Unlocking Legacy — A Metagame Update

Legacy has advanced significantly since my last comprehensive analysis of the format. Many players all over the world are innovating, and the most competitive decks are becoming quite diverse. In this article, I will analyze the formats latest developments, and make some predictions about the metagame at this weekend’s Mana Leak Open 2.

Legacy has advanced significantly since my last comprehensive analysis of the

format. Many players all over the world are innovating, and the most competitive decks

are becoming quite diverse. Legacy has slowly worked its way out of a cycle of player

inexperience and netdecking, and now creative deck construction is becoming more common.

The format is currently in a positive state of growth, and its recent evolution is a

good indicator that future large events will lead to further advances. In this article,

I will analyze the formats latest developments, and make some predictions about the

metagame at this weekend’s Mana Leak Open 2.

Since this tournament will be larger and more competitive than previous private

tournaments, I expect to see some deviations from typical field compositions as well as

an influx of new technology. In the past several months, Legacy tournaments have

displayed some clear trends regarding archetype popularity and diversity. Many different

decks are becoming consistently viable, and players are beginning to adopt them to take

advantage of unprepared environments.


One of the most anticipated and important changes to occur in recent months is the rise

of both the diversity and popularity of combo decks. This change has been coming for a

long time, but the process has been much slower than I thought it would be, both for

players to adopt new decks, and for the archetypes to become sufficiently tuned.

There are now quite a few decks in Legacy that exploit combo synergies. The most

successful of these have been those that abuse the storm win conditions, which are

stronger than the rest and of which there are now three – Brain Freeze, Tendrils

of Agony, and the newcomer to Eternal magic, Empty the Warrens.

While the decks based on High Tide (Solidarity) and Ill-Gotten Gains have been

around for some time, they are more popular now due to consistent success and more

discussion and analysis of them by experienced players. I recommend that all players be

ready to face these decks this weekend, as they have the speed, versatility, and

protection to enable their pilots to go off past any unprepared decks.

However, there is a third storm deck that may show up as well. It combines some

aspects of previous combo decks, and has some that are completely new: it runs a

five-color manabase, which gives it access to the best combo cards in the format; it

uses a wishboard and can use either Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens as the kill;

and it uses more mana accelerants than any other deck, with 40% of the deck as

nonland mana sources. These features make the deck less vulnerable to

permission than Ill-Gotten Gains, but much faster than High Tide. Of course, there are

disadvantages. It has less consistent opening hands due to the large amount of

conditional accelerants, and requires a lot of practice to play optimally. It is also

very vulnerable to Wasteland and cards that disrupt the artifact acceleration, unlike

the two previous storm decks. These downsides are considerable, but given the element of

surprise they may not be a problem.

Burning Wish Combo, also called “The Epic Storm” was recently taken to a

54-player tournament in Geneso, NY, and a 21-player tournament in Jacksonville, IL. In

NY, it placed multiple players in the Top 16, and one in the Top 4 in IL. This is a

quick adoption for a deck that is only three months old, which in Legacy is not very

long in terms of format development.

As I have already mentioned, the deck is complicated, but it has strategies for a

variety of matchups. Xantid Swarm, Burning Wish, and storm itself give the deck options

against blue disruption, while Ill-Gotten Gains and the speed of the deck allow it to

race Aggro. An introduction to the deck can be found here.

I expect these three decks to comprise a significant fraction of the field. I

recommend that players be completely prepared to face storm combo at the tournament this



I am sure that many other players have noticed the increasing popularity of combo

decks. One way to guarantee a strong performance against combo decks is to play one of

the format’s many Aggro-Control decks. The most popular of these, Threshold, has a

good matchup against all of these decks, but I won’t discuss it here since there

already exists plenty of discussion on how to play Threshold.

