I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season over the past few weeks! While for most readers it would be winter in their respective country, here in New Zealand we are currently in summer, and I have spent my time enjoying the beach and preparing for the Auckland Half-Marathon at the end of January!
The holiday season is generally the quietest period when it comes to competitive Magic. There are few events during this time and no new set releases, and most people are focused on either spending time with family and friends or grinding out the holiday cube on Magic Online. This means that formats remain stagnant, and we don’t see too much new innovation during this time.
Recent Legacy events shaking up the format
While this also applies to Legacy, there have been a couple of significant online events recently that have somewhat shaken up the format.
There was Eternal Weekend at the end of November, and the Legacy Showcase Challenge in mid-December.
The major takeaways from these events have been the return of Elves and Black-Red Reanimator – as the former put up great results over Eternal Weekend, while Rivals player and popular streamer Piotr ‘Kanister’ Glogowski took down the Showcase Challenge with the latter.
Since the printing of Allosaurus Shepherd, Elves has drastically improved its fair blue matchups, while Plague Engineer is now played at an all-time low and the deck also picked up some nice additions from Modern Horizons 2 in the form of Grist, the Hunger Tide, and Endurance.
Meanwhile, Reanimator has also picked up a great card from Modern Horizons 2 in the form of Archon of Cruelty, as now the deck has an excellent target that is immune to Karakas. Kanister’s Reanimator list featured the full playset of the new Archon, as he moved the traditionally played Chancellor of the Annex to the sideboard to make space for it.
However, the biggest change to the format has been the emergence of a new archetype – Blue Zenith.
In today’s article, I will be going over this archetype as I cover what the deck is all about, how it is trying to position itself in the metagame, various tips and tricks for piloting the deck, and a sideboard guide for the commonly played decks in Legacy!
Below is Tom ‘McWinSauce’ White’s latest decklist that he won the most recent Legacy Challenge with.
Alongside Kauffj, one of the first players to pilot the deck online, he has had the most success with this archetype, having Top 8’d multiple premier online events in just the past two months, including winning a Legacy Showcase.
Yehua, an Australian online grinder, has also had good success with the deck, and his results were actually what first caught me onto the deck.
While I dislike the name “Blue Zenith” due to its confusion with the card Blue Sun’s Zenith, the deck is somewhat aptly named as it is basically a midrange Green Sun’s Zenith deck with the standard blue spell package.
Green Creatures and Blue Forces
It accomplishes this feat of combining a bunch of green creatures with enough blue cards to support the Forces by playing eighty cards, which also allows the deck to support Yorion, Sky Nomad.
The flying companion is excellent in this deck as a lot of the permanents have enter-the-battlefield effects, allowing you to take advantage of the blink effect.
Abzan Maverick says hi!
The deck is essentially a combination of the traditional Abzan-coloured Maverick deck with the traditional blue spell package that is often found in midrange/control decks in Legacy like Bant Miracles or the old Grixis Control deck.
The deck plays out as a board-presence-based midrange deck in the way Maverick does, but instead of relying on hatebears such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to disrupt the opponent, it opts for Forces.
It also mitigates the traditional issues around card selection that non-blue midrange decks like Maverick and Death and Taxes suffer from by playing all the best blue cantrip spells. Trying to jam all of this into one deck does make it clunky, and sometimes your draws don’t cooperate, but a lot of this is alleviated by having so many cantrip spells and the full playset of Green Sun’s Zenith, which helps create consistency by allowing you to find what you need when you need it.
The game plan
The deck’s general game plan is to go “over-the-top” against other fair decks, which the deck does remarkably well. It has more high-end threats than nearly any other fair deck in the format – you cannot go much bigger than Primeval Titan plus Field of the Dead.
Having access to all the best white removal spells and the full playset of Ice-Fang Coatls also means that the deck is unlikely to get tempo’d out by a quick creature draw either.
This means the deck is well positioned against any fair deck (especially those that are creature based), as it has the tools to handle an early onslaught, yet has the ability to grind through a long game better than anyone else.
How do we do against unfair decks?
On the flip side, the deck is very poorly positioned against unfair decks. In pre-board games, you have a lot of dead cards, as often all your removal spells will be useless and most of your creatures will be too slow.
In these matchups, your best bet is to rely on the “silver-bullet” targets of Green Sun’s Zenith – whether that be fetching Leovold, Emissary of Trest against spell-based combo decks or to set up Ramunap Excavator plus Wasteland against land-based combo decks.
Will our sideboard help?
While these plans may work, more often than not your opponent will have enough disruption to battle through it. Post-board games against these matchups don’t get much better either, as having eighty cards in your deck means you are less likely to see your crucial sideboard cards.
Fair decks we beat!
Overall, the deck is designed to be the preeminent deck to beat fair decks, while coming at the expense of its unfair matchups. While other decks in the format also try to do this, such as 4c Control and Selesnya Depths, Blue Zenith pushes the spectrum out even further on both ends.
