This week I am going to continue with the analysis that I began last week. This week, however, I will look at tier 2 and below combo decks in Legacy. Of course, I will be unable to write about even a small fraction of these decks because, in Legacy, once you go below the designated tier 2, there is an ocean of decks that are possible. I will be limiting my writing to 3 decks: Imperial Painter, which is arguably a tier 1.5 deck but has not been for about a year; High Tide, which was once the best combo deck in Legacy but has long fallen from favor; and Tin Fins, which has never put up such a showing but is an impressive combo deck never the less.
To begin, I will lay out the 3 decks that I will be discussing and laying out a list that can then be analyzed. I will begin with Imperial Painter; to give a glimpse at current painter decks I will be analyzing a list that was piloted recently to a GP top 16 finish by Momme Grupp:
1 Surgical Extraction
The next deck to look at is High Tide. This deck was once an extremely powerful and popular deck; however, despite not dropping in power its popularity has virtually disappeared. High Tide has struggled slightly because its list has remained mostly unchanged since the unbanning of Time Spiral, which means it has remained constant as Legacy has grown into a different and more powerful opponent. Here is a list run by Feline Longmore, who is one of the most prominent High Tide players, that top 8’d a SCG Open a little under 2 years ago: This deck utilizes a mill strategy in Legacy, which is quite risky considering that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is considerably popular. However, this deck is powerful when Sneak and Show decks are not popular.
1 Wipe Away
The final deck I am going to talk about is Tin Fins, which was never as successful as either of the other two decks but will be interesting because of how I am going to go about analyzing these decks. I will be using an old deck list from 2013 Star City Games Open top 8 by Logan Creen for analysis, because this deck’s high finishes are few and far between.This deck is very interesting and uses a wish board, something that is rarely seen in contemporary Legacy to store its win conditions. One rumor about High Tide that makes it very unpopular with Legacy players is its high price tag. This is mostly untrue. This deck can be built as a budget deck without the Candelabra of Tawnos, which is the only card that costs over $100 in the deck making it cheap for a Legacy deck.
Analyzing These Decks
This deck is a rather interesting combo deck. Its primary goal is to win through reanimating Emrakul using one of its 7 instant speed reanimation spells and continue comboing using cards like Children of Korlis.
Analyzing tier one decks as I discussed last time can be fairly easy because you don’t need to assess if the deck is good or not just if you like it, can play it, and that it has a good win percentage against the field as a whole. With these decks, the first thing to assess is if the deck is actually good. Most of these decks that I listed have not seen a top 8 finish in years, so the idea of their viability at least in this form is unlikely but never impossible.
First, I want to explain some common mistakes that are made when thinking about deck viability. This is associating decks that do not use the same engine as similar. The phrase “combo is not good right now” is one that is often every once in a while in Legacy and other formats, but this generalization tends to be more harmful to the players understanding of deck choice than anything else. The idea that combo as a whole cannot be good is not a very viable idea. One can say that graveyard based strategies are not good right now, but even that is a tad bit sketchy because of the sheer diversity in graveyard based decks across Legacy.
The first step for the decks that I have listed is that some of them are comparable to other Legacy decks, but only very loosely. The one that is easiest to compare to other decks is Tin Fins because it is a graveyard strategy similar to Reanimator. However, to say that these decks are the same is hogwash. These decks use similar graveyard strategies that tend to utilize Griselbrand, but Tin Fins uses a storm combo as its back up, while Reanimator just uses graveyard recursion en mass to beat most other decks. This deck cannot be assessed to have the same good or bad matchups as Reanimator because of that fact, so they must be tested separately and to write one off because the other is not good in the current metagame is foolish. If graveyard strategies like Reanimator are getting hated out for any reason, then you can say that Tin Fins and Reanimator are not well positioned in the current meta, but that is pretty uncommon.
Frankly this deck tends to struggle because it has difficulty playing against both Deathrite Shaman and Force of Will, which tend to get played for their power in many decks. Reanimator is much better at dealing with these cards, so tends to have a better overall time in Legacy metagames.
Next comes Imperial Painter, which is oddly without compare in Legacy because it is a two card combo that functions off of two artifacts on board. The combo is surprisingly resilient because of cards like Goblin Welder, which allow the deck to recoup spent artifacts. This deck is a prime example of a why we cant just compare decks to tier one decks to explain what’s good. This deck has no comparable deck. The only other deck that really attempts to use two permanents to win the game in Legacy is Miracles, but that comparison falls apart at the start because of the sheer difference in game plans. This deck is a very powerful combo deck, so comparing it to most decks in Legacy, which don’t run similar combo wins is a failing method. I don’t like cross format comparisons because they tend to fail to take the metagames of either situation into account, but this deck is probably most comparable to a vintage combo deck that utilizes Time Vault and Voltaic Key. This means that the comparing method of deck analysis has failed us yet again, so we must turn to another form of assessment. For Painter the best assessment is understanding the ways the deck loses. The deck virtually cannot beat an Emrakul that is within the deck. The deck also struggles with decks that run heavy artifact removal or Chalice of the Void on 1. The current metagame hits all of these things to different levels. Minimizing the bad matchups for a deck is important, but this is a combo deck that struggles to beat certain cards if they are even around.
Painter, however, does have a lot of play against many decks that are lousy in the metagame, so it would not surprise me to see it make a come back. After all, 4% of the metagame that is an atrocious matchup isn’t too bad and they do pack plenty of side board hate for it. The deck is undeniably powerful. I have thoroughly undersold this deck because of how the analysis has worked out. This deck is very capable of winning tournaments and is the best deck that I am discussing today.
Finally we come to High Tide. High Tide seems to exist in contemporary Legacy almost exclusively as the butt of people’s jokes and the reason why there are 30 minutes between the rounds at tournaments. This deck still has an ability to win because of the sheer power of Time Spiral. It is also hard to compare this deck to other decks in legacy because it plays differently once again. There are two decks that this deck could be compared to, but neither truly provide insight to how the deck preforms. This deck could be compared to a Storm deck in legacy, thought it has few similarity the building of mana off of a one mana instant can be compared. The other deck that probably shares more with this deck is the recently “banned” Omnitell deck, which utilized Cunning Wish to make it run smoother. They both utilized a primarily Blue mana and card base to make the deck run with more efficiency.
High Tide, however, functions as a half way between these two decks more so than as one of them. The deck repeatedly cycles through Time Spirals while repeatedly casting High Tide to ultimately make a tremendous amount of mana to win through Blue Sun’s Zenith or a different win condition. The comparison of this decks to others obviously doesn’t work again because in many ways this deck runs more like the old Modern Second Sunrise deck than it does a standard Legacy combo deck. But this deck still possesses enough sheer power to win the game still. This deck is less likely, however to see a comeback in the current metagame. The deck struggles against the likes of UW Miracles because of how powerful a landed Conterbalance is against the deck. This deck does not lack in power it is just one of the many decks in Legacy that is currently being squelched by the dominance of Miracles.
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