The Liliana Test and an Unearthed Legacy

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Josh Rayden runs us through his first hand account of this past weekend’s SCG Indianapolis Open, pointing out the prospects of identified Standard staples and a new wave in Legacy.

I went to Star City Games Indy this past weekend. I didn’t do very well in the tournaments. This was especially depressing as I was hoping for a decent finish in any of the events to get the last points I needed to level up.

You see, I’m not actually a grinder. This was the third SCG Open weekend I’ve attended this year, all of which were in Indy. With a Legacy Top 8 and finishing 9th on breakers at the Legacy Open following the Invitational (which I scrubbed out of horribly), I was averaging 5 points per weekend and needed 5 more to be able to attend the second Invitational. It looks like I’ll just have to go to Kansas City at the end of this month.

While my personal performance was a disappointment, the weekend as a whole was not. I learned many valuable lessons that I can pass on to you fine folks. Some of them may seem obvious, while others are not. Either way, shedding some light on these may help you make some financial decisions in the coming days.

After every SCG Open weekend and GP, I browse through the decklists and deck techs to see which sleeper cards did well. I typically try to follow the coverage so I can capitalize on breakout hits as they become public knowledge. Being at the tournament really lets you get a jump on the competition. The first big event after a new set release is particularly lucrative. And so it is with Innistrad and SCG Indy.


Walking around the hall before the standard open it was easy to see that one deck was on everyone’s mind. That deck was Solar Flare. Err, wait. Wrong link. Here, try this one. Drat, wrong again. I’ve got it this time for sure. Click here!

For those who care about such things, Solar Flare was a deck popular during Ravnica block that had the powerful play of turn three Compulsive Research into turn four Zombify on Angel of Despair. This deck has a very special place in my heart and is the first deck I ever fully foiled out. Its name actually comes from the Japanese name for a Dragon Ball technique, Taiyo-Ken (translated as Solar Flare in English), as the deck’s creator thought that Angel of Despair looked like Krilin from DBZ.

I did not play Solar Flare in Indy. I didn’t like the mana base and had been testing UW Caw Blade as I felt very comfortable with the list I had arrived at. In retrospect, I probably should have audibled to AJ Sacher’s list when given the opportunity. That would have posed its own problems, however, as Star City Games was sold out of Liliana of the Veil. Our group had opened two cases of Innistrad and only managed to crack three of the new Planeswalker, and those three were being used.

So here’s the first thing to take away from this weekend. Liliana is good. In fact, she’s very good and everyone seems to know it. Check this out:

Those prices are higher than they were prior to the weekend. Liliana was $35.00 last week and the foils were $60.00. Take a look at this:

Star City is buying Liliana of the Veil for $30.00. I don’t see these numbers coming down in the next month. They may even go up a little more. After that it will begin to settle and the price will drop again, if only slightly. Liliana is the real deal and has found her home. She’s very powerful and necessary to fight some of the threats in Standard, such as Geist of Saint Traft.

Geist is a card I criminally underrated the last time I spoke to you, but it doesn’t pass the Liliana test.

Yep, the Liliana test.

This will be familiar to all of you. Before it was the Jace test but, from now on, whenever you play a creature in Standard you need to ask yourself how far behind you’ll be if your opponent untaps and casts Liliana of the Veil.

If you want Lilianas to play with, it’s still possible to find them for less than $50. But that won’t be true for long. If you need them for tournament in the near future, try to get yours now before the general public realizes what’s happening.

From speaking with AJ, some other things about the deck soon became apparent.

First, Forbidden Alchemy is one of the best cards in the deck (even though AJ only ran three). This will be a staple as long as it’s in Standard. Try to find cheap foils and hang on to them. This doesn’t have the cross-format applications that Path to Exile, Dismember and Inquisiton of Kozilek have in the past, but it’s going to see tons of play for the next year or two. Forbidden Alchemy along with Think Twice means that you’ll always have things to do with your mana and you can play a legitimate control game. It’s nearly impossible to truly flood out with this deck and that’s more important than ever with our current lack of person-lands.

Two other cards from AJ’s list deserve attention, but first let me show you the deck that Julian Booher played on camera against Brad Nelson during some down time:

Julian can’t remember the last three board spots, though I feel like there were Dismembers somewhere. This is the most dedicated control deck we’ve seen in Standard in a long time. Julian went fairly deep in the tournament, eventually losing a match to miscounting his lands and being one mana short of activating two Nephalia Drownyards to win the game. He liked the deck and recommends the following changes: -2 Visions of Beyond, +1 Black Sun’s Zenith, +1 Forbidden Alchemy. Ditch the Bloodline Keepers for more spot removal (Dismember) or other niche cards.

These decks both demonstrate that Snapcaster Mage and Curse of Death’s Hold do have a place in Standard.

