Another day, another Legacy brew for your pal 40-card Friedman. And now, with the announcement of the first ever three format Team Constructed Pro Tour, there’s more reason than ever to try to gain an edge in the Cadillac of Magic’s formats. I’m even sitting in a guest house in Kyoto, Japan, theoretically preparing for Standard and AKH-HOU Limited, and I can’t help but think about how many awesome Legacy brews are still out there, waiting for me to potentially break them and win the Pro Tour over a year from now. The hype is real, and after last week’s adventures with Mortician’s Delver and Moon Grixis Garbage, it’s time to see about some other underappreciated gems that Legacy has for us. Because of the depth of playable archetypes, the slow introduction of new and interesting cards, and the gradual exploration of older effects, Legacy isn’t getting old anytime soon. The renewed attention on the format thanks to the promotion of Team Constructed stands to do wonderful things for Legacy, and as long as Wizards incentivizes performance in this format, there will be reason to try to gain a half-step on the competition. Let’s start with Mentor Infect, the next evolution of a woefully underrepresented archetype.
Before we get into cards, some background on Infect in Legacy. The idea behind this deck is that it falls into the macro-archetype of fast tempo-aggro, but rather than filling out the Brainstorm-Ponder-Daze-Force of Will shell with Delver of Secrets, Deathrite Shaman, and removal spells, this deck chooses to put the pedal to the metal by incorporating infect creatures and pump spells. With free Invigorates, free Dazes, free Gitaxian Probes and free Force of Wills, Legacy Infect has possibly more zero-mana spells than any deck in the format (save weird fringe archetypes like Kobolds combo). Infect is theoretically similar to Delver decks in general matchup win percentages, but exchanges a weaker matchup against Delver itself for a higher percentage of nut-draws and overall stronger matchups against combo decks, Elves, and Death and Taxes. The deck also leverages false tempo more effectively than just about any other deck in Legacy, with opponents forced into awkward timing of their removal spells in order to attempt to not get blown out. Infect opens up many opportunities for opponents to make mistakes, but an experienced player with a highly interactive deck should win more than they lose against Infect. In effect, if there were a solution to the Delver matchup, it would be possible for Infect to be the top dog of Legacy, at least until folks caught up with more hate cards. (Think Izzet Staticaster, Grim Lavamancer, etc.)
Now, for players who love to dive deep and find obscure decklists in Legacy, there are rewards in unique sideboard plans, unexpected tech, and possibly even solutions to formerly-unfavorable matchups. For Infect, that solution lies in a humble White splash for a hefty package of removal alongside a few cheap card advantage engines. Tom Ross has played a Savannah to surprise opponents with a Swords to Plowshares or two in specific matchups, but never before has there been this much of a sideboard juke for Infect. Six removal spells, a couple of two-mana card advantage machines, and Monastery Mentor for the full “protect the queen” setup. The maindeck is still fairly stock, but that sideboard is a real head-scratcher. Let’s talk about it:
Mentor Infect ? Legacy | Ben Friedman
- Instants (22)
- 2 Become Immense
- 2 Berserk
- 2 Flusterstorm
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Daze
- 4 Force of Will
- 4 Invigorate
- Enchantments (1)
- 1 Sylvan Library
- Lands (19)
- 1 Pendelhaven
- 1 Tundra
- 2 Savannah
- 3 Tropical Island
- 4 Inkmoth Nexus
- 4 Misty Rainforest
- 4 Windswept Heath
A few points before we discuss the possible alternative sideboard plans:
1: No basic lands
As appealing as it is to be resilient to Blood Moon and Wasteland, Infect is already quite fragile against opposing nonbasic land hate. Your best bet in general is to win faster, to counter the Blood Moon, or to play through the Wastelands. This may come back to bite you against Lands, but drawing Forest is fairly demoralizing when you need to cast Swords to Plowshares and Brainstorms early and often against opposing tempo decks.
2: More counterspells, no Blossoming Defense or Vines of Vastwood
There are combo decks out there, lots of them. Flusterstorm is a great answer to opposing Storm decks and opposing high-removal-density decks alike, as it amounts to an essentially uncounterable Spell Pierce against removal. It’s reasonable to add an extra pump spell or two to increase goldfish consistency, but if you want to fight combo decks, your best bet is 10-12 cheap counterspells, which this change does.
3: Four Gitaxian Probes
I’ve seen lists floating around with only three of this card, and it doesn’t make sense. Probe is possibly the most Infect-friendly Blue card in the deck, as it lets you see the coast is clear, adds cards to the graveyard for Delve, and reduces the virtual size of your deck, all in one low-cost package. Then, post-sideboard, it lets you get value with Monastery Mentor. Don’t cut to three Probes!
Now, as for the specific sideboard choices. To transform into a midrange Bant deck, you have basically three potential card advantage packages. The first is a Stoneforge Mystic package. Instead of Mentors, Jaces, and Null Rods, you’d have Stoneforges, Batterskull, and an Umezawa's Jitte. You could also cut the Sylvan Library for another anti-Storm card, as Null Rod doubles as Storm hate, and you would lose that hate piece with the inclusion of equipment.
