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The GP New Jersey Legacy Primer

Hi. I’ve been on the Pro Tour multiple times since I was 12. So you may be asking yourself why is this Pro Tour grinder is writing for MTGGoldfish? Well to be honest, I think this is one of the best magic sites out there. Nobody has an agenda to sell cards, nobody gives you personal opinions, and they deal in numbers and facts. I LOVE THAT! Numbers and statistics are the basis of the entire game when you want to compete on the highest levels of magic. It’s the difference between knowing what chances you have at drawing your outs, when to mulligan, or if you should take that multi-colored rare over a mono-colored uncommon.

The one thing a lot of people use MTGGoldfish for though is the current metagame. And while it usually is correct for things like modern, and standard, it lacks the ability to suitably show you the entire legacy metagame. It’s not their fault: Legacy is the most diverse format in the game, and the paper game is dependent on factors ranging from fun to a person’s monetary means. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good resource.

So with GP: New Jersey setting up to be one of the largest GPs ever, let's breakdown legacy!

Format Changers

So here is my breakdown of GP NJ, otherwise known as GP UR Delver. Why do I say that? Khans of Tarkir has shown us the power of having four sorcery speed ancestral recalls in your maindeck (Treasure Cruise) alongside tons of 1-mana cantrips to fill up your graveyard is a formula for success.

 Treasure Cruise [KTK] Monastery Swiftspear [KTK]

KTK has also brought us Monastery Swiftspear, a card nobody talked about when the spoilers were released. But it is a card that has taken the place of Goblin Guide as the best Red one-drop ever made (format specific though, relax). Goblin Guide and Delver of Secrets were originally paired together when people figured out a one mana 3/2 with flying is a good card. That deck then turned into RUG Delver and ran the legacy scene for a while. RUG Delver plays a mixture of mana efficient creatures like Tarmogoyf, Delver of Secrets, and Nimble Mongoose, and used a mana-denial plan of stifle/wasteland to push through damage all while slowing down your opponent and stopping him from playing spells.

But thanks to the additions of Monastery Swiftspear and Treasure Cruise, RUG Delver has fallen out of favor. Now Delver is essentially an over glorified burn deck with counterspells. The addition of Treasure Cruise has given the deck a late game, which is something Delver decks didn’t have before. If they had a slow start, they weren’t going to win.

The second new card is Containment Priest. While this card won’t have the same impact as True-Name Nemesis had at GP Washington DC a year ago, this card is much more versatile and has a place in more decks than True-Name Nemesis did. This card is a sideboard card for essentially any deck that plays white, but no more so than Death and Taxes, where it can be slotted right into the sideboard, or any UW Deck for that matter. Decks that had an issue with Sneak and Show (a deck that is close to my heart) now have a great answer. Oh and it also stops a myriad of decks, from Dredge to Reanimator, and Elves to a certain extent.  

The power of Containment Priest is that it’s a replacement effect, similar to Rest in Peace. Let’s say you play an Ashen Rider, the card that most reanimation decks use as their “end all hate” card aginst the likes of Karakas, Leyline of the Void, and Ensnaring Bridge. But a 2/2 flash creature with a replacement effect means that the trigger from Ashen Rider doesn’t go on the stack, and its ability doesn’t go off. Ouch.

Top Decks

So what does this mean? Well let’s talk about the top decks going into GP NJ, or at least the most played decks:

  1. UR Delver. What was once old now is the “new kid on the block”.
  2. Death and Taxes. A very good deck that is very good against the entire field.
  3. Elves. A deck that can win on turn 3 is really nice, and although it’s a difficult deck to play, people who play it tend to never stop. It also has sideboard options that make it more diverse than the average elves deck.
  4. Burn. Ugh. The elephant in the room. Nobody wants to admit it, but Burn is arguably the best deck among every format in the game today. You can thank Eidolon of the Great Revel. I don’t think red has gotten a card this powerful since Zendikar. Not to mention it’s low price point has the deck sitting in the 10% range in my humble opinion. Especially in rounds 1-3.
  5. Miracles. Miracles is evolving since it's known -- to me at least -- as UWR Go to Time.dek. Miracles is the most played deck on Magic Online, but that is probably due to its low price. Well, it used to be cheap, but enough people started playing it and the price skyrocketed. But while the price went up, the time limit on matches stayed the same. The deck has now evolved into something more like UW/r Stoneblade to speed up time, because a draw is worse than a loss.
  6. Infect. A deck that may not be seen a lot, but it is certainly a powerhouse since it can kill on turn two and has some win conditions that no deck can beat. Allowing you to win with 10 damage rather than 20 and having access to cards like Berserk, Mutagenic Growth, Pendelhaven, etc. is scary.   

