All posts by aslidsiksoraksi

aslidsiksoraksi – RG Lands League

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A league with RG Lands! I tried Sejiri Steppe and it was very mediocre, but overall the deck felt pretty solid.

Moon Stompy
BRu Reanimator
UR Delver
Moon Stompy

3 Urza’s Saga
1 Blast Zone
3 Dark Depths
4 Exploration
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Karakas
4 Life from the Loam
2 Maze of Ith
4 Mox Diamond
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Glacial Chasm
2 Taiga
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
4 Thespian’s Stage
1 Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth
1 Wooded Foothills
2 Punishing Fire
4 Wasteland
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Crop Rotation
1 Expedition Map
1 Pithing Needle
1 Forest
2 Endurance
1 Boseiju, Who Endures
2 Elvish Reclaimer
1 Shadowspear
1 Waterlogged Grove
1 Sheltered Thicket
1 Sejiri Steppe
1 Field of the Dead
1 Ancient Tomb

3 Force of Vigor
1 Collector Ouphe
3 Pyroblast
2 Endurance
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Thran Foundry
2 Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes
2 Lightning Bolt

90s MTG – Lands vs Delver & GW Depths

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AZ Legacy City Champs Win by tim

Part 1: The List

View the deck on MTG Goldfish here

I haven’t really played any serious legacy since July.  So when it was time for a paper 1k, I had to do some catching up.  The currently-popular build for RG lands is the 4-saga, endurance-main build.  Popularized largely by the wild success and fantastic content put out by alli, Saga Lands has an aggressive constructs gameplan backed up by the chapter 3 toolbox and Endurances main to fight the format’s top combo decks.  

For this event I played the non-saga version of the RG lands. Obviously, it paid off, due to a combination of a dead-on metagame read and massive quantities of luck. Of course, nobody wins a magic tournament on skill alone, so let’s see how I got there. 

My expected metagame for this event was Delver, Elves, Moon Stompy, Goblins, and Reanimator in roughly that order, followed by a smattering of control and Knight decks.  

Based on that, I was pretty dedicated to registering 4 Dark Depths.  Once I had four Dark Depths in my deck, it became difficult to fit 4 Urza’s Saga and two or more tutor targets into the list. I was also wedded to the idea of registering at least one Minsc and Boo since the card was new and I thought it seemed fun. It’s also probably one of the best things to be doing against Taxes and GW depths, two matchups where cutting Sagas in favor of Depths is hurting you the most. 

I based my list on Japanese player dull04.  You can see their version and read how they approach the UR delver matchup here. The page also links their older article discussing why they prefer just one Urza’s Saga for late game stage tricks to the more aggressive 4 Saga + Bullets strategy.  They explain themselves better than I ever will on the subject, but I want to add one additional point.

The best way to beat combo decks as lands is to play 4 Dark Depths, load up on 0-mana interaction, and pray. 

The absolute best case scenario for saga v combo is

T1: Mox, saga, sphere of resistance
T2: make a construct
T3: make a construct, resolve ch3, attack for 5
T4: attack for 10
T5: attack for 10 (Opponent loses)

Now obviously, the artifact you search off chapter three could be impactful (Cage, Needle, Thran Foundry).  But the important thing is that this is never faster than a zero-acceleration Depths/Stage combo, but has two notable downsides.

First, all of your mana is spoken for on turns 2 and 3, if they force you to interact on those turns, you can’t make constructs which slows your clock.

Second, your interaction (Sphere, Saga targets) is answered by the same sideboard hammers that clear your threats (constructs).  Your opponent can safely tap out for Recall, Meltdown, or Serenity knowing that you are a few turns away from deploying another threat. 

Compare this to Dark Depths, which has a lot of potential lines for a turn 3 kill (Exploration + 4 lands, double Mox + combo, Mox + double Crop) and significantly more ways that Crop Rotation facilitates those fast lines.  This is especially important in matchups where Crop Rotation IS interaction like Reanimator, since holding up Crop can then convert immediately into killing your opponent if they take the turn off.  And since our threat is creating Marit Lage (a 20/20 black avatar creature token with flying and indestructible) at instant speed, the avenues for the combo player to fight back are a lot narrower. 

So, the plan against combo decks:

a. Create Marit Lage as fast as possible and kill our opponent 

b. Present enough 0-mana interaction to get to turn 3, execute (a).

In my opinion, Spheres are too slow and often ineffective against the best combo decks of the format (Reanimator, Oops, Doomsday’s Fastest Draws).  They also slow our ability to assemble a win via Crop Rotation or hold up Blasts and Endurance.  Sphere’s best matchups, slow combo like ANT and Sneak/Show have been mostly replaced by TES and MonoR storm, both of which can overpower or go under a Sphere easily.  I don’t want my combo answers to be reliant on drawing a second card (Mox) and also being on the play.  In the meantime, I’ve put one Mindbreak Trap in the deck and will just hope, if i’m playing against Storm, that they wheel me into it.  If you’re worried about the matchup for some reason, add more Mindbreaks. The Torpor Orb is a Sphere-like card against Doomsday and Oops that doubles as hate for Death and Taxes, where I think Saga is actually missed.    

