Sideboard Guide: Sultai Midrange in Legacy

We are one week away from SCG Syracuse, the first and only Legacy Open of the season. To help prepare you we will be making our first foray into the Legacy format. I will almost assuredly be piloting a Sultai pile of some sorts. Today we will go over my current list, reasoning behind my card choices, and specific sideboarding strategy for the most important matchups.

State of the Format
Last season, I made Top 64 in Baltimore with Grixis Control and the season before that I piloted a sweet Czech Pile list to several solid finishes on the Alabama Legacy League and a Top 64 in Worcester. Leading up to Baltimore, I was pretty confident that Grixis Control was very overrated and it has felt like the format was only becoming better against it. Lands, Post, and Depths seemed to be getting increasingly popular and other fair decks were figuring out just how good Bitterblossom and Liliana, the Last Hope were against Grixis and Miracles. Enter Assassin’s Trophy! Assassin’s Trophy kills Dark Depths, Eye of Ugin, Bitterblossom, Liliana, Sylvan Library, Jace, and more. Unfortunately, Deathrite Shaman is gone so we Baleful Strix lovers can only reasonably play three colors but that is fine. it was not difficult to take the lessons learned from my Czech and Grixis days to come up with the following:

Decklist
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The Build
2 Snapcaster, 1 True-Name
This is a worse Snapcaster deck than Grixis because of the lack of Bolts, Commands, and postboard Blasts. So to compensate, I have a slightly higher amount of planeswalkers and a True-Name in the main. True-Name is a tad off gameplan because we win via card advantage and we do not have equipment or quick pressure to compliment him like Grixis Delver does. Nevertheless, TNN is a great card and can serve nicely as a road block or a planeswalker killer even through opposing Baleful Strixes and spot removal so it makes the cut.

1 Liliana of the Veil, 1 Last Hope
Last Hope has admittedly more grinding potential and fits this shell better because of having Baleful Strix and Snapcaster to rebuy. Liliana of the Veil is also not great with Brainstorm and Force of Will but she is still one of the most powerful planeswalkers in the game and goes well with our dsicard spells and cheap removal. She is a maindeck edict effect for opposing True-Names that can also catch a Marit Lage in tandem with Strix or Trophy as well.

3 Push, 2 Trophy, 1 Decay, 1 Deluge
The three Push are very necessary against the low-to-the-ground creature decks and tempo decks, but they are not great against much else. While Trophy is a good, it is not the first removal spell you want to cast against opponents with basics. Also, two main with one in the board gives you just enough access to them against annoying permanents that Decay and Deed cannot kill. The singleton Decay might seem weird but it has been clutch for me as a one of against Counterbalance with a two-drop floating and Chalice on two, so it is good to diversify. And, Deluge makes it in as a singleton out to board stalls and True-Names.

2 Inquisition, 0 Thoughtseize main, 1 Thoughtseize side
Grixis Delver is popular and both Grixis Phoenix and Blue-Red Delver are starting to see play thanks to Archlight Phoenix and Pteramander. Additionally, Assassin’s Trophy deals with some of the higher CMC cards that Sultai would otherwise struggle against. However, we are generally sideboarding in more discard against combo and control than against the tempo decks, so the versatility of Thoughtseize makes more sense there.

1 of each Basic Land
The Forest has gotten me a lot of skeptical looks, but I have lost multiple games where I wanted it and did not have it. Having a Forest against annoying permanents like Back to Basics and Blood Moon is incredibly important and I have found that casting my larger green creatures through a Wasteland lock to be an important recipe against Punishing Fire out of the Loam decks. Additionally, it can help you get off the ground against Wasteland decks without Loam and it can help you play your Leovolds and Goyfs while playing around Price of Progress too.

2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Spellbomb, 1 Ooze
Surgical is obviously the most efficient option for graveyard hate and has some utility against generic combo but it is poor against grindy decks with subtle graveyard usages like Accumulated Knowledge, Snapcaster, and/or Kolaghan’s Command. Against those decks Spellbomb is better in that it can be simply cycled away when it is not doing much. Ooze is even slower but has the ability to lock graveyard decks out for good while applying pressure somewhat like Deathrite once did. Ooze also has the ability to gain us enough life to get out of Bolt or True-Name range against Delver-style decks while being a massive board presence.

2 Edict, 2 Casualties, no fourth Push
Without Pyroblasts, I have noticed True-Name is a slightly more annoying magic card for Sultai than for Grixis. So I like having all my generic creature removal spells out of the board line up well against the powerful 3/1. Edict is also applicable against Marit Lage, Death’s Shadow, Angler, and Eldrazis while Casualties is better against go-wide strategies like DNT and Elves as well as being an answer to small tokens.

1 Pernicious Deed, 1 Trophy in the side, and 0 Engineered Explosives
Being a BGx deck with a high number of planeswalkers, I think Deed is just slightly better than EE on average and the third Trophy as an additional answer to truly problematic permanents makes sense. Notably, I do not think four Trophies in the seventy-five is correct as the card is only so good in the match-ups you want it in. Cantrips and Snapcasters give you a lot of access to the card and getting flooded on them against some random Jace deck or deck playing annoying lands can be worse than drawing more 2-for-1s.