Another deck which has had very consistent top eight finishes in the past several

months is B/R Suicide, or “Red Death,” which has managed to achieve a solid

game against both Aggro and Combo with its combination of heavy disruption and efficient

threats. Such a feat is rare among Legacy decks, and after multiple successful finishes

B/R Suicide is likely to have a strong showing: This deck most recently made fifth place

in Geneso, NY:

B/R suicide takes advantage of some of the strongest disruption in the format. Hymn

to Tourach is excellent against all decks, and in many circumstances Sinkhole can

control the tempo game in combination with Dark Ritual and Wasteland. After disrupting

the opponent with these cards, Phyrexian Negator and the burn spells can end the game

very quickly. You can read the deck creator’s introduction here.

Another deck that has had success in Europe, but has been seen only rarely in the

United States, is W/G/r Aggro-Loam. This deck uses potent Green creatures, strong

removal, and lots of card advantage. There are many strong synergies within the deck

that can create strong board positions against all of the top decks in the format. The

reason this deck works so well is that almost all of the cards support each other. This

deck won the Dutch Legacy championship as well as a side event at Worlds 2006:

While I don’t think many players have prepared this deck, it has posted

impressive results against the traditional top tier. “Terrageddon,” as it is

also called, can be tweaked for a strong anti-combo game, since it already runs maindeck

Armageddon (with Burning Wish to get more) and Solitary Confinement. The designer talks

more about the deck here.

There is another Aggro-Control deck that has made occasional Top 8 appearances in

several different forms. W/u Aggro-Control, sometimes called “Angel Stompy,”

relies on efficient creatures, strong equipment, and a variable suite of disruption to

enable the deck to fight combo. Most recently, a deck of this form made third place in

Geneso, NY:

The strategy here is pretty simple – accelerate out solid creatures and equip

them. The deck has some draw for mana fixing and consistency, and cheap disruption to

slow the game down enough for the equipment to start working.


There are other decks, not heavily played in Legacy, that have a big advantage in a

combo-heavy metagame: control decks. One of these is Landstill, which has struggled

since the creation of Legacy. However, the deck has been rebuilt several times, and has

achieved a few Top 8 finishes in the past two and a half years. The deck was most

recently successful at the Geneso tournament, where it made seventh place:


In Legacy, Goblins almost completely comprises this archetype, and the developments

of other Aggro decks have had little impact on the format. Goblins does experience small

developments occasionally, but currently the archetype is splintered between three

splashes and a mono-Red version, all of which have had comparable success and have had

only minor variation over the past year. However, the rise of combo has even influenced

this now-classic deck, causing players to give up other deck strengths so that they can

run unsynergistic and historically irrelevant hand disruption to avoid an atrocious

combo matchup.


The increase in the popularity of combo is going to bring some balance to

competitive metagames, and allow deckbuilders a lot of new room for the development of

Aggro-Control and Control decks. The innovation that has accumulated over the past six

months will take some time to become established, but it has already started to have a

visible effect.

Overall, the format is healthy and growing. More importantly though, Legacy players

are beginning to exert more control over innovation and the evolution of technology, and

as always this is good for the format. New synergies are being found and new decks being

built around them regularly. The confused reactions to the slow development rate of

Legacy (which manifested themselves as paranoid calls for banning) have largely

subsided, and I have a lot of confidence that the coming months will be very

constructive preparation for GP: Columbus.

However, before that, as I have repeatedly mentioned, there is a rare Legacy event

happening in just two days! This weekend, Ray Robilliard will be hosting the first ever

Waterbury for Legacy – except of course that it will be in Stratford instead. This

will be the biggest ever privately organized Legacy tournament in the United States. I

am hoping that many of the players that have shown interest in the format recently will

test their decks in a competitive tournament. Ray is one of the most trusted and

experienced TO’s in the Eternal community, and this is an event that is guaranteed

to be fun. I recommend that anyone who can attend this tournament do so, as the prize

structure, vendors, location, side events, concessions, and of course the tournament

itself are all going to be the best around!

Chris Coppola
Machinus @ various websites and email servers