Recently, Steve Menendian wrote an article surveying Legacy in light of the upcoming Grand Prix. While I planned on making many comments of my own, this article will also respond to some of Steve’s assessments, as well as those who responded in the forums.
If you haven’t taken a look at the results from Shinders or Virginia Beach, now would be a good time. It almost looks like a bad Extended T8, to be honest. (In truth, it’s not anything like Extended, but just by looking at those lists, you might not be able to tell.) With that in mind, I drafted this helpful introduction to format for all to see, or for those who already know, to study how the format could be improved.
A Basic Introduction
Smennen was correct when he argued that some may incorrectly believe Legacy to be "Extended with dual lands and Force of Will." That’s simply not true. True, it’s not uncommon for Extended decks to make viable ports to Legacy, but that means nothing. Legacy truly is very different than Extended. In case you haven’t read Smennen’s article or if you don’t have access to Premium content (you’re really missing out), here are a few notes to get you up to speed:
There Is Way More Fast Mana In Legacy.
Extended may have City of Traitors, Chrome Mox, and Mox Diamond, but Legacy has more zero-cc mana-producing artifacts than Vintage – Legacy allows you to run full sets of Lotus Petals and Lion’s Eye Diamonds. (No, I’m not including Jeweled Amulet.) On top of that, Legacy gets Dark Ritual, Elvish Spirit Guide, Ancient Tomb, and the underutilized Tinder Wall to compliment its mana development.
Now, whether or not you have anything good to actually accelerate into, that’s a separate story. Nonetheless, there is plenty of fuel for all sorts of decks, be it combo, control or beatdown.
Legacy Has Its Own Staples That Never Even See Light Of Day In The Current Extended, Plus Gobs Of Insane Stuff That Can Be Hard To Get Your Hands On.
Everyone knows dual lands are staples of Legacy play; but there’s plenty more that you might not have experience playing against in a Grand Prix. Force of Will, Berserk, Survival of the Fittest, Swords to Plowshares – not exactly the stuff you see running around in Extended every day (and in some cases, deliberately banned from it). There’s tons more to consider, though, and a lot of it can be expensive: Sinkhole, Chains of Mephistopheles, Moat, In the Eye of Chaos, The Abyss, Invoke Prejudice, Old Man of the Sea, and other obscure cards like Elephant Grass and Seeds of Innocence that are remarkably effective yet unheard of in any other currently played format.
This has a profound impact on the decks you pilot. Unlike Extended (but similar to Vintage), Null Rod is legal, so think twice before you feel like piloting Ravager Affinity. Even though Goblins is very strong in Legacy, players should remember that Tivadar’s Crusade could theoretically be waiting in the sideboard.
3) In the absence of the broken blue and black Vintage cards, Legacy’s white and green are not only viable strategies but have a lot of unexplored territory by those who normally play Vintage. Similarly, without Mishra’s Workshop, enchantments see a lot more play.
Without a doubt, one of the most format-defining cards in Legacy is Survival of the Fittest. The idea of a successful W/G deck in Vintage would be viewed as an April Fool’s joke at best. In Legacy, though, creature combat is much more relevant to general play, and white’s Swords to Plowshares plays an important role. Combined with the fact that Enlightened Tutor is a four-of (unlike its restricted status in Vintage) and that white has always had powerful enchantments like Humility and Moat (Land Tax rocks, but it’s banned). With a format that has a lot of enchantments and artifacts running around, white’s Disenchant and green’s Naturalize are often maindeck-worthy – so added altogether, it’s not surprising that white and green are players in the Legacy metagame.
What really becomes evident is how solid the creature base has become over recent years. Vintage has little strategic combat, and both green and white are very creature-centric. In Legacy, though, this becomes a plus. Both colors are stocked with all sorts of powerful and flexible creatures, allowing for a broad range of good deck construction. White finishers, like Exalted Angel and Eternal Dragon, can compliment solid mid-range creatures (Troll Ascetic, Ravenous Baloth, Iwamori of the Open Fist, etc.). Combined with green utility (Rofellos, Eternal Witness, Viridian Shaman, Viridian Zealot) or speed (Basking Rootwalla, Wild Mongrel, etc.), decks using white and green have many solid tools at their disposal that aren’t viable in other formats. Green may see play in Extended – but outside of Life, white has little representation as a main color in that format. In Legacy, Angel Stompy and U/W Landstill are both popular white options.
