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Nostradamus

Nostradamus
Written by:
  • Max Gilmore

📅 December 30, 2020

⏱️17 min read

For as broken as it was, the Underworld Breach deck was some of the most fun I've had playing Magic. When it was unceremoniously banned out from under me (rightfully so), it felt not unlike a time from my childhood when I was watching a movie on cable TV that had gone over its scheduled time allotment, and right at the good part it suddenly cut to a live sports game or something.

For a few months, I was looking for a deck that would scratch the itch. While trying (seemingly) every deck under the sun, I actually had not tried Doomsday and had mentally written it off as too scary and foreign to dip my toes into. Frustrated, I actually stopped playing any Legacy at all for six weeks during the summer. I slowly waded back in with an Esper Vial league, and immediately ran into Snowko. After an hour-long match (that I lost), I dropped the league at 0-1, closed Magic Online, and took another break. I finally figured, "Fuck it. At this point, I may as well try to learn Doomsday."

Things are always in the last place you look, and there it was: the deck that felt like Underworld Breach. While Doomsday was simply good instead of busted, the decks played out the same way. Since the actual "combo" package is relatively small, you can surround it with a shell full of otherwise good cards, allowing you to go toe-to-toe in a "fair" fight until the time comes for you to have a very unfair turn. This is actually pretty similar to the first Modern deck I played: the Cryptic Command-based Scapeshift deck from 2012 or so, where you stall out the game for a while and then eventually cast a 2GG spell that I endearingly called "Entreat the Mountains." I guess old habits die hard.

All of this rambling is to say how fortunate I am that I found a competitive Legacy deck I genuinely enjoy in the midst of the Snowko / Delver hellscape that we appear to be living in.

As I've been juggling two kids under 3 years old, I haven't been able to play many tournaments. I did, however, manage to play in one of the Eternal Weekends with Esper Doomsday, going 8-2, and then played a Showcase Challenge with Grixis Predict Doomsday, which I Top 8'd. In the Showcase Qualifier itself, I only went 2-3 in the event, but Marcus Ewaldh (a.k.a. Truckis123 / IWouldLikeToRespond), who has been working on the deck with me, ran all the way to the finals of the Legacy Challenge on the same day!

I want to talk a bit about this Predict Doomsday deck that Marcus and I have created, as most Doomsday lists are configured very differently from ours.

As an aside, in the tradition of weird Legacy deck names, I've taken to calling our Predict Doomsday list "Nostradamus." Very clever, I know. Here's where we're at:

Nostradamus

Creatures Spells Lands Sideboard
4 Baleful Strix 4 Brainstorm 4 Polluted Delta 4 Fatal Push
1 Thassa's Oracle 4 Ponder 3 Scalding Tarn 2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Preordain 1 Bloodstained Mire 1 Pyroblast
2 Arcum's Astrolabe 3 Underground Sea 2 Dreadhorde Arcanist
4 Force of Will 1 Badlands 1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Pyroblast 1 Volcanic Island 2 Force of Negation
1 Thoughtseize 2 Snow-Covered Island 1 Abrade
2 Duress 1 Snow-Covered Swamp 1 Brazen Borrower
4 Dark Ritual 1 Cavern of Souls 1 Tormod's Crypt
4 Doomsday
3 Predict
1 Ideas Unbound
1 Edge of Autumn
3 Lotus Petal
1 Lion's Eye Diamond
### The Main Deck:

The stock Doomsday deck is focused on quickly assembling and protecting the combo, using topdeck tutors such as Personal Tutor or Lim-Dul's Vault to quickly find the Doomsday, and leveraging Daze, in conjunction with Duress and Force of Will, to protect it.

Marcus and I both independently arrived at the conclusion that this approach left us feeling too vulnerable. It's not uncommon that you'll Duress someone and see a hand of Force of Will, Force of Negation, Meddling Mage, and Stifle. It's not going to be reasonable to go under all of that hate, since the fast mana and topdeck tutors have card disadvantage built in. We then decided that we could build a Doomsday deck that can out-grind and power through the bevy of spells that answer the combo, using Predict and Dreadhorde Arcanist as card-advantage engines to pick apart all of the opponent's relevant sources of interaction, and winning at our leisure. By removing Daze, the time-sensitivity of finding a Doomsday is greatly mitigated, meaning that we could also forego the card-disadvantage topdeck tutors. If you cast Predict enough times, you're bound to find a Doomsday. Or at least that's the idea.

It's interesting that in a F.I.R.E.-philosophy world of "jam, jam, jam," Marcus and I have found success in slowing things down. The reason for this is the concept of false tempo. When most interactive decks play against Doomsday, they opt to play conservatively, and Predict punishes that game plan. They leave mana open to interact with a potential Doomsday on your turn, but on their end step, you cast Predict. The opponent is now caught between tapping down to deal with your Predict, leaving them more vulnerable to a Doomsday, or letting the Predict go and being buried in card advantage.

