Eternally Yours

Posted in Top Decks on December 18, 2015

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

With the end of the year nearly upon us, we're taking two weeks to revisit the best articles from DailyMTG in 2015. If you didn't catch some of these the first time around, do yourself a favor and read on. Then, join us back on December 28 as Oath of the Gatewatch previews get underway in earnest!

Happy Holidays!


I don't often write about Vintage and Legacy, but today I've got some very good reasons to do so. First, both formats just received a major shakeup, though funnily enough, it's not because of Battle for Zendikar. No, it's actually the Banned and Restricted Announcement, which can be found in full here. The changes are simple:

Legacy

Dig Through Time is banned.

Black Vise is unbanned.

Vintage

Chalice of the Void is restricted.

Dig Through Time is restricted.

Thirst for Knowledge is unrestricted.

These four changes (plus the unrestriction of Black Vise) are going to lead to major shifts in both formats, although Legacy is impacted a fair amount more. I certainly agree with the banning of Dig Through Time, as the card is just absurd in a format full of fetch lands, cheap blue card draw spells, and Force of Will—though this does dash my plans of playing Omni-Tell at Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma next month (which segues perfectly into the second reason to write about Legacy). I don't often get the opportunity to play a Legacy Grand Prix, so now seemed liked the perfect time to talk about the format. I'm definitely going, and anyone else interested should check out GPSeaTac.com. Eternal formats are incredibly fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Legacy

When looking at a B&R announcement, the first thing to identify are the winners and losers from the current set of decks. New decks may emerge, but like a new format (which these basically are), I like to start with what we know more about. This format is basically back to pre-Khans of Tarkir Legacy, as Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are no more. There are a few other new cards floating around, like Monastery Mentor, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and Gurmag Angler, but overall this is closer to 2013 Legacy than anything else. Looking back at lists from that time period can prove useful.

Losers

  • Omni-Tell
  • Miracles
  • Midrange Delver

Winners

  • Elves!
  • Miracles
  • Storm Combo
  • Temur Delver

 

 

Marco Kesseler's Omni-Tell—Top 16, Grand Prix Lille 2015

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The deck that took the biggest hit is certainly Omni-Tell, and I believe that this is the deck that drove Dig to be banned in the first place. Not only does the deck play the max number of Digs, it's a mono-blue deck with all cheap card draw that wants to find a two-card combo (Show and Tell plus Omniscience plus any card draw usually leads to a Cunning Wish or Emrakul win). This might be the most Dig Through Time deck of all Dig Through Time decks that have ever existed. Omni-Tell is going to need a serious revamp, as the current shell doesn't work if you just yank out the four Dig Through Times (and not just because that would be 56 cards, either).

If you are dead-set on including Emrakul in your decklist, I'd suggest moving back towards Sneak and Show, a deck that largely disappeared when Omni-Tell got big.

JPA93's Sneak and Show

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This JPA93 individual plays a lot of Sneak and Show on Magic Online, so I took their latest list and cut the lone Dig Through Time plus a Gitaxian Probe for two Preordains.

The game plan here is pretty simple: Get Griselbrand into play by any means necessary. Sneak Attack is ideal, as attacking lets you draw all the cards, but Show and Tell works too. If you don't have a Griselbrand, Emrakul is a worthwhile backup, though Griselbrand is certainly priority number one. Every card in the deck is a combo piece, a way to find combo pieces, or a way to protect you. It doesn't get more single-minded than that.

Claudio Bonanni's Miracles—Winner, Grand Prix Lille 2015

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Observant readers may have noticed that I placed this in both the winners and losers columns. That wasn't a typo—it was meant to reflect that while this is a deck that plays Dig Through Time, it's not a Dig Through Time deck. There is a distinction there, and it's that Miracles is not that unhappy with this change. One of the best decks in the format is now gone, and Miracles no longer has to worry about trying to counter Dig Through Time out of all that decks that play it. Counterbalance isn't that effective against Dig, and when Sultai opponents can Dig into cards like Abrupt Decay, that's very annoying.

The update to Miracles is simple: Cut the Digs for other blue cards. Some lists didn't even run Dig, and adjusting the numbers on Ponder, Snapcaster Mage, Daze, and Counterspell seem like they will make up for the loss.

Miracles is a very hard deck to play. It's trying to use Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top to stop the opponent from doing anything, while using its counters and removal to further that goal. It eventually kills with Entreat the Angels or Monastery Mentor, often using Brainstorm and Top to set up optimal miracles and/or draws. It takes a lot of practice, and it is so interactive that you really have to practice against actual opponents (unlike many of the combo decks, which you can play solo to get a feel for). Reid Duke has way more experience with Miracles than I do, and I highly recommend his guide on the subject. If you want to play this deck, pick it up as soon as possible and play with it as much as you can.

