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Priemer’s Primers: Top of the Food Chain

Written by Tyler Priemer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Priemer’s Primers: Top of the Food Chain

Tyler Priemer

Tyler has been playing TCGs for nearly 20 years. A long brewer with a knack for Legacy, there's nothing he loves more than making crazy decks a reality

Legacy is a format where the strangest, most preposterous things can happen. Do you want to play a deck that can win without paying a single mana? There’s Dredge. Or maybe you want to play a deck without any coloured spells? Then MUD is the deck for you. How about a deck where you have can make someone draw their entire deck? OmniTell has your number. But what if I told you there is a deck that plays out of your exile zone? That area of the table typically reserved for Delved away cards and victims of Swords to Plowshares has traditionally been off-limits, but with the printing of Misthollow Griffin in Avacyn Restored, the exile zone is now fair game for a convention-breaking combo deck.

Food Chain combo is a deck that, through the mana engine Food Chain, create infinite mana and hardcast Emrakul. With Food Chain, you can exile a creature you control and create mana of any one colour equal to the exiled creature’s converted mana cost plus 1. Where this gets broken is that thanks to Misthollow Griffin, you can exile the Griffin with Food Chain, then cast it from the exile zone for a net gain of 1 mana. You can then repeat this process until you have enough mana to hardcast Emrakul.

The rest of the deck centres around ways to search out your combo and protect it. Manipulate Fate is a card that feels like it was printed specifically for this deck, despite being printed a decade before Misthollow Griffin. With Manipulate Fate you can fetch out and exile three of your Griffins, putting them exactly where you want them for your combo. In addition to the cantrip of Manipulate Fate, the deck also runs a full set of Brainstorms and a pair of Dig Through Times to help find your Food Chains and game-ending finishers. Baleful Strix also acts as both a cantrip and a brick wall, slowing down enemy aggression and buying you the time you need to hit your combo pieces.

Food Chain runs several creatures capable of ending the game on their own once you combo off. The most obvious big bad beatstick that the deck can cast is Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. This gives you an extra turn on top of what will most assuredly obliterate the opponent’s board state, rendering the game all but over. Genesis Hydra is another card that acts as both a mana sink for your Food Chain combo and a finisher on its own. When you have infinite mana, you can cast Genesis Hydra to pick out a single nonland permanent in your entire deck and put it directly into play, all the while having an infinity/infinity hydra that the opponent has to deal with. Finally, the deck runs a single Tidespout Tyrant for what amounts to pure style points. With Tidespout Tyrant in play, you can continuously cast your Misthollow Griffin to bounce the opponent’s entire board, and bounce said board every following turn to ensure they never get to play another card.

Food Chain, like most Blue-based combo decks, also runs several cards to protect itself to ensure that it can go off. Abrupt Decay handles some of the more frustrating cards in the format. Everything from the quick clock of Delver of Secrets to the often problematic Counterbalance is fair game for Abrupt Decay, eradicating most headaches for the deck. As well, Food Chain also employs a set of Force of Will and a miser Misdirection to help ensure its spells resolve. However, there is a far more devious purpose to these cards. Because Force and Misdirection require you to exile a Blue card, you can pitch a Misthollow Griffin and put it right in the exile zone for future use.

WHAT SHOULD I RUN IN MY SIDEBOARD?

Typically, Food Chain is a turn 3-4 combo deck that isn’t disrupted by that many cards, so the majority of its sideboard slots are occupied by cards to slow down faster combo decks. Most stock lists tend to run a full four copies of Grafdigger’s Cage, as it helps slow down Dredge, Reanimator, and even Elves. It also helps hinder Snapcaster Mage and Past in Flames, keeping the opponent’s graveyard shenanigans under control. Mindbreak Trap and Meddling Mage are there to keep decks Storm, Charbelcher, and High Tide under control. By exiling every spell on the stack for free, you can fight off the dreaded turn 1 Storm combo by getting rid of every copy of their Storm card from the stack. Meddling Mage, conversely, stops the opponent from ever getting to that point. Dropping Mage on turn 2 will shut off the cards they need to beat you, forcing them to jump through hoops to get it off the table and buying you the necessary time to put together your own combo. To back up Meddling Mage, Ethersworn Canonist stops the opponent from trying to chain their spells together. While normally this hurts us as well, we have the ability to sacrifice Canonist to Food Chain when it’s time to combo off.

In addition to these tricks, Venser, Shaper Savant is an ace in the hole against Show and Tell, as well as bouncing problem spells as they’re on the stack. The applications are limitless, from keeping Emrakul at bay, or even stopping flashbacked spells like Past in Flames. It’s worth noting that in the case of bouncing flashbacked spells, the card actually gets exiled rather than the opponent’s hand, so there is extra value against decks that rely on these kinds of spells. Food Chain also runs a single copy of Karakas in the sideboard not only for the Show and Tell matchup, but for the long, drawn out matchups such as Miracles where the opponent can recover from an Emrakul attack. With Karakas, you can bounce your own Emrakul after attacking, cast it again, and get another turn to attack. This guarantees your victory and leaves them little room to fight back.

Like Abrupt Decay, Dismember and Golgari Charm also fall in the role of “gets rid of problem creatures”. Dismember is a flexible card that kills any single creature from an aggressive, early Tarmogoyf to Lodestone Golem, which single-handedly shuts off your Griffin combo. Golgari Charm, on the other hand, is better suited for the swarms of creatures, be they Elves, the various X/1s in Death & Taxes, or Young Pyromancer Tokens. Golgari Charm also has the added benefit of killing off enchantments like Sneak Attack, Elephant Grass, and Jeskai Ascendancy.

HOW ARE FOOD CHAIN’S MATCHUPS?

Right off the bat, Food Chain is favoured against the more fair decks in the format, such as UR Delver and Shardless BUG. In these matchups, you typically try to drop an early Food Chain and protect it until it’s time to go off. Most fair decks can’t really interact with your combo pieces once they resolve, so aside from countermagic they are sitting ducks. As well, because of the way that the deck operates, traditional combo killers like Death & Taxes can’t really interact with you. This deck can hurt your cantrips and your countermagic due to Thalia and Spirit of the Labyrinth, but they have no way to stop a resolved Food Chain or Misthollow Griffin.

Combo decks are far more problematic for Food Chain. Your game 1 against most combos is pretty miserable barring some timely counterspells on your part. Any deck that aims to kill you on turn 1-3 is going to be rough given the fairer nature of your own combo. Without a Force of Will in your hand, you can tap out for a turn 2 Food Chain and get blown away. However, postboard you’re far better set up for combating faster combos. With 11 slots dedicated to combo hate, you simply pick and choose the most relevant sideboard cards and shut down the opposition. Unfortunately, there are some combo decks that will give you problems even after sideboarding. OmniTell and High Tide are especially problematic as they not have relatively fast clocks, but the countermagic to disrupt your combo and your own attempts to disrupt them. In these matches you have to play the control role and hope that you can counter their key spells while getting down the appropriate anti-combo sideboard cards, namely Meddling Mage and Ethersworn Canonist.

FINAL VERDICT: WHY SHOULD I BUILD FOOD CHAIN?

You should build Food Chain if you enjoy playing decks that attack from angles the opponent wouldn’t suspect. Having a combo operate out of your exile zone is something only Food Chain can really claim, and at the end of the day, that uniqueness is what makes Food Chain so much fun to play. Hardcasting Emrakul, playing a Genesis Hydra for your entire deck, or using Tidespout Tyrant to do a one-sided Upheaval are all such massive, bombastic plays that you get to wreak utter havoc on the opponent. If like the sound of that, then Food Chain is the deck for you!

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