The Cutting Room Floor: Attune-Up
When you think of competitive Magic, look no further than one of the most broken sets of all time. Of all of Magic’s best expansions, one comes to mind right off the bat with absolutely no hesitation: Urza’s Saga.
Here was a set that produced some of the most legendarily broken spells of all time, including: Yawgmoth’s Will, Time Spiral, Windfall, Tolarian Academy and so many others. To say nothing of some of the most powerful spells that existed throughout the entire block would be criminally insane. That set and block of cards will forever be remembered by those who actually played during that time period as a time that forever changed the landscape of competitive Magic.
One of the most interesting aspects of Saga ironically (in my opinion, anyhow) isn’t necessarily the more-than-usual broken suspects like the aforementioned cards, but rather the vast number of playable commons, uncommon and rares that exist. Most people don’t even realize the actual strength of some of the commons that were printed compared to the subsequent sets printed after that particular block. Cards like Duress have endured since they were printed and have been introduced to a whole new generation of players looking to take advantage of them.
There is one card from that set that stands out to me more than the others, though. You see, back in 1998, the card pool that existed was far smaller than the one that exists today. So for players to take advantage of the smaller card pool they had to exploit their strengths. The card I’m referring to is the oft-forgotten Attunement.
Attunement is a card that saw a great deal of play when initially printed. In 2000, Tom van de Logt combined the power of Attunement and Replenish, not coincidentally another card from the same block. He used these cards to draw and discard notably enchantments, only to bring them all back from graveyard and onto the battlefield. Attunement was the primary engine of the deck; it provided a means to draw and filter the hand of the player using it and enabled them to discard the cards they would want to bring back when casting Replenish.
For reference, here was Tom’s 2000 World Championship deck list:
Now obviously there are cards from this deck list that are banned in Legacy play today, Frantic Search and Mystical Tutor. Frantic Search was incredibly good in this deck – arguably better than Attunement for the simple reason that it untapped your lands and discarded your enchantments at instant speed. Attunement was really the main culprit here because of its ability to be reused as it goes back to your hand once you activate it. Van de Logt obviously saw the power of the card as many other players did in the early days of Extended when Attunement and Replenish were a force to be reckoned with.
There are even some cards here that see play from this deck today: Daze, Submerge, Cursed Totem, Enlightened Tutor and even Energy Field (now with Rest in Peace printed; another Saga rare that got incrementally better). Some cards have the ability to just stand the test of time.
Back then, Attunement and Replenish were also a means to enable an immediate win with Pandemonium and Saproling Burst by unleashing all of the counters on Saproling Burst and damaging an opponent for a lethal amount of damage. The deck was quite popular in Extended and was an absolute blast to play. This was the core of an incredibly potent strategy that some Magic players today either don’t remember or don’t care to remember. But in that time period, the deck was incredibly viable and saw lots of play.
Fast forward twelve years later to a different format and a different time. Since then, thousands of new cards have been printed – some even ultimately rendering older and more innocuous cards playable; Grindstone with Painter’s Servant; Phyrexian Dreadnought with Stifle. However, Attunement is one of the cards that has sat and collected dust in those junk-rare binders since the old Extended days and sees minimal if any play today in competitive formats where it’s legal.
With that being said, Legacy is a format where I feel like an older card like Attunement can thrive once again with so many new weapons printed that work well with it. Aside from the combination with Replenish, we can take a look at some other cards Attunement would work well with today and who knows – maybe we can come up with something workable to play with!
When I think of enchantments that you can discard to Attunement and bring back with Replenish, it would be hard to think of a better enchantment than Omniscience, a card that enables you to play your spells for free. Taking that into consideration, the idea that we can cheat this game-changing permanent into play seems like the absolute best use for Attunement/ Replenish. Omniscience sees competitive play already in conjunction with Show and Tell, which also might not be a bad idea to play in a deck like this where it fits the ideal curve and can dump larger and more powerful permanents into play cheaply.
That and being able to play spells for free seems good.
This card itself can win you the game off a resolved Replenish and would probably have an additional application with Show and Tell. Ideally, you would want this card to enter the battlefield because it just wins you games alone. It acts as both a way to shut down a ground-based assault and deals damage each turn – both attractive qualities for an incredibly overpriced enchantment that was made to be cheated into play.
Form seems like a perfect fit in a deck sporting Attunement and Replenish, with multiples becoming a potentially serious problem.
Opalescence is just an awesome card and one of the deck’s primary win conditions. Once this card hits play, it turns all of your enchantments into potentially massive threats. Imagine a scenario where you have several Omnisciences in the graveyard including this. You’ve now just brought two gigantic 10/10s into play that let you play all of your spells for free. Even your Attunements become beaters! Opalescence is just so much fun and quite honestly is one of the most important cards in a deck like this.
It was one of the primary reasons the 2000 World Champion won his title and certainly a critical reason why a plethora of Extended specialists managed to win games in the card’s heyday. It’s really a card that just reeks of nostalgia, is entirely castable and for all intents and purposes is still incredibly dangerous when it resolves. You win games with it, period.
If you’re looking to shut an opponent out of a game, then Decree of Silence is probably one of your best bets. It will ensure your future spells will resolve and can just lock an opponent out of playing anything relevant in the foreseeable future. While maintaining a lock on an opponent with this card out, if you somehow manage to land an Opalescence with it you’ve now got an 8/8 beater than will just go to town!
At worst if you do decide to run it, you can counter a spell for six mana and draw a card in the process. Not exactly the ideal situation, but some people say the same thing about hard-casting Force of Will. Granted in that scenario five mana compared to six is a noticeable difference, but how much of an impact it makes is negligible when you consider your objective is to cheat it into play off of something like Replenish and not really to cycle it.
