Ryan Archer – Making Your Opponents See Red in Legacy

Today I’m going to do something that may seem crazy to those of you who have been following my articles here on Brainstorm Brewery: I’m not going to talk about green-white in Standard. Lately, there have been next to zero Standard tournaments in my area, and as such, I have been focusing my attention on another format. A format which which I am not so familiar – a format called Legacy.

You may be asking, “Why do I need to care about Legacy?” Well for starters, it’s one of the most skill-intensive and fun formats around. It’s half of the tournament for Star City invitationals, where you can win a ton of money and other fabulous prizes. (Fabulous prizes equal getting your likeness turned into a goat.) That’s why I decided to take the plunge into Legacy: the invitational. I don’t necessarily care much about the token part, though during the car ride to Indianapolis my group and I tried to decide which token we would make when we won. Many great choices were thrown around including a [card]Pack Rat[/card] token, a wurm token, an ooze token, and my pick, an angel token, because you never really see any male angels. Also, I’m slightly overweight so could you imagine this fat flying male angel coming to save the day? I wish I would have won that tournament.

So let’s go back. I just made top eight at the SCG classic in Lansing. All of a sudden I’m qualified for my first invitational. I know nothing about the format. I don’t know how the decks interact. I know nothing. I also don’t have a lot of time. I decide that since I don’t understand the other decks well that I should play a combo deck. I start looking at deck lists. I find nothing. Then all of a sudden I see Reuben Bresler make the finals of an open with the following red monster. I know, I know, it’s not a GW midrange deck, but it’ll do. I changed the [card]Ratchet Bombs[/card] in the board to [card]Tormod’s Crypts[/card] to handle [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] and arrived at this:

[deck title= Imperial Painter]


*1 Goblin Welder
*1 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
*1 Phyrexian Revoker
*1 Spellskite
*2 Magus of the Moon
*4 Imperial Recruiter
*4 Painter's Servant
*4 Simian Spirit Guide



*2 Chandra, Pyromaster
*3 Sensei's Divining Top
*4 Grindstone
*4 Blood Moon
*3 Lightning Bolt
*3 Pyroblast
*3 Red Elemental Blast



*3 Arid Mesa
*4 Ancient Tomb
*4 City of Traitors
*9 Mountain



*1 Magus of the Moon
*1 Phyrexian Revoker
*1 Red Elemental Blast
*1 Manic Vandal
*4 Thorn of Amethyst
*2 Ratchet Bomb
*4 Ensnaring Bridge
*1 Pyroblast



This deck had everything that I wanted. It was a combo deck. It seemed easy to play and it seemed a little more forgiving than something like storm where if you make a mistake while comboing off you will lose. It also plays maindeck [card]Blood Moon[/card]. That’s right, in a world where everyone loves to play duals and fetch lands you get to play maindeck [card]Blood Moon[/card]. I figured in a format in which I know nothing, I might as well play a card that, against a lot of decks, completely shuts off their ability to play the game. Some lists play zero basics. I got no practice, but that’s okay because I had to work the Friday of the Invitational and missed it, instead playing in the two SCG opens on Saturday and Sunday.

The Legacy open went nowhere. I was tired from having to wake up early for top four of the Standard open. My opponents drew very well and I mulliganed a lot. I went 1-2, not really learning anything interesting about the format other than my opponents’ nut draws. I vowed that next time I would be ready for Legacy.

Since then, I’ve stuck with the deck, learned to play it, and have gotten better with the various lines of play. Since there haven’t been any large local Legacy tournaments, I figured I’d do a tournament report based on some smaller local Legacy events. But first, some quick discussion on how the deck works and some subtle nuisances. I’m going to assume you know nothing about the deck so some of the first few points may seem obvious.

