Recently Dan Neeley took out a Legacy Challenge with Abzan Maverick, a huge feat given where Maverick is currently positioned in the 2023 Legacy metagame.
Dan’s been a Legacy player for a long time now, with an array of finishes with different archetypes (but especially with Depths and Maverick).
Here’s the list he used to win the Legacy Challenge.
🏆🔥WON THE LEGACY CHALLENGE WITH MAVERICK! This is my 4th Legacy Challenge win and believe me this means so much more with Maverick. I have a lot of top 8's with this deck but never been able to take down a online event. Good games to all!!!🏆🔥 pic.twitter.com/FXb4kuaMEO
— Dan Neeley (@danneeley1) March 18, 2023
Dan was happy to be interviewed about the Challenge, Maverick and even balancing all of this with being a dad.
Dan a huge thank you and congratulations again on the win.
You’ve had some solid performances with Naya Depths & more recently, 5C Zenith builds, why did you choose Maverick for this Legacy Challenge?
I will start with the reason why I have not been playing Maverick pre-ban (which everyone that plays Maverick probably already knows). The core of UR Delver was so efficient with Dragon’s Rage Channeler (DRC), Murktide and Expressive Iteration (EI) that Maverick’s traditional game plan wasn’t very effective.
You couldn’t rely on Wasteland and Thalia’s mana denial plan because of DRC. DRC is able to do what Delver hasn’t been able to do in the past. They now had a great turn 1 threat in DRC to filter the top of their library and make mana denial a less efficient strategy.
Secondly, having access to Murktide as early as turn 2 that kills you within 3 turns was too much. Lastly, even if you stabilized at that point, EI and Mystic Sanctuary were almost always enough to stop the momentum you built at that point.
So the biggest reason I chose to play Maverick was I felt like with the banning of EI and White Plume Adventurer (WPA) put Maverick on a similar power level with the rest of the format. I have been following the Elves player’s results with Fiend Artisan and felt like it was the perfect fit for Maverick.
Another two mana creature that could also be Green Sun’s Zenith’d was really appealing. It gives the deck a new axis and is able to get key cards like Thalia, Palace Jailer and Plague Engineer.
I know you’ve been an Abzan pilot in the past, but did you have any thoughts on taking another archetype like Naya Maverick into the Challenge (currently being championed by Mark Strassman and Harry1232?
I know they like Punishing Maverick but I just think the deck is worse vs the field as a whole. I play mostly MTGO so there seems to be more combo and I won’t play Maverick without Thalia.
The red splash probably was probably right in the previous format as you get blast to answer cards in the Delver shell. Punishing Fire is really good in creature matches but even a deck like Elves are playing creatures that avoid Punishing Fire’s 2 damage in some form. The heavy red splash with Punishing Fire makes the mana a lot worse and I play Maverick for its consistency.
Urza’s Saga is an awesome card and seems like a great alternative game plan but again the inconsistency with that card not being able to cast mana coloured spells is a problem. I also have run into being short on mana in this situation and Urza’s Saga sacrificing itself adds to that problem.
What brings you back to Maverick? It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a top finish from Maverick (Harry’s 9th is one of the closest) and that really shows how it hasn’t kept up with most of the other archetypes in the format. Do you feel your knowledge of the deck is a big part of why you chose it?
The biggest thing that brings me back to Maverick is the banning of the overpowered cards in the format. I have tried to play Maverick in a few tournaments and I just couldn’t compete with the UR Delver deck. Stabilizing never seemed to matter when they were a EI away from getting right back in the game.
The other reason is Fiend Artisan. It’s awesome! It adds a new element to our plan and we don’t have to rely so heavily on our 3 drops like KOTR. We have 4 Thalia and 4 Fiend Artisan that most decks will need to answer while keeping our curve lower on great threats.
I feel like my knowledge of the format and Maverick is fairly high. I hope it is due to being the only MTG I play lol. If you didn’t know, I got back into Magic in 2011 when a local Magic shop opened. I first started going and playing midnight drafts, then I met a group of local Legacy players and I was hooked. I haven’t really played anything else since then. I really do like to be humble but I feel like I understand the format better than most. I just refuse to play the best deck in the format. Probably could have better results if I could get myself to play.
