisp to flicker his Spyglass at the end of my turn, Port him twice on his upkeep, and I have lethal on the next turn.
-4 Plow, -1 Stoneforge, -1 Cleric, -1 Jitte, +2 Council’s Judgment, +2 Canonist, +1 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Prelate, +1 Relic-Warder
Round 3: Micheal on Czech Pile without DRS (0-2)
Game 1: My memory of this one is a little hazy. However, I do remember making a mistake by attacking my opponent with a Brightling equipped with a Batterskull instead of an Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver that had a bunch of cards under it. I also saw a Grove of the Burnwillows that told me he was playing Punishing Fire.
Game 2: I lost this game to Punishing Fire + Grove. My Sword of Fire and Ice got Abrupt Decayed as well.Thankfully my teammates carried me by winning their matches.
-4 Plow, -2 Revoker, -1 Jitte,-1 Plains, +2 Cataclysm, +2 Judgment, +2 Rest in Peace, +1 Prelate, +1 Sword of War and Peace
Round 4: George on Grixis Delver (2-0)
Game 1: I plowed an early Delver, but then my opponent played a Gurmag Angler. Unfortunately for him, it turns out an unanswered Batterskull with Sword of Fire and Ice and Jitte on it beats a 5/5 zombie fish. I saw Thought Scour so I was inclined to board in Rest in Peace.
Game 2: I play a turn 1 Vial and Rest in Peace on two. He plays two Delvers. One gets Plowed and the other trades with a Vialed in Flickerwisp. Brightling cleans up.
-2 Recruiter, -2 Revoker, +2 Path, +2 Rest in Peace
Round 5: Drago on UWR Stoneblade (0-2)
Game 1: I don’t remember this one well, but I believe I eventually died to Jitte or Batterskull on a True-Name after all of my stuff got Plowed.
Game 2: I keep a hand with 2 Revokers, 2 Ports, a Wasteland, Plains, and Karakas on the play. Both of my Revokers as well as the Thalia I drew get answered. I drew 4 consecutive plains after drawing Thalia on turn 2 and die to a Jitte on a Snapcaster.
-4 Plow, -1 Plains, -1 Cleric, +2 Cataclysm, +2 Judgment, +1 Relic-Warder, +1 SoWaP
Round 6: Death and Taxes (2-1)
Game 1: I keep an iffy hand of Vial, 2 Ports, Stoneforge, 2 Plains, and a Wasteland. My opponent has two Mother of Runes in play, which I eventually Revoker away along with his Jitte. However, he puts Sword of Fire and Ice on Flickerwisp and starts mowing down my dudes.
Game 2: I play Stoneforge on turn 2 and Flickerwisp it on turn 3 to grab Jitte and Sword of War and Peace. I slap SoWaP and Jitte on my Flickerwisp. It felt pretty dirty.
Game 3: I keep an questionable hand with no white mana on 6 cards with Vial, Jitte, Plow, and a Mom. It turns out my opponent also kept a hand with no white mana. I end up finding Recruiter and making an army of Wisps. He gets stuck on 1 basic plains so I Flicker his Vial to send him back to the stone age. Wisps and Brightling finish the rest.
-4 Thalia, -2 Cleric, +2 Judgment, +2 Path, +1 Relic-Warder, +1 SoWaP
Round 7: TES (2-1)
Game 1: He has a slow hand and I eventually find Thalia.
Game 2: I play a Mom turn 1 on the draw and I get Ad Nauseumed turn 2.
Game 3: My opponent mulls to a 6-card no-lander with Chrome Mox to cantrip for a land. He doesn’t find one. I play Thalia and Revoker naming Chrome Mox. He scoops.
-4 Plow, -1 Stoneforge, -1 Plains, -1 Jitte, -2 flickerwisp +2 Canonist, +1 Surgical, +1 Faerie, +1 Relic-Warder, +1 SoWaP, +1 Prelate, +2 Cataclysm
Round 8: UR Omnitell (2-1)
Game 1: I play Thalia on turn 2 and deny his mana long enough until I have lethal.
Game 2: He plays Show and Tell into Omniscience into Enter the Infinite on turn 2.
Game 3: He Show and Tells in an Omniscience and I Flickerwisp it away for a turn. I also have a Thalia and a Vial in play. I pass after attacking him and he Ponders then shuffles by paying one with Ancient Tomb. He Brainstorms…… and passes. Apparently he found nothing with his cantrips and Brainstorm locked himself. I have more than enough time to attack for lethal.
-4 Plow, -1 Stoneforge, -1 Jitte, -1 Cleric, +2 Judgment, +2 Canonist, +1 Relic-Warder, +1 SoWaP, +1 Prelate
Round 9: Alexander on ANT (2-0)
Game 1: My opponent mulligans and I Port him off mana for a while until I topdeck a Thalia.
Game 2: My opponent plays Dread of Night on turn 1. However, he doesn’t combo quickly and Infernal Tutors for a Dark Ritual, then passes. I Surgically extract the Tutor and nab 2 more from his hand. Nice! The rest of his hand is 4 Rituals and a Tendrils of Agony. I draw Rest in Peace next turn. He plays an second irrelevant Dread of Night and Batterskull + SoWaP takes care of the rest.
-4 Plow, -1 Stoneforge, -1 Plains, -1 Jitte, -2 flickerwisp +2 Canonist, +1 Surgical, +1 Faerie, +1 Relic-Warder, +1 SoWaP, +1 Prelate, +2 Rest in Peace
Round 10: Dan Jessup on RUG Delver (0-2)
Game 1: I keep a Vial hand with no colored mana on 6 and get Nimble Mongoosed to death.
Game 2: I make a minor mistake that let my opponent Abrade my Batterskull by Wastelanding me off the third land. This would cost me the game since I had Rest in Peace in play and got memed to death by three 1/1 Mongooses while I drew running Plows. Sad times.
-2 Revoker, -2 Recruiter, +2 Path, +2 Rest in Peace
Round 11: Jake on Grixis Tezzerator (2-0)
Game 1: I lead with a Vial and my opponent plays a turn 1 Mox Diamond and a land. He misses his second land drop and plays another Diamond. I Revoker both away and grab a Sword of Fire and Ice to attack through his Baleful Strixes.
Game 2: My opponent mulls to 5 and I Cataclysm him on turn 4 when he has a bunch of stuff in play. I then Revoker his stuff away and hit them for the last few points with SoFaI on a Mirran Crusader.
-4 Plow, -1 Mom, +2 Cataclysm, +2 Judgment, +1 Relic-Warder
Round 12: Gerard Fabiano on UW Stoneblade (1-1-1)
Game 1: He forces my turn 1 Vial but gets stuck on 2 Plains and never draws any blue mana. Stoneforge and the crew cleans up.
Game 2: This game goes really long. I have 2 Brightlings in play at some point and one gets dealt with. He assembles TNN with Batterskull and Jitte and I attempt to Cataclysm him after playing a Flickerwisp. However, it gets Dazed out of nowhere and a 7/5 unblockable lifelinker with Jitte is good enough to get the job done for Gerard.
Game 3: This game looked a lot like game 2 except my Cataclysm resolved. I kept a Flickerwisp attached to a Batterskull and a Plains. He keeps Batterskull equipped to TNN and a Plains. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and since the Modern and Standard seats split matches, it ended in a draw.
-4 Plow, -1 Plains, -1 Jitte, +2 Judgment, +2 Cataclysm, +1 SoWaP, +1 Relic-Warder
Round 13: Paolo on Grixis Control (0-2)
Game 1: I get a Sword of Fire and Ice on a Mirran Crusader and put him down to 4. However, he Kcommands my Sword and bolts my crusader. Darn. I never get down another threat and die to Jace and an Angler.
Game 2: This one was kind of crazy. We trade resources in the early turns and we get to a point where we’re both at a very low life total and on topdeck mode. He plays a Liliana, the Last Hope and after a couple turns, is about to ultimate it. I draw a Recruiter and go grab a Crusader which would deal lethal if I untap with it. Unfortunately, Paolo topdecks a Jace and bounces my crusader. I die to a horde of zombie tokens.
-4 Plow, -1 Plains, -2 Revoker, +2 Cataclysm, +2 Council’s Judgment, +1 Prelate, +2 Rest in Peace
Round 14: Matthew on Sneak and Show (2-0)
Game 1: My opponent mulls to 5 in game 1, and I have a turn 2 Thalia. He gets stuck on an Ancient Tomb that I kept Porting and an Island. He plays a Lotus Petal at some point, telling me he’s on Sneak and Show.
Game 2: He plays a turn 2 Show and Tell into Emrakul, which I Karakas a turn later. On turn 3 he slams Sneak Attack which eats a Council’s Judgment. My opponent doesn’t have anything else after and gets beaten down by a bunch of weenies. In retrospect, I think I got really lucky by having a hand with answers that lined up really well with the threats he did have.
-4 Plow, -1 Stoneforge, -1 Cleric, -1 Jitte, +2 Council’s Judgment, +2 Canonist, +1 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Prelate, +1 Relic-Warder
Round 15: Ethan on RUG Delver (2-1)
Game 1: My opponent just can’t deal with a Brightling with an active Mom.
Game 2: I play Rest in Peace on Turn 2 but he Stifles the trigger. He attacks me down with Tarmogoyf while dealing with all of my stuff. He plays Sulfur Elemental to kill my Mom and Thalia and I lose shortly after.
Game 3: I play a Vial into Mom into Thalia. He can’t find a third land for Sulfur Elemental even with an active Sylvan Library and 2 Brightlings kill him.
-2 Revoker, -2 Recruiter, +2 Path, +2 Rest in Peace
It might be good to find room for Council’s Judgment since RUG players tend to bring in silly things like True-Name Nemesis and Sylvan Library. Worst case it deals with one of their threats for 3 mana.
Individual Record: 9-5-1
Team Record: 10-4-1
To be honest, my play wasn’t immaculate throughout the course of the tournament. There were definitely spots (such as round 10 against RUG) where I made a couple of poor judgment calls that let my opponent crawl back into the game. I definitely got luckier than usual and didn’t play against any horrible matchups. I also think my experience with the Legacy format paid off, since I’ve been playing against all of these decks for years. Now, I want to examine which parts of the deck over/underperformed in my opinion.
Phyrexian Revoker: I almost always wanted to draw Revoker in most of my matches except against RUG Delver. Being able to turn off opposing planeswalkers, combos, and equipment was a huge factor in winning the matches I did. With Sneak and Show picking up in steam and Delver being less popular as a whole post-ban, I would strongly recommend playing 3 going forward.
Brightling: Phil has sung his praises about this card endlessly. After this event, I couldn’t agree more. It was completely game-warping in all of my fair matchups when I played it and served as a quick clock against Sneak and Show and Storm. I’m still not sure about playing the third in the sideboard but anyone who’s not playing 2 in the maindeck is doing themselves a huge disservice.
Stoneforge Mystic: If I had to attribute most of my wins to anything other than the mana denial package, it would be Stoneforge Mystic. Kolaghan’s Command is at an all-time low which means free wins by grabbing a Batterskull with a turn 2 Stoneforge are a thing again. Even being able to fetch Sword of Fire and Ice and establishing a clock against combo was super relevant.
Remorseful Cleric: I did not play against any graveyard decks during the entire tournament so my opinion of this card may be a bit skewed. It was lackluster in most of my matchups and I frequently found myself sideboarding a copy out. As for whether this card is good in the bigger picture, we can observe that there were 0 copies of Reanimator in the day 2 metagame and only one copy in the top 16 of the Classic. It seems like graveyard decks are underperforming right now due to people being over-prepared for them; I don’t expect that to change much in the coming weeks. Maybe trimming or cutting Cleric and adding a Serra Avenger would be optimal since it is another flier that races True-Name pretty well.
24 lands: Phil recently went up to 24 lands but the higher land count turned out to be a liability for me. I had almost no problem hitting my land drops but got flooded frequently in long games against fair decks. I understand why the deck would want more mana at its disposal with Brightling, but situations where you don’t draw it, drawing 4+ copies of basic Plains feels miserable. I boarded out the 13th Plains throughout the tournament fairly often and see myself cutting it from the deck.
Faerie Macabre: I thought that having a tutorable Surgical Extraction would be relevant in an expected field with a lot of Reanimator. However, Faerie Macabre proved to be lackluster, having boarded it in once throughout the entire tournament against ANT. Surgical can come in against a variety of combo and graveyard-based decks other than Reanimator, which is often more relevant than the few percentage points the deck gets from including Faerie. I will be playing 2 Surgicals going forward.
Cataclysm/Gideon: Cataclysm is the card that I’m the most unsure about in the 75. While it has gotten me out of jams this weekend, I missed just being able to proactively slam a Gideon on an even board. I think I’ll keep Cataclysm around because the format is still very much up in the air and it is much better at hosing random strategies than Gideon. If anyone has a good argument for one over the other, I’ll be more than happy to hear it.
All things considered, this is most likely what I’ll be running in SCG Philly:
3 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Mirran Crusader
4 Mother of Runes
2 Recruiter of the Guard
1 Remorseful Cleric
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Serra Avenger
4 Aether Vial
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Rishadan Port
1 Sword of War and Peace
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Sanctum Prelate
2 Rest in Peace
2 Path to Exile
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Council’s Judgment
Overall, I had a blast playing in Worcester. Team Constructed tournaments are often my favorite, since you always end up having a good time with your friends, win or lose. I’ll be playing Death and Taxes in the Team Open at Philadelphia this weekend. Anyways, if you have any questions or comments about the article, please contact me at email@example.com or find me as Theo Jung in the Legacy Death and Taxes Facebook group. I’d love to hear anything you’d have to say!
Thanks for reading and may your Vials always resolve,
June 23rd (once again!) marks a few important things for me: my birthday, the first full day of my summer job at Virginia’s Latin Academy, and the two year anniversary of Thraben University. Honestly, I’m amazed at everything that’s happened in the past year. Here’s a small recap of things that have happened on the site, though I’m sure I’m forgetting some things:
~24 new articles
Expansion of the matchup section
Significant revision of the matchups from last year
Creation of some useful tools and references pages (e.g. Math of Splashing page)
Significant revision of some of the splash pages
Significant revamping of the decklist tab
Reorganization of materials
More cooperative content than ever, including podcasts and guest articles
Creation of new tabs on the site, like Coming Soon
Organization of the first in-person D&T meetup at a major event
D&T mulligan survey that resulted in a heavily updated mulligan page
Creation of a stream
Creation of an accompanying Youtube Channel
Joined the Cardhoarder Network
Production of ~300 hours of streaming content
Accumulation of over 900 followers on Twitch
Active involvement in the D&T Discord Channel
Looking back at my goals from the previous year, I’m very pleased with how things have progressed. There were a few bumps along the way, but that’s just life. The stream didn’t get started up as quickly as I anticipated due to technical difficulties; accordingly, I didn’t quite make my goal of hitting Twitch Partner status (I’ve been sitting on the cusp of that for months though, so it’s inevitable). I have a few planned changes that didn’t happen due to some unforeseen stressors in my life the past two months or so; accordingly, I didn’t have much time to meet up with someone and work through some of the layout and technical changes to the website that I have planned. Those changes are coming, don’t worry, but I’m not sure exactly when I’ll get around to them.
But enough with the past, let’s look to the future!!!
First, the immediate future. I’ll be teaching Spoken Latin at Virginia’s Governor’s Latin Academy from June 22nd to July 15th. During that time, my streaming schedule will be sporadic. My summer job is going to take priority over the stream, but there will still be a good number of streams. I teach every other morning, so there’s the possibility for streams prior to noon every other weekday. I have Sunday mornings off as well, so unless I’m dead tired (which is a real possibility!), I’ll be planning on Sunday morning streams. Above all else though, I do need to avoid burnout, as my summer job is extremely intensive and has long hours. My afternoons and evenings will be almost entirely filled with various activities for the academy, so unfortunately it is extremely unlikely that there will be any late streams during my time there. If you haven’t followed me already on Twitch, it’s probably a great time to do so, as getting push notifications for when I’m starting up is probably the best way to catch when I’m streaming for the next month.
Now let’s look ahead to the remainder of the summer. This year my collaborative content was very well received, so I think it’s time to crank that up to 11. I’d like to announce that I am now accepting applications for exhibition streams! That’s right! You now have your chance to take on “The Dean” on stream for the enjoyment of the Legacy community. My goal is to showcase Legacy at its highest level and produce some high caliber content to promote interest in and growth of Legacy as a format. I’m intending these streams to be educational; they should showcase how to optimally approach and play a matchup. Anyone is welcome to submit an application, but I am looking for players who are masters of their decks and/or other Legacy streamers. I’d love to be able to stream both sides of a matchup, so that players can watch concurrently or take a look at the other side of the matchup later to see how things are playing out.
I intend for the bulk of these exhibition streams to take place between July 16th and August 5th, as I will have a great deal of scheduling flexibility during that time. That being said, I have no doubt that some of these will trickle over into the rest of August and perhaps the months to come. I won’t be able to accept every application, but I’m very excited for this opportunity. If you’d like to submit an application, please click here or complete the Google Form embedded at the bottom of this article. Feel free to pass on this form as you see fit.
Finally, let’s look ahead to my long-term plans for the next year. I want to really invest in the stream in the year to come. I’ve had so much fun interacting with the chat in the last six months, and I’d like to do some things to really improve that experience. Here’s the direction I think I’m going in the next year and my set of goals given my anticipated growth.
1. Finish upgrading my stream setup by buying a pair of new monitors.
2. Create a donation queue of some sort to clearly track my donation decklists and donation content.
3. Add some new graphics to the stream (e.g. stream starting soon screen and bathroom break screen)
4. Hit Twitch Partner Status
5. Hit 2000 Followers
6. Find a good balance between D&T and non-D&T content.
7. Increase my range as a Legacy player by playing more decks.
8. Increase average number of weekly streams from two to three.
9. Try to stream once a week at a non-evening time to allow others to catch me live more frequently.
10. Play in some Legacy Challenges.
I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to a few people who have really helped with my content over the past year.
Kerry Milan- He’s one of my closest friends and my tech support. He helps me get Thraben University up and running again anytime something weird happens.
Zach Koch- He’s been one of my primary sounding boards for prepping D&T decklists for events.
MTGO User Piroko139 and Source User ZTurgeon- These two players were incredibly helpful in helping me learn Red Prison at a higher level. Zach gave me some great sideboarding notes, and Piroko139 was my sounding board for my various Red Prison questions.
My subs and donors- Thraben University is profitable now, whereas last year it was largely just self-sustaining. I can now justify putting more time and effort into both the stream and the website itself. I can’t tell you how much it means that I have such an opportunity. Thank you.
Cardhoarder- Cardhoarder gifted me with a large loan account, allowing me to play a wide variety of Legacy decks other than just D&T. This really opened up my audience beyond just those players who love D&T. I’m very grateful for that.
I hope you all have enjoyed my content over the past year, and here’s looking forward to another great year of Legacy content!
For those of you going to SCGcon, we’ll be having an informal D&T meetup on Friday after the conclusion of the 3:00 Legacy Challenge. This event is four rounds, so it will probably wrap up somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30. We’re going to meet at the SCG Prize Wall and then relocate to some empty tables to shoot the bull about D&T. It’s very likely that we will relocate for dinner, but I’m not going to solidify plans for that until I know how many people are interested. I’ll push out notifications about where we’ve moved to and such on my Twitter, so feel free to check that for updates or if you can’t find us! https://twitter.com/MangaraLock
Any experienced Legacy player can pick up a deck and pilot it to some degree of success, but there’s a reason why you see so many grinders and high-caliber players sticking to the same deck or same style of deck. It takes time to learn the math and mental shortcuts associated with playing a new deck. There’s a difference between understanding how an interaction works and having those interactions internalized to the point where they are second nature. One of the goals I set for myself last year was to gain high-level proficiency with another deck and then write a few articles on that deck. I chose Red Prison for this task, primarily because it is great at stealing all of the fun from my opponent…uhhh, I mean, it is well-positioned in the current metagame. Yeah, that’s it. I won’t claim to have true proficiency with the deck, I’m still making misplays in my leagues, but I’m on the path to proficiency. In no particular order, here are some of the things that I’ve learned.
The first thing you have to accept when playing Red Prison is that you are playing this deck to win. The good news is that many of your wins are really easy and quick. A vast percentage of your wins come from resolving a hate card of some nature on turn one. You have to be prepared to just jam your hand and hope that it is good enough. In most cases, you cannot afford to be afraid and play around cards like Daze or Force of Will. You will lose some games by going all-in and losing to some blue card. You’ll win a far greater number of games by just going for it. If you cannot accept this, you need to play a different deck. This is not debatable. That is how this deck functions.
As far as mulligans go, you need to have a gameplan in your opening hand. You have less selection than most other Legacy decks, so your opener has to have good potential. Most seven card hands that cannot make a turn 1 or 2 play should be thrown back. There are some exceptions (e.g. you have a Chrome Mox and one land, meaning that drawing a land, Simian Spirit Guide, or red card would allow you to make a play), but if you’re not in a position to do something early, your six card hand will likely be better. I accept most functional six card hands in game 1 scenarios, even if they are slow.