Also I just hate topdecking Shadowspear, and Saga COMES OUT against UR Delver.

Four Depths, One Urza’s Saga, No Sphere of Resistance.  The remaining points of interest are 16 colored sources including snow-covered forest (I wanted to maximize my consistency, especially with casting Endurance under Blood Moon; you can probably cut Forest or a fetch and be fine), and Valakut Exploration.  

Valakut Exploration is a powerful card that has probably seen its best days already.  I think if you’re playing a more Field of the Dead-focused game against slower decks you need more ways to generate card advantage, which Valakut is decent at.  In retrospect I think just playing at least one more copy of Minsc would have been better, since the card has the same potential effect of getting ahead of cards while also killing your opponent a lot faster, and providing crucial board impact that Valakut lacks. Both can be Hydroblasted but Minsc is harder to Prismatic and is immune to enchantment removal.

The Bolts are alli’s tech from the recent showcase list and performed great all day. 

The rough sideboard mapping I threw together for this list is below.  Note that I didn’t bring this with me to the event and just used it as a deckbuilding exercise, so while you’re busy not taking everything as gospel, especially don’t take this as a sideboard guide.

What this reveals is that I probably have one too many cards against Delver and a really messy mapping against GW Depths.

Part of the solution I worked on was cutting Reclaimer and working some number of Endurances into the main but I was worried about finding my Field of the Dead against control and couldn’t figure out what the next sideboard slots would be (I wanted something for control but not Delver or GW depths).

As usual for the last few events I’ve played, Field was completely useless, but the matchup lottery paid off extremely well for Dark Depths.

Either way I didn’t want to agonize over it because I knew I was going to be winning with raw skill. 

Part 2: The Event

As usual we’re driving two hours to get to the event in the morning.  It’s actually the same store as my win from last year (report here, unfortunately the writing was better last year but hopefully ya’ll still enjoy this one).  

I’m getting over a pretty serious concussion so the drive up is not the most pleasant experience but I’m really wanting to get out of the house.  On the drive up I listen to Black Country New Road’s stellar Ant’s From Up Here.  Everyone needs to hear it.  This report is secretly a BCNR shill piece, and with the release of 40k commander decks, it’s officially a Magic the Gathering album.

“Show me the land you acquired”  asks Isaac.  Hopefully my opponents feel the same way. 

Around 32 players came to game today, good for 5 rounds.   Around half as many as last year’s event.  Presumably the RCQ season gives people an alternate thing to do with their wizard time.  I’ve also learned and manage to my online decklist submission the night before, which unfortunately stops me from making the last-minute swap to 2 Minsc, 2 Valakut. 

Round 1: Elves LWW (1-0)

Game 1: I roll up to round one against an opponent I think I recognize but can’t name.  They are wearing a sports jersey so I assume I’m getting comboed (cannot elaborate further on the read). Based on this I win the die roll and keep a middling 7 with exploration, two green sources, field, Crop and two more lands that aren’t combo pieces.  I deploy my spells and hold up crop for whatever spooky shit is going on, which turns out to be Forest, Nettle Sentinel from the opponent. I take my draw step, rotate for Tabernacle, and deploy one of many disappointing Field of the Deads. Two turns of drawing Mox Diamond later, my Tabernacle is Boseiju’d and I die to Shepherd activations. 

I sideboard as planned but add Mindbreak Trap since I saw Nettle and Birchlore, which indicates the combo-heavy variant instead of the new Fiend Artisan hotness.  This is potentially bad for me because people who netdeck Newton aren’t going to have run afoul based on the last list I saw, but my opponent could easily be playing cards that are good against me. 

My opponent comments that this round’s going to be over a lot quicker than our last, revealing them to be the GW depths player I went to time against last year.  Thank you for switching decks.

Game 2: They T1 Green Sun’s for Dryad which I Lightning Bolt end of turn. Being used to paying two for removal spells, this is very exciting for me.  I experience what people call “Tempo” (which as far as can tell is when you are winning). I have the natural Tabernacle which they sac a Birchlore to in order to Boseiju it, then drop a bunch of dorks onto the table. I rotate for blast zone killing four creatures, trigger Field of the Dead and my opponent concedes.  Field of the dead will not be mentioned again in this document.

Game 3: We play the same Tabernacle-into-Boseiju game which slows them down while I Waste their mana.  Eventually I drop Minsc and Boo onto a board against three dorks, throw the 4/4 hamster into their Symbiote which draws me into the combo and I create the first of many Marits Lages for the day. My opponent tries to combo off with two Glimpse into the Run Afouls they now feel comfortable telling me they’re playing but miscounts their mana and fizzles.  I fly to victory.

Round 2: 8-Cast WW (2-0) 

My opponent was sitting next to me so I know him to be on 8-cast, which I think is a really volatile matchup that I don’t super want to be seeing.  There’s a lot of ways they can get out of control with a fast start but knowing what I’m up against gives me a huge edge in mulligans.  Basically if they activate Urza’s saga and I don’t immediately Force of Vigor or show them the witch the game is over. 

