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Legacy Pet Decks

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After coming off a week of talking about efficiency, I really couldn’t think of a better thing to do than to share a few niche decks that I’ve been fixated on for years. These are usually decks of questionable quality that I enjoy playing or experimenting with while testing, or at smaller, local events, but that are seldom decks I’d suggest for anyone to play in the format. Take a look over some of the decks if you’re not intimately familiar with Legacy, and perhaps you’ll find a new “pet deck” as well.

Landstill

I talk about Landstill most weeks; I love it whether it’s any good in the current metagame or not. I’ll try talking about some lesser-known decks this week.

Salvagers Game (A.K.A. Golden Grahams)

Back in the day, when it was required that every combo deck have a cereal-related name, there was a deck called simply The Game. I think it was named after the rapper, but I’m not totally sure. The Game was a deck based around sacrificing Gamekeeper into a bigger threat; way back then, Darksteel Colossus was the best threat. The problem with the deck wasn’t in the execution, but in the fact that, after the combo was over, you usually either gained 11 life or simply lost to whatever your opponent was doing the next turn, because Darksteel was just never very good in Legacy.

Soon after The Game was discussed publicly, a new version was passed around that suggested a build of the deck that aimed to win by using the same interaction of Innocent Blood or Cabal Therapy with Gamekeeper, but instead of getting Darksteel Colossus, this deck would find Auriok Salvagers and recur Lion's Eye Diamond and Chromatic Sphere to generate infinite mana while drawing the deck. While the Salvagers were a bit more fragile, they would win the game immediately on your turn rather than forcing you to wait to attack twice. Because you didn’t need to count on attacking, you would also be able to play a more controlling game, since you could explode all in one turn. The earliest build of the deck that placed was at Grand Prix: Philly in 2005.

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

2 Auriok Salvagers

3 Gamekeeper

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

1 Krosan Reclamation

4 Dark Ritual

4 Tainted Pact

2 Night's Whisper

4 Cabal Therapy

4 Duress

4 Innocent Blood

4 Living Wish

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Lion's Eye Diamond

[/Spells]

[Lands]

1 Plains

2 Forest

2 Swamp

1 Bayou

1 Bloodstained Mire

1 Savannah

1 Scrubland

2 Polluted Delta

3 Windswept Heath

2 Snow-Covered Forest

3 Snow-Covered Swamp

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

1 Auriok Salvagers

1 Gamekeeper

1 Kjeldoran Dead

1 Trinket Mage

1 Uktabi Orangutan

1 Viridian Zealot

2 Darksteel Colossus

1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer

1 Ray of Revelation

4 Tsunami

1 City of Brass

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

Soon after, the deck took second place at Legacy Worlds, losing to U/G Madness, and for a short while after that, the deck became ingrained into Legacy’s consciousness.

I’ve talked with the deck’s originator over the years, and we’ve revisited the deck every now and then to retweak it whenever interesting cards are released for the deck. I wish I had talked about the deck while Mental Misstep was in the format, because it was actually testing very well at that point, but I haven’t really given it a whirl since the banning. The most recent list of the deck I have looks like this:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

2 Auriok Salvagers

3 Gamekeeper

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

3 Tainted Pact

2 Duress

2 Thoughtseize

3 Innocent Blood

4 Cabal Therapy

4 Living Wish

1 City of Solitude

2 Pernicious Deed

2 Sylvan Library

1 Chromatic Star

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Sensei's Divining Top

2 Chromatic Sphere

4 Lion's Eye Diamond

[/Spells]

[Lands]

1 Plains

2 Forest

2 Swamp

1 City of Traitors

1 Savannah

1 Windswept Heath

2 Ancient Tomb

2 Bayou

2 Marsh Flats

2 Scrubland

2 Verdant Catacombs

2 Snow-Covered Forest

2 Snow-Covered Swamp

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

1 Auriok Salvagers

1 Carrion Feeder

1 Gamekeeper

1 Orzhov Guildmage

1 Shriekmaw

2 Harmonic Sliver

1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

1 Progenitus

1 Carpet of Flowers

1 City of Solitude

1 Ancient Tomb

1 Bojuka Bog

1 City of Brass

1 Phyrexian Tower

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

This deck has a lot of complicated, game-altering decisions to make even when you compare it to some of the more skill-intensive Blue decks, and this is what originally drew me to the deck. Salvagers Game is a unique combo deck that is able to use some interesting control elements and often masquerades as a midrange deck up until it performs its coup de grâce.

