Building a Gauntlet and Preparing for GP Vegas

Have I mentioned that Legacy is great right now? I have? Oh, well…it’s still true! We’ve seen quite a bit of innovation and many interesting decks arise after the death (?) of Miracles. It’s about time, if you haven’t started already, to start doing some serious testing for Vegas. I recommend building a gauntlet.

For the uninitiated, a gauntlet is a collection of decks you test against. These are frequently proxied for Legacy testing, as it’s somewhat difficult to build a gauntlet given the price point of doing so and the huge overlap between blue decks. You run various decks through the gauntlet, trying to determine the viability of your deck choice as well as the positive and negative matchups for your deck. Decks that perform poorly against the gauntlet are unlikely a good choice for a large event like Vegas. By testing against the gauntlet, you can get a good idea of how to adjust your maindeck and sideboard to be optimally prepared for the event. The gauntlet size will vary depending on how much time you have to test, but I recommend something like the following as a representative gauntlet of the format as is:

Clear Players
Grixis Delver
Show and Tell
ANT
Elves

Other Players
UW Control / “Miracles”
D&T
A BUG Deck

Underrated Decks
Red Prison
Bant or 4 Color Deathblade

If you don’t have much time to test (or multiple, dedicated testing partners), I’d focus on testing against the Clear Players category. Grixis Delver is likely going to be the most popular deck choice moving forward (at least in the short term), and it’s probably sitting somewhere on the order of 10-12% of the metagame depending on where/how you get your data. If your deck performs very poorly against Grixis Delver, you really need a good reason to be playing the deck. Similarly, if your deck has unfavorable matchups against two or three of the decks in that first category, you may want to reconsider your deck choice or adjust some cards to compensate.

The Other Players category contains decks that I believe will be popular. The UW Control deck might be a shell of the former glory that was Miracles, but it is certainly powerful enough to add to your gauntlet.

UW Control, Anuraag Das

Lands (20)
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Island
Plains
Polluted Delta
Tundra
Volcanic Island

Creatures (6)
Monastery Mentor
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (34)
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Force of Will
Ponder
Portent
Predict
Supreme Verdict
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
Unexpectedly Absent
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Sideboard (15)
Disenchant
Ethersworn Canonist
Flusterstorm
Izzet Staticaster
Pyroblast
Surgical Extraction
Vendilion Clique

Various configurations of the deck have been putting on very consistent results online, and it’s impossible to ignore at this point. I’ve spent a good chunk of time this week lurking in various Legacy streams, and this deck is everywhere. The deck takes some getting used to pilot, so don’t just try to play it just like you did Miracles (hint: Portent can target your opponent too to put their dead draws on top of their deck). It’s still unclear which deck configuration is correct, but most of them seem pretty solid. If you can’t get someone who can competently pilot it to test against, I’d at least recommend watching some of the good players stream some matches. Like Anuraag Das, who did a sweet podcast this week on “Miracles” and the banning of Top.

I still think that D&T is somewhat poorly positioned, but I do expect the deck to be out in force nevertheless. The community is really torn on what direction to take the deck. Bahra and I have been trying 3 color builds, and he went 21-4 across 5 league with this.

3-Color Chalice D&T

Lands (24)
Cavern of Souls
Flooded Strand
Karakas
Plains
Plateau
Rishadan Port
Wasteland
Windswept Heath

Creatures (23)
Flickerwisp
Magus of the Moon
Mirran Crusader
Mother of Runes
Palace Jailer
Phyrexian Revoker
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Recruiter of the Guard
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Spells (13)
Dismember
Aether Vial
Batterskull
Chalice of the Void
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sideboard (15)
Containment Priest
Cunning Sparkmage
Ethersworn Canonist
Faerie Macabre
Mindbreak Trap
Orzhov Pontiff
Palace Jailer
Surgical Extraction
Sword of War and Peace

I’ve been trying very similar lists recently, opting to try out Blessed Alliance in the slot where he has Dismember. I also think one Scrubland is very reasonable given how powerful Pontiff is in certain matchups. This list is very good, but playing three colors does come with a price. This list is much more vulnerable to Wasteland (and other effects which prey on nonbasics) than other versions of D&T, which run about 7 more basic lands. Somewhat related, this build does go up to the 24th land and drops two of the Ports due to the necessity for squeezing in a few more colored sources.

