Fair Magic: What Wrenn’s Banning Means for Legacy Maverick

Wrenn Punishing Maverick

wrenn

Wrenn & Six is no longer legal in Magic the Gathering’s Legacy format. Wow – that felt pretty good to write.

As a huge fan of fair, creature-based Magic, it’s resulted in a sigh of relief and some stress off my shoulders to say the least. But I have to admit, there’s also a feeling of sadness. To be fair, it’s always sad when a card is banned in a format – exiled from play and left to rot in binders and other, lesser formats (harsh, but come on – it’s Legacy we’re talking about here). Wrenn & Six was a huge pain in the A, but it was also a great challenge to play against; a challenge that we no longer have the chance to take on and beat with a Legacy deck.

In my tweet from this morning in response to the news I said this banning made me feel a lot like Goku when he was harnessing a Spirit Bomb, about to unleash it and throw it upon Majin Buu, a villain who had been terrorising the Dragon Ball Z universe for far too long. I find many similarities to his situation when looking at Wrenn, its dominance on the format and the terror its brought to the x/1 creatures and greedy mana- bases of the format.

I also feel for the players who played with Wrenn & Six. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling when you see a card in your deck has been banned – especially one as integral to RUG Delver as Wrenn was. GP Bologna, one of the only Legacy GPs in 2019, is only 10 days away. So those who’ve poured countless hours into testing, reviewing & mastering Wrenn decks like RUG Delver have less than two weeks to try and find another deck to understand, practise with and take to the tables. It’s a mixture of anger, annoyance and stress that I can’t begin to understand for these players, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to sit down for your round 1 match in a confident manner.

In saying that, we already have a post-Wrenn 5-0 [10-0] RUG Delver list. Well, that was quick.

So with a shake up on the format we haven’t seen since the Deathrite Shaman banning, let’s get some of the biggest questions out of the way first.




Why was Wrenn banned?

Ian Duke made it pretty clear in his article, stating Temur Delver has maintained a 56.5% win rate and earned over three times as many 5-0 finishes as the next deck. Most importantly, it has a favourable matchup against each of the other ten most-played decks.

Sound familiar? Deathrite Shaman was banned for very similar reasons where Grixis Delver was showing a 55% (non-mirror-match) win rate against the field.

Basically, Duke believes that when the most popular deck in an environment is also among the most winning decks with a win rate significantly above 50% over a long period of time, we investigate.

Wrenn diminished the playability of some decks and – more importantly – specific cards that powered the engine of those archetypes. Maverick’s early game plan was blown apart as Mother of Runes, Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, Dryad Arbor and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben all fell to the ping of Wrenn. Players shifted to cards like Giver of Runes and some to Gilded Goose, but it just wasn’t the same. We saw a huge shift of Maverick players move over to Mox Diamond and Dark Depths based archetypes, even the spawn of a new archetype in GW Depths. Wrenn really constricted the creature-based decks in Legacy, taking them from the top tables to table draws and home-office shelves. Overall, I’m really glad to see it go.

What does this mean for Legacy?

The biggest changes that come to mind when you first think about a Wrenn-less format are the improved playability of 1-toughness creatures, archetypes that included or relied on those creatures such as Elves and Death & Taxes, and also less pressure* on dual-heavy manabases.

*With what I can only believe will be an uptick in Wasteland decks like Maverick & Death & Taxes over the coming weeks, your manabase may be under less pressure (without Wrenn in the format), but they sure aren’t safe.

motherofrunes thalia noblehierarch Birds of Paradise

You’re going to see a larger portion of Magic’s tribes come out to play over the next few months – from Humans and Elves to Goblins and Birds. This is why I’m a fan of Wrenn’s departure from the format; it brings back the decks and players who may have been taking a small sabbatical from the format and the type of Magic that I (and many others) really enjoy playing. However, with creature-based decks comes the decks that prey upon them. I can only assume Miracles and some type of Grixis Delver / Control come back to fight for top spot over the next few weeks as we see what the new post-Wrenn meta will bring.

Plague Engineer will also be out in numbers to keep creature-based decks in check – especially those built around a tribe and Terminus won’t be too far away either. Make sure when you’re constructing your 75, you’re thinking about these cards and how much they rip apart your gameplan.




