Feature Article – Legacy Meta What?

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open Series Comes to Nashville!
Monday, October 26th – What deck sits atop the mountain as the best? Who’s the top dog? Well, this is Legacy. You might win king of the hill, but only for a day. The heroine truth? No deck is the best. That’s right, none. Never has and never will.

Most new writers give an obligatory, “hi, this is who I am” introduction paragraph. Not here. Ain’t my style.

So, the StarCityGames.com $5000 Legacy Open Philly tournament is in the books, and there are an abundant number of things we can glean from it. Holy sh**! Seriously? Shut up, sarcasm. I never liked you. Points to the giant clown in the corner with the black and white t-shirt that reads…Sarcasm! These are the points I would like to address.

– Myth of the best Legacy deck
– In depth look at Hexmage Depths
– Best current Aggro deck
– Best current Combo choice
– Calling all Control decks
– Best of the rest deck picks
– Meta direction

First things first, or maybe second. What deck sits atop the mountain as the best? Who’s the top dog? Well, this is Legacy. You might win king of the hill, but only for a day. The heroine truth? No deck is the best. That’s right, none. Never has and never will. OMG. Really? Yeah. In the most heavily-played Constructed formats, through the history of Magic, there is by and large a defined meta. A best deck, if you will. When a meta looks something more solid than the town drunk’s nightly Jackson Pollack impersonation, you get what’s called “a best deck,” usually. How would you describe Legacy’s meta? Absurd to the tenth degree. I constantly keep eight-plus decks on hand for my personal testing gauntlet. I never feel as though that’s enough. I’m always updating lists, changing the gauntlet, tweaking here and there, only a few survive the passing seasons. We’ve had Goblins, Threshold, Counterbalance, etc. Were those decks damn good? They weren’t shabby, that’s for sure. But none were the best. They were no Standard-legal Affinity pre-Skullclamp banning. But really, who was? Legacy’s vast card pool prevents any deck from claiming the throne for long. Dredge would dominate but for cards like Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Leyline of the Void, Extirpate and now Ravenous Trap. Storm would rule except some people like playing with Force of Will, Thoughtseize, Stifle, Daze, and Counterbalance for some “reason.” Tarmogoyf does as much to stop Aggro as it does to help it. It’s all about the hybrid. I’m not talking about that hippie, tree-hugged garbage either. Most decks have some powerful two-card combination or attack from extreme angles like 42 Lands or Dredge. Let’s look at the $5K Philly event.

What’s the first thing that jumps out at me like a “Seven Days Later” zombie? The Hexmage Depths deck. Everyone and their mother knew it was going to be a house in Extended, but Legacy? Not so much. What’s its best shell, and is it really legit? Time is generally needed to answer those questions, but so is grading any NFL Draft. But all the sports pundits hastily place judgment seconds within its close. As an aspiring Magic pundit, I have a constitutional right to follow suit. Don’t worry. It’s there. I’m not lying. I won a cop of the Constitution. I majored in Political Science. Let’s look at legitimacy first. I’ve got no issues there, unlike intimacy.

I liken Hexmage Depths to two different two-card combos that end the game rather suddenly. They are Natural Order Progenitus and Stifle Dreadnaught. Hex-Depths costs two Black mana and a land drop. Natural Order, hydra god of pro everything awesome sauce costs two Green, two colorless and a dude with a Forest symbol somewhere in his or her mana cost. Stifle Naught costs one Blue, and one colorless. In the triangle of love, Hex-Depths sits squarely in the middle in casting viability/cost. How easily disruptable is it in comparison to the other two? Wasteland, Swords/Path, and Stifle are the main culprits to ending your day with a sad face. Sadly, these cards are played in droves. Like sand on a beach in the tide of Legacy’s current meta. Solution? There are a few. This leads us down the yellow brick road of deck design and construction. But watch out Dorothy, I’m no Chapin, Flores, or Sullivan. Oh my!

I really like the direction Ken Adams took utilizing Living Wish as his backbone to a more controlling version of the combo. Goyf is an auto include in an otherwise mono black deck because splashing is so easy and fashionable. Bloodghast seems odd fitting with the theme of control but wins the day via synergistic applications. I’m looking at you Smallpox and Therapy. He obviously had some trouble though, as the deck placed 8th instead of… I don’t know… first. Silliness aside, the build is strong however lacks the culinary tastes my Magic appetite desires. I would go for something more aggressive. How about Eva Green cutting a few cards like Null Rod, Reanimate, and Hyppie to make room for the sexy vampire and frozen octopus god?

With Black being the only color, it’s very easy to splash one and maybe even two colors but that’s pushing it. Green offers Goyf and Living Wish, like Ken used. White offers Swords and Vindicate. I don’t see that being all too bright, or useful. Red has burn if you want to try a wacky Red Death mix. Blue presents the always classy Force of Will and the best cantrips in the game for finding the separate parts. Blue and Green offer the most, while the others offer the least.

