Cantripping through Memory Lane: Legacy Solidarity
- Robert Swiecki
It has been a while, but a brand new card from Ravnica revived Solidarity and could make it great again. It's a return to the roots of Legacy players everywhere.
A Blast from The Past
I remember spending a good part of my 2008 summer break at home. My parents and I went on holidays to Tuscany for one week and afterwards, a 17-year-old CabalTherapy lived in a never-ending cycle of playing DotA, going to the football field, and meeting with friends to play Magic; and, of course, eating and sleeping occasionally. Back then, my study desk – a bulky old monitor taking half its space – faced the window in my room and on the left, there was a deck list pinned to the wall. It was a hand written list with dashes next to the cards' names indicating how many copies I owned and how many I had to acquire. My pocket money was rather limited, and it had taken me quite a while to finish the deck. The last one on my list was Cryptic Command; luckily a one off. I invested in a playset of Force of Will earlier, which was a big obstacle for me. If I am not mistaken, Forces were around 20 Euro each in 2008 and Lorwyn's powerful universal weapon was on the same level. Cardmarket was one year old back then and most of us were still trading a lot at local game stores. I spent my early Magic and Legacy days at Serious Games in Berlin-Friedenau, a legendary game store which unfortunately closed its doors ten years ago – a big shout out to people who remember it.
2008 was a great time to play Magic. Berlin hosted the Extended Pro Tour, prices on revised dual lands fluctuated between 20 and 40 Euro, and the Legacy scene saw healthy 30+ players at our Saturday events, and Hamburg's Mercadiade regularly drew more than 100 players. Decks like Dragon Stompy, Burn, Stifle Nought, and Canadian Threshold reigned supreme while Merfolk was the newest and hottest thing on the market. Starting out in Legacy I had three decks built at that time: Dredge, Burn, and a strange blue combo deck that could only win during the opponent's turn using High Tide. Reset, and Brain Freeze - Solidarity.
After I drew a dash next to Cryptic Command's name, took down the deck list, and sleeved up the deck, I went to the local store to combat fellow Legacy players. Navigating the deck was difficult but punching holes in opponents' game plans and explaining its crazy combo was a joy. After a while, however, I decided to focus more on Dredge, which looked to me like the more powerful deck, and I pursued a career that, since, has always involved Lion's Eye Diamond – except for the short era where LEDless Dredge or Konkurs dethroned the more explosive version.
Why am I telling you all of this? Ten years later, Solidarity, a deck that has been mostly unplayable for a long time has gotten some publicity again. People play it on Magic Online, old primers have been exhumed, and there are questions about it on reddit. It is a deck that revives memories of a vastly different era of Legacy, of Magic in general, and of my life. Not everything was better, but everything's better in hindsight. Solidarity is still just a pile of 60 cards, but to me, it harkens back to my earliest days in Magic and, consequently, it becomes impossible to be objective about its resurgence. I'm happy for Solidarity to finally get some love, but why has it resurfaced and, more importantly, is it here to stay?
Ravnica's Mission Briefing is the perfect card for Solidarity. Period. It does everything this deck wants. Snapcaster Mage has been a great addition to Solidarity for quite a while but Ravnica's newest instant is much better, capable of turning the tides and making one of the craziest decks in Legacy viable again. One of Solidarity's main weaknesses has always been finding the right cards, namely a mix of High Tides, Resets, and cantrips fast enough. Usually the deck is able to win with three Islands in play but four is a much better number. Finding key spells has never been easy with Solidarity because it simply cannot play Ponder and Preordain but has to stick to instant speed solutions like Opt or Impulse. However, Mission Briefing provides the extra bit of library manipulation Solidarity needs. Surveil 2 is a powerful keyword that helps finding a missing piece and potentially playing it immediately from the graveyard.
In addition, the absence of Deathrite Shaman makes life easier and the meta being pretty slow right now allows for grindy matches, where dropping Islands should not be too difficult; especially in the wake of Back to Basics, and other mana disruptive strategies, having so many basic lands sounds like a comfortable place to be. Extremely inexpensive, Solidarity could be a decent deck to have going forward. It will certainly not become a deck to beat – it retains its weakness to discard, cards like Counterbalance or Pyroblast, and it's still slower than ANT, Reanimator, and Sneak & Show.
Nevertheless, recent results show that Solidarity is more than just a blast from the past and can compete with the top dogs these days. Part of it is due to a natural cycle involving factors like publicity and interest. People pick up the deck because they see it going undefeated in a league, which makes its true power even more difficult to assess. Only time will tell if Solidarity can become a permanent figure in Legacy again. The deck list looks promising though.
With the printing of Mission Briefing, some lists decided to try out Mental Note and Thought Scour to fuel the graveyard. Even though I like both cantrips, they can be quite random in many cases and difficult to gain a good amount of advantage with. Now, I have never played Solidarity with these spells, but I have played them in BUG Delve(-r) and in Pauper's Dimir Delver, so I'm familiar with their strengths in weakness. Some cards are set in stone, so let's start with those:
These 44 cards are the bedrock of most Solidarity lists. The core has a good counter lineup, but it lacks some cantripping power, so let's add some draw spells:
12 cards that help finding the missing key pieces; Accumulated Knowledge being an all-star with mill effects while Opt is simply the next best blue draw spell for one mana. There are still four slots left in the deck:
Turnabout is essentially a worse Reset in most cases but can also act as a time walk tapping the opponent's board. I might be wrong but having two Thought Scour is better than a full set because one usually does not want to mill the library at random, but a pair allows you to mill cards from Brainstorm and dig a bit more if you need it. It's not a bad card per se but Opt and Turnabout seem to be more important for the deck.
The sideboard can contain a wide variety of answers, but popular choices are:
Other cards, such as Pact of Negation, Mindbreak Trap, Search for Azcanta or Snap are solid options to consider as well. Basically, every playable blue instant speed card can find its way into Solidarity's sideboard because running three Cunning Wish makes it easy to use the cards, even in game one. Here's an example deck based on the above suggestions:
|Maindeck & Sideboard|
|4Flooded Strand||4High Tide||1Pact of Negation|
|1Misty Rainforest||4Force of Will||1Swan Song|
|2Polluted Delta||4Flusterstorm||2Brain Freeze|
|1Scalding Tarn||3Meditate||1Echoing Truth|
|3Cunning Wish||2Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin|
|4Accumulated Knowledge||1Blue Sun's Zenith|
|2Turnabout||1Pearl Lake Ancient|
Things do not look nearly as grim as they used to for High Tide. Decent players could establish Solidarity and make it a persistent player in the years to come. Maybe people will sleeve it up in paper as well and rock some tournaments with it; maybe even the upcoming MKM Series Zaragoza. Watch out for these blue instants, because they'll turn the tides in a snap.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.