Magikarps and Magic Cards
📅 August 14, 2023•
⏱️23 min read
I don't have any fun anecdotes about deck history to open this article with. I'm mostly just writing it because I receive a lot of questions about my choices in splashing colors in D&T, which choice is best, what do I think about whatever new card just got printed, etc. So I wanted to put pen to paper and break down new card options and splash choices in D&T.
Before I touch on the splash lists, I wanted to cover new card options that have shown up since I wrote my last D&T article (wait I wrote my last DnT article 2 years ago? Yikes).
My editors tell me my last D&T article was before these cards were printed, so despite their staple status I figured I'd touch on them briefly. Loran and Sash are both great additions to the D&T arsenal and I don't expect them to go away anytime soon.
Lion Sash is a powerful new anti-graveyard bullet in DnT's toolbox, with an effective 9 copies between Stoneforge Mystic and Recruiter of the Guard tutoring. So many decks in current era legacy interact with their graveyard in some capacity, and even the ones that don't will likely have fetchlands to make a large beater, unlike the easily comparable Scavenging Ooze. Sash is just good, been stock in D&T basically since it was printed.
Loran is the white Reclamation Sage I and many others had been begging to see print for years, with added massive upsides. Being legendary is a clear synergy with Karakas, and can often loop decks like Painter or 8-Cast out of games. The tap ability, while fringe, has some synergy with Spirit of the Labyrinth, giving you some free draw your opponent doesn't get to partake in, as long as you activate it on their turn.
It also can randomly kill a Thassa's Oracle player that isn't paying attention, but being a 3 drop that needs to not be summoning sick to “gettem”, don't expect this to come up very often.
This card looks unplayable to a lot of people. It's also seeing basically no play in D&T. So why is it on my list? Because I think it was briefly quite reasonable as a tech option in DnT, and suspect it has the ability to come back in some metas.
Early on in the post WPA/EI ban meta, I was very high on torch. Similar to Lion Sash, it as dual Stoneforge/Recruiter tutorability and has a powerful effect in the matchups you want it for (you have to recruit the stoneforge but in the slow grindy matchups you want torch, that's usually fine). Stoneforging for it also lets you take the initiative at instant speed, which can be powerful for an effect you need to protect, allowing you to take the initiative on your opponent's end step before untapping to have your full turn to start protecting it. Combining that with being one of the best equipment to pair with your flicker effects for value, and the card clearly had a lot to offer to DnT.
The issue came with the fact that D&T wasn't really looking for this niche grindy tool, paired with the fact that a lot of the grindy decks got better at fighting for initiative, so adding this volatile tool was dangerous. The blue control decks around this time started playing cards like Staff of the Storyteller, and evasive threats were more commonly seen in historically creatureless lists, making the initiative a scarier proposition to keep up. All this led to Torch's flame being snuffed out fairly early, but I do legitimately think it was a powerful option for D&T and could easily show up down the road.
Quick one here, for those confused why Emrakul shows up in D&T sideboards sometimes. It's painter. It's just painter. Grindstone protection. Not necessary all the time, but can be a good tool to reach for when you want it. Just clearing the air on this one.
Editor's Note: You should also bring this card in against Sneak and Show, albeit it not being very good there. However, if you "get" your opponent with this, you're obligated to listen to at least one bad beats story by them in that tournament. Sorry, we don't make the rules.
Attentive legacy players that check paper tournament results will likely have seen this little guy show up in a few DnT lists. MTGO only players have likely never seen this card in their life. That's because the Warhammer 40K cards, printed a year ago, are still not on MTGO. As such, experimentation with this card is few and far between, left only to the paper players.
I've had the good fortune of trying Scarab Swarm in a few large legacy events recently, and let me tell you: This card fucks. The effect feels very innocuous, its an expensive card that lets you build a wide board of 1/1s sometimes. But it's much stronger than that.
