Red-White Imperial Painter in Legacy Part 2

Seth Roncoroni
August 01, 2018

You can find Part 1 here

Playing the Deck

These thoughts are mainly from the environment where Deathrite Shaman was legal, but I don’t think too much has changed for us to fundamentally change the general way the deck is played.  I will close out with a more detailed approach and some thoughts where I think the deck could go. Right now I want to just give a quick overview of some lines of play and general strategy.  

Always remember you are first and foremost a combo deck.  While you may win through dealing damage or preventing your opponent from generating mana, you should always be looking to assemble the combo and mill your opponent’s library.  This means you need to focus on developing your board, slowing your opponents game plan down to create a window to win through.

Your ideal first turn play is usually Ancient Tomb into Smuggler’s Copter.  Occasionally you can resolve a first turn Painter to try and activate Grindstone turn 2, but in general, the safer play is Copter first.  This lets you start immediately getting value from every creature you cast on the first turn, while helping to hit land drops and find the missing pieces.  It also lets you put pressure on their life total immediately.

From there the decisions become more complicated.  Usually you will find yourself deploying creatures, using the just cast creature to activate the Copter, filter your draws and slowly grind into the combo.  The key is using your life total often as a resource to buy turns and with that extra cards and more mana. Usually the Imperial Recruiters and Enlightened Tutors to find the missing combo pieces, but they can also find the silver bullets to answer troublesome cards or prevent you from dying.  

Often in a match up, only 2-3 cards a deck plays actually matter to you.  Once you figure these cards out, and how they interact with your game plan, it becomes much simpler to attack your opponent.  While the following anecdote is a little old, the idea still holds. I still vividly remember back when RUG was a popular deck.  Players would often complain how Tarmogoyf beat them and they needed solutions to it. Yes, the Tarmogoyf was able to deal lethal damage to them, but it was the cards and sequencing before that beat them.  A Grizzly Bear could have most likely done the same thing at that point. They lost those games due to poor decisions with the hands to keep, how they sequenced their plays and subsequently running out of resources, or sometimes just variance.  I only mention this because it is really critical to understand your role in any game and then to evaluate the threats and answers on both sides.

Thoughts Moving Forward

On July 2nd, Wizards decided to finally shake up the format and Deathrite Shaman was banned. Gitaxian Probe was also banned, however this move will most likely be less consequential to the format.  Much like preseason forecasts for your favorite teams, it’s difficult to speculate where the format will go without playing the games.  I imagine people will try various RUG and Stoneblade lists, along with pushing Miracles, and at least an initial uptick in Reanimator (most likely the UB variants), along with minimal changes to Elves list.  Maybe Goblins becomes a thing again, although the format has really changed since the last time it was an upper tier deck. Storm and Lands should probably remain at their current levels. This would owe as much to the fact that the banning hardly affected them, to the issues of cost and increased skill required to pilot them at a consistently high level.  We can be sure that stretching manabases will be harder now as the best mana fixer can no longer be cast off an Underground Sea which may see the death of the four-color pile lists.

What this is means for Painter players is a lot of nothing right now.  You could try and read the tea leaves but doing so with a deck that is designed to be reactive to the meta, would lead to incredible variance.  Below is the list and preliminary sideboard I would run in an event this week, and likely for the next couple weeks while we wait for things to shake out.



4 Surgical Extraction

1 Tormod’s Crypt

1 Grim Lavamancer

1 Engineered Explosives

3 Pyroclasm

1 Karn, Scion of Urza/Trinisphere/ Peacekeeper

1 Red Elemental Blast

3 Containment Priest

As you can see there are no maindeck adjustments.  I think the biggest issue is deciding on which 2 of the following 3 to fill the last spot.  The 3rd Goblin Welder, the first Grim Lavamancer, or the first Walking Ballista.  Before the banning I often wanted a 3rd Welder in the maindeck, and he just became stronger.  Lavamancer was a great addition to the deck to have a proactive plan to fight DRS while also filling a spot on the mana curve and randomly just serving to be a speed bump for creature decks.  Ballista is a little different as it offers the removal, while having more variety about where it fits on the curve. The card has more growth potential and sometimes plays nicer with Sol Lands.  Because the meta is so undefined I would stick with what we know, and keep the 3/1/1 split, with the extra Welder in the board.