On a conceptually similar note, you don’t need a win condition in your opening hand. If you lock your opponent out of the game on turn one or two, you can literally take 30 turns to kill your opponent. You have plenty of time to draw towards a kill. If your opponent cannot cast any spells, a ten turn clock from a 2/2 Simian Spirit Guide is good enough.
How Do I Lose?
Red Prison is a deck that stops your opponent’s avenues of attack. A single hate card often *nearly* locks out your opponents. That leaves you asking the question, “How can I lose from here?” If you eliminate your opponent’s remaining outs, it does not matter how long it takes to win. Let’s look at a few examples of what I mean:
You have resolved a Blood Moon against Grixis Delver on the play. How can you lose? The answer is obviously to a Young Pyromancer. Accordingly, if you put a Chalice of the Void on two, the game is over…well, unless they are playing the Bob Huang tech of Island in the sideboard.
You have resolved a Blood Moon against Turbo Depths. How can you lose? The easiest way to lose from here is for your opponent to play a Dark Depths, which will enter with no counters, and then follow up with a Krosan Grip to destroy your Moon. Accordingly, you should start looking for an Ensnaring Bridge to keep Marit Lage from attacking, or a second Blood Moon effect to prevent a single Krosan Grip from hosing you.
Goblin Rabblemaster Math
An unchecked Goblin Rabblemaster is a four turn clock on its own. It (and its goblin buddies) attack for 1, then 6, then 8, and finally 10. The biggest damage bump is on the first turn when the Rabblemaster itself gets to attack, then the damage progression is a linear two damage per turn. Of note, on the third turn you’ll have dealt 15 damage with the Rabblemaster, so a Fiery Confluence becomes lethal. Also of note, if you play a second Rabblemaster on the following turn, the clock is shortened to a three turn clock; the damage progression there is 1, then 8, then 21. Be careful though, as the Rabblemasters will force each other to attack.
On that note, it is sometimes correct to not play this card, as the downside of Rabblemaster’s “must attack each turn” clause can be very real if your opponent has something like a Batterskull or a Griselbrand. Remember, playing Rabblemaster post-combat so that you do not make a token is an option as well. Rabblemaster pairs very well with Ensnaring Bridge. You draw a card each turn, allowing your Goblin tokens to attack, if you so desire. If attacking isn’t good, you can also play out your card for turn before combat, keeping your goblins from attacking. By doing this over the course of a few turns, you can often build up a strong enough force to swing through the opposing team in one go, even if they do have a lifelink creature.
Tension and Awkwardness in the Deck
Red Prison is full of objectively powerful and problematic cards, but there is some tension in the decklist that you need to be aware of. Sometimes you’ll trip over your own cards. Your Trinisphere makes your inexpensive cards like Chrome Mox considerably harder to cast; this in turn makes it harder to empty your hand for Ensnaring Bridge purposes. On a similar note, you can use your sol lands to power out Moon effects, but then they just become Mountains. Make sure that you account for this when sequencing your turns and figuring out how much mana you have. In practice, this isn’t that big of a deal since your opponent is usually much more hindered by the hate cards than you are.
Karn, Scion of Urza is an amazing card in this shell, but a very awkward one as well. His plus ability pairs poorly with Ensnaring Bridge, so in some situations it is correct to do nothing with your Karn. There’s a huge risk associated with something like drawing a land for turn, activating Karn, and getting stuck with a second land you cannot play. Remember, if you have your opponent locked out, it doesn’t matter how quickly you win. Accordingly, it’s not that sacrilegious to not activate your planeswalker. Honestly, his ability to make a token also plays pretty poorly with Bridge. You often have to decided pretty early on if you are on the “Karn Aggro” or “Karn Card Advantage” plan and map your turns accordingly. Karn is easier to cast than Chandra, so sometimes you’ll find yourself playing a pair of sol lands and just slamming Karn on turn two. Turns out that is pretty good against most decks. If you end up changing your mind part way through the game and you have to hide behind an Ensnaring Bridge, keep in mind that you can blow up you own Bridge with Fiery Confluence or Abrade to get that last lethal attack in.
When I first started playing Karn, I think I vastly underestimated the power of the tokens. At the time you make the first token, it’s pretty unimpressive. Let’s say that you control two artifacts prior to casting your Karn. You minus to create a 3/3. Meh. You then minus again the following turn; you now have a pair of 4/4 dudes. Okay, this is sounding better. If you use your mana to produce another artifact that turn, you’re swinging in with a Gurmag Angler and have a backup one ready to go the next turn…oh, that’s neat! If you are going heavy on Karn (3-4 copies), it’s probably correct to play a set of Great Furnace. The exposure to Wasteland and artifact destruction is probably worth it, as Karn can close games very quickly on artifact heavy starts. On that note, if you have a Karn and are getting aggressive, it’s often correct to play a Chrome Mox just to give your tokens a buff.
Kozilek’s Return also is a bit of an oddity here. It’s Devoid, meaning that it can kill things without that pesky Mother of Runes getting in the way. However that also means that it cannot be paired with Chrome Mox to produce mana. This comes up more often than you might think. Kozilek’s Return also sweeps away your Magus or Rabblemaster, so keep that in mind when considering your resource management and play progression.
One last awkward thing: if you cast Fiery Confluence using the destroy target artifact mode and it has no legal targets upon resolution, it will be countered. If you cast Fiery Confluence and your opponent sacrifices or otherwise removes your targets (e.g. with Flickerwisp or Arcbound Ravager), the remaining portion of your spell isn’t going to resolve. I recently played a match against ANT where I targeted a Lotus Petal with Fiery Confluence and then dealt four to my opponent. It resolved. If my opponent would have sacrificed the Petal in response, they could have saved themselves four life. This is why I love Magic: knowledge about rules and technical play can really give you an edge.
This is my first of three articles on Red Prison. As I have it mentally mapped out right now, my second article is going to look at various Red Prison decklists and talk about the conceptual strengths and weaknesses of each. My third article is then going to discuss matchups and generic sideboarding tips. I hope you’ve enjoyed this digression from my regular D&T content, and you can expect to see another Red Prison article in a week or so!
Simon Depraz (aka Mannaus on The Source) just made of finals of the EU Eternal Weekend. He reached out to me and offered to write a tournament report, and I happily obliged. What follows is his material, though I’ve made some minor adjustments.
My name is Simon Depraz, and I’ve been playing Death and Taxes for almost 2 years now. I’ve played tons of different versions, and just like any DnT regular, I’ve had my fair share of exciting successes as well as huge disappointments. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking down a rocky road, yet, I believe in the deck and its ability to break almost any strategy in Legacy (let’s face it, Elves are out there).
Eternal Weekend was the next big event on my radar. I tested an extended range of matchups with my friends. Luckily I had the opportunity to test many different builds, bringing my various decks to competitive events around Switzerland. I played with a WB build for a long time, splashing for the good old Orzhov Pontiff and occasionally a one-of Dark Confidant. I had some success, most notably against TNN decks, but nothing too mind-blowing. Then, with Czech Pile on the rise, I went for the RW strategy with 2 Magus of the Moon and Pia and Kiran Nalaar; I also tried out Dire Fleet Daredevil.
Yet, whereas playtesting results were pretty encouraging, competitive events went very poorly. I played a few events with average results, feeling that I was losing to my own lack of stability. Indeed, whereas the RW build had some pretty decent runs versus tier 1 decks, I lost way too many matches versus tier 2 or tier 3 decks. I just always felt like the deck was too centered around punishing the rampant greed in Legacy top-tier decks, and not enough around being concretely solid against any opponent. The free wins Magus enabled were pretty nice, but the price to pay felt too high.
So…what next? I was left with a serious trade-off: True-Name Nemesis and Czech Pile are a thing, but so are Monoblack Pox, Steel Stompy, Omnitell, and all other various small meta percentage decks. Thus, for a big event (almost 300 players showed up in Paris), I decided to go back to a WW build. I took the approach that a strong, stock build would be better suited to face a field full of random decks while still being able to put up a serious fight against tier 1 decks. Here’s what I registered for the event:
Simon Depraz, EU Eternal Weekend
So, I’m not sure what a “stock” DnT list is nowadays. I think it’s also a rather difficult call, so those choices are just my opinions. In the main deck, there are realistically about 54 unmovable slots; you can make very minor changes to the manabase, but the end result is always about the same. Thus the real deckbuilding decisions come in those 6 flex slots. I went for the rather aggressive plan with 3 Mirran Crusader and 2 Serra Avenger filling 5 of those 6 slots. The reasons are quite straightforward: Mirran is a bomb versus everything that plays green and/or black. It’s also great in matchups where racing is important. Serra Avenger is great against True-Name Nemesis (which it can race) and isn’t bothered much by all the -1/-1 effects in the format. I chose to be proactive with big bodies with evasion instead of trying to be reactive with slots like Magus of the Moon. I tried to make my opponent focus on handling my board rather than developing theirs.
Something I took into consideration when choosing over flex slots was the mana curve and the Vial curve. And to this extent, Serra Avenger is actually a pretty solid contender as well. It fits very well both as a 2-drop off of Vial and as a mid/late-game topdeck 2-drop to hardcast while still leaving some mana open for things like casting other spells, equipping, or using Rishadan Port.
Then Sanctum Prelate felts like an absolute must-play in my opinion. It requires quite extensive matchup knowledge to use properly and definitely some heavy pondering of the board state and the possible lines of your opponent. That said, it handles situations no other card can handle and it has the unique ability to soft-lock an opponent out of their game plan.
I went down to two Revoker, as I felt that was enough in the current meta. He is necessary, and I am most of the time quite happy to top deck it. Plus it’s also a fantastic Recruiter target in many matchups. But two feels like enough, especially in a monowhite shell that can play other direct answers to problematic permanents in the sideboard (e.g. Council’s Judgement).
Concerning the lands: I took out my copies of Cavern of Souls, thus maxing on basic Plains. This was to support my my maximum consistency plan. The basics felt great against any Wasteland or Blood Moon strategies. I still sleeved up a Horizon Canopy though as a minor card-advantage plan for control matchups like Miracles or Czech Pile.
Then the sideboard: rather stock. I went down to 1 Containment Priest in favor of a second Prelate. Sneak and Show tends to play multiple copies of Omniscience now, and Containment Priest feels rather weak against these versions. I rarely want more than one Priest in other matchups, like the mirror or Green Sun’s Zenith decks, for which a 1-of Containment Priest can be a very nice reactive touch, but also a quite mediocre top deck. Thus 1 seems enough.
I played the Sword of War and Peace as a concession to Miracles, which I expected a lot of in Paris. Plus it’s a game-winning card in many other matchups (Punishing Fire decks, the mirror, Combo…). I rate it very highly as a sideboard card. That left me with one last tough choice: Cataclysm vs Gideon. That was my most debated choice. It’s close, Gideon is very strong, but Cataclysm can just save you from otherwise unwinnable situations. In the end, I have more fun resolving Cataclysms than Gideons, so Cataclysm it was.
So let’s look at how the event went for me…
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Food Chain (2-0)
When my opponent pitched Misthollow Griffin to Force of Will to counter my turn 1 Vial, I prepared myself for an uphill battle. But in game 1, beatdowns with equipment got me there, and in game 2 hatebears (Sanctum Prelate, Canonist, Thalia) prevented my opponent from developing his board since he had to manage mine.
Round 3: Miracle (2-0)
I had to re-learn paying versus topless Miracles. But here again, having access to both high pressure cards (big bodies and equipment) on the board coupled with taxing effects is a great path to victory. I committed only minimally to the board, leaving my opponent to answer my threats one-by-one rather than having time to develop his own board. It worked.
Round 4: Grixis Delver (2-1)
I knew my opponent from a trial the day before, in which he beat me. I owe both those wins to Avenger and Stoneforge Mystic. My actions left my opponent with must-answers threats on the board, forcing him to cantrip aggressively into his answers. Swords to Plowshares and Thalia then also prevented my opponent from trying to race me, and once tempo was in my favor, I took over the game easily.
Round 5: Czech Pile (1-2)
The games were very close. I won the first, then lost the second to a totally unexpected Gurmag Angler that bought him 4 turns to find answers to my board. He found them. I lost. I lost the last game to multiple Hymn to Tourach and Kolaghan’s Command. Not too much I could have done differently, I believe.
Round 6: Death and Taxes (2-0)
Game 1, I found and connected with Jitte faster. My opponent put up a solid fight, but, yeah, Jitte connected. Game over. In the mirror, sometimes you have the right sort of draw to just cripple your opponent’s hand with minimal interaction. My Revoker on Vial did just that, and Serra Avenger on the board lead to another of those situations: I had 2 must answer threats, which dispersed attention. Answering one would still leave the other, and meanwhile I was developing my board state faster than my opponent. He was a very nice opponent, and I always feel a little sad to encounter fellow DnT players, as only one of both has the chance to advance.
Round 7: Grixis Control (2-0)
Again, multiple big bodies and equipment plus some designed hate cards caused my opponent to have to fight my threats rather than looking for his own threats. Meanwhile I was accumulating gas in my hand, which meant I could bounce back after any bombs from my opponent like Kolaghan’s Command or Toxic Deluge.
Round 8: Sneak and Show (2-0)
This was the most one-sided match of the day. Game 1 he cast Ponder turn 1, but then he got taxed out the game. Thalia made him effectively take off a turn to cast a Lotus Petal on turn 2 and I Wastelanded his Volcanic Island on turn 3. He got beat down by 2 Avengers and a Thalia rather quickly. In game 2 he had a Blood Moon and a Sneak Attack, but was trying to top deck a threat to close things out. I developed a board that could survive an Emrakul annihilator trigger and still attack for lethal. Here the aggro plan worked out very nicely. Just having Serra Avenger off of Vial into Mirran Crusader allowed me to race him quite efficiently.
Round 9: Intentional draw into top 8.
I finished the 9 rounds of swiss having pretty decent tie breakers: 80% GW (best of tournament) and 68% OMW (2nd best).
1/4 finals: Grixis Delver (2-0)
It went down pretty smoothly: my threats forced him to dig for threats/answers, I answered his threats with Swords to Plowshares and Sword of Fire and Ice. He found some answers, but I just kept the threats coming. I slowly built up my board game 1, knowing no sweepers were available to him, and at some point I just overwhelmed him. Game 2 basically followed the same pattern.
Semifinals: Monored Prison (2-0)
Game 1 was pretty favorable, as his entire Blood Moon strategy felt a little dead. I managed to win under double Ensnaring Bridge with a Jitte, slowly chipping away at his life total. In game 2, an early Chandra was answered by my Revoker, and then Serra Avenger and the equipment took the game out of reach for my opponent. The stability choice I went for when considering deck-building decisions (i.e. playing so many basic lands) totally payed off for this matchup. I never felt like I could lose it. The Avengers also felt really good here, since they survive otherwise unbeatable stuff like Sulfur Elemental.
Finals: BG Depths (1-2)
My opponent played a very interesting mid-rangey version of Turbo Depths; he called it “Slow Depths.” I won game 1, with a very good opening 7, putting a Batterskull on the battlefield and getting some insurance versus any sneaky Marit Lage. The game 2, I had a very strong hand, yet his was even better and he was comboed me. Game 3, I kept a very solid hand versus the combo side of his deck, yet it was the other side of his deck that came out: Dread of Night, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Bitterblossom. Not much I could do here…
It felt very difficult to take into account both the possibility of a turn 2 Marit Lage and at the same time a turn 2 Liliana, the Last Hope or Dark Confidant. This version of Dark Depths combo seems very promising, and maybe we’ll have to watch out for this and adapt both sideboard strategies and the matchup approach. I will note that my opponent was the nicest of guys. We played very relaxed, yet competitive, games, in a very sound atmosphere for all the spectators watching us. That felt very good. Congrats to him for winning the tournament, especially by representing this new Dark Depths combo deckbuilding twist.
In the end, I went 9-2-1 in the day, losing only to Czech Pile and Slow Depths, and only conceding one game to Grixis Delver in all of my wins.
Serra Avenger over-performed. It felt gas all the time. Thalia was, as always, insane. Against the blue decks, they are forced to dig for answers to your threats while you constrict their mana. This probably was the winning engine of my tournament.
As a general comment, I would like to add that equipment won me almost all my games. Yes, artifact hate is everywhere, but Stoneforge Mystic always felt like it would be the game-winning advantage in all fair matchups. I still believe that the WW version featuring both high board-pressure big body creatures (Mirran, Avenger), high stack-pressure creatures (Thalia, Prelate), and card-advantage engines (Flickerwisp, Recruiter, Vial) is the best-suited version of Death and Taxes to fight a large and varied metagame in any given big tournament. The stability of the deck, coupled with a proven and well-tested shell will lead to many wins if you practice careful decision-making.
Thank you all for reading this report, and I would welcome any comments or discussion on any topics I brought up in my article. I am a rather active member on The Source as well, under the pseudonym Mannaus. Feel free to message me or comment on the DnT thread.
I’ve spent the last week or two doing some brewing and trying some experimental ideas. This was partially because I was curious to see how some of my theories played out and partially because I wasn’t sure if I was playing what was going to become a dead format if Deathrite Shaman got a ban. Unfortunately, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year, and that means we’ve got a long Deathrite Shaman-filled winter ahead of us…or something like that. In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts on the format.
Enchantments are great
If we boil down Legacy right now to its simplest form, we’re currently living in a world of Grixis Delver and Czech Pile vs Anti-Delver/Czech Pile decks (note that here I am also referring to the decks that are conceptual clones Czech Pile as well). This is obviously an oversimplification, as there are other top tier competitors, but bear with me for a minute. It’s very similar to the relationship between Turbo-xerox decks and Shops decks in Vintage. On the Legacy side, Red Prison seeks to invalidate many of the strengths of these decks with Blood Moon and/or Blood Sun. Miracles similarly tries to lock out opponents with Back to Basics. D&T gets to leverage the power of Rest in Peace for post-sideboard games.
Enchantments seem to be a great way to attack the format currently, and I don’t just mean that within the context of D&T. Most of the popular decks in Legacy have few to no answers to a resolved enchantment. Cards like Sylvan Library have always been great, but it might honestly be a good time to revisit decks with maindeck enchantments or even an enchantment theme or subtheme. Though I didn’t stream with this due to the potential poor viewer experience, I played around with this decklist quite a bit.
Enchantress by Fjaulnir, MTGO 5-0
Though I’m not necessarily sold on a few of the sideboard cards, I feel like the maindeck here is just absolutely insane in the current metagame. For anyone not familiar with the “combo finish” of this deck, it involves Words of Wind, Candelabra of Tawnos, at least two Enchantress effects, a land that produces multiple mana, and a one mana enchantment. You tap the land for mana and then untap it with Candelabra. Next you cast the one mana enchantment and replace two draws with Words of Wind. Using one draw, you bounce a one mana enchantment; using the other, you bounce Candelabra. You can then repeat this process to bounce all of your opponent’s permanents, often drawing as much of your deck as you need to win in the process. Though this may sound like a surprising number of cards to assemble, in practice it’s not too difficult once you start doing your thing. Words of Wind gets my award for “Card that looks like garbage but is secretly insane and the opponent really needed to Force of Will it.” I really need a better name for that award…
The Stoneforge Mystic Package is still important in D&T
There’s been a theory floating around the D&T watercooler that the Stoneforge Mystic package is an outdated relic of older iterations of the deck. This theory has been championed strongly by Bahra (Marc Konig) and has been explored quite a bit by the community recently. The crux of the argument is twofold: 1. Stoneforge Mystic, while providing card selection, costs an absolute ton of tempo. Something like 6 mana worth of investment can often be undone with a single one mana removal spell. 2. The equipment is no longer guaranteed to survive like in previous metagames now that cards like Kolaghan’s Command and Abrupt Decay are seeing significant play.
I think there is quite a bit of truth to the theory, but, I’m still not sure that it’s really viable to cut the Stoneforge package and still end up with a balanced deck. Many of the D&T decks that I’ve played in the last week or two have gone “off the deep end” in one direction or another. They tended to hedge very strongly against the Delver and Czech Pile decks of the world, but didn’t necessarily have enough game against the “random” decks of the format. The equipment package is one of the best ways to fight against a bunch of the midrange and alternative aggro decks of the format. There are two other big downsides to cutting the Stoneforge package.
First, you lose out on one of the deck’s best two drops. D&T historically has always craved a better two drop. Many of the lists I played have been so heavy on three drops like Mirran Crusader *because* it’s so difficult to slot in more two drops. If you want to cut the Stoneforge package (especially if you also want to trim Revokers, which has been a recent trend), you need to fill the gap on the curve. The issue is that many of the cards are either low-impact, narrow, or otherwise lack a desired quality. Spirit of the Labyrinth, Ethersworn Canonist, and Selfless Spirit are about the best “true” two drops to consider, with Direfleet Daredevil and Serra Avenger not really being something that you can cast on curve for the sake of this conversation.
Secondly, you lose out on the best mana sink in the deck. D&T rarely truly floods. Most of the time between Rishadan Port and the equipment package, you have at least something to do with your mana, even if it isn’t always the most optimal or efficient thing. Without the equipment package, if you flooding out or are in topdeck mode, most of your cards besides Recruiter of the Guard won’t give you much to do. As an aside, with Stoneforge gone, your Flickerwisps also lose a fantastic blink target, further decreasing some of your late game power.
