Eternal Warrior #38: Sin After Sin

Magic players seem to like drawing cards. I definitely understand the feeling. Peeling that card you desperately need from the top of your deck can be one of the most dramatic and exciting moments of the game. But drawing one card a turn just isn’t enough for Legacy players, who — for largely historical reasons — have always been attracted to drawing their cards in chunks of three. This past week we saw the DCI lay down the banhammer on the most recent “draw 3″ spell to take the format by storm, Treasure Cruise. Treasure Cruise warped the format around it and led to some strange deck design choices. I love casting a Kird Ape as much as anybody, but when you see RUG (Temur) Delver players replacing Nimble Mongoose with Apes, you know the format has gone bananas.

Now that the DCI has sent Treasure Cruise on a long walk off a short pier, the format has opened up again to alternate forms of card-draw engines, and black is the clear winner. For one thing, Dark Confidant looks considerably better now. Along with Ancestral Vision, Bob has vaulted back to top among card-advantage machines, and the specter of doming yourself for 8 need no longer trouble you. As a Vintage player, I’ve put Bob in decks with Blightsteel Colossus, but life totals are under a bit more pressure in Legacy so I understood the reluctance of players to jam Cruises and Bobs together. Also helping black regain some strength is the fact that discard spells are no longer providing so much virtual mana to your opponent, though Dig Through Time will remain a player in decks like Miracles and Show & Tell.

The deck I’ll be piloting today is a Junk Humans deck. The idea was to take some elements of the Cavern of Souls-based Hatebears decks I’d played in Vintage and port them over to Legacy, while also adapting some elements of the “Dark Horizons” deck that was sporadically popular back in 2011/2012. The main beatstick will be Knight of the Reliquary. It has the right creature type to use with Cavern, and I can power it out early much like a Maverick deck does to begin chaining Wastelands against any mana-hungry opponent.

I wanted to have the ability to play a Turn 1 uncounterable Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which I’ve found is one of the best openings in Vintage and should be strong against much of the field in Legacy as well. As Legacy lacks real Moxen, that left me with either Chrome Mox or Mox Diamond. The advantage of Chrome Mox is that you can effectively count it in your mana slots, since the card it exiles is a spell, so it takes up less space than Mox Diamond. Mox Diamond requires discarding a mana source, and therefore shouldn’t be counted as a mana source during deck construction when considering your mana to spell ratio. But despite those drawbacks, Diamond is the superior mana-fixing option, and binning a land is fine in a deck I plan to build around Knight of the Reliquary.

One of the biggest problems with Mox Diamond is determining how many to play. You want one in your opening hand, and it’s a bad topdeck past Turn 2 or 3 at the latest. So that suggests playing the full set of four. On the other hand, you really hate seeing openers with more than one copy. Prison decks like Metalworker-Stax (i.e., MUD) need the explosive starts and are willing to accept the price of some janky opening hands, as those decks mulligan aggressively anyhow. But creature aggro decks using the card have historically used anywhere between two and four copies, with four typical only in those decks that played Life from the Loam. Ultimately I opted to use three, after extensive goldfishing yielded far too many unplayable opening hands when I ran the full set.

While a hand of Mox + Cavern + Bob/Thalia is clearly a strong opener, it is not always optimal. There is far more removal in Legacy than in Vintage. My version of the deck packs three Mother of Runes, and an opener of Mox + land + Mom + Thoughtseize taking a removal spell is a great way to make sure your 2-drop goes unmolested. I expect a fair bit of Shardless BUG (Sultai) in the new format, and Abrupt Decays should be in abundance, which makes a nice case for Mom’s inclusion.

I am also including three each of Noble Hierarch and Deathrite Shaman, to provide some mana acceleration in hands without a Mox. Apart from the playset of KotR, the creatures in the deck are on the small end, so the exalted triggers are a nice way to make sure you can attack into bigger threats like Batterskull. DRS is, as always, great for disrupting opponent’s graveyards and for punching through the last few points of damage in the endgame.

One of the more interesting inclusions here is the pair of Sin Collectors. It’s a 2/1 body with a Duress-effect attached, will sometimes be uncounterable, and it exiles the chosen card. Much like Vendilion Clique for blue decks, Sin Collector both disrupts the opponent and speeds up your clock. V-Clique is clearly a much better Magic card than Sin Collector in any number of ways, but Sin Collector does yield actual card advantage. I don’t think the card has seen any Legacy play, but I drew it quite often in my match videos this week and liked it quite a bit. Whereas a cheaper option such as Tidehollow Sculler is often forced to take a removal spell, lest the opponent simply remove the Sculler to reclaim their combo piece, Sin Collector exiles it once and for all. In a non-Cavern build, Sculler might still be better, but I felt that Sin Collector was worth trying out to see if it had the chops for this format.

Here’s the list I took into the queues for this week’s videos:

Obviously I think the 12-Post matchup needs some work, as this deck just really isn’t equipped to fight them as well as a straight-forward mono-white Death & Taxes list would be. But it has played competitively against everything else I’ve seen over the past week.

Based on some testing in the TP room, I expected to have some trouble with Elves, so I tried to make sure that some of the combo hate in the board would splash hate Elves. Canonist is quite good against them, Mindbreak Trap can hit their Natural Order or Craterhoof if they aren’t playing around it, and Pontiff hits both them and any Pyromancer decks still around. If Monastery Mentor becomes a deck with the release of Fate Reforged, I will need to come up with a better solution for the Monk tokens, as they can survive the Pontiff’s ETB ability thanks to their prowess.

If indeed BUG decks become popular again, it will be critical to recognize which variant you are playing against. Earlier in the TP room I encountered a BUG control deck that I mistook for the BUG tempo deck, expected a Golgari Charm on a critical turn and instead was blindsided by Toxic Deluge. If the BUG lists revert to their pre-Cruise incarnations, you can expect that seeing Shardless Agent means to watch out for Deluge, while Delver decks will usually opt for Golgari Charm instead.

The key thing to watch is how much fast combo re-emerges. We don’t yet know what the MTGO metagame will look like, because the ban hasn’t been imposed here. There was a SCG Invitational Qualifier held on January 25th, and although it was won by Show & Tell, the Top 8 included two Lands decks, Metalworker, Junk Midrange, Grixis Control, and RUG Delver. If a bunch of Storm or Belcher type decks came out to play, the environment for non-blue decks would turn hostile very quickly. If not, I think Junk/Abzan could well emerge as a viable deck choice, in one configuration or another. If there were fewer counterspells around, I would probably suggest switching from Caverns to a more flexible Green Sun’s Zenith toolbox. There are plenty of ways to take the Junk deck to suit your tastes, but the big takeaway for me is that black is most definitely back!


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