ThoughtSeizing the Opportunity: Vesper Green
By Mitja Bosnič on November 12th, 2009 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
The name is Green.
Hi there! Welcome to the first of what I hope to be many articles in this series, ThoughtSeizing the Opportunity. I play all of the competitive formats but probably enjoy the Eternal formats - Legacy and Vintage - the most. That's why my articles (should there be more than one) will focus mostly on these two formats. This article is intended as a primer of my version of the Legacy deck Eva Green that I've been playing extensively over the past few months.
Eva Green is a highly disruptive evolution of MBA that splashes green for Tarmogoyf as an effective beater and for other powerful answer cards - Krosan Grip, Maelstrom Pulse, Pernicious Deed etc. The deck gets its name from the gorgeous actress Eva Green, probably best known for her performance as Bond's girl Vesper in Casino Royale. The deck often gets overlooked as a Tier 2 deck, but I believe the reality is quite different. Much like Canadian Threshold, it has few overwhelmingly good or bad matchups, so your results will depend on you much more than on the deck itself. As such it is a strong option for players confident in their play skill or for attacking an unknown metagame.
The core of the deck consists of a very powerful discard suite - playsets of Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, and some number of Duress and deadly creatures - four Tarmogoyf and Hypnotic Specter, some Tombstalkers, Nantuko Shades or Dark Confidants. Dark Ritual provides amazing speed and Sinkhole forms a powerful tag-team with Wasteland to provide tempo advantage. Snuff Out is the option of choice for removal, though some opt for Diabolic Edict or Smother instead (or in addition to). The few remaining slots are given to Maelstrom Pulse, Umezawa's Jitte and/or Reanimate. The manabase is solid enough to support the green splash, while also providing lots of black mana for Hymn and other color-intensive spells.
What's this, then? Oh, you want me to tell you something you don't know, since this is pretty much a copy of the Eva Green primer found in the forums. Worry not, dear reader, for salvation cometh! Or something like that. Allow me to introduce Vesper Green! I could tell you an interesting rationale behind the name, how Vesper is really manipulating and in control over the situation so the name fits the more controlish build I'm presenting ... But that's not true—I just liked the sound of it!
The first thing you will probably notice is the lack of Sinkhole. Don't get me wrong, I think Sinkhole is undercosted and can be crippling to an opponent short on mana, but it's not really the direction I want to take this deck, nor is it quite powerful enough to convince me to play the pure aggro version. Instead, I added in 3 Sensei's Divining Top. That allows me to include (and do so without fear) the powerhouse that is Dark Confidant—Bob to those who know him best. I also took out a pair of Shades and the Snuff Outs and replaced them with an extra Jitte and the Diabolic Edicts. Jitte is crucial in many of the aggro matchups and the Edicts seem superior for their ability to get rid of any creature, no matter its color or protection(s) - I'm looking at you, Progenitus and Marit Lage tokens! The Zendikar fetchland Verdant Catacombs also allows me to play a basic Forest, a very important option when facing burn with Price of Progress and recursive Wastelands, as well as annoying Blood Moon effects.
These changes may not seem large enough to warrant an article about them, but I believe they make a big difference in regards to how the deck plays out. Replacing Sinkhole with Top makes the deck much less tempo-oriented and gives it a huge edge in the mid- to late-game. The Tops have sinergy with Dark Confidant, fetch lands, and even Tombstalker, considering how painful he is to reveal to Bob. This version also has a full playset of beaters more than conventional lists, meaning it can hit harder, faster, and more efficiently, as well as utilize Jitte to its full potential (which is huge). The life loss from Confidant can be mitigated by the replacement of Snuff Outs with Edicts and the life gain from the Stick. A Top on the board also requires some mana, so the Shades aren’t as impressive and having two in play is lackluster in any build anyway.
As any serious player can tell you, the sideboard is easily the most crucial, as well as the most often overlooked (beside the manabase), part of your beloved 75. It is, however, also quite dependent on your projected metagame—which and how many of each deck you expect to be present. Other considerations are: Which decks do the best players bring? What are you expecting to face in the Top 8? What do you want your pizza with? My current sideboard is as follow, but is expected to change soon:
Anyway, enough with the talk—how about some actual results? I've been playing Vesper Green at my local Vintage League (wrongly named so, since we play Vintage and Legacy alternately) for about half a year now and my results have been very impressive: 2nd, split 1st, and 5th place at the last three tournaments I've been to. My version has better game against aggro and burn decks while struggling slightly more against certain combo decks like ANT and Dredge, but those aren't large players in my metagame.