For those of you who want to continue messing around with builds without the Stoneforge package, I’d encourage you to either trim some lands or find a new mana sink. I don’t have the clean answer for how to do that yet. Cutting white-producing lands doesn’t seem like the best idea, as casting the WW three drops would become trickier. Cutting Port or Wasteland doesn’t seem correct either. Maybe notorious scumbag land Horizon Canopy has a place in that shell….
Honor of the Pure is surprisingly good
Returning back to the “enchantments are good” theme, I tested maindeck and sideboard Honor of the Pure in a number of different shells. It over-performed, which was not really something that I expected. Some creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Mirran Crusader, Judge’s Familiar, and Hallowed Spiritkeeper (more on that in a minute…) are much better with a little boost. Your vigilant creatures in particular appreciate the boost, as it gives you both an offensive and defensive bonus; if you’re playing Honor of the Pure, previous borderline unplayable cards like Aerial Responder deserve another look as well.
While I was playing Honor of the Pure to hedge against the top of the metagame, it also helped me close the game more quickly against combo decks like ANT or Sneak and Show while also minimizing the impact of hateful cards like Izzet Staticaster or Forked Bolt. I rarely boarded it out, if that tells you anything about its performance. There are some “nonbos” with it though. Phyrexian Revoker (and splash cards you might be playing) don’t get the boost. It’s also poor to try and play it alongside both Vryn Wingmare and Thalia, as casting it can be a bit tricky through the stacked taxes.
Hallowed Spiritkeeper is also surprisingly good in the current metagame
I tested Hallowed Spiritkeeper quite a bit previously and was terribly disappointed with the card. I tested it in a metagame full of white removal though, which is not what we are seeing currently. In a world of non-white removal, this is a great flex slot option. This is an awesome silver bullet to have against Czech Pile, as in the late game, it is essentially a weird True-Name Nemesis. They usually can’t kill this card, as the army of spirits that would follow would be insurmountable. As an aside, this card is absolutely disgusting when coupled with Honor of the Pure. Full credit goes to Bahra there for that sweet synergy. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t pair so well with our favorite sideboard card, Rest in Peace. That’s a real tension, so if you want to mess around with Spiritkeeper as more than about a one of, consider alternative graveyard hate for your sideboard.
Though I got thoroughly trounced while playing this build, something like this that incorporates both Honor of the Pure and Spiritkeeper might have promise with a few adjustments.
Many of the best cards against Deathrite decks are still weak to Deathrite decks
I think this has been one of the most frustrating aspects of playtesting in the last few weeks. There’s a desire to play cards that let you grind through Deathrite, but many of the best grinding cards also get checked by Deathrite. Want to use Hallowed Spiritkeeper to attack Czech Pile? It’s a shame that Deathrite can peck away at your graveyard to mess with the trigger…. Do you think that Direfleet Daredevil is great as an additional set of removal spells vs Delver? It’s a shame that it can’t do its thing in the face of active Deathrite unless you get really cute with the timing. Want to play Rest in Peace to fight against the menance? It’s a shame that Delvers, Young Pyromancer, and True-Name don’t care about the graveyard. Want to get some sick value by bringing by your dudes with Unearth? Oh, it’s a shame you have to deal with the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar…err Deathrite Shaman. You get the point here.
Many deckbuilding decisions will make your deck better against Delver or Czech Pile, not both
There a real tension in D&T deckbuilding right now (though this might cross over to many decks, to be frank). You want to have a great, grindy endgame to compete with Czech Pile’s card advantage, yet you also need a strong early game with varied removal to fight Delver. The Stoneforge package is one of your best ways to stabilize and take over a game against Delver, but feels pretty silly in the face of the third Kolaghan’s Command of the game against Czech Pile. There are some overlaps cards that hit both matchups, but it’s a tricky position. If you want to play some swingy four drop to beat Czech Pile, that card is going to feel terrible when Daze eats it for borderline no investment. Similarly, if you want to hedge against Delver by playing more maindeck removal, that card feels terrible when it targets a Snapcaster or Baleful Strix.
This contributes to the tension in splash builds at the moment as well. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a nightmare for control decks, but usually uncastable against Delver due to the RR requirements. Magus of the Moon can be lights out against Delver, but feels pretty silly in the face of an opposing Island and Swamp from Czech Pile.
In the past two weeks, there have been a ton of kooky D&T lists floating around. Some of them look pretty neat. I’m a big fan of a ton of what’s going on in this list.
BW Taxes, Egget, 5-0
Dark Confidant is a great way to keep drawing gas in the endgame, and it’s a good potential way to fill the gap left by removing the Stoneforge package. The Disciple of Bolas and Hallowed Spiritkeeper best-friends-forever combo might be a stretch, but this is a nice starting point for a black splash.
Others of them were…less good.
Unkillable D&T, Phil Gallagher
Conceptually, I liked the direction this decklist was exploring. The idea was to generate a series of threats that were borderline unkillable for decks like Czech Pile and Delver and then help them to close out the game by pumping them with Honor of the Pure. It didn’t perform well, but the idea probably has some promise. Auriok Champion was crazy against the Young Pyromancer aspect of Grixis Delver, I ended up at 30 or 40 life in many of the games I played. There were some cute synergies in the deck, like Brimaz, King of Oreskos making tokens that got pumped by Honor of the Pure and also gaining you life off of Auriok Champion. I don’t know that I’d explore this style of deck further, but Auriok Champion definitely showed that it could be a viable sideboard card. At the same time, I do sort of want to have an Auriok Champion in play when a Hallowed Spiritkeeper dies…
My intention today was to give you all quite a bit to think about when it comes to deckbuilding and metagaming right now. I don’t have the answers yet, but you can expect me to be trying out a ton of ideas in the next two weeks as I prep for the Team Open in Baltimore. Dominaria will be legal then, so it’s possible that some cards might make a splash there, but I wouldn’t expect any major changes that will overthrow our current overlords.
Bill Schlichting has been a supporter of Thraben University for quite some time. He had a pretty good run at GP:Seattle and offered to write up a tournament report for the site. What follows is his material, though I’ve made some minor adjustments. I didn’t do quite as much editing and linking to cards as I normally due, as the last week or so has been really busy on my end.
As soon as GP Seattle was announced, I made plans to attend with my local group in Charlotte. I had played Death and Taxes for a number of years, including GP Vegas last year where I made my first Day 2. After Vegas I played other decks, but never felt comfortable enough to register one of them for Seattle; accordingly, I went back to Death and Taxes. With Phil’s help, we came up with the following 75.
GP Seattle D&T
I took Travis Brown’s deck from the SCG Dallas Team Open and made a couple of small modifications. I took out the 2 Cavern of Souls for 2 additional basic lands so my deck would be more resilient against opposing Wastelands and Blood Moon effects. I also split the basics between regular Plains and Snow-Covered Plains as a hedge against Miracles and the card Predict.
For the sideboard I removed 1 Containment Priest for an additional Path to Exile. I was expecting a ton of Delver based on the SCG Worcester results, and I wanted 3 Path to Exiles for that matchup. I also swapped Manriki-Gusari for a Sword of War and Peace for the mirror and 8 Moon decks.
Without further ado, here’s the tournament report!
For Round 1, my opponent was a no-show. In effect, I get a round 1 bye.
Round 2 – 4c Punishing Thieves (2-1)
He had Grove of the Burnwillows and Dack Fayden, but in all three games I luckily never saw a Punishing Fire. I won Game 1, but he won Game 2 by stealing my Jitte and equipping it to his Revoker. Game 3 was a back and forth game. He eventually used Abrupt Decay on the Germ token and then took Batterskull with Dack Fayden. I cast Cataclysm to push things considerably in my favor and played a land. A topdecked Thalia did the last point of damage to finish things out.
In: 2 Cataclysm, 2 Rest In Peace, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 2 Mirran Crusader, 4 Swords to Plowshares
Round 3 – 8 Moon (2-0)
Game 1, he was on the play and played a turn 1 Blood Moon. I have 2 Plains in hand and can cast my spells. All he can do is cast Chalice for 1 before conceding.
Game 2, we get to a point of I have a Revoker (naming Chandra Torch of Defiance) equipped with a Sword of Fire and Ice and a Sanctum Prelate on 4. He has a tapped Goblin Rabblemaster, 2 tapped Goblin tokens, and Chandra. I attack with both creatures, he flashes in Sulfur Elemental and trades with the Prelate. Sword of Fire and Ice shoots the Rabblemaster. I then tap 7 lands, and play Cataclysm followed by Flickerwisp, targeting the remaining Goblin token. He concedes with 2 Fiery Confluences and another Chandra in his hand.
In: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 1 Umezawa’s Jitte, 2 Mirran Crusader, 2 Serra Avenger
Current record: 3-0
Round 4 – BUG Delver (2-0)
Despite being Hymn to Tourached 3 times, Mirran Crusader and friends get the first game. In Game 2, an early Rest In Peace and 2 Mirran Crusaders won the game.
In: 3 Path to Exile, 2 Rest In Peace, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 3 Phyrexian Revoker, 1 Sanctum Prelate, 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Flickerwisp
Current record: 4-0
Round 5 – Grixis Delver (0-2)
I play Noah Walker, who later made the Top 8. In Game 1, I lead with a Thalia and Wasteland his Volcanic Island. He then Wasteland my Rishadan Port, and leaves me locked under my own Thalia. I never drew another land.
In Game 2, he ended up with 3 active Deathrite Shamans, a True Name Nemesis, and bolt for my Mother of Runes. He Cabal Therapied away my Sword of Fire and Ice, and my Thalia and Mirran Crusader can’t get past the TNN. I never drew a flyer, and the Deathrites kill me.
In: 3 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgement
Out: 3 Phyrexian Revoker, 1 Sanctum Prelate, 1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Current record: 4-1
Round 6 – Weird Miracles Brew (0-2)
He had maindeck Back to Basics,Rest in Peace, Energy Field, and Helm of Obedience. I mulliganed into a hand with four non-basic lands and a Vial. The Vial was counted and Back to Basics locked me out of the game. He eventually Helmed me. Game 2 he Miracles Entreat the Angels and wins easily.
In: 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council’s Judgment, 1 Sword of War and Peace
Out: 4 Mother of Runes, 1 Batterskull
Current record: 4-2
Round 7 – 8 Moon (2-1)
My opponent locked himself under an Ensnaring Bridge on Turn 3 and followed it up with 2 more Bridges. Eventually I checked the math and I would deck myself before him, so I conceded. I won Games 2 and 3 through Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of War and Peace easily since he never drew a Bridge.
In: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 1 Umezawa’s Jitte, 2 Mirran Crusader, 2 Serra Avenger
Current record: 5-2
Round 8 – MUD (2-1)
Game 1, he activates a Kuldotha Forgemaster and brings a Blightsteel Colossus into play and attacks. In Game 2, he plays an Ancient Tomb and passes. I Wasteland his land. He plays a Glimmerpost and again can’t make a play. I play a Thalia. I then Wasteland his next land drop, leaving Thalia and friends to finish the game. In Game 3, a Revoker naming Metalworker (he had 2 of them in play) coupled with mana denial won the match.
In: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council’s Judgment, 3 Path to Exile, 1 Containment Priest
Out: 4 Mother of Runes, 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Sanctum Prelate
Current record: 6-2, on to Day 2!
Round 9 – Death and Taxes (2-0)
I play the mirror match. Both games come down to I have a Jitte and he doesn’t. After the match, we discuss the intricacies of the mirror and how to sideboard, as he made questionable sideboard decisions.
In: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Sanctum Prelate
Current record: 7-2
Round 10 – Death and Taxes (2-0)
I play the mirror again. This round was basically a repeat of Round 9. I won the equipment war. I had the experience in the mirror and he didn’t. We discussed the mirror and sideboard decisions and how to exploit the apparent symmetrical cards (i.e. Phyrexian Revoker and Pithing Needle naming cards your opponent has in play but you do not).
In: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Sanctum Prelate
Current record: 8-2
Round 11 – Death and Taxes (0-2)
I play the third mirror in a row. Game 1 evolved into a bogged down board state.
My Revoker named Jitte and his Revokers named Vial and Batterskull
Eventually he won due to having 2 active Mother of Runes to my 1 Mother. Game 2 he was able to get the Recruiter of the Guard and Flickerwisp engine going and had more equipment (including a Manriki Gusari) to win the match. We both agreed that he drew better than I did.
In: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Sanctum Prelate
Current record: 8-3
Round 12 – Czech Pile (2-1)
We trade Games 1 and 2, and I was able to grind out Game 3 with 2 Rest In Peace and topdecking a Mirran Crusader that couldn’t be killed by his Kolaghan’s Command.
In: 2 Rest In Peace, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Cataclysm, 1 Sword of War and Peace
Out: 3 Phyrexian Revoker, 4 Swords to Plowshares
Current record: 9-3
Round 13 – Turbo Depths Reanimator (2-1)
In Game 1, he eventually has 2 Vampire Hexmages, a Reanimated Thalia, and a Dark Depths against my Thalia, Wasteland and 2 additional lands. He goes through the motions and creates a Maret Lage.
In Game 2, he reanimated a Grave Titan on turn 1 that got Sword to Plowshared. A turn 2 Thalia stops the zombies. I get a Serra Avenger in play to also block the zombies and attack. He then hard cast a Grave Titan and I topdeck a Council’s Judgment. The Avenger goes the distance.
In Game 3, a turn 2 Rest In Peace turns off the Reanimator portion and a Karakas and Wasteland turn off the Dark Depths. A couple of creatures get the 20 damage in.
In: 1 Containment Priest, 3 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Surgical Extraction, 2 Rest In Peace
Out: 4 Stoneforge Mystic, 1 Batterskull, 1 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice, 1 Recruiter of the Guard, 1 Mother of Runes
Current record: 10-3
Round 14 – 4c Aggro Loam (2-1)
Game 1 his Dark Confidant and 2 Knight of the Reliquaries win the game. In Game 2, an Umezawa’s Jitte won the game by killing 2 Dark Confidants and 2 Mother of Runes. In Game 3, I was able to deny mana from him to allow Thalia, Flickerwisp, and Batterskull to win the match.
In: 2 Surgical Extraction, 2 Rest In Peace, 2 Cataclysm
Out: 2 Mirran Crusader, 2 Recruiter of the Guard, 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Current record: 11-3
Round 15 – Czech Pile (1-2)
I win Game 1 through beat down and mana denial. Games 2 and 3 came down to him stabilizing with multiple removal spells (including at least 2 Forked Bolts) and drawing Liliana of the Last Hope. I drew no answers each game, and the Planeswalker won the match.
In: 2 Rest In Peace, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Cataclysm, 1 Sword of War and Peace
Out: 3 Phyrexian Revoker, 4 Swords to Plowshares (2 Revokers went back in before Game 3)
Current record: 11-4
I figured if I had won round 15, I would have had a good chance of top 32. Win the loss, I believed I would have been nowhere near the cash. Then I saw the final standings:
66th place out of about 1600 people! Although this finish was just out of the money, it was my best result at a Grand Prix so far. It is possible that my 1st Round no show cost me those tiebreaker points, as my losses ended the tournament at 12-3, 12-3, 11-4, and the Top 8.
I ended up playing 3 Death and Taxes, 2 Czech Pile, 2 8 Moon, Grixis Delver, BUG Delver, Miracles, 4c Punishing Thieves, Turbo Depths Reanimator, 4c Aggro Loam, and MUD. Out of 14 rounds, I played only 6 Brainstorm decks. To paraphrase Travis’s report, playing a deck you know is important when facing a large tournament. I didn’t play against any truly unwinnable matchups expect for the Round 6 Miracles.
Going forward, if the metagame stays the same, I wouldn’t change anything out of the 75. I think cutting Revokers in the Czech Pile matchup may be a mistake, especially if that deck is playing more Liliana of the Last Hope against us. Cataclysm was a match winner in the matchups that I cast it, notably in Rounds 3 and 4. It also forced my Round 12 Czech Pile opponent to take it with a Thoughtseize early in Game 3 instead of some other spell.
As an aside, the day before the Main Event, I was playing in the last round of a side event against Maverick. In Game 1, I believe I had the best Sanctum Prelate I could have ever had against a creature deck. He played Sylvan Library the previous turn when I played the Prelate on 1. Here were the first two cards he drew off of Sylvan Library…
Thank you for reading my tournament report and may all your opponents’ spells cost 1 more!
The results of the mulligan survey have been converted into a new page. It’s creatively called “Mulligans” and you can find it under the Playing the Deck tab. I’ve also written a primer for the Affinity (Steel Stompy) matchup, though I’ll be returning to polish up the conclusion once I get some more data.
Things are booming over here at Thraben University, and I’m excited to announce some incoming changes to the site. I recently updated my donation page, and something truly astounding happened once I did. A donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) contributed a sizable about of money to the site in order to support my efforts and fund more content. I’m not going to share the number publicly, but it was enough that I cried tears of joy, and I’m not a particularly emotional person. It was a validation of the work I’ve put into the site thus far and it rekindled my passion for this site brighter than ever. As a result, there’s a ton of new content coming, and I wanted to publicly announce that today.
I now have a Coming Soon page which shows all of my current projects and things on my bucket list. I’ve already made a few changes to the site and my stream, and many more have been planned. Most notably, the Red Splash page has been completely redone; the old version hadn’t be touched in like two years and was in drastic need of a facelift. There’s a ton of info on interesting interactions with Magus of the Moon and a good deal of strategic advice about sequencing your land drops and sideboarding. You can also expect to see me streaming a bit more than the usual Monday and Wednesday nights, as donations have
bribed encouraged me to stream more.
The D&T Facebook group recently went through about a bazillion posts about keeping and mulliganing opening hands. I was very surprised at both the hands that people were keeping and the hands that people were questioning. Well, that was my hint that it was time to do a big piece of content on mulligans. I’m not just going to give to you the definitive answer, I want you to play along and experience the process!
Here’s what’s going on. I’ve created a Google Form with 15 different opening hands and scenarios. It’s your job to rate the hands, and if you’d like, provide an explanation for your ranking. I’m going to collect data from people for the next ten days (until 3/11/18), and once the data is in, I’ll analyze it and compare my own take on the hand to those of the various D&T pilots from around the world.
This link will take you to the survey and the survey is also embedded below. I hope you’ll consider taking it when you have a few minutes!
Dire Fleet Daredevil got a ton of attention when spoiled…well, more accurately, a couple of people on The Source and Reddit thought that it might be fun in RW D&T. I didn’t bother testing the card at first. I initially believed that the card had a very high ceiling for how good it *could* be, but that on average it would be a mediocre card. I made the comparison to Phyrexian Metamorph; while it *can* do many things, you can’t rely on it to consistently do what you want. Then a handful of results started rolling in. It popped up in a few 5-0 finishes on MTGO and in a few decklists at various events. I thought the card was still over-hyped, but at this point I decided to test it to see what the card could do.
Conceptually, there were tons of things that sounded very appealing. Snagging a relevant card in response to a Past in Flames, getting to exile relevant graveyard-based spells like Life from the Loam or Punishing Fire, flashing back critical card advantage spell like Kolaghan’s Command or Hymn to Tourach…the possibilities were endless.
In the first couple of matches, it became very clear that there is quite a bit of tension between Daredevil and the rest of the deck. The flashback portion of the deck doesn’t work well with Thalia, Vryn Wingmare, or Rest in Peace; this was further complicated by the fact that Rest in Peace and Daredevil tended to be good in the same matchups. It’s hard to curve out with the card given the other things you want to be doing. For example, if you cast Thalia on turn two, you can’t cast Daredevil and something like a cantrip on turn three. Similarly, trying to get value off of Daredevil by Vialing it in often forces you to either keep your Vial at two for longer than you would like or take a turn off from doing more proactive things.
No one of those things was enough to deter me from playing the Daredevil, but together, they made for a very awkward card. I was often faced with very difficult decisions when this card was in my hand, and I don’t mean that in a good way. For example, I have Thalia and three lands in play with Daredevil, Flickerwisp, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar in hand. Do I wait a turn to tick up the Vial to three so that I can get maximum value out of my cards at the cost of tempo? Do I activate with the vial trigger on the stack to give myself options for the three or four drop next turn, but decrease my flexibility if I draw a relevant card? Do I just tick the Vial up to three now to hold up Flickerwisp, but in doing so, prevent myself from really doing something with Daredevil this turn? This is the sort of non-obvious, line-warping tension that Daredevil creates.
I will say that just cantripping with Daredevil was better than I initially imagined. Between the fetchlands, Stoneforges, and Recruiters, we can actually do a pretty good job at getting only the cards we want off of Brainstorm and Ponder. In my initial evaluation of the card, I feared that the cantrips wouldn’t feel particularly good, but was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. When a deck that normally has very little card manipulation and selection gets to start increasing its consistency, that’s scary.
There’s another obvious issue with the card: it’s a hard-to-cast 2/1 with first strike at any time where you opponent does not have an instant or sorcery in the yard. In many popular matchups (e.g. Eldrazi and the mirror), you realistically might go through most or all of a game without getting a viable target for this card. That’s devastating. Additionally, there is some fear that an opposing Deathrite Shaman or Snapcaster Mage might decrease your ability to do what you want with this card. The inverse is true as well though, so you might get to blow out your opponent with it as they try to flash back a critical removal spell.