You’ll see a build I worked on later here that doesn’t include Decree. It’s still a viable choice, though.
No one in competitive Magic knows better than me what it’s like to have a Leyline dropped against them in competitive play. As a dedicated Dredge player, I’ve been on the receiving end of countless Leyline of the Voids. However, I’ve also been on the receiving end of countless mulligans into Leyline of the Voids, which can and sometimes do warp that player’s hand when digging for it.
We don’t need to worry about that anymore here.
Suppose you open a reasonably good hand in a deck with Attunement or Careful Study and proceed to draw into a Leyline of some sorts. You know your opening hand was definitely keepable even without the enchantment, so you kept it anyhow. This concept is about cheating enchantments onto the battlefield, folks. We don’t care if Leyline is in our opening draw and can only benefit from mulligans to find it thanks to the amount of filter we could choose to run to supplant lost cards. Depending on the match up we can run either Leyline to protect us against decks looking to finish us fast (Storm and Dredge), but now we have the ability to find and cheat either into play without necessarily having to have one in our opening grip.
This changes the entire dynamic of how a deck using these cards plays, which is actually kind of cool when you think about it. You don’t have to rely solely on percentages or poor hands with these cards to gamble critical games away, so take that into consideration when building a sideboard using either of these cards.
There are literally thousands of cards we can choose to play in a deck like this. Hell, we could play Divine Intervention (!) if we really wanted to in a deck like this, but after all is said and done we really want to try and get maximum value out of Attunement with Replenish here. Attunement can be used in a variety of ways from Madness and reanimation strategies (it used to be awesome with Living Death; I actually managed to do that in 1998 by attacking someone to death with two Scaled Wurms and a Benthic Behemoth), but I’d like to focus more on a build that’s more of a spinoff of the older variations it was used with today.
Here was a rough sketch of a list I was going to try at a recent NELC just for fun, but could not gather the cards for it (to no surprise) before attending the event:
As you can see, this is more of a Show and Tell deck than a strict Replenish deck. The reason for this has more to do with basic variance of the deck and the multitude of things you can get into play from your hand as opposed to from your graveyard only. I like the versatility that Show and Tell offers the deck as an alternative way to cheat things into play and I think it gives the deck an incredibly important dynamic post-board where graveyard hate could potentially be more prevalent.
Here are some cards and card combinations in the deck that at first glance raise an eyebrow or two:
Necromancy and Griselbrand: This one is rather obvious, but I felt it was incredibly important to point out. You see, back when Yawgmoth’s Bargain was legal in Extended it was used and abused to no end with Replenish – which enabled some busted wins with Seismic Assault. Even the legendary Zvi (Mowshowitz) used Replenish for a while to a great deal of success, much like his peers.
Enter Griselbrand. With Attunement, we’re able to dump Griselbrand into the graveyard and subsequently Replenish a Necromancy onto the battlefield, bringing back our pseudo-Bargain. The idea here is that we can even use Necromancy as an instant if we choose to cast it at the end of an opponent’s turn. In the event it doesn’t resolve, it still gets “recurred” with Replenish and brings the legendary monstrosity with it in the process.
Show and Tell does the job just fine of bringing him into play by itself, which is why four is basically automatic as a primary accelerator and facilitator in winning games.
Delusions of Mediocrity was a very popular card in conjunction with Bargain-based Replenish strategies back in the day. My thinking here was that it might be okay to run one as a defensive measure against serious aggro strategies or as a means to gain life in the event you are able to ‘Mancy a Griselbrand into play at a total of less than seven life. When Replenishing both into play, you are able to then draw seven cards if you so choose.
There are probably better uses today for this slot, but enchantment removal main deck seems to be at an all-time low and the card can be annoying against decks like Burn when you want that life to buy yourself an extra two to three turns.
If you’re able to get Omniscience into play with it, then you’re probably going to win the game by chaining free Attunements and eventually sticking an Opalescence to smash an opponent for an arbitrarily large amount of damage or burn them out with Seismic Assault, which is also fed by the two Land Tax that help filter out the deck early and turn on your Attunements to draw business and enable repeated use.
Speaking of Land Tax, I was looking at potentially using Forbid as a nice lock and reasonable counterspell to abuse. If you’re filling your hand up with basic lands turn in and turn out, you might as well find a good use for them if you can’t pitch them to Assault right away. I think it’s perfectly fine to run a few in a deck like this.
In the Eye of Chaos is used as a ‘joker’ to shut off fast combo decks like Storm and to a lesser and slower extent High Tide. I like that it’s a one-of that fits the curve and doesn’t really hurt what we’re doing here. Attunement happens to also be an enchantment, which won’t get caught in the lock of countering spells from this forgotten World Enchantment. It might even be worth running one or even two more if your meta calls for it.
I think there are many ways a deck like this can go. Honestly, it might just be a little too discombobulating for today’s competitive Legacy, but it’s sure worth a try if you want to troll a local meta or even your casual Friday night game with friends. I think Attunement is a card that works incredibly well for its cost and what it does and acts like a microcosm of the entire Saga block: it’s not necessarily the most powerful card ever printed, but it’s still head and shoulders above the rest of some of the terrible junk rares printed in subsequent sets over the years.
I for one love Attunement, and if I had the cards for it right now I’d spend some more time refining it and building a deck around it. Madness might be another outlet to abuse its utility, but that’s a whole other beast.
I think the overall message I’m trying to send here today is for everyone to take a second look at this block of cards. I think there are hidden gems all over that block, honestly. Some might not be as good as others, but as long as Wizards keeps printing cards we as a community will continue to create bold and daring combinations that will sweep us back to a time when dinosaurs like Attunment ruled the Earth.
Speaking of dinosaurs…