For those of you who aren’t aware, this weekend is a big one for the competitive Magic community, it’s the SCG Season 3 Invitational in Somerset, NJ! Starting on Friday, Magic players who are qualified for the event will begin battling in Legacy and Standard formats, with a cut to top 8 on Sunday.
Aside from the headlining Invitational event, there is a two day Standard open that begins on Saturday, and two Premier IQs in Legacy and Modern formats on Sunday. These events, along with the plethora of side events being fired off on each day make for one of the most enjoyable experiences for me when it comes to Magic.
Weekends like these are more of a convention for the Magic community than any other event that tailors specifically to us, the players. I’m very excited to see friends that I don’t get to see very often due to geographical distance (looking at you, Jason “RealEvilGenius” Clark!), and also cheer on my bros as they battle for all the cash and glory that comes with these large events.
Unfortunately, I was unable to qualify for the Invitational this year based on personal commitments and scheduling restrictions, as well as just not performing optimally at the chances I did have to qualify. However, I am very excited to play in the Standard Open, and if things don’t pan out there, I’ll be battling on Sunday in the Modern Premier IQ.
So, a lot of you folks who either are going to show up for the event to either play in it or watch it live in person, as well as the people at home watching the event on Twitch, may not be familiar with the Legacy portion of the event, as coverage in the United States has slowed over the past few months. Perhaps you haven’t been able to keep up with the metagame as a consequence, and the only bit of Legacy you’ve seen recently is the Open that happened a few weeks ago in Washington D.C.
Well, as a lot of people already play Standard regularly, and if you are showing up, have a Standard deck with which to play, I’d like to go over what I consider to be the top tier Legacy decks that I would consider to play, as well as keep an eye out for this weekend. These are the decks I expect to show up in large numbers, so either prepare to play with them, or prepare to play against them!
I think that the first deck I have to include is currently considered THE deck to beat of all decks to beat in the format. This is of course, the Miracle Control deck:
Brian Braun-Duin Miracles
Not only is this THE control deck of the format, it is the bogeyman as well. The deck is named Miracles after the mechanic that shows up on just a couple of cards in the deck, those being Terminus and Entreat the Angels. Anyone familiar with the old U/W Control lists of Standard seasons past will read those cards and see that they are very similar to Wrath of God and Decree of Justice.
That’s very much the case as well, but don’t let the name of this deck fool you. While it can set up casting the Terminus or Entreat the Angels with a Brainstorm during its opponent’s turn, or its own draw step, the real reason to run those Miracle cards is Sensei’s Divining Top. With Sensei’s Divining Top, the Miracles player is able to “float” the Miracle cards (that is, keep cards on the top of the library using Sensei’s Divining Top’s mana-activated ability without actually drawing those cards) until the player can get as much value as possible off of casting those Miracle cards, or to stop them from dying. They can do this by activating Sensei’s Divining Top’s tap effect to draw a card during their opponent’s turn, and triggering the Miracle effect of the card.
“Floating” cards is also beneficial with the two card combo of the deck between Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance. This allows the player to effectively have a Chalice of the Void in play where they are able to manipulate the value for which their Chalice of the Void is set.
With these things in mind, Sensei’s Divining Top is absolutely the most crucial card in the deck. Sure, the deck is a powerful deck without that card, but Sensei’s Divining Top is what the deck is really built around having. Without Sensei’s Divining Top, the miracles player isn’t able to time their devastating Miracles cards effectively, and they are also possibly missing a lot of value from their Counterbalances. For this reason, a lot of the time, you’ll see the focus of a Miracles opponent be to either stop Sensei’s Divining Top from getting into play, either through discard effects or counterspells, or cards that the Miracles player cannot react to in order to save their Sensei’s Divining Top, like Krosan Grip.
