Does Maverick still need maindeck artifact & enchantment removal?
As part of the Maverick toolbox, pilots have always had a way to deal with artifacts or enchantments through Green Sun’s Zenith. Outclassing Qasali Pridemage, Outland Liberator and Knight of Autumn have been the two most-played targets for the large majority of Maverick players.
For those with access to Urza’s Saga, Haywire Mite is another great option with the bonus of exile.
But, in the current 2023 metagame, is there really a need for either in the maindeck?
This was a question raised by Newton Hang during our co-stream on the weekend just passed. We were talking through ideas on how he’d put together a Fiend Artisan build of Maverick and (when we got to talking last spots and silver bullets) if there’s really a need for Outland Liberator. After watching Newton dismantle & refine Legacy Elves over the past few years, I think it’s about time we question everything in Maverick.
I’ve always been a Maverick player who likes to have an answer to most things pre-board through GSZ or Knight of the Reliquary targets (and to be fair, a growing ambition to have the same across Fiend Artisan targets).
But what if I’m giving up percentage points for not being strict enough on what’s needed in the maindeck?
Outside of strategies that rely on artifacts such as 8-Cast, Stoneblade, Storm and Karn decks, there’s only a few artifacts and enchantments I see in game 1’s that actually matter.
Ensnaring Bridge, Blood Moon, Chalice, Pithing Needle – even Leyland Binding is seeing a rise in play. There’s a few notable targets that I’d expect to see in at least 1 G1 in every 2 or so MTGO leagues. Maverick does have ways to get around the above, but there are many games where they stall the board enough to shut Maverick down.
Now that I say that out loud – is it really worth a maindeck slot to fight against these? Is Outland Liberator really worth the slot based on what I’m playing actually against?
To preface, I’m going to mention Outland Liberator in this article a fair amount, and in 99% of situations you could replace that with Knight of Autumn.
Also, Outland Liberator is an answer to Urza’s Saga but in a deck not only with 4 Wastelands, but ways to both tutor and replay them form the graveyard, I wouldn’t say a real role of Liberator is to keep Saga at bay (similar in Gaddock Teeg not being in Maverick to fight against Force of Will, it’s just an added benefit).
First up, let’s go over some definitions and understand the role of a tutor target.
In Magic the gathering terms, what’s a silver bullet?
A silver bullet is a specific solution card. It is incredibly powerful against a certain type of card or archetype, but useless or inefficient otherwise.
A perfect example for Maverick is Collector Ouphe. An incredibly powerful creature vs artifact-based decks like 8-Cast, but useless against a creature-based deck like Elves.
This shows a silver bullet is only effective if it’s relevant against the decks you play. If you have a few 8-Cast players in your local metagame or LED combo pilots – great! If you don’t any find it doesn’t suit your scene – then don’t be afraid to drop the ‘sacred cow’.
Maverick’s always been a deck that shouldn’t have every list looking the same (a little different for MTGO, but you’ll still see key differences in league lists vs Challenge / Showcase 75s).
Current Legacy Metagame
Let’s look at the current top 16 decks via MTGGoldFish over the last 30 days and analyse the role of this A&E hate slot.
UR / RUG / Grixis Delver + UB Shadow
Typically Outland one of the first cards you board out (alongside Collector Ouphe). Sure your opponent might have SB cards in Grafdigger’s Cage or Unlicensed Herse, but you wouldn’t keep Liberator in just for these ‘could haves’. It’s usually a case of if they have it, you take it on the chin and find a way through.
Honestly the more I think about flexible, tutor-able answers for Cage & Herse, the more I like Blast Zone if you are wanting to have a card that’s application spreads wider than just artifacts and enchantments.
Verdict: Not Needed
I don’t think we need to dive too deep here – Outland is a great silver bullet vs Painter and only gets better once flipped (multiple targets in their lands, creatures etc.).
However – when’s the last time I played Painter in a league? I’m going to say it’s been at least 10 – that’s 50 matches! I do however assume it sees much more play in competitive events like Challenges, Prelims and Showcases.
I wouldn’t say it’s ever won be a G1 where I’ve been able to take out an Animate Dead in response to the AD targeting a creature.
More or less, you’re wanting to STOP creatures coming into play in this matchup so if your Liberator does have a target, it’s most likely too late (they’ve drawn 7 off Griselbrand or gained advantages with Archon / Atraxa).
I sometimes bring in Force of Vigor if I don’t have anything better, but Animate Dead is typically your best target (Serenity another if you’re on the Leyline plan)
Verdict: Not Needed
Honestly no – you’re not going to get a realistic position to pop an LED or Lotus Petal in a way that’s going to affect your opponent.
Verdict: Not Needed
Just like Painter, no need to explain this one – Outland Liberator is fantastic here.
This is an interesting one the more I think about it. Obviously it can be nice to know you have an out to Exploration, but a fair amount of the time it’s not an issue unless they have an engine going (Loam / Library / Valakut Exploration which sees little to no play).