I went 20-15 with the Daredevil build, which is only 57%. That’s not great, as breaking even for a league on MTGO is a 3-2 finish (60%). Skimming my notes, Daredevil was responsible for very few of my wins. I’ll share most of them in the screenshot highlights at the end of the article, as many of them were hilarious or otherwise unusual wins. I managed to get one 5-0 finish with the build (the last league I opted to play with the deck), but otherwise it was a sea of 3-2 and 2-3 finishes. That’s not where I want to be.
Bringing it all together, here’s my final word on the card. Dire Fleet Daredevil is a card with high potential upside; it is situationally amazing and can win you games no other card can. This comes at the cost of a handful of deckbuiliding, sideboarding, and play restrictions. It is in many ways like Palace Jailer: it won’t always be good, but when it is, it will really pull you ahead. It suffers some consistency issues, but it is a 100% viable flex card slot. I personally will not be continuing to run it, as I value consistency over everything else in deckbuilding. If you’re interested in the card, here’s my 5-0 finish as well as Egget’s Legacy Challenge-winning list for you to use as starting points.
And now, in no particular order, the shenanigans I saw while playing this build:
Have you even wanted something off the board so badly that you’d Murderous Cut it twice? Maybe. Was that thing a Recruiter? Hopefully not, because, boy, did I feel bad for my opponent!
Malimujo is playing ANT here and has just used a Karakas to bounce my Thalia… Not pictured is me screaming at my webcam questioning their life choices.
Sometimes Daredevil is just a guy with first strike. As pictured here, that can be just fine.
This situation was sweet. I knew my opponent had a Lightning Bolt from a Delver flip a turn or two back. I was in danger of being killed by True-Name Nemesis before I could stabilize with my equipment. Due to my Thalia, the Bolt would cost two mana. My opponent would have to fetch in order to blank my life gain this turn. When my opponent fetched, I Vialed in Daredevil and used a Stifle to nab their fetchland. That felt good.
Against red-based decks, Daredevil serves as reach. My opponent thought they were safe behind their chump blocker and Jace… Wrong!!! My line this turn was Recruiter for Daredevil, Daredevil for Bolt. Not something my opponent was playing around…
Look, sometimes you are the bug, and sometimes you are the windshield. I can’t just write about all of my successes and sweet moments. Sometimes I have to show that I too am mortal. I fold to hate just like everyone else.
Ahhhh, sometimes you just have to let the mistakes soak in and enjoy them. My opponent conceded in shame after this particularly rough misplay.
How do I always get paired against Nic Fit? Like, I guess it’s better than Elves, but it’s just odd. I can now check off Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh from the list of cards that I’ve played against in Legacy.
So this spot was really neat. My opponent couldn’t remove my Magus of the Moon and desperately needed to do so. They had to resort to casting a Standstill and then casting Fatal Push to get revolt by sacrificing the Standstill. It was a cool line, but my opponent was so far behind on board already AND they gave me three cards to get rid of the Magus. That’s a literal 5-for-1. Magus of the Moon, ladies and gentlemen.
Today’s guest article is by Austin local and long-time D&T player Travis Brown. He recently top 8’d the Team Open in Dallas with Jeremy Frye and Will Ho. The content that follows is his and in his style, though I’ve done some editing and formatting. Feel free to give me comments on the guest article, as that may influence how I choose to do guest articles in the future.
Taxing out the competition in Dallas Team Trios
Around Christmas time, Will Ho reached out to me to see if I wanted to team with him and Jeremy Frye as the Legacy player for the team, as people know I always jam D&T in Austin. I knew both of them reasonably well, and luckily both were functional human beings who shower and are good at Magic to boot! Accordingly, I decided to throw down on a sweet team event. Little did I know that I was getting picked up by 2/3rds of the team that would win GP Santa Clara not 2 weeks later.
So… there’s that
Anyway, I had tried a bunch of ideas, but in the end stuck with a traditional and reliable decklist. I opted to stay pretty balanced against an open field, with a slight skew to beating True-Name Nemesis and Stoneforge Mystic decks. I hate losing to them.
Here is the sweet, sweet, basic list we’re using to crush our spicy opponents into a bland, flavorless paste:
Travis Brown, Dallas Team Open
4 Mother of Runes
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Serra Avenger
2 Recruiter of the Guard
2 Mirran Crusader
1 Sanctum Prelate
4 Aether Vial
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Rishadan Port
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Rest in Peace
2 Containment Priest
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Path to Exile
2 Council's Judgment
Welp, here is the matchup breakdown
Round 1: RB Reanimator (2-1)
Game 1: My opponent is shuffling in a way where my teammates can clearly see what he is on. They grapevine the info to me, and it pays off. I mulligan once, jam Thalia on turn 2 on the play, and he never hits a second land. The takeaway: Shuffle your cards in a way that doesn’t give away your deck. Also, draw lands.
I boarded as such:
In: 2 Containment Priest, 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Surgical Extraction, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 4 Stoneforge Mystic, 1 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Batterskull, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice, 1 Mirran Crusader
Disruption matters far more in this matchup than closing the game quickly, so I cut the entire Stoneforge package.
Game 2: I lose after mulling, and missing 5 lands in a row while he reanimates Iona, Shield of Emeria. I have multiple cards rotting in my hand.
Game 3: I use Surgical Extraction to nab his Griselbrand and follow up with Thalia. After that, I flashed in Containment Priest in response to him casting Reanimate on a Chancellor of the Annex; that feels particularly good, as it causes him to still lose the seven life. That put him to 8, and 2 turns later he is dead.
Round 2: MUD (2-1)
Game 1: I sit across the table from someone I know plays DnT almost religiously. Foiled deck, all that jazz. I keep a hand with Mom, Stoneforge, Flickerwisp, and Swords to Plowshares. Great hand! He wins the die roll and slams a Cloudpost. Oh boy… I get him to 11 with Stoneforge + Flickerwisp. I have been activating Vial every turn on 3 putting nothing into play for a few turns when he slams Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, clears my board, and attacks into my apparent nothing hand with a Kuldotha Forgemaster. I then vial in a Crusader, suit it up with Batterskull, and hit him for 12. That’s why you activate Vial when you have nothing.
In: 2 Containment Priest, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Cataclysm
Out: 4 Mother of Runes, 2 Mirran Crusader, 1 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Stoneforge Mystic
Game 2: He jams Trinisphere on turn 1 and then Wastelands me 3 times. We do a bunch of nothing. I finally get back up to 3 lands and slam Flickerwisp to give myself a clock and hit the Chalice of the Void on 1. This unlocked the 2 spot removal spells in my hand. Alternatively, I could have gotten rid of Lightning Greaves with Council’s Judgment. He then proceeds to rip Kuldoltha Forgemaster, suit it up, grab a Blightsteel Colossus, suit it up, and kill me.
Game 3: He puts Pithing Needle on Wasteland, and right before draw Flickerwisp to blink the Needle and triple Waste him, both my teammates pick up their matches.
Round 3: Burn (1-2)
Game 1 he has three 1-drops on the play with the perfect curve topping out into Fireblast. I did not have the nuts, so I lost unceremoniously.
In: 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Ethersworn Canonist
Out: 2 Mirran Crusader, 3 Phyrexian Revoker, 1 Recruiter of the Guard
Game 2 I assembled Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte. He didn’t have Smash to Smithereens on time. It was that simple.
Game 3 he has removal spells for numerous creatures in the early game, but I stabilized by playing a Sanctum Prelate on 1 with Thalia as backup. I played around Smash to Smithereens since I was at 2 life. He eventually hits the Fireblast after I am unable to close the gap fast enough. Sure enough, he shows 3 Smash to Smithereens and a Grim Lavamancer that he said he couldn’t cast due to Prelate.. (He definitely could’ve). Luckily my teammates saddled up and got there.
The takeaway: Reading is hard, but playing Burn on a nut draw is not.
Round 4: Maverick (2-1)
Game 1: He fetches Savannah and leads on Green Sun’s Zenith for a Dryad Arbor. I go on the mana denial plan with two Wastelands and two Swords to Plowshares for his Dryad Arbor and follow up Scavenging Ooze. Crusader gets there a few turns later after ambushing a Qasali Pridemage and cracking back for lethal damage.
In: 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment, 1 Manriki-Gusari, 1 Containment Priest
Out: 4 Thalia, Guard of Thraben, 1 Sanctum Prelate, 1 Batterskull
Game 2: He goes ham by casting multiple Swords to Plowshares, killing my equipment, getting Jitte online, and casting Zealous Persecution. It was… rough.
Game 3: The matches are 1-1, so this is the deciding one. Time to buck up, Sunshine. We waste each other to very low mana and I have Revoker on Deathrite Shaman to keep us even. I do have an Avenger pecking at him with Manriki-Gusari to put a solid clock on him, and I got to destroy his Batterksull as well. He slams a giant Knight of the Reliquary and I finally vial in my Flickerwisp during his end step to blink his Knight. I rip the land off the top to cast Containment Priest in response to the Flickerwisp trigger, keeping Knight exiled forever. He then tried to Green Sun’s Zenith for a Noble Hierarch at his teammates’ recommendation. It took his entire turn and Containment Priest kept the Hierarch from entering play. Wisp and Avenger win the game soon after.
The takeaway: Play to your outs, no matter how big or small the odds are. Also, reading is important.
Round 5: W Czech Pile (2-0)
Game 1 I get a Vial on board and curve into Mother of Runes, Rishadan Port their land, Thalia and Wasteland, Stoneforge Mystic, and finally Flickewisp the Stoneforge. My Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice did a lot of work against Deathrite Shaman and a couple of Baleful Strix.
In: 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Rest in Peace
Out: 3 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Sanctum Prelate, 1 Phyrexian Revoker, 1 Flickerwisp
Game 2 I get a Rest in Peace online alongside Mom & Thalia. He has Deathrite Shaman, Baleful Strix, and Jace, the Mindsculptor. I realize he has no countermagic, so I bounce Thalia on his end step. I then slam Cataclysm and the following conversation ensues:
Opp: “Let me read this.”
Opp: “Wait, this kills Jace, doesn’t it?”
Opp: “AND you get to keep your stupid enchantment???”
I keep Mom, Vial on 2, Rishadan Port, and Rest in Peace vs his Swamp, Deathrite, and Baleful Strix. The game soon ends when he realizes he can’t beat the board due to the Rest in Peace.
The takeaway: Cataclysm is the most fun DnT can have.
Round 6: Maverick (1-2)
Game 1: I win an incredibly awkward series where my opponent casts Green Sun’s Zenith for 1 less than intended due to miscounting Thalia math, meaning he can’t fetch Qasali Pridemage to pop my Jitte. The Jitte+Thalia+Karakas+Vial combo ends up beating a 6/6 Scavenging Ooze among other things, and my opponent dies.
Same SB strategy as match 4
Game 2: I mull to a Karakas, Vial, Mom, Stoneforge, and Swords to Plowshares hand and snap it off. He Wastelands my land and uses Abrupt Decay my Vial. I never drew another land, and since he slammed Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on turn 3, I died quickly.
Game 3: This played similarly to game 2, except I do have a few lands. He draws 3 spot removal spells and Zealous Persecution. I die to Gideon and a bunch of big idiots.
The takeaway: Draw better scrub.
Round 7: Burn Misplays (2-0)
Game 1: I am supposed to be super dead. Just… like incredibly dead. I played it as well as I think anyone could, but if my opponent didn’t miss a bunch of Eidolon of the Great Revel triggers, I probably would have ended up at -14 or -16 life. But he does miss the triggers, so I suit up Thalia with a Jitte and eventually get there. I’d feel bad if I also didn’t feel that my opponents’ triggers are their responsibilities.
See sideboarding from match 3
I get Thalia into play and kill multiple guys while Aether Vial slowly ticks up. While the game did not conclude, it was looking very good for me. Good job teammates picking up those quick W’s!
The takeaway: triggers are hard. Just like math. And magic.
Round 8: Grixis Delver (2-0)
This was our feature match, and my closest to being on camera all weekend. Game 1 my opponent plays the standard delver game on the draw. Mom + Thalia clogs up the ground while multiple Flickerwisps clock my opponent in the air.
In: 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 3 Phyrexian Revoker, 1 Recruiter of the Guard, 2 Mirran Crusader
Aside: I’m still not 100% on this matchup, as I think I’m supposed to trim another card instead of the second Recruiter, but with all the Bolts and Forked Bolts in Grixis Delver, it felt right.
This game was very sweet. I start by quickly Wasting, then fetching Jitte with Stoneforge. He sticks a Young Pyromancer, but due to an uncounterable Thalia, he was only able to make 1 token. I suit up the Stoneforge with Jitte and attack with both creatures, and he Bolts the Stoneforge, and triple blocks Thalia to trade the Young Pyromancer and 1 token for her. Luckily I got to then slam another Thalia. He untaps and Bolts Thalia #2. I play a Flickerwisp to hit the token. He slams Gurmag Angler. I hit him to 9, play another Flickerwisp. I Flickerwisp my Flickerwisp and then flicker the Gurmag Angler to save myself five life. He slams another Gurmag. I attack for 6 with the Wisps putting him to 3, and then play a third Flickerwisp. I do the same song and dance as before, blinking his black source to play around a potential Dread of Night. He attacks with both Zombie Fish. I take ten. Then he passes and I kill him. While the feature match said we won 2-0, we really won 3-0.
The takeaway: Flickerwisp is the best card ever. It just is.
Round 9: Mana Dredge (2-1)
Game 1: He mulls to 6, keeps, plays Lion’s Eye Diamond, and passes. I play Vial, and pass. He draws, and passes back. I slam Thalia. At this point, he can’t do much. He managed to get a few tokens, but 2 Flickerwisps backed by Mother of Runes eventually get there…somehow. How did I beat Mana Dredge on the draw? I don’t know.
In: 2 Containment Priest, 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Surgical Extraction
Out: 2 Stoneforge Mystic, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice, 2 Mirran Crusader
Game 2: I find out Will has lost, and Jeremy is down a game. My opponent kills me turn 2. That’s about it. Hooray Dredge!
Game 3: This is where things get nutty. Jeremy won his game 2, so we are still live. I keep Surgical Extraction, Rest in Peace, Plains, Wasteland, Vial, Thalia, and Mom. I play Plains and Vial. My opponent then tanks, and discusses “hitting it now”. I have to assume he has Nature’s Claim in hand. They decide against playing it, and play City of Brass into Faithless Looting, discarding Narcomoeba and Golgari Grave-Troll. I Surgical the Troll and see 2 Cephalid Coliseum, Breakthrough, Nature’s Claim, and some irrelevant cards. I draw another Mom, decide to Wasteland the City of Brass, and play Mom. He then plays Coliseum and Breakthrough, discarding his whole hand. It all comes down to this draw. I rip the Plains and slam Rest in Peace. Then Thalia and the Stoneforge off the top quickly finish the game. Jeremy is able to then hardcast Emrakul and attack twice to win the game.
The takeaway: Play to your outs and hope for the best.
We finished as one of only 3 teams at 8-1 (no X-0’s) going into day 2 and then enjoy margaritas.
Round 10: Esper Stoneblade (2-1)
Game 1: I feed off the salt of my opponent constantly complaining about how “perfect” my draws are (as I never hit land 4…). I did beat him over the head with a Sanctum Prelate on 1 and a Serra Avenger, so that’s cool. He does eventually Engineered Explosives away my board, but Mom survived. She grabbed a Batterskull and Sword of Fire and Ice. It was pretty sweet.
In: 1 Manriki-Gusari, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 2 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Batterskull
Game 2: He stabilizes at 11 life when he rips the Disenchant off the top naturally. I protect my Sword of Fire and Ice with Flickerwisp, but he follows up with a Snapcaster to Disenchant the Manriki. This lets his True-Name Nemesis get suited up with Batterskull, and it’s over after that.
Game 3 :I have uncounterable Mom into uncounterable Thalia. My teammates both pick up their wins, but after discussing it with my opponent, we decided it would’ve almost definitely gone my way.
The takeaway: when your opponent gets salty, enjoy the seasoning :P.
Round 11: ANT (0-2)
Game 1: I keep a solid hand, but he wins on turn 2 on the play. Not much to be said.
Sideboarding didnt matter because he stormed off on turn 2 through a Revoker naming Lion’s Eye Diamond and a Surgical Extraction after I mull to a functional hand. Unfortunately another teammate lost.
The takeaway: Sometimes they’ve got you.
Round 12: Grixis Delver (0-2)
In: 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Rest in Peace
Out: 3 Revoker, 1 Recruiter, 1 Wisp, 1 Crusader
Game 2 was… odd. He kept Daze in on the draw. It also proved once again how filthy Gitaxian Probe is as a Magic card. I play land go. He plays land, Ponder. I untap and play Stoneforge, but he Dazes it. He then casts Probe into Cabal Therapy, taking out my removal spells. My Thalia then sticks and I Wasteland his only land. I then proceed to lose after playing 2 Flickwisps to clock him when he drops an Izzet Staticaster. He then hits a True-Name Nemesis to brickwall my Batterskull. He hits Dismember the turn before I can suit it up with the Sword of Fire and Ice. One of my teammates also lost, so now we are in the rally bracket.
The takeaway: Always leave in 1 revoker for staticaster. Ouch.
Round 13: DnT mirror (2-0)
Game 1: I took the bold line of playing lots of creatures and he had multiple Thalia. Pro plays on my part. I know.
In: 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment, 1 Manriki-Gusari
Out: 4 Thalia, 1 Sanctum Prelate
Game 2: He mulligans, I Path his Mom, and we proceed to durdle while playing out another Mom each. I get Jitte on the board after he Revokes it, and I have a Serra Avenger vs his Crusader. I eventually hit my third land to exile his Mom and another removal spell to kill the Revoker. He casts another Revoker before I can equip, but both my teammates win. I have Mom and Jitte advantage, so I was heavily favored that game.
The takeaway: Draw more relevant cards in the matchups. You will win.
Round 14: BUG control (2-0)
Game 1: I know my opponent is on a grindy midrange deck since he is a local from my area. As such I keep a Wasteland and Vial hand with an insane curve up. He then takes the Vial with Thoughtseize. Luckily I proceed to draw 3 lands in a row so I can deploy Mom into Thalia into Recruiter into Stoneforge into Flickerwisp. The combination of Batterskull and Sword of Fire and Ice outraces his True-Name Nemesis before it picks up his maindeck Jitte.
In: 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Rest in Peace
Out: 1 Sanctum Prelate, 2 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Flickerwisp, 1 Pyrexian Revoker, 1 Serra Avenger
Game 2: I get a Mom and Thalia online with Vial. He struggles to draw relevant cards with Sylvan Library due to my Rishadan Port and Thalia messing with his mana. He misses a few land drops and I start vialing in an army. He has to take time off to Thoughtseize my Crusaders, so I beat him down with Wisps and Thalia. The game ends quickly.
The takeaway: Really, rattle those lands off the top so you can do absurd things.
(11-3, locked for top 8)
Round 15: Aggro Loam (1-2)
A quick aside: I understand Magic is hard, and that Legacy is arguably the most complex format. But remember to play at a reasonable pace. My opponent this round was new to the format, but took a very long amount of time between decisions despite me prompting him multiple times to make one.
We offer the intentional draw to our opponents, but they are X-3-1 so they have to turn it down.
Game 1: I punt by attacking with Prelate on 2. I know, I know. I should have waited, but it had been a long day and I did some math wrong. After my Prelate went down, my Moms followed behind it (Punishing Fire is a hell of a card). His 16/16 Knight of the Reliquary killed me quickly. Unfortunately it took a long time to get there, and even the judge was shocked when she asked about game 2, and I clarified game 1 concluded. I then asked a judge to stay at the table and monitor us both for rate of play.
In: 2 Cataclysm, 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: 2 Mirran Crusader, 1 Pyrexian Revoker, 1 Flickerwisp, 2 Swords to Plowshares
(I have no idea if this board plan is right)
Game 2: I get a vial online, and he plays Mox, Mox, Land, Liliana of the Veil. From there I proceed to vial in Mom, Stoneforge, and Angel. I then get batterskull online and during my opponent’s end step put in a Wisp to hit my Batterskull. After I attack on my next turn, I play Cataclysm, keeping Serra Avenger, Vial and Port. I then play a Plains and Batterskull comes back. I tick the Vial up to 3 and Port his Maze of Ith. I hit him down to 6, and Vial in another Wisp. The game ends.
Game 3 is looking to be a slugfest. During this game my opponent received multiple verbal warnings from the judge for slow play, as he was tanking as early as turn 1. We had about 8 minutes to complete the entire game. Eventually I have lethal on board, but I likely lose due to my opponent finding his 1-of Golgari Charm. That being said, my teammates pick it up and we are on to the top 8! Thank you Will and Jeremy!
Going into the round, I’m planning out my lines of play, my board strategy, and generally just getting a breather.
