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Author Topic: [Primer] Salvager's Game (Golden Grahams)  (Read 101124 times)
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« on: February 05, 2007, 12:20:52 pm »

Salvager's Game (Golden Grahams)
by Parcher

Salvager's Game, or "Golden Grahams" is a deck for the Legacy format designed to win through the use of Lion's Eye Diamond with Auriok Salvagers to create infinite mana. It can then use Salvagers to recurse a 1 costed artifact cantrip and draw it's entire library, negating the drawback of LED. The options for a win condition are wide open at that point.

The deck is not called "The Game", as that moniker was claimed by it's predecessor. "The Game" used Gamekeeper to get a second or third turn Darksteel Colossus into play. The problem that it had in Legacy was that every deck able to run Swords to Plowshares does so. It is a creature heavy environment. In addition, several Blue based, and/or Combo decks run bounce spells.

Salvager's Game uses the same effect to get an Auriok Salvagers into play, and win immediately. While a Gamekeeper has the same converted mana cost as Salvagers, it is his milling effect in conjunction with his animation trigger that makes this so effective. The ability to win from cards in the graveyard instead of in hand or play gives this deck speed, flexibility, and versatility.

An optimal decklist will most likely never be set in stone. The amount of variation possible in both maindecked and sideboard cards allows the pilot to tailor it to both their preference, and individual metagame. Always remember that while it may seem there are an inordinate amount of cards that hurt Salvagers Game, the ability of it's user to navigate through almost any amount of these is where it has an advantage over any combo deck in the format.

The main reason for this is that it is almost impossible for your opponent to predict any singular path to victory for Salvager's Game. This deck will never have the potential speed of IGGy-Pop. It lacks the mana disruption, to go with it's discard like Deadguy Ale, and it certainly couldn't outrace the most ill-constructed Aggro deck in the format. It's beauty is that all of these elements are available at times during any game it plays. The deck is set up so that it is able to change gears to fit what deck, and in some cases, what opponent you are playing against. The ability to credibly bluff is extremely powerful in a Combo deck, and the two most successful in Legacy, Ill-Gotten Gains, and Reset High Tide, both lack the ability to use the attack phase. Since Storm is their only path to victory, their opponent knows if they have a True Believer, Meddling Mage, or Rule of Law in play that they will not be in danger unless it is removed. The ability to force them on the defensive with attackers while maintaining the threat of the combo finish is a feature unique to only Salvager's Game and the Aluren deck in Legacy.

Much like Aluren, Salvager's Game also has the advantage of not having to perform it's combo in a single turn. Unlike in a Storm deck, a Rule of Law or Arcane Lab cannot stop the deck from recursing a Pyrite for two damage a turn. Nor can it stop an Aether Spellbomb from bouncing most creatures capable of stopping the attackers this deck can field. The downside of this, is that this deck's very flexibility gives host to a great deal of problem cards for it. Of course, this variety is what attracts many players to the deck. You have a Pithing Needle on Salvagers? I'll just swing with them. Your Mage names Lion's Eye Diamond? Well can he block my Salvagers?  You're hiding behind Solitary Confinement? No, I won't remove it. We'll both just lose some life.

The one advantage Salvager's Game has over every other Combo deck in the format, is that against an Aggro deck it is a one card combo. With four LEDs, four Cabal Therapies, and four cantrip artifacts, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor to hit what you need after triggering a Gamekeeper. Even if you don't have access to both an LED and trinket after the resolution, you can most often sacrifice your creature to another milled Therapy to continue the process at no mana cost. Against decks that will not voluntarily rid you of your Gamekeeper, it does become at least necessary that you have some sacrifice outlet. But in comparison to Solidarity needing to get a Storm count of 15, or IGGy absolutely requiring to open a hand with Leyline of the Void against any deck packing Force of Will to cast Ill-Gotten Gains, this seems a meager difficulty to overcome. Not to mention that while you are doing this, you are using your Therapies (and Duress) to shred any chance your opponent may have of disrupting you. The obvious disadvantage is a having a heavy reliance on your graveyard, and all the vulnerabilities that entails.

