by Phil Blechman

(Editor’s Note: Tim was under the weather this week and unable to deliver an article to all the faithful Hipsters out there. Luckily for you, Phil Blechman has volunteered to fill in this week. You guys are in for a real treat…if you like the taste of BLOOD!)

Disclaimer: This is my first Magic article, so forgive me if I st-t-t-t-stutter or if I’m redundant or repeat the same point more than once (I still had all these jokes left over when I was done writing!).

Innovation is one of the most admired traits within the game of Magic. Whether the creation of a new archetype, the reworking of a known deck, or the successful use of a card that was overlooked by the community, there is something special about going against the grain and finding success.

My name is Phil Blechman and I am a brewer. At FNMs or major events, I am very rarely, if ever, playing a stock list. Why? Because where is the fun in playing a card and knowing your opponent could write out the majority of your 75? I played a stock list once and it felt gross. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I want to keep my opponents guessing. I want them to not know how to board against me. Have them misplay because they aren’t sure what my deck is capable of doing. I am one of those players who crave playing the underdog cards of a format that don’t receive the attention I think they deserve and proving people wrong. I even played Tibalt at a Star City Games Open. TIBALT! My deck tech with Reuben can be seen here:



You can see how giddy I was to share that deck. Pack Rat is still insanely underrated. The card is an amazing tool for a control deck—you get to hold up mana and if your opponent casts something worthwhile you can counter it. If they cast something you don’t care about? Make a Pack Rat. I love me some Pack Rat. I currently own 197 of them (I collect them because collecting Pack Rats just has all of the flavor and if you see me and have Pack Rats laying around in your binder, throw them my way). Now, although True Blood was a Standard list, it’s easy to connect the dots and realize that, as a brewer, my favorite format is Legacy.

On six foils :(

Only six foils 🙁

Every article you ever read about Legacy at some point states how “you can play whatever you want in this format,” or “you never know what you might see,” and that is sweet sweet music to these ears of mine. From Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Dark Ritual, Show and Tell, and Delver of Secrets, we know the staples we’ll always see at any given Legacy tournament. But for me, the excitement lies with the player trying to Tooth and Nail two fatties onto the table, or the player sitting behind a Glacial Chasm because they still refuse to accept that Wizards is making creatures stronger than spells nowadays, or the player who wants to stick it to greedy manabases by maxing out on Islands and slamming Back to Basics. This is why Legacy is just as much fun to watch as it is to play, and with a pool of 15,000+ cards, true artistry in the game can be achieved in this format. Which brings me to my next point:


Art is Dead

Creatures (22)
Carrion Feeder
Deathrite Shaman
Tidehollow Sculler
Blood Artist

Planeswalkers (2)
Liliana of the Veil

Spells (16)
Cabal Therapy
Faithless Looting
Goblin Bombarment
Lands (20)
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs
Undiscovered Paradise


This is a variation on the Walking Dead, originally designed by Sam Black, adapted to today’s Legacy metagame. The deck centers around the sacrifice outlets of Goblin Bombardment and Carrion Feeder to generate value out of Gravecrawler and Bloodghast. Your engine is Faithless Looting, which is this deck’s proactive Brainstorm and can lead to many degenerate draws. The real strength of this deck is in its resiliency and back-breaking interactions leading to obscene card advantage. Turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Cabal Therapy, cast Gravecrawler, flashback Cabal Therapy, is more often than not Mind Twist. Faithless Looting dumping Bloodghast or Gravecrawler is Divination for R with flashback, and it feels really good when your opponent has to ask, “Could I read Undiscovered Paradise?” Many people look at this deck as the Legacy version of the Aristocrats, and in a lot of ways they’re right. The two decks are very similar with sacrifice outlets being a major form of interaction. My Art is Dead adaptation is different in that it doesn’t have the combo kill with Blasphemous Act but can generate the machine gun of Goblin Bombardment + Blood Artist + Gravecrawler/Bloodghast.

A major difference between my build and the Walking Dead is the absence of Lingering Souls. Lingering Souls has proven itself a Legacy playable card. It has won multiple GPs and is a difficult threat for fair decks to contend with. But in my testing, the card just doesn’t quite do enough at three mana, especially with the front half being white, which is a bigger deal than it looks on paper. Combo decks rejoice when you put two soul tokens onto the table and pass turn, and Delver players have enough power and removal to not be shaken up—souls don’t linger very long when forked bolts shoot from the sky. Art is Dead replaces Lingering Souls with Bitterblossom—a cheaper, long standing, value threat. (Have you seen the judge foil artwork? Gorgeous.) And if they use Abrupt Decay on Blossom, then they aren’t using it on Bombardment. Finally, we have Liliana of the Veil at the top of the curve.

