What Next for Legacy? The Faerie Stompy Interview

As we approach this year's first Legacy Grand Prix I hope to impart some solid advice to the deck designers of the world who might like to bust open some fabulous new tech at the event. If you are keeping up with Legacy, you probably already know how I feel about the state of innovation in the format presented here. But there is always more to the scene than one snapshot can possibly capture, so I figured I would find out what some of the successful innovators of Legacy have to say on this topic.

The absence of true professional Magic players building and testing decks for the Legacy format combined with an enormous card pool of otherwise unused and untested cards has created sort of a Wild West for innovative original decks. The diversity of Legacy deck composition is matched only by the diversity of their creators. Jarno Porkka is one such creator. The inventor of Faerie Stompy sheds some light on some issues facing today's deck makers in the first of several interviews with top designers in the Wild West format.

Greetings, Jarno, you are from Finland, right? Is Magic big there?

Hello. Yes indeed, I'm from Finland. Magic is actually rather big here and many of the big names in the past are Finns (including Hall of Famer Tommi Hovi). Finland has also won Team Championships in the past, so the level of Magic has been, and is, rather high here.

On the other hand though, there aren't too many stores around the country. If you want to play in local tournaments and live in a smaller town, you'll be in for some traveling. Another issue
Rg beats takes out Solidarity and IGGy Pop? This shouldn't really happen. In fact, its poor combo matchup (and Solidarity and IGGy Pop are combo decks) is the biggest factor keeping Rg beats out of contention.
that's more relevant to this site is that Legacy is a format that hasn't been embraced very tightly in Finland. The largest Finnish Legacy event was the Finnish Legacy Championships with about 35 participants, and the level of play was such that Rg beats ended up plowing through Solidarity, Iggy Pop, and company (needless to say, the pilots left something to be hoped for). So when talking about Legacy scenes, Finland is one big void. I'm left without real offline tournaments to play in, so in regards to Legacy, I basically have to play online to get to play at all.

Then do you travel for tournaments often?

Yes and no. I haven't played on foreign soil yet as I don't exactly have the largest income in the world, but for every offline tournament I play in, I have to travel to Helsinki. If there'll be another Legacy GP in Europe I'll probably be there, but barring that, I don't think I'll be traveling too far for tourneys yet.

So how did you get so involved in Legacy?

Well, I've always been more of an Eternal player, but when I was starting, my collection was rather restrictive in that regard. Vintage was also a bit too broken for my taste, so once I found out that "1.5" existed, I figured it might just be a format I'd like. I dug up all the information I could find on it, ending up on The Source. Once Wizards announced they'd split the banned/restricted lists for Type 1.5 and Type 1, I was ecstatic to say the least, since that's something I had been hoping for basically ever since I found out about Type 1.5; I wanted a format where you could play the "normal" old cards, not just the mistakes, and it seemed to me like Wizards was shooting itself in the foot by keeping the lists linked. So, once the banned/restricted list split took place, I immediately strove to participate in the new Legacy scene as it felt like the "perfect" format to me. So yeah, at that point I just started posting on forums, working on the format, at which point I'd imagine I count as "involved."

You created Faerie Stompy, a very eye-catching deck that only exists in Legacy. Most decks are modeled after something that came before it, but the closest relative to Faerie Stompy seems to be Stax. How did you go from slow prison strategy to lightning fast aggression while keeping the disruption core?

Faerie StompyMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Mana (21)
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
2 Faerie Conclave
6 Island
4 Chrome Mox
1 Seat of the Synod

Creatures (17)
4 Cloud of Faeries
4 Serendib Efreet
4 Sea Drake
2 Weatherseed Faeries
3 Trinket Mage

Other Spells (22)
4 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Force of Will
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Pithing Needle
3 Psionic Blast

Faerie Stompy is actually the result of dozens of things falling in place at once. First was the banned/restricted list separation; I had been fooling around with mono-blue aggro in Vintage for aeons, but I was fully aware of it being just not cut out for the format. The second was the legalization of Portal sets. I had always been acutely aware of the existence of Sea Drake

