Everything You Need to Know About Sultai Leovold in Legacy

Feature Article from Lukas Blohon
Lukas Blohon
4/2/2018 11:00:00 AM
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Are you preparing for Grand Prix Seattle this weekend, are you a fan of midrange decks in Legacy or just want to know how to beat Sultai Leovold? Read on!

When I play Legacy, I want to play with most powerful cards of the format – Brainstorm and Deathrite Shaman. Brainstorm offers such huge consistency; most non-blue decks at mercy of their draw steps, but with Brainstorm in the deck it doesn't matter if you draw few more lands as long as you draw the blue instant. Between Brainstorm and Ponder it is very hard to flood and that is what makes Delver such a good deck. You have very effective cheap cards and cantrips that help you find whatever you need. Deathrite Shaman is probably the most powerful card in Legacy right now, and some people believe it should be banned. It really is a one-mana planeswalker – it is that good. There are lot of nice decks not playing those two cards in Legacy, but whenever I try those decks I always come back because I miss the flexibility and power of Brainstorm and Deathrite Shaman. That obviously leads me to play with Delver. But I was never a fan, and I prefer playing with more powerful cards with staying power throughout the game.

So the first option I tried was Czech Pile. It's a popular deck named after Czech player Tomas Mar – who has probably played with the deck more than anyone else – so naturally I asked him about a list and this is what I got:

This was a great starting point, but after one league with it I realized there are some things I don't like and would like to do better. I was quite unhappy with manabase – four colors is a lot even for Legacy. Sometimes it is hard to get all the colors you need and that's before you factor in that Wasteland is one of the format‘s most-played cards. The other thing about the mana base was that you don't get to play Wasteland on your own, which I think is a big downside. Wasteland is fine card against most decks – sometimes you mana screw people but not matter what they have to respect it – and it is great against some decks like Lands and Turbo Depths that are trying to put Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage together.

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Tower of Games 1 $27.83
NuGames Eureka 1 $27.99
Tier Zero Gaming 2 $28.16
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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Wasteland Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

The list also didn‘t get to play basics, which is something I prefer in Legacy decks trying to grind out the game. Without basics you will scoop to Blood Moon at pretty much any point of game, especially if it's against a deck where you sideboard out Force of Will. Even more important is that against Delver decks – especially on draw – it is very helpful to have basic lands in your deck to dodge Wasteland.

The following situation happens quite often. They start with Delver of Secrets or Deathrite Shaman and on your turn you play a removal spell or your own Deathrite Shaman. If they have Daze for your removal spell or removal for your creature and then Wasteland your only land, you are so far behind that it's usually over. This is where basic Swamp shines. With it you are able to at least develop a bit and get closer to your expensive spells like Baleful Strix, which is conveniently very castable off Swamp and Island.

Having access to four colors is obviously great because you have so many powerful spells, but I decided I will need to cut one to have a better mana base. I think blue and black are your core, so either green or red had to go. Green has Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Abrupt Decay and few nice sideboard cards. You also have all the colors for Deathrite Shaman, so you don't have to play a random green source like ypu would in the Grixis variant. Red offers Lightning Bolt (better removal than Fatal Push), Kolaghan's Command and most importantly Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast. I didn't like Kolaghan's Command that much and Fatal Push was comparable to Lightning Bolt, so Pyroblast was only issue with not playing red – but I think green cards are just more important.

So Sultai Leovold it was. This was the list I started with:

After playing a couple of Magic Online leagues, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. But obviously this list was not perfect, and I began to consider possible changes.

What I Didn't Like

2 Fatal Push

One-mana interaction is key against Delver decks and having only six (when combined with four Deathrite Shaman) was not enough in my opinion. I wanted to up the number of Pushes to three or maybe even four if possible. Most decks in Legacy play Deathrite Shaman now, so there are not that many matchups where it is total blank.