Sure enough, we miss out on being the feature match by 3%! I sit down across from my opponent, see the decklist, and the first cards that catch my eye are Elvish Spirit Guide, Vampire Hexmage, and Sylvan Safekeeper… This isn’t LANDS! This is Turbo Depths! My opponent says he thinks we would’ve gotten the feature if SCG had posted the correct deck name, and I agree. I am also excited because in my experience the matchup is great!
Game 1: I draw nothing and my opponent 20/20’s me out on turn 4.
In: 2 Surgical Extraction, 2 Path to Exile, 2 Council’s Judgment
Out: -4 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Batterskull, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -1 Mirran Crusader
Game 2: I finally draw a Flickerwisp after forcing him to blow multiple lands to keep his Sylvan Safekeeper around. The 3/1 kills the 20/20 and he scoops.
Game 3: I am about to snag Thespian’s Stage with Surgical Extraction and play Revoker naming Vampire Hexmage to seal it up. Unfortunately, Jeremy had a rough matchup, and Will mulliganed into oblivion and drew even worse. The run ended in the quarters, but I had a blast, and I was ecstatic to finally top 8 a major tournament with 2 awesome dudes.
The takeaway: eat more peanut butter sandwiches.
The sample of decks I faced was incredibly odd and the fact that I only played against 5 decks with Brainstorm is pretty silly, but it goes to show you why playing a deck you know is so important. It lets you adapt to any tournament or meta (unless it is the Belcher/Oops/Elves meta).
Going forward, I would change very little about the deck. I may change the board a bit (specifically Manriki is always a card that I can substitute out for things like Sword of War and Peace, but I think they are close). I would also like a second Prelate in the 75, but I have no idea what to cut.
Cataclysm is staying in the deck for the foreseeable future. That card is not only fun to play, but wins you games no other card could. Plus it is great vs Pile and Lands, which are both incredibly relevant right now. Otherwise the deck felt great, and I would recommend it to anyone else who likes DnT.
Thank you for reading my rather exhaustive report, and just keep taxing ‘em out!
If you missed my stream last night, I spent quite some time discussing some of the pros and cons of various D&T decklists from the Open. You can check out that video here.
Alrighty, once again, it’s data time! Since mid-December I’ve been mucking around with RW Taxes. The build is my own at this point, though I used a combination of Iatee and Bahra’s builds as my starting points for exploring this side of the archetype. Here’s the decklist in its current form:
RW Taxes, 1/12/18
Before I get into the data, I should take a moment to briefly talk about a couple of quirks and strengths of this build. Magus of the Moon is the real reason to splash red; it provides an instant “I win” button against a sizable percentage of the format. It frequently comes off of Vial as a surprise as well, not giving your opponent the opportunity to fetch in response or float some mana. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a side benefit of splashing red. While the card might not look impressive on the surface, it does a surprising amount of weird things. With a Karakas and an Aether Vial on four, you can produce an army of Thopter tokens that will drown most fair decks. Those Thopters are handy little fellows. Being colorless, they aren’t affected by things like Dread of Night or an opposing Mother of Runes. They are fantastic chump blockers against a fair deck like Eldrazi. Since P&K produces multiple bodies, it is pretty annoying for control decks like Czech Pile or Miracles. P&K is a weird, tutorable source of end game inevitability, something that the mono white build lacks. It is, admittedly, a little hard to cast, but it’s not a card that you usually want to slam on turn four anyway.
The red also gives us a touch more utility in Cunning Sparkmage in the sideboard. It’s great in the mirror and against small creature decks (Elves, Infect). Then there’s that spicy maindeck Rest in Peace. While many people have questioned that decision, I think it has been worth its weight. I’ll discuss it a bit more in the data section and let you form your own conclusion. Most of the rest of the list is pretty standard.
So what didn’t make the cut? I originally started with a Faerie Macabre in the sideboard, as both builds I had been looking at played the little fellow. My previous testing found that it was really only amazing in the Reanimator matchup, and after a couple of leagues with it in the deck, I cut it again. Similarly, both builds featured Fiendslayer Paladin, a card I wasn’t particularly keen on. I get that it is an attempt at hedging against Burn, an absolutely terrible matchup for the RW build, but I found that it was a low impact card on average. I opted to throw a Sanctum Prelate in the board to increase the utility of my Recruiters and a third Path to Exile to help with the Delver matchups (more on that in a minute). I also opted to play a third Plateau over the third Cavern of Souls to make some of my cards a little more castable on average.
The following dataset consists of 111 matches (268 games) in competitive MTGO leagues with the RW build. As discussed above, the build did vary by a card or two over the course of the matches. I ended up with a record of 71-40 (63%). This is slightly higher than the results I got with the monowhite build after a similar number of matches (60%). Though I don’t have an exact number on it, I know I had a higher percentage of 5-0 finishes with the RW build than with the mono white build. I’ll do a bit of comparison a bit later in the article, but I want to start by looking at the matchup breakdown for the RW version. With one exception (Red Prison), I only included matches that had a sample size of four or greater for the matchup breakdown that follows. Here’s the overview before I break things down a bit more:
Very Good Matchups
Eldrazi (5-1, 83%)
BUG Delver (6-3, 67%)
D&T (5-1, 83%)
Lands (3-1, 75%)
Red Prison (3-0, 100%)
Czech Pile (5-4, 56%)
Miracles (4-4, 50%)
Big Eldrazi (3-2, 60%)
ANT (2-3, 40%)
Grixis Delver (6-6, 50%)
Very Unfavorable Matchups
Burn (1-4, 20%)
Now for some qualitative comments and my thoughts on some of this data!
Very Good Matchups
Eldrazi (5-1, 83%)
BUG Delver (6-3, 67%)
D&T (5-1, 83%)
Lands (3-1, 75%)
Red Prison (3-0, 100%)
The Lands, BUG Delver, and Eldrazi matches are all matchups that a Magus of the Moon has the potential to instantly end. Accordingly, it’s not too surprising that all of those matchups ended up being so favorable. Having a maindeck Rest in Peace also didn’t hurt for the Lands and BUG Delver matchup. It is a little interesting that the Red Prison matchup is still so good despite splashing; despite playing Magus of the Moon ourselves, we are quite vulnerable to an early opposing Blood Moon.
The RW deck tends to approach the mirror a little differently than the mono white version. The mono white version tends to attack the mirror via permanents. Cards like Sword of War and Peace and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar threaten to swing the boardstate very quickly in your favor. The RW Version instead is trying to play more of a control role. With lots of extra removal like Path to Exile, Cunning Sparkmage, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar, you hope to knock your opponent off balance for long enough to get a foothold on the equipment war or let your powerful four drops take over the game.
Czech Pile (5-4, 56%)
Miracles (4-4, 50%)
Big Eldrazi (3-2, 60%)
ANT (2-3, 40%)
Grixis Delver (6-6, 50%)
It seems like this version of D&T holds it own against the premier control decks of the format, but does not necessarily excel against them. Pia and Kiran Nalaar provides a great end game against the value-oriented nature of both Miracles and Czech Pile. I’m not particularly worried about the average draws from either of these decks. I am quite worried about a good draw that stabilizes the board and follows up with a Planeswalker on an empty board. A curve of Terminus into Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Kolaghan’s Command into Liliana, the Last Hope is backbreaking. Cataclysm has been pretty good in both of these matchups when my opponent gets ahead early, but is not necessarily always a game-winning play.
You’re probably surprised to see Grixis Delver in this category. I was too. The RW version is much more susceptible to opposing mana denial than the mono white version. Cards like Stifle and Wasteland are markedly better against this version. Hence you open yourself up to “just getting Delvered” a bit more often. Most of my loses against Grixis Delver came before I added the third Path to Exile to the deck, something I did mostly for this matchup. Since this deck has a few four drops and a weaker manabase, you do have to fear a fast hand getting ahead of you. Also of note, this build has literally no way to answer a resolved True-Name Nemesis. You have to race it once it hits play. There’s no Council’s Judgment to bail you out.
Very Unfavorable Matchups
Burn (1-4, 20%)
Burn is normally a nail biter of a matchup for D&T. Once you start taking some damage from fetchlands and open yourself up to more damage from Price of Progress, it’s no surprise that this matchup becomes markedly worse. The original builds I based my build around had a Fiendslayer Paladin as a concession to this matchup. I think I’m fine with losing a few percentage points to the Burn matchup to not have that card in my 75 though. I’m not even sure that tutoring for that guy is going to be fast enough to matter in the matchup anyway for non-Vial hands.
Single Card Discussion
Magus of the Moon was pretty great, I’m not going to lie. I attributed 26 of my game wins to that card. In most of those cases, it hit play and my opponent conceded within 1-2 turns. In all the time I played it, my opponent only wiggled out of the Magus four times (when it actually cut them off mana). Twice it was answered by red removal (Forked Bolt and Lightning Bolt) after resolving; in one of those cases, it actually gave my opponent mana to cast the Young Pyromancer and Lightning Bolt that was stranded in their hands. Otherwise it was only answered twice: once by floating mana for an Abrupt Decay and once by casting a Drop of Honey off a Mox Diamond.. Magus was so powerful that I’d consider playing a third in the 75 or a third Recruiter of the Guard to go and find it.
I attributed 8 of my wins to Pia and Kiran Nalaar. In the games where I actually resolved that card, it frequently warped the game. The dream is obviously to combo it with Vial and Karakas, but it’s still solid even when you don’t have the “combo.” The situations that P&K can dig you out of are often pretty dire. One of my favorites involved generating an army of Thopters to hold back a Marit Lage and flinging the tokens at my opponent’s face after blocks. Did I mention the reach?! It feels nice to effectively have burn in your deck. Your opponent has a Null Rod? No worries, just start flinging those Vials at their face! The red/colorless bodies aren’t irrelevant either against hate like Dread of Night.
So that maindeck Rest in Peace… I kept pretty detailed records on this card in particular, as I was very curious to see how it would perform in the Deathrite Shaman-infested world. Each time I drew the card in game 1, I assigned it a value. Zero meant it was a dead card; it does literally nothing in the matchup OR it has the possibility of doing something extremely marginal but did not. One was doing something relevant and likely worth the card slot; in some cases, it was difficult to tell how impactful the card was, but if it seemed like my opponent was likely hindered by it, I assigned it this value. Two represented the power level of a dedicated hate card; it made a very noticeable difference on the board or my opponent’s play pattern. In one case I assigned a value of -1; my opponent got value off of my Rest in Peace using an Oblivion Sower.
I drew the maindeck RiP 31 times, assigning it an average value of 1.3. On average it was a great draw, and when I happened to draw it in the right matchups (e.g. Reanimator, Loam, Lands), it warped the game. I attributed five of my wins directly to a resolved RiP in game 1, and another 3 times where it would have been game-endingly good, but was answered. RiP is great against four of the six Decks to Beat of the moment and certainly not dead against Miracles either, decreasing the power of Search for Azcanta and Snapcaster Mage. Running one in the main is certainly viable and perhaps even good. The card does have some issues: it’s not tutorable via Recuriter, it’s sometimes dead, and it doesn’t necessarily play nice with Thalia. However, when your opponent leads on Deathrite and you follow up with a RiP…well, that fells pretty darn good.
I attributed eight of my wins to Cataclysm. There was also one more scenario where I was so far ahead that I didn’t need to cast it and an instance where I lost a game after resolving Cataclysm. The card is of a comparable power level and utility to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Gideon tends to be better when you are ahead on board or at about parity, whereas Cataclysm tends to be better when you are behind. Gideon will be better in more matchups; his generic utility is a bit higher, and there are fewer spots where you can’t deploy the card out of fear of losing the game. There are times where you cast a Gideon and your opponent does something like cast a Snapcaster Mage, remove the token you make, and kill the Gideon. Those scenarios feel bad, but remember that a good percentage of the time when you resolve Gideon, he does still win you the game (though Cataclysm will likely win the game a higher percentage of the time when it resolves). Gideon is a card that you can just jam. Cataclysm is a card that requires a bit more setup, but has a higher potential upside.
Cunning Sparkmage and Sanctum Prelate underperformed. I did not attribute a single win to Cunning Sparkmage. Maybe I’m not boarding it in enough or in the right matchups. I didn’t hate having its utility in the board, and I’m not convinced that I should cut it, but I’ll be exploring my options for this slot. I added Sanctum Prelate to my deck at about the halfway point of my dataset. I only attributed three wins to this card. I didn’t tend to want to tutor for it when given the opportunity. Magus of the Moon often locked my opponent out just as well, or fetching Vryn Wingmare to stack with Thalia did just as much work. I think Prelate is really important for the mono white builds to deal with Life from the Loam and Punishing Fire decks, but it feels less necessary in this build.
Here’s the graph of my overall results with the RW version. Here is a bigger version of the graph if it isn’t readable on your screen as is.
Comparison to Crusader Build
So, at the end of the day, what version of D&T should you be playing? On average, I felt like my performance with RW Taxes was better (based on my percentage of 5-0 and 4-1 finishes). We’re not here for gut feelings though, now are we? In the following chart and discussion, the mono white build will be referred to as WW. Let’s look at some hard data.
If you were to play only against a field of the Decks to Beat with a perfect distribution based on the metagame percentages, RW and WW taxes would probably put you in about the same spot based on the data here. RW Taxes does have a markedly higher average win percentage vs the Decks to Beat though and a higher overall win percentage. Based on what’s here, it is probably better to be playing the splash build at the moment.
I do want to qualify this data a little bit though: I didn’t have Sanctum Prelate in my deck for many of the matches against Lands with WW, the sample size for the Miracles matchup with WW is three, and the percentage against Grixis Delver with RW is likely a bit higher than 50% now that I added the third Path to Exile. The overall result is probably that the WW build probably is better than the data here suggests. Its percentage against Grixis Delver, the most popular deck of the format, is just so high that it makes up for deficiencies elsewhere. Assuming that the Lands matchup is really closer to something like 40% for WW, the Miracles matchup is closer to 50% for WW, and the Grixis Delver matchup is closer to 60% for RW, WW will actually probably slightly outperform the RW build in the weighted average category by about 3%, but will still be behind the RW deck in the average win percentage by about 5%.
If I were to go to a GP tomorrow, I’d take RW Taxes without a doubt, though it probably doesn’t matter too much if you play WW or RW in the grand scheme of things. Either way, make sure you address the deficiencies of your build against the decks you expect to face and you’ll probably be fine. If you don’t have a ton of time to test, play whichever build you are comfortable with. If you have the time the test, the RW build has a ton of upside; at the very least, having some games under your belt will help you understand the mirror and open up the possibility of playing with the build in the future. I don’t recommend picking up the RW build and bringing it to a GP without sufficient testing; sideboarding can be legitimately tricky with this version of the deck, and even I am unsure how I want to approach a couple of matchups.
Changes to Consider
I’ve already suggested a few of these things throughout the article, but here’s what I would consider testing in the RW build in the future:
1. Adding either a Magus of the Moon or a Recruiter of the Guard.
2. Adding an answer to True-Name Nemesis like Orzhov Pontiff or Blessed Alliance.
3. Removing some of the less impressive cards like Sanctum Prelate and Cunning Sparkmage to see if their absence is missed.
4. Testing Dire Fleet Daredevil. I don’t think it is going to be of a consistent enough power level to be worth slots, but a couple of people on The Source have their eye on the card.
Based on the data and testing I have from the RW build, here are things I would consider testing in the WW build:
1. Swapping Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with Cataclysm.
2. Playing the 24th land since the build is so heavy at the three drop slot. Maybe a Horizon Canopy would work well.
3. Trying the Rest in Peace in the main over the 4th Mirran Crusader.
4. Dropping the 2nd Surgical Extraction in the board for a third Rest in Peace. Additionally, going down to one Surgical might in turn lead to dropping the other for some other sideboard card.
I’ll be continuing to work on the RW build in some capacity, likely starting with some of the suggestions above. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and if you want to chat about the build more, feel free to hit me up with questions on my stream. I’m deathandtaxesftw on Twitch and you can check out my channel here. The channel has videos enabled, so you can click here to watch the videos of my last few streams. If, say, Twitch happens to be blocked at your workplace, you can also check out my videos on the Thraben University channel on Youtube.
Note from Phil: Allen Norman recently top 4’d MTGFirst’s Win-a-Lotus event up in Baltimore. It was a pretty high profile event as well as the culminating event of a series, so I reached out to him with the offer to write a tournament report for the event. He happily obliged. The content below is his content and in his style, though I’ve done some editing for clarity and such. Feel free to let me know what you do or don’t like about this article; it’s very different from how I write up my own tournament reports. Your comments may influence how I choose to go about doing guest articles in the future.
Hi, my name is Allen Norman and I am a Software Engineer who plays in the Baltimore/Glen Burnie area. I have been playing Death & Taxes for a few years now. Though I initially borrowed this deck from a friend, I was immediately hooked. I bought it for an Invitational a couple years ago and basically have not played anything else in Legacy since. I do not get to play a ton of Magic as I have wife, work, and various other adult responsibilities. When I do have time to play, I prefer to play Legacy D&T.
I had been testing a few different versions of the deck since before the recent SCG Team Open, but I was consistently struggling with the Czech Pile matchup. My friend Weston and I always bounce ideas off of each other and try wonky cards. Let’s put it this way: I definitely have 4 Treasure Hunter on my MTGO account. We tried builds with 3 Spirit of the Labyrinth in them for the purpose of helping the Czech Pile matchup. Its three power was relevant and its effect is pretty good at letting you attack their mana through Leovold, Emissary of Trest since you can still Wasteland and Rishadan Port them without giving them cards. This build initially showed promise, but then we pretty much stopped winning with it all together.
Ultimately it didn’t help the Czech Pile matchup as much as we had hoped. In addition, Spirit was just awful against Grixis Delver; it can only trade down in combat and they have many ways to easily remove it. I was still unhappy with my decklist despite trying out a few things that seemed promising. Unfortunately, I was not able to play in the Baltimore Open, but I later saw Derzco’s list from the Open with 4 Mirran Crusader. I was going to give it a shot, as that was a pretty direct way to attack that matchup. I actually ran into Phil at the Team Open at a table of mutual friends/acquaintances; he said he had been playing a similar version for a while and consistently winning the 4 Color Control matchup. Leading up to the Quest for Power: Black Lotus event at MTGFirst, most of my testing I was with versions of the deck that had 4 Mirran Crusaders. I had a solid record the month or so before the tournament, so I started to feel good about the deck again. This is the list that I ended up at for the tournament.
Allen Norman, 4x Crusader D&T
Round 1: UW Miracles, Anuraag Das
G1 – He had the Force of Will for my turn one Vial. Without it, my hand wasn’t really able to pressure him effectively. He stuck a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and the game was basically over; an army of angels off Entreat the Angels left no doubts.
I had seen him around at tournaments and I felt like he was likely to be on the full control version of the deck with no Monastery Mentor in the main or sideboard. Accordingly, I sideboarded out my Swords to Plowshares.
Sideboarding:-4 Swords to Plowshars, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte; +1 Sword of War and Peace, +2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, +2 Council’s Judgement.
G2 – I was able to stick a Vial and attack his mana a little bit. Eventually he had to try and stick a Jace into an active Vial on two. Unfortunately for him, I had the Phyrexian Revoker and lethal damage the next turn.
G3 – I kept Revoker, Stoneforge, Council’s Judgement, Flickerwisp, Crusader, Karakas, and a Wasteland. The hand was a bit clunky and I was pretty consistently behind in the game. It dragged on for a while and he made 8+ angels and killed me. He asked me what I kept and he said he would have mulliganed. He knows that side of the matchup very well and thinks Vial is so important in the matchup that it is worth mulliganing that hand to find one. I agree that Vial is the most important card, but I don’t think I am quite at the point where I would send that hand back; Stoneforge is also one of your best cards and that hand has quite a few things covered. I could certainly be wrong though.
Round 2: Lands, Steve Newcombe
G1 – He had a decent hand with Life from the Loam, but was not able to dredge into a way to slow down my creatures before Sanctum Prelate locked out his 2 drop spells. Some little beats ensued and we were on to the next one.
Sideboarding: -4 Swords to Plowshares, -2 Mirran Crusader, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte; +1 Surgical Extraction, +3 Rest in Peace, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Sword of War and Peace
G2 – He had a turn 2 Life from Loam, but I had the ideal curve of Rest in Peace into Sanctum Prelate. He was not able to remove my RiP or assemble anything without Loam. He promptly died.
Round 3: Sneak and Show, Jeremy Bowman
G1 – I thought he was likely to be on this deck, as I see him around at Legacy events playing it. Thankfully I opened a good hand for the matchup: Vial, Thalia, Revoker, Karakas, Rishadan Port and 2 other cards. I win the die roll and my Vial sticks. He forces my turn two Thaila and follows up with a sol land, Lotus Petal, and Sneak Attack. Luckily for me, he doesn’t have another red source to put anything in this turn. I vial in Revoker on Sneak Attack and the game is effectively over. He plays on for a turn or two then concedes.
Sideboarding: -4 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte, -1 Mirran Crusader; +2 Ethersworn Canonist, +1 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Council’s Judgement, +2 Containment Priest
The second Council’s Judgement could be better than another Crusader, but I have found it to be pretty clunky in this matchup; the spots where it is good don’t come up a ton. I could see it being better though.
