Fighting the Blues: Decks for the New Year

So the holidays are here. Did you get your wish? I hope it didn’t include blue. I know, I know. You have been eyeing that Tundra for a long time, glimmering in the protective wooden card display of your local game store. Perhaps it’s on sale, even 20% off now that the crazy shopping season is coming to an end. But do you really want to sacrifice your integrity? You have been known in your local group as the one who fights against the tide. You were the chosen one to wield white. Your heart throbbed when you first encountered the alluring raw power of green back when you first started. Black made you a tiny bit more evil, and a little more sadistic. Not to mention the flavor! I ask again: are you willing to give all of that up so your deck can become “consistent?” Hope your 2014 year doesn’t start with this unfortunate step.

Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe my demeanor is more oppressive than helpful. Go ahead, get your Tundra. But before you do, just give me a tiny bit of time to show you something. Oh, it’s nothing special. Just some lists that made Top 8s here in Japan. Of course, ones without a single blue card…

From the Past


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Wall of Omens
Pilgrim’s Eye
Monk Idealist
Solemn Simulacrum
Wall of Reverence
Academy Rector
Karmic Guide
Geist-Honored Monk
Sun Titan
Stoneforge Mystic
Umezawa’s Jitte
Basilisk Collar
Swords to Plowshares
Parallax Wave
Birthing Pod
Enlightened Tutor

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[Mana Sources] (25)
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Kor Haven
Arid Mesa

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[Sideboard] (15)
Red Elemental Blast
Wrath of God
Inquisitor Exarch
Purify the Grave
Enlightened Tutor
Phyrexian Metamorph
Rule of Law
Tormod’s Crypt
Seal of Cleansing
Sundial of the Infinite[/Sideboard]

Wow, you say? I say it too. This blast from the past is amazing in any sense of the word. First of all, it doesn’t include blue, which is a good place to begin. Second of all, Sun Titan?! A six mana beater that is not cheated into play seems completely bazaar. Basically, the decklist maximizes two things; enter the battlefield abilities and mono-colored ramp spells that allow you to hit the high mana cost creatures and spells. The early turns are dedicated to ramping and applying pressure with Stoneforge Mystic and company, while halting aggressive decks with Wall of Omens and Wall of Reverence. Once the battlefield is established, big beaters such as Sun Titan or Geist-Honored Monk can seal their rug from under their feet.

There are a couple of things to note about this list.

First, it obviously fails against fast combo. Due to the fact that the entire deck is designed to be a card advantage and ramp engine, there are painfully small amounts of space dedicated to combo hate. Even the sideboard has few answers to the 2013’s big boy on the block – Sneak and Show. If we are to dust off this list for the modern metagame, we will need to consider this fact.

Secondly, the Emeria, Sky Ruin engine may be too slow in the buzzing beehive of tempo decks we have now. The fact that Emeria is vulnerable to Wasteland, creatures to Stifle, and high mana cost spells to Daze may hinder one from establishing their plan.

However, this list has a few things going for it.

1) This deck was piloted by a player who had been working on it for years. He came and swept a large tournament out of nowhere. The Japanese player base themselves were surprised to see this list make it to the top.
2) Although some of the land base is vulnerable, with 9 Plains, this deck survives mana hosers that are so prevalent in Legacy.
3) With the inclusion of the Stoneforge Mystic package, this deck is able to provide early pressure while adding to the game plan of enter the battlefield triggers.
4) This deck is resilient to midrange decks due to card advantage oozing out of most of its cards. The mana curve is nice and smooth to make every future land drop and play more powerful than the last.
5) Finally, this deck can be adapted to cards in the future. With a mana base that supports 6-drop creatures, any White spells in the future can be considered for inclusion, even if the mana cost is prohibitive in other decks. In my opinion, this point is sorely missed by players who consider picking up a Legacy deck. A deck that can cast higher cost spells has that many options for innovation with future cards printed.

These points, I think, make the deck something of a diamond in the rough. With a past performance that amazed even the Legacy aficionados here in Japan, it has hope of improvement and with much testing, it has game. All one needs to do is figure out the fast combo matchups.

From the Present


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Deathrite Shaman
Carrion Feeder
Basking Rootwalla
Putrid Imp
Lotleth Troll
Blood Artist
Lightning Bolt
Faithless Looting
Goblin Bombardment

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[Mana Sources] (19)
Undiscovered Paradise
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs
Bloodstained Mire

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[Sideboard] (15)
Cabal Therapy
Pithing Needle
Engineered Explosives
Abrupt Decay
Maelstrom Pulse
Surgical Extraction[/Sideboard]

Here is a list worthy of examination. As you can see, it is a morphed version of the famous deck piloted and written about by Sam Black. Instead of focusing on the semi-combo of small creatures being sacrificed and re-entering the battlefield, Mizuta relied on the raw, recurring engine of Vengevine and Bloodghast. The shell of the deck revolves around attaining card advantage through the graveyard while providing significant pressure in the early turns. The addition of Deathrite Shaman gives it a boost of resiliency as well as reach in the mid to late game. It also gives the deck a realistic chance of actually casting Vengevine. Adding another creature that can come back from the graveyard makes the strategy of sacking for a Blood Artist trigger more beneficial. Oh, did I mention the oozing flavor of this beast?