Did you catch the "basically no
drawback" part? Jarno has a habit
of landing it on the first turn via
Chrome Mox and an Ancient Tomb
or some such. When the ability tries
to return two "target lands", it sees
only one target and is taken right off
the stack, but the drake remains in
play. The second turn playing and
equipping of Umezawa's Jitte just
before the attack makes it that
much harder to stomach.
and knew that a 4/3 flyer for 3 with basically no drawback is just unfair and should find a home somewhere. Once Portal became legal, I started to wait for the "obvious" accelerated blue deck using Chrome Moxes and two-mana lands to show up. Since that deck just didn't happen, I decided to turn my ideas into a deck. At first I had a casual mono-blue beatdown deck, but once I learned about the infancy of Legacy and the CaNGD2 contest, I started working on a
CaNGD2 (Create a New Good Deck 2) was the second contest held by The Source for Legacy deck innovation.
competitive version. The addition of Chalice was more of an incidental occurrence than anything else; I was brainstorming on why to actually play a deck like that and realized that Chalice hurts just about everything in Legacy, and it's no issue for me to support it with 12 cards that allow reaching 2 mana on turn 1, so in it went to support the hyper-aggressive beatdown plan. Also, I was aware of the fact that all relevant removal in Legacy costs 1, so having a card to shut down opposing removal with would be gold. That led to the combination of Chalice, Serendib Efreet, Sea Drake, equipment and FoW that has basically stayed the same throughout the development. The Stax component grew stronger as Trinket Mage was suggested and I eventually tested it and noticed that it's actually an excellent card in the deck. That basically set the important parameters the deck has today: 7 or 8 Chalices, 4 FoWs and lots of beatdown. The deck also sought to use FoW as a tempo tool before anything else as I figured that free counters have great potential to win tempo wars, so I decided to give it a shot and see how it flows. That's pretty much how the deck has arrived at its present state.

I'm planning a primer on the deck once I get a build down and some more hardcore testing done. While this has been one of those never-ending projects, I'm dedicated to finishing it. In that article, I'll explore the beginnings in a bit greater detail. But those are the important parts; basically, it used to be a casual deck that just turned competitive as a result of a lucky chain of events.

I want to personally thank you for making Sea Drake nearly unattainable for the rest of us. Many people think that this deck has the goods to keep its pilots at the top tables come time for Grand Prix: Columbus, but it is underrepresented at most of the tournaments in the U.S. and in Europe. Do you think that the limited availability of this essential card is keeping would-be Faerie Stompy players away?

Yea, the price and low availability of Sea Drake is probably an issue. I personally had to hunt for them online for aeons when I was building my own version of Faerie Stompy (obviously before the price increase) and that's when I noticed just how hard they are to find. I'm just hoping that people can borrow them and some can even afford to buy them. It's evident that there is a decent number of them going around (FS finished Top 8 in PT: Kobe side event, played by [Tatsuya Ohnishi], so it seems like the Drakes have gotten around there too), but only so many are playing with theirs. But yeah, I think there'll be some number of Faerie Stompy players around in Columbus, but not as many as there would be with cheaper Sea Drakes going around. Judging by the online response, the deck has great many fans, but only so many have actually been able to attain the Drakes.

Many Legacy enthusiasts would agree that the format is all about disruption. What disruption strategy would you say is the most effective right now?

Like always, you have to either be faster than your opponent, or able to make him slower. The proper kind of disruption to play obvious depends on the structure of your deck and your colours. Right now, the needs of the decks vary. Counters are flourishing, though, since countermagic allows you to eat not only your opponent's cards, but also the mana they used to play those spells.

Actually, my original answer to this was mana denial, since ultimately that's the only form of disruption that really allows you to make your opponent harmless. Since our mages don't know kung fu, a manaless mage who is being taxed for his effects equals a harmless mage. This gets around the fundamental issue with other forms of disruption; your opponent won't stay down forever. However, once I started thinking more about it, I realized that mana denial tools just aren't there, and probably better so. There is a number of incredibly powerful mana denial effects, but the four-of rule that Magic has makes them inherently much weaker since you either need to dedicate resources to get the lock in place, or you need to rely on blind luck to actually draw the key pieces early enough for it to matter. So while mana denial might be the most effective disruption strategy in abstract, the available cards make it less effective in practice.

