This weekend I played Death and Taxes in the Legacy Grand Prix in Tacoma, Washington. I finished in the Top 64 with an 11-4 record. It's my favorite Legacy deck and the metagame has shifted such that it is good again. Today I'm going to talk about the list I played, how to sideboard in several of the most common matchups, how my tournament went, and what changes I would recommend.
For reference, these are my last two articles on Legacy Death and Taxes:
Legacy Death and Taxes for GP New Jersey (11/14/2014)
Grand Prix Washington DC Report – Top 8 (11/22/2013)
This was the list I played in the Grand Prix:
Sneak and Show
IN: 2 Containment Priest, 1 Pithing Needle (Sneak Attack), and 1 Council's Judgment
OUT: 4 Swords to Plowshares
Our best cards are Phyrexian Revoker (Sneak Attack) and Karakas (Show and Tell). Protect Revoker with Mother of Runes while keeping them off mana with Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Post-board we get even more tools (Needle and Priest) to shut them down. It's a good matchup, especially if you run a second Pithing Needle.
IN: 1 Pithing Needle (Sensei's Divining Top), 1 Ratchet Bomb, and 2 Cataclysm, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder, 1 Council's Judgment
OUT: 4 Swords to Plowshares, 2 Serra Avenger
People say this is a bad matchup but I think it's 50/50 at worst. Needle and Revoker keep their Top in check while our Ports, Wastelands, and Thalias keep them low on mana. Cataclysm is a reset button that can kill a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Death and Taxes
IN: 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Council's Judgment, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Karakas, 1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
The mirror is often about using Phyrexian Revoker to stop whatever half of the deck the opponent drew that you did not (Vial, Stoneforge, Mother, etc.). Relic-Warder can be clutch.
IN: 2 Rest in Peace, 1 Sunlance, 2 Ratchet Bomb
OUT: 4 Phyrexian Revoker, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
Mirran Crusader really shines here because all our other creatures draw out all their Lightning Bolts and then Crusader dominates the board.
IN: 1 Pithing Needle, 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Containment Priest
OUT: 4 Flickerwisp, 2 Mirran Crusader, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
The plan is essentially to mulligan into Rest in Peace. Sometimes we can steal a win with Ratchet Bomb for their Zombies after breaking their bridges. Not many people play Dredge though.
IN: 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Council's Judgment, 2 Containment Priest
OUT: 4 Flickerwisp, 2 Mirran Crusader
Karakas shuts down all their guys except Inkwell Leviathan, which can often get outraced by our equipment. Sword of Fire and Ice hits them and also absorbs trample damage from Leviathan.
IN: 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Council's Judgment
OUT: 4 Flickerwisp
I want Wilt-Leaf Liege and more Mirran Crusaders for this matchup. It's close as-is, but Night of Souls' Betrayal is a real beating without Liege.
IN: 1 Pithing Needle (Cranial Plating), 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Council's Judgment
OUT: 1 Sword of Fire and Ice, 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
We have sufficient ways to stop their Cranial Plating (Revoker, Needle, Relic-Warder) and our creatures and removal (Swords to Plowshares) match up well against theirs.
IN: 1 Sunlance, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 1 Council's Judgment, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder (Vial)
OUT: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth
Close match and depends on who has Vial, much like with Merfolk.
IN: 1 Pithing Needle (Grindstone), 1 Sunlance, 2 Council's Judgment, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 2 Mirran Crusader, 3 Serra Avenger
The main goal is to stop their Grindstone with Revoker and Needle.
IN: 2 Council's Judgment, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
True-Name Nemesis is the most problematic card in the matchup, so we bring in two Council's Judgments to deal with it and a Relic-Warder to get rid of the equipment they try to put on it.
IN: 1 Rest in Peace, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Council's Judgment, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Karakas, 1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
I would cut both copies of Spirit of the Labyrinth except they have Sylvan Library. Thalia and Karakas are both pretty bad and nothing else in our current board is better than the second Spirit. That would change if we add Wilt-Leaf Liege.
IN: 1 Sunlance, 2 Council's Judgment, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth
AEther Vial is the big card from both sides. True-Name Nemesis can also be an issue. We want to stay ahead of their lords and set up our equipment before they get out of hand.
IN: 2 Ethersworn Canonist, 2 Cataclysm, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder, 2 Council's Judgment
OUT: 2 Phyrexian Revoker, 4 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Umezawa's Jitte
This matchup feels real tough but somehow I beat it. Flickerwisp off Show and Tell can buy you a turn (Flickering out their Omniscience for a turn). Karakas doesn't quite work because they cast Emrakul and thus get an extra turn where if you bounce Emrakul they just recast it and take another turn, at which point your Karakas is tapped.
IN: 2 Ethersworn Canonist, 1 Sunlance, 2 Council's Judgment, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth, 4 Phyrexian Revoker
Thalia will usually keep them from casting more than one spell a turn. The key is to pressure them enough to where they have to start burning our creatures instead of our face. Batterskull is also our plan A, so setting up Mother of Runes into Stoneforge Mystic is our main objective.
IN: 2 Ethersworn Canonist, 1 Pithing Needle (Polluted Delta), 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Rest in Peace, 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
OUT: 4 Swords to Plowshares, 4 Flickerwisp
Canonist is our best weapon against them, though Thalia is also very good. We pretty much have to get one of those two creatures onto the battlefield on the second turn to have a chance. Cavern of Souls is thus one of our best cards against them (to resolve our hate bear through Force of Will).
