Last March, I put together the first of what I had intended to be a recurring article series: The Legacy Cookbook. Compiling information from recent tournaments, I wanted to create a resource for players that presented an up-to-date list of the most competitive Legacy decks.
A couple of months after that article, New Phyrexia was released, and with it, Mental Misstep. The widespread use of this card sent shockwaves through Legacy, instantaneously rewriting the landscape for blue decks and fundamentally changing a number of matchups. A number of storylines have emerged over the past two months. Most notable:
- The disappearance of the Counterbalance/Top engine under the pressure of Mental Misstep, Merfolk, and Green Sun’s Zenith
- The emergence of Graveyard decks, including a surging group of Dredge decks supplemented by Reanimator and Cephalid Breakfast
- The return of non-Counterbalance control decks, including Landstill and Deedstill, and then many of those decks changing over to Ancestral Visions as the primary draw engine in place of Standstill
- The continuing evolution of Zoo and Natural Order decks
- A shift in Show and Tell decks to Hive Mind
- The near-total absence of Goblins, High Tide, and Affinity from top 16 finishes in the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open since the introduction of Mental Misstep
- The use of Stoneforge Mystic in a variety of Legacy strategies
With all of that, what could’ve been a simple update instead is jam-packed with new decks and reimagining of old ones.
Aggro Loam is a strategy that pops up every so often, both in the US and in Europe. Essentially, the deck is a non-blue card advantage deck, which grinds out extra cards with Life from the Loam and Dark Confidant; a recent addition to an older strategy is the hybrid with Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows. This particular version adds on white for a fourth color, for Swords to Plowshares and Vindicate, and cuts the Seismic Assaults that used to be a standard inclusion.
There are some great reasons for playing Aggro Loam. Traditional control decks are vulnerable to the Loam engine, creature decks are vulnerable to the giant monsters and Burning Wish package, and tribal decks are often soft to the Punishing Fire engine.
What this deck can’t do is beat combo. In fact, this build isn’t even remotely interested in trying to beat it, without cards like Chalice of the Void or Thoughtseize, which sometimes pop up in this style of deck.
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Imperial Recruiter
- 1 Cavern Harpy
- 4 Coiling Oracle
- 2 Dream Stalker
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
- 1 Parasitic Strix
Still a niche player due to the paper cost of Imperial Recruiters, I continue to believe this is a viable deck if you have access to the necessary cards. Interestingly, this version plays a Phyrexian Mana card that isn’t Mental Misstep; like ANT, below, this version includes Gitaxian Probe. We also have a deck here that is relatively resistant to Mental Misstep.
If someone can come up with a solution whereby Imperial Recruiter can get reprinted, this deck could be a contender in paper Magic. I’m surprised it isn’t seeing more play on MTGO.
ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils)
By and large, ANT is the same deck it was pre-Mental Misstep. The one notable change has more to do with the absence of Counterbalance/Top from the metagame, which was traditionally a predator for Storm combo; without that deck, there’s no longer much of a need for an alternate plan like the Doomsday/Emrakul/Shelldock Isle plan, and similarly cards like Wipe Away and Krosan Grip are far less necessary.
In place of those plans, most ANT decks currently use Dark Confidant out of the sideboard; Bob can provide gas against traditional control and Junk decks, and is also solid against other combo decks.
There’s a notable difference in this specific build, which is the use of Gitaxian Probe. Versions that play Gitaxian Probe typically run a lower land count. The other interesting thing is the use of extra Tendrils of Agony in the sideboard, which can be great at recovering lost life from Dark Confidant and Gitaxian Probe, and additionally can also be used to overwhelm control opponents by playing double Tendrils in one turn.
- 4 Spellstutter Sprite
- 1 Vendilion Clique
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Knight of the Reliquary
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 2 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
Bant without Natural Order is certainly an option, and a flexible one. There are a lot of great things going on in this build. Spellstutter Sprite is a great weapon against Hive Mind, and this list has some interesting one-ofs including Edric, Spymaster of Trest and Scavenging Ooze.
