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Can You Smell What “THE ROCK” Is Cooking!!!

March 1, 2011

In the almost 17 years that I have been playing Magic The Gathering, there has never been a colour combination that I enjoy and love more than Green/Black. I recall back in the Urza’s Block days, there was no deck that I loved to wield more on table tops then Sol Malka’s “The Rock” which as you probably guessed it, it was named after one of the most beloved members of World Wrestling Federations main stay Wrestlers Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, A.K.A. The People’s Champion.

Back then “The Rock” was a force to help contend with the Turn 3 Reanimator decks, it had answer that Game needed, and whether it be today’s modren Rock or the days where Spiritmonger trounced on your opponent Green/Black has always had a strong go in Magic The Gathering.

A really good example of what Classic Rock looked like back then is Gab Tsang’s deck from the Huston Pro Tour Season back in 1997 (Don’t quote me exactly on the year, I know it was that period but am not 100%)

The Rock (classic build)

Main Deck: 60 cards
1 Dust Bowl
7 Forest
4 Llanowar Wastes
1 Plains
5 Swamp
4 Treetop Village
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Krosan Tusker
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Ravenous Baloth
4 Spiritmonger
4 Yavimaya Elder
4 Duress
1 Engineered Plague
1 Living Death
4 Pernicious Deed
2 Vampiric Tutor
2 Vindicate

Sideboard (15 Cards)

3 Choke
2 Coffin Purge
3 Diabolic Edict
2 Engineered Plague
1 Living Death
4 Naturalize

This is pretty close to the deck I use to play back then. Today’s Rock looks pretty different from the days gone by. While you can still find Rock builds in almost ever format, since it seems Green/Black just earns that nick name regardless, No Format can truly claim the truest form of the title other than Legacy.

Today’s Legacy builds of “The Rock” and it’s millions has always had slight changes whether it be a splash of white to make Dark Horizons decks, or a new card from the latest block. the evolution of the deck really hasn’t changed. The Premise of “The Rock” is very simple, have an answer for everything! from Disruption to Creature control, “The Rock” has it all, where it lacks in straight up counter, it makes up for in brute strength.

Most of the common Rock decks now splash a bit of white for more answers or for creatures that otherwise wouldn’t be there. But since Legacy is a format of exploration sometimes the answer isn’t always in front of your classic train of thought, but rather you need a new frontier to delve into. This is a deck that I would build in a heartbeat just because you can’t go wrong with answers on your side.

Main Deck: 60 Cards
3 Mox Diamond
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Dark Confidant
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Pernicious Deed
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Gerrard’s Verdict
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Thoughtseize
4 Vindicate
1 Plains
2 Swamp
2 Bayou
1 Horizon Canopy
4 Marsh Flats
1 Maze of Ith
3 Scrubland
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Wasteland
1 Karakas
Side Board: 15 Cards
4 Engineered Plague
2 Pernicious Deed
3 Diabolic Edict
3 Extirpate
3 Kataki, War’s Wage

It really is an amazing thing to see when a deck can evolve from it’s humble days to a tier one competitive style deck than anyone can pick up and wield on the battlefield of the Multiverse.

So what are the key cards for “The Rock” Today? Answer all of them! Your deck, your rock is the answer.

In Rock decks of modern day, many of the builds share similar cards. I’ll refer to the core cards used in a large percentage of Rock decks, followed by those used in some decks, but not all.


Tarmogoyf: The new staple creature of Legacy, Tarmogoyf provides a formidable beater early in the game and gets larger as Rock blows more crap up. An efficient creature is an auto-include in most aggro to midrange Rock decks.

Knight of the Reliquary: The new kid on the block, KotR is soon becoming a staple in Rock builds of all types, due to his ability to get bigger than most other creatures previously used in Rock, and for his land fetching capability. He prevents colour screw by tutoring for the lands you need and gets bigger by doing it. He can also find fetchlands, which can crack to find other lands, pumping himself up by 2. Some combat tricks used with him are: blocking, and before damage searching for lands to increase his P/T ratio; attacking then untapping after damage but before end of combat using Maze of Ith, which can also be tutored for by Knight; searching for specialty lands to hose the graveyard (Bojuka Bog), provide blockers (Nantucko Monastery), and provide recursion (Volrath’s Stronghold). All in all, Knight is proving his worth as a 5/5 to 10/10 and up creature for 3 mana.