The second package is Standstill. Standstill is surprisingly powerful in Infect, as it’s a two-mana draw-three spell, and you operate fairly well under your own Standstill with four Inkmoth Nexuses. Curving a Swords to Plowshares into a Standstill against Delver, or even a Noble Hierarch into a Standstill against a wide range of midrange archetypes will put you far ahead. The danger here is that Standstill is not stellar on the draw, nor is it particularly good against combo decks. You slow both sides down immensely with the card, but Storm opponents in particular will take the extra time to hit land drops, accumulate discard spells, and then break the Standstill and kill you through multiple counterspells in the same turn. Be aware!
The third package, as we see here, is a combination of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Monastery Mentor, and Sylvan Library. Baby Jace is an odd inclusion, one that doesn’t see much play in Legacy, but offers card advantage and an alternative win condition for the supremely low price of two mana. Don’t discount the Emblem, as it can win games that no other effect could win! Against neo-Miracles, a resolved Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on turn two is often a slam-dunk win, for example. Sylvan Library also offers selection and card advantage (and is incidentally also great against slow control decks like neo-Miracles, and Mentor is a one-card army in a deck like Infect. Feel free to mix and match these packages, or come up with other ones. Life from the Loam + Wasteland + Tranquil Thicket, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, True-Name Nemesis, the options are practically endless. Sideboarding with these wacky plans is a bit complicated, to say the least, so do be sure to get a feel for how the deck operates before lobotomizing the deck in order to fit in huge numbers of transformative cards.
Now, as interesting as Landstill Infect, Mentor Infect, or any other crazy transformative concoction may be, there is still room to innovate with good old Delver. While Sultai Delver chooses to gain free win equity via Hymn to Tourach, and Grixis Delver attempts to make Young Pyromancer do work, there is an old spell that synergizes well with many of the things that Delver decks are trying to do, a spell that many newer players won’t even recognize, a spell from a simpler time in Magic. Sinkhole.
Now, Sinkhole is an interesting card, as it’s so much better on the play than on the draw in Legacy, but it can turn many games into a one-sided rout, especially in multiples. It behooves us, then, to tinker with Delver decks and see if Sinkhole isn’t the spell of choice to win games.
Sinkhole Delver ? Legacy | Ben Friedman
- Lands (19)
- 1 Island
- 1 Swamp
- 1 Tropical Island
- 2 Misty Rainforest
- 2 Verdant Catacombs
- 4 Polluted Delta
- 4 Underground Sea
- 4 Wasteland
Now this is a tempo deck! With about as polarizing a play-draw dependency as a deck can have, Sinkhole Delver will win games in embarrassing fashion on the play, and lose them in just as embarrassing a fashion on the draw. When you lead Deathrite into Daze + Sinkhole, or Delver + Wasteland, or Stifle + Delver, your opponent is going to be left grasping at straws to come back into the game. By the same token, when your opponent leads with a Deathrite Shaman, you’re going to be in for a world of hurt holding Stifles, Wastelands, and Sinkholes that will sink you further and further into a tempo hole against the opposing Deathrite. That being said, what else is new in Legacy Delver mirrors? Rather than trying to hedge against opponents’ great draws, this deck wants to ride the variance wave, try to get lucky a few times, and absolutely pummel opponents into the ground with land destruction the likes of which we haven’t seen in Legacy in years. Again, this is a package that could be incorporated into a Sultai or Grixis shell, with plentiful options like Liliana of the Veil, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and Dark Confidant. Confidant in particular would be the sort of card that a variance-embracing design like this would love, where it can pull away with the game if it sticks on turn two, but by the same token, it could result in an unfortunate “Lava Axe myself” at the wrong time.
As polarized as cards like Sinkhole and Stifle are, there’s nothing wrong with living dangerously every once in a while in Legacy. Despite fairly weak matchups against the decks where land destruction and Stifles are bad (think Death and Taxes, Elves, Merfolk, etc.) there are free wins out there to be had, and if you’re not going to take them, someone else will! Mentor Infect and Sinkhole Delver are about as free-win-oriented as fair Blue decks can get, so if you like the idea of making your opponent grumble in frustration about your cheesy dumb deck, these are your weapons.
With the announcement of the Team Pro Tour next year, Legacy is going to be a more critical format than ever, and experts in the format will be among the most sought-after players for high-powered teams. If you have ever harbored dreams of beating Reid Duke in a Legacy match in the finals of a Pro Tour, this is the chance to make it happen. There stand to be a number of Team GPs in this next season to give you the chance to leverage Legacy for a chance at the big dance, and we’re going to run down tons of archetypes, innovations, sideboard packages, and matchups in anticipation. Get good, and you’ll be the most desirable teammate in the area. Slack, and you’ll have to sit through Modern Burn mirrors while your teammates have all the fun. The season starts now!