 

 

Delver is another archetype that isn't clearly on the winning or losing side of a Dig banning. In this case, it's because Delver has a ton of variants, unlike the relatively monolithic Miracles deck. The slower Delver decks are hurt by Dig leaving, as their midgame source of card advantage has just vanished. On the flipside, the faster Delver decks basically just shrug. They didn't always run Dig anyway, and other people not having access to it makes the attrition plan way better. I'd expect Temur Delver to surge in the next few months, since it's tried-and-true in a metagame very similar to this (also in Legacy in general for the past million years).

jacetmsst's Canadian Threshold

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This deck's goal is to end the game with one land in play, no cards in hand, and the opponent at exactly 0 life. No jokes, all this deck does is try and incinerate the resources of both players, using Stifles, Wastelands, Dazes, and Force of Will. The Ponders and Brainstorms mean it draws exactly as many lands as it needs, and one threat is often all it takes. This is another very interactive and challenging deck, and again I'd recommend battling with it until you are comfortable.

 

No, this isn't a new sick combo I'm proposing.

 

Some of the clear-cut winners are the combo decks that for some reason didn't play Dig. Well, it's mainly because they couldn't run the card, and as a result were not enjoying a ton of success. The first is Elves, which will make Matt Nass happy (and I even specifically dug his list out).

Matt Nass's Elves

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Elves was a step slower than Omni-Tell and slightly more vulnerable to disruption. Now that Omni-Tell is (presumably) gone, the door may open again for the most honorable and skill-testing deck in all of Magic. Elves is very powerful and resilient, with multiple angles of attack, so I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up back near the top.

It's a tired refrain, but this too is a complicated deck. The main combo is Glimpse of Nature plus Heritage Druid plus Nettle Sentinel, but there are a ton of ways to go about generating enough mana. Quirion Ranger and Deathrite Shaman lead to a bunch of tricks, and Wirewood Symbiote is a combo with every card in the deck (while also being very hard to play with and against). Natural Order is a great backup plan, and knowing which way you want to win against every deck is important, as well as knowing when to switch to the other plan. I sure hope Elves is good, since I do enjoy playing this deck.

Guido Citino's Cryptic Storm

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The other combo deck I wanted to mention is Storm. This deck has the advantage of speed, and is faster than just about any other combo deck out there (Goblin Charbelcher aside). The drawback is that it isn't as resilient, and Omni-Tell was stepping on this deck too. Omni-Tell being the exact right combination of resilience and speed does explain why Dig got banned, and that's becoming more clear as I go through why all of these decks didn't see play.

Storm's easiest path to victory is putting Ad Nauseam on the stack, after which it can assemble enough mana and spells to win with Tendrils. Infernal Tutor is one of the main ways to do so, and by casting Infernal Tutor and sacrificing Lion's Eye Diamond in response, you've built your own Demonic Tutor and your own Black Lotus. If that sounds broken, well, that's because it kinda is.

Cantrips and Duress effects set up the combo and protect it, respectively, and Storm is able to power through counterspells fairly well. This was still a playable deck in pre-ban Legacy, and it can only get better from here.

The Rest

Legacy is a big format. Really, really big. No, bigger than that, and I haven't come close to covering all the decks (or even all the high-tier ones). These decks are the ones I think obviously gained or lost with the banning, but this list is by no means exhaustive. With this as a starting point, there are plenty of ways to get an edge on the format, though I do think these decks will have you headed in the right direction.

Vintage

Vintage is a little smaller of a format, and the changes can be summarized fairly quickly.

With this restriction, Mishra's Workshop decks got a little worse. They were the best deck, and now they are just one of the best decks. They are still clearly tier 1.

With this restriction, Gush decks lost some ground. I actually like this, despite being an avid delver, because it opens up deck building space. No longer do Gush decks push out the big blue decks, which I feel they really did. You could play Gush or Oath, but the full-Moxen Tinker-type decks were a step behind. Dig was just too efficient of a draw engine, and even the restriction of Treasure Cruise didn't change that.

With this unrestriction, Tolarian Academy blue decks got better. Thirst for Knowledge is a powerful draw engine, and having access to four certainly helps.

The first deck I'm excited to try is exactly that type of deck, which is an artifact-based Grixis Value deck.

LSV's Grixis Value

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The plan here is to get value at all times. Four Thirsts help justify and are justified by the full set of Moxen plus Time Vault and Voltaic Key, which gives the deck a steady stream of cards. The deck does a ton of cool broken things (a feature the Delver decks lack), and I'm excited to assemble Time Vault plus Voltaic Key, Tinker plus Blightsteel Colossus, and Yawgmoth's Will plus anything.

This is the kind of deck people think about when they think Vintage, and I'm hoping it will be a robust part of the metagame. Part of the fun of Vintage is making sweet plays, and while the Delver/Young Pyromancer decks added to the range of Vintage, it was at the expense of decks like this. That may now change, and I'm certainly going to try and find out.

I hope this Eternal download was useful, as I so rarely talk about these formats. I really enjoy doing so, and look forward to the next time.

LSV

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