Hello, my name is Louis and I will be holding a Legacy column here on Numotgaming. Before we start delving deeper into specific decks, I would like to start with some technical advice that I hope will help most of you, whether you are new to the format or grizzled veterans.
The Wasteland and Snapcaster looks
Here is a situation that happens every time I play a Legacy tournament: my opponent draws a card and then immediately stops looking at his hand to stare at my lands. Whenever that happens, I always assume that they drew a Wasteland, and I’m very rarely proven wrong. Now, this might not seem very important because Wasteland is a card that people don’t usually hold in their hands, and sure enough the « Wasteland look » is usually followed by the playing of a Wasteland. But still this is giving away valuable information, and there have been multiple times where I’ve been able to leverage that information into a strategic advantage.
Here is another situation that happens frequently (and that Modern players will no doubt be very familiar with): my opponent draws a card, then immediately looks at what’s in his graveyard. If they are playing Miracles or another Snapcaster Mage deck (like Stoneblade) that means they are very likely to have drawn a Snapcaster and have just given me that precious information. One of the ways to avoid this if you are playing Snapcaster Mages is to either memorize what’s in your graveyard as the game progresses or to lay your graveyard in a way that you don’t have to pick it up whenever you want to look at its content.
Of course getting rid of these reactions is easier said than done as they are natural instinctive reactions: « I drew a Wasteland, let’s see what my opponent has in play » or « I drew a Snapcaster, let’s check what’s in my graveyard ». However they give away valuable information (as a Cabal Therapy player I am always interested in any information I can get) which can sometimes (albeit very rarely) give your opponent leverage. Once you have managed to get rid of these reactions, you can actually use them to your own advantage. Let’s say you are playing Miracles, the game goes long and at some point you draw a useless land. I would recommend you pick up your graveyard and look at it; this fake « Snapcaster Look » might sell your opponent on the fact that you just drew the Innistrad creature. And if he doesn’t buy it, well you haven’t really lost anything by doing it.
Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull
You have probably already seen this advice, but I still frequently see people making the mistake so I figured I would just give you a reminder in case you didn’t know.
You have Stoneforge Mystic and a germless Batterkull in play , this is your opponent’s endstep and you have 5 mana available. You want to use this mana to return the Batterskull to your hand and then put it back into play with the Stoneforge. The correct sequencing is:
- Activate Stoneforge Mystic’s ability
- Keep Priority
- Activate Batterkull’s ability
This way even if your opponent has a removal spell for your Stoneforge Mystic in response they won’t be able to do anything about the Batterskull coming back into play. This is not a corner case scenario I am talking about, Stoneforge Mystic and removal spells are commonly played cards, and you should be aware of the proper sequencing. If you just start by returning the Batterskul to your hand then the opponent can just kill the Stoneforge with the ability on the stack. Once again there might be a way to use this to your advantage, if you actually want your opponent to kill the Stoneforge Mystic (let’s say you suspect they have Lightning Bolt and you want to play Jace the Mind Sculptor next turn), then you can just use the incorrect sequencing to bait their removal spell.
On playing Deathrite Shaman vs Snapcaster Mage decks
Miracles is the most commonly played Snapcaster Mage deck and things can sometimes get tricky when you have a Deathrite Shaman in play in this matchup. Every single point of damage is very valuable and missing a couple can make a difference between winning and losing. What you don’t want to happen is missing two damage because you targeted an instant (Swords to plowshares for example) and your opponent flashed in a Snapcaster Mage in response to flashback it.
We could theoretically never exile any instants or sorceries with Deathrite shaman’s black ability and always keep it untapped. This way we wouldn’t deal any damage to our opponent but they won’t ever be able to flashback anything with Snapcaster Mage. However, this seems like a losing proposition to me, you are missing on a ton of damage, and they might very well not even have the card in their hand (The usual number of Snapcaster Mages in Miracles is somewhere around 2 and 3) so I would recommend you usually activate Deathrite every turn. But it doesn’t mean that you have to do it wrong. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate that situation:
- If they have enough untapped mana to flashback an instant (Brainstorm, Swords to plowshares) you should rather target a sorcery from their graveyard.
- If they are tapped out, just activate your Deathrite Shaman in your main phase to get rid of a troublesome instant.