Tribute to Hunger is another excellent card given the number of Hexproof creatures appearing in Standard. Geist of Saint Traft and Dungrove Elder can be serious problems without an Edict effect. I’m sure you can still find Curse of Death’s Hold for dirt cheap and it is going to be a role player for the next few years. Pick them up for change and flip them later when they’re worth a few dollars each.

Snapcaster Mage

The above lists show how Snapcaster can be utilized in Standard to great effect. The Tiago Chan invitational card shouldn’t be jammed into every blue deck. I saw many people over the weekend with Snapcasters stranded in their hands doing nothing of consequence. Very few decks in Standard should reasonably include more than 2 Snapcaster Mage if any are called for at all.

Legacy on the other hand, is a completely different story. Once again we’ll go to a list played by AJ Sacher. This list was developed by GerryT and AJ and they were kind enough to let me play it in the Legacy Open as well.

I would recommend playing the list a few times before jumping into a tournament. The decision trees opened up by Snapcaster Mage are vast, especially with the presence of one innocuous Urza’s Legacy sorcery.

When AJ first walked up to our group and asked if we had any Unearths, a few of our number asked what the card did. The card is deceptively powerful.

Imagine the following situation: You are playing a grindy control mirror and have made it to the mid-game. You have a number of spells in your graveyard along with a Vendilion Clique and a Snapcaster Mage. You lament that you have only recently drawn your Riptide Laboratory as you gaze longingly into Tiago Chan’s eyes staring back at you from the grave. Your opponent ends his turn, you sigh, untap your lands and draw your card for the turn. Low and behold, it’s Unearth. You cast it targeting Snapcaster Mage and your opponent looks confused. He reads the card and allows it to resolve. Tiago enters the battlefield and you target Unearth with its ability. The flashback copy resolves and you now have a Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique in play for a meager two mana. Now your Riptide Laboratory is active again. Very active. You quickly overwhelm your opponent in an avalanche of card advantage.

I got to live this dream one game. In another I Unearthed a Snapcaster, flashed it back targeting another Snapcaster and then Dismembered my opponent’s Knight of the Reliquary. Some astute observers have already begun buying out foil Unearth on eBay. Being from Urza’s Legacy, foils in particular are rare and in high demand. Keep your eye on this one. Today, foils are $6-$7 and Japanese foils are ~$26. I expect those numbers will be much higher at some point over the next few months.

The metagame in Indy was filled with Reanimator and Storm, two archetypes that were worse while Mental Misstep was legal. People were anxious to return to old form and these combo decks were probably the best metagame call. ANT and TPS tend to perform rather well versus decks like Goblins and Zoo. I would expect Counterbalance to come out to play again soon in response.

Will Snapcaster Mage have a place in Counterbalance decks? I’m not sure, but it will continue to see ample play in Legacy. A large number of Snapcasters came up just short of the top sixteen decklists from Sunday’s open. As people are able to refine their lists they will begin to perform better. Something interesting did happen to Star City’s price on this card though. Let’s look:

While Star City is still out of stock at $30 on the regular ones, foils are back and down $20 from where they were the last time. While this card is excellent, it can’t sustain these prices. I still believe it will come down. It may settle at $20, which is very high for a rare, but it won’t stay at $30 forever.

Top Takeaways from this Weekend

  1. Liliana of the Veil is the best Planeswalker since Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
  2. Unearth is sweet and the foils will likely spike in price.
  3. Snapcaster Mage is the real deal, but his price is still inflated.
  4. Birthing Pod is going to grow in popularity. Wait, what? I didn’t mention this anywhere else in the article, but if everyone in Standard is going to be packing Sun Titan and Consecrated Sphinx then Birthing Pod has the tools to compete and win. Also, watch for Birthing Pod in combination with Heartless Summoning. GerryT posted a list last week that I think could become the real deal.
  5. Surgical Extraction is not a good choice versus AJ’s Solar Flare list. Surgical Extraction is a fine choice in your Legacy Snapcaster Mage deck. Turn two double Surgical Extraction with a 2/1 is a fine rate. Expect this card to see more play.

This weekend I get to play in one of the first Innistrad sealed PTQs of the season in beautiful Fargo, North Dakota. Hopefully I will learn some more things this weekend or at States that I can pass on to you.

Thanks for reading!

-Josh Rayden
JRDameonHv on Twitter and MTGO

6 thoughts on “The Liliana Test and an Unearthed Legacy

    1. I should have been more specific. You can still get them in trades by valuing them below $50, not with cash at a retailer. And to be fair, the price at retail has jumped $5-$20 in the last 48 hours since I submitted the article.

  1. Well, SCG has Liliana on it's buylist now at $40 and it's true that the price has jumped recently. I don't expect her to drop below $60 in major sites for the next few weeks but i don't think it can stabilize at more than $50 once people starts playing limited. It simply isn't as good as JTMS and it's from a large set that will be opened a lot, it simply shouldn't stay above the sixty dollar mark for longer than two or three months even if it makes waves in standard.

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