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Can a $189 Deck Win in a $4,000 Deck Format? | Budget Magic: Legacy Burn


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're doing something that's rare on Budget Magic: playing Legacy! If you look at the Legacy metagame page, you'll see that the average cost of one of the top decks in the format is over $4,000, with some decks nearing $10,000. So, what are we taking to battle in this super-expensive format? A build of Burn that costs less than $200! While our deck's game plan is similar to that of most burn decks—play a few aggressive creatures and throw as many burn spells at our opponent's face as possible—Burn in Legacy does get a handful of really powerful cards that aren't legal in other formats, like Fireblast and Price of Progress. Can a $200 deck compete in a $4,000-deck format? How good is budget Burn in Legacy in 2022? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Legacy Burn

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The Deck

Legacy Burn is (surprise!) a burn deck. Like every burn deck, the goal is to get in some early damage with cheap, aggressive creatures and then close out the game by throwing a bunch of burn spells at our opponent's face.

The Creatures

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We've got three creatures in our deck: Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Last time we played budget Legacy Burn back in 2017, Goblin Guide was way too expensive for the budget. But thanks to several reprintings, we can now play one of the best aggressive red one-drops of all time. Monastery Swiftspear needs some spells to cast in order to trigger prowess so it can really be effective; thankfully, we've got 29 ways to trigger prowess in our deck, which means it's usually attacking for two, three, or even four. Meanwhile, Eidolon of the Great Revel does double duty in our deck. On one hand, it just offers a ton of damage. Most Legacy decks are built around cheap spells and creatures, so pretty much every spell our opponent casts should come with a two-damage kicker. (Sure, it also hurts us, but since we're the aggro deck in basically every matchup, our life total isn't all that meaningful most of the time.) On the other hand, Eidolon of the Great Revel also functions as a main-deck hate card against decks like Storm, making it really difficult for opponents to have big combo turns without being burnt out two damage at a time.

The Lightning Bolts

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The core of our burn package are various Lightning Bolts: cards that offer three damage for one mana. While most of these cards—Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, and Skewer the Critics—are also staples of Modern Burn, we do get one Legacy-only Bolt in Chain Lightning. While Chain Lightning has a lot of text, a huge percentage of the time, it's just a sorcery-speed Lightning Bolt. Throughout all of the games we played with the deck, not a single opponent actually managed to take advantage of the option of copying it for two red mana.

Legacy Stuff

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So far, most of the cards we've talked about are Modern legal. In fact, outside of Chain Lightning, we could be talking about a weird build of Modern burn. But don't worry—we've also got some Legacy burn cards that aren't legal or playable in Modern.

First up is Price of Progress, which is on the short list of best burn spells ever printed and likely will never be in Modern because Wizards views it (I'd argue rightly) as too powerful for the format. For just two mana, Price of Progress deals damage to each player equal to the number of non-basic lands they control. We've only got one copy of a single non-basic in our deck (Fiery Islet), so Price of Progress doesn't really hurt us at all. But considering the amount of dual lands some Legacy decks play, it will often deal six or eight damage to our opponent (and if the game goes long, even more), which is an absurd deal. Boros Charm is a staple burn spell because it deals four damage to the opponent. In most matchups, this should be the floor for Price of Progress, and the ceiling is much, much higher.

Next up is Fireblast, which is one of the best finishing burn spells in the game's history, offering four damage for six mana or, more importantly, for sacrificing two Mountains. Considering we only have 19 total lands in our deck, it's very unlikely we'll ever cast Fireblast for mana; instead, it's often the last burn spell we cast as we sacrifice two lands to push through the last points of damage. It might look strange to see such a powerful card as a three-of rather than a four-of, but this is mostly because drawing multiple Fireblasts is clunky since we don't usually have four lands to sacrifice to cast them. Even with this drawback in mind, Fireblast is one of the biggest reasons to play Legacy Burn.

Our last Legacy exclusive is technically Modern legal—it just doesn't see any play in Modern: Exquisite Firecraft. Only offering four damage for the cost of three mana makes Exquisite Firecraft one of our least efficient burn spells, but it does have one huge upside: it's uncounterable once we turn on spell mastery by getting two instants or sorceries in our graveyard (which we often do by Turn 2). Considering that 62% of Legacy decks play Force of Will, 53% play Force of Negation, and other random counterspells like Daze and Flusterstorm show up fairly often as well, having an uncounterable way to close out the game against counterspell decks is extremely important in Legacy. The idea is that we can push through damage in the early game and get our opponent's life total low, and if our opponent can stabilize, we can use Exquisite Firecraft to finish them off even through a hand full of free counterspells!

