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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Primer: Introduction to Legacy GWx Maverick - with Budget Tips

What is Maverick?
Maverick is a GWx creature-based midrange deck that contains both aggressive and controlling elements. The most important aspect of the deck is a toolbox of "hatebears", disruptive creatures that hinder the opponent's game plan, which can be tutored for and protected. In a sense, the goal of Maverick is to lock out the opponent with an overwhelming board presence. Maverick is built on synergy rather than raw card power, and is flexible enough to have game against almost any strategy. While intuitive to play at a basic level, Maverick is a difficult deck to master, as it is very interactive and has many lines of play available. If you want to play a deck with creature interactions and toolbox elements, Maverick could be the deck for you!

The Short History of Maverick
The original Maverick deck was developed by M@verick in 2010. It was pure GW with cards like Aether Vial and Weathered Wayfarer, and looks a bit like the archetype now known as Death & Taxes. The story of Maverick as we now know it began after the banning of Survival of the Fittest and the subsequent printing of Green Sun's Zenith in early 2011. These new GW Maverick decks, built on the pillars of Green Sun's Zenith, Knight of the Reliquary, and Mother of Runes, began seeing success in 2011 during the Mental Misstep era.

The printing of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben early in 2012 launched Maverick to new heights of power and popularity that lasted until the release of Return to Ravnica. However, the addition of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay to Legacy in Fall 2012 was to have lasting consequences. Both cards proved to be effective against Maverick and pushed other fair decks like Punishing Jund, Team America, Shardless BUG, and Deathblade into new territory. Maverick itself soon adopted Deathrite Shaman and a Black splash superseded GW as the dominant Maverick variant.

By 2013, Maverick was struggling to re-invent itself in the new meta as decks like Sneak & Show, Death & Taxes, and Elves began to rise. The printing of True-Name Nemesis in Fall 2013 was another huge blow to Maverick, not because of that card's effectiveness against Maverick as popularly thought, but primarily because Maverick fell victim to splash damage from the hate people began to play to combat True-Name Nemesis.

2014 looked to be another bleak year for Maverick but for the repeated competitive successes of Thomas Herzog on the SCG tournament circuit in the United States. Herzog's streamlined, "back to basics" approach to Maverick earned him three Top-8 finishes throughout that year, and inspired me (and certainly many others) to pick up Maverick as my first Legacy deck. It was also during this time that Miracles, another challenging matchup for Maverick, finally began to rear its head as a real force to be reckoned with in the Legacy meta.

Treasure Cruise threw most of the format into chaos in the Fall of 2014. In the ensuing onslaught of UR Delver, Maverick was able to re-assert its relevance as a foil to Delver decks, and took down an SCG Open in the hands of David McDarby that December. As Dig Through Time supplanted Treasure Cruise early in 2015 however, Maverick was on the back foot again against new Dig-fueled decks like Grixis and Omni-Tell as Blue continued to push record setting levels of dominance in Legacy.

With the Delve era finally coming to a close in Fall 2015, Maverick may be positioned to make a comeback. New threats like Lands, Monastery Mentor, and Eldrazi have emerged so it won't be easy.

Tl;dr - the reports of Maverick's demise since 2012 have been greatly exaggerated. The deck continues to maintain a small but loyal following, and can still put up strong tournament results in the hands of a skilled player.

Here are some reasons to recommend Maverick as a starter Legacy deck:
  • Relatively cheap, which will be elaborated on more below. You can build a competitive Maverick deck for less than $1,500.
  • Flexible and capable of beating every strategy in the format.
  • Highly customizable, can be built to suit personal playstyle and preferences.
  • Maverick will help you learn about Legacy. Due to the deck's hatebear-centric strategy, you will have to learn how other decks function in order to identify the cards best suited to fight them.
  • Relatively intuitive and easy to play at "level zero". As a creature-heavy GW deck it may feel somewhat similar to decks you have played in Standard or Modern, particularly ones with Green Sun's Zenith, Fauna Shaman, or Birthing Pod.
  • At the same time, the deck will often punish you for making misplays. Take these in stride as opportunities to learn and improve your play.
Depending on your budget and interests, it may important to identify what other decks the cards you are buying for Maverick can be used in. Maverick will provide you cards that primarily slot into the following decks:

If you're only interested in building Maverick, great! Regardless of which Maverick variant you want to end up with, you should start with the GW core. Let's dive right into it.

The Stuff You Really Need
As the name implies, these are the cards that form the backbone of any true Maverick deck. As it turns out, many of them are quite cheap.

4x Mother of Runes ($)
Protects your key creatures from removal spells and combat damage, and can be used offensively as well to push damage past blockers.

4x Swords to Plowshares ($)
This efficient and versatile creature removal spell is among the strongest in Legacy.

4x Green Sun's Zenith ($)
Allows you to tutor for a specific creature and improves your consistency while remaining relevant at all stages of the game.

4x Knight of the Reliquary ($$)
Your principal threat, which can grow to a huge size while affording an invaluable layer of utility with the land-tutoring ability in conjunction with the many powerful lands available in Legacy.