I also like the Enlightened Tutor sideboard, which gives the deck a lot of flexibility against non-Misstep decks. The use of only two Stoneforge Mystics and almost no equipment package is odd, though; Spellstutter Sprites get even better when they have swords.
Note the Tower of the Magistrates and Serenity in the sideboard; between Enlightened Tutor, Knight of the Reliquary, and Green Sun’s Zenith, you can get a lot of mileage out of your singleton sideboard cards.
- 3 Grim Lavamancer
- 2 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Knight of the Reliquary
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
Blue Zoo or (Aquarium if you prefer) is really melding of RUG and Bant variants with Big Zoo, more than a traditional Zoo deck; this is basically RUG with a white splash, for Qasali Pridemage, Swords to Plowshares, and Knight of the Reliquary.
The blue adds a number of things normally missing from Zoo. Brainstorm adds consistency to the deck. Jace adds a card advantage engine, one that is extra-potent given the deck’s use of so many shuffle effects (Knight of the Reliquary, Green Sun’s Zenith, and ten fetches). And, Mental Misstep gives the deck play against combo as well as acting as a counter to Aether Vial and opposing Missteps, or removal for an opening Noble Hierarch or Wild Nacatl.
Some of the most unique weapons in this deck can be found in the sideboard. Phyrexian Metamorph, Aven Mindcensor, Ancient Grudge, and Submerge are flexible options with a variety of applications. Sliding equipment off opposing creatures by giving them Protection from Artifacts via Tower of the Magistrate is an interesting angle to take. Thrun and Gaddock Teeg both play important roles, and one-ofs are rather potent in this deck given Green Sun’s Zenith, Brainstorm, and Jace.
Whether this remains a viable and distinct deck from others in this list remains to be seen, but I wanted to include it on the list as you may face it in your next few tournaments.
This is, essentially, Deedstill without the “still” and with Ancestral Visions instead. A versatile control deck that packs tons of permanent removal with a counter package and mana disruption, this deck may not see all that much play, but it is a powerful choice in a metagame that reflects a lot of creature-based strategies.
Pernicious Deed, Ancestral Visions, and Jace really power this strategy. Turn by turn, opposing threats are countered or removed one-to-one, and then Ancestral Visions comes off Suspend, Pernicious Deed sweeps the board clear, and Jace puts the nail in the coffin.
Yes, in this format, as well.
Pushing the envelope, indeed.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Triskelion
- 1 Quirion Ranger
- 1 Basking Rootwalla
- 1 Phyrexian Devourer
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Bloodghast
- 3 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Necrotic Ooze
I’d love to spend a day inside Ken Adams brain. He’s one of my favorite deck designers. The StarCityGames.com Open Series, dating back to the beginning with the $5Ks, is littered with unique decks that Ken’s played to a top 8. Here, we have Ken’s take on Ooze Combo, a deck that’s had a lot of activity on The Source, but not too many notable finishes.
Essentially, this deck takes the Ooze combo package from the old B/G/W Survival Ooze, drops the white (as you no longer need Enlightened Tutor for Survival of the Fittest), and adds a Buried Alive package around it. That package gives the deck some great anti-control options, such as Bloodghast and Vengevine. Of course, you can also combo out using the Phyrexian Devourer / Triskelion combo. The sideboard adds yet another approach: Natural Order.
Far from being a one-trick pony, this is a versatile and powerful deck that dodges vulnerability to Mental Misstep. Post-board, Natural Order helps mitigate weakness to graveyard hate. In the scheme of things, this is a somewhat budget-friendly deck (by Legacy standards) as you don’t actually need four Bayous to make this work.
Not too much different here from Patrick Sullivan build, but I wanted to include this to show that Burn is still a viable deck, and perhaps the cheapest viable deck in the format. The absence of Counterbalance/Top should keep this deck viable, although for my money, the best card in this deck is still Price of Progress. When you’re connecting for six or more damage with that card, you’re probably winning, and when that card is ineffectual, you’re probably losing.
