What Next for Legacy?: This is Not the Gearhart You're Looking For



Solidarity or Reset/High Tide is one of those decks that you can't believe actually exists. It's a combo deck that is not in a hurry. It's a control deck that has little or no removal except via Cunning Wish (in a format dominated by creature combat). It is incapable of actually dealing damage, yet it kills you - usually on your own turn and usually in response to your own action. It does nothing but search for cards up until that point. Oh, and counterspells are almost entirely useless against it. In fact, the list of cards ever printed that actually cause this deck to stutter in any meaningful way is a short one. That last fact has shaped the modern Legacy metagame in an enormous way.

One of the hardest decks to play in the history of the game, it will forever be linked to its creator, David Gearhart. Without his virtuosity - and by "virtuosity" I mean "omg, I can't follow all this interaction" -- and by "and by 'virtuosity' I mean 'omg, I can't follow all this interaction'" I mean "OK, so your Remand targets the second Counterspell removing the target before Counterspell can resolve..." --- and by "and by 'and by 'virtuosity' I mean 'omg, I can't follow all this interaction' ' I mean 'OK, so your
If you thought Remand was good before experiencing it in Solidarity, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. Since the deck kills the opponent in a single turn, you don't usually get a second chance to play the spell that was countered. So it is a Counterspell that doesn't cost a card. That's not the insane part about it. Gearhart is more likely to counter his own spell than yours. Brain Freeze has a trigger that creates copies, so it can be Stifled. No problem. He Remands his own spell (draws a card) and plays it again. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Remand targets the second Counterspell removing the target before the Counterspell can resolve...'" I mean this is how the game feels when you play him --- -- - Anyway as I was saying, without his virtuosity we may have never seen what "domination of the stack" really could look like.

But wait, there's more! As demoralizing as losing can be when you are not really sure how it just happened, you also get the pleasure of knowing it was him. You get the pomposity. You get his narration of your demise. You get to know that people will enjoy themselves reading all about your ineptitude a few days later in his report. And you get all this at no extra charge! But as you will see, it is just a face he wears to make your experience more memorable; as if that makes that purple bruise to your ego feel any better. Let's see what intelligence lies beneath.

Hello, David. Living on the East Coast of the United States, you are part of the most prominent Legacy community both online and at tournaments. What sorts of advantages does that give you in creating and testing new decks and ideas?

Living on the East Coast in Northern Virginia has been a huge boon to my Legacy skills, and is directly responsible for my involvement in the Legacy format. However, as Jack [Elgin] touched upon, we're all a bunch of jerks. I've come up with probably around a hundred different decklists. Many of which were completely new ideas. However, living where I do (and being who I am), the most likely reception to a new idea is derision. That has had two effects on me. The first is that I no longer share decklist ideas with anybody else. Now, I wait until I'm ready with a decklist and theoretical outlines of how I want certain matchups to play out. The second effect is complete disregard for what others say. At this point, I've decided that instead of becoming disheartened by the constant derision, I'll ignore it and use it as a base to further my determination to make the deck succeed. I want to shove my successes in their faces and watch as they grudgingly accept that I had a good idea that they ignored or mocked.

Unfortunately, to date, I can't seem to play a deck other than Solidarity at events. There has been one exception. I played Goblins Day 1 of The Mana Leak Open 2 to a dismal record. However, even in that instance, I still allowed a random chance of playing Solidarity. I wrote up both decklists, shuffled them around, and let the guy who was sitting across from me (for player meeting) pick a hand. He picked Goblins, I managed to hold myself to my own decision and played Goblins that day. Needless to say, not one of my prouder moments. Funny yes, proud no. It seems to me that playing where I have has created this insidious feeling that says, 'David, just play Solidarity. [Forget] your attempts at deckbuilding. Why mess with what you've got?' Coincidentally, that voice sounds a lot like Jack Elgin. So, as you can tell, even though there are advantages to testing with people who are very good, it has an unfortunate drawback of stifling innovation. Double edged blade and whatnot I suppose.

