This Week in Legacy — Legacy History Lessons, Part 2

WRITTEN BY

Howdy folks! This is Joe again, and I'm here again with another solid history lesson from Legacy's varied past.

Today we're going to be talking about a deck so infamous—it was legitimately one of the format's only true turn zero combo decks— that it no longer exists thanks to the banning of one key card from it.

The History of Flash Hulk

Flash Hulk came about primarily due to—surprisingly enough—an errata change. You see, once upon a time, Wizards of the Coast used to do what we called "power level errata" on cards. This errata was oftentimes applied in various strange ways (such as Basalt Monolith having official Oracle text stating that you couldn't use mana generated from it to untap itself) and not always applied uniformly across all cards. The intent of this errata was to remove degenerate combos from the game.

What this situation led to was loads of complaints from both players and judges about how consistently power level errata was applied and how confusing it was to players and judges to play with these cards. Applying power level errata was haphazard and silly and didn't always reflect what the card did on its printed version, meaning that Oracle text had to be consulted every time one of those cards were played.

So, in 2006 Wizards started removing power level errata from many, many cards in the game, with the stated intent that going forward the company would never again issue power level errata.

The card Flash is one such card that was changed in the following year. Originally, the card's Oracle text read:

"Choose a creature card in your hand. You may pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2. If you do, put that card into play. If you don't, put that card into your graveyard."

Under this Oracle text, the creature card you chose with Flash would never come into play if you chose not to pay its mana cost reduced by 2. It would just get put into its owner's graveyard, and that was that. Obviously however, this functionality was broken from the card's original printed intent.

The current wording on the card is now:

“You may put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. If you do, sacrifice it unless you pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2.”

Under this wording, the creature enters the battlefield first, then is sacrificed if the caster decides not to pay the cost. In the case of a card like Protean Hulk, the end result is truly deadly. Protean Hulk dying results in a highly varied set of combos that result in a game win for the Hulk player. In fact, there are just too many to actually count out how many ways this card wins the game.

This errata change blew away the Legacy community, as it happened right before Grand Prix Columbus 2007, and everyone who was anyone readily expected the presence of Flash Hulk at this event.

Initial versions of the deck that began popping up months before the Grand Prix itself were very all-in combo decks, glass cannons that sought to make this combo happen as early as turn zero (the mythical turn where your opponent is going first and is in their upkeep and you kill them). How did these decks achieve this? Let's take a look at a decklist.

Flash Hulk

Creatures (24)
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Phyrexian Marauder
4 Protean Hulk
4 Shifting Wall
4 Simian Spirit Guide

Instants/Sorceries (20)
3 Brainstorm
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Mystical Tutor
4 Worldly Tutor

Land (4)
4 Gemstone Caverns
4 Island

The concept behind this deck is very simple. Be on the draw, have at least one Gemstone Caverns and a Spirit Guide in hand, and a copy of both Flash and Protean Hulk. Cast Flash in your opponent's upkeep, fetching all four copies of Phyrexian Marauder, Shifting Wall, and Disciple of the Vault to make the opponent immediately lose 32 life.

While these versions of the deck were the height of what Flash Hulk was capable of—a true turn-zero kill in the format—the versions that rose above the challenge at Grand Prix Columbus 2007 looked quite a bit different. By the end of the weekend, it was Steve Sadin who managed to win the Grand Prix on a version of Flash Hulk that was less geared towards a turn zero kill and more towards a turn two Flash kill.

Flash Hulk — Steve Sadin | 1st Place Grand Prix Columbus 2007

Creatures (12)
1 Body Snatcher
1 Carrion Feeder
4 Dark Confidant
1 Karmic Guide
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
4 Protean Hulk

Instants/Sorceries (22)
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
1 Echoing Truth
4 Flash
4 Force of Will
1 Massacre
4 Mystical Tutor

Enchantment (4)
4 Counterbalance

Other Spells (8)
4 Chrome Mox
4 Sensei's Divining Top

Lands (14)
3 Flooded Strand
3 Island
4 Polluted Delta
1 Swamp
1 Tropical Island
1 Tundra
1 Underground Sea

Sideboard (15)
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Massacre
4 Quirion Dryad
1 Reverent Silence
3 Swords to Plowshares

As you can see, Steve's combo is a little more convoluted but a little easier to protect. It hinges on using Carrion Feeder and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker with Karmic Guide to make an infinite number of Karmic Guides for the win.

Gone in a Flash

Right after GP Columbus 2007 occurred in May 2007, the card Flash entered the Halls of Valhalla of the Legacy Banned List on June 1, 2007.

The primary reasoning for Flash's banning had to do with how format-defining and environment-warping the card proved to be; despite the fact that Flash Hulk didn't ruin GP Columbus 2007, the deck was so omni-present that it forced everyone to account for the existence of Flash Hulk.

From the article itself:

"Now that the dust has settled, it's clear to me that the Grand Prix was not ruined—attendance was remarkable, there was a reasonable diversity of decks in the Top 8, and there were plenty of interesting decisions to be made at both the deckbuilding and game play levels—but Flash is so format-defining and environment-warping that it has to go."

The alternative to Flash leaving the format would have been to errata the card once again so that the Flash Hulk combo didn't work, but Wizards was dedicated to not doing power level errata anymore, so thus the card had to leave the format.

It's a very interesting consideration however that many of the Top 8 players in GP Columbus 2007 (of which there were only three Flash Hulk players in the Top 8) all considered Flash Hulk to be perfectly fair, with one player even comparing it to a turn one Aether Vial or turn one Goblin Lackey) in the format.

In the end, I think it was appropriate for Wizards to remove Flash from the format, but the card got to have its one and only heyday at Grand Prix Columbus 2007, where for a brief fleeting moment, meat and eggs were the cream of the crop.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week for our little foray into Legacy's varied history. Next week, I'm going to talk about the evolution of one of the format's most popular archetypes, from the origins of tempo decks in Canadian Threshold and Team America to the more popularized names of RUG and BUG Delver and a slight journey through the era of Treasure Cruise.

Until next time!

Joseph Dyer is an avid Legacy enthusiast. He's admin of the /r/NicFitMTG subreddit, as well as a regular participant on the Source and MTGLegacy subreddits. His knowledge of the Legacy format is deeply rooted in constant analysis, playtesting, and lots of discussion of the format. Joseph's primary accomplishments include a 10–5 finish at GP Columbus 2016 with Rhino Fit, and a 32nd place finish at a SCG Columbus Legacy Classic with Sneak Fit. 

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