We have a pretty decent chance of shutting down Loam thanks to Endurance and can get aggressive against a Sylvan Library. Lands have recently switched to versions with maindeck Sphere of Resistance, which can be an issue when paired with Rishadan Port and Wasteland. It’s not the biggest hurdle, but it can cause moments where you wish you had a way to remove them while they are still in the deck (I’m assume removed post-board vs. us)
Outland can also hit Mox Diamond if we’re aggressively trying to take them off green mana (as lands has a pretty shaky mana base) but we have Collector Ouphe for that role.
I would say typically, although the matchup IMO is still favoured in 2023, Outland Liberator would be nice to have in the MD for this matchup to control how wide they can go with Exploration.
Death & Taxes
With a few key targets (especially non-Kaldra SFM targets, Outland Liberator is a great target to have vs D&T. I wouldn’t say 1 Outland Liberator is going to do a huge amount, BUT if you can get it to flip you’re going to be getting the advantage you need vs Taxes.
Against Breakfast I’m always happy to know I have an Outland in the mix. If you’re attacking their mana / Saga’s, then being able to remove Vial is nice.
It doesn’t do anything vs Kaldra, but does stop Shuko.
EDIT: I just walked away from my laptop and had some time to think – I feel this is more of a want in the matchup (just like Lands) than a need but I don’t feel it’s incredible.
Ha I don’t think Outland is great here – just doesn’t line up against anything they want to achieve OTHER THAN potentially Blood Moon in the sideboard.
Verdict: Not Needed
Like Delver, Outland is one of the first things I’m taking out. You might win a game where you’re able to Wasteland them and remove an Abundant Growth off a basic, but that’s a very rate event.
Sometimes they have Library but I wouldn’t call it stock – neither would I say that’s a reason to keep in Outland.
Verdict: Not Needed
Karn Echo / Mystic Forge
Just like 8-Cast and Painter – this is an easy yes.
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League Data: 85 Matches
Here’s a representation of the strategies I’ve played against in my last 17 leagues (since Orcish Bowmasters was online)
By looking at each of the 85 and asking if I would keep Outland Liberator in against this deck, only 43.5% kept it in.
Less than 1 in 2 matchups were relevant for Outland Liberator. So the question is, for those 46.5% where it wasn’t relevant, did it also have an impact on the game? Did I draw it as a vanilla 2/2 when I could have drawn a more impactful creature? What if that slot was Gaddock Teeg or Scavenging Ooze? Would that actually benefit some of my weaker matchups like fast combo? This data above brings a huge line of questioning to the table.
So if you’re not running Outland Liberator or Knight of Autumn, do you run a more flexible replacement instead?
Ending is great as it scales with mana, typically being able to remove <3cmc permanents and below quite easily (sometimes 4cmc thanks to mana dorks).
As a creature deck with a Knight of the Reliquary package, every non-creature, non-Knight target comes at a cost. Typically Maverick runs 8 non-creature spells in the playsets of Green Sun’s Zenith and Swords to Plowshares, then has some space for 3-5 on top of that.
Ending is going to be good in most matchups, but doesn’t make any of your weaker matchups better in fast combo.
Blast Zone is a card that’s seen play before, but needs to built around to some extent as you could argue Blast Zone in many spots is very cool versus Maverick. Currently in the build I’m running with up to 10 1cmc creatures, I wouldn’t consider Blast Zone as most of the targets I have in mind are at 1-cmc (Delver, DRS, Needle, Graf Cage etc.).
However if you’re on a 4 mana dork, no Mother build with Once Upon a Time I could see this being a nice catch all in the 75.
The exile clause is very relevant at the moment with both Kaldra and The One Ring seeing play. Haywire Mite can also be cast through a Blood Moon effect, but needs to be searched of an Urza’s Saga if you’re wanting to deal with a Chalice on 1.
I do like the work Mark Strassman and Harry Hackett have put into some of the GWR Saga builds, as they seem very powerful and consistent thanks to Saga being another tutor that makes sure you’re staying on strategy.
I didn’t mention Boseiju as we don’t have a great way to tutor for it to hand. Decks like Lands or Cloudpost have access to cards like Expedition Map or Sylvan Scrying which is a great way to access Boseiju.
I will admit it’s not easy moving away from what’s considered the ‘norm’. I would feel slightly naked and vulnerable without Outland Liberator or a similar effect in my maindeck, but the data does show that potentially better results are waiting in a list without it in my maindeck.
It’s also worth pointing out how Collector Ouphe has changed our need to answer artifacts. Why trade off your creature with one when you can just shut them down completely while also pressuring their life total?
I think it’s a great time to be testing new ideas, especially with Legacy in a pretty great spot in my opinion. Maybe, just maybe it’s time to try out other 2CMC bears that could help against combo decks and record how these go in that open slot.
What do you think? Have you tested builds without MD A&E hate? How did you go with your build?
Lastly, BOOK YOUR CALENDAR OUT FOR THE GREEN SUN’S SUMMIT LEGACY WEEKEND! SEPTEMBER 8TH – 10TH
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