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By: jay85, Jay Nelson
Jul 28 2015 11:00am
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 Combo decks can be a real pain, especially when you have to sit there and watch your opponent have all the fun. Sometimes it feels like you didn't even get to play Magic at all. This is very true when it comes to eternal formats like Legacy, where it's not forbidden to combo off before turn three or four. If you don't have a great opening hand then you will just lose to decks like ANT. Heck, even if you have a great opening hand you can still lose.

 ANT stands for Ad Nauseam/Tendrils after the two cards Ad Nauseam and Tendrils of Agony. All the deck is looking to do is chain together a bunch of Dark Rituals, build up its storm count, and then hit you with Tendrils of Agony. Pretty simple. Pretty good.

 Luckily for me I've been playing a lot of Legacy with BUG Delver, a deck that is designed to beat combo decks like ANT.

(For a more in depth analysis of BUG Delver you should check out my previous article. It can be found by clicking here!)

 We head into the match up with a great main board for game one. Disrupting the hand of the combo player is ideal since the less cards in their hand the less likely they can chain together a bunch of spells for their storm count. When you cast Thoughtseize you're obviously looking for a combo piece. Infernal Tutor, Ad Nauseam, Tendrils of Agony. If those cards aren't in their hand then go for a Dark Ritual or another tutor like Grim Tutor or even Sensei's divining Top is better than nothing. Hymn to Tourach will keep their hand small, minimizing the risk of them chaining cantrips and rituals together, and Liliana of the Veil is a source of constant pressure later in the game so we can hold up counter magic.

 Deathrite Shaman is also vital here since we will be using him to exile important cards from their graveyard like Past in Flames, Cabal Ritual, and things of that nature. 

 We have disruption on lock down but we still need to win. Good news for us is that BUG Delver does a pretty neat job of racing combo. I think it's more important to get Deathrite Shaman down before Delver of Secrets because we want to be able to exile their instants and sorceries from their graveyard as soon as possible. But after that Delver and Tarmogoyf will clock them pretty quickly. Also, Dark Confidant keeps the card advantage in our favor, as well as provide us with a clock.

 So what can ANT do to us that enables them to still win? Well, first they can just out race us. This storm deck can be fast. It's not out of the realm of possibility that they win before we even get a chance to cast Hymn to Tourach or Liliana of the Veil.

 Let's take a look at a decklist and see what ANT can do to disrupt us. 


 This particular list, piloted by Caleb Scherer, took 3rd place at SCG Legacy Premier IQ Indianapolis.

 The deck focuses most of its energy in just trying to combo off as quickly as possible. It doesn't have much room for counter spells to protect itself or removal for opposing creatures. But what it does utilize is the dreaded Gitaxian Probe + Cabal Therapy combo to decimate a hand that's holding duplicate spells, or just taking one card that might prevent them from going off. ANT also plays Duress main, making it pretty clear to me that the deck is really only worried about one thing: counter spells. 

 Post sideboard the combo player has more options in dealing with us. Abrupt Decay will kill any of our threats, as well as our trump card Arcane Laboratory. Xantid Swarm is not exactly the best against us since they'll more than likely only get one attack with it before we eat it with our Tarmogoyf or force them to sac it with Liliana of the Veil. Also, we're mostly fighting them at sorcery speed anyways with Hymn to Tourach and Thoughtseize. But if they do bring it in against us it will shut down our Force of Wills and Flusterstorm. I don't think Xantid Swarm is really something that would be brought in here so we shouldn't worry too much about it.

 One spell we do need to think about, though, is Empty the Warrens. Not only could our opponent kill us with an army of goblins but it also gives them a bunch of chump blockers, effectively slowing our clock and buying them plenty of time to kill us later with Tendrils of Agony


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 My sideboard strategies are not Gospel. I'm one of those players that will bring a card in against a person but not bring it in against somebody else who's playing the same deck as the first guy. I can't explain it other than I'm a gambler. I like taking risks.

 Sylvan Library is one of those cards I fluctuate in bringing in or leaving out against ANT. I don't know. Most of the time I'm in this mind set that the Library is only for Miracles. I feel it is a little too slow here and I believe Dark Confidant will provide us with enough card advantage. Other times I want the extra card draw and manipulation of the top of my library. Am I wrong? Should it come in every time, or should it stay in the sideboard during this match up?

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Flusterstorm Arcane Laboratory Vendilion Clique Vendilion Clique Golgari Charm Golgari Charm Force of Will


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Disfigure Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay  photo Wasteland_zpshkbufek1.png  photo Wasteland_zpshkbufek1.png

 Most of these spells are no-brainers. Flusterstorm will counter each and every copy of Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens. Arcane Laboratory completely shuts them down, making it impossible for our opponent to tick up their storm count. I like bringing in the fourth Force of Will just so we have plenty of ways to counter Infernal Tutor. What's nice about Vendilion Clique is that it not only picks apart their hand but also provides us with a nice attacker.