There is the other problem of our dismissal of various decks. After testing Bardo's Threshold [the Ugw one, not the Ugr one] build a while back, the Hatfields dismissed it as being sub-par. So, when I was looking to test against it (with Solidarity as you could probably imagine) I had to force Jesse Hatfield to play it. Even then, I had to make the physical changes to the deck as he refused to do that to his deck. So, while the obvious advantages exist of testing with some of the best, we are also closeminded jerks to some extent. Don't get me wrong though, I'm just as guilty of these things as everybody else. I just figure it would make for a more complete picture instead of the tidbit that Jack gave.

The deck, Solidarity is credited to you. You are widely regarded as the single best pilot for the deck in the world. In fact, I have heard the phrase "nobody but David Gearhart can play Solidarity" used a few times as a metaphor meaning a deck is hard to play properly. Add to that the fact that your hyper-arrogant public persona is way over the top and you have the single most identifiable personality in the Legacy community. In a format that needs a higher profile, are you the one we are looking for?
Probably not. A little backstory is in order here. Before 1.5 became Legacy, I had invented a combo deck that was strictly worse than Dragon (almost became the name too). Anyway, for Big Arse 1, I played Solidarity to a respectable 4-2 finish (for my first ever non-local 1.5 event). However, the deck sparked interest while I was in New York, and later, unbeknownst to me, a thread was started on the Source asking what the hell that Monoblue deck was. Not interested in even making my own account, I logged on as Alix [Hatfield] and proceeded to describe Solidarity. Later, after the B&R split, we realized that Solidarity was the single deck that benefited the most from the bannings. Killing all the decks that Solidarity couldn't hope to beat instantly set Solidarity up as a prime contender for 'best deck in the format'. Intriguingly enough, Solidarity gained very few cards from the newly released and previously banned cards. Stroke of Genius was the only card to finalize an inclusion and that's because Words of Wisdom sucked. As I started to win tournaments with Solidarity I developed this persona of 'David Gearhart, best EVAR!' as a joke. My tournament reports (where my hyper-arrogant persona runs wild) are made as jokes to be read and referenced by the other people here in Northern Virginia for fun. I
Check here, here, or here to see what I mean about the public persona. You really can't help but laugh. A warning though: don't read any of those links if foul language is going to offend you. He, uhh, has a colorful means of expression and might use an occasional swear word.
was under the supposition that I was so ludicrously over the top that I couldn't possibly have been believed to be that arrogant. Eh, looks like I was wrong. Oddly enough, tone doesn't necessarily carry over the Internet. Looks like that one is my fault. So, since people actually mistook me for being this arrogant jerk, I fell into that role and played it to the hilt.

This links to the backstory in a couple of rather subtle ways. Brian Diefendorf is one of the very good players whose council I still take with great regard. However, Brian is not as ostentatious as I am. So, when the time came to 'toot my horn' so to speak, I went all out creating a tournament report that was hilarious and fun to read. Also, previous to the bannings, I was an average Joe who just liked to play Magic and wanted to win. I was not an over the top jerk that thought he was the best thing to happen to Magic since cardboard. The disparities between my online persona and my real life persona have blurred in the intervening years though. I've become an ostentatious jerk with a flair for badmouthing my opponents. Previous to creating this online persona, I was anything but. Although, I will admit that I've managed to tone it down in the last couple of months. However, I would like to stress that I became this entity when popular opinion viewed it to be so. In other words, if it wasn't for the string of people saying 'David Gearhart is the best Solidarity player in the world' then I would never have become this flashy Internet personality.

Unfortunately, I'm not actually the person to turn to in order to publicize the format. My lack of success in other formats has led many to believe that I'm a 'one-trick pony'. Add to that my tendency to play one deck almost exclusively and you have me almost pigeonholed. The final nail in the coffin comes from my playstyle which emphasizes the flashy, over-the-top wins whenever they become available. So, it becomes difficult for a person with my characteristics to publicize the format because my personal flaws would draw too much criticism. Frown.

