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ShardlessCounterTop BUG Primer



 
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:49 am    Post subject: ShardlessCounterTop BUG Primer Reply with quote

Shardless Agent decks have been my bread and butter in legacy now for little over a year. As many of you are aware, my take on the BUG agent deck is a little different from the norm. My version is tuned to beat what I consider to be the more prominent decks in the format which I consider to be delver, stoneblade/deathblade, sneak and show. At the same time it seeks to have a decent game against some of the decks that I feel are among the more popular 2nd teir decks, those being merfolk, goblins, ANT, Dredge, Miracles and other countertop varients.

Also if you wish for a specific matchup analysis, please ask for it in the comments and I will test it and post my strategy for it.

Card choices:

// Creatures
4 [PC2] Shardless Agent: Agent is the namesake card of the deck. In a lot of shardless bug decks he is used to fuel a broken cascade into ancestral visions, this is not what I wish to be doing with my version of the deck however. Here I am wanting him to make more of an impact on the board by doing things like cascading into a goyf or strix to gum up the board, an abrupt decay to remove a threat and give me a beatstick, a counterballance to lock out my opponents who play normal legacy spells, ect. Bassically I want my Agents to impact the board in a 2 for 1 manor and cascading into a visions does not do that.

2 [PC2] Baleful Strix: For the longest time these were a 4 of, but I saw so many people going to 2 main and 2 side that I gave it more though. It is true that there are some matchups where strix is rather weak, pretty much all combo matchups. What I realized though is that all those matchups where strix is weak, dark confidant is a total beast, so I decided to do a 2/2 split in the main of confidant and strix. For those unfamilliar with why this card is so good, strix is the best blocker in legacy. when going against a creature deck you will always get a 2 for 1 with it and a lot of the time it will releave a lot of pressure while it does it (or take a removal spell out of your opponents hand).

4 [RTR] Deathrite Shaman: moved back to 4 of these, Deathrite does a lot of jobs that no other card in these colors can. Its main deckable grave hate, it's a threat that can not be blocked, and its ramp. All for 1 flexible mana cost. One other thing to note is that deathrite is one of your ways to fight a mana denial game plan from your opponents. It will allow you to do things like get to 2 mana on turn 2 through a wasteland, forcing your opponent to stop commiting to the mana denial plan to deal with your threats.

4 [FUT] Tarmogoyf: The beatstick of the deck. Against creature decks he provides a big body to keep your opponets from hitting your life total and against combo decks it puts a clock on them taking away time for them to sculpt their combo through your disruption.

2 [RAV] Dark Confidant: Confidant is a very cheap and effective card advantage engine. Against creature decks he is a little on the weak side since they usually pack a decent amount of removal and he does not trade well in combat. Do not be to timid about dropping him while you are under pressure, a lot of the times that life you loss to draw a card is a lot less life then you would have lost giving your opponent a full turn in between those draws (i.e. you are maximizing the number of cards you see before you die). Confidant really shines against control decks and combo decks where your plan is to use aggressive discard and ride a card advantage engine and a threat.


// Spells
2 [CHK] Sensei's Divining Top: primarily top is used in combination with fetch lands to give you extraordinary card selection. Allowing you to dig though your deck for whatever answers you need at the time and make you a huge favorite in a top decking war. Having multiple tops though is not good, fortunately it is not difficult to get rid of one by activating its draw ability and cracking a fetch. to shuffle it back in. Secondly it is used in the counterbalance lock where you manipulate the top of your deck to counter the majority of what your opponent attempts to play. Establishing this lock usually closes the door on blade decks, combo decks, and delver decks.

3 [RTR] Abrupt Decay: Abrupt Decay hits a wide variety of targets in legacy and most importantly it is uncounterable which makes it ideal for dealing with blue creature decks that are looking to protect threats with things like daze and force of will.

4 [MM] Brainstorm: Legacy is built around this card. Why? Because in combination with fetch lands you are able to draw 3 cards and shuffle away your 2 worst for the low price of 1 mana. Other modes of using this though include setting up your shardless agents, dark confidants, and counterbalances, and lastly to hide relevant cards in your hand from discard spells and Vendillion Cliques.

