The Fertile Ground of Life From the Loam

Written by Anthony Lowry on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

The Fertile Ground of Life From the Loam

Anthony Lowry

Anthony Lowry, also known as "Firebranded", is a rising player from New York City known for his open-minded deckbuilding prowess and knack for aggressive strategies. His most notable finish in his young career is an 11th-place finish at the StarCityGames Open Series in Washington D.C.

Those that know me recognize I have three favorite cards in Magic history: Life from the Loam, Primeval Titan and Kaalia of the Vast. I will neither confirm nor deny that I’ve tried to play all of these in the same deck at one point …

After the best cookies and cream cupcake I’ve ever had (Thanks, Morgan!), and a subsequent rant about buying out stores of their cupcakes, I had to decide whether to play in the Legacy portion of SCG DC. An 11th-place performance in the Standard portion was my highest finish in any major event, but I felt like my play wasn’t good enough. I ultimately decided to go for it because it was basically a freeroll and I really wanted to play Aggro Loam, the only thing I know how to do in Legacy.

… Or so I thought!

Maindeck

This deck offers an incredible amount of synergies. The primary strategy revolves around the Hemi-powered Life from the Loam/Seismic Assault engine. Your primary gameplan is to land a Seismic Assault as quickly and safely as possible while fueling your enchantment with Life from the Loam, ultimately resulting in a large spread of damage that can be directed where you please. Creature-based decks have a very difficult time dealing with a resolved Seismic Assault, although some, like Merfolk, can fight it very well with multiple Lords. Another strategy is the “aggro” part. Resolving an early Dark Confidant or Countryside Crusher can result in a huge amount of raw card advantage, and will ultimately bury your opponent. Countryside Crusher in particular works very well with almost everything in the deck. Dredging lands off Life from the Loam, discarding lands off Mox Diamond or Faithless Looting, or cycling lands all pump the Crusher. Crusher also keeps you from drawing lands when you don’t need them because of his trigger!

Although the deck is officially called Aggro Loam, there are a lot of midrange or control elements. Most lists carry a healthy amount of disruption. Inquisition of Kozilek is the best discard spell in the format right now, and having four of them is pretty important in Game 1 against almost any deck. Engineered Explosives is one of many sweepers that are very good against an open field. The flexibility this card gives is very important for a deck that is prone to taking much longer to develop their gameplan.

Three Lightning Bolts and two Diabolic Edicts were my spot removal spells of choice. I was incredibly soft to Sneak and Show, Reanimator, and other “I’m going to put this one creature on the board and completely destroy you” decks, although Diabolic Edict helps handle those threats. I almost played the Grove of the Burnwillows/Punishing Fire package because I was expecting a lot of creature decks, but Punishing Fire made me a bit softer to RUG Delver.

The difference between one mana and two mana is so important in Legacy, and the extra point of damage is pretty relevant against decks with Lords. Scavenging Ooze has been generally accepted as a more versatile two-drop than Tarmogoyf that doesn’t end the game as quickly. And I’m not entirely sure which two-drop I want. The deck has trouble putting the game away if I don’t have the Seismic Assault combo, but Scavenging Ooze can win games you have no business winning.

Four Mox Diamonds are pretty necessary for jumping the curve and getting your wheels turning early. It also makes playing around cards like Daze and Spell Pierce much easier. Resolving a Turn 1 Life from the Loam or [cardDark Confidant[/card] is backbreaking for many decks, and it’s also really potent at baiting countermagic. Some decks can’t afford to let a Mox Diamond resolve, so running out a Mox Diamond as your first action of the game — even before playing a land — can be considered. Grim Lavamancer was the breakout card of the tournament, as it’s super effective at dealing with smaller creatures, which was what most players were slinging with that day. Faithless Looting provides a little extra push in finding the pieces you need to advance your game, and has awesome synergy with Life from the Loam.

Lands

The lands are the most crucial part of building the deck. I feel like every slight change to the lands makes such a huge difference in practice, and it took me a while to get to the configuration that I have now. The cycle lands, Forgotten Cave, Tranquil Thicket and Barren Moor are very important for finding your pieces and aggressively dredging. It also provides inherent protection from graveyard hate, since you can cycle in response to something that would exile your Life from the Loam. Six to eight cycle lands seems to be the most common amount. Seven fetch lands was a comfortable number for me, as were the amount of duals.

I can see cutting one Taiga for another utility land, like Ghost Quarter, or  even a man-land. Lavaclaw Reaches is one that I’d try first. Being able to produce red is so important, so Treetop Village may not be very favorable, and Raging Ravine is about a turn too slow.

One very small, almost minuscule, point is I went with the four/three split of Bloodstained Mire over Wooded Foothills because of the off chance that my opponent puts me on Goblins. It’s important to know what your opponent is doing as early as Turn 1, so getting every bit of advantage you can (especially when it could never hurt you) is important. The single Barbarian Ring functions as a repeatable two damage every turn via Life from the Loam, and can sometimes function as a win condition. Four Wastelands are pretty standard, since you can hedge really hard on abusing it with Life from the Loam, plus it helps with your disruption plan. Volrath’s Stronghold is a powerful way of rebuying your creatures later in the game.

