*Warning* The following Priemer’s Primer comes at the request of our editor, Joshua Claytor. Any resulting shenanigans in your local metagame as a result of this Primer rest square on his shoulders.
Combo decks are something of an enigma in Legacy. Everyone is constantly trying to figure out how to make their combo faster and faster, until you reach the point where turn 1 just isn’t good enough. You want to shut them down before they can even play a spell. There aren’t a whole lot of effects in the game that let you do something like that. You have your choice between the Chancellor cycle and the Leyline cycles. Normally, the Leyline cycles are strictly sideboard fare, but what happens if you just jam 27 of them into one deck?
How beautiful is that? This is the best non-Magic deck this side of Dredge. This archetype employs some tremendously funny combos that can kill as early as turn 1, the first of which requires a nut draw of Serra’s Sanctum, Opalescence, and five Leylines. It doesn’t matter which Leylines they are, just so long as there are five of them. You then play your Sanctum, tap it for five White, and cast Opalescence. This turns your Leylines into 4/4s that conveniently enough can attack since you’ve controlled them since the beginning of your turn. That’s 20 damage on turn 1!
To help increase the odds of achieving such a combo, the deck also runs Serum Powder, a card virtually unseen outside of Vintage Dredge. Like in Vintage Dredge, you’re aggressively trying to find your key land so you can cast your spells. If Serum Powder is in your opening hand, you can exile the entire hand when you mulligan and draw the same number of cards. By mulliganing with seven fewer cards, this dramatically increases the odds of drawing into a hand suited for going off on the first or second turn.
As a backup plan, Leylines also runs a single Helm of Obedience to combo out the opponent. This is tutorable by the Enlightened Tutor and only really works with Leyline of the Void in play. With the Black Leyline, you can activate the Helm for one mana and continuously mill the opponent’s deck. Normally, paying one mana would only mill one card, but because no cards are actually going to their graveyard, Helm will continue to mill because it hasn’t satisfied the “until you mill X cards” clause. It’s a bizarre and incredibly abusable interaction, which works well with the theme of the deck.
Crop Rotation is a great way to turn one of your City of Brass lands into Serra’s Sanctum, giving even further consistency and speed to your combo plans. Imagine dumping a bunch of Leylines on turn zero, playing City of Brass, casting Crop Rotation for Serra’s Sanctum and tapping it for Opalescence mana. That’s at least a turn 2 kill your opponent has to deal with. Furthermore, the Leyline deck runs three copies of Suppression Field in the maindeck to slow your opponent down. For two mana you can put a two mana tax on all their fetchlands, Deathrite Shamans, Stoneforge Mystics, and Liliana of the Veils. This should buy you plenty of time to assemble your combos.
Moreover, the deck runs a set of Enlightened Tutor and a pair of Idyllic Tutor to help search for whatever enchantments you may need to win. More often than not you’re searching out an Opalescence to animate all your Leylines, but Enlightened Tutor has the added benefit of fetching out artifacts as well. This means you can find the 1-of Tree of Tales for a mana boost, or the Helm of Obedience to combo out the opponent.
WHAT SHOULD I RUN IN MY SIDEBOARD?
Simply put, the way you build your sideboard should be roughly 9-10 hate enchantments that you can tutor out with Enlightened Tutor to make it easier to prison your opponent. Cards like Ghostly Prison, Runed Halo, Rest in Peace, Curse of Exhaustion, and Stony Silence are all fantastic 1-ofs to shut off opposing strategies. The deck also runs a fourth copy of Suppression Field to further delay opponents relying on activated abilities like Jund or Deathblade. Leylines also runs a package of Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring to help get rid of pesky threats from Sneak and Show, as well as acting as a catch-all for problem permanents such as Jace or Batterskull.
Of the non-enchantments in the sideboard, Leylines runs a set of Chancellor of the Annex to help put a clock on mana-light decks like Delver. With this in your opening hand, you can delay their turn 1 Delver and thanks to both Serra’s Sanctum and Leyline of Lifeforce, you can power it out to both wall them off and put a quick clock on them. Lastly, Replenish is there for the removal-heavy matches like Jund and BUG, which have several ways of destroying our enchantments. This gives you a way of returning your fallen enchantments to the battlefield and rebuilding your board.
HOW ARE MY MATCHUPS?
Right off the bat, you’re favoured against Dredge, Reanimator, Storm, and Burn because you’re running Leyline of Sanctity and Leyline of the Void in your maindeck. These allow you to randomly lock out the opponent in game 1 when they’re not expecting it. Leyline of Punishment also gives you outs to racing opposing Batterskulls, and Leyline of Vitality can even make your animated Leylines bigger than Batterskull tokens. Your sideboard tutor package is a nightmare for a lot of decks, such as Rest in Peace for graveyard decks, Runed Halo and Curse of Exhaustion for Storm, and Stony Silence for Stoneforge and Tezzeret decks. These can really swing a match in your favour and make it almost impossible to beat.
Your biggest threats are GB decks, such as Jund and BUG, since they not only have Golgari Charm to kill your enchantments, they also tend to have a Maelstrom Pulse or two, as well as Abrupt Decay for your smaller enchantments. These decks also tend to put out one large threat like Tarmogoyf or True-Name Nemesis and swing with just that, which plays around your Ghostly Prison should you opt to bring it in. Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace do a good job of slowing down Tarmogoyf, but they can just blow it up and rebuild their graveyard. They’re just so suited to fighting your win conditions, and your inability to really deal with resolved threats makes these some painful matches.
Another more matchup that’s more awkward than anything is Sneak and Show. Your Leylines really don’t do anything to slow them down, and at best you have Suppression Field, but that doesn’t affect them because they have Sol lands to pay the extra two mana. They also have the ability to Force of Will away your Opalescence, rending any attempt at a turn 1 kill moot. You do have Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring to help fight Show and Tell, so the match isn’t completely one-sided, but this matchup relies heavily on whether or not you can resolve Opalescence or Helm of Obedience, so you really just have to hope they don’t have the counterspell and swing for the fences.
FINAL VERDICT: WHY BUILD LEYLINES?
You should build Leylines if you’re looking for a zany, all-in combo deck that catches your opponents off-guard and randomly locks out certain opponents. This is a deck where you can steal wins that you’d otherwise have to slog through with other decks. Outside of sleeving up Dredge, this is the most non-Magic deck you can play in Legacy. They’re either dead on turn 1, or you durdle around for a turn or two and then they’re dead. Either way, the matches go by quickly. If you like playing lightning-fast combos with prison elements, and just want to demoralize your opponent, you can’t go wrong with Leylines.
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