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Rocking Legacy

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Lukas Kraft

This article originally appeared on cmus.cz and forms part of the Blackborder.com cmus.cz partnership.

About Lukáš Kraft

  • Legacy specialist
  • Top 4 at GP Hanover 2009

Rocking Legacy

Welcome to my second „Sneak peek at Legacy“ article. Today, we are going to have a look at decks like Dark Horizons, Junk or Doran, which all can be in general called „Rock“.

Just as in the first article, I would like to make a brief introduction. The basic idea of what is today known as „the Rock“ saw the light of day in 2001, not too long after Apocalypse was released - the set gave the deck many useful cards. Initially, Sol Malka designed the deck, but it was Michael Pustilnik, who won GP Las Vegas with it. Just as all the good decks of the old Extended, Rock soon made it to Legacy and even now, after the deck experienced modifications with splashes of various colors, the core remains black-green and the idea of the deck is the same as well: discard spells, acceleration, good creatures and some mass removal cards. Today, I would like to share two different decklists. The first one is probably the most popular (and arguably also the best) version, which uses a white splash, the second one is a wacky deck, a design of my own.

First, let’s have a look at a typical Junk list – the one I’m going to share was played by Shea Hart at one of the prestigious SCG Open tournaments, where he finished fifth, so the deck definitely has something going for it. The basic gameplan of the deck is pretty simple: ideally, you start the game with some discard (Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, Gerrard's Verdict), then you play some efficient beater (Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary) or a creature that provides card advantage (Dark Confidant) and after that, you keep discarding their spells, play more creatures and clear the way for them (Vindicate, Swords). If this might seem to be quite simple, then you should know that you really don’t have to be a math teacher to be able to play Junk. The only card that is a bit demanding in terms of skill is Thoughtseize (an incorrectly discarded card can have a big impact on the game) and sometimes a misplayed Vindicate or sloppy work with Knight of the Reliquary. But apart from that, you can pretty much play the deck on „autopilot“.

Junk by Shea Hart

Tags: 
White
Black
Green
Colors
Artifact6
Black12
Gold11
Green4
Land23
White4
Converted Mana Cost
03
111
214
39
Type
Artifact6
Basic Land3
Creature12
Enchantment1
Instant4
Land20
Sorcery14

This deck forms part of the feature article:

Rocking Legacy

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Let’s see what role the various cards play in the deck:

Mox Diamond – a source of any color of mana that can’t be Wastelanded is the only acceleration in the deck. It is always nice to play a Hymn, Verdict or Confidant on turn one. The peak of the mana curve is on three mana, so you usually don’t really care about discarding a land. Sometimes you can boost your Goyf if you draw the Diamond in the lategame and there’s no artifact in the yard yet.

Sensei's Divining Top – an obvious „combo“ card with Dark Confidant. The deck contains fetchlands and sometimes you get to shuffle your deck with Knight of the Reliquary, so Top provides you with quite a bit of library manipulation.

Dark Confidant – Black aggro without Dark Confidant? I don’t think so. A great source of card advantage which can also enter the red zone.

Tarmogoyf – Again, I don’t think I have to explain this card’s presence in the deck. Why not play the best green creature?

Knight of the Reliquary – The newest versions of Junk (sometimes also called „Dark Horizons“) use this card not only as a solid beatstick, but also as a tutor for cards like Maze of Ith, Bojuka Bog, Horizon Canopy, Karakas or Wasteland. And sometimes, he can also serve as a „mana Elf“.

Thoughtseize – Does what it’s supposed to do. Paying two life is usually a more than fair price for that.

Hymn to Tourach – Discarding two random cards on the first or second turn can give you a significant edge. Commons used to be quite good back in the old days.

Gerrard's Verdict – It’s not possible to play six Hymns, but Gerrard's Verdict is an acceptable replacement. The opponent will be hard pressed to keep what he wants with all the discard and some extra life is always welcome.

Vindicate – A straightforward catch-all removal. The playset of Vindicates is sometimes accompanied by one or two Maelstrom Pulses.

Swords to Plowshares – The best removal of all times (at least I think so) also found its way into the deck.

Pernicious DeedPernicious Deed is a perfect card that can cause troubles to many opponents, but unfortunately, the activation will almost always also sweep your side of the board, including Mox Diamonds. Most Rock versions of today only play one Deed (so that you have something to hope to topdeck in desperate situations). Sideboards usually contain two or three more, but some versions of Junk prefer Engineered Explosives to Deed.

The manabase tends to vary from one version to another. Usually, it contains six to eight fetchlands, five or six duals, three basic lands, four Wastelands and sometimes you can also see one Stirring Wildwood. The rest of the manabase consists of various one-offs that can be found by Knight of the Reliquary. Most of the times, those targets are Bojuka Bog, Horizon Canopy, Karakas and Maze of Ith.