Sideboard

I tried to keep my options open so that if I got caught off guard by something I would have at least two cards for it. Thoughtseize was primarily a cushion for the unexpected, and Pithing Needle was for more specific things like Goblin Charbelcher and Aether Vial. Chalice of the Void seemed to be the standard in Aggro Loam lists, especially when you can power out a Chalice for one via Mox Diamond, which is very powerful against decks like RUG Delver. Perish was for Maverick and RUG Delver and is a solid all-around bullet. Pyroblast is one of the best red sideboard cards, so having at least two seemed like a no-brainer.

I was a bit light on the graveyard hate, with only Faerie Macabre and Nihil Spellbomb. I wasn’t expecting that much Reanimator or Dredge, or graveyard interaction in general, so I felt I could afford to only dedicate two spots to those decks. I may just want two Faerie Macabres in the future because it’s uncounterable and hits the things I care about.

Aggro Loam master David Rice, who won the SCG Providence Legacy Open in May, helped me a lot with the deck and gave me the Eternal Witness technology. He also helped with my sideboard, suggesting Ancient Grudge over Krosan Grip, mostly because you can dredge into it, which was very relevant in a couple of games.

Tournament recap

I’m incredibly inexperienced with Legacy, so I decided to wing it and see what happens. I was still on an adrenaline high from my amazing Standard experience, and I really wanted to jump right into the Legacy waters. My tournament ended in Round 7, dying to a Turn 1 Goblin Charbelcher in Game 1 and an Empty the Warrens for approximately 9,001 in Game 3. I really enjoyed myself the entire time, and I love the healthy Legacy format. You can literally do anything you want, how you want. For someone who loves some creativity, the format is a playground. I’m really excited to play in more Legacy events, and I’ll be sticking to this archetype for a very, very long time. Even with decks that have Turn 1 kills, such as Belcher, I felt the games were very skill-intensive. It just involved a different set of skills — those matchups really test your knowledge of the format, knowledge of your deck, and mulligans.

I would have liked a third Grim Lavamancer because there were a lot of creature decks around, and a third Countryside Crusher because the deck has trouble closing out games, and that’s not a very good position to be in with decks like Stoneblade, Delver and Maverick. Diabolic Edicts would have been better in the sideboard instead of the main. They’re pretty lackluster against anything that isn’t Griselbrand, Emrakul or Nimble Mongoose. Everything else performed about as well as I expected, and I don’t think I’d change much in the maindeck. But the sideboard felt really clunky. Chalice of the Void felt awkward all day, and I was never comfortable casting it except Turn 1. I can see the Chalices becoming Firespout, as there are so many creature decks now.

I’d have to go further into the Legacy format to come up with what exactly I’d do to the 75, but here’s an idea:

Important lessons

If you think it doesn’t matter, make it matter

If there’s one thing the Legacy Open taught me, it’s that every little thing you do can matter much more than you think. I missed about five Countryside Crusher lapsing triggers throughout the day, mostly because of my lack of repetition with the specific card. I was pretty disappointed in myself because I tend to avoid letting things like that happen. A huge weakness of mine is my awareness of game states. I tend to let little things, like a life loss from Vapor Snag, pass over me, and it has bitten me more than once. I’ve taken huge strides in strengthening this weakness, but it isn’t enough. Even if the life loss didn’t matter, I make it matter. Being on the verge of losing or winning is no excuse to play loose, and it’s certainly no excuse to assume anything.

A huge issue with the Aggro-Loam deck, which may come as a surprise to some, is that it’s physically tiring. Some of you may scoff at this, thinking “All you’re doing is moving cards around!” Well, yes, you are moving cards around:

  • Revealing cards from Countryside Crusher‘s first trigger
  • Remembering to add a counter for Countryside Crusher‘s second trigger
  • Dredging from Loam
  • Cycling lands
  • Keeping track of life changes and counters from Scavenging Ooze
  • Using fetch lands more often than most other decks
  • Wasteland chaining (using it every turn at the correct time)
  • Barbarian Ring chaining (physically moving it from your graveyard to your hand, then playing it, then activating it’s threshold ability, every turn)
  • Putting a creature on top of your library with Volrath’s Stronghold
  • Writing down your opponent’s hand when you cast Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize
  • Bringing a card back with Eternal Witness
  • Remembering how to do all of this properly

It may not sound like much, especially compared to Storm or Dredge decks, but it can definitely take a toll on your physical strength while in the heat of a tournament. Being in good physical shape is much more important than people give it credit. And while I’ve been making good progress in this department, I need to do better if I want to last in longer tournaments. In the Standard portion of the Open Series, I was feeling great throughout the entire event. My RG deck didn’t have to do nearly as much physically. In Legacy, I felt tired by Round 5.

I’m definitely going to take more steps to improve my conditioning. Eating a good meal that isn’t too big in the morning. Drinking water throughout events (not Monster or Red Bull). Eating snacks, like almonds. Getting a good night’s sleep. All of these are so important, and will help improve performance drastically if taken into habit. Every little thing I can do to improve my gameplay, and my health, will be done. Every player can benefit from improving their physical health, and those that take steps to make that matter can gain an advantage.

Thanks for reading!
~Firebranded
Twitter: @aulowry

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