  • The deck’s primary win condition is to play both [card]Painter’s Servant[/card] and [card]Grindstone[/card], which combine to mill your opponent out with only one activation. [card]Painter’s Servant[/card] turns all cards to the chosen color everywhere, including your opponent’s library, so no matter which two cards are milled with [card]Grindstone[/card], the milling will continue until there are no cards left in your opponent’s deck.
  • When you play [card]Painter’s Servant[/card], you should almost always name blue. You play six maindeck [card]Red Elemental Blast[/card] effects, which are already good at countering counterspells, but with Servant in play they become [card]Vindicate[/card] or a one-mana straight-up [card]Counterspell[/card]s. Same with [card]Jaya Ballard, Task Mage[/card].
  • Against multicolored decks you should try to play a [card]Blood Moon[/card] as soon as possible. They usually play very few basic lands and you want to turn off their fetch lands so they can’t fetch up a basic.
  • [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card] can stop mana abilities of permanents. This is useful against decks that play [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card], and is different than how [card]Pithing Needle[/card] works.
  • You can fetch any creature in your deck with [card]Imperial Recruiter[/card]. Most times you probably just get [card]Painter’s Servant[/card], but there are times you want your silver bullets.
  • Don’t be afraid to beat down your opponent with your small creatures. I’ve won several games by locking out the opponent and just attacking for the win.
  • If you play [card]City of Traitors[/card] and cast a [card]Blood Moon[/card], you can play more land without having to sacrifice your [card]City of Traitors[/card].
  • If you have a [card]Goblin Welder[/card] and a [card]Grindstone[/card] in play with a [card]Painter’s Servant[/card] in the graveyard, you can activate the [card]Grindstone[/card] and activate the Welder in response, exchanging [card]Grindstone[/card] and [card]Painter’s Servant[/card]. The [card]Grindstone[/card] ability will resolve and everything will be blue, milling out your opponent.

So now that you’re an [card]Imperial Painter[/card] expert, on to the matches.

Tournament 1

Round 1 Against the Local Ringer Playing Elves

So I know my opponent and I know what he’s playing. I curse my bad luck because not only is he good (placing top eight at several Legacy opens), he’s also playing a mono-color deck. “So much for those awesome [card]Blood Moon[/card]s,” I think to myself. I really miss those [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s now. I don’t really know this matchup, but I do know we are both combo decks racing to win.

Game one, I mulligan and keep a hand with a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], a combo piece, some lands, and a [card]Blood Moon[/card]. I play out my [card]Grindstone[/card]. He plays some elves. I draw a [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], play it, and bolt an elf. He plays some more elves. I play [card]Blood Moon[/card], having nothing else to do, but at least it shuts off his [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card]. He plays more elves and creates a bunch of mana off of [card]Heritage Druid[/card]. He plays [card]Natural Order[/card], finds [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card], and attacks me for lethal.

I sideboard in [card]EnsnaringBridge[/card] and anything else I can find for the [card]Blood Moon[/card]-type cards. Game two, I play [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card] early to stop him from attacking – or so I think. He builds an army and casts [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] to find [card]Viridian Shaman[/card], then proceeds to kill me the exact same way.

We played about eight matches afterword so I could learn the matchup. I won one. I really don’t have any advice to help with this one except hope to avoid playing against it.

Round 2 Against Esper Stoneblade

My hand is great and has both combo pieces, until he casts [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on both turn one and two to strip away both of them. I have some time to set up, but the turn before I can mill him, he attaches [card]Batterskull[/card] to [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] and attacks for exactsies.

Game two, I board in more [card]Blood Moon[/card]s and counterspells. Again, he turn-one [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s me, taking my combo piece, then casts [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] to rid me of the rest of them. I now have no choice but to beat him down with creatures. I start destroying his lands with [card]Wasteland[/card]. He plays a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], which fetches a [card]Batterskull[/card] before dying to my [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. We trade resources for a while and both end up low on cards. I play [card]Blood Moon[/card] and he concedes. A little premature, I think, with a [card]Batterskull[/card] in hand and me having to attack to win. Game three, he plays [card]Tundra[/card]. I play turn-one [card]Blood Moon[/card] that doesn’t get countered and he concedes again.

Round 3 Against Death and Taxes

I draw well in game one. He plays [card]Aether Vial[/card]. I play [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card] naming [card]Aether Vial[/card]. He doesn’t really mount any kind of offense before I assemble the combo and beat him. Game two, I play some disruptive creatures but I also play some creatures that prevent him from attacking. [card]Imperial Recruiter[/card] is able to find [card]Painter’s Servant[/card] and also block, which helped a lot, as a lot of his guys only had one toughness. Eventually, I find the land I’m lacking and combo him out.