The other advantage is that it's combo is guaranteed. Neither Solidarity nor Aluren's finish is 100% when going off (though with enough time, they are very close). Most of the Belcher and Ritual/Tendrils builds can fizzle regularly. IGGy-Pop does have a certain kill when completing the Ill-Gotten Gains loop, but is similarly slow when going off this way. The assurance you have, is that sans disruption, if you have a Salvagers on the board, an LED, and draw-artifact in hand, graveyard, or on the table....you win. When correctly played, it is impossible for this deck to internally fail at comboing out. This also leads to a time advantage. Solidarity and Aluren may have to perform 30-40 steps to succesfully win. While by this point, they most certainly will, it does take time. With having an endlessly repeatable combo, if you are certain that your opponent cannot disrupt it, it is a perfectly acceptable shortcut to allow "1,000 of each colored mana and draw my deck" in tournament play. Since an opponent is never required to concede, the time saved can greatly affect your tournament results.

The deck first gained recognition at Grand Prix Philly where it came in 5th. Here is Paul Seregnese's list from this tournament:

1  Savannah
1  Scrubland
1  Bayou
1  Bloodstained Mire
2  Polluted Delta
3  Windswept Heath
1  Plains
3  Snow-Covered Swamp
2  Snow-Covered Forest
2  Forest
2  Swamp

2  Auriok Salvagers
3  Gamekeeper

4  Lion's Eye Diamond
4  Chromatic Sphere
1  Pyrite Spellbomb
4  Dark Ritual
4  Duress
4  Cabal Therapy
4  Innocent Blood
4  Living Wish
4  Tainted Pact
2  Night's Whisper
1  Krosan Reclamation

1  Viridian Zealot
1  City of Brass
2  Darksteel Colossus
1  Ray of Revelation
4  Tsunami
1  Kjeldoran Dead
1  Trinket Mage
1  Gamekeeper
1  Auriok Salvagers
1  Kagemaro, First to Suffer
1  Uktabi Orangutan


Maximillian Bracht then had another Top 8 showing with this version a GP Lille:

1  Plains
1  Bloodstained Mire
2  Forest
2  Snow-Covered Forest
2  Swamp
2  Snow-Covered Swamp
3  Windswept Heath
2  Flooded Strand
2  Polluted Delta
1  Scrubland
1  Bayou
1  Savannah

2  Auriok Salvagers
3  Gamekeeper

4  Cabal Therapy
4  Tainted Pact
4  Lion's Eye Diamond
4  Chromatic Sphere
2  Chrome Mox
1  Pyrite Spellbomb
4  Living Wish
4  Innocent Blood
4  Dark Ritual
4  Duress
2  Night's Whisper

1  Kjeldoran Dead
1  Bone Shredder
1  Gamekeeper
1  Maga, Traitor to Mortals
1  Viridian Shaman
1  Auriok Salvagers
1  City of Brass
2  Darksteel Colossus
1  Elvish Piper
4  Tsunami
1  Viridian Zealot


It then placed in the top 2 at the 2006 Legacy Chmpionships. This is the list piloted by Thomas Lee:

2  Snow-Covered Swamp
2  Snow-Covered Forest
2  Windswept Heath
2  Polluted Delta
1  Bloodstained Mire
1  Flooded Strand
2  Bayou
1  Scrubland
1  Savannah
2  Swamp
2  Forest
1  Plains

3  Gamekeeper
2  Auriok Salvagers

4  Lion's Eye Diamond
4  Chromatic Sphere
1  Chrome Mox
1  Pyrite Spellbomb
4  Living Wish
4  Cabal Therapy
4  Tainted Pact
4  Duress
4  Dark Ritual
4  Innocent Blood
2  Night's Whisper

1  City of Brass
1  Kjeldoran Dead
1  Auriok Salvagers
1  Gamekeeper
2  Darksteel Colossus
1  Viridian Shaman
1  Viridian Zealot
2  Tsunami
4  Infest
1  Maga, Traitor to Mortals


These lists are very similar, but the Legacy format has gone through some changes since they were played. With the dissapearance of Tog and Landstill, Tsunami has gone from a four-of, to a two-of, to zero currently played. Kjeldorn Dead has been replaced with the still Wish-able, but uncounterable Phyrexian Tower, which can also provide a needed mana source. Maga is also commonly replaced by the cheaper Orzhov Guildmage, who can not only be easily hardcast without any combo pieces, he can also get around any effects that prevent you from targeting your opponent. Unlike Maga, Orzhov has no vulnerability to Stifle. The Darksteel Colossus, or Simic Sky Swallower plan is still a point of some debate. In a meta where you expect either a large amount of Control decks, or Hate cards such as Pithing Needle, Meddling Mage, and Chalice of the Void, I would definately include them. Serengese did not have access to Infernal Tutor, which gives the deck a potential first or second turn win that it lacked. It also adds redundancy to the deck by allowing a tutoring effect for cards not in the sideboard. Something the deck previously lacked outside of the randomness of Tainted Pact. Considering that this deck is well below the radar, it is unsuprising that the other two versions had yet to add Infernal Tutor by the time they were played. This actually becomes another advantage for this deck. It is quite easy to "hate" out, but is so sporadically played that know how to play against it, and less prepare their decks for it.