I’m all about the Aggro and the love. The best Aggro choice de jour right now has to be hands down Naya Zoo. The addition of Nacatl, Pridemage, and Path has really given the deck all the tools it needs to fight a majority of the meta. Nacatl boosts the speed element to heights amphetamine users drool could over. Pridemage shines as a Swiss Knife like device enhancing attacking Goyfs while dispensing annoying things like Counterbalance and Chalice equally with aplomb and grace. He does this all in a single bound…or card. Not bad for a mage not named Superman. Why mention Path? Because it bears mentioning. Duh! Back to a cynic-free life, it has an important distinction and advantage over STP. Sort of how land matters in Zendikar is how your opponent’s life matters when playing Zoo, in a big way, too. I could care less if my opponent has one land or twenty billion (that would be one hell of a deck to see, especially if they were all Zen full art ones) in play. That part is irrelevant to the game plan of smashing face. What once again is relevant is life. How much of that your opponent has and how quickly you can change that magical number from twenty to zero is key. Path, in the end, facilitates that greatly making it an excellent replacement for the Plowshares. Because of these newer cards and on the strength of Goyf, Lavamancer, and Price of Progress Naya Zoo is a first-rate choice for a tournament coming to a theater or game store near you. And let’s not forget about it doing well at the two most recent SCG 5K events, while winning one. If this isn’t enough to convince you, I got nothing.

What’s the finest pick for combo champ in the current field? Combo Elves? This isn’t last year’s Extended season, bud. Better look somewhere else. Grindstone-Painter? Has that ever Top 8ed anything? Probably, but if you have to ask in the first place, it’s not a good sign. Just like finding a seductive text from John the Hammer on your girl’s phone, it’s not your day. The Ced man ran Belcher to a 6th place finish but we all know what that was, Mr. Philips having fun. He ran something crazy for the hell of it. My friend had a penchant for playing Charbelcher in Vintage. It was rough there, and he got to use a full set of Moxen, plus Lotus, Crypt, Sol Ring and a whole nest of other goodies. Not good. As pirates and fortune tellers say, “Follow the treasure map, argh.” The map points to Ad Nauseum Tendrils. It’s the safest and most consistent option. It’s made 2 SCG Legacy 5K Top 16s and a Top 8 at GP Chicago. You can build it two ways, for speed or for stability. Either one is a tremendous way to go. With that being said, I wouldn’t recommend any combo at the moment. It’s incredibly difficult to play, requires many hours of playtesting, and sideboards in a tricky manner. Skilled pilots are preferred. This is not to say you cannot do well with combo, just that much time and patience is involved. If you’re up for the challenge, go for it!

Where have all the flowers gone? Maybe, to where all the Control decks are hiding? The plain reality is that the format is too tempo based and efficient to have a true, grind it out, Control deck prosper. Sorry Spock, no Control deck lives long here. We see various lists come and go but nothing is ever established. They are like the tide. Here one day but gone the next. In a sense, CounterTop is the Control deck we fight but it’s not absolute. It’s a hybrid approach at its heart. Planeswalkers, Crucible of Worlds, Moat, Force of Will, and Standstill have combined to try to etch Control’s name in stone. The results thus far have been disappointing to say the least.

We’re left with a bunch of hybrid strategies to select from. Of these, I suggest rolling with the new CounterTop Progenitus build, Dredge or Merfolk. If you have the cash, 42 Lands is a grand choice as well. CounterTop Progenitus is a deck chalk full of splendidness. It has, count them, Tarmogoyf, Counterbalance-Top, Natural OrderProgenitus, Force of Will, Swords to Plowshares, and Rhox War Monk that bashes aggressive strategies head. How can a deck packing that many spectacular cards not be decent? I don’t know. Mull to three every game for the excitement? I’m running out of adjectives here. Dredge keeps getting hosers printed like Ravenous Trap but manages to keep on trucking also. I swear, Dredge would still make Top 8 even if WoTC printed, 0, target Dredge player in the tournament must commit Hari Kari (ritual samurai suicide) immediately.” How many more hate cards must they print? Until Dredge’s attendance goes up and sideboards start packing the hate, it really doesn’t matter what Wizards does. It has even got the monkey off its back with a Legacy Champs title. How do you like them apples? Merfolk plays small fish guys but mainly uses cheap lords, Force of Will, tempo, and synergy as its niche of choice. These combined effects propel the deck like rocket fuel into Legacy’s competitive arena. Standstill, Vial, and Jitte round out the stupendous program. Facing the Yankees lineup in October is no fun. Neither is playing against the men from the deep. There you have it, variety galore. Remember to pick the deck that fits your play style best and good things shall come. If you build it, they will come.

Where is the meta going? Off a cliff. With such a rise in Aggro Zoo, I expected the two combo decks from Philly to show themselves, but not as many as initially envisioned. CounterTop is making a slight resurgence thanks to a certain saucy green sorcery. Trinistax is finally started to be played after it showed well at last year’s Worlds. Dredge keeps being Dredge. Zoo’s presence will remain strong. Make sure to adjust to these factors and success will blow your way. The meta will continue to be a game of musical chairs. Keep your ears glued for the latest tech.

As a side note, it’s very late and I have to work quite soon with little sleep. And I just realized I completely forgot to mention Canadian Threshold. This deck is damn good; I mean damn good! You may have forgotten about Dre, don’t make that mistake with this deck.