IN: 2 Rest in Peace, 1 Sunlance, 2 Council's Judgment
OUT: 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth, 3 Flickerwisp
As long as we keep them from going crazy with Punishing Fire, they play out as a worse version of Sultai Delver. RIP and Thalia are good at containing Punishing Fire.
IN: 2 Rest in Peace, 1 Sunlance, 2 Council's Judgment, 2 Ratchet Bomb (Lingering Souls)
OUT: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth, 2 Flickerwisp
This is similar to Jund and Sultai but with a more manageable card advantage engine (Lingering Souls) that we can Defeat with Ratchet Bomb.
IN: 2 Ethersworn Canonist, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 1 Sunlance, 2 Containment Priest
OUT: 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 4 Flickerwisp, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
We have the tools to beat Elves, but we have to draw them and get them active quickly. Elves can still act like a normal creature deck even if we keep them from combo'ing us and it's hard to connect with Jitte since they have Wirewood Symbiote to bounce the blocker before combat damage is dealt. Mirran Crusader helps in this regard since it not only cannot be blocked by green creatures but also gets twice the Jitte counters since it has double strike.
IN: 1 Pithing Needle (Top, Map), 2 Cataclysm, 2 Council's Judgment
OUT: 4 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
Cataclysm is basically just an Armageddon in this matchup, much like against Omni-Tell. A second Pithing Needle helps in this matchup, shutting off their Expedition Maps and Sensei's Divining Tops.
IN: 1 Sunlance, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 1 Pithing Needle (Inkmoth Nexus)
OUT: 1 Sword of Fire and Ice, 3 Flickerwisp
The game plan is to not die. Trade blockers for their pump spells. Try to gain two-for-one value out of Swords to Plowshares. Disrupt their Brainstorms with Spirit of the Labyrinth. Keep them in check with Thalia. Wasteland and Port their Inkmoth Nexus.
IN: 1 Leonin Relic-Warder, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Council's Judgment
OUT: 2 Mirran Crusader, 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth, 1 Flickerwisp
AEther Vial is big in this matchup as it allows us to do twice as many things each turn. We have a bunch of Plains, so Magus of the Moon doesn't hurt us as much as it does other decks.
Now let's talk about what changes I would make to the deck.
Changes Going Forward
While my list was good enough to pick up a couple pro points and a respectable record, I wish I had made a handful of changes prior to the event that might have made the difference between a Top 64 finish and a Top 8 finish. I lost to Wizards Miracles, one of my three Sneak and Show opponents, and two of my three Shardless Sultai opponents. I would have been better served by the following list:
Spirit of the Labyrinth was solid in a handful of matchups (anything running Brainstorm) but was pretty bad everywhere else. It was also a lot worse post-board against Shardless Sultai when they bring in Golgari Charm and Night of Souls' Betrayal. I underestimated how good Wilt-Leaf Liege is in that matchup. It protects us from Hymn to Tourach and Liliana of the Veil while also blanking Golgari Charm and neutralizing the effect of Night of Souls' Betrayal. It's also difficult for them to deal with since it can't be hit by Abrupt Decay. It's really only good in that one matchup, but that matchup is popular and difficult enough to merit the sideboard space and Liege is the best card to fill that space.
To make room for the two Wilt-Leaf Lieges, I would cut a Ratchet Bomb and the Leonin Relic-Warder. Ratchet Bomb was good for me, but space needs to be made somewhere. Leonin Relic-Warder was also pretty good against AEther Vial (merfolk, mirror), Omniscience, and against Sneak and Show when they play around Thalia by running out their Lotus Petals only to have one eaten by the Relic-Warder. Overall though, it wasn't a high enough impact card to necessitate a spot in the sideboard. It was just pretty good in a lot of places. The Liege is more important against Shardless Sultai, which is one of the most popular decks in Legacy right now. It's essentially the best Jund deck in Legacy.
Maindeck the best card against Shardless Sultai is Mirran Crusader. I had been leaning toward Vryn Wingmare in the days leading up to the Grand Prix but Tom Martell convinced me to go with Mirran Crusader instead, a card I kept saying was well-positioned. I think that was a good choice and I wish I had run more than just two copies. Having more threats with 2+ toughness helps against Zealous Persecution, Golgari Charm, and Night of Souls' Betrayal. Mirran Crusader also dodges all the black removal and can't be blocked by Tarmogoyf, Deathrite Shaman, or any of the other green creatures in Legacy. Because we're adding two more three-drops, I also would cut a Flickerwisp for another Serra Avenger. This keeps our flier count up without hurting our curve. More Mirran Crusaders also makes Cavern of Souls better since you almost always want to name Human with it.-->
Also in the sideboard, I would replace the second Cataclysm with a second Pithing Needle. Needle is approximately as good as Cataclysm against Miracles (naming Sensei's Divining Top) but also has a lot of utility against Sneak and Show (usually naming Sneak Attack, but sometimes naming Griselbrand if you put it into play simultaneously off their Show and Tell). It's essentially another copy of Phyrexian Revoker against them, though one that doesn't die to Pyroclasm. You can also randomly needle a fetch land against some decks when you have cards you want to bring out and not enough cards to bring in.
It's fun to play Legacy once or twice a year. I get to play with some of my favorite cards of all time (Mother of Runes, Stoneforge Mystic, Swords to Plowshares, Wasteland, Rishadan Port). The next Legacy tournament I plan to compete in is Grand Prix Columbus in June. Let's hope little white creatures are still as good at that time as they are now!
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