G2 – My hand was very good with Canonist, Vial, some other reasonable creatures and some Ports. After being Ported for a few turns, he is able to get off a Show and Tell for Omniscience. I have the Canonist to put in to buy myself a turn and a Flickerwisp to blink the Omni during my next end step to save myself for yet another turn. I equip a Sword of Fire and Ice to my Canonist and attack him down to 6. He gets his Omniscience back and casts Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I have a creature to Vial in, giving me exactly 8 permanents. I live through the Emrakul attack, keeping just the Sword and the Canonist, and crack back for lethal.
Round 4: Lands, Lucas
G1 – I don’t remember much about this game besides that he had an early unchecked Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. He still died. I think I sideboarded the same as before.
Sideboarding: -4 Swords to Plowshares, -2 Mirran Crusader, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte; +1 Surgical Extraction, +3 Rest in Peace, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Sword of War and Peace
G2 – He had Life from the Loam, an early Tabernacle, and a Seismic Assault! After he mowed down my initial creatures, I just passed for a bunch of turns until I had a Sword in play and two Vials on three. I used Flickerwisp to blink out his Seismic Assault, giving me a chance to safely put in a Prelate on 2. I equipped Prelate with the sword and started getting in the red zone. He drew Maze of Ith to buy time and copied it with Thespian’s Stage multiple times, but thanks to some combination of Flickerwisps, Wastelands and Ports, I was able to push through for the last couple of hits.
Round 5 Aggro Loam, Nick Ditizio
G1 – His mana didn’t really come together. I was able to attack his lands and beat down with some ladies.
Sideboarding:-4 Thalia, -1 Phyrexian Revoker, -1 Aether Vial, -1 Mirran Crusader; +2 Council’s Judgement +2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, +3 Rest in Peace
G2 – I was not able to get on the board fast enough. He basically ground me into nothing with Wastelands and Knight of the Reliquary finished me off.
G3 – We traded off resources for most of this game. Eventually he had Liliana of the Veil and I had nothing. I drew enough creatures to keep Liliana’s loyalty manageable until I stuck a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It took me a few turns to find the fourth land, but Gideon took over the game with ease.
Round 6: Punishing Maverick
G1 – He was on the play and went for a very aggressive kill: mana dork into Knight of the Reliquary into a main phase activation of the Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage combo. I think this is a bit too aggressive, as I could Flickerwisp it next turn and set him back immensely. I didn’t have an out to it in my hand, but luckily peeled Karakas, bounced the token, and went on with my life. It was a long game, but I eventually took it down since he never assembled the Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows lock. Thalia + Karakas + Vial on 2 kept gigantic Knights out of my face for a few turns until I got in with a Jitte to take over the game.
In my opinion the matchups where you care about both their graveyard and their individual creatures are difficult to sideboard for. This is what I chose to do, within a card or two:
-4 Thalia -1 Sanctum Prelate, -1 Phyreixna Revoker, -1 Mirran Crusader; +2 Rest in Peace, +2 Council’s Judgement, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Sword of War and Peace.
G2 – My opponent mulliganed to 5 and I kept a hand with some lands, Vial, Rest in Peace, and a Flickerwisp, just hoping he didn’t have a Stoneforge. He had it on turn two and searched up a Sword of Fire and Ice. I knew he had a Jitte. It turns out he had the Batterskull as well, as that is what he Stoneforged in turn three. He got counters on a Jitte a couple times, which put him way ahead, but eventually I was able to Council’s Judgement the Jitte and start hitting him with my equipment. I took down a very close game.
We talked about the Stage+Depths play game one after the match and he thought that going for cost him the game; he said he didn’t think I had Swords to Plowshares because I did not Swords his Knight turn two, which made sense. If he was planning on going for it I think waiting is better as it plays around Flickerwisp, a card I couldn’t have played yet. It is a little worse against Wasteland, but I can’t tap it in fear that he will make a 20/20. If I do have the Wasteland, he doesn’t have to commit to going for it and destroying two of his own lands; he can just play a normal game and try and beat me with an early active Knight of the Reliquary. I still got very lucky and he got punished quite hard for taking the aggressive line.
Round 7 Eldrazi, Chris Hair
My breakers were not very good and there were a couple 13 pointers who would make it so at least one of the 15 pointers have to play it out. Luckily I got paired against another 15 pointer and we could safely ID in.
Top 8 – BUG Control, Brendan McGrail
G1 – Some gigantic Tarmogoyf murdered me. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to say here.
Sideboarding: -4 Aether Vial, -2 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Sanctum Prelate; +3 Rest in Peace, +2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, +2 Council’s Judgement
G2 – I stuck a Rest in Peace and we were pretty much in a stalemate with both of us having pretty large board states. Most importantly I had a Crusder that was being held back by his True-Name Nemesis. I drew a Stoneforge and found Sword of Fire and Ice to get protection from blue. He was at 10 and based on his lines of play, I suspected he did not have an Abrupt Decay. There was a spot two turns ago where my opponent would have fired off an Abrupt Decay if he had one, so my opponent only had two draws to have drawn one. I felt like my spot was not going to get better, so I just suited up the Crusader and went for it. He didn’t have it. Phew!
G3 – My hand was great with Rest in Peace, 2 Mirran Crusader, Council’s Judgment, and some lands. He took my Rest in Peace with a Thoughtseize, but my Crusader stuck on turn three. My opponent did not answer it for 3 or 4 turns, and by the time he cast Toxic Deluge, it put him down to one life. My hand was still pretty stacked, and he couldn’t answer the follow up Crusader.
Top 4 – UW Miracles, Anuraag Das
G1 – My turn one Vial stuck, which can be very important in this matchup. I was able to pressure him, but he had Swords to Plowshares for my first couple of creatures. I got him down to about ten life pretty late in the game when we were both getting low on cards. I had been sitting on a Batterskull for a while and didn’t want to cast it into open mana, as he had a Counterbalance in play; I didn’t want to just have him Brainstorm back a Force of Will to counter it with Counterbalance. He eventually tapped low to try and save his Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I was attacking with Flickerwisp. He fetched with all his lands tapped and I Vialed in a Sanctum Prelate on 1 in response to ensure his Jace died. Post combat I played Batterskull and he blind flipped Force of Will to Counterbalance. Then during his upkeep he used Predict to get the Force of will off the top of his deck and blind flipped Terminus to kill my Flickerwisp and Prelate…. That one hurt. After that he played another Jace and a Search for Azcanta. I conceded shortly afterwards.
G2 – I cast a couple Stoneforges, but with a combination of Unexpectedly Absent and Swords to Plowshares, he was able to keep me from connecting with equipment. My opponent resolved a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, leaving me in a bit of a bad spot. I could go for casting my Sword of Fire and Ice to kill the Jace right now or play it more patiently and use Stoneforge to put it in without exposing it to a counterspell. My opponent only had one mana up and two cards in hand, so I opted to cast the sword and go for it. I felt like I just needed to get the Jace off the board. He had the Force of Will for my Sword, so I was punished for not just playing it slow. I’m not sure if I was in a position where I could afford to play it slower, hoping he doesn’t hit an out on his next turn. After that point, Jace just buried me in card advantage.
I was fortunate to finish as well as I did. I had some good moments like the topdecked Karakas in round 6, winning the top deck war against Aggro Loam, and some of my hands lined up well against my opponent’s hands when they really needed to; however, it was hard not to feel disappointed after getting wrecked by that Terminus in game one of the quarterfinals. I walked away with $600 of store credit, so that certainly helped to make me feel better about my day! Congrats to Anuraag and Chris who split $4000 in the finals. I know Anuraag played extremely well in our matches; he was certainly a deserving winner.
I liked this list a lot and I will probably play something similar if the metagame doesn’t change too much. I would be remiss if didn’t try these Judge’s Familiar builds that have been popping up in lists online. I suppose time will tell what I will be playing in the upcoming weeks. The next big event I have is the Philadelphia Team Open; all signs point to me being the Legacy player for my team there. I am happy with where D&T is right now in Legacy, so I will certainly be playing it in Philly. Hopefully I see you there and thanks for reading!
While usually my articles are very strategic and sing the praises of Sword of War and Peace or Mirran Crusader, I thought I’d do something a little different today. To round out the year, I thought it would be fun to highlight some moments from my online gameplay, showcasing some interesting scenarios and odd things that occur on MTGO. It’s story time!
There are times when I feel like all hope is lost. Times where I have no idea how I could possibly win. Yet, I play on. You see, sometimes the random number generator blesses me with a win I don’t deserve. My ANT opponent here had two Dread of Night in play. That left me with almost no ways to do any damage to my opponent. It was time to cross my fingers and hope for Phyrexian Revoker to be in the top couple of cards of my deck. Luckily for me, my opponent got overly aggressive with an Ad Nauseum. They were at 4 life. They couldn’t kill me this turn, so they kept going when at five life; in reality, they could have taken their sweet time. They flipped a Past in Flame and Tendril of Agony, so the kill was pretty guaranteed the next turn. Lo and behold, they flipped a Dark Petition (a one-of in this deck and the only expensive card left in the deck) and died. That’s how to win through double Dread of Night. Skill. Pure skill.
It’s really easy to forgot that cards matter. I know that’s weird to say, but hear me out. In complicated board states, it’s often best to focus on the key information. Zero in on what truly matters, ignore everything else until it becomes relevant. Well, that can be best, if you are correctly valuing what matters… For a 4 Color Loam player, Chalice of the Void on one shouldn’t be relevant to their actions; after all, the deck doesn’t play any one drops in many cases or just summons them with Green Sun’s Zenith instead of casting them! My opponent was focused on the Thalia on board here that they forgot about the Chalice. Paying 2 mana didn’t bring Chalice to mind until it was too late… Be sure to reevaluate the board state from time to time. Things that once weren’t relevant can become relevant once circumstances change.
Sometimes I come across really weird scenarios, the sorts of things that haven’t come up in years of playing the deck. It’s often easy to work my way through these scenarios as they occur, but sometimes I miss things. Here’s one time where I messed up. My opponent had a Chancellor of the Annex in play and had revealed it at the beginning of the game as well. My opponent cast an Exhume to try and get a Griselbrand in play. I was planning on just passing the turn, dealing with the Chancellor with spot removal and bouncing the Griselbrand with Karakas. I had everything under control. I hit okay and then swore very loudly. I realized that I could cast Containment Priest into the double Chancellor trigger, ridding myself of the one from the beginning of the game. The Priest would hit the graveyard to return momentarily to the Exhume. I then could have used Flickerwisp as a removal spell as well. My previous plan worked just fine, but I absolutely took the wrong line because I didn’t take enough time to really think through the situation. There were so many variables to focus on that I failed to see that the Chancellor trigger could actually be beneficial to me. I cost myself some tempo and mana, but this absolutely could have been a game-losing scenario in other circumstances.
MTGO is a hell of a drug. It’s just good enough to keep you coming back, but it has some serious issues and quirks. Earlier today I disconnected and the client didn’t bother to tell me for 5 minutes; I thought my opponent had gone to the bathroom or something. Wrong. I finished that match with like a minute remaining. I recently played a match against Bryant Cook where he misclicked/lagged and produced a bunch of white mana while playing TES; somehow he was able to undo most of his turn and fix that, which baffled both of us. Sometimes the game lags causing you to do something beyond stupid. This screenshot captured one of the worst ones I’ve seen. My Lands opponent copied their Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale instead of their Dark Depths. Tabernacle, like Dark Depths, is legendary. Instead of creating a 20/20 tentacle monster, they just blew up one of their lands at a critical moment.
When I bought into MTGO, I expected largely to play against top tier decks all the time. Most people who buy in to Legacy on MTGO probably already own that deck on paper. It’s a real commitment to acquire a Legacy deck both on paper and online. The diversity of MTGO surprises me from time to time, I do admit. There are still brews and fringe decks all over the place. Here’s a match where an interesting Mono Black Control deck is beating me down with a pair of Vampire Nighthawk. That’s sweet, I’ve got to admit. Vampire Nighthawk is my favorite Magic card and the first single I ever bought. I’ve been wanting to throw that card in a B/W Taxes list for ages, but the mana doesn’t really work too well for double off color, non-human splashes.
It’s really easy to experiment with sideboard tech on MTGO. Most non-relevant cards cost pennies. No need to shell out a few dollars to try out some tech for your local event. This sometimes leads to really odd and interesting sideboard cards making an appearance. Steel Hellkite out of Eldrazi’s sideboard was not something that I expected. I’m really glad I had the removal at that exact moment. It would have destroyed everything I loved every turn for the rest of the game. I’m not sure that it’s a good use of a sideboard slot since it doesn’t work with the Eldrazi-specific lands like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, but I was certainly afraid!
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Well, it can’t get much worse?” I try to avoid that phrase. Undoubtedly, I find a way that it can get worse. While Red Prison is a great matchup for D&T, sometimes…well, the shit hits the fan. My opponent assembled the dreaded Bottled Cloister and Ensnaring Bridge lock. That’s fine, once I get a Flickerwisp, I can blink the Bridge and attack with Mirran Crusader equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice. Another wild Ensnaring Bridge appears! Uh oh, now I need two Flickerwisps… Some Chalice of the Void appeared on one and two, limiting my ability to do things. Then the Chandras rolled in. I finally conceded to Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Chandra, Pyromaster, and Chandra, Flamecaller. The changes to the Planeswalker rule results in some wacky boardstates in Legacy.
Speaking of… MatsOle has stomped my face in a few times with 4 Color Loam recently. His list features Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, the Last Hope, Garruk Relentless, and Ajani Vengeant. Poor ol’ Phyrexian Revoker can only do so much work! I didn’t think to get a screen shot of another game where I lost all of my permanents to a combination of three planeswalkers, but this one should give you a good enough idea of what the matchup feels like against this exact 75. Garruk Relentless, Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, the Last Hope, AND The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale! Bleh!
It can be tricky to evaluate what deck your opponent is playing. I can usually do it after a turn or two, but, sometimes, I’m lost. My opponent started the game with a Badlands and Cabal Therapy. Grixis Control with Young Pyromancer. They then played a Pernicious Deed. Uh, Jund Nic Fit? Then they played a Sneak Attack and then threw an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and a Worldspine Wurm at me. Uh, Jund Nic Fit Sneak Attack? I don’t have a graceful name for this deck and I was a little confused about how to sideboard.
While I take my MTGO testing very seriously most of the time, even I have my moments. I went on a Judge’s Familiar kick for a little while in the tournament practice room and had a hoot. My opponents tended to have very interesting reactions. Here’s the response to me eating a Daze trying to counter my Stoneforge Mystic.
Happy holidays, and I hope your matches are this interesting!
I played quite a bit of Magic Online since Eternal Weekend: 127 matches. Well, I should say 127 matches that I logged data for. I probably played another 20 or so matches, but I didn’t record data when I played while a little loopy from prescription cough syrup or trying out experimental decklists. For example, I went something like 10-2 with a 4x Judge’s Familiar build like Triosk’s from the last MTGO Challenge. Those matches were just played in the tournament practice room, so I didn’t take the results too seriously. I did, however, take great pleasure in typing “hoot hoot” every time Judge’s Familiar came off a Vial to counter a spell. While not really relevant to the rest of the article, here’s the list I was playing around with if you’re curious:
Judge's Familiar D&T
All of the data presented below will be for a 4x Mirran Crusader build. The exact 75 varied by a card or two over the course of the testing, but was essentially the same as I’ve been playing since Eternal Weekend. The data does NOT include matches I played while sick, testing an experimental decklist, or playing the Judge’s Familiar build; I did not log any data in those instances.
Crusader D&T 11/1
127 matches is enough data to get enough data to talk about the deck’s performance, but not necessarily make solid conclusions about every matchup. Feel free to check out my various matchup primers for more detailed thoughts on individual matchups. For now, lets talk about what this data *suggests.* I’ll add some qualitative comments based on more general experience where I think the data is suggesting inaccurate conclusions. My overall record with the deck was 77-50, which is about 61%. That’s not quite the percentage I’m aiming for, but it is certainly a self-sustaining percentage. It should be very clear in a moment why that percentage isn’t higher. I played against 47 distinct decks, potentially a couple more depending on how precise you want to be about deck divisions. Here is the breakdown of the data for any matchup with at least 4 matches in the dataset. Note that the numbers I’m using for my categories here are based on my win percentage, not necessarily what I think the actual match percentage would be.
Very Favorable Matchups (>/=75%)
Red Prison (4-0)
4 Color Loam (4-1)
R/B Reanimator (5-0)
UR Delver (4-1)
Grixis Delver (8-1)
Good Matchups (>/=60%)
Czech Pile (5-3)
Even Matchups (41%-59%)
Very Bad Matchups (25% or below)
Sneak and Show (1-6)
I’m going to break each one of these categories down a little bit further, but what should be immediately obvious is how polarized these matchups are. The matchups that are very good or very bad are absolute landslides in one direction or another. Additionally, most matchups are falling into one of those categories right now. That’s a bit of an odd position to be in.
Very Favorable Matchups (>/= 75%)
Red Prison (4-0)- 2% of metagame (used statistics for Dragon Stompy)
4 Color Loam (4-1)- 3% of metagame
R/B Reanimator (5-0)- 4% of metagame
UR Delver (4-1)- 5% of metagame
Grixis Delver (8-1)- 12% of metagame
D&T (9-3)- 4% of of metagame
Cumulatively these decks make up about 30% of the metagame. Having an overwhelmingly positive matchup against a good portion of the field feels good. The numbers on most of these probably aren’t surprising to most players. Historically, D&T has stomped Delver decks of pretty much every variety. The various Red Prison decks have always struggled with D&T’s mana denial elements. That’s old news. Let’s talk about the other matchups. My percentage in the mirror went up drastically after putting Sword of War and Peace back in my deck; winning the equipment war is essential in that matchup, and SoWaP is a great card for that purpose. That card or an equivalent mirror hate slot like Manriki-Gusari seems essential to me given the deck’s popularity; though D&T is only stated as 4% of the metagame, I feel like it is everywhere both online and on paper.
My results against 4 Color Loam were very positive, though my gut feeling for that matchup isn’t necessarily as good. It’s an awkward matchup (ask any D&T player how to sideboard for that matchup and watch them pull their hair), and one that will get a primer on this site some time in the future. The lists are shifting away from Dark Depths combo, opting to play a more dedicated control game without the combo finish. Without having to fear the combo, I can tap out for Crusader with impunity.
The RB Reanimator matchup is probably much better than I initially thought. In my primer, I suggested that this matchup would likely be close to even; we’ll win pretty much everything where we play Magic, but will just lose some games to the nut draws. I’m finding that my opponents are not having unbeatable hands as frequently as they used to. The deck seems to have slowed down a bit with cards like Collective Brutality giving the deck more game against Deathrite Shaman at the cost of raw speed. It also might be the case that my opponents aren’t mulliganing as aggressively as they should be in the matchup.
Of note, I haven’t played against Grixis Delver in 58 matches. That’s a bit unusual for a deck that makes up such a large percentage of the field. I used to play against it almost every league. I’m not sure if the deck is starting to become more poorly positioned and pilots are switching decks or if this is just how my matchups have fallen recently. I’ve got my eye on this.
Good Matchups (>/= 60%)
Czech Pile (5-3)
This matchup is just fine with 4 Crusaders. Sure, you lose games to Kolaghan’s Command; that card is bonkers. Most games involve your opponent screaming at wave after wave of pro-black idiots chipping away at their life total. I lost one of my matches here testing Palace Jailer in the matchup. Other people kept telling me it’s an unbeatable card in the matchup; I disagreed, but wanted to try it out. Sure enough, I lost the crown to an end of turn Snapcaster Mage and promptly lost the game. In my opinion Jailer is a trap here, just like it was against Miracles.
Even Matchups (41%-59%)
Eldrazi (3-3)- 5% of metagame
ANT (3-4)- 5% of metagame (used statistic for Storm)
Both of these matchups really seem to be coming down to “stumbling” based on my notes. Your opponents have a dedicated gameplan, but one that has big holes in it. If you exploit one of those holes in the initial turns, you usually win. Eldrazi often flails around aimlessly if you blow up a couple of lands. ANT struggles against hatebears. You will just lose many of the games to their best draws, but many of the longer games favor you. These even matchups could be improved pretty easily by dedicated sideboard hate, but may not be worth adjusting the deck for. Individual deckbuilding decisions and how draws line up against each other will often be deciding factors here.
Very Bad Matchups (Sub 25%)
Elves (1-3)- 3% of metagame
Lands (1-4)- 4% of metagame
Belcher (0-4)- ~0% of metagame
Sneak and Show (1-6)- 4% of metagame
17 of my 50 losses (34%) were to the same four decks; that’s a little bit concerening. D&T has always had some bad matchups, that’s nothing new. Elves and Belcher (as well as any other similar turn 1 combo deck) have been in the borderline unwinnable category for years. That’s not going to change anytime soon without making deck-warping changes your 75. Luckily, D&T’s abysmal matchups historically have been small parts of the metagame. Yet this time around there are a few more matches in this category. If Lands and Sneak and Show are trending towards becoming more difficult, we probably need to do something about at least one of those two matchups.