This deck still has basically no shot against most Legacy combo decks.
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Shaman en-Kor
- 4 Nomads en-Kor
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 4 Cephalid Illusionist
- 1 Sky Hussar
- 3 Narcomoeba
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
I wanted to include a version of this deck with Mental Misstep, and one that had success after Misstep was printed. Cephalid Breakfast is kind of like a Dredge deck that can play counterspells, which gives it some unique advantages. In this particular version, Worldly Tutor and Eladamri’s Call are put to especially good use; note the singletons in the board, like Kataki, War’s Wage and Peacekeeper, that can single-handedly rout some opposing decks.
I’m surprised more people haven’t picked up this deck post-Mental Misstep. Note that you’ll find this deck labeled a few different ways in the database, including B/W Discard and B/W Weenie.
I find this style of deck to be enormously annoying to play against. Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, and Hymn to Tourach rip hands apart and can set you up for free wins. If you manage to hit lands with Hymn to Tourach, you can finish the game off with Wasteland or Vindicate to prevent your opponent from ever actually playing Magic.
If your opponent is driven to actually fight back, the deck has a number of engines that kick in at two mana. Bitterblossom can win games by itself against control decks; Cabal Therapy and equipment pair nicely with Bitterblossom as well. Dark Confidant is perfect in this style of deck, as is Stoneforge Mystic, both of which can seal games when they go long. This deck loves to grind.
As with all decks like this, the real issue is that you’re not in blue, and are reliant on hitting the right mix of early discard and/or acceleration to keep up with decks that are operating at a higher power level.
- 4 Tireless Tribe
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 3 Ichorid
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 4 Nether Shadow
- 3 Gigapede
- 4 Ichorid
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 4 Golgari Thug
- 4 Shambling Shell
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Phantasmagorian
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 4 Bloodghast
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
These are actually almost two different decks.
The first is a traditional Dredge deck without Lion’s Eye Diamond; this version has Iona, Shield of Emeria and doesn’t play Flame-Kin Zealot. The sideboard has Leyline of the Void for opposing graveyard decks (although three is an ugly number when it comes to Leylines), and Winds of Change for the combo matchup (though I still don’t get this and think it’s kind of some bizarre “danger of old things”). Blightsteel Colossus is for Painter’s Servant decks, and Elesh Norn has added a fantastic blowout creature against a large number of opponents.
The second is the newcomer, Manaless Dredge. Regular Dredge has explosive power, much like a combo deck. This is especially true of the versions that play LED. This Manaless version, however, is much the opposite. It is designed to slowly but surely Dredge, turn after turn, without ever playing any draw spells that can be countered. Because of this, the slower control decks really struggle against this version.
- 3 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Priest of Titania
- 4 Wirewood Symbiote
- 2 Quirion Ranger
- 3 Fyndhorn Elves
- 1 Viridian Shaman
- 3 Birchlore Rangers
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 2 Regal Force
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Elves hasn’t done much on the SCG circuit lately, but it has done extremely well on MTGO, where it is a constant presence in Daily Events and Premier Events. The version above is interesting in that it has Red Elemental Blast in the sideboard, perhaps to acknowledge Hive Mind, which has been running amok both in paper and digital Legacy. Many versions of Elves on MTGO have been packing Vengevines and Buried Alive as a sideboard weapon, where in the past, you might’ve found Natural Order.
I’d really like to see an Elves deck with Edric, Spymaster of Trest as a back-up combo piece / draw engine.
Here again, I’ve included this deck simply to show that it still exists post-Mental Misstep, although it remains a niche deck. It has, however, picked up a few new toys from recent sets. Sigil of the Empty Throne provides a new win condition, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is an interesting way to finish games and provide protection from Painter decks.
