In the months leading to the Sensei’s Divining Top ban, I had been writing the first part of an article series that I had hoped would eventually serve as something of a primer for my favourite deck, Four-Colour Loam. For reasons that I will outline shortly, I have decided to take my playing (and therefore my articles) in a different direction. The purpose of this article is to debut my article series that will follow my testing and thought process for a different approach to the archetype of ‘Aggro Loam’, and probably eventually venture into some kind of primer-style content.
A short introduction.
Yeah the boys.
To contextualise a little, my name is James and I can be found as @Juzamjimjams on all corners of the internet. I am from Melbourne, Australia, where we have a thriving legacy community thanks to the efforts of The Salt Mine boys; it is not uncommon for our weekly events to fire with 30+ participants, when simultaneously organised Standard and Modern events may fail to fire at all. Because of the health of our legacy community, I have not yet needed to make the leap from paper to MtGO. However, this is quickly becoming one of my priorities with real-life time commitments stacking up. Due to the relative geographic isolation of my Magic career, and having little interest in pursuing the PPTQ grind, I have relatively few ‘achievements’ in terms of a MtG resume – I do find it exciting that my name exists on MtGTop8 at all. I am, however, incredibly passionate about my deck, and with a background in Magic that arcs back many years, I feel confident piloting 4c Loam competitively.
Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about Loam.
Introducing Naya Loam:
1 Barbarian Ring
1 Dark Depths
1 Dryad Arbor
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Maze of Ith
1 Thespian’s Stage
1 Tranquil Thicket
3 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Centaur Vinecrasher
1 Gaddock Teeg
4 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Tireless Tracker
Non-Creature Spells: (20)
2 Council’s Judgment
2 Green Sun’s Zenith
2 Life from the Loam
4 Punishing Fire
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Mox Diamond
2 Sylvan Library
2 Containment Priest
4 Faerie Macabre
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Reclamation Sage
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Sylvan Safekeeper
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
If you’re remotely familiar with 4c Loam, you can probably see the obvious change – I’ve dropped black – but for those with less experience with the archetype, allow me to elaborate. 4c Loam generally runs black as one of its primary colours to support Dark Confidant for card advantage, Abrupt Decay for flexibility and usually Liliana of the Veil for raw power reasons. By eschewing black, I am attempting to achieve two things, the first of which being stable mana. Granted, although I have not dramatically increased the number of coloured sources in the deck, the change ensures that “most” spells in the deck can be cast with any combination of two different dual lands. From my years in the driver’s seat of 4c Loam, I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been frustrated by being rendered incapable of casting any of my spells by a single Wasteland. How can I excel at punishing people’s mana bases if I can’t establish my own?
While I’ve maintained the core of Wasteland, Grove, duals, and utility lands so as to continue leveraging the Life from the Loam package in grindy games, it is largely the mana base’s capacity to navigate the mana requirements of the deck through disruption that has been a real breath of fresh air for me.
To dispel the witch hunt that the above illustration has the potential to elicit: I am not saying that Tarmogoyf is better than Bob. The second dynamic I am trying to achieve with this build is a faster, more aggressive clock. Tarmogoyf fills the two-drop gap that cutting Dark Confidant opens, and is also apparently really scary to play one on turn one, something no other deck in Legacy does (I’m sure someone is going to correct me on that).
Why would you want to play more aggressively?
Consider the following:
4c Loam has the tools to defeat these cards, some may be considered even match ups, though I am of the opinion that Show and Tell is among the deck’s very worst match ups. While the tools we possess for generic combo decks exist in cards such as Chalice of the Void, Gaddock Teeg and Liliana of the Veil (to some extent), none of these cards will get you there on their own, assuming an at least competent opponent. Obviously that statement will vary, as sometimes a Chalice on one will win you the game on the spot, but Show and Tell and Storm decks are each capable of winning through said Chalice and Burn by no means folds to Chalice altogether.
I believe that to beat combo consistently, a combination of lock pieces and a fast clock is what gets the job done. Goyf certainly is not as versatile, powerful or interesting as Knight of the Reliquary, but it comes down a turn earlier and gets huge quick. In addition to this, I argue that finishing the game as quickly as possible is a more effective strategy than trying to answer assembled combos when you’ve fallen behind. KotR is also very often smaller than a Tarmogoyf in games that you don’t have time to leverage Life from the Loam in a meaningful way.
Considerations for dropping specific black cards.
Abrupt Decay is a flexible, uncounterable removal spell that hits a veritable mixture of problematic permanents and common threats in Legacy. It is not my intention to suggest that Abrupt Decay is bad now that Counterbalance is not an omnipresence of the metagame, but what I will say is that Abrupt Decay, at least in an archetype such as Loam, incentivizes ‘reactive’ play patterns. Since the printing of Leovold, I’ve been less impressed with a reactive game plan that doesn’t involve counterspells due to the uptick of cards such as Gurmag Angler and True-Name Nemesis, regardless of whether or not they’re alongside Leovold. Essentially, I am comfortable with dropping the flexibility of Abrupt Decay in order to attempt to reconstruct the deck into a shell that encourages proactive play patterns, but also has a grindy back up plan.
I love Dark Confidant. My attraction to 4c Loam was largely predicated on its existence as a viable shell for this card. Lately however, I’ve not been impressed with it. Card advantage is certainly a resource that the archetype needs to invest some number of slots to, and don’t get me wrong, an unanswered Dark Confidant will very often win games. Hell, I might even just be salty about my Bobs getting murdered every time I play them, but I don’t believe that he achieves what I am going for with the direction I’m taking the deck.