The full set of Baleful Strix also help drag the game out as blockers, but also provide additional utility as a pitch card for Force of Will and as an overcosted way to draw into your Doomsday pile. Of note, they add devotion for Thassa's Oracle, opening up more flexible piles to be built with fewer resources needing to be consumed.

It's worth noting that even though this deck is configured to play slow and grind, provided you have access to a Doomsday, you're able to go off just as fast as the more speed-oriented Doomsday builds. The lack of Daze means you can't protect the combo as easily, but in matchups that are about racing to the combo, you're just as capable of producing a fast win before your opponent does.

There works out to be a "flex" slot in the main deck of Nostradamus. I am currently playing a main deck Pyroblast in this slot, as a way to answer Game 1 Hullbreachers, Meddling Mages, and Hedron Crabs, while also providing a way to answer an opposing Force of Will, or kill Oko, Thief of Crowns. While it is dead in the non-blue matchups, those tend to be quite in favor of Doomsday Game 1 anyway, so I think the equity loss is okay. Marcus is playing a Spell Pierce in this slot, which is powerful in a more open field. There's also a good chance this slot should be a singular Daze. Some Doomsday piles work out to have space for one zero-mana "filler" card, and Daze fits in nicely here. It's also miserable for your opponent to play around a single copy of Daze, which they will see once you exile your library to Doomsday.

The Sideboard:

In the Nostradamus sideboard, you find a bevy of cards suited toward answering everything an opponent can present.

The Pyroblasts are the main pull into Grixis. It's a clean answer to countermagic, Meddling Mage, anti-draw effects like Leovold, Emissary of Trest or Hullbreacher, and the full suite of generically busted blue cards in Legacy.

The Fatal Pushes are the only card boasting a full playset in the sideboard, and they're an important part of this deck's postboard game plan against Delver and other creature-based strategies: answer every opposing threat and win at your leisure. I used to play Lighting Bolt in this slot, and while I think the card has a better text box than Fatal Push, since Lighting Bolt answers stuff like a Karn, the Great Creator on 3 loyalty, or combined with Dreadhorde Arcanist, answers your opponent's life total, it overtaxed the red mana. Often, a Delver player will present multiple threats in a turn, and it's important to be able to use your black mana to kill their Dreadhorde Arcanist, leaving your red mana free to point Pyroblast at either their counterspell or Delver of Secrets.

The Dreadhorde Arcanists are what give the grinding plan a huge boost of staying power. Doubling up on Pyroblasts, Fatal Pushes, discard effects, and cantrips will absolutely bury an opponent in a couple of turns. A nice little bonus is that Cavern of Souls on Wizard covers both Dreadhorde Arcanist and Thassa's Oracle. There's an argument that a card like Dreadhorde Arcanist opens up removal spells in your opponent's deck, but it's not that straightforward. First of all, due to Doomsday costing half of your life total, Lightning Bolt is never a dead card against Doomsday, even without a creature target. It's a part of why I run the full suite of Baleful Strixes in the main deck; trading it with a Lightning Bolt is often just fine. While trading your Dreadhorde Arcanist with a Lightning Bolt isn't ideal, it's a 1-for-1 trade at worst, and will run away with the game otherwise. I'm only playing two copies not as a shot against the card, but because I'd rather maximize on the removal spell itself (Fatal Push), and they occupy the same sideboard space.

The Brazen Borrower is a catch-all answer to cards like Torpor Orb or Humility. The creature mode makes the card good enough to bring in as a precaution against most decks, since if the bounce spell is blank, the 3/1 flyer is still fine at pressuring opposing planeswalkers, or presenting a reasonable clock in tandem with some Baleful Strixes.

The basic Snow-Covered Mountain functions as a mana source for matchups where the fast mana is cut or shaved, helping cast the Pyroblasts and Dreadhorde Arcanists, and providing a robust Wasteland-proof manabase with full color access.

Two Force of Negations, an Abrade, and a Tormod's Crypt round out the sideboard, and come in for the matchups you'd expect. Against graveyard decks, the Tormod's Crypt is often stacked as the top card of a "pass the turn" Doomsday pile, where you're able to draw the top card the same turn as you cast the Doomsday with a Preordain or something. This insulates you from losing until you untap and draw something like your Ideas Unbound as the second card down, culminating in a straightforward win. Some people play Spell Pierce or Flusterstorm in these slots, but they're often too slow. It's important to have zero-mana interaction before you take your first turn, and once you make it to your turn, you can supplement the Force of Negations with Duress and Pyroblast.

Sideboard Guide and Some Sample Doomsday Piles:

I firmly believe that sideboard guides are incredibly useful tools. In addition to not having to re-derive a sideboard plan from scratch every time you play a matchup, helping to mitigate oversights, they provide a great way to infer what's important in a matchup and what the game will be about. In a similar vein, having a list of some common Doomsday piles with resource availability heuristics saves brain power and helps prevent unforced errors. They also serve as templates for easy modification, if need be.