Another thing about the Miracles deck is that when a card like Terminus is drawn as the first card of the turn, the player does not immediately get to cast the card. If you read the Miracles keyword itself, it isn’t worded well, but it is actually a triggered ability. That means of course that things like Stifle can effectively counter a Miracles spell from being cast for its Miracle cost. Instead, the player would have just revealed a card like Terminus, and with the Miracle trigger being Stifled, the Terminus would go to that player’s hand.
Another thing is that there have been a lot of innovations lately on the Miracles list. In general, you will be hard pressed these days to see a Miracles player playing without a red splash for effects like Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, and Wear // Tear. This kind of variation has become standard. The changes though to keep in mind when watching Miracles this weekend are things like Monastery Mentor, Daze, and Wasteland in the maindeck.
Monastery Mentor is an additional win condition that works really well with the deck for a number of reasons. It’s a robust threat that’s on color, and benefits from not only cantripping, but also if the Miracles player is able to get a Sensei’s Divining Top in play, along with one on top of the library, the Miracles player can activate the in play top to draw their other Sensei’s Divining Top that was on top of their library, play the Sensei’s Divining Top, and continue this for as long as their mana permits. This not only creates a lot of little Monk tokens, but a giant Monastery Mentor as well, given Prowess.
Daze has also been added to the deck as a way to relieve early pressure from opponents. Being a control deck, the early turns are typically the rough spot, and the later the game goes on, typically the control deck is better suited to battle and win. Daze ensures that early cards don’t get to do what they’re supposed to do against the deck at a small tempo disadvantage.
Wasteland has also been making its rounds, mainly as a way of fighting Boseiju, Who Shelters All from the Omnitell decks (we’ll get to this in a moment.)
Another deck that I’m expecting to see a lot of this weekend is Omni-tell.
Josh Pelrine Omni-tell
While Miracles is the control deck of the format, I believe that Omni-tell is the combo deck of the format. Sure other combo decks exist, but none are as powerful right now as Omni-tell. When players who play the card Show and Tell in their decks generally decide that using Show and Tell to cheat such powerful cards as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand into play isn’t even good enough anymore, you know a deck is extremely powerful.
This combo deck at a high level replaced the Sneak and Show decks of the past. The goal with this deck is to just use all of the good cantrips in the format that you’re able to sleeve up in a 60 card deck and find the gold, which is Show and Tell and Omniscience. Once Omniscience is in play, you’re able to keep casting the cantrips in the deck for no mana and just keep chain-drawing until you find an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn which you are then able to hardcast through Omniscience, or Cunning Wish for a Release the Ants when you have Brainstormed a high casting cost card to the top of your library like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or Omniscience. Given all of this with a high number of counterspells to back up your plan makes the deck very dangerous to play against.
Cunning Wish also gives you the ability fight through most forms of hate with the Wipe Away in your sideboard, as well as answer to troublesome creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben with Lightning Bolt.
After sideboarding, you are able to have a backup plan with Young Pyromancer, generating just a ton of tokens on the front end as coincidence of playing all of your cheap cantrip spells.
The real all-star and reason this deck is able to move to tier 1 status is Dig through Time. The busted delve spell from Khans of Tarkir offered the Omniscience player an effective way both before AND after the all-powerful enchantment hits the battlefield to look through your library for exactly what you need. It is because of this card that the once might Griselbrand has taken a backseat in this strategy.
There are a lot of cards that beat this strategy though, or at least make the strategy not so great after sideboarding. Cards like Sphere of Resistance or Thorn of Amethyst prevent the Omni-Tell player to just freely cast their spells, as the extra cast from the artifacts must be supplemented by actual mana from lands and not from Omniscience.
Another powerful card against the Omni-Tell player is Ethersworn Canonist. This card is especially difficult for the deck because the Omni-Tell player must use multiple turns to remove it via Cunning Wish for Wipe Away, giving the opposing player enough time to setup a defense. And fortunately enough, those cards and other powerful hate cards like Meddling Mage naming Cunning Wish or Dig through Time can enter the battlefield off of the Omni-Tell player’s own Show and Tell.
