Breaking into Legacy – AEther Vial

Welcome back to the Breaking into Legacy column. If you caught our article last week, you read about three relatively cheap decks that can get you into Legacy – now we’ll cover more!  However, before we go into those decks (though you’re welcome to skip down to the decks if you don’t want to read about the next topic) we want to cover a topic that is discussed heavily when it comes to budget decks – substitutions.


Force of Will. Dual lands. Wasteland. These are all cards that are heavily used in Legacy and for that reason, are pretty expensive. The first question a budget player asks when they encounter a deck they like but includes one, two, or all of these cards are “What can I replace these with?”

The answer is—not much. These cards are expensive for a reason. Because of price, players will often try to replace these cards with a budget version of the card. For example, the Ravnica shock lands or the Ice Age painlands would take the place of their respective dual lands, Foil or Disrupting Shoal would take Force of Will’s place, and Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge would be a budget player’s Wasteland.

However, there are several reasons not to do this. First of all, decks are specifically designed to maximize the value of the specific cards. Force of Will requires a minimum of 16 blue cards (including itself, if you are using 4 Force of Will), and decks are designed to have that amount. Foil, on the other hand, requires a blue card and an Island, so you can’t just swap them out exactly. Doing so disrupts the natural balance of the deck. Disrupting Shoal requires a decent curve, and forces you to hold multiple blue cards in your hand that you would otherwise play. Wasteland seeks to destroy a nonbasic and keep them off tempo, whereas Ghost Quarter may not do the same. Many decks pack at least one basic, so you would need at least 2 Ghost Quarter to make an impact.

Secondly, playing with budget cards can be a tell to good players. If a good player sees that you are substituting Ghost Quarter for Wasteland and Mishra’s Factory for Mutavault in Merfolk, they may make the call that you don’t run Force of Will either, and play accordingly—landing a Choke or a Llawan, Cephalid Empress when you are tapped out. However, if you just run basic Islands instead of the budget alternatives, players think you are just drawing into basic Islands instead of the Mutavaults and Wastelands. Consequently, they may wonder if you have the counterspell and hold back, giving you enough time to steal the victory.

However, there is what we consider “perfect” alternatives—alternatives that, even though they are budget, don’t constitute a significant difference in deck construction or playstyle. One example we like to use is Duress versus Thoughtseize. Duress for years was the staple one mana discard spell and many decks still use them. By substituting Duress instead of Thoughtseize, you aren’t losing much—we’re assuming since you’re playing black you are running enough creature kill so taking creatures with Thoughtseize wouldn’t happen often anyway.

Other way to “budgetize” your decks is, instead of finding a card that acts the same functionally, find a card that fulfills the same purpose. Going back to the Force of Will example, in a Merfolk deck, Force of Will is meant to stop cards like Engineered Plague, Wrath of God, and other cards that would ruin your day—Spell Pierce does the same job as Force of Will, but at a much cheaper price, and doesn’t require you to modify your deck in the same way that Foil or Disrupting Shoal does.

Another way is to adopt your deck so the card isn’t needed anymore. If you are building Zoo and are lacking Tarmogoyfs, consider changing your deck into a fast version with Steppe Lynx, Goblin Guide, and more burn, or consider moving into Maverick’s territory with Green Sun silver bullets, since Maverick runs one or zero Tarmogoyfs.

In short, instead of just swapping out expensive cards for cheap cards, learn how your deck operates. A deck is not just the sum of the 60 cards that comprises it; it is far more than that. By learning how each piece synergizes with each other piece, you can learn what budget cards can fulfill the purposes you need.

“In Response, I’ll Vial In…”

The most feared words a player can hear when playing versus Merfolk, Goblins, Death & Taxes, or any other deck running Darksteel’s #2 power uncommon (The #1 spot belongs to Skullclamp). The good news is that apart from AEther Vial, Vial decks tend to be on the cheaper side. Many Vial decks tend to be tribal decks, since they allow these decks to cheat on mana and play more than one creature per turn. Let’s cover some of the basic Vial decks that budget players can build.


Creatures (23)
Coralhelm Commander
Lord of Atlantis
Merrow Reejerey
Phantasmal Image
Silvergill Adept

Spells (17)
AEther Vial
Spell Pierce
Umezawa’s Jitte

Lands (20)
20 Island


Avg Price on TCGPlayer as of 1-26-12: $210.55

Not a bad price for what was once a popular deck.  If you’re able to land the Forces, they would probably fall in the Spell Pierce slot (Spell Pierce would then be moved to the sideboard), and of course Wastelands and Mutavaults would go into the land slots.

