I wasted a lot of time today tinkering with Tishana, Voice of Thunder and trying to make a build that wasn’t pedestrian or linear or underpowered. While that wasn’t entirely fruitful, it’ll be a good base to work from for a future article, I still have to turn something in this week. So, beating my dome against my computer desk any longer won’t do me any good. If you give infinite monkeys infinite typewriters and infinite time, eventually one will type the complete works of William Shakespeare (actually, an infinite number of them will do it an infinite number of times, but semantic arguments about the nature of the concept of infinity are sort of a waste of time and they’re the reason that repeatable combos must now gain you an arbitrarily large but finite amount of life); but, one tired dude in his basement smashing his head against the keyboard on his laptop will not even produce a single decklist. I’m going to switch gears a little. If you’re disappointed that I’m not writing about Tishana this week, tune in next week because I should have something good by then. If you’re disappointed that I’m not writing about Rafiq like you thought when you clicked the thumbnail, welcome to my article series. It’s been going for a while, I recommend reading this article first. If you are wondering what I came up with instead, read on— this one is going to be a fun read, I promise.
I really like Legacy as a format. The banlist bothers some people, but I really think it must be doing its job since the format diversity is gigantic. You can metagame like a champ but you can also be Feline Longmore and just jam High Tide all the time and do very well with it. Any player who understands their deck well, has a sideboard that shores up their bad matchups, and gets lucky a little bit can win a Legacy tournament and I think that’s true moreso in Legacy and Vintage than any other format. You don’t see people with pet decks in Standard as much and things change so often that it’s difficult to really learn a deck the way a Legacy player knows their deck. Also, Legacy is full of straight cheating at Magic and that’s what I want to talk about today. Cheating at Magic by doing dumb shuffle tracking or other cheats that will get you castigated by the underground dojo KEYBOARD cagefighters of the world isn’t what we’re after, though. We want to pay three mana for a 15-mana creature. We want to put their entire army on the bottom of their library for a single White mana. We want to put ourselves ahead, put them behind and we want to use the best Magic cards ever printed apart from a few that are deemed to be injurious to the format. In other words, Legacy and Commander aren’t that different.
When I saw Max Kahn tweet this picture, I was instantly interested.
It’s a little bit hard to see but what you need to know is that this is Eldrazi and Taxes with some very spicy inclusions in the form of two maindeck Palace Jailers. My Commander sense began to tingle — becoming the Monarch is one of my favorite things to do in Commander and someone doing it in Legacy seems even spicier. It’s tougher to have it wrested from you with only one opponent at the table and some of the slower, control matchups all but feed you a ton of extra cards that you can use to pick their hand apart, play another Chalice of the Void or find some equipment to make your creature(s) hit harder. I saw this and thought “I love seeing people do Commander stuff in Legacy.” Commander is a very, very powerful format — it’s mitigated by a lot of other players who can keep you in line and it’s mitigated by a lot of our super powerful spells being too expensive to cast super early before people can stop us. Legacy plays Shardless Agent — you can’t tell me Rishkar's Expertise isn’t a card they would play if games didn’t basically end before anyone got that much mana. Being able to do your stuff early is what matters most in a quick, powerful 1v1 format like Legacy. They managed to figure out how to do powerful things for fewer mana, so surely there are some lessons we can learn from that format and try to apply to Commander. If we’re going to win ever with a 75% deck, we’re going to need to do things that are powerful and we may need to do them earlier than anyone is expecting. I want to look at some Legacy decks and see if there are some things we can glean. After all, Palace Jailer as removal and card advantage in a Legacy list shows that Legacy players are willing to use “our” cards when applicable so there have to be some instances of the Legacy informing what we do in Commander.
The Deck: Sneak and Show
The Lesson: Paying Mana costs is for suckers.
Emrakul is banned in our format, and for good reason. Imagine having Emrakul as your Commander. Imagine having to fend off everyone trying to murder you before you get to fifteen mana and only having stuff like Warping Wail to defend yourself. Actually that sounds super fair. Either way, Emrakul is banned; but, there are still things we can cheat into play like Blightsteel Colossus that are super worth it. While Show and Tell shows up in about 1,000 registered EDHREC lists, I think the real fun is in having Show and Tell be your Commander. Braids, Conjurer Adept and Jhoira of the Ghitu are both fine examples of commanders you can use to cheat like a real Sneak and Show player. Paying mana costs is for suckers, so don’t be a sucker.
I found a 75% Braids list someone else came up with and I mostly agree with the card choices and I agree that building a 75% deck takes restraint sometimes. We can still do very powerful, degenerate things and do them early, and this deck does that. If our opponents aren’t set up to play as big or nasty of a creature as we are, we’re putting ourselves ahead even though we’re giving them an opportunity to play something for free as well. In Legacy, I liked to run Knight of the Reliquary so I could tutor for a Karakas to foil their Emrakul. In Commander, I think our opponents are equally under-equipped to deal with a free Blightsteel or even Jin-Gitaxis, Core Augur if we do this early enough. So, I think a Commander Sneak and Show (or just Show) approach is perfectly potent and perfectly 75%.
