The Daily Shot: How Legends Are Borne

Mirri, Cat Warrior. Thriss, Nantuko Primus. Kamahl, Pit Fighter. Legends have long been a feature of Magic most revered by casual players and storyline aficionados the world over. Legends have mystique… But that mystique disappears when it comes to Constructed.

Welcome back to the greatest geek show in town. Bearded ladies, guys with three arms, midgets and all the rest. Who here has been scoping out the beginnings of the Onslaught spoiler over at MtgNews?

I see a few hands raised.

Before we get into my reasons for mentioning that, let me share with you a thought I’ve had. A lot of”Timmy”-type players think legends are cool.

Mirri, Cat Warrior. Thriss, Nantuko Primus. Kamahl, Pit Fighter. Legends have long been a feature of Magic most revered by casual players and storyline aficionados the world over. These guys bust a Gerrard and they’re like”Yeah, that’s pretty sweet.” I like that sort of attitude even if I don’t have it myself.

In short, legends have mystique.

Sadly enough, that mystique disappears when the time comes to play Constructed. With an insatiable thirst to win dulling the senses of even the most nostalgic of players, the less”efficient” Legends get shoved by the wayside with what some writers would call”the quickness.” Did anyone play Rayne, Academy Chancellor? Or Mirri (who was costed to be playable, but ended up useless anyhow because of the environment at the time)? What about General Jarkeld (shudder), or Dakkon Blackblade? The answer is an unqualified”no” on pretty much all counts… At least when the question is bookended by,”And if so, was the deck any good?”

There are some exceptions, of course: Lin-Sivvi was clearly nuts. Braids is a rare legend in that she is better in Constructed than in Limited. Mageta was important in a world of Rebel goodness. That being said, the only other Constructed playable legend in the entire Masques block was Squee. Ascendant Evincar was in a couple of sideboards. Flash-forward to Invasion and you’ll find two or three Dragon Legends getting the rub (with Darigaaz and Treva out in the cold), while storyline-intrinsic big guns like Nemata, Grove Guardian, Blind Seer and Verdeloth, the Ancient are riding the pine.

They should have printed Verdeloth with an alternate art,”double-quilted” version. The only time he’s any use for T2 or Block is when you go to a remote PTQ and run out of toilet paper.

While I lament the fact that the big swinging units of the Magic storyline are second-class citizens when the time comes to break the format, I’ve recently noticed that the real home of the legend is the Limited game. Legends are cards with bombastic, often unique effects – and when the power-level is drastically reduced, they stick out like a sore thumb. Moreover, the rarity of a legend actually makes sense in limited – you don’t see many copies of Cabal Patriarch, but when they do appear, they dominate the table. Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor actually acts like he owns the place. Kamahl ends the game in no time if he’s allowed to stay.

Now, Aboshan was part of Brian Kibler deck at Osaka, but no one plays Cabal Patriarch and Kamahl, Pit Fighter in Constructed: They’re outclassed. Cabal Patriarch has a slow, expensive ability that is too sluggish to do anything when the heat is on. Kamahl gets wasted by Fire/Ice or countered or who-knows-what. In fact, they’re both easy to counter – it’s hard to back things up when you’re paying six mana for the threat in question. These concerns just aren’t part of the Limited game… And as a result, these legends are the bombs of the format.

Looking over the card list, this actually seems to be by design. I think that R&D is making it a habit for legends to dominate the limited game when they appear – the effect they have on a game of limited Magic is often so profound that you can understand why they are considered”legendary.” These cards can lay waste to entire armies, and single-handedly win games.

Consider! Alexei, Zephyr Mage is a worthless dungheap in Constructed… But in limited, she will remove the entire opposing army from the table with the almighty powers of her Blue bounce magic, allowing you to serve for the win. Cabal Patriarch rules combat with an iron fist when hits the table, using his necromantic powers to control life and death like a skilled cosmic puppeteer. That, and he hits hard.

Take Nemata as another example – in Constructed, he comes out, gets Slay cast on him, goes home, buys some Jack Daniels, end of story. In Limited, though, he appears, brings the opposing ground attack to a halt unless the enemy can find volunteers to get stomped by an angry 5/5 tree – and as the turns go by, he summons the power of the forest. He’s a wrecking ball if the opposing side is trying to win on the ground. He waves his hand and Saprolings start coming out of the woodwork, so numerous that their little shadows darken the floor of the battlefield. Nemata is what his designers intended him to be – a real legend who can swing a game.

