We Now Know The New Legacy Metagame

Autumn spent her Pro Tour battling in Legacy! As such, she’s one of the few to get a taste of a PT-level Legacy meta! So what decks did she see? And what is going to dominate the format now?

One of the most exciting parts of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis
last weekend was that the Legacy format got to show itself off on the Pro
Tour stage. As a long-time fan of the format, I was thrilled at the
prospect of getting to watch this event, but even more thrilled when I
managed to qualify for it myself. Even better, as a dedicated Grixis Delver
pilot I was confident I would be able to lock in my 75 the moment the
banned and restricted announcement would be a thing of the past.

Never mind then…

Probably one of the most exciting questions after the banning was what
Delver deck would be best equipped to pick up Grixis Delver’s mantle. The
immediate response in the wake of the bannings was for people to flock
towards Temur Delver, acting as if Nimble Mongoose had just been unbanned
in to the format.

As it happens though, the goose is decidedly not loose. If all
your deck has gained in the space of five years is a couple
surprisingly-hard-to-cast True-Name Nemesis in the sideboard and some
Hooting Mandrils that
you shouldn’t be playing in your Nimble Mongoose deck anyways
, consider the possibility that your deck might be becoming a bit outdated
and underpowered relative to the format it exists in. The threats in Legacy
continue to get stronger and stronger over time, and whilst Temur Delver is
very able to brawl with the combo decks, it simply hasn’t gained the sort
of upgrades in fair matchups that other decks around it have. Look at
Gurmag Angler and then try looking at Nimble Mongoose again.

The amount of evolution we’ve seen among Delver decks over the last month
has been kind of startling, what would normally be a few months of growth
being turbo-charged by the lead up to the Pro Tour. Initial updates to
Grixis Delver just jammed Bomat Couriers and Preordains where once there
were Deathrite Shamans and Gitaxian Probes – this is inelegant, but the
fact it was still winning games at the very least showed that Underground
Seas and Delver of Secrets could have a strong future together with some
more work.

An acknowledgement that the green cards just aren’t terribly impressive
anymore led to further experimentation, trying to fuel Gurmag Anglers as
fast as possible with Thought Scours. A bunch of different desires
naturally ended up leading to Death’s Shadow builds coming to the forefront
though — wanting access to Thoughtseizes instead of Cabal Therapy now that
there’s less incentive to play Young Pyromancer, wanting more one-mana
threats that could efficiently be played alongside a piece of interaction,
a desire to just be two colors now that Deathrite Shaman can’t tie your
ropey manabase together.

Somehow after all of that we end up with this gorgeous piece of
deckbuilding on display at the Pro Tour:

Of all the Delver decks we’ve seen try and battle for our attention this
last month, this is easily the most sophisticated and exciting one, and I
would be surprised if it doesn’t cement itself as a key part of the Legacy
metagame going forward. Getting to play four copies of Thoughtseize means
this deck has better combo matchups than even fully powered Grixis Delver
had, and whilst Swords to Plowshares is a scary card out of the fair decks,
this deck still plays a fair game better than any of the other Delver decks
we’ve seen so far in this post-Deathrite world. Gurmag Angler and Death’s
Shadow are just so much larger than Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf.

The Eve of the Pro Tour

Heading into the Pro Tour, there were three Legacy decks that in testing
had been overperforming for me and that I expected to show up in large
numbers at the event itself: Death and Taxes, Sneak and Show and, to a
lesser extent, Colorless Eldrazi. All three of these decks had been putting
up good results in the run up to the event itself, all three decks require
very different tools to effectively fight, and the fact that they created a
rock-paper-scissors metagame among themselves was fairly enticing to the
narrative also.

Death and Taxes looked to be well-positioned with the loss of Deathrite
Shaman leading to a significant downtick in the number of Kolaghan’s
Commands and True-Name Nemeses floating around the format. Meanwhile, from
week one, Sneak and Show was policing the format, punishing anyone so
daring as to not have a properly tuned list yet.

Colorless Eldrazi is a more interesting case. I’d heard hardly a word about
the deck leading up to the event itself, and it feels like even after the
Pro Tour having occurred lots of people are writing off its large metagame
share at the event as people just playing it because it’s a relatively
budget deck.

