Exploring the Arctic Tundra
Tundra has been missing from a lot of our pieces here on MinMaxBlog, but it's not for lack of trying!
The truth is that due to the increase in power level for other decks, Tundra overall has felt underpowered in the format as of late.
However, recent results over the past two weeks have proven that perhaps Tundra decks are not quite as dead as we may think! Today we're going to outline 3 different Tundra decks that have been spotted in the wild, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlighting how they've adapted to today's Legacy metagame.
Big Arcanist Energy (B.A.E.)
B. A. E. started from the brains for Johannes Gutbrod and Claudio Bonanni as the first method to adapt a Miracles-esque shell to a metagame, revolving around utilizing the card Dreadhorde Arcanist. I played around with the deck quite a bit, but it felt like it was a bit disjointed initially, though the power level was quite high.
Dreadhorde Arcanist really is a 2 mana Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a deck built to utilize it can be slow or fast, and B.A.E. is a testament to that. William Godsey and Justin Corbett also helped tune the deck, and William was recently featured on the Leaving a Legacy Podcast discussing the deck specifically.
Big Arcanist Energy (B.A.E.)
This deck plays a lot more like a "go-big" delver deck than traditional Miracles does. Notably missing from this decklist is Terminus . I explained why I believed Miracles overall was not a great choice going forward, and Terminus not being as good as it used to be is a large part of that reasoning. This decklist (and our next one!) fully understands this and instead overloads on stack-based interaction, Lightning Bolt plus flashback effects, while leveraging as much as it can out of the card Counterbalance in order to keep up with the rest of the format.
However, I think this deck has a few notable weaknesses that still need solving. First of all, Daze in a deck that will want to get to 4 mana regularly is difficult to sustain, and even getting to 3 mana for the vast majority of the deck to "turn on" is not always ideal.
Beating a resolved Wrenn and Six will always be a challenge, but our ways of fighting that involve both Daze and a threat. This will often just rely on absolute discipline when utilizing Daze as the downside of an incorrect decision around Daze is game losing.
This deck does offer an intriguing take on how to approach deckbuilding with Monastery Mentor without Terminus being in your deck, and it certainly feels as if this deck is extremely close to something quite strong. Dreadhorde Arcanist in the same shell as Swords to Plowshares actually opens up a lot of options in a metagame that otherwise has difficulty answering Tarmogoyf and Marit Lage.
Jeskai Snow Control
This past weekend, an MTGO Legacy Quarterly event occurred, and a very interesting deck went 8-0 in the swiss portion of the event, piloted by A22en:
A22en's Jeskai Snow Control, 5th Place, Legacy Format Playoff 9/8/19
To me, everything about this list is a response to the current legacy metagame, and I want to draw attention to two unique aspects to this list: Arcum's Astrolabe and Magmatic Sinkhole.
We've seen the impact of Arcum's Astrolabe across multiple formats at this point, and in Legacy specifically, it enables a large variety of 4 (or sometimes 5!) color control decks, centering around snow mana and Wrenn and Six. This deck, however, simply includes Arcum's Astrolabe, with no other payoff! Why is this?
Well, to find the answer, one has to dive into something else we've discussed on MinMax: mana instabiltiy in red splash Miracles. Due to the heavy mana requirements that most Miracles manabases need to support, it's been difficult to build a 3 color manabase in the past. This was especially pronounced since the printing of Wrenn and Six, as it was difficult for the three color deck to sustain a single Wasteland, let alone a recursive one that is more present in the format than before.
Enter Arcum's Astrolabe. Now, Astrolabe allows us to fix some of those mana requirements, thus alleviating a lot of the stress of mana sequencing that would otherwise stop us in our tracks. Now, we can sequence U>UW>UWR without much of an issue while continuing to play magic. This might seem rather underwhelming, since Arcum's Astrolabe as a singleton card is not that powerful by Legacy standards, alleviating mana sequencing is subtly one of the most powerful things you can do in Legacy.
Also, Arcum's Astrolabe combined alongside Teferi, Time Raveler and Monastery Mentor can act as a psuedo-card advantage engine/explosive draw engine that we've seen work all too well in Miracles shells in the past.
Since we can now free up how we develop most of our mana, we can afford to play more double colored symbols, and also support a greater red splash with cards such as Abrade and Magmatic Sinkhole.
The latter of these, Magmatic Sinkhole, adds a much-needed element to these decks: an ability to deal with planeswalkers in an efficient manner. Council's Judgment existed before, but using 3 mana at sorcery speed all the time to answer pesky planeswalkers and creatures was a massive pain point in most miracles shells, and many of those cards were the most threatening to these decks, but Magmatic Sinkhole serves as efficient removal while also remaining flexible and isn't that difficult to support alongside Snapcaster Mage.
This deck eschews Terminus in favor of more spot removal that plays overall very nicely with the powerful Monastery Mentor that this list wants to end games with, and it deals with creatures extremely efficiently. I'd strongly recommend glancing at this list if you're a Tundra devotee.
Naming Note: As you can see, this deck is a play on "Jeskai Control" since it uses Snow Mana. A22en would like it to be called "Chasing Cars" but for the purposes of exposing the decklist to our readers, we're going with an easier to understand name. However, in the future, we may refer to it as "Chasing Cars" to keep with the tradition of obscure Legacy deck names.
Let's waste time
Around our decks.
"But Min, you just spent the last 3 weeks saying Terminus sucks? What gives?"
Weeeeeell, turns out excellent players can win no matter what! In all seriousness, Claudio Bonanni top 8'd the last 4 Seasons event, playing a Miracles list that he's adjusted a bit to today's Legacy metagame:
Claudio Bonanni's UWR Mentor Miracles, 2nd Place 4 Seasons Summer 2019
This deck has a slew of adaptions to various things cropping up in the metagame:
- The rise of Dark Depths is being responded to by the inclusion of Karakas, much like the last few Delver lists have included.
- The rise of Delver decks in general is being responded to by the inclusion of 4 Monastery Mentor, Counterbalance and, of course, Terminus.
- The rise of Wrenn and Six decks are being responded to by including 3 copies of Spell Pierce and 2 copies of Hydroblast post board, as well as Relic of Progenitus.
Relic of Progenitus in particular is interesting as it can stymie the development of decks that utilize Wrenn and Six to build up their manabases. It's generally an underplayed card, and perhaps this is the perfect moment for the card to come back, since it's still solid even against decks that only slightly use the graveyard overall.
Claudio's deckbuilding decisions overall are designed to catch a a large subset of the metagame, and create as many focal points around Terminus into haymaker as possible. Terminus is still not at its best, but the less a format respects the card, the better it becomes to some extent. While card advantage is still difficult to fight back against, it's possible that this shell is what's needed for Miracles needs to look towards in order to remain strong within today's Legacy.
Looking towards upcoming Legacy events in Syracuse and Atlanta, if I were to try working on a shell containing Tundra instead of good ol' NBC RUG Delver, it would likely be starting with A22en's Jeskai Snowtrol list and iterating on it from there. I still believe Terminus and, subsequently Counterbalance are not at their best right now due to so much setup required around those cards, but A22en's spin on UWR Control might just have what it takes to take on the rest of the format.
As always, thanks for reading!