Other Stuff

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Rounding out the non-lands in our main deck are one Light Up the Stage for card advantage and one copy of Roiling Vortex, with more in the sideboard. Roiling Vortex is a really interesting option for Legacy Burn. Last time we played the deck, we had Sulfuric Vortex in the "repeatable damage plus lifegain hate" slot, but Roiling Vortex is likely better in the current Legacy meta. In formats like Modern, Pioneer, and Standard, Roiling Vortex mostly sees play because it can prevent lifegain (and slowly deal damage). But in Legacy, the hidden mode of dealing five damage when a player casts a spell without paying mana is the most important. We already discussed how free counters like Force of Will are the biggest pillar of the Legacy meta, and [[Roiling Vortex] punishes players for playing those cards. Even beyond that, decks are cheating Omniscience into play, 8 Cast is slinging nigh-infinite free artifacts, Lands has Mox Diamond, and various Storm decks play Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal. Basically, a lot of Legacy decks are playing spells without spending mana, which makes Roiling Vortex an oddly effective burn spell and hate card in the format. Just be careful: if we alt-cast Fireblast by sacrificing Mountains, we're casting it without spending mana, which means we're taking five damage. While it (thankfully) didn't happen in our league, I imagine we'll end up accidentally killing ourselves this way sooner or later.

Playing the Deck

While I don't have many brilliant pieces of advice on how to win with Legacy Burn other than attacking often and throwing as many burn spells at the opponent's face as possible, I did want to share a few thoughts on the deck.

First, by far the biggest issue we had with Legacy Burn involved the mana, which probably sounds strange considering it's basically all Mountains. The issue is that the deck really wants to draw exactly two, three, or maybe, at most, four lands. If we draw one land, we usually can't deploy our hand fast enough to win. If we draw five lands, we often don't draw enough action to close out the game. Since we don't really have card advantage or filtering outside of one Light Up the Stage, there isn't a whole lot we can do about this other than hoping we run well. While I think 19 lands is probably the correct number, just keep in mind that flooding out is pretty brutal for the deck. If you see a four-land opener, you're probably better off throwing it back, and even three lands in the opening seven is borderline. On the other hand, one-land hands are usually keepable, but we did lose a game where we kept a seemingly strong one-lander and didn't find land number two until Turn 6, at which point it was too late to really get back into the game.

Second, Price of Progress was surprisingly lackluster in our matches. The most damage we got out of it was four, and it was almost a dead card in some matchups because our opponent managed to play almost all basic lands. The good news is that I think this was mostly us hitting some odd matchups. If you look at the three most played decks in Legacy, they all play just one or two basic lands. I think that we just happened to play against a bunch of basic-heavy decks and against players who were smart enough to realize that against Burn, it's probably worth fetching out basics to play around Price of Progress.

Finally, one thing I love about Budget Legacy Burn is that you might already have most of the expensive cards if you're a Modern player, making it a really easy deck for some players to put together. If you already own Modern Burn, you should be able to throw together this build of Legacy Burn for something like $25, which is a pretty great deal. Of the deck's $185 price tag, more than half of that is Goblin Guide, Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Leyline of the Void. This works the other way too: if you build Legacy Burn and realize that Legacy isn't for you, you should be able to take advantage the most expensive cards in the deck in various Modern and Pioneer builds, which lowers the risk of building the deck.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we finished 3-2 in our Legacy league, which is a fine record with a $200 deck in a $4,000 deck format. We also came incredibly close to beating the Jeskai Wheels deck, only for our opponent to wheel away our lethal, uncounterable Exquisite Firecraft the moment before they were about to die. The deck certainly felt competitive, although all of our matches were super close, going the full three games. 

Matchup-wise, fast combo is probably the scariest matchup. Our deck is really good at winning around Turn 3 or 4, but fast combo decks in Legacy can win as early as Turn 1 or 2. Since we don't really have many ways of interacting with combos (one of the downsides of being a mono-red deck), we're mostly hoping to race and that our opponent has a bit of a clunky draw. Sometimes, this works (see: our matches against Omni-Tell); other times, it doesn't (see: our match against Oops, All Spells).

So, should you play Legacy Burn? If you're interested in competing in Legacy and don't want to spend Legacy prices, I think the answer is pretty clearly yes. I don't think there's a more competitive $200 deck available in the format. It's a deck that you can compete with on a tournament level if you build, learn, tune, and play it well, which is pretty impressive considering the price is roughly 1/20th of the average Legacy deck. To put this in perspective, the average cost of a tier Standard deck is a bit below $300, which would make Legacy Burn roughly the same as playing a $14 deck in Standard. Being able to get a deck that is surprisingly competitive for a price so far below the average cost of a deck in the format makes Burn the premiere budget option for the Legacy format.

Ultra-Budget / Non-Budget Legacy Burn

As far as an ultra-budget build of Legacy Burn, I wouldn't really recommend it. While cutting the one Fiery Islet to save $12 is fine, the only other somewhat expensive cards in the deck are necessary. Eidolon of the Great Revel is our most important card against fast combo. The downgrade from Goblin Guide to the next best one-drop is pretty huge. I could maybe seen an argument for turning Leyline of the Void into something like Tormod's Crypt if we're pinching every penny, but this does represent a pretty big step back against graveyard decks. 

The good news is that there aren't really any non-budget upgrades to the deck either. You could add in another Fiery Islet, but you can't add too many non-Mountain lands to the deck without making Fireblast bad; otherwise, we've pretty much got all of the best burn spells and threats available. While Burn is absurdly cheap compared to most decks in Legacy, this is mostly because it just happens to be an inexpensive archetype, rather than because we cut a bunch of good cards to stay under budget.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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.



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