Sideboard

Engineered Plague – Annihilates the board of Elves, slows down Goblins (two Plagues usually kill the goblin deck) and sometimes you can even board it in for one particular creature that is hard to kill (Argothian Enchantress). I think it’s wrong to side in the Plague against Merfolk. Today’s version with 16 lords which boost each other only folds to two Plagues and only when they have just one lord in play. That doesn’t happen too often and you can’t really rely on such a situation, especially not against a deck with countermagic. Pernicious Deed is a much better choice in this matchup.

Pernicious Deed - there’s only one copy of this card maindeck, so two more are waiting in the board.

Diabolic Edict - More removal, which can even handle threats that other removal cards can’t deal with (Emrakul, Progenitus).

Extirpate – The primary function of this card is to fight various combo decks, dredge and Life from the Loam decks. However, sometimes it is useful to board it in against other decks as well (for example against decks that rely on a playset of Enlightened Tutors, etc.)

Duress – or Inquisition of Kozilek. Post-board, you can have as many as thirteen discard spells. That can be pretty impressive in some matchups.

The second deck that I would like to introduce today is my own version of the archetype and it is called „Uganda Strike“. First of all, I should probably explain the strange name. The main reason is that I designed the deck in Tanzania, close to the borders of Uganda („Tanzania Strike“ would be a too long name), but I also chose this name because I noticed a long time ago that many of the successful decks have very strange names and I didn‘t want to fall behind in this regard.

The deck was primarily built for GP Madrid last year and I decided on the version that eschews white and only runs green and black because the white splash often proved to be too risky in a field full of Wastelands and Stifles. Therefore, I decided to replace Vindicates with their weaker cousin Maelstrom Pulse and cut Swords altogether (at that time, I didn‘t even consider playing Knight of the Reliquary). It has been more than a year since I built this deck, but I believe that it is still (or maybe „again“, after the banning of Survival) a competitive deck.

Uganda Strike by Lukas Kraft

Tags: 
Black
Green
Colors
Artifact4
Black12
Gold7
Green10
Hybrid4
Land23
Converted Mana Cost
114
210
313
Type
Artifact4
Basic Land10
Creature18
Enchantment4
Land13
Sorcery11

This deck forms part of the feature article:

Rocking Legacy

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Cards that Uganda Strike contains, but Junk doesn‘t:

Cabal Therapy – one of my favorite Magic cards of all time. I’ve seen many games won by a timely hit with Cabal Therapy. If you fire a „blind“ Therapy, you need a bit of luck and a lot of knowledge about the field and about the particularities of each deck (so that you don’t do what my opponent did at the Extended GP Eindhoven, when he cast the Therapy on turn 1 of the third game and after a minute in the tank, he named Gaea's Blessing – a card that not only didn’t fit in my deck at all, but at that time wasn’t even Extended legal). Flashback can eat a useless Llanowar Elves, Kitchen Finks also work very well with it and before you crack a Pernicious Deed, you will probably also have a couple of creatures that could use some Therapy.

Llanowar Elves – yes, that’s right, there really are the good old Llanowars in the deck. I‘m sure that if you found the deck to be a bit strange at first glance, you might have found it even stranger after realizing that I play Llanowar Elves instead of Noble Hierarch. However, the Hierarchs are missing from the deck not because of financial reasons, but purely on the back of my own intention. When testing the deck, I was suffering from a paranoid notion that there’s a Goblin Lackey ready to get me behind every corner and because Hierarch is a pretty lousy answer to a turn 1 Lackey on the draw, I decided to include Llanowar Elves instead. I would like to note here that I only played against one single Goblin deck at GP Madrid and that the guy played Goblin Lackey on turn one in both games – and I blocked the Lackey with my Llanowar Elves both times and won easily after that :-) If you decide to give Uganda Strike a try, you can of course replace Llanowars with Hierarch – the inclusion of Llanowars isn’t some sort of „secret tech“ that wins games. It was more about a feeling that I had.

Maelstrom Pulse – a worse version of Vindicate. The biggest problem is not that you can’t destroy lands, but more the fact that sometimes you would like to kill an opposing Goyf and unfortunately, you have one in play as well. To be honest, this only happened a few times during all the games I have played with Uganda Strike, including practice games and tournaments, but nevertheless, the situation clearly is possible. And hitting two permanents with the same name under the opponent’s control is pretty rare as well.

Eternal Witness – there’s almost always something you‘d like to regrow. Eternal Witness counts as an additional Wasteland, Deed, Goyf... all that with a 2/1 creature as a bonus. And with Volrath's Stronghold, she can work wonders.

Kitchen Finks – probably the most annoying card for all the aggro decks and burn decks. Finks survive the activation of Pernicious Deed, opposing mass removal or Explosives. And they cooperate well with Cabal Therapy.