4x + Mana creatures ($-$$$)
Maverick needs a lot of mana to function and has many ways to utilize excess mana, so mana creatures fulfill a crucial role in the deck. Avacyn's Pilgrim will do fine to start with, but you want to upgrade to Birds of Paradise, Deathrite Shaman, and/or Noble Hierarch.

1x Dryad Arbor ($)
Invaluable as it converts all your Zeniths to ramp spells for X = 0. Unique card with a number of other nice interactions.

4x Windswept Heath + Green Fetchlands ($$)
Fetchlands fuel your Knights and facilitate color fixing, especially important if you are starting out with zero or only a few dual lands. Windswept Heath is the best choice since it gets every fetchable land in a GWx deck. Beyond 4 of those any Green fetches will do. I would not recommend White fetches like Flooded Strand or Marsh Flats, because being able to fetch a basic Forest or Dryad Arbor at all times is quite important.

4x Wasteland ($$$)
This card is important. Really important. You will win a huge number of games off Wasteland + Thalia and Wasteland + Knight. Getting 4 of these should be a very high priority, and they should be the first expensive card you buy.
UPDATE: Wasteland has become substantially more affordable with its reprint in Eternal Masters!

2x Gaddock Teeg ($$)
G. Teeg is a crucial part of your creature toolbox as a hedge against many Legacy strategies. You can get the 2nd copy for your sideboard later, but having 1 in your maindeck is necessary.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($)
Interferes with the many Legacy decks relying on casting cheap noncreature spells. First Strike also makes her very strong in combat against the numerous 1-2 toughness creatures in the format.

Qasali Pridemage ($)
Affords removal for some noncreature permanents in the maindeck while having a relevant body with the Exalted ability.

Scavenging Ooze ($)
Provides some graveyard hate and lifegain, and can become a large threat.

1x Karakas ($$$)
This card fulfills an important role against Legend-centric strategies such as Reanimator and Sneak & Show. It also has marginal utility against cards like Vendilion Clique, or in conjunction with your own Thalias and G. Teegs. If you are playing in a known meta where you know there are no decks it is effective against you can hold off on it, but if you want to do well against an open meta it is a must-have. Fortunately you need only 1 since it can be tutored with Knight.
UPDATE: Karakas has become substantially more affordable with its reprint in Eternal Masters!

The Stuff You Need Eventually
These cards are staples in Maverick, but the deck will function without them so they are lower priority to acquire than the cards listed above. They are valuable additions to the strategy that are strongly recommended for higher level tournament play or if you plan to play the deck for a while.

Dual Lands ($$$-$$$$)
Oh yeah, these are important right? As I mentioned above, as long as you have fetchlands you can get away with basics or shock lands to start with (I consider Wastelands to be more important than Duals). Savannah is necessary, but the other Duals you require depends on which Maverick variant you're building.

Horizon Canopy ($$$)
A land that can turn into another card is quite powerful, and is a nice option to have in your land toolbox.

Sylvan Library ($$)
This notoriously off-color effect can generate a lot of card advantage and is extremely strong against other midrange decks or control decks.

Stoneforge Mystic ($$)
The most powerful White creature in Magic, which slots naturally into a Maverick deck since we have many creatures to carry her accompanying Equipment and can protect them with Mother of Runes.

Umezawa's Jitte ($$)
Often the most powerful Equipment in any "fair" matchup, this card can generate a huge advantage and quickly run away with the game. Importantly, it functions well without the assistance of Stoneforge Mystic.

Other Equipment ($$)
Batterskull and the various Swords can also be paired with Stoneforge Mystic. They cost more mana than Jitte so they are less effective without a Mystic, but are still quite powerful in certain situations.

Ethersworn Canonist ($)
This is a common sideboard card that is effective against many combo strategies in Legacy that win with a critical mass of spells. Maverick is always in the market for effective creature-based disruption since creatures can be protected by Mother of Runes.

Quick Matchup Guide (Depends on your exact 75)

  • Favorable: Delver, Dredge, Eldrazi, Goblins, Lands, Merfolk, MUD, Shardless BUG, UWx Stoneblade

  • Even: 4C Aggro Loam, Death & Taxes, Painter, Pox, Punishing Jund, Sneak & Show, Storm, UB Reanimator, UG Infect

  • Unfavorable: Belcher, Burn, Enchantress, Elves, G/x Cloudpost, Omni-Tell, Oops! All Spells, Nic-Fit, UWx Miracles, Tin-Fins

Next Steps
The cards listed above only scratch the surface of what is possible in the Maverick archetype. There are several different Maverick variants, so I suggest looking at lots decklists to see which variant you want to play, and what other cards are available to fill out your 75 of that variant with. The following posts on this blog contain more information on Maverick variants, including decklists:

GWb Maverick: GW Maverick with Black splash (Most Popular and Best Performing Version Today)

Punishing Maverick: GW Maverick with Red splash

Bant Maverick: GW Maverick with Blue splash

Classic GW Maverick

Also check out my Maverick Card Interactions and Rules Primer for gameplay tips

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