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The Ballad of Thief of Sanity


Last week at SCG Syracuse you may have seen me attacking with Thief of Sanity to cast my opponent's Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. What makes this an exceptional play is that it happened in Legacy.

That's right, Legacy. I went DEEP that weekend and relied on a friend, Eric Landon, who previously played this deck, boasting close to a 100% win rate over several leagues.

Originally I was planning on sleeving up some Dark Confidants and Delver of Secrets. In testing I was winning quite a few matches and when I had friends play the list they came to the same conclusion. However, I believed my results and my friends results to be skewed and so without much confidence I ended up shelving my pile.

The list I would have played for reference:

The idea behind this deck was that removal is at an all time low; and, as such, Dark Confidant felt well positioned to bury the slow decks and help you crush combo. Light Up the Stage was nice as a bridge to get into the mid to late game effectively but it also doubles as a cantrip you can spew when you're getting far ahead. If you're able to hold Ponder and Brainstorm for longer they will become more effective but Light Up the Stage can be used at will to further your game plan or even catch up. I think if I had another week or two to work on this I would have been happy with my build, but I was pressed for time. So in turn, when Eric Landon gave me his decklist that he'd been working on it was hard to say no. I got to play a couple Leagues with the deck and it was right up my alley. While there were some cards I didn't like, I elected to not change much of what was working and registered this.

Much like my previous theory about Dark Confidant the same holds true for Thief of Sanity. In this deck, instead of trying to leverage Daze and cheap, powerful threats you instead have Hymn to Tourach and plenty of removal to move through your opponent's resources until you can deploy a Thief of Sanity. Like most well built decks, Thief is an ends to a means and not a centerpiece of the deck. With planeswalkers and removal aplenty there isn't a major focus to just one win condition. Playing a control deck in Legacy in sometimes a questionable move but I feel as though this is a good time for it.

What makes this Dimir strategy so potent right now is how the format is set up. Taking a look at the decks being played there's a noticeable pattern in the relative speed of these decks. Everything has slowed down. Even the Delver decks really have changed their pace to be able to contend with Miracles and Grixis Control. Hymn to Tourach is fantastic at the moment and great at eating through all the slow decks. Being able to play a clean mana base means you're safe from Wastelands and Blood Moons which gives you an edge when you have to keep a low land hand with some needed resources without fear of getting shut down by a stray Wasteland. Basics rule right now and these greedy decks will start getting punished by a rise in Wasteland, Price of Progress, and Back to Basics.

On the subject of Grixis Control, it might not make sense to try and play this strategy over that one but there are some hidden upsides. Grixis Control is quite clunky and very color intensive. Trying to play Badlands alongside Volcanic Island and four basics to cast Hymn to Tourach into Lightning Bolt and Kolaghan's Command is just asking to get Spell Pierced out of the game. Being unable to apply pressure in the right spots against the combo decks doesn't feel great either. To expand on that the creatures the deck plays don't hit very hard (outside of Gurmag Angler) and unlike the Delver decks Angler isn't very easy to play as quickly and be able to back it up. On the other hand Thief of Sanity offers a unique way to win the game and when you compare it to other 3-drops it actually makes a ton of sense and is quite scary. The plan revolves around shredding opponents resources so they won't have much in the way of removal in order to tend to the Thief and it is able to run away with the game. Since the power level of Legacy is so high the cards you get will generally be relevant. My favorite play on the weekend was using Crop Rotation to grab a Wasteland to stop my opponent from making a Marit Lage. Other cards I cast over the weekend are Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Ponder, Kolaghan's Command, Grim Monolith, Walking Ballista, True-Name Nemesis, Stoneforge Mystic, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Cabal Therapy. While this is partially a brag, it's also to reveal how often I was able to connect with Thief of Sanity. And this doesn't cover everything I was able to nab. When Thief connects it is going to end the game in short order. When you hit with True-Name the game can go on for several turns and with Thief it doesn't feel like that is the case. You can also cast cards for alternate costs off Thief so feel free to pitch a Blue card in your hand for Force or return an Island for that Daze.

The issues with this deck are the same that other controls deck face: sometimes you spin your wheels and don't have good answers to what your opponent is doing. It also felt like the deck struggled against Grixis Control and decks that were doing off the wall things like rw Painter or Four-Color Arclight decks. I'm also unsure if the Miracles matchup is good or not. While I dominated it in one match I got completely outclassed in another. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and other planeswalkers are very tough to beat, hence my inclusion of To the Slaughter in the sideboard. In the future I am considering a VERY light splash of Red for Pyroblast or Green for Assassin's Trophy in order to have some more universal answers without breaking our mana base or becoming a different deck. While I'm not sure what that would look like just yet I am playing Legacy for the next Team Open so I will be looking into that for the future and I'll be sure to keep everyone updated where I end up on it.

The only card I really was missing all weekend was another cheap spell for Delver decks like a Dead Weight or another Fatal Push and Bitterblossom. I'm not sure where I'd like to make cuts just yet since space feels tight.

This deck was a blast to play and even though Day 2 fell apart I'm looking forward to sleeving this deck up again.

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