Now that we have the stroking out of the way, let’s talk about that deck for a bit. Could you give us its origin, but first off, why the name Solidarity?
Interesting story here. In the Old 1.5, I had created this deck. I made it basically for fun with no real interest in this format. The deck didn't need a name and if I did refer to it in some way it was always, 'my deck' or 'strictly worse than Dragon'. After the split, we discovered that my deck held vast potential. A bit after that, I was at the The Lucky Frog (our local gaming store) for a 8th-8th-8th draft. Matt Elgin (SpatulaoftheAges mostly everywhere) drafted a ridiculously amazing white weenie-ish deck. In the finals of this draft, he was playing against a local irritant, Ian Shore.
A note here. "Dragon" refers to the old Worldgorger Dragon deck using Animate Dead to create endless untapped lands and Bazaar of Baghdad for endless search. The Dragon and Bazaar are banned now.
The entirety of the first game involved Ian receiving the beating of his life while he talked about how his (sideboarded) Nausea would destroy Matt's deck. So, in Game 2, Ian is being smashed to within an inch of his life (again), and states that his only out is to topdeck Nausea. So, without looking, Ian flips over the top card of his deck. Naturally, it's the Nausea. Matt calmly taps four mana, throws down the Solidarity and we laugh in Ian's face for a good fifteen minutes while high-fiving each other.

What it really boils down to, I had a deck that was viable as a real contender in this 'new' format, and Brain Freeze.dec or 'High Tide' didn't appeal to me in the slightest. I still considered it a 'joke' deck given its origins and decided that the name was inconsequential. Thusly, the name was born. Now, let me delve into how the deck came into being. I was mainly a Type 2 player when it was still 1.5 and played on Saturdays in order to just hang out and have a good time. My introduction to the format was borrowing Alix Hatfield's (ObfuscateFreely) Food Chain Goblins deck. After I became interested in the format, I decided that I wanted to have a deck (preferably under 20 dollars) that I could play if Alix couldn't lend me Goblins for some reason. So, the first build of what would eventually become Solidarity looked like this.
The deck was hilarious. Constant Mists was the funniest way to build storm ever. Incidentally, the fact that you had multiple 'real' Fogs meant that Turnabout was rarely an over-costed Fog. Anyway, that's the genesis of the deck's name. As you can see, the deck is still packed with Instants and is still designed to go off at any point in the game. Humorously enough though, I had an amazing matchup against anything 'aggro' but White Weenie was atrocious. I needed six or seven lands to go off and Armageddon was not cool. Also, since Storm is broken out of it's mind, I had a decent matchup against the control decks. Combo was a nightmare for me though. Food Chain Goblins was winnable but a tad difficult and Dragon was out of the question. Welder Mud was also a flat out loss. Smokestack was... unfortunate. Anyway, after I was reminded
With the banning of Goblin Recruiter, Food Chain Goblins is another deck that is gone. Similarly, Welder Mud is dead with Bazaar out.
of the existence of the cards Reset, High Tide, and Meditate, the deck streamlined to monoblue. The list that's on the first page of the Solidarity Thread on the Source is what the deck eventually became. That's about it. I owe a great deal of credit to everyone in Northern Virginia who helped with the creation of this deck. However, as I was the only person to play the deck religiously, I was the one who received credit for 'building' the deck. I guess that's one for the historians. Anyway, my newest lists have been testing the addition of Red, in order to have ways to uncounterably kill Meddling Mage (which also serve as a kick ass kill condition). So, without further ado, I present The Red Tide.
Ur Solidarity a.k.a Red TideMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Instants
4 High Tide
4 Brainstorm
2 Opt
2 Brain Freeze
4 Impulse
4 Remand
4 Reset
3 Think Twice [new]
3 Meditate
3 Cunning Wish
3 Turnabout
4 Force of Will
2 Flash of Insight

Lands
4 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
2 Volcanic Island [new]
10 Island


This deck's matchup against Threshold and Fish is greatly improved in comparison to the old monoblue lists. However, the drawback is the slight weakening of the Goblin Matchup. Volcanic Island does sometimes sneak it's way into play by being the only land in your hand. In addition, Think Twice is a little too slow for Goblins and tends to not be as effective as it is against Threshold. Thus, improvements still need to be made and I will continue working on the deck until I have made it better.