4 [LRW] Thoughtseize: The primary purpose of thoughtseize here is to fight the combo decks while still being good against the delver and stoneblade decks. FOW are bad against them since it puts you down 2 cards to deal with their 1. And they can just burn a daze or a spell pierce to counter back. Leaving you down 2 cards and still not dealing with their threat. I would rather be playing this to clear the way of their counter magic while I deploy my own threat in response.

3 [CS] Counterbalance: These are my addition to the deck. Right now the deck is very good at being disruptive durring the early game. After that counterbalance can shut a game out. How I evaluate counterbalance is in the amount of card advantage it generates me over the course of the game. If counterbalance counters 1 spell then you have gotten your value out of it. If you counter 2 spells you just got the equivalent of a hymm to tourach, 3 or more and you have just done something absurd and will likely win the game (most of my opponents just concede at that point). This card really shines in the stoneblade matchup where you essentially have a one sided chalice of the void set to 1 and 2.

1 [5E] Sylvan Library: Essentially top # 3 that is not completely redundant if you already have one on the table. It also has the abillity to draw you new cards greed style.

1 [DS] Sword of Light and Shadow: So why this sword over FaF, or FaI? Because the most relevant removal spells in legacy happen to be while or red, and most of the red ones do 3 damage meaning the +2 toughness will usually put my creatures out of bolt range. After that its abillities are perfect for what the deck is trying to accomplish. It gains life which is a much needed comodity between your opponent trying to race you and confidant biting you and returns creatures from your graveyard to your hand (which snowballs out of control since those creatures generate value on their own).

2 [WWK] Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Powerhouse planeswalker. Does a lot for this deck between being an absured card advantage engine, being removal if you need it, locking your opponent out of the game if you have them on the back foot, or just acting as its own win con if need be. You dont want too many of them though since they are expensive as hell and you dont want to many of them in your hand.

1 [BOK] Umezawa's Jitte: The piece of equipment that dominates the creature matchups. It's very good against anything reliant on creatures.

1 [RAV] Life from the Loam: This is mostly to help out against land destruction opponent such as loam decks, pox decks, delver decks, and stax but it can also gives you your own wastleland game plan against things like cloudpost or other decks that are heavily nonbasic.


// Lands
3 [ON] Polluted Delta
2 [ZEN] Misty Rainforest
2 [ZEN] Verdant Catacombs
1 [TSP] Academy Ruins
3 [A] Underground Sea
3 [A] Bayou
3 [A] Tropical Island
1 [SOM] Swamp (1)
1 [PC2] Forest (4)
1 [AVR] Island (1)
2 [TE] Wasteland

A note on the mana base, I run 22 lands which is perfect, I run 1 of each basic as wasteland and blood moon insurance and 2 wastelands main. One card in here that deserve a lot of attention is the 1 of academy ruins. Ruins allows you to buy back your value creatures, get back a sword/jitte and recur EE out of the side. Also note that it can be used to set up your counterbalances if you have an appropriate artifact in your graveyard.

// Sideboard
SB: 1 [TE] Wasteland: Some matchups you want to go up to 23 lands, like against delver and other mana denial decks. Also you board it in against the cloudpost deck or anyone else where LD would be effective.

SB: 2 [PC2] Baleful Strix: These come in over confidants against heavy creature decks like delver, goblins, merfolk, mavrick, and so forth. Also they come in against sneak and show since they can technically block emrakul and there are some less valuable cards that can be swaped out.

SB: 1 [FD] Engineered Explosives: These come in against creature decks mostly, or decks that generate token armies like dredge and miracles.

SB: 1 [SOM] Nihil Spellbomb: This comes in against graveyard decks like reanimator and dredge. Its also good against decks like storm and delver (shuts of thresh hold and shrinks goyfs). Another good thing about spellbomb is that it can be rebought with ruins and generates CA.
SB: 2 [SHM] Faerie Macabre: Comes in against the broken graveyard decks like dredge and reanimator. What I like about macabre is that it is uncounterable so it can deal with all those turn 1 broken decks that abuse the graveyard through countermagic.


SB: 1 [DGM] Notion Thief: Sorta playes the roll of 3rd jace against control decks and combo decks. The temptation is to try to do this in response to a brainstorm or something similar however a lot of the times it is more correct to just resolve it as soon as it is safe and settle for making all of your opponents cantrips dead cards. This is mostly due to the fact that he is sooooo expensive to cast. If your trying to snag a brainstorm with your 4 cmc spell then it is pretty likely that your opponent will have open mana so there is a good chance that your opponent can find his counter magic or removal to deal with your thief before his BS resolves. Dropping him when your opponent is tapped out however means that you get an untap step to get ready to protect him before your opponent has a chance to draw into removal or get to counter him.

