Welcome back devout readers (and first timers; and people just skimming for juicy speculation targets) to another Touch of the Eternal. The focus of this article will be on the tier-two Legacy decks, the ones that rotate in and out of favor based on the metagame. The beauty of these decks is that when players are unprepared they can decimate tournaments and blindside a format even as powerful as Legacy. The first deck I'll discuss is a personal favorite of mine.
This deck was originally created thanks to the dredge mechanic printed in the first Ravnica block. The deck really came together when Future Sight was released and two critical cards were printed: Narcomoeba and Bridge from Below. Narcomoeba allowed Dredge to cheat creatures in without having to pay mana and Bridge from Below allowed it to amass an army of 2/2 zombie tokens (often 3/3s with haste) at an alarming rate.
Dredge is powerful because it is linear and incredibly consistent. However, the entire deck plays out of the graveyard, so strong graveyard hate can decimate it. The deck is so weak to good graveyard hate that the sideboard often consists of ten or more cards strictly dedicated to addressing the most common sideboard hate. It is virtually impossible to find a Dredge player who does not pack 4x Nature's Claim in their sideboard, as it's the most efficient answer to many of the best anti-graveyard spells (Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, Wheel of Sun and Moon, Grafdigger's Cage, Relic of Progenitus and Tormod's Crypt).
Due to Dredge's glaring weakness to strong sideboard cards, the deck is often left in the box when other graveyard-centric strategies are commonplace, as the splash hate can hurt Dredge. However, every once in a while, people underprepare for the Dredge matchup, despite the fact that Dredge's game one win percentage is insanely high by Legacy standards, and are soundly defeated.
Awesome, you say. Thanks for the history lesson, but that doesn't make me money. True, but another aspect of finance is not losing money...
Remember when Grafdigger's Cage was spoiled. The collective hive-mind heaved a sigh of relief now that Wizards had finally printed a card that ended all of Dredge's tricks; no more could Narcomoebas be dredged into the battlefield and no longer were Ichorids free to return turn after turn, amassing a zombie following with each death.
When Grafdigger's Cage was first spoiled many card sites were pre-selling it at $10-15 and nobody thought twice about paying that much. Nobody but the actual Dredge players, who noticed it posed the same problem as Leyline of the Void or Wheel of Sun and Moon and could be solved with the same anti-hate cards (Nature's Claim, specifically).
Thus, a lesson can be learned. When Wizards prints a strong anti-graveyard card, verify that it doesn't replicate an existing anti-graveyard card before investing heavily into it.
Plenty of people assumed Dredge was dead with the spoiling of Grafdigger's Cage and unloaded their Dredge cards. Several people at my LGS asked if I was in need of any Bridge from Below's on January 27th (Grafdigger's was spoiled that Monday), and if I had been a strong enough Dredge player I would have happily traded for these cards. People thought they were going to tank and wanted to unload ASAP.
Thus our speculation lessons from this particular event are twofold. First, verify the actual strength of any card that "hoses" a strategy. Determine its similarity to anything already in existence and then make sure the "hosed" deck hasn't already incorporated an answer. Second, pick up the staples of that strategy from players who are desperately trying to unload in the belief that the sky is falling.
Unfortunately for Dredge, Deathrite Shaman is far more potent graveyard hate. Since it's not an artifact or enchantment, it makes Dredge water down its game plan by adding creature removal. Dredge does have Firestorm at its disposal to handle creatures (and get its engine going too). Thanks to all the BUG decks running around (Delver/Agent/etc.), now is not a good time for Dredge. It also doesn't help that one of the a U/W Miracles decks maindecks Rest in Peace. Dredge often banks heavily on its high game-one win percentage and often won't sideboard until game three (learning what to expect game two), so maindeck hate is particularly onerous.
Cards to Pick Up:
Foil copies of Rest in Peace are especially good pickups.
This deck is based on the Fallen Empires common, High Tide. The goal is to cast one or two High Tides, refill your hand, and then cast [card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]Emarkul[/card] or make your opponent draw their deck out. Enter the Infinite from Gatecrash is a perfect card for this deck, as it can generate an obscene amount of mana and wants to draw tons of cards.
Since it runs only basic Islands (and a modest number of fetches), it's immune to Wasteland, more resilient against Stifle, and can pitch any of its nonland cards to Force of Will. The deck's biggest weakness is its heavy reliance on the namesake card itself to generate enough mana.
However, the biggest reason this deck doesn't see a lot of play is the cost of entry. Ironically, while it doesn't play dual lands and is based around a common card, High Tide also runs multiple copies of Candelabra of Tawnos, a $300+ card.
As with most combo decks, this one becomes more prevalent in a heavier aggro environment. Its immunity to Wasteland and high land count make it a strong contender vs. aggro-control decks like RUG Delver.
The BUG matchups are a bit more difficult to analyze. On one hand Deathrite does allow them to remove one High Tide before it gets shuffled back in. On the other hand, the Deathrite can only exile one card a turn and the High Tide player is already planning to chain several together on the critical turn. I think this matchup is actually favorable for the High Tide player.
I expect a minor resurgence in this archetype with the release of Enter the Infinite and the plethora of BUG decks taking over the Legacy field. Unfortunately, because there aren't that many High Tide players (due to the Candelabra issue), I can't really recommend picking up Enter the Infinite as a speculation target. While it may well go up if High Tide wins a major event, the demand will always be somewhat minimal.
Cards to Pickup (foils only):
With respect to Extirpate, beware there is potential for it to appear in Modern Masters.