BW D&T

Lands (21)
Bayou
Karakas
Marsh Flats
Plains
Polluted Delta
Scrubland
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland
Windswept Heath

Creatures (28)
Dark Confidant
Deathrite Shaman
Mother of Runes
Serra Avenger
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Tidehollow Sculler
Vryn Wingmare

Spells (11)
Swords to Plowshares
AEther Vial
Batterskull
Sword of Light and Shadow
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sideboard (15)
Containment Priest
Ethersworn Canonist
Faerie Macabre
Orzhov Pontiff
Disenchant
Fatal Push
Council’s Judgment
Perish
Rest in Peace
Grafdigger’s Cage
Pithing Needle

Tamyra Shigeyuki had an interesting take on a WB build, opting to max out on disruption via Tidehollow Sculler and Vryn Wingmare. I think his list will eat the unfair decks alive, but I feel like it will struggle against more fringe strategies without Flickerwisp as a catch all answer. It’s also going to be soft to creature-based decks that can ignore the taxation. I took this list for a spin on Thursday, and I got crushed by Burn, Eldrazi, and Merfolk, only managing to take a win vs Grixis Control. I just died to creatures three rounds in a row, as I didn’t have any good stabilizing bodies like Mirran Crusader and Serra Avenger. Council’s Judgment also can quickly become uncastable with multiple tax effects in play.

WW D&T

Spells (13)
Aether Vial
Swords to Plowshares
Council's Judgement
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa's Jitte

Creatures (25)
Mother of Runes
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Stoneforge Mystic
Phyrexian Revoker
Serra Avenger
Flickerwisp
Mirran Crusader
Eight and a Half Tail
Gisela the Broken Blade

Lands (22)
Wasteland
Rishadan Port
Karakas
Cavern of Souls
10 Plains
Sideboard (15)
Ethersworn Canonist
Containment Priest
Path to Exile
Rest in Peace
Cataclysm
Mirran Crusader
Pithing Needle
Grafdigger's Cage

Michelangelo Scarmato’s list from Ovino had some spice, including maindeck Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Council’s Judgment, and Gisela, the Broken Blade. I think that playing 22 lands is a little suspect, especially if you want to run a few more expensive spells or hold up mana for Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. Gisela is a card that I’ve really enjoyed playing in the past, and I’ve actually played it in Vintage as well, as weird as that sounds. It’s awkward that it dies to Bolt, but offensively and defensively, it is otherwise quite good. Regardless, experimentation is happening, and maybe people will have it all worked out by the GP.

Red Prison, 5-0 by Pinkfrosting

Planeswalkers (5)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Koth of the Hammer

Creatures (14)
Hazoret the Fervent
Magus of the Moon
Quicksmith Rebel
Simian Spirit Guide
Sin Prodder

Spells (23)
Fiery Confluence
Chalice of the Void
Chrome Mox
Ensnaring Bridge
Trinisphère
Blood Moon

Lands (18)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
10 Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Kozilek’s Return
Leyline of the Void
Phyrexian Revoker
Pyrokinesis
Sudden Shock
Thorn of Amethyst
Zuran Orb

I think the Red Prison deck is a real sleeper pick at the moment. In the past, I had dismissed these strategies as being very inconsistent, but this version feels a bit smoother. The exact maindeck has 5-0’d a handful of events at this point. Games are often (realistically) decided within the first three turns with this deck. This means that your mulligans decisions and initial sequencing matter quite a bit. Beyond that, your decisions are largely dictated by playing the spells you rip off the top with little room for your skill and format knowledge to give you an edge. For that reason, I don’t think too many people will switch to the deck if they aren’t already on it. That’s not to say that the deck is without decisions to make. You do have to decide how all-in you are willing to go on the first turn. There are some tricky sequencing situations to navigate through so you don’t lock yourself under your own Trinisphere or Blood Moon. Fiery Confluence has been my favorite card in this shell, as its flexibility is superb. While this deck is a control deck, when you draw multiple Confluences, you can turn a game around extremely quickly. Six to the dome for one card is an absurd rate, and if your opponent has taken some incidental damage from your other cards, two Confluences often close the game. I also cannot overstate how good Fiery Confluence is against D&T. It’s a split card that does some amount of board sweeping and artifact cleanup, depending on the situation. That’s absurd.