Obviously, the 1 toughness lets you recruiter for it. DnT has really wanted a 4 drop to fit the recruiter curve (Palace Jailer sucks), and the end step vial in recruiter for Scarabs, untap make a huge board has proven very powerful. The trigger also exiles your opponent's (or occasionally your own) graveyard to produce the swarm, which, much like Sash, is a powerful effect when we live in a legacy world filled with graveyard synergy. Tormod's Crypting an Uro vs control, or wiping a delver player's graveyard before they cast Murktide Regent and making a bunch of fliers, are powerful effects.
The ability to spawn the swarm based on artifacts and more importantly, lands, means that the baseline for this card is often still exiling 3 fetchlands from your opponent's graveyard to make 4 1/1 fliers. The ceiling is when you play vs a deck like Lands or 8-Cast and you get to make 10+ and kill them in a single turn. My record so far is 14 scarabs in a prolonged game vs 8-Cast.
The card is genuinely so impactful that playing D&T online drives me nuts now due to the lack of existence on MTGO. I find myself picking out a lot of spots where I wish I could recruit for a Scarab Swarm. Cannot recommend this card highly enough if you're playing in paper. Try it out.
The new Lord of the Rings set added some spicy new options for DnT, so I'll quickly start with the boring option. Westfold is a Cathar Commando sidegrade, a card that already kind of got bumped out of D&T lists by Loran. If you ever want to add a Commando back to your deck, Westfold is probably also a consideration.
The distinction is sorcery speed activation vs paying 1 mana for the activation. Generally I would lean towards Commando being better, but sometimes you'll really want a disenchant on turn 2, or turn 3 recruit for it with a vial on 2, to emergency Disenchant a game winning permanent. Nothing spectacular, just something to keep in mind.
A new interesting sidegrade(?) to Council's Judgment as a sideboard option, Battle of Bywater is a cool card in a few contexts, mainly being a CJ upgrade vs decks like Delver and 8-Cast. The 3 power clause on it lets you sweep basically any threat delver plays, and vs 8-Cast you can sweep up as many Kappa Cannoneers and Urza's Saga constructs as you desire. The food tokens, while certainly gravy, can help stabilize in matchups like Delver where every life point counts.
It's much less flexible than CJ but a powerful sideboard option I would probably play in some sideboards, especially ones cluttered with Delver and Urza's Saga decks.
The current point of contention amongst the DnT populous is Samwise. Some people think this card is the greatest thing since sliced bread, some people think its unplayable. The truth, shockingly, is probably in between. Samwise offers powerful synergies with Karakas loops, allowing numerous buybacks or Solitude or Wasteland or chump blocked away creatures, while progressing your Tempted by The Ring track.
I'm not going to explain how that mechanic works, but most importantly, it makes a creature you control legendary (which can allow even more Karakas synergy) and the 2nd temptation turns a creature into a looter, and exciting card selection proposition when the opportunity arises. Sam's inherent power comes from a baseline playability of buying back fetchlands, generating additional land drops at the bare minimum. This makes Sam more intriguing for splash builds of DnT, as mono white obviously doesn't have the fetchland composition needed to make Sam a reasonable magic card. It does beg the question “Is Samwise good enough to make mono white try a fetchland manabase to support him?” to which my answer is “I don't know, maybe?”
My testing with Sam has been admittedly small, and I've been almost exclusively exploring splash builds since LOTR came out, so the jury is out on that. I will say that I've found Sam loops to be a bit clunky and very mana intensive, but I have found the card to be pretty good overall, especially with wasteland locks when you can set them up. I'll likely be trying Sam more in splash builds in the future, and would probably even try fetchland mono white D&T with Samwise and maybe Ghost Quarter given infinite time and interest, but for now I'll leave that to someone else.
Update because I wrote this article a week ago but it hasn't been posted yet, and I've done more Sam testing: I think the card shows a lot of promise. The card absolutely needs to be paired with fetchlands to be baseline playable, but it has a lot of inherent synergy with the things going on in DnT. I think the number 2 cause of death in DnT is probably stumbling on your mana in the early turns (number 1 being “dying before you hit a 2nd land drop”), and Sam helps you hit land drops at a bare minimum, being an Ambitious Farmhand with a bunch of upside (as mentioned above).
