Greed is Good
On July 2, 2018, Deathrite Shaman was unceremoniously banned from Legacy. The pain and shock of this announcement sent the little Elf into a blinding rage, color-shifting him into Red and igniting his Planeswalker spark. With a sudden pop, he vanished from Ravnica and awoke on a strange land. Looking around, he attempted to regain his bearings. Why was he so tall? He looked down and saw the lower half of a treefolk where his own legs should be. He tried to move his new legs and found them responsive. Works for me, he thought. A year and five treefolk hosts later, Deathrite Shaman is back with a vengeance.
Wrenn and Six
Legendary Planeswalker — Wrenn
+1: Return up to one target land card from your graveyard to your hand.
-1: Wrenn and Six deals 1 damage to any target.
-7: You get an emblem with "Instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard have retrace."
I know it's disingenuous to say that Wrenn and Six is Deathrite Shaman. You can't bolt or plow a Wrenn and Six!
In all seriousness, I fully realize the cards aren't the same and that Wrenn is probably not as broken as Deathrite Shaman. However, they both encourage and support the deck design strategy of jamming the best cards into your deck, color restrictions be damned. While the Wrenn decks don't enable a 3-mana play on Turn 2, Wrenn itself is able to supplement its mana-fixing with creature removal and a usually-game-winning ultimate. While the majority of this article will be about the BURG Delver (a.k.a. Castlevania) decks convering around Wrenn and Six, I wanted to touch briefly an insane brew I played in the Magic Online Q2 Legacy Format Playoff, aimed at leveraging the power of both Wrenn and Six and Karn, the Great Creator.
Punishing Wrenn Karn Prison
This deck is an evolution of the "Vegan Prison" archetype that Stefan Schutz (a.k.a. MentalMisstep on MTGO) pioneered after War of the Spark. Here is a sample decklist.
The aim of the deck is to lock your opponent out of the game. Chalice of the Void prevents 1-drops from resolving. Ensnaring Bridge keeps your life total above zero. Trinisphere slows your opponent down immensely, and enables free wins when combined with a Wrenn and Six and Wasteland -lock. Karn, the Great Creator tutors for whatever specialized answer you need, or can win the game outright with Mycosynth Lattice .
Since Grove of the Burnwillows is a functional Tri-land in this deck, Punishing Fire became a free card to include.
This deck is awkward and very challenging to play. You usually want to set Chalice of the Void to 1 , but also have your own Ancient Stirrings. You want to keep your hand empty for Ensnaring Bridge, and can't guarantee you'll be able to do so if you buy back Punishing Fire on your opponent's end step.
I played this deck on the off chance it was busted, in order to gain equity in a field of Legacy masters. It wasn't busted, and I went 4-4 in the tournament. While I still believe the shell has a lot of potential, the above list is not quite there. What the deck did exceptionally, however, is demonstrate just how powerful Wrenn and Six can be.
In late June, there began some rumblings about people using Wrenn and Six to bring back 4-color Delver. I quickly threw together a list and instantly 5-0'd.
A friend picked up the list and instantly 5-0'd as well (even going 10-0 in games)!
A small Facebook group chat later, and the two people who played it in the July 7 Legacy Challenge Top 8'd the event, with one of them even taking it down!
It's worth mentioning that my initial drafts of 4-color Delver didn't have Underground Sea . This was a conscious (and likely wrong) decision, based off of the fact that a U/B land can't cast Wrenn and Six. However, the play patterns of using both Thoughtseize and a Brainstorm or Ponder, or providing Daze backup, is enough to merit its inclusion. I believe the correct 20-land manabase for 4-color Delver to be:
- 4 Polluted Delta
- 4 Scalding Tarn
- 3 Tropical Island
- 3 Volcanic Island
- 1 Underground Sea
- 1 Badlands
At 15 functional blue sources, you're at around 90% to find one in your opening 7-card hand, which is 4% higher than the 18 land Deathrite Shaman builds of yore. Fetching correctly is an art and involves anticipating your plays precisiely. If your plan is to play a Delver of Secrets on Turn 1, then on Turn 2, cast a Brainstorm , fetch, and Lightning Bolt an opposing creature, you should typically fetch Tropical Island first. Since your second land must be tap for red to cast the Lightning Bolt , fetching for the Tropical Island gives you access to RG mana for Wrenn and Six .
4-color Delver's spellbase is currently wildly up in the air, due to having an abundance of reasonable inclusions. The correct choices for any given tournament will be a function of the expected metagame and the pilot's preferences. Here are what I believe to be the most reasonable options:
- 4 Delver of Secrets (Delver is the core of the deck, multiples are embraced.)
- 3-4 Wrenn and Six (Multiples are only good if your first one gets answered, so being Wrenn-flooded is a thing. However, the card is so central to the deck that 4 might be correct.)
- 3-4 Tarmogoyf (Goyfs play nicely with Wrenn, and are the primary ground beater. Like Delver, they are great to draw in multiples.)