My gut feeling told me that Sneak and Show had become an unfavorable matchup. Many people disagreed with me on that one, remembering the glory days of this matchup essentially being a bye. Now that most versions of this deck are running 2-3 Omniscience in the main as well as Kozilek’s Return in the sideboard, this is just no longer true. Omni is tough to beat with our normal resources. You can Flickerwisp it off a Vial a few times and try to aggro your opponent out (if it’s late enough in the game), but cards like Revoker, Containment Priest, Ethersworn Canonist, and Thalia don’t pack the same punch with an Omni on board. While Sneak and Show isn’t necessary a deck to beat by The Source’s definition, it is right outside of that bubble and frequently a popular choice regardless of how well it is positioned due to its raw power.
Lands is a matchup that has gone on a bit of a roller coaster in terms of matchup win percentages in the past year. It went from about even to highly favorable when Sanctum Prelate was printed. Now that the Lands players have adapted with cards like Barbarian Ring and Molten Vortex, the matchup feels considerably more difficult than before. Note that for some of these matches I had Vryn Wingmare in the main over Prelate, so that may contribute a bit to my low win rate here, but every game has felt rough, even those I’m winning. Lands is certainly a deck to beat right now by The Source’s standards, and one that I personally feel is pretty well-positioned as a whole.
Moving forward, I’d like to do something to slightly improve the Lands or Sneak and Show matchup a bit; I don’t want to continue folding to two popular decks. I’ve talked to quite a few people who like a third Rest in Peace over the second Surgical Extraction; that seems like a potentially good choice moving forward. Allen Norman did that in his top 8 list for the Win a Lotus event in Baltimore, but otherwise his list was identical to what I’ve been doing. Rest in Peace has been one of my most frequently sideboarded in cards recently; you won’t always want the third against fair decks (Grixis Delver), but having access to three seems fine.
Here’s another look at a direction to take the sideboard:
Sideboard, Zach Koch
3 Rest in Peace
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Ethersworn Canoist
1 Path to Exile
1 Containment Priest
2 Council’s Judgment
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Palace Jailer
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Pithing Needle
The core of what I’ve been running is here, but redundancy was cut for additional range. That might be better right now, I’m not sure. Trimming numbers on Gideon and Path made room for the Pithing Needle and Relic-Warder, flexible answers for various annoying things. I’ll probably play around with this a bit to see how I like it. It gives a potential answer or two to Omni while also sneaking in a Needle for the Lands matchup. I also imagine that the mirror feels very good for this build.
Though I’m not going to share all of my data today, I will leave you all with the graph of my results. Here is a bigger version of the graph if it isn’t readable on your screen as is.
I’m planning on having a follow up article that shares some interesting moments from my Magic Online experiences as well as a guest tournament report in the not too distant future, though it’s a little difficult to say when both of those will happen due to the impending holding season. Until then, Io Saturnalia!
Are you interested in an hour and a half of chit chat about D&T? Well, then I’ve got the perfect thing for you! This week I was a guest on the Leaving a Legacy podcast. Jerry and Patrick asked me all sorts of things about D&T’s history, its place in the metagame, and where I see the deck going in the future.
You can check out the podcast here
Of note to the podcast: I started played Magic in 2010 and starting playing Legacy in 2011. As such, my knowledge about the early days of D&T is all secondhand; please excuse any small errors on my end. My deck history page (which was largely courtesy of Finn) was the basis for most of my answers to their questions about the deck’s history. Feel free to check that out if you have more questions about the deck’s history that I didn’t discuss here!
It has been an interesting couple of weeks in the D&T world. While I went heavy on Mirran Crusader to fight against the current metagame, other people have been experimenting with other tech. There was an interesting post suggesting that The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is a viable sideboard card in D&T. MTGO user Egget put up a 6-1 finish in a Legacy Challenge with a list featuring two Rest in Peace in the maindeck. There was also the emergence of a 5 Color Human deck in Modern that bears a strong resemblance to D&T in terms of general strategy and playstyle, and I’ve seen a few people mucking around with a Legacy port of that as well.
I chatted with Michael Derczo quite a bit in the weeks leading up to the Team Open. We were both very happy with our lists from EW and the Legacy Open, so we didn’t want to change much. For his last event, he had a Vryn Wingmare in the maindeck over my Sanctum Prelate, but otherwise our lists were identical. I liked having a fifth flier in the deck, as going to the 4 Crusader build meant that I lost my Avengers, but I also felt that having a Prelate in the deck was absolutely essential for the Punishing Fire and Life from the Loam matchups. We ending up registering the same 75 for the event, opting to keep the Wingmare in the main, but drop a Containment Priest from the board to squeeze in the Prelate.
Crusader D&T 11/20
My team for the event was the same as last time around, Harley Cox on Modern and Mike Kerby on Standard. Collectively, we finished at 6-3 for the day once again, missing the cut which was at 6-2-1. I’m going to focus on my own results from here on out. The main event was a very medicore finish of 5-4:
1-2 vs Sneak and Show
1-2 vs Eldrazi
1-2 vs High Tide
2-0 vs Grixis Delver
1-2 vs Eldrazi
2-1 vs Czech Pile
2-1 vs Czech Pile
2-1 vs Grixis Delver
2-0 vs Punishing Maverick
Round 2 vs Eldrazi
The difference between a team event and an individual event in that your teammates can save you from our own folly. My opponent this round make numerous errors, and I’m not going to harp on all of them, but it shall suffice to say that my opponent was very inexperienced with Legacy. I was about to take over the game with equipment while at two life. My opponent does not realize that he can just kill me by activating Eye of Ugin to tutor up Reality Smasher. He just failed at counting his mana. His teammate then counts his mana for him and tells him to activate Eye. He wants to get an Endbringer. His teammate asks what my life total is, and then tells him to just kill me with Smasher. Sometimes you lose to the teammate, and not your opponent. Such is the nature of a team event. Unrelated, my opponent’s deck also had Ramunap Excavator in it. My eyebrows raised quite a bit when he put Cavern of Souls on Naga…
Round 3 vs High Tide
Sometimes, you do everything right, but things just don’t work out. In game 3, I let my opponent resolve the first High Tide, and then used a Surgical Extraction to rip them from the deck in response to him cracking two fetches. My opponent cast a Time Spiral, and I drew a second Surgical. My opponent resolved a Turnabout, and then I went to extract that too. Unfortunately, he had a second Turnabout at that moment, dampening the effect of my efforts. My opponent ended up with just enough mana to cantrip a couple of times and find a Cunning Wish for Brainfreeze. You earned that one. Well done!
Round 7 vs Czech Pile
I was paired this round against my friend Paul Lynch, so I knew this was going to be a fun one. The first two games are highly interactive and interesting, but the third game left us both feeling a bit sour. He casts a Ponder, and while he is thinking about it, I go to look and see what is going on with my teammates. I look back, and then one of Paul’s teammates says, “Paul, that’s not a Brainstorm…” *expletives on both sides of the table* I can’t confirm which cards were from the Ponder, so I call the judge. The ruling for this was essentially that I got to choose which cards were a part of his Ponder and which cards were a part of his hand. Paul appealed, but it was upheld. It’s a feel-bad situation, but it’s very difficult to lose from a position where you have perfect information AND you get to sculpt your opponent’s hand. My hand was great, and Paul had mulliganed to five already, but that’s not how I wanted this round to go.
There was some poor communication on the end of the judges with this call due to the appeal. We were never told how much of a time extension we received. Accordingly, I looked at the slip and saw a 12. I assumed that meant we had a 12 minute extension. I was wrong. It turns out that the 12 indicated that our match would begin extra turns when the clock hit 12 minutes over. We were both utterly baffled when the judge told us that we were now in turns considering that the judge call had lasted about 20 minutes. We had only received an extension for the part of the judge call that had been during normal round time, which makes sense and is correct, but the judges hadn’t initially let us know that and were a bit unsure about when the judge call actually started. Despite the warping nature of the judge ruling and his mulligan to five, we had a surprisingly good game. Our plays became a little odd towards the end since we were both trying to close the game quickly. Paul scooped to me in turns, having no outs to my Mirran Crusader with SoFaI and Flickerwip backup.
Round 9 vs Punishing Maverick
Okay, so this round was the epitome of everything going wrong on both sides of the table. My opponent established an early Punishing Fire lock, keeping all of my small creatures off the field. My Wastelands had kept my opponent completely off of white mana. Neither one of us could do a thing. Over the course of about 15 turns or so, I managed to sneak in all three pieces of equipment. My life total was at 33 solely from Grove of the Burnwillows…yeah, it was that sort of game.
I slowly wiggle myself into a position where I get a few Jitte counters and manage to get a couple of creatures to stick to the board. My opponent (finally) draws a white source, and is able to start deploying the cards that have been stuck in his hand all game. I was able to get in a few chip shots with varying combinations of a Batterskull and a Stoneforge Mystic wielding Jitte. My opponent was at 2 life when he was finally able to produce Marit Lage via Knight of the Reliquary. I had just a Stoneforge Mystic with Batterskull and Jitte equipped in play, so my opponent thought his board of Scavening Ooze and the giant tentacle monster would be enough to get him back in the game. I bounced the Batterksull and redeployed it during my opponent’s end step, plowed the Ooze during my turn, and swung in for lethal. I ended that game at 61 life.
Our team ending up doing the submarine that day. We dove down to the depths of 0-3, and then finished out the day 6-0. While not enough to make day 2, we had redeemed our pride and had the same finish as at the previous team open. That’s good enough for me! We met up with one of my friends from Baltimore for a late dinner, and she suggested some Indian place that featured a belly dancing show. The venue was actually pretty small, so it was rather hilarious to watch the waitresses and waiters try to sneak past the belly dancers and sword twirling to deliver food and drinks. We enjoyed the spectacle, but headed in pretty quickly after dinner so that we could get a decent night’s sleep before the Classic.
I managed an unimpressive 4-3 finish in the Classic.
2-1 vs RB Reanimator
0-2 vs Sneak and Show
0-2 vs Lands
2-0 vs Eldrazi
2-1 vs Deathblade
1-2 vs Grixis Delver
2-0 vs Food Chain
Round 1 vs RB Reanimator
Many people say that you need to mulligan very aggressively to graveyard hate in this matchup or you will lose. I disagree. In both of the games I won, I just kept reasonable 6 card hands with strong mana denial. A combination of Wasteland and Port effectively took down game two. Thalia and Wasteland took down game 3. You don’t need to throw away otherwise reasonable hands if they lack graveyard hate, but you do need to have a clear path to victory.
Round 4 vs Eldrazi
I lose the die roll. I then look at the following opening hand and tank: Thalia, Plains, Cavern of Souls, Rishadan Port, and 3 Wastelands. If my opponent is playing a deck with lots of basic lands, I’m probably losing this one. If my opponent leads on Deathrite Shaman, I probably lose this one. I keep the hand given its potential power level, acknowledging that my potential loss may come about at cost of this keep. My opponent leads on Eye of Ugin, and I was immediately rewarded for my sketchy keep. I blow up his first three lands and handily take down the game. My opponent was so tilted by the first game here that he kept a six land hand in game two. *shrug* It worked out.
Round 5 vs Deathblade
This round was fun. We had two very complex games. The first ended with my Batterskull and Mom trumping his Monastery Mentor. The second effectively ended after a 3-for-1 off a Zealous Persecution. We had an incredibly complex board state in game 3 involving multiple pieces of equipment, a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on my side, and about a dozen creatures. He blows up the world with a Toxic Deluge. My opponent is at five life. I have a Gideon. I animate Gideon and swing in. He takes the damage and says, “I’ll go to one.” I let him know that Gideon is a 5/5. A look of horror spreads across his face. He had confused Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with Gideon of the Trials, which is a 4/4. Oops.
Round 6 vs Grixis Delver
It’s really annoying how good True-Name Nemesis is against D&T. In game 2, I just got 7 turn clocked by it after my opponent deployed it on turn 2. In game 3, my opponent started with another early TNN. My Council’s Judgment was snatched up by a Thoughtseize, so getting the little guy out of the picture was unlikely. A few turns later, my opponent was at 4, I was at 5. I had my opponent’s board under control with the exception of that wily TNN. My Crusader and Flickerwisp were threatening lethal the following turn, aided by a pair of Moms. All I needed to do was dodge Lightning Bolt for one turn, and life was golden. Sure enough, my opponent drew Bolt for the turn and I made some loud, obnoxious noises as I lamented my death. This time, TNN had killed me in six turns rather than 7 due to the friendly red spell! My opponent tried to console me, stating that at least I died to a Beta, signed Bolt rather than some white boarded garbage. I had a good laugh.
Round 7 vs Food Chain
We sit down for the round, and acknowledge that this is just a match for fun at this point before getting things started. My opponent laughs at his hand and then shows it to me. A blue fetch, 4 Brainstorms, and 2 Ponders. We laugh and he takes a mulligan. In game 1, I see only the following cards: a cantrip or two, Forest, Island, and Swamp. My mana denial combo of Thalia and triple Port left him unable to cast anything meaningful. He concealed a little bit of information and tried to keep me in the dark for sideboarding.
I boarded for Aluren. My opponent was on Food Chain, so most of my boarding choices ending up working perfectly. Game 2 was a little bit comical. Again, I had a pair of Ports which kept my opponent choked on mana. I opted to release him from my clutches for a turn to deploy Gideon, as he would likely shorten my clock by about 3 or 4 turns. My opponent took the opportunity to cast a Trinket Mage and tutor up a Pithing Needle. Unforunately, I Wasted one of his lands and Ported the other two, so Gideon did him in very quickly before he drew another land for the Needle.
This weekend wasn’t great for me. I had an overall record of 9-7, which is only about a 56% win rate. That being said, I love the decklist and think D&T is still very well-positioned in the metagame right now. I started keeping some pretty detailed records of my paper and MTGO data after Eternal Weekend, and that was considerably lower than my normal performance. I was very happy with my results against Grixis Delver (8-1) and Czech Pile (6-1), decks I anticipated as two of the more popular decks going into the event. Most of my losses were extremely close, and only two of my seven losses were 0-2 results.
Moving forward, I likely won’t make too many changes to my list. I still love having four Crusaders, and I like most of my other choices as well. The sideboard space is really tight as is, and I already felt like I was cheating a bit by dropping a Containment Priest. I have my eye on a couple of things though:
1. I’m not sure that the Sneak and Show matchup is as favorable as it used to be. I know that sounds blasphemous to say, but my data is supporting it. I keep getting skunked in this matchup even when I have hate. Most of the recent builds have been packing ~3 Omniscience in the main, and we have considerable trouble beating that card. It largely ignores Revoker, Thalia, Karakas, and Containment Priest, while also only being mildly inconvenienced by Canonist. Their sideboard also frequently has dedicated hate for this matchup, most notably Kozilek’s Return, which has been a beating. Most D&T lists have also moved away from having extra hate (e.g. Pithing Needle) to make room for other things, which is certainly a contributing factor.
2. Eldrazi might be on the rise again. It was very heavily represented at this event. I don’t lean too heavily on data from team events, as things are skewed a bit, but considering that my roommate made the top 8 of the last Open with it as well, it’s on my radar. I’m not overly fond of this matchup, so it it continues to pick up steam, it might be time for another removal spell in the 75.
Coming off of my 9-2 finish at Eternal Weekend, I felt great going into the Open. Well, more accurately, I felt great about my 75. I, on the other hand, wasn’t doing so hot. I ended up taking off work for half of Wednesday and all of Thursday. I had picked up the dreaded “con crud” at EW the previous weekend. Two of the guys who went to EW with me were some combination of exhausted and sick as well, so the crew that made it from Roanoke to DC for this event was smaller than expected. Back to back out of town events can be rough, so they opted to rest up. I had some reservations about going to the event myself, unsure if I’d be able to play well through the Dayquil daze.
After two consecutive 4-1 MTGO finishes in my pajamas while my head was pounding, I resigned myself to fate. With my medicine cabinet loaded into my bag, I headed to DC Friday after work and registered the same 75 I played the previous weekend.
Day one was a wild ride, I’m not going to lie to you. There was a really fun subgame going on that involved me planning on when I could afford to go to the bathroom and take shots of Dayquil. I got a good laugh out of calculating how much time was remaining in the round vs how long it would take the drugs to kick in, all while pondering how many doses would prove fatal to my ability to play. I settled on three doses of Dayquil over 9 rounds, and balanced them out with two sandwiches from Arby’s; they seemed to be the only thing my body wanted to eat for some reason… Despite the fact that I was feeling terrible, my head was pounding, and I generally felt like I was in a dream-like daze, I managed an impressive 8-1 start on day 1!
2-0 vs D&T
2-0 vs Eureka Tell
2-0 vs Grixis Delver
2-1 vs ANT (off-camera feature)
2-1 vs Grixis Delver
2-0 vs BR Reanimator (off-camera feature)
1-2 vs Elves
2-1 vs Shardless BUG (backup feature match)
2-1 vs D&T (Mike Derczo, off-camera feature match)
Round 1 vs D&T
You know that moment where you friends give up on your chances of winning a match? They shake their head and walk off rather than watch you get pummeled. One of my friends did that once she saw my opponent coming at me with a Batterskull equipped with a Sword of Light and Shadow. At 30 life, my opponent suspected the game was over. They were right. I Vialed in a Mirran Crusader and activated a Stoneforge Mystic to put in a Sword of War and Peace. My opponent had 5 cards in hand, and I already had an Umezawa’s Jitte with two counters. Turns out that adds up to 30 damage in a single Crusader attack. I ripped off my shirt and beat my chest in a display of manliness. Not really, but it was a thought that occurred to me at the time. That one was the Dayquil talking, and I didn’t take its advice.
Round 2 vs Eureka Tell
Show and Tell. He puts in Griselbrand. I put in Mirran Crusader. He attacks me for 7. I attack him for 32 with a Crusader who was flailing around with Jitte and SoFaI. High score! People ask me why I’m playing four Crusader. It’s basically this. Those were the two most impressive examples of Crusader damage from this event, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to do lethal out of nowhere with a Crusader.
Round 5 vs Grixis Delver
I got one of these games for free. We got deck checked this round, and my opponent didn’t register his True-Name Nemesis on his decklist. Whoops. I got a warning for marked cards. Four of my cards had a little bit too much wear, and the judges asked me to replace them. I ended up resleeving my deck after day 1, because I didn’t want to take any chances. I went through the rest of day 2 with SCG mammorth sleeves because they didn’t bring KMCs with them. Daggers! Rest in Peace stranded double Gurmag Angler in my opponent’s hand in game 3, making the win pretty easy from there.
Round 7 vs Elves
Let me just summarize this round by saying that my opponent said something along the lines of “It doesn’t matter how badly I play, I’m so sorry. I have no idea how you are sitting there and still smiling after I played this badly and still won.” My opponent received two GRVs during this match, one for not paying the Thalia tax for a Green Sun’s Zenith, and one for trying to cast a Natural Order as his second spell for turn while I had an Ethersworn Canonist in play. The Elves matchup is so bad that even if your opponent misplays almost every turn (and gets a game loss mid-match for their third GRV of the day), they’ll still probably find a way to win. C’est la vie.
Round 8 vs Shardless BUG
I was not expecting Master of the Wild Hunt as a sideboard card. I’m not sure that it is generally a good idea to play, but boy it sure ate me alive in game 2! My opponent kept a risky, mana light hand that didn’t pan out in game 3. The deck with 4 Mirran Crusader was probably going to get the win here anyway, but it was a shame to watch the third game go down so quickly after two super-intricate games.
Round 9 vs D&T
Mike Derczo got his rematch, but, I ended up winning the equipment war one more time than he did. The games were very interesting and skill-testing, and I enjoyed them immensely. There were a few times where I tried to call bluffs throughout the match, but he always had the Swords to Plowshares he represented when I made the call. I could have played a bit more conservatively, but sometimes you have to just go for it and make them have it. It was almost a card for card mirror match (74/75), and it ended with dueling Sword of War and Peace on the table as well as probably a combined total of 6 or 7 pieces of equipment in play. The math got a little weird since we both had the potential for a ton of life gain, but I connected a few too many times with SoWaP and pressed my life point advantage pretty hard. Ending the day at 8-1 and 7-2 was a solid start for both of us, and we were obviously pretty happy with the results.
Day 1 ended with a hearty dinner at Iron Age, an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ joint of deserved notoriety. After a night of feasting, I retired to my chambers and imbibed the necessary Nyquil to time travel to day 2.