I really underrated this aspect of the card at first glance. Is it enough to make me want to put fetches in mono white D&T? Maybe. Still haven't tested it. I've been riding the BW DnT high for a fair bit now. The card also plays nicely with Orcish Bowmasters, being able to hold up multiple flash threats with a variety of abilities really ups the pressure on what the opponent has to consider at a given time.
Editor's Note: JR is clearly a fool of a Took to underestimate the true hero of the Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee!
One of the questions I get asked a lot regarding splashing colors in D&T is “Have you tried X color splash?” To me, this is the wrong way to go about it. Mono white DnT is a great deck in it's own right, I rarely try to splash colors just because. I mainly do it to try to solve problems for the deck. When I first started trying the red splash, it was a reaction to a large influx of 8-Mulch and 8-Cast, and I really wanted access to powerful tools like Magus of the Moon and Pyroblast to interact with them in a way mono white couldn't.
Similarly, the black splash wasn't just created because I wanted to try playing Orcish Bowmaster, I wanted to try Thoughtseize as a powerful anti combo sideboard option (okay it was also because I wanted to play bowmaster, but it was the cool new thing everyone was doing and I wanted to get in on it). Without further ado, let's cover all the cool cards the splash builds get to play and when and why you want to try the splashes.
From humble beginnings in Imperial Taxes lists of old, Magus has held an esteemed position as the most common card to reach for when D&T is playing a splash. There are many greedy manabases in legacy and having access to a recruitable Blood Moon will often be a powerful tool to have. While at its best vs decks like Lands or 4-5c Control piles, Magus can also help by annihilating Urza's Sagas and locking out the occasional Doomsday player if you get lucky enough to get to 3 mana.
Cheap early interaction is generally something D&T lacks and is one of the largest pain points of the deck, something I'm constantly looking to fix. REB gives you turn 1 options vs Echo the Eons decks and slowing down 8-Cast starts, 2 decks that can often bust down the doors before you have a chance to do anything relevant. REBs also provide flexibility, coming in vs the large amount of fair blue decks in legacy, shooting Murktide Regents, countering Teferi, Time Ravelers, even protecting your game winning Magus from a Force of Will locking out a 4c player.
Repeatable Meltdown on a recruitable body is a tempting offer if you're really suffering vs 8-Cast. Hammer Mage is narrow, and I probably wouldn't play one right now unless you're really eating shit to artifact decks. I've definitely played the card before and wouldn't be surprised to play it again.
Don't play this one, I put one in my RW D&T list as a meme because Comet isn't on MTGO and I just wanted to play it. Card was not good in the deck, please don't copy my list.
Forth is a much better card in the Comet slot if you really want it, but I'm generally just not a fan of an unrecruitable grindy tool in D&T. It's a cool card but I would probably just not run it.
The new popular kid of the legacy world, Bowmaster has singlehandedly revitalized fair black as a color. Between draw hate and X/1 hate, the card has remarkably few dead matchups, and as such has seen sweeping play across almost any fair deck that can make it work, and D&T is no exception. While obviously a less powerful draw hate effect than Spirit of the Labyrinth, Bowmaster has a number of things going for it. The ping cannot be overstated in effectiveness in a deck like D&T.
If you run into a bad matchup for Thalia/Spirit, you're often left with a lot of dead cards in your deck preboard. The ping effect now attached to your draw hate card of choice expands the card's effectiveness in a large spread of matchups. Additionally, the inherent flash makes it much more backbreaking to play around than Spirit. Without a vial on 2, Spirit often just says “find removal, then cast your cantrips as you please,” where Bowmaster makes them live in constant fear of casting a brainstorm any time you have 2 mana open. Bowmaster's existence also just makes Spirit inherently worse.
