Legacy Treasures 2: 4c Waterfalls
CabalTherapy is back tapping into some of the less known, but still great decks in Legacy. This time it's the "real" cascade deck: 4c Waterfalls. It's great and it's time it gets its time in the sunshine. Joing him as he gives you a snapshot of this oldie but goodie.
Imagine playing Shardless BUG but with Lightning Bolt and Punishing Fire. This is a pretty simple definition of a deck that has seen some competitive play since 2012. It's more than just a midrange pile trying to force its way through with a suite of permission, removal, and just generically powerful spells. Waterfalls is a aggro-control deck by nature and wants to close out games faster than its deck list might reveal, even if my suggested list forgoes full sets of the burn spells for more value. Playing four colors is not an easy task in a post-Deathrite Shaman world, but luckily there are other playable and healthier options left.
4c Waterfalls by Robert Swiecki
|1Badlands||2Baleful Strix||3Assassin's Trophy|
|1Bayou||4Birds of Paradise||4Brainstorm|
|1Forest||3Bloodbraid Elf||4Force of Will|
|3Grove of the Burnwillows||1Leovold, Emissary of Trest||3Punishing Fire|
|1Island||4Shardless Agent||3Ancestral Vision|
|4Misty Rainforest||2True-Name Nemesis||1Collective Brutality|
|2Scalding Tarn||2Hymn to Tourach|
|2Tropical Island||1Umezawa's Jitte|
|2Abrupt Decay||2Flusterstorm||1Grafdigger's Cage|
|2Hymn to Tourach||1Nihil Spellbomb||2Pyroblast|
|1Pyrostatic Pillar||1Scavenging Ooze||1Sultai Charm|
What Does the Deck Do?
Seven cascading spells make Waterfalls a value machine that needs a certain mana cost ratio in order to work properly. Its main difference to the more classic and widely-known Shardless BUG is that it utilises Cascade better and can switch game plans easier. While both decks lost Deathrite Shaman, Shardless BUG has decided to not include any acceleration. On the other hand, Waterfalls has to pack a set of either Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch – here I think that consistency and flexibility is better than the generally more powerful Hierarch – to land a Bloodbraid Elf on turn three and Shardless Agent on turn two. Creating this speed advantage marks an essential aspect in playing this deck. Especially Bloodbraid Elf's role is of major significance to Waterfalls because on turn three the hasty attacker can pressure opponents that are overwhelmed by Waterfalls's tempo play. It, however, loses some of its power in the midgame when opponents are set up and expect big plays but then again gains value in the ending turns of a game, due to its powerful attrition game.
The Lines of Play
Waterfalls has a plethora of possible lines that can smash opponents' board states and start turning creatures sideways quickly. Since this is an attrition deck that can play any value spell like Kolaghan's Command and run whacky one-offs that leave opponents in disbelief, it is important to know one's decklist inside out and build the deck for a specific meta. There are numerous cards that have not been included in my deck list, such as Tarmogoyf, Jace, the Mind Sculptor or any of the two popular Lilianas; while even cards like Savage Knuckleblade are possible picks. Baleful Strix looks just too good at the moment and having True-Name Nemesis makes up for the lack of a huge beater.
- Brainstorm away your Ancestral Vision: Oftentimes, much like the Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration vs. Stifle debate, this deck has the option to play a bird on turn one or suspend Ancestral Vision. While it is true that a resolved Vision makes the deck pull ahead on cards and has to be answered in some way, the bird is usually the safer turn one play. With seven cascading creatures, chances are quite high to blindly hit a Vision. Certainly, preparing cascade with Brainstorm is neat but oftentimes Waterfalls relies on having really good spell distribution more than perfectly setting up its Shardless Agents. Cascading into mana dorks is weak but the tropical bird is a necessary evil that holds the manabase together.
- Punish them: In some match ups, this four-color monstrosity tries to play as smooth and fast as UR Delver, in some other games it simply wants to find two cards: Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows; maybe its most effective tool and in some cases the real reason to play this deck. Grove and Fire make Delver look horrible, and most other creature based decks positive match ups. While Waterfalls does not play the biggest critters in Legacy and surely gets outclassed in terms of power/toughness ratios by Gurmag Angler, Pteramander, Tombstalker, Knight of the Reliquary, and friends, Punishing Fire, Assassin's Trophy, and Maelstrom Pulse deal with almost any threat possible; and don't forget the single Lightning Bolt that can also be a fourth Fire but rounds off the removal suite nicely.
- Force of Will: A low blue card count lets Force of Will become a classic emergency button in Waterfalls. Similar to Shardless BUG, the strength of this deck is its dominance on the battlefield. Protecting a creature with Force is generally a bad idea and should be used to stop crucial spells that cannot be handled by removals or have immediate impact on the game. Just as in most other decks, Force is sometimes the best and sometimes the worst card, depending on the context.
Future Outlook and Playability
Waterfalls could have a bright future in Legacy, but not enough people have picked it up to give it a try. Admittedly, it's not the cheapest deck and generally speaking, Shardless BUG, Grixis Control, and W/U Stoneblade are the heavyweights of midrange and, for now, almost impossible to dethrone. Nevertheless, having access to four colors and the possibility to go down to just RUG and playing more burn spells makes Waterfalls a fairly solid and fun to play choice in every meta game. Something like Modern Horizons's Crashing Footfalls might be a great addition too. It's not even that bad when suspended on turn one.
The deck's greatest weakness is combo and it is mandatory to run at least ten dedicated hate cards because Waterfalls loses too many of its game ones to combo decks. There is only a playset of Force of Will available preboard, while discard and enchantments like Pyrostatic Pillar are great tools to make it an even fight postboard.
That wraps up my discussion! Do you have stories using 4C Waterfalls or are you going to give it a try now? Let me know about your own experiences in the comments!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.