GP Vegas is done and dusted now. Sadly I wasn’t able to make the trek across the Atlantic to play myself, but I did get to spend an enjoyable weekend following the coverage of the Legacy event. The big news story seems to have been that, while Miracles (aka “UW Control” on the WotC website) survived the Sensei’s Divining Top ban, the banning sufficiently neutered the deck to keep it out of the top eight. Anyway, seeing the deck on camera inspired me to try some Miracle control myself… with a slight twist.
The Miracle mechanic is pretty busted in Legacy when combined with Legacy-staple Brainstorm. The Counter/Top Miracle deck of old with its quad Terminus and optional Entreat the Angels win-condition was generally accepted to be the “best deck” pre-banning. Still, there were more than two Miracle cards in Avacyn Restored. Are any of the others playable in the format?
Temporal Mastery generated quite a bit of excitement when it was first printed. People tested the card in a variety of archetypes from RUG Delver through to Omniscience combo. Jesse Hatfield made 13th at GP Atlanta with a quad-Temporal Mastery BUG Delver list shortly after the card was first printed back in 2012. I even had the pleasure of watching an early UW Miracles deck go to time in a local event and then taking more than it’s fair share of the five additional turns thanks to a miracled Mastery!
However, people rapidly cut the card from their lists, presumably because it was underperforming. In classic blue/white Miracles in particular taking another turn seems underwhelming since the deck really wants to interact on the opponent’s turn. All UW Miracles is going to do with an extra turn is make a land drop, maybe spin a Sensei’s Divining Top a couple of times to order then re-order the top three, then pass. The card still sees a little play in the occasional base-UR list (including this spicy Grixis Pryomancer deck), but usually just as a fun one-of.
Temporal Mastery is certainly powerful in the abstract. Time Walk is banned in Legacy and the vast majority of blue Vintage decks choose to run the one copy that they can. Taking an extra turn is an interesting effect to evaluate since the impact on the game really depends on the board state. At one extreme — with reactive cards in hand and a fairly empty board — all Time Walk does is to draw a card, untap two mana-sources and grant a second land drop — basically a free Explore. At the other extreme — with a board full of creatures and planeswalkers — the card will often win the game.
To me, Temporal Mastery presents an interesting deck-building problem. What kind of Legacy deck would want to play multiple copies of the card? Here are some thoughts:
– Furthermore, we really want to maximize our ability to cast a naturally-miracled Temporal Mastery as early as possible. So, we need to be in a deck that has access to blue mana early. Also, a mana accelerant like Deathrite Shaman could be useful to cast the card turn two.
– Ideally we’d be able to get some use out of Temporal Mastery in a starting hand. Obviously, most blue decks are going to run four Brainstorm and four Force of Will, which allow us to either set-up a Time Walk, or turn it into a Counterspell. Other looting/Brainstorm-like effects seem worthwhile. (I’m looking at you Jace, the Mind Sculptor or even baby brother, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.)
– The deck should favour proactive rather than reactive disruption. With more than two mana sources in play, Temporal Mastery effectively generates mana since you get a full turn cycle to use the lands that weren’t used to cast Mastery before you untap again for the extra turn. Ideally we’d use that extra mana to either further our own game plan or to disrupt our opponent’s plan. Discard and permanent hate-pieces seem better suited to a Temporal Mastery deck than counterspells. Discard would put us in black, while permanent-based hate is often white’s domain.
With those thoughts in mind, here’s the monstrosity that I took to one of Dark Sphere’s Tuesday night Legacy events:
This pile isn’t much of a looker, but I swear there’s method to the madness! At its heart, this is really a Liliana of the Veil control deck. The goal is to get our opponent hell-bent and then drop a bomb like Jace, the Mind Sculptor onto an empty board. In theory, Temporal Mastery plays well with Liliana of the Veil since often Lilly can clear one threat, but is weak to an immediate follow-up. A well-timed Mastery allows her to clear two opposing threats.
In terms of our own threats, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice pairs well with all of the planeswalkers and is amazing at racing. Unfortunately, she isn’t as good as she used to be against opposing BUG decks now that people have adopted Fatal Push over some number of Abrupt Decay. Also, Baleful Strix is everywhere at the moment, which makes attacking with any non-first strike creature a little problematic. Still, Atraxa’s proliferate ability can provide value even when she can’t attack. Leovold, Emissary of Trest is good in general and great in a heavy discard deck.
The split between Fatal Push and Swords to Plowshares may look a bit odd — Swords is probably the best removal spell in the game and it would normally make sense to max out on the better spell — but I wanted to try to keep the white and green splashes to a minimum. Fetching white mana early is awkward for a base-blue/black deck that wants to cast Hymn to Tourach on turn two.
Similarly, a singleton Snapcaster Mage is weird, but I had trouble figuring out what to put in the 60th main-deck slot. On the one hand, I wanted a third Jace to help set-up Temporal Mastery, but we also don’t want to go too crazy on four drops. The second Leovold, Emissary of Trest was another option for this slot. A lot of our interaction costs one mana, so plays well with Snapcaster and the ability to rebuy a Brainstorm sort-of allows Snapcaster Mage to fulfill the same role as the third Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Ramping into planeswalkers is a reasonable strategy in any kind of grindy fair match-up, but isn’t going to cut the proverbial mustard against a combo deck. The sideboard plan against combo is to cut some of the high end and normally all of the removal for disruptive beaters in the form of Meddling Mage, Vendilion Clique and Containment Priest. Liliana of the Veil often means that both players end up playing hellbent, fighting a top-deck war, so hate-bears like Meddling Mage which can shut down our opponent’s strongest draws get the nod over stack-based interaction.
