Pro Tour 25th Anniversary is upon us, and I will be in the Legacy seat for my half of Team Massdrop West. My Legacy testing team and I worked on many decks in the past month, since the Deathrite Shaman ban really opened the format up. One such deck we worked on was a brew that featured two Dominaria cards in The Antiquities War and Karn, Scion of Urza.
This was not an original idea we had as we stumbled on it by playing against it in Magic Online leagues at first, and then a list was posted in the 5-0 decklist dump as well. However, we gave it due diligence and tested in leagues and in-house with several configurations. Ultimately, none of us felt confident enough with the deck to register it for the Pro Tour, which is why I am able to discuss it now on the eve of the event. Despite that, there are definitely some powerful things going on with the deck and it is worth exploring further.
4 Mox Opal
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Jeweled Amulet
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
4 Urza's Bauble
1 Lotus Petal
3 Master of Etherium
3 Sai, Master Thopterist
1 Walking Ballista
4 The Antiquities War
4 Force of Will
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Seat of the Synod
3 City of Traitors
4 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
4 Tormod's Crypt
3 Tumble Magnet
2 Walking Ballista
2 Mindbreak Trap
2 Echoing Truth
This is the latest version of the list that I was testing with personally, but we went through a lot of different configurations. The most notable difference was the inclusion of Ensoul Artifact or Sai, Master Thopterist. We came to the conclusion that the builds with Sai were superior for a variety of reasons. However, the basic formula is the same: get to four mana as soon as possible, ideally turn two and play The Antiquites War or Karn, Scion of Urza and hopefully win on turn four.
The Mana Base
Most of the manabase should look fairly obvious with the powerful “Sol lands” Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, basic Islands, and Seat of the Synods for the artifact synergies and additional blue sources. Mox Opal seems like an obvious inclusion for this strategy as well, but the card that is most surprising are the four Jeweled Amulets. When a teammate presented a list with that card my first reaction was “what is that? I thought that was an ante card.” In case you don’t want to squint and decipher the text on the card, what it essentially does is let you pay one mana to store a counter on it to use on a following turn for an additional mana. Considering the plan of this deck is to get to four mana on turn two as often as possible, it is a great addition and serves its purpose better than Lotus Petal in most cases since the artifact stays on the battlefield to be turned into a 5/5 creature later. In the build with Ensoul Artifact in lieu of Sai, the City of Traitors and one Island are replaced with Darksteel Citadels.
Since we can’t reliably draw The Antiquities War in every game, there has to be some other ways to win the game in the deck. In order to further utilize the large quantity of cheap artifacts, the deck is playing Sai, Master Thopterist, Karn, Scion of Urza, and Master of Etherium. Sai and Master are additionally useful in that they are blue cards that can be exiled for Force of Will. As mentioned previously, there are some builds that play Ensoul Artifact and in these builds the Sai is the card that gets cut.
If The Antiquities War resolves on turn two and we get to attack with six or more artifacts on turn four, that is an easy route to victory. What we discovered was that a turn two Karn results in some easy wins as well, especially when backed up with a Force of Will or a turn one Chalice of the Void. Both of these win conditions provide card advantage as well, so if the large creatures don’t get the job done, the deck has the ability to grind as well. Along these lines, Sai, Master Thopterist provides a similar effect. Swarming the opponent with evasive artifact creatures is the card’s main function, but it can also turn redundant copies of Mox Opal and Jeweled Amulet into higher impact cards with the second ability.
Since we are playing a deck that relies on a critical mass of artifacts, that restricts the amount of interaction that can be played. Luckily, one of the most powerful pieces of “interaction” happens to be an artifact that this deck can reliably cast on turn one in Chalice of the Void. While it is not interaction in the purest sense of the word, it does do a good job of foiling many Legacy strategies. The deck is also playing 14 other blue cards so it can support another Legacy staple in Force of Will, which is desperately needed in this deck as it will likely struggle against most combo decks prior to sideboarding. Sorcerous Spyglass and Walking Ballista fill out the last couple of maindeck flex spots, as well as additional copies in the sideboard. Against the decks where it is good, Walking Ballista will often be the best card in the deck.
The worst matchups for this deck are combo decks such as Reanimator, Sneak and Show, and Storm, so it goes without saying that these matchups should be the focus of the sideboard slots. Tumble Magnet fills a similar role as Ensnaring Bridge against Sneak and Show while still allowing the deck to attack with its large artifact creatures. Tormod’s Crypt functions nicely as a free artifact for the deck’s main strategy, while hosing Reanimator at the same time. The advantage of this over Grafdigger’s Cage is that it can be played after a Chalice of the Void on one, and can also be cast after getting found with The Antiquities War on turn two. Mindbreak Trap provides some insurance against Storm and they are likely to sideboard out some discard in favor of spells that can remove artifacts like Chalice of the Void. Echoing Truth is a versatile sideboard card that can temporarily remove sideboard hate pieces (namely Chalice of the Void on zero which is difficult for this deck to deal with) or a Marit Lage token.
When it comes to working a new archetype, it can be difficult to test out all of the cards available to determine the best configuration, especially in a format as broad as Legacy. In the limited time we had, we tried many different options that met the criteria of “cheap utility artifact that doesn’t cost one” or “blue card that cares about artifacts or can interact with the opponent.” The build of this style of deck that we played against with Sai utilized Paradoxical Outcome as a way to refuel on cards and then replay the free ones for some thopter tokens. In testing I was quickly turned off of the card as it was really bad to draw in multiples and was at its best when you had a solid board state already, in which case the deck was likely to win anyway. Often times I simply would not want to cast the card as it would set me too far behind. Between Karn, Scion of Urza and Thoughtcast, card draw was not an area that I felt the deck was lacking. Daze was a card that we saw in other builds as well, including the 5-0 decklist that was posted. The issue with Daze was that aside from only playing seven or eight Islands to cast it for free, it would set the deck too far behind if it cast it on turn one, when it really needs to be casting the powerful four mana spells on turn two or three. Etched Champion was a card that was in our early builds, especially with Ensoul Artifact. The issue with the Champion is that it was very expensive and was at its best in matchups that we deemed favorable already. Welding Jar was another card that missed the mark in that there were simply too many matchups where it had no text aside from being an artifact. Many other cards were given a trial and were either deemed not good enough or simply did not get enough reps, including Padeem, Consul of Innovation, Winter Orb,Metallic Rebuke, and Spellskite.
The Future of the Deck
One of our main concerns while testing the deck on Magic Online was that if it got too much exposure, sideboard artifact hate such as Null Rod and Ancient Grudge would become more popular, limiting the deck’s effectiveness. Right now these sideboard cards are at an all time low as decks that need to remove Chalice of the Void and decks that care about equipment like Umezawa’s Jitte are the only decks that are likely to play these cards. While this is a positive for the deck’s current position, the main reason no one felt confident enough to play the deck for the Pro Tour was it’s poor matchups against combo decks that are likely to be popular at the event. Another reason was that the limited amount of time made finding the best possible build of the deck near impossible. Some of the things that can help this deck thrive in the near future is some more work getting done on refining the list, and a decline in combo decks.
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