How Does the Deck Win?

The basic game plan for Game 1 is to fire off your disruption spells and work to assemble the combo of Gamekeeper plus Cabal Therapy, Innocent Blood, Pernicious Deed (with a ton of mana), or Phyrexian Tower (found with Living Wish), and use that to either chain Gamekeepers by flashing back Cabal Therapy or mill both Lion's Eye Diamond and either a Chromatic Sphere or Pyrite Spellbomb, ending with 1w open and Auriok Salvagers on the battlefield. The Salvagers then return Lion's Eye Diamond, and you generate www with it. The Salvagers’ ability will allow you to net w every time you go through this chain. After you’ve accumulated an arbitrarily large amount of White mana, you can begin generating other colors of mana—this is what makes the combo generate infinite mana of any color. After you’ve accumulated a comfortable amount of mana, either use Pyrite Spellbomb to kill the opponent immediately, or use a Chromatic Star or Chromatic Sphere to draw cards until you draw Living Wish (for Orzhov Guildmage) or Pyrite Spellbomb.

While the sideboard is mostly dedicated to playing choices for Living Wish, there are a couple more tools to help fight control strategies, and there’s even a link to a strategy of old. Emrakul and Progenitus replace the two Darksteel Colossus, which originally appeared in the deck, as the new gigantic monsters of choice. They are each better in different situations, and sometimes just having both is better than the Salvagers combo. The reason that they still manage to work so well is that when an opponent sees your combo in the first or second game, he will sideboard to fight just that strategy, thus allowing you to mill yourself with Gamekeeper in hopes of getting a presumed maximized value. Of course, then Progenitus makes his used-up Relic look rather silly in the face of annihilation.

So, What’s With the Weird Numbers?

In order to accommodate Tainted Pact, you have to play some strange numbers of cards. You want to maximize the numbers you’re playing of your combo pieces, but nonessential cards, or cards with functional replacements, are taken into account. This accounts for the two-and-two split between Thoughtseize and Duress, and why the basic lands are evenly split between Snow-Covered and their thawed counterparts. Tainted Pact isn’t the perfect spell, and just like Gamekeeper, it can fizzle, but it’s among the best tools for the job, and it works fairly well in this deck.

What Are the Matches Like?

The amount of disruption that this deck is able to pack makes it a rather strong choice against control-heavy or aggro-control-heavy metagames, although the deck will sometimes run a bit rough if it’s asked to both disrupt and win quickly. Sometimes a deck like Canadian Threshold or other aggressive aggro-control decks can be a real pain. Salvagers should be able to race most aggro decks and work well against any midrange deck, but is often going to fall short when it comes to combo mirrors, and it’s difficult to make those matches any better with the sideboard.

If you want to tailor this deck to your metagame, it may be easier to do it with the main deck than the sideboard, since there is a lot of room to play with—from trying something other than Tainted Pact to trying to fit in Entomb and Life from the Loam while playing Tombstalker and Tarmogoyf as Wish targets, which is something I saw someone doing not too long ago. Salvagers Game is my default choice whenever someone issues a challenge to accomplish some absurd goal, and the deck has been great for me for years.

Quinn the Eskimo (Mono-White Control)

Quinn is a deck that really hit home with me because it was so much like Deck Parfait (a mono-White control build), which I played in Vintage back when I first started playing the format. One of the things that I like about a deck like this, Stax, or Enchantress is that a lot of times, people will have trouble playing against you. This happens because it’s like you’re not playing real Magic with your opponent; you’re playing this separate game in which you are just assembling different lock pieces that often double as win conditions. The card advantage that this and decks like it generate is mostly virtual—blanking the opponent’s removal, creatures, and many of his spells. Unlike Parfait, Quinn doesn’t have access to both Scroll Rack and Land Tax; if only Land Tax were unbanned. . . . To supplement the lack of apparent card advantage, Quinn uses Scrying Sheets to find the Plains that Land Tax would grab otherwise. This Snow theme is how Quinn gets its name.