The deck emerged due to the absolute domination of Blue-Red Delver in the format, which then led to Death and Taxes, Selesnya Depths and 4c Miracles to become popular as ways to beat Delver, while combo decks retreated in numbers due to their poor matchup against Delver.
Its position in the metagame
This ultimately paved the path for Blue Zenith to emerge, as it became worth the risk to not only prey on Delver, but also the myriad of fair decks that emerged to try and beat it, while banking on Delver’s presence to keep the unfair decks at bay. It has been successful at doing so, as the deck is now the second most represented deck on MTGGoldfish’s data, with a 9.5% metagame share.
Tips and Tricks
One of the most important cards in the deck is Green Sun’s Zenith, and the key is to learn how to use the card in each matchup, as well as various stages of the game.
- If you have a hand with multiple three-drops, it’s usually correct to Zenith on turn one for a Dryad Arbor, as it lets you then start curving out on your opponent.
- Against fair decks, Grist, the Hunger Tide, Ramunap Excavator, and Primeval Titan are often your best targets, while against unfair decks Ramunap Excavator (with Wasteland) or Leovold, Emissary of Trest are often your best targets.
- Knight of Autumn is also a common target nowadays due to the presence of Urza’s Saga in many decks.
- Similar to the old Arcum’s Astrolabe decks, a key part to playing Blue Zenith is the land sequencing.
- Against unfair decks where you are not worried about Wasteland or turning on deathtouch for Ice-Fang Coatl, you can get away with fetching all dual lands.
- However, against Wasteland decks or creature decks, you generally want to fetch as many basics as possible.
- Ideally your first few land drops will consist of 1 or 2 Snow-Covered Islands, 1 Snow-Covered Forest, and 1 Snow-Covered Plains with an Abundant Growth attached to it.
- Try to put Abundant Growth onto a basic land, as that protects you from Wasteland.
- Bayou is the only black-mana producing land in the deck, and it cannot be fetched by Prismatic Vista or Flooded Strand. Keep that in mind when you are sequencing your mana, especially if you do not have an Abundant Growth or Birds of Paradise in play.
- Karakas can also bounce your own creatures to protect them from removal, or in Yorion, Sky Nomad’s case, to create a recursion engine by continuously bouncing it and blinking your permanents. Since all the legendary creatures in this deck are blue, you can also bounce them to pitch to a Force.
- If you cast a Primeval Titan with five or six different lands in play, and fetch two further different lands, you will get two Zombie tokens off Field of the Dead as it will trigger when both lands enter the battlefield and they will check off each other.
- You can use Dryad Arbor as a surprise blocker by grabbing it with a green fetchland. This comes up most commonly when your opponent tries to dash in a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer late in the game.
- If you know what the top cards of your deck are, and you want to “shuffle” them away for Brainstorm, you can Dredge them away with Life from the Loam as your first draw off Brainstorm, which will then let you see two fresh cards for the other two draws.
- If you are missing a blue card in hand to pitch to a Force, you can pay three mana to put Yorion, Sky Nomad into hand, which acts as a guarantee fodder for the counterspell.
- If the ability of Endurance or Knight of Autumn is relevant in the matchup, try to protect the creature/not let it die, as you will then be able to blink it in the future with Yorion, Sky Nomad.
- Against tempo decks with Daze, you generally should just ignore it and play into it. Your deck is just so full of powerful cards that you will outlast them if the game goes long.
- Typically, the way you lose to decks like Delver is by getting tempo’d out early in the game, and playing around Daze will lead to that more often.
- Against unfair decks, you should mulligan aggressively for a hand with the key cards for the matchup. Your average draw isn’t going to win, so it’s worth trying to find the crucial haymaker, e.g. Collector Ouphe against artifact decks or Meddling Mage against Show and Tell.
- Against decks with Surgical Extraction, you can play around it with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath by waiting to cast it until you have seven mana (or six with a land drop from Uro). This lets you cast Uro from your hand, then escape it while still retaining priority.
- Against decks with Choke, try to set up Abundant Growth on non-Island lands, which will allow you to avoid fetching Islands for the rest of the game.
I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered in-depth the latest breakthrough deck in Legacy – Blue Zenith!
I have been enjoying playing the deck at local events, though I am still getting used to shuffling eighty cards! Big shout to Tom ‘McWinSauce’ White as well, who has been crushing with the deck online and continuously posting his latest lists and changes to the deck on Twitter. The sideboard guide he published right before Eternal Weekend was my starting point when I first picked the deck up.
Personally, I am quite excited about the release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty in a few weeks’ time. I’m not personally one for the lore, but the world looks incredible so far, and I am hoping there will be some sweet new cards for Ninjas, which is one of my favorite Legacy decks and one I’ve written about in the past. Hopefully, there will be some sweet new spoilers for me to try out!
Till next time!