This deck only has lands and instants. On its face, we understand that this means you can operate entirely on your opponent's turn, but very few people can truly appreciate what the implications are for such a design. Can you give us an idea of some of the sophisticated maneuvers the deck is capable of?
This is certainly an enjoyable topic. Solidarity has numerous 'tricks' that enable me to do silly things with the stack. One of the most popular ones is the ability to Brain Freeze yourself in order to put a Flash of Insight into the graveyard to then 'activate' it's flashback and allow you to see a massive amount of the cards in your deck in order to pick out exactly which card you need. However, this strategy does come with it's own risks. In the process of Freezing yourself, you may in fact deck all of the copies of the card in question. Interestingly enough though, Flash of Insight removes those cards from the game, and that's precisely where Cunning Wish goes to find cards for you. Also, when there are multiple Freezes targeting you, Brainstorming in between some of them allows you to filter out the chaff in your hand, for good cards. Also, Flash of Insight allows you to put the cards that you looked at in any order on the bottom of your deck. Which means that a good player can memorize the bottom order of his deck through uses of Impulse, Flash of Insight, and Opt. Also, Twincast can be used on a wide variety of spells, not necessarily just your own. I've Twincasted spells like Fact or Fiction, Predict (with my own Brainstorm just resolved), and even Lim-Dul's Vault
See, this is what happens when you get Gearhart to explain his mind to the rest of us idiots. He says that he can Twincast an opponent's Ill-Gotten Gains. And if he has High Tide and Reset in hand, he gets infinite mana. The trick is not to let the opponent's Ill-Gotten Gains ever resolve. You let your Twincasted copy resolve and duplicate the original over and over. The game will end with the hapless opponent forced to draw a card he does not have with his spell still on the stack. He lost due to his own spell which never even resolved. And what he doesn't mention is that there is no need for him to actually have these cards in his hand when the spell is played. He can merrily go searching for them in response. That is the case for nearly every circumstance when facing this deck. Man, that's just wrong.
. A particularly enjoyable target is Ill-Gotten Gains. That one is particularly enjoyable because you can make infinite mana with a combination of High Tide, Reset, and Twincast. If you throw in ANY draw spell, you have every card in your entire deck to be used an infinite amount of times. I've always found that to be rather humorous. In addition, imagine this scenario, High Tide has resolved and you have a Reset on the stack. They Force, you Meditate in response (which, for the sake of argument, resolves), drew two Force of Wills? Turn that frown upside down! Just pitch the Force to Force his Force. Float mana, let Reset resolve (or continue playing spells looking for another Tide) and Voila! You turned two dead draws into an untap effect. This is why the Solidarity player ALWAYS has a response. In particular, this is why counter based control strategies usually fail when paired against Solidarity. Inevitably, the control player is going to have dead cards in their hand (removal usually) whereas the Solidarity player has almost no dead cards (the exception being Brain Freeze which still has limited uses).

With regards to manipulating the stack, do you think you could outmaneuver most pros in the mirror?
That's certainly a distinct possibility. I have the advantage of experience. However, on their side, they probably have a reasonable amount of experience thinking on their feet. Whereas I will encounter a situation, evaluate it according to past data and react accordingly, it's highly likely that thinking on their feet may allow them to bypass what I had expected them to do and instead use a maneuver that works better in that situation (where it's unexpected). I think that the matchup would be an interesting one to say the least.