Eva Green is another “oldie but goodie” type of deck, and while I don’t recommend it over the black/white decks in a similar design space, it does still see play; as you may run into it from time to time, I figured it was worth featuring in one of these articles.
This is basically a Rock-style deck, although a bit more on the aggressive side. Recent additions to this deck include Vampire Nighthawk, Dismember, Go for the Throat, and Inquisition of Kozilek. One of the great things about Legacy is that you can clearly trace this deck’s evolution back for years, yet every block offers new tools even for well-established archetypes.
- 4 Goblin Matron
- 4 Goblin Lackey
- 4 Goblin Warchief
- 1 Goblin Sharpshooter
- 4 Goblin Piledriver
- 4 Gempalm Incinerator
- 2 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Goblin Ringleader
- 1 Skirk Prospector
- 1 Tin Street Hooligan
- 2 Mogg War Marshal
Goblins, Goblins, Goblins.
I was one of the early and vocal doubters of the concept of jamming Mental Misstep into non-blue decks. Obviously, when Jim Davisâ€”long a Jedi Master when it comes to Goblinsâ€”made it into the top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Invitational with Goblins featuring Mental Misstep, a number of people ran to Facebook to proclaim their glorious victory.
Since this occurrence, we’ve seen exactly zero additional decks like this in the top sixteen of SCG Opens. So, the only time this idea worked was in a mixed-format tournament that was invite-only (wherein a number of people were not normally Legacy players), and even then only when played by one of the world’s best Goblins players.
I’m just saying…
I mentioned this deck in passing last April, when it was ripping it up on MTGO Daily Events. While it was a viable deck then, once you add Mental Misstep to the mix, you really have a potent deck. All of this deck’s plans of attack ignore Mental Misstep, and Mental Misstep is really powerful in the deck. Typical builds also pack plenty of hate for combo decks and tribal decks, and because it was something of a niche deck, Hive Mind flew under the radar for months.
That’s obviously starting to change, and the deck had another breakout performance on 7/24 at the Seattle Open. There are ways to beat this deck and cards that are solid against it, like Stifle, Spellstutter Sprite, and potentially new hate cards like Flusterstorm and Sundial of the Infinite.
Not much has changed for regular Junk, which has perhaps been hampered by Mental Misstep; when you can’t be sure your initial Thoughtseize will connect, or your Swords to Plowshares will hit, things get a lot harder for this deck.
Junk Depths builds on the regular Junk plan by introducing a Dark Depths plan, which can win games in a hurry. One problem with Junk-style decks is that they’re always vulnerable to losing off the top of the opponent’s deck. Adding a Dark Depths package can let you finish games immediately that might otherwise have slipped away. Vampire Hexmage is also a nice addition in a world where Jace is incredibly popular. And, of course, all these elementsâ€”Living Wish, Vampire Hexmage, Dark Depths, Life from the Loamâ€”dodge Mental Misstep.
- 1 Forest
- 1 Wooded Foothills
- 4 Wasteland
- 4 Tropical Island
- 1 Bayou
- 1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
- 1 Windswept Heath
- 4 Maze of Ith
- 3 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Glacial Chasm
- 4 Rishadan Port
- 1 Riftstone Portal
- 1 Ghost Quarter
- 1 Academy Ruins
- 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- 3 Tolaria West
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Verdant Catacombs
- 1 Creeping Tar Pit
I’m including this deck because it narrowly missed a top 8 and still sees some play; personally, however, I don’t think I would recommend this deck currently.
Landstill crashed back into American Legacy during the first post-Misstep SCG Open, piloted by Gerry Thompson and Drew Levin; almost immediately after that first tournament, some pilots switched to Ancestral Visions, with my recollection being Drew Levin jumping vocally on that bandwagon right away(though I don’t mean to attribute this innovation, that’s just my recollection). This trend can also be seen in the quasi-Deedstill deck I listed above, which also uses Ancestral Visions.
