Legacy has in recent years become a format defined by control. The format was for years defined by combo (in Show and Tell and Storm) and tempo (in Delver). This shift has been long coming. The format moved away from combo being king after Delver of Secrets began to severely warp the format. The problem with delver as a strategy it is easily defeated by midrange and control. Legacy in this sense works differently from most formats because control beats aggro and tempo, but loses to combo. The format has, therefore, become warped around control. Today I will focus on 2 major control archetypes in Legacy: Miracles and Lands. These are the top control decks in the format and are some of the most powerful decks in the format.

Miracles has been around for a very long time in legacy, though, like much of legacy, was redefined by Innistrad. Miracles was most heavily effected by the inclusion of Avacyn Restored, which provided it with its most powerful removal spell in Terminus and a powerful win condition in Entreat the Angels. The deck’s primary engine is Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterballance. I went into this some last week here: https://spellsnare.com/2016/06/15/the-evolving-shape-of-legacy/. The power of Miracles primarily rest upon its ability to answer most spells with that combination and it’s slew of counterspells, which it can find with its suite of draw spells, and remove most permanents with its 9 removal spells.

Miracles as we once knew it still exists, but it has become a deck much more focused on winning than it once was. It has focused on fast kills in the past (it once ran Rest in Peace and Helm of Obedience as win conditions). The bizarre part of the current Miracles decks is that there are two major Miracles options currently. The first is the one that Nicolas Tholance ran to a second place finish last week in Prague, found below.

Lands (20)

  • 2 Arid Mesa
  • 4 Flooded Strand
  • 4 Island
  • 2 Plains
  • 3 Scalding Tarn
  • 3 Tundra
  • 2 Volcanic Island

Creatures (5)

  • 2 Montastery Mentor
  • 3 Snapcaster Mage

Lands (2)

  • 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (33)

  • 4 Brainstorm
  • 3 Counterbalance
  • 3 Counterspell
  • 1 Entreat the Angels
  • 4 Force of Will
  • 4 Ponder
  • 2 Predict
  • 4 Sensei’s Divining Top
  • 4 Swords to Plowshares
  • 4 Terminus

Sideboard (15)

  • 1 Containment Priest
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 3 Flusterstorm
  • 1 Mountain
  • 2 Pyroblast
  • 2 Red Elemental Blast
  • 1 Snapcaster Mage
  • 2 Surgical Extraction
  • 2 Wear // Tear

This deck, as you can see runs Monetary Mentor as a primary win condition in the maindeck. This is a fairly big shift because it changes the focus of the deck from that of a strict control deck into one that has a non-control win condition.

The more traditional Miracles deck is still very much around. Tobias Garthe was able to pilot one to a top 16 finish at GP Prague as well.  

Lands (21)

  • 1 Arid Mesa
  • 4 Flooded Strand
  • 4 Island
  • 2 Plains
  • 4 Scalding Tarn
  • 3 Tundra
  • 3 Volcanic Island

Creatures (3)

  • 3 Snapcaster Mage

Planeswalkers (2)

  • 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (34)

  • 4 Brainstorm
  • 1 Council’s Judgment
  • 3 Counterbalance
  • 2 Counterspell
  • 2 Entreat the Angels
  • 4 Force of Will
  • 4 Ponder
  • 1 Predict
  • 4 Sensei’s Divining Top
  • 1 Spell Snare
  • 4 Swords to Plowshares
  • 4 Terminus

Sideboard (15)

  • 1 Blood Moon
  • 2 Flusterstorm
  • 2 Leyline of Sanctity
  • 1 Moat
  • 1 Pithing Needle
  • 2 Pyroblast
  • 1 Red Elemental Blast
  • 1 Surgical Extraction
  • 2 Vendilion Clique
  • 2 Wear // Tear

This deck’s game plan is fairly different from the previous Miracles deck list.  The removal of the Monastery Mentor allows for the deck to focus more on the plan of thoroughly controlling the game in every aspect. Even though the change is as small as a two-of being removed, the deck’s mission shifts which makes it very different.

If I were to play miracles in a tournament I would definitely play the more controlling version with possibly even one more Jace and one more Counterbalance than Tobias did. But changes like that require testing on the specific meta game that one expects at any given tournament. And in Legacy, those couple shifts can make a huge difference. Miracles, like I said last week, is clearly one of the best if not the best deck in Legacy because of its overwhelming power and good choices against most decks in the format.