Maverick offers the consistency to not play blue in Legacy and as I’m sure you know I LOVE this deck more than anything I have ever played.
How’d you fall on this list? I think the main thoughts I’d love you to expand on are card choices in Esper Sentinel, Fiend Artisan and how Adventurer went / if it stood out in any circumstances?
I believe I started with a list you shared on Twitter playing Fiend Artisan. I knew I had been wanting to try Esper Sentinel along with Thalia to try and tax mana early. It worked very well in several games as opponents would play slower than normal to negate draws, this allowed me to get further ahead with other threats.
Adventurer was mostly always a strong play. I typically had a good board when I was either able to search Adventurer with GSZ or FA because I already had threats on board and it made it difficult for my opponent to take the Initiative from me once in play. We all understand what happens when someone takes the Initiative.
Talk me through your first few matches – how did you feel the deck performed against 8-Cast? When someone looks at a current Maverick list and see’s maindeck Collector Ouphe as a Green Sun’s Zenith, is it safe to say it’s not as easy as it may look?
To be honest, I think 8-Cast is one of the best decks in the format. Even with Collector Ouphe on board, they still have strong games with Urza’s Saga along with Kappa Cannoneer.
The reason it’s not easy for Maverick is because they can have such strong starts on turn 1 and turn 2 that it’s really hard to come back from. With that being said we have a lot of great tools to fight it and getting the play is huge for us.
Having early answers to a card like Emry, Lurker of the Loch is essential so the game doesn’t get too far out of reach. Seeds of Innocence is a card we played in Depths for a while and playing like 3 in the board could be right in the right meta.
We haven’t seen BUG Delver in a long time at the top tables, do you find that matchup any different to other builds?
I just think the card quality has improved over the years so much that relying on cards like Thoughtseize and Hymn isn’t as effective when there are so many good cards off the top that can negate that plan.
The biggest reason is the combination of UR cards are just still so good that it just doesn’t make sense not to play them. UR Delver is still a great deck.
Depths has always been a really enjoyable matchup for me with Maverick. How do you find the matchup? Do you think there’s something you find in the matchup others don’t? Potentially a card people either over value or don’t give enough credit to?
I think the matchup is mostly favoured for Maverick. Maverick just has all the tools to beat a deck like Depths. The games where we lose are early Sylvan Library plays that we can’t answer or too many threats to our answers.
KOTR active on board typically means you are favoured. Trying to bait removal by resolving KOTR should be high on your priority list. Play conservatively with your Wastelands – Depths is a resilient deck and is built to play around it. Letting damage resolve on their KOTR and then resolving Endurance after is a play I try to make as much as possible.
Wasteland, Karakas and Swords to Plowshares are the non-creature MVP’s in this matchup. Leaving Karakas up or having Plague Engineer is needed for Minsc and Boo because that is the other way to let games get away from me. I have gone up to 3 copies of Minsc and Boo in Depths because the card is just too good.
You came up against Reanimator in 4 of your 10 matches. Many MTGO players know you’re most likely going to face Reanimator in a Legacy league, but did you expect it to be so popular?
All MTGO grinders know Reanimator is popular. I honestly hate playing against it. The games are never enjoyable. Let’s move forward away from my feelings toward the deck.
I think the deck’s power level is great. It punishes decks that don’t have early interaction. I didn’t expect to face the deck as much as I did but with that said, I’m not surprised to face the deck in the top 8.
The deck is really good. The players who play it in these events are pretty darn good too. I think the biggest concession to how good the deck is that we have to play 6 cards in the 75 strictly for the match.
I think it’s safe to say your 75 is going to be making the rounds over the coming weeks as either current pilots pivot to your 75 or new players have a go at the deck. Do you feel this 75 is a good starting point for newer players?
I think the 75 is a great starting point. Most likely my list is wrong and can be optimized. Cards like Once Upon a Time may be better? I haven’t been a big fan of the card but I’m probably wrong as statistically it should add percentage points to more keepable hands than without.
Newton reached out and also said he would play less 4 drops and Once Upon a Time. They have been champion Fiend Elves and have much more experience than I do with Once Upon a Time and Fiend Artisan, so they are most likely correct.
