Legacy’s Whole New World

Is there a Legacy deck you miss? One that you grew up on that hasn’t been permitted to be competitive in years? Chances are, SCG Louisville is the beginning of its return! Climb into a time machine with Adrian Sullivan as he looks for the format’s new best archetypes!

Let’s take a trip back in time. Let’s head back to the beginning of the
year, when
Conspiracy: Take the Crown
was newly released and Legacy got a bit of a shake up.

Reid Duke would win the Legacy Grand Prix in Louisville with Leovold,
Emissary of Trest, but almost 25% of the Top 32 of the field would feature
another card.

It seems like a lifetime ago when I
was made fun of for playing the card in Constructed, but it
didn’t take long for the card to become respected. Then, only a little
while later, Coldsnap would make “Counter-Top” into a deck. It
would take Avacyn Restored to really makes things hop, turning
“Counter-Top” into Miracles, and making the deck a fearsome monster rather
than a somewhat effective player in Legacy.

Legacy has long been dominated by Miracles to a point that some people –
don’t count me among them – found it stifling. Even if, for example, it
only took one player to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Louisville, the fact that
it had six of the slots in the remainder of the Top 32 is evidence of the
power of the deck – this, in a format that barely ever has a deck crack 5%
of the field. In what is likely to be the last hurrah of the deck, Eli
Kassis would take down the Worcester Legacy Open a few months later with
this version of the deck:

Of course, there are other ways to build the deck.

Perhaps what did make the deck so infuriating was its variety. While at the
core, all of the builds were the same deck, the minor differences between
them made a huge difference. Would you be playing against a Monastery
Mentor build? Would you be playing something more traditional, like Eli’s
two Entreat the Angels build? What about the builds with red in the main
and Venser, Shaper Savant?

They might not seem like much, but these differences did make fighting the
various builds a challenge.

I suppose we can’t say “challenge unlocked” now that they are all gone. But
it does free up the world quite a bit.

The Power of One

Of all of the things that are going to be boosted, we can start with the
simplest of them all:

Whatever the flavor of deck, the power of one mana is important to all of
Legacy. However, to the more combo-rific decks out there, such a huge swath
of the deck plays off of one mana (or the also easy-to-acquire “zero”),
simply dropping a Counterbalance could easily be game, even without a
Sensei’s Divining Top.

Some people have made the claim that one of the only things holding this
deck back from dominating the world is Miracles. We’ll soon be finding out
whether or not this is true; most aficionados of Storm decks have always
had a plan for Miracles that they say does the trick, but if you ask most
top Miracles players, it doesn’t do it well enough. Storm is one of those
decks that doesn’t really change much in a new world sans Miracles, but
what it does do is pop its head up as a new kind of bogeyman, which all of
the rest of us are going to likely have to think about more now that
Miracles is gone.

In a similar vein, a deck like High Tide could also make it back. While
Feline Longmore has been a huge proponent of Sensei’s Divining Top in the
most recent builds of High Tide, it is worth remembering that before she
ran 4 Top, those cards were replaced by a gaggle of four other cards.

It’s not that this deck ever got “bad”, per se. Rather, the Miracles deck,
then fairly new, took some time to take off and get in a sufficiently large
enough number of players’ hands. Feline still would take the deck into
numerous Top 8s but would later largely stop playing the deck, in large
part due to a hostile environment. (Incidentally, I prefer much of Feline’s
later builds which included Capsize in the board, but I’ve always loved
that plan.)

Similarly, we can imagine the loss of Miracles reinvigorating everything
from Goblin Charbelcher to Elves to, hell, Cheerios. While every deck gets
a lot of breathing room because of Miracles’ departure, it is more
fundamental for these decks because the “one” problem – such an abundance
of cheap cards is great, but it does leave them crippled in the face of
Counterbalance plus Top. Take one of my personal favorites…

I like Ali’s build a lot. While I’m not huge on Barbarian Ring, most of the
other choices feel quite excellent to me. But look at that sideboard:

Four Exquisite Firecraft is quite a statement. This is a bold claim saying
“I will not be stymied by Counterbalance.” The card is still an
absolutely fine sideboard card, but in a world without Miracles, will four of them really be necessary?

Strategic Shifts

Longtime readers will likely know that my favorite deck in Legacy has been
Death and Taxes for many, many years. I was so pleased to see my friend
Craig Wescoe get into the Top 8 of Grand Prix Louisville earlier this year
with this build:

I was quite pleased at the similarity between my build and the build Craig
played, designed by D&T-master Thomas Enevoldsen. One of the cards that
stands out is Palace Jailer.

When I was working on my own build, Michael Bonde told me that I absolutely
had to include Palace Jailer. One of the reasons is that against a deck
like Miracles, Palace Jailer basically would often turn into a one-way
Howling Mine. This kind of card choice makes sense in a world where
Miracles is a big deal.