The thing is, though, that for as long as Brainstorm is legal, Chalice of
the Void is going to be a cornerstone of Legacy. Further, there will always
be a “best” Chalice of the Void deck. For the months leading up to
Deathrite Shaman’s ban, this was Mono-Red Prison; the Blood Moons punished
the greedy Deathrite Shaman manabases, whilst Fiery Confluence effectively
cleaned up Grixis Delver’s myriad of small creatures. With the sizing of
creatures in the Delver decks in this post-Deathrite world increasing
outside of range of Fiery Confluence, and even out of range of Chandra,
Torch of Defiance’s minus ability, and added to that that the Death and
Taxes matchup is almost unwinnable for Mono-Red Prison, there’s simply no
reason to believe the deck would hold of the mantle of Best Chalice Deck

And so something has to take its place…

It’s certainly possible that Eldrazi’s reign as the best Chalice deck is
short-lived. Its creature base lined up well versus the Miracles control
decks that didn’t make much of a splash at the Pro Tour. Meanwhile, Reality
Smasher gets a lot less appealing if the best Delver deck is playing a pile
of Death’s Shadows and Snuff Outs. That said, it’s certainly the most
appealing Chalice deck to me at the moment, especially if it tailors its
answers with Death’s Shadow in mind – lean away from Umezawa’s Jitte a bit
in the maindeck and more towards a card like Ratchet Bomb, perhaps.
Ultimately, Colorless Eldrazi always managed to be favoured against Temur
Delver even in spite of Tarmogoyf, so it seems more likely than not that it
can put up a fight against Death’s Shadow too, but only time will tell.

Show and Tell

Of the three decks I expected to be well-positioned and highly popular,
Sneak and Show ended up being the anomaly. It was certainly popular, but
seemed to put up the worst performance this weekend of any of the widely
played Legacy decks. Death and Taxes being so popular was always going to
be a limiting factor for the deck, but the Death’s Shadow matchup being so
awful with its Thoughtseizes and Stubborn Denials was an unexpected and
brutal problem for the deck. The worst moment was realizing that Sneak
Attacking in a Griselbrand wouldn’t actually even gain me life in the face
of my opponent’s Death’s Shadow. The complete absence of Lands at the Pro
Tour was also problematic for Sneak and Show this past weekend too.

Unfortunately, this makes the Legacy deck I chose to register for the
tournament look a bit foolish.

Considering its positioning in this new metagame, especially with Death’s
Shadow decks putting up such an incredible performance at the Pro Tour, I
would be very wary of registering Sneak and Show for any upcoming events.
That said, I think the list I registered is a very nicely tuned version of
the archetype and some of the choices here deserve a few words for those of
you who still want to jam Sneak and Show regardless of its positioning. So,

  • The Dazes were included largely to increase the explosiveness of
    the deck, but also because Spell Pierce and Flusterstorm are
    sometimes just outright awful (mainly when you’re not playing
    against other blue decks). Setting yourself back a land drop can
    hurt in the games where you don’t draw a sol land or Lotus Petal,
    but in general I’ve found myself happier with a small number of
    Dazes as opposed to the alternatives.
  • Pyroclasm doesn’t do what you want it to do half the time. The
    first time a Mother of Runes saved my opponent’s Phyrexian Revoker
    from this sweeper in testing I felt slightly annoyed, the fifth
    time it happened I just felt downright foolish. Sudden Shock is
    much better at removing troublesome hate bears through opposing
    Moms, countermagic, and Vialed-in-Flickerwisps. Pyroclasm just
    feels outdated to me now that Grixis Delver isn’t preying on the
    format anymore.
  • Now that Arcane Artisan is a known quantity its value drops a bit.
    It’s still the best additional win condition you have access to
    after sideboard for its ability to ignore Spell Pierce,
    Flusterstorm, and Containment Priest (just to name a few cards),
    but the fact that people are leaving in more in the way of Swords
    to Plowshares to deal with this threat after sideboard inclines me
    to think a split of alternate win conditions makes more sense now
    than it did a few weeks ago (hence the single Through the Breach
    lurking in the sideboard).
  • Search for Azcanta doesn’t really fight on an angle that Sneak and
    Show wants to fight so it’s understandable that it has been ignored
    in the archetype up until now, but it’s such a rawly powerful card,
    and is so good at contending with some control deck’s sideboard
    plans, that I have enjoyed experimenting with a single copy in the

Moving Forward

Death and Taxes, U/B Death’s Shadow, and Colorless Eldrazi are the three
decks I’m most looking to respect at the moment. As such, I’d be nervous of
playing any combo deck that isn’t a clear favourite against both Death and
Taxes and Eldrazi Stompy (on the basis that almost every combo deck is
going to struggle against U/B Death’s Shadows disruption suite). In
practice, this makes combo largely unappealing and I feel like as a result
of all this, Legacy is going to settle into a relatively fair place at
least for a little while. Even though I’m not generally a big fan of the
deck, U/W Stoneblade is likely being slept on a tiny bit here as True-Name
Nemesis is a card I’m very interested in right now against all three of the
big winners from this last weekend.

Personally, though, I’m excited to start spending my first turn Reanimating
my own Street Wraiths.