Now to talk about Lands, which is my personal favorite deck in Legacy. There is one major deck list for Lands decks and that is RG Lands that uses Gamble as its tutor to find Life from the Loam and its other utility cards and ultimately it’s combo. I play a less popular version of lands that uses Intuition to find its control pieces and Life from the Loam. Both decks run fairly similarly (using Life from the Loam as an engine and lands to control the game). I could (and probably in the future will) write at length about the decks’ differences, but today I will mostly explain their mechanics and why they are powerful decks, and the reason that they are the second strongest control deck in Legacy at this moment. But first a bit of history.

Lands is a fairly old archetype; it was originally conceived and played by German players as a control deck for Legacy back in 2006. The format has change a lot since then and so has Lands. We have moved away from cards like Mulch and towards cards like Gamble and Intuition because they are generally more powerful tutors than Mulch. Today, Lands focuses primarily on Wasteland and Rishadan Port for its mana denial, which is its primary control method. And Punishing Fire and Maze of Ith as its creature removal of choice. This has made a hugely successful and popular deck in RG lands an incredibly powerful deck in the archetype. Jarvis Yu played RG lands to a top 8 finish in GP Columbus last week with this list.

Lands (35)

  • 4 Dark Depths
  • 1 Forest
  • 1 Glacial Chasm
  • 4 Grove of the Burnwillows
  • 1 Karakas
  • 3 Maze of Ith
  • 1 Riftstone Portal
  • 4 Rishadan Port
  • 2 Taiga
  • 1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
  • 4 Thespian’s Stage
  • 2 Tranquil Thicket
  • 1 Verdant Catacombs
  • 4 Wasteland
  • 1 Windswept Heath
  • 1 Wooded Foothills

Spells (25)

  • 4 Crop Rotation
  • 4 Exploration
  • 4 Gamble
  • 4 Life from the Loam
  • 1 Manabond
  • 4 Mox Diamond
  • 4 Punishing Fire

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Boil
  • 1 Bojuka Bog
  • 1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
  • 1 Chalice of the Void
  • 4 Krosan Grip
  • 4 Sphere of Resistance
  • 2 Tireless Tracker

This deck, as I said before, works off of the tutor Gamble and the draw engine of Life from the Loam. What I mean by draw engine is that Life from the Loam draws you cards by dredging 3 cards a turn and getting back up to 3 cards a turn. The deck also is able to play multiple lands a turn by the use of either Manabond and Exploration. These both let you play most, if not all, of the lands that you’ve amassed from your Life from the Loam. The deck is able to get away with basically drawing three cards off of a dredge of 3 because the deck runs 35 lands, all of which can be recurred, and 8 of the deck’s non-lands can be recurred as well, which means statistically Life from the Loam should be drawing an average of more than 2 cards that can be recurred per dredge, which is very efficient because you always have access to the rest of your graveyard as well, and all previously discarded lands.

What I just listed tends to be true of most Lands decks, but what separates RG lands from others is its use of 8 tutor effects (4 Crop Rotation and 4 Gamble). The Crop Rotations allow for you to search for more than half of your deck and assemble the final part of your combo at instant speed. It also allows for you to find the several one-of hate cards in the mainboard and sideboard. Crop Rotation-ing in response to a combo or at the end of your opponent’s turn can be exceptionally powerful. For example: Crop Rotation-ing for a Bojuka Bog at the right time can stop ANT, Reanimater, and Dredge in their tracks. Similarly, Crop Rotation-ing for a The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale can stop Elves and many other creature decks, and Crop Rotation-ing for a basic Forest can successfully dodge an otherwise game-ending Blood Moon. Crop Rotation is an incredibly powerful card.

Gamble is the card that makes RG lands truly unique. Gamble allows for the Lands player to search for their Life from the Loam, Manabond, or even their Dark Depths of necessary.  What makes Gamble so powerful is that it’s an unrestricted tutor, which means that it can search for any card in your deck. The intended downside of Gamble is rarely an actual downside because under 1/3 of your deck is not retrievable from the graveyard. This means that more often than not, you tutor for the card you want and discard something that you don’t need but can get again later, which makes Gamble more like Demonic Tutor for 1 mana. Gamble is most powerful because it allows you to consistently set up a turn 2 dredge off of Life from the Loam that is followed up by a turn 2 Life from the Loam. That is every Lands deck’s dream and RG lands is able to launch it much more consistently than other lands decks.

That is what makes RG lands so powerful. They effectively run 8 copies of Life from the Loam and are able to beat most aggressive, midrange, tempo, and control decks with their longer, more resilient plan of ultimately forming Merit Lage.

