July 28, 2017

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Legacy Stompy: Of Goblins and Men

A few kilometres west of the CN Tower, the Enercare Centre is located in close to the waterfront of Lake Ontario. The inside is warm too, for it contains hundreds of magic players in the middle of a Grand Prix, before counting the extras in the side events. On one side of the hall the dreamers of the Pro Tour battle in Limited formats, but on the other side the tables are lined with Legacy and Modern players – Lightning Bolts and Counterspells with every draw, carrying in the lower seedings the debris of past battles.

Less than a year ago, after some uninspired games during the Vintage portion of Eternal Week, I was handed an unfamiliar Legacy deck by good guy Mat Schmaltz. It was an eight Thalia deck, like the one I had brought, but completely different. This suited me perfectly, as I was looking for something different and new to try out. I tend to enjoy playing new decks even when it doesn’t go particularly well. In retrospect, it was the best thing I could have done, as I enjoyed a strong performance in the Legacy Championship before eventually falling to the forty-second spot.

What was this deck? Well, for some it’s familiar, but I haven't played many of the Limited formats in years gone by. For me, I thought of the deck as White Goblins, as many of the cards have Goblin counterparts, but it’s actually called "Soldier Stompy". Given that the soldiers are mostly human, the spoof of the book Of Mice and Men by author John Steinbeck seems very apropos.

One of my first decks in Vintage was Goblins, and it had Food Chain and Goblin Recruiter as a combo to finish games quickly. Given that experience, I was able to pilot Soldier Stompy fairly effectively. Anyone familiar with either tribe should be able to make the switch and attack the format from a different angle

Both of these cards are all stars for their respective tribe. They each get to put another tribe member into play for free with an attack. A key difference is that the Goblin Lackey needs to deal combat damage to a player to do so, whereas the Preeminent Captain puts another creature into play tapped and attacking. It really speeds up the clock, and that’s a major reason that the casting cost is so different. One of many creatures with First Strike.

Utility men that help reduce the cost of members in their tribe. As a creature, they are both fairly bland, and low powered. While the goblin has Haste, both have pretty small power and toughness. However, with the general high cost of some of the Soldiers, the Ballyrush Banneret can occasionally do some heavy lifting to get more guys on the board quickly.

Both of these guys have a similar ability: lower the casting cost of their fellow tribe members. They each have another benefit that's useful to their individual tribes. The goblin gives Haste to all goblins, which is fitting to their aggressive nature, while the soldier buffs all the soldiers’ power and toughness. It’s the main reason to play such a high casting cost soldier in the first place.

These two cards are some of the best reasons to play these tribal strategies. There are so many ways to gain card advantage in Legacy decks, so if there weren’t any in tribal decks, they would be unplayable. Both of these cards can refill your hand and keep the pressure on. Enlistment Officer has the bonus of having First Strike as well.

The Goblin Matron is advantaged in this comparison because it can get any goblin, whereas the Recruiter of the Guard is limited to getting a creature with toughness of two or less. This really sucks sometimes because the card you want a lot of the time is an Enlistment Officer, but you can’t get it.

Both of these cards contain an army in a can. The Captain of the Watch is a lord as well, so it buffs all soldiers, including the three soldier tokens it creates. It does cost more than Siege-gang Commander, and it can’t be searched up by Recruiter of the Guard. Both have their own benefit, and landing either one is usually big game.

All of these cards are why I refer to the deck as "White Goblins". The naming convention might bother some people, but it’s how I approached an unfamiliar deck with experience piloting something quite similar. The rest of the creature base contains both versions of Thalia: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar. The disruption caused by having one of each of these on the battlefield can easily wreck many decks.

This gem from Conspiracy: Take the Crown actually gives you the crown! The new mechanic of Monarch allows the person who is the monarch to draw a card at the beginning of their end step. It’s a great source of card advantage for a deck that should be able to easily defend as a monarch. Palace Jailer not only makes you the Monarch, but it also helps defend the crown by exiling a creature from the battlefield as it enters play.

Chalice of the Void needs no real introduction to Legacy players. The most popular setting at one shuts down large portions of many of the best decks in the format. Suppression Field is much less familiar for people. This makes all non-mana abilities cost an additional two mana to play. Want to use Deathrite Shaman for any ability? Costs two. Want to remove an Umezawa’s Jitte counter? Costs two. Heck, even using Stoneforge Mystic’s ability to put the Jitte directly into play costs an additional two mana. Non-mana abilities of all lands also cost two. Fetchlands can’t be used unless you have two mana. Some people argue about Suppression Field, but it can end a game on turn one if an opponent starts with just fetches in hand.

The way to play this deck is to mulligan if you don’t have a turn one play. There are at least four turn one plays you're looking for: Chalice of the Void on one, Suppression Field, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar.

By not playing a deck with Force of Will, you are at the mercy of whatever an opponent can throw at you. You need to come out with some level of disruption and luckily, you run the maximum number of each of the four cards. Don't worry about what comes later; you can only control your opening hand.

At Grand Prix Toronto, I ran this in the Sunday Legacy showdown. While I started off rough with one of the worst matchups in Elves and some mana issues in round two, I was able to reel off four consecutive victories. I handled ANT 2-0 by dropping Chalice on zero and one in game one, and an Ethersworn Canonist plus Chalice on zero on turn one in game two. I finally faced Death and Taxes after seeing it around all weekend, and was able to defeat it fairly easily in two games. It was running a red splash for Magus of the Moon, but I think that actually had more of a negative impact on his own manabase than mine. I finished the event with a 4-2 record, which has been a pretty accurate reflection of my winning percentage with this deck.

If you are thinking of playing Legacy, this is a fun and cheap deck to play. Most of the Soldiers are very cheap to acquire, and while there are more expensive cards in Chalice of the Void and the Cavern of Souls, they are far less expensive than buying duals and fetchlands.

Until then, soldier on! (♫Buffalo Goblins...♫ Wait! That doesn't sound right?!)