This list is what I currently run. The core cards explained below are fairly standardized, but there is a great deal of room in the main deck, and sideboard for personal and metagame choices.

2 Swamp
1 Snow Covered Swamp
1 Forest
2 Snow Covered Forest
1 Plains
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Polluted Delta
1 Windswept heath
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Scrubland
1 Bayou
1 Savannah
1 Badlands
1 Underground Sea

4 Cabal Therapy
4 Duress
4 Dark Ritual
2 Infernal Tutor
4 Living Wish
4 Tainted Pact
4 Innocent Blood

1 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
2 Auriok Salvagers
3 Gamekeeper
1 Chromatic Star
1 Chromatic Sphere
1 Aether Spellbomb
2 Sylvan Library

SB
4 Pernicious Deed
1 Xantid Swarm
1 Gamekeeper
1 Auriok Salvagers
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 City of Brass
1 Phyrexian Tower
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Gorilla Shaman
3 Massacre

The main focus of the deck is to get both Auriok Salvagers and Lion's Eye Diamond into play. Once this is done, you net one mana upon each recursion. Then you can recurse any cantrip artifact to draw your library. At this point you either recurse Pyrite Spellbomb for the win, or cast Living Wish for an alternate win condition.

The Wishboard has two main functions. It adds redundancy to your primary win conditions, Gamekeeper and Auriok Salvagers, and it also allows a great flexibility in cards to answer opponent's problematic permanents.

The discard suite is excellent at slowing down opposing Aggro and Combo decks, and removing disruption from Control decks. It is your main defensive weapon, and you need to know the most important cards to take from your opponent at all game stages. 

These are the cards that most feel must remain for the deck to be viable. The few innovators of the deck are in agreement on the number of these both in the deck, and it's sideboard.

3/1 Gamekeeper: The deck's greatest enabler. Not only does his trigger put an Auriok Salvagers into play, it has a good chance of placing both an LED, and a Spellbomb or Sphere into the graveyard where they can easily be retrieved. Against Aggro decks, chump blocking, Innocent Blood, and Massacre make it easy to fulfill his requirement. Against less aggressive decks, you have Cabal Therapy, Pernicious Deed and Phyrexian Tower to trigger him. He is the creature you most want to draw, so three in the main is manditory, with a fourth in the side to increase your virtual number.

2/1 Auriok Salvagers: The deck's other namesake. His ability in conjunction with Lion's Eye Diamond it the heart of the combo. He can also recurse Chromatic Sphere or Star to filter mana and draw cards. With Aether Spellbomb, not only can you draw, you can bounce most of your opponent's creatures. With Pyrite, you can deal effectively infinite damage. The fact that he is a 2/4 body should never be neglected either. In most instances you don't want to have to play one from your hand, so I only include two in the main.

4 Lion's Eye Diamond: The other card that makes the combo possible. The deck wins on LED's synergy with Salvagers, using Spellbombs from the graveyard to avoid the nuisance of discarding your hand. Both Living Wish and Infernal Tutor can avoid this as well, by sacrificing LED for mana while the tutor effect is still on the stack.

4 Living Wish: In addition to grabbing your two creatures that allow the combo, Wish can fetch both answers from the sideboard, and alternate win conditions. It can also retrieve creatures you or your opponent have removed from the game.The need for all of these options in certain matches has convinced me not to go below four.

4 Dark Ritual: Not much needs to be said. It allows faster starts, and can provide a way from under decks that hinder the land development of a three to four color deck.

4 Duress/4 Cabal Therapy: The deck's protection. Against Control you need to rid them of dangerous countermagic. Against opposing Combo, you want to slow down any chance they have of going off before you. Against all decks you want to be certain that they have no way to remove your Salvagers mid-way into your combo. Cabal Therapy has the added bonus of being an unstoppable way of sacrificing your Gamekeeper. On the chance your Gamekeeper triggers into another Gamekeeper, a Flashbacked Cabal Therapy can start the process over again. Since this deck has little in the way of protecting it's combo, it is important to use these (as well as pen and paper) to always track your opponent's hand.