What Does the Wrenn ban mean for fair decks?

I wanted to focus on the fair decks for this section – what this ban means for them and how some of the more prominent players of each archetype will adjust for the new meta. Discussing Maverick is important, but it’s valuable to see how pilots of other fair, creature-based decks might attack the new, unknown meta and what could be implemented into Maverick’s strategy. I reached out to Eli (GoblinLackey1), John Ryan Hamilton (XJCloud), Jordan Munson (Maverick Aficionado & Writer of How to Build Maverick on a Budget) and Dan Neeley (Legacy Maverick God).

GoblinLackey1

Goblinlackey1

As for Goblins in the new meta: In terms of deckbuilding, Goblin Cratermaker probably boosts in numbers across the board because of the return of D&T/Stoneblade/Eldrazi, as well as wanting another easy answer to Plague Engineer (which I expect to be our biggest foe moving forward). Tech cards like Skirk Prospector get significantly better, and Goblin Chainwhirler probably gets shifted to the maindeck if you can afford to cast it. The thing I’m most excited about is the lack of recurring Wastelands in every control deck, which makes Volrath’s Stronghold reliable again, which I LOVE, especially with Sling-Gang Lieutenant.

 

In general, the meta just looks way better for us. Goblins is great vs most Ancient Tomb decks, and a rise in Miracles is especially great for us. Hopefully less combo can make things a little less stressed in the sideboard. An increase in Grixis and UR Delver based on Dreadhorde Arcanist makes Chalice of the Void an extremely attractive card in post-board situations.

The other big consideration for Goblins is going back to 4C for Unsettled Mariner. It was never tested outside of a Wrenn format, but I’m excited to try it again. Being able to have multiple abilities in play at once that tax your opponent’s ability to target you or permanents you control is nuts. Really good if Kolaghan’s Command/Hymn to Tourach decks pick up. Not as good vs Miracles, and Back to Basics is a real problem for the build. The 4C build also boasts strong matchups against most Delver shells because they can become paralysed by multiple taxes on board at once (3 mana to Bolt anything is just atrocious), and makes goblins’ mana denial plans even more potent.




XJCloud

John Ryan Hamilton

I think D&T has a lot to gain as the new legacy format shakes out. My shot in the dark at the winners as we move through this influx meta:

Aggro: Grixis/UR Delver, D&T
Control: Sanctuary Miracles, BUG/Grixis
Combo: Not Storm
Prison: Non-Combo Chalice decks

Aggro

I think RUG Delver loses a lot of wind out of its sails. The deck wasn’t played pre-Wrenn & Six, and post it gets outshined by its Grixis/UR brethren. Grixis gets discard for better combo matchups, Gurmag is better than Goyf again due to lack of walkers in graveyards, and you get Plague Engineer to fight X/1s. UR had started to perform even in the Wrenn & Six meta, and I expect it to stick around. Arcanist is a powerful card we really didn’t get to see shine since it lost lustre during the Wrenn & Six meta, and Grixis and UR can utilise it much better than RUG can.

(D&T expanded on at the end)

Control

Miracles players were very excited to get Mystic Sanctuary before they quickly realised they still couldn’t beat w&6. I fully expect Miracles to make a comeback with Counterbalance and Sanctuary at the helm. Grixis/BUG isn’t exactly a gain so much as 4C is a loss. While the mana for 4c is probably still there thanks to Astrolame (intentional typo), without w&6 the draw to both green and red in the same deck is lessened. I’m not sure which is better between Bolt/K-Command/REB and Decay/Oko/Veil but I expect people to try to make Baleful Strix playable again.

Combo

Storm loses a lot as the Delver decks cut their card with no text and start playing good cards vs storm, and people start playing more Counterbalance and Chalice of the Void. I’m not sure where the other combo decks fall – they’ve always been minor role players for a while and I don’t really expect that to change unless Delver really takes a dip in power level. Afterthought: I forgot to talk about Depths, it survived w&6 so I imagine it’s still very good.

Prison

Chalice decks finally get to come out from under w&6’s heel. As a Bomberman player, I’m a little worried that more Chalice decks is actually bad for Bomberman, because it’s so bad in Chalice mirrors where your opponent gets to play Chalice on 0, like vs Red Prison or Eldrazi. But ultimately I think all Chalice decks get a boost from not getting their mana strangled by w&6.