Enough about the deck. Onto some games!
Round 1: Tommaso on Blood Moon Stompy
Game one I keep a very slow hand. Opponent starts with basic Mountain, go, which is basically the most terrifying opening possible in Legacy. I manage to Thoughtseize a Magus of the Moon, then scoop to a top-decked Blood Moon. Game two I keep a cantrip-heavy hand with a Seal of Cleansing to answer a possible Blood Moon, set-up Hymn to Tourach for turn two, then get crushed by turn one Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
Round 2: Damien on RG Lands
Game one is a bit of an epic: I manage to Force of Will the turn one Exploration and assemble Liliana of the Veil and Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, with Karakas to bounce a Marit Lage token. Unfortunately, my opponent has Life from the Loam active and Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows to keep Lilly in check. Lilly ends up flicking between 4 and 6 loyalty, so I basically just need a Temporal Mastery to put the game away. Unfortunately, none are forthcoming and Life from the Loam slowly grinds my board to dust. Game two, I think I have a good Deathrite Shaman, Meddling Mage, Leovold, Emissary of Trest opening. Game three, I manage to get out of the gates early thanks to a Temporal Mastery, but we run to time… without me even taking more than three of the additional turns. I have an impressive board of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Meddling Mage (on Punishing Fire), Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and a Deathrite Shaman or two by the end of the game, but can’t quite deal enough damage in turns to take the match.
Round 3: Adrian on Elves
Game one, he grinds me out with Wirewood Symbiote and Elvish Visionary. Game two, he keeps a slow Natural Order hand, while I have Meddling Mage beat-down. Game three, I mull to five, but he keeps a one lander and I manage to Swords to Plowshares a Green Sunned-Dryad Arbor, then set-up a Temporal Mastery into Vindicate his land and eventually Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which digs into Liliana, the Last Hope. I likely misplayed a bit here by not +2’ing the Jace to keep my opponent off a mana-source, but wasn’t punished.
Round 4: Diego on Sneak and Show
Game one turns out to be quite interesting. I know my opponent’s on S+S and end up keeping a one-lander with Force of Will and Hymn to Tourach, which are both great, but no real pressure and a couple of removal spells, which sucks. I miss my second land drop for a bit, partly thanks to Diego casting Force of Will on a Brainstorm. My own Force of Will deals with an early Show and Tell, then I finally draw a second land and Hymn, hitting his two fatties. He untaps and makes Sneak Attack. I untap and make Leovold, Emissary of Trest. At this point I have a Vindicate in hand, but no white mana (stupid 4 colour mana-base!). Attacking into a Sneak Attacked Griselbrand will just lose me the game while one seven point attack in the air is survivable, so I decide to wait until I can answer the Sneak Attack or find a discard spell to clear the way for Leo. This might have been incorrect since if I wait too long Diego will just naturally draw Emrakul. Anyway, he turns out to have Force of Will to answer Vindicate when I do draw white mana a couple of turns later, so I start Leo beats. (Again, maybe worth waiting until I had protection for the Vindicate?) Late game, Diego manages to Brainstorm on my turn into Griselbrand, so I have to Plow my own Leovold after blocks to prevent Gris from gaining life. Thankfully I have a Deathrite Shaman in play by that point who manages to put the game away. Game two, Diego Forces my Hymn to Tourach and then, er, kills me with some ridiculous three mana spell. Hate bears take game three.
So, overall a 2-1-1 finish. Good for one Conspiracy II booster, which, rather appropriately, yielded a Horn of Greed.
In my always humble opinion, the black discard shell, blue cantrip suite and Jace/Liliana planeswalker package is the core of the list. Given that base, there are a number of different directions that the deck can go in. Here’s a more streamlined build without the four-colour silliness:
4 Underground Sea
1 Tropical Island
4 Polluted Delta
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Deathrite Shaman
2 Baleful Strix
2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Force of Will
3 Fatal Push
2 Hymn to Tourach
2 Temporal Mastery
2 Toxic Deluge
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Arcane Laboratory
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Engineered Plague
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Null Rod
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Reverent Silence
We’re pretty all-in on the graveyard game one with the Deathrites, Tombstalker and Crucible. The sideboard Reverent Silence is intended as an answer to Leyline of the Void, but we also have the option of boarding in non-graveyard threats like the Cliques and Bitterblossom to hedge against graveyard hate in post-board.
This build could probably get away with a basic land or two. An Island would allow us to add a sideboard Hydroblast as a potential answer to Blood Moon. Basic Swamp is a better choice since our strong turn one plays — Deathrite Shaman in particular — are all black and it helps to cast the turn two Hymn to Tourach. An even more focused blue/back list could be viable without the Leovolds and a couple more basics if your meta has a bit of a Blood Moon problem.