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The letter I! am overjoyed to report the victory of Tom Martell and his 1/1 Spirit tokens over some twelve hundred other players to take down Grand Prix Indianapolis.

GP Indianapolis Champ, Tom Martell

And he did it with Lingering Souls.

Esper StoneBlade


Tom put out a call on Twitter on Friday night, not knowing what to play in the upcoming Grand Prix. He was rewarded with essentially the above deck, by Belgian player Marijn Lybaert’s Facebook page.

Lingering Souls | Art by Bud Cook

For those of you who only remember Caw-Blade as a machine-gun tournament winner, the scourge of the Star City Games Open Series about a year ago... Martell was actually part of the team that initially put Caw-Blade on the map. He played it to a Top 8 finish in Paris last year, losing only to eventual winner Ben Stark (also with Caw-Blade).

In this case, Martell associated the Lingering Souls deck very much with Caw-Blade and—with some brewing help from Sam Black—was all-in on the deck very quickly. It turned out to be a pretty good choice.

So how does this deck work?

Well... it's basically Caw-Blade. Stoneforge Mystic goes and gets a spicy piece of equipment, and then somebody carries it through the Red Zone to accumulate value and eventually win. Like Caw-Blade, Tom's Legacy brew can play an aggro-control game (using its counters and discard to protect a threat in play) or as a true control deck, eliminating threats and winning on card advantage, which is exciting...

... although Tom says what was most exciting was a High Tide opponent bricking after a successful Time Spiral.

The deck is fairly straightforward. Most of it is good cards, but some things might stick out for you.

Intuition

Martell could channel the spirit of Tomi Walamies and his first-run Call of the Herd by playing Intuition for Lingering Souls. How many 1/1 Spirits is that exactly?

3 Snapcaster Mage and 3 Force of Will

These three-ofs stuck out like sore thumbs to me. Aren't they some of the best cards in the format?

Force of Will | Art by Terese Nielsen

"Most StoneBlade decks need the body on Snapcaster Mage to carry a Sword," Tom told Top Decks. "But I have all these Lingering Souls to go to battle for me. Snapcaster Mage is powerful, but is actually kind of slow."

Force of Will is primarily in the deck for combo decks. Yes, you do need the fast answer against a deck that is going to beat you on the first or second turn, but Legacy is full of all kinds of decks that don't do that.

"I only kept Force of Will in against Hive Mind, High Tide, and Dan Jordan, because when he has Choke in his deck, he is basically playing an unfair combo deck."

"My deck—with all its Lingering Souls—can beat any deck playing fair. But Choke is very un-fair. If the opponent goes first and has a Noble Hierarch, you can't even play Ponder unless you have a Force of Will. But if you Force the Choke, they are stuck playing a fair game and you can beat decks that are playing fair."

Tom is quick to admit that Lingering Souls isn't very good against broken combo decks, but when it's good... it's really good. In the finals, his opponent was forced to Force of Will the front half of a Lingering Souls because his board was nothing but 1/1 creatures!

"He literally couldn't beat a Lingering Souls! Typically, the card Nimble Mongoose is a problem for straight control decks in Legacy, but even if they get to 3/3, my deck can just chump them all day while doing something else."

I asked Martell what the lesson of his 11th-hour Cinderella story was.

Watch Facebook?

"The real lesson is to keep an open mind, because even smart people can be dumb. All weekend I was being told how bad my deck was (because Lingering Souls isn't 'good enough' for Legacy), but the reality is, it was the best deck for the tournament."

If you want to hear Martell say more smart stuff like that reframing on Choke... well...

tom_martell Considering running the Legacy SCG this weekend in Sacramento. Anyone have a good list?


The Indianapolis Top 8 was studded with notable players, including ChannelFireball Legacy Weapon Caleb Durward (who once broke the format via Survival of the Fittest), multiple-SCG Open champion Dan Jordan, or the brilliant TCGPlayer.com columnist Adam Yurchick. Here is how the Legacy Top 8 shook out:


Adam Yurchick's White-Blue StoneBlade
Legacy – Top 8, Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012


The more traditional White-Blue StoneBlade deck plays a little more land and finishes on more planeswalkers, but runs the same kind of game plan overall.

Yurchick's deck—without Lingering Souls—relies on other sources of card advantage; for example, Wasteland + Crucible of Worlds.

The Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of High Tide

Colin Chilbert's High Tide
Legacy – Top 8, Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012


High Tide really didn't like Mental Misstep.

High Tide | Art by Anson Maddocks

As you can see from Chilbert's decklist, tons and tons of the High Tide spells cost one mana, including the engine-like enabler Candelabra of Tawnos and namesake High Tide itself.

The basic incentive to this deck is that it can win relatively quickly (turn three requires very little sweat) and it is difficult for many decks to disrupt. So you can play an Island on your third turn for High Tide, tap your other two for Blue ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana, Turnabout your lands to untap, and have Blue ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana available for the Time Spiral. Ultimately, the goal is more action, card drawing, and filtering into a stormed Brain Freeze or netting sufficient mana from Candelabras, Spirals, and so on to make a massive Blue Sun's Zenith.

High Tide is effectively Wasteland-proof... so decks based on Crucible of Worlds recursion have less pointy teeth, in-matchup.

That said, it leans heavily on Force of Will, and isn't great at stopping an opponent from doing what he or she wants—or coming out ahead in an attrition fight. But like many combo decks, it benefits from opponents in Legacy being forced to respect creature decks... they have wasted draws that help give this fast deck even more time.

The Incentives to RUG Delver

Caleb Durward's RUG Delver
– Top 8, Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012


Here we have an archetype sharing many intersections with the High Tide description, above. RUG Delver is a deck that also appreciates Mental Misstep's bowing out.