Why Liliana of the Veil? The debate over who the second best planeswalker behind the Mind Sculptor is an ongoing. Some people think Liliana, some think Elspeth, Knight Errant, and some think Baby Jace. Judging from Modern and with a recent SCG Legacy top 8 appearance, Domri Rade might start earning his way into the conversation. Even Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas has several Legacy SCG Opens claiming the title to be his. But despite Tezz being my favorite walker, my vote stays with Liliana. With Nimble Mongooses everywhere and Geist of Saint Traft on the rise, Liliana’s stock only goes up. In this deck, the fact that she only requires black mana is very valuable and with the common interaction of turn one fetch, Deathrite, turn two Liliana can be rough for a combo deck to handle even with a Leyline of Sanctity out since her +1 doesn’t target (ironically enough, neither does Deathrite’s drain ability). The fact that she doubles as removal is simply gravy as some of you might have noticed the deck is very removal light. With Goblin Bombardment and discard serving as the only way to handle creatures in the mainboard, Liliana definitely earns her keep, and so far she’s been fantastic.

Three Goblin Bombardment seems like a high number since multiples are terrible, but your deck operates at a much slower pace and loses a lot of the finesse when you don’t see one, and that is what makes the deck worth playing in the first place. The only reason you can get away without playing the full set is that Faithless Looting helps dig to them. Carrion Feeder gets the nod as a four-of because seeing multiples isn’t as terrible because it attack and, most importantly, is a zombie for Gravecrawler. He will have to be the target for a Swords to Plowshares, as well, ensuring your Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts can keep on keeping on. Bayou is only there to tap for green for Deathrite Shaman (Undiscovered Paradise can as well), and so far, has earned the slot. Removing creatures in a Reanimator matchup or gaining life in a racing situation has proven relevant. Tidehollow Sculler is the only white card in the mainboard and is, by himself, worth adding white since disrupting your opponent’s game plan, giving you perfect information for Cabal Therapy, and being a Zombie for Gravecrawler are all immensely relevant in almost every matchup. White also provides some very sweet cards in the board that we’ll get to, but first I’d like to talk about the namesake of the deck.

Blood Artist is Legacy worthy. This innocuous 0/1 receives zero respect from players sitting across from it in this format because the work he puts in is very subtle, often  through the misdirection of other spells. Blood Artist isn’t providing a sac outlet for other creatures. Blood Artist isn’t the creature that keeps recurring itself back to the table. He’s just being a duder guy. But a duder guy with a fine brush stroke and a pimp anime overcoat. He’s a vampire and vampires need to drink blood to survive, but Blood Artist don’t care. He’s like, “I’ma paint with this blood because art is my sustenance.” He just takes his bloody palette and his canvas and puts a little dit, a little dat, a little bit of the ditdat. So badass. Bleeding them for one and gaining you one life at a time doesn’t feel like a big deal but this deck, more than any other I’ve seen in the format, wins through incremental damage. And Blood Artist is no slouch there. Speaking of nuances that are vital to the function of this deck…Forgetting to sacrifice your Gravecrawler to Carrion Feeder and recasting it with the one mana you had left is the difference between Carrion Feeder surviving a Lightning Bolt. Fetching without a specific reason and all of a sudden you don’t have a land drop to recur your Bloodghasts? Didn’t properly sequence your land drop after casting Faithless Looting? Played the Marsh Flats over the Verdant Catacombs because, “Whatever,” and now that Catacombs can’t fetch the Plateau you need? I guess you can scoop up your permanents and extend the hand. Every decision, every line, every mana in this deck is so valuable it can be the difference of winning the game and unable to deal that last point of damage. Unless, of course, you have a Blood Artist on the board, who must be a really tall vampire because he gives you so much reach. He is the prime example of why this deck can be such a powerhouse but receives no respect. “Two mana, 0/1, do-nothings aren’t good enough for Legacy,” said the player who lost to eight Blood Artist triggers in one turn. Good thing Blood Artist gained you enough life to race that opponent, huh?

Let’s talk the sideboard. More often than not, I see players figuring out the last couple of slots for their sideboard right before a tournament, and I always think that is the reason they won’t top eight. I think it of myself whenever I’m short on time and do the same thing. You play more post-board games than pre-board, so your sideboard is arguably more important to fine tune than your main deck. Also, when deciding on numbers, figure out what decks you really have trouble beating and devote heavily to beating them. Then look at what cards you don’t want in a certain match up. If you want to board in six cards against one deck but only want to side out three, you’re probably too heavily boarded against that particular matchup. The opposite is true when you have too many cards to board out and not enough to board in.