As a Death & Taxes player, I’m very excited at where the current meta is headed. The UR Delver matchup was one of your best. Grixis with access to Plague Engineer and what I can only imagine is an increased number of Abrade’s is more concerning. But overall, D&T’s matchup vs Delver has been positive for a long time, especially with w&6 in the grave. D&T has also been pretty favorable vs the Chalice decks of the format (Bomberman aside but no one plays that deck).

Even with the Karn upgrade, the Red Prison matchup was pretty favourable. Unless we see the Karn 12 post deck make a comeback, I think most of D&T’s chalice matchups were in the fine-good range. D&T is also happy to see less storm, as it was probably one of your worse combo matchups, along with being phenomenally dull. Depths is probably your best matchup, and sns and reanimator are basically the same as they always were.

The spot I’m most concerned about for D&T is the control matchups. Miracles getting access to mystic sanctuary feels like it changes the entire course of the matchup. Now when you get terminus-ed, there are easily 2 more on the horizon with any fetchland miracles has. This play pattern can lead to more games where miracles can just run away with an unanswered Jace, or buy time to an unbeatable entreat (or 2, thanks to sanctuary).

I haven’t tested against sanctuary miracles yet, but my concern for sanctuary is enough that I’m considering boarding in graveyard hate vs them now. Also in the control vein, D&T is disadvantaged vs basically anyone registering baleful strix – I don’t expect that to change. Cast cataclysm or die. Also stop playing gideon in your sb. Play cataclysm.

Cards I’m interested in:

Remorseful Cleric  motherofrunes

Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Brightling
Mother of Runes
Palace Jailer
Remorseful Cleric?
SQUADRON HAWK CAWCAWWWWWW

Brimaz was gaining traction in the brief WAR meta we got before W&6. Very strong card vs the non-Tarmogoyf Delver decks, and can play the Karakas game vs the control decks. Brightling is in a similar vein, but more specifically targeted at miracles. Much weaker vs Baleful Strix, a bit weaker vs Delver, but if there are a lot of Terminuses (termini?) flying around. Brightling is definitely on my radar.
Mother of Runes is back with a vengeance. Be wary of plague engineers looming; black decks can still dunk on mom -> Thalia curves, but the killing of W&6 means we get to play x/1s again. Bye, giver – don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Palace Jailer seems like it has a bit to gain as well, as it hits a lot of the format hard between control, the D&T mirror, and most chalice decks.
Remorseful Cleric was an idea floated to me earlier today and I’m not sure where I stand with it. With Miracles being more graveyard reliant, I’m more interested in it, and having random incidental graveyard hate never hurt. I don’t like the play pattern of not being able to eat the first Terminus if its on the field at the time, though. Time will tell.
Squadron Hawk, the meme made real by yours truly, might actually do something if Terminus is on the horizon. Not ready to pull that trigger unless the miracles matchup feels really bad though.

Cards I’m not as interested in:

Giver of Runes
Charming Prince
Mirran Crusader

Giver: see Mother above. Just keep them in your maybeboard though. Plague Engineer is a real magic card.
RIP the Prince. I think it still might be fine as a 1 of, but 1 toughness is no longer nearly as much of a liability as it once was, so we don’t need to fill the void with dece minus X/2s.
Crusader is perhaps my least favorite D&T card, mostly because its so profoundly boring. It’ll still be good vs the Baleful Strix decks, so I’ll still likely be sitting on a recruitable copy. But until the UBx decks figure out exactly what they’re doing, I’m fine passing on him in high quantities. Plus with Goyf dying, the Grixis decks go back to playing Bolt, making him less of an all-star.

Now go forth and bring the good word of Thalia to all the filthy blue mages out there! X/1s are back on the table!

-xJCloud




Jordan Munson

Jordan Munson

Maverick feels like it’s a precarious position for the time being. Since it’s a deck that works best when the flex spots, sub-packages, and splash colours can be chosen with a reasonable expectation of the decks in the room. Times of great shifts are tough. The immediate winners, to me, feel like sol land decks and Miracles (decks pushed out by the Wasteland lock and value engine of W&6), and the losers are Naya/4c Loam, ANT, and Stoneblade decks (i.e. decks that largely want or can ignore Wrenn and Six).  I’ve seen lots of people claiming that Elves and D&T are back on the menu, and to some degree they’re right. But Plague Engineer is still very much a card against those decks and people will still be playing it in large numbers, especially out of the sideboard.