4 Tainted Pact: This deck rarely has more than one or two cards you NEED at any given time. The two mana cost and instant speed makes Tainted Pact the best option for a selective tutor in this deck. The mana base is skewed to make your Pacts as effective as possible. The fact that it removes cards from the game is rarely a factor since most often you will only need the one piece you are searching for at the moment. In rare cases however, you will be forced to remove a part of the combo. This is the reason for both the additional creatures in the sideboard, and the diversity of cards in the main deck. I would avoid playing less than three. Even if you are searching for a specific card, be certain to evaluate each one before continuing the Pact. Often a secondary choice is better than getting nothing, or removing too many cards.

1 Pyrite Spellbomb: The deck's primary win condition. After recursing LED for enough White mana, you can then switch to Red to reuse Pyrite to kill your opponent. It can also draw any cards you might need to continue the combo with the same mana. In a pinch, it will kill the bane of the deck, Meddling Mage. I only run one as I prefer to have different options in cantrips for the deck. Living Wish can also get a different win condition if needed.

The rest of the deck has a greater variety in what may be played.

2 Infernal Tutor: A recent addition for it's raw power. In conjunction with LED, it can grab any card in the deck while having plenty of mana to cast what you fetch. It can also add redundancy in pulling additional discard spells when needed. The most broken play it allows is using a ritual an getting a second LED or Ritual. This is one of the few ways this deck can pull a second turn win. The card is a bit redundant with Living Wish so I only use two.

4 Innocent Blood: Now we get to the cards that flow in and out with a great regard to metagame concerns. In most games, I have found using an Innocent Blood early gives the deck enough time to combo off. It has the added benefit of triggering your Gamekeeper when needed. Infest is a common replacement, mainly because of it's effect against both Goblins and Meddling Mage. I find it overkill against Mage, and the ability of Goblins to disrupt your mana production can leave Infest stranded in your hand until it is too late.

1 Chromatic Star/1 Chromatic Sphere: The cards are basically interchangeable in this deck, and run as is simply to increase the power of Tainted Pact. Some eschew these entirely to run multiple copies of Spellbombs. I have found the color-fixing is often relevant, and that additional Spellbombs are unneeded.

1 Aether Spellbomb: Both Meddling Mage and Pithing Needle are common in the Legacy format. I added this to give the deck additional ways to remove Mage, especially if they have a Needle on Pyrite or Deed. It can also serve as a temporary answer to the larger creatures Reanimator decks power out. The third reason is for use against Aggro-Control decks that stymie your combo while attacking with one or two creatures.

2 Sylvan Library: The most controversial card. There are a great number of cards to fit this slot, most devoted to some form of card draw or deck manipulation. The majority of the time Night's Whisper fits nicely. The reason I use Sylvan is that it gets it's greatest use against the decks that are the most diffcult for Salvager's Game to beat.  Mid-range Control decks apply a decent clock with disruption. Sylvan not only increases card quality in conjunction with Fetchlands, you often can spare the life to draw your combo immediately. Against pure Control, you actually use it for more of a filter. You have many turns to load up on Discard, empty their hand, and combo off. In addition to it's use with Fetchlands, it can turn Tainted Pact into an instant Demonic Tutor with some foresight. Against decks where Gamekeeper's milling effect can be detrimental,(re:Solidarity) you can use it to stack the top of your library. I tend to replace it against Aggro for multiple reasons. With only two, it will rarely be played in a relevant amount of time. And you obviously can't afford to be losing life against most of these decks.

The mana base is odd at first glance, but the constraints of the deck make it necessary. Having as many different named lands as possible makes Tainted Pact much more powerful. Unlike most Ritual/LED-based Combo decks, we often require several lands in play to effectively win, so the reliance on non-basics is kept to the minimum one of each. The Fetchland configuration is obviously not optimal with the colors needed in the deck, but it is very close, and cannot be significantly altered without weakening your Tainted Pacts.

Sideboard Cards:

1 City of Brass: The deck runs very specific mana requirements, and often has to protect itself by only playing out basic lands. The single City can often get an answer in hand for the win next turn.