3 True-Name Nemesis

 True-Name Nemesis
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Clean Cardboard 2 $27.00
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Magic MTG Card True-Name Nemesis Magic MTG Card
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What I like about this card is that it is great finisher against other slow decks like Czech Pile, which doesn't have many answers to it. It also works well with the plan against fair decks to disrupt them a bit and then play a threat that is hard to answer and kill them with it. The problem is that lot of decks can ignore it, especially combo decks. Against other decks, if you are under some pressure it doesn‘t do much, especially if you are being attacket in the air, facing down Deathrite Shaman or their own True-Name Nemesis. It is also not great clock by itself and gets way worse after sideboard when people have good cheap answers for it like Pyroblast or Marsh Casualties.

2 Snapcaster Mage

I did not like Snapcaster Mage in this deck very much. Your only very universally powerful spell to flashback in game one is Hymn to Tourach, Fatal Push against aggressive decks and Thoughtseize against slower decks. Abrupt Decay is fine target, but mostly against decks with lot of annyoing nonceature permanents. Other than that, you have Ponder and Brainstorm which don't really need to be flashed back. The biggest problem I had with the card was how much I disliked it against Delver. It costs three mana or more and that is simply too much for removal spell that leaves 2/1 body behind, which is almost irrelevant. Snapcaster Mage shines in sideboard games where you board in your one-mana spells (Flusterstorm, Hydroblast, Surgical Extraction) but that wasn't good enough for me.

2 Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize is a nice turn one play against most decks other than Delver. The problem with it against Delver is that it does not affect the board, which is simply something you can't afford in the first few turns. Taking one of their cards is also not that big of a problem for them because most of their cards do similar things and are replacable. The most valuable part is that you get to see their hand, but that is not worth skipping your first turn. Like I said, I wanted to be prepared against Delver as much as possible so I knew I want to trim those for better cards like Fatal Push.

What I Liked

4 Baleful Strix

 Baleful Strix
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Magic MTG Card Baleful Strix Magic MTG Card
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Strix is a clean, cheap two-for-one against Delver for two mana, and castable off basics. It makes expensive beaters like Tarmogoyf look really bad and even against decks where it's not great it still cantrips and is a blue card to pitch to Force of Will.

2 Hymn to Tourach

Every time I play Legacy I am impressed with this card. It's an inexpensive value cards that has the potential to cripple your opponent, especially in combination with Wasteland. It also happens to be really disgusting in multiples, which makes Snapcaster Mage its good friend. The deck is pretty weak to combo decks in game one and Hymn to Tourach is the reason you can win some games. Because your deck kills pretty slowly, you need to disrupt your opponent quite a bit and this card allows you to do so. Cards like Thoughtseize are good against combo but mainly just buy time, and you need something more powerful to turn the corner. Hymn to Tourach has some variance, but that is exactly what you need in order to win the first game. It is also good against Delver. I know I said that you don't want cards that don't impact the board, but if you have enough cheap interaction you can afford to have a two-mana value card that has the upside of being backbreaking at times. Another huge benefit is that post sideboard it dodges Pyroblast, one of the best cards against you from their deck and makes turns when they leave red mana up really awkward for them.

1 Umezawa's Jitte

Jitte is a high-variance card that is either a stone blank or absolute all-star, getting you out of problems that nothing else could. I believe that is good thing to have with so much card selection and because in game one you are missing sweepers and this kind of fills a similar role. It's very important against Elves, Mono-Red Prison (you can cast it through Blood Moon and it beats all of their creatures) and fine against other creature decks as well. It's not great agaisnt Delver, but still passable. Jitte works really well with True-Name Nemesis, but Baleful Strix is usually good enough too.

With all that in mind, this is what I played at GP Madrid.

The Matchups

Grixis Delver

Delver is the boogeyman of Legacy right now, so how does the matchup go? In the first few turns you need to figure out whether you want to play around Wasteland or not. When you are on the play, you can usually get dual lands because if they spend their turn destroying your land they will fall behind. The exception is when you have 3-4 lands and expensive cards that you want to cast and don't want to risk them getting your land on turn two after they play one-drops on turns one and two. For example, if you have Ponder, Baleful Strix and Leovold, Emissary of Trest you can curve out with basics without worrying about them slowing you down with Wasteland. This doesn't work with Hymn to Tourach on turn two because you need double black, so you need to plan your first few turns really carefully.