Eternal Witness: Usually played in more controlling builds, Eternal Witness allows you to replay backbreaking spells over and over again. Most people running Aggro builds have dropped Witness in favour of faster answers. Coupled with Pernicious Deed blowing up for more than 3, Witness and Pernicious Deed can combo in loops, with Witness fetching Deed, playing Deed and blowing up for more than 3, and returning Witness with Volrath’s Stronghold.

Dark Confidant: Used in Rock builds with lower mana curves, Confidant provides serious card advantage that is used to crush your opponent. Although very fragile, he can also attack when you don’t have any other pressure on board. Coupled with Sensei’s Divining Top, Confidant can draw you cards while manipulating your library for minimal loss of life. Coupled with fetchlands, you rarely take huge damage from Confidant. He’s pretty much an auto-include in most builds today.

Stoneforge Mystic: Used in some Aggro builds, it allows you to fetch weapons tech to flesh out creature on creature battles. A very useful tool, but does have to be built around. The main pieces of equipment to use with Stoneforge Mystic are Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Light and Shadow, and Sword of Fire and Ice. In this deck, I think Jitte and SoLS are best, because Jitte is VERY good and can destroy opposing Jittes if need be, and SoLS allows recursion.

Loxodon Hierarch: Another creature used in slower builds, Hierach is a 4/4 beater than nets you life as a CiTP ability. Being able to regenerate your team can very, very crucial in certain times during certain games. Although deemed slow, he’s still an inclusion in many control builds to stay online late enough in the game to win.

Kitchen Finks: The quicker replacement for Loxodon is a 3/2 Persist that nets you 4 life total over its lifetime. It is used against other Aggro based strategies, as it provides you with two blockers and 4 life. It also combines very well with Deed, and gives you creatures after a Deed on 3 or more, and you get some life out of him too. Many rock builds play him in either the main or board, or both.

Tombstalker: Not as common as the other creatures listed, but a worthy inclusion in many builds needing a large beater with evasion. In some builds, he can come down very early to seal the game. In others, he beats for five when there’s nothing left to stop him after you’ve ground out your opponent. He’s not played very often due to the popularity of Dark confidant, and the possibility of blind revealing a Tombstalker and getting hit for 8 isn’t appealing to most players. When he is played, he’s played usually in control based builds, or those without Dark Confidant.

Qasali Pridemage: Used in tempo builds to combat the rising use of powerful artifacts and enchantments. It also gives all your singular attacks an extra boost, making your Goyf bigger than theirs. All in all, a very solid utility creatures, especially with recursion.

Doran, the Siege Tower: Although the mana cost isn’t the easiest to get on turn 3, Doran is a 5/5 beater for 3, which is great. He turns any walls you play (in Control builds) into 4/4 and 5/5’s, and lets your Birds attack for damage, and makes Goyf bigger. Many lists have dropped him for Knight of the Reliquary, as Doran’s 5/5 isn’t as good as a 10/10 down the road.

Nantuko Shade: Again, not another common choice now, but more relevant in the past. Nantucko swings for 5 on turn 3 if played on turn 2, and is a very efficient beater. As of late, he’s been outclassed by other creatures, and he does hog your mana base as you usually want to pump him up. Not a terrible choice in the slightest, but not as common as other creatures.

Shriekmaw: Again, not very common, but used in control builds usually coupled with recursion. It’s usually played for its Evoke cost and returned later in the game.

Lord of Extinction: Some play this in control builds. If this card had trample, it’d be epic. Unfortunately, it’s just a big dumb beater with no evasion. But, it’s very good after Deeding away the board, and then swinging in with impunity.

Spiritmonger: One of the main fatties used when Rock burst into its new era post-Apocalypse. Since then, cheaper creatures have made Spiritmonger largely irrelevant, but he still sees some play in older lists.


Thoughtseize: Most Rock decks like to use hand disruption as card advantage, and Thoughtseize is the best of them all, allowing you to take any non-land card you want at a cost of two life. If a Rock deck is playing hand disruption, this is an auto-include.

Hymn to Tourach: Another piece of hand disruption that is too good not to play if you’re in hand disruption mode.
Gerrard’s Verdict: Usually played a supplement to Thoughtseize and Hymn, or played in place of Hymn if the deck has trouble getting double black on turn 2. It is somewhat worse because it allows your opponent to choose what they discard.

Duress: Usually played in conjunction with Thoughtseize to combat combo and control based strategies.

Inquisition of Kozilek: Played along with Thoughtseize, or as a replacement for Thoughtseize. As you have an upside for not losing life, you lose the ability to nab anything that costs 3 or more. Usually used as Thoughtseizes 5-6, or when on a budget.