SB: 3 [AP] Pernicious Deed: These play wrath of god that hits aether vial and equipment. These have been some of my best sideboard cards to wreck my opponents board possition.

SB: 1 [ARB] Maelstrom Pulse: These are a hedge against decks that pack a high cmc threat. Something like MUD or omniscience show and tell.

SB: 3 [JU] Cabal Therapy: These come in against combo decks usually over abrupt decays to up the discard suite.

Final list looks like this

// Deck file for Magic Workstation (http://www.magicworkstation.com)

// Lands
3 [ON] Polluted Delta
2 [ZEN] Misty Rainforest
2 [ZEN] Verdant Catacombs
1 [TSP] Academy Ruins
3 [A] Underground Sea
3 [A] Bayou
3 [A] Tropical Island
1 [SOM] Swamp (1)
1 [PC2] Forest (4)
1 [AVR] Island (1)
2 [TE] Wasteland

// Creatures
4 [PC2] Shardless Agent
2 [PC2] Baleful Strix
4 [RTR] Deathrite Shaman
4 [FUT] Tarmogoyf
2 [RAV] Dark Confidant

// Spells
2 [CHK] Sensei's Divining Top
3 [RTR] Abrupt Decay
4 [MM] Brainstorm
4 [LRW] Thoughtseize
3 [CS] Counterbalance
1 [5E] Sylvan Library
1 [DS] Sword of Light and Shadow
2 [WWK] Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 [BOK] Umezawa's Jitte
1 [RAV] Life from the Loam

// Sideboard
SB: 1 [TE] Wasteland
SB: 2 [PC2] Baleful Strix
SB: 1 [FD] Engineered Explosives
SB: 1 [SOM] Nihil Spellbomb
SB: 2 [SHM] Faerie Macabre
SB: 1 [DGM] Notion Thief
SB: 3 [AP] Pernicious Deed
SB: 1 [ARB] Maelstrom Pulse
SB: 3 [JU] Cabal Therapy


Notable exclusions:

Ancestral Visions: The dream is to be able to cascade into this card off of shardless agent, or at worst suspend it for 4 turns and get a huge pay off for your investment. While this all sounds good and amazing on paper remember that what you are paying for is 1UG for a 2/2 that draws 3 cards which is very good but it does not have any immediate effect on the board. Against decks like delver this is actively bad since they do not care about the number of cards in your hand, only the number of relevant spells you can cast in a turn. Mind you this is all in the optimal setting where you have agent in hand, and you have found a visions on your top 3 or have brainstormed in hand as well which is as difficult to accomplish as I am making it sound. The majority of the time you are playing visions as it is printed, with suspend. Why is this so bad? Because it is a dead card for 4 whole turns. A card that could have helped you apply pressure for 4 turns, a card that could have slowed your opponents momentum for 4 turns, but no its a mulligan. This is especially atrocious against delver where you are letting them get even more ahead and give them time to find the counterspell or stifle for visions even if you survive to turn 4. I would actually much rather cascade into a tarmogoyf, baleful strix, counterbalance, or abrupt decay like 90% of the time.

Force of Will: This one is a lot closer for me. Force is good against the explosive combo decks like ANT, belcher, dredge, and others. It is not very good however against decks like delver and stoneblade since you are doing the opposite of what your deck is trying to accomplish (2 for 1ing yourself). In my version I've been happy with just using a discard suite instead and hoping that they do not turn 1 me. One thing that is important to remember is that if you are taking this list to a large tournament where the top 8 lists become public your opponents will know that you have 0 main deck counterspells so they will attempt to go off as soon as possible. If combo decks are a larger portion of your meta I would suggest swapping the cabal therapies in the side with force of will.

Matchups:

RUG Delver: This matchup is about them trying to disrupt you while hitting you with something big. They will try to keep you off of lands, and counter all your spells while hitting you with a couple creatures. Abrupt decay is especially important here because it is uncounterable. Try your best to play around stifle. Your goal is to do what it takes to cause a board stall. If you do then you have a major edge in the matchup. You are also happy to see any counterbalances resolve.

