This year has been a good one for me in terms of real life personal growth. Unfortunately, that has meant a bit of a step back from Magic. That’s been incredibly rough after last year where I got to play in a lot of major events. It has also meant that I’ve been extra excited for the events I do get to attend. The next event on my list to attend is the Legacy Open at SCG Syracuse in a few weeks and I’m thrilled. How could I not be excited to play my favorite format after all?! The thing that makes it even better is that Dark Depths strategies are currently among, if not the best thing to be doing. Those who know me, know I like to do broken things with my lands, so this is the perfect time to be me.
For those unfamiliar with the Dark Depths strategies, there are multiple different versions but they all share the game plan of abusing the card Dark Depths to make a big flying monster. There are two ways the decks accomplish this. The first and universal way is to use Thespian’s Stage to copy Dark Depths. Stage is now a Dark Depths with zero counters on it, Since your “Dark Depths’ has no counters, its ability triggers. The other way, that isn’t in all the decks is to use Vampire Hexmage to remove the ice counters from Depths. Either way the result is the same. This lovely lady:
So the point of today’s article is to give a brief explanation of the Dark Depths decks that have been doing well lately and highlight some of the differences.
The first list we’re going to look at is the GB Turbo Depths build that Brian Rogers used to take third place at the SCG Open in Richmond this past weekend (two weekends by the time you see this).
This is the most all-in version of the deck.This deck wants to go fast. It’s got a lot of redundancy through its suite of tutors and seeks to protect itself with a pile of discard spells. The Into the North is often replaced with Expedition Map, some lists have both. I’m torn on which I prefer. Into the North is cooler and more powerful as it actually ramps you but Map being able to find Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Thespian’s Stage definitely comes up. Also Expedition Map being my Twitter handle makes me feel like I would be obligated to play at least one in this build. Having 4 Pithing Needle in the maindeck might look a bit odd to those unfamiliar with the strategy but it’s an important tool for beating Wasteland. This is very important with the amount of Wrenn and Six running around the format. Without Needle you can easily get buried by opponents using their planeswalker to replay Wasteland each turn. Of note, Veil of Summer and Force of Vigor are both excellent new inclusions to the sideboard of these strategies. Even though this isn’t my favorite build, there are two big things I like about this deck. The first is, that of all the Depths strategies I’ve played, I believe this one had the easiest Delver matchup and that is a deck often over-represented in paper. The other thing is that it’s the cheapest one. For maximum budget considerations, you can even play Blooming Marsh over Bayou. This swap comes with the extra effect of protecting you from Submerge. The reason I don’t care for this build is a lack of resilience. It often felt to me that if I got disrupted I had a hard time recovering. Sylvan Safekeeper has been one of the best ways to protect your Marit Lage in the past but X/1s aren’t safe in a world of Plague Engineer and Wrenn and Six.
Onto the next list, and one that I have significantly more experience with, GB Slow Depths. This is the list that Bob Huang used to take down the Legacy Classic at SCG Richmond
The first thing I want to say is that calling this deck slow when it’s capable of attacking for 20 on the second turn always feels weird. When comparing the above list to the first one we looked at though, this version is certainly less explosive and built to go a bit longer. Most people have cut Dark Confidants from the list.The card has always over-performed but as previously mentioned, one-toughness creatures aren’t exactly safe right now. Playing two gives you the chance to draw them in the matchups where the are good but doesn’t risk flooding your hand with them against the bad matchups. Huang was not the only one to revive Confidant as there were multiple copies in the top 8 of Eternal Weekend Asia the day before this Classic. Back to Bob’s list , Elvish Reclaimer is a new card worth highlighting. Opinions were mixed on this card during spoiler season but it is an all star in this deck. Crop Rotation is the best card in the deck so it makes sense that a repeatable version of the effect would also be good. Not risking sacrificing your land to get stopped by a Force of Will is really nice. Also since Reclaimer so often has four toughness it doesn’t even die to Lightning Bolt. There are also a surprising number of games you can win by just attacking with 3/4s. Nurturing Peatland is the other new addition to the deck. Unlike Reclaimer Peatland isn’t anything insane but is a nice addition. I like it a bit more with Ramunap Excavator in the sideboard but unfortunately Bob didn’t have room for one of those. The nice thing about this build is it’s oddly good at being able to grind out other decks in the long games. Having a couple extra creatures means that it’s better at attacking and Dark Confidant will help keep your hand full. There are usually 1-2 copies of Sylvan Library to accommodate the grind plan but I guess Bob didn’t find them necessary. In my mind, this is the easiest starting point for people trying to learn the deck. It has been the default version for a while and so it’s easy to find videos to watch and you can always ask people for help.
The next version of the Archetype is BUG depths. This deck is too big brain for me. It’s basically a weird amalgamation of Turbo and Slow Depths deck but splashing for Brainstorm and some sideboard cards. It often seems that nobody other than Tom Hepp aka Negator77 can win with it.