Here’s my board for Art is Dead:



Surgical Extraction
Wear // Tear
Oblivion Ring
Dark Confidant
Path to Exile
Dark Blast
Umezawa's Jitte
Shivan Harvest


Starting with the other reasons to add white, Oblivion Ring is primarily for any Show and Tell matchup. You put it into play off their Show and Tell and it deals with whatever they put in, whether it’s Emrakul or Omniscience, O-ring don’t care. Plus, it’s still castable at three mana as a later draw in the game. Wear // Tear is the newest addition. The slot was originally occupied by Disenchant as white grants us access to enchantment removal, specifically to hate out Leyline of Sanctity, that red and black don’t have, but I’ve switched to Wear // Tear. The reasons being costing only W vs 1W is huge when your opponent opens with a Leyline of Sanctity and if you can’t destroy it until turn two with Disenchant, they’ll just cast Show and Tell on turn three and get there. Tear lets you remove the Leyline on turn one and then go to discard town turn two before they can go off. Being a non-blue deck, your only mode of disruption is discard, so that one turn difference is huge. Wear, being a Shatter, is still great against a lot of decks like Deathblade, Hive Mind, High Tide, Tezzeret, or MUD that run artifacts. One big omission from this list that other Zombie decks have been adopting is Abrupt Decay. With your deck being so color intensive, needing double black, black-white, and red all within the first two turns of the game, very often I’d find myself with an unreliable mana base to also need green. This might be a bit of a concession to Miracles, which run Counterbalance, but Bloodghast and Gravecrawler do a fine job getting around that card. Path to Exile is my current experiment; I like that it only costs W and deals with everything (them tutoring a basic isn’t that big of a deal since this isn’t a Wasteland deck, which we’ll also talk about), but they might be better as Go for the Throat or some other black-based removal spell.

There are three Surgical Extractions and I honestly still look to find room for the fourth. Punishing Fire is an absolute nightmare. You may be able to cast infinite guys but it’s not quite good enough if they can cast infinite removal spells (and once again, since we lack Wasteland, Grove of the Burnwillows will be sticking around). Surgical is also good against combo decks with so much discard already main board for them.

Bob is there primarily as more card draw. In boarded games where you want to see the cards you boarded in, Bob will accelerate your ability to find them. With the most expensive spells in the deck topping out at a converted mana cost of three, he won’t make you pay too dearly for them, either. Plus, he can beat for two.

Dark Blast is self-explanatory. Sometimes your opponents are going to play guys. And sometimes you want to have a recurring removal spell to keep killing all those guys they cast. You haven’t lived until you’ve Dark Blasted a creature, cast Faithless Looting to dredge the Dark Blast back while milling over a pair of Bloodghasts, Dark Blasting another creature, playing your land, then recurring the Bloodghasts to bash their face.

Umezawa’s Jitte in this deck is pretty saucy since you are pretty much always willing to suicide a Bloodghast or Gravecrawler to put counters on the Jitte. Once again, removal is really nice to have access to.

And here’s where we get spicy: Shivan Harvest, for those of you who don’t know (and for those of you who do I’m impressed), is a 1R enchantment that says 1R, sacrifice a creature: destroy target nonbasic land. Yeah, you read that right. It says 1R: Wasteland. The reason why we don’t play Wasteland in this deck is because all your spells need their colors. That being said, it’s also why Wasteland is so good against you. Being able to fetch for a basic swamp turn one and then fetch up Plateau turn two to have access to all three colors is very important. That’s why Plateau merits a spot in the deck as the only land that can’t tap for black. For the attrition match ups like Jund or Deathblade or other fair decks, Wasteland is a really big deal. Deathrite is an asset in this deck primarily because he makes Wasteland less powerful and taps for all of your colors. Hitting manlands is a valuable tool to have access to as well, but playing a colorless land that also keeps us off a land for turn isn’t where this deck wants to be. But to have a recurring Wasteland effect that can be abused via the creatures in your deck? I’m all about it. Welcome, Shivan Harvest, as the 75th card.

Art is Dead is not only flavorful, unique, and a fun deck to play, but at most tournaments you’ll most likely be the only person in the room playing it. It’s a deck that rewards play skill very highly, punishes misplays harshly, and has a good match up against the main pillars of this extremely diverse format. I hope this deck will cement me the nickname as “The Artist” within the community, because it represents the values that I hold highest as a player.

Here’s hoping we get to talk about Magic cards more in the future. I hope you all can help me collect all of the Pack Rats.


Phil Blechman

Pack Rat!

Pack Rat!

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