BUG Leovold

Vs BUG Leovold

(last updated 5/31/18)


Role:  Variable, often mana denial

Best cards (main):   Sword of Fire and Ice, fliers

Worst cards (main): Sanctum Prelate, Batterksull, Banisher Priest, Palace Jailer

Best cards (side): Council’s Judgment, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sword of Body and Mind

Revoker targets: Deathrite Shaman, Noble Hierarch, Jace, the Mindsculptor, Umezawa’s Jitte

Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Number: 1

Sample Decklists

Reid Duke, 1st place at GP Louisville 2017

Note: This deck is largely dead at the moment (5/31/18) due to being largely invalidated by Czech Pile. The information that follows is accurate as of 1/27/17.

Deck Strategy and Key Cards
The BUG Leovold (Noble BUG, True-Name BUG) deck seeks to consistently deploy a 1-2 punch combo of a mana dork into a potent threat. Noble Hierarch and Deathrite Shaman are aiming to power out a turn two True-Name Nemesis or Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Against certain decks, one of those two cards coming down quickly is often enough to just steal games without much work, especially in game one where answers to True-Name are limited. The curve of this deck is a little high by Legacy standards, but the eight mana accelerators do a pretty good job of making it work.

The manabase of this deck is perhaps best described as ambitious. It seeks to cast a green creature on turn one, and either a Leovold or True-Name on turn two. It does so while also finding room for three Wasteland and having the necessary requirement that the first land is usually Tropical Island to cast a green creature while representing Daze.

While the deck has a great deal of overlap with Shardless BUG in terms of card selection, they are fundamentally quite different. Shardless is a control deck, seeking to win most games via attrition and a series of 2 for 1 trades. While the BUG Leovold deck can take on a controlling role, it more frequently plays a tempo role. An early TNN or Leovold backed up by Daze, Thoughtseize, and Force of Will ends games surprisingly quickly by punching a hole in the opposing gameplan and exploiting it.

Though the card was not out at the time of GP Louisville, this is an obvious home for some number of Fatal Push. As players tinker with and update this list, expect ~2 of those to make their way into the maindeck. The deck has evolved a bit over time and will continue to do so; the decklist linked above also leads to Reid Duke’s tournament report, which includes links to the various stepping stones along the way.

The Matchup and Important Interactions

Since this deck is new and developmental, the information that follows is based on a small data pool (~50 games). Caveat lector!

Stage one of this matchup is usually about keeping your opponent off balance. Our mana denial package is pretty potent against their relatively greedy mana base. A Swords on an early mana dork followed by Port or Wasteland can bring your opponent’s progress to a halt. When possible, attempt to keep your opponent off one color completely; doing so will prevent them from dropping a Leovold, leaving True-Name and Jace as their only real threats. Since both of those cards require two blue mana, choking them off the first color often coincidentally keeps them off those cards as well.

Stage two of the matchup involves your opponent trying to break free from your initial disruption. Abrupt Decay and Fatal Push allow your opponent to fight back against the creature-based disruption of Thalia and Revoker. Opposing Wastelands will fight against our own land-based pressure. Cantrips allow your opponent to dig for more land and/or removal for our other disruption. During stage two, you are trying to push your opponent’s resource to the maximum and keep them from recovering. I usually try to press my opponent’s mana over deploying threats at this point in the game, as to not give my opponent any reprieve. In this stage, you’ll often find yourself asking the question: Is this the time to stop taxing them? The answer is usually no. If you feel like you are well-equipped to beat the True-Name or Leovold that could come down, it’s likely fine to let up the pressure for a single turn. That being said, if you can continue deploying threats or disruption (even at a much diminished rate), it’s likely better to do so while also denying mana.

Stage three begins once your opponent sticks a real threat. Note that stage two may be skipped entirely if your opponent is on the play and you do not answer their initial mana dork. In this stage, there is quite a bit of jockeying for position. The board often stalls because of a True-Name or Leovold, and there may be quite a few turns of, relatively speaking, little progress on either side. Your role in this stage is often that of the aggressor. You are going to either need to use Mother of Runes or Sword of Fire and Ice to push damage through True-Name or you will need to fly over it with fliers. Since you cannot get True-Name off the board in game one situations, you do sometimes have to get a little more aggressive than what you would like. While it is preferable to keep Mom back on defense in most cases, that won’t be the case if your opponent sticks a True-Name or, heaven forbid, a second True-Name.

