Many moons ago, in the halcyon days before Khans of Tarkir, there existed a deck in Legacy centred around cascading into Ancestral Visions with Shardless Agent. It was called Shardless BUG, and that interaction was among the most powerful “fair bordering on broken” interactions you could pull off in a non-combo deck. The value was insane. You could Brainstorm on the end step to set up Ancestral Visions, then cast Shardless Agent and get three cards for free. It was a deck designed to out-value the fair decks in the format, as Shardless Agent allowed you to cascade into everything from Baleful Strix to Deathrite Shaman to Hymn to Tourach. The Delver decks didn’t stand a chance.
Then, everything changed when Treasure Cruise attacked.
For years, the closest you could get to a true Ancestral Recall was Ancestral Visions, and that required you to jump through enough hoops that it wasn’t utterly broken. If you happened to draw one, you’d have to wait a full four turns before you were able to get your three cards, which in a format as fast as Legacy, could come far too late. Treasure Cruise gave virtually every Blue deck the opportunity to draw three cards for one Blue mana at the cost of their graveyard. Seeing how few decks actually use their graveyard, this was hardly a drawback at all, and a plague of Treasure Cruises descended upon the format.
Suddenly, everyone was able to draw three cards for next to no investment, leaving Shardless BUG, the deck designed for value, out in the cold. The Delver decks that Shardless BUG used to prey on were suddenly outdrawing them and burying them in card advantage. The Treasure Cruise pandemic has become so pervasive that Shardless Agent and Baleful Strix are being left on the sidelines as BUG Delver slowly becomes the defacto BUG deck in Legacy. It’s a sort of “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Why jump through these extra hoops if you can just cast Ancestral Recall multiple times in a game?
So where does this leave Shardless Agent? If BUG players are shifting their playstyle over to Delver, perhaps Shardless Agent can shine in a Bant shell. My friends and I have been toying around with a Shardless Bant deck that not only maintains the old school value of Ancestral Visions, but also does wonders for blanking the Treasure Cruises of the format with the hopes of stopping the menace.
This list came from the frustration my friend had with his Shardless BUG deck repeatedly falling behind the UR Delver deck that has taken Legacy by storm. Stoneblade strategies are generally pretty strong against Delver, as the combination of Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte help keep their battlefield under control, and the addition of six mana dorks helps to speed up the clock against their faster starts. Being able to reliably fire off a Shardless Agent on turn 2 for a potential Ancestral Visions or Stoneforge Mystic can start the value train even faster than the old Shardless BUG builds, and even something simple like True-Name Nemesis on turn 2 can be a sufficient clock. What this lacks in hand disruption like the BUG counterpart, it makes up for in sheer punching power, packing both True-Name Nemesis and six maindeck Exalted creatures to overpower the opponent’s defenses.
The most notable feature, and what sets it apart from the BUG version in terms of fighting Treasure Cruise, is the inclusion of maindeck Rest in Peace. This is hands down the most prohibitive card against Treasure Cruise, because not only does it prevent them from having a graveyard, the Treasure Cruise decks tend to not have the tools for getting rid of it. This also gives the deck additional splash hate against the BG/x decks that pack Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf, as well as combo decks such as Dredge and Reanimator. We can even tutor for it with Enlightened Tutor so that we can get it into play before Treasure Cruise even becomes a factor.
For the sideboard we decided to include tools for the fighting the non-Treasure Cruise decks, considering how skewed the maindeck was toward fighting Cruise. While we opted for two additional copies of Rest in Peace to really hammer home our disdain for Cruise, it was primarily to help put the nail in the coffin against the graveyard decks that could go off before we could really build a board presence. Misdirection is one of the few cards that can fend off Abrupt Decay, which is clutch in the Jund and BUG matchups. Rest in Peace blanks the majority of their threats, and Abrupt Decay is one of their only answers for it. Casting Misdirection and shifting a Decay over to one of their creatures is about the best value you can get with the card, as well as the potential to turn any Hymn to Tourachs into a 3 for 2. It’s a little awkward that because of Shardless Agent’s cascade, this and Force of Will are the only countermagic we can really run, but the potential to turn a backbreaking spell against the opponent more than makes up for it.
Also putting a damper on opposing fair decks is Path to Exile and the fourth Wasteland, which allow us to put more pressure on their board with little to no repercussions. Against a tri-colour deck like UWR Delver or Jund, Path to Exile often reads “W: Exile target creature”. Because of the nature of Legacy manabases, there’s generally no drawback with Path to Exile, and even if they do get a basic land, the loss of a creature and not gaining life like they would with Swords to Plowshares makes Path an excellent card in racing scenarios. The fourth Wasteland is to put pressure on the opponent’s mana while advancing our own board. Cutting off the opponent’s resources hinders their ability to put up a proper defense against a Batterskull, such as Maze of Ith, as well as keeping decks like 12 Post and Dark Depths under control.
Krosan Grip, Oblivion Ring, Karakas, and Gaddock Teeg are great in the Sneak and Show matchup, as they each hate on their various methods of cheating creatures into play. Gaddock Teeg shuts them off of casting Sneak Attack altogether, forcing them to rely on Show and Tell. This is where Oblivion Ring is key, because even if they can fire off a Show and Tell, whatever card they put down is getting exiled by the Ring. The second Karakas also acts as a last line of defense against Show and Tell. So long as this is in play, whatever creature they put into play off Show and Tell gets bounced right back to their hand. The only way to get around this is to get Sneak Attack down with enough open mana to cheat multiple things into play. Conveniently enough, Krosan Grip helps shut down this plan by blowing up Sneak Attack before they can put the second creature into play.
Shardless Agent is at a crossroads in Legacy right now. Its old home is being infested by Delver of Secrets, and his greatest ally is being outclassed by a common. Where he winds up down the road is unknown, but with a little brewing the Treasure Cruise menace can be overcome and it will once again find its niche in the format.
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