1 Xantid Swarm: While it is of use most against decks with countermagic, there are two other reasons to run him. Certain removal spells can halt you mid combo. Swarm forces them to use them before you lose your hand from LED, or baits them out on Swarm itself. It also is one of the few ways you can hinder Solidarity.

1 Phyrexian Tower: An uncounterable way to sacrifice your Gamekeeper, while netting you mana. Rarely, it will protect him from Swords. It can also come as simply an additional land if needed.

1 Gorilla Shaman: Three of the four worst threats against this deck are Chalice of the Void, Tormod's Crypt, and Pithing Needle. This guy kills two of them for 1 mana, and the third for 3.

3 Massacre: The fourth common problem is Meddling Mage. Massacre deals with him most effectively. It is a free sweeper against any deck running Plains, and is still castable against others.

1 Harmonic Sliver: A sort of catch-all. A Wish-able answer for any Artifact or Enchantments you find troublesome. If you have the extra slot you can run a Sex Monkey and Monk Realist for the easier casting costs.

1 Orzhov Gulidmage: Your secondary win condition. With the amount of mana the deck can produce, you can easily Wish for him, gain an absurd amount of life, and then have you both lose 20. Chosen also because his ability doesn't target, which is sometimes very important.

4 Pernicious Deed: The ultimate sweeper. Often brought in against decks with a large amount of "Hate" cards, as against most Aggro it is better to just outrace it.

Some notable exceptions:

Engineered Explosives: It is a great card in the Vintage version of this deck, "Bomberman". The difference is, they can run countermagic alongside it as Black Lotus doesn't have the same discard restriction that Lion's Eye Diamond does. If you get in a position that you can recur both LED and Explosives, you should just win anyway. Deed cannot be reused, but for a little more mana than Explosives, has a much greater effect.

Sensei's Divining Top: In a deck that needs to see very specific cards, has multiple deck shuffling effects, and can abuse cheap artifacts it would seem a natural choice. The problem is that it becomes a huge mana leech. The deck's creator called it "my personal Sphere of Resistance". This deck tends to tap out more often than not, so using Top's ability becomes difficult. The other problem is that you really have to have it within the first two turns for it to be better than other options. This requires running at least three. There just isn't enough room for something with this effect.

Trinket Mage: Another key element of Bomberman. Unfortunately, he is not in the deck's colors. Again, you would need either multiples to make him effective, or to run him in the sideboard. Usually the Gamekeeper plan gets an LED accessable quickly enough that Mage isn't worth the time and off-color mana.

Darksteel Colossus/Simic Sky Swallower: Several people like to have one or two of these in the sideboard. The plan then becomes to remove your Salvagers, and use the Gamekeeper trigger to get a fattie into play. This will dodge most of the hate cards your opponent can bring in. You can still use Living Wish to get a Salvagers if the opportunity presents itself. The problem I have with this, is that this deck runs little to no manipulation. So if you draw the SSS, you have no way of getting it into play save hardcasting it. Your Gamekeepers now are virtually useless. DSC can be Therapied back into your library, but is vulnerable to Swords and bounce. It's still not a bad plan against decks that focus on stopping your combo, but I dislike allowing luck to become that much of a factor. If you expect a large amount of Threshold and Fish-like decks, it may be worth it.

Krosan Reclaimation: Many included this once DSC was phased out as they feared decking themselves. While an unlucky chain of Gamekeeper sacrifices can still make this possible, I have found if you mill that many cards, you should easily have enough gas in your graveyard to win before you need to draw a card.

Cabal Pit: Unfortunately, this decks rarely reaches Threshold until it can win anyway. But against Threshold, (the deck) the games run long enough that you will reach it naturally. With Pit, Salvagers, and Deed, their Needles become almost useless. The problem is, that Pit is useless at doing anything but killing Meddling Mage or Gamekeeper. It's a good Wish target, but I prefer broader solutions.


Matchups and Metagame concerns

I tend to keep about 95% of the deck intact regardless of what I expect to face. But, I do switch cards in the main deck and sideboard in and out frequently. Without a heavy Goblins presence, Innocent Blood becomes less of a need. Those metas tend to evolve into variations of Board Control decks that cannot flourish otherwise. Namely Stax, Aluren, and Landstill. This is when I maindeck the Pernicious Deeds. When I don't expect Meddling Mage, either from Fish, or Threshold, I tend to switch Massacre in the sideboard back to Infest simply for the lowered cost against Goblins. When there are a plethora of creatures causing difficulty in addition to Mage, such as Burning-Tree Shaman, and True Believer, you may want a Bone Shredder to Wish for. In artifact heavy environments, when you expect Stax, and Faerie and Angel Stompy varients, a Viridian Shaman would be a warranted addition to the Shaman and Sliver already in the board.