In stage three, there is a certain amount of fighting over mana, but it tends to become more of a fight over permanents and life totals. Your opponent has a limited amount of removal and needs to decide how and when to use it. There is a great deal of tension between wanting to keep Mom back to protect from removal and needing to use her to push damage. Try to deduce what your opponent probably has in hand based on their plays and act accordingly.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest is somewhat of a problem, though obviously not as much as True-Name. He hinders a large number of our cards, most notably Sword of Fire and Ice. We won’t be able to draw that extra card, and if we shoot our opponent or one of their creatures, our opponent will draw a card. Though keep in mind that you can shoot one of your own critters to avoid your opponent drawing a card. Keep in mind that if you are going to trigger Leovold somehow anyway, it is often best to bounce him with Karakas first and then do whatever you want to do. You’ll still give your opponent one card, but your opponent will have to pay three more mana to redeploy Leovold.

Sanctum Prelate is pretty lackluster in this matchup since the cards you usually care about are creatures. That being said, if you happen to draw it, you should probably name one, two, or four. One will stop Fatal Push and cantrips; two will stop Abrupt Decay, Sylvan Library, and Umezawa’s Jitte; and four will stop Jace, the Mindsculptor.

Again, caveat lector, this is based on ~50 games of data.

I think our maindeck is actually pretty solid, and I would not sideboard all that many cards. I usually pull Sanctum Prelate and trim three white creatures with one toughness and call that good. If you have a Banisher Priest or Palace Jailer, it’s probably fine to cut those instead. You do not want an opponent with a True-Name to become the monarch…it’s rough. Batterskull is a reasonable cut as well, as it does not line up well against True-Name, but it is fine against the rest of the deck.

I want to bring my copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Council’s Judgment for this matchup. Both of these cards are answers to Dread of Night while also having other upsides. Council’s Judgment is our only real, stock answer to True-Name, and it happens to cleanly answer Leovold as well. Unlike against Shardless BUG, our Rest in Peace probably is not strong enough to bring in.

If you are looking to beat this deck, running a Sword of Body and Mind does wonders. It allows you to push damage through anything your opponent has, and it doesn’t trigger Leovold. Additionally, swapping Path to Exile for something like Blessed Alliance would give you a few more outs to True-Name. There’s also nothing wrong with running a third Council’s Judgment, though that would result in 5 extra WW cards coming in.

Your opponent is likely to side out between four and seven counterspells in this matchup for cards of more consistent quality. There is some argument for keeping Daze in on the play and removing it on the draw. My playgroup has been removing Daze entirely; if the goal is to get to three mana as quickly as possibly to deploy True-Name, Daze works against that plan. Daze also quickly becomes a dead card given how long this matchup can go. We are, however, unsure if always sideboarding out Daze is 100% correct.

We have been sideboarding the following in against D&T: 1 Umezawa’s Jitte, 2 Pithing Needle, 1 Painful Truths, 1 Thoughtseize, and 2 Dread of Night. This configuration allows a much stronger ability to fight against equipment while also having a few hoser cards in Dread of Night or Umezawa’s Jitte that threaten to take over a game. Players will adjust Reid’s sideboard a bit, but this should give you a good general feel for the sorts of cards to expect. These changes result in the BUG deck being able to grind a bit better, and there is a bit less of a reliance on Abrupt Decay to do the heavy lifting.

Closing Thoughts

I was terrified of this matchup when I first saw this list. I was convinced this was going to be a terrible matchup, as four True-Names plus consistent ways to deploy them early means bad things for us. I adjusted my maindeck to include an extra flier as well as a Sword of Body and Mind to compensate for that. My win percentage has been extremely high in both pre and post-board games. I am finding that the BUG deck often stumbles over itself in the initial turns of the game if its Plan A is disrupted in some way. You will absolutely lose some games to an aggressive start from your opponent that feature one or more True-Names, but I’m finding that I have the ability to win most of the other games. I initially wondered why the deck included two copies of Dread of Night, as I thought the matchup would be very positive for the BUG deck; in reality that was not the case, and I absolutely understand why they are there now.

I am crushing this deck very consistently in testing at the moment. I’m not going to share the numbers, as I have much more experiencing piloting D&T than my testing partners have piloting the BUG deck AND I have recently made changes to my deck to adapt to this deck. My decision to hedge against the deck by playing Sword of Body and mind may also slightly skew those numbers, but against the True-Name stalled boards without Leovold, Sword of Fire and Ice has the same functionality or is actually better. The matchup is certainly positive though, which I say fully expecting that to have not been the case.