I have to tell you that in my own deck designs I have to discard a lot of otherwise good candidates simply because I know your deck will roll over them. Putting in hate cards simply isn't enough, so what kinds of strategies do work well against Solidarity?
This is probably a good section to discuss what hate cards are les effective than others. Gaea's Blessing is arguably the weakest (short of stupid things like Choke, Price of Glory, or Scald). Gaea's Blessing is the weakest choice for two reasons. One, it's reactive. Two, it's nothing more than a hindrance, it doesn't even remotely hurt. The problem with Blessing is the fact that it's a trigger. That trigger will go on the stack, then I'll Freeze you again (or Remand my Freeze) and just play it again. Once you're decked, I'll Wish for Stroke and kill you with all your Blessing triggers on the stack. Same thing applies to Scald and Price of Glory. Since I get the mana immediately without having to wait for those triggers to resolve (unlike Pyrostatic Pillar) I can just keep on going off on top of
What a load of crap! This is the freakin' hoser for decks that do exactly what Solidarity does! And I can tell you from my own unfortunate experiences that in this case it does nothing of the sort. Just like almost everything else, you will lose with the life-saving trigger waiting on the stack. Damnit, I hate you, Kenny.
things without them ever resolving. Ichneumon Druid/Dosan the Falling Leaf/City of Solitude: I'm lumping these all together primarily because their cost is prohibitive. Granted, the cards are proactive in nature, but when facing down both Remand and Force of Will in addition to necessitating them being played within the first three turns, you have a spell that has a dismal chance of resolving when you need it to. The most effective hate for Solidarity is definitely Chalice of the Void or Meddling Mage[both because they stop the combo before it starts]. Both are not-Red which means I can't blast them, they're cheap, which means they get in under Remand, and they force me to answer them. Pyrostatic Pillar is decent, but Red, and Sirocco is so ludicrously narrow. However, just in terms of sheer power, Sirocco (if it resolves) is probably the strongest spell out of all of them. However, it's lack of use in any other matchup probably kills it's possible inclusion in sideboards.

Without a steady stream of data coming in like Standard has or even a proper season like Extended, how has the dearth of input from the rest of the world affected your ability to move Solidarity along? Have you found yourself not really counting on getting help? Would you even want help evolving it?
With so little data I found that I've had to rely more on my own experiences in addition to those whom I know to be good with the deck, rather than trusting to the numbers. I've seen some drastically bad plays come from Solidarity players who people think are good. That definitely tends to reinforce the belief that I should test everything. Simply because I then have my own experiences to draw upon which I can trust. In addition to that, any extra ideas that come about as a result of testing other peoples ideas give me fodder for even more testing. It's a nifty cycle, but I've kind of exhausted the players here by constantly playing various versions of Solidarity against them. So, while it's good for me and everyone else who listens to me, it's exhausting for the other NoVA players. Serves the jerks right if you ask me. Smile

Do you agree with those who think that there are plenty of interesting, possibly better decks using older cards like Reset just awaiting discovery if we could just get more support?
Absolutely. It's just building the right shell. There are a whole bunch of interesting cards that could make interesting decks. It's unfortunate that interesting doesn't always translate into competitive. However, only time will tell I suppose.
For years Reset only ever saw use in Monoblue versions of Stasis decks. Mostly they just collected dust in shoeboxes. That was until this Gearhart character comes along and does dirty, dirty deeds with it. What other cards will rise from obscurity? We are mostly still waiting to see. BTW, don't ask. Nobody knows what the picture has to do with the effect.

Many of us really want to see what an influx of new players and ideas can do. What could Wizards do to promote the Legacy format better?
I can say with a fair modicum of certainty that money is definitely one of the top ten things that Wizards/Hasbro want. Unfortunately, this format doesn't have money in it. At least, not compared to Limited GP's and the like. Also, since we don't have the player base to turn out 2000+ people GP's/PTQ's I doubt that Wizards will go to extraordinary lengths to support this format. Sad yes, opinion yes, likely? Also yes. Frown

Can we expect to see you at Grand Prix: Columbus?
Abso-freakin-lutely. I was robbed of a top 8 last time and badly want to make it up this time. I lost out on 'breakers and everyone knows how badly that hurts.

*******************************************

David Gearhart can be found sprucing up his deck and making people laugh on mtgthesource.com as Deep6er.

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