A few weeks ago Eternal Weekend happened, featuring North America’s Legacy and Vintage Champs Events. This event is exciting every year for tons of eternal specialists. This year I wasn’t able to play in it like the past three but that’s because I was too busy working the event. It was an interesting event from a judge perspective but more about that later. Right now I want to focus on some strategy with SCG Baltimore being the most recent high level eternal event.
“I didn’t play against any Miracles!”
“Why was there so much Death and Taxes?”
“I played a different deck every round.”
“This metagame was bizarre.”
I heard these four sentences and variations of them a lot at the end of the legacy portion. It would appear that Miracles, the de facto best deck in the format is on the decline. I’ve been asked what the reason is and honestly I’m not positive. Part of me wonders if this was just a fluke due to people not wanting to play such a mentally exhausting deck over the course of ten rounds. Whatever it was didn’t stop my friend Dan Miller from coming in second place. It also didn’t stop Sam Roukas from taking down Eternal Extravaganza V two weekends previously. No matter what the results say I think Miracles is still king and should be considered by anybody going to play legacy in the near future.
That’s all I’m going to say about Miracles because I don’t think the average reader wants to see any more about that deck. I’d rather talk about the breakout deck from the Champs, Death & Taxes. This deck put an astonishing three copies into the top 8 of a 650 person event, not to mention landing a copy in the European Champs top 8 as well. That’s not an accident. The deck is good. It’s always been a solid deck, there’s a reason it went 8-1 at the SCG 2015 Player’s Championship, only losing to itself. Lately though it’s had some new toys printed in the form of Sanctum Prelate, Recruiter of the Guard, Thalia 2.0 and Palace Jailer. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what the correct number of any of these cards to play, only that some combination should be played. One of the awkward things about figuring out the numbers is Conspiracy: Take the Crown not being legal on MTGO. There have been enough paper events that observations can still be made though. All these new additions are very strong. Of these, Prelate is the best. Sanctum Prelate on one shuts off a solid chunk of most decks. It even turns off two of the best removal spells in the format, Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares, making it especially difficult to deal with. The card is just very helpful for a lot of matchups. Personally I’m rather excited to see a non-blue deck on the rise and currently taking up the second largest portion of the meta. This is new ground for the format and I’m hopeful that this will be a sign of new times to come.
The above paragraph may seem like a resounding advertisement for playing Death & Taxes. It’s not. Mirror matches aren’t my cup of tea so it’s hard to recommend a deck where this will happen a lot. In addition, the deck is deceptively difficult to pick up and pilot anywhere close to optimally the first few times. It’s very powerful when piloted well but there’s just so much to keep track of that it doesn’t seem worth it to me. If I had to pick a deck to play this weekend, I would rather look at the top four archetypes Miracles, Death & Taxes, Grixis Delver, and Eldrazi, and pick something good against them.
4 color Delver
If you want my safe pick for this weekend, I’d say play Delver. This might seem counter-intuitive to saying I don’t enjoy mirrors but I wouldn’t be playing the stock Noah Walker 4 Pyromancer version. I would go with the list Ben Friedman has been advocating and that Jarvis Yu was able to use to top 8 Legacy Champs. There’s still a source of contention in the community over which version is better but to me it’s clear. I’ve never been a fan of the Walker list. I often find Young Pyromancer to be an inefficient threat and it often warps the way the controller feels like they should be playing. While not having Cabal Therapy might hurt against combo, the new Friedman version of Grixis seems much better against all the fair decks in the format. Having better threats on average and a more diversified removal suite puts the deck in a great spot right now. Abrupt Decay, seems particularly great. It has excellent uses against the top 4 decks right now providing an answer for Counterbalance, removal against Death & Taxes that isn’t locked out by Sanctum Prelate, an answer to a resolved Chalice of the Void against Eldrazi, and uncounterable removal in the “mirror.”
Grixis is not the only variety of Delver I’d consider though. While it always struggled against Miracles, UWR Delver was my flavor of choice for a solid year. I think that this deck might be well positioned for a comeback if Miracles keeps decreasing in popularity. Getting to play with both Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt is very good, not to mention the combo of Stoneforge Mystic and True-Name Nemesis. While Miracles was always an uphill battle, I feel that can be fixed some in the sideboard and this deck always served me very well in Delver pseudo-mirrors. At first blush, Swords to Plowshares seems awkward in an aggressive shell but it is a clean answer to some of the bigger creatures in the format such as Thought-Knot Seer and Gurmag Angler. It’s possible that it can be replaced with Path to Exile but that goes against our tempo oriented game plan. Stifle and Wasteland are really bad when you are giving your opponent basics, though most of the format is not playing them. As much as I like UWR or Patriot Delver my friends told me about a 5 color Delver brew they saw during Eternal Weekend. I didn’t get a chance to see the actual deck but I would like to approximate a list based off what they told me. It sounded like the base was similar to UWR but it included Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. The mana base will seem very greedy but the inclusions make sense. Deathrite Shaman is undoubtedly the best one drop creature in the format and I’ve already sung the praises of Abrupt Decay. I’m not positive that these two cards are enough reason to put such a strain on the manabase, especially in a world where Death & Taxes is on the rise. I’d certainly be willing to try it at a smaller event but I’m not sure about something on a larger scale.
If you asked me for a less safe deck to play, I would say Landstill. Landstill is one of my pet decks, I have a lot of them. I am used to playing UR and copying whatever latest Lam Phan list I can find but I think Grixis is where you want to be. This is a rough sketch of where I would start. Kolaghan’s Command seems really well positioned. It’s just such a versatile card. Against Miracles, making them discard a card and getting back a countered Snapcaster Mage could be the game. It’s especially worth noting that this is instant speed discard so if they happen to trigger a Miracle while otherwise hellbent you can make them discard the miracle. Against Death and Taxes, this card will almost always have two juicy targets. The fact that it can blow up Aether Vial means your Standstills and countermagic will never be dead in this matchup. Against Eldrazi, it’s not as good but fulfills a necessary role in blowing up resolved Chalices while hopefully also sniping an Eldrazi Mimic. The land package might look a little wonky at first but there are reasons. The missing Mishra’s Factory is so that the lands can support three colors a bit easier. The Fumarole might seem like a stretch but it’s better than people give it credit for. It both provides the fastest clock and is able to trade with Thought-Knot Seer. Lastly it’s nice just being able to diversify in case an opponent brings in Surgical Extractions.
Hopefully this was able to help some of you. I expect to see a lot more Delver this weekend than Landstill but I would love it if somebody could top 8 with the latter. I won’t be able to join the battle but if anybody would like to talk to me about anything magic related, especially Modern or Legacy, you’ll be able to find me running Side Events all weekend. Lastly good luck to anybody going to this event or GP Dallas.
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