Canadian Threshold (good) – as long as you can hit them with at least one Hymn and a Thoughtseize, you’ll find that they don’t really have an answer to Tombstalker. Vesper Green should be faster and tougher than them and Top will find you the threats you need sooner. Be careful on keeping hands light on mana if you’re going second, though, since a Stifle can really ruin your day.
Landstill (decent) – again, a Dark Ritual-fueled Hymn + Thoughtseize will win you the game but without that, it can be a long slog forward, yet one that should generally end with a victory. Their high land count makes Sinkhole weak, while Bob is another threat they absolutely MUST handle or all their hard work with Standstill will have gone for nothing. Also, sometimes you just have to believe in yourself and go for the first-turn Hypnotic Specter. If you do, they’d better have a Swords to Plowshares ready or they’re not winning this one.
ANT – Ad Nauseam Tendrils (weird) – I can’t describe this matchup as anything but weird because of the huge number of ways it can play out. Sometimes, a Thoughtseize will take their only action and a parade of beaters, supported by additional discard effects, will prove triumphant. Sometimes, they’ll topdeck the Ad Nauseam and just combo out. Them being able to fetch basic lands means Sinkhole could prove very useful, but I’ve found the LD path against them to be quite weak anyway because of the Petals, LEDs, rituals, and lands from the top that make your hard work look bad. That said, I never feel like I’m going to win when sitting down against ANT, but it happens sometimes and I suppose that is what matters.
Zoo (decent) – as opposed to games against ANT, I’m always certain that I’m going to win against Zoo, but I’ve had them topdeck burn the turn before they die way too many times to find it funny any longer. Generally speaking, though, an active Jitte is all it takes to win the game and the heavy discard suite should help you achieve that, getting rid of the Path to Exile they always seem to have. That said, the newest iteration of the deck (hint—read on!) should be able to dispatch the animals easier.
Merfolk (very good) – without having the nuts draw, there’s not much they can do against us. Vial + Force + Standstill on the play forces a tough match, but any sort of reasonable game should tilt heavily into our favor. Bob is extremely strong in this matchup as they have no real way of getting rid of him when he’s down and the CA he provides will win games.
CounterTop (good) – depending on their colors, they might be as weak against Tombstalker as Canadian Threshold, but the large number of threats our deck has should prove problematic enough as it is. They have to handle every creature in our deck except for Tarmogoyf (because they have their own) and they usually just don’t have enough answers. Watch out for the miser types, though! You might spot them by the large grin on their face after the third blind Counterbalance hit. Oh well, that’s why we have Krosan Grip in the sideboard, I suppose.
Goblins (very good) – like Merfolk but without the problematic cards. Well, jokes aside, they can have the turn one Lackey but you should be mulliganing into an answer for that (usually including Dark Ritual) anyway. Other than that their only real plan is speed, but our large discard package and cheap, efficient beaters/blockers should make this nearly impossible.
Dredge (bad) – we don’t really have any disruption for their game plan other than discarding their Breakthrough or LED, so it depends a lot on your sideboard plan. Having Sinkhole here would be very efficient as they love to keep hands light on mana, so perhaps we need an additional card or two in the sideboard to combat the Zombie menace. Don’t be afraid to make card disadvantageous plays like making yourself sac a creature with Edict if it removes their Bridge from Below as that might be your only shot at game 1. In games 2 and 3, however, the Bob-Top tag-team will help you find your dedicated hate cards faster and more consistently.
Burn (very bad) – we’re both throwing burn at my face so you do the math. That said, I have a very good record against Burn decks because of some lucky draws and lots of Jitte activations. Don’t forget about Ensnaring Bridge when sideboarding as we have need to destroy it once it’s down or it’s game over. Discarding it works, but doesn’t help with them topdecking it and, frankly, I’d rather take away a burn spell and interact with their board as much as I can. Turning on as many of our cards is vital since their game plan is very narrow.
Stax (decent) – the Stax deck sometimes folds to itself due to mana flood and a first turn Hippy is as good a bet as any you’re going to get at winning the game right there. A Chalice of the Void at one can be annoying (or devastating), but we have huge beaters that have a good shot at their face before they lock the game down with Moat + Humility. Krosan Grip helps solve that problem as well, but drawing it can sometimes be the real issue.
