Assassin's Trophy in Legacy: Is Sultai Viable Again?
Welcome to my first article for Cardmarket Insight. Loving Legacy, I want to take this opportunity and write about the impact of the new shooting star, Assassin's Trophy in Legacy. Hans talked about the possible changes in Modern, so I want to take this chance to write about one of my favorite colors in Legacy: Sultai or BUG.
Sultai: Fly High, Fall Far
Sultai used to be one of the most versatile color combinations in Legacy, including competitive aggro decks (Sultai Delver), midrange decks (True-Name BUG and Shardless BUG), control decks (BUG Control), and combo decks (Food Chain BUG). However, all Sultai Decks had one major thing in common: the perfect environment for Deathrite Shaman. But with her banning, Sultai decks lost their ability to ramp up and grind out the late game.
The consequence was huge. Without Shaman, Sultai Delver, once the second-best Delver deck, is now nearly unplayable. Furthermore, since the banning, the price of Leovold, Emissary of Trest dropped by 50% (on Cardmarket).
While Grixis control lost its powerful one-drop as well, Kolaghan's Command and Red Elemental Blast were higher valued than Abrupt Decay and Leovold, which was why Grixis became the best control deck.
So, how is Assassin's Trophy going to change things?
Assassin's Trophy in Sultai Midrange and Control
To be able to explain why the Trophy is worth reanimating Sultai strategies again, we need to answer two questions:
- How good is Assassin's Trophy in Legacy?
- Is Assassin's Trophy better than Abrupt Decay?
In the current meta, having a universal answer at instant speed is a huge thing. The extra basic land as a drawback is surely annoying if you play a mana denial plan like a Delver strategy. In midrange and control strategies however, the extra land doesn't matter as much because you are going for the long game anyway.
Playing Trophy over Decay makes your deck more flexible to answer threats but with the cost of getting your removal countered. While this cost will show up against aggressive blue decks, like UB Death's Shadow or Grixis Delver where you want to remove their threats consistently, Trophy will still be the answer to many other threats that the Sultai colors struggled with before. Here a short summary: Gurmag Angler, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Dark Depths, Sneak Attack, and many more.
Fun Fact: You sometimes even have the possibility to mana or colorscrew your opponent.
I want to share two decklists with you here.
Sultai Trophy Control
|21Lands||11Creatures||28Instants and Sorceries|
|2Bayou||4Baleful Strix||3Hymn to Tourach|
|2Island||2Leovold, Emissary of Trest||4Ponder|
|3Misty Rainforest||3Snapcaster Mage||1Thoughtseize|
|4Polluted Delta||2True-Name Nemesis||4Assassin's Trophy|
|2Tropical Island||1Diabolic Edict|
|4Underground Sea||3Fatal Push|
|3Verdant Catacombs||4Force of Will|
|3Jace, the Mind Sculptor|
|1Liliana, the Last Hope|
|1Abrupt Decay||1Bitterblossom||2Blue Elemental Blast|
|1Dread of Night||1Fatal Push||2Flusterstorm|
|1Liliana, the Last Hope||1Marsh Casualties||3Surgical Extraction|
|1Sylvan Library||1Toxic Deluge|
This is a familiar and common Grixis control list but replacing Lightning Bolts and Kholaghan's Command in the maindeck and Pyroblast etc. in the sideboard. I consider this deck more flexible to single threats than Grixis control.
Grixis decks struggle with removing enchantments (Back to Basics), big creatures (Reality Smasher, Gurmag Angler and lands (Dark Depths). Assassin's Trophy can handle all these threats and many more. The drawback here, however, is the grind game and the MU versus blue-based decks. Without Kolaghan's Command, Sultai control can't trade 2v1 as good as Grixis can. Leovold, Emissary of Trest is still very good and can easily win the game when unanswered but with Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push around, Leovold will not be able to stay in the control mirror for very long. Losing Pyroblast hurts here too. Postboard, it's a hard counter for many key spells your opponents play. Having no access to it might relay you more to Force of Will than your opponent.
My Conclusion: I consider the deck to be playable and solid against the wild wild west of Legacy decks but on my opinion, it'll face tougher times against Miracles and Grixis control.
Sultai Shardless Trophy
|21Lands||14Creatures||25Instants and Sorceries|
|2Bayou||4Baleful Strix||4Assassin's Trophy|
|1Forest||2Leovold, Emissary of Trest||4Brainstorm|
|1Island||4Shardless Agent||1Fatal Push|
|1Misty Rainforest||4Tarmogoyf||4Force of Will|
|4Polluted Delta||3Ancestral Vision|
|2Swamp||3Hymn to Tourach|
|4Verdant Catacombs||2Jace, the Mind Sculptor|
|1Liliana, the Last Hope|
|1Abrupt Decay||1Diabolic Edict||1Dread of Night|
|1Grafdigger's Cage||1Hymn to Tourach||1Liliana, the Last Hope|
|1Marsh Casualties||1Null Rod||1Pithing Needle|
|3Surgical Extraction||1Thoughtseize||1Toxic Deluge|
The other list that I want to show you is one of my pet decks and the deck I am considering for the Eternal Clash in Flensburg (6 October 2018).
This deck nearly died with the banning of Deathrite Shaman. To be honest, I don't really know if it will ever be as good as before but swapping Decay with Trophy is definitely a huge upgrade. You have more flexible answers and you won't even have to feel bad cascading into a Trophy on an empty board. Back in the old meta, this deck used to be a good matchup against Miracles and I believe, could even outgrind Grixis control. With Assassin's Trophy in the mix, you now get the possibility of handling Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Gurmag Angler in Grixis decks. However, the bad matchups for this deck are fast combo decks because your clock is not very speedy. Shardless Agent also does not synergize very well with cheap counterspells.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have ideas for tuning the deck or wishes for future Legacy articles, feel free to write it down in the comments.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
To read about the impact of Assassin's Trophy in Modern, check out this article by Hans Davidson.