Swords to Plowshares: One of the main reasons to splash white, removing any creature for an exchange of life for one white makes this an auto-include in every Rock deck I know. There’s no reason you can’t play 4.

Path to Exile: Usually played as Swords 5-8 in the main or board, Path exchanges creature removal for tempo advantage. It’s used in more agro builds where you don’t want to give your opponent life.

Vindicate: Permanent removal at its finest. For 1BW, kill any single permanent on the board. At 3 CMC, it usually dodges Counterbalance and can kill Jace, a land, any creature…anything. Most Rock decks play at least 2, if not 4.

Maelstrom Pulse: A Vindicate that doesn’t hit lands, but hits multiple non-land permanents. It’s very useful in all of Vindicate’s non-land destruction applications, with the added bonus of being able to kill one to however many things are on the board. Useful for killing tokens, planeswalkers, creatures, multiple enchantments and artifacts (Ghostly Prisons, Mox Diamonds). Also, it’s not usually the colour named against Rock by Iona (White), so it deals with Iona, too. Be careful of friendly fire, though. Usually used as Vindicate #5-6, or as a split.

Pernicious Deed: Blowing up the world X and under for X is good. Really good. Problem being is it kills your own stuff. It’s typically used in more control builds, as it kills your own stuff and is better with long game recursion engines. But, it clears away tokens, and kills everything, A very solid board control card used in many builds.

Engineered Explosives: Allows you to pinpoint Deed the board on the CMC that’s giving you trouble. It’s usually a turn faster than Deed, but doesn’t blow up everything on the board. Usually used in more Aggro builds. Remember you can dodge Counterbalance by paying more in one colour (ex. Pay 2 Green and 1 Black for Sunburst 2, but CMC 3 against Counterbalance/Spell Snare).

Phyrexian Arena: Card draw engine used in Rock builds with higher mana curves. Not as fast as Dark Confidant, but the life loss can be much less, and harder to remove. Use extensively before Dark Confidant, it’s now much less common due to sheer speed.

Sensei’s Divining Top: Over the past couple of years, Top has been used to abuse Dark Confidant, and to make the deck more consistent when in topdeck mode. It allows you to dig 3 per turn, or 4 with Confidant, allowing you to find the cards you need when you need them. Usually an auto-include in most builds for consistency purposes.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant: Played in control builds or in Aggro builds as a 1-2 of, it allows you to create blockers and get attackers flying in the air against either Planeswalkers or the opposing player. It’s a bit slow, but doesn’t get hit by Deed and is hard to Explosives away. Once you go ultimate, you needn’t worry about opposing land destruction or Maelstrom Pulse friendly fire. Also helps against Moat, in case you needed any, but usually puts 10/10 KotR’s into flying mode.

Enlightened Tutor: E. Tutor allows you to run a toolbox sideboard of enchantments, with a little bit of everything for the matchup you need. Most run 1 Enlightened in the main, along with 3 in the board, along with 6-10 tutor targets. It allows some versatility in your answers to certain threats, and makes your opponent constantly guess at what other tricks you have up your sleeve. Some notable inclusions to be used in the tutorboard are: Dueling Grounds, Pernicious Deed, Oblivion Ring, Ghostly Prison, Engineered Plague, Engineered Explosives, Choke, Rule of Law, and others.

Ghastly Demise: Another option in addition to Swords/Path. Most of the time, this will be just as good, but it doesn’t target black creatures, on the other hand, the opponent doesn’t a get a cookie for their creature.

Mana sources/accelerants:

Noble Hierarch: Doesn’t tap for black, but pumps your creatures, provides a blocker, and overall puts you ahead by one in mana. Basically, the best mana accelerant in most midrange builds.

Mox Diamond: Used in many tempo rock Builds, Mox Diamond pitches a land to pump Knight and gives you some mana. Some don’t like it due to mana instability (it’s easily killed, plus you have to pitch lands you can’t get back). In decks concerned about tempo, this isn’t an issue, and allows for many turn 2 plays on turn 1. Tied with Noble in terms of mana acceleration and overall usefulness.

Birds of Paradise: Used in control builds, usually alongside Doran. Produces all colours and blocks, but doesn’t do much else. Easily dies to Deed and EE’s like all mana acceleration.

Wall of Roots: Usually played with Doran, proves a good block against Aggro until you can get up and running.

Wall of Blossoms: Not really a mana producer, more of an accelerant. Played commonly with Doran, and help you fight Aggro and gives you some card advantage.