There is nothing that this deck can't answer, even if that answer is swinging with men. Your focus should always be first on the combo. The main reactive cards you must watch for during this are:

Stifle/Trickbind: Both can stop your Gamekeeper trigger. Trickbind can actually set you back a full turn by stopping Salvager's completely.

Abeyance/Orim's Chant: Both stop the combo for a turn. Only relevant if they can kill you next turn, or if they cast it mid-combo. If you expect these, only produce enough mana for one cycle of LED and Pyrite at a time, otherwise they will mana burn you out.

Counterspells: Naturally.

Swords to Plowshares(or any instant that can rid you of Salvagers): Swords will stop the Gamekeeper trigger as well as getting rid of him. You can't use the Therapy you sacrifice him with to remove Swords, as the trigger will resolve before you name the card. If you have a Wish in hand, sometimes it is allowable to get your Salvagers Plowed, as it is easy to get them right back. The only burn that might kill Salvagers is Fireblast, so it's not much of a worry, but there may be a few Black removal spells to watch out for.

Extirpate: It has yet to hit play, but if they get a chance to target LED with it, that's obvious trouble. More info as determined.

If both cards in hand, and available mana leave the possibility of one of these, always use your discard to clear the way first. Color is very important in these cases. Be aware of what mana is available to the enemy, as it is the key indicator of which of these cards they are holding. Or bluffing...

The proactive cards that most concern you should be:

Tormod's Crypt: Can remove Gamekeeper from the graveyard in response to his trigger. They will wait until you activate Salvagers to use it in response, so if you cannot remove Crypt, be certain to have enough mana to activate multiple times. Also can remove an early Spellbomb to reduce your win conditions.

Meddling Mage: Lion's Eye Diamond is usually the best option for him to chant against. Most decks that use him will have no way to remove LED from play, so cast them any chance you can. If he is around mid-combo, you should be able to recurse a Spellbomb to remove him. Make certain to Fetch either your Badlands or Underground early to allow this. Decks with Mage rarely run Wasteland in Legacy.

Pithing Needle: There are only two cards that it can hurt; Auriok Salvagers and Pernicious Deed. A major reason to bring Deed in against any deck playing Needle. You force them to a difficult decision. If they Needle Salvagers and you have a Deed, you win. But, if they Needle Deed, and you can Wish for removal, you still win. Technically it can stop Guildmage as well, but that will almost never happen. Overall, one of the easier cards to get around.

Chalice of the Void: Set a Zero stops the combo cold. You can still recurse a Spellbomb using regular mana though. Chalice set at one shuts down half your deck, but if you can get a Guildmage in play, you can still combo out. Mox Monkey wrecks Chalice, so try to get one down early if you suspect it. Otherwise, Harmonic Sliver should take care of it.

Rule of Law/Pyrostatic Pillar/Arcane Lab: These are the most generic anti-combo measures, usually decided by whichever color the deck is. They all stop you from going infinite with the combo, but not from attacking, or using the Spellbombs once a turn. Pillar is actually the most dangerous, as decks packing it usually will have a fast clock to back it up. The other two you leave until you either have an opening, or absolutely have to go off that turn. Since no deck runs these Game one, leaving a Deed in play until you go off is the best way to get around them.

It is very difficult to give any direct lines of play with Salvager's Game. This deck's strength is it's flexibility, and as such, the way it is played against every deck must also vary. I am listing both the most prominent matchups, as well as gameplay and sideboarding strategies against them below.

Goblins:

Goblins is one of our better matchups. We have both discard and removal to slow them down, and have the same essential clock. They often can't even attack into a Gamekeeper unless the resulting damage would be lethal.

There are three widely-played variations; Mono-Red, White-splash, and Green-splash. The Green splash is overall the easiest of the three, as they run no relevant sideboard cards, and have no maindeck advantages over the other two.