I already touched upon counters a bit. They're probably the most effective disruption strategy at the present, as they force opponents to dedicate mana to spells in addition to dedicating the card. Also, the countermagic available is incredibly powerful; Force of Will and Daze give us two cream of the crop, playable, free counters that maximize the mana advantage, and the hard counter costs no more than UU. However, they have the drawback that they don't last forever. That means that any deck built around counters needs to kill the opponent before he can overwhelm the counter wall. That creates a bit of tension as you need to dedicate mana to winning, but also mana to keep your counters online, which is the primary reason why free counters are as strong as they are; they get around having to keep mana open and thus allow you to develop your own gameplan while delaying opponent's. Discard is the third standard disruption method. It has two obvious flaws; your opponent isn't committing any resources to the cards he's losing, so while you make him discard, he can spend his mana to do something to advance his own gameplan; and it doesn't stop the opponent from topdecking cards he can play due to this nonsense called the "draw step". Admittedly, the difference between counters and discard has been growing smaller as Wizards is actively printing cards to try and make counters less omnipotent (the most recent being split second), but their fundamental nature still places them ahead of discard, and the available card quality places them ahead of mana denial in my opinion.

So are the current crop of decks making the most of this approach?

While we still lack the BBS-style dedicated countermagic-based strategy in Legacy (or it's not mainstream anyways), I think Legacy decks utilize this resource very well and it's mainstay in any deck with blue in it. It's Blue's main method of affecting things outside the board, and a darn good one at that. What's worth noting here is that basically all decks that presently run counters play the aggro-control role, using counters to deny their opponent his key spells while beating his face. I think this goes to show that the defining element of counters in this format is that they make your opponent spend mana on something he isn't getting anyway, so essentially, counters are used as a form of mana denial, something I was touting as the fundamentally best approach to disruption. But yes, I think the available counters are utilized in a very efficient manner at the present and while there might be some cards that have yet to live up to their potential, overall I think this is one area where the present decks are doing well.

Note that while I said that I find counters to be the strongest strategy due to available cards, I m not saying that dedicated Stax-style mana denial can't eventually smash the format. It might just be that we're still looking for the right combinations on that front, but the fundamental strategy is strong as it allows you to completely lock the opponent away from doing anything with relatively little effort, and this all while weakening his means of combating the lock you're building.

In your opinion, which fundamental things does a deck need to have a plan against to be successful in Legacy?

A deck is either so fast that it can attempt to play solitaire, or it needs to be able to not only fight all the relevant permanents, but also spells. Due to the diversity of the decks in Legacy, versatility is the word of the day in terms of answers, too. Basically, if your proactive plan isn't strong enough to plough through whatever is thrown at you, you'll need a general enough reactive plan so that it will work against a deck with 30 creatures [Goblins] and against a deck with a grand total of 0 nonland permanents [Solidarity]. Of course, the specific needs always depend on the deck (that proactive plan needs the tools to fight through disruption, and that slower deck needs the disruption to fight the faster proactive plans), but in general, your deck needs to be able to affect an opponent preferably through some other means than just attacking his permanents.

Is this something that you imagine most newcomers to the format can appreciate or does it take plenty of exposure to get it right?

Depends on the newcomer. If we're talking about some old Vintage player or such, they'll be used to having to not only battle permanent-based strategies but also ones based on spells. If we're talking about Standard players, chances are it'll take a while of playing for them to realize the requirements, the card pool, and existent decks. And of course Vintage players will have to adjust to actually caring about creatures. So I think it'll take some exposure to get it all right, but people familiar with older formats of similar style (especially the old Extended) will learn fast.

Thanks for speaking with me. Any chance of you making your way to Columbus, Ohio for the Legacy Grand Prix in May?

I can always hope I'll have the chance. Unfortunately, the tickets might be a tad on the expensive side for my budget though, but I'd love to be there, so I guess we'll find out by the tournament.

Jarno Porkka can be found on this and other Magic forums as "Eldariel"; ten-gallon hat, cowboy boots and all.


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