If your opponent leaves up Bowmaster mana going into a turn you want to cast Spirit, can you afford to risk it? Much simpler if you can instead hold up Bowmaster mana of your own. This situation often favors D&T, as we want to go long and hit plenty of land drops anyway, so if your opponent's mana is tied up in a Bowmaster standoff, you're generally happy.
The other huge gain with the black splash is the quintessential fair black spell Thoughtseize. Like with REB, early game interaction is one of the things I'm most frequently interested in trying to fix. Thoughtseize is obviously huge vs almost every single combo deck, but also gains some ground vs other fast decks that aren't necessarily combo, like RW Initiative, 8-Cast, or Helmline, where the scariest things the decks can do is overwhelm you with fast plays before you have the time to fight back.
Thoughtseize has also just felt like a nice card to patch up random holes in sideboarding. Oftentimes I'll find myself with 1-2 more cuts than I have cards I'm interested in bringing in, so I'll board in some Thoughtseize. I'll board in a few copies when I want to cut my Thalias in her bad matchups, or shave down on draw hate like Spirit vs the decks that don't draw additional cards, etc, etc.
Oppo Agent is a card I've wanted to play in D&T for a long time. I'm eternally mad the best tutor hate is in black and we're stuck with Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor. Now that we have Loran, a new tutor hatebear is probably 2nd on my list of wants, after Rest in Peace on a body. Anyway, Agent is really powerful if you can cast it, and we live in a world of tutors everywhere. Agent is probably at its peak in matchups involving cards like Green Sun's Zenith, Crop Rotation, or Natural Order, absolutely hammering decks like GW Depths, Lands, Elves, and Newton Elves/Cradle Control/Orcs/Whatever he's calling it nowadays.
The ability to tag tutoring for Grist, the Hunger Tide where Containment Priest painfully misses is a huge gain, and being broadly applicable vs fetchlands and the handful of other tutors scattered throughout legacy makes the card much more serviceable, even in matchups where you don't actively want it.
Engineer has lost a lot of power in recent years, and a lot of what it hits is kind of covered by Bowmasters. Engineer has some powerful upside in being a continuous board wide sweeper when you need it, so it can be nice as a recruiter bullet, but is far from a necessary addition to the deck. I've been marginally happy with access to one in the sideboard, but I wouldn't be sad to see it cut for another card.
“But xJ,” you might say. “Leyline of the void was already seeing play in mono white D&T.” And you'd be right. But now we can hardcast it. While this genuinely means very little in my opinion, there is some fringe application in a couple of matchups. I think the biggest gain is that I'll actually board in Leyline vs Lands now, where I wouldn't before.
My usual mantra was that Leyline was only good in matchups you don't expect to meaningfully go past like 3 turns, so Lands definitely didn't fit the bill. But given you can actually hardcast Leyline and the graveyard is a very important resource for their deck, I'm much more open to playing the card in matchups like that.
One of the only (maybe the only, I'm not about to check) recruitable Initiative creatures, Seer was on my shortlist for cards I was willing to try in black splash D&T, but never pulled the trigger on it. Similarly to my analysis of Trailblazer's Torch, I just think the Initiative is not an engine DnT really wants or needs right now, but it's a nice card to keep in mind.
Editor's Note: We checked, it is the only recruitable Initiative creature!
“Is BW the best DnT build? Do I have to buy Scrublands now?” I hate giving a copout answer, but there are legitimately upsides and downsides to each D&T variant, and I wouldn't fault anyone for playing any of the 3 current iterations. (Full disclosure I don't even own scrublands in paper). To start off, here are some sample Mono White, RW, and BW lists to start building off of:
In what will likely be a very painful omission for many of you, there will be no sideboard guide in this article. I wanted to instead break down how I think each D&T variant improves or damages your matchups against some of the most commonly seen decks in legacy right now.
B > W > R
If you asked me a month ago, I would've put W at the top of the list for the Delver matchup. However, we've rapidly seen the development of Grixis Delver and the king delver deck, tossing UR and Jeskai to the wayside. Bowmaster and Bowmaster mirror play patterns are the tipping point for me wanting the black splash for the matchup. As already touched on earlier, Bowmaster is significantly better than Spirit in matchups like these.
