Getting Snared in Legacy

October 21, 2013

Andreas Petersen

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The one thing I always enjoyed more than anything else in Magic is deckbuilding. Making my own stuff or tweaking someone else’s idea, both are perfect for me. I think that too few people feel this way, which is the main reason why you hear Magic players complain that a format is stagnant or boring. When you hear people say that a format is wide-open and healthy, that there are ten tier 1 decks etc., this means that people are innovating. And when people are innovating, if they come up with a good strategy, there will be a reaction from the metagame and the wheels will keep on spinning. That’s what I like about Magic and why I keep on playing it.

One problem I have noticed recently is that people are constantly netdecking instead of coming up with stuff themselves. Even though I think it’s great to start with the original decklist, I firmly believe that all decks have room for personal preference. I absolutely love getting destroyed by some sick tech out of my opponents main deck or sideboard even if this results in me losing the match. Here are a few examples of innovation that paid off:
During the summer I played a fair amount of UWR Control Modern games on Magic Online. I was facing the mirror, Jund and aggressive decks a lot and wanted a catch-all solution. I ended up playing 1 Stomping Ground (fetchable with Scalding Tarn and Arid Mesa) with 4 Loxodon Smiters in the sideboard. Against Jund, I experienced how they prioritized resolving Liliana of the Veil as soon as possible and I was able to punish a few opponents with the Smiter. In the mirror, I suddenly had a threat that dodged Mana Leak and Cryptic Command and on top of that demanded two resolved burn spells to be dealt with. When paired against aggressive decks, 4/4 had very good stats for bricking creatures and surviving a Lightning Bolt

April 2013, playing Legacy at Grand Prix Strasbourg, I was paired against a prominent name player piloting UW Miracles. I was playing a UWR StandstillGeist of Saint Traft deck I had put together with a friend before the tournament. After having shut down his Sensei’s Divining Top with a turn 1 Pithing Needle, we played draw-go for a few turns. I then topdecked a Cavern of Souls, named “cleric” and resolved the Geist of Saint Traft through his hand of 4-5 counterspells and proceeded to win the match with a mixture of Force of Will, Red Elemental Blast and Counterspell in his hand. It felt good. Be unpredictable and innovative and you might surprise even the best of players.

What I’m getting at here is that nothing is set in stone. Some things need to be updated and some things need to reconsidered…

Even though I haven’t touched Legacy since the Danish Legacy Masters in November 2013 (a 138-man tournament I ended up winning with Storm – read about it here), I want to write about a topic that has been on my mind ever since then. How in the world is it possible that Spell Snare sees little to no play in Legacy right now? The card is a hard counter at one mana, very good tempo play and is relevant against more than 90% of the metagame. I understand why you wouldn’t play the full four as we see in Modern and used to see in Legacy, but a pair of Spell Snares in your U/x/x True-Name Nemesis deck just seems “obvious”. Let’s take a look at the impact of Spell Snare against the most popular archetypes and cards in the format. The decks are listed in a random order:

– RUG/BUG/UWR Delver: Tarmogoyf is a card you can never have too many answers for. Stoneforge Mystic and Dark Confidant also show up in this archetype.

– Storm: A hard counter for Infernal Tutor and possibly Burning Wish is just what the doctor ordered. In most games they will Duress you a couple of times and then hope to go off un-disrupted. Spell Snare adds to your “must be dealt with” answers and can make it impossible for them to win.

– Jund: If common sense hasn’t taught us the value of cheap answers to Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, Modern testing and tournament play sure has. A+.

– Death & Taxes: Spell Snare is the best main deck answer to Thalia, Guardian of Thraben you can play in Legacy. Being able to say “no” to Stoneforge Mystic and Phyrexian Revoker for just one mana is very attractive.

– U/W Miracles: Being able to stop a Counterbalance, even on the draw, without card disadvantage is huge. Later in the game, dealing with Counterspell and/or Rest in Peace is big game. It is very relevant here as well.

– Elves: Elvish Visionary and Green Sun’s Zenith with X = 1. I’m aware that people can play around it the second time by paying an additional mana, but I think Spell Snare is enough under the radar for you to get them the first time. Not the best card for the matchup, but worth a couple of slots.
Sneak Attack / Omni: The card’s only use in this matchup is getting pitched to Force of Will. While I understand that it is terribly narrow, I want to remind you about how people constantly main deck Abrupt Decay and Swords to Plowshares with no concerns at all. Compared to these, I feel very good about having a spare blue card in the matchup.

Here’s my list of Spell Snare targets that don’t necessarily see play in tier 1 main decks, but that you still need to be prepared for when you attend a big Legacy tournament:

Arcbound Ravager
Cranial Plating
Price of Progress
Young Pyromancer
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sphere of Resistance
Thorn of Amethyst
Chalice of the Void
Animate Dead
Desperate Ritual
Pyretic Ritual
Land Grant
Life from the Loam
Burning Wish
Goblin Piledriver
Mogg War Marshall
Lord of Atlantis
Master of the Pearl Trident
Silvergil Adept
Phantasmal Image
Baleful Strix
Scavenging Ooze
Qasali Pridemage
Gaddock Teeg
Voice of Ressurgence

Some cards are missing and some on the list are pretty “niche”, but I think you get my point.

Reactive “answer” cards will be dead sometimes and the metagame should dictate which are maindeckable. In this mess I feel like Spell Snare is heavily overlooked at the moment. With the rise of Stoneforge Mystic-fueled decks, there’s no doubt in my mind that pretty much every control and mid-range deck should maindeck two.

Lastly, let me encourage you all to comment on every article you read or video you watch. If you don’t have any questions or thoughts, just take the time to thank the author. It means a whole lot to us and will motivate us to bring you even better content in the future. Constructive criticism is key.

I want to wish all of you guys attending Grand Prix Paris the best of luck. Sadly, I can’t make it this time as I have other important things going on at this time. The next article from me will be Modern-related once the new banlist becomes a reality. I’ve also got plans to record some matches with a new deck I’ve been working on. If you like Vedalken Shackles and Blood Moon I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Get busy living or get busy dying!

Andreas Petersen @ facebook
andiiment at hotmail dot com
ecobaronen @ MTGO

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