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

Assassin's Trophy Abrupt Decay

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

Leovold, Emissary of Trest

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

Shardless Agent

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 is a value-beast. Have you ever cascaded into an Ancestral Vision or into a Hymn to Tourach? Wonderful feeling.

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. 


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Heinricj(07.10.2018 11:45)

The fact on fun fact is wrong. You can't fix your own mana with Trophy as it only can target permanents under your opponents control.

Kylis(07.10.2018 00:38)

"Fun Fact: You sometimes even have the possibility to manascrew your opponent or fix your own mana by hitting your own permanent (but hopefully you'll never have to)."

You can only target your opponent's permanents with Ass Trophy.

Nerezzar(06.10.2018 13:57)

One minor mistake I noticed: you can't fix your own Mana as Astro is limited to permanents controlled by opponents.

Thor-Naadoh(06.10.2018 08:31)

Sadly, your Fun Fact is only half true:
You cannot target your own permanents with Trophy - no mana ramp or fix for yourself.

Xaerxess(06.10.2018 01:49)

> Fun Fact: You sometimes even have the possibility to (...) fix your own mana by hitting your own permanent (but hopefully you'll never have to).

Assassin's Trophy can hit only a permanent an *opponent* controls.

Pullo(05.10.2018 21:19)

Great article Christopher! Small note though: Manascrewing your opponent would be a nice twist, but you won't be able to fix your own mana with Trophy.
Keep up the nice articles,

Caldra(05.10.2018 21:08)

Small mistake: You can't target your own permanents with Assassin's Trophy, so you can't ramp yourself.

TeamPoggio2(05.10.2018 19:35)

You can't fix your own mana with Trophy because it targets only permanents controlled by opponents

env03059(05.10.2018 18:18)

You cannpt target a pemanent you control to fix your mana with AT. Opponent's permanents only. Just a small correction.

Seingalt(05.10.2018 16:41)

Fun Fact: You sometimes even have the possibility to manascrew your opponent or fix your own mana by hitting your own permanent (but hopefully you'll never have to).

Maybe you should read the card again : there is a safeguard to prevent players from doing exactly that : Trophy can only target your opponents' stuff.

I think your article is diased towards Leovold and Sultaï, but doesn't really make the point in showing why BUG would be the biggest winner when it comes down to getting the best out of Trophy in legacy.

The card's versatility surely makes it a great flexible removal piece, and make it at home in builds that can generate tons of card advantage like your sultai cascade build, but any BGx control build can say the same : Jund, Abzan maverick and most of all Nic fit builds which tend to negate Trophy's downside.

To me, Trophy looks like a "fixed" decay that trades an upgrade in versatility (and better MUs against non creature based strategies) for a worse MU against yuor typical delver decks (or any that try to protect a threat via tha stack).

All in all, I think it ends up being a metagame call and decks will end up running a split. Only decks that can really deal with the downside of the card will want to sport a full playset.

Only time will tell, but this is a regulation card and not an engine one, hence it has very little power to bring decks back from the dead.

Vince82(05.10.2018 16:29)

Hey Christopher,
Great article!

I wish BUG comes back :)

Just one detail, I guess your FUN FACT is not accurate since Assassins Trophy can only target opponents permanents.

Looking forward to reading more of your articles,

Cubero(05.10.2018 15:58)

You cannot hit your own permanents

fratrus(05.10.2018 15:36)

You cannot target your own permanents with assassin’s trophy, so no way you fix your mana baSe

fogxanic(05.10.2018 15:22)

"Fun Fact: You sometimes even have the possibility to manascrew your opponent or fix your own mana by hitting your own permanent (but hopefully you'll never have to)."

Sorry but u cant target permanent you control.