0-2 vs Sneak and Show (3x Omniscience maindeck)
2-1 vs Grixis Delver
0-2 vs Deathblade (backup feature match vs Jon Goss)
1-2 vs Stax
1-2 vs ANT
2-0 vs D&T
The wheels fell off the bus a bit on day 2, and with the exception of the Stax matchup, all of my losses were completely out of my control. I kept good hands and played well, but it just wasn’t in the cards this time. Jon Goss obliterated me with his playset of True-Name Nemesis, the ANT player stormed off before my turn two twice, and my Sneak and Show opponent had Omniscience hands when I had hands that could beat anything but Omni. So it goes. But let’s talk about that Stax matchup…
Round 13 vs Stax
I sit down for my match, and my opponent is like noticeably jittery. When we drew our opening hands, he was super nervously shuffling his cards in his hand. After eyeing him up, I put him on D&T, assuming that he recognized my name and was really nervous about playing the mirror against a potentially better player. He leads on Rishadan Port and passes. I mentally fist pump at my power of deduction, and smile at my hand that is basically unbeatable in the mirror. He follows it with an Ancient Tomb into a Crucible of Worlds…oops, this isn’t D&T, it’s MUD! Then he plays a Smokestack…this isn’t MUD, it’s full on STAX!!! Smokestack eats my board over about the next 6 turns, and he locks me down pretty good. He begins to loop Inventor’s Fair to tutor for various things. He gets a Metalworker on board, and I offer to concede as soon as he can show me a win condition. He says he just wants to play it out. I take this as him wanting to run down the clock, going for a 1-0-1 win, and I concede. I would later find out that he didn’t actually have any other win condition in the main other than Metalworker… I respect you, bro, I really do.
I quickly aggro my opponent out in the second game, and he takes five mulligans in the third game. To be fair, three of them hardly counted since there were off Serum Powder. My opponent began the game with 21 cards in exile, and I notice that a ton of goodies are already in exile. I’m feeling good about this one, but then my opponent landed the third Ensnaring Bridge, and my plan of aggroing him out went down the drain. My plan instead became to deck him. I dumped as many permanents as I could on the board, including using a Gidoen, Ally of Zendikar, which I had boarded in since it could produce Smokestack fodder. It’s at about this time that I could have won this match if I had better matchup knowledge.
My opponent had Crucible of Worlds and Inventor’s Fair. I decided to shut down this engine with a Surgical Extraction. When I looked through my opponent’s deck, I saw, in horror, that their only remaining win condition was a Walking Ballista. If I had opted to wait and nab the Ballista instead, I could have won the game via decking like I intended. Instead, a few turns later, I died to an infinite Ballista laser fueled by Metalworker and Staff of Domination. It’s really hard to guess deck composition of something like Stax since it can be so pilot-dependent, so I won’t say that it was necessarily a misplay, but it was something that was clear to me in retrospect after seeing the list. My opponent admitted that his deck was less than 50% vs the field, but that he almost always knew the matchup better than his opponent, and that gave him a big edge. He went on to top 16 the event.
My finish at 10-5 was good enough for 35th, and Derczo ended up at 11-4 for 15th. We were both very happy with our performances and how the deck felt. I really enjoyed this event despite my personal illness making things a bit tougher on me. I’m glad I have a couple of weeks to rest up before the team open in Baltimore though, I’m not gonna lie. Speaking of, one of my teammates for that event (and my roommate), Harley Cox top 4’d the Open this weekend. Congrats, buddy, it’s been a long time coming. He went X-3 at EW last weekend, and though it took a little convincing to get him to play Eldrazi in a potential sea of Lands, the choice ultimately paid off for him.
I have a couple of things I want to test before Baltimore, but generally speaking, I don’t mess with a decklist that has given me above a 70% win rate. <3 you, Mirran Crusader!
Hey folks, it’s been quite some time, hasn’t it? My bad. Life got in the way of Magic for about the last month, but I’m back and I ended up going on quite the tear. In the days leading up to EW, I tried out a handful of games with the stock D&T decklist I’ve been preaching since like August to the following results:
2-0 Grixis Delver
1-2 Tin Fins
2-0 Death’s Shadow Delver
0-2 Grixis Delver
The list still felt fine, but I had noticed two problems with the list since putting it together in August.
1. Czech Pile matches frequently came down to how many times my opponent got to cast Kolaghan’s Command or Snapcaster Mage. I could grind through or aggro them out, but many of the games were just out of my control. I don’t think the matchup is quite as abysmal as other prominent D&T players, but I wanted to do something to make it a bit better. Sword of Light and Shadow was a good start, but relying on something that eats it to Kolaghan’s Command doesn’t solve the problem. I tried Fiendslayer Paladin as both a maindeck and sideboard card, and that wasn’t quite doing what I hoped either. While it was really difficult to get off the table, it wasn’t actually winning games; it just kept me from losing.
2. I was losing the mirror far more than I expected given my proficiency with the deck. I was finding that my opponents (on average) were more prepared for the mirror than I was. I kept running into things like Manriki-Gusari, Seal of Cleansing, and Pithing Needle; my opponents often had multiple of these things in addition to the number of stock sideboard cards. I’m a little curious how my opponents kept finding room in their sideboards for these things, as I think sideboard space is precious at the moment. Most stock lists really only have about 5 or 6 maindeck cards that need to come out, so I wonder if some of my opponents are actually boarding out cards that are just fine and not using their sideboard space optimally.
In my mind, there were two choices at this point: adjust the build slightly to improve the Czech Pile and mirror, or play a splash build. When I reached out to the community, Iatee found time to ship me this list between his various posts on getting Rishadan Cutpurse banned.
I really liked this build, and I highly recommend it moving forward. Alessandro Yeneggi top 4’d an 187 person event with it overseas. Mike Derczo went 5-0 with a list one or two cards off from this one in a trial on Friday as well. I had three days of intensive testing prior to EW, so I wasn’t up for making this big of a jump. That lead me to this:
I decided that I wanted to win the Czech Pile matchup via virtual card advantage (i.e. not by out-grinding, but by invalidating opposing resources, effectively putting myself ahead). 4 copies of Crusader and 2 Recruiters to find them meant that I would very consistently be able to stick a very difficult to remove threat that didn’t get bogged down by Baleful Strix and other small chump blockers. While my opponent would likely have a couple of answers in the 75, I had a long-term gameplan. Previously, I had used SoLaS to push through Strix as well as recoup card advantage, but that was no longer needed. Which lead into change two…
Welcome back, SoWaP! As Derczo put it on Friday night, “Phil, you’ve got such a f*cking hardon for that card!” We all exploded in laughter, but nobody actually questioned it. I had wanted something that would improve my percentages in the mirror, and this was an obvious inclusion once I upped the numbers on Crusader. I attribute more of my wins this weekend to this card than any other sideboard card.
Here were the results leading up to the main event between MTGO and 2 trial events:
2-0 Turbo Depths
2-0 Red Prison
1-2 Grixis Delver
0-2 Back to Basics Stoneblade
2-1 Czech Pile
2-1 Sneak and Show (with Omni)
2-0 Czech Pile
2-0 vs Reanimator
2-0 vs Reanimator
0-2 Lands (with Smokestack!)
2-0 Mono Red Sneak
0-2 Sneak and Show
1-2 Aggro Loam
2-1 BUG Delver
That adds up to a record of 16-7, which is a win rate of about 70%. I was very happy with those small changes. Crusader seemed to be far outperforming Avenger in most of my matchups, and the SoWaP was really good at getting people dead. I felt very comfortable with the list, and it delivered in the main event:
2-1 D&T (Mike Derczo)
1-2 Czech Pile
2-0 Grixis Delver
2-1 Turbo Depths
2-0 4C Leovold (white for Lingering Souls)
2-0 Czech Pile
2-0 UW Stoneblade
Rather than talk about all of the sweet things I did, savage traps I lured my opponents into, or write a novel on the glory of SoWaP, today I’m going to highlight the mistakes I made and the things that I was unsure about. 9-2 is a great finish and that record was able to put one person into the top 8. Yet, despite the fact that I played like a demon, I want to show that I too have room for growth and I still make mistakes.
Round 1 vs Jund
I really don’t like playing this matchup. It’s always been difficult, but the printing of Grim Flayer meant that this deck had yet another must-answer two drop alongside Bob and Goyf. I bring up this matchup because I sideboarded very strangely for it and my opponent though I was a madman. I boarded out my Thalias and Revokers for 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and 2 Path to Exile. My opponent believed that Thalia was the key to keeping the Punishing Fire engine in check, while I believed that it was more important to be able to answer early threats while also being prepared to grind out a long game. Was I correct? I don’t know, but I liked my approach.
Round 3 vs D&T
I rarely make egregious errors. Like anyone, I make small misplays and occasionally take sub-optimal lines, but I really messed up here and it should have been a match-losing error. Here’s the approximate situation, I don’t remember all the details, as the board state was stupid complicated, but Derczo was attacking with a Gideon wielding a Jitte. I, in a moment of brilliance, decided that I was going to block with a Mirran Crusader and then use my Jitte counters to shrink his Gideon, killing it before it did combat damage. We got to first strike damage, and Derczo stops me when I try to assign two damage to Gideon, as it has a nice little clause there preventing damage being dealt to it. *string of expletives* I have to use my Jitte counters to kill my own Crusader to prevent him from getting Jitte counters, and I narrowly eek out the win on the back of SoWaP. I didn’t deserve that win. He played better this time. The better player doesn’t always win though. That’s Magic.
Round 8 vs Aluren
I knew my opponent this round, Mike Kochis. He had gotten the better of me in a grueling slog-fest that lasted about 2 hours in the top 8 of a Classic last year. He was on Shardless and I knew he had Shardless on MTGO as well from our conversations during that match. I keep a hand that was solid against Shardless, but weak against the field as a whole. He leads on two copies of Ancestral Vision, so I feel great about my hand. Then a couple of turns later, a Coiling Oracle hits the field. I still feel like this is Shardless, but this is some sort of adaptation to Czech Pile’s ability to grind. Sure enough, the Aluren hits the field the following turn. Yup, this was just Aluren with a set of Ancestrals. Whoops. Turns out Cartesian had been playing around with a build like this one and had top 16’d the Legacy Challenge the previous week. So there was some precedent for this build, I just didn’t know about it.
Round 9 vs 4 Color Leovold
Sometimes it’s really difficult to tell what deck your opponent is playing, especially if they’ve made some metagame-dependent alterations to their deck. In game one, I think I saw Brainstorm, Ponder, Swords to Plowshares, Force, Jace, Tundra, Scrubland, and Tropical Island. I then set a Sanctum Prelate to one and my opponent died shortly thereafter. So, what do I board for? I boarded for some sort of Deathblade deck, but it actually ending up being Four Color Leovold. I didn’t actually figure that out until I asked my opponent at the end of game two. My opponent’s build was a little non-traditional, opting to splash white over red for Lingering Souls as a trump card for the mirror. Luckily, my sideboarding choices largely overlapped with what my opponent was playing, though I did make a wrong call here.
So where do things stand now? My record with my current decklist is 25-9, a win rate of about 74%. Some people have been telling me that the sky is falling and traditional D&T can’t compete in the current metagame. I don’t think I agree. According to the metagame breakdown from this weekend, Czech Pile, Grixis Delver, Sneak and Show, Reanimator, D&T, and Lands were the decks that made up 6% or more of the field. I feel good about my decklist in that field. I am a little worried that Hans Goddik’s BUG Delver list will catch on. I don’t really want to play against a Delver deck that has two Liliana, the Last Hope in the main as well as two Massacre and two Toxic Deluge in the side.
I’ll likely play something pretty similar next weekend for the Legacy Open. I’ve been toying around with the idea of dropping a Revoker for something else, as it isn’t great against Delver and Czech Pile, but I haven’t convinced myself to pull the trigger yet. It’s too important for many of the fringe matchups, and it’s nice to have them in the deck when I’m staring down a Dread of Night. I was also considering playing some kooky enchantments to fight against Czech Pile, but I couldn’t quite justify running something like Angelic Destiny in a serious tournament. Enchantments are a real pain to get off the board for much of the format, and I think that’s a good direction to explore. I’ll muck around in The Gatherer later this week to see if anything catches my eye.
Overall, I really enjoyed myself at EW. 11 rounds did make for a bit of a grueling day though, I’m not going to lie. I talked to many players who simply were not physically prepared to play that much Magic in a day, especially after doing the Vintage and/or 93/94 events on previous days. This weekend was a marathon. We’ve all gotten used to the Open/GP system that cuts to a day 2 of the event, so having a couple days in a row of getting up at 7am and leaving the convention center at 11pm was rough. I was definitely banking on the fact that the round would go over by 20 minutes when I ran to go get lunch, and I might not have had time to eat dinner if not for my friends who fetched food for me. I heard stories of people ID’ing in the last round because they were just too tired to play at anything resembling peak levels. I guess that’s what happens when your convention center actually doesn’t have water fountains… C’est la vie. The attendance was much better this year than last year though, so that’s a big plus. I also think that it’s a bit weird that an event of this scale and prominence pays out in store credit, but I got a Moat after pooling my credit with one of my roommates, so I’m not complaining. It was wonderful getting a chance to chat with many of you last weekend, and I’ll see you in DC in a few days!
My initial experiences on MTGO have been largely very positive. Once I learned the basics of the client and how my deck worked, things were pretty great. On two days in the past week or so, I sat down and played a GP worth of matches from the comfort of my bedroom. I can’t really put a value on the amount of extra testing I’m getting in, but it’s certainly more than the $0 I’m putting into the program now that I have a deck. I’m “going infinite” so to speak in terms of value in the Legacy Leagues, so unless I hit a cold streak or the meta shifts, my practice is paying for itself and slowing saving up for other ventures.
I say my experience has largely been positive because setting up a stream has been a nightmare. MTGO inexplicably stopped connecting on one of my laptops. I followed their recommended fix guide to no avail. Whatever, I have a backup laptop. I ordered a new battery for that and got sent the wrong part. Whatever, that’s annoying, but still fine. OBS (the streaming program) streams everything on my screen except MTGO. *tilt* What I’m getting at is the stream is going to be delayed a bit until my tech issues are resolved. I’m working on them, but Zapdos isn’t going to catch itself… I’ll probably give OBS Classic a shot in a few days and see if that works better.
As my apology for falling behind my anticipated schedule, I’ve vastly updated the matchup section of the site. You’ll now find brand new primers for Grixis Delver, Czech Pile, Sneak and Show, Turbo Depths, and RB Reanimator. Enjoy!
For those of you have been known me for years, my hatred for Sword of Light and Shadow in D&T is pretty well known. I think that card is straight garbage. It usually comes in for the same matchups as Rest in Peace, making it hard to get a creature back. Swords to Plowshares also exiles your critters, which also makes it pretty hard to get something back. That means you are playing the sword almost purely for protection, with the random upside of gaining three life. Cool. There’s a good reason why I pushed Sword of War and Peace so hard during the Miracles era. When I played Sword of War and Peace, that sucker was melting people left and right. SoLaS is just disappointing in comparison.
Andrew Calderon hyped up this card a ton in our interview, as did my friend Don Donelson, so I decided to give it another shot. I stand by all of my statements. Against decks like Czech Pile, Grixis Delver, and Maverick it comes in alongside Rest in Peace, and that was frequently awkward. Against Miracles and other Swords to Plowshares decks, it doesn’t really get critters back as intended either. In all of the games I have played with it, I think I have successfully returned a creature in about 3 games.
I say all of that, yet it’s still in my deck. I don’t think SoLaS is objectively a good card, but it fills a weird set of overlapping roles that no other card really does. Against Czech Pile, it is a really threatening card. It invalidates otherwise useful blockers like Baleful Strix while incidentally getting creatures out of range of red removal and shutting off Fatal Push as an option. Against Grixis Delver, it walls or pushes through Gurmag Angler, who is a problem for cards not named Mirran Crusader. Against Miracles, the mirror, and Stoneblade, despite being very noticeably worse than SoWaP, it still gives protection from white; that matters.
If you are lucky enough to start getting creatures back with SoLaS, you are most certainly taking over that game. Let’s make that clear. Chump blocking with Recruiter of the Guard and redeploying it after a SoLaS trigger does feel pretty great. Bringing back an army of disposable Flickerwisps is disgusting.
Even when SoLaS isn’t firing on all cylinders, the role it plays as a card is probably important enough to keep around. I don’t like this card, but I’m not going to ignore how useful it has been. I board it in very frequently, and I do often fetch it first when I board it in. I want to be playing SoWaP (I miss the OHKO with Crusader and the percentage points against combo), but I begrudgingly admit that SoLaS is probably correct. The board also doesn’t have room for two pieces of equipment, so doing something else like running Sword of Feast and Famine alongside Sword of War and Peace isn’t viable.
If you haven’t read the original scenario, please click here before proceeding.
The situation is pretty grim for our Turbo Depths player, to be frank. The D&T player has multiple layers of disruption on board and you are under a decent clock. Many players would “go for it” and make the Marit Lage in this scenario, surmising that things probably aren’t going to get any better. If you go for it, you could use Sejiri Steppe to push damage through the Mom and Flickerwisp on the following turn. This line loses to a Karakas, Flickerwisp, or Path to Exile for sure, and another Wasteland or Swords to Plowshares would be problematic, but perhaps not unbeatable. That’s about 15 live cards for your opponent, which is not great considering that they still have cards in hand and that your gut says they have Karakas.
The big question here is actually quite subtle “Why did the D&T player attack with Mom?” Assuming the D&T player attacks with Thalia and Flickerwisp every turn, the clock doesn’t change with that one point of damage. The D&T player is obviously not afraid of anything the Turbo Depths player can do. This means that they have at least one more piece of relevant action in hand, or perhaps something like a Mirran Crusader or Sword of Fire and Ice that would prove lethal with one more point of damage pushed. Alternatively, the D&T player may be pushing damage in the face of a card like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale or Glacial Chasm, which would be unlikely, but not unprecedented inclusions in the deck.
After talking with Negator77 for quite some time, we believe that the optimal line begins with an Abrupt Decay on Thalia. Mana is really quite tight and you have an abundance of spells in hand. With Thalia gone, there is the possibility that you can wiggle through what is on board with the two Crop Rotations in hand. That means that the follow up play needs to be a Ghost Quarter on Wasteland to prevent losing a combo piece. This allows you to play Dark Depths without fear. The last part of this line involves using Surgical Extraction on your opponent’s draw step to fully remove Wasteland from the picture (you can tap Dark Depths to do this thanks to the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth). This will also give you information about how safe it is to just make Marit Lage on the following turn, letting you know if you are going to need to save a Crop Rotation to get your own Wasteland to deal with a Karakas.
There are valid arguments for choosing a different Decay target, but mana is the biggest bottleneck here. Decaying a non-Thalia card also means that you would have to pay two life for your Surgical Extraction, which is not irrelevant at this stage of the game. That’s the difference between a 3 and 4 turn clock with what’s on board, and a 2 and 3 turn clock with something like a Mirran Crusader as a follow up play. While Decaying Mom is a valid line as well, fearing a Serra Avenger that could be both offensive and defensive, that is perhaps playing too scared of a 2-of in the deck and is a problem handled with Sejiri Steppe anyway. Reducing the mana bottleneck also allows a top decked Vampire Hexmage to be cast with a Crop Rotation open to take care of a potential Karakas (even after Port tapping a land).
That is our answer. Now, it’s important to note that the ideal line of play that you come up with after reflecting for some time and the actual lines of play you come up with in the moment aren’t always the same, even for veteran players. A number of misplays were made on both sides of the table in quick succession. Here’s what actually happened.
While he did Ghost Quarter the Wasteland and extract it, Negator77 did not end up Decaying Thalia. I believe he took out the Flickerwisp instead. My hand at the time was Cavern of Souls, Karakas, and Rishadan Port. I played the second Port and put the squeeze on his mana. A turn or two down the line, I end up Porting my own Plains due to a lag spike on MTGO. In a display of honor (and out of sheer curiosity about how the situation should play out) Negator77 responds as if I had ported his Thespian’s Stage properly. The stack gets four or five cards deep as we fight over forcing the Thespian’s Stage activation, and he accidentally makes a Marit Lage while his Wasteland is still on the stack, targeting my Karakas. Oops. We talked through the situation a bit more and realized that I still had the win regardless, but it was sort of an anticlimactic end to a really great game.
Last night I was having a blast chatting with Negator77 on Mtgo while playing the D&T vs Turbo Lands matchup. We had been chatting about optimal lines to take and giving each other feedback. For reference, here’s the decklist:
Blue Turbo Lands, Negator77
4 Vampire Hexmage
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Sylvan Scrying
1 Abrupt Decay
4 Crop Rotation
2 Expedition Map
4 Mox Diamond
1 Pithing Needle
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Dark Depths
3 Gemstone Mine
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta
1 Sejiri Steppe
4 Thespian’s Stage
1 Tropical Island
1 Underground Sea
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Pithing Needle
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Krosan Grip
1 Mishra’s Factory
3 Surgical Extraction
The board had gotten a little complex, which is normal for this matchup. D&T has so many angles of attack against the Turbo Lands strategy that it can be very difficult to wiggle through between various things like Rishadan Port, Wasteland, Karakas, Flickerwisp, and Swords to Plowshares. At one point he paused for a couple of minutes to think. While he usually felt pretty good about what lines to take, this situation was particularly tricky. Here’s the boardstate:
As the Lands player, you have a board of Ghost Quarter, Bayou, Thespian’s Stage, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. You hand contains 2 Crop Rotation, Surgical Extractoin, Mox Diamond, Abrupt Decay and Dark Depths. It is currently your upkeep, and your opponent activated Rishadan Port targeting your Thespian’s Stage.
On the board, you are staring down two Plains, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Thalia, Guardian of Thraban, and a Mother of Runes that could protect a flier from Marit Lage. Your opponent has three cards in hand. The way your opponent has played suggests that they have Karakas in hand as well, but this is just your intuition.
What’s the play?