Twenty-eight of Caleb's main deck cards cost literally one mana! Including, of course, the archetype's signature starters, Nimble Mongoose and Delver of Secrets.

By now you have probably heard of this Delver of Secrets card; relatively young, the Insectile Aberration-to-be has successfully found success in... essentially very available format. Hall of Famers swung for 3 in the air on turn two to score Top 8s at Pro Tour Dark Ascension; it has scored Modern Blue Envelopes; and, of course, it pairs nicely with Mongoose here, as an undercosted aggro-control threat.

Nimble Mongoose might not fly... but it also doesn't die. You can't target the 'goose, and when the 'goose is loose at 3/3... the game shifts. RUG Delver has fast counterspells like Force of Will and Daze, and can use them to stop or punish combo players, but it is much happier protecting a board position while cracking for 3 to 6 a turn. Unlike many blue decks, this one has the efficiency on offense of green, cheap counters to protect the queen, and can close the game out with a flurry of red death via good old Lightning Bolt.

Caleb's specialized card quality was so high he felt no need for the fourth—or even third—Tarmogoyf (and, for that matter, would be willing to cut another)!

Kenny Castor's RUG Delver
Legacy – Top 8, Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012


Kenny Castor also played a RUG Delver deck, albeit much more streamlined than Caleb's, with four copies of all three of his creatures and a less eclectic selection of one-ofs (i.e., no Predict or Thought Scour). Both players ran a Sensei's Divining Top + Counterbalance side plan in the extra fifteen, making RUG Delver one of the most versatile decks in the format, especially given its mana costs. Not only can it play a beatdown or aggro-control game with burn backup, but with Counterbalance + Sensei's Divining Top it can move to a combo-control line as well.

... Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

Ando Ferguson's Dredge
Legacy – Top 8, Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012


Nobody likes it. Everybody hates it. Everybody had best also respect it: Dredge.

Dredge (as a concept) has been a consistent and consistently feared weapon of choice in essentially every format where it has been legal. The Legacy version with new Dark Ascension sorcery Faithless Looting puts the deck on a totally new level in terms of inevitable openers.

Dredge | Art by Donato Giancola

Or... do you Daze or Force of Will when your opponent attempts to play a first-turn Breakthrough for zero?

I guess "it depends," but Dredge is the kind of deck that laughs off traditional notions of cardboard card advantage. It can go down a card in Careful Study (or all its cards in Breakthrough) and put an opponent in an essentially no-win situation. It can fill the graveyard via Golgari Grave-Troll and Stinkweed Imp, allowing it to flip Ichorid, Narcomoeba, and other troublemakers. While it might seem down in cards, when you can use a free body to flash Cabal Therapy (also free) and simultaneously come up with one or more additional bodies via Bridge from Below... the realization of what Dredge can do with "no" cards might reframe some players' approach to answering that "Breakthrough for 0" question.

In the past, Dredge—especially on its most muscular draws—would flip a ton of Bridges and Narcomoebas, flash Dread Return using free bodies to get back Flame-Kin Zealot, and then attack for a ton. Ferguson's deck subs in Flayer of the Hatebound to shortcut the Red Zone, making every free Zombie a free Shock and Ichorid a free Lightning Bolt. And yes, via undying, Flayer of the Hatebound can also play a pretty good body for Cabal Therapy shenanigans.

I think it was Stuart Wright who said Dredge is the kind of deck—because of the Ichorid and Cabal Therapy inclusion—where even if you can answer the "main" plan of Bridges and flashy turns, the Dredge deck can put you in a worse position than it is in, using entirely free resources.

And it's not like those Ichorids aren't just going to kill you anyway. Most conventional creature removal is unprofitable at best, and irrelevant even more often.

A Pair of Decks the 2008 GOP Ticket Would Love


Dan Jordan's build is tutor-tacular! It is so search-y this green-white deck is almost blue.

Dan's deck has both Green Sun's Zenith and Stoneforge Mystic as search engines. Green Sun's Zenith can be played on the first turn for Dryad Arbor (where it functions much as a Llanowar Elves) or it can get specialized bullets like Gaddock Teeg to shut down expensive combo cards like Time Spiral.

Green Sun's Zenith | Art by David Rapoza

Having four Green Sun's Zeniths and four Noble Hierarchs really helps Dan set up the fast Choke that Martell feared, and Stoneforge Mystic plays... Stoneforge Mystic (there really is no other). Jordan can go and get any manner of Swords (depending on what kind of creatures the opponent plays), or Umezawa's Jitte, Legendary ruiner of creature fights.


Even more, we have Knight of the Reliquary, which can itself get all kinds of powerful one-ofs: Bojuka Bog for Dredge; Karakas for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn; Maze of Ith as another specialized defender. Of course, Knight of the Reliquary has the less bullet-like special abilities of "making a mana like a Llanowar Elves" (tap a land before sacrificing it) and "just being huge."


While superficially the same macro-archetype as Dan Jordan's deck, Pascal Maynard's build is quite a bit different. Although he played Umezawa's Jitte, he has no Stoneforge Mystic searching. Instead, Pascal played Crucible of Worlds, allowing for a Wasteland lock down and a fairly unique angle with Olle Rade, Sylvan Safekeeper. The mana denial sub-theme is even more compelling with Aven Mindcensor, which can put the opponent on an evasive clock and make life difficult for Onslaught and Zendikar sac-duals.

Both Jordan and Maynard can get huge with Knight of the Reliquary and Scavenging Ooze... but did you notice who isn't playing in some of these lists?

That's how varied and open Legacy can be!



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