Cheating out gigantic monsters has always been a hallmark of Magic. From Tinkering Blightsteel Colossus to Flashing Protean Hulk, getting a massive creature for as little mana has always been the go-to strategy for Timmies and Johnnies worldwide. However, one card stands well head and shoulders above the rest for ending the game right now: Sneak Attack. Once in play, for a measly Red mana you could put any creature into play and attack immediately. There’s none of that “passing the turn” that you have to do with Show and Tell. You just end the game right now. While the printing of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn didn’t make people immediately put two and two together, it’s pairing with Show and Tell as well as Griselbrand created a dominating archetype in the Legacy format.
SNEAK AND SHOW
This is a deck that wants to put Emrakul or Griselbrand as fast as possible, and it does that job very well. A suite of four Lotus Petals and five Sol lands gives you plenty of ways to fire off a turn 1 Show and Tell or a turn 2 Sneak Attack. Intuition digs out whatever spell you need, especially when backed by 12 cantrips. On top of all this, the deck runs a full suite of Force of Will and Spell Pierce to ensure that your spells resolve. This is a lean, mean, monster-cheating machine, but there are some more intricate plays that most people wouldn’t think about.
First and foremost, you have the Show and Tell trick. Show and Tell is a powerful spell for cheating a creature into play, but that’s not the only thing you can cheat out. If you’re suspecting something along the lines of a Sower of Temptation or Karakas from the opponent, you can just as easily use Show and Tell to get a Sneak Attack into play. This gets around these tricks, and allows you to use Sneak Attack afterward to end the game.
Speaking of Karakas, Sneak Attack also enables you to beat this pesky land in situations where Show and Tell wouldn’t. Say you have an Emrakul in play off your Sneak Attack, and your opponent has Karakas. They don’t want to sacrifice six permanents, so at the beginning of your Combat Step, they bounce it back to your hand. You can still activate Sneak Attack to put back into play before the Declare Attackers step and swing with Emrakul to wipe their board!
The sideboard is fairly straightforward with a focus on fending off opposing disruption. The biggest headache for Sneak and Show is easily Death and Taxes. Not only does that deck have maindeck Karakas, it also has Thalia to mess with your cantrips, Phyrexian Revoker for your Sneak Attacks, and even Containment Priest to exile your creatures when you try to cheat them into play. While Karakas can be played around, having multiple problem creatures in play can be nightmarish, which is why the deck often employs 3-4 copies of Pyroclasm. It’s the cheapest Red sweeper available, and it’s more than capable of picking off the majority of the creatures Death and Taxes runs. With the invention of Containment Priest, instant speed methods of getting rid of creatures is at a premium. Echoing Truth is an efficient method of bouncing multiple copies of a nonland permanent, which makes it slightly more useful than a simple Lightning Bolt. There’s an added bonus that Echoing Truth can also hit annoying cards like Chalice of the Void which, while not gamebreaking, can be a major headache since it shuts off so many of your dig spells.
For the counterspell-heavy matchups like Delver and OmniTell, Defense Grid, Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and Flusterstorm are there to either win your counter wars or straight up prevent them from ever happening. Defense Grid is fantastic at keeping the opponent from casting spells on your turn, and given how ridiculously mana-light most Legacy decks are this gives you a distinct advantage against decks hoping to use countermagic to stop you. Boseiju, on the other hand, simply brickwalls any opposing countermagic for your instants and sorceries. While this doesn’t exactly help you resolve a Sneak Attack, it does mean that your Show and Tells and Intuition are untouchable. Flusterstorm is your trump card against Storm combo and counter wars, as for a single mana you can counter every one of your opponent’s counterspells on the stack. This is typically the last counterspell you need to put on the stack, since barring another Flusterstorm the opponent won’t be able to stop all the copies of Flusterstorm from countering their spells.
Ashen Rider is a bit of mirror tech, as it makes casting Show and Tell far less stressful. There is no worse feeling in Magic than casting Show and Tell, putting Emrakul down, only to see an Emrakul on the other side of the table ready to wipe your board. Ashen Rider can exile whatever the opponent plays off Show and Tell, from Emrakul to Omniscience to Karakas. There is also another nifty trick with Ashen Rider and Sneak Attack. You can cheat it into play with Sneak Attack, exile a defending creature, and dome the opponent for 5 damage. At the end of turn you sacrifice the Ashen Rider and it will exile an additional permanent. As well, you can drop Ashen Rider in at instant speed with Sneak Attack to surprise opposing Sneak and Show players, exiling Emrakuls before they can attack you.
Finally, Blood Moon is there to hose the various fair tri-colour decks in the format. Powering out a Blood Moon on turn 1 or 2 can often spell death for RUG Delver, Shardless BUG, and Deathblade, as these decks typically run zero basic lands. Blood Moon is also fairly strong against decks with powerful lands that need answering, such as Gaea’s Cradle in Elves and any deck running Dark Depths. While these decks aren’t totally ruined by Blood Moon, it stops these powerhouse lands just long enough to assemble your own engines to actually win. So long as you prioritize fetching out an Island beforehand, Blood Moon is a valuable tool for locking the opponent out of the game entirely.
Speaking of Blood Moon, there is a Sneak Attack build that not only runs maindeck Blood Moon, it is actually a hybrid of Sneak Attack and a traditional Mono-Red Stompy deck. In exchange for the countermagic and card draw, this version of the deck opts for more prison elements and fast mana effects.
MONO-RED SNEAK ATTACK
The core of this deck is easily Seething Song, as it creates enough mana to cast a Through the Breach or to fire off a Sneak Attack and activate it. As well, this version also runs an additional four threats in Inferno Titan. What’s particularly nice about the Titan in this deck is that you can actually hardcast it, taking some of the pressure off your cheat spells, as well as giving you a more permanent threat. Moreover, it gives Sneak Attack more opportunities to set up dropping two creatures at once for a lethal attack. While regular Sneak and Show requires an Emrakul and a Griselbrand, because Inferno Titan represents 12 damage on its own, you can drop any combination of creatures and win. You can use Emrakul and Inferno Titan, or a Titan and Griselbrand for 19 damage, or even a pair of Titans for 24 total damage.
Another thing worth noting is that there are also other options for creatures you can run. Sometimes Griselbrand doesn’t cut it in this style since you can’t dig yourself into countermagic to protect it, which has caused some players to opt for bigger, more impactful options. One of the earliest versions ran a pair of Worldspine Wurms, which could not only hit as hard as Emrakul, it also left behind three 5/5 tramplers to finish the job on the following turn. This negated the need to draw into a second creature to actually win the game. While not as good against Swords to Plowshares, Worldspine Wurm did wonders for pushing damage through against RUG Delver and Shardless BUG decks.
As the meta shifted to Young Pyromancer builds of Delver decks, I suggested using Massacre Wurm to clear out opposing armies of tokens. While Inferno Titan was ok at sweeping away small creatures, these decks were capable of creating so many tokens that they often overwhelmed you. Massacre Wurm bypasses all that by not only wiping out all of their X/2 and below creatures, it also made them lose 2 life for every creature that died while the Wurm was in play. As a typical Young Pyromancer army was about 5-7 creatures, this ability combined with attacking for 6 was often enough to end the game on the spot.
Sneak Attack is the kind of deck that appeals to everyone’s inner Timmy. Cheating out eldritch horrors for a single mana and obliterating an opponent is something that every Magic player should experience in their careers, and Sneak Attack does that in spades. If you want to feel the raw power of the largest creatures in the game for the least amount of mana, you can’t go wrong with Sneak Attack!
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