Game 1:  I have Exploration into a Wasteland for their first Saga but they have an unanswered Emry.  They take a bunch of damage off Ancient Tomb getting a Cannoneer out and I untap and resolve Minsc and Boo. They can’t swing into Minsc without dying on the crack back so Kappa Cannoneer has to chump the 8/8 hamster and they die a turn later.  

Hamster 1: Turtle 0

Board according to plan. 

Game 2: They have a turn 1 Chalice for 1 which turns off the two blasts in my hand, and they Force my turn 1 library, but don’t have a backup threat so I make two more land drops then show my opponent the Witch.  They’d played their Otawara turn one and can’t get Spellbomb through their own Chalice so I fade Borrower and win.

After the game I have time to sit down and finish Don DeLillio’s White Noise.  The most I’ve laughed at a book this year.  A bit antiseptic but truly thrilling.  Adam Driver / Greta Gerwing adaptation later this year is, um, surely something that you could choose to watch on your television. 

Round 3: UR Delver WW (3-0)

Game 1: My opponent wins the die roll then leads on a naked Volcanic and Baubles me.  I draw the Port they saw and play it out before passing.  This apparently signals extreme weakness as they waste my Port and Ponder.  I know that that play just lost them the game.  I resolve Exploration through Daze, double Maze forces them to overextend into a Blast Zone for three creatures and they scoop to a Loam lock a few turns later. 

I can’t decide which two of Exploration, Loam, and 4th Depths should come out in this matchup.  All future delver games should be assumed to have been chosen at random between those.  Sound off in the chat about how I should have better constructed my deck to not have to deal with this. 

Game 2:  My favorite Lands games are the ones where you just play out your lands and don’t cast any spells.  My opponent leads on turn 1 Delver, so I answer it by putting a Maze into play.  Then a Wasteland.  On turn three I play Boseiju into my only spell of the game, an Exploration which gets Forced.   Once again my opponent smells blood and wastes my “exposed” green source.  Three turns later I have zero forests in play and create Marit Lage, a 20/20 avatar creature token with flying and indestructible that also can’t be submerged.

Round 4: Intentional Draw (3-0-1)

Draws should be worth zero points. I will die on this hill.  Anything else incentivizes slower play which is chronically difficult to enforce and allows situations like this where I get lucky my first three matches and handshake into top 8.  Zero point draws incentivizes players to take risks to finish the match or they both lose. 

Anyway I went and got a falafel sandwich during my first off round.  It was decent.  The other three undefeated players in my draw bracket are 2x Moon Stompy 1x UR Delver. 

Round 5: Intentional Draw (3-0-2)

I’m supposed to be spending a lot of time resting in dark, quite places for the concussion so I take a nap in my car for the first half of this round. The car turns out to be neither quite nor dark but where else would I go?

When I get back to the event space I find out that seeds 5 and 6 also drew in (Reanimator Mirror), leaving only two matches in play to decide Top 8.   UR Delver v Taxes and UR Delver v Goblins.

I watch enough of the Goblins match to figure out what’s going on.  Really exciting new build with the Seething Song stickers goblin, Chrome Mox, and Skirk Prospector + the new lord that lets you play cards off impulse when goblins die.  Dan is storming off a bunch but gets a few crucial spells Forced and dies to Staticaster because his Delver opponent decided to change two sideboard cards and flip the matchup today. 

On the other table, Death and Taxes loses to Murktide Regent, bringing the top 8 to:

3x UR Delver

2x Moon Stompy

2x BR Reanimator

1x GR Lands

I’m very clearly fighting for the side of good in this one, but I take the prize split so nobody gets mad at me.  We’re still competing for the invitational qualification anyway so it’s ok. 

I end up dropping to 5th seed but I’m ahead of both reanimator players which is really what matters. 

Quarterfinals: UR Delver WLW (4-0-1)

I sit down against my opponent who I know to be a Delver player with a truly glacial pace of play.   Time for some untimed magic in the truest sense of the word. 

Game 1:  My opponent is higher seed so they play first, opening on Island, Ponder.  This is a scary start for me since they know the matchup and kept a seven without a turn 1 threat.   I have Mox+Reclaimer and try to bait my opponent into Bolting it with a Crop into Waste as protection.  They pick up and read Elvish reclaimer a few times then decide not to.  Reclaimer Bogs them to slow down the game but I’m low on resources while they keep chaining Iterations so I’m forced into the combo which they have Borrower for.  I greedily play into Daze which tags my Loam and stops me from repeating the combo. 

One of the Reanimator players stops by to let us know that they’re waiting for us in top4.

Their Delver flips off Ponder, which they cast surveilling the instant/creature they need to activate two Channelers.  The sudden burst of damage takes me to 6 through my Maze.

My opponent has two Volcanics in play and two cards in hand.  2x Delirious Channelers, Insectile Aberration, and a Murktide.  

I have Maze, Forest, Mox, Port and a Reclaimer in play.  

My hand is Loam, Crop, Exploration.

Graveyard contains the combo, Yavimaya, Bog, and some fetches. 

What’s the play? 