SB: - 4 thoughtseize - 2 jace - 1 sword of LaS -1 sylvan library + 2 baleful strix + 1 wasteland + 1 EE + 1 Nihil Spellbomb +3 pernicious Deed

Against delver you want to take out your jaces since there is little hope for them to resolve before you die and you want to take out thoughtseize because the 2 damage is helping your opponent's clock. Comming in you are upping your strix count, the wasteland ups your land count to help against their mana denial plan, EE hits their mongooses, spellbomb shrinks goyfs and mongooses alike. Lastly deed can whip out whatever threats they have resolved. The main idea is to treat them like they are a creature deck and focus your energy on doing everything you can to deal with their on board threats. Delver has a hard time winning if it's threats are successfully 1 for 1ned.

StoneBlade Varients: These decks esper or death tend to be about card advantage battles. Thoughtseize playes a very nice role of dealing with whatever stoneforge mystic searches up. In this matchup they usually have a few counterspells that are not that great against you while you have a couple straight up trumps for this matchup. Counter top annihilates them most of their spells cost 1 or 2 which you can easily float on top. The other trump is sword of light and shadow. This not only makes one of your creatures unkillable for them, it also blanks batterskull completely, their main win condition.

SB -4 thoughtseize -1 life from the loam + 3 cabal therapy + 1 notion Theif

Not much you want to change here, your discard is primarily to attack stoneforge mystic and a single therapy can do it twice. Notion Thief just shuts down their BS's. Against this kind of opponent its much more reasonable to attempt resolve it in response to a BS for the blow outs.

Sneak and Show:

This matchup is probably the toughest one. MD you are in tough shape since you only have 4 discard spells and counterbalance can not reliably counter a show and tell. Also abrupt decay can not hit sneak attack. Best bet is to try to get a counter top online and hope to stop the show and tell well hitting enough thoughtseizes and deploy a clock to get the game over with before your opponent can get the pieces together.

SB -3 abrupt decay -1 jitte - 1 life from the loam - 1 sword of light and shadow +3 therapy +2 baleful strix + 1 notion thief.

Game plan is the same as before but you cut the dead cards for better ones. Therapies up your count to 7 discard spells (but act as more since they flash back). Strix is another creature that draws a card and can block an emrakul if need be. Notion Thief was surprisingly good in my experience as it shuts off a lot of their ability to dig for the combo pieces while providing a very good clock.
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xJudicatorx



Joined: 27 Aug 2007
Posts: 696

PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for taking the time to write this out so thoroughly. I don't have time to read it right now, but I'm looking forward to it.
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xJudicatorx wrote:
Thanks for taking the time to write this out so thoroughly. I don't have time to read it right now, but I'm looking forward to it.


No problem. I've been working on this list for a very long time and enjoy sharing my ideas with the magic community. Let me know if you have any feedback Smile
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Gracco



Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 69

PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
SB: 2 [PC2] Baleful Strix: These come in over confidants against heavy creature decks like delver, goblins, merfolk, mavrick, and so forth. Also they come in against sneak and show since they can technically block emrakul and there are some less valuable cards that can be swaped out.


strix is blue and black

emrakul is pro colored spells

how does this work????
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_Godica



Joined: 26 Nov 2012
Posts: 254

PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not at all sold on the Sneak and Show matchup. Strix can only block emrakul if you have 6 other permanents to sacrifice, and notion thief is a 4-drop. Your only outs rely on a very slow opponent, which simply isn't going to happen without some counters from you. Therapy is alright (and generally a card I love to see in BUG lists), but it's a bit underwhelming against a high-redundancy deck with brainstorm protection.

The problem is only amplified against Omnitell, which is really the much stronger, if slightly less played, deck.

Even a change like Surgical Extraction over Faerie Macabre in the sideboard would help this out a lot. It's only slightly weaker against dredge, equally potent against TinFins and Reanimator, and punishes Intuition like nobody's business.
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gracco wrote:
Quote:
SB: 2 [PC2] Baleful Strix: These come in over confidants against heavy creature decks like delver, goblins, merfolk, mavrick, and so forth. Also they come in against sneak and show since they can technically block emrakul and there are some less valuable cards that can be swaped out.


strix is blue and black

emrakul is pro colored spells

how does this work????