- If you feel like two lifepoints can make a difference in a game and they only have instants in their graveyard and the mana for Snapcaster Mage, just target one of your own instants or sorceries. In fact when my opponent is on two life and I activate Deathrite Shaman for the win, I usually always target something in my own graveyard, this way I make sure to not lose to something unexpected like a Delve card or a Snapcaster Mage.
On Playing around Stifle
Don’t do it! It’s as simple as that. Stifle sees close to no play in Legacy anymore (There are 5 copies total in the top 64 decklists of GP Chiba) and more often than not you will be doing yourself more wrong than good if you decide to play around Stifle. 5 years ago if my opponent played a Fetchland and passed the turn, I would be very wary of Stifle and I would play accordingly by not cracking my own Fetchlands. These days, if my opponent plays a Fetchland and passes the turn it is very unlikely that I will change my sequencing to play around a potential Stifle. Odds are your opponent has Show and Tell, Counterbalance or Tendrils of Agony in their deck and not cracking your Fetchland to play around a potential Stifle could delay you enough to cost you the game. Of course this advice should be taken with a grain of salt and is only valid for game one. Games two and three you will just know what the opponent is playing. If you know your opponent plays RuG delver regularly (like if you’re paired against Jacob Wilson) you should obviously change your plays accordingly.
On Surgical Extraction
I was surprised by the amount of decks playing Surgical Extraction in their sideboards in the top64 decklists of GP Chiba. Turns out there were actually more decks playing this card (42/64) than decks playing Brainstorm (40)! Since it has become the new « most played card » in Legacy I figured I should give some advice about it because I see this card being misused all the time.
Surgical Extraction is not a good « value » Magic card. Don’t bring it in if you only see a couple cards it could be « ok » against; don’t bring it to get rid of your opponent’s Brainstorms. When you are casting Surgical Extraction you are spending a card on an effect that does not impact the board, and usually lets you down a card (you just get cards from the opponent’s deck but you spent a card to do it), so please don’t bring it in unless you have VERY good reasons to do it. For example with Grixis Delver I bring in Surgical Extraction against graveyard combo decks (Dredge and Reanimator) and Punishing Fire/Life from the Loam decks (Lands, 4c Loam) and that’s it. I don’t even bring it in against other combo decks like Sneak and Show or Ad Nauseam Tendrils.
On Endstep Fetching
There are two levels of advice I would like to give regarding this topic.
Level one: If you’re a beginner or a Modern player
It is usually wrong to fetch during your endstep (or your upkeep) to thin your deck. You might have the habit of fetching during your endstep because in Modern it is common to do this to get Ravnica Shocklands tapped. However in Legacy cards like Ponder, Brainstorm or Sensei’s Divining Top all get much better when you have an uncracked fetchland in play so it is usually correct to not crack your fetchland for thinning (the value of getting a land out of your deck is usually very low compared to how good a topdecked Brainstorm gets if you have a fetchland in play. The loss of life could also matter later in the game).
This is something that most regular Legacy players know already. However I see them doing the opposite mistake and NEVER cracking their fetchlands for thinning whereas it is sometimes absolutely correct to do so.
Level two: If you already know and apply Level one
There is a certain situation where it is correct to sacrifice a fetchland in your endstep:
- You know for sure that you are going to use all of your mana next turn and the card you draw for your turn can’t change that. For example you have Stoneforge Mystic in your hand and it is the best thing you can do on turn 2 anyways, so drawing a random card won’t change your decision to play her.
- You already have more lands than you need in your hand and want to avoid drawing more lands.
Then by all means, you should sacrifice your fetchland in the endstep (or your upkeep). There are also decks like Maverick where you don’t have any cards that reward you for keeping uncracked fetchlands in play (Brainstorm, Sensei’s Diving Top) and you should almost systematically sacrifice your fetchlands before your draw step.
These are just some general tips and there are a lot of cards in Legacy that are so hard to play with that I could write entire articles about them (Cantrips, Cabal Therapy, Sensei’s Divining Top). Legacy is a very deep format with a huge card pool and it will really reward you for putting in the time to know about the more intricate card interactions and sequencing.
I’m glad I can produce Legacy content on a regular basis, and I hope I will be able to show you these tips and tricks in action in future video series.