Between pinging off early game threats and helping to tie up your opponents mana when held up, I think Bowmaster notably improves how the matchup plays on average. I think mono white takes the cake vs a more “traditional” list like UR, where the splash cards are good but the mana stability and lack of incidental damage is likely better, but I think Grixis is the de facto build going forward, at least for now.
B > W >= R
B gets Thoughtseize to increase t1 interaction, that's the only thing that matters. Bowmaster can sometimes tag a Griselbrand but it's not high on my list of plans. You also technically get to cast Leyline in some prolonged games. W beats R because the red splash cards are completely worthless here, though those differences are fairly marginal given that the t0-1 hate is usually the most important part.
B > R >> W
Both splash options get great hate cards, but B takes the cake here. Bowmasters killing combo creatures and then “taxing” cantrips is generally more valuable to me than REB trading 1 for 1 for Illusionist, but they're both very good. Magus also busts Sagas, but their Saga plan B rarely works vs DnT anyway. W still fine here, I think the matchup is good, but the splashes go unpunished and are close to strict upgrades.
R >> B > W
The main reason I splash red in the first place. REB and Magus rock, no other way to slice it. Bowmasters is still decent against them but R is just leaps and bounds better. W brings up the rear here, as B has some marginal gains and they don't punish your mana at all. The matchup feels a little rough generally, I think it's close but not great. Scarab Swarm is honestly a pretty sizable upgrade in the matchup for all builds though.
B > W > R
Bowmaster is the main gain here, being able to cleanly answer Goblin Welder early without burning premium removal, as well as reducing a lot of the effectiveness of Fable. Thoughtseize has also felt pretty nice, helping prevent a crazy Fury blowout or otherwise just helping you interact early. You can also occasionally snipe a win stealing a Grindstone off a Saga with Oppo Agent. Red cards are again almost textless here, besides Magus deleting Sagas, so W gets 2nd place. (Don't board in REBs vs Painter, it's a trap.)
R >? B > W
This analysis hinges on the inability of Shadow players to remember they can play basic lands. As long as that's going on, it's hard to look better than putting Magus in your deck. If they start to shift towards basic swamp and island, I think B takes over for best positioned. Shadow does not pressure your life total in the same way URx Delver does with early game threats, so incidental fetch damage doesn't add up as significantly, and as mentioned many times before, Bowmaster is one of the best things to be doing vs Bowmaster decks.
W >> B >> R
Pretty self explanatory. Basics are busted. Just protect yourself from getting moon cheesed. Red cards are actively textless, whereas Bowmaster and Thoughtseize at least do a little bit.
R >> W > B
Another obvious red splash matchup. Magus is king. White has more mana stability. Black gets Oppo Agent which isn't bad but I'd rather be on W. Another matchup that Scarab Swarm helps a lot in.
B >> W >> R
Black cards are actively great in the mirror. Bowmaster pings vs Moms, Oppo Agent vs SFM and Recruiter. Even thoughtseize pulls a lot of weight given how important Yorion is in the mirror, and how many dead cards we have in the deck and want to cut. R clearly at the bottom here as all of your splash cards are meaningless. (I have considered boarding in some REBs over Thalias, I do not recommend it though.)
B > W > R
Separating Uro piles into 2 camps since there are some distinct differences. I think the GSZ based Uro decks (Yorion, NO, sometimes both) are largely dead in no small part thanks to Bowmaster, so naturally the Bowmaster version of DnT is at the top. Red cards here are generally at their worst since this deck plays a healthy amount of basics and a lot of scary nonblue cards.
R > B >= W
This deck is also a bit nebulous right now so just assume I'm talking about “whatever Anuraag's latest deck looks like.” Generally these decks eat shit to Magus, so that's where you want to be. Outside of that, Bowmaster is still a very meaningful upgrade vs control, especially as The One Ring starts to gain popularity in these shells, so B gets 2nd place.