Strix stops being a spell when it leaves the stack, at which point it is a permanent.
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

_Godica wrote:
I'm not at all sold on the Sneak and Show matchup. Strix can only block emrakul if you have 6 other permanents to sacrifice, and notion thief is a 4-drop. Your only outs rely on a very slow opponent, which simply isn't going to happen without some counters from you. Therapy is alright (and generally a card I love to see in BUG lists), but it's a bit underwhelming against a high-redundancy deck with brainstorm protection.

The problem is only amplified against Omnitell, which is really the much stronger, if slightly less played, deck.

Even a change like Surgical Extraction over Faerie Macabre in the sideboard would help this out a lot. It's only slightly weaker against dredge, equally potent against TinFins and Reanimator, and punishes Intuition like nobody's business.


I hear you, yeah sneak and show is probably the worst of the most common matchups. I like the idea of surgical over macabre actually. Macabre was put in when reanimator was a huge thing and was for fighting reanimate with FoW back up, but those decks have died off a lot lately and sneak and show has gotten back on the radar so I think it's time to switch that SB slot.
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NearSideMoon



Joined: 29 Mar 2012
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Woah, a primer on M-L?

What, it's actually pretty good?

That's cool. Smile)

I've loved the idea of playing CounterTop in the Shardless BUG shell, though mostly that was because I'm one of the deranged people that played it with Natural Order + Progenitus.
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xJudicatorx



Joined: 27 Aug 2007
Posts: 696

PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want to shore up your Sneak&Show Matchup, Vendillion Clique would be much more effective than Strix. So would 3-sphere or anything else that increases the cost of a Lotus Petal.
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@xjudicatorx: vendillion clique is a really good suggestion actually. With the supplemental discard coming out of the board I should be able to stall long enough, also it fits your combo MU plan to a tee.

3-sphere on the other hand does very little against the sneak and show matchup and hurts me a lot more than my opponent. Yes lotus petals costs more but they get a lot of their ramp comes from the "sol lands" and they are looking to cast 3 cmc spells anyways where as I am looking to resolve 1's and 2's.

I was actually a stax player for a long time till sneak and show came around and I found that matchup to be attrocious
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NearSideMoon wrote:
Woah, a primer on M-L?

What, it's actually pretty good?

That's cool. Smile)

I've loved the idea of playing CounterTop in the Shardless BUG shell, though mostly that was because I'm one of the deranged people that played it with Natural Order + Progenitus.


Thanks, Glad to hear that you appreciated it Smile
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Spyx



Joined: 31 Oct 2004
Posts: 1188

PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The biggest pitfall in the show and tell matchup is that people play all these cards that are theoretically good against it, like thoughtseize, hymn to tourach, vendilion clique and such and then proceed to board more of those cards in
Sadly leyline of sanctity always comes in for them in this matchup and it's really great to play the part of the sad goldfish as suddenly the only card in your deck that matters is force of will.
The best sideboard strategy involves hatepermanents or more countermagic. I suggest spell pierce, flusterstorm, oblivion ring (add a fetchable tundra in this case) or envelop. Notion thief is way too expensive to matter most of the time. I am aware that those counterspells are terrible with shardless agent, which is one of my biggest problems with playing that card.
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aqualad33
Level 1 Judge


Joined: 18 Jan 2010
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spyx wrote:
The biggest pitfall in the show and tell matchup is that people play all these cards that are theoretically good against it, like thoughtseize, hymn to tourach, vendilion clique and such and then proceed to board more of those cards in
Sadly leyline of sanctity always comes in for them in this matchup and it's really great to play the part of the sad goldfish as suddenly the only card in your deck that matters is force of will.
The best sideboard strategy involves hatepermanents or more countermagic. I suggest spell pierce, flusterstorm, oblivion ring (add a fetchable tundra in this case) or envelop. Notion thief is way too expensive to matter most of the time. I am aware that those counterspells are terrible with shardless agent, which is one of my biggest problems with playing that card.


yeah, show and tell matchups are the must difficult ones. My typical strategy for those decks is too apply quick pressure and hope they do not open with leyline. Though taking what you have said into consideration. I think the it is actually proper to swap out cabal therapy for force of will, though I do think that therapy is better in most combo matchups, force of will is still pretty good against combo and isnt dead against a leyline. Also in matches where you can see each other's decklists your opponent will no longer be secure knowing that you do not have any countermagic.
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