You will see that the disruption package remains Ethersworn Canonist at this time.  Many are probably wondering why we didn’t switch the Blood Moon package back into the deck when one of the main reasons we switched them in the first place was due to DRS.  I will say Blood Moon is still awesome. The issue is that with Smuggler’s Copter, having a body is so important. Canonist interacts incredibly well with decks that want to counter things, while also serving as great hate for combo decks.  It also serves a critical role in advancing the combo of Painter. As I mentioned before, often times you are creating a window to win with our combo, and we do this through deploying key resources and forcing interaction from our opponent on our terms, slowing down our opponent’s game plan, while trading resources (mostly life), to set up the turn we win.  Due to new rulings, and the changing meta, Blood Moon effects are not as strong at locking the game out anymore. When viewed as more of a speed bump to your opponent’s plan, Canonist does a better job. The ability of the card to hate on Miracles and Storm, while greatly delaying cantrip shells, all while being able to crew and serve as welder targets is something Blood Moon effects can no longer do.  Even Lands decks have become faster and leaner and the Turbo Depths variants have more ways to generate the colored mana they need, often times making Blood Moon into a card that buys you 2-3 turns. While that can sometimes be enough to win the game, it does shut us off colors while also turning off our Sol Lands. It is for these reasons that I would recommend sticking with the 4 Canonist for the time being and only running a tutorable Blood Moon in the maindeck.    

The sideboard remains a work in progress, but I think we are getting there.  Much is still based on prebanning testing, but I think the logic and goals are still the same.  As Painter players, we need to interact with graveyards because Emrakuls are still is a thing. In the past I advocated for Rest in Peace as it was the overall strongest form of grave hate that could deal with the Eldrazi menace while also crushing Dredge.  The added bonus of using a singleton Helm of Obedience as an alternative win also slightly improved your Storm and Burn match ups which was a nice bonus. Unfortunately, the card is weak to modern Reanimator strategies, as being able to interact as early as turn zero is really important.  I choose Surgical Extraction over Leyline of the Void since while I want my grave hate in my opening hand, I really don’t want to be in a position where I have to mulligan down to it as my only chance to cast it. Surgical allows us to deal with Eldrazi and can be used to hit key spells in other match ups.  Its ability to get Swords to Plowshares, Force of Will, Life from the Loam, and Lightning Bolt, and preventing them from ever being cast again this game is really strong. This allows a man free play that can provide value against many of the key decks in the format.

The rest of the sideboard is more straight forward as Tormod’s Crypt is just good in general and plays nicely with Welder and serves as a tutorable form of grave hate if needed.  Engineered Explosives is general utility and value. 3 Pyroclams bring the mass removal up to four and they serve to handle the elf and Death and Taxes hoards you will face. Karn is really perfect for our curve and shines when the match may become a grind fest.  I want a second here, but I can’t find the space, although it may just be the last blast effect in the board. The additional blast effect is there because sometimes you just want six a bunch of times, but against enough of the format the card is difficult to get consistent value to have it in the main.  The last 3 are Containment Priests, as a way to fight the Show and Tell and Reanimator lists. She does a great job at stopping those decks. I will admit she is the card I have tested least, but in the short time I have, I have been able to swing some Show and Tell match ups that would otherwise be lost.  

Concluding thoughts

Overall I think the deck is in a fantastic place.  The Smuggler’s Copter engine has replaced SDT in a dynamic way which I think opens up new avenues and strengths for the deck.  For the first time Sylvan Library doesn’t feel so one sided, and our ability to put pressure on the opponent’s life total while developing our hand and board is something that can not be understated.  While much of the deck has changed in the last 2 years it still feels like the old Painter lists. If you think it looks cool I encourage you to take the deck for a spin. I would caution anyone that without cantrips mulligan decision are far more impactful while sequencing becomes harder.  Also the above 75 is fairly well tuned for an open meta and I would suggest playing 150 games and goldfishes first before trying to make changes. It pays to get a feel of the deck first as it is really different from most of the other decks in Legacy.

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