In case anyone believes that all Landstill decks have transitioned into other forms of UW Control, this isn’t the case. Landstill uses some of my favorite cards, like Vedalken Shackles and Wrath of God, cards that don’t always see play in Legacy but are game-changers in many matchups. This particular build also has Dismember, which is popping up in many Legacy decks. There’s also a Dust Bowl in this version, which is great, as that’s a card that doesn’t see much play.
There’s also a hybrid Landstill / Stoneforge Mystic deck toward the end of this article.
- 2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 4 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 4 Cursecatcher
- 4 Coralhelm Commander
- 2 Phyrexian Metamorph
Merfolk seems to have cooled off lately, and there are a number of reasons for this. The deck is still pretty much in the same spot as it was ten weeks ago: the pre-Misstep Merfolk deck, with Mental Misstep in it. The field has filled up with cards that are solid against Merfolk, including Grim Lavamancer, big creatures, combo resistant to Mental Misstep such as Hive Mind, Graveyard decks, and so on. And, the decks Merfolk preyed on, especially Counterbalance/Top, are missing in action.
Merfolk has also suffered from being one of the number one villains of the format; it’s much harder to win with this deck when everyone is packing Peacekeepers, Llawan, Cephalid Empress, and other cards meant specifically to destroy you.
What does Mono-Blue Control have that other control decks can’t use that effectively? Back to Basics! It also packs the best Vedalken Shackles you’re going to find, as with sixteen Islands, you could Shackles an Emrakul.
Not saying it’s likely, just saying… there’s a chance.
Outside of that, my honest opinion is that this is really a worse Landstill. Energy Field is a cool card, and yes, it can auto-win some matchups, but really folks, Back to Basics is the star of this show. If you run into a metagame were B2B isn’t good, then, well, your deck isn’t all that good.
- 4 Metalworker
- 1 Sundering Titan
- 4 Lodestone Golem
- 4 Wurmcoil Engine
- 4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 1 Myr Battlesphere
Sometimes I feel like someone isn’t really trying at all with these deck names. I look forward to playing “Wild Nacatl” or “Lightning Bolt” in my next tournament.
Anyway, I like some of what’s going on in this deck. Beyond the Staff of Domination / Metalworker combo, there’s a sweet Platinum Emperion in the sideboard, and a Karn Liberated in the maindeck. Still, playing with and against this deck on occasion, the lack of consistency is pretty striking, just as some hands are undeniably powerful.
- 2 Tarmogoyf
- 2 Vendilion Clique
- 1 Rhox War Monk
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Knight of the Reliquary
- 1 Progenitus
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Not really dissimilar to the Bant deck, above, this version is packing the Natural Order combo, along with an Enlightened Tutor sideboard package. In a field littered with relatively similar decks, the use of the Natural Order combo can help you punch through a clogged board, and resolves right past cards like Mental Misstep, Spellstutter Sprite, and Spell Snare.
That said, this build lacks removal, and is significantly behind in Jace count compared to a lot of other similar decks. Also, you can’t equip anything to Progenitus, and that makes me sad for him.
This is basically RUG Tempo for people that can’t let go of Natural Order.
Mental Misstep pairs with Daze and Force of Will to keep key threats off the board without investing mana. This deck calmly and smoothly transitions up into Natural Order while countering early threats, but is equally able to just beat down with Tarmogoyf. Â
I’m not sure I would suggest this over the tempo version, but your mileage may vary. There’s also a danger in playing these quasi-control decks in a field that also has a true control component.
Now with Mental Misstep. Next deck!
Kidding, but not really.
Actually, there’s some Auriok Salvagers in the sideboard, which enable a back-up combo, and I like that Nihil Spellbomb in the maindeck, since there are decks out there playing Emrakul. This seems to be replaced as the combo deck of the week by Hive Mind.