Umezawa's Jitte – a card that gives tiny creatures like Llanowar Elves and Eternal Witness the needed boost.

Volrath's Stronghold – this land doesn’t look like much, but it can win many games. Play Stronghold, put Witness on top. Draw Witness, return Deed, flashback Cabal Therapy, sacrificing Witness, cast Deed, end of turn put Witness on top... Volrath's Stronghold is a very useful card, especially against control.

Sideboard: I tend to make changes in the sideboard quite often – first, according to how the field evolves and second, because I like to try new things. Either way, Leyline of the Void, Extirpate and Go for the Throat should all be in the sideboard (GftT replacing the outdated Smother). These cards are the core that I always want in my board. The rest can vary and unfortunately, I don‘t recall what exactly I played at GP Madrid.

Matchups

Before I go into the details of each matchup, I would like to emphasize that Junk doesn’t have a matchup that would be really bad. Pre-board, Dredge and Lands are tough, but these decks aren’t too popular in Legacy and you can fix these unfavorable matchups after sideboarding. Uganda Strike has more or less very similar matchups as Junk, maybe having a bigger edge against aggro decks (thanks to Pernicious Deeds), but compared to Junk, Uganda’s matchup against combo decks is a little worse.

Dredge

Junk – a terrible matchup pre-board. You have a shot if you play Bojuka Bog maindeck and the Dredge player gives you enough time to find it, but that doesn‘t happen too often. Your Hymns and Verdicts are actually very welcome by the Dredge players. If you play Nihil Spellbombs or Extirpate in the board, the matchup becomes a lot more winnable in games two and three.

Uganda – Cabal Therapy allows you to sacrifice a creature and thus remove their Bridges from Below, but even that doesn’t improve your chances by much. I have a positive record against Dredge with Uganda Strike, but most of the wins come from post-board games.

Elves, Goblins

Junk – in game one, you hope that discard slows them down enough for your cheap fat creatures to kill them before they recuperate. If you’re not fast enough, you usually lose. One Glimpse of Nature or Goblin Ringleader can set an avalanche of creatures in motion. Post-board, Engineered Plague and Pernicious Deed help a great deal.

Uganda – here, Pernicious Deeds are in the maindeck and that improves the matchup by miles. Tribal aggro decks tend to be better matchups and after sideboard, you add even more removal.

Merfolk

Junk – Junk has a bit better chances here than against the two previous decks. I would say that the matchup is pretty even. After board, you improve your odds of winning, with additional removal and Deeds.

Uganda – Merfolk tends to be a good matchup for Uganda.

Landstill, Counterbalance

Junk – discard helps a great deal here and if you have a reasonable draw, you should be ok.

Uganda – from my experience, control decks are usually among the easier matchups. Cabal Therapy is pretty strong here and if you draw Volrath's Stronghold, you can even win a game where the control deck stabilizes.

Lands.dec

Pre-board, the matchup with Lands is tough for both Junk and Uganda. After sideboarding, all that it takes is one Extirpate for Life from the Loam and the game can turn around completely.

Burn

Junk – the important thing here is how many Hymns or – even better – Verdicts you draw. But all in all, the matchup is not very favorable, both pre-board and post-board.

Uganda – Kitchen Finks and Jitte can win you the game, but it is very hard to win without them. However, you’re still in a better shape than Junk, because Price of Progress doesn‘t hurt you nearly as much as it hurts Junk.

Bant

The key here is to be fast enough to put them in a losing position before Progenitus hits play (if the opponent is playing the Natural Order engine). Also, if your opponent is running the Counterbalance version, then the Countertop-lock tends to be lethal. Not a very good matchup, but definitely winnable. With Uganda, my winning record against Bant is positive.

ZOO

Junk – not very much experience with this particular matchup, but my estimate would be aruond 55/45 for Junk. After sideboarding, the difference should be even greater.

Uganda – Kitchen Finks and Pernicious Deed are again fairly important here and swing the matchup in your favor. I don‘t even remember the last time I lost to ZOO with Uganda.

ANT and other combo decks

Junk – if you draw enough discard, the matchup is playable and the sideboard usually includes more disruption like Duress or Inquisition of Kozilek. I wouldn’t be happy about being paired against ANT, but it could be worse.

Uganda – most losses that I received with Uganda were against combo decks, in particular against ANT. A bad matchup.

Aggroloam

The first game tends to be quite hard, but graveyard disruption in combination with Pernicious Deeds should do a good job here.

Well, I think that‘s all that I have to say about what Rock decks look like today. If you’re looking for a deck which is fairly stable, can win against pretty much anything and is not too hard to play, this archetype might just be for you.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Lukáš Kraft

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