I cast loam targeting Yavimaya, Stage, Depths.  My opponent asks how much mana I have in play.  I tell them the Port is my only available mana source.  They tank for a while, then read elvish reclaimer.  They Daze Loam returning volc to their hand. I pay, then put Depths and Yavimaya into play.  Yavimaya leaves me with three mana so I rotate for a Wasteland, Waste their Volc, and Reclaimer for Tabernacle. 

I silently pause to reflect on the words of Exodus 25:9, which all skilled Lands players have tattooed on some hidden part of their body.

My opponent says that they’d forgotten about the Tabernacle, puts all their creatures into the graveyard and concedes. 

The reanimator player drops by again to let us know that the Moon Stompy mirror is starting in the other semifinal. 

Game 2:  For the sake of brevity, I play around one Daze but not two, lose my Library to double Daze, and my opponent finds two Borrowers in two turns for my Marit Lages and I’m too far behind on resources to rebuild before dying to chip damage.

One of the Moon Stompy players drops by to let us know they lost the mirror.  Apparently their opponent drew more Furies and it sounded miserable.  Moon stompy in the Finals.

Game 3:  I’m a bit spooked by two Borrowers so I keep a slow midrange 7 with Reclaimer, Endurance, Bolt, Blast, Fetch, Grove, Port.  I play out my Reclaimer turn 1 into a Bolt which is probably loose and Blast their turn 3 Iteration for a land.  I’m stuck on three mana sources myself for a few turns before finally drawing a Stage and resolving my Endurance through Daze.  They untap and Maddening Hex me.  This is not good.  

I have the combo in play but they have a Wasteland and I don’t have a 6th land to activate Port. I chat with my opponent about what happens if Stage copies a basic.  I finally draw a mana source for Port and make a serious mistake by not immediately comboing them in their upkeep, punished horribly when they put a second Wasteland into play.  In retrospect they could have easily Wasted my depths to force the issue if they had Borrower since I was unlikely to be able to rebuild through the Hex when I’ve clearly missed the last 5 or 6 land drops. 

I’m drawing Moxes and Libraries instead of mana sources I need to orce the combo through while they Iterate through their deck and refill the grave for a Murktide. I Blast, they tank, then remember their Hex trigger, and I roll a 5, going from 18 to 13.   They force my Blast and Murktide resolves.  Murktide enters the red zone and I Punishing Fire before blocks, rolling a 4, down to 9.  Endurance trades with the punished Murktide, leaving my opponent with a non-delirious Channeler, Hex and a pile of lands.  They read punishing fire.  They say “so you can get it back with red mana.”  I tell them yes, but I need them to gain life in order to trigger it, pointing at my tapped Grove and sole red source.  They waste the Grove in main phase two. Suddenly I have outs.  I untap, topdeck a mana source, and create Marit Lage, a 20/20 black avatar creature token with indestructible and flying.  They show me force + land in hand and scoop it up.  In fairness to my opponent, they were out of Iterations and I was going to draw Boseiju next, potentially unlocking my hand of card advantage spells and bolts.  Out of the marathon and on to the semifinals. 

Semifinals: BR Reanimator LWW (5-0-1)

My semis opponent is someone I know as a really skilled player of Maverick-style brews (Knight of the Reliquary is a big problem for lands.  Terravore is worse).  Thankfully they’ve instead decided to play a deck I have a chance of beating with my seeding-determined play option and 13-card sideboard strategy. 

Game 1: I mull a 7 that casts turn 3 Minsc and Boo, then groan as I see Minsc in my next hand, but it has Crop + green source so we’re keeping.  Minsc goes to the bottom, I hold up Crop and my opponent shows why they kept 7 by Griefing my Crop and reanimating Archon. I don’t need them to go through the motions at that point so I pack it up and go to sideboard. 

Game 2:  I keep another 6 with Exploration, double green source, Crop and the combo. They mull to 6, loot Emissary to the grave and try to go off without protection. Crop into Bog wipes the grave and they can’t rebuild before I apply the Witch to their face two turns later.  

Between games two and three I ask my opponent how low they’ve mulliganed today.   They laugh and say that was the first mulligan they’d taken.  This is clearly how you get to the semifinals.  

Game 3: I keep a very mid 6 with Endurance, Loam, and a Stage but no acceleration or second piece of interaction.  They mull to 5 and go Fetch pass. They’re digging for an Entomb effect while I draw a Library and take 8 immediately, giving me Mox + Depths. Play four copies of your best cards. I put the combo onto the field and they try to go off with Unmask on themselves into Animate Dead on Grislebrand but I pitch cast Endurance and they scoop before I can get my token out. 

After the game I learn that the 7 my opponent kept was a no-land turn 1 hardcast Magus, which I was probably cold to.  They were worried about getting raced by Endurance but I don’t think I can reliably cast it in time under a moon.  Into the finals. 

Finals: Moon Stompy WLW (6-0-1)

Finals is against local twitch celebrity Tony Murata (into_play on twitch), a long-time Cloudpost player who’s recently decided to pick up Moon Prison.  I’m pretty confident about my plan for the matchup but definitely don’t feel favored.