I will highlight a couple of things this deck has that I find enlightening. First, the consistency of the engine is divine. Do you realize that Gravecrawler is cast in order to return to the battlefield? This is significant as it provides a way to dig up Vengevine without a single card in your hand. All you need is a zombie on the field and two Gravecrawlers in the yard (as well as Vengevines of course). That is a whopping eight power for two mana! Before the printing of Gravecrawler, it was hard to trigger Vengevine due to the fact that you had to constantly have two low casting cost creatures in your hand. This created a situation in which you didn’t want to simply cast the creatures in the beginning of the game in order to preserve them for a Vengevine trigger. Not only did this nerf the pressure of an aggro deck, but it also made for awkward turns in which you keep a creature in your hand even though you are able to cast it! This synergy is not to be dismissed.

Second, Lightning Bolts! This build allows four slots for the most efficient red weapon. This instant removes all of the problematic creatures that eat up your well tilled graveyard. Is that Deathrite Shaman stopping your combo? Bolt it! Is that Scavenging Ooze in the way? Bolt it! Do you need that last three damage? Bolt it! Do you need to save your Vengevine from being exiled by Swords to Plowshares? Bolt it! How about that pesky blue 3/2 flier? Bolt it! Need top decks that help you race True-Name Nemesis? Bolt it! I love the fact that this build allows room for this most versatile red card.

Lastly…wait for it…Basking Rootwalla?! Man oh man does this make sense. The entire deck is designed to throw things away into your graveyard, and what better card advantage is Rootwalla and, well, pretty much the rest of the deck. I can hear Lotleth Troll’s stomach grumble, hungry to eat this lizard. And yet, it doesn’t!

All of this interaction is tightly packed into this deck that is resilient to counter magic, explosive, and fun to play. Trigger after trigger of damage, placing 1/1 counters and free casting creatures will surely make your wishlist more robust for next year.

To the Future

I was done! With a third loss with my U/R Delver deck, I was fed up with small creatures that did almost nothing. That was, I decided in my heart, the final time Goblin Guide stared hopelessly into the shining claws of Tarmogoyf. With an obviously flustered strut, I took my slip and deposited my losing record to the cheap plastic, pink basket at the judge table.

As I was about to exit the store, I heard the inflectionless announcement of the second Legacy tournament of the day ringing throughout the store. Although I was not in the mood to be stomped again, I sighed and found myself in front of the register. “Um, I guess I will enter the second tournament,” I said, my voice barely exiting my lips.

I sat down to wait for the first match pairings and whipped out my deck to get some extra shuffles in. My stomach churned and a snarl took over my face. I knew I was not in good shape to pilot the blue twinkle toes of a deck featuring small creatures supported by fragile spells. Then, a thought invaded my brain. What if I tested my other new brew…

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Phyrexian Crusader
Veralz, the Scar-Striped
Death’s Shadow
Dark Confidant
Deathrite Shaman
Abyssal Persecutor
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Lightning Bolt
Umezawa’s Jitte
Liliana of the Veil
Abrupt Decay
Innocent Blood
Cabal Therapy
Inquisition of Kozilak
Hymn to Tourach

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[Mana Sources] (23)
Inkmoth Nexus
Blood Crypt
Overgrown Tomb
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats

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[Sideboard] (0)

(not listed)[/Sideboard] (0)

Yes, I know what you are thinking. In fact, you might simply be laughing. I don’t blame you. As I said, this was simply a concept I was trying and I wasn’t serious either; until I faced all tier 1 decks and beat everything but Elves. My thought process was simple. If there are so many decks relying on Lightning Bolts and Swords to Plowshares for removal, what if I brewed a deck that negated those effects?

It is impossible to mix poison and simple damage. But what if incremental damage didn’t matter? What if you relied on one swing of either damage or poison to win the game? With that thought in mind, I scrounged up all of the pieces of non blue cards I had and made the above recipe. I truly only had little bits and pieces of everything as most of my cards were blue. When I entered the second tournament, I told myself, “If I am able to score better this tournament with a poorly patched brew, I will simply give up the elite route (blue) and embrace my new future (non-blue).” I was done with blue forever.

Needless to say, that is what happened. I sold my entire blue collection which included all of the blue staples from Standard, Modern, and Legacy, and picked up the essential (generally cheaper) non-blue pieces I needed. This decklist was the catalyst, a Waterloo in my Legacy life.

I really had a blast playing the above list as I found my opponents constantly troubled by the combo kill that was looming in the horizon. Even if the combo pieces did not line up, a large Death’s Shadow or an overwhelming Abyssal Persecutor made short order of the opponent. Their Swords to Plowshares rotted in their hand often and I found that nothing almost nothing touched Phyrexian Crusaders.

I haven’t fiddled with this deck since then. It is almost a sacred piece for me, something that really changed who I was. But the concept of a combo finish to mitigate the awkward mix of damage and poison still seems fairly good. With the dawn of True-Name Nemesis, the stock of Phyrexian Crusader perhaps dropped. But the combo of Veralz and Death’s Shadow has not. I leave it up to you to figure out if this type of strategy still stands.

To the New Year

So here they are. Some lists that performed well, from big tournaments to small. What are you going wish for this coming year? I wish that a brew like this will pop up in events to take away the throne, to crush blue and give hope to brewers all over the world.

Happy New Years!