The Legacy Gauntlet: The Truly Unfair

[To check out previous installments of the Legacy Gauntlet, check out Rudy’s pieces on more “fair” decks here and here. -Ed.]

Ah yes, the combo decks. These decks paradoxically are what makes Legacy so appealing and yet the ones that also draw so much hatred. These are the decks that can effectively kill you on turn one through three and the decks that ACTUALLY kill you on turns one through three. Come unprepared to battle against combo and you will find yourself on the losing side of the bracket quickly.

Just a reminder: This is by no means an exhaustive list of the decks to be found in Legacy nor is it an in-depth look at the decks. Just general information about the decks you are likely to play against or see others playing.

Storm

Let’s start with the combo deck that is probably the most popular: Storm. There are two distinct different flavors of Storm that you are likely to see, Ad Nauseum Tendrils (“ANT”) and The Epic Storm (“TES”). While both decks can contain other routes to victory, the primary way each wins is through building a large storm count and then using Tendrils of Agony to finish an opponent off.  What’s the difference between the two? 

The Ad Nauseum version is a little “slower (although I’m putting slower in quotes here since the deck still is very consistent and can kill quickly). It has more discard and is able to make full use of its sideboard due to the omission of Burning Wish.

The Epic Storm in contrast is much faster and has multiple routes to victory including Empty the Warrens. As alluded to above, it also runs a Burning Wish sideboard which enables it to have access to a host of different answers to any particular situation. Since it has cheaper rituals and access to Chrome Mox, TES is generally going to have better Ad Nauseams as well which makes using that as a route to victory stronger. ANT has a higher converted mana cost across the board, so while Ad Nauseam can be great, it can be easily turned off by some early damage.

If you’re interested in learning more about ANT check out Legacy’s Allure episode 1 featuring Caleb Scherer here.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Epic Storm you should check out Bryant Cook’s website about the deck. Bryant invented the deck so you should learn some good info between his and AJ Kerrigan’s articles on the site. 

Ad Nauseam Tendrils (or ANT) by Jared Brody

Ad Nauseum Tendrils by TogoresRodrigo

This version is a slight departure from both decks. While it still has the game one fast kills, post-board Rodrigo here is boarding into a deck that can grind out a bunch of counterspells and hate cards. With more Tendrils of Agony, there is a higher chance of a natural Tendrils kill occurring. While most people wait until the payoff card (i.e. generally a tutor) to try and use counterspells, Rodrigo here has cleverly set up the ability to use Tendrils of Agony and the storm counter in order to dodge all of that.

The Epic Storm (or TES) by Bryant Cook

What makes this deck good?

This style of deck is always going to be a contender at almost every point and in almost every metagame. With the ability to win games early and in the mid to late game, Storm rewards those with patience and knowledge of their deck. With discard and up to 14 one-mana draw spells there the deck is scarily consistent. Boasting the ability to go under counter magic or even through it, this deck is incredibly scary for any blue mages. What might not be known about this deck is how little it sometimes needs to combo off. Something as innocuous as Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Infernal Tutor, and either a second copy of a ritual or a Lion’s Eye Diamond can be enough to end someone’s day.

The way both decks play out sideboarding can be really hard. Should you prepare for Xantid Swarm and leave in some otherwise dead removal? What about Empty the Warrens? Do you leave in dead sweepers in the hopes your opponent has it? And with all the discard in the Storm deck are you even going to get to keep those cards available?

The deck asks a lot of questions and rarely are good answers found.

How to beat this deck

While the deck is incredibly consistent it does have some issues. Attacking the opponent’s cantrips are going to shut down a lot of the consistency. Cards like Chalice of the Void are going to be devastating as it shuts down a large percentage of the deck. Similar to Chalice of the Void, taxing permanents can be difficult to deal with. Cards like Trinisphere, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Sphere of Resistance can make trying to cast spells difficult. Some other permanent-based hate includes Gaddock Teeg, Ethersworn Canonist, and Counterbalance. All of these cards are going to make life difficult for a Storm player. While it’s possible to fight through any of this, hate in multiples combined with an efficient clock can shut down the Storm deck before it fights its way out from under it.