B > R >= W
Another matchup I'm not really sure about, mostly given that there is no go-to list to look at. But I think Bowmaster is just generally one of your best tools vs durdley control like this. REBs come in 2nd place as being reasonable for 1 for 1 exchanges with some of their bigger payoffs, and they don't really punish you for splashes unless they're a lunatic on Back to Basics.
R > B >> W
REB is probably the best card you could possibly play to improve the matchup, but Thoughtseize and Bowmasters come in a close 2nd. Not much else to say here. All 3 variants are fairly happy to see this matchup.
B > R > W
I can lie and say “Thoughtseize and Bowmaster make this matchup better, and REB and Magus make it marginally better than W” but in reality it doesn't fucking matter and you'll lose.
W >> B > R
W is king here mostly by virtue of all the splash cards sucking. Thoughtseize as early interaction and Bowmaster as multiple bodies to fight over initiative do mean something, but the splash can also put you in danger of randomly getting cheesed by opposing moons. Generally you just want the consistency of W.
B >> W > R
Thoughtseize + Bowmaster are easily better than everything else you can realistically be doing. Red splash does close to nothing besides trying to kill a saga on turn 3. Realistically if you don't cast Thoughtseize though, you need turn 1 hate like Deafening Silence to not die here.
B >> W >= R
Opposition Agent is the name of the game. They have fits trying to get it off the board and it turns off half their deck. Bowmaster can also stifle early game mana dork development, and Thoughtseize can help vs the main way you lose this game: fast Natural Order starts. R and W are close to equivalent here, as they don't punish your mana, and Magus has a non zero amount of text, but for the most part they are equal.
B > R > W
Unsure if this is a hot take but I'm pretty sure Oppo Agent is better than Magus for this matchup. With a multitude of basics and Mox Diamonds, Magus is just trying to keep a Marit Lage off the table, when in reality, the card you're worried about is Sylvan Safekeeper. D&T has plenty of ways to clean up a Lage after that, so turning off both GSZ and Crop Rotation tutoring matters a lot here. All that being said, I think Magus does tip the scales for R over W, as if you can't answer Safekeeper, the next best thing is to prevent Lage from entering play at all, which is usually in the form of Magus backed by Mom.
I have no closing thoughts. My head is empty. I want to play Canoptek Scarab Swarm. I hope you enjoyed the content.
Watch The Owl House.
Okay I wrote this article a week or two ago but it hasn't gone live yet and I figured I would give a brief update because I just won the legacy challenge!
A few things have changed in legacy since the time I started this article, namely the addition of Creative Technique to MTGO and the unbanning of Mind's Desire. Though I don't predict these cards will continue to see heavy play as time goes on, it did inevitably lead to a combo boom online, and I adjusted my list somewhat accordingly.
Maindecking Thoughtseize is not just a nod to these decks, however. As previously noted, thoughtseize is just a pretty reasonable card in a variety of matchups. I had been toying with different cards to fill out the final slots of the deck, I tried Samwise the Stouthearted for a bit, and while he performed reasonably, it didn't feel like it was solving the problems I wanted it to. Looking at other performing D&T lists lately, mainly CoolUser's 60 card abomination against god list and Matyo804's BW Yorion D&T list from a recent prelim, I talked myself into just maindecking thoughtseize.
It freed up a lot of space in the sideboard, which I wanted for additional combo hate and some extra padding vs delver in the form of The Battle of Bywater, and just performs reasonably as an early spell to cast to keep up with decks that are trying to outpace you, one of the main things I kept dying to recently. Obviously it worked out very well for me, and I'm very interested in exploring it more.
That's it for my small update. If you want to see my Legacy Challenge Win Recap stream, or ask me any questions about DnT (or The Owl House), I'll be on Akaleth's channel this Thursday 8/13 at 7pm CST on https://www.twitch.tv/akaleth going over all my matches.