 Disfigure comes out. I'm not looking to waste my time destroying just one goblin token. The same goes for the Abrupt Decays.

 Empty the Warrens is undoubtedly being brought in against us so I like to include Golgari Charm. One could be Maelstrom Pulse but I like having both the Charms more because it costs a tad cheaper and it's instant speed. Maelstrom Pulse is more for big creatures that Disfigure and Abrupt Decay cannot hit, like Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Gurmag Angler

 I'm always a little hesitant to trim down on my manabase and it's one thing I've been learning to do in Legacy. My favorite format is Modern and in that format you never trim down on lands, even if you're playing Tectonic Edge and your opponent is on some mono colored deck. It just never happens. But in Legacy, even with a deck like BUG Delver that's only running 19 lands to begin with (and eight of those being fetchlands) it's still ok to trim down on the real estate. Why is this? Well, it's because we really only need just two lands. We can even cast Liliana of the Veil with just two lands as long as we have a Deathrite Shaman and a land in someone's yard.

 So yeah, I like boarding out two Wastelands here. Most times, after game one, if they're smart they will play around Wasteland anyways, which they can do since they're running basics. The same is true with Daze. They'll attempt to play around that spell, as well. But I like leaving them in because they are running the bare minimum of lands to begin with. If they don't have a Lotus Petal then it'll be difficult for them to play around Daze when they cast their first Dark Ritual or Cabal Ritual.

 Alright, the game plan is set. We know what to expect from ANT and we should feel pretty confident playing against it. It's time to...

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 To be fair, BUG Delver usually eats combo decks alive, but I did feel like I was going to lose for a second when he made all those Goblin tokens with Empty the Warrens. But I was still able to recover in time and snag the win.

 I really enjoy this build. Being able to wreck opponents' hands with Hymn to Tourach and Thoughtseize is great and I've always been a sucker for Delver of Secrets. If you like playing the tempo game and feel like beating up combo decks such as ANT or Omnitell then I highly encourage you to build this deck and punish those people who refuse to fight a fair game.

 I'm not sure yet what I'm going to be doing for next week. Maybe more Legacy, or I might jump back into Modern. There are a couple Modern decks I've been thinking about taking into a daily so I may just do that. I'm going to be playing a lot of both formats from now till then so we'll see where that takes me. Until next time, thanks for reading and watching!


I love the Legacy content! We by Joe Fiorini at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 13:53
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I love the Legacy content! We need more Legacy stuff, I know that I've been neglecting the format and I feel bad about it. It's only because Vintage gets almost nothing, and Legacy gets at least some in other places.

I hate to be that dude, but Xantid Swarm flies... The only way ol' Goyfy is gonna eat them is if they block or you side in spidersilk armor. :)

I used to run Surgical by Joe Fiorini at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 13:57
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I used to run Surgical Extraction in my sideboard as it blows out Reanimator quite often (it's happened to me). What I've done before is Thoughtseize discarding either Dark Ritual or Infernal Tutor and Extracting it, it makes it pretty hard for them to win at that point. If you have a clock at that time, you're set.

Oh man, totally spaced that by jay85 at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 14:46
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Oh man, totally spaced that swarm flies. I still think it's not very good against us though just because of Lilliana and most of our spells to fight them are at sorcery speed. Surgical extraction is definitely worth considering. What should it replace?
And thank you for the comment. I'm going to make a lot more legacy content because you're right, legacy doesn't get the love it deserves. I might not be the absolute best person for it but it's a niche that I feel needs to be filled.

Yeah, I think so too. I feel by Joe Fiorini at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 15:22
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Yeah, I think so too. I feel like Vintage and Legacy are the neglected children of the major formats.

I'm not sure that you absolutely need surgical, I just used to play it sometimes. I think BUG Delver is one of the best decks in the format, it has a good match-up against Miracles (at least it used to, IDK if Monastery Mentor makes it less favorable or not), which is the best control deck of the format.

Plus there is pressure, disruption, everything you could want.

With Monastery Mentor and by Rerepete at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 18:25
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With Monastery Mentor and Empty the Warrens, Illness in the Ranks might be worth a couple of sidebaord slots

Interstingly I've seen a few by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 19:34
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Interstingly I've seen a few dread of night in sideboards of lists. And sulfuric vortex. Is Empty the Warrens really seeing an upsurge?

You know, I've never been a by jay85 at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 20:24
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You know, I've never been a fan of Marsh Casualties which is why I don't bring it in against ANT, relying more on Golgari Charm. I'm probably going to replace it for Illness in the Ranks or Dread of Night because those are two cards I would probably bring in here. I also like that both are enchantments but I'm thinking Illness is a little better because it can also shut down Young Pyromancer.
Empty the Warrens isn't seeing any more play than usual. It's just something that ANT has that is really good against BUG Delver.
Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

Sorry I meant Sulfur by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/28/2015 - 22:00
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Sorry I meant Sulfur Elemental :( Bad autopilot typing there. If warrens bothers you, you could make it illnessor/dread + 1 engineered plague, goblins.