Sakura Tribe Elder: Another control Element, it allows you to block and sacrifice before damage, allowing you to search out basic lands and chump a dude for a turn.

Veteran Explorer: Gives both you and your opponent an advantage, but many Legacy decks play few or no basics. Used in Control Rock builds with many basics, and where you benefit from the acceleration more than they do. Not terribly common.

Land choices/Numbers:

This will really depend on whether or not you play mana accelerants, which ones you play, and if you play Knight of the Reliquary.

If playing Knight of the Reliquary, as you probably should be, it gives you access to many specialty lands as well as a large creature. You should be playing 7-9 Fetchlands with Knight of the Reliquary. They allow you to fetch for basics is you need to more often, and allow you to get the land you want. They also pump Knight. Total land number is usually in the neighbourhood of 20-23, with most people opting for about 22 with mana sources (either Noble Hierarch or Mox Diamond).

For number of dual lands, it depends how consistent vs. how susceptible to Wasteland you want to be. Truffle Shuffle plays 0 Basic lands and all Duals, but is consistent as it gets in terms of lands. Most Rock decks now play between 3-8 basics, with the average being 3-5. I personally like 4 or 5, since it makes me less vulnerable to colour screw by opposing Wastelands. Most people playing Wasteland in their Rock deck tend to play fewer basics themselves, however. This is really just a personal choice, and what you feel comfortable playing with. In terms of number of Duals, it can range from between 6 to 10, on average. Usually, 4 Scrublands, 4 Bayou, and 1 Savannah are played (depending on the colour ratios, as well), or 4 Bayou, 3 Scrubland, 1 Savannah, etc. I think it’s necessary to play the 1-of Savannah if your main focus isn’t GW because many times you’ll need an extra green to put down more Goyfs, and the extra white to Plow more. Many times however you’ll be going for the black duals, but at times, Savannah is a real life-saver.


So we’ve got approximately 8 fetches, 4 Basics, and 8 duals. We’ve got two slots left! If you’re playing Wasteland, you’ll probably have 2-3 Basics with 1-2 slots leftover. This allows us to get to the goodies that the searching ability of Knight grants us access to.

Volrath’s Stronghold: Useful in the fact it allows for long game recursion, and lets you play dead creature over and over. Very useful with Evoke or Sacrifice effect creatures, such as Qasali Pridemage, Shriekmaw, Kitchen Finks recursion, allows Deed loops with Eternal Witness and blowing Deed on 3+, etc. A very useful utility land that should be considered for all decks running KotR that aren’t straight up aggro.

Horizon Canopy: A painland Savannah with the ability to sac to draw cards. Used in New Horizons fame, Canopy gives you card advantage and Knight gets pumped. A decent card to say the least, but many lists have dropped the numbers to 1-2, or none at all.

Nantuko Monastery: In most games, you’ll have Threshold after a few turns. The point? You can have a tutorable 4/4 first striker that can be searched out with knight. 4/4 is nothing to sneeze at, nevermind first strike. A very good offensive and defensive card, many mid-range builds play it as a one of.

Wasteland: I’m assuming you haven’t included it in your 22 lands, so if you have, nevermind. Adding even two Wastelands just for tutoring can be excellent. Mainly, the 4-of Wasteland plan is designed for screwing your opponent over, but can also be done more efficiently by searching them out every turn with Knight, thereby pumping him as well. A very good card, but can lead to some colour screw on your behalf.

Bojuka Bog: With all the graveyards running around, it’s good to get rid of them. Nothing’s more fun than an opposing Knight running into yours, but you block and search for Bog. Win! Also helps against Dredge, Vengevine, Loam, Lands, etc. A very useful card to have around.

Karakas: The tutorable answer to Emrakul or Iona. Allows you to bounce them back to their hand, and lets you keep chugging away. It deserves a slot in either the side or main, unless you expect to see zero Reanimator/Dredge/Retainer Survival/Sneak Attack.

Maze of Ith: Maze is great because it untaps large creatures (ex. Iona) attack you, but you can also untap your own attackers to save them as blockers after they’re dealt damage. Its use significantly improves with the use of Dueling Grounds in the board. All in all, very solid.

The Rock is a very flexible deck, that can swap and replace cards at the moments notice. it can go from a high tempo deck, to a slow build deck that works for a greater punch. but either way whether it be Green/Black classic rock, or the Green/Black/White Dark Horizon’s Rock, the key to it is to have the answers to your opponents and not let them get in your face, but rather you get in theirs.

Happy Gaming.


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