One card I had in my sideboard that Craig no longer had in his board was

The powerful sorcery has been in many Death and Taxes boards for years,
most recently competing with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but without Miracles
to contend with, the card is still worth considering but not necessarily to
the same degree.

And further along this line, is Cavern of Souls necessary? Generally,
pulling a Force of Will out of the opponent isn’t necessarily that bad, and
every non-basic land choice is fighting against a great many other choices
for slots.

With all of the choices shifted around, not only imagining just no
Miracles and the strategic implications of that, but also picturing a world
with a few more combos, here is where my Death and Taxes is currently at:

I still am not on board with Faerie Macabre, even if it is fetchable with
Recruiter of the Guard, but maybe I’m just being stubborn. I am, however,
highly motivated to run some cheap hate cards. Rest in Peace, Ethersworn
Canonist, and Containment Priest all can hit quickly and help affect the
game quite positively in those matchups where it matters. While I’m also
sympathetic to more cards like Ethersworn Canonist, the fact is that it
still won’t usually help enough to win the deeply troublesome matchups.

Going back to four Phyrexian Revoker comes from a lot of places, but one of
the important ones is simple: it affects mana abilities. No, you still
can’t name lands, but I’m expecting to see a larger slew of various mana
created by Noble Hierarchs, Elves, Mox Opal, Chrome Mox, and Lotus Petals.
Phyrexian Revoker has long been a card that I’ve run four of, but my recent
move to three did in part come from a perceived need to have more powerful
cards against Miracles. The Revoker, while it could get Sensei’s Divining
Top, often felt like it was easily managed.

Moving beyond “mere” strategic shifts, there was certainly another
classification of decks that could re-emerge.

The Dominated

While rarely are competitive decks truly dominated in a game
theory sense – that is, outclassed on every reasonable measure – there are
a huge class of decks that were far less common simply because they were
hard to justify when they were mostly dominated by Miracles. The
more grinding blue decks simply weren’t as good at the grind as Miracles,
and so they could be hard to justify. Let’s take Painter, for one example.

Sometimes, these decks tried to justify their existence by “preying” on
Miracles, but even with a slew of ‘blasts, oftentimes, these decks still
actually felt a bit like they struggled in the Miracles matchup. So, with
contested records against Miracles and generally less successful records
against the field, these decks took a back seat for a bit.

Now, while this deck is a few years old, unlike many examples of this
archetype, it is only running a single Sensei’s Divining Top. Now, while
the deck could meaningfully get a Top into the graveyard with cards like
Intuition, and while the card is a powerhouse in conjunction with Goblin
Welder, it isn’t truly necessary to make the deck work.

While certainly this deck could get a fast kill off of Painter’s Servant
and Grindstone, in a fashion reminiscent of the Griselbrand decks like
Reanimator or Sneak and Snow, I always felt that these decks tended to
maneuver and posture more as they set up and take over a game. There are
other decks, like Stoneblade decks, for example, that are in a similar boat
that seem poised to have a reason to come back.

Does this bring back any memories?

I think this deck gives me enough to think about when it comes to a new
Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck that my mind is positively whirring, flashing
back to Columbus in 2010
. I think there are likely going to be
many Miracles players finding alternative slow blue decks to win games
with. Perhaps Osman Ozguney will be on the new vanguard with this deck.

Less Wrath, More Sun

At the top of that were two decks that have something important in common.

When you are putting a ton of creatures into the world, a lack of a
reliable Terminus is a godsend. Terminus is a rough card any time it hits,
but it was particularly horrifying to deal with as an effective instant.
The disappearance of that might be the biggest change to the landscape of

It wasn’t that long ago that it felt like Green Sun’s Zenith was
everywhere. That time could be upon us again.

While Elves was doubly hit by Miracles, with its heavy “one-count” and its
creature-driven base, in the Miracles matchup Maverick always felt like it
was a Death and Taxes without the Aether Vial, or, in other words, without
much of a chance. Getting Gaddock Teeg out wasn’t too difficult, but once
it went farming with a Swords to Plowshares, it was often very, very hard
to get back into a game.

That both of these decks are rising speaks volumes about the new Legacy.

If you’re a Legacy fan, I think you’re in luck. For as long as you’ve
played Legacy, I recommend going back through time and thinking about
various past decks and asking yourself, “Can this deck come back now that
Sensei’s Divining Top’s departure has removed Miracles from the format?”
While not every deck will be able to make sense in this new world, I
wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing some old classic decks that we
haven’t seen in some time. I know that I’m going back through everything, and seeing if I can brush the dust off of any old
favorites that I haven’t thought of yet. So far, I think there might be
quite a bit of possibility to be gleaned from the past.