Eternal Warrior #10: Screaming For Vengeance

This is a rough time to be a Legacy player on MTGO. No, I don’t mean the Daily Events being gone — Legacy was never a grinder format, and most of our collections have maintained their value so far. While everyone else waits with baited breath for an announcement next month about the tournament queues, I’ll be waiting not so patiently for the release of Commander 2013, and the chance to play with new Legacy superstar True-Name Nemesis.

Three of the Top 8 decks prominently featured the card, including the ultimate winner’s, Owen Turtenwald’s UWR Delver. Owen’s somewhat unconventional list, which he was championing in the weeks prior to the event, runs Stoneforge Mystic and an equipment package. In his list, True-Name Nemesis (hereafter abbreviated “TNN”) fills the role that would otherwise have been filled by Geist of Saint Traft — it’s a strong equipment-carrier immune to opposing spot-removal. TNN also saw play in Esper Stoneblade for similar reasons, where it appears to have taken the place of Vendilion Clique. The Stoneblade pilot opted to run only one copy of the disruptive Faerie in the maindeck, compared to two copies of TNN.

Perhaps the most interesting new list was Sam Black’s Bant Excalibur build, running a full playset of TNN in the maindeck.

Legacy Bant decks are notorious for trying to do too many things at once, and Sam Black’s list is no exception. It features the Stoneforge Mystic package with Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte, adds a Green Sun’s Zenith mini-toolbox on top of that, and still jams a playset of Force of Will. Elements of the deck are pulling in many directions at once, and it’s a tough balancing act to reach the critical number of blue spells for Force, enough green creatures for Zenith, and still find room for the equipment package. Seventeen blue cards is acceptable for Force of Will, though on the low end if you expect to need it Turn Zero. Post-board, one would expect the Vendilion Cliques and additional countermagic to come in, alleviating that problem.

Between Noble Hierarch and Zenith fetching Dryad Arbor, the deck has seven ways to power out a TNN as early as Turn 2 to start the beats. With exalted triggers aplenty in addition to the Jitte, that’s a pretty fast clock. It also acts as a brick wall against opposing aggro decks, something that Geist of Saint Traft just can’t do.

After the Grand Prix, there was a slew of criticism leveled at Magic’s design team for printing the card. Hall of Famer Brian Kibler seemed to loathe the card particularly, talking up its high power level and calling it a Moat // Invisible Stalker split card. This sort of non-interactive creature tends to draw the ire of the professional Magic community, who collectively hated Invisible Stalker and its pals in the Bant Hexproof deck last Standard season. There are actually plenty of answers to the card, but many of them put you in awkward positions. Do you really want to take your opponent’s 3/1 creature with Thoughtseize when their hand has a Stoneforge Mystic or Jace, the Mindsculptor that will also kill you? Supreme Verdict is a great answer, but isn’t seeing much play right now. Terminus would also do the trick, but UW Miracles seems to have been pushed completely off the map in recent months. Edict effects will also do the trick, though catching the Bant deck without anything else to sacrifice isn’t too likely.

One direction that players may look to answer the TNN menace is power/toughness-reducing sweepers, such as Golgari Charm or Zealous Persecution. Those cards have always been strong against W/x aggro decks such as Maverick and Death and Taxes, and are usually live cards against anything but combo. Legacy is a format with plenty of powerful x/1′s, after all. Fellow MTGO Academy writer enderfall suggested Engineered Plague, and I have to say that naming Wizards would be pretty darn good against most of the blue creature decks. Resolving a 3-mana enchantment isn’t always the easiest thing to do against them, unfortunately. Still, I think that the Junk colors seem to have a wealth of answers to TNN, and I am interested to see if that archetype might make a small comeback on the strength of its ability to answer it.

All I’d like to be doing right now is building decks with True-Name Nemesis, and building decks to fight it. But the card won’t be available online until late December. Legacy players are feeling what Standard players must feel at rotation time. We can still play Legacy, but without TNN we aren’t playing the real format. So this seemed like the perfect time to revisit a format I used to care about, but haven’t played in sometime… Modern.

I have had mixed feelings about Modern over the past few years. When the idea of “Overextended” was first floated by Gavin Verhey, to have a non-rotating format beginning somewhere after the abolition of the Reserved List, I was intrigued but skeptical. Any format with a large card pool is bound to have powerful combo decks, and such a format is going to be in serious trouble without Force of Will to keep everything in check. This was obvious to everyone at the first Modern PT in 2011, where Turn 2 combo decks ran amok. In response, Wizards decided to ban fast mana, good cantrips, and Blazing Shoal. Okay, I guess that’s one way to handle it.

