Budget Magic: $99 (134 tix) Legacy Burn
by SaffronOlive // Jan 10, 2017
Kwei, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time once again. We are currently in one of the strangest times on the Magic calendar, at least as far as gameplay is concerned. Aether Revolt doesn't hit Magic Online until the 27th, which means that Standard is pretty much a dead format because anything we play will face a new meta (and hopefully have some sweet new cards) shortly, and we've already been playing a ton of Modern. So this week, for Budget Magic, we're trying something brand new, something that we've never done before in the entire history of the series: we're playing Legacy!
Is it really possible to build a competitive Legacy deck that costs less than $100 in paper? That's what we are trying to figure out. Thankfully, we have a good starting point in Burn, which is a Budget Magic all-star and often the cheapest competitive deck in a format. That said, the typical Legacy Burn deck costs over $600, so we still need to do some work to get the price down into the $100 range. Also, since this is the first Budget Magic for Legacy, make sure to let me know if you want to see more of the format. While we'll never play it as much as Modern or Standard, it's possible we can sneak it in every once and a while, if that's something all of you want to see.
We'll talk more about Legacy Burn after the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all of the latest and greatest.
Legacy Burn: Deck Tech
Legacy Burn vs. GB Depths
Legacy Burn vs. Bant Stasis
Legacy Burn vs. Sneak and Show
Legacy Burn vs. Lands
Legacy Burn vs. Shardless Sultai
Legacy Burn, like all Burn decks, is pretty much a numbers game. The baseline for our spells is dealing three damage to our opponent's face, which means that we need to resolve about six spells to win the game. As such, probably the best way to look at Legacy Burn is as a combo deck, with our combo saying, "If you resolve six spells this game, you win!" While many of our burn spells can go at creatures, this is usually a last resort for when we are about to die because every time we Lightning Bolt a Birds of Paradise, that's another burn spell we need to draw (and throw at our opponent's face) to be able to close out the game. Probably the easiest way to break down the deck is by creatures, Lightning Bolts, other Burn, and finishers.
Monastery Swiftspear is essentially our budget version of Goblin Guide, although there's an argument that the card is just as good (and sometimes even better) than the non-budget options. On Turn 1, Monastery Swiftspear gives us one hasty damage, which is slightly worse than Goblin Guide, but as the game progresses, this number goes up—it's not uncommon to attack for three on Turn 2 and then three again the following turn, thanks to prowess trigger. As such, over the course of two or three turns, the damage from a Monastery Swiftspear is usually equal to (or even greater than) Goblin Guide; plus, we aren't giving our opponent a land every turn!
Eidolon of the Great Revel is one of our best cards because it gives us a main-deck way to hose some really powerful decks. In the worst case, it's a 2/2 for two that deals our opponent at least two damage when they kill it, although it occasionally deals far more damage if our opponent doesn't have a removal spell handy. However, the biggest reason we need Eidolon of the Great Revel is to fight combo decks. In Legacy, there are various Storm decks that can kill on Turn 2 or 3 consistently, but getting these fast kills requires our opponent to cast a whole bunch of spells. Without Eidolon of the Great Revel, we'd have a really hard time beating these decks, since they are usually a turn faster than we are, but with Eidolon of the Great Revel, our opponent can't simply cast a ton of spells and win the game, since they are taking two damage for each spell they cast, which is enough to flip these matchups into our favor.
Modern Burn decks get 12 Lightning Bolts, while Legacy Burn gets a massive 16 thanks to the addition of Chain Lightning. There really isn't a whole lot to be said about these cards—they are the foundation of our deck, representing three damage to our opponent's face for only one mana, and most of them can kill a pesky Delver of Secrets or Deathrite Shaman as well, in a pinch.
One of the unique things about Burn decks it that they turn some rules of Magic on their head, with one of the biggest being the idea that you should hold your removal spells for as long as possible. In our Legacy Burn deck, it is almost always correct to play a Mountain and throw a Lightning Bolt at our opponent's face on Turn 1. In this sense, Burn is really a combo deck of sorts, with the combo being, "If you can resolve six spells over the course of this game, you win!"
As far as the cards themselves, Lightning Bolt is the best of the bunch, since it is instant speed, can hit creatures, and doesn't require any extra work. Chain Lightning is pretty close to a sorcery-speed Lightning Bolt—while there are weird situations where the opponent will have two red mana open to "chain" the bolt back at us, this is actually extremely rare (although, if you think your opponent might copy the Chain Lightning, try to cast Chain Lightning first so you can copy it again, if you want to). Rift Bolt is Lightning Bolt with suspend one, and while waiting a turn might sound like all downside (and, to be fair, it is mostly downside), it also costs three mana, which means it's a Lightning Bolt that gets around Chalice of the Void on one, which is actually relevant in Legacy. Finally, Lava Spike is a sorcery-speed Lightning Bolt that can't hit creatures, which makes it the weakest of the bunch, but you can't argue with three damage for one mana.
Flame Rift is awesome—it's essentially a Boros Charm that doesn't require splashing a color, which means it's amazing for building Legacy Burn on a budget. While it might seem strange to play a card that damages both players equally, this almost always works out in our favor because we have way more ways to damage the opponent than most opponents have to damage us. Sonic Burst and Skullcrack were the two last cards I put in the deck, and they are pretty lacking compared to the other cards in our deck. The problem with Sonic Burst is that it requires us to discard a card (at random, no less) to cast it, which means that when we are in a situation where we are empty handed and hoping to draw one last burn spell to finish off our opponent, Sonic Burst is a horrible draw off the top of our deck. Meanwhile, Skullcrack does have some upside in preventing life gain against a Deathrite Shaman, but most of our spells deal three damage for one mana, meaning paying two mana for three damage from Skullcrack actually makes it super expensive for our deck.
