The Little Czech Pile: Legacy Control
Once when I was just a few days younger I saw a magnificent deck on mtgthesource.com, called Czech Pile, about a four colour control deck. There was a picture of Leovold, Emissary of Trest in the act of extending his arm for a handshake. Here is a copy of that photo.
In the primer it said, “Leovold is like a super hatebear.” It draws all the removal spells and always two for ones an opponent. When he sticks around, he shuts down all dig spells and closes out the game strongly with three power and toughness.
This Little Prince of a deck sprouted up over the past year around the world with the printing of Leovold, Emissary of Trest. It's a four colour control deck that attempts to play some of the best cards in Legacy all in the same deck.
In the harsh fall of Miracles from the top, there has been a lot of shuffling in other top decks. Everyone is scrambling to determine what the current top dog is, and I don’t think there’s a clear answer. Some decks like 12-Post and Eldrazi have taken a real hit as they had positive matchups against Miracles. Others, like Czech Pile and Storm variants, have gotten a new lease on life.
The banning of Sensei’s Divining Top in Legacy has benefited Czech Pile immensely and opened up the design space for the deck. What may have been a great card in the deck to play during the Miracles days is not necessarily the same today.
Having one large threat that could dominate the board like Tarmogoyf was essential against Miracles. It was a must answer creature that could go over top of virtually every creature from Miracles and you didn’t have to commit more to the board. Forcing Miracles to deal with threats with one for one answers was one of the best ways to run them out of cards.
Young Pyromancer was similar to Tarmogoyf, except it went wide by creating elemental tokens with every non-creature spell played. These are great cards and certainly belong in many legacy decks, but maybe not this one anymore.
Behold, not the heroes we deserve, but the heroes we need in this new era:
There are a lot fewer ways to get these bad boys off the table than the former all-star cast of Tarmogoyf and Young Pyromancer. Common removal spells like Abrupt Decay, Lightning Bolt, and Fatal Push all look pretty silly when these beasts hit the table. While it’s unlikely to play all three of these creatures at the same time, this deck is flexible on which to play. While Gurmag Angler is the least interesting of the bunch, it's also the largest. It has good closing speed and handles Planeswalkers of all varieties fairly easily. That's why I'd play it over the others in a general metagame.
Selecting a version of Czech Pile to play is heavily dependent on the metagame. Depending on who you talk to, there is a constantly shifting number of many of the cards in the deck. Being touted as one of the best value decks in the format, the focus has shifted to cards that help grind out an opponent and provide a two-for-one value.
If you prefer a more proactive strategy, Hymn to Tourach can be a great card. I haven’t seen a list that runs four of these, as they decrease in value past the first one or two. For additional grief, there's extra discard in the sideboard, where you can run a few copies of Thoughtseize. These cards can be essential if you expect to face Storm decks. If you aren't running the Hymn in the main, then you definitely would run Thoughtseize in your sixty.
On the reactive side of the world, Counterspell provides an excellent rate of return. It’s pretty much the standard of catch-all spells costing just two blue mana and it trades for virtually anything. With Flusterstorm and/or Mindbreak Trap as options in the sideboard, you can usually grind through most decks. It's not even uncommon to see a Flusterstorm in the main too. This deck is very flexible.
Beyond these contrasting styles, most of the remaining elements of the deck are fairly straightforward. The removal suite has around five to seven spells consisting of zero to three copies of each of the following:
All of these removal spells just answer a single threat. How does this deck grind down an opponent? Where is the value? Tiago Chan provided us with the ultimate value card through his Magic Invitational win.
Spoiler alert: I did some pretty savage plays combining these cards against opponents this week. Instead of giving more away, let’s just dive directly into the decklist.
I got the chance to run this sweet deck at a local four round event this week. Let's see how it went!
Round One vs Faeries: Fight!
I didn't realize what deck this was right away. He chipped away for a few early points of damage with Cloud of Faeries. Eventually, I landed a Leovold, Emissary of Trest. It met an abrupt end and drew me a card. I cast Leovold a second time, and it was countered. A Mutavault joined the attack briefly as Kolaghan's Command killed it and brought back the Leovold. It died again, netting me a card. When a second Mutavault attacked, Snapcaster Mage flashed back the Command. The Mutavault died and Leovold hit the battlefield with Gurmag Angler joining him to close out the game.
The key to this game was Hymn to Tourach. That, plus Snapcaster Mage, managed my opponent's resources fairly handily. Deathrite Shaman made an appearance and used multiple modes to both drain my opponent and gain life later. When I cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I used the fateseal option as soon as it landed. That allowed me to see the Bitterblossom and ensure that my opponent didn't land anything else of consequence.