Some Crazy Ideas
Now, anyone with half a brain could sit here and tell me that in Legacy, you can play tried-and-true decks like Landstill, Solidarity, and Goblins; or even Extended ports like Hatred (with Ritual back!) and Miracle Gro. But that’s not how you explore a format.
I’m not an expert on Legacy, although I used to play it competitively. (Primarily before people realized that Legacy combo was actually easy to stop. When they did, I quietly disappeared.) I do know enough to say that some Legacy players feel like they’ve been marginalized by the community – many in the forums decried Steve Menendian’s remarks on the format as uninformed and unaware, or even arrogant. Regardless of who is right or if it’s actually somewhere in between, Legacy is definitely an unexplored format. Not because the people who play the format don’t know what they are talking about, but simply because there aren’t enough of them.
Realistically, any Legacy player – and I include myself – who thinks that Legacy isn’t underdeveloped is kidding themselves. I think it’s equally as arrogant to claim that the Legacy community – a small, isolated community tied together by only a web site called The Source – has explored Legacy even remotely close to the cutting edge. Yes, the community has a lot of important insight – like why Goblin Charbelcher is an absolutely awful choice to bring to a tournament. To claim, however, that someone like Kai Budde won’t hit that Legacy Grand Prix with some insane Lodestone Bauble/Thieves’ Auction/Jackalope Herd monstrosity that beats 95% of the field is absurd. (Well, okay, maybe it’s not absurd. But the Jackalopes are TeH tEcH, you know.) With such a large card pool, there is a lot of room for some awfully powerful surprises.
In an effort to try and get people to think outside of the box, I’ve thought about how some ideas in Legacy may or may not have been explored. Below are some decks that people can study and try to see if they have any potential; and even if they don’t, as long as they make one person sleeve up something other than Landstill, Survival, or Goblins, it’s a step in the right direction.
None of any of these ideas are really tried and tested by any rigorous means, but after a few games they seemed like ideas worth considering. These may not be any good, but after musing with some friends, there are quite a number of brand-new card interactions that make for some interesting deck ideas.
No Tinker? No problem! Just use the pleasant Transmute Artifact instead. (In Aten language: "Transmutatazoid!") Transmute Artifact works really nicely with the Affinity mechanic – for 1UU, you can Polymorph a Myr Enforcer into Sundering Titan, and it’s not that hard to Tinker a Titan into play by turn 4. In Legacy, dual lands can run rampant, so adding Titan to an Affinity deck is undeniably powerful.
Viable? I don’t know. But the affinity mechanic is a nice way to eliminate the drawback of Transmute Artifact with spectacular effect. For a protectionist angle, you could run Platinum Angel instead. But let me tell you something that I learned from playtesting: if you thought Affinity was hard to beat before, Platinum Angel (and the ability to dump ten or more +1/+1 counters on it) is like adding insult to injury. (And Swords to Plowshares doesn’t handle that? – The Ferrett, clueless but curious)
Also note that the power of Lotus Petal is amplified in an affinity-based deck. When casting multiple Frogs and Enforcers, a Lotus Petal is just as efficient as a regular Mox. It also has the ability to smooth out the color screw issues that sometimes plague Ravager Affinity.
There are plenty of other Tinker/Affinity strategies as well – including using Transmute on a Frogmite to pull up Goblin Charbelcher or some other broken four-mana artifact, even as early as turn 1. (Artifact land, double-Lotus Petal, Frogmite, Transmute Artifact = turn 1 Tinker for Charbelcher. Next turn, play Seat of the Synod, Mana Severance, Lion’s Eye Diamond to fire the cannon. You win.) You could, alternatively, Transmute a Mox or artifact land into an LED for use with Auriok Salvagers. Or Transmute Cathodion into Mindslaver, Su-Chi into Possessed Portal, or even Darksteel Colossus for only three mana more. The possibilities are endless.
Regardless of the direction you take, Legacy affords some new design angles not previously explored, since Tinker and Ravager were never legal together in Extended. Vintage has had some success with Transmute Artifact as Tinkers number two through five, so it only makes sense to consider it in Legacy.