The Deck: Maverick
The Lesson: Hatebears and Lands are sometimes all you need
Knight of the Reliquary is one of my favorite cards of all time and its utility can’t be overstated. Commander is still a format where utility lands matter and being able to grab the right one at will is non-trivial. I think those instant-speed landfall triggers are even better in a format where we have expensive landfall creatures like Roil Elemental and Admonition Angel. As good as it was to tutor for that Bojuka Bog in Standard, imagine the impact it can have in a format like Commander against a deck like Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Knight of the Reliquary is in twice as many decks as Show and Tell so maybe Commander players already got the memo. Commander has access to a lot of the lands I liked in my Legacy Maverick deck from Maze of Ith to Horizon Canopy to even Sejiri Steppe. I can’t run Karakas anymore but that’s probably for the best since having your commander bounced ad infinitum seems annoying.
Maverick isn’t just a Knight deck, however. Hatebears and utility creatures to do double duty by carrying equipment can really throw a wrench into the works for your opponents and with a 100 card singleton deck, you can still double or triple up due to how many different ways they’re printing hatebears. Everything from Gaddock Teeg to Vryn Wingmare is fair game in a deck that can run Knight and Maverick decks in Legacy are expanding from being 2-3 color to being 3-4. Having access to Leovold, Emissary of Trest is pretty clutch in a Brainstorm format and while we can’t do that in Commander, we can run Black hatebears like Yixlid Jailer, for example. I see plenty of Gaddock Teeg and Dragonlord Dromoka and Sigarda builds that remind me of the Maverick deck I used for a long time in Legacy. If you want some lists that look a lot like Maverick, I would recommend this Karametra Landfall deck as a starting point or try a spicy Dromoka build. Both could use some tuning but they’re great places to start and they have the spirit of Maverick in mind, even if they aren’t jamming the original Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo that I was so fond of back in the day.
The Deck: Stoneblade
The Lesson: Sometimes an equipment is as good as a creature
Commander players are fully aware that tutoring for and cheating out equipment is very good, and with cards like Sram, Senior Edificer playable in the format, Commander players are getting even more saucy triggers than most people. Stoneblade is a very potent Legacy deck, using the power of Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull to create a Baneslayer Angel on turn three (at least that’s what it feels like facing it down) and back it up with removal and permission. Esper Stoneblade in particular was the bane of many Legacy tournaments for years. Card draw, removal, and, of course, Stoneforge Mystic are killer in Legacy. Stoneforge Mystic most often ends up in decks like Sram and Kha, Kemba Regent in Commander, but this isn’t really incongruous with how people are using equipment tutoring creatures in Legacy. The one spicy thing I saw was that Breya decks are running Stoneforge Mystic more and more to find their Thopter/Sword combo or just find something to throw in the Ironworks to get some mana going. I am also a fan of trying to find your Assault Suit in your Zurgo Helmsmasher or Ruhan of the Fomori deck. If you’re looking for something new, try a Nazahn build, but it seems like Commander has largely incorporated the lessons from Stoneblade and that concept in and of itself was worth mentioning.
The Deck: Lands
The Lesson: The simplest resource can be the most important
Lands decks are solid in Legacy, using easy tutoring and the lack of creatures to get an asymmetrical effect from lands like Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale to punish them for having the audacity to try and win with something so gauche as playing and attacking with creatures. Lands builds are there in Commander, and using sites like EDHREC you can tease them out. Search for very specific cards like Manabond that wouldn’t get played much in other decks or do what I did and pick a 5-color commander like Child of Alara and use the new subtheme feature on EDHREC to select just the cards that are in lands builds. Child of Alara is a pretty popular lands commander, it turns out. Some of the same strategies, like running board wipes that only punish your opponents and “tutoring” with spells like Gamble since you have a lot of Crucible of Worlds effects, still apply to both formats. Lands is pretty strong and resilient in Legacy (with Jace, the Mind Sculptor as a very saucy win condition). In fact, using a Legacy lands list as a starting point, you can trim everything down to a 1-of and have a very good basis for a lands list. Add some redundancy like Splendid Reclamation, Ramunap Excavator, and Horn of Greed to approximate spells run in the Legacy build and by the time you add some landfall creatures and some more saucy utility lands like Dust Bowl, Rath's Edge, and Kor Haven, you’re almost built. Try it! Start with a Legacy lands list and see how close you get to a lands list from EDHREC. Pretty close, I bet.
There are still so many Legacy archetypes we can adapt! I think we can put a pin in this and come back in a few weeks (I basically promised to cover Tishana next week) but this is a great topic and all of the lists we adapted ended up both doing powerful, Legacy-tier stuff but also being nice 75% Commander builds. Talk about synchronicity. I hope you enjoyed this break from my usual fare. If you loved it or hated it, that would be good to know. So, let me know in the comments section. That’s all for now, join me next week where I’ll talk about a certain Merfolk. Until next time!