Round Two vs Burn: Fight!
I won the die roll for the second match in a row. It proved to be key. Monastery Swiftspear made multiple appearances, but Fatal Push ensured that it didn't connect. Snapcaster Mage enabled the Fatal Push to end another Swiftspear. Baleful Strix locked down most creatures and started the beatdown. In the meanwhile, Lava Spike, Chain Lightning, and Price of Progress knocked my life total down to four. I managed to fade a four damage burn spell on the turn I cast Gurmag Angler, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor bounced a Grim Lavamancer when I sent the team in.
Deathrite Shaman appeared in multiples this game. It managed to drain some life from my opponent, but also gained enough to stay out of lethal range. Halfway through the game, I managed to land a Chill. This caused a massive swing in tempo to my side of the field. On five mountains, my opponent cast a Price of Progress for four mana which would have been for ten damage, but I countered it. On my turn, I cast a Hymn to Tourach to get his last card and it was a Fireblast. He only had a single mana open due to the Chill and couldn't cast it. The game ended soon after.
Round Three vs Blood Moon Stompy: Fight!
I won the die roll, which was key vs a Blood Moon deck. I played a fetchland, and with no Deathrite Shaman, I passed the turn. Without Force of Will, a Blood Moon was cast by my opponent. Facing a tough decision, I decided on fetching out a Swamp. This was the key to the game. I had outs of a Deathrite Shaman, but the big one that I found was Gurmag Angler. Once that resolved, it was academic. It even took down a Chandra, Torch of Defiance in one shot. Kolaghan's Command removed an Ensnaring Bridge for good measure.
On the draw, I mulled to a strong six, but without Force of Will. My opponent started off with a first turn Blood Moon again, and from there it was academic. As soon as I didn't draw a basic and he landed a threat, I conceded the game.
This was a close fight, but the key was landing a Chill in the mid-game. I also had multiple Deathrite Shaman on the board and at two life, my opponent cast Volcanic Fallout. Given my mana was tapped out, I activated one Shaman to exile a land for green, then used the green with the other Shaman to exile a creature so I went up to four life before the Volcanic Fallout resolved. Then a second Chill resolved, and three Ensnaring Bridges started to be worthless as my opponent couldn't cast the red cards in hand. Seeing the writing on the wall, and the Baleful Strix chipping away at his life total, my opponent conceded.
Round Four vs Blood Moon Stompy: Fight!
Even winning the die roll four times in a row was not enough to save me from some mediocre hands. I started with four lands, Force of Will, Brainstorm, and a Snapcaster Mage. I had to pitch the Snapcaster to the Force to counter a Trinisphere, and the Brainstorm just got me a Leovold, Emissary of Trest and more land. On the other side of the table, my opponent landed back to back Goblin Rabblemasters and I had to trade the Leovold for one of them. The other had generated too many goblins and won in short order.
If I had gotten too many lands in game one, the opposite occurred in game two. I ended up with just two lands for too many turns and no black source. I managed to Force of Will an early threat, and land a Deathrite Shaman. He dropped a Chalice of the Void on one but that was okay as I had Abrupt Decay. As a turn went by, he cast Volcanic Fallout on my end step, which forced me to destroy the Chalice. Then he followed up on his turn with a Blood Moon. That turned off my Tropical Island, and I didn't have access to black mana for the rest of the game. As luck would have it, I drew all black cards from that point on. Game over.
Overall the deck felt quite strong. I don't know that I ran the best version of it for my metagame, but it handled the one blue matchup very well. If you noticed, I sideboarded out the Liliana, the Last Hope in every match. I didn't feel like it was a very strong card and even versus the faeries deck, the Mutavault could easily have handled it. It was mostly there to return a creature from the graveyard, but I didn't cast it a single time.
Facing three mono-red matchups in a row is not exactly a great thing to write about, but it did perform very well in two of those three matches. Having Kolaghan's Command in the main versus a deck that runs Chalice of the Void and Ensnaring Bridge was excellent. I was also really surprised that it could beat Burn in game one. It has so many non-basics and I did attempt to limit how many I played, but still, that feels like a nightmare matchup.
I did like running Gurmag Angler over the other flex creatures. The five power was key in taking down a Chandra, Torch of Defiance and closing out the game in less turns than the other creatures. You generally want to give your opponents less turns if possible, and that's a good reason to run the zombie fish. I might make some changes before running this deck again.
For those of you that enjoy the book references, if you didn't get the hint at the beginning, the spoof is of The Little Prince by author Antoine De Saint-Exupéry.
Until next time, remember all your Leovold triggers! (Storm says me no likey that!)