Sideboarding
DNT
Play: +1 Trophy, +1 Ooze, +2 Edict, +2 Casualties, +1 Last Hope, +1 Library, +1 Deed 
-2 Goyf, -2 Inquisition, -1 Ponder, -4 Force
Draw: +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Trophy, +1 Ooze, +2 Edict, +2 Casualties, +1 Last Hope, +1 Deed
-2 Goyf, -1 Ponder, -3 Hymn, -3 Force

Like against Delver, the disruption suite we run is play-draw dependent and Library is ambitious on the draw. Cutting Goyfs and bringing in Ooze seems weird, but if we are on the kill everything plan Ooze can gain a ton of life and be a much more significant board presence. This can be important against board stalls when fliers and Mothers work themselves into the equation. Ooze is also still an acceptable body even when a Rest in Peace comes down.

Golgari Depths
+2 Surgical, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Trophy, +2 Edict, +1 Last Hope, +1 Library
-1 TNN, -2 Leovold, -3 Push, -1 Deluge, -1 Forest

Surgical is not great but if you Trophy or Edict one Marit Lage, Surgical can be fine as you are unlikely to lose to their Bob, Safekeeper, Hexmage beat-down plan. Last Hope seemed mopey to me at first but she can take out Bob and rebuy Strixes to chump Lage while you dig for a Jace or an Edict effect.

Grixis Control
+2 Fluster, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Spellbomb, +1 Trophy, +1 Ooze, +1 Last Hope, +1 Library -3 Push, -4 Force, -1 Forest

I like Goyf here more than against Miracles because he pressures opposing Lilianas and they do not play Plow and Terminus. They do play Baleful Strix but ideally our Strixes will trade off or we will have Last Hope to gun those down.

Grixis Delver
Play: +1 Trophy, +1 Ooze, +2 Edict, +2 Casualties, +1 Last Hope, +1 Deed, +1 Library
-1 TNN, -2 IOK, -2 JTMS, -4 Force
Draw: +1 Trophy, +1 Ooze, +2 Edict, +2 Casualties, +1 Last Hope, +1 Deed
-1 TNN, -3 Hymn, -2 JTMS, -2 Force

Disruption against the midrange/tempo/creature decks is not great but some of it is fine. On the draw, Forces are more necessary and Hymns are more ambitious. Card advantage matters less on the draw than tempo where the inverse is true on the play. Sylvan Library is also more ambitious on the draw.

Miracles
+2 Fluster, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Spellbomb, +1 Trophy, +1 Last Hope. +1 Library, +1 Deed
-2 Goyf, -3 Push, -2 Force, -1 Underground Sea

Leaving one Deluge in as another answer to Mentor is probably fine, but I could see having three Force in the deck instead or even an Ooze if they are on the Accumulated Knowledge version. Anytime your opponent is not attacking your mana or using soft permission, you can consider trimming a land. I trim Underground Sea here over a basic because of Back to Basics.

Mono Red Prison
+1 Thoughtseize, +1 Trophy, +1 Ooze, +2 Edict, +1 Library, +1 Deed
-2 Leovold, -2 Push, -1 Ponder, -1 Last Hope, -1 Underground Sea

Against Chalice and/or Thalia decks, I do not mind trimming a Ponder. Push might be somewhat necessary to answer Legion Warbosses, Rabblemasters, and Magus. However, Push is a one-drop against the Chalice deck and it can be difficult to obtain revolt under a Blood Moon especially when you have to aggressively fetch basics early, which is why you see Edicts coming in and because Edict answers Hazoret. You will notice that I left in Liliana of the Veil as additional cover against Hazoret and because her plus can be oddly good if their hand’s mana consists of one shot effects and Cities. This often happens if they had to keep an otherwise land light opener predicated on slamming a single hate piece.

Sneak and Show
+2 Fluster, +2 Surgical, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Trophy, +2 Edict, +1 Library
-1 Strix, -1 TNN, -3 Push, -1 Decay, -1 Deluge, -1 Last Hope, -1 Tropical Island

Trophy can kill a naked Sneak Attack, Boseiju, Jace, Leyline, Blood Moon, Arcane Artisan, or even a Griselbrand while Leovold is in play or when the SNS player has a single digit life total. Because of Blood Moon and the need to cast Hymn early, I feel fine cutting the second Tropical instead of my typical Forest or 4th Sea.

Storm
+2 Fluster, +2 Surgical, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Spellbomb, +1 Ooze, +2 Casualties, +1 Library, +1 Deed
-2 Strix, -1 TNN, -3 Push, -1 Decay, -1 Last Hope, -2 Trophy, -1 Forest

ANT and TES both play Past in Flames and Empty the Warrens, which is why you see so many sweepers and random graveyard hate in the deck. With that said, ANT is more likely to go off using Past and TES is more likely to Empty you so consider that when sideboaridng. It may be right just to stay at 21 lands and keep in another Strix as Force fodder. Or have a Decay to cover random permanents they might play or punish them for playing out LEDs early. Whatever your last couple cards are, they will not be super exciting in the matchup.

Wrap-Up
The Legacy format may be prohibitively priced but if you take that plunge, there is a lot to learn and a lot to love. We hope that this guide has given you a leg up if you were on the fence about it. If you enjoyed us tackling Legacy content let us know in the discussion group and we will make it a priority in the future. Being that the Syracuse Legacy Open is an SCG Event we will actually get to enjoy the gameplay live on Twitch. Keep an eye out for Michael smashing people with his trusty Tarmogoyfs. Until then my friends.

 

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