Merfolk isn’t a hard deck to play. Start off with an AEther Vial or Cursecatcher and Vial in Lords at end of turn or during combat (a good way to sneak in an extra 3 or 4 points of damage if they decide not to block), and out tempo your opponents with Daze and Spell Pierce. Coralhelm goes in the air while Lord of Atlantis gives blue decks headaches. Phantasmal Image is somewhat of a recent addition, but fits great within the curve. Don’t forget you can copy any creature in play—copying the Stoneforge on the other side of the table to grab your Jitte is never a bad move! Getting rid of Emrakul or Progenitus is also neat.

Beyond Merfolk

Force of Wills and Wastelands are format staples. If you don’t have the budget for dual lands, mono blue control is always worth a look. Wastelands and Vials can be seen in the next deck.


Creatures (34)
Gempalm Incinerator
Goblin Chieftain
Goblin Lackey
Goblin Matron
Goblin Piledriver
Goblin Ringleader
Goblin Sharpshooter
Goblin Warchief
Mogg Fanatic
Mogg War Marshal
Siege-Gang Commander

Spells (4)
AEther Vial

Lands (22)
22 Mountain

Avg Price on as of 1-26-12: $209.51

Ah, the deck that for so long dominated Legacy is actually a budget option. If you already have Vials, great! If you already have Wastelands, even better!  While the mana denial plan is superb, if you’re on a budget, you can focus on the beatdown aspect of Goblins. At least you won’t get the awkward hands of Wastelands/Ports/Vial and Goblins.

Goblins is a pretty straightforward deck to play at first, but it can also be a little difficult to see all of the nuances. Drop a Lackey or Vial turn one and then start pounding away. While hands with Lackey or Vial are obviously superior to those without it, but don’t be afraid to keep a hand with a turn two War Marshal or Piledriver. Goblin Matron refills your hand with any silver bullet. Fetching a Ringleader can be good as well, and with the majority of your deck being Goblins, revealing two or three Goblins off it isn’t out of the question. From there, overrun your opponent with Piledrivers, Siege Gangs, and somehow an army of 1/1s and 2/2s can get there.

Beyond Goblins

There really isn’t many decks that Goblins can lead into. However, if you’d like to splash a color to better combat certain strategies, look to green and black. Black is the better budget option since it offers Auntie’s Hovel. It is good against Reanimator and green-based strategies, as you get Warren Weirding and Perish. Splashing Taigas adds the almighty Krosan Grip, a fine answer to Engineered Plague. If you want to combat Engineered Plague without splashing a color, however, look at Boartusk Liege.

In addition, adding Wastelands and Rishadan Ports will help the deck a lot; you can shut your opponent out of mana while still playing Goblins via Lackey or Vial.

White Weenie

Creatures (26)
Aven Mindcensor
Figure of Destiny
Grand Abolisher
Mirran Crusader
Mother of Runes
Serra Avenger
Squadron Hawk
Stoneforge Mystic
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Spells (13)
AEther Vial
Oblivion Ring
Sword of Light and Shadow
Swords to Plowshares
Umezawa’s Jitte

Lands (21)
Horizon Canopy
Mishra’s Factory
15 Plains

Avg Price on TCGPlayer as of 1-26-12: $302.92

This list doesn’t run Wasteland, but it certainly could. We like the extra body for equipment that the Factories provide though. White Weenie is a beast at Vial for 2—Stoneforge Mystic’s ability is very powerful, Serra Avenger is a strong card, Squadron Hawk is a card advantage machine, not to mention they hold Swords well (evident in the Standard Caw-Blade era). Jotun Grunt could also make its way maindeck too, depending on the metagame. It also synergizes with Squadron Hawk, by putting any dead Hawks into your library for you to search up. Any of the Mirrodin Swords would fit well, but that also depends on your metagame. We included Light and Shadow since your creatures tend to die easily and recurring them can be tough for your opponent.

Beyond White Weenie

This deck is already a budget form of Death and Taxes. The money in Death and Taxes are in the lands—Karakas, Wasteland, and Rishadan Port. All are pretty necessary, but at the same time, White Weenie wouldn’t be hurt by adding these cards as you get them, so feel free to slowly evolve the build into Death and Taxes.

White Weenie is actually a great shell for other decks as well. If you have Scrublands, then a black splash with Dark Confidant, Tidehollow Sculler, Bitterblossoms, and Vindicate is pretty good. Savannahs push you into a Maverick route, and Tundras plus this White Weenie deck is UW Tempo.  A red splash version is the only combination to not have any significant finishes, but someone could make that work. Grim Lavamancer, Magus of the Moon, where are you?

Itching for more Legacy?

If you want more Legacy decks than the ones we’ve covered here, there is an excellent website, called MTGTheSource. They keep up to date on all of the latest Legacy news and decks, so be sure to check it out.

Until next time,

Jason and Jeff