Aggro Loam (decent) – their deck is like ours but with fancy Loam tricks instead of manly cards like Hymn to Tourach and Tombstalker. Keep their hand small and their board smaller with your Edicts and you’ll soon be cruising to victory. Sideboarding in graveyard hate may or may not be the right call and depends on their reliance on the Loam engine as well as your experience playing against the deck.
Aggro Elves (good) – the deck is faster than Goblins because of the 8 Llanowar Elves they usually run but the same sideboard cards still wreck them. Sinkhole could be helpful here because it destroys their first Forest, but doing so requires a whole turn’s activity so there’s no real tempo to be gained by that. If you do so, you’re banking on them having a bad hand and I don’t like that kind of approach. I prefer to create a ground stall with a Goyf or two and fly over with a Tombstalker. Jitte just about kills them too, not to mention the sideboarded Engineered Plagues and Pernicious Deeds you should be bringing to the party.
As you can see, I don’t find that this deck has many unfavorable matchups, but the ones that are good are far from auto-wins, so a lot comes down to tight technical play and being decisive at the correct moment (and careful at others).
In the tournament on October 24th, for instance, I played against Prison Stax, Elves, Aggro Loam, MonoRed Burn, and Zoo (plus an ID against Merfolk). There's not much to be said about the Stax matchup as my turn 1 Hypnotic Specter took the game by himself twice, but the other matchups give me obvious results. Sinkhole is often useless against Elves and Burn unless they keep a hand light on mana, in which case their low land count could punish them by itself. The Top-Confidant dynamic duo, however, allowed me to pull out difficult games 2 and 3. Against Elves, simply using the Top and fetchlands helped me find my Engineered Plagues and Pernicious Deeds sooner, allowing me to stabilize. Against Burn, the extra Jitte proved extremely useful as it basically wins the game by itself (but it was still damn close!). The Loam matchup was over quickly because of my discard-heavy hands that crippled his development in both games. I lost in the quarterfinals against Zoo but would have pulled it off if not for his topdecked red mana source the turn before he died, allowing him to double-Helix me for the unlikely win.
Using my recent experience with this deck, as well as suggestions from very good players on the forums and IRL (you know, outside the matrix), I believe that this is the deck I'll be taking to my next Legacy tournament, held on November 8th:
As you can see, I have replaced the Edicts with Gatekeeper of Malakir. He is inherent card advantage, never worthless (even against decks like ANT and Staxx), and is another beater. He should prove invaluable against Zoo and other aggro matchups where a removal spell combined with a man to hold the Stick of Tears can be exactly what it takes to win the game. That's why the Shades can take a rest for a while, giving me room for a versatile removal spell in the main—Putrefy. There has been quite a bit of debate recently about Putrefy v. Maelstrom Pulse and I honestly believe the instant speed gives Putrefy an edge over the Pulse, which can also hit enchantments and the occasional Planeswalker. Also, being able to kill my opponent's Goyf without killing my own seems useful.
The sideboard has been adapted into a slightly more streamlined build, giving me a better chance of seing the powerful effects without giving up much in the way of diversity. The miser's Extirpate serves as the third Tormod's Crypt to keep my opponent guessing. The decks you want the Crypt against (Dredge, Loam, maybe ANT) will be similarly crippled by both cards and the diversity helps because of their anti-hate cards like Cabal Therapy, Pithing Needle and Chalice of the Void.
One last thing before I wrap this up is another idea that has been discussed a bit recently—the inclusion of the Dark Depths combo into Vesper Green. Being able to take advantage of Bob's huge potential without heavy hits from Tombstalker, simply attacking with efficient beaters like Tarmogoyf or clearing the way for one big (very big) hit seems promising, but there are some disadvantages.
Obviously, the list is far from optimized, but when I find the time to playtest it, this will probably be the frame I begin from. The combo is vulnerable to Wasteland and Swords to Plowshares, but the Vines can protect your big animal from the latter. Opposing Wastelands can be wasted themselves before dropping the Depths and Grim Discovery will rebuy the whole combo, negating the card disadvantage, as well as being a good card in most situations anyway. There is a huge load of discard effects in there and, optimally, you won't have to pull the trigger on the Hexmage before you know the path is clear. Or as clear as it can be in the amazing format that is Legacy.
I'll wrap it up with this wacky list fresh on your mind to get some creative juices flowing. I'd love to hear your comments about Vesper Green, the Dark Depths implementation, or any other part of my article you might like to remark upon. My wish is to make this a regular column as I already have lots of ideas for future articles, if you will have me. Just remember: when the opportunity presents itself, ThoughtSeize it!
By Mitja Bosnič on November 12th, 2009 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now