Game 1: I keep a turn 2 combo off a basic against their mull to 5.  Unfortunately they have a turn 1 Blood Moon off two Chrome Mox, leaving them with no cards in hand. We play draw-go for a minute with Tony playing out low-value lock pieces like Trinisphere before drawing a threat, which thankfully is a hardcast Simian.  I take two for a bit before drawing a Valakut Exploration for the first time this tournament. Valakut goes off, flipping into multiple Explorations and my opponent concedes when I have three Valakut, three Exploration in play and find Boseiju.  Feeling really good about beating g1 t1 Blood Moon, we go to sideboard.

Game 2:  I keep 6 with Reclaimer off a basic, natural Depths and a Punishing Fire for Magus.   Tony has Moon instead of Magus which is how we lose this matchup.  I’m activating Reclaimer to thin the deck while Hearse prevents my Reclaimer from being an effective blocker and I die 10 turns later to Fable beats without finding a disenchant effect. 

Game 3: On the play I keep Depths, Stage, Yavimaya, Exploration, Punishing fire, which is extremely good as long as my opponent doesn’t have turn 1 Magus or Dead//Gone.  Their 7 produces a turn 1 Rabblemaster, I mainphase my combo for no apparent reason other than being sleepy, and they flip the top card of their deck to reveal it’s not Dead//Gone.  That’s game. 

The big plus of the smaller event is we’re done in time to get a Dosa, which is what we drove up for in the first place.  They completely mess up my order but it’s still good.  Can’t complain at all. 

Don’t Try to Beat Their Nut-Draws by alli

a guide on deckbuilding by alli


I got the idea for this article when discussing if Endurance is a sideboard or a maindeck card. At the spoiler of MH2 my first reaction was that Endurance could be a turn 0 answer to combo decks such as Reanimator and Doomsday. I figured that it could also come in vs Delver and it replaced 2 of the 3 Shifting Ceratops that I had in the sideboard specifically for this matchup. 

My first level-up came a few months later when I read a tweet from the Japanese Lands master Hori Masataka saying that Endurance is the best answer to Knight of the Reliquary. I had primarily played Endurance as a stonewall effect vs Delver but as I fully realized that it has flash (also if you pay 3 mana for it) then I started to use it more like a removal spell. It’s a bit situational, and it doesn’t always answer creatures with static abilities such as Goblin Welder, Elvish Reclaimer or Dark Confidant, but it’s no more situational than other red-green removal such as Punishing Fire or Drop of Honey. Endurance can even be flashed in on our opponent’s end-step and kill an opposing Narset or Karn (similar to how Vendilion Clique used to be one of the best answers to Jace). As I started viewing Endurance as a removal spell it made more sense to put it into the maindeck instead of the sideboard. 

My last level-up came a few months later when I played with my friend and coach Andreas Petersen (ecobaronen). We were playing vs Painter and the boardstate was empty as we had spent the first turns trading resources with our opponent. We had Endurance in our hand and I kept thinking of it as a removal spell for a potential Magus of the Moon that our opponent could draw. Andreas asked me, “why don’t we cast Endurance and smash our opponent 4 times and then they’re dead?” After this game I started to mentally realize that Endurance can also smash my opponent’s face, and this is very good in an aggro deck like Lands. My opponents will often take a few hits by my Constructs and then be forced to use their removal on them. This opens up for Endurance to come down and finish the job. After I have started to play Endurance more proactively my win-rate vs Uro decks such as Blue-Zenith has increased significantly. I now make Constructs in the early turns and wait for them to cast their first Uro before I snap in Endurance and kill them before they can find another Uro to stabilize.

Figure above shows my mental level-up of playing Endurance in Lands.

How does this tie back to deckbuilding and sideboarding? Well, we moved Endurance from our sideboard to the maindeck and we now had 3 new sideboard slots to discuss in the Lands discord. Some people told me that they still lost to Reanimator and they wanted to fill those 3 extra slots with Surgical Extractions. I even played 2 Surgical Extractions in a Showcase Challenge earlier this year. Guess what, one of my losses in that tournament was against Reanimator. In G3 my opponent had an explosive turn 1 of Swamp, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Show and Tell into Archon. My hand had both Endurance and Surgical Extraction in it. My conclusion after the tournament was that we can’t really beat the nut draws from Reanimator and we shouldn’t even try to do this. Our goal is not to get a 100% winrate vs Reanimator. In fact we couldn’t even get a 100% winrate if we tried because Reanimator is a proactive and powerful strategy. They can always have draws that beat ours. If we plot our expected winrate vs Reanimator as a function of the number of graveyard hate pieces that we play then we would see that at some point there is diminishing returns (meaning that each additional slot of graveyard hate increases our winrate less than the previous did).

Figure above shows Winrate vs Reanimator as a function of Number of Graveyard Hate played in a non-blue deck (this is not based on actual data but it is only my estimates).

We have convinced ourselves that we shouldn’t try to get a 100% winrate vs Reanimator. What should we do then? We want to maximize our expected winrate in the tournament which is the sum of all our winrates in the various matchups times the metashare of those matchups. It’s an empirical law that all decks are at least 2 sideboard slots short of covering all matchups in Legacy. This means that we have to make some sacrifices and every slot that we dedicate towards Combo is a slot that we cannot use to improve our Tempo, Control or Midrange matchups. In some metagames it can be correct to completely ignore some matchups if their metashare is low. 

