Legacy Treasures Volume 1: Spanish Inquisition
A storm deck for purists. It made quite the splash, but has dissapeared into Legacies margins. Take a trip with Robert down memory lane as he explores the vaults of Legacy's massive, storied library.
For a long time, Spanish Inquisition (SI) has been Legacy's fastest and hardest combo deck. While Belcher, Oops All Spells, The Epic Storm, and Dredge variants are all contenders for the fastest, it is difficult to argue that these decks are the "hardest." Back in the days, some ten years ago, SI was a slightly less uncommon sight at local tournaments. However, it remains one of the craziest decks in the format, even with Belcher being an easier and cheaper option and Past in Flames Storm aka Ad Nauseam Tendrils the most consistent and resilient one.
Spanish Inquisition by Robert Swiecki
|2Lands||19Other Permanents||39Instants and Sorceries|
|1Bayou||3Elvish Spirit Guide||4Cabal Ritual|
|1Dryad Arbor||1Odious Trow||4Culling the Weak|
|1Skyshroud Cutter||4Dark Ritual|
|4Chrome Mox||4Summoner's Pact|
|1Goblin Charbelcher||4Cruel Bargain|
|4Lion's Eye Diamond||1Dark Petition|
|4Lotus Petal||1Ill-Gotten Gains|
|1Tendrils of Agony|
|3Cabal Therapy||3Carpet of Flowers||2Duress|
|3Empty the Warrens||1Past in Flames||3Xantid Swarm|
What does the deck do?
Usually, the deck has two win options: Tendrils of Agony and Goblin Charbelcher. The third one, Empty the Warrens, is a great SB card. While having these cards as win options is not unique in Legacy, SI's approach certainly is. It does not play any protection spells but focuses solely on winning as fast as possible. More often than not, a single Force of Will cannot stop the deck because unlike other storm combo decks, it doesn't rely on tutors and Lion's Eye Diamond that much. Its main draw engine consists of playsets of Cruel Bargain and Infernal Contract. Therefore, life totals become an essential resource as every point of damage can hinder a longer spell chain and prevent SI from playing multiple of its cc3 draw 4 spells.
Lines of Play
Looking at a typical SI decklist, one might wonder how the hell this pile of, at first sight, randomly selected cards works. SI is an extremely fragile deck. While it is hard to recover from a mistake – and more often than not impossible – there are tons of different lines of play starting with common tutor chains involving Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Infernal Tutor that searches up another Infernal Tutor and so on to eventually finish with a lethal Tendrils of Agony to more complicated ones that base on cantripping with the draw 4 spells and a timely usage of the deck's toolbox.
- Summoner's Pact and its creatures: It is probably the most distinct card because it does not see play in other storm decks. It functions as a land tutor grabbing Dryad Arbor that can be sacrificed to Culling the Week, it searches for Skyshroud Cutter that comes into play for free and also falls victim to Culling the Weak in order to get the combo going, it provides mana in form of Elvish Spirit Guides, and can transform mana from green to black by taking Wild Cantor or Odious Trow, which is perfect fodder for Chrome Mox. Obviously, using Pact means that passing the turn is not an option but since SI is an all-in deck, it really does not matter.
- Ill-Gotten Gains (main) vs. Past in Flames (side): Before the printings of Past in Flames and Ad Nauseam, Gains was the premier business spell in Legacy. It is a unique spell in its own right and still occupies a main slot nowadays; though definitely not uncontested. The then-called Iggy-Loop, which was basically analogous to the current PiF-Loop, was the golden standard back in the day. Having two mana available and two Lion's Eye Diamonds, playing Infernal Tutor and cracking both Diamonds for black in response, searching up IGG, casting it and having two spare mana, taking both Diamonds and the tutor, and replaying them, and going eventually for Tendrils of Agony is a very card-efficient way to end the game. While SI tries to win as fast as possible in game one, IGG allows for more powerful interactions that ignore potential counter spells. Past in Flames is a decent card to board in against counter heavy decks but certainly is not an obligatory spell in SI.
- Many options postboard: Most of SI's preboard games end up fast. Either the opponent has a crucial amount of disruption and wins or SI goldfishes its opponent. Postboard, however, there are multiple routes to victory. The most common plan is the protective one that sees play in most storm combo decks nowadays; because the answers are simply too good. Xantid Swarm, a couple of discard spells, and sometimes fringe spells like Autumn's Veil provide solid and most importantly early action against blue decks. While some match ups remain extremely hard to beat on the draw, like Eldrazi or any other deck with lock pieces, running a protective board is usually a catch-all in a wider meta. Another option is to board out combo pieces and Summoner's Pacts in favour of pseudo-creatures like Tomb of Urami and going for some number of Tombstalker. Surprising opponents with hard to answer threats and potentially casting Tendrils of Agony at some point works best in larger fields with players being unfamiliar with the deck itself.
Future Outlook and Playability
I highly doubt that SI will get any new cards in the future, even though the decklist is not set in stones and there are – or were – different versions of it. Since Wizards does not print black rituals anymore, the current ones available in combination with the draw 4 spells and Lion's Eye Diamond will never be surpassed by a more powerful storm enabling engine; next to tutors and Past in Flames obviously.
In terms of SI's playability, it is a deck that lives because of the fact that most people are not aware of its existence or simply do not know how to play against it. It is a nice deck to have in general, a fun one to goldfish, and an awesome one to play in local tournaments from time to time. There is a lot to learn from its spell chains that can be applied to one's expertise on storm decks.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.