The Bant control player was visibly frustrated. All tournament long he had been cocky and chatty throughout his matches, extolling the virtues of fibre and strawberries lest his opponents have trouble pooping (in his own words). But now here he was in the semifinals of a Last Chance Grinder, brow furrowed as his cards oscillate between his fingers. His hand contains cards that all day have been answers to the decks he has faced, but now seem utterly useless. He passes the turn, and his once-considerable bravado drains away some more as his opponent ticks up the die on the one non-land card on his side of the board. The one that is destroying the Bant player. The one he could have countered five turns ago when it came down, the one he dismissed as irrelevant and not at all dangerous. And yet that same card was spelling his defeat, defying all the powerful answer cards in his hand that he had thought would deal with the five-mana do-nothing enchantment across the way. The Legions…were Assembled.
While judging at GP Quebec City last month, I had the chance to head judge a Last Chance Grinder on Friday night. Assemble the Legion was winning games BY ITSELF against all manner of midrange and control decks. With Esper and Bant running one or zero Detention Spheres and decks like Jund having no answers to enchantments, the card seemed REALLY well positioned to do some damage at the GP. I found Alex Hayne and told him that I thought the card was well-positioned, and he already had two in his sideboard. I took some time during my break to pick up as many as I could find from the dealers on site, and told everyone who had come down with me that the card was bananas.
I knew when I picked up my fourth foil copy that I wanted to play the card as the focal point of a Standard deck instead of just a sideboard card. Here’s what I had to say about the card in my set review:
Assemble the Legion just provides inevitability, as not many decks will be able to deal with it. One of the achievements around this will be to put 10 soldiers into play in one turn I think, and there will probably be another one around killing someone with only Soldier tokens. It wouldn’t surprise me if, by the time you read this, we’ve seen this card on camera at the Pro Tour.
So we know the centerpiece, but what are we doing with it?
I had one card and one card only in mind for the deck: Assemble the Legion. The decks in which I had seen the card do well were either UWR or RWB. I had no desire to play UWR Flash or anything similar, but the beauty of the RWB shell was that…well, there isn’t a shell. There isn’t even a name for the combination. Alright, we’re going in that direction for sure. So what achievements can we find?
Target 1: Have at least 10 Soldier tokens in play at one time – I’ve changed this one slightly from what I said in the Durdle’s Guide, mainly because if I have to wait 10 turns after playing this before killing my opponent, they have probably scooped by then. Having 10 in play total is a lot easier, true, but it also means I don’t have to toy with my opponent.
Target 2: Win the game with only damage from Soldier tokens – This rather requires having very few other wincons in the deck. Having seen first-hand how ineffective sweepers were against Assemble, I want to play a ton of my own. That leaves me needing the enchantment to win the game.
Well, that was the theory anyway. As I started pulling cards from the binder I realised that there were a ton of cards I wanted to play in this combination. I also realised that most of the cards I wanted to play were heavy on the black side, which lead me to Liliana of the Dark Realms, Crypt Ghast and Griselbrand. With those cards in the deck, I also want a lot of X spells. So let’s add some more achievements based on that:
Target 3: Deal all 20 damage with an X spell – With both Crypt Ghast and Liliana of the Dark Realms in the deck, this should be doable. I will almost definitely run Bonfire of the Damned, but for fun I will add Aurelia’s Fury (to prove Travis wrong) and Rakdos’s Return.
Target 4: Take 10 or more life from an opponent with Extort – Crypt Ghast is mostly known for the mana boost, but it does also extort. With all the aggro in the format I also want to run Blind Obedience, which again has extort. Grinding out that victory will be fun if my Assembles get taken out or I can’t find them.
That’s enough to be going with, so let’s build a deck around this nonsense!
The deck was forming itself nicely when I started looking through my friend Tyler’s binder. Then I saw a forgotten and frankly terrible mythic from Avacyn Restored: Descent into Madness. My brain went into rules lawyer mode and I realised that I could stack the triggers with it and Assemble the Legion in order to make sure I never had to exile anything but Soldier tokens. Well, I guess we have another achievement!