Alright, one for the fathers at home. How do you juggle a tournament like a Legacy Challenge with family life?
Let’s start with my personal life. I am married and have 3 beautiful daughters. I work as a Salesman with some travel, so I am fairly busy throughout the week. I typically start my day with waking up at 5:45 am and getting a couple games of Magic in. I have found that this works best as my wife/daughters are still sleeping. This allows me to have a little less irritated wife 🙂. Hint: she still gets irritated with me.
That is my Magic play through the week. My weekend play is typically waking up at 6:30 am and playing the Saturday Legacy Challenge that starts at 7am EST. I absolutely love the time of this because it allows me to play most of the tournament before the family gets up and wants to go do any activities. I hope one day the Sunday Challenge will move to this time.
As summer comes along we have a family hobby of boating on Lake Cumberland Kentucky and camping so my Magic time will slow down along with my girls playing softball and doing some Summer Tournaments. Just a little more to my life than anyone probably needed 🙂.
Lastly, is there anyone you’d like to shout out? If people are wanting to reach out or follow your finishes, where can players find you?
I honestly don’t want to shout out individuals. KOTR is my favourite Magic Card and it makes me happy that others are playing decks that I care so much about.
We could all be boring people and play the best deck in the format. I hope people continue to play their favourite cards in Legacy and get the enjoyment I do playing the cards I love. Thank you all for being supportive of me.
I know I said I didn’t want to shout out individuals, oops. Douges – you are amazing for everything you do in our community. Keep being an inspiration to all that love the decks we play. You have such a positive vibe and are always providing great content for the decks we love. I HOPE TO DRINK 1 BEER WITH YOU SOON(1 RIGHT AFTER ANOTHER)!
A huge thank you to Dan for coming on and taking the time to put together his answers. It was great to take his list through a league right after his feat and take out a trophy
Trophy with @danneeley1's Abzan Maverick!! 🏆
Deck was smooth, nothing more to say 🔥
2-0 UR Delver
2-1 Newton Elves
2-1 GW Initiative
2-1 BANT Control
— DougesOnTwitch🎥 (@DougesOnTwitch) March 20, 2023
Thanks again to Dan for coming on the Zenith.
If you’d like to catch my league with Dan’s list, you can check it out here.
Some final thoughts from me on this build of Abzan Maverick
- Fiend Artisan has been great. For a while now Maverick hasn’t had a great 2-drop creature to GSZ for on turn two without it being a specific bullet (Collector Ouphe, Gaddock Teeg, Scavenging Ooze). Fiend not only gives you a great target to keep building out your board, but once you have a better idea of what creatures are going to have an impact on your match, Fiend is there to help
- Fiend also helps with giving creatures a role. Think of Collector Ouphe vs Elves or Thalia vs Death & Taxes – not the cards you want to see. However, with Grist and now Fiend Artisan, you can turn those cards or additional versions of them into meaningful, impactful threats and disruption. Not only does Fiend help here, but also with mid-late game mana dorks. You’re not able to turn that Noble Hierarch into an actual threat.
- Oh yeah, Fiend can also search for Grist which is a huge benefit which then synergizes with Fiend really well with your 1/1 insect creatures.
- Esper Sentinel has also been very, very impressive, drawing up to 4-5 cards in some matches. Esper into Thalia is my new favourite line as they both continue to cause havoc on your opponents plays and keeps the engine of your hand going.
- I recently recorded a very successful league with Achillies27 where we took Dan’s list and created a version with Once Upon a Time. Be sure to check it out on YouTube when it drops!
One last point to iterate is that Maverick is a deck that’s highly customisable. It’s power only enhances as it’s tuned to a specific metagame. It’s highly possibly that Maverick is the most open archetype in Legacy.
Although there’s a consistent skeleton to the deck, Maverick’s strategy is greatly enhanced as it’s tuned further towards a specific metagame.
See Plague Engineer in a list but don’t have that many decks locally it would effect? Don’t run it! See some Green Sun’s Zenith targets or sideboard cards for matchups you don’t run into locally? Count them out and use those slots for something impactful.
The best thing about Maverick is that most of the time no two lists are the same. This not only builds creative deck building, it also keeps the community alive and well seeking answers for why x,y or z is showing up in lists.
Play fair, take care