As the format settled in, another problem became apparent: mana-fixing was too good. Without Wasteland to punish them, decks were getting away with extremely greedy color-splashes. This was especially true for the midrange “goodstuff” decks. For one famous example, Jund players reacted to the banning of Bloodbraid Elf by adding Ajani Vengeant. Some of them had already been splashing white for Lingering Souls months earlier. There were even 4-color Jund decks with Geralf’s Messenger! My three-stage reaction to most of the midrange decks in Modern is much like the reaction city functionaries probably had in Toronto during the past year of the Rob Ford administration:

1. You’re going to do what? Are you high?
2. I can’t believe you’re actually doing this!
3. I can’t believe you’re actually getting away with this!

Most of the decks feel more like powered-up Standard decks than they do powered-down Legacy decks. That being said, there are actually a variety of interesting things you can do in Modern. What you should be doing is playing Jund or making “infinity Faeries! infinity Faeries!” But that’s not what we’ll be doing today.

When I decided I wanted to fool around with Modern again, I loaded up my old Bant deck. I quickly realized that I would need a much stronger grasp of the online metagame to play a midrange deck. I love the Bant colors because they can handle nearly everything, but you have to know what you’re fighting in advance, and right now I don’t. Luckily, enderfall came to my rescue this weekend, tweeting out a link to an interesting deck that struck near and dear to my heart.

What’s not to love about this list? First of all, the pilot’s name was slammaster, obviously a badass name for a badass dude. Secondly, the deck has two copies of something called Tymaret, the Murder King. With a name like that, I imagine this card was designed by a middle-schooler on a cafeteria napkin right before he went out to the alley to sniff permanent markers. Finally, it finished “third” in an 8-man queue that WotC randomly decided to publish since there aren’t any dailies anymore. If that isn’t the benchmark of success, I don’t know what is.

In all seriousness, I did play Dredgevine in Standard, so I have some idea what this deck is trying to do. I generally build my own decks, but something like this is usually finely tuned by the pilot. He knows exactly what he wants and why, meticulously choosing each card all the way down to the basic lands until the deck is a well-oiled machine, and then adding two copies of Tymaret, the Murder King. So I decided to play this one straight, using his exact 75. I have very little idea what the creator’s board plan was, and trying to guess what my opponent’s hate cards would be was tough in light of my recent hiatus from Modern. I won’t say it played it expertly, but I will say the results were amusing.

The intro video is a deck tech. Then I have two match videos from the 2-man queues. In the first match I went up against a UB mill deck. Mill versus dredge? I almost couldn’t believe he’d keep to his game plan post-board, and I should have removed all my own enablers and let him do the work for me. My opponent doggedly sticks to his guns, and a timely topdeck in Game 3 gives me some fits. I wouldn’t usually include a replay against something like that, but the matchup is so fascinating and bizarre I had to include it. Finally, the second match is against a more conventional Modern deck, RG Tron. Enjoy!

  1. I have to say that TNN is such a good card, that I feel it will get the ban hammer in short order.
    A mini progenitus made an already sick card in SFM even better as now the deck has a true force to attach equipment too.
    I have to admit I am excited to play TNN and will be picking up 4 of them. I love it in a shell like Owen’s winning deck list.

  2. Charlie – Wow! That would have been a sick play, I wish I had seen that, it would have been a fantastic way to end that match video. This was the first time I had ever played Golgari Thug in any deck, so that death trigger was only somewhat registering in the back of my head. A bit more practice with this deck and I would probably see more of that kind of play.

    Montolio – I don’t know if TNN will get banned, it doesn’t do anything broken and isn’t the kind of card that usually gets the axe in Legacy. It’s a card for “fair” decks to fight other “fair” decks, and is really good against them. I do worry, as a guy who plays “fair” decks 99% of the time, that TNN’s success will encourage more combo decks in the metagame, since those decks can basically ignore it.

  3. I think TNN should be banned in Legacy simply because the card was obviously designed for multi-player EDH. Anywhere else the card is just dumb. Is it overpowered compared to some of the things the top legacy decks do? No, not really, that doesn’t change the fact the card makes no sense in 2 player competitive MtG.

    IMO, If they do ban it in legacy then they will wait until the new commander set its in is no longer being printed, for financial reasons. As it stands the product has an extra sales demographic, instead of jut people who want the cards for EDH games, they can get sales from competitive legacy players, not to mention potential collectors/value seekers.

  4. One other thing, just a reminder that Tymaret is a zombie for gravecrawler. I haven’t finished watching the whole thing yet, but you looted early in g1 and chucked abrupt decay instead of gravecrawler. Granted, he doesn’t probably have that many permanents (though he does have the hedron crabs at least) and you did get to play around surgical extraction effects, but still it seemed odd. Just a thought….