Welcome back to another adventure into the Spice Cabinet. I was very pleased with the reception of “The Participation Trophy” article, it’s nice to blow off steam with a crazy brew every now and then. Today though, I thought we might take things in a more competitive direction. The deck I have to showcase is one that I have jammed several times to a top four finish at Legacy FNM. If your metagame is full of various Delver decks, Shardless BUG, Maverick Hatebears, or Esper Stoneblade then this deck will absolutely shred through them. I call it Punishing Passage.

Punishing Passage

Spells (22)
Guided Passage
Punishing Fire
Force of Will
Abrupt Decay
Sylvan Library
Dack Fayden
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (14)
Deathrite Shaman
Bloodbraid Elf
True-Name Nemesis
Lands (22)
Tropical Island
Volcanic Island
Underground Sea
Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Wooded Foothills
Grove of the Burnwillow

The Namesake Card pt 1. Punishing Fire:

Punishing Fire plus Grove of the Burnwillows is a card advantage combo machine. It’s so good in fact, it is banned in Modern. Two damage is enough to kill pretty much any utility creature in the format. A short list would go something along the lines of Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, Dark Confidant, Stoneforge Mystic, Snapcaster Mage, Monastery Mentor, Vendilion Clique, and every creature in Elves. That list hardly does justice to the range and scope that Punishing Fire has and worst case scenario you can always just point it at your opponent’s face for an excruciatingly grindy win condition.

The Namesake Card pt 2. Guided Passage

This is one of the most interesting card draw spells ever printed. It is no surprise that it was printed in the same block as another favorite, Fact or Fiction. Guided Passage has you hand your deck to your opponent and then ask them how they would like you to kill them. Because every card in the deck is roughly on the same power level. No matter what they choose, it is going to have an impact on the game. I like to think of it as an Ancestral Vision that you can cast this turn or a Painful Truths that you don’t lose life for.

Rounding out the spells

Brainstorm, Force of Will, and Abrupt Decay are three pillars of the deck. Brainstorm smooths your draws, Force of Will keeps everyone playing fair, and Abrupt Decay deals with anything you can’t burn away with Punishing Fire.

My one concern is that the blue spell count in the deck is a bit low to support Force of Will. New deck builders will throw Force of Will into any old deck with a splash of blue without crunching the numbers to see if they can actually reliably cast it. At sixteen blue spells, counting Force of Will itself, this deck is at the bare minimum needed in a given list. If anything I might like to find some room for Ponder to up the blue count and give Brainstorm some backup.


Deathrite Shaman is one of the best turn one plays you can make with this deck. Your mana base can get pretty complicated—a typical line of play will be turn one Deathrite Shaman, turn two Abrupt Decay, turn three cast Guided Passage or Bloodbraid Elf. As you can see the deck puts a lot of pressure on having the right mana at the right time so it’s nice to have Sheamus the Elf around to keep you casting spells on curve.

Bloodbraid Elf is an incredibly fun addition to the deck. While her little brother Shardless Agent steals most of the spotlight in Legacy, Bloodbraid holds her own in this set up. Ramping into an early Bloodbraid, followed by cascading into a Guided Passage is usually enough to slam the door on any fair decks plans of winning the game. You are able to bury the opponent in card advantage while throwing a hasty 3/2 at their face.

Tarmogoyf and True-Name Nemesis are the enforcers of the deck. They keep the pressure up on your opponents and chip away at their life total before you finish them off for the last few points of damage with Deathrite or Punishing Fire.

Non-Creature Permanents

Since we are hopping aboard the value train to card advantage town, we might as well invite some of the best repeatable card selection effects for the ride. Sylvan Library and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are backbreaking when they are able to stick around. One of the worst feelings in competitive Legacy is being stuck in top deck mode with an opponent who has a Library or Jace. These two are also important as they allow you to set up your cascade triggers with Bloodbraid Elf. In short this deck runs Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Sylvan Library for all the reasons Shardless BUG runs the same cards.

The Spicy 61st

For some reason, everytime I say Dack Fayden it comes out sounding like this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12KHcSQiVz0

But that is neither here nor there. Dack Fayden is a spicy add-on for the deck, filling the spot usually taken by Liliana of the Veil in the Shardless BUG lists. He helps smooth your draws and when combined with Punishing Fire graveyard recursion, he turns into a card drawing machine.

Stealing an artifact with his -2 is actually more relevant than you would think in Legacy. I have snagged Swords of X & Y, Lodestone Golems, and Aether Vials. I have also forced my opponents to pop Lion’s Eye Diamonds, Engineered Explosives, and Sensei’s Divining Tops at inopportune times, least they hand over their shiny toys for me to play with. In Magical Christmas land you can even tick him all they way up to his ultimate and then start stealing anything that does not get fried by Punishing Fire. All in all Matt Damo… I mean Dack Fayden is a great 61st addition to the deck.

Closing Remarks

Well there you have it folks, a grindy four color midrange deck to absolutely bury your opponents in card advantage. There are very few fair decks that you will have trouble beating with this brew. Even Miracles is a favorable matchup since your curve is high enough to get over Counter/Top and all the card advantage will keep you ahead of Terminus wiping the board. If you are able to play Delver decks and fair creature based decks all day you will be a happy camper.

The combo matchup on the other hand is a whole other story. Due to the nature of Bloodbraid Elf, Force of Will is the only counter magic you can run, last thing you want to do is hit a Spell Pierce in the middle of a cascade trigger. Since the deck is only lightly splashing black discard is probably not the best option either. While Thoughtseize is doable, it is also not an ideal target for a cascade trigger. As such you are going to want to stock your sideboard full of combo hating permanents such as Grafdigger’s Cage, Ensnaring Bridge, Vendilion Clique, Null Rod, Pithing Needle, etc. Truthfully though, your best bet is to bring this deck to a meta that has already hated out combo for you. Every deck has its bad matchups and sometimes you just have to pick and choose your battles.

I hope you all enjoyed this addition of the Spice Cabinet, I’ll see you around.

Jerry Mee is a Boston Native who has been playing Magic since Onslaught Block. Primarily a Legacy player, he cohosts the weekly Leaving a Legacy Podcast found on Mtgcast.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @Jmee3rd

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