The sideboards are a bit in flux for obvious reasons, but I think it’s fine to move away from the Surfur Elemental heavy boards of the past for more generic sweeper effects. Elves and Delver decks are popular right now, so I like the cards like Kozilek’s Return and Pyrokinesis much better.

There are other ways to build off the core of this shell, like this:

Dragon Stompy

Lands (18)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
10 Mountain

Creatures (20)
Goblin Rabblemaster
Magus of the Moon
Shaman of the Great Hunt
Simian Spirit Guide
Sin Prodder
Thunderbreak Regent

Spells (22)
Magma Jet
Fiery Confluence
Blood Moon
Chalice of the Void
Chrome Mox
Trinisphere
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Sideboard (15)
Phyrexian Revoker
Scab-Clan Berserker
Pyroblast
Pyrokinesis
Shattering Pulse
Sudden Demise
Frenzied Fugue
Thorn of Amethyst
Chandra, Pyromaster

I haven’t actually played any games with this list yet, but here’s what I speculate based on my experiences with the Red Prison deck. The Red Prison deck can be a little slow at closing out games. Against combo decks, that can give them time to draw out of your hate or make enough land drops to power through. This list will close out games after the hate is dropped. Goblin Rabbermaster is a swift clock when left unchecked, and it’s particularly brutal alongside Shaman of the Hunt. I’d probably want to squeeze a Pia and Kiran Nalaar in here somewhere, perhaps over the suspect Magma Jet. I mean…I get that it is a removal spell that provides some selection, but this is Legacy! Legacy, man! We can do better than Magma Jet.

4 Color Deathblade, Maxtortion

Lands (20)
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Scrubland
Tropical Island
Tundra
Underground Sea
Wasteland

Creatures (19)
Deathrite Shaman
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Noble Hierarch
Stoneforge Mystic
True-Name Nemesis
Vendilion Clique

Spells (21)
Abrupt Decay
Brainstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Swords to Plowshares
Batterskull
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sideboard (15)
Containment Priest
Ethersworn Canonist
Flusterstorm
Krosan Grip
Meddling Mage
Surgical Extraction
Thoughtseize
Zealous Persecution

I have my eye on this deck and other similar ones. The data Julian collected from MKM Frankfurt showed that it had the highest win percentage of the event. I’ve only played a handful of games with this deck, but it feels pretty resilient and flexible. The one-two punch of a mana dork into a three drop is a solid plan against the fair decks of the format. The sideboard is geared largely to improve the combo matchups, as the deck doesn’t run any other disruption in the main (e.g. Spell Pierce) to supplement Daze and Force of Will.


I suppose that was my long-winded way of talking about my thoughts about the format right now. Obviously, there are plenty of other decks that you could test against. Burn and Eldrazi are two notable omissions from my gauntlet. Those decks are likely going to be common, but they haven’t changed too much in the past few weeks. The testing experience you already have against those decks will likely carry you through the matchups. I think it’s more important to spend time testing elsewhere at the moment.

I played in a small local EE Silver event this weekend. I thought D&T was very poorly positioned locally, so I swapped to Food Chain at the last moment. I top 8’d, but was relatively unimpressed by the deck this time around. My wins were largely based on misplays and poor deckbuilding choices of my opponents rather than the strength of my deck. I lost to my roommate on Bomberman for the second tournament in a row, so I have no shot of talking him out of playing that terrible deck. I got locked under a Chalice in two of three games and just died. Sigh. Chalice of the Void is a hell of a card. Maybe I should play that in D&T…oh wait, I already am!

Anyway, I’ll be in Charlotte next weekend to run a bunch of Legacy Challenges and trade for some staples to finish out a few more Legacy decks. I’m having quite a bit of fun experimenting, so I’ll probably bring four different decks to play around with. If you see me, feel free to say hi and we can shoot the bull about Legacy.

About the Author

Phil Gallagher

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