I will also be talking about the lands deck that I play, Intuition Lands. The deck does not run Gamble, but instead relies upon Intuition, Crop Rotation, and Tolaria West to act as the deck’s tutors to ultimately fulfill a similar goal. Intuition Lands is much more of a control deck than its RG relative. It runs a lot of dedicated hate and folds to very few strategies out of the maindeck to sideboard, which is something not true of RG Lands. Here is my list:

Lands (35)

  • 1 Academy Ruins
  • 1 Bayou
  • 1 Bojuka Bog
  • 1 Creeping Tar Pit
  • 1 Dark Depths
  • 1 Forest
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 1 Glacial Chasm
  • 3 Grove of the Burnwillows
  • 1 Karakas
  • 3 Maze of Ith
  • 1 Misty Rainforest
  • 4 Rishadan Port
  • 1 Taiga
  • 1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
  • 1 Thespian’s Stage
  • 3 Tolaria West
  • 3 Tropical Island
  • 4 Wasteland
  • 1 Windswept Heath
  • 1 Wooded Foothills

Spells (26)

  • 3 Engineered Explosives
  • 4 Mox Diamond
  • 1 Zuran Orb
  • 3 Crop Rotation
  • 4 Exploration
  • 4 Life from the Loam
  • 3 Punishing Fire
  • 1 Crucible of Worlds
  • 3 Intuition

Sideboard (15)

  • 4 Chalice of the Void
  • 3 Dark Confidant
  • 2 Phyrexian Revoker
  • 3 Krosan Grip
  • 2 Trinisphere
  • 1 Smokestack

This is the deck that I’ve sleeved to play for every Legacy tournament for a year and a half now and I love this deck. It is incredibly powerful. I could write a whole article about this deck, but that would not be a very effective overview of any part of the Legacy meta game.

The deck clearly shares a common ancestor with RG Lands, but disagrees on several key issues. Intuition Lands plays like a deck that tries to grind all decks into submission and runs specific hate cards in the main and side boards to stop other decks from killing it. This differs from RG Lands, which tries to kill you with Merit Lage after dealing with your initial threats. The power of Intuition Lands in this comparison is also it’s weakness.

Both RG Lands and Intuition Lands are weak to the same decks and strong against the same decks. The main difference is that RG Lands tries to cut its losses against certain decks while maximizing its win potential against its favorable matchups. Intuition is a card that works almost aggressively against that kind of play.

Intuition is, in my opinion, the most powerful tutor in Legacy. It is essentially triple Demonic Tutor. The reason it is triple Demonic Tutor is because in Intuition Lands, only 10/61 [Editor’s note: yes, 61.] main board cards are not recurrable. That means that an Intuition for Life from the Loam, Academy Ruins, and any artifact gets the artifact in 2 turns. Similarly, Life from the Loam and 2 lands gets the 2 lands in hand next turn. This deck also runs at least 3 copies of spells that it might not have time to recur or cannot recur, which lets Intuition act as a single Demonic Tutor as well. Intuition is the backbone of Intuition Lands. 

Crop Rotation and Tolaria West act as the other tutors of this deck, which brings the total number up to 9 tutors. I have already sung the praises of Crop Rotation above, which is even more powerful in Intuition Lands. Tolaria West is a tutor that also searches for over half of your deck. It does not do it at instant speed or put the card onto the battlefield, but it is just as strong of a tutor. Transmute for 0 allows you to search for 43 of your main deck cards including Engineered Explosives and Zuran Orb, which are the most common non land targets. Tolaria West’s transmute is also not a spell, so it can only be countered by Stifle and similar effects. The worst part about Tolaria West is that it requires multiple blue mana to activate. Besides that it is an incredible tutor. 

Intuition Land’s game mainly focuses on destroying its opponent’s mana base and and board state before killing them. Most games with this deck are won to concessions. Opponents tend to concede to Merit Lage, but normally they have conceded to a board state of no lands and possibly 1 creature. Lands is incredibly good at stalling the game and making both players take many short turns.

This deck is not a slow deck to play. In my experience, the things that make rounds go long are normally just your opponent taking too long on their turn. Every card in the maindeck of Lands is incredibly important and 61 cards is run to allow for an extra utility land effect. Cutting to 60 cards is not worth the loss of searchable hate cards for bad matchups. I love this deck and can justify any choice in it if asked, but I’m probably going to write on this deck in a few weeks so until then this deck can just sit in the back of your minds. 

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