The Captain’s Log: Stifled Opportunities
It is well known among the magic community that I am a huge fan of Stifle. I was always a huge proponent of playing this card in RUG and when people were cutting it I was advocating harder and harder for it. There are many reasons why this card is amazing and today I will go into full detail why this card is amazing and how much tempo and value it adds to your game as a RUG player.
First before we go into detail about Stifle and its proper usage throughout the game, we first must look at what game plan your deck has. Some people do not understand this concept entirely, but every good deck has a plan to go about winning the game. The most powerful plans and decks are the ones with the most synergy and powerful cards working all together. This may seem intuitive, but you would not believe how many decks I have seen that people put together that have competing ideas working against each other. It is your opponent’s goal to work against you, not your deck’s. Make it easier on yourself and get rid of these “Nonbos”, the opposite of combos, out of your deck.
As a RUG player your plan is to use your resources to stall your opponent enough to win through a combination of attacking, then burning them out with Lightning Bolts and maybe a Forked Bolt here and there. This deck goes about capitalizing on this disruption of mana, creature kill and bounce through the usage of very small creatures so you can cast them early then focus on your opponent’s spells and threats. Often you are not looking for permanent answers to your opponents creatures, or threats, often you are looking for a small window to exploit.
Since this deck is so quick and consistent, because of the 8 awesome draw spells, often all you will need is one turn of this disruption to put your opponent at such a low life total that they simply cannot recover. Stifle is the flagship when it comes to disruption and versatility. This makes sense because Legacy is such a powerful format that has many come into play effects and activated ability’s and Stifle cures all of these problems, at least temporarily.
So let’s take a look at the previous top 8 right here locally at Jupiter Games and see how Stifle interacts with these decks. Let’s start with the winner, the one and only Bryant Cook master of the Storm, brushing off the old faithful deck in a field ripe with midrange decks was an awesome Metagame choice if I do say so myself.
Now in this list you will see something that you will see out of a lot of decks in legacy and maybe one of the biggest reasons to play Stifle, Fetchlands. Fetches are amazing, giving you the ability to fix your mana, shuffle away unneeded cards and thin your library of lands. But all this comes at a cost, it turns Stifle into a Stone Rain all the while making the opponent lose one life from the fetchland activation. Beyond fetchlands in Bryant’s deck there is one other huge target, anything with the Storm mechanic itself on it. Often times in combo the opponent will be working on limited resources in the hand and deck in an effort to kill you quickly before you can develop your hand and game state so the opponent may roll the dice and simply hope you do not have an answer in your hand. In this scenario Stifle is at its best. After all the work the Storm player has gone through to get their Storm count, you can reverse all of that work with one Stifle. This Stifle counters all the Storm triggers except for the original copy. Storm of 20, take 40 from Tendrils of Agony? Nope how about I stifle that and I’ll just Take 2, nice try though. Oh you rattled off 12 spells and are trying to Empty the Warrens for 24? Nope you have 2 goblin tokens for your hard work. Now this plan gets a little harder when the Storm player is playing around disruption via targeted discard and countermagic, but Stifle still gives you a shot and often times that’s all you need.
On to the second place finisher, Henry Decker. In this deck there is a whole host of Stifle targets. Once again Stifle is not a permanent answer to these problems, but that is not what you will get for one blue mana. We simply are buying enough time so that the cards in the opponent’s field, hand, and graveyard are irrelevant because your opponent is at zero life. If the opponent is dead it doesn’t matter how many cards they have in their hand or how many creatures they have on board. The three biggest Stifle Targets in this deck would have to be Sneak Attack, Grisselbrand, and Emrakul, The Aeons Torn.
