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Posted by on Aug 24, 2017

Building Four-Colour Pile in Legacy

Building Four-Colour Pile in Legacy

My relationship with legacy is pretty romantic. I’ve fallen so far down the Magic grinding rabbit hole that most of my magical thoughts spring to the realms of competition—how to win more, how to play better, etc. But Legacy is the last remaining vessel of fun amongst a minefield of failed attempts to break other formats and better myself as an at-the-table player. It’s my Commander, my FNM or my casual Draft with friends.

To me, and to a lot of competitive players,a well-played game of Legacy represents the conquering of a domain. You’re taught when you first start playing about various phases, passes of priority and other seemingly jargonous parts of the game that rarely come up. But when you play Legacy, and play Legacy well, you find yourself faced with everything Magic has to offer in a very challenging and rewarding way. And that’s why I love it.

For a while I was a Miracles player, and I feel like I made a lot of strides to improve my in-game skill level simply by working through as many hands as I could play with that deck. There really is nothing like the feeling of constriction applied to you by holding the card Brainstorm while playing Miracles and knowing that it must win you the game. Alas, Sensei’s Divining Top is gone and I can’t play with Counterbalance any longer, so, I’m on to something new.

Something beautiful:

Keith Capstick, Four-Colour Pile

Core Gameplan

I think it’s fairly obvious that this deck is simply looking to trade resources. It is a tap-out control deck at its core and in my opinion is the deck that best abuses a truly broken card in Deathrite Shaman. It’s not worth going much further than, “kill things, play better cards than your opponent and reduce their life total to zero at your convenience,” in describing what you’re trying to do. What’s more important are the individual card choices, the sideboard and how to play with some of Magic’s most busted midrange cards.

When I think about building midrange decks I think in four categories: the core of the deck, its interaction, its threats and its sideboard. I’ll lay those out below and discuss how I got to those numbers. What’s important to take away here is that these cards can be replaced and the numbers can be altered to defeat whatever metagame you expect to face.

Card Selection

The Core:

4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Baleful Strix
3/4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Force of Will
2 Leovold

What’s truly unique about this deck is how customizable it is. These 26 cards are all that I would consider essential about the archetype. At its core this is a Baleful Strix deck and that’s, for a reason I can’t comprehend, where I differ from others who I see playing the deck. I don’t think Strix is cuttable in any number, full stop. The foundation of what you’re trying to do relies on incremental advantage and Baleful Strix and Deathrite Shaman are the cornerstone of enacting this strategy in the format, not to mention Strix doubles as an answer to many of the formats most troubling cards to answer like Gurmag Angler.

Interaction

2 Bolt
2 Push
2 Decay
2 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Thoughtseize
1 Counterspell

As you can see, I subscribe to the line of thinking that in Legacy variety is in fact, the spice of life. Having a wide array of answers is integral to your strategy and having access to Brainstorm and Ponder allows you to take advantage of that variety and find what you need. At a macro level if you’re going to play the “answer everything” deck in one of the most high-powered formats in Magic you actually need to functionally be able to answer EVERYTHING. This means cards like, Umezawa’s Jitte, Sylvan Library, Food Chain and Mirran Crusader. Your core function is to beat it all, and if you do not build your answers to do so that macro strategy will fail.

Kolaghan’s Command is a unique card for this reason as it adds maindeck answers for cards like Batterskull and Chalice of the Void while also adding a powerful engine to your creature-focused control deck. Command is one of the best cards in this deck and in my opinion one of the best three-mana cards in the format right now. It gives you an added incentive to pile Snapcaster Mages and Baleful Strix’ into your deck which then provides you with a foundational reason to be a creature-focused control deck, as opposed to traditional spell-focused control decks like Miracles. This factor, in conjunction with the printing of Leovold, Emissary of Trest whose power-level speaks for itself are what make this archetype so powerful holistically, and that’s then emphasized by the capacity for customization that I’ve already highlighted.

Threats

2 True-Name Nemesis
2 Jace, The Mind Sculptor
2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest

This is actually the most complicated decision point in the deck as far as I’m concerned, and one I’ve wrestled with a lot since I began working on it. The problem is similar to one all control decks face: with so many interactive cards in your deck how do you find a way to win with such a small number of win-conditions that need to both stabilize the board and turn the corner? This is specifically difficult in Legacy because those win-conditions then have to cost a maximum of four-mana due to the general cost restrictions on the format.

So, the cards above that I’ve chosen have all been put through that lens and tested accordingly. You lean on both Jace and Leovold to turn the corner using card advantage and in the matchups where it’s at its best you lean on True-Name to stabilize any board-state. Because of Kolaghan’s Command you’re able to rely on such a small number of creature-threats as your way to win because between them, command and Snapcaster Mage it’s your card advantage that ultimately wins you games. It’s for this reason that I believe it’s actually outside of your game plan to play with Jace, The Mind Sculptor as a win-condition because it neither synergizes with Kolaghan’s Command nor with Snapcaster Mage as a spell. With this in mind I believe Jace is simply just too good not to include, despite the fact that prioritizing creatures and spells is important when building this deck.

It’s for the aforementioned reason that Liliana of the Veil has been omitted from my maindeck. This is a huge point of mental contention for me because despite its anti-synergy in a micro sense, on a macro level Liliana gives you a hard maindeck answer to True-Name Nemesis which would nicely fit the deck’s ability to answer anything. So, she’s a card to consider, along with Diabolic Edict, going forward.

Sideboarding

3 Flusterstorm
2 Thoughtseize
2 Diabolic Edict
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Engineered Plague

Flusterstorm is the absolute best sideboard card for this deck. The reason for this is its ability to function both as a “fair” and “unfair” card. One of this deck’s biggest shortcoming is the relatively cumbersome nature of its mana curve, for the Legacy format. For this reason, Flusterstorm helps to “speed up” its interaction in aggressive matchups like U/R Delver while still being a house against combo. For the same reason I have the full four copies of Thoughtseize in my 75, it’s one mana hard interaction.

Edict is in a lot of sideboards, and at first it looks a little odd. As an answer to True-Name Nemesis, Maret Lage tokens and just big threats, I probably board it in more than any other card.

The last two inclusions above are likely the most controversial. One of the problems with a strategy like this is that you have to deal with absolutely everything. You can stabilize the board, have more cards and resources, and just lose to a last-ditch effort from a stray 1/1 token or a 1/2 Stoneforge Mystic with no equipment in sight. For this reason I’ve adopted the opinion that some of your anti-creature sideboard cards should have the ability to take over the game rather than the one-and-done nature of wrath-effects.

Closing

To close I’d like to thank Edgar Magalhaes for putting me on to this deck and providing me with the original decklist to work from. Edgar has had a lot of success with an even more controlling version featuring no True-Names, a few Hymn to Tourachs and more Counterspells. If you enjoyed this trip into Legacy with me let me know what other kinds of eternal content you’re interested in. With that said, I’ll see you this Sunday at Face to Face Games Toronto’s Sunday Legacy Showdown !

  • Ben Winokur

    Well written stuff. I’d only add that, at least as things look presently, Kolaghan’s command ought to be considered part of the deck’s ‘core’. It is so synergistic with snapcaster and baleful strix, and so crucial to answering chalice decks, that I don’t see it as on a par with more voluntary pieces of interaction like lightning bolt.