Against Goblins you want to get the combo as quickly as possible. Your opening hand should include a Wish or Gamekeeper, at least two lands, and either an LED or a Ritual. Secondary cards being Innocent Blood and Tainted Pact. All you care about is getting the Gamekeeper to trigger, but use Innocent Blood as soon as you can. The Goblins will kill him for you. They have no way to stop the combo once it hits except for a Gempalm cycled for four or more damage. Always either Fetch basics, or save your Fetchlands until you can go off as both Port and Wasteland can seriously set you back. Cabal Therapy should name first Warchief, then Ringleader on the draw, and Lackey on the play unless you hold an Innocent Blood.
 
Mono-Red Sideboarding: -4 Duress, -2 Sylvan, +4 Pernicious Deed, +1 Gorilla Shaman, +1 Massacre.

The Mono red versions most often have some combination of Pyrostatic Pillar, Chalice of the Void, and Tormod's Crypt in their sideboard. All very dangerous cards when backed by such a fast clock. The bright spot is that these slow Goblins down long enough to make Deed very good; Sweeping both their hate cards, and their Goblins. Goblins is the reason we don't see Duress more in Legacy, and Sylvan is too slow and dangerous. The Shaman is an extra one-drop that rids you of Chalice and Crypt, and Massacre is just better than Duress or Sylvan. You actually play the same game post-board, you just have more options. Deed and Ritual become the cards you most want to open with.

White-splash Sideboarding: -2 Sylvan, -4 Innocent Blood, +3 Massacre, +3 Pernicious Deed.

White Goblins has an entire different set of issues. Swords to Plowshares being the worst of them. You must keep your discard in, as your best chance of winning is still to combo out quickly. But you need to rid them of Swords first. The advantage here is that their Plateaus make them wide open for Massacre. I bring in Deed for Innocent Blood in this matchup, as I have found that these versions tend to overdilute themsleves bringing in answers. This slows their clock down to the point where it is often easy to combo off before they can amass enough damage. Or at least to the point where Deed can severly stymie them. They may include Disenchant for Deed though, so watch for it when you Therapy them.

Threshold:

Threshold on the other hand, it a difficult matchup. Not just because Threshold is so good against Combo decks; It is. But because you have to play against them in a way far removed the norm. I'm only going to focus on the U/G/w version, as the Red version sees very little play and can't run Meddling Mage.They have the ability to hinder you through countermagic, board control with Needles, and a 2/2 board controller in Meddling Mage. Fortunately, doing this slows down their clock greatly, as they usually end up burning their cantrips to find these cards instead of creatures. If you can use discard to premptively remove these problems, you should be able to squeek out a win. Most often though, they will use their countermagic to protect them, and swing in with a large threat once they find one.

Game one against Threshold is generally bad, especially if the have maindecked Magi. Your best plan is to mulligan into either an extremely quick combo hand, or one that has multiple discard spells. When used wisely, Sylvan can keep handing you threats and discard if you can resolve it. Don't waste life drawing extra cards unless you can win that turn; The game often comes down to a damage race. Threshold will counter Living Wish if they can Daze it, so this is the one time you have to play around that card.

Sideboarding: -2 Infernal Tutor, -2 Innocent Blood, -1 Chromatic Sphere, +2 Massacre, +3 Pernicious Deed.

The tactics change considerably post-board. Infernal is removed as you almost never use it without responding with an LED crack. This is suicidally dangerous versus Threshold unless you know what is in their hand. Innocent Blood is cut down because you don't need it early, and it rarely helps without Deed or Massacre as well. If they run either the Red version, or do not have Meddling Mage, leave the Innocent Bloods instead of Massacre. Blood is devastating against a deck running ten creatures at most.

You have to play now as a sort of Aggro-Combo. They will have geared their deck to maximize countermagic, Mage, and Needle. Some versions also bring in Stifle to stop the Gamekeeper trigger. You need to force their hand at every opportunity. If they Needle Salvagers, you sweep with Deed. If they name LED with Mage, you cast Massacre with mana open; They will be loathe to Counterspell. Use your discard to remove countermagic early, Swords to Plowshares midgame, and Mystic Enforcer lategame. Pacts should stop at either Discard or land, whichever you need at the moment.

You need to be certain to swing for damage every chance you get. If they concentrate on stopping your combo, you use Deed to clear the way to attack. If they start dropping creatures to go on the offensive, store discard to empty their hand, and combo out. If you can keep a Salvagers in play you should win. Remember that Aether Spellbomb can be recursed to bounce every creature except Mongoose, which can be blocked. Use Pyrite to keep Mage off the table, or combine it with Massacre to kill Bears. Massacre can also be combined with their blocking to kill any of their creatures. They are almost required to drop creatures early to put pressure on, so you may be able to kill some before they reach Threshold. Killing Mage is important enough to include it regardless.