My Choice - Reanimator

So this brings me to what I was going to play and what I am going to play based on what I expect is going to be the most played decks at the GP.

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I have been playing Sneak and Show on modo for about 6 months now and have a 65-70% rate of 3-1 or 4-0. But that started dropping as I started running into more and more UR Delver Decks. To be honest, I believe that UR Delver is just too fast for Sneak and Show. I love the deck, but with the sideboard options I don’t have much to do against nine damage on turn three, while I am still pondering and looking for my pieces. The sideboard Pyroclasm and Boseiju, who shelters all might be great against miracles/elves, but are miserable against cards like Monastery Swiftspear. The deck was just too slow.

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So in the past month or so I have switched to Reanimator. Why reanimator? It has that explosiveness that Sneak and Show has, where I can compete with decks like Storm and Elves, but it also gives me something that Sneak and Show didn’t. It gave me hand disruption in the form of Thoughtseize. And to be honest, if given the choice between Thoughtseize or Gitaxian Probe, I choose Thoughtseize. It’s great on the play, not so much on the draw. But if on the play you can see what you are dealing with and take away a card they need to win the game, that’s a beautiful thing. On the draw, if I know I’m up against Storm, Elves, Goblins, etc., I know I can board out the Thoughtseizes and try to reanimate Iona, shield of emeria or Elesh Norn, grand cenobite turn 1.

This is my final decklist for GP NJ.

Because of the rise of UR Delver taking the place of RUG Delver, I can be a little greedier with my mana since I am expecting a lot less wastelands and stifles. That also allows me to play the Bayou which gives me access to Abrupt Decay to deal with Rest in Peace, Meddling Mage, Grafdigger’s Cage, etc.; the usual graveyard hate that people bring in against Reanimator.

So why Reanimating over Sneaking and Showing? Simple. A turn 1-2 Iona, shield of emeria beats UR Delver, by naming red. It beats storm by naming either Red of Black depending on the build, it beats Elves by naming Green, and it just wins games faster and more effectively. And you only really need one counterspell on the play to win the game.

But what also allows me to play this deck is the rise of UR Delver. They only have Grafdigger’s Cage as an answer to graveyard Shenanigans. And the lack of Wastelands and Stifles means I can play my mana without being scared of my lands being blown up.

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One last thing about my build is the addition of the maindeck Darkblast. I was finding that getting creatures into my graveyard was sometimes too difficult, and I wanted a way of killing X/1’s. Everything from Elves to Infect creatures, to Dark Confidant. So this card actually does both. It kills my opponents creatures while giving me access to targets for my reanimation spells. It has almost the same purpose of Electrickery or Forked Bolt, but it fits very well with the deck.

Beating the Metagame

Now that you know the main basis of the metagame going into GP New Jersey, which is actually GP New York because it’s five minutes outside of New York, how do you beat it?

Well beating a metagame that has 40,000 different decks is nearly impossible to do. What you can do is pinpoint the main cards that you will run into, figure out the answers to those cards, and then find a deck that fits your needs.