Table above shows winrates for Deck A and Deck B vs the various Legacy archetypes. In this example Deck A is a better choice with an expected winrate of 57% vs the field.

Who is favored in a matchup?

Another thing that I see many inexperienced players do is to waste sideboard slots vs their already good matchups. This might be because they don’t really know if they are favored or not in the matchup. Maybe they’ve only played it a few times and lost. 

I like to use the following diagram to visualize who is favored in a given matchup. On one axis I have my draw (bad, average, good) on the other axis I have their draw (bad, average, good). In this context “draw” means your starting hand plus all cards that you draw in the game. My rule of thumb is that if I win the games where we both have an average draw then I will have a positive winrate (+60%) in the matchup. After all, most games will play out in such a way that both players have an average draw. If I also win the games where both players are having a good draw then my winrate will be even higher in the matchup.

Figure above shows an example of a matchup diagram where Deck A wins vs Deck B every time that their draw is of equal quality. This makes Deck A +70% favored in the matchup.

Let’s look at a concrete example to illustrate this method: Lands vs Elves. I would argue that a good Lands hand will beat a good Elves hand. Let’s look at some good Lands hands for inspiration:

  • Turn two Marit Lage on the play.
  • Turn three Marit Lage plus early removal.
  • Exploration, Life from the Loam, Grove of the Burnwillows, Punishing Fire.
  • Mox Diamond, Sphere of Resistance, Tabernacle.

I would also argue that an average Lands hand will win over an average Elves hand. In fact any Lands hand that has access to Tabernacle will likely beat an average Elves hand. 

This does not mean that we have a 100% winrate vs Elves. A good Elves draw will definitely win over a bad Lands draw and possibly also over an average Lands draw. Here are some examples of good Elves draws:

  • Explosive Glimpse hands.
  • Multiple Cradles and Natural Order.

Drawing up your matchup like this can help you understand where to focus your sideboard slots. If you already have a very good matchup then I wouldn’t waste sideboard slots to improve this specific matchup.

Efficient Deckbuilding

As I said in the introduction there is an empirical law that we are always (at least) 2 sideboard slots short of covering all matchups in Legacy. In order to optimize our overall winrate we should therefore look for cards that are efficient i.e. they improve a matchup without requiring many slots (typically bombs that can be tutored or cantripped into). We can also look for cards that overlap vs many matchups (such as counterspells or discard spells). In this section I go over the major archetypes in Legacy and how I think you can attack them in an efficient manner.


In my opinion the most efficient way to combat a combo deck is to attack them from multiple angles:

  • Stack based interaction. 
  • Discard spells.
  • Permanent based hate.
  • Fast clock.

This is good because combo decks cannot afford to spend many slots on interaction. Take Storm for example, they play 6-8 discard spells (ANT) or 4 Veil of Summer (TES). If they expect all your interaction to be permanent based then they can swap Veil of Summer for Chain of Vapor. But it gets a lot harder for them to sideboard if they have to respect both stack based and permanent based interaction. If they are forced to bring in Chain of Vapor but also keep in Veil of Summer then they will have to side out some combo pieces or cantrips (and this makes their deck slower and less consistent). These games will typically go longer and this will favor you because you will draw more of your interaction.

Figure above shows Winrate vs Reanimator as a function of Number of Graveyard Hate played in a blue vs non-blue deck (this is not based on actual data but it is only my estimates). 

I usually feel favored if I can attack a combo deck from 3 different angles. For example, in current iterations of Legacy Lands it’s possible to attack Doomsday from 3 different angles. If you look at my decklist from the last Showcase Challenge you can see that I only have one slot that is dedicated towards Doomsday (Thran Foundry) but since it’s a 1 mana artifact I can tutor for it with Urza’s Saga. I feel very comfortable playing vs Doomsday post sideboard as I have: 

  • Stack based interaction in Endurance and Pyroblast.
  • Permanent based hate in Thran Foundry and Sphere of Resistance (combined with mana denial).
  • A fast clock thanks to my Constructs or Marit Lage.

This video demonstrates pretty well how games of Lands vs Doomsday play out in my experience. 

My final advice for combating Combo decks is that there is a form of “cheese” or “brewers advantage” to be found when building your sideboard vs these decks. If you play a deck like Death & Taxes or Lands that typically attack Storm with taxing effects then you can improve your winrate more by adding a card like Mindbreak Trap instead of another Sphere effect. This is partly because of diversification (as discussed above) but it’s also because you catch them by surprise. It’s very possible that a Storm deck has 0 actual outs to a Mindbreak Trap post sideboard vs Lands. 


There are two ways to beat control decks. You can either try to overload them with card advantage or find a threat that they can’t answer. In my opinion the first way is suboptimal, if you try to maximize your expected winrate vs the entire field, because it will require many slots. You are trying to beat them at their own game. They dedicate a lot of slots to card advantage such as Narset, Expressive Iteration, Sylvan Library, Uro, Predict, Standstill, Jace. You will have to dedicate more slots if you want to reliably beat them on this axis. This can definitely be done by the Lands archetype. If you look at a deck like 8-Mulch they in fact try to overload the Control deck by playing eight Mulch effects on top of four Life from the Loam. This comes with a cost though and it makes 8-Mulch worse vs other parts of the Legacy field. 