- 2-3 True-Name Nemesis (TNN is better in fair metas, but important for overall blue count for Force of Will.)
- 0-2 Gurmag Angler (If people are playing Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay as removal, this creature is very hard to answer. Its current biggest weakness is 5/6 Goyfs)
- 0-2 Dreadhorde Arcanist (The card wins the game if unanswered for a couple of turns, but if you are playing Gurmag Angler, your graveyard and creature slots are probably too strained to pull off both. It's better against combo than Gurmag Angler due to ability to recur Thoughtseize.)
- 4 Lightning Bolt (Don't leave home without them.)
- 2-3 Abrupt Decay (This is your supplemental removal. It improves your matchup vs Chalice decks, as well as provides additional answers to cards like Back to Basics.)
- 4 Force of Will (4 is actually slightly less rigid than I'm making it out to be. The blue count is relatively low, and you can play a critical mass of other cards that beat combo. That said, the London Mulligan encourages playing a lot of Turn 0 interaction.)
- 4 Daze (While this deck is clunky enough to consider playing fewer than 4, they're too good with Wrenn and Six to play less than the full set.)
- 0-3 Thoughtseize (It is a key card to beat control and combo, but can be a liability in Delver mirrors. You probably want 3-4 in your 75, so putting them in the maindeck frees up sideboard space.)
- 0-3 Spell Pierce (Didn't want Thoughtseize in the maindeck? Here you go. This also helps your Blue count, but doesn't play well with Dreadhorde Arcanist.)
- 0-2 Spell Snare (Legacy looks to be centering around resolving game-winning 2-drops.)
- 2 Plague Engineer (This is the best board sweeper ever printed, and a large part of why the deck is playing 4 colors instead of solely RUG. Incredible in Delver mirrors, against Empty the Warrens, and pretty much anything trying to win with creatures.)
- 2-3 Pyroblast (Ideally I would always run 3, but sideboards are limited to 15 cards.)
- 0-2 Force of Negation or Spell Pierce (Your additional pieces of countermagic for combo and control matchups. Due to the prevalence of Planeswalkers, I'm strongly recomending Spell Pierce over Flusterstorm.)
- 1-4 Thoughtseize (If they're not in your maindeck, put them here.)
- 3 Surgical Extraction (Graveyard hate that plays well with Dreadhorde Arcanist. If you're not playing Arcanist, you can substitute a Grafdigger's Cage for a copy or two.)
- 0-1 Abrupt Decay (If you want 3 in your 75 but could only fit 2 in your maindeck.
- 0-2 Hydroblast (A 1-mana answer for Wrenn and Six, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Lightning Bolt, and Blood Moon. Depending how quickly the Blood Moon rises in response to these decks, Hydroblast functions as a great piece of anti-hate.)
- 0-2 Diabolic Edict (This is for killing what Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay can't. Gurmag Angler, , Thought-Knot Seer, and Marit Lage are some prime targets, but this would really come in whenver you need an abundance of removal spells.)
- 1 Ancient Grudge (Standard answer to equipment and Chalice of the Void. A single copy goes a long way.)
- 0-1 Null Rod (A crossover answer to Aether Vial, equipment, artifact decks like Steel Stompy or Bomberman, and Storm. It's got a slightly different degree of impact across a matchups when compared to Ancient Grudge, so I like including one of each for two dedicated anti-artifact slots.)
- 0-1 Damping Sphere (Good overlap between hating on Storm and Cloudpost while being servicable against decks like Miracles.)
- 0-1 Engineered Explosives (A flex answer to Chalice of the Void, Empty the Warrens, or an inefficient answer to anything with a CMC < 5. Also shines against Elves, Death & Taxes, and the Delver mirror.)
- 0-2 Winter Orb (Your primary piece of hate for basic-heavy control decks. Your cards, while clunky compared to leaner Delver decks, are still pretty cheap. "Winner Orb" brutally shuts down decks that aim to sculpt with an endless stream of draw spells, and keeps Daze live until Turn 20.)
- 0-1 Cindervines (I'll admit this is a pet card, but is great against Storm and decks like Miracles or Stoneblade, where you can play it proactively to punish cantripping, then blow up the Back to Basics or Batterskull when they eventually cast it.)
- 0-1 Veil of Summer (If we're entering a world where "Counter your Abrupt Decay on my Tarmogoyf and draw a card" is good, then this card is great. We will see where the meta settles. Notably, this is also a good card against any decks packing discard.)
Since Delver mirrors can be so swingy, regardless of precise maindeck configurations, I'm okay with playing maindeck Thoughtseize and losing a little ground here. Besides, the prospect of holding up Spell Pierce indefinitely scares me. I'd rather play this deck as a lean, mean, tapout midrange machine, and Thoughtseize lets me achieve that. This choice merits the inclusion of Dreadhorde Arcanist over Gurmag Angler, and the rest of the maindeck kind of constructs itself.
As for the sideboard, I expect it to constantly be in flux until they ban Deathrite Shaman...again.
Here is my current list, presented alongside a Legacy League for you to enjoy!