It's important to look at plans holistically. For example, in the Delver matchup where we shave Lotus Petal / Lion's Eye Diamond / Dark Ritual / Force of Will, we can really systematically dismantle the threat suite of the Delver deck while grinding card advantage with Predict, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Baleful Strix. We can then win comfortably once the opponent is out of resources, and our ample lands in play remove the need for fast mana in the Doomsday pile. A Daze-centric list, by contrast, must try to jam a quick Defense Grid to bait a counterspell and follow with a quick Doomsday as a Goblin Charbelcher-style game, with their fingers crossed.

Please find the sideboard guide and several sample piles below:

Sideboard Guide:

The numbers next to the main deck cards are for quantities to remove. The numbers next to the sideboard cards are for quantities to bring in. If you're having trouble parsing the table in the site, it's a little bit easier to read on this Google Document: Nostradamus Sideboard Plans and Piles


Card QTY (Main) RUG Delver UR Delver UB Shadow Snowko Snow Miracles Esper Vial DnT Elves Goblins Slivers Bomberman Urza Echo Lands ANT TES Doomsday Hogaak Dredge Depths BR Reani SnS
Lands 17 Cavern
Lotus Petal 3 1 1 3 3 3
Lion's Eye Diamond 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Ponder 4
Brainstorm 4
Preordain 3
Acrum's Astrolabe 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Force of Will 4 2-4 4 4 4 4 0-1
Duress 2 0-1 1 2 2 2 2 out otd? 2 2 0-2 ?
Thoughtseize 1 1 1 1 0-1 1 out otd? 1 1 0-1 ?
Pyroblast 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0-1 1 1
Dark Ritual 4 1-2 1 1 1 1 1 1 0-1
Doomsday 4
Baleful Strix 4 2-3 4 0-4 4 ? 2 2 4 3 1 2
Predict 3 3 1 1-3 1 1
Ideas Unbound 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Edge of Autumn 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Thassa's Oracle 1 ?
QTY (SB)
Pyroblast (effect) 3 3 3 1 3 3 3 1-2 1 3 2 0-2 3
Fatal Push 4 4 4 4 if MMage 4 4 4 4 4 4
Dreadhorde Arcanist 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 ? 2 2 2 ? 2 2
Mountain (sc) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Force of Negation 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Brazen Borrower 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0-1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Abrade 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Tormod's Crypt 1 ? 1 1 1 1

Sample Doomsday Piles:


Win This Turn Piles:

Hand: Predict
Mana (post Doomsday): 1U
Pile: X, LED, Cycle, Preordian, TO
Notes: X could be Ideas Unbound, in case Predict gets countered

Hand: Brainstorm + X
Mana: U
Pile: IU, LED, Cycle, Petal/Cavern, TO

Hand: Cantrip
Mana: UUU
Pile: IU , Cycle, TO, Petal/Cavern, Petal
Notes: Switch TO further back if needed to Cavern around discard

Hand: Cantrip + Cantrip
Mana: Can cast both cantrips
Pile: LED, IU, TO, Cavern/Petal, X
Notes: X could be Daze if you're playing any, or discard if you access to extra black mana.

Hand: Ideas Unbound
Mana: UU
Pile: LED, Cycle, Petal/Cavern, Ponder, TO

Hand: X + Cantrip
Mana: UU
Pile: Brainstorm, LED, Cycle, TO, X
Note: You will be casting Oracle with 1 card in library. Exposed to removal.


Pass the Turn Piles:

Hand: Anything
Mana: UU
Pile: IU, Cycle, TO, Cavern, Petal

Hand: Blue card + cantrip
Mana: UU
Pile: FoW, IU, TO, Cavern, Petal
Notes: Cantrip into FoW on Doomsday turn

Hand: Blue card + cantrip
Mana: 1U
Pile: FoW, Predict, X, TO, Cavern
Notes: Cantrip into FoW on Doomsday turn


Low Resource

Hand: Cantrip
Mana: U
Pile: LED, IU, Cavern/Petal, X, Oracle
Notes: X can be discard if you have extra black mana


T1 ironclad vs Blue w/o Stifle Hand: none required
Mana: none required
Pile: Fetch, Cavern, Cycle, TO, Island
Notes: T4 win, plays into stifle


T1 ironclad vs Lands / D&T
Hand: none required
Mana: none required
Pile: Fetch, Fetch, TO, Island, Island


Plans with no FoW, Cycle, IU, or Artifacts

Hand: none required
Mana: 1UUU
Pile: Predict, Ponder, Cavern, Preordain, TO
Notes: Pile plays well around surgical given extra cantrips

Hand: none required
Mana: 1U + fetch
Pile: Predict, Ponder, Cavern, TO, Island


Blocking!
Hand: none required
Mana: UB
Pile: Baleful Strix, X, Baleful Strix, Cavern, TO
Notes: Make X something interactive


I hope you found this read enjoyable, useful, or possibly even both. Best of luck with your Doomsday piles (and don't forget to include Thassa's Oracle)!

For further reading about Doomsday specifically, there's a beautifully put together wiki at https://ddft.wiki/ that teaches some of the other basics of the deck!

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