Not as fast but also not slow Depths
I have failed to cash a single mtgo league with this version and don’t understand it. The Brainstorm almost makes sense to me but then I play it and I lose. That being said, I’m teaming with Tom for an Open later this year so I’m excited to watch somebody actually win with this list.
You know how Hogaak has been terrorizing Modern? She’s also teamed up with Marit Lage to terrorize Legacy players.
If you noticed that there are 61 cards, that’s no accident. That is stock for this version. This is the list that my friend and streamer Romario Neto played to a top 16 at the Classic that Bob won. This list had its coming out party last month when DNSolver top 8d back to back to back MTGO challenges with the list. While I believe he was goofing up when he first came up with the list DNSolver seems to have come up with a deck that has some amount of staying power. It turns out that this mashup works better than a lot of people would expect. There are a lot of synergistic pieces here but the deck is so convoluted to look at that It’s hard to know where to start. Stitcher’s Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder were added to compliment Hogaak. Satyr Wayfinder is actually really powerful in this deck though because it also finds your combo pieces. Khalni Garden is also a way to help enable Hogaak, while also neutralizing Edict effects. Since the list is self milling and has expendable creatures, Cabal Therapy easily takes the spot of Duress. This deck is a lot of fun to pilot. The Hogaak package doesn’t really make it any harder to make a Marit Lage. It does take however take away your grindy package and replaces it with dinky creatures. The deck does get the benefit of ignoring Wasteland and winning through early 8/8s, but there are other matchups, unfortunately where Hogaak is not good. Some examples where being built this way hurts you are Death and Taxes and Miracles that can easily deal with a Hogaak and leave you with dinky creatures. All in all, I’m going to keep playing this deck from time to time online because it’s a lot of fun and not having to sideboard against the four color Wrenn and Six piles makes me smile, but ultimately I don’t think I would bring this to a big event over BG Slow Depths.
The penultimate deck I’m going to talk about is the OG Depths deck: Lands.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear this deck is dead. If you ask me though, rumors of this deck’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Casey Lancaster took the above list to a second place finish in the Richmond Open. While it was a team open so we don’t know how he did individually, it’s worth noting that there were two more copies in the top 16 and Dom Harvey recently won a Face to Face open with the deck despite having never played it before that day. As I like to sleeve this deck up from time to time also I can say through personal experience the new additions to this deck are amazing. Wrenn and Six is so good here. It makes you much more resilient to Surgical Extraction which is a problematic card, and kills lots of random annoying things. Field of the Dead is also super powerful and gets out of hand very quickly with Loam and multiple explorations. Ironically, Casey was originally very underwhelmed by the card, but thankfully it looks like he came around before the event. What stands out to me more than the new additions though, is the lack of Glacial Chasm, a longtime mainstay in this archetype. Chasm often let you lock burn and aggro decks out of the game but Casey has come to the conclusion it’s no longer needed. I don’t think I would have gotten there on my own but he is very good with this deck and I generally just trust what he says. For those who haven’t played with or against this deck, while the others we’ve looked at were combo decks this is more of a prison deck that happens to be able to combo quickly. The hardest matchups for this deck are the combo ones but as long as the format is being dominated by blue decks and other Depths strategies Lands is in a great spot since it’s favored against both. For what it’s worth, this is actually my favorite of the above decks and I may start practicing with it again but I just know that I personally play the depths decks better.
Last but not least on the list is the new kid on the block: GW Depths:
This is the list I’m on at the moment. I’m currently 23-5 with this deck. Not the largest sample size but that’s an 82% win rate which is pretty good. Especially because at least one of those losses was me punting. If Syracuse was tomorrow this is the deck I would play but not necessarily this exact 75. I don’t think I like Tomik but I’m still not certain and don’t know what I would replace them with. I think I’m going to try two Path to Exile main deck and add Thalia to my board but I’m not positive. I need to take some time to map out my plans for certain matchups and would like to spend some time doing a bit of focused testing to figure a few things out. A lot of people are calling this deck Maverick Depths which I feel is disingenuous. This may seem weird because there is a lot of overlap in card selection. I’ve played Maverick before, both with and without the combo, and I love Maverick but this deck plays out very differently. While it’s by far the best deck on this list at beating down, it’s still primarily a combo deck which is not true of Maverick. As much as I would like to discuss this deck in depth I’m going to hold off because I’ve already started writing my next article and spoiler, it’s a deep dive on this version.
Anyway, that’s a little about what I think is the best strategy in Legacy right now. If you want to play in Syracuse or maybe GP Atlanta the following week I would highly suggest picking up one of these decks and getting reps in. And please check back next week when my article all about the GW version should be live. Lastly, if you’re interested in me or my very sparingly produced content, make sure to follow me on Twitter at @ExpeditionMap and my team at @solitaryPro.
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