Your best friend in this matchup is Orzhov Guildmage. Threshold tends to side Enforcer out against this deck. That leaves just Mongoose and Werebear as attackers, since they won't trade with Mage. They tend to only get one of these in play, as they both want to keep mana open, and use their cantrips to find Mage, Needle, etc. This allows you to both swing with Guildmage, and EOT gain life. Since in a stall like this the game tend to run long, you often have a good deal of mana to do so. Your discard removes countermagic or Plow. They have to prepare for a Salvagers, so they will only use Plow in response to a Discard spell. This leaves you to take countermagic away, and open a door for a Salvagers. This also often leaves Guildmage active for several turns. Unless they have a Threshed Werebear, you will get ahead in the damage race in this instance. Worst case, you can use Massacre to even the trade. Deed also will allow you to swing with him, as they won't counter him when you have 5-6 mana available. Empty the board with it EOT, then Wish for him.

Solidarity (Reset High Tide):

This is the third key deck you must prepare for, and it's a very odd matchup. Given the chance, they can easily hijack your Storm, and win on your turn. Left unmolested, they can do it without your help by turn four. However, you do run 8+ discard spells that make it very difficult for them to do so. Thus the key card for you becomes Xantid Swarm.

Sideboarding: -3 Innocent Blood, +1 Gorilla Shaman, +1 Orzhov Guildmage, +1 City of Brass.

Innocent Blood is obviously only good for triggering your Gamkeeper. The Shaman and Guildmage only come in as extra beats or Cabal Therapy fodder.The City is there just to increase your chances of having mana early, and to save your Living Wishes. In contrast, you want the Tower where you can Wish for it since you remove half your sacrifice cards. It seems odd to board in creatures you don't want Gamekeeper to put into play, but against Solidarity, you only want to use Gamekeeper's trigger if a Swarm has aready attacked. It is far too easy for them to Brain Freeze you for a small amount after you mill twenty cards. I mainly just attack with whatever creatures I have unless: 1) I have discarded enough of their hand to insure they can't go off, or 2) I have an active Xantid Swarm. Both of these should be decided by turn four, as after that they can control the stack too well. You also want additional creeatures in play if you determine it neccessary to Flashback a Cabal Therapy to neuter them for additional time.

Your best weapon against Solidarity is obviously discard. If you know what you are playing against, you only keep an opening hand with at least one Duress or Therapy. Making them use a Force is actually good, as they cannot afford the card loss. But against Ritual and spells cast from LED, Remand is amazing. So after turn two, only cast spells off lands unless you know their hand. Turns 1-3 you want to remove countermagic, and manipulation spells. Your best play is to name Brainstorm with Therapy if they don't use it in response. Your first offensive play should be to Wish for, and cast a Swarm. Later in the game, or if you can't find a Wish, you aim to discard High Tide, Reset and Meditate, their best enablers. Use both Pact and Infernal to fetch additional discard regardless of what your hand may need. If they stop Swarm, you want to get some creature on the board; Keep attacking, and use every resource to throw discard at them. Without a clock, no deck runs enough discard to matter though, so alway keep at least one in play.

This is all worst case of course. If you get a Swarm active third or fourth turn, just win then. Even so, they will board in bouce spells, so declare your attack before casting anything. You also have the ability to recur a Pyrite once a turn while swinging with Salvagers if you don't want a Storm count to accumulate. Sylvan is the second-best card in this match, as your life total is irrelevant. If you get one early, there is no way for them to match the card advantage. Solidarity only runs eight counters, so if you can get the rare possibility of a turn one or two winning hand, your odds are much better than waiting.

There are many other prominent decks in Legacy that you must prepare for, but these three both comprise the major players, and the most popular archetypes. Your main weapon must always be composure.

The strength and appeal that Salvager's Game has, is that while it is neither as fast as some Combo, as reliable as some, or able to dish out damage as fast as an Aggro deck, it can use any of these elements. It only requires a knowlege of the deck, of what your opponent may try to do to stop you, and the ability to take whichever route is available to get the win.

« Last Edit: March 07, 2007, 12:42:07 pm by Bardo » Logged

What part of the last two warnings did you miss? Call it "My Grandmother's Underpants," for all I care; just don't do it in this thread. - Bardo
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