Grixis Delver feels primed to slot into RUG Delver’s slot (and is already being played by some legacy format specialists), though I suspect many RUG decks still have legs while Depths decks are running around, but more of the Canadian Threshold variety. In the coming weeks, I imagine that Chalice decks and Delver/Miracles jockey for position, and that if Miracles doesn’t come out on top, we’ll be close to where we were around the time of the DRS ban with Moon Stompy and Grixis Delver being clear front-runners in the format.

Right now I’m clutching onto my black splash in Maverick and considering dropping the Stoneforge Mystic package now that BUG decks and Grixis decks feel like the place to be for Delver and control shells, and Depths combo feels like a much better sub-package to include.

Stoneforge Mystic plagueengineer Thoughtseize

The black splash is important for Plague Engineer and Thoughtseize going forward. Thoughseize is an important piece against Show and Tell, Eldrazi, Moon Stompy, etc. and helpful against whatever other combo decks don’t get pushed out if Grixis Delver is the top dog. If Punishing Maverick is your jam,. there’s likely going to still be a place for that.

Dan Neeley

I believe you will see Grixis and BUG become the go-to decks. BUG seems like the best Delver deck because of Oko, Thief of Crowns. The first couple of weeks people will be back to playing tribal or x/1 creatures to see where the meta will go. I think Plague Engineer is going to be more popular than before and why I will most likely go back to playing 3 equipment pieces including Sword of Light & Shadow. Splashing black for Engineer and Abrupt Decay is probably the right decision to deal with x/1’s and Oko. Also, I think GW Depths get a lot better. I felt it was so hard to fight Delver because if reoccurring Wastelands with Wrenn but now with that gone, GW Depths looks to have come out of this banning on top.




Where does Maverick go from here?

Before I get into what I will be doing over the coming weeks, the best advice I have for ANY PLAYER (not just Maverick pilots) is test. Build a deck, test it and see how it goes. Don’t wait for pros and format personalities to tell you “what the meta is”, what cards are “unplayable” and what decks shouldn’t be on the table. Play your goddamn heart out and retrieve data and results yourself. Just because a card or deck isn’t favoured in the larger online meta does not mean it’s not OK to jam at  your local tournament or weekly meetup.

I’m going to start out with playing my list I’ve been playing with for a while, GWB or Abzan / Dark / Junk Maverick.

With the rise in fair decks, Stoneforge Mystic most likely makes its way back into Maverick decks as during the Wrenn-era, many players dropped it altogether. Jitte is going to become more important, dealing with opposing creatures like Mother of Runes and Baleful Strix or making sure you can race threats like Gurmag Angler or True-Name Nemesis. I’ve really enjoyed the no-equipment build with Collector Ouphe in the board but that may need to be updated.

The one issue that Jordan identified above is that a Maverick pilot wants the ability to understand a meta, then build a strong engine around Green Sun’s Zenith and Knight of the Reliquary (and to an extent their Stoneforge package) to make sure you have the correct silver bullets to answer each challenge you face. There’s no point having Gaddock Teeg in your deck if you know locally no one plays combo or Miracles, or Ramunap Excavator if everyone is going to be playing Wasteland-proof manabases. Knowledge is power, especially for Maverick players.

What does a Maverick player need to look out for over the coming weeks?

Plague Engineer, Terminus & Oko, Thief of Crowns. These are the big cards I want answers for over the coming weeks as I grind out MTGO. I feel if I can answer or have a strategy that can limit the power of these cards, I’m going to be fine answering other threats like Jace, Delver and True-Name Nemesis.

The loss of Wrenn is great for Maverick, but it’s not the be all end all. I know there are a lot of happy players out there right now resleeving that deck that’s been lying around, to you I say enjoy the next few weeks, have some fun, play hard, play fair.

I guess it’s only fitting to leave you with a quote from Goku, spoken as he dropped his Spirit Bomb to end Buu’s time in the DBZ universe.

Maybe you’ll come back some day as – as a better person, I hope. I’d like that. Perhaps we’ll have a little one-on-one.” – Goku

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