In addition, spells like Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, Flusterstorm and the like are all going to be solid against Storm. While it’s true that one piece isn’t enough, it’s not unfair to say that multiple hate pieces can stop the deck from ever getting back in. While a deck like Rodrigo Togores’s is going to have a better time fighting through hate, it isn’t always the easiest.

Sneak and Show

Sneak and Show once held an icy grip on the format. The deck was consistent and crushed every event to the point where people strongly believed that Show and Tell would be banned. Fortunately the format balanced itself out and Sneak and Show retreated to the annals of history to be never seen again…until now.

Sneak and Show by Niels Noorlander

Why is this deck good?

Sneak and Show is good because it puts a huge, difficult-to-answer monster in play with relative ease.

The deck not only has a ton of consistency for a combo deck, it also is rather redundant. Counter this Show and Tell? Play Sneak Attack. Thoughtseize one of my creatures? Put a different one into play. Unsurprisingly, with a bunch of redundant pieces the deck is very good at putting them together. The deck can also be incredibly fast.  With acceleration in the form of Ancient Tomb or Lotus Petal, the deck can play way ahead of the curve and jam before turn three. Combine this with a mostly pristine manabase and the result is a deck that’s difficult to interact with. The deck also has great sideboard cards in the form of Blood Moon or even Jace, the Mind Sculptor that give it multiple avenues to victory. 

How to beat the deck

The deck can be reliant on cantrips, so just like most of the combo decks here, Chalice of the Void or Spirit of the Labyrinth are going to be really effective. Karakas can also be devastating for this deck unless Sneak Attack is in play. Fortunately cards like Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker are good for answering that one angle of attack.  Without a card like Boseiju, Who Shelters All counterspells can also be dominant. Note though that Trinisphere won’t be as effective as it is against some other combo decks due to the high CMC of Sneak and Show’s pay off spells and its ability to produce a ton of mana.

Delver decks are generally very effective against Sneak and Show due to their fast clock coupled with lots of permission. Some Delver decks even have Cabal Therapy as an added bonus which can rip apart a hand. Decks that can tax Sneak and Show while keeping up a fast clock are going to be effective. In combo mirrors, decks like Storm feel favored due to their discard and fast path to victory.

Reanimator

In similar vein to Sneak and Show, Reanimator is another deck designed to cheat unbeatable creatures into play. Utilizing a low land count with cheap pieces, Reanimator gets on the board fairly fast and utilizes powerful creatures that can end certain strategies before they begin.

Reanimator by bocci

Why is this deck good?

Reanimator’s cheap cards allow it to move at a faster clip then some other combo decks. Add to that the fact that with Entomb the deck gets to “tutor” up the perfect creature and can carefully craft its game plan against almost any deck. Iona can shut down a lot of different decks that are reliant on a single color like Burn, Elves, or even Storm. Tidespout Tyrant deals with problematic permanents like Ensnaring BridgeGriselbrand is the go to creature to reanimate and this is due to how powerful the card is in general. Getting to draw multiple cards in a turn can be overwhelming for any deck to come back from, especially when the Reanimator player is drawing to find other combo pieces or Force of Will for protection.

With the ability to board into Show and Tell, the deck can dodge post-board graveyard hate entirely. Keranos, God of Storms‘s inclusion also is rather sneaky.  While in the graveyard, he’s considered a creature but when reanimated Keranos falls back to being an enchantment. This is valuable as it can not be targeted by removal like Swords to Plowshares or returned to a hand with Karakas allowing Keranos to dodge many potential answers. Being indestructible also allows Keranos to dodge cards like Maelstrom Pulse.