Figure above tries to demonstrate why it’s not an efficient strategy to build your Lands deck to beat control by drawing more cards than them. 

My other issue with going the 8-Mulch route is that if the control players feel like they’re losing the card advantage race then they can go the opposite route and just jam red sideboard cards like From the Ashes and Blood Moon. What does it matter if you draw 4 lands with Mulch if they are all Basic Mountains? In fact this is exactly what happened when 8-Mulch broke out earlier this year, the meta started to get very hostile towards Lands. 

Figure above tries to demonstrate the issues that you will face if you manage to beat control decks at their own game.

This is why I prefer the other way to attack control decks i.e. to try and find a threat that they cannot answer. By doing this we turn the game into something else than “who can draw the most cards”. Delver decks have historically been really good at doing this by playing cards such as True-Name Nemesis, Klothys, God of Destiny, or Court of Cunning. If we manage to stick such a threat against a Control deck then we exploit their biggest weakness which is that they can’t close the game quickly. I learned to appreciate this strategy in the Snowko era. If I managed to resolve a Klothys vs Snowko then I had effectively nullified all their Uro’s, and Klothys gave them 6-7 turns to kill me before they would be dead. They simply couldn’t race Klothys unless they already had an active Oko. Today’s Control decks are better at answering threats thanks to Prismatic Ending and they also have a faster clock in Minsc & Boo so this strategy is harder to execute but it can still be done. Here are some examples on threats that a Lands deck can play that is very hard for a Control deck to combat:

  • Thespian’s Stage copying Urza’s Saga and then a basic land.
  • Choke.
  • Cavern of Souls and Primeval Titan into Field of the Dead.

If you play online then another resource to be mindful about is the clock. This is often the most important resource when playing against Control. I try to ensure that I have more time than my opponent already from the very first turns of the game. I will restart my computer in between each round (and sometimes before going to sideboarding) to avoid having lag. This strategy is also exploiting the fact that Control decks can have a hard time closing the game, and the Lands deck can play defense rather well with Marit Lage (+20 life), Karakas, Maze of Ith, Constructs and Punishing Fire. This strategy is so effective that it has made me reevaluate cards. Take Sylvan Library for example. I used to think of it as they’re trading 12-16 life for 3-4 cards, but now I think about it as they’re trading 5-10 minutes of their clock for 3-4 cards. The latter is typically not a profitable trade and, although they might win G1, they have set themselves up to lose the entire match. 

If you want to learn more about Lands vs Control then you can read this deep dive that I wrote last year.

Non-Blue Midrange

This category contains all non-blue midrange decks such as Death & Taxes, Elves, Goblins, Maverick, GW Depths, Lands. There are two ways to beat these decks. You can either hate them out or you can try to go bigger than them. Midrange decks revolve around creatures and / or lands, and there are plenty of excellent hate cards for these. Here are some examples: 

  • Death & Taxes: Dread of Night, Massacre.
  • Elves: Plague Engineer, Perish, Opposition Agent.
  • Goblins: Plague Engineer, Pyroclasm.
  • Maverick: Perish, Terminus.
  • GW Depths: Perish, Terminus, Blood Moon, Price of Progress.
  • Lands: Blood Moon, Price of Progress, Ruination, Force of Vigor.

The stronger a hate card is vs a certain matchup the more narrow it typically is. Massacre, for example, is extremely good vs Death & Taxes but pretty bad vs Elves or Goblins. In some metas it can still be a good idea to add a few narrow hate cards but in other metas it’s better to look for hate that have a broader application. This all depends on the distribution of the non-blue Midrange decks. 

None of the non-blue Midrange decks can play Force of Will and this is their biggest weakness in my opinion. If you go bigger than these decks then you exploit this weakness. They won’t be able to stop you from casting your spells, and if you have a strategy that simply wins when both players are casting their spells then you will have a good time vs non-blue Midrange decks. This is easiest achieved by playing a Combo deck, but it can also be accomplished by non-combo decks that play cards like Shark Typhoon or Primeval Titan. 

Figure above tries to demonstrate how you can attack non-blue Midrange decks’ lack of Force of Will by playing a Combo deck.

Lands as a deck is very good against the other non-blue Midrange decks (except those that play Knight of the Reliquary) because we can both go over them (via ramp into Field of the Dead or by creating large Constructs) and we also have Tabernacle as a maindeck tutor-able hate card. Tabernacle is strong because it stops our opponent from swarming the board. They have to use their mana to keep their first 2-3 creatures alive and then they can’t deploy more creatures to the board. This allows the Lands deck to reach the endgame where we are favored thanks to Urza’s Saga and Field of the Dead. If you want to learn more about Lands vs non-blue Midrange you can study these resources:


I saved the big bad tempo archetype for last. It should be obvious by now that combining cheap undercosted creatures with free interaction is the best macro strategy in Legacy. As I have explained in the previous sections the Combo, Control and Midrange archetypes all have strategic weaknesses that can be exploited but this isn’t really true for the Tempo archetype. 

