There is something slightly poetic about Dark Depths dominating Legacy events while the Midwest is trapped in a seemingly never-ending “polar vortex.” Today I’d like to look at a pile of different Dark Depths-powered combo decks that have been seeing success in Legacy recently.
The first time a Dark Depths deck posted successful results at a high-profile event was actually at the end of 2013. It was a Maverick-style deck that splashed red for Punishing Fire and played singleton copies of Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage in its Knight of the Reliquary package:
Unlike most Legacy decks, this list is extremely conservative with its mana sources. Six mana dorks, in addition to four Green Sun’s Zenith, allow it to produce three mana on the second turn fairly often. Punishing Fire, a full set of Swords to Plowshares, a pair of Umezawa’s Jitte, and Knight being able to fetch up a combo finish give this Maverick-style deck a powerful fair Magic matchup.
I would be slightly worried piloting this deck in a field of unfair decks, though. If a combo player is fetching to blank your Wastelands, then a singleton Gaddock Teeg and four copies of Green Sun’s Zenith to find him are your only ways to interact with unfair Magic during the first game.
Thankfully, the sideboard is packed full of hate cards that Enlightened Tutor is able to find. Speaking from experience, planning to win every game two and three against combo decks in Legacy is not a good plan. Sometimes you just die, no matter how many hate cards you happen to have.
If I knew I was going to play fair Magic for 90% or more of my rounds, I would play the above decklist in a heartbeat. However, in the diverse field Legacy tends to be, I would strongly consider cutting the red and playing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in the Punishing Fire slots. If you really feel the need for more removal beyond Swords to Plowshares, you can always add another black source or two and play a few Abrupt Decay.
Jund and Junk Depths
Flash forward to 2014. At the first Legacy Open of the year, we see not just one, but two Dark Depths-based combo decks wreck their way into the top eight. First up, we have a Junk-colored list that I personally helped develop:
This is a toolbox deck that play a powerful game of fair Magic, all while threatening a combo finish at a moment’s notice. Sometimes you create a turn-two 20/20 with a Hexmage, sometimes you grind out a long game with Life from the Loam plus Wasteland, and sometimes you simply play your Dark Confidant, Sylvan Library, and Knight of the Reliquary and beat them down with creatures.
I think it is fair to say that this deck is easily the most flexible of the Dark Depths decks I will highlight here today. Your mana base provides utility with Knight of the Reliquary, your green creatures provide utility with Green Sun’s Zenith, and most of your sideboard turns Living Wish into a silver bullet for a variety of different situations. Maindeck Gaddock Teeg, in addition to Chalice of the Void, ensures that you are not soft to other combo decks in game one.
Next up, we have a Jund-colored Dark Depths deck innovated by Kennen Haas:
For those of you who think this deck might just be a fluke, 74 of Kennen’s 75 top 8ed two weekends later at the Columbus SCG open. After speaking with Kennen a bit, he agreed that there are two weak points for his Jund list—combo decks and Rest in Peace. Thankfully, both of these things are fairly easy to solve working in the colors that Kennen’s deck plays.
For combo decks, the fix is as easy as playing some targeted discard (Thoughtseize is wonderful) or a few more copies of Sphere of Resistance in the sideboard (the Jund deck doesn’t really play any creatures, so Sphere is strictly better than Thorn of Amethyst). Dealing with Rest in Peace is even more straight forward—play a few Abrupt Decay! Abrupt Decay really was R&D’s gift to Legacy—the card solves all sorts of problems.
The glue that holds this Jund deck together is its playset of Demonic Tutor, err, I mean Entomb. The card is capable of finding a copy of Life from the Loam, whatever land you need, Punishing Fire, Nether Spirit, or even Squee, Goblin Nabob, and at instant speed, too. The sideboard even includes a few clutch one-ofs to tutor for at a moment’s notice.
GR Lands Combo
Then, as if three different Dark Depths decklists wasn’t enough, in Baltimore this past weekend, yet another Dark Depths combo deck won the entire event. In the hands of Kurt Speiss, a green-red “all in” lands combo deck took first:
GR Lands Combo
Kurt’s decklist is closest thing to traditional lands that I’ve talked about today. The deck features a full four copies of each of Rishadan Port, Wasteland, and Maze of Ith, powered out by Exploration and even Manabond. Kurt’s deck is just as capable of massive mana disruption as it is fast combo starts. Speaking of combos, if Kurt feels the need to have more than four copies of Maze of Ith on the table, he also plays a full four copies of Thespian’s Stage in his main deck.
Just because this is a lands shell doesn’t mean it doesn’t rely on a few spells to go about winning the game. Similar to how the Jund deck plays Entomb and the Junk deck utilizes Living Wish, Kurt has chosen to go with Gamble as his tutor effect of choice. Considering most of the time he won’t care if the card he finds is in his hand or graveyard, this is a fantastic effect to play.
Kurt has opted to have his maindeck set up to beat creature decks with a combination of Punishing Fire and Glacial Chasm. To combat combo decks, we find a full set of Sphere of Resistance in addition to two copies Thorn of Amethyst in the sideboard. There are also several copies of Krosan Grip to deal with the occasional Rest in Peace.
I suppose with Manabond in the maindeck, Kurt also has the option to just make a 20/20 on turn one, allowing him to outright kill his opponent on turn two.
In fact, I would say the only thing I’m really afraid of when playing Kurt’s list is a Surgical Extraction or two. Taking out his Dark Depths leaves him with Punishing Fire as the only way to close out a game—if they extract that as well, then I guess you just have to hope to deck them.
I think it is really interesting that Thespian’s Stage has been legacy legal for nearly a year now, but it has only been the last couple months that we’ve seen it making waves at events. Maybe the printing of a certain unblockable, hexproof 3/1 is just what the format needed to generate some innovation.
These combo decks are exceptionally powerful because they are difficult to interact with. Counter magic is bad. Discard spells are bad. Wasteland only buys you a turn or two, and they’ll just Loam back their combo pieces…
What is your opinion on these various Dark Depths combo decks that have been popping up? Are they just a Legacy fad or are they here to stay? Let me know in the comments below.
Jeff Hoogland plays as much constructed Magic as the midwest allows. SCG events and Grand Prix are his two favorite ways to spend a weekend. He enjoys attacking new and established formats from unexplored angles. His Magic resume currently includes numerous SCG Open top eights, an SCG Invitational top eight, and a GP top 16.
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