I end up going 2-1 which is good enough for third place.

Tournament 2

Round 1 Against Dredge

I keep a hand of both combo pieces, a [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], and lands, including [card]Ancient Tomb[/card]. I have the option to play Servant first, but choose not to so I can cast Top and [card]Grindstone[/card]. This turns out to be a mistake, as I draw [card]City of Traitors[/card], so instead of killing him on turn two, he gets an extra draw step. Luckily, he doesn’t dredge anything relevant.

Game two, my hand is decent while his hand is [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card], [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card], [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card], and four irrelevant cards. He says, “Hope this is enough,” cracks a Diamond to get the Troll into the graveyard, dredges nothing relevant, and passes. I play [card]Grindstone[/card] with Servant in hand. He dredges again and hits [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] and [card]Narcomoeba[/card]. Sacking the [card]Narcomoeba[/card], he correctly names [card]Painter’s Servant[/card]. He sacks the second Diamond, again just to get the Troll into the graveyard. He dredges one more time, and again hits nothing relevant. The next turn he has to draw a card instead of dredge – a good position for me. I eventually draw [card]Imperial Recruiter[/card] to find [card]Painter’s Servant[/card] and finish him off.

Round 2 Against Belcher

I know my opponent but I don’t know what he’s playing. He wins the roll and starts playing spells gaining mana. I pretend to think about whether or not I want to [card]Force of Will[/card] something, but eventually with six red mana, he casts [card]Burning Wish[/card] to find [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], making 14 goblins. I concede before he sees a card from my deck.

Game two, I mulligan to six but keep a first-turn [card]Thorn of Amethyst[/card] hand. The Thorn is too much and I combo him out quicker than he can combo me out. Game three is wild. I play an early Revoker naming [card]Goblin Charbelcher[/card]. I also play an early [card]EnsnaringBridge[/card] to stop the goblin tokens. I then play a Thorn and he starts to build his hand. I play another Thorn and he sighs, but continues building his hand. I play every defensive card I draw,  just in case. I end up with tons of permanents but fail to draw a [card] Painter’s Servant[/card] or [card]Imperial Recruiter[/card]. I just end up milling him out the natural way with [card]Grindstone[/card] over many turns.

Round 3 Against RWU Delver

We both keep our initial seven cards. He starts things off with a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] fetching a [card]Batterskull[/card], something about which my deck cares almost zero. I play [card]Grindstone[/card] and get a [card]Painter’s Servant[/card] [card]Force of Will[/card]ed. He is applying almost no pressure and I play [card]Imperial Recruiter[/card], getting another servant. I am able to stick one this time, and when he goes to make it a farmer with [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], I have a [card]Red Elemental Blast[/card] waiting. I untap and mill him out.

Game two is awesome for me. He plays [card]Tundra[/card] and casts a [card]Ponder[/card]. I play [card]Ancient Tomb[/card], exile a [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card] for mana, and cast [card]Magus of the Moon[/card], which he doesn’t counter. From then on I have every answer for everything he does. Turn two, he plays [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] and I follow up [card]Spellskite[/card]. He plays [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], I play [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card]. I end up drawing the combo and mill him out while he has six mountains in play and a hand full of cards.

3-0 which, because of tie-breakers, is good enough for first place.

Summing Up

I think that this deck is great for anyone trying to get into Legacy. Now obviously, I’m not trying to claim that I’m the best by showing you some small tournament results, but the deck is fun and interactive and I wanted to demonstrate that. You are really able to punish some of the greedy mana bases that the format has to offer, especially now that everyone is going ga-ga for [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card].

Do you have a suggestion for someone new to Legacy? What’s your opinion of the new [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] format? Sound off in the comments. Thanks for reading.

About the Author
@RyanArcherMTG     -     Email     -     Articles Ryan Archer is a PTQ grinder and a Magic financier. When he's not making top eight in a tournament or looking for the next card to spike, he's playtesting as a member of Team RIW or writing articles for BrainstormBrewery.com or MTGinfosource.com

4 comments on Ryan Archer – Making Your Opponents See Red in Legacy