  • Tempo decks have, unlike Combo and Midrange decks, plenty of slots for generic interaction and most of it is free so they can progress their proactive gameplan while holding up counterspells. 
  • Tempo decks can, unlike Control decks, finish a game quickly and they can often race any “hard to answer” threat that you might present to them. 

There is another fundamental strength to the Tempo archetype that shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s the implicit card advantage that they gain by playing fewer lands than their opponent. They get away with this because their threats are undercosted. Norwegian Legacy Grandmaster MatsOle once said something along the lines of “it’s hard to combat Delver when their 2’s (2 drops) are stronger than our 3’s (3 drops)”. Midrange decks have to play acceleration such as Mox Diamond, Aether Vial or Ancient Tomb just to keep up with the raw efficiency of the Tempo threats. In a long and grindy game the Tempo deck will often be up 2-3 cards by simply drawing less lands / acceleration than their opponent. Historically, every time that the Tempo archetype has access to actual card advantage spells like Treasure Cruise, Dreadhorde Arcanist, or Expressive Iteration it gets broken and forces a ban onto the format. These cards were all really powerful but they were also just the straw that broke the camel’s back in my opinion.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to get a favorable matchup vs UR Delver but you need to respect this deck. It’s not enough to put 1 basic mountain in your sideboard and hope for the best. You need to build your maindeck as a well oiled machine, without any clunky / cute cards, and you also need to dedicate 6-8 of your sideboard slots for Tempo. This is what I mean when I say that Wasteland and Daze dictate what cards that are playable in your Legacy maindeck. 

Figure above tries to show how the tempo archetype dictates what cards that are playable in Legacy maindecks. This example covers the card Minsc & Boo in Lands.

So what can we do to combat the Tempo archetype? You can attack them in a few different ways and none of them works every time:

  • Attack their mana. They play few lands and very few basics so you can sometimes mana screw them out of playing the game. This strategy was always risky, as they don’t need a lot of lands to operate, but it has gotten even worse vs the current iterations of UR Delver. Most of their threats cost 1 mana now instead of 2 and Dragon’s Rage Channeler in particular is excellent at helping them find more lands. I used to win somewhere between 20%-30% of my games by wasteland locking my opponent out but now it’s more like 10%-20%.
  • Big dumb creature. Their removal is damage based so they can have a hard time answering a big dumb creature like Marit Lage, Hogaak, Uro, or Batterskull. They do play Brazen Borrower, Submerge and Unholy Heat so this does not work every time. I still try to win with Marit Lage in most of my Delver games but timing is key.
  • Cheese a win. There are some cards like Choke or Chalice of the Void that attack their entire Tempo core. These cards can win you the game if you manage to land them on an empty board. Current iterations of UR Delver are extra weak to graveyard hate so something like Rest in Peace or Unlicensed Hearse can also cheese out a win. This strategy only works if you get it online early as once they get onto the board your cheese card will be mostly useless. It’s still a good strategy though, and I would say that Choke wins me 30%-40% of the post sideboard games vs UR Delver. 
  • Answer all their creatures and draw more cards than them. This is the classic Control vs Tempo plan. In my experience this is much better in game 1. I remember playing Snowko and crushing Delver in game 1 just to lose to their “hard to answer” threats like Klothys in game 2 and game 3. Don’t get tricked into thinking that your Delver matchup is good just because you win a long and grindy game 1. 

The final thing that I want to say about the Tempo archetype is that as a non-blue Midrange player you want Delver to be the best deck in the format. This is because Delver will push down the amount of combo decks that you will face in the winner’s meta. If WoTC took out the large banhammer and wiped Tempo out as an archetype then I think we would get a meta of blue Control / Soup decks vs Combo. I prefer the meta that we have now from a competitive Lands player’s perspective. If you want to learn more about the Lands vs Delver matchup you can read this deep dive that I wrote a few years ago.


In this article I have discussed the major Legacy archetypes and their strengths and weaknesses. But there is a lot of room for maneuver inside each archetype. In fact most top tier decks in Legacy can be built to beat any of the other top decks. You have access to an enormous cardpool and you can often find the tools that you need to make your deck favored in any given matchup. 

The issue is that you cannot build your deck to consistently beat all other top decks at the same time. Fifteen sideboard cards are not enough for you to do this. You will have to make sacrifices and concede (accept that you are below 40%) in certain matchups. You should also not try to be 100% in any matchup as this is impossible in a game with variance such as MTG. If you don’t accept that you can lose some amount of games vs all matchups then you will waste sideboard slots vs your already good matchups. I try to build my deck so that I win the games where both players have an average draw or where both players have a good draw. If this is already the case then I would be hesitant to dedicate more slots for a given matchup as these slots can be better used to improve my bad matchups. 

Finally, I prefer sideboard cards that have a broad utility such as Sphere of Resistance. Sphere may not be a 10 in any matchup (outside Storm) but it’s a 7 in many matchups and this will improve my winrate across the board. Sideboard bombs can be very effective but they are often narrow. I therefore prefer bombs that I can tutor for such as 1 mana artifacts or lands.

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