Target 5: Lock someone out with Descent into Madness and Assemble the Legion
That also reminds me of an achievement we had last season that never got achieved, one that is cruel but amazing if we can do it…
Target 6: Win a game where the opponent has no permanents in play
Now then, we know we’re going to need sweepers. With Liliana of the Dark Realms in the deck that would suggest Mutilate as the best option. We also have Bonfire, which doubles as a win condition in a pinch. Spot removal cannot be ignored though, and given the lack of Abrupt Decay in our colours I thought the next best option might be Orzhov Charm. As it turns out it was decent but I never used either of the other modes on it, so I wonder now if it could have been better as something else. I also ran 2 Tragic Slip for things like Falkenrath Aristocrat.
One thing I could not resist was Obzedat, Ghost Council. It’s partly because I pulled a foil one but also because I just love the card and really wanted to include it in the deck, given that I was playing the right colours. Funnily enough, the same temptation was not present for Aurelia, the Warleader or Rakdos, Lord of Riots. On an unrelated note, I do not own foils of those two cards.
Here’s where the list ended up:
Some Assembly Required by Chris Lansdell
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of metagame, so I tried to hedge my bets. Dreadbores and ORings for opposing planeswalkers, Slaughter Games against Humanimator, Bonfire and Sorin against aggro. Conscripts is just generally good but also comes in against reanimation strategies, as would Rest in Peace.
In between throwing the deck together and starting the tournament, I played a few games with my newly-constructed Legacy deck. I chose Dredge as my gateway deck into the format, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be working well for me. My dredges hit nothing special and I often found I needed to draw cards when I thought I should be dredging and vice versa. It might just have been bad luck, but I am really liking the addition of Sun Titan in some lists I saw online.
Since Midgard started running Modern FNM opposite Standard, the store has been pretty full on Friday nights. That said, it’s been split down the middle for Standard and Modern, and this week we had around 16 for each. Four rounds was a little disappointing but at least if the deck didn’t work, I would only have to lose four times!
Round 1 – Blair Grouchy with Junk Reanimator
Oh great, the Ginja Ninja to get me started. Blair is a fan of graveyard shenanigans and is very familair with decks like this. In fact long-time readers of the column might remember him playing “Solar Blair” when Sun Titan was still legal. Game 1 wasn’t really a game, as I kept a 2-land hand and never found anything to put pressure on him. Lotleth Troll did most of the damage while he managed to keep any sort of defence off the board.
Fortunately Blair didn’t see much of my deck or what it could do, causing him to sideboard slightly incorrectly. When Blair played a turn 2 Gavony Township it was pretty clear he was having mana issues, so my turn 4 Liliana on an empty board was a major issue for him. Lily ticked up steadily and I landed a second Crypt Ghast. With Lily threatening ultimate, Blair scooped them up. I had the X spell in hand to unlock an achievement, but the concession sadly robbed me of that.
Game 3 was more of a contest. I managed to land a Griselbrand off a turn 4 Crypt Ghast and turn 5 Liliana, but both creatures got eaten by an Angel of Serenity. I paid 7 life and drew into a Mutilate, which I cast next turn followed by a Sorin. Blair still had a Griselbrand in the yard, but I had a Blind Obedience in play. Blair was at 8 thanks to several points of extort damage and a couple of Crypt Ghast attacks, so by my math I could win next turn if he couldn’t deal with the Vampire I made: -3 Liliana, make an emblem with Sorin, attack for 8. A Thragtusk would present a minor problem due to the life gain, even though it couldn’t block thanks to Blind Obedience. Blair’s maths didn’t jive with mine though, and he went for the reanimation on the Griselbrand. I was sure he had a Tragic Slip (as he had left up a single black), but when I made the Sorin emblem and pumped my Vampire token Blair shrugged and extended the hand. Well, that was unexpected.
Round 2 – Matt Warr with RG Saito Aggro
Matt hasn’t been coming to Midgard long, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from him. His first-turn Stromkirk Noble told me everything I needed to know, namely that my Tragic Slip was getting used immediately. Matt was a little light on lands, but it’s not like his deck needs much to get going. A Mutilate on turn 4 followed by an Assemble the Legion on turn 5 was something of a stumbling block for him, but the real killer was the Descent into Madness a couple of turns later.