It has come up many times when I have played against other Sneak and Show decks that a hasted Emrakul, The Aeons Torn or Grisselbrand has been coming at me fast and at the ready, but Stifle plays a key role against both of these cards. After Grisslebrand has attacked and gained 7 life the opponent will often try to cash in for 7 more cards off the life that they have recently gained, but with a Stifle in hand they have effectively gained nothing and drawn 0 cards. I will trade my one card in hand for 7 cards and 7 life from them any day. Emrakul, The Aeons Torn is an amazingly scary card when it is coming at you seemingly out of nowhere, I mean with a card that has protection from spells you can’t even unsummon him back to their hand, but you know what doesn’t have protection from spells? Yes that’s right the annihilator trigger. Now that being said you will still have a 15/15 flyer coming at you like a bat out of hell, but given the proper game state and the proper set up, that is not game over.
Next on the list is a deck that is increasing in popularity with Joey Manner’s UW list. Now this deck has some very crucial interactions with Stifle. These interactions can mean the difference between another attack phase for possibly the win and all of your creatures fleeing to the bottom of your library. Yes I am talking about the Miracle ability on Terminus. This interaction changes Terminus form being a 1 mana spell that is easily out of Daze and Spell Pierce range to a 6 mana, bad Wrath of God. How this works is when your opponent reveals the Terminus (or any other miracle card for that matter) a trigger is put on the stack to let it be allowed to be cast for its reduced price. You now have the ability to counter that. The card will go back into the player’s hand, again it’s not a permanent answer, but simply buying us time because if they die with a Terminus in their hand unable to cast it, it is as if they did not draw it at all.
Also gaining some popularity in the UW lists is Detention Sphere. This is for obvious reasons being able to remove multiple targets and also it is able to be pitched to Force of Will, but one thing it can’t escape is Stifle! When Detention Sphere comes into play a trigger is put on the stack and Stifle has something to say about unwanted triggers.
Next up Kevin McKee and his version of Nick Fit. Now I’m not going to lie to you, this matchup is almost impossible to win for a RUG player. Things have to go so right for you that it isn’t even funny. Luckily this deck isn’t too popular and it isn’t unfeasible to dodge this deck entirely for the majority of your tournament play. That being said this deck is flush with triggers that need to be dealt with as well. The most important trigger in my mind is the Veteran Explorer trigger. With a well-timed Stifle this turns Nick Fit into a very slow midrange deck that is very reliant on drawing land.
I think you should be starting to get my point. Stifle provides such versatility that it seems ridiculous to not play it in a tempo deck. It seems to be everything you want at every point of the game. Let’s face it people are going to play awesome cards that say “when this card comes into play” and no matter what Wizards prints in this department it will still have to get by Stifle. As a player you are trying to disrupt your opponent as much as possible en-route to victory and being able to shut off something as simple as a come into play trigger form a Snapcaster Mage may be enough time to kill your opponent.
Also in a format where the decks play so little land, sometimes as few as 18, being able to steal a game is not out of the realm of possibility. Drawing the 2 stifle hand against an opponent who kept a 2 fetchland hand, can be so enraging to them. This is important to note when you are just starting to play Legacy because being able to steal a game like that against a bad matchup or against an opponent who is much more seasoned than you is crucial. It’s simple; your opponent cannot beat you if they cannot cast their spells. Stifle attacks a different level of the game than most cards do, all the while being versatile against others strategies.
I’ll leave you with another in game example of why I love Stifle so much, even against players who play around it. I was playing famous cardboard slinger Douglas McKay and as usual he came with a very special home brew mixed with oodles of goodies. It was game three, Doug had already fell to the double Stifle hand in game 2 so he was extra careful to play around Stifle in game 3. He left two uncracked fetch lands on the field well into the game. Doug tried to cast a Counterbalance, which hands down wrecks RUG, with his 2 dual lands figuring he was well out of Daze range and even safe from Spell Pierce. What he wasn’t safe from was the double Stifle, Daze hand. Using my Daze, I put Doug to the Ultimate test. Does he crack his fetch land when I so obviously have Stifle or does he let my Counterbalance die to a Daze when he possibly has the mana to pay for it? As it stood after I dazed the Counterbalance Doug went for it, but he was graciously met with a Stifle for each land and a countered Counterbalance. Remember be patient with Stifle there will almost always be an opportunity for you to get value form them.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.