Another combo deck I consider to be tier 1 at the moment is Storm. There is a number of Storm variants under the Storm umbrella, and of all of the sub-communities in Legacy, the Storm players are, from my experience, the most stalwart in defending their variation of Storm. Of the most popular Storm variants, there are The Epic Storm (TES), Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT), Grinding Station, and Doomsday.
Bryant CookThe Epic Storm
Bryant Cook did very well with his version of Storm, The Epic Storm. The Epic Storm is a storm variant that wins primarily with a very large Empty the Warrens as quickly as possible. I like to call this version at a very high level, the Belcher deck with protection. Most Storm variants run protection in the form of hand disruption, between Cabal Therapy, Duress, and Thoughtseize, something that Belcher isn’t able to do based on its nature. Seeing your opponent’s hand and knowing what spells to play around, as well as disarming them of some of their tools against you is a powerful way to resolve your combo kill.
While the Epic Storm tries to fire off as large an Empty the Warrens as quickly as possible, Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) tries to be a bit more robust and kill through a Tendrils of Agony with lethal storm count. ANT does this by using Ad Nauseam to refill its hand to get the requisite 9 spells plus Tendrils.
Grinding Station tends to play no Ad Nauseam, and replaces a few Duress with Thoughtseize because it’s less concerned with the lifeloss, and also plays typically more Tendrils of Agony as well as Past in Flames in order to perform spell loops with Dark Ritual-esque cards in order to get the correct amount of storm and win through Tendrils that way, while Doomsday is a Storm variant that has far too many lines to win to count.
While considered on the slower end of the Storm spectrum, Doomsday looks to cast its namesake card to create a winning 5 card library, winning with anything from Tendrils of Agony to Laboratory Maniac.
Good ways to fight the storm deck are typically pressure backed up with either discard spells like Liliana of the Veil, Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize, and Cabal Therapy, counterspells like Flusterstorm, denying their manabase, and pure hate cards, much in the same vein as the hate cards for Omni-Tell, so your Spheres of Resistance, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Ethersworn Canonist. While it seems like there may be a lot of things for the Storm deck to fight through, the deck is actually very robust, and can easily beat hands with multiple counterspells or discard effects.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention one of the poster children of the Legacy format. And while there are, like Storm, many variants, they are very different from one another, so I’ll be focusing on the breakout version of this deck at the SCG Open in Washington D.C.
Dylan Donegan Delver
Delver decks have been powerful in legacy since the printing of the card. There’s just something about a flying Wild Nacatl backed up with counterspells that ties the room together. I singled out this build of delver in particular because not only is it the freshest kid on the block, thanks to the all-star printings of Young Pyromancer and Gurmag Angler, but because the other delver decks have been done to death. I’m pretty sure RUG delver is older than my grandfather, bug delver has kind of fallen by the wayside recently, and Abrupt Decay killed UWR delver much like video killed the radio star.
In all honesty, Gurmag Angler dodges a lot of the removal of the format, and Young Pyromancer going wide does kind of the same thing. Abrupt Decay isn’t a blowout any more if you can’t kill their giant zombie fish, or if your opponent is left with a couple of elemental tokens after you kill their Young Pyromancer.
Keep in mind when playing against this deck that it isn’t difficult for them to have discard effects like Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy in the maindeck, and they may also have Stifle in the maindeck to complement their mana denial plan with Wasteland.
Other than that, this is just a typical Delver deck, so fighting them by going bigger than them and playing around their mana denial plan is key. Keeping in mind Daze when casting your spells while having creatures that are difficult for them to handle are pretty typical ways to deal with their business, and keep in mind that they are also very affected by mana denial, even if they have a Deathrite Shaman, all of their lands are non-basic.
I hope everyone enjoys this weekend, whether you’re playing or spectating, and if anyone wants to meet me there, I’ll be there on Saturday and Sunday with a balloon attached to my backpack, feel free to stop by and say hi!
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