I like that. Designing some rares for Limited, especially legends, is the way to go. Any legend that can dominate a game of Constructed (and there really has only ever been one who could – Lin Sivvi) is going to have to be ridiculous, because Constructed has so many answers to everything.

Checking out Odyssey, Torment, and Judgment, we can see the following legends who are at their respective”bests” in limited play:

Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor – This master of the seas is master of nothing in Constructed, where he comes into play and gets a Kavu dropped on him, or arrives just in time for the opponent to pitch Wonder and make him useless. In Limited, though, he really is the master of his surroundings. If he stays out long enough, it’s over – as he will use his magical powers and awesome influence to immobilize opposing forces

Ambassador Laquatus – The devious merfolk can’t do jack squat in Constructed unless he’s part of some sort of Solitary Confinement combo. In Limited, he puts his poisonous mind to use, sapping the strength of the opposing mage until he has nothing left.

Chainer Dementia Master – Sucks in constructed, can dominate a game of Limited, where he uses his legendary powers over death and the mind to raid even opposing graveyards, bringing back old spells to haunt the original owner.

Cabal Patriarch – A powerful, nearly-immortal wizard who is too much of a slow junkpile to ever see Constructed play. That would be depressing… But we get to see what he can do in Limited, where he simply dominates the game as befitting a wizards of his stature.

Kamahl, Pit Fighter – In constructed, this supposedly-able fighter doesn’t get off his ass until the game is nearly over. On a Limited battlefield, he gets into the game right when things start to heat up, and asks a simple question:”Can you deal with me?” If the answer is no, Kamahl will destroy the entire opposing army by himself, and then go in for the win. Now that is a performance befitting the cycle’s greatest hero.

Llawan, Cephalid Empress – She shouldn’t be played in Constructed, unless you’re a moron *cough*. That being said, in Limited she does what she’s supposed to do – she rules over all of the creatures of Blue Magic. When the Empress appears, even the opposing blue forces must kneel before her power, and will not oppose you.

Major Teroh – Junk in Constructed, Teroh in Limited will do what he does best… Go out in a zealotous blaze of glory, and take the unrighteous with him. A burst of light, and… The evil is gone. And Teroh with them.

Thriss, Nantuko Primus – This Druid of druids of SOOOOOO SLOOOOOOW in Constructed that no one in their right mind would ever play him. In Limited, he makes an appearance in the mid to late game, and suddenly he lends massive strength to any creature you desire. An army with Thriss at the head is a formidable army indeed.

Then we have the legends with Constructed applications, like Balthor, The Defiled and Braids. They’re better in Constructed than in Limited. There’s also Pianna, Commander Eesha, and Kirtar. Those guys do what they do in both formats, with good results in both.

Finally, there’s Seton. He sucks in any format.

I guess that after that lengthy segue, you understand where I’m coming from. Rares for limited… They’re what’s for dinner. With all that being said, now let’s check that spoiler:

Visera, the Dreadful


Creature – Gorgon Legend



Tap: Destroy target creature. It can’t be regenerated.


This is what Limited offers at its best, for a legend anyhow. A real legend. As in, “this is the type of card that people tell stories about.” Really, what is a legend but a sum of their stories? That is how legends are born. Visera is shaping up to be probably the most jaw-droppingly powerful limited legend in history, perhaps even moreso than something like Mageta the Lion.

This is the way the world ends in limited… Not with a bang, but with the appearance of Visera. Things are even. Both sides are building up forces, skirmishing. Then the terrible Gorgon Legend appears and suddenly the entire opposing side is dead over the course of a few turns, and the dark hordes under his/her command wipe out the opposing planeswalker. Visera is durable and deadly. Whatever sex it is, it’s Cabal Patriarch on crack.

Anyhow, I guess the point of all this is that I still have a little bit of a soft spot for the whole Magic mystique… And it’s pretty cool to see some storyline legends living up to the hype. Limited is the real home of the legend, a place where they can aspire to feats worthy of their weighty names.

See you tomorrow.

Geordie Tait

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