- 1 Sundering Titan
- 1 Angel of Despair
- 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 3 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
This is one of my absolute favorite decks in Legacy at the moment, and one that really got charged back up by Mental Misstep and Jin Gitaxias and Elesh Norn. Â Eli’s deck has a few things going for it besides the power increase from some of the new cards. He’s playing four Animate Dead, a concession to some of the faster aggro variants(and Mental Misstep!) as well as the absence of Qasali Pridemage, and also has Angel of Despair and Sundering Titan.
I’m also a huge fan of the set of four Ponders. While nothing will make up for the loss of Mystical Tutor, I’ve found that having an extra set of spells like Ponder or Preordain can really amp the consistency back up. With the metagame being as it is, and Counterbalance/Top being more or less extinct, this version cuts the Thoughtseizes completely.
The sideboard still has Null Rod, Pithing Needle, and Show and Tell to beat the hate, and now features Hymn to Tourach (along with Grave Titan, one of the most random throw-ins I’ve ever written about that ended up being kind of good).
In any case, I really like this deck and suggest you test against it, and put it on your short list.
This is another deck I really like; you get the Ancestral Visions, lots of varied counters, flexible removal (or “removal”) like Beast Within, Grim Lavamancer, Lightning Bolt, and Sower of Temptation.
In a nutshell, this is like the RUG Counterbalance/Top decks that played Lavamancer, but in place of the outdated Counter/Top engine you get a ton of exciting and flexible new cards. This version is also packed with three Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Out-Jace-ing your opponent is something you need to get comfortable with in today’s Legacy.
This is another deck I’d personally be testing with and against.
The first version is UWR, and essentially replaces Ancestral Visions, Tarmogoyf and Beast Within in the above RUG Tempo list, and replaces it a Stoneforge Mystic package, Magus of the Moon, and Swords to Plowshares.
At the expense of repeating myself, this is a deck I can really get behind. It has trumps for a lot of the other popular decks, and is in a sweet spot in the metagame. Those REBs and Pyroblasts build onto an already great Merfolk matchup, and also happen to stick it to Hive Mind. And, I’ve long loved Magus of the Moon; it’s this deck’s version of Back to Basics.
Again, I wanted to show an example of what this deck looks like with Mental Misstep. Like Metalworker decks, I respect this deck’s potential for raw power when the elements come together, but the mana can malfunction, or be forcibly malfunctioned by opposing Back to Basics or Magus of the Moon.
Recently, some of the luster has come off this deck, but it has been a cyclical deck since its inception and will likely come back into favor eventually.
Mental Misstep and all these “tempo” decks require potential TES players to practice more than ever. This deck is one of the few that really hasn’t changed.
Despite what you might have heard, though, it’s also still a good deck. Xantid Swarm is the perfect card for this metagame.
There’s nothing really fancy about this deck, but it’s great that it exists; seeing Wrath of God in Legacy is awesome to me, especially because it’s actually quite good. If there’s a deck designed to out-Jace the rest of Legacy, this is the one.
“Hi, my name is Drew, and I’m addicted to drawing cards.”
In fact, the number of “tempo” decks and other hybrid builds with half their foot in the control “door,” so to speak, are a great reason to play this deck; a full-on control deck can muscle right past those decks.
UW Landstill (with Stoneforge)
This is a bit less of a traditional Landstill deck, and more of a Stoneforge / Landstill hybrid. Outside of the fact that it only has two Jace, I like it. I wanted to include this if for no other reason than to show how much room to innovate there is between the various Stoneforge and base U/W decks.
The first is an example of Zoo with Stoneforge Mystic.
Seriously, that guy is everywhere.
And, at perhaps the other extreme from Blue Zoo, we end with Patrick Sullivan hyper-aggressive Zoo deck with Wastelands. It basically ignores Mental Misstep by overloading on one-drops. It’s good at smashing in faces. Many Zoo decks are starting to cut down on Qasali Pridemage, due to the absence of Counterbalance in the metagame.
So, Legacy players, that’s your format. If Wizards was trying intentionally to break it, well… sorry, they have to try harder.
Until next timeâ€”which may be a whileâ€”happy cooking!
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