So far, most of the cards we've been talking about are Modern legal and important players in Modern Burn decks, so what differentiates Legacy Burn from Modern Burn? The answer here is the presence of some absurdly powerful finishers.
Price of Progress may be the most powerful burn spell in our entire deck, often representing at least six (and sometimes far more) damage for only two mana at instant speed. In Legacy, decks are overloaded on non-basic lands (while we play all Mountains, so we don't take any damage), which makes Price of Progress one of our best ways of finishing off the game. Since it's instant speed, we can wait for our opponent to cast a Brainstorm at the end of our turn and, while they are tapped down, hit them for a ton of damage out of nowhere.
Two words of warning about Price of Progress. First, there are a handful of decks where it does nothing, so if you run into a matchup where your opponent is playing mostly (or even all) basic lands, make sure to sideboard out Price of Progress. Secondly, a lot of Legacy decks play Wasteland, which creates an interesting sub-game with Price of Progress. If the opponent has an untapped Wasteland, they can always use it on themselves to get rid of the Wasteland itself and another non-basic (meaning we have −4 damage from Price of Progress), so our goal in these situations is to maneuver into a position where our opponent taps their Wasteland before we fire off our Price of Progress.
Speaking of finishers, Fireblast might be the scariest burn spell in our entire deck because it essentially represents four damage for free at instant speed. It's the card that makes Legacy Burn far, far scarier than the Modern or Standard versions. Picture this: our opponent is at 10 life, and we only have two lands. In Modern, you'd feel very safe—there literally isn't any way you can die (this turn, at least) in this situation. However, in Legacy, you could very well be dead if you tap out for something like Lightning Bolt, Lightning Bolt, into Fireblast (sacrificing the lands) or even just Price of Progress into Fireblast. Basically, Fireblast allows Legacy Burn to kill an opponent by surprise from a pretty high life total, and since it's instant speed and (essentially) free, it's extremely hard to play around effectively.
Finally, we have Sulfuric Vortex, which is almost the exact opposite of our other finishers. While Fireblast and Price of Progress both offer huge bursts of damage, Sulfuric Vortex is the slow and steady plan for winning the game. It's very important for beating slower, more controlling decks like Miracles. Against the Counterbalance / Sensei's Divining Top lock, it's very possible for our opponent to counter every single one of our spells; however, if we can slip a Sulfuric Vortex through the lock (or get it on the battlefield before the lock), we don't even need to resolve spells to win the game. Even beyond burning out more controlling decks, it also provides some lifegain hate, which is key in some matchups.
Pyrostatic Pillar essentially lets us go up to eight copies of Eidolon of the Great Revel, which is key to beating cantrip-based combo decks. Searing Blood gives us an answer to creatures that also throws a Lightning Bolt at the opponent's face and is much better than Searing Blaze in our deck, since we don't have fetch lands to trigger landfall. Tormod's Crypt is a budget-friendly option for fighting against Dredge and other graveyard-based strategies. Finally, Smash to Smithereens lets us kill a Chalice of the Void or Thorn of Amethyst, while still furthering our game plan of burning our opponent.
Ultra-Budget Legacy Burn
Now, I should say there's no way of getting Legacy Burn all the way down to $50 in paper while still keeping it competitive, but we can trim a few dollars off the price by making a couple of changes. First, the deck goes from 130 tix all the way down to 30 tix by dropping Eidolon of the Great Revel, which is way more expensive on Magic Online than it is in the paper world. While this does hurt the deck, moving our Pyrostatic Pillars to the main deck gives us a reasonable substitute. While they can't attack or block, Pyrostatic Pillar doesn't die to creature removal, which is a nice upside. Otherwise, we drop our most expensive Lightning Bolt (Chain Lightning) for Shard Volley, which saves us another $7, but I'm not sure this change is really worth it—we already have Fireblast, and our deck can only support so many cards that require us to sacrifice a land. However, if you are trying to go as cheap as possible, it is worth considering.
Non-Budget Legacy Burn
The sweet thing about the Legacy Burn deck we played in the videos is that we had almost all of the same burn spells as the non-budget versions of the deck. As such, the main changes to the non-budget versions of Legacy Burn revolve around fetch lands. While the lands themselves help thin out the deck (which does add up to extra damage over the course of a long tournament, even though the gain in any individual match in minimal), the bigger deal is that having fetch lands allows us to play Grim Lavamancer for repeatable damage and Searing Blaze (which is an upgraded Searing Blood). We also get Goblin Guide to go along with our Monastery Swiftspears and some much improved sideboard options, with Ensnaring Bridge helping us stay alive against creatures (remember the match we lost to Turn 3 / 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn both games; Ensnaring Bridge would have made a huge difference) and Grafdigger's Cage as a major upgrade to Tormod's Crypt. All in all, the non-budget build is better, but it doesn't significantly change the way the deck plays.
Anyway, that's all for today. We ended up going 3-2 in our video matches (and 4-4 overall, including a loss in the mirror, of all things, where our opponent had double Fireblast), which is solid for a $100 deck in Legacy, and most of the time when we lost, it felt like we were losing to ourselves, either by flooding out or getting stuck on one land. As such, if you are looking to play some Legacy on the cheap, Burn seems like a great option. Plus, if you already play Modern Burn, you can throw together Legacy burn super cheap (for like $20)! Likewise, if you buy this Legacy Burn deck, you'll be well on your way to having a competitive Modern deck as well!
As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.