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

2 Eternal Dragon

2 Painter's Servant

[/Creatures]

[Planeswalkers]

1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

[/Planeswalkers]

[Spells]

1 Abeyance

1 Path to Exile

4 Enlightened Tutor

4 Orim's Chant

4 Swords to Plowshares

2 Wrath of God

1 Humility

1 Moat

1 Nevermore

1 Sacred Mesa

2 Oblivion Ring

2 Runed Halo

1 Pithing Needle

2 Grindstone

2 Isochron Scepter

4 Sensei's Divining Top

[/Spells]

[Lands]

19 Snow-Covered Plains

4 Scrying Sheets

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

1 Ethersworn Canonist

2 Path to Exile

1 Karmic Justice

1 Rule of Law

1 Serenity

1 Story Circle

4 Leyline of Sanctity

1 Relic of Progenitus

1 Tormod's Crypt

2 Ratchet Bomb

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

How Does It Win?

The deck has the following routes to victory:

Painter + Grindstone The most common win involves using Enlightened Tutor to fetch both Painter's Servant to make everything Black (the safest color choice) and Grindstone to kill the opponent. This can be accomplished quickly or in the very late game with the protection of Orim's Chant. Alternatively, against other slow decks, sometimes Grindstone is enough—but usually isn’t.

Sacred Mesa Pegasus wins are slow, but in the midgame, this enchantment can stop an opponent’s offense while you stabilize, and it can eventually produce extra Pegasuses, which not only block additional creatures, but kill additional opponents.

Moat + Humility Much like the Painter-plus-Grindstone win, both lock pieces are accessible with Enlightened Tutor, and when combined, defeat a fair number of decks in Legacy.

Isochron Scepter + Orim’s Chant Chant is included in the deck primarily to combo with Scepter, but also to give the deck some sort of chance against combo. Scepter-Chant will lock out a great number of decks in the format in Game 1, and even when it doesn’t outright win, it is usually able to buy a bunch of time.

Elspeth and Eternal Dragon These are the win conditions for when you don’t have access to anything else, and it’s incredible late game.

What Are the Matches Like?

Quinn is a pretty versatile deck that can be tailored for a lot of metagames, and it has the ability to combat just about any deck in the format—with a notable exception being Hive Mind. One of the things that you should expect is for most every game to go long . . . if you’re going to win. Quinn is best against aggro decks and decks that want to win in the midgame. With the waning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Legacy, it may actually be a good time, for those who enjoy the deck, to bring it back out to play.

Quinn is a deck that really helps to teach better play; its concepts reinforce the importance of resource management and card selection, achieved mostly through shuffling and activating Sensei's Divining Top. The idea is sort of like throwing someone who can’t swim into a pool: Either you figure out how to find your silver bullets, like Moat and Runed Halo, or you’re going to die.

Closing Thoughts

These are a few decks that I’ve really enjoyed playing with over the years, and I hope that I’ve been able to share them with a few other people who will enjoy them. Another pet deck that I didn’t want to take an extensive amount of time to cover is Battle of Wits . . . and some of my various builds thereof. I actually just came off a couple weeks of building and playing a High Tide–based combo build of Battle of Wits; it’s strangely effective and a lot of fun. I was playing the Battle of Wits deck against T.E.S. and managed a fairly respectable four-to-five win ratio. It isn’t a winning record, but whaddya want? I played a two-hundred-fifty-card deck.

GP: Amsterdam’s results are up, as are SCG: Baltimore’s, both of which were this weekend. Next week, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the decks and numbers from those events, and I’ll help to digest what it all means for the Legacy metagame. Until that time, I’m going to try building my first sixty-card Legacy deck with Snapcaster Mage. Let’s see if he really stands up to the hype.

~ Christopher Walton in the real world

im00pi at gmail dot com

Master Shake on The Source

@EmperorTopDeck on Twitter

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