(Note that this deck is six cards short of a full sideboard. Put in whatever you wish.)
The basic idea is to get Time Warp imprinted on a Spellweaver Helix with either a Regrowth or Burning Wish. You can then use a separate Burning Wish to wish for itself in the sideboard, netting you a free turn through the Helix. Rinse and repeat to deny your opponent ever having a turn again. The same can be done by getting a second Regrowth in the graveyard and using a third Regrowth to target the available one in the grumper. This may seem difficult – but with both Intuition, Gifts Ungiven, and Burning Wish (with the last Regrowth in the board), it’s actually pretty easy. I’m not claiming that the build above is even close to perfect, but it often went infinite around turn 4 during goldfishing. Mongrels are both a win condition and a way to dump the Time Walk in the yard, as is the Careful Study in the board. The Mystical Tutor and Merchant Scroll are useful with Gifts Ungiven splits.
While this idea is not exactly new (e.g. Crushweaver at Pro Tour: Tinker), it does have advantages over the Quiet Speculation/Cabal Therapy engine. The main one is resilience: running both Burning Wish and Regrowth give this deck a lot of ways to recover and/or pull something nasty out of the board. More importantly, it’s just a way to show that there are older cards like Regrowth that can be very powerful when explored down new avenues of development.
The last full deck I explored was Enlightened Tutor. Legacy, like Extended, allows for a full four Enlightened Tutor, whereas it is restricted in Vintage. Vintage-based enchantments, however, are often worth grabbing much more than others. After some basic tinkering, I scrapped the plan to fetch The Abyss and Moat (too expensive to do efficiently); settling on the following deck idea instead:
A twist on the Solitary Confinement deck, Underworld Chains basically does everything it can to break Chains. Not only is it incredibly disruptive, two Chains and a Howling Mine means every draw phase, you are supposed to draw two, discard two; so eventually, people run out of cards. With Squee, you can break out of the lock, and Confinement on top of that basically makes you invincible. Alternatively, you can power out multiple Dreams, using Mines for repetitive damage with a Chains to mitigate the Mine’s bonus to your opponent.
It’s probably not a great deck, nor does it look like it will win any tournaments; but it is another example of how much there is to explore. The ability to start off most games with a Chains by turn 2 is just awesome against so many of the decks in the field. (Goblins is still a pain, but that’s why you have a sideboard.) Furthermore, Sinkhole is reasonably good in Legacy, and with Vindicate and Duress you can often mana-screw an opponent, grabbing a Mox or Ritual and then knocking out some lands.
Of course, you could break the Mirage Tutors in half altogether by redesigning Scepter-Chant (or as Flores likes to call it, "The No Stick"). Full playsets of Enlightened and Mystical Tutor should make it pretty easy to fetch Isochron Scepter and Orim’s Chant. Add Force of Will, Cunning Wish, Swords to Plowshares, Intuition, Accumulated Knowledge, Stifle, Misdirection, Brainstorm, Daze, and maybe even Abeyance; and you have the makings of a remarkably fast and resilient combo-prison deck, with a lot more defensive maneuvering available. I’m sure I’m not the first person to even consider it, so I haven’t listed a deck.
My innovative remark is that I suggest you throw in Mana Vortex for fun, if you like. Nobody will see it coming.
Heck, even Fish gets some crazy treats. Old Man of the Sea, Flying Men, Dan-Dan, Man-O’-War, Serendib Efreet, Shimmering Efreet, and Suq’ata Firewalker are all old and oft-forgotten creatures that warrant serious discussion for a possible blue aggro-control build.
Watch your opponent agree to go down to a precarious eight life in order to stabilize. Who in the world expects a monoblue deck to burn them out when you flash them the pair of Psionic Blasts you were holding? That could be somewhat unexpected, to say the least.
Similarly, when was the last time someone cast Amnesia against you? Unexpected plays win games – and Legacy has a card pool that’s so ridiculously large and unexplored that you could pull games out of nowhere simply by dropping obscure cards or combos.