How to beat this deck

Graveyard hate here is at a premium. While the deck can board into Show and Tell to try and dodge that hate, it doesn’t change how devastating something like a Relic of Progenitus can be. Like seemingly every other combo deck, attacking cantrips here will prove effective. While discard can also prove effective, it’s important to not take the creatures unless there is a graveyard hate piece in play or an answer to the creature to prevent it from entering the battlefield. With such a low CMC across the board, Counterbalance can be tough to beat for this deck. While the deck does employ Abrupt Decays to try and fight the Coldsnap enchantment, it does take away from the consistency of the deck in order to do so.

Dredge

On the theme of graveyard decks, the next two are sort of boogeymen when it comes to Legacy. Show up to a tournament unprepared and face the wrath of Dredge decks.

Manaless Dredge by vieko

Mana Dredge by ksk0601

What makes this deck good?

As you may have guessed from the decklists above, there are two main types of Dredge deck: ones that use mana, and ones that don’t.  The major difference between these two is their relative speed and consistency. While Manaless Dredge is going to be faster, it’s going to be a little more inconsistent.

The plan though is the same for the most part in both decks. Place Dredgers in the yard, tear through the deck, create Zombie tokens off of Bridge From Below, rip the opponent’s hand to pieces with Cabal Therapy, and win through either Flayer of the Hatebound being Dread Returned or by a Flame-Kin Zealot attacking with a bunch of Zombie tokens. While there are some slower version of Dredge decks, the game plan is roughly the same. The deck as a whole can be incredibly fast and with the right Dredges can kill an opponent on the first couple of turns. It’s also adept at fighting against an opponent well by using Cabal Therapy as interaction and Ichorid as a way to dodge and sorcery-speed sweepers and create Zombie tokens. This makes the deck difficult to beat since the deck can afford to play a slower game sometimes and just utilize Ichorid to make more Zombies than their opponent can handle.

How to beat this deck

Graveyard hate is again at its premium here. While Surgical Extraction can be beaten, cards like Rest in Peace or Grafdigger’s Cage are going to be stronger. Cards like Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze can be too slow but with the right timing can be devastating for the Dredge player.

Cards that I think are good targets for Surgical Extraction and the like are Bridge from Below, Ichorid, or Narcomoeba. Of course everything is situational and can change at the drop of a hat so just keep in mind what your opponent has access to.

Keep in mind that sometimes killing your own creature (note: and I mean “kill,” not “exile”) will remove your opponent’s Bridge from Belows. A well-timed removal of these can prevent your opponent from getting anywhere.

Belcher

The final deck is certainly one the exemplifies the “Force of Will check” the most.

Belcher by Brian Guess

What makes this deck good?

With a high probability of winning through either Empty the Warrens or Goblin Charbelcher this deck has a lot of turn one and two kills. If the opponent doesn’t interact at the right time or doesn’t have an answer they will be quickly shuffling up for game two. Post-board the deck has access to Xantid Swarm or sometimes Pyroblast for the blue decks but the plan is mostly to not board to dilute the deck at all.

How to beat this deck

While it’s clear counterspells are going to be great in this matchup, cards like Pithing Needle can often get overlooked as a solid answer to at least part of the combo. While the deck mostly kills with Goblin Charbelcher the deck can also kill with Empty the Warrens. It is important to have good answers for both halves. Multiple creatures can be good for stopping Empty the Warrens but undercosted sweepers like Pyroclasm or Toxic Deluge are where it’s at. This deck also doesn’t have great answers to Chalice of the Void or Trinisphere. The more time you give yourself by slamming hate cards the better off you will be.

On to Part Four

Be sure to check out the final article in this series this Thursday where I’ll talk about the the slightly less unfair combo decks.

Rudy Briksza

Rudy Briksza

Rudy Briksza is a middling magic player with dreams as big as his ego. He has 8 Open Series Top 8s including 2 wins, one in Standard and one in Legacy. He competed in the 2016 SCG Player's Championships. He really likes Taco Bell and if you don’t you’re wrong.
Rudy Briksza

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Published:June 7, 2016

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