 Hymn to Tourach
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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Hymn to Tourach Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

On the draw, you often want to start with a basic Swamp because you can't risk the Wasteland blowout I explained earlier. One important thing that is not very intuitive is that if you have a few lands in your opener you probably should go for dual lands so you can cast your spells and just hope they don't have Wasteland. The problem with getting two basics is that you can't cast lot of your spells with only an Island and Swamp. If you get one basic and a dual land and they Wasteland it, you are stuck with only one basic land and it could have just been a dual to help you play more cards. The exception is if you have multiple cantrips and want to make sure you can play them to find more lands. When you have more lands (3-4), you can usually start with two basics and then get dual lands, because even if they destroy them you already spent that mana to cast your expensive spells.

After sideboard, you get good answers for their threats and good sources of card advantage that are hard to interact with in Life from the Loam and Sylvan Library, so it gets way easier. Games are usually very long and grindy unless you get run over quickly, so make sure to get the most value possible from every card. Step one is to make sure you have mana to cast your spells and step two is to get all the value you can while answering everything. They will have some amount of Pyroblasts, so make sure you don't run into it with your expensive spells and sometimes even cantrips when you need them to resolve. If you kill all their creatures games usually turn into a stalemate, and you can wait to either Overload them on red mana or force them to discard with Hymn to Tourach. Because of that, I don't like True-Name Nemesis that much here – I prefer answering everything rather than being proactive. Umezawa's Jitte is still fine with your other creatures and can get you out of bad spots. I believe this matchup is favorable, but not that by much and it is very difficult to play properly, so make sure to practice it a lot.

+ 1 Sylvan Library
+ 1 Life from the Loam
+ 1 Toxic Deluge
+ 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
+ 1 Diabolic Edict
+ 2 Marsh Casualties

- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Thoughtseize
- 2 True-Name Nemesis


In game one you have lot of bad cards and not enough threats, so your best bet is to jam threats and hope they don't have the right answers. The easiest way to win is to land Jace, the Mind Sculptor and counter or discard theirs. Post-sideboard, you get rid of your bad cards and get some premium threats to help make the matchup easier. Their scariest card is Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so make sure to be ready for it when they get to four mana. The best ways to handle it are Hymn to Tourach – which either discards it or cripples them on mana – Force of Will or a True-Name Nemesis or Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Monastery Mentor is the other annoying threat, but that one can be killed and doesn't do that much if you strip their hand apart with discard. Another important thing to keep in mind is Blood Moon and Back to Basics, so get basics if you can or be ready with Abrupt Decay.

+ 1 Sylvan Library
+ 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
+ 1 Life from the Loam
+ 1 Thoughtseize
+ 2 Flusterstorm

- 3 Fatal Push
- 1 Umezawa's Jitte
- 2 Force of Will

I like keeping one Fatal Push because of Monastery Mentor, but a third Force of Will is an option too.

Death and Taxes

A pretty straightforward and good matchup. They have some small creatures and you have removal and card advantage. Game one isn't that easy because you don't have sweepers, so your best bet is Fatal Push into a fast Umezawa's Jitte or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The best things they do against you is mana denial and Mirran Crusader, which is hard to answer and kills very fast. After sideboard, it gets much better because you are able to answer a bigger board with one card, so Mother of Runes suddenly becomes more of a liability and they don't have many good sideboard cards. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a card some people play, so beware of that because it is really hard to beat. Magus of the Moon is another card you have to think about when playing against the red version because it can beat you when you‘re unprepared. When sequencing early turns, keep in mind Thalia, Guardian of Thraben because it makes cantrips so much worse, so either play those early or have Fatal Push ready. I like bringing in Life from the Loam so you are more resistent to their mana denial strategy and the cards we are sideboarding out are pretty bad anyways.

+ 1 Toxic Deluge
+ 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
+ 2 Marsh Casualties
+ 1 Diabolic Edict
+ 1 Sylvan Library
+ 1 Life from the Loam
+ 1 Thoughtseize

- 4 Force of Will
- 2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
- 2 Hymn to Tourach

Those are the three decks that I face the most when playing Magic Online, but there are so many others that it is impossible to cover everything in one article, but if you want to know how to sideboard against a specific deck, let me know in the comments and I will try to help you!

Thanks for reading,

Lukas Blohon

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