Some of these ideas may be obvious to some (and even viable – whoa, Nathan, what’s going on? You’re flipping us out! Viable decks! What’s wrong with you!?), but for others who are first trying to grasp the power level of Legacy, the lists above are hopefully a good illustration. Legacy doesn’t have the power of Mana Drain or Time Walk or Ancestral Recall, but without a doubt, it’s a huge boost over Extended.
A Quick Color Review
Blue is still a remarkable powerhouse by comparison to the other colors and to Extended itself. That’s because so many of the early blue cards were just ridiculous and/or were developed prior to the full development of the color pie. Cards like Old Man of the Sea may be reprinted in heavily toned down form (think Callous Oppressor), but Psionic Blast would never be printed today as a blue card.
Looking at the other colors, black is also much more powerful than it is in Extended. It gains so much from the older card pool, despite the fact it’s nothing like its Vintage counterpart. Dark Ritual and Chains of Mephistopheles have already been discussed, but who knows, maybe Suicide Black – replete with its Rituals, Sinkholes and Hymn to Tourach – will rise again in Legacy. (Although Juzam Djinn has nothing on Iwamori, Trampling Fist.) If not, there’s always Pox. (Calling all Pox-en! Okay, okay, bad pun. Sorry.)
Contagion and Dystopia are nice, too. And Word of Command? That’s just cool. Also noteworthy is that black can run Gate to Phyrexia or Tribute to Phyrexia to smash artifacts. While the latter is unplayable, the prior is an acceptable way to destroy artifacts with a mono-black deck. I’m sure most people, however, would call attention to Chains, The Abyss, and Nether Void.
Now we’re talking. Extended players, you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Red gains little other than burn from the older card sets, with the exception of Fork, Red Elemental Blast, and Pyroblast. Of course, the burn is pretty good: Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Incinerate, and the Little Caesar’s Pizza advertising slogan; Fireblast, Fireblast. And who can forget Ball Lightning, the burn that wears combat boots? I suppose Pyrokinesis could be useful, too. The real difference comes from the banned-in-Extended Goblin Lackey, who is just utterly ridiculous. Kiki-Jiki on turn 2? Sure! Legacy loves the little Lackey.
Green mainly gets Drop of Honey, Survival of the Fittest, Regrowth, Berserk, and Elvish Spirit Guide. Quantitatively, not a lot more than Extended, but qualitatively that should be more than enough to separate the power levels between the two formats. There’s quite a lot to talk about amongst those cards alone. Drop of Honey is a particularly powerful card that gets no play in Vintage but might have applications in Legacy.
White gains Swords to Plowshares, Empyreal Armor, Shahrazad, Moat, Dust to Dust, Tithe, Abeyance, Aura of Silence, and… Well, that’s about it. Nothing like the stuff blue or black gets, but still a decent power boost. Scars of the Veteran isn’t really playable, but I guess it could be an interesting Cunning Wish target. Yet, the slower pace of Legacy over Vintage and the wider range of utility cards over Extended (read: S2P, possibly Dust to Dust) means that white has a better chance than it does in either of the other formats. This is especially true with Lion’s Eye Diamond, since Auriok Salvagers-based combo is an available development route.
As for Artifacts, is there anything besides the aforementioned mana accelerants? Well, you do get Candelabra of Tawnos, Helm of Awakening, Forcefield, Null Rod, and Tormod’s Crypt. What else? Um, Aeolipile? Feldon’s Cane? Zuran Orb? I’m sure there’s plenty more to consider, but I’ll leave up all of that you in the forums.
Hopefully, for those who aren’t really up on the format or its possibilities, this article served as a nice overview of how the format has its own qualities. Legacy has none of the true degeneracy in Vintage, yet a much higher power level than Extended. It’s also got a lot of room for innovation, and smart innovation can reward you in a format that’s so relatively unexplored. I expect some ingenious minds to pop into the top 8 with some pretty unexpected decks. Don’t be surprised if some popular pro like Tsuyoshi Fujita creates a brand new deck and wrecks everyone with it. It happened in Extended, why not Legacy?
Regardless of whether any of these ideas are good or not, hopefully, they get people’s creative juices flowing so that they can start thinking about their next concoction for the Legacy Grand Prix.
And watch out for those Typhoons. They can be a killer.