Matt tried to battle on, but the rather disgusting combo was just too much for him to overcome and he conceded with no permanents in play when I landed the second Assemble the Legion. Yes it does seem excessive, but I was having so much fun and people were gathered around to watch. It’s not every day you see a Descent into Madness on the board!
Sadly, games 2 and showed exactly why the Saito Aggro deck is so feared as I got rolled over. Game three was particularly frustrating as I drew my fourth land (on turn 4) on two life with a Mutilate in hand. That would have been great had it not been a Godless Shrine.
Round 3 – Chris Butt with GB Zombies
Chris rejoices in the epithet “Hitman”. I asked him why he goes by that name, and he said some nonsense about his screen name. I didn’t buy it. He’s secretly a babyfaced assassin who is lethal with a glaive-guisarme. His list was running some spicy additions, including Jarad and Splinterfright. Game 1 would see me destroyed by the Splinterfright, as well as a very beefy Lotleth Troll, with me unable to find and useful removal.
I went straight for the Rest in Peace from the board, taking out Rakdos’s Return as it seemed like a bad idea to stock his graveyard for him. I mulliganed to six but kept a slightly loose hand with a Rest in Peace in it, then drew pretty well. The Rest in Peace slowed him down until he found an Abrupt Decay, but before he could rebuild his graveyard I landed an Assemble the Legion and Descent into Madness. Man, for a one-of I’m seeing a lot of that card. Not that I’m complaining. He managed to fire off a huge Gnaw to the Bone to buy him some time, but Assemble the Legion eventually had an overwhelming force of 13 Soldiers on the board and they just ran him over. Wait, 13 soldiers?
I wouldn’t see it in game 3, but I also wouldn’t need it. Hitman kept a two-lander and couldn’t draw anything except 3 Deathrite Shamans, which got me down to 11 despite double Blind Obedience and a Rest in Peace on my side of the board. Crypt Ghast stemmed the bleeding a little, and Liliana of the Dark Realms helped me keep finding lands. Hitman neglected to attack Lily, which would be his downfall. Crypt Ghast died but I untappped, got my Liliana emblem and cast Aurelia’s Fury for 20 targeting his face.
Man, those achievements are just rolling in tonight!
Round 4 – Mike White with Jund Zombies
Well, there goes that roll. I think I’ve beating Mike once in constructed, and that was a while ago. He’s very, VERY good with aggressive decks and at beating me in general. That’s exactly what he would do, rolling over me in short order as my deck stopped producing sweepers even in game 2 when I had the Rest in Peace, two Mutilate in hand and three lands in the opener. Never found a fourth. Winning this round would have put me in the prizes, but it was not to be.
I definitely built this wrong, both the sideboard and the main deck. I needed something at 3, probably Vampire Nighthawks, and something in the board to stop aggro like Flames of the Firebrand. Obzedat was never cast once. Although Sorin worked very well in Junk Walkers as anti-aggro, I had a lot of ways to protect him in that deck and Thragtusk/Centaur Healer to back him up. Staff of Nin might also be better in the sideboard, letting me play the full set of Nighthawk. Orzhov Charm could be either Searing Spear or Victim of Night (maybe even Murder or Ultimate Price) and I wouldn’t hate an extra Descent or Griselbrand…or both.
That said, the deck was a crazy amount of fun to play. Assemble the Legion is the double-barrelled shotgun of fun and powerful, and this colour combination just feels like the most powerful right now. You have multiple options for win conditions, removal and midgame plays, as well as (in my opinion) the most powerful sideboard suite. This deck has many moveable pieces while retaining the Assemble-sweeper shell.
Unlocking so many achievements was unexpected but AWESOME, a great way to get myself back into the swing of things. Next week my plan is to build around Prime Speaker Zegana, maybe as a RUG or BUG deck instead of Bant. For more on that, check out episode 71 of Horde of Notions on MTGCast. If you have any suggestions for achievements, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments! Until next time, let’s turn FNM into FNFun!