I think Dark Confidant is a worthy inclusion to 4c Loam, but as the card can’t be found with Green Sun’s Zenith, he is not part of the grind package that I am looking to assemble.
Dropping Liliana of the Veil is certainly territory that has been explored (shout out to Apocolyps6), and my opinion is pretty straightforward with regard to the obvious constraints of her mana requirements.
It’s probably important to note that LotV increases the overall card quality of the deck in a way that is hard to emulate – she’s just stupidly powerful, which very often mitigates the difficulty of casting her. However, the card forwards similar play patterns to Abrupt Decay and Dark Confidant, and the combination of that and a ‘1BB’ casting cost is not enough for me to justify her inclusion.
To avoid discussing the merits of each Black flex spot of 4c Loam, I’ll simply state that cards such as Deathrite Shaman, Toxic Deluge, Collective Brutality and Golgari Charm are often found in stock seventy-fives in numbers varying from one to two copies. I do regret that while I haven’t had an opportunity to properly test Collective Brutality at this stage, it is definitely a card that appears to have a huge potential in the archetype, and will eventually draw me back for the sake of science. The inclusion of DRS is also a topic that tends to split Loam players into two camps – regardless of this debate I firmly believe that without a black land in the deck the utility of the card is drastically lessened, and I refuse to stress my mana for the activated ability of a one of.
What I’ve really missed.
Leyline of the Void has the ability to turn some really miserable ape matchups into free wins. The ‘dies to removal’ argument is certainly valid, as it has the vulnerability of being permanent based hate, but what it does to Manaless Dredge players is worth it. Fuck them. (Editor’s note: D:)
Granted, it’s still technically castable in the deck, but the best case scenarios are the ones that you never have to. I really hate the idea of losing with one of these stuck in my hand when serviceable alternatives exist. I’m currently on four Faerie Macabre and one Bojuka Bog, the latter is a recent inclusion, and whilst these answers are not on the power level of Black Leyline, I am content with them for the time being considering the primary graveyard strategy of my local metagame is Black-Red Reanimator.
I’ve got in some reasonable testing with Naya Loam. 3-1ing my weekly and Top 8ing a monthly sanctioned, on top of all the casual testing I’ve managed to jam, has definitely inspired me to run it back at Eternal Masters – one of Australia’s bigger sanctioned Legacy events of the year. I’m willing to admit that I’ve won multiple games/matches due to sub optimal plays from my opponents that would not have happened were they aware I was not running the black cards they were playing around. Having Liliana of the Veil named from an opposing Phyrexian Revoker is a pretty good feeling when you have an active Knight of the Reliquary on the field.
I do not yet have access to a large enough data set to suggest that this deck is any better placed than the traditional 4c build in a large meta, and realistically I’ve kept the core of the archetype and filled the rest of the seventy-five with cards that seem good for my local metagame. My performance at Eternal Masters, as well as my eventual testing on MtGO, will give a more realistic view of the deck’s placement. However, I am enthused by the potential this build has, and deck building is a very rewarding and enriching experience, so I’m going to stick to it until I have completely come to the conclusion that it sucks.
What’s really impressed me so far.
Council’s Judgment straight up feels like cheating. If I felt that the deck could support four, I’d do it in a second. Make no mistake, it’s not uncounterable and it costs three mana – we’re not talking about Abrupt Decay – but the damn thing can kill True-Name Nemeses, Jaces, equipment, and even poorly protected Emrakuls.
The printing of Sanctum Prelate (wtf is that card) has recently lead people to include Cabal Pits in their 4c Loam lists, which is necessary, I guess. Barbarian Ring, on the other hand, has amazed me. B-Ring is Punishing Fire five with less power and more utility, allows KotR to virtually block two creatures at once, and can really cause problems for your opponents in longer games. I’ve also been really impressed with the two Qasali Pridemages in the seventy-five, I think moving forward I’ll swap the one in the board with the Centaur Vinecrasher. And on that note:
Cards I’m not terribly convinced by.
Both of these cards match the description of ‘cool shit I own and want to play with’. They both have powerful abilities but neither have completely wowed me either. Both cards have been great against decks that rely solely on Abrupt Decay for removal and Deathrite for mana (Czech Pile and BUG.dec), though the Centaur has proven to be more impactful in a wider sense than The Tabernacle. In the worst case, Centaur Vinecrasher is a clunky four-drop idiot that can vary from poorly statted to absurd depending on the game state. I do like what The Tabernacle can do to Sol Land creature decks, so to conclude I will hold off on cutting either card pending further testing.
Mad Dog Safekeeper is 100% a pet card that proved too cute. The card sounds really cool in a deck with 27 lands and some very Decayable threats, but I’m just not convinced it impacts any match up significantly enough to fill a slot that could sure up the truly abysmal. Alas, we went from a Sylvan Safekeeper in the main, to a Sylvan Safekeeper in the side, to none at all.
The deck has felt stupidly consistent, I haven’t really missed LotV and I have not yet had any real issue with casting any spells (outside of complete mana screw which is always a possibility). As mentioned earlier, I will be running this back at the Eternal Masters event coming this weekend at the time of writing, my next article will cover my early impressions of the match ups that are most common in the current meta, as well as a brief tournament report.
Thanks to everyone who helped with feedback and proofreading throughout my writing process, and thanks to you for reading. Until next time, I’d be happy to discuss my list more actively, therefore you can reach me on social media at the following places:
@juzamjimjams on Twitter
And @juzamjimjams on mtgthesource.com
By James O’Brien