  1. Hand Disruption. Hand Disruption is important in every format. You know what it feels like to get Thoughtseized in standard, or you know when you have that perfect hand in modern and your opponent will go to 15 life just to take a card out of your hand all the while ruining what plans you had thanks to a simple enough card. Thoughtseize, Duress, and Cabal Therapy are the most played of these cards in Legacy. So if you don’t know them, then I would suggest you learn them very well and what decks play them.
  2. Abrupt Decay. A personal favorite of mine. This is the all-purpose removal spell. It can kill Counterbalance, Stoneforge Mystic, Germ Tokens, Random Elves, basically anything with converted mana cost three of less, which is most of Legacy. And with the lack of Misdirections running around in the format (maybe one in a sideboard here or there) you never need to worry about casting it.
  3. Early Removal Spells. You would be surprised how many decks lack the ability to deal with a couple of X/1’s or X/2’s within the first 3-4 turns of the game. Most decks just lack cards like Lightning Bolt to deal with these issues.
  4. Cheap Efficient Creatures. RUG Delver and Death and Taxes are the two best decks that show us how good a one or two mana creature can be, whether it’s Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenDelver of Secrete, Tarmogoyf, or Nimble Mongoose. And we all know about the infamous and amazing Deathrite Shaman. Cheap efficient creatures that can get in early damage while keeping mana up to do things is very powerful in Legacy.

A Wild Deck Appears

So where am I going with this? Well if I was going to beat a metagame at GP NJ, I would play….. Jund. Yes, Jund. People think this was a dead deck. A deck everyone says is bad against Combo, Aggro, Tempo, Control, name it, Jund can’t beat it.

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Well that isn’t true. To be honest, I think Jund has put itself in the front seat here. I have been testing Jund lately and I want to face UR Delver. I laugh as they sit there trying to figure out how to deal with my 4/5 Tarmogoyf while I am Abrupt Decaying their creatures. And once Liliana of the Veil starts ripping their hand apart, I have on-board draw spells in the form of Dark Confidant and Sylvan Library. Eventually the life gain from Deathrite Shaman overtakes the game and my opponent can’t take too much of in the form of Tarmogoyf slapping them around. Treasure Cruise becomes a draw three, scoop.

I think you should play Jund. I should be playing Jund. Why I’m not, I’m not too sure. With the right mix of cards, it beats Storm with a well-played thoughtseize, it beats Sneak and Show by outpacing the deck, and after playing Sneak and Show as much as I have had, I know how to outpace it and how to straight up beat it, and it beats UW/x control decks with Liliana of the Veil, the now #1 overall Planeswalker in Magic. Just laugh as you Thoughtseize your opponent and see their maindeck Red Elemental Blasts. I’m sure those will be great to discard to Liliana of the Veil, but that is about it. And see if your opponent can deal with a Tarmogoyf while they are attacking with a Monastery Swiftspear.


Here’s what it really comes down to though, what I believe will be the top 8 at GP NJ.

  1. UR Delver. If a large percentage of the field plays the same deck, it’s bound to pop up. And there will probably be two of them in the top eight.
  2. Storm. Even though everyone thinks they have a good storm matchup, one of these decks always manage to slip into the top eight.
  3. Death and Taxes. I think a lot of people are playing this deck this weekend, and there are very few bad matchups. It is very strong against UR Delver, and if UR Delver is a large percentage of the field, it should have an easy time.
  4. UW/x. I believe the remaining four decks are UW/x variants. Ranging from Miracles to UW/x Stoneblade. It is just that deck that is not fast, doesn’t play the most synergistic spells, but always has what it needs to win.

Decks that just miss the top 8:

  • Elves will just miss the top eight. I think there is just too much hate out there for one to sneak in.
  • Reanimator. Once again, Graveyard hate has become even more versatile now that it deals with Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise.
  • RUG Delver. I think the UR variant is just overall more consistent due to its mana base. RUG Delver really just plays 4 lands, and its mana denial strategy is being hurt by people playing more basic lands in their mana bases.
  • Shardless BUG. It has really fallen out of favor. Don’t know why, but it just isn’t popular enough and I honestly think BUG Control is a much better deck.
  • Sneak and Show. It will win the elf matchups, it has a favorable storm matchup, and on the play an ‘alright’ but not great UW/x matchup. But there will be too many fast delver decks out there to stop Sneak and Show from making the top eight.


Well good luck at the GP, or enjoy watching it. It will be a lot of fun. I am hoping for many turn 1 Griselbrands. If you see me, say hi. Just not during a match. If you want to check out my stream, its TERROl2 at Twitch.

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